Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Community knit together in loving prayer (Part 1)

As we prepare for All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, I share with you some thoughts put together for new Christians on the Church as the community of love Jesus is gathering around himself, spanning the centuries and the continents, as well as heaven and earth.

Death cannot separate us from God’s love (as we see in Romans 8:28-39); so we know that it cannot separate us from those with whom we are bound in his love.

One sign of that is our prayer for each another, which continues in spite of death. In the mainstream Christian tradition we have always prayed for “those we love but no longer see”, as an expression of our still being gathered in the one community around Jesus, and also as a way of supporting our loved ones in their ongoing healing, sanctification and growth. In the words of a favourite hymn:

“Think, O Lord, in mercy
 On the souls of those
 Who, in faith gone from us
 Now in death repose.
 Here ‘mid stress and conflict
 Toils can never cease;
 There, the warfare ended,
 Bid them rest in peace.

“Often they were wounded
In the deadly strife,
Heal them, good Physician
With the balm of life.
Every taint of evil,
Frailty and decay,
Good and gracious Saviour,
Cleanse and purge away.

“Rest eternal grant them,
After weary fight:
Shed on them the radiance
Of thy heavenly light.
Lead them onward, upward,
To the holy place,
Where thy Saints made perfect
Gaze upon thy face.”

 - E. Palmer English Hymnal, No 356

Praying for our brothers and sisters who have died is one aspect of “the Communion of Saints.” “Saint” means “holy one . . . someone set apart for God.” In one sense all Christians are saints.

But the Church also uses the term “saint” in a special way of those whose surrender to God’s love in this life was so complete that they came to radiate his holiness. We see them as the “inner circle” of heaven, already living in the absolute fullness of God’s glory. It is helpful to think of heaven as the dimension of reality that is saturated with God’s love - the (usually) “invisible” world that we acknowledge when we recite the Creed at Sunday Mass.

A hint of this can be seen in Hebrews 12:1-2 which has been a great encouragement for followers of Jesus down through the centuries, especially in times of difficulty and loneliness:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

The picture here is of a race for which many spectators have gathered. They line the route so as to follow the contest. They have run the same race themselves, but now they are there to cheer us on. They include the Old Testament heroes of faith (mentioned in the previous chapter of Hebrews). They also include the holiest of our brothers and sisters who followed Jesus and now live in his glory in heaven, who were saved by his grace as we are; who responded to the same Word of God that we hear; who belonged to the Church as we do; who were nourished by the same sacraments that God has given us; who grew in prayer by the working of the same Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Some of them struggled with doubts and fears, tragedies and failure, as we do. Some of them were gentle souls. Some were grumpy some of the time. But all of them ran the race in this world, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, growing in his love. And in that great cloud of witnesses they love us as brothers and sisters, they pray for us, they urge us on to victory. How natural and right it is for us to ask for their prayers!

All who have been involved in the theatre or in musical productions know the world of difference there is between rehearsing in an empty hall and playing to an enthusiastic full house. As Christians we are playing to a full house . . . in our worship, in our prayer, in our struggles, and in our triumphs.

Knowing that should change the way we live. Special prayers, such as the “Litany of the Saints”, call upon many saints by name to pray for us. It is also quite common for Christians to identify with a particular saint or saints. This can develop into a deep sense of growing spiritual friendship within the family of God.

(To be continued . . . )

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pope Benedict: New Evangelisation requires the hearts of the faithful to be animated by the fire of the Spirit

At Mass today in St Peter's Rome, Pope Benedict preached on the Gospel Reading - Mark 10:46-52 - that tells of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. For Mark, said Pope Benedict, Bartimaeus is "a model. He was not blind from birth, but he lost his sight. He represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing." He went on, "Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master. New evangelisers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ."

The Mass, attended by 49 cardinals, 200 bishops and hundreds of laity and clergy from around the world, concluded a three week Synod on the "new evangelisation." During his homily, Pope Benedict said that the Church's "ordinary pastoral ministry . . . must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord's day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life."

He emphasised that the "sacramental journey is where we encounter the Lord's call to holiness," and that the faithful needed to be renewed in their appreciation of Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, and Confession as life-changing experiences of God's grace.

He also urged the Church "to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ" reminding his hearers that there are still many parts of the world where people "await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel. So we must ask the Holy Spirit to arouse in the Church a new missionary dynamism . . ."

Pope Benedict spoke of "the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism . . . especially in the most secularized countries. The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful."

Pope Benedict concluded his homily: "Dear brothers and sisters, Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master. New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ. And characteristic of them all is a joyful heart that cries out with the Psalmist: “What marvels the Lord worked for us: indeed we were glad” (Psalm 125:3). Today, we too turn to the Lord Jesus, Redemptor hominis and lumen gentium, with joyful gratitude, making our own a prayer of Saint Clement of Alexandria: “until now I wandered in the hope of finding God, but since you enlighten me, O Lord, I find God through you and I receive the Father from you, I become your coheir, since you did not shrink from having me for your brother. Let us put away, then, let us put away all blindness to the truth, all ignorance: and removing the darkness that obscures our vision like fog before the eyes, let us contemplate the true God ...; since a light from heaven shone down upon us who were buried in darkness and imprisoned in the shadow of death, [a light] purer than the sun, sweeter than life on this earth” (Protrepticus, 113: 2 – 114:1). Amen."

