December 21st, 2014

the ultimate role of compunction is to bring to the soul a longing for Heaven

It is the flow of life 8:16 AM Sunday morning. It is a cold dark gray morning here in West Michigan I am once again sitting in my main study writing on my Samsung lap top computer. I get too frustrated using our old main computer located in our living room.

I got up this morning around 7 o'clock AM. I woke up from a dream where I told someone that I was a Calvinist and believed in the doctrines of election and reprobation. "What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory" Romans 9:22,23.

When I got up Carol making peanut brittle. I got a cup of coffee and came to my main study to mess with my lap top computer. After messing with my lap top computer I cooked a pot of oatmeal for Carol and I. After eating my oatmeal I wrote in my paper diary. Now I am writing in my blogs. Existence keeps flowing by.

This morning Carol will go to church and I will stay home to seek the Lord. My wife grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. Now she goes to a conservative Presbyterian church called the Presbyterian Church in America. At one point in my spiritual journey it was my goal to be an ordained minister in the PCA. Now my goal is to get to the New Creation/to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach" Hebrews 13:13.

Last night I read these books and went to bed with my wife around 10 o'clock PM.

"Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide For The Faithful And A Definitive Manual For The Scholar" by Dumitru Staniloae

"Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers" by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos [translated by Esther Williams]

"Medieval Exegesis" Volume 2 "The Four Senses Of Scripture" by Henri De Lubac

"Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church" by George E. Dempacopoulos

"The Love Of Learning And The Desire For God: A Study of Monastic Culture" by Jean Leclercq O.S.B.

Well I need a fresh cup of coffee so I will close to wait on the Lord. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" Proverbs 9:10.
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    contemplative contemplative

St. Gregory, Doctor of Desire

In the book titled, "The Love Of Learning And The Desire For God: A Study of Monastic Culture" by Jean Leclercq there is a chapter titled, 'St. Gregory, Doctor of Desire' that I want to quote this morning. Last night I read to her from this book while she got out Christmas cards-

"Compunction, Detachment, And Desire

The first result of experiencing man's condition, for the Christian who knows how to interpret it, is humility, in other words detachment from the world, from ourselves, and from our sins, and the consciousness of our need for God. Such is compunction under its double aspect: compunction of fear, compunction of desire. In its original profane use, the word "compunction" is a medical term, designating attacks of acute pain, of physical illness. But it has been used especially in the Christian vocabulary in a sense which, without losing contact with its origins, is nevertheless richer and loftier. Compunction becomes pain of the spirit, a suffering resulting simultaneously from two causes: the existence of sin and our tendency toward sin-compunctio, paenitentiae, timoris, formidinia-and the existence of our desire for God and even our very possession of God. St. Gregory, more than others, accentuated this last aspect: an obscure possession, awareness of which does not last, and consequently gives rise to regret at seeing it disappear and to a desire to find it again. The "compunction of the heart," "of the soul"-compunctio cordis animi-always tends to become a "compunction of love," "of delectation" and "of contemplation"-compunctio amoris, dilectionis, contemplationis. Compunction is an act of God in us, an act by which God awakens us, a shock, a blow, a "sting," a sort of burn. God goads us as if with a spear; He "presses" us with insistence (cum-pungere), as if to pierce us. The love of the world lulls us; but, as if by a thunderclap, the attention of the soul is recalled to God.

How is this action of God accomplished in us? By what means, through what intermediaries, and on what occasions? By all kinds of trials: tribulation, the flagella Dei, the thousandfold sufferings of life, sin itself, and, above all, temptation. Permission to tempt man is given by God to the demon for reasons of wise providence (dispensatio), because of the benefit resulting from temptation. The latter is necessary and becomes more frequent and more violent as one progresses in the life of prayer. It encourages the purification of intentions, it humbles, and it is a cure for pride. This is why God accepts the risk involved; temptation, and even sin, are less grave than pride. But all this is merely an occasion, and not a cause. It is God Himself who is working in us by His mysterious action; compunction is a gift beyond our power to understand.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

spiritual direction

Last night I read something in a book titled, "Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church" by George E. Demacopoulos that triggered some thoughts that I want to write out. First I will quote from the above book and then share some reflections-

"In book 2 of the Pastoral Rule, Gregory describes the tension between action and contemplation (reminiscent of the divide between the clerical and ascetic pastoral traditions) as a healthy pastoral balance. The pontiff disqualifies those who are unable to balance the two. Essentially, the priest must commit himself to the administrative obligations of office without sacrificing contemplatio "[T]he rector should not reduce his attention to the internal life because of external occupations, nor should he relinquish his care for external matters because of his anxiety for the internal life. Otherwise, either he will ruin his meditation because he is occupied by external concerns or he will not give to his neighbors what he owes to them because he has devoted himself to the internal life." Gregory suggests a number of methods to maintain the proper equilibrium, including the reading of Scripture.

