Unknown Date, Serial 00840

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.




Cassian Conference

AI Summary: 





I'm not really thinking about it. The one I remember best is that calculation of chemistry. It worked and worked and worked and pondered about how to figure out the benzene molecule. And then, the benzene molecule, it's a chemical formula. How to make a model or a picture of it. What was he doing? I forget what he was doing. Driving a car. Was that it? Some foolish thing. He was on a bus, that was it. Yeah. He was on a bus and thinking about something else. And he started to see these snakes swimming before his mind's eye. And six snakes with their tails and their heads intertwined in some way. Swimming, just, you know, in his imagination. This came to him in a flash. And he went home and figured it out. And that was the shape of the benzene molecule. That's how he, that's how he diagrammed it. And that was a great breakthrough in chemistry. See, the first ring structure, I think, for an organic molecule. Putting the two ends together now would be exciting. Now, this is true in meditation especially.


I guess we... But I thought maybe we'd do today because it was optimistic. But one more notion here, which is a precious one. This is one that Father General has a special appointment to check with us. As the renewal of our soul grows by means of this study, scripture will also begin to put on a new face. And the beauty of the holier meanings will somehow grow with our growth. For their form is adapted to the capacity of man's understanding. And will appear earthly to carnal people and divine to spiritual ones. Remember he said before that, St. Gregory said that, Scripture is a river which is both shallow and deep, so that the lamb can stand on its feet in it, and the elephant can float at its ease. So he's saying something like the same thing here. He's saying that it grows as you grow. Now, this sounds very banal. Oh, that's obvious, it sure does. But I'm going to stick with it. St. Gregory is the one who said that,


Scripture grows for the reader as the reader. So, at first you think there's not much there. And as you somehow, I don't know, as you permit there to be more there, it grows and you grow. And you grow and it grows, and it grows and you grow, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It's like the mustard seed which is the smallest of all the seeds in the garden. Because that's what the Lord is giving you. Next one. Quotations. 223. This mystery of Christ has infinite depths,


and the mind of each believer has varied capacities with which to understand it. As a result of this, there's an incurable character of non-fulfillment which marks all spiritual understanding. We've talked about that before. It's always a fragment. Just as we saw it would be a special tool, and I guess we have to take it upon ourselves. This should be considered in its positive aspect. This sounds like Luther. The word of God never stops at the word of God. It's God's creating and burrowing within a man who makes use of his capacity to receive it, so that the understanding which also believes can grow indefinitely. An old text scanned by means of an algo always makes further aspects of the newness of time. And the new mystery can always be further interiorized and can always introduce eternity still more deeply into the heart. Just as the knowledge of God, as described by St. Gregory of Nyssa, constantly goes from beginning to beginning, from beginning to beginning. We've got preconceptions about our knowledge and the way things are and the way we understand things,


so it's as if we're always going to use something up. It's as if we're always going to get to the end of what we're doing. As if everything was finite and limitless, where we've ever been or who we are. There's nothing to it. We can't get that into our heads. It's almost as if we were built by clocks that are running down. But reality's not really that way. You go from beginning to beginning. The idea of rebirth, which is not just rebirth once, but a rebirth all the time. There's always an infinite potentiality there. You go from beginning to beginning. The same can be said of the understanding of Scripture. When God begins to open to us, as if for the first time in the immense abyss of the mystery, there's a growth. And so let it be that. John Cashin, in his conference on spiritual knowledge, the one that's going to review it for the West, many quotes from what he just read, the Moralia of St. Gregory that propagated the same doctrine, and so on. Sacred Scripture varies with the understanding of each reader,


like the manna. The manna, again. Because the manna had the taste that everyone wanted, but tasted different than everyone who came on the agency. Somebody wanted it, suited the taste of everyone. And yet, though the Lord's Word might be diversified depending on what each reader understands of it, the Word itself remains one. The symbol has a kind of expansive meaning which stretches with the reader's understanding. 2.5 The sacred text must not be thought of as a repository for a series of meanings, all of which are already formed or more or less prepared to be described. Like a catechism, or a dogma,


which has 234 numbered statements in it. And when you get to the last one, OK, you've used it all up. Not as a number of truths which are going to come out, and they're proclaimed, and they're sealed, and whatsoever. No. The Spirit communicates to the sacred text a limitless potentiality, which therefore entails degrees of profundity which can go on and on, which can go on and on. No more than this world, the Scripture, that other world created once for us. The Scriptures are like a world. The Scripture creates it still, as if every day, to the extent that He opens it. Through a wondrous and precise correlationship, He expands it to the extent that He expands the understanding of when we receive it. So it's as if the Scripture were recreated, and could be recreated infinitely. It's not a limited, finite containment, but it's something that the job of the Spirit can expand indefinitely. It's like a seed which has no stop to its growth.


And then he goes on, and I'm talking about St. Gregory's commentary on Ezekiel. Remember the wheels within the wheels? Also, the first chapter of Ezekiel, he had those four creatures, four creatures with a chariot. That has a long history in Hebrew mysticism, where there were chariots back and forth about. Anyway, you've got the chariot with the four wheels, and then you've got the creatures with wings. And wherever the, how is it, wherever the Spirit goes with the wings, there the wheels were lifted up. And this is what St. Gregory is talking about. Wherever the Spirit would go, they went, the wheels. And the wheels rose along with them. For the Spirit of the living creatures, the Spirit of life was in the wheels. Then Gregory comments on it. Where the mind of the reader inclines, there too the divine articles are lifted up, the Scriptures. If you seek something exalted in them, these sacred articles will go with you. They will ascend to summits with you. For in the same sentence from Scripture, one reader draws his nourishment from the history


