Friday, December 14, 2007

Quiet Time

One of the peculiarities of my job is that even though I am a priest in the Church of England, Christmas is quite a quiet time for me!
Our little community is largely made up of younger adults for whom it is a time of year to go away to see family etc.
So our big event for this time of year is our Service of 9 Lessons and Carols which we had last Sunday evening. After that things tend to quiet down considerably.
So I am trying to use the time to do some reading, particularly as next year we hope to launch some spirituality material for unchurched people.
This week I have read some Bernard of Clairvaux (pictured here). One thing he said that I found particularly interesting is the stages of love that we go through in our spiritual journey. He characterised them like this:
Stage 1 : we love ourselves for our own sake
Stage 2 : we love God for our own sake
Stage 3 : we love God for God's sake
Stage 4 : we love ourselves for God's sake
I'm not sure I totally get the last one and indeed Bernard says that it's very rare in this life. But the others make a lot of sense to me.
I'm very aware of how easy it is to love God and 'do all the religious stuff' for what I get out of it (stage 2) though of course we never put it in those terms. And I'm not sure that's a totally invalid thing (echoes here of the Westminster Catechism where it talks about 'enjoying God' which John Piper also talks about although I'm really not a fan of his).

It's interesting to hear this common theme emerging in the mystics which can basically be summarised as a turning from the self as the focus of attention (stages 1 and 2 in Bernard's schema) to a focus on God (stage 3), which involves a kind of emptying and forgetfulness of self.

Anyway, maybe I'll post some more tidbits as I uncover them.

1 comment:

Ian Adams said...

Thanks Matt for this. I'll carry the 'love ourselves for God's sake' idea with me today. Pax ian