"Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark, where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on water and not know it, and then suddenly know it and drown." – Flannery O'Connor
Both St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila do not tire of repeating that the concentration necessary for spiritual prayer is the fruit of moral purification of the will. It is therefore useless to strive to concentrate oneself if the will is infatuated with something else. The “oscillations of the mental substance” will never be able to be reduced to silence if the will itself does not infuse them with its silence. It is the silenced will which effects the silence of thought and imagination in concentration. This is why the great ascetics are also the great masters of concentration. All this is obvious and stands to reason. However, what occupies us here is not just concentration in general but particularly and especially concentration without effort.
Meditations on the Tarot – The Magician
Until our outward condition is that of sons royal, sons divine; so long as the garments of our souls, these mortal bodies, are mean–torn and dragged and stained; so long as we groan under sickness and weakness and weariness, old age, forgetfulness, and all heavy things; so long we have not yet received the sonship in full–we are but getting ready one day to creep from our chrysalids, and spread the great heaven-storming wings of the psyches of God. We groan being burdened; we groan, waiting for the sonship–to wit, the redemption of the body–the uplifting of the body to be a fit house and revelation of the indwelling spirit– nay, like that of Christ, a fit temple and revelation of the deeper indwelling God. For we shall always need bodies to manifest and reveal us to each other–bodies, then, that fit the soul with absolute truth of presentment and revelation.
- George MacDonald
Hope of my heart, strength of my soul,
help of my weakness,
by your powerful kindness complete
what in my powerless weakness I attempt.
My life, the end to which I strive,
although I have not yet attained to love you as I ought,
still let my desire for you
be as great as my love ought to be.
My light, you see my conscience,
because, “Lord, before you is all my desire,”
and if my soul wills any good, you gave it me.
Lord, if what you inspire is good,
or rather because it is good, that I should want to love you,
give me what you have made me want:
grant that I may attain to love you as much as you command.
I praise and thank you for the desire that you have inspired;
and I offer you praise and thanks
lest your gift to me be unfruitful,
which you have given me of your own accord.
Perfect what you have begun,
and grant me what you have made me long for,
not according to my deserts but out of your kindness
that came first to me.
Most merciful Lord,
turn my lukewarmness into a fervent love of you.
Most gentle Lord,
my prayer tends towards this –
that by remembering and meditating
on the good things you have done
I may be enkindled with your love.
Your goodness, Lord, created me;
Your mercy cleansed what you had created from original sin;
your patience has hitherto borne with me,
fed me, waited for me,
when after I had lost the grace of my baptism
I wallowed in many sordid sins.
You wait, good Lord, for my amendment;
My soul waits for the inbreathing of your grace
in order to be sufficiently penitent
to lead a better life.
My Lord and my Creator,
you bear with me and nourish me – be my helper.
I thirst for you, I hunger for you, I desire you,
I sigh for you, I covet you:
I am like an orphan deprived of the presence
of a very kind father,
who, weeping and wailing, does not cease to cling to
the dear face with his whole heart.
So, as much as I can, though not as much as I ought,
I am mindful of your passion,
your buffeting, your scourging, your cross, your wounds,
how you were slain for me,
how prepared for burial and buried;
and also I remember your glorious Resurrection,
and wonderful Ascension.
All this I hold with unwavering faith,
and weep over the hardship of exile,
hoping in the sole consolation of your coming,
ardently longing for the glorious contemplation of your face.
Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis,
qui certis vicibus tempora dividis,
merso sole chaos ingruit horridum,
lucem redde tuis, Christe, fidelibus.
quamvis innumero sidere regiam
lunarique polum lampade pinxeris
incussu silicis lumina nos tamen
monstras saxigeno semine quaerere,
ne nesciret homo spem sibi luminis
in Christi solido corpore conditam,
qui dici stabilem se voluit petram
nostris igniculis unde genus venit.
