Guerric of Igny: “From the Days of John the Baptist Until Now the Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence” Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Guerric of Igny: If Anyone is Nailed to the Cross with Christ He is Altogether Wise, Righteous, Holy and Free Tuesday, Mar 26 2013 

GuerricIt seems to me that during these days when we are solemnly observing the annual commemoration of our Lord’s passion and crucifixion, I cannot speak to you on a more appropriate subject than that of Jesus Christ himself, and him crucified.

Even at another season of the year it would be hard to find a worthier theme. Could you hear anything more salutary or occupy your minds with anything more profitable?

Surely nothing can so sweetly stir the hearts of the faithful or exert so wholesome an influence on their lives; nothing has such power to cut off their sins, root out their vices, nourish and strengthen their virtues, as the remembrance of Jesus crucified.

To those who have reached maturity Saint Paul may preach about the hidden wisdom of God; but to me, whose shortcomings are visible to all, let him speak of the crucified Christ, who indeed seems mere foolishness to those who are on the road to perdition, but is the power and the wisdom of God to those who are on the way to salvation.

For me this is the highest and noblest philosophy, in the light of which all worldly and human wisdom is of no account.

How perfect I might think myself, how advanced in wisdom, if only I could qualify as a true disciple of Jesus crucified, for God has made him not only our wisdom but also our righteousness, our holiness and our freedom!

If anyone is nailed to the Cross with Christ he is altogether wise, righteous, holy and free.

Wise, because he has been raised with Christ above the earth, and now seeks and understands the things of heaven;

righteous, because sin has been put to death in him and he is no longer enslaved to it;

holy, because he has offered himself to God as a living sacrifice, consecrated and acceptable to him;

free, because the Son of God has redeemed him, and in freedom of spirit he can now boldly repeat the Son’s confident words: The prince of this world is on his way, but he has no claim on me.

Truly there is mercy and fullness of redemption with our crucified Lord. So completely has he redeemed Israel from all its iniquity that it is now acquitted of any accusation that the prince of this world could make against it.

The Lord has redeemed his people from the land of the foe and gathered them from far-off lands. Let them be of one mind with their teacher, Saint Paul, in declaring: God forbid that 1 should boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2, On the Palm Branches, 1 (PL 185:130-131); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday in Holy Week, Year 1.

Guerric of Igny: Christ – the Way by which We Journey and the Eternity which is Our Journey’s End Monday, Dec 10 2012 

GuerricBe ready to go and meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming. You too must be ready, for at a time when you do not expect it the Son of Man will come.

Nothing is more certain than that he is coming, nothing more uncertain than when he is coming.

So far is it from being our province to know the times and seasons which the Father has appointed by his own authority, that not even to the angels who stand in his presence is it granted to know that day and hour.

As for our own last day, it is most sure that this will come upon us, but most unsure when, or where, or from what quarter it will come.

[…] There is only one security, and that is never to feel secure. Thus our fear, prompting us to watch ourselves carefully, keeps us always prepared until fear gives way to security, not security to fear.

How beautiful a thing it is, how blessed, not merely to face death without anxiety, but through the testimony of a good conscience to triumph gloriously in it!

[…] It belongs to our human condition, I know, to quail before the wrench of death, since even the perfect are unwilling to have the old body stripped off and would rather wish to have the new body put on over it.

[…] Yet whether my distress arises from my human feelings or from my falling short in holiness or from my fear of judgment, I can say with the righteous psalmist:

You, O Lord, will be mindful of your mercy; you will display your tender love and faithfulness and snatch my soul from the midst of the young lions.

Then after my dismay sleep will come at once and I shall find rest.

Do you, then, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your right hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me.

If you find any sinful way at all, then take it from me; grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the way of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: an undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3 on Advent 3.5 (PL 185, 18-20), from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the First Week in Advent, Year 1.

Guerric of Igny: “Through His Faith and Gentleness the Lord Sanctified Him” – St Benedict Compared with Moses Friday, Jul 13 2012 

GuerricThrough his faith and gentleness the Lord sanctified him.