of all members of his senses, while another seeks a typical sense, and yet another, by means of the latter, inclines towards contemplative understanding. For most often of all, what happens is three things can simultaneously be found in one and the same sentence. Thus, what is said in the Holy Book grows with the mind of those who read it. He's giving you the idea of going deeper and deeper from one sense to another, which limits it a little bit. In the measure that each reader moves onward towards the heights, the sacred articles of Scripture speak to him of higher things. The wheels move ahead, stop, rise up, because each reader finds in the Holy Book just what he is looking for. Have you advanced to the active life that remains steady with you? Have you arrived by the grace of God at the contemplative life that soars above with you? In the shadows of the present life, the Scripture is our light along the way, yet we know that even it is obscure to us unless the truth glows light on our mind. For created light will not shine for us


if it has not been lighted up for uncreated light, said the Holy Spirit. Therefore, because the all-powerful God himself created for our salvation everything that is said in the two Testaments, and because he himself has opened up to us their meaning, the Spirit of life is in the wheels. So he's talking about the interaction of the Spirit and the Word. For the wheels are the books of Scripture. You know, the four wheels, that would mean the four Vespers, as they were written in those days. You've got the inner wheel, the New Testament, inside the outer wheel, the Old Testament. And the wheels are full of eyes, they're full of understanding, insights, wisdom. And the wings represent the Spirit within the wheel. And when the wings go up, when the Spirit flies, when it carries a person's heart, then his understanding of the Scriptures goes up to another. The books, the Scriptures rise up. That's how he ends his book with a quotation. St. Gregory is a real master of this sort of thing.


The allegory, the imagery and interpretation that he uses may seem to you a little heavy, a little bit complex. But if you stick with it, you see that the ground is underneath it. So there's a lot of mystery in the richness of this prayer book. So you see it's worth reading. And then he goes on and he comments that the commandment thou shalt not commit adultery. He comments it in five ways, on five different levels, going from the most crude and extreme in the Old Testament, which means real adultery down to the finest, which means just a wandering thought. And then he says, every thought which is not only shameful but even idle, departing an eloquent moment of grief from God is regarded by the public man as the proudest of all creation. The saints had a very sensitive conscience. When he says idle thought, he says departing from God.


So that doesn't mean a thought which is not an extremely serious thought but which is still somehow with God or compatible with God. Perhaps it means a thought, an idle thought, which is a deliberate turn away from God and to some affirmative level or maybe a positive level turning away from God. You feel it more and more in the presence of God. Yes. And you don't call this what we had before when we were fighting in the presence of God. The three levels in the middle are one is paganism or pagan superstition. One is a Jewish man and one is a heretical man. So you see there's an order, there's a symmetry. The Old Testament and then three ways the Christians took the war.


Back into paganism, back into Judaism, sideways into diversity and finally this contemplative paganism. It's fornication and destruction. After we finish this one we can go on to number 15 too which won't take us very long. Fifteen is on spiritual gifts. It's on other spiritual gifts besides this gift of the spiritual understanding of the scriptures. It kind of completes the picture. It's by the same Abba, Nesteros. Chapter 12. In chapter 12, Cassian groans and says, well maybe it's good to review what we've covered already. Really there were two big points I think. And what we talked about


and the first one was that division of the spiritual life into the praxis and theory or active and contemplative life. Remembering how that's much different in Cassian and really pagan than it is in our own time. Since the 13th century. And the second thing is the spiritual knowledge itself which Cassian's understanding of the scriptures and the different senses of scripture and then their relationship to one another. So those two things. Then we get to the question of how do you get the spiritual knowledge? That was kind of a practical aspect. And it brings us back into the life of praxis because the law is that praxis is the condition for theory. The active life is the condition for the contemplative life. This is such a general law that people tell it to you a hundred times and in different words and really like St. John of the Cross you boil it all down boil it down to your sense of impermanence. What's he saying


but that if you want to have God you can't have anything else. In other words, that God is incompatible with sin or God is incompatible with passion or in a sense perfect love of God is incompatible with attachment to creatures not love for creatures but attachment to creatures. So that's kind of I think that's the Old Testament of the spiritual life. And the New Testament of the spiritual life is the other side is the life of prayer is the indwelling of all eternity is the whole business of a marriage with God with Christ with the Lord. So one side is empty and that's the Buddhist side of the Old Testament side of monastic life and the other side is filling. And that's the particularly and uniquely Christian side of the spiritual life of this marriage with the Lord in which Christ is central and the Holy Spirit is central. Because our spiritual life really insofar as it has substance is Christ. The Christ who is within us and who sort of becomes the self of our self whatever you want to call it. And so that really predominates


but where a person starts the other aspect is likely to be more more prominent to him. He'll just start out with a lot of struggle in an active life and when the other thing takes over that's the fear. But even in the beginning we know a person can be given great contemplative graces sort of a sample a pledge, a foretaste of the later part of the spiritual life to tell him what he's what he's called to and what he can experience. Okay, now we get to the question of how can we how can we get there and this is a particular problem expressed by Cassian which is very similar to the problem we're always hearing. Well, how can I become one? How can I really get myself together? How can I avoid my thoughts? Keep my thoughts from running? It's almost a simple problem in these conferences. How can I attain the stability of the contemplative mind? Now, usually Germanus says


well, my mind is always wandering in the thoughts when I'm in conferences or in the first one or the third one. Here Cassian is talking about his memory. Now, it's a question of not of the wandering of just his imagination but his memory and imagination. There's a question of purification of the memory. Remember in St. John the Cross that's one of the three great purifications the inner purification of the spirit of the memory. And it's interesting the approach here. So Cassian groans and says, Ah, I'm full of literature. Now, he was fortunate because he'd be full of a lot worse than me in literature, in classical literature. He says it's a special hindrance to salvation. And he must have, he speaks with a slight complacency here. I seem already to have in some slight measure attained in all of the world. He knows darn well


