“Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.” —Guigo the Carthusian
a poem by Christinia Rossetti
O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;
Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;
Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth
With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.
She hath no questions, she hath no replies,
Hush’d in and curtain’d with a blessèd dearth
Of all that irk’d her from the hour of birth;
With stillness that is almost Paradise.
Darkness more clear than noonday holdeth her,
Silence more musical than any song;
Even her very heart has ceased to stir:
Until the morning of Eternity
Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
And when she wakes she will not think it long.
When I pray, I do not call on God of philosophers nor even, in a sense, on the God of theologians. I turn to my Father, or rather, our Father. To be more precise, I turn to him whom Jesus, in complete intimacy and confidence, called Abba. When the disciples asked our Lord to teach them how to pray, he simply replied: ‘When you pray you say: “Abba”…To name God thus is to have certainty that we are loved; a certitude of a different nature from that referred to by scholars, but one derived from innermost convictions (at my deepest core is the desire for an intense love): a certitude of faith at which we have arrived, it seems to us, after periods of reflections, meditation and consideration of our interior inspirations; though ultimately this certitude is a gift. We have complete faith in the love we have in our hearts because it is the Father who has sent us his Spirit, now that his Son has entered his glory.
It is because the Father loves me that I am able to turn to him in complete trust and confidence. I do not turn toward him to stress my virtues (nor to concentrate upon my weaknesses), nor for well-calculated reasons, but trusting in the infinite tenderness of the Abba for his Son Jesus, since he is also my Abba. ‘The Wound of Love’ A. Carthusian
…then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living being.
The sensitive executing of judgement, the nose,
Olfaction, chemoreception transducing, discerning good from bad,
Nostrils portending the putrid distinctly,
The stench of rottenness cannot be denied,
Intolerable, disgusting odors create an upheaval,
The stomach retorts, reviling to the point of upchucking,
The wretched body obedient to the distancing away from foul smells,
To the snout: death is death, truth not open to debate,
Instinctive, natural, reactionary proper without reason or rhyme,
Pleasant aromas bring forth peace, alertness, positive dreams,
Lavender and sage, herbs and spices, perfumes and bouquets,
Attar of roses, lily-of-the-valley, sweet alyssum, jasmin in bloom,
Wafting, cooking a fine meal, baking, hunger arising, children gathering,
The divine fragrance of an infant!
Oh if all sensations could be so direct,
The sensual aright and alighted as it is with the nose,
Sin unable to tempt, sin never rendered a chance.
A poem by A. Carthusian
Something close to nothing;
Worse: dust in sin;
This body of death, this wretchedness,
Set apart splendor,
Designated to offer fire,
A pleasing odor
Like galbanum, onycha and stacte,
And like the fragrance
Of frankincense in the tabernacle.
Consecrated to handle the Holy Things,
To offer trembling the cup of destiny.
Set apart as holy
To serve with hallowed fire
The watchful heart one flowing doxology.
In ever increasing brightness
Till like bronze mirrors our faces
Reflect his Glory whose eyes
Are flames of fire
Among the splendors of the saints…
And the LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy; [and you shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy. And the incense which you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves; it shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.” –Exodus 30:34-38
I watched an intriguing movie ‘Pilgrimage’, a thirteenth century drama set in Ireland. Brutal in reality, the violence is intense, while the subtler spiritual story of individuals and their response to events details an inspiring wisdom. The ever-present mysterious presence of God surrounds within the splendor of nature, the stunning Irish countryside detailing omnipotence. Providence whispers within prayer, chants, mountains, fogs, and the sea, while dramatically pronouncing in violence, thunderstorms, confusion, and death. Fanaticism, dogma and judgement are usurped by innocence, kindness, and the willingness to be subjected rather than the subjector; those willing to acquiesce to fate ultimately victorious over those attempting to conquer: the story of Christ retold in a different setting. A Cistercian, hard of heart, a consecrated one constantly manipulating in a perceived dedication to God, one who raises fear and domination up as the ultimate attributes of God, drowns from his obsession with a relic. While one pure at heart, able to exercise the relic with faith, hope, and charity has the clouds open to him, sunshine pouring down upon him with his rejection of the relic. Another accompanies, a mute one properly discerning, while maintaining continual contrite vigilance after a life of sin and death, a background of hinted at violence during escapades in the Holy Land warring in the Crusades. Lines from the gem of a film: “How does a man without a voice confess his sins?” The prince of wrath, violent and intent screams when the Cistercian curses his fate: “If I wait long enough there will be another crusade, another chance of absolution. It’s the way of the world.” In other words, he declares: I am a wrathful man, intent upon anger, vengeance and violence. I possess the courage and strength to bear forth my will in seizing what I want. I kill as I need. I will then make everything eternally correct by dedicating my warrior skills, my brutality, to the Church for the reconquering of the Holy Land. Not for the faint of heart, ‘Pilgrimage’ proves to prevail as a stunning film of proper faith.
For though now—glory be to God!—I had no desire after vanities, I saw clearly in the vision how all things are vanity, and how hollow are all the dignities of earth; it was a great lesson, teaching me to raise up my desires to the Truth alone. It impresses on the soul a sense of the presence of God such as I cannot in any way describe, only it is very different from that which it is in our own power to acquire on earth. It fills the soul with profound astonishment at its own daring, and at any one else being able to dare to offend His most awful Majesty. –The Life of St Teresa of Avila