Our True End

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It is in forgetting our true end that most people make the most grievous mistakes in the spiritual life.

While I can't say must for Fr. Simon's verbal felicity or style, the home truths he tells are worth hearing again and again:

from Hammer and Fire
Fr. Raphael Simon O.C.S.O.

Through persevering mental prayer, the obstacles to our happiness in God are overcome. These are, on the part of the intellect, forgetfulness of our end and purpose, of eternity and the eternal truths, and forgetfulness or ignorance of ourselves, of our motives, desires, and preoccupations, which, more than we may realize are weaning our heart from God and turning hearts unduly to the things of the world.

Besides these obstacle on the part of the intellect, others on the part of the will and affections are also overcome by unremitting mental prayer. Beside the light to know our Supreme Good and ourselves we need the strength to redirect our energies to this Good and away from what is useless, harmful or dangerous to us. We need to overcome worldliness, the undue love of honor, dignity, power, riches, comfort and all forms of selfishness and sin. This mental prayer accomplishes through arousing in us our natural and supernatural powers by directing them to their true ends and objects, and by drawing divine help and strength into our minds and hearts.

In a word, selfishness is the greatest obstacle to peace in God. Selfishness is a very natural condition, a condition in which humanity finds itself not from desire but from uncertainty. It takes a great spiritual maturity to even begin to step away from selfishness. Moreover, even a small step is impossible without the constant aid and support of grace.

The great Saints may have grown to the point where they were able to toddle unaided; but most ordinary people never reach the toddler stage in the spiritual life while here on Earth. That is part of knowing ourselves. Of ourselves we can do nothing, neither stumble nor even crawl toward Grace. We can only choose to fall. But with God all things are possible. He wrought salvation out of a quarrelsome, fragmented, conquered, and humiliated people. He brought a child forth from a Virgin's womb, still preserving in every way her virginity. There is nothing that is beyond Him, and we wait to look upon his face, to see Him as that precious child born more than 2000 years ago in a conquered state amongst an oppressed people.

Come, Lord Jesus. Do not delay.

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Agreed, that selfishness is as bad as all that. But I caution any and all against viewing the counter of selfishness to be unselfishness. Just this morning I was rereading The Weight of Glory, in which CS Lewis correctly notes the negative sense of "unselfishness", as opposed to the positive one of "love". (I suspect agape would be the specific form of love he intended.) His reminder is that self-denial for its own sake--unselfishness--is still in many ways an essentially selfish act, is a worthwhile thing to remember in a season of penance. We deny ourselves not for ourselves; we "take up our crosses that we may follow Christ."

Merry Christmas!

Dear Brian,

The opposite of selfishness is not generosity or unselfishness, but selflessness. In other words, "I must decrease that He might increase."

In a curious paradox of Christianity, it is only in selflessness that we begin to discover our identity in Christ.

Thanks for the caveat--it's important to remember these distinctions.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 12, 2006 8:36 AM.

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