Johannes Baptist Metz on poverty of spirit

‘In poverty of spirit we learn to accept ourselves as beings who do not belong to ourselves. It is not a virtue that one “acquires”; as such, it could easily turn into a personal possession that would challenge our authentic poverty. We truly “possess” this radical poverty only when we forget ourselves and look the other way. As Jesus put it: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God” (Lk. 9:62). To look back for reassurance is to try to acquire possession and full control over this virtue, which amounts to losing it.

Poverty can never be isolated from the roots of existence and laid hold of. It is thoroughgoing interiority. It is the concentrated commitment of all our capabilities and powers. It cannot be viewed abstractly; it must involve total personal dedication. Like truth, it must be lived (cf. 1 Jn. 1:16) from the depth of our heart, where our existence is unified and were our act of self-acceptance is unified and harmonized with our conscious presence to Being.

The fulfilled ones are the ones who dare to forget themselves and offer up their heart. “The one who loves his or her life loses it, and the one who hates his or her life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn. 12:25). To be able to surrender oneself and become “poor” is, in biblical theology, to be with God, to find one’s hidden nature in God; in short, it is “heaven”.

To stick to oneself and to serve one’s own interests is to be damned; it is “hell.” Here we discover, only too late, that the tabernacle of self is empty and barren. For we can only find ourselves and truly love ourselves through the poverty of an immolated heart’.

– Johannes Baptist Metz, Poverty of Spirit (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1998), 31–2.

PT Forsyth, a report on his birthday

Last evening, a few, including Bertha, Jessie and myself, gathered at an undisclosed location in Tillydron Terrace, Old Aberdeen, to celebrate P.T. Forsyth’s birthday, which falls today. (Peter had been back in town to catch up with old friends, and to give an address on Goethe at the Newtondee Village Gentleman’s Club.) At an unarranged point in the evening, some considerable time after dinner, the birthday boy motioned his desire to make a short speech. In addition to being mostly polite, none of the guests at the party were in any mood to argue, and that despite knowing that ‘short’ speeches were not in their friends’ usual repertoire. It was by now late, many of the conversations had degenerated to talk about sports and favourite movies, and most of the guests were semi-sozzled (Laphroaig had been on special this week at Sainsbury’s.) But ever feeling up for the challenge, and most probably to quell the conversations about that most outré of sports, curling, he arose from his burgundy velvet chair, the one with the studded arms, adjusted his perfectly-tied size 16 white cotton bow tie (none of this polyester ‘one-size-fits-all’ arrangement), and spoke of how ‘Life begins as a problem, but when it ends well it ends as a faith: a great problem, therefore a great faith’. Already by this point, some of the guests hoped-against-hope that he’d finished his wee oration on life and, feeling confused but anticipating that they may be able to send a message to the beloved speaker that it might be a good thing if he started to wrap things up, began that body rustle one does to get ready for a few brief jokes and the raising of a glass to the tune of ‘Co-latha-breith sona, Peter’. But he went on:

