Sunday, November 13, 2016

Transformation in Christ : Self-Knowledge


Von Hildebrand (VH) 3rd chapter from Transformation into Christ. This chapter reviews that knowledge of our shortcomings and faith is needed to grow in our relationship with God.

Self-knowledge is the prerequisite to our inner reformation

"So long as a man is ignorant of his defects and of their real nature, all his endeavor(be it ever so laudable) to overcome those defects will end in failure. The final accomplishment of our transformation-total uprooting of our vices, the leveling of hills and filling up of valleys-requires a thorough knowledge of our defects. The radical extirpation of a defect of character requires an interior knowledge of that defect."

So from what I understand from VH is if we want to fully transform ourselves spirituality we need to better understand weaknesses.

Natural self-knowledge does not help moral progress

"While true self-knowledge is an important instrument of sanctification, there is also such a thing as a spurious and sterile kind of self-knowledge which is apt to ensnare us into an attitude of egotism far worse than the natural one. Thus analyze our character in the manner of mere spectators we pursue a false and sterile self-knowledge. We experience ourselves as we would a character in a novel, without in any way feeling responsible for his defects. Amoral frame of reference we are necessity precluded consideration of true consideration of a true significance of our person. First, we are denied the capacity to understand, completely a person as such. Free being capable of rational behavior for which it's relationship with God and the world of his values are basic and constitutive. Secondly, we are even less able to take an adequate view of our own person in regard to the fact that it is our own since our method of Analysis debars is from experiencing responsibility for that persons conduct. The type of self-knowledge  is not rooted in any willingness to change. Such a neutrality of outlook being completely out of tune with the subject treated, precludes the exploration of the depths of personality and makes adequate self-knowledge impossible. The obsession with neutral approach brings in its train  a general disfiguration of what we pretend to describe faithfully. That neutral way of looking on things prevents us to a shadow counterpart of the real situation, devoid of the latter' inherent gravity."

  I believe what VH is pointing out , is that we can not look at ourselves in a filtered manner, where we try to water down our faults by comparing or judging ourselves with supposedly far weaker spiritual people , plus it's hard to truly look into ourselves and truly know where we are in our attitude and behavior.

Fruitful self-knowledge calls us to a confirmation with God

"The only fruitful self-knowledge, and the only true one, is that which grows out of man's self-confrontation with God.  Only in recognition of our metaphysical situation, only in awareness of our destiny and our vocation that we become truly cognizant of ourselves. Only the light of God and His challenge to us can open our eyes to all our shortcomings and deficiencies, impressing upon us the discrepancy between what we ought to be and what we are. We take an interest in what we are because we are because we are determined to become new men in Christ.  Here is no place for idle curiosity, nor for the egoistic fixation on oneself as a paramount theme.  It is for the sake of God that we would become better men; and because we would become so we inquire about our present state and condition."

 It is only through grace of God that we can see where we need to improve and how we can be attentive on our spirituality and progress of being like God.

Readiness to change renders self-knowledge fruitful

"For, referring all truth to God Who is the prime source and the epitome of Truth as such,we shall derive happiness from the knowledge of any important truth, however painful its content may be, since by the very fact of its possession we progress one step nearer towards God. We shall then experience self-knowledge as a first step towards the goal of our transformation, in that it indicates the foe we must fight most urgently.  We must appreciate it as a great gift of grace from God when He opens our eyes to the actual danger, and shows us where the battle has to be fought.  Obedience appears to us as a great and glorious thing; hence, we may believe ourselves in procession of the real willingness to obey.  We feel our heart aflame, with the splendid and touching beauty of humility and so we indulge in the fictitious belief that we are actually humble. "

In order for us to move closer to being like Christ , we need to have the knowledge to be obedient to God and His commandments, and of course the teachings of the church.  This requires grace from God to be humble in doing this , it's the only way that can help us avoid the dangers of falling and moving away from Christ.

Faith protects us from the despair that self-knowledge can sometimes bring

"Still, can we avoid becoming a prey to despondency, when we peer into the dark abysses of our failures? Will not our zeal abate, our vigor be paralyzed, when we see how remote we still are from our goal.  The true Christian, however, who lives by the Faith, will not be driven to such utter despair by self-knowledge, nor collapse under the weight of his own sins when sending their import and magnitude. In defiance of all his sins and all the darkness in him, he will say with St. Thomas Aquinas: "O Loving Pelican,Lord Jesus, wash me clean in Thy blood." He knows that he can accomplish nothing through his own power but everything in Christ. True self-knowledge is an ineluctable necessity for him who desires to be transformed in Christ.  Obedience to his spiritual director or his religious superior, above all, destined to guide him towards the acquisition of genuine self-knowledge and the freedom implied therein. In order to obtain a faithful portrait of himself he needs help of others. That is why he cannot dispense with the more objective vision of a spiritual director , of a religious superior, of any friend of great wisdom and piety."

We can not get too frustrated by our failures of moving closer to Christ, in fact St. John of the cross notes our spirituality progresses is like a ladder in where we can move up and down, the key is we keep moving, we can never or should give up moving or transform into Christ , no matter how many times we full into sin.

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