Archive for June, 2012

The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.

What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the lustre of the precious stone.

On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonised in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behaviour. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.

Gregory of Nyssa, On Christian Perfection

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, “The Seven Acts of Mercy” (1625)

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Speravit anima mea in Domino.
custodia matutina usque ad noctem,
speret Israel in Domino
Quia apud Dominum misericordia
et copiosa apud eum redemptio
Et ipse redimet Israel
ex omnibus iniquitatibus eius. (Ps 129.5-8, Vulg.)


My soul has hoped in the Lord;

As the watchman looks through the night for daybreak,
let Israel hope in the Lord.

Because with the Lord there is mercy,
with Him redemption abundant.

Let the Lord ransom Israel
from all its iniquities. (Translation mine)

Alfredo11, “Night Watchman” (2009) (artist’s website)

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Scribantur haec in generatione altera,
et populus qui creabitur laudabit Dominum.
Quia prospexit de excelso sancto suo;
Dominus de caelo in terram aspexit:
ut audiret gemitus compeditorum;
solveret filios interemptorum:
ut annuntient in Sion nomen Domini,
et laudem eius in Jerusalem. (Ps 101.19-22, Vulg.)


Let this be written in the coming generation:
“and a people yet created shall praise the Lord:

because He has looked out from His lofty sanctuary;
from heaven the Lord has surveyed the earth:

to hear the cries of prisoners,
to free the children of the slain,

that they might declare the name of the Lord in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem.” (Translation mine)

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Quanto magis aliquis unitus, et interius implicatus fuerit, tanto plura et altiora sine labore intelligit quia desuper lumen intelligentiæ accipit. Purus simplex et stabilis in multis operibus non dissipatur, quia omnia ad Dei honorem operatur, et in se otiose ab omni propria exquisitione esse nititur. Quis te magis impedit, et molestat quam tua immortificata cordis affectio? Bonus et devotus homo, opera sua intus prius disponit, quæ foris agere debet, nec illa trahunt ad desideria vitiosae inclinationis, sed ipse inflectat ea ad arbitrium rectae intentionis rationis. Quis habet fortius certamen, quam qui nititur vincere se ipsum? Et hoc deberet esse negotium nostrum, vincere scilicet se ipsum, et quotidie se fortiorem ipso fieri, atque in melius proficere. (I.III.3)

The more one is united and uncomplicated within, so much more he understands without difficulty deeper matters, because he has received the light of understanding from above. In his many operations he is pure, simple, and stable, not scattered about, because he does all things for the honor of God. And he seeks to be at ease from all matters concerning himself. Who is an impediment to you, an annoyance to you, more so than to the undying affection of your own heart? Good and devout is the man, who at first puts off his own works in favor of what he ought to do outside of himself, and so is not drawn to the desires of vicious inclination; Instead he bends such matters to the judgment of right reason. Who has the stronger challenge than he who seeks to conquer himself? This ought to be our task, namely each to conquer his own self, and daily to become stronger than the self, and so progress on to the better. (Translation mine)

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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Omnis homo naturaliter scire desiderat. Sed scientia sine timore Dei quid importat? Melior est profecto rusticus humilis, qui Deo fervit, quam superbus philosophus, qui se neglecto cursum caeli confiderat. Qui bene se ipsum cognoscit sibi ipsi vilescit, nec laudibus delectatur humanis. Si scirem omnia quæ in mundo sunt, et non essem in charitate, quid me juavert coram Deo, qui me judicaturus est ex facto? (I.II.1)

Every man naturally desires to know, but of what import is knowledge without the fear of God? Better is the humble yeoman, who fears God, than the haughty philosoph who relies on the patterns of the stars, much to his own detriment. He who knows himself well holds himself cheap, and does not delight in the praises of men. If I knew all the things in the world, but did not dwell in charity, what of it would help me before my God, who will judge me according to my deeds? (Translation mine)

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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Quid prodest tibi alta de Trinitate disputare, si careas humilitate unde displiceas Trinitati? Vere alta verba non faciunt sanctum et justum, sed virtuosa vita efficit Deo carum. Opto magis sentire compunctionem quam scire definitionem. Si scires totam Bibliam, et omnium philosophorum dicta quid totum prodesset, sine charitate et gratia? Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas præter amare Deum et illi soli fervire. Ista est summa sapientia per contemptum mundi tendere ad regna cælestia. (I.I.3)

What does it profit you to dispute the lofty matters of the the Holy Trinity, if you lack humility, and so displease the Trinity? In truth it is not deep words that make you holy and upright, but a virtuous life which makes you dear to God. I rather prefer to know contrition than to know in its definition. If you know the whole Bible, and the maxims of all the philosophers, what does the lot of this profit you without charity and grace? ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,’ save to love God and to serve Him alone. This is the highest wisdom: to cast off the world  and to strive towards the heavenly kingdom. (Translation mine)

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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If you want to ask
a question, the chairman said,
begin by giving us
your name and address.

So the old gentleman
seated near the back
of the auditorium,
when it came his turn, said
he was Louis St. Laurent
and came from Quebec;

and we all of us laughed:
because that’s who he was
and it was the kind of little joke
one expected of an elderly
former prime minister;

but the next time
he said the same thing

and the time after that,
said it quite simply

and it became obvious
it wasn’t meant to be funny,

wasn’t meant to be anything
other than courteous,

like his holding open the door
for whoever happened to reach it
at the same time he did

and never lighting a cigarette
without offering the pack to
the person in front and the person behind
and the persons seated
on either side of him.

“The Old Gentleman” by Alden Nowlan, from Selected Poems (1996).

Rembrandt van Rijn. “An Old Man in Red” (1652/54)

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