Meditations on the Psalms, On The Interior Life #8, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

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

Psalm 25

Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my innocence: and I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened. Prove me, O Lord, and try me; burn my reins and my heart. For thy mercy is before my eyes; and I am well pleased with thy truth. I have not sat with the council of vanity: neither will I go in with the doers of unjust things. I have hated the assembly of the malignant; and with the wicked I will not sit.

I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord: That I may hear the voice of thy praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works. I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house; and the place where thy glory dwelleth. Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with bloody men: In whose hands are iniquities: their right hand is filled with gifts.

But as for me, I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in the direct way: in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.

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Desire for Purity of Intention

First Point. True devotion involves the purifying of our inward thoughts. As God will judge us after death, so from moment to moment he reads infallibly the secrets of our hearts; and we set ourselves too low a standard of innocence if we do not aspire to a purity of intention which can satisfy that piercing scrutiny. This path on which we desire to set our feet is a very narrow one; only through his grace can we hope for strength to stumble in it less often. And the strength will not be won easily, but only through temptations which will prove us and perfect us. The purifying of our hearts, in this world as in the world to come, can only be “so as by fire”; so much unsuspected dross is there, even in our purest ambitions, which needs to be burned away. Our thoughts continually tend to rest in vain and transitory consolations we must not let them rest there: tend to lose themselves in uncharitable or self-satisfied criticisms of our neighbour we must forbid them access to such subjects: tend even, at times, to remonstrate with God when his treatment of us seems, to our limited vision, harsh and neglectful we must shrink from the bare idea of such impiety.

Second Point. This purification is not an end in itself, but a condition enabling us to offer ourselves to God. We must beware of putting this aim of “self-improvement” before us as the end of our spiritual life; it is not so. As we make our confessions in order to put ourselves in a right disposition for the receiving of the Most Holy Sacrament, so we should desire to purify our hearts only as a preliminary to offering them, an acceptable sacrifice, to God. The laver stands in the outer court of the tabernacle only to give access to the altar of holocausts. The true end of the spiritual life is to enable man to take his part in the sacrifice of praise which goes up to God continually from all his creatures. It passes, then, to the altar of holocausts and thence on to the Tabernacle itself, whose ornaments are of gold instead of brass, the Tabernacle of pure contemplation, where the glory of God is present to man (according to his measure) even in the state of pilgrimage.

Third Point. Whatever point of innocence we attain, we must remember that at every moment it is only grace that saves us from deadly sin. However high we may advance (or think ourselves to have advanced) in the spiritual life, our prayer must continually be for the grace which still preserves us from the most heinous sins. But for this grace, we might be on the road to damnation with the impious, who turn their backs upon God, with brawlers and murderers, with those who shut their ears to the cry of justice and thrive on ill-gotten gains. Never dare we give thanks for our comparatively blameless conversation, without renewing our prayer to be saved from ourselves and forgiven for the sinful motions which, but for grace, might have plunged our souls into far worse misery than we have ever known. Thanks be to God, that in spite of our faltering steps and our continual falls, at least our faces are set in the right direction, and we can claim for ourselves the company of God’s faithful servants, on earth and in heaven alike, as our fellow travellers towards our eternal goal.

Acts – Desire for purity of intention, dedication of all our best efforts to God; fear and humility as we think what we might have been.

Colloquy with our Judge, who reads our most secret thoughts.