These words were written of Moses, but they may today be applied not unfittingly, I think, to blessed Benedict.

For since he was filled with the Spirit of all the saints, it is reasonable to believe that he had not a little of Moses’ spirit.

If the Lord took some of the spirit of Moses and put it upon the whole group of elders who assisted him and were chosen to share his ministry, how much more must he have put that spirit on a man who more truly and more spiritually carried out every ministry in its fullness?

Moses led those who came forth from Egypt; Benedict was leader of those who forsook the world.

Moses was a legislator: so was Benedict.

Moses was minister only of the letter that kills; Benedict was minister of the spirit that gives life.

Moses wrote much that is difficult to understand and inapplicable today or impossible to put into practice;

Benedict is the author of a very sound rule of life that is clearly written and remarkable for its discretion.

Finally, the leader of the children of Israel did not bring into the promised rest those he had led out of Egypt.

Our leader, as the standard bearer of an army of monks, has gone before us by the straight way, the way stretching east, into the kingdom of heaven.

It is therefore not unreasonable to think that he equalled in merit one whom he actually surpassed in ministry.

Nor does it seem unfitting to apply to him what scripture says of Moses: Through his faith and gentleness the Lord sanctified him, especially since Benedict, who lived what he taught, teaches us those two virtues in particular.

Brethren, it is the command of our gentle and peace-making Master that we should be at peace with one another. Yet before that he says: Have salt in yourselves.

He knows well that peaceful gentleness nourishes vices unless the severity of zeal has first sprinkled them with the sharp taste of salt, just as mild weather causes meat to grow wormy unless the heat of salt has dried it out.

Therefore be at peace with one another, but let it be a peace that is seasoned with the salt of wisdom.

Try to acquire gen­tleness, but let it be a gentleness filled with the warmth of faith.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 4 on the Feast of St  Benedict (PL 185,111-112), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Guerric of Igny: When Prayer Increases Love, We Share in the Resurrection of Christ Tuesday, Jul 3 2012 

GuerricKeep awake, brethren, intent upon your prayers.

Keep awake, careful how you carry out your duties, all the more so since the morning of that unending day has dawned, which saw the doubly welcome, serene, eternal light, return to us from the dead, and the morning rising caused the sun to shine with a new brightness.

It is now time for you to wake out of sleep; it is far on in the night; day is near.

Keep awake, I say, that the morning light may rise upon you, no other than Christ, who will reveal himself, sure as the dawn.

Christ is prepared to enable those who are on the watch for him to relive once more the mystery of his resurrection in the morning.

Then indeed you will sing with joyful heart: The Lord is God; he has given light to us. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is the day, that is, when he will allow the light which he has hidden with his hands to shine upon you, telling you, his friend, it is his to give, and that you may raise yourself up to receive it.

[…] For you who fear my name, says the Prophet, the sun of righteousness shall rise. And the man who lives an upright life, his eyes shall see the king in his splendour.

This undoubtedly refers to happiness in the life to come; but, as Christ’s resurrection clearly proves, it is also granted to us in due measure for our consolation in this life.

So let us all rouse up and requicken our spirits, whether to watch in prayer or to work with a will, so that our renewed and lively zest may show that, once again, we have received a share in Christ’s resurrection.

Indeed the chief sign of a man’s return to life is vigorous and energetic action.

Moreover, he will make a perfect return to life, if he dies to the body and opens his eyes to contem­plation.

However, his understanding will be undeserving of this until he increases his love by frequent longings and ardent desires, to render himself capable of something so sublime.

Life begins to return when prayer increases love; it reaches perfection when the understanding receives the light of contem­plation.

Strive, then, brethren, to mount ever higher on the ladder of the virtues, the means whereby we grow in holiness of life, so that, as the Apostle says, you may finally arrive at the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3, On the Resurrection 3.5 (SC 202:250, 256-258); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Guerric of Igny: “My Heart and My Flesh Rejoice in the Living God” Monday, Apr 9 2012 

GuerricFor myself, when I looked upon the dead Jesus I was overwhelmed by despairing grief, but in the living God, as Scripture says, my heart and my flesh rejoice.