Go HERE to the Vatican website for the full text of Pope Benedict's homily.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass 
at the end of the Synod of Bishops
REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Humility . . . in St Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Luther and St Paul

This short reflection is from the website of the C.S. Lewis Institute HERE

Augustine of Hippo said that, for those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing. Eleven hundred years later, Martin Luther, when asked to name the three greatest virtues replied, “First, humility; second, humility and third, humility.” These are but two of the many great leaders who have stressed the importance of humility in the believer’s life. 

What is humility? Surprisingly, it is not a poor self-image, nor a denial of one’s gifts, abilities and accomplishments. C.S. Lewis describes humility not as having a low opinion of one’s talents and character but rather as self forgetfulness.(1) This entails a radical honesty with ourselves about ourselves that begins to free us from the denials, pretences, and false images with which we deceive ourselves. Thus, John Wesley could describe humility as “…a right judgment of ourselves which cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfections, from the undue opinions of our own abilities and attainments….”(2) 

Paul calls us to this honesty when he says “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment... (Romans 12:3). In other words, sober realism about who we are, what we are, and from Whom our gifts and abilities ultimately come is essential to developing humility. This comes as we invite the Holy Spirit, working through the Holy Scriptures, to search and illuminate truth and apply it to our hearts and minds. As we begin to come to terms with ourselves, good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, we can move beyond preoccupation with self to loving care and concern for our neighbor. 

How do we live in humility in the rough and tumble of daily life? Paul helps us when he says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Paul then urges us to imitate Christ’s example of servanthood. As we serve our neighbors in love, we will find ourselves growing in the humility of Christ—which lies at the heart of a truly spiritual life.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name … Philippians 2:5-9 NIV 

(1) The Screwtape Letters, McMillian, p. 63. 

(2) Sermon on “The Circumcision of the Heart,” I:2 

© 2012 C.S. Lewis Institute. “Reflections” is published monthly by the C.S. Lewis Institute. 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301 • Springfield, VA 22151-2110 • 703.914.5602 • 800.813.9209 • fax 703.894.1072 • 

To view a pdf version of this "Reflections," click HERE.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cause for optimism in England

In contrast to some other parts of the Anglican Communion, there is certainly cause for optimism in the Church of England. In spite of the complexities of the "women bishops" process and legislation, as this blog has reported a number of times, the Church of England is allowing significant appointments from among the kind of Anglo-Catholics who in other places are marked for extermination. 

The latest announcement is that Fr Philip North is to be the new Bishop of Whitby. 

The Rt Rev'd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet and Chairman of Forward in Faith said:

"Father North is well known for his energy, passion for the Gospel and heart for Mission. His appointment to the See of Whitby brings hopes and encouragement to catholic Anglicans in the Northern Province and throughout the Church of England." 

Here is the official announcement: 

"The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Philip John North, MA, Team Rector of Old Saint Pancras, in the Diocese of London, to the Suffragan See of Whitby, in the Diocese of York, in succession to the Right Reverend Martin Clive Warner, MA, PhD, on his translation to the See of Chichester on the 2 July 2012. 

"The Reverend Philip North (aged 45), was educated at York University, and trained for the ministry at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his curacy at Sunderland Saint Mary and Saint Peter, in the Diocese of Durham from 1992 to 1996. Since 1997 he has been involved with the Company of Mission Priests. From 1996 to 2002 he was Vicar of Hartlepool Holy Trinity in Durham Diocese and from 2000 to 2002 he was Area Dean of Hartlepool. From 2002 to 2008 he was Priest Administrator at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and from 2004 to 2007 he was also Priest-in-Charge of Hempton and Pudding Norton in the diocese of Norwich. Since 2008 he has been Team Rector at Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London. 

"His interests include cycling and walking."

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Church - "a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part"

Here are some more gems from Henri Nouwen's meditations, "Bread for the Journey." They are even more relevant today than when Nouwen penned them: 

Often we hear the remark that we have live in the world without being of the world. But it may be more difficult to be in the Church without being of the Church. Being of the Church means being so preoccupied by and involved in the many ecclesial affairs and clerical "ins and outs" that we are no longer focused on Jesus. The Church then blinds us from what we came to see and deafens us to what we came to hear. Still, it is in the Church that Christ dwells, invites us to his table, and speaks to us words of eternal love. 

Being in the Church without being of it is a great spiritual challenge. 

Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church - whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic - belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, "I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it." 

Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it. 

Loving the Church does not require romantic emotions. It requires the will to see the living Christ among his people and to love them as we want to love Christ himself. This is true not only for the "little" people - the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten - but also for the "big" people who exercise authority in the Church. 

To love the Church means to be willing to meet Jesus wherever we go in the Church. This love doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everyone's ideas or behavior. On the contrary, it can call us to confront those who hide Christ from us. But whether we confront or affirm, criticize or praise, we can only become fruitful when our words and actions come from hearts that love the Church. 

The Church often wounds us deeply. People with religious authority often wound us by their words, attitudes, and demands. Precisely because our religion brings us in touch with the questions of life and death, our religious sensibilities can get hurt most easily. Ministers and priests seldom fully realize how a critical remark, a gesture of rejection, or an act of impatience can be remembered for life by those to whom it is directed. 

There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life, for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for restoration and healing, that anyone who has any authority in the Church should constantly be reminded that the best word to characterize religious authority is compassion. Let's keep looking at Jesus whose authority was expressed in compassion. 

When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness. It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer. 

The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God’s grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure.

"Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God"

Father Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) helped many people of different backgrounds to understand how the Holy Spirit renews us in our day to day lives. A book of readings, “Bread for the Journey,” drawn from his many writings and published in 1997, remains a popular wellspring of spiritual wisdom. Today and tomorrow I will share with you a couple of remarkable passages on the Church. 

