Little Gidding

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little-gidding

Little Gidding is the tiny collection of farm buildings and a church not too far from Cambridge. It was the location of a small religious community headed by Nicholas Ferrar, who was a friend of the poet George Herbert.

Eliot made a pilgrimage to the church and wrote his famous poem–the last of his Four Quartets.

Here are the final lines.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

-T.S.Eliot – Four Quartets

New Every Morning – Resolutions for 2017

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This morning I tried to think of the New Years resolutions I might make if I were truly a Benedictine hermit.

They would be based in the three duties of Prayer, Study and Work. These three are important because they minister to the three aspects of the human person. Reading (or Study) illuminates and stretches the mind. Prayer enlarges the heart. Work (and I mean manual labor) strengthens and purifies the body.

In each area I am resolved to be rid of what is holding me back and resolved to add what makes me better.

Therefore to study and read better I resolve to stop wasting time on Facebook, TV, stupid movies, mainstream media and news. I will turn off the hypnotizing, addicting screen.

Instead I will not only read good books. I will also support live entertainment like plays, concerts and artists. These things are more real than the mostly artificial screen entertainments.

For work I will stop sitting around so much, but the answer is not exercise for its own sake. Jogging or walking, on their own are boring. I will try to walk with a friend, pray as I walk or listen to a good podcast while I walk.

I will also take up some meaningful and interesting outdoor work. I’ll plant a garden, grow roses, take up a sport, build a hermitage shed, construct a prayer walk, build a church–in short, use my body to build something good and beautiful and true in the physical realm.

Finally, prayer. Praying in bed is fine if all you are doing is saying “Good night” to Jesus and Mary, but prayer in bed doesn’t really count.

In the rule Benedict combines great attention to liturgical prayer with a tender hearted approach to personal, spontaneous prayer. He says the oratory should always be open so that anyone can go there at any time and offer prayers to God with tears and great joy.

This is my resolution for prayer: to maintain the structure of prayer through the Daily Office and offering of Mass, but also to turn to the Lord at anytime with a heart full of praise, thanksgiving and crying out to him for my needs and the needs of my family, my parish and the world.

A Transparent Personality

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Benedictine Nuns Make Final Vows

Benedictine Nuns Make Final Vows

A Benedictine nun writes,

The end of Benedictine spirituality is to develop a transparent personality. Dissimulation, half answers, vindictive attitudes, a false presentation of self are all barbs in the soul of the monastic.

This is especially important in our commercialized, plastic, artificial society. Everywhere we look we are surrounded with fakery, phoniness and falsehood.

It is as if America has become one gigantic Disneyland. Men and women who should know better have plastic surgery and end up with just that: a plastic face, plastic breasts, plastic teeth, plastic everything.

Our “retail centers” are like a theme park of fake experiences. Here you can have the Italian experience in a restaurant that looks like a Tuscan villa. There you can eat in a fake Mexican hacienda. Here you can eat Mediterranean cuisine in a building that has been made to look like a Turkish bordello.

Benedict calls us instead to an authenticity of experience rooted in a centuries old tradition of prayer, work and study. This requires concentration, hard work, attentiveness and obedience.

The result is to be ourselves and nothing else, and in this is true humility.

Humility is not a false piety or an artificial religiosity. It is not going to live in a small house in the bad part of town and then showing off about it.

Humility is to become who we were created to be.

As the old Shaker hymn teaches, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.”

From Julian of Norwich

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There is a Great Deed which the blessed Trinity shall do at the last day, as I see it. And what that deed shall be, and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures below Christ. And it shall be hidden until it is done.

He wants us to know of it so that we shall be more at ease in our soul, and at peace in our love, and that we should leave off looking at all the storms that might keep us from the truth, and should rejoice in him.