As noted, most organized ascetic communities in late antiquity imposed a spiritual father/spiritual disciple hierarchy. The spiritual father or abba identified the unique spiritual condition of each subordinate and then laid out a path of correction accordingly. Gregory anchors his Pastoral Rule in this approach. The text not only serves as a sourcebook of spiritual profiles (see book 3) but develops many of the techniques employed by the abba." pg. 135

Last night I read the above to my wife. Over the years I have written here and said to many people that in your average evangelical church there is no spiritual direction. Notice the sentence above "the spiritual father or abba identified the unique spiritual condition of each subordinate and then laid out a path of correction". In the churches we have attended over the years no one has ever sat down with us and sought to discover our present spiritual condition. The idea seems to be if one who claims to be a Christian and goes to church on Sunday and sits under the preaching of the Bible God (the Holy Spirit) will apply the Word of God to the him or her and give him or her spiritual direction. There is no need for him or her to have a personal spiritual direction/pastoral care. The ministers job is to preach the Bible and visit the sick and dying. For example my wife's minister has never sat down with her personally and asked her about your spiritual condition. My wife's minister has no personal contact with my wife. He knows nothing about her prayer life for example. My wife has a ruling elder who visits once a year with another elder for 30 minutes to see if she has anything about the church that is bothering her or prayer concerns. My wife's elder knows nothing about my wife's spiritual state ("identified the unique spiritual condition of each subordinate and then laid out a path of correction").

One of the several reasons I stopped going to church was that no one really cared about my spiritual state/no pastoral care/no spiritual direction.

I could go on and on but I have shared my thoughts on spiritual direction many times here over the years so I won't repeat myself.

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" Hebrews 13:17.
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    contemplative contemplative

Christian reading

It is now 10:31 AM Sunday morning in the flow of life. I thought I would list some of the spiritual books I keep in my main study. I believe a Christian should read good Christian literature along with her Bible. Christians are to live devotional lives.

"Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide For The Faithful And A Definitive Manual For The Scholar" by Dumitru Staniloae

"Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers" by Metropolitan Nafpaktos Herotheos

"John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals And Other Works" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]

"Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]

"Miguel de Molinos: The Spiritual Guide" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]

"The Spiritual Writings of Denis the Carthusian" Translated into English by Ide M. Ni Riain, RSCJ

"The Collected Works Of St. John Of The Cross" Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. & Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D.

"The Collected Works of St. Teresa Of Avila" Three Volumes Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. & Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D.

"Carthusian Spirituality: The Writings Of Hugh Of Balma & Guigo De Ponte" [The Classics of Western Spirituality]

"The Cloud Of Unknowing" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]

"The Pursuit Of Wisdom and Other Works, by the Author of The Cloud of Unknowing" [The Classics Of Western Spirituality]

"The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert" by A Monk

"Guigo II: Ladder Of Monks And Twelve Meditations" Translated With Introduction by Edmund Colledge OSA

"Holiness" by John Webster

"Into The Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation" by Martin Laird

"A Sunlit Absence: Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation" by Martin Laird

"Spiritual Direction" by Martin Thornton

"Medieval Mystical Tradition And Saint John Of The Cross" by A Benedictine Of Stanbrook Abbey

"Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction" by David G. Benner

"The Way of a Pilgrim And The Pilgrim Continues His Way" Translated from the Russian by R. M. French

"Contemplative Prayer" by Thomas Merton

"Writings From The Philokalia On Prayer Of The Heart" Translated by E. Kadloubovsky & G.E.H. Palmer

"Holy Wisdom or Directions for the Prayer of Contemplation Extracted out of more than Forty Treatises" by Ven. Father F. Augustin Baker
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    contemplative contemplative

tears of repentance

"Nicetas Stethatos, disciple of St. Symeon the New Theologian, teaches that tears of repentance are one thing and tears that come from holy compunction are another. The former are like the river which overflows and sweeps down all the walls of sin, whereas the latter are to the soul like rain falling on the fields and like snow on the grass: "they nourish the grain of knowledge, and make it luxuriant and fruitful". He also emphasizes that the taste of tears sometimes brings bitterness and pain, sometimes joy and gladness, to the noetic feeling of the heart. The tears of repentance create bitterness and pain; the tears of the pure heart, the heart which has attained its freedom from passions, are tears of pleasure and indescribable sweetness. Almost the same difference is found between tears from the fear of God and tears from the love of God.

Tears have many effects. They purify a person's heart from the stain of sins and then enlightens his heart. The Fathers teach that when the devil comes to a person's soul, he drops various images and then withdraws, leaving the idol of sin in the heart. Tears clean this idol away: the place of the heart is washed and the cloud which covered it disappears. Abba Poemen teaches: "He who wishes to purify his faults purifies them with tears." In another place he says: "In all our afflictions let us weep in the presence of the goodness of God until He shows mercy on us." So where there is mourning there is not a trace of slander or criticism. Actually it has been confirmed by our experience in the Church that tears can wash away sins as water washes away something written. At our tears the Holy Spirit comes and rests upon our heart, purifies us and washes us from the filth of wickedness.