It is with no mean profit to faith, no slight dividend of joy, that Jesus returns to me from the tomb, for I recognize the living God where only a little while ago I mourned a dead man.

My heart was sorrowing for him as slain; but now that he is risen, not only my heart but my flesh also rejoices in the confident hope of my own resurrection and immortality.

I slept and I arose, Christ says.

Awake, then, my sleeping soul, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!

As the new sun rises from below, the grace of the Resurrection already casts its radiance over the whole world, a radiance reflected in the eyes of those who have watched for him since daybreak, a dawn that ushers in the day of eternity.

This is the day that knows no evening, the day whose sun will never set again. Only once has that sun gone down, and now once and for all it has ascended above the heavens, leading death captive in its train.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

And you also, if you watch daily at the threshold of wisdom, fixing your eyes on the doorway and, like the Magdalen, keeping vigil at the entrance to his tomb, you also will find what she found.

You will know that what was written of Wisdom was written of Christ: She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. Anyone who rises early to seek her will have no trouble; he will find her sitting at his gates.

While it was still dark Mary had come to watch at the tomb, and she found Jesus whom she sought standing there in the flesh.

But you must know him now according to the spirit, not according to the flesh, and you can be sure of finding his spiritual presence if you seek him with a desire like hers, and if he observes your persevering prayer.

Say then to the Lord Jesus, with Mary’s love and longing: My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks for you.

Make the Psalmist’s prayer your own as you say: O God, my God, I watch for you at morning light; my soul thirsts for you.

Then see if you do not also find yourselves singing with them both: In the morning fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3 On the Resurrection 1-2, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Easter Saturday, Year 2.

Guerric of Igny: The Eternal Word Constrains Himself to Silence Saturday, Oct 1 2011 

GuerricOf all the human weaknesses or injuries which God deigned to bear for us, the first in time and, one might say, the greatest in humility, was, I think, that the majesty which knows no bounds allowed itself to be conceived in the womb and to be confined in the womb for the space of nine months.

Where else did he so empty himself out, or when was he seen so completely eclipsed?

For so long a time Wisdom says nothing, Power works nothing that can be discerned.

The majesty which lies hidden and enclosed is not betrayed by any visible sign. He was not seen so weak on the Cross.

What was weak in him immediately appeared stronger than all men, when he glorified the thief as he died and with his last breath breathed faith into the centurion.

The sorrow of the hour of his passion not only made the elements of creation suffer with him but also subjected the opposing powers to a passion of timeless sorrow.

On the other hand in the womb he is as if he were not. Almighty power lies idle as if it could do nothing. The eternal Word constrains himself to silence.

But to you, brethren, to you that silence of the Word speaks, to you it cries out, to you to be sure it recommends the discipline of silence.

For in silence and hope shall be your strength as Isaiah promises, a man who defined the pursuit of justice as silence.

As that Child in the womb advanced towards birth in a long, deep silence, so does the discipline of silence nourish, form and strengthen a man’s spirit, and produce growth which is the safer and more wholesome for being the more hidden.

Mere man with his natural gifts, who does not take in the thoughts of God’s Spirit, does not know the way of the Spirit and how bones are built up in the womb of a woman with child.

But my body was not hidden from you, the Holy Man tells God, the body you made for me in the mind’s hidden depth under the pall of silence.

Neither from you is this mystery hidden, my brethren.

You have shared your experience with me and have told me how a quiet and dis­ciplined spirit is strengthened, grows fat and flourishes in silence, and how on the contrary by speaking it is broken up and dislocated as if by paralysis, grows thin and withers and dries up.

If there was not strength in silence Solomon would not have said: Like an open city without any encompassing walls, so is the man who cannot restrain his spirit from speaking.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Third Sermon for the Annunciation, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.