Thursday, January 03, 2008

Octave Day of St John, Apostle and Evangelist

In the four Gospels, or rather in the four books of the one Gospel, we may well compare the holy Apostle John to the eagle, because of his understanding of spiritual things; for his teaching is more profound and far more sublime than that of the other three. And not only does he soar aloft himself, but he wishes to lift up our hearts also. The other three Evangelists walk with the Lord as man upon earth, and tell us little of his Godhead; but John, in the very beginning of his Gospel, as though it wearied him to walk upon earth, soared not only above the earth and above the firmament of the air and the heavens, but also above all the host of Angels and every order of invisible Powers: and attained unto him, by whom all things were made, saying: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, OCD, was in his time already well recognised for his spirituality. He had developed in time a deep devotion to do everything for the love of God. Here we can read fragment of his conversation with a friend where he explains how this devotion developed into habit of living continually in the presence of God. I think his spirituality is very relevant and put so much into practice St John's teaching about charity. Good spiritual reading and book available from ICS - link on this page in Carmelitana's.

[Brother Lawrence said he was] always ruled by love, without any other consideration and without tormenting himself as to whether he would be lost or saved. That he had found his resolution to make the love of God the end of all his actions the only satisfactory one. He was happy when he could pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him alone, nothing else, not even His gifts. It followed from this attitude of mind that God gave him endless grace; but accepting the fruit of these graces-namely, the love, the love that arose out of them - he had found it necessary to disregard their savour, since that was not God; for he knew by the Catholic faith that God was immesurably greater than this and that anything else that he felt. By doing thus there was brought about a wonderful struggle between God and the soul: God giving, and the soul denying that that which she received was God..... That God rewarded whatever he had done for Him so quickly and so liberally that he had sometimes wished he could hide his deeds from Him so that, receiving no reward, he would have the privilege of doing something entirely for God. That he had been very greatly troubled in mind by a belief that he would be damned; all the men in the world could not have altered his conviction, but he reasoned about it in this way: "I undertook the religious life for the love of God only, and I have tried to live only for Him; whether I am lost or saved, I want simply to go on living entirely for God; I shall have done all that I could to love Him until death." He had been so troubled for four years and had suffered greatly, but since then he had worried about neither Heaven nor Hell, and his life was comletely free and happy.He put his sins between God and himself, to show Him how little he deserve His favours: but God nonetheless continued them, sometimes taking him as it were by the hand, and leading him before the whole court of Heaven, that all might see the wretch He was pleased to honour.

credits: St Augustine sermon on St John, from Roman Breviary lessons and fragments from 'Practice of the Presence of God' Br Lawrence of the Resurrection, OCD. Painting of St John at Patmos by Titian.