Tears not only purify but they also illumine the soul. In reality the grace of God which comes through repentance brightens and sanctifies the heart of man. The abyss of mourning, that is, great mourning, sees consolation. With purity of heart comes illumination. "Illumination is an ineffable energy which is unknowingly perceived and invisibly seen." Mourning brings comfort, according to Christ's beatitude. This comfort is the solace of a sorrowing soul. Divine help is the renewal of a soul depressed by grief which, "in a wonderful way, transforms painful tears into painless ones". And Nicetas Stethatos teaches that no one can attain the potential likeness to God unless he has previously, through hot tears, purified the filth existing within him and kept the commandments of Christ. In this way we cast off deformity and become capable of enjoying the glory of God." pg. 185,186 "Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers" by Metropolitan Nafpaktos Herotheos

old diary entry
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    contemplative contemplative

Michael Casey Monk of Tarrawarra

This afternoon I was looking at a book titled, "Athirst for God: Spiritual Desire in Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs" by Michael Casey Monk of Tarrawarra. I found this video of Father Casey answering questions about the monastic life interesting and thought I would post it (it is in English with German subtitles).

  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

to open up the Scriptures is to admit to nuptial union

It is in the flow of being alive in West Michigan 6:34 PM Sunday night. I am in my main study reading from a book titled, "The Undivided Heart: The Western Monastic Approach to Contemplation" by Michael Casey. In this slim book by Casey is a chapter titled, 'Spiritual Desire in the Gospel Homilies of St. Gregory the Great' pg. 42-60.

This afternoon I did watch some professional football on TV. The day has been quiet for me. Carol slept most of the day. She is now sitting in the dining room reading food and reading something.

I wanted to mention these two other books by Michael Casey for those into the Christian spiritual disciplines.

"Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer" by Michael Casey

"Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina" by Michael Casey.

This afternoon I mainly read from these two books-

"Moral Reflections on the Book of Job" Volume 1 "Preface and Books 1-5" by Gregory the Great

"Medieval Exegesis" Volume 2 "The Four Senses Of Scripture" by Henri De Lubac

It is too early to go to bed so here I sit writing in my blogs and waiting for this day to come to a close.

I have these Christian books to read this week if I am still in the land of the living-

"A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology" by J. Richard Middleton

"Salvation Applied By The Spirit: Union with Christ" by Robert A. Peterson

"God Has Spoken: A History Of Christian Theology" by Gerald Bray

"The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A (Not So) New Model of the Atonement" by Michael J. Gorman

"Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness" by Richard B. Hays

"History and Spirit: The Understanding Of Scripture According To Origen" by Henri De Lubac

"Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery" by G. K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd

"The Second Letter To The Corinthians" [The Pillar New Testament Commentary] by Mark A. Seifrid

So much to read before I fall into my grave. Well I will close to brush my teeth and wander the house. It will be over.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

we are as though possessors of camels by faith

"XXVIII.39. "He possessed seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels." Without doing violence to historical truth, we may spiritually imitate what we have heard physically. For we possess seven thousand sheep when we feed the innocent thoughts within ourselves with the fodder of truth that we have searched for in perfect purity of heart.
40. We will also have three thousand camels in our possession if we submit all that is high and curved in us to the mastery of faith and voluntarily bend ourselves down in loving humility to the knowledge of the Trinity. We indeed possess camels if we humbly submit our lofty wisdom. We certainly possess camels when we make our opinions flexible out of regard for the weaknesses of our brothers, so that we may bear one another's burdens and know how to bend down and feel pity for the weaknesses of others. Camels, which do not have cloven feet but do chew the cud, can also be understood as wise arrangements of material things; these are partly worldly and partly divine, so that it is necessary to list them as animal in a general way.

Although the arrangement of earthly matters is also useful for God's purposes, nevertheless it cannot be done well without extreme distraction of mind. Therefore, since the mind is distracted at the present time and the eternal reward is in preparation, the subject under discussion is, generally speaking, like an animal, having something prescribed and something not prescribed. It is not cloven footed, because it does not separate itself completely from all worldly occupations; nevertheless, it chews the cud, for it arranges worldly affairs wisely and hopes for heaven with a confidence bordering on certitude. And so the management of worldly affairs, like camels, is mentally in harmony with the law, but not as regards the feet. For the things that those who live rightly aspire after belong to heaven, and what belongs to this world is the work they do every day. Therefore, when we submit this management of worldly affairs to the knowledge of the Trinity, we are as though possessors of camels by faith." pg. 101, 102 Gregory the Great Bk. 1 XXVIII "Moral Reflections on the Book of Job" Volume 1 "Preface and Books 1-5"
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    contemplative contemplative