Here is my sermon preached this morning. As I prayed and thought with the first reading, from the Book of Proverbs, the words “be attentive” made me remember having read that phrase mentioned in regard to the Lonergan Method in a book on Mystical Theology by Fr. William Johnston, S.J. I don’t think I know any more about the Lonergan Method than what I have mentioned in the sermon, but I think even using those key words I have mentioned can be useful for prayer and meditation in order to grow in our understanding of God’s love.
[Prov. 4:1-9 / Lk 8:16-21]
The beginning verses of the reading from the Book of Proverbs gives a way of looking at the reputation for holiness and humility seen in Sergius, the Russian Saint whom we commemorate today. In the first verse of the reading the word is followed shortly by the words, (Prov. 4:1) The first of these draws attention to the second. This phrase is part of a way of considering the Love of God called the Lonergan transcendental method.
It is called transcendental because it takes us out of ourselves when considering others.
It begins with the words, “Be Attentive” and continues: “Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, Be responsible.” Finally it reaches the climax “Be in love,” meaning “be in love with God”. (Cf. Wm. Johnston, Mystical Theology, Orbis, pp. 82-85)
If Saint Sergius had not been in love with God he could not have done the things that led to his being the National Saint of Russia.
The simple hermitage that Sergius built for himself in the forest at Zagorsk, near Moscow, the great Holy Trinity monastery.
That monastery became the focus of a religious and national revival against Tartar overlords who had dominated Russia for over a century. New strength was given to the Orthodox faith. Sergius in his lifetime became known throughout Russia for his holiness and humility. He died in 1392.
A story is told of Sergius’ humility. A man travelled a great distance to see Abbot Sergius. When he arrived at the Monastery he asked to meet the Holy Abbot. He was told that Sergius was outside working in the garden. Looking out the window he saw only an old man wearing a patched and dirty robe.
“Just a beggar”, he thought. Then the old Abbot came into the monastery.
“That couldn’t be the Saintly Sergius”, the traveler thought, so he sat and waited. A prince came into the room and made obeisance to the old man and sat with him talking. The traveler asked who that man was talking to the prince. When he learned that it was Sergius he felt great shame. He then went to Sergius to ask forgiveness for his erroneous thinking. Sergius absolved him and gave him a blessing. By his attentiveness he came to see the light of God’s love shown forth in Sergius. (Cf. Lk 8:16)
If you look attentively for God’s love, and look with love, you can see it!
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