it's not all negative but he's playing this role. In which the efforts of my tutor or my attention to continual reading have so weakened me that now my mind is filled with those songs of the poets. So that even at the hour of prayer it's thinking about those fragment fables and the stories of battles and so on. So he may be thinking about the, what, the Iliad and the Odyssey and so on. The love affairs and the battle. Yeah. And the great adventures. Of which from its earliest infancy it was story. And so, well that's not so bad actually. But now is the time to go on to other things. And so he can't, yeah. So he can't, he can't concentrate on the scriptures and so on. And also it's to be remembered that often those things are a lot more exciting than the scriptures seem to us. At first it is. But here we find the same things in the scriptures. We find battles in the scriptures and love affairs and so on. The same matter but treated


from a different point of view. Which at first doesn't turn us on. But people who were raised in Christianity often their childhood was filled with biblical miracles. Those are fortunate people. Where even their distractions are biblical distractions. Okay, Nesteros says don't despair. Because, and this is beautiful. And once again it's casual because it reminds us of Abba Moses back in the first time. Chapter 13. He says, from this very fact the thing that you're telling about the remedy itself will come. If you'll transfer to the reading of and meditation upon the writings of the spirit which means the scriptures the same diligence and earnestness which you say that you showed in those secular studies of yours. For your mind is sure to be taken up with those poems until it's gaining with the same zeal and assiduity other matters


for it to reflect upon. And it is in labor with spiritual and divine things instead of unfathomable equipment. But then when you really get attached and involved with these biblical thoughts then the other ones will easily be pushed out gradually. For the mind of man cannot be emptied of all thoughts and so long as it's not taken up with spiritual interests it's sure to be occupied with what it went on since. We've been talking about that this principle in a more absolute way the principle of the incompatibility of the spiritual with the purely secular generally since now we descend to the idea of thoughts. Scripture versus secular literature for instance. Now there are a lot of points of view regarding this. We can say we can divide it into two great streams. We can say that the humanistic current of Christian tradition and even within monasticism has differed in our time


that time it's modern. In other times by the great Benedictine movement it's all pro-canonicalism. And then there's an ascetical current with respect to any kind of learning or literature or culture other than strictly religious culture as typified by the Day on Satan and so forth. Cassian when he's talking here he's St. Peter Damian St. Peter Damian was another man with a literary education. Then later on in his life he says well that's drunk and he says to his monks that they shouldn't bother themselves with and just stick to the scriptures. You've got those two points of view and the truth is not completely possessed by either one of I think people have different qualities too. Every person has to find his own place in that spectrum. Between learning and culture and between


the simplicity of kind of an intellectual problem and also it may change at different times in a person's life. St. John of Costa was one of those well effective men. He never saw him leaving anything but the Bible plus Sanctorum which was the lives of the saints or also could be the life of the saints of the Father and a certain work of St. Augustine. He was so deep into his scriptures that he really got to the marrow of his life. St. Therese at the end of her life was the imitation of Christ and that was the end of her life. I don't think a person should start out


that way. No. They shouldn't start out that way but if God calls them to that kind of simplification they will. There's another factor which concerns not only our own spiritual life but the spiritual life of others. Suppose I start out mortifying myself extremely as far as reading those interests that concern personal interests. I read nothing but the scriptures and say to fathers and then at a certain point I'm asked to help other novice masters in some other way or asked to deal with people from outside. I'm completely helpless. I won't be able to talk their language. I won't be able to help


them that way. way. Sometimes the novice will be hanging on to dear life and to simplicity and the emptiness And then he'll come back and say, no, send me back and I'll get my Ph.D., and then he'll come back and he'll never, he'll never really look at monasticism again. That happens in some cases. In other cases, no. It's not even possible. But that business about the fellow wanting to stick just with spiritual, not even any theology, is good. And then has to be persuaded to broaden himself intellectually, and then, at a certain point in his life, he'll come to a point at which point he can integrate into his monastic life


where he can go the way of the intellectual. And, of course, God's vocation, he's got inside of him. Remember Conference 1. Remember the mill in Conference 1? The same theory. This is back in Conference 1 Chapter 17. The same, similar problem. Thoughts inevitably be seeds of mind, but any earnest person has the power to accept or reject them. And then it's like the mill. You put what you want into the mill and it grinds what you want, but you're going to keep grinding all the time anyway. So he's treating virtually the same problem in much the same terms. He says the mill turns all the time. He says that your mind cannot be empty of all thoughts. The mind is working all the time. But you have the choice of what kind of thoughts to put into it. And that's the principle.


That's a very valuable principle. And at a certain point, if we try to change our affair, change our nourishment, as far as spiritual versus secular things or whatever, at a certain point the mind should find its interest there, find its focus. There is a hardship for my life, and the person should really get interested in that, not merely particularly, but get absorbed in the spiritual. There's a kind of a turning point there. But it may happen. On the other hand, for some people, the illumination of the scriptures is very sudden. It's not a description, of course. I've read about these people reading the scriptures for 20 years. They've been religious, you know, sisters, priests, and all that. And all of a sudden they have the experience of this spirit in the scriptures, and just love it. And then, really, they find that the scriptures are on one level, and everything else is really a mess. It's just a different comparison. It's not as interesting as, for example, the light.


What about the Buddhists? In their mind, you know, they wish to have one kind of enlightenment. Yes, yes. Maybe to hang on to one kind of enlightenment. Attentiveness itself, the theory sort of goes that you go beyond the subject-object thing, and that the mind is sufficient to itself, in a way, that there is a state in which the mind rests within itself. Sometimes they talk about the mind, sometimes they talk about no mind. Because the mind is not even conscious of being conscious of itself, in a sense. It's like a mirror which no longer reflects anything, in particular, but only the light. Or like a screen in which a projector throws no images in, but just the light, which is the screen. And in that state of full attentiveness, without a particular object, without it narrowing down, focusing on a particular object, there's a special value in it.


