Wednesday, 25 February 2009
I don't know where the time has gone. It was Christmas just the other day, and now we've arrived at Ash Wednesday! There's something about an institutional life that makes the weeks tread fast upon one another's heels. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly looking forward to Lent. As our spiritual director said in a house talk, it is a time of 'spring cleaning', and the injunction to pray, fast and give alms allows us - borrowing an image from St Augustine - to empty ourselves of the vinegar within us, that we can be filled with honey. I read the Pope's Lenten message the other day, and was struck by the parallel he draws between Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and Jesus in the wilderness refusing to eat at Satan's invitation. By Christ's fast, the greed and disobedience of our first parents is reversed. By uniting ourselves to Christ through our Lenten resolutions, we can address the bad habits we have accumulated over the last year.
This year at Oscott we are doing something slightly different. We are undergoing a communal reading of St Francis de Sales' spiritual classic, 'Introduction to the Devout Life'. Each of us has been given a copy of the book, and individually we will read the same amount of chapters a day, so that we all finish a week before Holy Week. Hopefully our reading of the book will influence our conversations with one another, and provide a common reflection for us all during Lent.
Now, with this in mind, I'm determined to blog more during Lent, and decided that as we're reading the 'Introduction to the Devout Life' day by day, I will post a small selection from each day's reading (or as close as I can manage) on our blog. That way you can share a little bit in the spiritual journey that we ourselves will be making here in the seminary. (I got the idea from the Oxford Dominican blog 'Godzdogz', who are posting a short meditation on the weekday Mass readings each day during Lent.) I hope this will prove a worthwhile venture!
Here is the selection for today:
In the creation God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruit, each after its kind: even so he commands Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. Devotion ought to be practised differently by the gentleman, by the artisan, by the servant, by the prince, by the widow, by the daughter, by the wife; and not only so, but the practice of devotion must be accommodated to the strength, to the affairs, and to the duties of each one individually. I ask you, Philothea, would it be proper for a bishop to wish to be solitary like the Carthusians? And if the married were to have no wish to lay by more than the Capuchins, and the artisan were to be in church all day like the religious, and the religious were to be always exposed to all sorts of interruptions for the service of his neighbour like the bishop, would not such devotions be ridiculous, disorderly and intolerable?...
...Precious stones of all kinds when steeped in honey become more brilliant thereby, each one according to its colour, so eeryone becomes more agreeable in his vocation by joining it with devotion. The care of a family is rendered peaceable thereby, the love of the husband and of the wife more sincere, the service of the prince more faithful, and every kind of occupation more pleasant and agreeable.