Saturday, January 5, 2019

Reassurance from Approved Authors

Finding Confidence in Times of Trial: 
Letters of St. John of Avila. 
John of Avila. 
Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition. 

No contest: it is hard to buy me a gift. I am mostly happy when friends and loved ones don't even try. I must say, however, that this little book served as treasure in many of its parts, but especially for its later chapters and this one in particular: To a Friend On Preparation for Epiphany —  the Gold of Divine Love (p. 117).

By way of explanation: I was ruminating over the redeeming social value of the homily I have prepared for tomorrow, when St. John of Avila came to reassure me that my effort has its worth (Finding Confidence in Times of Trial).

There are hard sayings in this little volume as well, but they actually helped me push through another book which I have been at for the longest time:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent. 
Climacus, John. 
Kindle Edition. 

Climacus' thesis for the whole book is fairly well summed up in this quote from early on:

"Those who desire to rise with their body to the heavens, need first struggle and constant suffering, especially in the first part of their renunciation, until our inclination to pleasure and unloving hearts reach the love of God and purity by a manifest grieving. A great labor, very great, with unseen grieving, most especially for those who live recklessly, until by simplicity, lack of anger and toil we force our mind, which is a hungry dog of the kitchen given to barking, into one who instead loves purity and watchfulness. Let those of us who are feeble and lustful have the courage to present our illnesses and feeble nature to Christ with undoubting faith, and speak to Him. And we will confidently receive His help, even though this is beyond what we deserve. But only if we unrelentingly move to the full depth of a humble nature." (p. 2)

For the longest time, I put the book down and could not get past Step 5 - On Painful and Genuine Repentance Which is the Life of Godly Convicts, and Concerning the Prison. The whole thing seemed way too macabre. Enter John of Avila, who is not the least bit compromising, but who in his letters respectfully challenges his correspondents to grow in spirit. I really liked his letter to the priest on how to celebrate Mass:

"In short, such considerations, by God’s help, entirely change and possess the soul, and draw it out of itself — at one time, by feelings of reverence, at another, by love, and yet again, by the strong emotion caused by the realization of Christ’s presence. Although these thoughts do not inevitably produce this result, yet unless the heart hardens itself into stone against their influence, they strongly conduce to it. Let your mind, then, dwell on such reflections; listen to the cry: “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh” — your God cometh! Retire into the secrecy of your own heart, and open it to receive what is wont to come from so powerful a Light. Beseech this same Lord that, as He has deigned to place Himself within your hands, He will give you the further grace to esteem and venerate and love Him as you should. Beg Him fervently not to permit you to be in the presence of His Majesty but with reverence and fear and love. Endeavor constantly to have a fitting sense of our Lord’s presence, even should you contemplate no other part of this Mystery." [John of Avila. Finding Confidence in Times of Trial: Letters of St.  (pp. 27-28). 

Sorry, just a thought on the Vigil of the Epiphany and a word of encouragement to never cease reading in hopes of piercing the armor and slaying that wayward heart!


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