Ordinary experience gives us the first half, it sets a problem; gives us the first half, it sets a problem; but the second half, the answer of faith to us, comes from God’s revelation of grace … To overcome the world and master life takes all the deep resources of Eternal God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘When the Gospel is duly preached it is the Trinity that preaches’ … [Life] offers a task rather than an enjoyment. The soul must be achieved. The kingdom is above all a gift, but it is also a conquest. We are here to fight the good fight rather than to have a good time. The people to whom life is only an excursion, a picnic, a stroll, or a game grow more and more outlanders in society. Most people—more people than ever, at least—feel life’s problem to-day more sharply than ever before. Indeed, some feel nothing else. The trouble with so many serious minds among us is that life is no more than a problem to them. They are loaded with the riddle of it. They are victims of the age of uncertainty and unrest. It is not work that kills, but such worry. What does the life of worry mean but that life is felt to be much more full of problems than of power? … The problem is disquieting, anxious, and even tragic. It is not simply interesting and musing: not like a chess problem, or a mathematical, or a literary, to be solved at arm’s length by our wits for the pleasure of the thing. We are in no Kriegspiel, but in the real thing always. It touches the nerve. It is a problem, it is not a riddle. It has become a war. It involves the realities of life, the things most dear, solemn, searching, commanding. Darkness—is it the cloud of night or the mist of dawn? Disaster—is it there to burn up life, or to temper and anneal it; to crush life, or to rouse in us the spirit that overcomes it? Death —does it explode life or expand it, stifle it or solve it? Life is not a seductive puzzle; it is a tragic battle for existence, for power, for eternal life … To grasp the real, deep tragedy of life is enough to unhinge any mind which does not find God’s solution of it in the central tragedy of the Cross and its redemption. But life’s tragic problem to-day is not merely discussed in salons by philosophers and their circles, nor by petits-raítres and amateurs of thought; it lays hold of almost every man who takes things seriously at all. And especially it takes religion seriously and gets beyond the Cheeryble brothers. Life is not a riddle for a tea-party, but a battle of blood. It is certainly not a matter of snug optimism in philosophy, nor of mauve religion in fiction’.

At this point, Kentigerna said to Somerled, her husband and co-host, ‘Right. Perhaps we ought to attend to the cake and then call it a night. Big day tomorrow at the curling club’. Peter looked sad and, after a permission-giving glance from Bertha and Jessie, headed towards the cake table for the song and ceremonial cutting, not knowing that his words would continue to unsettle the soul, and the nerve, of not a few on the morrow.

Some other guests sat still, almost paralysed, somewhat confused but certainly unhinged by what they had heard. These were brooding on the possibility that somehow and in some way, even in this little loungeroom in Tillydron Terrace, the wind of God had blown through.

For the record, I very much enjoyed the Carob Cake. It had rich, fudgy frosting.

‘travelling along the border’: a wee reflection on Luke 17.11–19

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17.11–19)

Reading this text this week, I was struck by v. 11, and particularly by the way that the NIV translates the verse using the word ‘border’ (the NJB uses the word ‘borderlands’), a word that recalls that while Jesus moves through life facing a particular direction, i.e., towards Jerusalem, he spends most of his time living along and between borders, in the borderlands of what we today call the ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’, between borders of race, of gender, of acceptability, of confusion, of life and death. This is his ‘ordinary’ location and time. And even though the NT wastes little ink in describing what Jesus did when he wasn’t doing anything, his very poster of interruptability speaks something, I think, of how he conceived of ordinariness.

And then there are the interruptions themselves (most of the events recorded in the Gospels are simply interruptions!): in this case ten men who had leprosy:

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. (vv. 12–14).

So the show is over – we’re back to normal time again – a time constituted by sight and blindness, by that rare eye which sees the hand of God at work and gives thanks for what it sees, and by that which takes even the spectacular interruptions for granted, granting them no place to reassess the ordinary times between the moments in which the powers of heaven and of hell break in. For ordinary time is time for patient hope and faithful listening. It is time for seeing what is invisible.

Even before I came to Luke 17, I had already been thinking about the way that the Church has its own calendar, its own sense of time, a time inimitable because grounded in the one unique narrative of Jesus Christ and enfleshed in the body with which he has so incontrovertibly and enduringly bound himself, and which contrasts so powerfully with the civic metanarrative by which we are constantly tempted to have our lives constrained.

My friend Ross Langmead once wrote a song called ‘Lord, let me see’ (you can hear it here), wherein we are given a glimpse into what ‘ordinary time’ might be about, and he encourages us to see, to hear, to care, to learn and to love, not only in the ‘special’ or ‘rare’ moments which break into our otherwise ‘normal’ existence, but in the ordinary:

1. Lord, let me see, see more and more:
See the beauty of a person, not the colour of the skin,
See the faces of the homeless with no-one to take them in,
See discouragement because she’ll never win,
See the face of our Lord in the pain.
Lord, let me see.

