Tag Archives: renunciation

9 May: Letting go and letting God

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Whether we are seeking to grow in prayer, or become free of what we have come to recognise as life-diminishing ways of acting or thinking, or to know what it is God wants us to do, it is in letting go that we make room for God. It is the Spirit that roots and grounds us in God, draws us into wholeness and guides us along the way that leads to life. If we try too hard, believing that it is only through the sheer force of our will and effort that change can happen, we leave little room for God. Everything is gift.

However ‘letting go’ is in itself a work, for our natural inclination tends towards keeping life in our minute control, depending entirely on our own resources rather than being open to another’s help, and bringing about change by the strength of our will and endeavour. To go against this instinct for self-sufficiency and self-definition can feel daunting; yet we let go not into nothingness but to ‘let God’ be active in our lives. In doing so we find that we too are alive in a way we have never been before.

  • Put a stone in your hand to represent what you desire to let go to God.
  • Place a candle or cross nearby to symbolize the place of letting go.
  • Use the reflection below may help you to identify what you want to put in God’s hands:

We let go to God our regrets about the past – the choices we have made however we now feel about them, whatever has happened to us for good and for harm. God is in the place where we are, however we got there.

We let go to God our anxiety about the future. We cannot control what is in essence beyond our control – instead of torturing ourselves with fears that begin ‘what if…’ we let go to God who will always be alongside us in ‘what is’.

We let go to God what hurts. True we cannot switch off our painful feelings; they flow into our lives, but if we do not cling to them they will flow from us again, carried in the stream of God’s presence and care.

We let go to God our resentment. Even though the anger may not die down in our hearts we consent not to hold on to our need to get even; we give to God to heal what we cannot heal by ourselves

We let go to God our need to be good enough. God gives freely what we can never earn. We are valued, loved and believed in as we are.

We let go to God our desire for growth. It is God who continues to create us and who works to make us whole.

We let go to God the choices we face today. Though we do not know what to do, as we choose to listen, God will lead us along the unseen way.

We let go into God’s working: We consent to be drawn this day into the stream of God’s life: to become the activity of Love in that part of the world that is ours.

  • As you sense something you want to let go to let God, put down your stone by the candle or cross.
  • There may be feelings you need to share with God before you feel ready to let go: fears, hopes, doubts, desires or pains. You may sense you are not ready yet to let go and let God in this area of your life. If so, let go at whatever level you are able to today, with your ambivalent feelings and doubts.
  • You will probably find that on another day you will need to let go in this area all over again. Letting go is rarely a ‘done deal’; it is a process where little by little we allow God to become the source of our life.

 

CC.

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30 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: V, ‘Going out’.

Dear BBB,

I promise you I did not know this Synod document was about to be published when I began answering your question,  Is Christianity Dead?  But there are good ideas in there to help address your concerns. I move on to the short paragraph entitled Going Out. I think we have to realise that when Pope Francis is talking about vocations he is by no meaning just the priesthood and religious life. 

Pastoral vocational care, in this sense, means to accept the invitation of Pope Francis: “going out”, primarily, by abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible; “going out”, leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in; and “going out”, by giving up a way of acting as Church which at times is out-dated. “Going out” is also a sign of inner freedom from routine activities and concerns, so that young people can be leading characters in their own lives. The young will find the Church more attractive, when they see that their unique contribution is welcomed by the Christian community.

The church porch is important; each one is a door of mercy where people, old and young, should feel welcome to come in and go out freely. If that is not the case, how can it be remedied? What ways of acting do we need to give up? Pope Francis does not promise it will not be demanding.

 

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10 March, Human Will VI: Renunciation of the Will?

 

 

Yesterday’s post ended praising the will as a vital faculty of the soul.  Today we are considering the notion of renouncing the will.  But why would we want to renounce something as wonderful and necessary as our will?  Didn’t we establish that the will is good?  That it is an ally of the reason and an enabler of the life of virtue?

It is important to reflect that when the idea of the renunciation of the will occurs in spiritual writings, the literature is not talking about the will in this vital sense, nor in the sense of willingness, as we discussed in yesterday’s reflection.  The recommendation to renounce the will is referring to that in us which is turned away from God in an ongoing attitude of wilfulness.

Perhaps if we look at the use Holy Scripture makes of the concept of the will we might better understand what we are doing when we renounce the will.  In both the Old and New Testament, the concept of the will is used predominantly of the will of God.  In speaking of the ‘will’ of God, we mean his designs, his plan for humanity.   But the bible isn’t a text-book, explaining God’s will in the abstract, as though God were one thing and his will another.  As an inspired text, Scripture gives the prayerful reader an encounter with God himself.  This is, in fact, an encounter with his will, for God’s will is not separate from himself: it is himself.

In the daily practice of lectio divina, which is the slow and prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture, we have the unspeakable privilege of encountering God.  This is why lectio has the power to speak to us on such a deep level.  This encounter with the living God elicits a response of awe, reverence, love, and above all, faith.

