Pleasure in spiritual things

Daily Reading for September 18 • Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest, 1882

The Holy Communion ought not, and (as I have said) cannot, stand alone in your spiritual life. As you are in the rest of your spiritual life, such you will be there, and such will It be to you then. As you are capable of, or take pleasure in, spiritual things at other times, so will it be with you then; as you love your Saviour at other times, of such sort will your love for Him be then; as you can raise your thoughts at other times to God, so could you then; as God is habitually present to your mind now, in that degree would be the lasting benefits of the Holy Communion then.

In too many there is but a faint commencement of the spiritual life. They seem to do things mechanically, as a duty, not for the pleasure they find in them. Thus, they read the Psalms and Lessons because they have been taught to do so, and this is right; but sometimes the Psalms are read so fast so as evidently not to give time to dwell upon them. People do not seem to think upon them, or dwell on any verse, or make them their own words to God, or listen to Him speaking to them, or apply their meaning to themselves as one who had pleasure in them or took interest in what he was reading. Then the portion of the Bible which is read is not taken up again, as a book that is loved; not because there are other duties to do (which may often be the case) but because there is no wish to read it. All this implies a want of realising spiritual things.

Then some have little or no pleasure, I fear, in thinking upon God. This is, in part, that they do not like thinking at all. This is very natural. It is an effort, and costs trouble. It is an effort to think upon Him Who is unseen, it is an effort to think at all, much more upon Him.

I would give you some rules.

1. Never prefer anything to reading God’s Word, nor read it quickly because you wish to go to other things. (This would be disrespectful of it and of God.) If you feel yourself inclined to read faster than usual, force yourself to go back to what you have read.

2. Say some little prayer, before you begin reading, and try to recollect yourself, Whose book you are taking in hand, that they are God’s words to you, things which the Angels desire to look into, and about your own Eternal life.

3. In reading, read as if you were listening to God speaking to your soul: and use the Psalms when they are either prayer or praise, as your own prayer or praise to God, not as reading the Psalms only.

4. Try to keep God in your thoughts through the day, recalling from time to time that you are in His Sight, wishing to receive things, pleasant or painful, as being from Him, to do things for Him. Even in such a little thing as taking medicine, pray when you take it that it may do you good: so as to the fresh air, you should receive it, as God’s gift refreshing you; when you say grace at your meals, you should try while taking them, to recollect that the food is His gift to you, and to take it from His Hands: and so as to sleep. So when anything happens, which you especially like, try to unite with your first feeling of joy, an act of thanksgiving to God for it. On the other hand, take anything unpleasant, as His doing, and so patiently, looking to Him. When you are engaged in your daily duties, try not only to do them well, but so as to please Him; in a word, try to put in practice, “I have set God always before me,” and then that other part will be fulfilled too, “He is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall.”

5. Lift up your thoughts to God at intervals. The Hours will help you to this. You should try to use one first, as best suits; then when you find that you habitually recollect this, another; the prayers need not be long, only try to fix on your mind, so as not only to use a prayer then, but to meditate on your Lord and Saviour. People use too short ejaculations, i.e. prayers which are, as it were, darted up to God, such of those in the Liturgy, “Lord, have mercy upon us,” or if you are under temptation, “O God, make speed to save me,” or in beginning any duty or work, “Lord help me,” only, however short it is, try to lift up your thoughts earnestly to your Blessed Saviour at God’s Right Hand.

6. Then during the times you are alone, try to meditate for a time upon God. Thus, when you are out of doors, you can generally see the blue sky, and you have heard many things of it connected with God:—how our Lord has ascended thither to prepare a place for us; how God’s mercy encompasses all his Works, as the sky does the earth: how holy Angels and the spirits of the just dwell there: how its purity is an emblem of God’s Holiness, or again, of the brightness of faith. And so on, as to other things, everything may recall to you the things of God.

From A Letter of Advice (published by permission) given primarily as a Preparation for First Communion, but useful for Communicants generally by the Reverend Edward Bouverie Pusey, D.D., edited by H.S. Holland (London: Walter Smith, 1883).

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