Lucerna corporis tui est oculus tuus.
"The light of thy body is thine eye."
To-day, dear children, we commemorate the memory of N., that holy Servant of God, who, by his Christian life, showed forth, confessed and spread abroad, the praise and glory of Jesus Christ; not only by the good example and pattern which he set by his virtuous life and character, but also within; for his heart, mind and spirit, rested in true resignation and in the pure ground of his mortified senses, willing always to serve God diligently, and to please Him only. This, verily, was a truly religious and holy life.
Now, ye must notice that there are many, in these days, who are called religious and appear to be so, but who exert themselves to the utmost with wrong things. They submit to severe discipline, by means of which they hope, through grace, to become different from that which they are by nature. They fast, they watch, they pray and confess often; they receive the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, meditating on the highly exalted Sufferings of Christ, they do works of mercy, and often seek for absolution; or other exercises of that kind, whatever they may be. Yet, by means of all this discipline they are not changed, they waste their strength and power away from God, gaining no praise nor any benefit for their souls, but rather bringing themselves down thereby to hell. For they do not look into themselves, and do not learn to know their own hearts; and, when they ought to be advancing, they are losing ground. They think much of themselves, and yet they are nothing and are serving God heedlessly. They think they are seeking God, but they are not; and when they thus go on, living carelessly according to their undisciplined desires, allowing their imagination to be excited by their senses, none of their actions can make them any better. The older they grow and the longer they live thus, the more impatient they will be and unguarded against sin in word and deed; and this will be the case, too, with those who look for high places in the monasteries. This is the result of serving God after their own pleasure, and with ill-regulated desires. When they feel inclined to do good works, they devote themselves thereto, often beyond their power; at one time they will do one thing, at another time another; and then they imagine that the one helps them and the other hinders them. Thus they go carelessly from one exercise to another, imagining that all gratifies their natural desires; they are well pleased; but when they are not satisfied inwardly, they imaging that nothing is helpful to them. Thus they become inconstant, no discipline pleases them for long; for, however they may live, they will never reach their true ground; for, to whatever they may devote themselves in such an unskillful way, and however good their intentions may be, they will yet be deceived, although they allow themselves to imagine that God only is in all their thoughts. Who is there who wishes to serve the Evil Spirit? This is surely desired by none. It is not our wish; we will not have him for our master; and yet we do his will. For, as long as we serve God only in outward works, we have not begun to serve Him really in truth and with real devotion; for the right foundation of a perfect Christian life does not consist only of external works, though they are a help, but much more of good work in the heart, by which sin is avoided and virtue brought forth.
Again, I say, ye may find men in monasteries, who keep the strict rules of their Order by external deeds done in the body. There are men, too, in the world, who torment their bodies by watchings, fastings and other kinds of discipline; who give alms with open hands, but who do not keep the ground of their hearts, cleansing it from all sin. While they are doing all these great external works, they are angry, envious and proud. They slander their neighbours while they strive to gain a good report for themselves; and they do other such-like things, which show that they are in the bonds of the Evil Spirit. These men deceive themselves one with another. They imagine that they will be justified and saved by their outward works only; but this will never be the case in eternity. Such men may well be compared to images, which look like gold outside, but which are stone or wood within. Our Lord compares them in the Gospel to the sepulchers of the dead, which are beautiful outwardly, but within are full of dead men's bones. Therefore, I say: It is of no use for a man to fast, to pray and to do other religious works, unless his mind is cleansed and purified from all wickedness. It is seldom, alas, that man lives uprightly; and yet it is not so impossible, if he would only use a little care. That on which everything depends he will not attend to, while he hopes to obtain great blessedness from that on which nothing depends; so he has great difficulty and hard work, and seeks long for God, and yet seldom finds Him aright, and as He ought to be found. These are the sins which cause men so often to fail; they strive after impossibilities; and that which they might do, and which no one could hinder them from doing, that they will not do; for they have neither love nor liking for it, while they would gladly have that which is impossible. They set themselves to do that which they like or fancy, with uncontrolled love and desire, following the guidance of the outer man, and saying they act thus, because they do not know what they ought to do or to leave undone. They might soon find out, why they spike thus, if they would only strive to walk uprightly in the way of truth and righteousness. It does not arise from anything that they do no know; for then their consciences would not punish them for any neglect; they would be doing right, as far as they knew, whether it were much or little, and God would not require anything more of them; for, if He did, He would give them more knowledge.
Lastly, give heed to this, dear children. A man, who by grace desires to be other than he is by nature, must strive after that spirituality, which contains within itself the righteousness which must be the portion of every Christian man; for true righteousness demands true devotion. Now what is true devotion? Some people imagine that true devotion consists of sweet longings; and at times it may, but not always; for sometimes men naturally experience such sweetness, and thus many men err and are deceived. True devotion is a willing submission to the service of God; and a truly spiritual man will carefully examine his own heart, and search out all his thoughts, words and works, and all his life, learning thus to know his own faults. He can scarcely fail to discover something, whatever it may be; and if he desires to be freed from his fault, he must learn to acknowledge it; then follows repentance for the fault that he has acknowledged. Man must search diligently in order to find out how he can best free himself from his old life, destroy all vice in himself, and devote himself earnestly to the keeping of God's commands. These are not ordered alike for the clergy and for simple laymen; but more is required of the clergy than of the laity, and they must also be more strict. They must also take their part in ordinary life with the Holy Christian Church, and according to the observance of their Order or religious life. These things are more necessary than any amount of severe discipline and hardship, in fastings, vigils, labours, and so on, which are all like a sign-post pointing to progress in spirituality, but which are not in themselves true and real religion. Many men may, indeed, be found who exercise themselves therein, but who are, nevertheless, full of evil, self-willed, disobedient, proud, angry, and so on. God grant that we may all give ourselves to true devotion. Amen.