Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Love and Lent

'That violence wherewith sometimes a man doteth upon one creature, is but a little spark of that love, even towards all, which lurketh in his nature. We are made to love, both to satisfy the necessity of our active nature, and to answer the beauties in every creature. By Love our Souls are married and solder'd to the creatures and it is our Duty like God to be united to them all. We must love them infinitely, but in God, and for God and God in them: namely all His excellencies manifested in them. When we dote upon the perfections and beauties of some one creature, we do not love that too much, but other things too little. Never was anything in this world loved too much, but many things have been loved in a false way: and all in too short a measure.'

- Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations 2:66

I like that phrase 'to answer the beauties in every creature'. I've had a dark few days this week (felicity seeming very distant, just when I was so caught up in thinking about it!) and fear about interacting with other people, anxiety about the way I relate to all these creatures of God Traherne is so rapturous about, has been the chief cause. In such a frame of mind it is very difficult to answer the beauties in every creature. It's hard enough even to see those beauties, or believe that they exist, when I'm swallowed up with fear of what other people might say to me or think of me; to answer them with the fulness of my heart, freely and openly and honestly, is impossible. When everyone who looks at me seems a threat, it is difficult to love them. And then being reminded that not to love them is to fail in a Christian duty makes it worse, makes me feel guilty and inadequate for being instinctively wary and defensive rather than overflowing with love. Frankly, there have been times this Lent when hearing Thomas Traherne rave about how lovely everything is makes me want to throw the book down in anger, and pick up some Hopkins instead - he at least knew that the mind has mountains, and he knew this feeling, and at times that's more comfort than endless rejoicing. It's a temperamental difference, I think; I always tend more towards the shadow than the light.

It's good for me to be pushed to think about these things, even if I find them uncomfortable; I suppose that makes Centuries of Meditations a good book for Lent, in a way I completely didn't expect. It's hurting, but perhaps that means it's working.

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