And that's valid, but it's not complete. It's not complete. The screen is empty. I remain in the silence. What's going to speak in that silence? That's part of it. It tends to go first into itself, down and back and in, into the ground, into the silence, into the depth. And that's one side of our life. And it's the other side which is often forgotten. There's no thought. There's the other movement of the world coming forth, and the spirit coming forth, and not working. So the mind and the heart are filled. This happens to me. I don't feel that comes into it when I'm in the silence. Especially not with the same kind of content, the same kind of personal focus, which is the movement of the world and the spirit moving. So, they talk about emptying the mind, but emptying the mind in a very special way. So what you brought up then is relevant to what you're saying.


It says the mind cannot be emptied of all thoughts. Well, it can, in a way. It can be emptied in a way. A person has to be careful how he does it. And there are times when God is going to empty the mind. There are times when God takes over, in a prayer of quiet or something like that. And the mind is emptied of all particular thoughts, and yet it's drawn into a great depth, a great sweetness, and a feeling of fullness and feeling of similarity. But we don't have any particular thoughts at all. Because God is greater than all of our thoughts. Our thoughts are just like pieces of dust in the sunlight. Catch the light. But God is there as a whole. And that he does let us relate to him by means of our thoughts and concepts and images, too. But then we'll turn that off at a certain moment and just be ourselves, just be the parrots. We'll bother with what we wish, what we will, what we won't. So we actually go between those two things. But if you drop one of those things, the distinct word, the distinct image, the distinct concept


and thought, and the other, the all, the completely unfocused, indistinct relation of the all. We'll between those two. Between the transcendent, and we were talking about that yesterday in the terms, transcendent and the concrete. The unfocused, the absolute, the genuine, the infinite, the incomprehensible, the vertical, the uncarved block. And the particular, the focused. Even the physical. The concrete, the physical, the matter. The historical. Between those two. We've got to move on both. And the incarnation, actually. The quest. What does quest represent? Quest is the joining of the two other than the way they're supposed to be joined. The joining of the transcendent with the here and now. Here and now in a small sense. The concrete, the concrete. In a sense. Particular sense. Okay. But Gashin is talking about another... He's saying the mind cannot be empty of all thoughts. And yet at another point, when he talked about prayer, he said the mind at this point has


no thoughts, has no words. That something is coming through it which is bigger than all of its thoughts. Or as if you had an infinite number of thoughts at the same time. Something like that. You can almost put the two things at one. Here he's talking about the ordinary course of a man's life, and especially when he's not focused intensely on prayer, but rather is reading, meditating, or whatever. He's talking about, you know, the 95% of your life which in which the mind is moving. And you have to give it something to move with then. Something to chew on. As long as it has nothing to recur and exercise itself upon unwaryly, it's sure to fall back upon what it learned in childhood. And never to think about what it took in by long years of meditation. It's like chewing gum. So now he... He goes on to another subject.


The thing he's pointing out is that you simply have to fall in love with this material so that it displaces what you were interested in before. So it's a matter of interest, of focus, which is not just the focus of a student who's studying against his will, but one gradually becomes drawn into what he's reading and what he's doing. So the will becomes the focus of his life and sees everything coming out of it. The matter of intentionality. It's a beautiful word, intentionality. Think of man as being in movement. Think of man as being in dynamism, which necessarily is focused towards something. In a few words, focused towards. The dynamism of art. So if you unfocus it on one thing, but focus it on something else. Because you can't leave it just in the middle without focus. You have to. There's a certain way you can, but not all of your life. This is quite simple in Christianity. It's the word of God that wins you over from everything else. It draws you into yourself and fills your life. The word of God which turns out to be Christ to me, which is Jesus.


He says, I just want to let you know. And let it be read to you. He says, I request to see how much I'm taking away from you. That's all. And then he points out that you're going to hear a lot of things repeated in the spiritual world. And this is very important. He says, you're going to hear another semester or whatever, the same thing twelve times. More than twelve times. You'll hear the same thing year after year after year. And here there's a fourth in the road. You can say, oh my goodness. Don't say that. I've heard that so many times. Why don't you say something different? Why aren't you smarter? Why aren't you more clever? Why don't you tell me something that excites me? Why do you always turn me off? You're the same old garbage. Well, it's true, but I've heard it too many times. Don't say it again. Please don't say it again. Especially a lot of nuns feel that way now. So, but he points out that's one fork you can take at that fork in the road.


And the other fork is accepting what you're hearing. And every time that you hear even the same thing repeated, it's like a litany. Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison. You don't get bored with it. Why? Because what you're getting is not a repetition of the same thing from outside, but is the awakening of what is inside. The awakening of what is inside, in a sense. So, when you hear the same thing repeated, it should be like a spark that lights up the thing which is inside you, which is always the same. In other words, it should reflect in that eternal dimension, which is, what do you call it, your true self, or whatever you want to call it, which is beyond repetition. And that's why, for instance, repetition in the liturgy should not be erased. We've lost that idea. When you read an article that people write about the liturgy, everything has to be in music. Not that everything's in the vernacular. It's all intelligible. And there's this lady who wrote the article in Spirituality Today, and I think it's Richard


Shultz, or whatever, or an article, I don't know. And she says that we've moved out of the range of, the area of magic, and how do we come into the vernacular? Because she says everything before was magic. All that hocus-pocus that they were doing, and we didn't understand it or not. And now we're into the area of the intelligible, where everything has to be clear to the mind. And as if the liturgy had been transformed in that way. There's a grain of truth there. There's about a hundred pounds of the lemon. Because what happens to the mystery? All those repetitions, that's not magic. That's, I don't know. You see the relationship between repetition and that which simply is, and doesn't have to prove itself by being different and interesting all the time. Or by making logical sense. Or prove itself by anything else. It just is, it is, it is. So you can repeat that all day long. It is, it is, it is. Just like Francis of Assisi, you know, he used to say, my God and my Lord. He'd stay on his knees all night saying, my God and my Lord. He was pre-Vatican too, you see.


