1987, Serial No. 00915

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Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. Let us pray. May the outpouring of your Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful by the inward sprinkling of His dew, through Christ our Lord. As you certainly all know very well, my dear fathers and brothers, there is no theologian who is properly aware of the mystery in which he is involving himself who ventures to speak of the Holy Spirit without acknowledging the special difficulty of using words at all on this subject. Everything about God is a mystery, but in sending us his Son, the Father gives expression of himself in a form about which it is possible to speak, since not only does the Son speak to us by the use of our language and images, which we can more or less understand,


but he also speaks in his action in his person. By the life and death he leads, he reveals the nature of the one from whom he comes. Jesus is even able to say to his apostles, he who has seen me has seen the Father. Now although the Holy Spirit was also sent to the apostles and to us, according to the promise of Jesus, to make certain things about the mystery of God known to us, and to draw us back into the life of God along that way that Jesus himself told us he was, the Holy Spirit neither teaches nor draws in the same way that Jesus did. There is a very real sense in which, just as the thought of the writings associated with the name of John in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit makes Jesus present to us through grace in the way that he is no longer visibly present to us since his ascension. And who will find the right words to describe what this mode of presence is and how we know it?


For it's not the kind of presence which other people may have in our minds because we're thinking about them. We address Jesus our Lord and his Father immediately by the grace of their Holy Spirit. And we know that this is so even when we are in what we might call great spiritual darkness and the presence of God seems to be shut away in another place or another world of which we've only dreamed at some other time. How is all this? St. Augustine has something to say about this which is valuable, I believe, always to bear in mind and it comes in a one little letter on the subject of prayer which he wrote to a Roman lady called Proba. I may say in passing to my sorrow that nearly all the translations of this letter available in English are very unsatisfactory in one way or another. I think the Fathers of the Church one is the worst of all, it's full of grammatical mistakes. Augustine can write with great concentration and it's often a real test to do his closely packed thought justice.


But I want to quote the phrases I have in mind in translation of my own. In the place I have in mind Augustine says, There is in us, if I may say so, a certain educated ignorance, but one which is taught us by the Spirit of God who helps our infirmities. For when the Apostle says, he's talking of course about chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, when the Apostle says, if we hope for something not yet realized, we summon up the patience to wait for it, he adds at the same time, that is how the Spirit fortifies our weakness. We do not even know precisely what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit comes to our assistance with sighs too deep for words, and he who searches our hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, namely to intercede in accordance with God's will on behalf of his holy ones. The way to understand this is to consider that the Holy Spirit of God,


who within the Trinity is unchangeable God and one God with the Father and the Son, intercedes for his holy ones like someone who is not God. He intercedes for his holy ones because he makes them intercede, as is written, the Lord your God tests you to know whether you love him or not, that he may make you know. Now this splendid little passage, which combines the thought of the 8th chapter of the Romans with that of the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy on the significance of the desert child, which I doubt many of you are thinking about just now, is a wonderful statement, I think, of the expression of Spirit, which occurs through the purification of the soul, which God brings about in life and prayer as each person develops if he persists in patience. It's obviously an explanation of the door which will remind you of the wonderful 14th century English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing,


which suggests how, as we long to enter deeper into the life of God, God takes away our ways of knowing and leads us into a new kind of knowledge through a simple way of being stripped of our knowing and given his in a darkness of faith in which all our ordinary ways of seeing and judging simply flounder. This idea, Augustine, that in this state of affairs the Holy Spirit behaves as though he were not God is naturally one of the ways of saying that, just like the Son in his identification with us in his humanity, the Holy Spirit comes to us as pure gift. In order to draw us up into the life of God, he puts himself, as it were, on the creatureless side. I suspect that this is why a great 12th century theologian, like Jürgen Wichter, likes to speak of Mother in Grace. And I don't think he's unique in that. It's perhaps also in this connection,


