Do not build towers without a foundation, for our Lord does not care so much for the importance of our works as for the love with which they are done. When we do all we can, His Majesty will enable us to do more every day.

—St. Teresa of Avila: The Interior Castle.

"...to desire the help of grace is the beginning of grace..."

—St. Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace Ch II

George Herbert's Pre-sermon Prayer

An excerpt from George Herbert’s book A Priest to The Temple: Or The Country Parson, His Character, And Rule of Holy Life, included in the chapter titled, “The Authour’s Prayer before Sermon.”

Thou hast exalted thy mercy above all things; and hast made our salvation, not our punishment, thy glory: so that then where sin abounded, not death, but grace superabounded; accordingly, when we had sinned beyond any help in heaven or earth, then thou saidest, Lo, I come! then did the Lord of life, unable of himselfe to die, contrive to do it. He took flesh, he wept, he died; for his enemies he died; even for those that derided him then, and still despise him. Blessed Saviour!

Prayer is a portal

I'm headed to the beach this weekend!

Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. Entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.

— Carl Jung via: Swissmiss

This Jung quote grabbed my attention for its Emersonian charm and near narration of what I hope this weekend to be. On second reading, I found myself remolding some of the pastoral platitudes. At the risk of over-spiritualizing, here are my thoughts:

When one enters a dream, more than one's self is present. We enter the unconscious in the compony of the invisible. There, not all are benevolent. Yet, when we humble ourself to the good, true, and beautiful one, we bath in the sea, walk in the calming compony of the woods and are consequently washed, calmed, and put right, in the compony of The Man of Sorrows. In him, we get clean. In him, we touch nature from the inside.

Prayer is the portal.

Wait For It

My anxiety shortens my breath. The fundamental instinct of respiration thwarted by fear, worry, too much time just in my head. I've learned, through the trauma of a couple panic attacks and a steady breathing practice—in thru the nose, out thru the mouth—that breathing consists in waiting (thanks for humoring the personal example).

It might sound weird that I'm relearning how to breath as an adult. Mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, prayer-all forms of attentive breath train one to wait. I use the personal and fundamental example of patient breathing to claim that to wait is to be human. Our journey through time waits for an end.

Here's Nick Cave on the theme:

The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error. What we are talking about is not a period of ‘not coming’ but a period of ‘not arriving’. The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us. But often they must journey a great distance and over vast stretches of time to get there. They advance through the rugged terrains of lived experience, battling to arrive at the end of our pen. In time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown — from memory or, more thrillingly, from the predictive part of our minds that exists on the far side of the lived moment. It has been a long and arduous journey, and our waiting much anguished.

Wonder and Bread

Image Source

Lately, I've been obsessed with the Lone Bellow's latest album, "Half Moon Light." Alongside Bob Dylan's latest and "Easy Rider: The best of the Mercury recordings" by Johnny Cash, New York's finest country-folk band has my heart and ears. A favorite track titled "Wonder" asks,

"Should I let go of the wonder? Let go of the wonder? I'll find it out beyond the trees."

The question is a good one because it seems to be asking two things at the same time.

  1. What can I keep from the childlike (not childish) awe from before now, when all I got from growing up was getting old?
  2. How am I holding on to an imagined person, place, or thing that isn't leading me to hope and love? Is it best for me to let that go? If so, where will I find the strength to do so? What do I hold on to instead?

Thinking about wonder and seeing that Austin Kleon was recently asked by the Corita Art Center to speak about Sister Corita Kent in a conversation about her influence on his own work, reminded me of her great collage using Wonder Bread branding (image above). In that collage Sister Kent incorporates a hearty quote from Camus. The tiny script in her collage reads:

Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say this hope lies in a nation; others in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, received, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works everyday negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundation of his own sufferings and joys, builds for all.

—Camus

A Lesson in The Geometry of The Cross with St Augustine

[Of the Cross] Its breadth lies in the transverse beam on which the hands of the Crucified are extended; and signifies good works in all the breadth of love: its length extends from the transverse beam to the ground, and is that whereto the back and feet are affixed; and signifies perseverance through the whole length of time to the end: its height is in the summit, which rises upwards above the transverse beam; and signifies the supernal goal, to which all works have reference, since all things that are done well and perseveringly, in respect of their breadth and length, are to be done also with due regard to the exalted character of the divine rewards: its depth is found in the part that is fixed into the ground; for there it is both concealed and invisible, and yet from thence spring up all those parts that are outstanding and evident to the senses; just as all that is good in us proceeds from the depths of the grace of God, which is beyond the reach of human comprehension and judgement.

St. Augustine: On I John.

"Concealed and invisible" alluding to the depth of the cross—its victim, and work— reminds me of (1)Jesus' and (2)Wendell Berry's words:

  1. "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

  2. Put your faith in the two inches of humus
    that will build under the trees
    every thousand years.
    Listen to carrion — put your ear
    close, and hear the faint chattering
    of the songs that are to come...Practice resurrection.

It seems like Augustine cannot but help himself from interpreting St John's letter with the language of the apostle of the cross, St Paul. Did Paul have the multi-dimensionality of the cross in mind when he wrote to the Ephesians, Dear Bishop of Hippo?

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The Question, The Facts, and The Meaning

To believe in God means to understand the question about the meaning of life.

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.

To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein