Tuesday, February 21, 2012



...those afflictive, tempting, harassing thoughts, images, temptations, etc.--like venomous stinging/biting insects always assailing us...

While reading a novel primarily set in a jungle, I found this passage:

"Marina brushed her hand across the back of her neck and dislodged something with a hard shell. She had learned in time to brush instead of slap, as slapping only served to pump the entire contents of the insect, which was doubtlessly already burrowed into the skin with some entomological protuberance, straight into the bloodstream." (from Ann Patchett's State of Wonder)

Gentle consistency, not force. As St. Augustine said, "With the hands of my heart, I brush these things away."


Thursday, February 16, 2012

"For the Unknown Self"


A good friend sent me this poem today:

For the Unknown Self

by John O'Donohue

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye's affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light
Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness
And misjudge what you do and who you are.

It presides within like an evening freedom
That will often see you enchanted by twilight
Without ever recognizing the falling night,
It resembles the under-earth of your visible life:
All you do and say and think is fostered
Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.

It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.

Were it to break forth into day,
Its dark light might quench your mind,
For it knows how your primeval heart
Sisters every cell of your life
To all your known mind would avoid,

Thus it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.

At times, it will lead you strangely,
Magnetized by some resonance
That ambushes your vigilance.

It works most resolutely at night
As the poet who draws your dreams,
Creating for you many secret doors,
Decorated with pictures of your hunger;

It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want,
Where all your diverse strainings
Can come to wholesome ease.


Monday, February 13, 2012

St. Augustine on the Paradox of Cooperating with God


See: "And every one that hath this hope in Him, purifieth(7) himself even as He is pure."(8) See how he has not taken away free-will, in that he saith, "purifieth himself." Who purifieth us but God? Yea, but God doth not purify thee if thou be unwilling. Therefore, in that thou joinest thy will to God, in that thou purifiest thyself. Thou purifiest thyself, not by thyself, but by Him who cometh to inhabit thee. Still, because thou doest somewhat therein by the will, therefore is somewhat attributed to thee. But it is attributed to thee only to the end thou shouldest say, as in the Psalm, "Be thou my helper, forsake me not."(9) If thou sayest, "Be thou my helper," thou doest somewhat: for if thou be doing nothing, how should He be said to "help" thee?


St. Augustine on Stretching to Be Filled with the Beauty of God


Therefore, we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, "which neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man:"(10) a certain vision, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness, of gold, of silver, of groves and fields; the beautifulness of sea and air, the beautifulness of sun and moon, the beautifulness of the stars, the beautifulness of angels: surpassing all things: because from it are all things beautiful.

6. What then shall "we" be, when we shall see this? What is promised to us? "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." The tongue hath done what it could, hath sounded the words: let the rest be thought by the heart. For what hath even John himself said in comparison of That which Is, or what can be said by us men, who are so far from being equal to his merits? Return we therefore to that unction of Him, return we to that unction which inwardly teacheth that which we cannot speak: and because ye cannot at present see, let your part and duty be in desire. The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire.(11) Now what thou longest for, thou dost not yet see: howbeit by longing, thou art made capable, so that when that is come which thou mayest see, thou shall be filled. For just as, if thou wouldest fill a bag, (1) and knowest how great the thing is that shall be given, thou stretchest the opening of the sack or the skin, or whatever else it be; thou knowest how much thou wouldest put in, and seest that the bag is narrow; by stretching thou makest it capable of holding more: so God, by deferring our hope, stretches our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious. Let us desire therefore, my brethren, for we shall be filled. See Paul widening, as it were,(2) his bosom, that it may be able to receive that which is to come. He saith, namely, "Not that I have already received, or am already perfect: brethren, I deem not myself to have apprehended."(3) Then what art thou doing in this life, if thou have not yet apprehended? "But this one thing [I do]; forgetting the things that are behind, reaching forth to the things that are before,(4) upon the strain I follow on unto the prize of the high calling." He says he reaches forth, or stretches himself, and says that he follows "upon the strain." He felt himself too little to take in that "which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man."(5) This is our life, that by longing we should be exercised. But holy longing exercises us just so much as we prune off our longings from the love of the world. We have already said, "Empty out that which is to be filled." With good thou art to be filled: pour out the bad. Suppose that God would fill thee with honey: if thou art full of vinegar, where wilt thou put the honey? That which the vessel bore in it must be poured out: the vessel itself must be cleansed; must be cleansed, albeit with labor, albeit with hard rubbing, that it may become fit for that thing, whatever it be. Let us say honey, say gold, say wine; whatever we say it is, being that which cannot be said, whatever we would fain say, It is called--God. And when we say" God," what have we said? Is that one syllable the whole of that we look for? So then, whatever, we have had power to say is beneath Him: let us stretch ourselves unto Him, that when He shall come, He may fill us. For "we shall be like Him; because we shall see Him as He is."


St. Augustine on Outside/Inside


"And ye have no need that any man teach you, because His unction teacheth you concerning all things." The teachings of the master from without are a sort of aids and admonitions. He that teacheth the hearts, hath His chair in heaven. Therefore saith He also Himself in the Gospel: "Call no man your master upon earth; One is your Master, even Christ."(4) Let Him therefore Himself speak to you within, when not one of mankind is there: for though there be some one at thy side, there is none in thine heart. Yet let there not be none in thine heart:(5) let Christ be in thine heart: let His unction be in the heart, lest it be a heart thirsting in the wilderness, and having no fountains to be watered withal. There is then, I say, a Master within that teacheth: Christ teacheth; His inspiration teacheth. Where His inspiration and His unction is not, in vain do words make a noise from without. So are the words, brethren, which we speak from without, as is the husbandman to the tree: from without he worketh, applieth water and diligence of culture; let him from without apply what he will, does he form the apples? does he clothe the nakedness of the wood with a shady covering of leaves? does he do any thing like this from within? But whose doing is this? Hear the husbandman, the apostle: both see what we are, and hear the Master within: "I have planted, Apollos haft watered; but God gave the increase: neither he that planteth is any thing, neither he that watereth, but He that giveth the increase, even God." (6) This then we say to you: whether we plant, or whether we water, by speaking we are not any thing; but He that giveth the increase, even God: that is, "His unction which teacheth you concerning all things."