quite apart from the current obsession with feminism in some circles, that some people would like to speak of the Holy Spirit as feminine. From the point of view of scholarship, it is, of course, true that the Hebrew word for spirit is a feminine word. I shall not try to draw us into a full discussion of this question here, but simply remark that the best short study of it I've happened to have come across occurs at various points in a fairly tough little book by Fr. Louis Bouyer called The Seat of Wisdom, which appeared at the beginning of the 60s, let's say nearly 30 years ago now, and it seems to me still very, very readable, if you want to think about this problem. There, Fr. Bouyer insists, and I believe rightly, that Jewish thought rightly resisted the notion of attributing sexuality to God in his transcendence, which is, of course, what we're talking about if we should wish to say that the Holy Spirit is feminine, because we're actually talking about the transcendence of God. We're talking about the Holy Spirit in person.


Yet, as Fr. Bouyer says, sexuality was to serve as an image of the relation of God himself, the relation of which God himself desired to set up with his creature. In the course of this book, Fr. Bouyer also suggests that the wisdom tradition in Israel begins as something on the human side. I think there's a good case for this, if you look over the Old Testament books that are generally classified in this way. It only slowly emerges with the concept of divine wisdom and acquires feminine characteristics, which again express God's imminence. Towards the end of the book, Fr. Bouyer says that femininity, even in its highest realization, motherhood, is a sign of the absolute distinction from God of the creature as such. So the creature, even when divinized as far as possible by grace, is ever prevented from becoming divine


in the sense in which God is divine. The image of God in us is always like that in a mirror, where all that is in the original is present but reversed. The power of fecundity can be possessed by the creature only in the form of motherhood. That is the secondary and dependent activity of creation. For a similar reason, of course, in respect of the male, God alone, as you remember the scripture itself insists, can properly be called father in the sense of absolute originator of life in the absolute way. In brief, if there is a certain femininity which seems to haunt the person of the Holy Spirit, it's evidently connected with his part in the perfection of the divine image in us, which God willed to stamp on the nothingness from which we came. I believe saying this much is consistent


with the long tradition on these matters. You'll notice how Augustine, in the passage on prayer from which I quoted earlier, says that his conception of the Holy Spirit as teaching and drawing us into unknowing is a function which is by no means passive to the Spirit, but awakens in us some hint that could only come alive by the gift of grace. So, if you like, it works as though it were something feminine, but in fact it's not feminine in the case of the Holy Spirit himself. However, all this troubles you, it's not necessary to salvation to think about it, and I only apologise for having reported about it in case there are some of you who are meddling with it at the moment. That's all I can offer to you. For any of those who are interested in that subject, it seems to me I send you to Father Boullier and think about it. It's quite a hard job to do so, but have a look at it. I'm afraid I haven't checked to see what you've got in the library. Probably you have. But having said that, I don't apologise for drawing your attention,


which is perhaps to some extent necessary to do, in the case of those of us who lead a somewhat secluded life, to something which Blessed Gerich speaks in the first of his Pentecost sermons. This sermon, although it doesn't begin with the wisdom text, which is still used in the entrance chant for Mass of the Holy Spirit, quickly moves into its perspectives. The Spirit of the Lord, says Gerich, has filled the whole world, and that which contains everything understands the voice. Gerich's initial statement is this. It's too little for the Father to have given his Son to redeem a slave, if he had not also given the Holy Spirit, through whom he adopts this slave, as his Son. To this we must return in a moment, but not before noting how Gerich insists upon those very marks of true Sonship, from which our Lord himself insists at the end of chapter 5 in Matthew's Gospel.