2. Lord, let me hear, hear more and more:
Hear the sounds of great rejoicing, hear a person barely sigh,
Hear the ring of truth, and hollowness of those who live a lie,
Hear the wail of starving people who will die,
Hear the voice of our Lord in the cry.
Lord, let me hear.

3. Lord, let me care, care more and more:
Care for those who feel the loneliness, for those who have no say,
Care for friends who have no job and find it hard to face the day,
Care for those with whom we sing and work and pray;
And in care, Jesus Christ will be found.
Lord, let me care.

4. Lord, let me learn, learn more and more:
Learn that what I know is just a speck of what there is to know,
Learn from listening to my neighbour when I’d rather speak and go,
Learn that as we live in faith and trust we grow;
Learn to see, hear and care, with our Lord.
Lord, let me learn.

5. Lord, let me love, love more and more:
Love the loveless and the fragile, help them be what they can be,
Love the way that I would like them to be looking after me,
For to know you is to love them and be free;
And in love Jesus Christ will be found.
Lord, let me love.

A prayer by Rubem Alves seems a good way to bring this post to an end:

O God, just as the disciples heard Christ’s words of promise and began to eat the bread and drink the wine in the suffering of a long remembrance and in the joy of a hope, grant that we may hear your words, spoken in each thing of everyday affairs.

Coffee, on our table in the morning;
the simple gesture of opening a door to go out, free;
the shouts of children in the parks;
a familiar song, sung by an unfamiliar face;
a friendly tree that has not yet been cut down.

May simple things speak to us of your mercy, and tell us that life can be good. And may these sacramental gifts make us remember those who do not receive them,

who have their lives cut, every day, in the bread absent
from the table;
in the door of the prison, the hospital, the welfare home
that does not open;
in the sad child, feet without shoes, eyes without hope;
in the war hymns that glorify death;
in the deserts where once there was life.

Christ was also sacrificed. And may we learn that we participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ when we participate in the suffering of his little ones. Amen.


‘To be alive then’, by R.S. Thomas

To be alive then
was to be aware how necessary
prayer was and impossible.

The philosophers had done
their work well, demolishing
proofs we never believed in.

We were drifting in space-
time, in touch with what we had
left and could not return to.

We rehearsed the excuses
for the deficiencies of love’s
kingdom, avoiding our eyebeams.

Beset, as we were,
with science’s signposts, we whimpered
to no purpose that we were lost.

We are here still. What
is survival’s relationship
with meaning? The answer once

was the bone’s music at the lips
of time. We are incinerating
them both now in the mind’s crematorium.

– R.S. Thomas, Counterpoint (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1990), 44.

Thomas Merton on ‘one’s daily immersion in “reality”‘

“Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality. This experience is taken seriously. It is one’s daily immersion in ‘reality.’ One’s orientation to the rest of the world. One’s way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he still counts! My own experience has been that renunciation of this self-hypnosis, of this participation in the unquiet universal trance, is no sacrifice to reality at all. To ‘fall behind’ in this sense is to get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up, to breathe and to see a little more clearly.”

– Thomas Merton. Faith and Violence (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 151.

[HT: Kim Fabricius]

How the elderly bear witness

Aging-3‘Perhaps it is time to revive the long Christian tradition that regarded old age as a theatre of virtue and courage. Ageing was imagined as a kind of final transaction, whereby the elderly show what the good life looks like, having reached the point where they can drop all pretence and start telling the story of their lives honestly.

But the elderly also bear witness to what good death looks like: how to face the completion of one’s life with courage and faith. Those gathered around in loving community express their humble gratitude for these lives well lived, and urge the dying not to waver in their faith as they sprint toward their final prize’. – Scott Stephens, ‘Aged care in purgatory‘. (HT: Ben Myers)


Life is the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. Life is what the Son knows in the Spirit with the Father. Life is what the Father knows with the Son and the Spirit. Life is what the Spirit knows with the Father and the Son. Life is the Triune God, and whatever the Triune God chooses to create and love and redeem. Creaturely life – unlike God’s – is never life in itself, but is always given life, borrowed life, graced life. And, creaturely life is only life when is exists from, and corresponds to, the social life – which is Life – of the Triune family.

