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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Part 25 of the DoC series: more Albert the Great

from St. comments are in blue as usual.

Chapter 8

How a religious man should commit himself to God in all circumstances whatsoever

I am now completely convinced that you will recognise from these arguments that the more you strip yourself of the products of your imagination and all worldly and created things, and are united to God with your intellect by a good will, the closer you will approach the state of innocence and perfection. What could be better? And what could be more happy and joyful? Above all it is important for you to keep your mind bare - without imaginations and images and free of any sort of entanglement, so that you are not concerned about either the world, friends, prosperity or adversity, or anything present, past or future, whether in yourself or in others - not even your own sins. 

Here we have very good advice which some of us have received in the confessional as to not going over past sins. The evil one wants us to get bogged down in the past instead of concentrating on the present (not the future).

But consider yourself with a certain pure simplicity to be alone with God outside the world, and as if your mind were already in eternity and separated from the body so that it will certainly not bother about worldly things or be concerned about the state of the world, about peace or war, about good weather or rain, or about anything at all in this world, but with complete docility will turn to God alone, be empty for him and cleave to him. So now in this way ignore your body and all created things, present or future, and direct the high point of your mind and spirit directly, as best you can, naked and unencumbered on the uncreated light. 

Theology of the Body people will not like this, however, Albert's insights are proved correct by countless other saints, such as Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and others. The point is not to get bogged down with the things of this world.

And let your spirit be cleansed in this way from all imaginations, coverings and things obscuring its vision, like an angel (not) tied to a body, who is not hindered by the works of the flesh nor tangled in vain and wandering thoughts. Let your spirit therefore arm itself against all temptations, vexations, and injuries so that it can persevere steadily in God when attacked by either face of fortune. 

So that when some inner disturbance or boredom or mental confusion come you will not be indignant or dejected because of it, nor run back to vocal prayers or other forms of consolation, but only to lift yourself up in your intellect by a good will to hold on to God with your mind whether the natural inclination of the body wills it or not

The religious-minded soul should be so united to God and should have or render its will so conformed to the divine will that it is not occupied with any created thing or cling to it any more than before it was created, and as if nothing existed except God and the soul itself. 

I think what is meant here is that one keeps God as the focus of one's life. I know a couple with children and the man gets up early to read the Scriptures of an hour. The wife makes breakfast for herself and the children and she takes an hour during the day to do the same-Lectio Divina. If she has not been able to do so, she will take time when the husband comes home from work.

Single people have the advantage of organizing their own time without having to work around another person's schedule. To be honest, there is no excuse of a single person not to have intense prayer time and the reading of the Scriptures. This should come before multiple activities, such as going to the gym or being at church several times a week. Simplicity of life will help focus one on God. This next section could be applied to singles and encourage them to make vows of chastity and poverty. 

And in this way it should accept everything confidently and equally, in general and in particular, from the hand of divine providence, agreeing in everything with the Lord in patience, peace and silence. The thing is that the most important thing of all for a spiritual life is to strip the mind of all imaginations so that one can be united in one’s intellect to God by a good will, and conformed to him. Besides, nothing will then be intermediary between you and God. This is obvious, since nothing external will stand between you when by the vow of voluntary poverty you will have removed the possession of anything whatsoever, and by the vow of chastity you will have abandoned your body, and by obedience you will have given up your will and your soul itself. And in this way nothing will be left to stand between you and God.

The great spiritual writers tell us that the main role of the contemplative religious orders is the pursuit of perfection. I have mentioned some of these writers in past posts. St. Benedict's Rule is about this pursuit, but as my Benedictine mentor has noted, God calls all men and women to this path, not merely the religious.

 That you are a religious person is indicated by your profession, your state, and now your habit and tonsure and such like, but whether you are only a religious in appearance or a real one, you will find out. Bear in mind therefore how greatly you have fallen away and sin against the Lord your God and all his justice if you behave otherwise and cling with your will and love to what is created rather than to the Creator himself, putting the created before the Creator