The Living Book

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Let none of us entertain the desire for possessions, for what gain is it to acquire those things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather acquire those that we can take: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, understanding, charity, love of the poor, faith in Christ, goodness, hospitality? If we obtain these, we shall find them there before us preparing a welcome for us in the land of the meek.

Athanasius of Alexandria (circa 296 – 373)

Remember Augustine’s dictum, “Amor meus, pondus meum.” “My love is a weight, a gravitational force.” As one loves temporal things, one gains an illusory substantiality and a selfhood which gravitates “downward,” that is to say acquires a need for things lower in the scale of being than itself. It depends on these things for its own self-affirmation. In the end this gravitational pull becomes an enslavement to material and temporal cares, and finally to sin. Yet this weight itself is an illusion, a result of the “puffing up” of pride, a “swelling” without reality. The self that appears to be weighed down by its love and carried away to material things is, in fact, an unreal thing. Yet it retains an empirical existence of its own: it is what we think of as ourselves.

Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)

All we taste, against all we lack, is like a single drop of water against the whole sea… for we feed upon His Immensity, which we cannot devour, and we yearn after His Infinity, which we cannot attain.

Jacob Boehme (1575 – 1624)

Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers.

Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859)

A thinker erects an immense building, a system, a system which embraces the whole of existence and world-history, etc. And if we contemplate his personal life, we discover to our astonishment this terrible and ludicrous fact, that he himself personally does not live in this immense high-vaulted palace, but in a barn alongside of it, or in a dog kennel, or at the most in the porter’s lodge. If one were to take the liberty of calling his attention to this by a single word, he would be offended. For he has no fear of being under a delusion, if only he can get the system completed… by means of the delusion.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

The crosses which we make for ourselves by over-anxiety as to the future are not Heaven-sent crosses. We tempt God by our false wisdom, seeking to forestall His arrangements, and struggling to supplement His Providence by our own provisions. The crosses actually laid upon us always bring their own special grace and consequent comfort with them; we see the Hand of God when it is laid upon us. But the crosses wrought by anxious foreboding are altogether beyond God’s dispensations.

Francois Fenelon (1651 – 1715)

If you want to be an astronomer you must go to the observatory, take a telescope, study the stars and planets, and then you will become an astronomer. Each science must have its own methods. I could preach you thousands of sermons but they would not make you religious, until you first practiced the method. These are the truths of the sages of all countries, of all ages, men pure and unselfish, who had no motive but to do good to the world. They all declare that they have found some truth higher than that the senses can bring to us, and they challenge verification. They say to you, take up the method and practice honestly… So we must work faithfully, using the prescribed methods, and light will come.

Vivekananda (1863 – 1902)

More than all things, love silence. It brings you a fruit that tongue cannot describe. In the beginning we have to force ourselves to be silent. But then there is born something that draws us to silence. May God give you an experience of this “something” that is born of silence. If you only practice this, untold light will dawn on you in consequence. After a while a certain sweetness is born in the heart of this exercise and the body is drawn almost by force to remain in silence.

Isaac of Nineveh (circa 613 – 700)