From Weedy@21:1/5 to All on Thu Oct 7 23:43:45 2021
Do not exalt thyself
Do not exalt thyself on account of the gifts of God, which are often a
help to thy weakness, always the effect of His bounty, and ordinarily
above thy deserts. When, in the act of offending Him, thou perceivest
thy heart touched at the sight of thine ingratitude and infidelity,
thou oughtest to humble thyself and be confounded before Him at seeing
Him so full of goodness and thyself so replete with wickedness.
Penetrated with a lively sorrow for having offended God, who seeks
thee even when thou art fleeing away from Him, and loads thee with His
graces, even when thou provest thyself unworthy of them, return to Him
by true repentance; ask pardon for thy fault, and think only of
avenging Him by punishing thyself.
--Thomas à Kempis, From the Imitation of Christ
8 October – St Pelagia the Penitent
(Fourth or Fifth Century)
Hermit – also known as Pelagia of Antioch, The Beardless Hermit,
Marina (the Latin equivalent of “Pelagia”), Margarita. Patronage – actresses.
Like St Mary Magdalen and St Mary of Egypt, St Pelagia inspired
Christians of the Middle Ages as an enchanting icon of repentance.
Storytellers probably spun her winsome tale from an anonymous factual illustration embedded in one of St John Chrysostom’s homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel. He told of a nameless actress of Antioch, famous for
her glamour and notorious for her wickedness, who suddenly repented,
was baptised and afterwards embraced the austere life of a hermit.
Later a gifted writer who pretended to be St James, a Deacon working
for St Nonnus of Edessa, named the actress Pelagia and created the
story that still speaks to our spirit.
As he told it:
“One day Pelagia, dressed provocatively and surrounded by an entourage
of her fans, passed by a group of Bishops sitting at St Julian’s tomb
near Antioch. All but one Bishop was scandalised by her evil charms.
But Pelagia’s carefully appointed beauty touched St Nonnus and led him
to a spiritually disturbing conclusion. He said to the other Bishops:
. . .we have vast promises in the supernatural heights stored up with
our hidden Lord who cannot be seen. It is He we should please but we
fail to do so; it is for Him that we should adorn our bodies and souls
but we totally fail to do so. We should take pains over ourselves in
order to scrub away the dirt of sins, to become clean from evil stains
but we have paid no attention to our souls, in the attempt to adorn
them with good habits so that Christ may desire to dwell in us. What a
reproach to us, seeing that we have not taken pains to make ourselves
pleasing to God nearly as much as this prostitute . . . has taken
pains to please men—in order to captivate them, leading them into
perdition by her wanton beauty. . . . Maybe we should even go and
become the pupils of this lascivious woman.”
The next day, the story continues, Pelagia made a rare appearance in
Church where she heard Nonnus preach on judgement and salvation. His
words stabbed her heart. On the spot Pelagia repented and was
converted to Christ.
Then she demanded that Nonnus baptise her, a request he happily
obliged. A Deaconess named Romana took Pelagia under her wing, until
one day, after giving away all her possessions, Pelagia slipped away.
She hid herself in Jerusalem, where disguised as a man, she became a
Hermit on the Mount of Olives. Word about the holiness of the monk “Pelagios” spread throughout the Holy Land. And when it was discovered
upon her death that the Hermit was the repentant prostitute Pelagia,
she was honoured and loved even more.
Learned men and great scholars have devoted great effort and prolonged
study to the Holy Scriptures... employing the gifts which God gives to
every person who has the use of reason. This knowledge is good... but
it does not bring with it any spiritual experience of God, for these
graces are granted only to those who have a great love for Him. This
fountain of love issues from our Lord alone, and no stranger may
approach it. But knowledge of this kind is common to good and bad
alike, since it can be acquired without love, ... and men of a worldly
life are sometimes more knowledgeable than many true Christians
although they do not possess this love. St. Paul describes this kind
of knowledge: "If I had full knowledge of all things and knew all
secrets, but had no love, I should be nothing." Some people who
possess this knowledge become proud and misuse it in order to increase
their personal reputation, worldly rank, honours and riches, when they
should use it humbly to the praise of God and for the benefit of their
fellow Christians in true charity. St. Paul says of this kind of
knowledge: "Knowledge by itself stirs the heart with pride, but united
to love it turns to edification." By itself this knowledge is like
water, tasteless and cold. But if those who have it will offer it
humbly to our Lord and ask for His grace, He will turn the water into
wine with His blessing.
--Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection
"Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is
pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an
inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth
destroy" (Luke 12:32-33).
HOW TO MOLD A SOUL
Just take a large or small soul,
And mix them well with prayer.
Turn them out with flowered hearts,
Away from satan's lair.
Set their paths toward glory,
With sugar or with spice.
Show them that above it all,
The bread is always nice.