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Monday, June 11, 2012

The Golden Fountain, part IV

Continued from The Golden Fountain, by Lilian Staveley

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God, once found, is so poignantly ever-present to the soul that we must sing and whisper to Him all the day.

O marvellous and exquisite God! I am so enraptured by Thy nearness, I am so filled with love and joy, that there is no one, nothing, in heaven or earth to me save Thine Own Self, and I could die for love of Thee! Indeed I am in deep necessity to find Thee at each moment of the day, for so great is Thy glamour that without Thee my days are like bitter waters and a mouthful of gravel to a hungry man. How long wilt Thou leave me here—set down upon the earth in this martyrdom of languishing for love of Thee? And suddenly, when the pain can be endured no more, He embraces the soul. Then where do sorrow and waiting fly? and what is pain? There never were such things!

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We do well never to recall past ecstasies. In this way the soul comes to each encounter with a lovely freshness and purity, and neither makes comparisons nor curious comments, but gives herself wholly to love. But by these contacts the soul gains a secret and personal knowledge of God: without sight and without reasoning she actually feels to partake of God, so that she passes by these means far up beyond belief, into experiences of knowledge which in their poignant intensity are at once an ineffable violence and a marvellous white peace.

* * *

I find the lark the most wonderful of all birds. I cannot listen to his rhapsodies without being inspired (no matter what I may be in the midst of doing or saying) to throw up my own love to God. In the soaring insistence of his song and passion I find the only thing in Nature which so suggests the high-soaring and rapturous flights of the soul. But I am glad that we surpass the lark in sustaining a far more lengthy and wonderful flight; and that we sing, not downwards to an earthly love, but upwards to a heavenly.

To my mind, this is man's only justification for considering himself above the beasts—that we can love, and communicate with, God. For where otherwise is his superiority? He builds fine buildings which crumble and decay. He digs holes in the earth to take out treasures which he has not made; and if he makes himself the very highest tower of wealth or fame, he must come down from it and be buried in the earth like any other carcase.

* * *

It is better not to contend, either with others or against our own body. If we contend against anything we impress it the more firmly upon our consciousness. So if we would overcome the lusts of the body, let us do it not by harming or by contending against the body, which but emphasises its powers and importance, but let us rather proceed to ignore and make little of the body by forgetting it and passing out of it into higher things; and eventually we shall learn to live, not in the lower state, but in the joy of the soul. Why have a contempt for the body? I once did, and found that I was committing a great sin against the Maker of it.

How dare we say "my body is vile," when He fashioned it! It is blasphemous, when we consider that it is His Temple.

To my mind the body is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and is greatly sinned against by our evil hearts and minds and tongues. The body would do no harm if we, with our free-will, did not think out the wickedness first in our own hearts. For first we commit theft and adultery with the mind, and then we cause the body to carry out these things. We know that the body is under the law, and its appetites are under the law, but the heart and mind and tongue are perpetual breakers of this law. It is lawful for the body to take its meat and drink, but not to be surfeited and drunken. It is lawful for the body to have its desires and its loves, but not to be promiscuous and unfaithful.

But we know that a better way is to turn all appetites and greeds to this, that we be greedy and ravenous for Christ. Only so shall we use the appetites of mind and heart and body for their true end, and that not by despising but by conversion.

With great insistence I have been taught not to despise anything whatever in Creation of things made in His most beautiful and wonderful world, though often I may cry with tears, "Lord God! raise me to a world holier and nearer to Thyself, for I am heartbroken here."

Yet I am taught only to despise such things as lying, deceitfulness, hypocrisy, and uncleanness—in fact, stenches of the heart and mind,—and not to think too much about these, but, passing on, drop out the recollection of them in thoughts of finer things.

His inward instruction has been this, quietly to lay upon one side all that which is not pleasing to God; and one by one, and piece by piece, to fold up and put away all that He does not love.

