On purifying the interior powers of the soul

Consider first, that as this spiritual conception and birth of Christ is to be perfected in our interior, so in order to dispose ourselves effectually for so great a happiness, and that it may continue with us into life everlasting, by our abiding always in Christ, and Christ’s abiding always in us, we must be ever jealous of the purity of the interior powers of the soul. ‘All the glory of the king’s daughter (the Christian soul) is within,’ Ps. xliv.; there is to be the residence of the Lord of glory; the beauty of the interior is to attract him thither; and this beauty depends upon keeping these inward powers of the soul in a proper state of purity. See then, Christians, if you desire to have Christ with you, that you take proper care:

– 1. To purify your understanding from all its errors, false opinions, and affected ignorances, by obliging it to open its eyes to the light of divine truths, in the exercise of meditation and mental prayer; 2. To purify your memory from all its impertinent amusements, distractions, and evagations, by accustoming it to the remembrance of God, and a recollection of thought; 3. To purify your will from all its disorderly affections, by fixing your heart upon solid and eternal goods, but especially upon your sovereign good, which is God himself. Thus shall your whole souls be agreeable to him.

Consider 2ndly, that one of the greatest enemies to this interior purity, (which is so necessary to bring Christ into our souls, and to fix him there,) is that unhappy dissipation of mind, in which many Christians pass their days, always thinking, but very seldom thinking on anything to the purpose. Alas! ’tis too true that the minds of the generality of men are a constant thoroughfare of vain amusements, of empty, idle, impertinent thoughts, succeeding one another all the day long, and leaving little or no room for God, or the things of God and the soul, to come in, or to make any lasting impression. Thus the inward castle is left quite unguarded, and the enemy has free access to come and rifle, and even murder the soul at pleasure, by suggesting a variety of criminal thoughts, which are admitted without resistance, through the supine carelessness and licentiousness of the mind; whilst on the other hand, the divine grace is shut out from such souls, by their whole attention being engaged by these toys and trifles; so that when God would come, and would visit them, they are not at home for him, but are going gadding abroad after other impertinences. See, my soul, if this be not thy case; and if it be, seek a remedy without delay, or there will be no room for Christ in thee. Now, the only remedy is a recollection of spirit, and an attention to God in all thy ordinary actions and employments.

Consider 3rdly, that if it be so necessary, in order to conceive and to bring forth Christ in thy interior, to maintain the purity of thy mind, by recollection of thought, it must be no less necessary to maintain also the purity of thy heart, by banishing from thence all disorderly affections; for these are no less apt to disqualify the soul for this spiritual conception and birth of Christ in her; they are no less unclean and disagreeable in his eyes, and no less opposite to his reign. Neither can the purity of the mind and of the thought be maintained without the purity of the affection and of the heart, for the mind and the thought are generally bent upon such objects as the heart affects – we think most upon what we love most; and therefore if the affections of our heart are impure, our thoughts will also be impure; for where our treasure is, there both our hearts and our thoughts will be. Now that love alone is pure, which makes God its treasure; and all such affections are impure as take off the heart from God, and make it seek its treasure in something that is not God, or which at least divides the heart between God and the creature. And these are the disorderly affections that must be banished in order to dispose the soul for Christ.

Conclude to examine well, and to set thy interior in order, particularly with regard to these two branches of purity, viz.: the purity of the mind and the purity of the heart. For Christ will not come to be spiritually born in any soul, or to make his abode in any soul where he is not allowed to be sole master both of the mind and of the heart. Therefore the mind must be set free from the servitude of useless thoughts and impertinent amusements, and the heart from the servitude of misplaced affections, and every fond, sensual, worldly, or distracting love, to make place for the birth of Christ, and his reign in the soul. The soul that desires to have Christ with her, must endeavour to be like the spouse in the canticles, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Dissipation of thought, and all disorderly affections, bring such company into the soul as the Son of God will not endure.

— A meditation by Bishop Challoner.

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