Saturday, May 20, 2023

Quae Sursum Sunt Sapite!

"Taste the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth." Thus, as I see it, the translation of the Vulgate Colossians 3:2.

Igitur, si consurrexistis cum Christo: quæ sursum sunt quærite, ubi Christus est in dextera Dei sedens: quæ sursum sunt sapite, non quæ super terram.

The Imitation of Christ has a chapter in which the word sapio is used numerous times to get at the connection between wisdom and high tastes. Here is the Plinthos translation, then the Latin text.




BEHOLD, my God and my all! What more do I wish for; what greater happiness can I desire? O delicious and sweet word! But delicious and sweet only to him who loves God, and not the world or the things that are in the world.

My God and my all! These words are enough for him who understands, and for him who loves God it is a delight to repeat them often. For when You, my God, are present, all things are delightful; when You are absent, all things become loathsome. It is You Who give tranquility to the heart, great peace and festive joy. It is You Who make us think well of all things, and praise You in all things. Without You nothing can give pleasure for very long; for if anything is to be pleasing and tasty, Your grace and the seasoning of Your wisdom must be in it. To the one to whom you are delicious, what can be tasted not rightly? And, to the one who does not have a taste for You, what can please him?

But, the wise men of the world, the men who lust for the flesh, are wanting in Your wisdom, because in the world is found the utmost vanity, and in the flesh is death. But they who follow You by disdaining worldly things and mortifying the flesh are known to be truly wise, for they are transported from vanity to truth, from flesh to spirit. God is relished by such as these, and they turn whatever good is found in creatures to the praise of the Creator. But great -- yes, very great, indeed -- is the difference between the taste of the Creator and of the creature, of eternity and of time, of uncreated Light and of light that is reflected.

O Light eternal, surpassing all created brightness, flash forth the lightning from above and enlighten the inmost recesses of my heart. Cleanse, cheer, enlighten, and vivify my spirit with all its powers, that it may cleave to You in ecstasies of joy. Oh, when will that happy and wished-for hour come, that You may fill me with Your presence and become all in all to me? So long as this is not given me, my joy will not be complete.

The old man, alas, yet lives within me. He has not yet been entirely crucified; he is not yet entirely dead. He still lusts strongly against the spirit, and he will not leave the kingdom of my soul in peace. But You, Who can command the power of the sea and calm the tumult of its waves, arise and help me. Scatter the nations that delight in war; crush them in Your sight. Show forth I beg of You, Your wonderful works and let Your right hand be glorified, because for me there is no other hope or refuge except in You, O Lord, my God.


CAPUT XXXIV. Quod amanti sapit Deus super omnia et in omnibus

1. Ecce, Deus meus et omnia. Quid volo amplius, et quid felicius desiderare possum? O sapidum et dulce verbum! sed amanti Verbum, non mundum, nec ea, quae in mundo sunt. Deus meus et omnia. Intellegenti satis dictum est, et saepe repetere iucundum est amanti. Te siquidem praesente iucunda sunt omnia; te autem absente fastidiunt cuncta. Tu facis cor tranquillum et pacem magnam laetitiamque festivam. Tu facis bene sentire de omnibus et in omnibus te laudare, nec potest aliquid sine te diu placere; sed si debet gratum esse et bene sapere, oportet gratiam tuam adesse et condimento tuae sapientiae condiri.

2. Cui tu sapis, quid ei recte non sapiet? Et cui tu non sapis, quid ei ad iucunditatem esse poterit? Sed deficiunt in sapientia tua mundi sapientes, et qui carnem sapiunt: quia ibi plurima vanitas, et hic mors invenitur. Qui autem te per contemptum mundanorum et carnis mortificationem sequuntur, vere sapientes esse cognoscuntur: quia de vanitate ad veritatem, de carne ad spiritum transferuntur. Istis sapit Deus: et quidquid boni invenitur in creaturis, totum ad laudem referunt sui conditoris. Dissimilis tamen, et multum dissimilis sapor Creatoris et creaturae, aeternitatis et temporis, lucis increatae et lucis illuminatae.

3. O lux perpetua, cuncta creata transcendens lumina, fulgura coruscationem de sublimi penetrantem omnia cordis mei intima. Purifica, laetifica, clarifica et vivifica spiritum meum, cum suis potentiis ad inhaerendum tibi iubilosis excessibus. O quando veniet haec beata et desiderabilis hora, ut tua me saties praesentia et sis mihi omnia in omnibus? Quamdiu hoc datum non fuerit, nec plenum gaudium erit. Adhuc, pro dolor, vivit in me vetus homo, non est totus crucifixus, non est perfecte mortuus. Adhuc concupiscit fortiter contra spiritum, bella movet intestina, nec regnum animae patitur esse quietum.