Creaturely life is not like a soap opera; it has an ending, albeit one that is constituted by a new beginning, or series of new beginnings. Life is a ‘proper story’ which although it leaves at least some parts of the narrative open ended, and not fully resolved, because it is authored by one who does not have to live in the same time as the story but has freely chosen to, and because this author is unsatisfied to leave the story where it is at, or to let it be merely the victim of all that has gone before, it leads to somewhere else, even to a conclusion, however conceived. And because life’s author is life’s God – not any god but one who has in and through the life of one particular Jew shown unbridled interest in all creation, and primarily in creation’s priesthood – the story leads to life with God, life in God, life in life; it leads to life, and that without rivals. This is the conclusion of life, the new beginning. Such life satisfies and helps to confer meaning on the chapters and plots and subplots we encounter in the now – and maybe then too – on the way. Only when history reaches its time of new beginning – a time already begun in the resurrection from the dead of the aforementioned Jew – will the meaning of things be unveiled. God alone can make satisfying meaning out of history. God alone does make satisfying meaning out of history.

So, time for another cuppa …

On Bastard Philosophies, Stolen Generations, and the Forgiveness of Sins

Writing of Bacon, Locke and Scottish common sense philosophy (uncritically lumped together), Nevin writes: ‘The general character of this bastard philosophy is, that it affects to measure all things, both on earth and in heaven, by the categories of the common abstract understanding, as it stands related to simply to the world of time and sense’. – John W. Nevin, Human Freedom and a Plea for Philosophy: Two Essays (Mercersburg: P. A. Rice, 1850), 42. Cited in Alan P. F. Sell, Testimony and Tradition: Studies in Reformed and Dissenting Thought (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 173.

This leads me to draw attention to a recent reflection by Aussie theologian, Frank Rees, on what it means for the new democratically-elected Australian government to say sorry for past and not-so-past sins, and why ‘sorry is not the hardest word: indeed, it will be a word of life’. Frank’s post is a timely reminder of how ‘bastard philosophies’ don’t bring life, but only death; in this case that death bred of fear, misunderstanding (of the issues, of people, and of the gospel itself) and mistrust, the wounds of which will probably take decades, if not centuries, to heal.

In a related post, Rory suggests that the apology to Australia’s stolen generation should be made on our behalf by the Governor General rather than by the Prime Minister. He writes: ‘He is the head of government in Australia, and he holds a position that is above party politics. Whatever you think about the virtues or otherwise of the current government, surely addressing this part of our history is bigger than who won the last election. I can only think that an apology coming from the GG would better speak for the nation, and it would allow the apology to loose itself from any particular party’.

I think I like this (Are there any good reasons – constitutional or otherwise – for why this cannot, or should not, happen?). But regardless of from whose vicarious lips the apology comes, one hopes that it may also model and encourage the way of life and a softening of heart (and a less bastardly-informed philosophy) for other people, governments and organisations. One hopes … [I confess to having no such confidence in human nature of itself to bring about such a change of heart. This too must be a work of the Spirit].

Frank’s and Rory’s posts reminded me of Stevan Weine’s book, When History Is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a volume which includes some powerful documentary of those closely affected by the tragedies attending the recent conflict in the Balkans. One such testimony witnesses:

I remember Bosnia as a beautiful and peaceful country. We all lived together. Before the war, it was unnecessary to know if your neighbor was Serb, Croat, Muslim or Jew. We looked only at what kind of person you were. We were all friends. But now I think it is like a kind of earthquake. A huge catastrophe. After this war nothing will be the same. People will live, but I think they will not live together. they will not share the same bread like before. Maybe they will be neighbors, but I think the close relationship will not exist any more. Because the Bosnian people, especially the Muslim people, had a bad experience, partly as a result of our attitude. (p. 13)