He didn't understand. So, that thing, that eternal thing which is inside your heart, that can bear repetition all the time. Because every repetition is sort of another drop on the stone that wears down the obstacle or whatever. And it's just like a drop of water in a pond. It keeps the seed growing. So repetition is an entirely different thing. If you hear it with weariness and with non-acceptance, or if you hear it with that kind of eagerness so that it always reminds you of that which is inside. So, in Christianity, we're always saying the same things and doing the same things. If we have a completely 20th century mind that has to be diverted and amused and everything, well, we're going to be desperate in a very short time. Especially when we're asked to do the very same things all the time. When you say that word community again, I'll jump through that window. If you tell me about the Word of God again, I'll explode. The Holy Spirit. So, you've got to make a choice.


Still, it can get on your nerves. When people say the same thing in the same way so that you can't get out of their language, you can't get out of their little thinking pattern, it can drive you crazy. So, at that point, you're going to say, well, this is Jesus. Because there are times when the repetition is done in such a way that you can't keep accepting it. I don't know if there are other questions. St. Bernard is very good on this. He's got this commentary on St. Benedict's Rule called the Grades of Humility and of Pride. Read it sometime. Where he talks about this degree of pride which is unwillingness to listen to holy things. Unwillingness to listen to holy things. He says that's a big mark of the heart which is hardened. When a person says, oh, I'll give him that. Unwillingness to hear the Word or to hear holy things or to hear something from somebody else.


Let's hear the Word of God. Because we can get to a point where the only things that we really want to hear are the things that come out from inside. And we don't really want to get the truth from somebody else. And in a way that's right because inside of us something is developing gradually, you see, which becomes more and more filling and which is more and more adequate. But if, because we can hear that and see that, if we only listen to that, that which comes out from inside, then we're in danger. We have to always keep open to that which comes from outside, comes from the other person, in spite of the Spirit speaking alone. Because otherwise it turns into something else. There's no longer the Spirit speaking, there's only our own Spirit. So, although the narration of holy things be often repeated, yet in a mind that feels a thirst for true knowledge, the satiety will never create disgust,


but as it receives it every day, it receives it every day as if it were something new and new upon it. That may sound incredible, you know, that somebody can be that patient, that somebody can remain like a schoolboy and always graceful and accepting, even when things are said in a very dull way, you know, repeated continually. So that's a real thing, that's a real modification. But if a person does that, if he really works for that humility of heart, you'll find that those things are feeding him. Those things are feeding him. And if the Word of God does its work, even when it's repeated in the most unimaginative way, Boy, I remember, I've been through quite a bit of those, and I'd like to sit through and listen to things like that. You've got to make a choice, whether to be a patient, or to close your mind, or whatever it is. If it opens itself, remains open, it will not be bored,


but will gain confirmation in the knowledge it already possesses, rather than weariness of any sort in the frequent confluence. Confirmation of that which it already possesses. Now, consider this, not just in terms of knowledge, not as if what the person was saying might rhyme with what's inside of yourself, but in a sense, it's that awakening and also that deepening of what is inside, of the one thing that is inside, the many words that come from outside, from the repetition, confirm and build up and nourish the one thing that is inside. What really nourishes it is not just our hearing it, but our accepting it, because otherwise there's no nourishment, otherwise there's no growth in the building. It's the movement of the heart itself in accepting the Word from outside that grows itself in some way. And so the growth continues. But if the person just remains with that which is inside, he says, well, I know better than that. I understand that better than you do. What is he talking about? That sort of thing, right? Let the person close to himself, and gradually what seems to be a fullness inside, shrinks, and it's his own little thing, a whole world of reality outside.


It's indispensable to keep that openness to the outside, and to remember that God can speak to us through the dumbest word, through the most boring, tedious, and seemingly un-understanding kind of discourses. We're always open to God's Word, through the words that are being spoken to us, no matter how dull the word is. Marmion is good on this. I think it's in Christ's Theology of the Monk. For it is a sure sign of a mind that is cold and proud, that it receives with disdain and carelessness the medicine of the words of salvation, even though it be offered with a zeal of excessive persistence. A person that becomes oppressed by repetition, and by what seems like dullness, is going to go through untold suffering in the monastery, because there's so much of it, and there's no way out of it. You've got to listen to homilies every day in the group. If the person is waiting for a prize homily, that would be very close to it.


Or if he is waiting for somebody smarter than himself to speak. Maybe that's what he doesn't want. Whatever it is. It's indispensable to open ourselves as if we were just hearing the Word for the first time. Otherwise it can't work in us. Remember that it's God that's working. There are two sharply different points of view. There are two whole different spiritual worlds, which we run into all the time. The world of pride and self-sufficiency, and the world of humble acceptance, and the world of dependency, which is always expecting to receive, which puts itself in a low enough position so that all things can flow down to it. The other one, which is up on high, looking for something higher than it. And yet, the kind of fear that it's going to find is a competitive thing. Then he gives some quotations. Then he gets into one of his very, what do you call it, succulent passages here.


And so, if these things have been carefully taken in and stored up in the recesses of the soul and stamped with the seal of silence... How do you like that? Stamped with the seal of silence, because you get the idea of a bottle of wine which is corked and then sealed, waxed and then stamped. So, silence somehow is conserving this scented wine, which is fermenting in the heart. Afterwards, like some sweet-scented wine that makes glad the heart of man... There he's quoting the psalm. They will, when mellowed by the antiquity of the thoughts and by long-standing patience... Patience. Patience even in listening when things are dull. Be brought forth from the jar of your heart with great fragrance. I'm not sure that Cassian didn't say jar of your heart. He's got so much expression. And like some perennial fountain that will flow abundantly from the veins of experience and irrigating channels of virtue, it will pour forth copious streams as if from some deep well in your heart. So, he's talking about what happens to the word in the heart when the word is listened to.


