Sunday, 25 December 2016

BROTHER LAWRENCE AND 'THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD'

2016-52  Brother Lawrence and "The Practice of the Presence of God" 





Brother Lawrence was born Nicolas Herman in 1611, in the village of Herimenil in Lorraine, France. His parents were peasants. So his schooling was limited at best. 

As a young man, Nicholas fought in the Thirty Years War. But being captured by the Germans and accused of spying, then wounded by the Swedes in a later battle, he turned away from a soldier’s life. 

Soon he was employed as a footman to M. William de Fieubet, treasurer of the King of France. Nicholas recalled of himself that “he was a clumsy fellow who used to break everything”. His time as a soldier and a footman totaled about 18 years.

Around the time he had entered the army, at age 18, he had experienced a spiritual awakening. One winter he saw a tree stripped of its leaves. He considered that soon afterwards, these leaves would reappear, followed by flowers and fruit. This gave him “a lofty awareness of the providence and power of God that never left him.”

Thus when his service as a footman ended, Nicholas sought spiritual fulfillment in the solitude of a hermit’s life. Soon realizing this wasn’t for him, in 1649 at age 38, he offered himself to the Order of “Barefooted” Carmelites in Paris. The Carmelites were one of the most austere monastic communities, and the barefooted Carmelites practiced even more severe self-denial. Nicholas was accepted into the order as a lay brother and was given the name Lawrence of the Resurrection.

Early on, Brother Lawrence was assigned kitchen duty, a work to which he had a natural aversion. But having decided to do everything for the love of God, he prayerfully went about his duties and for 15 years “found great ease in doing things” there. Later, Lawrence was given the task of cobbling shoes, likely because he was crippled in one leg. He enjoyed this work but said that he remained ready to leave the work for whatever task he was assigned. His only desire was to find joy in doing little things for the love of God.

By his own testimony, Brother Lawrence spent the last 40 years of his life in the practice of the presence of God—that is, in silent and intimate conversation with Him. A plain, blunt man with a rough exterior, unlearned and living in total obscurity, daily performing the most menial tasks, he became known and respected by high and low alike. His life was a shining example of holiness. He had a frank, open manner that inspired confidence and candor.

Many sought to learn the source of his Christlike spirit. They found his wisdom practical, unadorned, and to the point, yet profound and beautifully broad in viewpoint. His classic work, The Practice of the Presence of God, is actually a compilation of letters, conversations, and spirtual maxims, much of it recorded and preserved by those who knew him. He died in 1691, aged 80 years.



The Practice of thePresence of God is a book of collected teachings of Brother Lawrence compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort. 

The compilation includes 4 letters, 16 conversations and some spiritual maxims, kept by Brother Lawrence's interlocutors. 

The basic theme of the book is the development of an awareness of the presence of God.

The first conversation in the book recounts Brother Lawrence's conversion to Christianity when he was 18 years old. 


The text attempts to explain Lawrence's method of acquiring the presence of God. A summary of his approach can be gleaned from the following passages. 

"That he had always been governed by love, without selfish views; and that having resolved to make the love of GOD the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method. That he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of GOD, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts."[1] "That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty."







YouTubeAudio: The Praqctice of the Presence of God: Full Audio Book: [Click Here]








Sunday, 18 December 2016

THOMAS A KEMPIS AND "THE IMITATION OF CHRIST"

2016-51  Thomas A Kempis and "The Imitation of Christ"




Thomas A Kempis [1380-1471] , a medieval monk, priest and writer, was born at the Lower Rhine town of Kempen, Germany, about A.D. 1380. His surname was Hemerken, Kleverlandish for little hammer. His father John was a blacksmith and his mother Gertrude was a schoolmistress.
In 1392, Thomas followed his brother, Jan, to Deventer, in order to attend the noted Latin school there. While attending this school, Thomas encountered the Brethren of the Common Life, followers of Gerard Groote's Modern Devotion. He attended school in Deventer from 1392 to 1399.
After leaving school, Thomas went to the nearby town of Zwolle to visit his brother again, after Jan had become the prior of the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes there. Thomas himself entered Mount St. Agnes in 1406. He was not ordained a priest, however, until almost a decade later. He became a prolific copyist and writer. Thomas received Holy Orders in 1413 and was made sub-prior of the monastery in 1429.
Thomas spent his time between devotional exercises, composition, and copying. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound in Biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament.
As subprior he was charged with instructing novices, and in that capacity wrote four booklets between 1420 and 1427, later collected and named after the title of the first chapter of the first booklet: The Imitation of Christ. Thomas More said it was one of the three books everybody ought to own.


Imitatio Christi (Imitation of Christ), a devotional book that, with the exception of the Bible, has been considered the most influential work in Christian literature.

Remarkable for its simple language and style, it emphasizes the spiritual rather than the materialistic life, affirms the rewards of being Christ-centred, and supports Communion as a means to strengthen faith. 

The writings of Thomas À Kempis offer possibly the best representation of the devotio moderna (a religious movement created by Gerhard Groote, founder of the Brethren of the Common Life) that made religion intelligible and practicable for the “modern” attitude arising in the Netherlands at the end of the 14th century. Thomas stresses asceticism rather than mysticism, and moderate—not extreme—austerity. 

What follows is the first chapter of the I Book The Imitation of Christ:


The Imitation of Christ and the Contempt of All Vanities on Earth

He who follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord.[John 8:12] By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Christ surpasses all the teachings of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna.

Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? 

Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone. This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. 

It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides. Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing."[Eccles. 1:8] 

Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.





















Sunday, 11 December 2016

HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE: CANTHARIS


2016-50:  Homeopathic Medicine: Cantharis

"Cantharis is a homeopathic remedy obtained from the insect Lytta vesicatoria whose 
Spanish Fly or Bliater Beetle
common name is Spanish fly or Blister Beetle. This beetle lives on honeysuckle and olive trees in western Asia and southern Europe.
The Spanish fly produces a toxic substance called cantharidin. Cantharidin is a strong poison that primarily affects the urinary tract and causes burning pain and vomiting. Cantharidian is caustic and causes skin blistering. 

The homeopathic remedy Cantharis is primarily used to treat cystitis, which is inflammation of the urinary bladder because of infection or irritation. It is also used to treat burns and blisters. Spanish fly was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac (increases sexual desire). It was also used to remove warts, treat baldness, increase loss of fluids (acting as a diuretic), and for rheumatic problems (inflammation and degeneration of the joints).

Mental symptoms treated with cantharis

Homeopathy treats a person's whole being, mental and physical. The patient who needs cantharis can be confused and have odd ideas, may be maniacal and demonstrate raging fury or sexual frenzy, or may loose consciousness. The cantharis patient may be restless and excitable. He or she may be extremely thirsty but have difficulty swallowing. Also, the patient may have no appetite and a strong avoidance of food. Other mental problems that can be treated with cantharis include: excessive desire for sex (nymphomania), severe anxiety , screaming, querulousness (constant complaining), and insolence (being overbearing).

Physical symptoms treated with cantharis

The intense urge to urinate and burning pain are key symptoms for cantharis. Cantharis is indicated for the patient who experiences rapid and intense inflammation of the urinary system. There is lower abdominal and lower back pain. The severe burning pain associated with the urinary tract makes the patient afraid to urinate. There is a frequent and urgent need to urinate, however, only small amounts (drops) of urine are passed. The urine may contain blood. The patient may experience hydrophobia (fear of water) and, although extremely thirsty, cannot drink water or even tolerate seeing or hearing water. A severe, stabbing headache may be present and the patient may avoid bright light.
Cantharis is also used to treat burns or skin conditions that resemble burns. It is used for sunburn, blisters, skin eruptions, and insect bites. Symptoms associated with burns for which cantharis is indicated include blister formation, searing pain, and relief upon application of a cold compress. This remedy can relieve the pain associated with second or third degree burns. Cantharis is indicated for blisters that are burning and itching and feel better upon application of a cold compress."
[http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cantharis]


Dr James Tyler Kent: Lectures of Homeopathic Materia Medica: Cantharis
[Click Here]





YouTube Video:  Dr Misha Norland talks about the homeopathic remedy Cantharis [Click Here]






YouTube Video: Tips on using the homeopathic medicine Cantharis by Dr Todd Rowe [Click Here]








Sunday, 4 December 2016

HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE: CALENDULA OFFICINALIS

2016-49  Homeopathic Medicine:  Calendula Officinalis


Calendula Officinalis or Pot Marigold

The herb Calendula (botanical name Calendula officinalis) is also known as the pot marigold and forms the basis for the homeopathic remedy calendula. People have been using this herb since times immemorial to cure numerous health conditions that vary from skin disorders to cancer.