The two main sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist, are the spiritual pillars of the Church. They are not simply instruments by which the Church exercises its ministry. They are not just means by which we become and remain members of the Church but belong to the essence of the Church. Without these sacraments there is no Church. The Church is the body of Christ fashioned by baptism and the Eucharist. When people are baptised in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and when they gather around the table of Christ and receive his Body and Blood, they become the people of God, called the Church . . . 

The Church is the people of God. The Latin word for "church," ecclesia, comes from the Greek ek, which means "out," and kaleo, which means "to call." The Church is the people of God called out of slavery to freedom, sin to salvation, despair to hope, darkness to light, an existence centered on death to an existence focused on life. 

When we think of Church we have to think of a body of people, travelling together. We have to envision women, men, and children of all ages, races, and societies supporting one another on their long and often tiresome journeys to their final home . . . 

The Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. The Church is the bride of Christ, who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself "with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition.

When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus . . . 

The Church is an object of faith. In the Apostles' Creed we pray: "I believe in God, the Father, ... in Jesus Christ, his only Son in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." We must believe in the Church! The Apostles' Creed does not say that the Church is an organization that helps us to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No, we are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God. 

Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God. But whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers. God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes God-with-us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

St Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch in Syria, after the Apostles. Little is known of his predecessor, Euodius. Also, little is known of his life except for the way it ended. Early in the second century (most likely in 107 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan), he was arrested by the Imperial authorities, condemned to death, and transported to Rome to die in the arena. The authorities hoped to terrify rank and file Christians. Ignatius, however, took the opportunity to encourage them at every town along the way. When the prison escort reached the west coast of Asia Minor, it halted before taking ship, and delegations from several Asian churches were able to visit Ignatius, to speak with him at length, to assist him with items for his journey, and to bid him an affectionate farewell and commend him to the grace of God. In response he wrote seven letters that have been preserved: five to congregations that had greeted him en masse or by delegates (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans), one to the congregation that would greet him at his destination (Romans), and one to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the Apostle John. 

The themes he deals with most are (1) the importance of maintaining Christian unity in love and sound doctrine (with warnings against factionalism and against the heresy of Docetism - the belief that Christ was not fully human and did not have a material body or really suffer and die), (2) the role of the ordained as a focus of Christian unity, (3) Christian martyrdom as a glorious privilege, eagerly to be grasped. 


“…through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; …according to the love of Jesus Christ our God… [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God. “…For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]…”
– Letter to the Romans 

“And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as [the Docetists] maintain, that He only seemed to suffer… “For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit. And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit…”
– Letter to the Smyrnaeans 

“…There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible.”
– Letter to the Ephesians 


“It is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which…you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.”
– Letter to the Ephesians 

“I therefore did what belonged to me, as a man devoted to unity. For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop.”
- Letter to the Philadelphians 


“Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God …He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself… “…so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which means] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.”
- Letter to the Ephesians 

“[The Docetists] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again . . .” 
- Letter to the Smyrnaeans 

“Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God.” 
- Letter to the Philadelphians 


"I write to the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless you hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ… 

"Now I begin to be a disciple. And let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ. All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die on behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul? 

"Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not give me over to the world. Allow me to obtain pure light: when I have gone there, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God."
- Letter to the Romans

Monday, October 15, 2012

Love is the measure of our ability to bear crosses . . . St Teresa of Avila

St Teresa (1515-1582) was born in Avila and died in Alba, Spain. At the age of eighteen she joined the Carmelite Order and dedicated herself to a life of prayer. With the help of St John of the Cross she reformed most of the Carmelite convents and founded new ones. She grew in the Holy Spirit and her holiness was recognised in her own day. In 1970 Pope Paul VI named her the first woman Doctor of the Church. The following is a paragraph from her treatise, The Way of Perfection: 

I believe that love is the measure of our ability to bear crosses, whether great or small. So if you have this love, try not to let the prayers you make to so great a Lord be words of mere politeness, but brace yourselves to suffer what God's Majesty desires. For if you give God your will in any other way, you are just showing the Lord a precious stone, making as if to give it and begging God to take it, and then, when God's hand reaches out to do so, taking it back and holding on to it tightly. Such mockery is no fit treatment for One who endured so much for us . . .

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Drawing Closer to God

This article is excerpted from A Beginner’s Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Closer to God, by The Very Rev Michael Keiser of the Department of Missions and Evangelism of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Fr Keiser, a convert to Orthodoxy, has been actively involved in evangelism and outreach on behalf of the Orthodox Christian Church. During his ministry he has worked with 28 different congregations in the areas of renewal and growth, established new congregations, and guided many who have found a home in Orthodoxy. 

The other Sunday, a friend of mine who is a pastor took an informal survey of his congregation during the homily. “How many of you struggle with your prayer life?” he asked. Every hand in this parish of nearly three hundred shot up! The priest admitted that prayer was his own greatest spiritual struggle. The fact is, practicing effective prayer is like fighting on the front lines in a war. Our greatest challenge is to pray! 

This is an interesting time to be Orthodox. Our secular world provides little certainty for people’s lives, and the Orthodox faith issues an unchanging message of truth and stability. Orthodox Christianity may be the last firm footing on which to stand, yet it would be fair to say that very few Orthodox Christians are aware of the depth and richness of the Church’s spiritual tradition when it comes to personal devotion. We Orthodox are big on externals. Our liturgical worship is a drama of striking beauty and color, of scent and sound. But besides being beautiful, icons, vestments, chanting, and incense together constitute an important statement about God. He has created us as physical beings in a material world, and we approach Him using the elements of that material world. The way in which we Orthodox worship involves all of our senses and physical nature, so that we may respond to God with all of our being—our bodies as well as our minds and souls. 

