Chapter 24: Judgment and Punishment for Sins or The 5 P’s
“The [one] who habitually exercises patience goes through a wholesome purgatory while still alive”
I have a weakness for alliterations, especially when the letter “P” is involved. Inspired by the above quote from today’s chapter, I have gleaned 5 ‘Advent with A Kempis’ Lessons that begin with the letter “P” from the last 23 blog entries. I know it’s cheesy, but I happened to have a “P” lying around and since it’s Christmas Eve, I thought I’d have some fun with it.
“The [one] who habitually exercises patience goes through a wholesome purgatory while still alive.”
Avoiding procrastination, practicing patience, praying in tongues and cleansing the soul with the priceless pearl all contribute to what Kempis calls a “wholesome purgation.” This inward purification prepares us for the coming presence of our Lord. Does this mean I should spend Christmas Eve weeping and speaking in tongues? Maybe, but probably not. Rather, these lessons encourage me to practice patience and avoid procrastination while incorporating the spiritual disciplines of glossolalia and holy tears into my prayer practice, knowing that these disciplines are working on me in ways I can only begin to fathom. These disciplines are purging and purifying my soul and preparing me to fully embrace the wonderful Mystery of the Incarnation.
“Someone once said: Take a stand at the very beginning; it is much too late to apply medicines after the illness has grown worse because of long delays.” (Kempis, XIII)
The temptation to procrastinate is worth paying attention to. It might be saying something to us that we need to hear, but if we continue to blithely give into its power, we fail to learn from it. This is why Kempis says, “Confront him at his first knock.” In some cases, we might learn that we need to crush the temptation to procrastinate as Our Lady of Guadalupe crushes the serpent. In other cases, we might need to learn that we really do have what it takes to get our work done, even though it sometimes feels like we have only the time, energy and resources to complete a fraction of our work. We can learn from the Hanukkah miracle and believe that our energy and resources can multiply through the power of Ha Shem. Just as the lamp oil lasted seven extra days, so can our limited energy empower us to complete far more work than we thought possible.
“Be patient in bearing the imperfections and weaknesses of others, no matter what they may be, just as others have to put up with your faults.” (Kempis, XVI)
In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha is asked, “What is it that you’ve learned?” He answers, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“Patience,” for St. Augustine, “is the companion of wisdom.” And if patience is a lamp, Tertullian sees “hope” as one that’s lit.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience,” said the transcendentalist.
The patron saint of writers advised, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”
The Priceless Pearl
“Humbly pray to the Lord for the spirit of repentance, and say with the Prophet: Feed me with the bread of tears and give me tears to drink in full measure.” (XXI)
In the Midrash, after the Fall, God gave Adam and Eve a “priceless pearl” from heaven that would help alleviate the sorrow that they felt and were bound to feel again in their broken world. With it, they watered the earth for the first time. And they passed it on to their descendants as a precious inheritance. This “priceless pearl” from heaven is ours for the asking. So, in order to cleanse my soul and alleviate my sorrow, I join Kempis in his prayer to be fed with the bread of tears.
Pray in Tongues
“While enduring these afflictions he takes himself to prayer with sighs and groans.” (XII)
During times of trial and waiting, Kempis maintains, God is inviting us into deeper intimacy with the One “without whom we can do nothing.” I believe there are many spiritual tools at our disposal that help us plumb the depths of God’s love for us. Though it may make me and others uncomfortable (and I do not recommend practicing it in public), the gift of glossolalia has served as an effective tool in my own spiritual growth and in enduring afflictions.
So purgation through avoiding procrastination, practicing patience, praying in tongues and praying for the priceless pearl? These seem a little forced, like I was trying to think of lessons that began with “P” so that I could justify taking silly pictures of myself with a golden letter I found.
But you know what? I’ve done a pretty damn good job being consistent with these blogs this Advent season and there’s no fault in keeping it fun and enjoyable for myself, right?
Well, Kempis would probably disagree. But he’s kind of a party pooper anyway.
Even so, these are five disciplines that Kempis has reminded me to focus on during this season, along with apatheia.
And I wonder if apatheia is inviting me to soon detach from these daily blog reflections on Kempis’ Imitation…