Measuring My Days

February 2008
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“It is a great mistake to confuse the person (the spiritual and hidden self, united with God) and the ego, the exterior, empirical self, the psychological individuality who forms a kind of mask for the inner and hidden self.  This outer self is nothing but an evanescent shadow.  Its biography and its existence both end together at death.  Of the inmost self, there is neither biography nor end.  The outward self can “have” much, “enjoy” much, “accomplish” much, but in the end all its possessions, joys and accomplishments are nothing, and the outer self is , itself, nothing:  a shadow, a garment that is cast off and consumed by decay”.  Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation


              February stands tiptoe these days, hesitantly peeping over the horizon for spring.  The winterish late January snows and frigid days now become intermittent with sunny optimistic warmer hints of resurrection along these byways of the Massanutten’s ridges.  Already the migrants are headed northward and stopping enroute to refuel at my feeders.  Narcissus and their kin have been sending up feelers.  I, too, am anxious to come out of hibernation and reinvigorate all the garden tools and muscles to put them back in circulation.  “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious! “ (Shakespeare).

        These days I have been revisiting the themes of hope and love in sermons by James Stewart, Scotland’s pre-eminent chaplain to the Queen a half century ago. From a sermon he titled “The Strong Name of the Trinity” comes this wonderful true story:

          “Some years ago a little company of Russian peasants met for worship, knowing full well that their gathering was illegal, and that if they were discovered they would be haled before the dread tribunal and would be liable to incur the ruthless penalty of the law.  While their gathering was proceeding, suddenly the door was flung open, and there entered an agent of the secret police, followed by a body of his men.  “Take these people’s names,” he commanded; and their names were written down, thirty of them.  They were warned to wait their summons, and then the agent turned to go.  But one old man in the little group stopped him at the door and said, “There is one name you have not got.”  The officer looked at him in surprise.  “I assure you that you are mistaken,” he retorted…. ”Believe me,” said the old peasant, “there is one name you have not got.”  “Well, we’ll prove it,” exclaimed the agent impatiently.  “we’ll count again!”  And they did – verified every name…and recounted the number.  There were thirty.  “You see?”  cried the official of police, “I have them all, every one….But still the peasant persisted.  “There is one name you have not got.”  “Who is it, then?” demanded the other. “Speak out – who is it?”  “The Lord Jesus Christ,” was the answer.  “He is here.”  “Ah,” sneered the officer, “that is a different matter.”  The pestilential Christians, wasting his precious time with their trumped up story, a senseless, maudlin sham!  But that old peasant was right.  Jesus, in point of fact, was there.  “Where two are three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst.”  And it is the Holy Spirit alone who does that.  “He will make Me real to you,”  said Jesus.  “He will validate Me to your experience.  He will take this Gospel of Mine out of history, out of the eternities, and plant it deeply in your hearts and ratify it redeemingly to your souls.”  It is the Holy Spirit who makes us certain of Christ’s presence with us now, and of the love of God the Father, benevolent Administrator of the universe.