However, there is something else that is as essential to our spiritual growth as outward worship, and that is personal prayer. Anyone who wants to grow closer to God must develop a disciplined prayer life. 

What Is Prayer? 

Public worship and personal prayer are the twin support beams of the spiritual life for any believer. All our growing will take place within the framework they provide. But they are not the same thing, and they are not interchangeable. 

Certainly we pray when we come to church, but we do other things as well—we sing, we learn, we offer. Worship is what we do as a group, when we gather as Christ’s Body. The prayer that is offered by the Church is a united offering of prayer, “on behalf of all and for all,” to the Father, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. 


Personal prayer is just that, personal and individual. It is my own personal conversation with God, in which no one else will be involved. In personal prayer I will pray for others, but not with others. 

Jesus’ teaching about prayer makes it clear: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). 

Personal prayer is our own private time with our Father. Everyone feels the need for a little personal attention at times, and in prayer we get that; but it never replaces our worship in church. The oneness of being in the Body of Christ, united in faith and love with other believers, is both glorious and necessary. But an individual relationship with God is just as important. In order to be a complete Christian one must relate to the members of the Body of Christ together, and relate to God as a person. St. John of Kronstadt (1829–1908) wrote, “Why is it necessary to pray at home, and to attend divine services in church? Well, why is it necessary for you to eat and drink, to take exercise, or to work every day? In order to support the life of the body and strengthen it.” Worship and prayer are the food and drink, the work and workout, of our life with God. 

Your relationship with a personal God is what private prayer is all about. There are many things required for our growth, such as reading, study, and good works. But they will bear no real fruit unless they are supported by the life of worship and prayer. 

Good Tools for an Effective Job 

Why should we be concerned about being effective? Because we do not want to waste time when it comes to something as important as prayer. God has given us a job to do, and the job description is a dandy. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What could be simpler? We just have to be perfect! 

If we are to meet such a challenge, we cannot waste time spinning our wheels. We must do the most efficient job of praying that we can. Being concerned about efficiency does not mean only making decisions about style and technique. We will deal with those things in the course of this book, but to be effective we must also be concerned about results. Is your prayer life helping you to reach the goal of Christian perfection? If not, then it may be worse than no prayer at all, because it is a waste of time! Prayer is not an end in itself, but a means by which we draw closer to God. 

Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:7, 8). Our Christian growth can be measured, just as you would measure the quality of a vine by the fruit it bears. Our grapes are our thoughts and actions. Are they like Christ’s thoughts and actions? Are we becoming more Christlike? The more Christlike in action we become, the more fruit we will bear. 

Being concerned about the effectiveness of our prayer also prevents, or at least helps us avoid, misdirection, and it allows us to correct mistakes as they occur. The problems we will encounter will not be new problems; untold numbers of people have faced them before us. We have good directions: in Holy Scripture, and in the writings of holy people who have cultivated God’s Word abiding in them and have borne much fruit. We call these holy persons “saints.” They are our fathers and mothers in the Faith, and their experience can prevent us from fumbling around if we pay attention to it. 

The Love Connection 

Americans are practical people. We like to know what is involved before committing ourselves to a program. It only makes sense to do things this way. Jesus certainly expressed this idea when He said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). So we need to count the cost. Why bother with the effort of a disciplined prayer life at all? 

There are several possible answers to the question, but I find two to be persuasive: We pray as a response to love, and we pray in order to love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. . . . In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:7, 10). 

God always takes the first step! We do not have to worry about getting in touch with Him, because He has already established contact with us by sending His Son to die for us. God is the primary Lover of the creation and everything in it—the One who sweeps us off our feet the first time we really encounter Him. And He does this not so much by what He does as by who He is. 

Remember when you fell in love? Everyone has done so at some time or another. It may have been with your second-grade teacher or a high-school football star. Your new love probably did nothing in particular to get your attention, except show up! But when you discovered that person, you did not know what had hit you. 

That is the kind of Lover our God is. He doesn’t try to grab our attention with fancy clothes or a flashy car. The approach is more subtle. He is just here, always here. He introduces His presence into your life, and then one day you wake up with the knowledge that you cannot live without Him! He is the Great Lover, and when you are on the receiving end of His love, you just cannot help but respond. Prayer is our act of response. When we love someone, we want to be with him, do things with him, and respond to him. 

Please notice the words “act” and “do.” For Christians, love is action, not feeling. Christian love is not the warm rush of desire and joy that can be experienced in a love affair, political rally, or charismatic power meeting. That is romanticism, not Christianity. So responding to God with warm feelings is not what prayer should be about. As we shall see, the Orthodox tradition is very cautious about such things.  

Love experienced on the deep level of reality results in a conscious decision to act toward someone in a caring way and to communicate with that person. So God acts by sending His Son, the Eternal Word, to us. This is the ultimate declaration of love. We respond to the sending of His Word with our words. We pray. 

The Act of Loving 

Prayer is more than just our response to the way God loves us. It is part of how we love Him. Love breaks down separation because we want to be one with the person we love. If we love God, we want to become one with Him. St. Dimitri of Rostov wrote, “No unity with God is possible without an exceeding great love.” Loving and joining go together. 

But you cannot become one with someone if you never talk to him. You cannot be in love with someone you do not know. Genuine lovers are always discovering things about each other. The more you know about the one you love, the more you will be in love with him. 