In his brilliant treatment on forgiveness, The Cleansing of the Memories, Geoffrey Bingham reminds us that ‘memory has always been a problem with mankind. It may seem a curious thing that man can be troubled by his past, as also delighted by it. Some memories bring a renewal of shock and trauma when they come unbidden’. Bingham proceeds to speak of ‘God’s holy amnesia’, of ‘the Divine forgetfulness’ or ‘the Divine non–remembering’. ‘God refuses to remember our sins! If then God refuses to remember our sins, why should we choose remember them?’ While our consciences never let anyone off the hook, Bingham writes, ‘God–through Christ–has so purged our sins, that they have been worked out to exhaustion and extinction, and all their power of guilt, penalty and pollution has been erased. In other words there are–effectively –no sins to remember! God has not simply ignored our sins. He has destroyed them, forever! … Of course–from time to time–we will remember the sins we once did, but we must not make them back into substantial things. God has denuded them of substance, of guilt, power and pollution. If they come to us in memory, then in faith in the Cross we should say, ‘Whilst you represent the sins I committed, you have no substance. God has emptied you, purified you, and taken away the guilt which accompanied you. You are wraiths, ghosts of the past come back to haunt me via the accusations of Satan and his hosts, but you have no substance’. [See The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World by Miroslav Volf, and my post here on Redeeming Bitterness – An Interview with Miroslav Volf].

I have just finished reading Wilhelm Herrmann’s Systematic Theology (Dogmatik), which I recommend. At one point, he notes that ‘It is the realization of the impossibility of friendship with God that creates in us the religious consciousness of guilt. Obviously we cannot be quit of this burden of guilt by any effort for our own betterment; for the sense of guilt before God will paralyse our courage to start a new life’. To all who have tried to be quit of the burden of guilt by their own efforts, Herrmann’s words sound out as a prophetic rebuke and caution against the futility and arrogance of such resolve. This is one of the reasons why in the final chapter of his The Wondrous Cross (reviewed here), Steve Holmes suggests that the message of penal substitution remains an important one to teach us about God’s love, about forgiveness and about justice – for both victims and perpetrators. He writes:

Penal substitution will, of course, teach us something about justice and guilt. It will teach us first that justice cannot and will not ever be set aside. Not that there can never be forgiveness – of course not – the point of the story is precisely that there can be, and is: while crimes cannot be forgotten, yet at the same time they must also be forgiven. Cases of child abuse, where the abuser has used shaming mechanisms so successfully that none of his victims ever speak; cases of corruption, where the politician has cynically sold favours and hidden her misdeeds well enough never to be discovered; cases of war crimes, where the military officer has callously committed certain deeds, feeling secure in the knowledge that they will not come to light: these are the types of cases and situations where penal substitution becomes an important story to tell.

For the victims in such situations, the story of penal substitution holds the promise that there is justice in this world, even for the worst crimes, or the best-hidden atrocities …

For the perpetrators in these situations, the story of penal substitution holds out the invitation to stop trying to escape their crimes by their own efforts, and to find, if they dare to face up with honesty and repentance to what they have done, full and free forgiveness in Christ.

In a recent paper I heard, Alan Torrance bore witness to the truth that it is only by virtue of Christ’s vicarious humanity that we discover the two forms of liberation that are intrinsic to atonement: first, liberation as victimisers for our sin of victimisation; and second, liberation as victims from the bitterness and hatred that attend the sense of irreversible injustice, the hurt of damaged lives, irretrievably lost opportunities, and all the other evils that result from sin. There is liberation here, he said, because precisely at the point where we cannot forgive our enemies the Gospel suggests that our sole representative, the sole priest of our confession, does what we cannot do – he stands in and forgives our victimisers for us and in our place as the One on behalf of the many – and then invites us to participate in the very forgiveness he has realised vicariously on our behalf. On these grounds we are not only permitted to forgive but obliged and indeed commanded to forgive others. Alan said, ‘Where we are not entitled to forgive, the crucified Rabbi is. And where we are unable to forgive, we are given to participate in his once-and-for-all forgiveness and to live our lives in that light and from that centre – not least in the political realm’. He cited his dad (JB Torrance), who defined worship as ‘the gift of participating by the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father’. The consequence of any ethic, therefore, that warrants the name ‘Christian’ must be conceived in parallel terms, namely as the gift of participating by the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. ‘Forgiveness’, Alan stressed, ‘is the gift of participating in a triune event of forgiveness. In an act of forgiveness, the Father sends the Son, who, by the Spirit, forgives as God but also, by the Spirit, as the eschatos Adam on behalf of humanity. The mandate to forgive must be understood in this light.’

