Albert the Great: The true pattern of the soul is God, with whom it must be imprinted Thursday, May 26 2016 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentNow the more the mind is concerned about thinking and dealing with what is merely lower and human, the more it is separated from the experience in the intimacy of devotion of what is higher and heavenly;

while the more fervently the memory, desire and intellect is withdrawn from what is below to what is above, the more perfect will be our prayer, and the purer our contemplation, since the two directions of our interest cannot both be perfect at the same time, being as different as light and darkness.

He who cleaves to God is indeed translated into the light, while he who clings to the world is in the dark.

So the supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone.

Now the image of God as found in the soul consists of these three faculties, namely reason, memory and will, and so long as they are not completely stamped with God, the soul is not yet deiform in accordance with the initial creation of the soul. For the true pattern of the soul is God, with whom it must be imprinted, like wax with a seal, and carry the mark of his impress.

But this can never be complete until the intellect is perfectly illuminated, according to its capacity, with the knowledge of God, who is perfect truth, until the will is perfectly focused on the love of the perfect good, and until the memory is fully absorbed in turning to and enjoying eternal happiness, and in gladly and contentedly resting in it.

And since the glory of the beatitude which is achieved in our heavenly homeland consists in the complete fulfilment of these three faculties, it follows that perfect initiation of them is perfection in this life.

Happy therefore is the person who by continual removal of fantasies and images, by turning within, and raising the mind to God, finally manages to dispense with the products of the imagination, and by so doing works within, nakedly and simply, and with a pure understanding and will, on the simplest of all objects, God.

So eliminate from your mind all fantasies, objects, images and shapes of all things other than God, so that, with just naked understanding, intent and will, your practice will be concerned with God himself within you.

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 3 & 4.

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Albert the Great: “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentThere, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Certainly, anyone who desires and aims to arrive at and remain in such a state must needs above all have eyes and senses closed and not be inwardly involved or worried about anything.

He should not be  concerned or occupied with anything, but should completely reject all such things as irrelevant, harmful and dangerous.

Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone.

And so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him – that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity.

Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7), who can do everything.

And again, In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4.6), or what is more, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you (Psalm 55.22).

[…]  The bride too in the Song of Songs says, I have found him whom my soul loves, (Canticle 3.4) and again, All good things came to me along with her (Wisdom 7.11).

This, after all, is the hidden heavenly treasure, none other than the pearl of great price, which must be sought with resolution, esteeming it in humble faithfulness, eager diligence, and calm silence before all things, and preferring it even above physical comfort, or honour and renown.

For what good does it do a religious if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Or what is the benefit of his state of life, the holiness of his profession, the virtue of his habit and tonsure, or the outer circumstances of his way of life if he is without a life of spiritual humility and truth in which Christ abides through a faith created by love.

This is what Luke means by, the Kingdom of God (that is, Jesus Christ) is within you (Luke 17.21).

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1 & 2.

Thomas Aquinas: “Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb” Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassEve sought the fruit of the tree (of good and evil), but she did not find in it that which she sought. Everything Eve desired, however, was given to the Blessed Virgin.

Eve sought that which the devil falsely promised her, namely, that she and Adam would be as gods, knowing good and evil. “You shall be,” says this liar, “as gods” (Gen 3:5). But he lied, because “he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).

Eve was not made like God after having eaten of the fruit, but rather she was unlike God in that by her sin she withdrew from God and was driven out of paradise.

The Blessed Virgin, however, and all Christians found in the Fruit of her womb Him whereby we are all united to God and are made like to Him: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).

Eve looked for pleasure in the fruit of the tree because it was good to eat. But she did not find this pleasure in it, and, on the contrary, she at once discovered she was naked and was stricken with sorrow. In the Fruit of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation: “He who eats My flesh… has eternal life” (Jn 6:55).

The fruit which Eve desired was beautiful to look upon, but that Fruit of the Blessed Virgin is far more beautiful, for the Angels desire to look upon Him: “You are beautiful above the sons of men” (Ps 44:3). He is the splendor of the glory of the Father.

Eve, therefore, looked in vain for that which she sought in the fruit of the tree, just as the sinner is disappointed in his sins. We must seek in the Fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary whatsoever we desire.

This is He who is the Fruit blessed by God, who has filled Him with every grace, which in turn is poured out upon us who adore Him: “Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in Christ” (Eph 1:3).