Namely, that the Father, we are supposed to be like, bestows his blessings upon saints and sinners, everything and everyone alike. As Gerich says, see with what generosity the grace of the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the whole world, not only in confirming the righteous, but in justifying sinners. How everywhere among the nations, the Spirit, by creating a new kind of human being, renews the face of the earth. How justly, Gerich adds, God does not leave himself without a witness in the minds of human beings, for he enlightens them with the splendor of his truth, and the warmth of his goodness, since the true light enlightens everyone coming into the world. And God makes his sun rise on the good and the evil, and it rains on saints and sinners. How shocking it is that Christians often lose this entire sense of things,


though certainly to have it, or at least to come back to it, is surely one of the most secure signs of all the authentic life of prayer, and of the coming to birth of the child of tears, of our repentance. An extraordinary book, in which the Russian bishop, Buryan Koninov, gathered what he called the crumbs of a festival, from the ascetic tradition of the East, says, I think with justice, in his 50th chapter on counsel, this. It's, I see you've got this book in the library, called The Arena. And some of you, I think, will know, I found that everybody at Vinland knew this when I mentioned it, so probably most of you do too. It's got some remarkable things in it, and this is one of them. A monastic life that is not constructed on the commandments of the gospel is like a building without a foundation. It will not take long to fall. A monastic life which is not inspired by these commandments is like a body without a soul.


It gives off a fetid smell of fellish air, and so does so all the more to the extent to which it is adopted as opposed to bodily ascesis, which is purely exterior. I believe this kind of thought, of course, is thoroughly in harmony with the conviction of the holy rule of St. Benedict, that there are two kinds of zeal, the bitter and the good. It's the work of the spirit alone that makes us good and sweet, as we are emptied of our way of knowing, feeling and thinking, and begin to be penetrated with a sense of how God thinks of us all. I cannot resist here quoting a few words from another Eastern writer whom some of you will know, Isaac of Syria, whose thoughts are also believed, not without their close affinities with some things in the West. Those of you who know them quite well won't mind hearing them again. What is purity? In a few words, it's mercy of heart towards the whole of nature. And what is mercy of heart?


It's the flame which enkindles it with regard to the whole of creation, human beings, birds, beasts, all creative things. Isn't it a sign of the potency that the writer here even includes demons in the list of those whom the soul, in prayer, feels compassion for? I'm inclined to think it's rather a sign of the soul's sense of its loss of capacity to judge in its formal ways, in that process of unknowing by which the grace of the Holy Spirit forms the soul. Though at the same time, of course, such a soul would inevitably not wish for anything that God doesn't wish for, as we may gather from the way the passage continues. This, says Isaac, is why prayer, accompanied by tears, goes on at all times as well for the creatures deprived of reason as for the enemies of truth and those who harm it, for their preservation and their purification. In the same way, a man prays for creeping things


with an immense and measureless compassion, which, coming to birth in his heart, makes him like God. But perhaps we should turn again to St. Paul's way of talking about this mysterious process, of which we get various aspects in his letters from prison. To begin with one of the most difficult, let's turn to chapter 2 of the letter to the Philippians, which begins by saying, If there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, complete my joy by being of the same mind. Have this mind in you which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, although he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. To paraphrase this passage, I suppose we could say that our Lord Jesus Christ, unlike Adam,


who tried to seize the idea of being equal to God when he fell, our Lord, though he was equal to God, didn't insist on this. And this became the source of his triumph through the cross. And such a self-emptying can also be ours, since we are to become the adopted sons of our Heavenly Father. The strong element of simple truth in this summons from the letter to the Philippians has its complement, I suppose, we might say, in chapter four of the letter to the Ephesians, which is concerned, as we've seen earlier, with Christian maturity and the immense variety of the gifts of grace which follow upon the ascension of our Lord. Gifts which are evident in the work of the Spirit, when we are told not to grieve, and gifts which are all-saving and not a matter of competition.


The Church needs them all, as we need each other until we attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children. How is this to come about? Speaking the truth in love, so that we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. And what are the still deeper sources from which we live? We are told in most translations to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. A phrase which I believe my friend Canon Leslie Holden must be right in thinking should be rendered for sense as be renewed by the Spirit in your mind. Or again, as the powerful letter of the Galatians has it in the speaking of chapter 5, the transformation of our desires, we are to walk by the Spirit by whom we live.


