26 October 2010

Desire the Truth

Below is a work of the ‘Meditations of Guigo, Prior of the Charterhouse’ which as the Introduction states, that within these meditations ‘are to be found more than glimpses of the beauty of the human soul in its highest hopes and achievements’. Guigo de Castro or as he was known in his native French, Guiges du Chastel, became a monk of La Grande Chartreuse in 1107 and only three years later was elected Prior. This is the same Guigo who as the Introduction points out wrote the ‘Consuetudines’ which ‘have always remained the basis of all Carthusian legislation since their composition in 1127 or 1128. In fact, it may be said that to Guigo the Carthusian Order in great measure owes its fame, if not its very existence’. Interestingly, the intended audience of Guigo’s reflections was his own soul. Many of us are familiar with ‘lectio divina’ or prayerful reading; in the case of Guigo, however, one might call this prayerful writing – writing to one’s own soul which is inhabited by the Most Holy Trinity. Let us begin:

Truth ought to be displayed as something beautiful. Judge not if someone shuns it, but be compassionate. And you, why do you, since you desire to arrive at the truth, spurn it when you are upbraided for your vices?

See how much truth suffers. To the drunken it says, ‘you are drunk’, to the voluptuous, to the gossip, it speaks in like vein. And it is the truth. Yet, straightway, they are in a rage, and the truth in its preacher they persecute – they kill (cf. Saint Matthew 23:34). But see how a lie is honoured. It says to human dregs who are the slaves to all the vices: ‘Ye good masters’. They are assuaged, they are gay, and the lie itself in the one who speaks thus, they worship.

Truth without beauty and comeliness (cf. Isaiah 53:2), and nailed to the Cross (cf. Colossians 2:14), must be adored.

Demand your wages from him according to whose will you employ yourself. Therefore, you should live so as to owe nothing to yourself, because you are able to give nothing back to yourself. For ‘let not the wages of him that has been hired by you remain with you till morning’, says the Lord (cf. Leviticus 19:13; Tobit 4:15). Therefore, the Lord will take vengeance of you for yourself (cf. Acts 7:24).

He who does everything according to his own will, let him demand all retribution from himself. When he cannot wrest it from himself, let him call up against himself the just Judge, God (cf. Psalm 7:11). If, then, you loved yourself, never would that service – that is, of yourself – of whose reward you would despair, be sweet to you.

Why do you lay more claim to yourself than to any random man or field, since you have created nothing more in yourself than in them? By what right do you claim for yourself any one of those things which you have not created any more than yourself?

See how much easier is the way to life through unpleasant things than through pleasant. It is easier to check lust and the other concupiscences where nothing beautiful or flattering has come in.

You ought to be united to your flesh not by delight in and love of it, that is, by sin, but only by feeding it. From as many loves for things which you would have lost or would have caused your loss has the Lord, the Truth, freed you (cf. Saint John 8:3; 14:6), from so many fearful and sad sorrows has He loosed you.

See what the good must be whose traces are themselves traces, I mean temporal things. They are sought after with so many great laborious and bloody risks by so many rational and irrational beings.

Destitution itself or temporal adversity in the role of torturer forces us to desire the good things which are unlike them. But because we are grown accustomed only to temporal things and know nothing else, we crave things not much different from those we suffer; and from even their angry moods, that is, adversity, we seek either a momentary surcease by the control of a kind of compromise, or to undergo things not much different from these.

O, man who have your sorrow, do you wish to ease it?

I do.

For time or for eternity?

For eternity.

Desire, then, eternal easement, that is the Truth, God. For that is why He struck you, that you might desire Him, not herbs, not bandages.