He, too, is revered by the Angels: “Benediction and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength, to our God” (Rev 7:12). And He is glorified by men: “Every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

The Blessed Virgin is indeed blessed, but far more blessed is the Fruit of her womb: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 117:26).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): On the Angelic Salutation.

Albert the Great: Plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into God Saturday, Feb 22 2014 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentI have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone, so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God.

In fact everyone is obligated, to this loving cleaving to God as necessary for salvation, in the form of observing the commandments and conforming to the divine will, and the observation of the commandments excludes everything that is contrary to the nature and habit of love, including mortal sin.

Members of religious orders have committed themselves in addition to evangelical perfection, and to the things that constitute a voluntary and counselled perfection by means of which one may arrive more quickly to the supreme goal which is God.

The observation of these additional commitments excludes as well the things that hinder the working and fervour of love, and without which one can come to God, and these include the renunciation of all things, of both body and mind, exactly as one’s vow of profession entails.

Since indeed the Lord God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, in other words, by knowledge and love, that is, understanding and desire, stripped of all images.

This is what is referred to in Matthew 6.6, ‘When you pray, enter into your inner chamber,’ that is, your inner heart, ‘and having closed the door,’ that is of your senses, and there with a pure heart and a clear conscience, and with faith unfeigned, ‘pray to your Father,’ in spirit and in truth, ‘in secret.’

This can be done best when a man is disengaged and removed from everything else, and completely recollected within himself. There, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1.

Luis Beltrán: Truly Seek Prayer, a Place of Retreat and Solitude Monday, Oct 14 2013 

Louis_BertrandOctober 9th was the feast of St Luis Beltrán (1526–1581).

“From the desert you should go forth as a good preacher.”

The Holy Spirit kept John in the desert, lest he see or come to know Christ, because of the importance of the testimony that he would give later concerning him.

John testified that he had never seen Christ until the moment that he saw the dove descending upon his head in the Jordan River.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

That was the place where the voice of the Father was heard speaking about the Son.

There the Holy Spirit adorned him with such great virtues – humility, meekness, and all the rest – that he came forth from the desert changed into that salt which would save the human race from corruption,

changed into that light which would illumine the blind, changed into a fortified city where the holy and virtuous would find refuge.

This is the high office of a preacher, and from this it is clear that it demands such a preparation.

Why should you wonder, brother, that your teaching does not bring forth fruit, when you come to preach not from the desert but from the confused tumult of your own soul, not from the vicinity of virtue but of pride?

From the desert you should go forth as a good preacher. If Christ our Lord spent the whole night in prayer to send out his disciples to preach and to have their preaching bear fruit, what can a preacher accomplish without devotion?

If you do not come from the desert, your preaching will not bear fruit. And because you have the voice of Jacob but the hands of Esau, concern yourselves with being effective preachers.

Truly seek prayer, a place of retreat and solitude, otherwise you can never attain the reward of good preachers.

God called John to be a preacher and this was a great penance for him, for every state of life demands a certain amount of penance, if it is received from the hand of God.

It is for God to place you upon that cross on which you ought to serve God.

Truly it is not up to you to choose that cross, because although you may choose a heavier cross, you might not be saved by it since God has not placed you upon it.

Luis Beltrán, (1526–1581) from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, feast of St Luis Beltrán, October 9th.

Thomas Aquinas: The Word of God Moves Our Hearts, Weighed Down by Earthly Things, and Sets Them on Fire Tuesday, Apr 30 2013 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassI am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you (John 15:1-3)

Just like a vine, although it seems to be of small account, nevertheless surpasses all trees in the sweetness of its fruit, so Christ, although he seemed to be despised by the world because he was poor, and seemed of small account and was publicly disgraced, nevertheless produced the sweetest fruit: “His fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song 2:3).

And so Christ is a vine producing a wine which interiorly intoxicates us: a wine of sorrow for sin: “You have given us to drink the wine of sorrow” (Ps 60:3); and a wine which strengthens us, that is, which restores us: “My blood is drink indeed” (6:55).

[…] He says, and my Father is the vinedresser….God cultivates us to make us better by his work, since he roots out the evil seeds in our hearts. As Augustine says, he opens our hearts with the plow of his words, plants the seeds of the commandments, and harvests the fruit of devotion.

[…] His interest in the good branches is to help them so they can bear more fruit. So he says, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.… For if we are well‑disposed and united to God, yet scatter our love over many things, our virtue becomes weak and we become less able to do good.

