Monday, April 18, 2011

An Instant Remedy for Sleeping While Praying

Every year during Holy Week, I read St. Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ (published in a volume of his Selected Writings). It is one of the most beautiful, profound, and yet (if I may say so) witty meditations I have ever encountered.

During the 14 months he was locked in the Tower of London awaiting his own trial and execution, St. Thomas More wrote this 116 page meditation on Christ's Agony in the Garden. The work carefully parses every phrase of the Gospels relating the Agony in the Garden, and offers pointed applications to daily life.

In this holiest of weeks, I will be sharing with you some excerpts from his work, and highly encourage you to get a copy for yourself so as to enter more deeply in pray into the mystery of Christ's Passion.

Image: Agony in the Garden, Andrea Montegna

"Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46)

Before, He ordered them to watch and pray. Now that they have twice learned by experience that the drowsy position of sitting lets sleep gradually slip on them, He teaches an instant remedy for that sluggish disease of somnolence, namely to get up. Since this sort of remedy was handed down by our Savior Himself, I heartily wish that we would occasionally be willing to try it out at the dead of night. For here we would discover not only that well begun is half done (as Horace says), but that once begun is all done.

For when we are fighting against sleep, the first encounter is always the sharpest. Therefore, we should not try to conquer sleep by a prolonged struggle, but rather we should break with one thrust the grip of the alluring arms with which it embraces us and pulls us down, and we should dash away from it all of a sudden... Then, if we devote ourselves to meditation and prayer, the mind, collected and composed in that dark silence of the night, will find that it is much more receptive to divine consolation than it is during the daytime, when the noisy bustle of business on all sides distracts the eyes, the ears, and the mind, and dissipates our energy in manifold activities, no less pointless than they are divers.

But Lord spare us, though thoughts about some trifling matter, some worldly matter at that, may sometimes interrupt our sleep and keep us awake for a long time and hardly let us go back to sleep at all, prayer does not keep us awake: in spite of the immense loss of spiritual benefits, in spite of the many traps set for us by our deadly enemy, in spite of the danger of being utterly undone, we do not wake up to pray, but lie in a drugged sleep watching the dream-visions induced by mandragora.

But we must continually keep in mind that Christ did not command them simply to get up, but to get up in order to pray...
St. Thomas More, The Sadness of Christ


Marie said...

Love it...Thanks for posting!

Farmer's City Wife said...


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