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Archive for the ‘purity’ Category

We all have this tendency to enjoy (or seek satisfaction) in ourselves, in our pride or in other people and things. St. John of the Cross teaches that these tendencies are the root of our attachments. Attachments are those “inordinate appetites”. Basically, they are those desires we have for things that are not rightly ordered in our lives and lead us into sin, mortal and venial, and imperfections. It is important to get to the root of these inordinate desires if one desires union with God. To get to the root of these, which are the inclinations of our nature, we must oppose them and make ourselves do what is repugnant to our nature.

Gnarled Tree Roots --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Gnarled Tree Roots — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

This would mean ‘going against the current’ and requires strength of will. St. John of the Cross, in the Ascent to Mount Carmel, gives us “rules” for detachment. He tells us the soul must always be inclined:

not to the easiest thing ~ but to the hardest
not to the tastiest ~ but to the most insipid
not to things that give greatest pleasure ~ but to those that give the least
not to the restful things ~ but to painful ones
not to consolation ~ but to desolation
not to more ~ but to less
not to the highest and dearest ~ but to the lowest and most despised
not to the desire for something ~ but to having no desires.

So all that is difficult, disagreeable or wearisome to us needs to have our attention. These are the things to work on! These reveal to us our desires.

Our saint says we are to oppose these inclinations with order and discretion. In other words, we need to train ourselves to not shrink back from something we find disagreeable or that requires effort or that we find difficult or challenging. In order to strengthen the will, we can put into practice the above rules starting with little things in order to gain strength of will and then be strong enough to tackle the bigger attachments. For instance, being inclined to “restful things” like not getting out of bed when the alarm clock first goes off. The tendency is to hit the snooze and rest ten more minutes! It is a bit painful to jump right out of bed at the first call; it will require strength of will. “I will!” “I will get up right away when the alarm sounds off.” Or how about the inclination to the highest and dearest . . . a promotion, recognition, a word of praise? Can we train the will to not desire these and rather hope to be despised, past over and unnoticed? All this may sound harsh, but there is a purpose to this and it is to bring us to union with God. As we practice detachment from our desires this end is always to be kept in mind. Our desires should always be for God.

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If our desires are centered on God then we will be moving our heart to purity. The deepest, most spiritual meaning of purity is to “be detached from all creatures, free of a fixation on oneself and on others.” (Edith Stein Collected Works: Woman, p. 203)

This purity is so necessary to attaining union with God. Purity is a matter of the heart. The heart must not be allowed to be captivated by creatures, no matter how fascinating they may be. The soul longing for union with God will live among creatures and be occupied with them with all charity, but will not allow the heart to become attached to them or seek gratification in them.

The most challenging part of this virtue is the detachment from ‘self’ which we carry around with us all the time and are never wholly free. This detachment requires us to renounce our preoccupation with ourselves: our way, our wants, our comfort, our rights -to name a few.

When we become attached to something it prohibits our ascent to God. It is the virtue of purity that will help us to take flight and reach God.

birdflight

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presentationatthetemplebyandreamantegnaca1460

She presents him in the Temple and accompanies him on his mission. She submits herself to the laws of purification even though she does not need to be purified.

We are in need of interior purification. However, our pride often seeks to exempt us from the law. We make excuses. Often we falsely believe that parts of the law of God just do not pertain to us.

According to the law, Mary was to go to the Temple forty days after the birth of her son and participate in the purification rite. She brings the child with her. This is the first time Jesus, the Light of the World, enters the Temple.

Candles are blessed on this day by the Church. These lit tapers symbolize the life of a Christian – a life of grace that is filled with faith. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, or as Simeon proclaimed, “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles”, these candles should be a reminder to us that we too must be a light for others revealing Christ in us.

Mary is always united to her Son. We too should always be united to Jesus. Our union with him is proportional to our purity. For this Feast of the Presentation let us ask the Immaculate Heart of Mary for that pure love, free of sin and detached from all created things, and for a heart directed towards God and always tending toward him.

