Friday, December 30, 2011

Nilling and Willing: The Spiritual Challenge

            I ran into an apt but unusual word in a fresh translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions by Garry Wills.  The word is, “nill” for “will not”, or for “negate.”  Here is the sentence that I find so remarkable:

“This is all I wanted, to nill my own will, will yours.”[1]

            How difficult that is!  For Augustine it was as painful a process as it is for us.  He says, “But where I was going no ship or carriage or walking could take me … Not only going but arriving there was simply a matter of willing it—but willing it with a strong and unified will, not a partial and wounded will, one jerking and lunging, part of it surging, part of it sinking,”[2] 

On this side of the decision to surrender there is uncertainty; we cannot see the way before us, and looking at ourselves we cannot see how we can possibly take the next step.  What Augustine discovered with much despair and tears was that “there is a sickness of the soul, weighed down by compulsions that impede its response to the truth.  In that sense there are two wills, each halfhearted, each lacking what the other has.”[3]  Within each one of us there are those same two wills struggling against each other.  With Augustine we cry out, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

            But this was neither academic nor impersonal.  He says, “But I, in my hesitation over whether to serve the Lord at last, as I had long been disposed to do, was the same man willing as was nilling, both were me.  For my willing was as halfhearted as my nilling.  I was at war within, was exiled from myself.”[4] 

What was it that held him back?  “The triflingest things, the very hollowest things of the hollow-headed, had stalled me – my entrenched lusts, plucking me back by my fleshly clothing, whispering low: Can you cast us off? And: From this moment, never more to be with us!  And: From this moment, never to do this! … they no longer flaunted themselves before me on my way, but were tittering behind me, as if furtively picking at me while I pulled away from them, trying to make me look back.”[5]   

We may think that we do not struggle with the same things that Augustine was struggling with, but we have our own interior conflicts.  One of the problems with making up our minds to actually diet is our difficulty with accepting that what is called for is a surrender to a new pattern of living, not just doing without a few things until we get our weight down to a more comfortable level.  With Augustine hear the voice of our favourite temptations saying, “Can you cast us off? And: From this moment, never more to be with us!  And: From this moment, never to do this!”  Temporary dieting is one thing, surrendering to a new way of living is another.

There is in Augustine’s Confession the pain of abandonment of long fondled lusts and desires that tugs at the human soul (psyche – soul, self).  This is not easy stuff to endure, but the warning of St. Benedict sounds in my ear, “death lies close by the gate of pleasure.”[6]  Augustine then hears Lady Self-Control teasing with smiling insistence, “Why do you stand alone, which is no standing at all?  Throw yourself on him!  Do you think he will not stay your fall?  Give up fear, and throw yourself—he will catch you, and will heal you.”[7]

            The surrender when it comes, comes with sweet relief.  He picks up the book in the garden and reads, ‘“Give up indulgence and drunkenness, give up lust and obscenity, give up strife and rivalries and clothe yourself in Jesus Christ the Lord, leaving no further allowance for fleshly desires.’  The very instant I finished that sentence, light was flooding my heart with assurance, and all my shadowy reluctance evanesced.”[8]  It is at this point that he finally is able to declare, “This is all I wanted, to nill my own will, will yours.”[9]

            The conflict of St. Augustine is the conflict of everyman.  That is the crunch point … willing and nilling, that calls us all to renewed surrenders.  Letting go is scary, because, after all it is the self that we are letting go.  It is Jesus who said, “Whoever would save his life (psyche – soul, or self) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul, or self) for my sake will find it.”[10]  We are hard learners and often must reach the point of utter helplessness before we let go, be still, let drop, relax, and know that he is God.[11]  Then, O the blessed relief of being out from under.

 Willing and Nilling and the Bondservant

            I have long been drawn to an image of commitment in Exodus, “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out for nothing … But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the door or the door post.  And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”[12]  Forever is a very long time.  Lord, I would be your slave, your bondservant forever. 

