Commonplace Book: January 2004 Archives

A Useful Reminder from Abbot Vonier


from A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist
Abbot Vonier

Anyone who believes in the Eucharist, as every Catholic Theologian does, grants enough to that external thing in the supernatural sphere--the sign, to make him ready for more. If under the appearance of bread and wine there can be the Body and Blood of Christ, Saint Thomas, the most honest and logical of all thinkers, will say that under baptismal water thre also can be the power of the Holy Spirit, so that baptismal water , or any other sacramental sign, is not only an infallible token of God's activity in the souls of men, it is more. Water, chrism, and words of absolution, all contain a participated power from Christ. (p. 45)

from Zaccheus Press

And I will note that while Tom of Disputations is reading this book, it is not nearly so daunting a prospect as that fact would suggest. I, too, am reading it, though I'll grant you probably much more slowly, and understanding it well. Vonier is a fairly lively writer with a good sense of rhythm and some excellent examples and metaphors. So don't let the title deceive you--this is a most excellent book for the average Catholic who is seeking to understand the faith.

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Barbara Dent's book My Only Friend Is Darkness is an exposition of the teaching of St. John of the Cross from an experiential viewpoint. Ms. Dent makes some remarkable and critically important points about our relationship with God in the following passage:

from My Only Friend is Darkness Barbara Dent

When faced with the summons to reckless self-giving, we make endless qualifications, excuses and rationalizations. John will have none of them.

Our hearts must be purged of all unruly affections and desires arising from the four traditional passions of joy, hope, fear and grief. When we calmly consider what and who does actually arouse in us the extremes of these passions, we shall not often find that it is our personal relationship with God. . . .

The aim of this purging of desires for the not-God is to transform our human will into one fully united with the divine will. The more we are emotionally dependent on created things and on people, the more our will is tugging to get free of God, or is in conflict, or is merely ignoring the directives of his will for us.

If we succeed in fully controlling only one of the four passions, the others will also become subdued and redirected to God as a result. Until we achieve this control, we remain captive and incapable of full union and deep contemplation. . . .

Anyone who thinks this is easy is either (1)severely emotionally inhibited and repressed; (2) naturally unresponsive and cold-hearted; (3) ignorant of what it is to love with all the too, too human heart; (4) a psychopath; or (5) already a saint!

John pushes home his point relentlessly. "There is another very great and important benefit in this detachment of the rejoicing from creatures--namely, that it leaves the heart free for God. This is the dispositive foundation of all the favours which God will grant to the soul, and without this disposition he grants them not (Ascent III, XX, 4, italics added). (pgs. 89-90)

In the end the service of God is all the really matters. While we must take heed of present circumstances, we need not be dominated by them. Love of God stirred by activation of the will in opposing our besetting sin is a step toward sanctity and wholeness. Outside of this all work is futile, all accomplishment only ash and dust. We are transformed in God and in the transformation we become new people and every part of the old man resists this death. Every part of us seeks God and flees Him simultaneously. And grace alone determines the outcome. Do we seek grace? Do we know the fullness of what can be accomplished in us? If we spend a single moment in the Bible we do. In a moment we become Paul when we were Saul. Or we become Ananias and Sapphira. The choice is ours--to seek grace and God's will or to seek our own.

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An Excerpts from A Key. . .

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from A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist
Abbot Vonier

The urgent problem is, how am I to be llinked up effectively with that great mystery of Christ's death? When shall I know that Christ is not only the Redeemer, but also my Redeemer? Mere membership with the human race does not link me up with Christ, though it be true that Christ died for the whole race. This membership is indeed a condition, sine qua non , of my becoming one day a member of Christ; but a member of Christ I shall not become unless some new realities be brought into play. These new realities which are the link between me and Christ are faith and the sacraments. (p. 2)

One more passage to give a flavor of the power of the exposition and of the ideation--

Saint Thomas divides the life of mankind into four seasons--the state of innocence before the fall, the state of sin before Christ, the state of sin after Christ, and the state of bliss in heaven. No sacraments are necessary in the first and in the last state; sacraments are necessary to man in the two middle states. But it is in the "state of sin after Christ" that sacraments reach their perfection; the seven sacraments of the Christian dispensation are sacraments in the highest sense, because, besides signifying the grace which is the inheritance of faith, they also contain that grace and cause it.* (p. 10)

*Nostra autem sacramenta gratiam continent, et causant." Summa III q. 61, a. 4, ad 2.

It is this sparkling clarity of thought and strongly rhythmic and orotund prose that is one of the chief delights of reading this book. Once again, I strongly urge everyone who is interested in this subject to consider supporting Zaccheus by purchasing the book.

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A New Year's Thought

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I have an awful habit of purchasing large numbers of prayer books. I don't buy them to actually use the prayers qua prayers, but because many of the prayers are a fruitful beginning to a period of time with the Lord.

Well today I bought another such book for two reasons--it was already incredibly cheap and marked 50% off even the cheap price. And the following prayer struck me right to the heart. I thought the book worth it, even if there were nothing else between the two covers.

New Friends

Lord, today you have made us known
to friends we did not know,
and you have given us seats in homes
which are not our own.
You have brought the distant near,
and made a brother of a stranger,
Forgive us Lord. . .
we did not introduce you.

A Polynesian Prayer

How many opporntunities do we overlook? How many chances do we miss to introduce Him whom we supposedly love to people who have no knowledge of Him? What a wonderful reminder to usher in the new year. In the everyday things of life, in every moment of quiet in every introduction, there should be three involved--you, the new person, and the Lord.

Oh, and just in case you wondered--that wasn't the end of the treasures:

Overcoming Separation

My God and my Lord:
eyes are at rest, the stars are setting,
hushed are the movements of birds in their nests,
of monsters in the deep.

And you are the just who knows no change,
the Equity that does not swerve,
the Everlasting that never passes away.

The doors of kings are locked
and guarded by their henchmen.
But your door is open to those who call upon you.
My Lord, each lover is now alone with his beloved.
And I am alone with you.

Rabi'ah al--Adawiyah,(717-801) India

By the way, if you're interested, the book is called The Bridge of Stars and I found it on the remainered shelves at Barnes and Noble.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Commonplace Book category from January 2004.

Commonplace Book: November 2003 is the previous archive.

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