Above all, He has taught me to have no self-esteem and no prides; and to such a degree do I have to learn this, that, without the smallest exaggeration, I am hardly ever able to think myself the equal of a dog. But the love of a dog for his master is a very fine thing.

* * *

I think we mistake our own power and capacity in even seeking to imitate the Christ; let us begin rather by taking into our heart and our mind the Christ as the Man-Jesus. For His love and power only can show us the way to imitate the Christ which is in Him.

* * *

Is the temporary loss of grace our fault, or is it a deliberate withdrawal and testing upon His part? Both. Every condition that we are in which is not pure and perfect of its kind, such as pure peace, pure joy, pure harmony, is because of failure on our part to hold to Him. Whenever, and for so long, as we keep ourselves in the single and simple condition of mind and heart necessary for the perception and reception of Him, for just so long shall we receive and perceive him; but this condition again we cannot maintain without grace. All loss of joy, of serenity, of contact, is failure, then, on our part or withdrawal upon His. Yet we learn a bitter but useful lesson by these losses of ability for connection. To return ignominiously to our dust is a most bitter humiliation and trial—indeed, a desolation. Now, if we did not so return we might suppose ourselves able, of our own power, not only to achieve momentary connection with the Divine, but to remain at will in this sublime condition, by which I mean in a state bordering upon ecstasy. The withdrawal of grace therefore would seem to be a necessary part of the education and of the constant humbling of the soul. To find ourselves, of our own unaided capacity, by the mere force of our own will, able to constantly go up to so high a level would inevitably foster pride; indeed, to attain such a capacity would seem to place us on a level with the angels!

By these withdrawals of grace, which came at first very tenderly, but gradually with greater and greater severity, I have learnt this: that in spite of all that has been done for me, of all that I have experienced, in spite of all the heights to which at times I have been raised, I remain nothing better than the frailest and unworthiest thing! The sight of an ugly grey cloud, momentarily and gloriously illumined by the sun, is a sufficient illustration of the temporary transformation of our own selves touched by the light and the glory of God.

For the carrying out of His plan, it would seem to be His good pleasure that we are just what we are—not angels, but little human things, full of simplicity and trust and love. "Like dear children," as St Paul says; and yet, oh! wonder of wonders! far more than this. For whilst we patiently wait, from time to time He stoops and embraces the soul in an infinite bliss, in which we are no more children, but are caught up into High Love.

At first when we begin this new kind of living He holds us firmly, as it were, to a condition suitable for contact with Him. If He did not do so, having had no previous practice, we should never remain in it for two moments together. Then little by little He teaches us to live with less frequent joy, and this is the cause of much difficulty and trouble. It is hard to endure being without this blessed state and these marvellous favours, and more and more I found He withdrew them whilst often my worldly and commonplace heart and mind still held me back—even from peace. If we could but rid ourselves quickly of all selfish desires and greeds! Not until I had learnt to do this was I given back my joys, and then sparingly.

How I would turn towards that secret door—the door of the kingdom of love,—and calling to Him, hear no reply! Where is He gone?—why this desertion?—I would cry. How can He cause such pain, how can I bear such dreadful deprivations, and what is love but a sharp sword? Lord, let me hear Thy voice, for I am in despair; I cannot bear these pains, I fear for everything, my joy is lost. My bread is spread with bitterness; where is the honey that I love so well? Lord, call to me even from far away, and I shall hear and be consoled. Lord, I am sick and ill—how canst Thou leave me so? Hast Thou no pity for my pain?—is this Thy love? My pain! Lord, I remember! Thou hast been kissed by pain more frequently than I. Oh, let me wipe the memory of Thy pain away with my warm love, and let me sing to Thee and be Thy lark, and do Thou go and wander where Thou wilt and I will love Thee just the same! And softly the Voice of the Beloved, saying: "I am here, I never left thee; but thou wast busy crying of thy pains and did not hear Me when I answered thee." Lord, so I was! I was so filled with self, and, asking for Thy gifts, I did forget to give! and so lost love.

Source:  Project Gutenberg

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