On Forsaking Creatures to Find the Creator
THE DISCIPLE. Lord, I am greatly in need of yet more abundant grace if I am to reach that state where no creature can impede my progress. For as long as anything holds me back, I cannot come freely to You. One who desired to fly freely to You said, 'Who will give me wings like a dove? I will fly and be at rest.'(Ps.55:6) And who is more perfectly at rest than the man of single purpose?(Matt.6:22) Who more free than he who desires nothing upon earth? Rapt in spirit, a man must rise above all created things, and perfectly forsaking himself, see clearly that nothing in creation can compare with the Creator. But unless a man is freed from dependence on creatures, he cannot turn freely to the things of God. This is the reason why there are so few comtemplatives, for there are few who can free themselves entirely from transitory things.
A soul needs much grace to be raised up and carried beyond itself. Yet, unless a man's soul is raised, set free from all attachment to earthly things, and wholly united to God, neither his knowledge nor his possessions are of any value. So long as he esteems as precious anything outside the One, Infinite, and Eternal Good, he will remain mean and earthbound in spirit. For whatever is not God is nothing, and is to be accounted nothing. There is a great difference between the wisdom of a devout man enlightened by God, and the knowledge of a learned and studious scholar. More noble by far is the learning infused from above by divine grace, than that painfully acquired by the industry of man.
Many desire the grace of contemplation, but few take the trouble to practise what is essential to it. It is a great obstacle if we rely on external signs and the experience of the senses, and pay small regard to the perfecting of self-discipline. I hardly know what motives can inspire us, or what our purpose may be, when we who wish to be considered spiritual take so much trouble and are so concerned with trivial, daily affairs, and so seldom give our full and earnest attention to our interior life.
Alas, after a short meditation we break off, and do not make a strict examination of our lives. We do not consider where our affections really lie, nor are we grieved at the sinfulness of our whole life. Yet it was because of the wickedness of men that the Flood came upon the earth.(Gen.6:12) When our inner inclinations are corrupted, the actions that spring from them are also corrupted. And this is a sign of our lack of inner strength ; for from a pure heart alone springs the fruit of a holy life.
A man's achievements are often discussed, but seldom the principles by which he lives. We inquire whether he is brave, handsome, rich, clever, a good writer, a fine singer, or a hard worker : but whether he is humble-minded, patient and gentle, devout and spiritual is seldom mentioned. Nature regards the outward characteristics of a man: Grace considers his inner disposition. And while Nature is often misled, Grace trusts in God and cannot be deceived.
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