1. A HYMN FOR THE LIGHTING OF THE LAMP
Creator of the glowing light, our kindly guide, who dost divide the times in a fixed order of seasons, now the sun has sunk and the gruesome darkness comes upon us; give light again, O Christ, to Thy faithful ones. Albeit Thou hast adorned the heavens, Thy royal court, with countless stars and with the moon’s lamp, yet Thou teachest us to seek light from a stoneborn spark by striking the flint, that man might know that his hope of light is founded on the firm body of Christ, who willed that He be called the steadfast rock, from whence our little fires draw their origin.
2. HYMN FOR THE LIGHTING OF THE LAMPS
Blest Lord, Creator of the glowing light,
At Whose behest the hours successive move,
The sun has set: black darkness broods above:
Christ! light thy faithful through the coming night.
Thy courts are lit with stars unnumberèd,
And in the cloudless vault the pale moon rides;
Yet Thou dost bid us seek the fire that hides
Till swift we strike it from its flinty bed.
So man may learn that in Christ’s body came
The hidden hope of light to mortals given:
He is the Rock — ’tis His own word — that riven
Sends forth to all our race the eternal flame.
3. A HYMN FOR THE LIGHTING OF THE LAMP
O Christ, heavenly King, Author of shining light,
Thou that rulest our days, fixing the seasons due,
Dark night steals on the world, gone is the flowing sun;
Give Thy glorious light back to thy faithful flock.
Though Thou paintest the sky, throne of Thy regal might,
With innumerable stars circling the lunar lamp,
Thou dost teach us to seek light from the solid rock,
Spark that springs from the flint when it is struck by steel.
Lest man ever forget that his one hope of light
On the body of Christ has its foundation sure,
He desired to be called stone of the Corner firm,
Whence we kindle the flame lighting our little fires.
Midnight is the time,
the prophetic voice tells us,
that we should ever sing praise to God
the Father, and to the Son,
and also to the Holy Spirit.
For the perfect threeness,
also one of substance,
should always be praised by us.
The holy virgins run
then to meet his coming,
holding forth bright lamps,
rejoicing with great joy.
But indeed the foolish ones stay back,
who let their lamps go out,
vainly pounding at the royal gate,
now shut, of the kingdom.
Wherefore we should watch soberly,
holding forth our shining spirits,
so that we may be worthy to run
and meet Jesus at his coming.
Christ, you who are light and day,
dispel the darkness of the night,
light-bearer, holding forth the light,
the blessed flame proclaiming.
We pray you, holy lord,
defend us in this night,
let our rest be in you,
grant us a peaceful night.
The eyes may feel sleepy,
but the heart ever wakes for you.
With your right hand protect
your servants who love you.
Look upon us, our protector,
restrain him who would ambush us.
Guide your servants
whom you bought with your blood.
Remember us, O lord,
in these burdensome bodies,
you who are protector of the soul,
be ever present for us, lord.
Christe qui lux es et dies,
noctis tenebras detegis,
lucifer, lucem preferens,
lumen beatum predicans,
precamur, sancte domine,
defende nos in hac nocte,
sit nobis in to requies,
quietam noctem tribue.
Oculi somnum capiant,
cot semper ad to vigilet.
Dextera tug protegat famulos,
qui to diligunt.
Defensor nosier aspice,
guberna tuos famulos,
quos sanguine mercatus es.
Memento nostri domine
in gravi isto corpore
qui es defensor anime:
adesto nobis domine.
O light, blessed threeness
and primal oneness:
as the fiery sun sets
pour light into our hearts.
Already night approaches:
grant us a peaceful night.
Watch over us at sunrise,
our only-begotten saviour.
With song we praise you in the morning,
We pray to you at sunset:
with our “glory” may the suppliant
praise you through every age.
O lux, beata trinitas
et principalis unitas,
iam sol recedit igneus
infunde lumen cordibus.
Iam noctis tempus advenit,
noctem quietam tribue,
diluculo nos respice,
Te mane laudum carmine,
te deprecemur vespere,
te nostra supplex gloria
per cuncta laudet secula.