"A pillow to rest thy soul"
"So then there is a Viatory, a preparatory, an initiatory, an inchoative blessedness in this life. What is that? All agree in this definition, that blessedness is that in quo quiescit animus, in which the mind, the heart, the desire of man hath settled and rested, in which it found a Centrical reposedness, an acquiescence, a contentment. Not that which might satisfy any particular man; for, so the object would be infinitely various; but that beyond which no man could propose any thing. And is there such a blessednesse in this life? There is. Fecisti nos Domine ad te, & inquietum est Cor nostrum, donec quiescat in te; Lord, thou hast made us for thy self, and our heart cannot rest till it get to thee. But can we come to God here? We cannot. Wheres then our viatory, our preparatory, our initiatory, our inchoative blessedness? Beloved, though we cannot come to God here, here God comes to us; Here, in the prayers of the Congregation God comes to us; here in his Ordinance of Preaching, God delivers himself to us; here in the administration of his Sacraments, he seals, ratifies, confirms all unto us; And to rest in these his seals and means of reconciliation to him, this is not to be scandalised, not to be offended in him; and, not to be offended in him, not to suspect him or those means which he hath ordained, this is our viatory, our preparatory, our initiatory and inchoative Blessednesse, beyond which, nothing can be proposed in this life."And therefore, as the Needle of a Sea-compass, though it shake long, yet will rest at last, and though it do not look directly, exactly to the North Pole, but have some variation, yet, for all that variation, will rest, so, though thy heart have some variations, some deviations, aberrations from that direct point upon which it should be bent, which is an absolute conformity of thy will to the will of God, yet, though thou lack something of that, afford thy soul rest; settle thy soul in such an infallibility, as this present condition can admit, and believe, that God receives glory as well in thy Repentance as in thy Innocence, and that the mercy of God in Christ, is as good a pillow to rest thy soul upon after a sin, as the grace of God in Christ is a shield and protection for thy soul before. In a word, this is our viatory, our preparatory, our initiatory, and inchoative blessedness, beyond which there can be no blessedness proposed here, first to receive a satisfaction, an acquiescence, that there are certain and constant means ordained by Christ for our reconciliation to God in him, in all cases in which a Christian soul can be distressed, that such a treasure there is deposited by him, in the Church. And then the testimony of a rectified Conscience, that thou hast sincerely applied those general helps to thy particular soul. Come so far, and then, as the Suburbs touch the City, and the Porch the Church and deliver thee into it, so shall this Viatory, this preparatory, this initiatory and inchoative blessedness deliver thee over to the everlasting blessedness of the Kingdom of heaven."(John Donne, Sermons, vol. IX, pp. 126-27)
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.