Reviews of Theology, Broadly Understood

Friday, July 8, 2016

From "What Are These Wounds?" (1948)


“St. Lutgarde began to consider what attention she was giving the Office and came to the conclusion that she was obliged to get through the hours without ever averting her mind from her prayer, whether willingly or unwillingly, and no matter whether the thought that came to her was holy or unholy. She simply determined that she was going to think of nothing but the words of the psalms, and what they signified, and of god in whose presence she stood. Nothing else. Of course, she soon discovered that this was impossible. At the same time, she jumped to the conclusion that her distractions made her office worthless. Soon she was saying most of her Office two or three times every day. There is probably almost as much glee in hell over this sort of thing as there is over grave sin, simply because of the sad consequences to which it can lead.”  (p. 45)

“It is clear, then, how insidious and terrible is the danger of a doctrine that would have us put Christ and His Passion out of our minds, forget Him and His saints and His Blessed Mother, cease to reflect upon the greatness and goodness of God, upon the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us, and if we receive the sacraments at all, receive them in a state of spiritual coma, without recognition, without love, without response.” (p. 94)

“The main thing is to establish contact with God by loving faith. This implies at least enough awareness for the mind to be alive to the presence of God, and to the nearness of Jesus to our souls, and whatever keeps that awareness fresh in our hearts must be sought and encouraged. Hence, we must love the Holy Scriptures, and read them assiduously. We must keep immersed in the liturgy, and remain close to the tabernacle. Above all, we must faithfully and constantly strive to improve the quality of our participation in the infinitely holy and powerful Sacrifice of the Mass. All these will have the effect of keeping the humanity of Jesus before our eyes, and close to our hearts, if we only take advantage of them.” (p. 95)

“This is an indication of the importance of prayer in the life of the Church; active works, without the divine graces which only prayer and penance can obtain, are doomed to sterility and failure.” (p. 148)

In re: St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde:

“Their mystical writings represent the full flowering of that allegorical characteristic of the High Middle Ages. Their ideas and images are complex, vivid, and, at times, lavish, gorgeous, dazzling. Both of these saints did more than merely follow the liturgy; they exploited it to the full. There was not a mass, not an Office in the whole liturgical year, whose treasures had not been ransacked by these two immensely gifted saints.”  (p. 154)

 “One of St. Bernard’s most characteristic themes is his insistence that God only appears not to hear our prayers in order to stir us up to pray with all the more fervor and love.” (p. 168)