Then of course we should begin to taste the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Yet we should of course never forget that in the mind of Paul even these interior gifts are not thought of as something just personal to us. They're always thought of in the context of the life of the Church as a whole, where it is the interdependence of holiness in all its conceivable forms that makes the Church as a body holy. As St Basil the Great says in a narration for the Feast of Pentecost, he, that is to say the Holy Spirit, is holy in everyone and is holy everywhere. Sincerely Jerusalem, speaking at the same time, is likewise impressed by the unity and diversity brought about by the same Spirit personally present in the work of re-creation. Indeed, Theorer, like other Eastern Fathers, is insistent that even the


diversity of languages, which was once the sign of the breakdown of unity at the Tower of Babel, becomes under the influence of the Holy Spirit the cause of the enrichment of unity, and even its sign. It's of course the great sign of the Church, isn't it? Not that the languages are abolished, but they're all ways in which the truth of God can become intelligible, as appears on Pentecost Day itself. This is of course only a hint of what might be done with the text of Paul as its starting point, on the relation between the Holy Spirit, prayer, and personal holiness, and the building up of the Spirit-filled body. It's, I believe, important we in the cloisters should live with a strong sense of solidarity with, and personal responsibility for, our brothers and sisters in the faith. And for those outside any visible contact with the Church,


who are perhaps more easily accessible through prayer than they are by any other means. Though for God everything is of course possible, and the Holy Spirit will himself teach us to care for the deep intentions of God, if we really wish this. We've noticed Paul expressing this sense of God's reaching out to the unprepared and the unworthy, in a passage from chapter 5 of the Letter to the Romans, as the second reading we shall hear of the Eucharist in the morning. But before we close this evening, we shall perhaps not fail to return to the thought of chapter 8 of this same Letter to the Romans, to which Augustine drew our attention in his discussion on prayer. Since beneath the God-driven groaning of the Spirit, there is a thought which makes special appeal to the early Cistercian writers. For as Paul says, we know that the whole creation has been travailing in the pains of a new birth, right up to the present moment.


In this travail we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, are included, for we groan within ourselves as we wait for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies. How important it is to have this sense of redemption as affecting nothing less than the whole of us, and not to pursue a life of the Spirit which is a flight from the intentions of God for our wholeness. This is one of the things about which the Holy Spirit, our friend and brother, teaches us, if by growing in humility we expose ourselves to his formation. You'll remember Berner's assimilation of these developments to the work of the Trinity in his Steps of Humility. You see, he says in paragraph 20, how the Son, by word and example, first humbles those upon whom the Spirit pours out his love, and whom at last the Father receives in glory with a fatherly embrace.


Paul, which is a clear and apt reminiscence, of course, of the parable of the prodigal son, which you've just heard at Mass this evening. And of course, in the little work on loving God, from paragraph 30 onwards, we follow through to the fullness of God's intentions in love. It's not surprising, says Bernard, if the glorified body seems to have something to give to the Spirit, since it was no small value to it while it was weak and mortal. How truly, he said, again Romans 8 of course, that all things work together for those who love God. His weak body matters to the soul that loves God, valuable when it's dead, valuable when it's raised. In the first place, for the fruit of penance, in the second for rest, in the third for completion. Indeed, he doesn't wish it to be brought to perfection without it, when he realizes that in each condition it's been of service to him. Almost insensibly, that thought of the soul with its resurrection body


passes in Bernard's mind to the thought of the nuptial embrace of Christ in his spotless church, and that river of life, which is constantly thought of as the Holy Spirit making glad the city of God. And then, too, the fourth step of love is reached, when God is supremely and solely loved, for we do not love ourselves except for him. That he himself may be the reward of those who love him, the eternal reward of his eternal lovers. Oh, I know, perhaps someone will say we should say it all rather differently nowadays, and perhaps some of us would. But I doubt if however we say it, we ought to say anything that's very different from something like this. Heavenly Father, in your mercy, draw us through the work of your Holy Spirit into the likeness of your Son, that he may rejoice in your praises for all eternity.


Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. Let us pray. May the outpouring of your Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts, and make them fruitful by the inward sprinkling of his dew, through Christ our Lord. It will not surprise me, my dear father and brothers, if some of you already in your minds a memorable phrase from the early Christian past, which I thought of yesterday evening, may easily have stirred up in your memories. I'm of course thinking of St. Ignatius of Antioch, pleading with the Church of Rome, not to do anything to get him off his martyrdom,


which he anticipates, and in paragraph 7 of his letter he says, My earthly desire has been crucified, and there is no more fire in me to love material things. But there is in me the murmur of living water, which says in my depth, Come to the Father. This little saying suggests the spiritual culmination of two very fundamental convictions of our early fathers in the faith. Indeed, they might almost be said to be a definition of what Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, reveals. The first of these is of course running through the story from the Gospel of John, which we shall hear this morning at Mass. Namely, that Jesus promises the life of grace, the grace of the Holy Spirit, as drawing us with him up into the life of the God whom he uniquely addresses as Father.


But to say it like that is to diminish the impact of the teaching of Jesus upon those who heard him speak in the context in which he spoke. And there is ample evidence to suppose that even when the text of the Gospel often uses the more formal sounding word, Jesus always used the Aramaic word Abba. This was without exception the most revolutionary thing Jesus ever said or did. For those who know what it means, it sounds scandalously intimate. As writers of the Baptistic period, like St. John Chrysostom and Theodoret, who came from Sicily and knew, Abba was the Sicilian, like the Aramaic children speaking, that was the word that the children used to call their father. And it is as near we can get to the Greek Papa or to the English Daddy. But this is the way Jesus taught his disciples to think about and pray to God is amply attested from the New Testament.


Quite apart from the witnesses of the Gospels, this is clearly just as fundamental to the thought of Paul as, for instance, near that of the Galatians, chapter 4, verses 6 and 7. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son. And if a son, then an heir. This is, of course, really the gospel as gift and promise. More of that anon. Fundamental also to the thought of Peter, as in the first letter of Peter, 117, if you call upon him as Father, who without any favoritism passes judgment on each man's work, then there must be some element of fear in the way you pass the time of your earthly pilgrimage. And finally, there is the fact that the Our Father became the central Christian prayer from the very beginning.


It is no surprise that the word Father occurs at least 115 times in the Gospel of John, which one might almost say is written to show Jesus as the revealer of his Father. And this must evidently be linked to the outburst of praise at the end of chapter 11 of Matthew's Gospel, which I've already mentioned more than once, which is very like something that we might have expected to find in the Gospel of John. You'll remember it. At that time, Jesus declared, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you've hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. Now, even when we've said all this and said it as correctly as possible, which I hope I have, there's still a possibility, if we don't simply dismiss it all as scandalous,


that we should be hearing it wrong. For it may sound to us much more sentimental than it really is. We must realize, as a convert like Paul, that it clearly did, and of course all the apostles were converts, that Jesus taught like this in a way which by no means is a rejection of the Jewish heritage. In fact, Christianity is and always has been almost incompensable without the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, opened to us the possibility of true intimacy with the life of God does not simply mean a dismissal of the long process of educating the people of God, of which the Old Testament is a living memorial, and perhaps must always remain a model now that, as Paul and the other apostles saw, the people of God has been gathered in from all the nations of the earth. I've been to use the word perhaps in that sentence


because there can be no question that the Church, even in its official documents, especially in the Declaration of the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions of October 1965, recognizes that the truth of God has often been at work in the world, in other places and cultures, than those connected with the Jewish heritage. And I imagine, as those of you who have experience in instructing converts will know, it's not always possible to guess what will in fact lead people to the feet of the Lord who spoke with such scandalous intimacy about God, whom he came to reveal in a unique way. The workings of grace are indeed so mysterious. I should like to quote a few sentences from the Council document of 1965, both for what they say in themselves and for the Scripture text which they cite in order to say it. The translation, I see, was made by a trappist


for the admirably reliable collection edited by my good Irish friend, Orson Tannery. In paragraph 2, the document says, Throughout history, even to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times, there is present even a recognition of a supreme being or still more, of a father. The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrine, which although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. This is, of course, although the reference is not given in my text, a reference to the prologue of the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 9. Yet, the document continues,


She proclaims, and is bound to proclaim without fail, Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, which is John 14, 6, of course. In Him, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself, men find the fullness of their religious life. And this is, of course, Paul, 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 18 to 20. In this important text, Paul is telling his heroes that God has entrusted to them the ministry of reconciliation. Because, he says, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Forgive me if I, the point I've been trying to make here is a little bit difficult. I don't think I've made it so, because there seems to be no doubt that the very same Lord who spoke so intimately of His Father really willed His message to extend to all nations whatever that might involve.


