I am reading Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s masterpiece, Transformation in Christ. I am currently reading the chapter on “True Simplicity.” If there is one thing I can always use more of, it is simplicity!
Von Hildebrand writes on this topic at length, for there are many (erroneous) ways to define “simplicity.” If we consider his own life during the time he was writing this book, we would scarcely consider it a simple life; he was being chased down by the Nazis, fleeing for life itself. And yet one would never guess that if one were reading this book without knowledge of that context. The text is radiant with clarity, with calm and very detailed analyses of many topics, as if the author were completely at leisure, at peace, and in comfort.Von Hildebrand was obviously writing from personal experience, from his own transformative relationship with Christ. That is one of the things that makes this book so great.
Below are some brief excerpts that I found helpful in thinking about how I can better live my life and weather life’s many storms. I already know that I need to keep things in proper perspective and keep God as my focus and my highest priority. I was reflecting just yesterday that one source of many of my life’s problems is that I get fixated on people or on things, worrying and fretting over them, trying to exert some sort of control and order of my own. That always results in life becoming all askew and frustrating. Life can’t be otherwise whenever we leave God out of it.
And so, Von Hildebrand says:
The more our life is permeated by God, the simpler it becomes. This simplicity is defined by the inward unity which our life assumes because we no longer seek for any but one end: God. … One supreme point of view governs our entire life and in subordination to that point of view all else is judged and settled. It is the principle of conduct enjoined by these words of the Lord: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
If we consider all things in conspectu Dei, every genuine good finds its right place in the cosmic order and discloses its specific value more splendidly than if we attend to it in arbitrary isolation, merely for its own sake. … We only take true account of a genuine good if we see it in the place where it properly stands in the thought of God. Nor do we fully honor or love a created good of genuine value unless we honor and love God more than that good.
I am especially struck by that last sentence: “Nor do we fully honor or love a created good of genuine value unless we honor and love God more than that good.” It makes perfect sense, of course. True charity is to love God above all things, and to love others for love of God. When we regard other people as fellow children of God, when we see His image shining through them, do we not find that love naturally wells up in us in greater abundance? Do we not have much greater respect for created things when we remember Who created them? God is the source and fullness of all love and all being.
Sometimes, I just need to read or hear things put in a different way, I guess, and Von Hildebrand is one of those people who constantly sheds new light on things for me.