December 10, 2011

A Voice Calling Out for Conversion Driven Theology

The Precursor demanded conversion of life because he wanted the Truth to be welcomed in the hearts of men.   Those who set themselves on the pathway toward spiritual maturity with contrite spirits and vigilant hope in the Lord know this conversion.  This is a turning away from darkness and shame.  It is a turning towards the light, towards complete authenticity, to real simplicity of heart.  The voice of the Lord converses which such a soul in his conscience, setting afire his inner sanctuary, guiding him deeper and deeper into his own illuminated humanity.

Duplicity is too painful to maintain before this truth.  One is driven by the need to rectify his life, to straighten out the crooked pathways of his heart, and to make restitution to those he has harmed no matter the price or humiliation.  This conversion turns us away from selfishness and sobers us about the games we play.  Lust for things is renounced and the drive to satisfy bloated appetites is checked.  Tears of regret flow over time wasted on silly diversions and squandered opportunities.  Gratitude for the time that remains springs from the heart.  One renews his commitment to the sacred bonds in which the mystery of one's life unfolds.   How short and fragile the gift of life is - there is not a moment to waste if we are to really love those God has entrusted to us!

Conversion flows from and leads to prayer.  One struck to the heart by his own sinfulness and need for mercy prostrates before the mystery of God's overwhelming holiness to humbly accept his place.  Contrition filled adoration blankets the heart.  Such a soul discovers the heartbreaking beauty of silence where God holds his Divine Breath waiting to be recognized by a cry of the heart.   Such silence is the wilderness where the Precursor's cry still echoes: this is the silence of Advent.  The Christian who has entered deep into this silence is ready to profoundly welcome the Word made flesh, to encounter Christ on a deeper level.

William of St. Thierry, disciple of St. Bernard, describes a deep theology which is not at the disposal of the thinker, but rather a gift for which one prepares with this whole life.  It is a gift enjoyed by the spiritually mature who have freed themselves of childish attachments, anxieties, and idleness.  Such a person has learned to distinguish God from the works of God, and realizes that as noble and necessary as the works of God are, they do not deserve the devotion of one's heart.  The heart is made for God, to be given to Him directly or through those He entrusts to us.  The spiritually mature live by such love and because they live in this way, they are prepared for a deep kind of prayer, a profound kind of theology, a contemplation that takes up the heights and depths of our humanity, continually transforming all of our activity from one horizon to the other, unifying thoughts and affections into an ever deeper existence of love -- an existence rooted in an ever deeper encounter with the Lord:

The Spirit of Life at once infuses himself by way of love and gives life to everything.  He lends his assistance to human weakness in prayer, in meditation, and in study.  Suddenly the memory becomes wisdom and tastes the good things of the Lord.  At the same moment, the thoughts to which the good things of God give rise are brought to the intellect to be formed into affections.  And then worthy thoughts are entertained of God, if indeed the word "thought" is correct.  There is only awareness of God's abundant sweetness.  This awareness leads to exultation, jubilation and a true encounter with the Lord in goodness on the part of the man who has sought him in simplicity of heart.  
The Golden Epistle, #249-250


  1. Dr. Lilles, excellent post! You might enjoy the homily I preached on yesterday's gospel:

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  2. "The heart is made for God, to be given to Him directly..." It is made for God in that it is empty? And this emptiness is to be given to Him? Are there other ways in which the heart is "made for God"? Other ways of giving one's heart to Him directly- ways that are not about emptiness? Rejoicing in Him, I suppose.? And I suppose one's heart is made to be full of Him. That phrase "to be given to Him directly" seems to have so much behind it, but I'm not sure what.

  3. Read C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves, the last chapter on charity. Really illuminating. In particular, what he says about the "Need-love" of Him and each other.