To think well is to serve God in the interior court: To have a mind composed of Divine Thoughts, and set in frame, to be like Him within. To conceive aright and to enjoy the world, is to conceive the Holy Ghost, and to see His Love: which is the Mind of the Father. And this more pleaseth Him than many Worlds, could we create as fair and great as this. For when you are once acquainted with the world, you will find the goodness and wisdom of God so manifest therein, that it was impossible another, or better should be made. Which being made to be enjoyed, nothing can please or serve Him more, than the Soul that enjoys it. For that Soul doth accomplish the end of His desire in Creating it.
Thomas Traherne (1636? – 1674), Centuries of Meditation, (First Century, 10).
In this school of love there is always more to be learned. Love is infinite. Someone who has made progress in this school can be sure that it is
love that has drawn her and led her and taught her the ways that she has faithfully followed. Often in great labor and in many activities, in great infirmity and in strong desire, in frequent impatience and in great dissatisfaction, in adversity and in prosperity, in great pain, in seeking and asking, in lacking and in having, in climbing and in hanging suspended, in following and in striving, in need and anxiety, in fear and concern, in great faithfulness and in many unfaithfulnesses, in pleasure and in pain, is she ready to suffer. In death and in life she commits herself to love.
Beatrice of Nazareth.
Edith Scholl introducing Beatrice of Nazareth, The Seven Modes of Love, Tjurunga No. 50, 82. From In the School of Love: An Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, Edith Scholl, ed.
Once you have had the experience of God’s benevolence, you need no longer feel abashed in aspiring to a holier intimacy. Growth in grace brings expansion of confidence. You will love with greater ardor, and knock on the door with greater assurance, in order to gain what you perceive to be still wanting to you. ‘The one who knocks will always have the door opened to him’. It is my belief that to a person so disposed, God will not refuse that most intimate kiss of all, a mystery of supreme generosity and ineffable sweetness.
Bernard of Clairvaux
from On the Song of Songs 3.5; quoted in In the School of Love, Edith Scholl, ed., p. 154-155.
When you also have found Christ, when you have found wisdom, when you have found justice, holiness and redemption (for Christ became all these for us), when you have found all these, hold them by affection and by attention. What you have found by understanding, hold by diligence and keep hold, if I may so express it, of the elusive virtues. Clasp their slippery forms to you in a tighter embrace until, reversing their roles, they cling to you, embrace you willingly, hold you fast without the labor of your own initiative, and permit you neither to depart very far nor to be away very long. Even if at times you should turn aside to meet the claims of human need, there let them pursue you, recall you, and clutch you to themselves, so that if they cannot always have your uninterrupted attention, they may always have your dedicated affection.
Gilbert of Hoyland
Sermon 9.2 from Sermons on the Song of Songs. Translated by Lawrence C. Braceland and excerpted in In the School of Love: An Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, Edith Scholl, ed., p.156.
Christ giving his blessing
Hans Memling, 1481
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“I think it is a big mistake to perpetuate the illusion that only certain people can bless things. Not everyone is vulnerable to this illusion, I know. Plenty of people say grace over meals in their own homes, asking God to bless the food they are about to receive from the divine bounty. A number more bless their children at bedtime, asking God to bring those children safely through the night. Where I live, you can sneeze in line at the post office and receive half a dozen blessings from people you do not even know.
… a blessing does not confer holiness. The holiness is already there, embedded in the very givenness of the thing….Because God made these beings, they share in God’s own holiness, whether or not they meet your minimum requirements for a blessing.
…That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”
Excerpts from “The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings” in An Altar in the World. A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor.
There is nothing in human life better than mutual love nor anything sweeter than holy fellowship. To love and be loved is a sweet exchange, the joy of one’s whole life, the recompense of blessedness. What can be lacking in the sweetness of this good and pleasant dwelling, this place where God dwells and where he rests? ‘God is in his holy place, God, who makes those of one mind to dwell in a house’.
Baldwin of Forde
In the School of Love: an Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, p. 126.
This passage translated by David N. Bell.
“An Elder was asked by a certain soldier if God would forgive a sinner. And he said to him: Tell me, beloved, if your cloak is torn, will you throw it away? The soldier replied and said: No. I will mend it and put it back on. The elder said to him: If you take care of your cloak, will God not be merciful to His own image?”
CXXXIX from The Wisdom of the Desert: Saying from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century, translated by Thomas Merton, Shambhala, 2004.
Thought for a beautiful spring morning…
A heart that would contemplate must be bright as a mirror, shimmer like some still stretch of water crystal clear, so that in it and through it the mind may see itself, as in and through a mirror, an image in the image of God. The heart that covets the sight of God as in a mirror must keep itself free from cares, from harmful, unnecessary and even necessary ones. It must keep itself ever alert through reading, meditation and prayer. Blessed are the pure of heart; they shall see God. May he grant that we do so. Amen.
Isaac of Stella (d. 1169)
translated by Hugh McCaffery
From In the School of Love: An Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, selected and annotated by Edith Scholl, Cistercian Publications, 2000.
The Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. The Church is the bride of Christ, who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself “with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless” (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition.
When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.
–Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey.
This quote from singer Iris DeMent who grew up in a Pentecostal family:
“My mom, who sang straight up until the day she died, told me one day: ‘You know, Iris, singing is praying and praying is singing. There ain’t no difference.’ So I think, even though I’ve left the church and moved away from a lot of the things that didn’t do me any good, I continued to pray — and that is singing for me. That’s as close as I get to praying.”