From the Silent Pulpit to the Pious Pew
This, and this alone, is Christianity, a universal holiness in every part of life, a heavenly wisdom in all our actions, not conforming to the spirit and temper of the world but turning all worldly enjoyments into means of piety and devotion to God. [William Law].
Whether called piety or God-consciousness, a state of mind or an attitude, the constant awareness of Divine Reality produces distinctive social behavior. It sets people apart by their expectation of reward from God alone. It assures the purity of their thoughts, and accountability for their deeds and intentions.
By the knowledge of God, I intend not merely a notion that there is such a Being, but also an acquaintance with whatever we ought to know concerning Him, conducing to his glory and our benefit. For we cannot with propriety say, there is any knowledge of God where there is no religion or piety. [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. I, Ch. 2].
Piety reflects faith in daily living. It leaves a trail of charity, forgiveness and compassion wherever it goes. Even in forgetful moments, the lingering fragrance of piety calls us back to right conduct.
Piety is not querulous. It is not rhetorical preaching. It is teaching by a living example and exposition of a devout life. Piety avoids a controversial spirit toward unbelievers, knowing that spite and hate do not win souls.
Lord, make my life a window for Your light to shine through and a mirror to reflect Your love to all I meet. Amen. [Robert Schuller].
Healing and piety travel parallel paths. The same can be said about the therapeutic and spiritual attributes of social and ecological constructs. Whether in health foods or meditation, yoga or the “green movement,” whatever causes separation from the Divine weakens and dilutes the essential strength and purity of the item.
Without spiritual consciousness in its vocabulary, can science attain the accuracy and comprehension needed to advance to its highest potential? Without embracing a cosmic piety — a personal devoutness, not an official religion — can the medical profession maintain the integrity necessary to avoid contamination by unrestrained avarice and unethical practices?
“Taqwā” (reverent piety and righteousness) means observing the Divine ordinances in every walk of life. [It] requires obeying both the religious rules and commands and the laws of God’s creation and maintenance of the universe. We may call the former… internal piety and righteousness, and the latter the external piety and righteousness. These two … cannot be separated from each other. However, it is not easy to attain piety and righteousness in both dimensions. [Fethullah Gülen].
Science has yet to measure the full gamut of activities generated by human emotions. Our nervous system alone is so complex that biochemical processes and their dynamic interrelations are only at the theoretical edge of scientific understanding.
Wert thou to cleanse the mirror of thy heart from the dust of malice, thou wouldst apprehend the meaning of the symbolic terms revealed by the all-embracing Word of God made manifest in every Dispensation, and wouldst discover the mysteries of divine knowledge. Not, however, until thou consumest with the flame of utter detachment those veils of idle learning, that are current amongst men, canst thou behold the resplendent morn of true knowledge. [Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán].
This Divine Reality residing within us, yet beyond our intellect, can only be accessed through spiritual awareness. Our faith allows us to experience it through a form of understanding inherent in our soul.
So set thou thy face steadily towards the [one ever-true] faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition which God has instilled into humanity: allow not any change to corrupt what God has thus created – this is the ever-true faith; but most people know it not. [Quran 30:30].
Science cannot deny or ignore the profound emotions generated by God, and the devoted allegiance of faithful adherents. Faith, based on spiritual affirmations, continues to provide the guiding principles followed by most of humanity.
Oh, the ineffable peace that is ours when faith has taught us thus to see God through all creatures as through a transparent veil! Then darkness becomes light, and bitter turns to sweet. Faith, manifesting all things in their true light, changes their deformity into beauty, and their malice into virtue. [Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment: Or, Absolute Surrender to Divine Providence].
Reaching Higher Ground
So much thought goes into understanding the meaning of life, into finding the purpose of creation. Yet, who ponders such questions when preoccupied with gratitude and singing the praises of Almighty God?
In prayer there would sometimes come upon me such a sense of the Presence of God that I seemed to be all engulfed in God. I think the learned call this mystical experience; at any rate, it so suspends the ordinary operations of the soul that she seems to be wholly taken out of herself. This tenderness, this sweetness, this regale is nothing else but the Presence of God in the praying soul. [Teresa of Avila, On Prayer, p. 74].
Elevated thoughts are always available to us. We can easily reach the refuge offered by Divine Reality. With our mind focused on God, through faith, prayer and sacraments, our actions naturally abound in devout acts.
We can make contact with God simply by remembering Him in our thoughts. We can speak with God through our prayers and supplications, and we can hear Him through the words of Scriptures.
I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God. [Meister Eckhart].
However, we cannot call, invoke or conjure God with our will. Contemplation of God emanates from God. Piety does require our effort and dedication, but contemplation is a gift from God, bestowed as He wills.
Thoughts happen. And some of those thoughts come from God. One thing I know for sure: There are no formulas. I cannot control God’s communicating with me. I cannot force him to speak through my piety, sincerity, or hard work. The wind blows where it will, Jesus once said. [John Ortberg, God Is Closer Than You Think, p. 101].
The Presence of God overwhelms the mind and envelops the intellect so that, as in a dream, we perceive without our senses. With His Presence, God grants us a moment of bliss in spiritual fulfillment.
The presence of God in the thoughts of a believer saturates all aspects of being. The light emanating from God reveals meaning and purpose to the contemplative soul. When God enters into our meditative thought process and reconciles, strengthens and elevates our understanding by His Presence, that is contemplation.
True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. [Quran 2:177]