"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cardinal Newman and King David

"Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions." (Ps. 25:7)

Many, if not all of us, have skeletons in our closets; ghosts in our past. It would be just as well if none of them ever saw the light of day. But all of these sins are rooted in the one great sin of youth, a character flaw of eternal consequence, pride. Learning humility is perhaps one of the greatest tasks of the Christian life. It is the example Christ set for us "who humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2)
This trait is seen, however, in some of the great saints of the Church. Showing us it is more than possible to emulate Christ in this regard. But it took many of them years of following Jesus and asking for his grace to even begin mastering their pride. One such saint is Cardinal John Henry Newman. Below are two verses of one of his great hymns "Lead, Kindly Light":

Lead, kindly light amid th'encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see,
The distant scene, one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou,
should lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path but now,
the night is gone.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will, remember not past years.

These two verses speak of two very different lifestyles. The second verse reminisces about the days when Newman did not seek God's guidance but preferred his own path to the Lord's. He even notes that this was despite the fact that he knew it was wrong (spite of fears). Pride kept him from asking for God to lead him in the way he should go.

But verse one is a reflection of the life he lives now; a life over which he does not attempt too much control; a life whose destiny is simply entrusted to his Father. He does not ask to see the distant future, just to be led step by step.

In all, what is written here is something with which all Christians struggle. It is impossible, and undesirable to try and control everything about ourselves. Too many things are uncertain. Yet ceding control over our lives to Another, is most difficult and scary. This is not a fear that can be overcome by anything natural. Rather it is only the life of faith which frees and liberates us. It is the life of faith which allows us to say "keep my feet...direct my path...it is too dark for me to see on my own...lead Thou me on." If you have not let go of the pride with which you were born, the pride that has led to the sins of your youth, pray that God will grant you the faith to simply say "I trust in you." Pride is the fruit of original sin...and itself the chief of all sins. Pride says "my way is best and I'll choose my path on my own." The humility to completely entrust our ways, our lives, our whole selves to God..."the distant scene", is the fruit of faith.

"A man's heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9)

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