The ideas in Circles of Thorns are being explored in Canterbury in the form of two lectures. If you would like to follow the themes and structure of Circles of Thorns in your own Lenten study, then please feel free to:
- listen to the podcasts. The Sunday evening sermons (c 20 mins) and the Tuesday lunchtime Lent lectures (c 40 mins) will appear the day (DV) after delivery.
- use this series of thoughts, readings, meditations and questions. A PDF can also be downloaded for easier printing and later reference.
Circle 4 / Week 4 / Devotions
Martin Luther tells this story.
A certain village mayor, when he was about to die, told his pastor, who had been debating the Resurrection with the mayor a long time in an effort to convince him of its reality; “To be sure, I am ready to believe this, but you will see that nothing comes of it.”
How would you answer the “so what” question? The Modern Devotion followed four principles in their common life:
First, they consciously relived, in the imagination, the cycle of Christ’s life, teaching and Passion so that Christ might be held at the centre of their lives and they, through beholding him in that way, might represent him to others. “Christ within me, Christ before me, Christ shown forth from me”, is the New Devotion ideal. Second, they absorbed the witness of Holy Scripture into their consciousness through both contemplative and community reading. The words of Scripture, breathed with God’s own inspiration, in turn became their own inspiration. Third, they put all learning to a purpose, the encouragement of virtue. all learning to a purpose: the encouragement of virtue. Fourth, and most importantly, the New Devout sought to “develop interiority”. A whole person was made up with physical and mental faculties, that there was a structure of the mind as well as a structure of the body. They sought to train the will of the whole person towards Christ. They wanted to have an inner life expressed through actions of the body.
Do these four principles have any resonance with your life and your Christian pilgrimage? Thomas of Kempen taught that it was necessary (vital?) to have an inner life:
He who walks by an inner light, and is not unduly influenced by outward things, needs no special time or place for his prayers. For the man of the inner life easily recollects himself, since he is never wholly immersed in outward affairs. Therefore his outward occupations and needful tasks do not distract him, and he adjusts himself to things as they come. The man whose inner life is well-ordered and disposed is not troubled by the strange and perverse ways of others; for a man is hindered and distracted by such things only so far as he allows himself to be concerned by them.
How do you develop such an inner life for yourself? Etty Hillesum was accused of being self-indulgently ill-disciplined:
You are not really as chaotic as all that, it’s just that you refuse to turn your back on the time when you thought being chaotic was better than being disciplined.
In return, she sought to “learn how to kneel”, how to be disciplined.
Am I really sitting here writing things down so calmly? Would anybody understand me if I told them that I feel so strangely happy, not bursting with it, but just plain happy, because I can sense a new gentleness and a new confidence growing stronger inside me from day to day?
What part does discipline, “exercises”, order, have in your own spiritual life?
Questions for further reflection
- How can you lead a “simple” life today?
- How would you practice generosity of hospitality?
- Is it possible to “shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the Kingdom of God”?
- How do we “learn to kneel”? Who can teach us?
Lenten Study Guide for Circles of Thorns: Week 4 (45.8 KiB, 68 hits)
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