I am a pilgrim on “The Way.” I am a fellow combatant in the arena of salvation. I bring nothing to the table, so to speak except my fragile “yes”. “… by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” I am no more than a faithful struggler but I am at that at least. I am a son of God and an inheritor of the riches of God my Father, by grace. I am learning what that identity means and to live out that identity in relationship with all things.
I find that the most powerful resource in this journey is not, primarily, the consideration of what I have attained but what is yet to be attained. Not how far I have come but how far I have to go. The inklings of what has been accomplished and how far I have come are for the purpose of “pressing on” in the creative work of God – the artistry of God.
The more I consider myself and my life in Christ in these terms the more I can hear the Lord’s voice and the the Lord can speak and act through me.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
The higher holy men advance with God, in the dignity of virtues, the more accurately do they discover that they are unworthy; because while they become close to the light, they find out whatever escaped their notice in themselves, and they appear to themselves the more deformed without, in proportion as that is very beautiful, which they see within. For every one is made known to himself, when he is illumined with the touch of the true light, and by the same means as he learns what is righteousness, he is also instructed to see what is sin. Hence is it that though our mind is often benumbed with cold in converse with men’s doings, though it sins and is ignorant in some points, though it regards some sins as though they were none; yet when it raises itself by the compunction of prayer to aim at things above, having been roused by the eye of its compunction, it returns to observe itself with greater vigilance after its tears. For when it deserts itself in neglect, and is torpid with fatal lukewarmness, it fully believes that idle words or unprofitable thoughts are of lesser guilt. But if warmed by the fire of compunction, and touched by the sudden breath of contemplation, it starts from its lukewarmness, it soon begins to dread, as grave and deadly offences, those things which but a little before it believed to be trifling. For it avoids, as most atrocious, all things which are in the very least degree hurtful; because, namely, being pregnant with the conception of the Spirit, it no longer allows any vanities to enter in unto it. For from that which it beholds within, it feels how dreadful are those sins which clamour without; and the more it has advanced when raised up, the more does it shrink from the grovelling pursuits, in which it sank prostrate. For nothing in truth supports it, but that which it has beheld within, and it endures the more heavily whatever thrusts itself on it from without, the more it is not that which it beheld within; but from those inward objects which it has been able to catch a glance of, it forms a standard for judging of those outward things which it has to bear with. For it is rapt above itself, when it contemplates sublime objects, and now beholding itself, by going out of itself more freely, it comprehends more minutely whatever remains to it, of itself, under itself. By which means it is wonderfully brought to pass, as was before said, that it appears the more unworthy to itself, by the very means by which it is rendered more worthy; and that it then feels itself far removed from uprightness, when it is approaching near it. Whence Solomon says, Ihave tried all things by wisdom, and said, I will become wise, and it departed the farther from me. [Eccles. 7, 23] For wisdom which is sought after is said to depart far off, because it seems higher to a person approaching it. But those who do not seek it, think themselves the nearer it, the more they know not also its standard of uprightness; because, living in darkness, they know not how to admire the brightness of the light, which they have never seen, and since they do not tend towards the comeliness of its beauty, they willingly become more deformed every day in themselves. For whoever is touched by its rays, his deformity is more manifestly pointed out to him, and he finds the more truly how much he is distorted in sin, the more keenly, from considering the highest objects, he beholds how far distant he is from uprightness. Source: “An Exposition on the Book of Blessed Job,” Book XXXII, Section 1, by St. Gregory the Great
I have only just begun to comprehend the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I come to “know and to live” through my experience of repentance. Revelation or illumination is the prerequisite and fruit of repentance. By them, deification occurs. This is the journeying experience of salvation.
In actuality, every time I hear someone truly articulate it or display it, it is as if I am hearing it for the first time. Its freshness and soul boggling infinity of depth, width, and height brings tears to my eyes and opens up an infinite spaciousness and infinitely fullness of spaciousness with me all over again, and it moves me again as if for the first time. I enjoy a contentment and security and “wellness” (Julian of Norwich) that wells up from down deep. Simultaneously, all of this is not just issuing forth from within me but pressing on and into me from all sides as well.
And, I realize anew that am more able to talk about the faith than I am able to actually live it. I yearn afresh for the consummation of my own personhood, everyone else’s, and the renewal of the whole creation. Lord, have mercy.
The promise of more of the fullness and consummation of the love of God I know now, draws me forward. I am amazed, astounded, and so captivated by the grace of God.
Prayer: Lord God, the sacrifices acceptable to You are a broken and a contrite heart. In these O God, You delight. Grant me to be intensely aware of your mercy and deliver me from being conscious of my own righteousness. Glory be to God now and ever and to ages of ages. Amen.