Our relationship with God is like that, and it is not hard to understand what happens. In order to love Him, we have to trustingly open ourselves to Him, and He will open Himself to us. We become one with our Lover. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). He already knows about us (He did create us, remember), but He will open Himself to us so that we can learn as much as possible about Him. This does not mean that we will learn everything there is to know about God, but we will learn all that we can possibly absorb. We can ask no more of any lover. 

Our love will express itself in a desire for knowledge and union. Prayer is the way we express our desire and the way we achieve it. To understand the need for prayer, we must realize how much we need a personal relationship with God. Prayer is the encounter between two loving persons seeking to become one: God in us, and we in Him. “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).

God walks among the hills and valleys of His creation with something in His glance that pulls us toward Him. “You have ravished my heart . . . / With one look of your eyes” (Song of Solomon 4:9). Do not be afraid to respond to God. Never be afraid to love Him! He is calling for us: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, / And come away” (Song of Solomon 2:10). 

What are you waiting for? Start to pray! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

John Hazlewood on Nicholas Ferrar & Little Gidding

This is the sixth and final instalment of John Hazlewood's lecture on the Caroline Divines, given to the Institute of Spiritual Studies at St Peter's Eastern Hill in 1982. It was included in a book published by the Institute, Anglican Spirituality.  

John Hazlewood on The Caroline Divines 
Part 6: Nicholas Ferrar

Ferrar had been a close friend of George Herbert. He had also been successful in the secular world of London after a brilliant career at Cambridge. He had joined the Virginia Company and entered the Parliament to further its missionary interests. These were all dashed to pieces in the 1624 Parliament, and at the urging of Laud, the great archbishop who had also successfully urged Herbert to accept Bemerton, he was ordained deacon.

He was presented with the manor and living of Little Gidding in 1625. After some months of making the manor house and the small church habitable he went there with his family. About thirty people in all, and set up a new kind of religious community. Most of his work perished when the Puritans visited and destroyed it in 1646. He wrote the first preface to Herbert's "The Temple" and he put forward in his community the ideals of his friend. The Prayer Book offices with a monthly Communion. Confessions and absolution. Stories by which he delighted to teach the same doctrines as the great Carolines had espoused. Charles I visited them three times but Nicholas had died in 1637.

Here was a development in the spiritual and community life almost unique in its day but interestingly enough beginning again in our own. They were not always at prayer. There were games, stories, spiritual discussions, charitable work amongst the poor and the making of beautiful books. Here was a community dedicated to the whole seven days of Herbert's poem but they were too allied to the King and to what was supposed to be Roman, and their heroic attempt was finally destroyed even as Charles the King was being betrayed and prepared for his scaffold.

The influence of the Caroline Divines was immense although in the middle of its bloom much of what it stood for was thrust down into Presbyterian and Dictatorial Government.

There was a true resurrection experience for those who survived when both King and Episcopate were restored in 1661. There was a frightful schism as the non-jurors moved out after the flight of James II.

Nevertheless their type of spirituality delighted in God's creation, fled the evils of sin, rejoiced in the sensitivity of music, art and reverence. It was firmly strong in the Liturgy and generous in good works. The strong foundations of prayer always and everywhere were left to the Church and are still aimed at and pursued this day. People as diverse as Martin the missionary, the Wesleys, John Keble, Edward King are evidences of this heritage. The contemporary spiritual writer Alan Jones is one today as is Father Bryant of Cowley whose new book about the soul's journey finds itself built around the structure of a poem of George Herbert.

The great twentieth century poet T. S. Eliot ends this paper.

"If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and motion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of living,
Here the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always." ("Little Gidding", last of the "Four Quartets", 1944)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

John Hazlewood on Jeremy Taylor

This is the fifth instalment of John Hazlewood's lecture on the Caroline Divines, given to the Institute of Spiritual Studies at St Peter's Eastern Hill in 1982. It was included in a book published by the Institute, Anglican Spirituality.  

John Hazlewood on The Caroline Divines 
Part 5: Jeremy Taylor

Taylor must be regarded as the greatest scholar and writer amongst the erudite and serious Caroline Divines. Unlike most of them he had no aristocratic relations or patrons. Unlike most of them he also knew what insides of prisons were like and yet he produces theology, piety and wisdom in an amazing number of books. He was the son of a Cambridge barber and by sheer ability alone managed a poor scholarship to Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. He was ordained after that and an accident which took the preacher at St Paul's Cross, the famous outdoor pulpit behind the Cathedral in London, was his chance. He was asked to fill in. His sermon was so excellent that he attracted the patronage of William Laud the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be martyred. Bishop Juxon of London gave him a living at Uppingham where as parish priest his reputation as a spiritual director went far and wide. The upheaval that was the Civil War snatched him from his parish and he was for a year or two a chaplain with the royalist armies. Following that he went into retreat, as it were, in the remote country of Cardiganshire near the Carberry estate of Golden Grove. Here in his happiest years be wrote much theology and above all as far as we are concerned his double book "Holy Living and Holy Dying". These were instructions to loyal Anglicans deprived of their priests and Bishops during the sad days of the Commonwealth.

"Holy Living" was and is one of the greatest books of piety, instruction and quiet confidence any Anglican could wish to have and to use. Like the work of Herbert, Andrewes and Donne it is still being published and is still available today. C. J. Stranks writes (in "Anglican Devotion"):

"The distressed condition of the Church of England was being used by some as an argument that she was no true Church and to weaken the faith of those who belonged to her."