            I note the mixed, very human motives.  The master has given the servant a wife and she has born him children in his servitude.  He loves his master, and he also loves his wife and children.  I can’t help reading this with a little “upstairs, downstairs” overtone from my own cultural background.  To be downstairs in that context is not to be in a place of disgrace, but in a place where one’s service gives positive shape and meaning to one’s life. That is a far cry from the abusive slavery of the American South.  Take for instance the character of Bunter, Valet to Lord Peter Wimsey, in the Dorothy Sayers novels.  Bunter is an honourable and admirable man.  As for me, I am the bondservant of the King and it is my delight to serve Him! 

I am drawn particularly to the finality of the decision; one bears visibly the mark of his slavery by wearing an ear ring.  The New International Version translation of Psalm 40 picks the theme up with clarity, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.  Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll.  I desire to do your will, O my God, your law is written in my heart.”[13] 

In effect, with Augustine, I pray, “This is all I wanted, to nill my own will, will yours.”  You, Jesus, my Lord, give my life the only meaning I have.  My life is hidden with you in God.[14]  You, are in your Father, and you are in me, and I in you.[15]   

            There is implicit suffering both in the Surrender of the Christ to his bond service to the Father, and in my own humanity and weakness.  From time to time I shrink from suffering, but with Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”[16] 

The surrender to your will, O my God, and the sufferings you endured are reflected in the Letter to the Hebrews where Psalm 40:6-8 is directly applied to you.  You lived your earthly life in perfect surrender to the will of your own Father, you taking the form of a servant[17], nilling your own will, and praying for us and in us, “Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will but what you will.”[18] 

You in me, and I in you; you make for me the perfect surrender that I cannot make but only desire, but desire it I do, and strive for it ‘I will’ to do, praying my own prayer in your words, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  You bid me follow you, and then you give me the grace to do so, saying, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.[19] My Lord, “This is all I wanted, to nill my own will, will yours.”[20]

[1]                 Garry Wills, Saint Augustine: Confessions, (London:Penguin Classics, 2006), IX, 1:7.
[2]               Ibid. VIII, 5.
[3]               Ibid.
[4]               Ibid.
[5]               Ibid.
[6]               The Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. 7, On Humility
[7]               Ibid.
[8]               Ibid.
[9]               Ibid. IX, 1:7
[10]             Matthew 16:25
[11]             Psalm 46:10
[12]             Exodus 21:2, 5-6
[13]             Psalm 40:6-8
[14]             Colossians 3:3
[15]             John 14:20
[16]             Colossians 1:24
[17]             Philippians 2:7
[18]             Mark 14:36
[19]             Philippians 2:12b-13
[20]               Garry Wills, Saint Augustine: Confessions, (London:Penguin Classics, 2006), IX, 1:7.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Martyrdom of Thomas Becket

Almighty God, you enabled Saint Thomas Becket to lay down his life with undaunted spirit  for the rights of the Church. Let his prayer help us to deny ourselves for Christ in this life,  and so find our true life in heaven.[We make our prayer] through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  God for ever and ever. Amen.

Murder in the Cathedral ~ T. S. Eliot                               Interlude

The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas Morning, 1170 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'  The fourteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth.  So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.

It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross.

Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overborne by mourning, or mourning will be cast out by joy; so it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. 'But think for a while on the meaning of this word 'peace.'

Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the      angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?       

Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples 'My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.' Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbours, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children?

Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember then that He said also, 'Not as the world gives, give I unto you.' So then, He gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.

Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord's Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of His first martyr, the blessed Stephen.

Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ?  By no means.  Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and in the Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1967), p. 198

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Authority of the King

Who is he who is to be born at Christmas?  The angel Gabriel, resplendent in holy light, tells us, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32, 33).  But what is a King?

The concept of God as Monarch, sole ruler, is a lost concept in today’s world.  The closest we get to it is constitutional monarchy, or arbitrary dictatorship, neither of which adequately conveys the idea of monarchy.  Constitutional monarchy is a titular headship, and arbitrary dictatorship, especially in this world, can end with rebellion and death.

An understanding of the concept of monarch starts predictably “In the beginning.”  In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.  Elohim, in English is God, and is at the outset a plural word giving the first hint of the Trinity.  Elohim created humankind out of the dust of the earth and breathed His Spirit, the Breath of Life, into humankind.