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My Song of Today
Text based on the original poem
‘Mon Chant d’Aujourd’hui by St Therese of Lisieux adapted from the translation by C L Emery

 

Happy Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.

My Song for Today

My life is but an instant, a passing hour.
My life is but a day that escapes and flies away.
O my God ! You know that to love you on earth
I only have today !…

Oh, I love you, Jesus ! My soul yearns for you.
For just one day remain my sweet support.
Come reign in my heart, give me your smile
Just for today !

Lord, what does it matter if the future is gloomy ?
To pray for tomorrow, oh no, I cannot !…
Keep my heart pure, cover me with your shadow
Just for today.

If I think about tomorrow, I fear my fickleness.
I feel sadness and worry rising up in my heart.
But I’m willing, my God, to accept trial and suffering
Just for today.

O Divine Pilot ! whose hand guides me,
I’m soon to see you on the eternal shore.
Guide my little boat over the stormy waves in peace
Just for today.

Ah ! Lord, let me hide in your Face.
There I’ll no longer hear the word’s vain noise.
Give me your love, keep me in your grace
Just for today.

Near your divine Heart, I forget all passing things.
I no longer dread the fears of the night.
Ah ! Jesus, give me a place in your Heart
Just for today.

Living Bread, Bread of Heaven, divine Eucharist,
O sacred Mystery ! that Love has brought forth…
Come live in my heart, Jesus, my white Host,
Just for today.

Deign to unite me to you, Holy and sacred Vine,
And my weak branch will give you its fruit,
And I’ll be able to offer you a cluster of golden grapes
Lord, from today on.

I’ve just this fleeting day to form
This cluster of love, whose seeds are souls.
Ah ! give me, Jesus, the fire of an Apostle
Just for today.

O Immaculate Virgin ! You are my Sweet Star
Giving Jesus to me and uniting me to Him.
O Mother ! Let me rest under your veil
Just for today.

My Holy Guardian Angel, cover me with your wing.
With your fire light the road that I’m taking.
Come direct my steps… help me, I call upon you
Just for today.

Lord, I want to see you without veils, without clouds,
But still exiled, far from you, I languish ?
May your lovable face not be hidden from me
Just for today.

Soon I’ll fly away to speak your praises
When the day without sunset will dawn on my soul.
Then I’ll sing on the Angels’lyre
The Eternal Today !…

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The greatest obstacles to contemplation is not disposing yourself for it. When we remain dissipated and attached we block the reception of this most sublime gift.

St. John of the Cross in his work  The Dark Night speaks of this desire for contemplation when he writes, “For God does not bring to contemplation all those who purposely exercise themselves in the way of the spirit, nor even half. Why? He best knows.” (Book I, Chap 9) However, in his commentary on The Rule of Carmel, Jerome of the Mother of God, OCD,  says that the saying “He best knows” is a Spanish saying which means: the whole world knows it. Because precisely when one does not do what one ought- then it is clear as day!

How can we excite in ourselves the desire to attain the gift of contemplation?

We often fail to dispose ourselves for contemplation either because we give in to too much activity or because we do not produce enough acts of love. By offering to God a  holy heart, one free from all actual stain of sin, we can at least do our part and strive for perfection.

St. Teresa in The Way of Perfection chapter 17 says, “I don’t say that we shouldn’t try; on the contrary, we should try everything. What I am saying is that this is not a matter of your choosing but of the Lord’s….Be sure that if you do what lies in your power, preparing yourselves for contemplation with the perfection mentioned, and that if He doesn’t give it to you (and I believe He will give if detachment and humility are truly present), He will save this gift for you so as to grant it to you all at once in heaven.”