It's like the ground that receives the seed. The seed gets buried in the ground. And the seed gets buried in the ground, which means that there's a lot of times when the seed doesn't seem to... Nothing is seen. There's nothing exciting. And still the person listens. Still he takes in the seed or takes in the rain. And finally the seed develops and comes back out of the ground. He begins to understand. And all the while the seed has been working in his heart, even when he didn't seem to understand it. Even when what he said to him seemed to be brief, or seemed to be dull, stupid, or too much repeated, and so on. Because it's the heart that doesn't... Also, the notion of wine, and it reminds me again of that miracle of Canaan, where the waters turned into wine. And that's what happens with the scriptures. That's what happens with the word. I guess we were talking about the flat one-dimensional word turns into the three-dimensional word, with the experience of every eternity, which comes out of the word of God.


And this happened only in the heart. It didn't happen just in the mind. And then, what was simply the word, which was on the planet of love, expanded into all the dimensions and fills the person. And so, the word becomes life. In order to live, it becomes life. And so, it's no longer a question of living, of living in our existence of thoughts, of intellectual life, and so on, and of intellectual curiosity, or pastime, or reading the scriptures, or literature. The word has become life. The person is sort of rooted in the ground of the scriptures. The sacrament of Scripture. What he's talking about is the Holy Spirit. That wine of faith. And it happens through a person really being rooted and grounded in the word, which means that he loses himself in order to be rooted in the word. Which means that it's going to be uninteresting. He has to go through a kind of a nightmare, in order for that to happen. In the word, we need a new term,


where he just hears it in patience, It doesn't need a beginning. Good. It's the same in the beginning. Yeah, it's the same. It's the same in marriage and all those things you have to do. You start out with enthusiasm, with attraction, with romance, with a long stretch of mountains flowing by the sea. And you should be like a water garden, like a fountain of water, which waters so much. Those passages of Isaiah, where Isaiah, I don't know, that prophecy is still stored up for us there. All those things in Isaiah. And when you read those words, and read them year after year after year, they light something up in your heart. Especially during Advent time, because then we're waiting for the Lord, and especially right now. You should be like a water garden. He's writing, you know, we talk about the senses of Scripture, the spiritual senses. He's writing, kind of, an allegory there.


I mean, for one thing, it's of the Church, but it's also of your heart, and what happens inside of you. You know, we're the desert. Because we can be a desert, or we can be a desert for years and years. And then, the water comes up, and the water, and things change. The whole landscape changes. Meanwhile, it's a matter of faith. And not just gritting your teeth and sticking to it, and closing your ears, but of a faith which is able to hear, and to accept from others, which eagerly waits to be nourished, so which lets the rain fall. And then, those other passages are relevant, but we don't want to spend time on them. Now we get back to the question of... Oh yeah, right at the end there. This is good. So it will come to pass that not only every purpose and thought of your heart, but also all the wanderings and rovings of your imagination will become to you a holy and unceasing pondering of the Divine Lord. Praise the Lord. My goodness.


Even your distractions are holy distractions. Remember back in the one on prayer? It's really reminiscent. He's playing the same kind of music here that he was there, when he said that every breath is going to become prayer. And here he's saying every thought is going to become meditation. That was in... Remember where he recorded St. John chapter 17, the prayer of the Lord, here we are. That's in Conference 10, chapter 7. Western asceticism period. Page 237. He quotes Jesus praying to the Father that they may be one in us as we are one. Then God shall be all our love, all we desire and seek and follow, all we think, all our life, in speech and breath.


And then he ends. Until the whole life and every little stirring of the heart becomes one continuous prayer. So that's a real transformation, a real transformation of consciousness. And he talks about it in one place on the level of what we call of the heart, of the will, of the desire, and of prayer. And in the other place he talks about it on the cognitive level of thoughts and imaginations. Images we're going to talk about. He's talking about the same thing in both places. Likewise, he talks about contemplation from two angles. One angle is the prayer of fire in Conference 9 and 10 on the prayer line, the line of the will of the heart. Or the spirit, we can say, because that prayer of fire is the spirit. It's the human spirit which is the flame of the spirit of God. And here he's talking about contemplation for spiritual knowledge on the cognitive level. So he's talking about everything sort of being absorbed by the word. Chapter 14. It is impossible for a novice


either to understand or teach this. He doesn't mean novice in our sense. And what he says here is really... comes across pretty hard. He says, It's impossible for an impure soul. And novices all have impure souls. You see, that's the principle. I don't know what he'd say about apostles. Pagans, Gentiles. Yeah. So he says, this is very good for novices to understand. So he shouldn't teach, you see, until long experience. Otherwise, his words will be idle and useless and only reach the ears of his ears without being able to touch their hearts. Because it didn't come from his own heart. It only went through his head. And he says it's included within the word. For it's impossible for an impure soul to obtain spiritual knowledge. Okay, there's our principle again, you see, expressed in those terms. The same principle of praxis before theoria or God incompatible with sin or the spirit


incompatible in some way with karma. The one principle which comes through again and again. The old principle, it is as it is. In his language, it was really so. So the vessel of our bosom, unless it has been purified from all the foul stains of sin, will not be worthy to receive that vessel of our bosom. Okay, now the objection which Patrick brought up last time. Germanus, and this is a good argument too. He says, this doesn't seem to... It's surprising how much opposition they give to the poor old Abba there. Really, they bring up objections with all their respect, you know, which are really much of that, you see. If it is clear that all believer either never receive the faith of Christ at all, that is infidel, pagan as they call it, or who are corrupted by the wicked sin of heresy, are of unclean hearts,


how is it that many Jews and heretics and sinful Catholics have acquired perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and boast of the greatness of their spiritual learning? So I suppose these would be the theologians of the day. On the other hand, countless swarms of saintly men whose heart has been purified from all stains of sin, he's talking about the sinful monks from the spiritual world, so no harm, are content with the piety of simple faith and know nothing of the mysteries of a deeper knowledge. So how can you say that spiritual knowledge comes only to purify the heart? That's a good question, but still, and actually, Nesteros doesn't completely answer the question. And yet, what he says seems to have the answer in it. And his argument basically is this, his answer basically is this, what you're saying is spiritual knowledge is not really spiritual knowledge. Those people are not spiritual in nature. So he says, you haven't seen the matter proper, maybe due to his own


lack of real impartial knowledge, that he isn't able to recognize the true spiritual knowledge. That's implicit in what he's saying, so you can't judge. But it's also the spiritual knowledge that judges all things, so maybe Nesteros, from that point of view, is able to judge. On the other hand, you can get the same thing said just out of a kind of analogous point of view. That's what he means. You get the picture there, and it's just as true nowadays. It's just as true nowadays. You see all kinds of wisdom around. There seems to be more wisdom outside of the Church than inside the Church, and many of the people whom we consider to be most virtuous and most faithful to Christ who don't really have any remarkable left of wisdom. That's a real paradox. A disturbing question. Because they have insight, but they're not sure what it's like. We're talking about Alan Watts yesterday, which is relevant, really.


