Posted December 20, 2005
Book: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation
Author: Saint Thomas More
Scepter Publishers, England, 2005, pp. 318
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
Awaiting execution in 1535 for refusing to betray his faith, Thomas More
opens the door on his own interior life by creating a fictional dialogue. It
takes place in 16th century Hungary between a young man, Vincent, and his
dying but wise old uncle, Anthony.
“Vincent is paralyzed by fear of an impending Turkish invasion which could
force him to betray his faith or die a martyr. As he pours out his fears,
Anthony responds as only the calm and clear-headed More could do: on the
comfort of God in difficulties, the benefits of suffering, atonement for
evil acts, faintheartedness and the temptation to suicide, and scrupulosity.
Anthony thus summarizes his purpose: “I will supply you ahead of time with a
store of comfort, of spiritual strengthening and consolation, that you can
have ready at hand, that you can resort to and lay up in your heart as an
antidote against the poison of despairing dread. . .”
Put into modern English and edited by Mary Gottschalk, Dialogue. . .is
introduced by Gerard B. Wegemer, author of the spiritual biography, Thomas
More: A Portrait of Courage, (Scepter, 1995) and editor of another of More’s
spiritual works, “The Sadness of Christ, (Scepter, 1993).
An Excerpt from the Book:
For by those words of the psalmist, “the arrow that flies by day,” I
understand the arrow of pride. This is something with which the devil tempts
a person not during the nighttime of tribulation and adversity, for that
time is too disheartening and too fearful for pride, but in the daytime of
prosperity, for that time is full of lighthearted vigor and confidence. But
surely this worldly prosperity in which one so rejoices, and of which the
devil makes one so proud, is very short even for a winter’s day. For we
begin, many of us poor and cold as can be, and then up we fly like arrows
shot straight up into the air. Suddenly we are shot up into the highest,
sunniest realms. But before we can get good and warm there, down we come
again to the cold ground, and there we get stuck. And yet for the short
while that we’re up on high, Lord, how exhilarated and proud we are! We
busily buzz up there like the bumblebee that flies around in the summer with
no idea she will die in the winter. So fare many of us, God help us. For in
the short winter’s day of worldly wealth and prosperity, this flying arrow
from the devil — this high-flying spirit of pride, shot out of the devil’s
bow and piercing the heart all the way through — lifts us up, in our
estimation, into the clouds. Thinking we sit on the rainbow, we look down on
the world beneath us. Those other poor souls who used to be, perhaps, our
friends, we now regard as pitiful little bugs and ants in comparison to our
own glorious selves.
But no matter how high in the clouds this arrow of pride may fly, and no
matter how exuberant we may feel while being carried up so high, let us
remember that the lightest of these arrows still has a heavy iron head. High
as it may fly, therefore, it inevitably has to come down and hit the ground.
And sometimes it lands in a not very clean place. The pride turns into shame
and disgrace, and then gone is all that glory.
The arrow is spoken of in the fifth chapter of the Book of Wisdom, where the
sage, in the person of those facing condemnation for having spent their
lives in pride and vanity, cries out: “What has our arrogance profited us?
And what good has our boasted wealth brought us? All those things have
vanished like a shadow, . . .or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the
air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway.
So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be, and we had no sign of
virtue to show, but were consumed in our wickedness.” (Wis 5:8-9, 12-13).;
Those, mind you, who have lived here in sin will be speaking such words when
they lie in hell.
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