Against these people Taylor in one trenchant paragraph describes the marks of a Christian:

"That man does certainly belong to God who believes and is baptised into all the articles of the Christian faith, and studies to improve his knowledge in the matters of God, so as may best make him to live a holy life; he that in obedience to Christ worships God diligently, frequently, and constantly with natural religion, that is of prayer, praises, and thanksgivings; he that takes all opportunities to remember Christ's death by a frequent sacrament, as it can be had, or else by inward acts of understanding, will and memory (which is the spiritual communion) supplies the want of the external rite; he that lives; and is merciful; and despises the world, using it as a man, but never suffering it to inure his duty; and is just in his dealing, and diligent in his calling; he that is humble in his spirit; and obedient to government; and content in misfortune and employment; he that does his duty because he loves God; and especially if after all this he be afflicted, and patient, or prepared to suffer affliction for the cause of God; the man that hath these twelve signs of grace and predestination does as certainly belong to God, and is His son as surely, as he is His creature."

Taylor was not a crusader. He preferred to chide gently and to prove his theological position in loving kindness than with thunderbolts which on the battlefield of contrary religion he had learnt to fear and to despise. He often said that the Lord of Hosts had replaced the lovely Prince of Peace. He followed the other Carolines in teaching that there is no real division between what is religious and what is secular. He wrote:

"God is pleased to esteem it as part of His service, if weeat and drink, so it be done temperately, and as may best preserve our health, that our health may enable our services towards him; and there is no one minute of our lives, after we are come to the use of reason, but we are or maybe doing the work of God, even then when we most of all serve ourselves."

As Stranks adds,

"We may take delight in all created things, for they come from God, and minister to God. Taylor could always still delight in all that God delights in, and in God himself. That being so a man must be very much in love with sorrow and peevishness, who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down upon his little handful of thorns."

Taylor's teaching of a holy contentment, a holy charity, a holy peace and the need for spiritual direction and penitence is a prose extension of Herbert's work and one that was worked out in exile, poverty and fear for the return of the Church and its King. I shall close these all too slight peeps at so great a man with words Stranks quotes concerning his beliefs with regard to the Blessed Eucharist.

"He tells us that in it priest and people on earth join with the great Sacrifice of Christ's death upon the Cross which the Son of God perpetually pleads before his Father in Heaven. Those who take part in this supreme act of worship must make the fullest possible preparation of themselves before they draw near. In it they must dedicate utterly to the service of God, who has so greatly shown his love for them. When the worship is over the rest of the day must be spent in prayer for all estates of men, and in thanksgiving for the great privilege which has been enjoyed. He advises that 'all persons should communicate very often even as often as they can'. "

In 1655 Taylor left Golden Grove for secret London royalist congregations. He was put in prison on two occasions and eventually went to Ireland in the train of Lord Conway. Having completed an important work on casuistry and dedicating it to Charles II about to be restored, Taylor received a stormy Irish bishopric in Ulster. Down, Connor and Dromore. It is said that an old argument with Sheldon, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, prevented Taylor's return to England. He was bishop for only six years plagued by Presbyterian incumbents whom he was forced to remove. They, of course, are the antecedents in Ulster of the Paisley group today. His treatise on Confirmation remains a classic until this day. He also found time to build a new Cathedral at Dromore. In that he was buried in August 1667 having caught a fever while visiting the poor sick in Lisburn, part of his difficult diocese.

C. J. Stranks sums his contribution to the Caroline Spirituality in well chosen words,

"'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.' To forget that is to overlook a part of the Divine Majesty. Every revelation of God, whether to the eye or to the mind, or to the soul, or in the body, is something Taylor would have us accept with delight. He certainly did not ignore sin. He found it hideous and alien, an affront to God and an intrusion in his work. Perhaps, with his own peculiar innocency, Taylor overlooked the attraction which evil has for some characters. He believed men to be reasonable creatures and Christianity the most reasonable way of life. The chief duty of a guide of souls was to teach the plain way of holiness as the Bible and the Church lay it down. Prayer, Bible reading, the use of the Sacraments, and obedience to such reasonable rules as the Church gives to her children, would lead the soul to the acquisition of all necessary graces, and inspire a life in which sympathy for others, loveliness of spirit and quiet faith have a continuous development."

Friday, October 5, 2012

John Hazlewood on George Herbert

This is the fourth instalment of John Hazlewood's lecture on the Caroline Divines, given to the Institute of Spiritual Studies at St Peter's Eastern Hill in 1982. It was included in a book published by the Institute, Anglican Spirituality.  

John Hazlewood on The Caroline Divines 
Part 4: George Herbert

What the Cure d'Ars is to many Catholic priests so George Herbert is to many Anglican priests. His hymns and his poetry, his two major works on Country Priesthood are still published today. Herbert teaches a search and a finding of divine contentment. A relaxation in the Love of God. This inner happiness was upset by sin and destroyed if there was no outward charity towards the poor. The way into such peace was through the daily use of the Prayer Book Liturgy in public and in church. This followed by meditation. A style of meditation that follows the directions of Joseph Hall a contemporary who wrote in his "The Arte of Divine Meditation" 1606:

"Our Meditation must proceed in due order, not troubledly, not preposterously. It begins in the understanding, endeth in the affection; It begins in the braine, descends to the heart; Begins on earth, ascends to Heaven,- Not suddenly, but by certaine staires and degrees, til we come to the highest."