The dried petals of the calendula plant are used for medicinal purposes.  Calendula is usually applied topically, to the skin. 

Calendula tinctures, ointments, and washes are often applied to the skin to help burns, bruises, and cuts heal faster, and to fight the minor infections they cause. 

Calendula cream is also used to treat hemorrhoids.



To quote from Dr William Boericke: "A most remarkable healing agent, applied locally. Useful for open wounds, parts that will not heal, ulcers, etc. Promotes healthy granulations and rapid healing by first intention. Hemostatic after tooth extraction. Deafness. Catarrhal conditions. Neuroma. Constitutional tendency to erysipelas. Pain is excessive and out of all proportion to injury. Great disposition to take cold, especially in damp weather. Paralysis after apoplexy. Cancer, as an intercurrent remedy. Has remarkable power to produce local exudation and helps to make acrid discharge healthy and free." 


Dr Kent says: "In injuries, Calendula cannot be ignored, in cuts with laceration, surface or open injuries. Dilute Calendula used locally will keep the wound odourless, will reduce the amount of pus, and favour granulation in the very best possible manner, and thus it assists the surgeon in healing up surface wounds. Calendula is all the dressing you will need for open wounds and severe lacerations."



Materia Medica by Dr William Boericke : Calendula [Click Here]





YouTube Video: Homeopathic Medicine Calendula: Tips for Beginners by Dr Todd Rowe: [Click Here]









Sunday, 27 November 2016

ROBERT FROST: A PRAYER IN SPRING

2016-48  Robert Frost: A Prayer in Spring






Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

- Robert Frost

Robert Frost [1874-1963]



Introduction

The little poem, "A Prayer in Spring," is spoken in four stanzas, each composed of two rimed couplets. As the speaker prays to the Divine Beloved, he is also inviting his audience to become as delighted in "the springing of the year” as they do in the later harvest which happens in autumn—two seasons away from spring.

First Stanza: "Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day"

The speaker is addressing the All-Mighty Lord, requesting that the speaker and his fellow neighbors be afforded the foresight and the ability to appreciate the current season's qualities.
The speaker requests that they all might be able to take "pleasure in the flowers to-day." Additionally, he suggests that they refrain from putting their thoughts only on the coming "uncertain harvest."
As the farmers begin their spring planting and cultivation, they would naturally be looking forward to the ripe results with its benefits of food and money. The speaker, however, is urging them to contemplate with enjoyment the season dedicated to planting and tending.
After all, it is the season of new birth, a time when they begin their valuable work, and then continue that work of cultivation that later will result in the fine, necessary, and, hopefully, abundant harvest.
By calling the harvest "uncertain," the speaker lays his emphasis on the very much needed ability to live in the moment, instead of  looking to the future for enjoyment.
Constantly looking ahead to future possibilities, the human being loses the beauty of the current activities, and then there is the possibility of being disappointed in the future if the harvest does not result in all that quality produce.

Second Stanza: "Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white"

The speaker then dramatizes the qualities of spring that usually supply enjoyment as they happen: "the orchard white" refers to the budding flowers that will later provide the ripe fruit they will gather in fall.
However, the speaker wishes that his audience of fellow farmer will appreciate the beauty of those blooms now so they may take pleasure in them, even during the night time when they appear like "ghosts."
The speaker also requests from the Lord that the speaker and his fellow farmers be able to experience happiness with "the happy bees" that perform the important task of buzzing the blooms of the orchards, spreading the pollen that fosters the continued grow of fruit.
The speaker seeks from the Creator that the Divine may endow his fellows with these appreciative attitudes with powers of observation, which likely he seldom experiences seeing in them.

Third Stanza: "And make us happy in the darting bird"

The speaker prays for them all to be "happy in the darting bird": a humming bird that seems to move like a "meteor" as it "thrusts in with needle bill, / And off a blossom in mid air stands still."
Because he speaker has felt such delight in observing those sights, he now he is seeking assistance from the Lord to encourage his compatriots of relatives, neighbors, and friends to have to ability to discern joy and experience pleasure that those natural spring time delights offer.

