Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hunger: Pleasures of the Heart

"They all ate and were satisfied" (Luke 11:17).

This one sentence is recorded at the end of today's gospel miracle of the feeding of five thousand. It contains within itself many of the longings aroused by and also satsified through the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Truly, it is the bread of heaven, containing within itself all sweetness.

I've been continuing to read Michael Casey's book Toward God: the Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer. In it, he quotes Gregory the Great (Gospel Homily 36.1) in reference to the dynamic hunger-satiety which is both the catalyst and result of prayer. The same can be said of the Great Prayer, the Eucharist.

Gregory the Great, ever the master of the human spirit's psychology, hits the nail on the head of my own experience.

"There is a great difference, dear brothers, between the pleasures of the body and those of the heart. Bodily pleasures set alight a strong desire when they are not possessed, but one who has them and partakes of them, becomes satiated and tires of them.

On the other hand, spiritual pleasures are tiresome when they are not possessed, when they are possessed they cause even greater desire. The one who partakes of them hungers for more, and the more one eats the hungrier one becomes.

In carnal pleasures the appetite causes satiety and satiety generates dissatisfaction. In spiritual pleasures, on the other hand, when the appetite gives birth to satiety, satiety then gives birth to even greater appetite.

Spiritual delights increase the extent of the desire in the mind, even while they satisfy the appetite for them. The more one recognizes the taste of such things, the more one recognizes what it is that one loves so strongly.

We cannot love what we do not have because this would involve not having experienced the taste... you cannot love God's sweetness if you have never tasted it. Rather, embrace the food of life with the palate of the heart so that, having made trial of his sweetness, you may be empowered to love."

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