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The Complete book with Spiritual Maxims, Gathered Thoughts, Conversations and letters by Brother Lawrence.
Those in the thick of the great world will learn from this book how greatly they deceive themselves, seeking for peace and joy in the false glitter of the things that are seen, yet temporal: those who are seeking the Highest Good will gain from this book strength to persevere in the practice of the virtue.
BROTHER LAWRENCE is known to a wide circle of English readers by his "Conversations and Letters", and the numerous editions of that collection are a tribute to the appreciation of the deep spirituality of his teaching. It seems strange, therefore, that so little attention has been paid to his other writings. The "Spiritual Maxims", appear to have been almost entirely neglected; so far as it can be ascertained no English translation has been published since one at Edinburgh in 1741. It is to atone in some measure for this neglect that the translator offers this new rendering, in full confidence that the many who know Brother Lawrence through the "Conversations" and "Letters" will find here also exemplified the same deep spiritual insight.
The "Spiritual Maxims" were published originally together with the "Letters," the editor of the volume stating in his preface that on running through Brother Lawrence's letters he had found amongst them a manuscript entitled, "Spiritual Maxims, or Means for Attaining to the Presence of God." They deserve attention for two reasons. In a short "Life" of Brother Lawrence, written in 1691, he committed his thoughts sometimes to writing, but comparing what he had written with that which he had just experienced in his soul, he deemed it so inferior and so far removed from the inspired thoughts, with which he had been visited, of the greatness and goodness of GOD-that often parentally the "Maxims" and the "Letters" are the only writings which have survived. But the "Maxims" are important for a further reason. The "Letters" were written merely to deal with particular cases and difficulties brought to his notice from time to time, and they were addressed to the individual recipients alone. The "Maxims," however, are in different category. The careful arrangement adopted suggests matured thought, and the inference is not unreasonable that the intention of Brother Lawrence was to sum up in the "Maxims" his teaching, which in the form of letters was inevitably disconnected, in the hope that his message might thereby gain a wider and more general hearing.
The "Character" is a sketch of Brother Lawrence as he appeared to those who saw him in the daily round of life. The author is the chronicler of the "Conversations," probably M. Beaufort, Grand Vicar to M. de Chalons, cardinal de Noailles. As far as possible, he allows his subject to speak for himself. "Nobody can paint the Saints so well as they themselves," he writers; "nothing can bring more clearly before you this servant of GOD, than his own words spoken in all the simplicity of his heart."
Under the title of "Gathered Thoughts" the translator has brought together a few scattered sayings of Brother Lawrence which have been collected for the most part from the short "Life" written in 1691. They are only fragments, but well merit being gathered.
Throughout the "Conversations" and the Brother Lawrence develops, the theme which cannot be expressed better than in the words of the Psalmist, "In Thy Presence is fulness of joy." We hear the same melody sounding through this little book-it could not well be otherwise. But is there not another equally insistent on the ear?-"The simplicity that is in Christ."
THIS little book contains the Conversations and Letters of one Nicholas Herman of Lorraine, a lowly born and unlearned man; who, after having been a soldier and a footman, was admitted a lay-brother among the Carmelites Deschausses (bare-footed) at Paris in 1666, where he served in the kitchen of the community. He was afterwards known by the name of Brother Lawrence. He died in February 1691, at the advanced age of eighty, after a life the true saintliness of which can be well realised from these collected Conversations and Letters.
The former are supposed to have been written by M. Beaufort, Grand Vicar to Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, sometimes Bishop of Chalons, by whose recommendation they were published.
This translation of the Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence has been compared with the French of the original edition of 1692, and such alternations have been made as conduce to bring out more clearly the meaning.
The dates have been given, wherever practicable, and a strict chronological order has been observed.
From the Preface to the Original Edition:
ALTHOUGH death has carried off last year many of the Order of the Carmelites Deschausses, brethren who have left in dying rare legacies of lives of virtue, Providence, it would seem, has desired that the eyes of men should be cast chiefly on Brother Lawrence, and has made his death the occasion of showing forth the merit of this holy man, who all his life had studies to avoid the gaze of men and whose saintliness is only fully seen now that he is dead.
Several persons having seen a copy of one of his letters, have desired to see more; and to meet this wish, care has been taken to collect as many as possible of those which Brother Lawrence wrote with his own hand.
These letters are so edifying, so rich in unction, and have been found so full of delight by those who have had the joy of reading them, that the first readers have desired not to be alone in profiting by them. It is at their wish that the letters have been printed, for they judge that these writings will prove very useful to souls who are pressing forward to perfection by the Practice of the Presence of God.
All Christians will find herein much that is edifying.
Those in the thick of the great world will learn from these letters how greatly they deceive themselves, seeking for peace and joy in the false glitter of the things that are seen, yet temporal: those who are seeking the Highest Good will gain from this book strength to persevere in the practice of virtue. All, whatever their life-work, will find profit, for they will see herein a brother, busied as they are in outward affairs, who in the midst of the most exacting occupations, has learnt so well to accord action with contemplation, that for the space of more than forty years he hardly ever turned from the Presence of God.
This slender volume brings together the writings and sayings of Brother Lawrence (1611-1691), an earnest seeker of God. He had an experience at the age of 18. He was a changed person since then and till the last day of his life he was in commune with God to whom he surrendered himself entirely.
This unique book has a special significance as the theme is universal and so is the endeavour to practice the Presence of God. The practice or sadhana explained in these pages is referred to thus in the Yogasutras of Patanjali; (I-23)
Details of the dedicated life of Brother Lawrence are meagre. He worked as a soldier and a footman. When he was 55 he became a lay-brother with the Carmelites in Paris. There he worked in the monastery kitchen cheerfully and prayed devoutly at the same time as he felt the time of prayer and the time of work in the kitchen made no difference to him.
Brother Lawrence was noted for his technique of recollectedness. He observed once that he possessed God in as great tranquility as if he was upon his knees at the blessed sacrament.
|The Character of Brother Lawrence:||1|
|Being The Teaching of His Life. By the|
Chronicler of the "Conversations".
|I. SPIRITUAL MAXIMS:||23|
|Of Necessary Practices for Attaining to the Spiritual Life||26|
|Of how it is required of us to worship|
God in Spirit and in Truth
|Of Union of the Soul with God||31|
|Of the Presence of God||32|
|Of Means for Attaining unto the|
Presence of God
|Of the Benefits of the Presence of God||37|
|II. GATHERED THOUGHTS; compiled from the "Life" of Brother Lawrence||41|
|First, August 3, 1666||51|
|Second, September 25, 1666||53|
|Third, November 22, 1666||59|
|Fourth, November 25, 1667||62|
|Arranged in Chronological Order|
|Second June 1, 1682||73|
|Fourth November 3, 1685||78|
|Eighth October 12, 1688||88|
|Tenth March 28, 1689||91|
|Eleventh October 29, 1689||93|
|Twelfth November 17, 1690||94|
|Thirteenth November 28, 1690||97|
|Fifteenth January 22, 1691||99|
|Sixteenth February 6, 1691||101|