Fourth Stanza: "For this is love and nothing else is love"

Finally, the speaker puts forth his reason for requesting of the Divine that He tap the minds and even the hearts of his fellows: this speaker firmly believes that "this is love and nothing else is love."
The speaker feels strongly that there are many aspects of life that are not understood well by the human heart and mind, which means they simply have to be left only to God. However, the simple pleasures of spring are completely understandable and free for everyone to experience.
Those pleasures of each season cost nothing and are given freely to everyone. They offer much enjoyment to each human observer, and this speaker wants to urge his fellows to feel the same joy and love he has experienced as he has observed those seasonal qualities.



YouTube Video: Robert Frost "A Prayer in Spring" [Click Here]









Sunday, 20 November 2016

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: LINES WRITTEN IN EARLY SPRING

2016-47  William Wordsworth: Lines Written in Early Spring


William Wordsworth
Lines Written in Early Spring is a landscape poem that is largely concerned with nature. In it, the poet lounges underneath a tree in the wilderness, and contemplates the changes that society has undergone around him. As the poet sits there and muses on nature, its beauty, and its seamless existence, his thoughts turn briefly to the misery of man, and to the miseries that men have wrought on one another. 
Stunned by the cruelty and the callousness of the French Revolution, Wordsworth and other Romantic Poets wrote primarily to try and take back the world from the brink that it had been pushed to during the so-called age of enlightenment. Lines Written in Early Spring was one such poem.





Lines Written in Early Spring

Related Poem Content Details

   
 I heard a thousand blended notes, 
     While in a grove I sate reclined, 
     In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts 
     Bring sad thoughts to the mind. 




To her fair works did Nature link 
The human soul that through me ran; 
And much it grieved my heart to think 
What man has made of man. 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower, 
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; 
And ’tis my faith that every flower 
Enjoys the air it breathes. 

The birds around me hopped and played, 
Their thoughts I cannot measure:— 
But the least motion which they made 
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. 

The budding twigs spread out their fan, 
To catch the breezy air; 
And I must think, do all I can, 
That there was pleasure there. 

     If this belief from heaven be sent, 
     If such be Nature’s holy plan, 
     Have I not reason to lament 
     What man has made of man?



Lines Written in Early Spring  Analysis

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

Wordsworth has a renowned reputation as the poet of nature. In his body of work, Nature assumes a personality, an almost divine spirit that permeates all objects. To be close to nature, Wordsworth philosophized, was to be close to God; and while there were other poems of nature that were prevalent throughout the Romantic era, it is Wordsworth whom springs most readily to mind.
In the first quatrain, the divinity of Nature occurs in the phrase ‘a thousand blended notes’, implying an almost-pervasive presence of the natural, something that is akin to the omnipotence shown by God.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

The second quatrain moves briefly away from Nature to reminisce on the misery that other humans have caused each other since time immemorial. The poet, however, takes a moment to state that Nature is linked to humanity through the very idea of a soul; that Nature’s soul is not that different from humanity, and that, although it has been forgotten by the rest of the world, it is man’s natural state to be close to Nature. This was one of Wordsworth’s principle philosophies: that it was man’s innate state to be close to nature.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

In this quatrain, the presence of nature as a living thing strikes again, this time in the movement verbs used – ‘trailed’, for the periwinkle; ‘breathes’ for the flowers. Throughout Lines Written in Early Spring, Wordsworth does his best to create the idea of a living, breathing world that is only a fraction removed from humanity.


The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

Once more, the presence of movement draws stark contrast with the immobile poet – it is nature that draws the reader’s attention, so much has been said about it that it renders the speaker-poet nearly a non-entity. He has no presence in the poem; no thoughts, no personality, no ideas. His world is subsumed by the stronger one of nature.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Wordsworth ends the poem with the same lament: Have I not reason to lament what man has made of man?’ Throughout the poem, there was the attempt by Nature to heal the injured soul of the poet-speaker; near the end, despite the best efforts of Nature herself, the poet-speaker’s spirits are still melancholy and low thus negating the healing effect that Wordsworth claimed nature possessed. It ends on a somber; the world of nature, untouched by the miseries of humanity, continues on while the human soul, bound in its rigid cage of mortality and reason, is left behind to experience the misery of the human world.