And some of what it involved, some of us, who are His disciples and wish to live like the sons of our Heavenly Father, is the task of trying to understand what is generally required for this work of reconciliation. A task which requires us to think things out in a way which respects God's truth is indeed a very ascetic thing and will temper any sentimentality we may be tempted to feel about our Heavenly Father. What causes Him neither difficulty nor bewilderment may cause us a lot. Whether we have any direct part to play in all this at all will naturally depend upon what gifts God happens to have given us. But there's another way in which our cultivation of our life with our Heavenly Father will be tempered by something rather ascetic which affects us all, whether we are specially mentally gifted or not. And that is closely connected


with what our Lord told His disciples when they asked Him in the Gospel passage which you'll hear this morning what He'd been doing while talking to the non-Jewish woman by the well. He answered, you'll remember, to their anxiety that it was time He had something to eat, that, my food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work. No one who claims to be a Christian and a monk can possibly claim to be excused from that task in his own measure whatever it is. Not only do we pray several times every day, Thy will be done, the whole sense of all the sacraments we receive and all the prayers we say is to enable us to live by the food of doing God's will. If only more in the world could live by this food all the time, more minds and hearts all over the world will be reconciled to each other every hour and every day. It's the most searching


among all calls, the human, the sum total of all asceticism which affects us down to the depths of our beings and really determines the way we live and die. Even a man who lives and dies alone and unknown because that is what God wills does more to promote the kingdom of our Heavenly Father in this world than all the most talkative and energetic people. For he thereby submits himself to the action of God with his whole being and offers him thereby that service and worship in spirit and truth which the Father seeks. Having come so far I do not apologize for drawing your attention to a passage from Blessed William of Sanctuary which has had so permanent an effect on my own life since I first read it more than thirty years ago that hardly a day goes by when I don't think of it explicitly and never a day when I don't still ask the prayers of Blessed William for having convinced me


of its importance so long ago. Oh, badly I may live all this out what it implies. He was already a Cistercian when he wrote sometime between 1140-1143 this thing I offer you my own translation of the memorable opening of chapter 6 of William's Blessed William's Mirror of Faith. The sacrament or if you like the mystery of the will of God is the most hidden and deep of all the mysteries the sacrament and mystery of them all. He makes it known according to his good pleasure to whom he wills and as he wills and because it is as it were divine it is in a divine way that he shows it to the one whom by his own gift he's made worthy of it. Rather it is not so much divine as God himself for it is the Holy Spirit himself who is the substantial


will of God. This is the will of God which does all that God wills of which it is written all that he wills the Lord has done. And so it is the Holy Spirit himself who makes known to whom he communicates himself the will of God that is done in him. Nor is he otherwise known than where he is. For though the eye of human reason cannot hide itself from the brightness of its light and truth only the one who does it and in whom it is done wanting what God wants can know its special delight. For just as unless something is alive it has no experience for the life of experience is not possible except for the living so nobody knows the will of God if it's not done in them. William of course admits that it's possible for the will of God to be done in those who don't recognize it but he's simply saying that if one is to recognize it


it cannot be otherwise than by experience it's being done and so he continues by saying just as there are many people who have a soul but do not know what a soul is so there are many who have grace and do not know it. To him whom it touches grace shows the sacramental signs since it does in him the very thing which the sacraments signify. For the Holy Spirit himself sanctifies it that it may be the mystery of each of the sacraments. It is he who makes it known to the conscience of the believer in whom hidden grace carries out the sacramental reality. This is why, he goes on, God who is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves has given us sacramental signs at all. Since this is not a lecture I shall not carry you through to William's masterly development of some of the insights of St. Augustine in connection with the sacraments.


