A Prayer of St. Aelred

Lord I sometimes wander away from you, not because I am deliberately turning my back on you, but because of the inconstancy of my mind. I weaken in my intention to give my whole self to you. I fall back into thinking of myself as my own master. When I wander from you, my life becomes a burden, and within me I find nothing but darkness fear and anxiety. So I come back to you and confess that I have sinned. Forgive me Lord. — St. Aelred of Rivaux
saint aelred
I wandered into Church this afternoon to pray, and picked up one of the Advent booklets we’re giving out, and opened it up to read this beautiful prayer from St. Aelred. He’s renowned for his treatise on Spiritual Friendship, a brief summary of which can be found here, and a pdf version can be found here.

Aelred speaks about spiritual friendship – a relationship which helps us grow in love: love of each other and love of God. In fact, for him friendship is a sacrament of God’s love. In an earlier book he says that just as there is a continuous dialogue and interchange of love berween the three persons of the Trinity, so human beings – the rational creatures made in the image and likeness of this Trinity of Persons – are called to relationships based on mutual dialogue, exchange, sharing and self-giving. This is the theological foundation for all spiritual relationships. In fact, through the experience of spiritual friendship we come to experience something of God’s love. He refers to this friendship as a very holy sort of charity.

But his prayer (rather than his treatise, although it did come to mind,) struck me so peacefully as I knelt in Church and prayed and felt God’s grace working in my life, healing my spirit and bringing a sense of understanding to the quasi-complex, more than likely semi-pelagian issues of the last weeks. Also, this is the start of Advent Confessions, and tomorrow is First Friday (which will bring an abundance of Confessions…) so I realized the need for a more thorough examination of conscience. I have issues, man.

God’s grace…. It’s only by God’s grace we get to heaven.

Wisdom, Growing in purity of Heart

Sometimes I get lost in The Office of Reading, Morning Prayer and the Mass Readings. Sometimes I have the time to be contemplative.

Today wasn’t one of those days. But all of these jumped out at me, and I ended up jotting them down here.

They speak so beautifully to the heart when we try to grow in wisdom, and in grace.

wisdom of solomon
None of us are perfect; and life is complex and at times tragic. That’s where wisdom can be found at times. Acknowledging the struggles in life, and developing authentic character, tried in the forges of life trials.

These verses speak for themselves, and point us towards the path of righteousness, humility and holiness:

“A good name is better than good ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. … For that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because when the face is sad, the heart grows wiser. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Eccliesiastes, 6:13-14.

“Do not in spirit become quickly discontented, for discontent lodges in the heart of a fool.”

‘For the protection of wisdom is as the protection of money; and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.”

“Do not give heed to every word that is spoken lest you hear your servant speak ill of you, for you know in your heart that you have many times spoken ill of others.”

“What exists is far reaching; it is deep, very deep: who can find it out? I turned my thoughts toward knowledge; I sought and pursued wisdom and reason, and I recognized that wickedness is foolishness and folly is madness.”

From the responsory: “Who can say: My heart is pure; I am not a sinner? There is no living man so holy who does good and never sins. If we claim to be sinless we deceive ourselves; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive us.”
St. Columban
From an instruction by Saint Columban, abbot: “Seek then the highest wisdom, not by arguments in words but by the perfection of your life, not by speech but by faith that comes from simplicity of heart, not from the learned speculations of the unrighteous.

If you search by means of discussions for the God who cannot be defined by words, he will depart further from you than he was before. If you search for him by faith, wisdom will stand where wisdom lives, at the gates. Where wisdom is, wisdom will be seen, at least in part. But wisdom is also to some extent truly attained when the invisible God is the object of faith, in a way beyond our understanding, for we must believe in God, invisible as he is, though he is partially seen by a heart that is pure.”

From the readings for Mass:

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

El Greco, the Baptism of the Lord

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.

Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Lord Jesus, help me to overcome sin in my life. Help me to overcome weakness, and to strive for the perfection of my life with your grace. Amen.

The Rev. Kenneth Allen