Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"The greatest wisdom"

For this final day of the first month of the Year of Our Lord 2012, a brief passage from the very first section of Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ strikes me as most fitting:

"This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides."

The Madonna in Sorrow by Il Sassoferrato, seventeenth century

In a word, true wisdom leads us to consider transcendence and not merely as a generic and ambiguous word, but our own transcendence, our constant and restless longing for that something more. In the introduction to his worthwhile book, The Turn to Transcendence: The Role of Religion in the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Glenn Olsen wrote that alongside the forces of secularization in the West there remains the human longing "for that which transcends history and orients life."

In his book The Religious Sense, Giussani, noting this universal human longing for transcendence, forces the matter by saying that this longing which constitutes our humanity, can either be fulfillment in reality or it cannot not. Concluding it cannot not seems unreasonable and contrary not only to human experience, but what he calls "elementary experience." So, holding that our longing, which is bigger than our hearts and even the world, can be fulfilled means that an infinite, that is, unbounded longing can only be met by something, or Someone, equal to this measure.

These observations lead us back to à Kempis' insight, which is nothing other than the Gospel, what Jesus proclaimed when He said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel"(Mark 1:15 ESV).

1 comment:

  1. "Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness..." St. Therese of Lisieux


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