It is faith that is the important word in this reflection as we consider the concept of the renunciation of the will.  In the faith-filled encounter with the Holy One through lectio divina we are led by the Holy Spirit to give our very self to God.  This surrender of the self is not an agonised act.  On the contrary, it is a spontaneous response of love to the encounter with Love himself.

Giving our very self to God: this is what is meant by the renunciation of the will.  We place our whole being at God’s disposal – we give him our will.  But in giving God our will, we are certainly not left with a void inside.  In giving our will to God, we unite our will with God’s will, and we live from that “place” of union and love.  It is the “place” the Lord himself described when he says in the Gospel of John, ‘Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him’ (John 14:23).

SJC.

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Are we listening? Open Lectures at FISC.

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July 23, John Cassian VII: What are we Storing Up?

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Say we have persevered in our endeavour to face our “shadow”, and to dispossess ourselves of superfluous material goods.  Say we have even managed to make some headway here, and have not slipped back into “compulsive consumerism”, but have gradually come to live a life of greater freedom from such an addiction.  Then, Cassian challenges us to take a closer look at the vessel of our heart.  This is what he says to those who have begun to do the real work of facing their evil thoughts:

…[W]e should not believe that mere fasting from visible food can suffice for our [purity] of heart if a fasting of the soul has not also been joined to it, for it has its own harmful foods by which it is fattened.  Its food is detraction, and it is delightful indeed.  Its food is anger, as well.  Envy is the food of the mind, corrupting it ceaselessly with someone else’s prosperity and success.  Vainglory is its food.  If, then, we abstain from these as much as we are able, we shall well and aptly observe bodily fasting (Institutes 5:21).

 

mercylogoThe heart needs to fast, according to Cassian.  Gluttony has a spiritual counterpart.  A true Christian is not one who lives and eats abstemiously, while maintaining the personality of a cynical critic.  He is a person who knows his own imperfections and is therefore able to be merciful to others as they struggle with their own weaknesses.

The question, ‘What are we storing up?’ has many layers.  Have we noticed pride in our heart, maybe?  Anger?  Impatience?  With searing insight, Cassian says,

Sometimes, when we have been overcome by pride or impatience we complain that we are in need of solitude, as if we would find the virtue of patience in a place where no one would bother us, saying that [our faults] stem not from our own impatience but from our neighbours’ faults.  But, as long as we attribute our own wrongdoing to other people, we shall never be able to get near to patience (Institutes 8: XVI).

Here, John Cassian enjoins us simply to own our problems and not pine for an existence free of all annoyances in the belief that under such circumstances our anger and impatience would disappear.  Disturbances to our supposed equilibrium do not cause our moral weaknesses, teaches Cassian; on the contrary, they merely expose them.  If we were never provoked, we would imagine ourselves to be virtuous, whereas in fact, we simply have not been put to the test.

SJC.

Picture: CD.

 

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July 21, John Cassian V: What Next?

 

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The one who has made an effort to cut down on superfluous material things will find himself less occupied by concerns about maintaining them, repairing them, updating them.  The heart begins to be free.  It becomes possible to pray more, according to John Cassian.  But this does not mean that purity of heart has now been achieved.  It is not unusual, under such circumstances, to develop a more intense awareness of one’s own weaknesses and sinful tendencies.

Rather than seeing unending streams of light proceeding from within, one may find what Cassian calls “evil thoughts” emerging.  According to Cassian, this shouldn’t come as any surprise, for Jesus himself warns us that this is what we are like: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Mt. 15: 19).  Perhaps I am someone who has read that passage many times in scripture, yet, when I finally realise that this is a home truth about me, it can be shocking.

This is where Cassian comes to assist – not with false consolation that endeavours to sweep all the difficulties under the carpet.  He comes with true insight into the reality of our interior life.  Cassian enumerates eight principal vices, or “evil thoughts,” as he calls them.  He calls them “thoughts” because he knows that our deeds, whether good or bad, are conceived first as thoughts before they become actions.  So, it is there, on the level of our thoughts, that conversion needs to occur.

SJC.

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July 20: John Cassian IV: Renunciation Explored

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John Cassian was aware that we often do not know how attached we are to something until we find ourselves deprived of it.  The resulting emotional fallout can surprise us.  This is precisely the reaction Cassian is trying to provoke.  This shows us how much our heart was filled with whatever material thing or things we are now trying to do without.

Cassian can seem to be quite radical about dispossession, but it is worth keeping in mind that he is not talking about destitution.  He is happy for us to possess those material goods that are necessary for our life, but if he were alive today, I am sure he would say, along with Pope Francis, that becoming free of “compulsive consumerism” through renunciation is vital as a first step to gaining purity of heart, and to entering into a new relationship with Christ, who was poor (Institutes 4:V).

The one who practices renunciation gives Christ greater access to his heart.  Although the person practising renunciation may have fewer material possessions than others, he is not bereft of what is most valuable, for what is most valuable is his relationship to Christ.

SJC.

Consumerism as a prison! Family Archive.

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