This is why God, in order that we may bear fruit, will frequently remove such obstacles and prune us by sending troubles and temptations, which make us stronger. Accordingly, he says, he prunes, even though one may be clean, for in this life no one is so clean that he does not need to be cleansed more and more: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).

[…] He says, you are already made clean. It is like saying: I have said certain things about branches; and you are branches ready to be pruned so as to bear fruit. And you are clean by the word which I have spoken to you. The word of Christ, in the first place, cleanses us from error by teaching us: “He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9).

[…] The word of Christ cleanses our hearts from earthly affections by inflaming them toward heavenly things. For the word of God by its power moves our hearts, weighed down by earthly things, and sets them on fire: “Is not my word fire?” (Jer 23:29)…. The word of Christ cleanses by the power of faith: God “cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on John, cap. 15, lect. 1, 1979-1988.

Catherine of Siena: Because of Your Confidence in the Blood of the Crucified Christ, Never Fear Anything Whatsoever Monday, Apr 29 2013 

Catherine_of_SienaMy dearest children in Christ, the sweet Jesus!

I, Catherine…, desire to see you as sons who are obedient unto death, learning from the immaculate Lamb who was obedient to the Father even to an ignominious death on the cross.

Pay close attention for he is the way and the rule that you and all creatures ought to follow. I wish you to place him before your mind’s eye.

Look at how obedient that Word is! He himself does not refuse to carry the burden which he received from the Father, but on the contrary runs to it with the greatest desire.

He made this clear at the Last Supper when he said: I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I die.

To eat the Passover means to fulfill at the same time the will of the Father and the desire of the Son.

Seeing that he had hardly any time left and that at his life’s end he was to be offered as a sacrifice to the Father on our behalf, he rejoices and exults and says with joy: I have greatly desired.

And this was the Passover of which he spoke, namely, to give himself as food and to immolate the sacrifice of his body in obedience to the Father.

[…] He was commanded to give us his blood that the will of God might be fulfilled in us and that we might be sanctified by that very blood.

Therefore I beseech you, my sweet children in Christ, the sweet Jesus, because of your confidence in the blood of the crucified Christ, never fear anything whatsoever.

Do not separate yourselves from him by temptations and errors. You cannot persevere out of fear, nor can you endure obedience…out of dread. I desire, then, that you never fear.

May all servile fear be removed from you. Along with the sweet and loving Paul say:

“Be strong today, my soul. Through the crucified Christ I can do everything, for he who comforts me dwells in me by desire and love.” Love, love, love!

[…] Have confidence! You shall find the source of charity in the side of the crucified Christ. I wish you to establish yourselves there and make a dwelling there for yourselves.

Rise up then with great and burning desire. Approach, enter and remain in this sweet dwelling.

No demon or any other creature can take this grace from you or hinder you from reaching your end, namely, that you should come to see and taste God.

I say no more. Abide in the holy and sweet love of God. Love, love one another.

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380): Letter to the novices of the Order at Santa Maria de Monte Oliveto, from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, feast of St Catherine of Siena, April 29th.

Thomas Aquinas: “Rejoice Always, Pray Constantly, Give Thanks in All Circumstances, for This is the Will of God” Tuesday, Dec 18 2012 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassRejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 16:18). 

When Paul says: rejoice always, he shows how they ought to behave towards God; and he mentions three things.

First, to rejoice in Him; and so Paul says, rejoice always, that is, in God; for whatever evil might occur, it is incomparable to the goodness which is God.

Hence, no evil ought to interrupt it, and so Paul insists: rejoice always.

 Secondly, to pray for the blessings they want to receive.

Paul urges, pray constantly. “They ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18: 1).

How is this possible? It may happen in three ways.

First, that person who does not neglect the appointed hours for prayer, prays always. “You shall eat at my table always” (2 Sam. 9:7).

Secondly, “Pray constantly” means to pray continuously. But then prayer is considered under the aspect of the effect of the prayer. For prayer is the unfolding or expression of desire; for when I desire something, then I ask for it by praying.

So prayer is the petition of suitable things from God; and so desire has the power of prayer. “O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek” (Ps. 10: 17).

Therefore, whatever we do is the result of a desire; so prayer always remains in force in the good things we do; for the good things we do flow forth from the desire of the good.

There is a commentary on this verse pointing out: “He does not cease praying, who does not cease doing good.”

A third way by which it is possible to pray without ceasing is through the giving of alms which may be a sort of cause of continual prayer.