Herbert came from good Border stock of a large family loyal always to the Crown. He lost his father in childhood and his mother Magdalene married again into the Danvers family who eventually moved to London. Herbert went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1610. He had a distinguished career there and became the Public Orator whose task it was to speak in Latin at the visit of any dignitary. As early as 1610 he had written that it was a pity that poetry should not be written seriously for God and his love. He began a course in Divinity and asked his stepfather for book money. Before he was made deacon by John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln in 1624, there is a space in his life and a dramatic about turn. Herbert lost his two most powerful patrons. He was therefore an orphan in the Caroline world of "getting on". He was earlier a close friend of Sir Philip Sidney and then of Nicholas Farrer. He became a member of Parliament and seems to have been sickened by the brutish behaviour be observed in the House of Commons. He was also enraged at the manner in which Farrer's Virginia Company had its charter revoked in that year. A circumstance that drove Farrer to be made deacon by Laud. These disappointments and his close relationship with Farrer probably helped Herbert to his deaconing. Two years later he was given a stall in Lincoln Cathedral and the derelict church of Leighton Bromswold very close to Little Gidding. 

Herbert raised money for the church's restoration and Farrer supervised it. In this prebend, as it was called, Herbert undertook to be bound to say Psalm 31 and 32 every day. In this way the canons and prebends of Lincoln Cathedral wherever they might live said the entire Psalter every day. I am not sure whether this custom prevailed anywhere else. He was given the benefice of Fugglestone with Bemerton in April of 1630, was ordained priest September 19th in Salisbury Cathedral. 

Isaac Walton, Herbert's 17th century biographer and admirer, writes of his life at Bemerton:

"Mr Herbert's own practice . . . was to appear constantly with his Wife, and three Nieces and his whole Family, twice every day at the Church-prayers, in the Chapel which does almost join to his Parsonage-house. And for the time of his appearing, it was strictly at the Canonical Hours of 10 and 4; and then and there, he lifted up pure and charitable hands to God in the midst of the Congregation. And he would joy to have spent that time in that place, where the honour of his Master Jesus dwelleth." 

Walton goes on to say that the effect of this was remarkable in that most of his parishioners and even some Gentlemen went twice a day with him. Those working in the fields were said to stop their work and let their ploughs rest when Mr Herbert's saints' Bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer their devotions to God with him. 1 imagine that the saints' bell was a small one hanging in a cote at the entry to the Choir. The rope would be near the rector's stall. In medieval days this bell was called the sanctus bell because it rang out at that point at the Sanctus in the Mass and at the consecration of the Elements.

Martin Thornton (in "English Spirituality" p. 258-9) is at pains to point out the similarity between the ancient rule of St Benedict and the Book of Common Prayer. Herbert's use of that Liturgy was an almost perfect example of that similarity, as was the Little Gidding experiment as well. 

While Herbert's writings are written from the point of view of the Parson he writes just as well for others. In his cover note with which he sent Farrer a copy of "The Temple" he said, 

"This contains a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my Soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master." 

Walton adds that Herbert instructed Ferrar to publish the book "if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor Soul." 

Herbert's recipe for the soul's growth flows into the Liturgy in Church, and its affections carry on through personal meditation, which he doesn't put under the actual heading of prayer and the living out of one's vocation or role in the community in gentle pastoral care. In the lines 397-401 in the first poem of " The Temple" he writes about this . . . 

"Though private prayer be a brave design, 
Yet public hath more promises, more love.- 
And love's a weight to hearts, to eyes a sign. 
We all are but cold suitors: let us move 
Where it is warmest. Leave thy six and seven,- 
Pray with the most: for where most pray, is heaven." 

The word "weight" in the third line means a claim to consideration. The meaning of six or seven in line five means risky behaviour and is derived from dice. 

Herbert along with others who shared his spiritual design was imperative about outward reverence. After all sitting down and neither standing nor kneeling, men wearing hats in church, walking about without reverence and using the altar as a desk or even a bench were all common Puritan practices of his day. So the following verse in the above quoted poem goes like this: 

"When once thy foot enters the Church, be bare. (bareheaded) 
God is more there than thou: for thou art there 
Only by his permission. Then beware, 

"And make thyself all reverence and fear. 
Kneeling ne'er spoiled silk stockings,- quit thy state. 
All equal are within the church's gate." 

Herbert's spirituality, like that of St Aelred, St Bernard and St Benedict, is anchored in community at the set prayers of the liturgy. This was the pattern extended in Andrewes' "Preces Privatae" and developed in Bayly's "Whole Duty of the Christian Man". Jeremy Taylor advised that one's prayers had better be short than long, short and frequent but orderly. 

It is also anchored in the monthly communion. The care of the suffering, and always in enjoying the world for which Christ died. A death caused by my sin. 

Here is "Trinity Sunday" 

"Lord, who hast form'd me out of mud, 
And hast redeemed me through thy blood, 
And sanctified me to do good.- 
Purge all my sins done heretofore: 
For I confess my heavy score, 
And I will strive to sin no more. 
Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me, 
 With faith, with hope, with charity; 
That I may run, rise, rest with thee." 

Notice the homely image of mud. The prayer for absolution with its declaration of intention to do better. Then notice the very fleshy heart, mouth and hands to be agents of God and the delight of the last line that sings of freedom and childlike joy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

John Hazlewood on John Donne

This is the third instalment of John Hazlewood's lecture on the Caroline Divines, given to the Institute of Spiritual Studies at St Peter's Eastern Hill in 1982. It was included in a book published by the Institute, Anglican Spirituality.  

