The Benedictus for Lauds yesterday was Qui odit animam suam in hoc mundo, in vitam æternam custodit eam – ‘Anyone who hates his soul in this world, will save it for eternal life’.
Now at first sight that’s a perfectly reasonable statement, with excellent scriptural authority : but on pondering it I did wonder whether there was, perhaps, just a little bit of a problem with it.
After all : if I hate the soul which God has given me, then I am in some way hating Him, by hating His gift to me . . . which can’t be right.
Ah : but how about if what I mean is not that I must hate my soul, but that I must hate its attachments to this world, so that I save it for eternal life ?
That sounds better : except that surely many of the attractions we find in this world, which attach us to it – the beauty of the world, and the joy it gives us – are also gifts from God ?
I’m sorry : but I can’t find it in myself to hate any of the good things which God has given me, or hate myself for appreciating them. He has given me the opportunity to share a very old bottle of Ch. Yquem with friends, and to see dawn break over Mt Everest : I have delighted in the amazing colour of the Red Sea seen from 35,000 feet (it really is almost purple !), and the wonderful laughter of my Godson. Am I really expected to hate all those gifts of His ? I don’t think so.
I think that the answer is that whilst appreciation is good, indeed virtuous, allowing that appreciation to become an attachment is not, because it distracts us from our ultimate aim. It’s a bit, I suppose, like going to the theatre : it’s a wonderful evening, but we have to remember, always, that however wonderful it is, it’s only an illusion, and that at the end of the show we have homes to go to.
So, the gifts of God we enjoy here are intended, in an odd way, not to attract us to the earth where we find them, but rather to focus our minds on our home in Heaven where, when we get there, instead of seeing God’s love and generosity ‘through a glass darkly’ as we do in His earthly gifts, we shall see it clearly, ‘face to face’, in joys which now we cannot even imagine, but which He will then reveal to us . . . a revelation which, in due course, I wish you all.