It is one thing to talk about this fundamental reality in generalities; it is quite another to speak of it as a personal reality.  Elohim is your creator.  He created you out of the dust of the ground, and to dust shall you return.  Elohim has breathed into you, as an individual, His own Breath of Life.  You are a created thing, a thing created by Him in His image, a thing utterly dependent on Him for each breath you draw, a thing not only created by Him and sustained by Him, but also loved by Him; not only a created thing but a person in your own right, a beloved child.

He is your Father Almighty; all things have their being at His divine fiat, His spoken word.  All that exists, exists because He has spoken.  Nothing exists without the sound of His voice.  There is none before Elohim and none greater than Elohim.  He is the original and only cause.

His very name “Elohim” is a plural of majesty, and a revelation of the multiplicity of His being.  He is the Triune God at the very beginning; His voice is the Living Word, the Logos, His Son, eternally begotten before all time.  He utters His voice, and the Eternal Logos goes forth.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  At the culmination of all things, He will utter His Voice, and the earth will melt.

His creative Spirit hovers over the waters and breathes Life into all living things, to each according to His kind.  The Spirit, even as is the Father and the Son, is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is the Anointing resting on the Son, and all who are called by His name, “Christians”, little anointeds.  That anointing rests on you as his beloved child.

Tertullian, in Against Praxeas, says, “I know that monarchy indicates neither more nor less than a single and sole empire!”  The Father shares His kingdom with His Son and Spirit, administering His kingdom, through the hosts of angels, the armies of the Lord.  This kingdom, this heavenly empire is eternal.  Even Nebuchadnezzar was humbled, and confessed, “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:34-35).  

In his lectures on St. Cyril, Bishop James Stanton remarks, “The heading of this lecture in Greek is not really about the “unity” of God, but God’s monarchia, God’s singular, sovereign rule. This word was very important to the early Christians.  There is nothing mightier than God, and nothing challenges Him. Though He may be described with various terms – good, just, etc. – there is no variation in Him.  He is all of these things at once. He is perfect in power, wisdom, knowledge and love.  “He foreknows the things that be; He is holy, almighty, and excels in all goodness, majesty and wisdom.” He exceeds every being in everything. In a word, God is transcendent. Quoting Moses, Cyril asserts that there is nothing like God.  It is this utter uniqueness and transcendence of God that compels and impels Christians.”  (James Stanton: The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril).

The 17th Century French Bishop, Jacques Bousset unfolds the absolute power of the monarch, “The royal power is absolute. The prince need render account of his acts to no one. "I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not on an evil thing for he does whatsoever pleases him. Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What do you do?  Whoever keeps the royal commandment shall feel no evil thing." … I do not call majesty that pomp which surrounds kings or that exterior magnificence which dazzles the vulgar. That is but the reflection of majesty and not majesty itself. Majesty is the image of the grandeur of God in the prince. The power of God makes itself felt in a moment from one extremity of the earth to another. Royal power works at the same time throughout all the realm. It holds all the realm in position, as God holds the earth. Should God withdraw his hand, the earth would fall to pieces; should the king's authority cease in the realm, all would be in confusion” (J.H. Robinson, ed. Readings in European History 2 vols. (Boston: Ginn, 1906), 2:273-277).

That Sovereignty is given by the Father to the Son, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed”  (Daniel 7:13-14).

In His birth of a Virgin, he who comes as a child comes as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon(1 )his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  

We have a King. Jesus the Son of God.  He alone has the divine right of kings.  This is not mere pomp and ceremony, although that is included.  The King is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient.  Before Him every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

Who are you?  Who am I?  We are citizens of the kingdom, servants of the king, children of the king, before we are anything else.  To deny our citizenship is to deny our identity, and if effect to be lost.  To claim that kingship for our own is to place ourselves in the place of the King of Kings.  That was the core of the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  That refusal of the sovereignty of God, and our place as beloved creation is to lay claim to ourselves for ourselves.  George MacDonald reminds us, ““The one principal of hell is – ‘I am my own.’”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Regarding Devotion to Our Lady:

Raphael ~ Madonna and Child

Let me make a clarification about the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Anglican devotions.  Devotion to our Lady has been for centuries part of our tradition, but Anglicans generally have their own slant on it:

1.      Martin Thornton, the author of English Spirituality, writes:

 “Devotion to our Lady—and St. Bernard probably invented that title—is the obvious safe guard against ascetical Apollinarianism, and our lack of such devotion to her is equally the cause of its modern prevalence.”[1]

2.      What is Apollinarianism?  "Apollinarius (b. about AD 310) taught that Jesus was not fully human because he did not have a      human soul. He imagined Christ as God clothed in flesh and with many human attributes, but the guiding principal (ego) remained totally divine. Jesus being totally divine could not be tempted.”[2

3.      It important not separate the affective (or emotional) side of our understanding of God from the speculative (or intellectual) side. Thornton goes on to say:

“Devotion to St. Mary supports and strengthens orthodox Christology against Apollinarianism: if Mary is his mother, then Jesus is unquestionably man.”[3]

The “Hail Mary” was originally intended as a defense against Apollinarianism.

Hail Mary, full of grace
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, God-bearer,[4]
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death.[5]

A common Anglican rule of thumb is: Never ask Mary or the Saints for anything that you should be asking God for, but by all means ask anybody in the ongoing Body of Christ, including Mary and the Saints, for prayer on your behalf.  However there is even within Anglicanism a broad spectrum of practice. The Book of Common Prayer acknowledges the role of our Lady, and her wonderful example, but does not give us a model of prayer to Mary.

The Visitation                                                May 31
Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your
incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more
blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the
exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her
devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.[6]

Saint Mary the Virgin                                   August 15
O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary,
mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been
redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your
eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.[7]

The Annunciation                                         March 25
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have
known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced
by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion
be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and
reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.[8]

You will also notice in these collects not only the blessedness of Mary, but also the cause for that blessedness; the incarnation of God in the flesh of Mary, Jesus God Incarnate.  She is called Theotokos which means “God-bearer” in the original version which is different than “Mother of God.”  In one of our hymns, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, we sing of Mary as the bearer of the eternal word.

O higher than the cherubim,
more glorious than the seraphim,
lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
most gracious, magnify the Lord.[9]

Let me offer my own tribute to our Lady. 

Lady laud your son.
Cast down your golden crown and worship him,
born a babe in stable laid,
who walked the hills of Galilee
with fisher folk and tax collectors,
made of them a holy band,
shocked the scribe and Pharisee
not less than priest and Sadducee.
No simple man, nor plain was he.
His is the power that calls forth you and me.

Lady laud your son
whose death pierced your own soul
with grief too sharp to bear
fulfilling prophet's words in temple court
so long ago.  Proud mother of a little babe,
with head bowed down
you contemplate the way
he cast down the mighty from their thrones.

Lady laud your son.
You have given once again.
In mothering you have given many times before.
Resurrection joy, ascension parting mingle in your breast.
The old ways of holding him can never be again.
Lady laud your son.
Cast down your golden crown and worship him
in the circle of the saints, his sisters, brothers,
all your children now, all crowned like you
God-bearer, now for ever blessed
held in warm embrace by glad hearts everywhere.
Lady laud your son.


The Rev. Canon Dr. Robin P. Smith

[1] Thornton, p. 87
[2] Introduction to Anglican Foundations Class at Apostles.
[3] Thornton, p. 87
[4] Literally in Greek: Theotokos, which is accurately translated “God-bearer.”
[5] Edited version by Father Abbot Morales and Dom Anselm+.
[6] The Book of Common Prayer, p. 240
[7] BCP, p. 243
[8] BCP, p. 240
[9] Hymnal 1940, p. # 599

Copyright © 2011 Robin P. Smith

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blaise Pascal 17th C

Our American values are reflected in the basic rights which we hold dear: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  These values are not equal.  The right to life is fundamental in a way that liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not.  Even at that whales seem to have a clearer right to life than unborn babies.

We consider liberty to be a guardian of life.  We might formulate it this way: we have the liberty to preserve life, and we believe that all should have the basic right to life and liberty.  Slowly the rest of the world is coming around to our way of thinking, even to the extent of some sacrificing their lives so that other may have both life and liberty.  In these days this pursuit of liberty and life is being propelled forward by social media and we see uprisings in many parts of the world.  But please remember the difference between whales and unborn babies.

