Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand.
This book is akin to having a portable spiritual director. I wish I had happened upon it earlier in life. Pius XII considered Von Hildebrand to be a 20th century doctor of the church and a read of this book brings you to understand why.
It’s really wondrous the gifts that some people have. The author is able to elucidate so many subtleties concerning spiritual living and remaining on the mark. He tunes the reader’s perspectives. SJOC in Flame wrote “Not everyone capable of hewing the wood knows how to carve the statue, nor does everyone able to carve know how to perfect and polish the work”. Von Hildebrand does the latter wondrously well in this book, methinks.
It’s a fatso; 500 large pages of normal font. Takes a while to kind of ‘lectio’ oneself through it, that’s for sure. But definitely worthwhile!
Here are some scattered extracts from the work that may give you a flavor of it:
From a Chapter on Holy Sobriety --
“Suppose someone outspokenly draws our attention to certain defects we possess. Instead of gratefully accepting his criticism, we feel sorely misjudged and consider our endurance of the injustice we have suffered as a heroic sacrifice. We appear to ourselves as an exemplary Christian, a silent martyr who for the sake of Christ’s love refrains from remonstrating against a wrong. Yet all this is mere illusion: the truth is that we fail to perceive the real invitation of God offered by the criticism, and delight in a lofty pose which lacks any real foundation.”
From a Chapter on Holy Meekness –
“True meekness is not a matter of outward demeanor only; it does not consist in the mere avoidance of angry outbreaks or other manifestations of an unbridled temper.
Certainly it implies all that – but it implies it as the manifestation of a charitable inward attitude. A man who is inwardly seething with anger and full of enmity towards his fellow but, controlling of himself through will power, succeeds in keeping up an appearance of friendliness, is not therefore meek in the sense here reserved for the term. To disavow within ourselves any inchoate impulse of anger, to be intensely aware of its ugly disharmony, to have shattered it by the contact of Christ before the need could even arise to curb it – this is what constitutes true meekness.” (Aiyee! – bolding mine)
“In the meek man a spiritual principle has stamped the whole man with its imprint and conferred its radiant bloom upon him.”
From a Chapter on Holy Mercy –
“For if I am truly merciful I shall derive the principle of my conduct towards others from that ultimate love which is above all concerned precisely with the good of the person in question – regardless of whether it is easy or hard for my own nature to insist upon my right. This – and not pliancy or tractability as such – is the essential mark of mercy, that, by virtue of my participation in the love of God, I relinquish my nature as the central frame of reference and shatter the narrow perspective in which I would see things and situations merely with my own eyes.
And this transformation implies that the instinctive tendencies of my nature, whether in themselves more possessive or more yielding, will no longer play any decisive part in the shaping of my conduct.
He who is guided by true mercy, then, will yield his right on the supposition that he does not, by so doing, bring moral harm to his debtor. Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son more closely, and you will immediately discover that the doctrine underlying it is by no means that of indiscriminate forgiveness. To be sure, the father hastens to welcome his spendthrift son, but he does so in response to the youngster’s repentant homecoming. The presupposition, in other words, is that the disaster his son has brought upon himself has evoked in him a sense of guilt and resolution to change his ways.
On the contrary, had he been supported by his father after having eaten up his fortune, he would – far from having remorse and undergoing conversion – only have been consolidated in his sinful life. Unlike those who are compassionate from weakness, the truly merciful will never, as it were, interfere with the divine government of men by substituting mercy for justice regardless of the state of mind of those who are meant to benefit by such a course.”
From a Chapter on True Consciousness –
“Only the Christian can be truly conscious in the full sense of the term. For he alone has a true vision of reality proper and a true conception of God and the supernatural realm, from which everything derives its ultimate meaning. All those who have not yet risen to the lumen Christi are (in this higher and qualified sense of the term) still unconscious; they are still asleep. The measure in which someone lives in the light of Christian revelation, maintains it continually present, and keeps in continuous awareness of it at all moments, determines the degree of his real consciousness.”
From a Chapter on True Simplicity –
“All multiplicity and grandeur of the material realm, the quantitative vastness of the material cosmos, the immense variety of the objects composing it, the solar systems, even the ineffable manifoldness of living things, fail to represent God in so high a sense as does a single spiritual person.”
From a Chapter on True Freedom –
“The Christian who has received the gratuitous gift of absolute truth must beware of all illegitimate and imperceptible influences. He must not let anything pass before he has confronted it with God and His holy truth..” (Italics mine in the above instance.)
From a Chapter on Blessed are the Peacemakers –
“How are we to reconcile our character as a warrior of Christ, who in St.Paul’s words shall proclaim the divine truth opportune, importune, and intrepidly oppose or even combat evil, with our love for peace and our eagerness to avoid all strife?
In order to solve this difficulty, we must first of all understand that an outward truce with evil – that is to say, a passive toleration of all objective wrongs, an attitude of silence and of letting things pass which in some circumstances has the appearance of consent and sometimes actually results in consent – can never derive fro a true sense of peace. For the real value of peace resides in its being an outgrowth of love and an expression of genuine harmony.
The unison we pretend to establish with evil – The attitude of coolly allowing a power of wrong to unfold – neither rests on actual love nor reflects true harmony. Rather it is a product of weakness and involves a defilement with evil, a participation in the wrongdoer’s guilt. Through our feeble submission to evil we merely increase the disharmony that lies in evil, in all wrong that offends God: a discord deeper than one implied in the sheer face of conflict, however fierce.
It is, on the contrary, our struggle against evil that must be recognized as a necessary consequence of true love of peace, in as much as it also means a struggle against discord and an endeavor to limit its empire.”
p.s. The SJOC quote I inserted above was for inebriating any pennsy sculptors who might have served themselves merely tea on New Year’s Eve. I also quoted a passage using the term ‘unbridled’ for inebriating any equestriennes in the pennsywoods.
p.p.s. Of course, it may well be that substantial fizz always exists in that far off realm and no inebriation is needed – in fact perhaps substantially less. But we’ll see if any have yet awakened from festivity or slumber or post-festivity slumbering. Rip Van Winkle slumbered for twenty years they say, after having partied down (or up?).
I am unfamiliar with the jargon … is it: cowgirl up and party down? I have to be careful, I realize ….. lest a needle create an explosion.
New year's greetings to you, Pop-pop; I was about to PM you because you'd been quiet lately.
The book looks good. I'm busy re-reading another rather thick book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy which you might like---somewhere here I previously posted the link to Archbishop Chaput's review of it.
For the record, I'm not a real tea-totaler, I just think beer and ale taste gross.I also think soda is yuck, too---the carbonation always hurts my mouth. That's about the extent of my liquid refreshment quirks.
Thanks for taking the time to share that. The first few sections remind me of The Screwtape Letters, the subtle ways we armor ourselves against real transformation. And the last part speaks to me of the abortion issue.
In fact, I thought of you while reading the chapter on the Peacemakers! And because of your anti-abortion agenda. That section would be well worth a read ,imo,by you and anyone else involved in such a social justice concern.
Von Hildebrand sets forth the proper stance and attitude that warriors for Christ should have and need maintain. He also mentions consideration of what and how long the battle may entail. Christ mentioned the building of a tower and the intial sober considrations that need to be considered in planning. It is an excellent chapter.
Peace to you always, Shasha.
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