In the lives of the Fathers we read: “He who gives alms is the one who always prays, for the person who receives alms prays for you even when you are asleep.”

The third thing he mentions is to offer thanks for those blessings already received, hence Paul says: in all circumstances, that is, in good times and in bad times, give thanks.

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Rom. 6:28). “Abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7). “With thanksgiving” (Phil. 4.6).

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, cap. 5, lect. 2.

Albert the Great: “Do this in remembrance of Me” Thursday, Nov 15 2012 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_Gent[Jesus says]: Do this in remembrance of me. Two things should be noted here.

The first is the command that we should use this sacrament, which is indicated when he says: Do this.

The second is that this sacrament commemorates the Lord’s going to death for our sake.

So he says, Do this. Certainly he would demand nothing more profitable, nothing more pleasant, nothing more beneficial, nothing more desirable, nothing more similar to eternal life.

We will look at each of these qualities separately.

This sacrament is profitable because it grants remission of sins; it is most useful because it bestows the fullness of grace on us in this life.

The Father of spirits instructs us in what is useful for us to receive his sanctification.

And his sanctification is in Christ’s sacrifice, that is, when he offers himself in this sacrament to the Father for our redemption, to us for our use. I consecrate myself for their sakes.

Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself up without blemish to God, will cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Nor can we do anything more pleasant. For what is better than God manifesting his whole sweetness to us.

You gave them bread from heaven, not the fruit of human labour, but a bread endowed with all delight and pleasant to every sense of taste.

For this substance of yours revealed your kindness toward your children, and serving the desire of each recipient, it changed to suit each one’s taste.

He could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the fruit of the tree of life.

Anyone who receives this sacrament with the devotion of sincere faith will never taste death.

It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and blessed is he who holds it fast. The man who feeds on me shall live on account of me.

Nor could he have commanded anything more lovable, for this sacrament produces love and union.

It is characteristic of the greatest love to give itself as food. Had not the men of my tent exclaimed: Who will feed us with his flesh to satisfy our hunger?

as if to say: I have loved them and they have loved me so much that I desire to be within them, and they wish to receive me so that they may become my members.

There is no more intimate or more natural means for them to be united to me, and I to them.

Nor could he have commanded anything which is more like eternal life. Eternal life flows from this sacrament because God with all sweetness pours himself out upon the blessed.

Albert the Great: (1193/1206–1280): Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke @ Universalis.

Jordan of Saxony: Their Hearts Catch Fire in Their Prayers and Meditations Thursday, Nov 8 2012 

I urge you to think of those “ancient paths” by which our predecessors hastened to their rest with all the intensity of their spirit, and now reign with the Lord, forever comforted in bliss and repose; all the days of pain with which God humbled them have now been turned to joy.

When they lived on earth, it was for spiritual gifts that they were jealous; they thought little of themselves and scorned the world. It was the kingdom they longed for, and so they were strong to endure hardship, enthusiastic for poverty, on fire with love.

Surely our father Dominic, of holy memory, was one of these. When he was living with us in the flesh, he walked by the Spirit, not only not fulfilling the desires of the flesh, but actually quenching them at the source.

He displayed a true spirit of poverty in his clothing, his food and his behaviour. He prayed constantly, was outstandingly compassionate, used to intercede for his sons with abundant tears because of the fervour of his zeal for souls.

Difficulties did not daunt him, obstacles did not worry him. We could see from the works he accomplished, from his virtues and miracles, what a great man he was on earth. Now that he is with God, his greatness has been made known to us in these last days, when we were moving his holy body from its previous burial place to a more noble tomb.

Praise to our Redeemer! Praise to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for choosing such a man as this to be his servant and for setting such a man over us as our father, to form us by his religious training and inspire us by the example of his resplendent holiness.

[…] There are some among you, by the mercy of God, for me to rejoice over and thank God for. There are some whose aim is beauty, who do cultivate their consciences, who do seek perfection and who do work hard at their preaching, who are zealous in study, whose hearts catch fire in their prayers and meditations, who keep the Lord always before them, looking to him as the one who will reward and judge their souls.

Rejoice, if you are such as these, and seek to abound still more. But if you are not yet like this, work at it, devote energy and attention to it, so that you may grow towards salvation in him who called you to this state of grace in which you find yourself, not to make you lukewarm, but to make you perfect.

Jordan of Saxony (c.1190-1237): Encyclical Letter, from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, Feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers (November 7th).

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