The pursuit of happiness is another matter.  The right to pursue happiness presupposes that we are fundamentally unhappy and that much of our life is spent in the pursuit of happiness.  Even having life and liberty does not guarantee happiness.  That popular contemporary philosopher Mick Jagger is correct when he tells us, “You can’t always get what you want,” and “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  That is a profound truth, not just a wail of unhappiness. 

What the right to the pursuit of happiness declares is that we have the right to pursue it, not a guarantee that by pursuing we can find it.

The underlying premise is that “We do not know our place is the cosmos,”[i]  We don’t really know who or what we are and in our pursuit of happiness we pursue creation instead of the Creator.  People are unaware that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of God.  Some people are so bent on pursuing happiness in the world, and in themselves, that they become angry at the suggestion that the pursuit of happiness just might turn out to be the pursuit of God.   Somehow we think that’s not fair, after all we want to find what we want to find, not what is actually there.

Blaise Pascal argues that man is like a complicated lock with all kinds of crevices and slots and only Christianity is the key that can fit the lock.[ii]  In short what creates and drives the pursuit of happiness is that man is incomplete in himself.  He has a hole in the middle of his being that can’t be filled with material things, or even with the people we treasure.  Kreeft says, “To place divine expectations on human shoulders is an infallible recipe for ruin and bitter disappointment.”[iii]  Others can’t make you happy, and you aren’t responsible for the happiness of others.  You don’t have that kind of power.  You do have responsibility not to willfully add to the unhappiness of others by thoughtless or loveless behaviour.  Knowing the difference is part of knowing our place in the cosmos.

You know, as you have been so often been told before, that there is hole in the human heart, a God shaped hole that only God can fill.  While that truth is so commonplace as to be almost trite, it happens to be true.
According to Pascal there are two basic truths.  Man without God is wretched.  Man with God is happy.[iv]  St. Augustine had it right when he said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”[v]

Out discussion of this meditation at our Chapter meeting this afternoon brought several things to light:

For the Christian there is a tremendous joy of knowing Christ an in knowing that through his sacrifice we are actually forgiven and accepted.  That itself can be breathtaking.

There is also a joy in the world around us, a joy that is experienced more richly through grace and the understanding of the self-revealing love of the Creator.  Let me give you an analogy.  When I was very young I had taken several lessons in oil painting under a professional artist of some repute.  One of my assignments was painting a scene with autumn leaves.  There came a time after my encounter with Christ and my surrender to the infilling of the Holy Spirit that something new began to happen.  Shortly after that discovery of the overwhelming love of God I walked out in the yard between my parent’s house and a neighbour’s.  It was a beautiful fall Canadian day and I saw the autumn leaves in full colour for the first time.  I had seen that display of autumn leaves many times before, but now I was amazed by the gorgeous radiant colours, the shades of red, orange, and yellow resplendent before me.  It was as though I had never seen autumn leaves before.  It was not the leaves that were different, but it was me.  “My eyes were different because my eyes had been opened to beauty.  O, Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”   

When a child of the world encounters Christ for himself all his perceptions of joy are heightened and deepened, and even in the midst of difficult circumstances that joy begins to creep on silent feet into our consciousness.  Under grace there is an enriched grasp of the joys that come through beauty, knowledge, and relationships.

The Christian experiences joy rather than mere happiness.  The children of the world also experience joy although they may not realize its source in the Creator.  When you seek Truth, you seek Christ, and in seeking Christ you discover joy.  There is a certain joy that comes through the very process of seeking.  One of our Benedictines, who in his youth held a number of weight lifting world records in his weight class, likened it to the excitement of preparing for a competition, but when the competition was over there was no abiding experience of joy, until the next time of preparation.  The joy was in the pursuit.  So also there is joy in the pursuit of God.  In the seeking is the leading edge of the fulfillment.

[i] Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 53
[ii] Ibid. p. 47
[iii] Ibid. p. 48
[iv] Ibid. p. 25
[v] St. Augustine, The Confessions, I 1.2