John Hazlewood on The Caroline Divines 
Part 3: John Donne

Born a Roman Catholic with splendid Catholic relatives. His mother was the sister of Jasper Heywood, a celebrated Jesuit missionary in England, and his poetry later shows some likenesses in style and in content with the Jesuit poets Southwell and Campion. His mother was the grand daughter of Blessed Thomas More the Martyr. He was educated at Oxford and attempted to study Law but he proved himself too much of a dilettante for that. He went to Cadiz with Raleigh and married in 1601, ending up in prison afterwards. He seems to have joined the Church of England about the end of the 16th century and by 1610 was writing anti-Roman books. He entered the dizzy circle around the new King James 1 who warned him that the only way to preferment was to take Holy Orders and he did just that in 1615, then a few years as a lecturer at Lincolns Inn and Rector of Sevenoaks in Kent. During this time it seems as if he is still guilty for his lecherous life and for deserting the Catholic Church. He becomes almost obsessed with sin and its forgiveness like another passionate religious, Martin Luther. After the death of his wife he became preoccupied with death. He had his portrait painted in his shroud and after ten highly successful years as Dean of St Paul's he did die and so fulfil his desires for union with God in 1631. 

Donne had a great influence and a huge popularity. He was learned, passionate and gifted. He also did a great deal to turn the ruinous St Paul's into a worshipful, musical and beautiful place. He was known to walk for hours up and down its great aisles to hear confessions, to comfort or to counsel. 

He has left behind a number of remarkable poems very profane and also others that are very sacred and yet carry the passion of profanity. Many of his sermons are extant and are still being published. He explains his own transfiguration in a sermon preached before Queen Anne at Denmark House on December 4th, 1617: 

"As the Prophets, and other Secretaries of the Holy Ghost in penning the books of Scriptures, do for the most part retain and express in their writings some impressions, and some air of their former professions; those that had been bred in Courts and Cities, those that had been Shepherds and Herdsmen, those that had been Fishers, and so of the rest . . . so the soul, that has been transported on any worldly pleasure, when it is entirely turn'd towards God, and the contemplation of his all- sufficiency and abundance, doth find in God fit subject, and just occasion to exercise the same affection piously, and religiously, which had been so sinfully transported, and possest it. So will a voluptuous man, who is turned to God, find plenty and deliciousness enough in him, to feed his soul, as with marrow and fatness, as David expresses it,- and so an angry and passionate man, will find zeal enough in the House of God to eat him up . . ." 

Donne translates his passions and much of his early Roman training into the fire of his poetry and in his preaching for the salvation of souls. Another Caroline aspect of Donne's work is the anti-Puritan attitude that the whole of creation, though emerging from filthy slime, does yet sing and show forth the glory of God whose Son became part of it. Everything is a means of God's disclosure and we are to enjoy the world, sinners though we be. As W. S. Scott writes: 

"The lust for love, the overmastering passion of a young man of his fiercely hot blooded temperament, was identically the same in quality as the lust for completion, for fulfilment, which was his to the end of his life."

Let us look at some samples of his astonishing metaphysical verse. Two from his Litanies: 

"O Holy Ghost! whose temple I 
Am, but of mud walls and condensed dust, 
And being sacrilegiously 
Half wasted with youth's fires of pride and lust 
Must with new storms be weather-beat, 
Double in my heart thy flame, 
Which let devout sad tears intend, and let 
(Though this glass lanthorn, flesh, do suffer maim) 
Fire, sacrifice, priest, altar, be the same." 

Then he addresses our Lady in a much more certain manner than does his friend George Herbert: 

"For that fair blessed Mother-maid, 
Whose flesh redeemed us, (that she cherubim, 
Which unlocked Paradise, and made 
One claim for innocence, and disseized sin; 
Whose womb was a strange heaven, for there 
God clothed himself and grew) 
Our zealous thanks we pour. As her deeds were 
Our helps, so are her prayers; nor can she sue 
In vain who hath such titles unto you." 

Sonnet 11 where the influence of Ignatius is seen in the calling before the senses of the thing meditated and then the affections rush out at the end: 

"Spit on my face, you Jews, and pierce my side, 
Buffet and scoff, scourge and crucify me, 
For I have sinn'd, and sinn'd, and only he 
Who could do no iniquity hath dy'd, 
But my death cannot be satisfy'd. 
My sins, which pass the Jew's impiety: 
They kill'd once an inglorious man, but I 
Crucify him daily, being now glorified. 
O let me then this strange love still admire. 
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment,- 
As Jacob came, cloth'd in vile harsh attire, 
But to supplant, and with gainful intent: 
God cloth'd himself in vile man's flesh, that so 
He might be weak enough to suffer woe." 

Finally one of his greatest poems, "The Hymn to God the Father." 

"Wilt thou forgive that sinne where I begunne, 
Which is my sin, though it were done before? 
Wilt thou forgive those sinnes, through which I run, 
And do run still.- though still I do deplore? 
When thou hast done, thou hast not done, 
For I have more. 

"Wilt thou forgive that sinne by which I have wonne 
Others to sinne? and made my sinne their doore? 
Wilt thou forgive that sinne which I did shunne 
A yeare or two: but wallowed in the score? 
When thou hast done, thou hast not done, 
For I have more. 

"I have a sinne of fear, that when I have spunne 
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore,- 
Sweare by thyself, that at my death thy sonne 
Shall shine as he does now, and heretofore,- 
And having done that, Thou hast done, 
I fear no more." 

John Donne was very friendly with Lady Danvers, the mother of George Herbert who follows him both in literature and in a more restful and subdued sanctity. Donne is also credited with the first Missionary sermon for overseas concern for the heathen Indians in Virginia. Nicholas Farrer was the Director of the Virginia Company who invited the Dean to preach for them. Such circumstances will be a bridge for us to cross to get to Bemerton and Little Gidding.