I know we don't like to use names, but I mean, he put himself right in that position. He would frankly admit, you know, I'm not an ascetic, and I'm not interested in the dirty work, and yet he had an incredible insight into these matters, into spiritual matters. Insofar as those matters at least are omni, what we call omni-ontological, metaphysical, where they don't deal with the question of love. And there, I don't want to take too much, but I admit all these things. He's a good example. Somebody could say, how did he elevate that kind of wisdom? If he... Because it's spiritual matters. It's spiritual matters, really. It's not just theology, it's not just abstract reality. It's spiritual matters. And yet there is a side of the spiritual world which can be understood without purely of heart. And in a sense, you can have purely of mind without having purely of heart, which is important.


Now, let me say, without having purely of heart, that doesn't mean that a person is a great sinner, but just that he hasn't advanced to an extraordinary degree of interior, purely of mind. And a person can admit that, which is true. It's true. Okay, so how does Nosteros answer? He says, these people aren't really wise. They only have skill and dispensation and ornaments of speech, but they cannot penetrate to the very heart of Scripture and the mysteries of its spiritual meaning. So, the way he answers it, what do you call it? A vicious circle of begging the question, where you don't answer the question as it stands, but you say, really, you just deny it. You deny the premise of the question, so to speak. Deny the good people alive. And the reason, for true knowledge is only acquired by true worshipers of God. So, he goes back to the principle, you see, without really answering the question. He says, well, it can't be true.


So, what's the knowledge of the least? Quite a statement, by the way, isn't it? The knowledge proceeds from the mind. You can't really transform other people's lives because you can't reach their hearts. That's right. That's the heart where the chain of the transformation takes place. You can help others to transform. And even when it comes from the heart, necessarily, it won't necessarily transform others or help them to transform, but it can. There's a chance, at least. I like so much that thing that Sufi, your father, you know, he who, you know, talking about that in a minute, he who hears with his ears, repeats what he just said, he who hears with his heart, with his heart, preaches. In other words, he's able to move others and move the workers from heart to heart, not just to the ear. He who does what he hears is guided and becomes a God.


So, there's a person who can move the world. He's not even hearing it in their heart, but he's doing it. He's becoming the world in a sense. It makes a person able to do it and guide others. And also, it makes him able to be guided because it's only by doing that we get our guidance. The real wisdom, the important wisdom, is the wisdom that tells us how to move, right? It's not any other, any other even spectacular intellectual way. And that comes only from doing what we hear, from doing the world. And the person who does that will become a guide to others, even if he doesn't have a great intellectual experience or something. Anyway, I'm going to finish this. For as it is said that in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid, how can we hold that he who has scorned to find Christ, he who hasn't believed, who hasn't accepted faith, or when he has found blasphemes by his lips, the heretic, or at least defiles the Catholic faith by his impure deeds, the sinful Christian, has acquired spiritual knowledge? And then he, of course,


the Scriptures, you know, the Spirit of God will avoid deception and dwelleth not in a body that serves but deceit. But there's no way of arriving at spiritual knowledge other than this. And then he quotes, where is it, Hosea. And the gist of that is that first comes good works, then comes expulsion of vices and the growing of the virtues, then comes enlightenment only afterwards. Enlightenment can be after the work of purification. And then he quotes the psalmist. Blessed are they that are undefiled in the way who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that seek his testimony. So in other words, the testimony is the word of God, is the understanding of what he's interpreting. So one comes after the other. So he depends on the sequence here. And that kind of, that way of interpreting Scripture is open to criticism, open to a lot of criticism. Because the writer ordinarily doesn't have that


quite in mind when he goes on. Perhaps not the highest quality. So what a risk. And then he talks about false knowledge that St. Paul refers to in his letter to Timothy, 1 Timothy 6. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to you, keep the tradition, keep the deposit of doctrine, avoiding profane novelties of words and oppositions of the knowledge that is falsely so called. Which is in the Greek Tyson, tēthēsēs tēsūrus nōmon nōmō nōsēs. So false gnosis. And that expression is used a lot by the fathers later on. Two kinds of knowledge. There's empty knowledge and there's a knowledge which is full of love. They talk about simple knowledge. And simple thoughts which don't have love in them. And then they talk about true knowledge which has love in them. It becomes very, very clear, very simple. The Maximistic confessor is one I like to quote him. And then he quotes that lovely proverb, Like as a golden ring


in a swine's snout, so is the beauty of an ill-disposed woman. So he says, that's like the person who memorizes all the scriptures, the golden ring of the word of God. And then returns to his sins and buries that golden ring in the mud. As he does. There's not a way that the kids would be like this. I can't pass by without quoting Maximus, the great master. From the centuries on. That's right. If we cut off the causes of passions a little in our engrossed in spiritual contemplation, but do not always abide in them with constant effort, we easily return again to the fleshly passions and gather no other fruit than bare knowledge with presumption. Now, bare knowledge is the father's expression for this kind of knowledge that has no loving,


