This morning’s journey has been quite interesting and this writing quite lengthy, given the necessary inserts, as I capture my thoughts from various sources explored in these early hours of meditation. Perhaps this writing was more for my own therapy than the inspiration for others?
I first began my readings from Colossians, a departure from my annual regimen, now in Jeremiah. As I neared the end of the book, I was struck by of the prayers of Epaphras, “who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (4:12 NIV).
What a powerful statement about this man’s love for others.
Then my contemporary friend, Richard Rohr, captures the desire for the last chapters of my life: “As you allow yourself to loosen your grip on the ego or bad forms of power, you will gradually see the inadequacy and weakness of mere domination and control. God will then teach you how to tighten your grip around the second world, which is the ever-purer motivation of love.” 1
The second world?
From there, the writings of a woman I have never met but one who has so impacted my life each morning for years, Jill Carattini: “We have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified.” 2
One would think that a 65 year old Christ follower, now 40 years into his journey, sincere in his desire to serve others, would not struggle with his position in Christ. Yet my prayers this a.m. found me wondering about the darkness that seems so much a part of who I am. I so desire to know Christ, to demonstrate Christ, yet at times seem so far from Him, as I wrestle in prayer, even for others.
One of my most admired of men, happened also to be the pivotal focus of Carattini’s morning devotional. “Shortly after the death of Blaise Pascal in 1662, a housekeeper was sorting through closets and clothing and happened to notice something sewn into Pascal’s coat. Beneath the cloth was a parchment and inside this was another faded piece of paper. In Pascal’s handwriting, on both the parchment and the paper were nearly the same words. Beside hand-drawn crosses, Pascal had carefully written:
The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement… From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire.
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob… The God of Jesus Christ… Your God will be my God.” 3
This partial quote from Paschal’s parchment so piqued my curiosity, that I “Googled” his biography, with all his credits for mathematical insights and early inventions, such as the calculator, yet hardly a line was given to the discovery of this parchment sewn into his cloak, carried next to his heart until his death at the early age of 39.
Virtually unmentioned in his biography were the statements captured by Carattini:
“More than 30 descriptive lines tell the story (unbeknownst to friends and family) of Pascal’s conversion to Christ. He is said to have been reading of the crucifixion when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the nearness of Christ. Pascal then meticulously transcribed the night of his conversion, his “night of fire,” as he called it thereafter, sewing it into his jacket where it would remain beside him until his death eight years later. Though the details of the story and the parchment were unknown to those around him, the change in his life could have scarcely gone unnoticed. Whatever else it marked, November 23, 1654 marked both death and life for Pascal. He reoriented all his activities (including his unparalleled work in the field of mathematics) to further serve a life of worship and service to God. He retired to the monastery at Port Royal and set to writing his Pensees, a collection of thoughts on life and theology.” 4
I then sought out the entirety of his parchment so as to corroborate her thoughts, here is “The Memorial”:
The year of grace 1654 Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr, and of others in the Martyrology. Eve of Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr and others. From about half past ten in the evening until half past midnight.
‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars. Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ. God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. ‘Thy God shall be my God.’ The world forgotten, and everything except God. He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels. Greatness of the human soul. ‘O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.’ Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have cut myself off from him. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters. ‘My God wilt thou forsake me?’ Let me not be cut off from him for ever! And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him. Let me never be cut off from him! He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel. Sweet and total renunciation. Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director. Everlasting joy in return for one day’s effort on earth. I will not forget thy word. Amen” 5
This lengthy entry, my friend, is the result of the mysterious collaborative work of the Holy Spirit available to all, when given the time and benefit of meditation. In one brief morning, three hours as I glance at the clock, He has taken me through centuries of thought, from the ancient Epaphras, to the contemporary writings of Rohr and Carattini. My faith now even more assured, that Christ’s work was sufficient for my sonship with God, and that my sanctification continues even amidst my darkness, with glorification promised.
So what is the practical benefit for the reader? The God of Abraham, Paschal, Rohr and Carattini is truly at work in our lives, honoring the desire to love Him and to serve others. One day, we will be free from this physical body that has “shunned him, denied him, crucified him,” and perhaps even today, a step closer to loosening our “grip on the ego or bad forms of power,” while gaining hold of “the second world, which is the ever-purer motivation of love.”
1 Rohr, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, p. 41
2 Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 5/20/2013.