Friday, 16 May 2014

The Abiding Presence Of The Holy Ghost in the Soul, by Bede Jarrett, O.P. part 25. Piety.


1. Besides our intelligence and will we have other faculties that go by a diversity of names; sometimes they are called the emotions, sometimes the passions, sometimes they are alluded to as the sentimental side of our nature; but by whatever name we may happen to call them, it is clear that they represent just those movements of our being which are not really rational in themselves, though they can be controlled by the reason. It is simplest to divide them into two classes and to realize that they lie just on the borderline between spirit and matter, partly of soul, partly of body. These two classes are arranged according as the emotion attracts or repels man. The repelled emotions are fear, anger, hatred, etc.; the attracted are love, desire, joy, etc. This gift of piety enables even the emotions to be made responsive to God. It is always the notion of some perfect instrument to be made harmonious that perhaps most clearly shows us the work of the Holy Spirit in the gifts of God, some perfect instrument, which needs to be so nicely at tuned that its every string shall give out a distinct note, and shall require the least movement from the fingers of God’s right hand to make its immediate response. Here, then, we have first to record the fact that the purpose of this gift is to make the emotions or passions so refined, so perfectly strung, that at once the slightest pressure of the Divine instinct moves them to turn their love, desire, joy, towards God, finding in Him the satisfaction of their inmost heart.

2. Piety, in its Latin significance (and here in theology, of course, we get almost all our terms through the Latin tongue), means the filial spirit of reverence towards parents. Virgil gives to the hero of his Roman epic the repeated title of pius, because he wishes always to emphasize Æneas’ devotion to his aged father. Hence it is clear that what is primarily intended here is that we should be quickly conscious of the Fatherhood of God. The mediæval mystics, especially our homely English ones like Richard Rolle of Hampole, and Mother Julianna of Norwich, curiously enough were fond of talking about the Motherhood of God in order to bring out the protective and devoted side of God’s care for us; of course God surpasses both a mother’s and father’s love in His ineffable love for us. But then it is just that sweetness of soul in its attitude towards God, that this gift produces in me a readiness to perceive His love in every turn of fortune, and to discover His gracious pity in His treatment of my life. It requires a divine indwelling of the Spirit of God to effect this in my soul, for though I may be by nature easily moved to affection, prompt to see and profit by every opening for friendship, yet I must, no less, have a difficulty in turning this into my religious life without God’s movement in my soul.

3. Perhaps the most unmistakable result of this is in the general difference between Catholic and non-Catholic nations, in their ideas of religion. Even if one takes a non-Catholic nation at its best and a Catholic nation at its worst, the gulf between them is enormous, for at its lowest the religion of the Catholic nation will be attractive at least with its joy, and the non-Catholic repellent with its gloom. There is a certain hardness about all other denominations of Christianity, a certain restrained attitude of awe towards God, which though admirable in itself, is perfectly hateful when it is made the dominant note in religion. Better joyous superstition than gloomy correctness of worship; better, far better, to find happy children who have little respect, and much comradeship, towards their parents, than neat and quiet children who are in silent awe of their parents. It is, then, to develop this side of religion that the gift of piety is given. The result then is a sweetness, a gracefulness, a natural lovingness towards God and all holy persons and things, as opposed to a gloomy, respectable, awkward, self-conscious hardness towards our Father in Heaven. Clever, trained people have most to be on their guard, for the intellectual activities of the soul are apt to crowd out the gentler, simpler side of character.