Lent Reflection day 21
The twenty first chapter of Unseen Warfare addresses the subject of the senses, and how we are to have control over them, in order that we might love God above all the material things this world puts before us: You too can do it in the following way. When to your outer senses there is presented some physical object, which they either see, or hear, or smell, or taste, or touch,—separate in your mind what is sensory and material in the object from that part, which comes from the creative divine Spirit; think how impossible it is for its being and all it contains to come from itself, but that all in it is the work of God, Whose invisible power gives it its being, its good qualities, beauty and wise structure, this power to act on others and this capacity to receive influences from them, and everything good there is in it. Then transfer such thoughts to all other visible things, and rejoice in your heart that the one God is the origin and cause of such varied, such great and marvelous perfections, manifested in His creatures—that He contains in Himself all possible perfections, and that these perfections, seen in His creatures, are no other than a weak reflection and shadow of the boundless perfections of God. Exercise your mind in such thoughts at the sight of every creature, and you will get accustomed to looking at visible things, without your attention dwelling solely on their external aspect, but penetrating within them to their divine content, to their unseen and hidden beauty, thus revealed to the mind. If you do this, the external side of things, attractive to your own sensory side, will escape your attention and feeling, leaving no trace, and only their inner content will impress itself on your mind, evoking and feeding its spiritual contemplations and inciting you to praise the Lord.
In other words, we don’t address the issue of the senses by simply avoiding sensory stimulation, but we place all created things in the context of creation, in all things giving thanks to the Creator. The book goes into a long and beneficial series of prayers that can be used when we encounter certain sensory stimuli. I’ll quote just two of them:
If you hear a pleasant voice or a harmony of voices and singing, turn your mind to God, and say: ‘Harmony of harmonies, O my Lord! How I rejoice in Thy boundless perfections, all blending in Thee in transubstantial harmony; thence are they reflected in the hosts of Angels in the heavens, and in the countless creatures here below; this is the symphony of all, perfect beyond imagining!’ And: “O my Lord, when will my hour come to hear with the ears of my heart Thy most sweet voice, saying: My peace I give unto Thee—peace from passions! For your voice is sweet”, as the bride sings in the Song of Songs (Song of Songs 2:14).
Again, when you eat or drink, reflect that it is God Who gives all food a taste which pleases us. So, delighting in Him alone, say: ‘ Rejoice, O my soul, for, although you can find no satisfaction, delight or comfort in anything outside God, you can know Him and cleave to Him, and can find every delight in Him alone, as David invites, saying: “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 33:9), the truth of which Solomon testifies, saying: “His fruit was sweet in my mouth” (Song of Songs ii. 3).
So much stimuli assails our senses every day, brothers and sisters! It’s difficult to escape it. I’ve noticed that my dentist’s, doctor’s, and auto dealership’s waiting rooms all have TVs now, blaring away with ridiculous daytime programming. How do we escape? Unseen Warfare, written to those in monasteries and for laypeople from long ago when life was not constantly accompanied by screens, has a solution for us today: we must use all sensory stimulation to turn our minds to God and thank Him for all He has given us.
See you in Church!