4. Sed tu, qui dominaris potestati maris et motum fluctuum eius mitigas, exurge, adiuva me. Dissipa gentes, quae bella volunt; contere eas in virtute tua. Ostende, quaeso, magnalia tua, et glorificetur dextera tua: quia non est spes alia nec refugium mihi, nisi in te, Domine Deus meus.

This text is reminiscent of Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 Homily to the Swiss Bishops on the need to help the people of our time acquire a taste for God. Here is the relevant text.
...From the whole of this history of God, starting with Adam, we can conclude: God never fails.

Today too, he will find new ways to call men, and he wants to have us with him as his messengers and servants.

Precisely in our time we know very well how those who were invited first say "no". Indeed, Western Christianity, the new "first guests", now largely excuse themselves, they do not have time to come to the Lord. We know the churches that are ever more empty, seminaries continue to be empty, religious houses that are increasingly empty; we are familiar with all the forms in which this "no, I have other important things to do" is presented. And it distresses and upsets us to be witnesses of these excuses and refusals of the first guests, who in reality should know the importance of the invitation and should feel drawn in that direction.

What should we do?

First of all, we should ask ourselves: why is this happening?

In his Parable the Lord mentions two reasons: possessions and human relations, which involve people to the extent that they no longer feel the need for anything else to fill their time and therefore their interior existence.

St Gregory the Great in his explanation of this text sought to delve into it further and wondered: how can a man say "no" to the greatest thing that exists; that he has no time for what is most important; that he can lock himself into his own existence?

And he answers: in reality, they have never had an experience of God; they have never acquired a "taste" for God; they have never experienced how delightful it is to be "touched" by God! They lack this "contact" - and with it, the "taste for God". And only if we, so to speak, taste him, only then can we come to the banquet.

St Gregory cites the Psalm from which today's Communion Antiphon is taken: Taste, try it and see; taste and then you will see and be enlightened! Our task is to help people so they can taste the flavour for God anew.

In another homily, St Gregory the Great deepened further the same question and asked himself: how can it be that man does not even want to "taste" God?

And he responds: when man is entirely caught up in his own world, with material things, with what he can do, with all that is feasible and brings him success, with all that he can produce or understand by himself, then his capacity to perceive God weakens, the organ sensitive to God deteriorates, it becomes unable to perceive and sense, it no longer perceives the Divine, because the corresponding inner organ has withered, it has stopped developing.

When he overuses all the other organs, the empirical ones, it can happen that it is precisely the sense of God that suffers, that this organ dies, and man, as St Gregory says, no longer perceives God's gaze, to be looked at by him, the fact that his precious gaze touches me!

I maintain that St Gregory the Great has described exactly the situation of our time - in fact, his was an age very similar to ours. And the question still arises: what should we do?

I hold that the first thing to do is what the Lord tells us today in the First Reading, and which St Paul cries to us in God's Name: "Your attitude must be Christ's - Touto phroneite en hymin ho kai en Christo Iesou".

Learn to think as Christ thought, learn to think with him! And this thinking is not only the thinking of the mind, but also a thinking of the heart.

We learn Jesus Christ's sentiments when we learn to think with him and thus, when we learn to think also of his failure, of his passage through failure and of the growth of his love in failure.

If we enter into these sentiments of his, if we begin to practise thinking like him and with him, then joy for God is awakened within us, confident that he is the strongest; yes, we can say that love for him is reawakened within us. We feel how beautiful it is that he is there and that we can know him - that we know him in the face of Jesus Christ who suffered for us.

I think this is the first thing: that we ourselves enter into vital contact with God - with the Lord Jesus, the living God; that in us the organ directed to God be strengthened; that we bear within us a perception of his "exquisiteness".

This also gives life to our work, but we also run a risk: one can do much, many things in the ecclesiastical field, all for God..., and yet remain totally taken up with oneself, without encountering God. Work replaces faith, but then one becomes empty within.

I therefore believe that we must make an effort above all to listen to the Lord in prayer, in deep interior participation in the sacraments, in learning the sentiments of God in the faces and the suffering of others, in order to be infected by his joy, his zeal and his love, and to look at the world with him and starting from him.
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