Centuries of Meditations

Centuries of Meditations

By Reverend Friar Leonard Edward Schmidt, OFE
 
My purpose is to share with the reader the spiritual insights I received from reading “Centuries of Meditations” and to share what I have experienced on the path to felicity (happiness) with Thomas Traherne. The following has been gleaned from Centuries 2: 97-100 and Centuries 3: section 1.
 
When in the Kingdom of God, there is no possibility for man to sin in the presence of God, because no person can sin that sees the beauty of God in front of him and no person can sin against his own happiness. Right now we see only “His face in a glass” and therefore we are only living in a mirror like reality. Our goal at this point is to live and using our imagination, with this glory in our mind, be intent in our desires to reach our destiny and see His glory with our own eyes. We have the choice to sin or to be holy – but if we ponder our destiny and remember that we can be heirs – who would choose to sin? We are challenged to imagine as young children are able to imagine that in holding a doll, they are mothers. We adults should work in our lives, to imagine our life in Heaven which then lifts us to live a sublime and honorable life of holiness on earth. (Century 2: section 97)
 
Living with Heaven in mind “makes him sensible of the reality of Happiness: it feeds him with contentment and fills him with gratitude, it delivers him from the love of money which is the root of all evil, it causes him to reign over the perverse customs and opinions that are in the world.” (section 98)
 
Different philosophers claim that felicity can be found in honor, pleasure, riches, as well as the contempt of riches, honor and pleasure, in wisdom, in firm stability of mind, in contemplation or in action, in rest or in suffering or in victory and triumph. (section 99)
 
Today’s philosophers, like Albert Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre, find felicity in the realization that life is absurd. The action of the Greek God Sisyphus who is condemned by Zeus for a misdemeanor, is to roll a round boulder up a mountain and upon reaching the top he seems to fail and allows the rock to roll down. So, he has to go down and start all over again!
 
There is no stopping his action and he keeps repeating this action infinitely over and over and over again. That is his punishment for some misdemeanor. Life is sort of meaningless and therefore happiness is unattainable.
 
This section contrasts some of the positive attitudes towards where happiness can be found verses the negativity of those who believe it is unattainable. For those who seek it, it seems that it can be found in self-sufficiency, in virtues, in the right government of our passions and the ability to distinguish between true and false riches; between real and feigned honors; between clear and pure pleasures and those which are muddy and unwholesome. Contentment and rest arise from a full perception of infinite treasures (section100). In my opinion, ‘felicity’ is also an eternal experience. Regardless of where we find happiness on earth, the experience unfortunately will only be ephemeral.
 
This next section explains that Thomas Traherne, as a fetus, had an out of body experience visiting Heaven and he was gifted with the memory of this journey. His understanding of ‘felicity’ was forged through this trip to the ‘spirit world’ (The Third Century; verse 1). This visit is his greatest credential as well as his family receiving a book written by God himself of which Thomas Traherne makes good use in writing Centuries of Meditations. This is the reason why his book is so difficult to read and understand because it contains the transcendent wisdom of God himself. I have chosen it as my primary mentor to attain the state of contemplation on earth and hopefully, the state of Divine Union afterwards.
 
Initially my spiritual growth group and I began our path to Divine Union on earth with Saint John of the Cross, mystic and poet, as mentor. However, we both found that his work “Dark Night of the Soul” was especially non-felicitous. It described the hurdle of a passage through the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the spirit, non-felicitous experiences.
 
In conclusion, in my spiritual growth and by using my imagination I have attained a glimpse of the eternal and infinite attributes of the spirit world, divine gifts. Alleluia! Deo Gracias! I hope this sharing will motivate all the readers of the OFE journal to enjoy reading, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
 
(Cf. United In Spirit: OFE Newsletter, September 2016, Vol. 1, Issue 3)
 
Notes: Thomas Traherne (ca. 1636-1674) was an Anglican priest, a mystic, an English poet and religious writer. Christian Classics Ethereal Library Intern Andrew Hanson concluded, “God displays his power in the immensity, complexity, and beauty of his    creation. Thomas Traherne, in his Centuries of Meditations, showcases his deep love for God’s creative powers. The poetry in Centuries has a childlike humility in the face of God’s glory. While living at a time where God’s wrath and humanity’s sin were the main topics of theological conversation, Traherne writes poetry that looks at the beauty of God and His goodness. His poetry is not just good Christian poetry, but good poetry that is appreciated by Christian and secular poetry lovers alike.”