Meditations on the Psalms, On The Interior Life #5, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

cover of the ebook 'Meditations on the Psalms, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox'

Psalm 136

Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion: On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments. For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. And they that carried us away, said: Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion. How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.

Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee: If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem: Who say: Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. O daughter of Babylon, miserable: blessed shall he be who shall repay thee thy payment which thou hast paid us. Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock.

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The Spirit of Detachment

First Point. The interior soul lives in the world as an exile. Although our souls are, in the order of history, created first for earth and then for heaven, we are nevertheless in a sense exiles from a heavenly country, since we are immortal spirits imprisoned in time, and surrounded with the miserable conditions of fallen nature. As the river of time flows past us, our hearts are set, in painful longing, upon our true home. We derive our inspiration, not from the scenes around us, but from a dimly imagined picture. And yet the world about us cannot under stand this sadness; cannot understand why we do not acclimatize ourselves to our surroundings, and throw ourselves heart and soul into its short-lived enjoyments; cannot understand why our spirits are not keyed to the pitch of its frivolous melodies. Yet the reason is simple. In a fallen world, re minded at every turn of the misuse to which men put God’s best gifts, the soul that has caught some echo of the heavenly music is forced to remain dumb and unresponsive.

Second Point. This homesickness must mean, not discontent with this world, but loyal affection for the next. Christians are not meant to remain idle or voiceless in the world of our banishment: whatsoever our hand is able to do, we must do earnestly, and there is a time to speak as well as a time for silence. But it is better that our hands were cut off, or that our tongues should be for ever silenced, than that our absorption in human activities and human debates should make us forget for a moment the claims of the city we are destined to inherit. Hence arises a certain reservedness, among those who follow the interior life, about the use of natural enjoyments; it is not that we are to cut ourselves off altogether from the beauties and the attractions of the world in which God has placed us, but that in all things we are bound, according to our ability, to prefer heaven to earth, the eternal to the transitory, by a conscious act of choice; and that the root and principle of all our gladness, even in the most trivial circumstances, should be a pure intention to devote our lives in everything to the glory of God.

Third Point. Yet our conflict with nature and with the world will not be an easy victory. Edom (or Esau) as opposed to Jacob symbolizes the natural as opposed to the spiritual man. The children of Edom, then, are those repugnances of corrupt nature which, until the time when God sees fit to free us more perfectly for his service, will continue to threaten with demolition the edifice which grace has so laboriously built up in our souls. And the daughter of Babylon that is, the attractiveness of worldly honours and affections will here be in alliance with nature; we have to remind ourselves continually of the shortness and miseries of this life, that we may learn to despise it. Happy is he, in whom grace has proved the victor, and spoiled the spoiler of his prey; happy is he, who has learned to throw down and break the world’s temptations against the living Rock a Stone of stumbling to many, and yet the chief Corner-stone of the celestial city; the Rock which is Christ.

Acts – Detachment from the world, consecration to God of his own gifts, resolution to be on the watch against the seductions of nature.

Colloquy with Christ as the King of our true country claiming the loyalty of his exiled subjects.