I feel sorry for Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) whenever I hear him being compared unfavourably with Newman and others of his contemporaries. Sometimes he is dismissed with faint praise (in a way that Newman never is) for being primarily a "scholar", and a crusty one at that! Of course, Dr Pusey was a very great theologian and Biblical scholar. Yet a lot of what he wrote and preached is characterised by simplicity and depth, revealing so much about him as a person, as a Christian and as a spiritual guide. Father John Hunwicke spoke for many when he said in his blog a few years ago that Pusey was “one of the very greatest Catholic teachers and spiritual directors of the modern period.”
Unfortunately there persists a popular image of Pusey as gloomy, grim, sad and penitential all the time. Now, it is true that throughout his long life he had more than his fair share of personal disappointments and real tragedies (one or two of which might have crushed a weaker person). Each of these left its mark on him. Yet it is precisely they which make his sermons and spiritual writings all the more relevant to us when we struggle. What he says can never be dismissed as trite or untested by experience. We also know that he would often mutter the penitential psalms under his breath. But in his sermons, reflections, letters, meditations and prayers we find a man who like St Paul scaled the heights as well as plumbed the depths both of human life and spiritual reality, a man whose walk with God drew many to the Saviour. So, today I share with you these paragraphs from Pusey's sermon, "Miracles of Prayer", preached at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on Septuagesima Sunday, 1866. The entire sermon can be downloaded in pdf format HERE. I have also included four of my favourites from among Pusey's prayers.
Prayer is "the ascent of the soul to God;" it is the beginning of that blessed converse, which shall be the exhaustless fulness of eternal bliss; it is the continuance or renewal of union with God.
. . . Blessed dissatisfaction of man's craving soul; glorious restlessness, the token of its Divine birth, its Divine end; that nothing can satisfy it, except what is the bliss of its God, Infinite, Divine love.
Imperfect, faltering, unsatisfactory as are our prayers, their defects but shew the more the goodness of our God, who is never weary of those who are so soon wearied of him, who lets not fall a single earnest cry to him for himself. Not one prayer, from the yearning of the penitent ("would, God, for love of Thee, I had never offended Thee!"), to the love-enkindled longing of the Saint ("My God, and my All!)" but will have enlarged thy capacity for the infinite love of God, and will have drawn down to thee the indwelling of God the Holy Ghost, who is Love Infinite, the Bond of the love of the Father and the Son.
It will guard thee from all evil in the perilous passage through this world; it will sanctify to thee all thy joys; it will be to thee a calm above nature in all thy sorrows; it will give a supernatural value to all thy acts; it will heal all thine infirmities; it will illumine all thy knowledge; and, when thy flesh and thy heart shall fail, thy last prayer upon earth in the Name of Jesus shall melt into thy first Halleluiah in heaven, where, too, doubtless prayer shall never cease, but the soul shall endlessly desire of God, what God shall unintermittingly supply, more and yet more of the exhaustless, ever-filling fulness of Divine Beauty and Wisdom and Love, yea of himself who is Love.
GROWING IN HIS LOVE
fountain of love:
fill me with thy love,
absorb me into thy love,
compass me with thy love,
that I may see all things in the light of thy love,
receive all things as tokens of thy love,
speak of all things
in words breathing of thy love,
win through thy love others to thy love;
be kindled, day by day,
with a new glow of thy love,
until I be fitted
to enter into thine everlasting love,
to adore thy love and love to adore thee,
my God and my all.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
A PRAYER FOR THE WEARY
Let me not seek out of thee
what I can find only in thee, O Lord:
peace and rest and joy and bliss,
which abide only in thine abiding joy.
Lift up my soul above the weary round of harassing thoughts
to thy eternal Presence.
Lift up my soul
to the pure, bright, serene, radiant atmosphere of thy Presence,
that there I may breathe freely,
there repose in thy love,
there be at rest from myself,
and from all things that weary me;
and thence return,
arrayed with thy peace,
to do and bear what shall please thee. Amen.
LEAD US, LORD
Teach us, O Father,
how to ask thee each moment silently for thy help.
If we fail,
teach us at once to ask thee to forgive us.
If we are disquieted,
enable us, by thy grace, quickly to turn to thee.
May nothing come between us and thee.
May we will, do, and say,
just what thou, our loving and tender Father,
wiliest us to will, do, and say.
Work thy holy will in us, and through us, this day.
Protect us, guide us, bless us within and without,
that we may do something this day for love of thee ;
something which shall please thee ;
and that we may this evening be nearer to thee,
though we see it not nor know it.
Lead us, Lord, in a strait way unto thyself,
and keep us in thy grace unto the end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SOARING INTO GOD
O God, my God,
give me a heart to thank thee;
lift up my heart above myself,
to thee and thine eternal throne;
let it not linger here
among the toils and turmoils of this lower world;
let it not be oppressed by any earth-born clouds
of care or anxiety or fear or suspicion;
but bind it wholly to thee and to thy love;
give me eyes to see thy love in all things,
and thy grace in all around me;
make me to thank thee for thy love and thy grace
to all and in all;
give me wings of love,
that I may soar up to thee,
and cling to thee, and adore thee,
and praise thee more and more,
until I be fitted to enter into the joys of thine everlasting love,
everlastingly to love thee and thy grace,
whereby thou didst make me such as thou couldest love,
such as could love thee,
O God, my God. Amen.
O God, my God. Amen.