May all our efforts cooperate with the grace God gives in each moment to prepare a heart, pure and receptive, to receive so great a gift.

cleanheart

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On the Feast of the Assumption the Lord showed St. Teresa in a rapture the Queen of Angels in her ascent into heaven and how she was received there with all solemnity and great joy. The effects St. Teresa received were “a deeper desire to undergo difficult trials” and she was also “left with a longing to serve our Lady”. (The Book of Her Life, Chap 39:26)

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Following all the many trials and persecutions St. Teresa received in setting up the first foundation, she fell into a rapture on the Feast of the Assumption. This time she was reflecting upon her many sins when the rapture occurred. In it she saw herself “vested in a white robe of shining brightness” but at first didn’t see who was clothing her in it. Later she saw that it was the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph that were putting this robe on her.

St. Teresa goes on to explain, “I was given to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. After being clothed and while experiencing the most marvelous delight and glory, it seemed to me than that our Lady took me by the hands. She told me I made her very happy in serving the glorious St. Joseph, that I should believe that what I was striving for in regard to the monastery would be accomplished, that the Lord and those two would be greatly served in it, that I shouldn’t fear there would ever be any failure in this matter even though the obedience which was to be give was not to my liking, because they would watch over us, and that her Son had already promised us He would be with us, that as a sign that this was true she was giving me a jewel. It seemed to me she placed around my neck a very beautiful golden necklace to which was attached a highly valuable cross.” (The Book of Her Life, Chap 33:14)

Because of St. Teresa’s work and devotion, Carmelites strive to serve Our Lady and St. Joseph and to foster personal devotion to both of them. In a previous post, I mentioned how St. Teresa set St. Joseph at one door and Our Lady at the other in each of the foundations that she set up. She had great trust in their protection and intercession and we should too.

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During Lent we are to focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These were the focus of Matthew’s Gospel which were read on Ash Wednesday. (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18)

We can do these for the wrong reasons, wanting to be seen or praised by others who observe us carrying these actions out in practice. A form of pride can set in. We can do these because of the publicity or praise that we may receive.  Complacency can also creep in to these activities. Our motives can be all wrong.

A secret kind of peace and tranquility can come from the performance of these things as well. We begin to feel good about ourselves for having done something charitable or difficult or because reason has told us these are good and noble things in themselves.

St. John of the Cross reminds us that we should do these things with a totally different attitude:

“For the sake of directing their joy in moral goods to God, Christians should keep in mind that the value of their good works, fasts, alms, penances, and so on, is not based on quantity and quality so much as on the love of God practiced in them; and consequently that these works are of greater excellence in the measure both that the love of God by which they are performed is more pure and entire and that self-interest diminishes with respect to pleasure, comfort, praise and earthly or heavenly joy. They should not set their heart on the pleasure, comfort, savor, and other elements of self-interest these good works and practices usually entail, but recollect their joy in God and desire to serve him through these means.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk III, 27,5)

Therefore, we should do all our Lenten fasts, prayers, penances, and alms with more love and to do them for God, remembering that only God needs to be pleased and joyful over the works we do.  Also, we should remember that our saint also pointed out that the quantity and quality are not that important. Any little thing done with love and for God is what is most important. May our Lenten practices be carried out with more love.

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Taking Flight


The deepest, most spiritual meaning of purity is to “be detached from all creatures, free of a fixation on oneself and on others.” (Edith Stein Collected Works: Woman, p. 203)
This purity is so necessary to attaining union with God. It is a matter of the heart. The heart must not be allowed to be captivated by creatures, no matter how fascinating they may be. The soul longing for union with God will live among creatures and be occupied with them with all charity, but will not allow the heart to become attached to them or seek gratification in them. 
The most challenging part of this virtue is the detachment from ‘self’ which we carry around with us all the time and are never wholly free. This detachment requires us to renounce our preoccupation with ourselves: our way, our wants, our comfort, our rights –to name a few. 
When we become attached to something it prohibits our ascent to God. It is the virtue of purity that will help us to take flight and reach God. 

Read Full Post »

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