I was gifted a copy of St. Francis De Sales' Introduction To The Devout Life for Christmas. Its a book I've had "digitally" for some time now, but was never able to get into for that same reason. Having a physical copy definitely makes a difference & its been my companion nearly every day.
In the first part of the introduction, there is a collection of ten short meditations. Today I completed the 2nd entitled "On the end for which we were created". I admit, I've been experiencing some difficulty with that concept lately, feeling sorry for myself & wondering what my purpose is in this life. I've felt lost, messy, used up & weighed down. But what I read today threatened to change my mind.
"God has placed you in this world not because He needs you in any way- you are altogether useless to Him- but only to exercise His goodness in you by giving you His grace & glory. For this purpose He has given you intellect to know Him, memory to be mindful of Him, will to love Him, imagination to picture to yourself His benefits, eyes to see His wonderful works, tongue to praise Him..."
The meditation goes on, encouraging one to further contemplation:
"Humble yourself & rebuke your soul for its misery... say, what did I think about, O my God, when I did not think of You? What did I remember when I forgot You? What did I love when I did not love You?"
My answer? Me.
" ...I should have fed on the truth but I glutted myself with vanity..."
Gluttony & vanity are words we don't hear much of these days, but their concepts are more than glorified in society, now even justified. But me, why... I'm no glutton of... of vanity! Or am I? My first thoughts turned to things like overindulgence or narcissism. I pictured a snobby rich person or an addict, a hoarder, a schemer. But then, I was still thinking according to modern day definitions. When I tried to think in terms of what a 16th century author might have meant by the word "vanity", I discovered the archaic definition is actually more akin to senselessness or foolishness... "something worthless, trivial or pointless" (according to Webster's). And that's actually a lot closer to how I've been feeling about myself lately.
"...The trifling, foolish things which I have hitherto devoted myself to, the vain uses to which I have put my days & the affections that have filled my heart shall from now on be looked on with horror..."
Sounds like St. Francis was a little over the top here. I can maybe work up to disappointment at my trifling & foolish affections, but horror? I believe He used this specific word for a reason. If I really believe God placed me in this world in order to exercise His goodness in me & through me... if I really believe He's given me His grace & His glory to know, remember, love, dream of & do for Him (because of His love for me & for all), then to dare be enticed by or even willfully embrace any other thing should naturally invoke the fear of the Lord in me. That is to say, if "something worthless, trivial or pointless" threatens what God has entrusted to me out of His love for me, horror at my potential for betrayal seems more than appropriate.