Some of this is quite difficult but it's wonderful stuff. I can only go so far as this in order to show that although this teaching evidently has a strongly mystical turn it's very close to the evangelical sense of the significance of the revelation of faith in Christ. And it is the able, as you will realize, to show that that union with God which our Lord came to make possible for us begins, as it were, through the use of very objective means appropriate to our bodily condition to lead us to understand what God is doing even in matters which go beyond tangible signs and ordinary experience. No one, I think, ever made a better case for the earnest assertion and insistence upon the importance of experience as opposed, I would think, to experiences. This doctrine has just the same skepticism as John of the Cross would have had to attaching more significance to transformative feelings than the life of faith as you can judge


from the letter of St. John which I quoted the other day and from that William calls this little work a mirror of faith. However, since we've reached the point where it's natural to try to draw it all together our understanding of the work of the three persons of the Trinity in the sanctification of our souls I should like to take up William's work at a little later point as the simplest way of attempting to do something about this. William begins his final chapter 10 by referring to the striking verses of St. Paul from the end of chapter 3 of the second letter of the Corinthians. I venture to quote these verses in their context where Paul has been drawing a contrast between the old covenant and the new and speaking of the fact that Moses had to have his face veiled when he came down from the mountain where he'd been talking with God as is still the case


with those who hope to find their salvation in law. I think we may say of course, law of any kind. And Paul continues Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and we all with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. William, like all orthodox Christian writers, does not believe that we can have the direct vision of God as he is in this world. But he does think as the entire New Testament implies there can be a steady transformation of the life of the believer through his growth in love which can perhaps give us a foretaste of what our life in heaven with God will be like. William expresses this conviction by saying that


the love of God is to our love our natural desire possibly we should say like its soul is to its body if the love of God is in our love it lives and so when this transformation works as it should a man becomes one spirit with God using another phrase from the 2nd Corinthians even the body is affected by this transformation that Jacob believed by analogy in that little trick you'll remember from the book of Genesis where he thought a clever way of getting striped sheep this kind of thing happens much more powerfully and nobly says William when he who is the potential will of the father and the son the Holy Spirit so cleaves to the will of a man that the soul loving God and knowing him by loving is suddenly


transformed not into the divine nature but into a kind of bliss which is not that of God but is beyond what is normally human in the joy of illuminating grace and the awareness of an enlightened conscience it goes so far that the spirit of a man who a little while before could barely say Jesus is Lord in the Holy Spirit confidently calls out among the sons of adoption Abba, Father and not only his spirit but his flesh feeding the first fruits of its promised incorruption and glorification overflows with gratitude and swiftly runs after his spirit as his spirit dives after the Lord I suppose there's no one who reads a passage like this in anticipation of its personal realization who will not feel a little in the dark afterwards that is of course the happy darkness of faith


which is sometimes illuminated by the lamps of love like the mysterious business of driving down country lanes at night on even the most familiar road one of the things we must constantly value in our own reading and in our life are those changes and expansions of perspective which are themselves graces of God to help us on our way if the approach of Blessed William and those great souls who think like him is right then there's no substitute for the experience that God gives to us and we mustn't mind babbling about it as I've had to consent to babble in talking to you my dear fathers and brothers after all as St. Paul says if we consider our call there are not so many wise among us not many noble but God loves us and so he chose the foolish we ought not any of us to lose courage as this is the last time


I shall talk to you here in the chat room I've got to talk twice more today but it'll be in church I should like from the bottom of my heart to thank you for your kindness and being so patient with me talking a lot of nonsense and some other perhaps interesting things but those will not come from me I do beg you to ask to pray for me and to pray for my community at Big Sur we're very very few to carry on a special kind of witness to the contemplative life it'd be so helpful to us all because without this we can't possibly get through one always feels rather terrible having talked about so many things one feels one doesn't live pray for me please