you see. It is only on the intellectual level. The result is the gradual obscuring of this knowledge itself and the complete turning of the mind to material things. You see the idea that if you don't keep up with your practice with your asceticism, even after a person begins to have contemplative insight, then that contemplative insight is going to become empty of its heart which is love. And finally, because the love isn't there, he's even going to turn around and go back and do his syncopatic, his passion, you see. You to whom God has granted a partial knowledge must not be careless of love and of self-mastery for they putify the passable part of the soul, the passionate part of the soul, and always prepare the way to knowledge for you. The way to knowledge is detachment and humility without which no one will see the Lord. Since knowledge puffeth up but charity edifies, Saint Paul. Yoke charity with knowledge and you will not


be puffed up but a spiritual builder, edifying yourself and all those that throw you near you. I'm trying to find a place where he talks about that empty or bare knowledge of God. It is necessary that the man who has knowledge also take along charity so that he may preserve his mind from every sort of pain. He that... I read this to you before. He who has been granted the grace of knowledge and yet has grief, grudges, or hate for someone, resentment in his heart, is like to the man who scratches his eyes with thorns and brambles. Therefore, knowledge necessarily stands in need of charity. There's some better passages and some other good passages there, I'm sure. Scratches his eyes and brambles. So, knowledge without charity means that the knowledge itself is going to disappear. Or at least become corrupted. And it says


a whole bunch of quotations. There's one good passage in the Psalms, Psalm 49, which says, Why do you declare my righteous acts and take my covenant in your lips? Remember that? That's one of the best. For the contradiction of the word in a person's life. Why do you cast my commandments behind your back? It's very good. It's 49, or it might be 48. Souls like this who never possess in any lasting fashion the fear of the Lord. See, the fear of the Lord is the difference. The fear of the Lord is the other side of love. It's the the opposite, the reverse side of love. The fear of the Lord is the melody of compunction for the fear of the Lord. So they mean the same thing. A person who has the fear of the Lord has love. And so he's able to have real wisdom instead of just a bare common knowledge. People who never possess the fear of the Lord don't give any attention to it, yet try to get at the meaning of Scripture by continual meditation. Of them, it's appropriately asked


in the Proverbs, What use are riches to a fool? Now, he's talking about meditation on the Scriptures, reading the Scriptures. It would also be true of another kind of meditation. Pursuing that without pursuing the fear of the Lord would be footless in that. But so far as this true and spiritual knowledge removed from that worldly erudition, which is defiled by the stains of carnal sins, that we know that it is sometimes first, most grandly, and some who are without eloquence and most illiterate, almost illiterate. Especially in the case of the apostles. Remember the apostles were fishermen, very simple men. Matthew was a tax collector, you know, and he wrote the gospel. Matthew, and so on. The apostles and many holy men who did not spread themselves out with an empty show of leaves, words to spray, but were bowed down by the weight of the true fruits of spiritual knowledge. And of course the acts of the apostles. They saw the boldness of Peter and John in preaching and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men in those times. For no one


in whom the love of carnal passions and especially of fornication still holds sway can acquire spiritual knowledge. He's arguing there that the virtue which is particularly related to this spiritual knowledge is chastity, is corporal chastity and then purity of heart, which is a higher degree of it. And that's interesting. Remember that we've been relating this knowledge to love, and we said that the only knowledge which is worthwhile really is the knowledge that has love as its heart. Well, here we find two kinds of love. We find carnal passion, sexual attachment for love or that particular dynamism. And then the other dynamism of the love of God. And they seem to be contrary in some way. Sexual passion and love for the Word, which is reminiscent of this whole bright and bright one, mysticism of the New Testament of the Fathers and Christian tradition, where you get a transformation of the passions from the sexual love


to the love of union with God. And so the whole axis of the whole thing is this movement from one end to the other end. So you see the relation there between chastity and the Word because we think of the spiritual life of the consummation of good love. We think marriage with the Word. So marriage with the Word implies a purification from every other kind of love. And you can take this marriage, that would be pretty literal. Literally in the sense that that's love, which is like the love of bride and groom but on a higher level. So it is really analogous to love but it's on a higher level, on a deeper level. So that one has to let go of one before he can really enter into the other, receive the other. That seems to be the concept. The thing I wanted to point out there is that the relationship of the sexual level with the Word, which at first may seem


mysterious until we remember that the Word is the bridegroom. But the metaphor, the favorite metaphor for this mystical life, spiritual life, is the bridegroom relationship. It's not just metaphor, it's reality. You find the same thing said by those of the fathers. I'd better go because... We've got a meeting this morning. So maybe we don't need to do much more with this conference. We've probably read these last chapters already. He says you should only preach the Word, not to the hard-hearted, or he'd say the inner, spiritual meaning, not to the hard-hearted because they're trampled under their feet, but only to those who have compunction, only to those who have sorrow for their sins, to the ones who are converted of heart, because the other ones won't understand it, or they'll understand it in the wrong way. Like the Song of Songs,


for instance, if it would be preached as the father said to the incarnate mother, it would get right up on the wrong foot. And the Song of Songs is, in a way, the spiritual meaning of the whole Scriptures. It's origins. You already talked about those things before. Yes, that's right. And that's confirmed and followed up by the liturgy right up through John the Apostle, as well as by the experience of the mystics. So finally, he sums up in 18, concerning the two reasons the teaching of spiritual things is ineffectual. Either the teacher has no experience of what he's saying, and so he's just shooting out words, not speaking from the heart but from the head, or else the hearer is a bad man full of faults and cannot receive in his heart what the doctrines say. He doesn't leave much room for cultural and pastoral problems. That's typical.


And then, the grace of teaching. He says, sometimes it is true that God gives that grace to somebody who's not worthy of it, but he does it for the sake of others. So he allows an exception. And then in the next conference he goes on to talk about spiritual gifts in general. So next time we'll go on with a conference 15. Which is in, and it should be because it's very relevant to things that happen nowadays. It's in Western asceticism as well as as well as in the other religions. Also, we might take a look at the structure of the conference that we've been leading and maybe compare it with one or another because maybe that's part of our work on that. Thank you very much.