The ‘apology’ that will be made when the federal government next sits is ultimately possible because in Christ, God has already confessed humanity’s sins and forgiven all parties. To say ‘sorry’ is to take up Christ’s invitation to us to ‘participate in that forgiveness that he has realised vicariously on our behalf’. It is, as Alan presses, to participate in a triune event of forgiveness in which the Father sends the Son, who, by the Spirit, forgives. And, it is to participate by the Spirit, in the action of the last Adam on behalf of humanity, to the joy of the Father. Whether or not the Australian Government (or Governor-General), those of the Stolen Generation (and their families/nations), and all Aussies (even Faris QC) know that this is what it means to say ‘Sorry’ and ‘Receive the forgiveness of sins’ does not undermine the reality that the very human actions of confession and forgiveness are at the heart of what it means to be imago dei, and to participate in the ministry of the Triune God in our maimed and besmirched world.

‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility’ (Eph 2:14).

‘See to it’, therefore, ‘that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him’. (Col 2:8-15)

Italo Calvino on swimming against the stream of time

‘I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it; though all my actions are bent on erasing the consequences of previous actions and though I manage to achieve appreciable results in this erasure, enough to open my heart to hopes of immediate relief, I must, however, bear in mind that my every move to erase previous events provokes a rain of new events, which complicate the situation worse than before and which I will then, in their turn, have to try to erase. Therefore I must calculate carefully every move so as to achieve the maximum of erasure with the minimum of recomplication’. – Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Question: If you could read only one book by Calvino, which would it be, and why?

Kierkegaard on staking all upon one throw

Over the last week or so (and probably for the next week or so), I have set myself the task of reading Søren Kierkegaard’s works. My impressions of the great Pascal of the North thus far are, to say the least, quite mixed. That said, like with Barth, when he’s right Kierkegaard’s so right, and when he’s wrong … well that’s perhaps for another post.

Yesterday I read with great profit and encouragement Fear and Trembling. Today, The Sickness Unto Death. Here’s a wee paragraph that sent me away for a think … and a strong coffee:

Doubtless most men live with far too little consciousness of themselves to have a conception of what consistency is; that is to say, they do not exist qua spirit. Their lives (either with a certain childish and lovable naïveté or in sheer banality) consist in some act or another, some ccurrence, this or that; and then they do something good, then in turn something wrong, and then it begins all over again; now they are in despair, for an afternoon, perhaps for three weeks, but then they are jovial again, and then again they are a whole day in despair. They take a hand in the game of life as it were, but they never have the experience of staking all upon one throw, never attain the conception of an infinite self-consistency. Therefore among themselves their talk is always about the particular, particular deeds, particular sins.

I Die Alive

O life! what lets thee from a quick decease ?
O death! what draws thee from a present prey?
My feast is done, my soul would be at ease,
My grace is said, O death! come take away.

I live, but such a life as ever dies;
I die, but such a death as never ends;
My death to end my dying life denies,
And life my loving death no whit amends.

Thus still I die, yet still I do remain;
My living death by dying life is fed;
Grace more than nature keeps my heart alive,
Whose idle hopes and vain desires are dead.

Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live;
Not where I love, but where I am, I die;
The life I wish must future glory give,
The death I feel in present dangers lie.

Robert Southwell, ‘I Die Alive’, in The Poetical Works of the Rev. Robert Southwell (London: John Russell Smith, 1856), 68.

Geoffrey Bingham has written a great little book opening up the idea of love as true living. It can be purchased or downloaded from here.