Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Thursday, September 3, 2020
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 which encourages us to be sinless, pure of heart, and humble. And that’s hard!
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
Do you remember the song “You’re So Vain”? Here is a reminder.
The song expresses a common understanding of the word “vanity”:
excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievement
We all know people who seem to think they’re hot stuff. Maybe we’re even one of them! But I think that often a person behaving vainly really is quite unsure of himself.
The apparent vanity is a veneer to hide the emptiness inside. It is a veiled fear that, rather than being “all that”, one is really “not enough”.
The word vanity comes from the Latin root vanus which means empty – not “empty” with a readiness to be filled. Instead it connotes an emptiness that rattles with accumulated pretenses and falsehoods. It is a place of loud but lonely echoes.
Paul addresses this kind of emptiness when he writes to the Corinthians. He tells them not to get caught up in the contest of human vanity because we already are sufficient in God’s love and grace. Everything important is already ours in Christ, in God.
So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.
Psalm 24 assures us that to participate in this blessing, to be embraced by God’s favor only this is sufficient:
Who can stand in God’s holy place?
The clean of hand and pure of heart,
who have not given their soul to useless things,
to what is vain.
They will receive blessings from the LORD,
and justice from their saving God.
Poetry: Vanity by George Herbert
The fleet astronomer can bore And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind: He views their stations, walks from door to door, Surveys, as if he had designed To make a purchase there; he sees their dances, And knoweth long before Both their full-eyes aspècts, and secret glances. The nimble diver with his side Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch His dearly-earnèd pearl, which God did hide On purpose from the venturous wretch; That he might save his life, and also hers Who with excessive pride Her own destruction and his danger wears. The subtle chymic can divest And strip the creature naked, till he find The callow principles within their nest: There he imparts to them his mind, Admitted to their bed-chamber, before They appear trim and dressed To ordinary suitors at the door. What hath not man sought out and found, But his dear God? who yet his glorious law Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground With showers and frosts, with love and awe, So that we need not say, “Where’s this command?” Poor man, thou searchest round To find out death, but missest life at hand.
Song: As We Seek Your Face – Divine Hymns