08 May 2017

Robert Hugh Benson "Christ in the Average Man"


The following quotation comes from The Friendship of Christ, a book by Fr Robert Hugh Benson (perhaps best known today for his novel "Lord of the World" which Pope Francis has recommended we read). The quotation comes from the chapter "Christ in the Average Man":

"It is not so easy, however, to recognize Christ in the average man — any more than it is easy to recognize the Divine will and guidance in humdrum circumstances. How, we ask ourselves, is it possible for the Unique to disguise Himself under the Ordinary, for the Fairest of the children of men to hide Himself under the merely unattractive, for the One “chosen out of thousands” to be concealed beneath the Average? ‘Yet, if the love of our neighbour means anything, it means exactly this. “Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me”. . . (as well as in the heart of every man who never gives me a thought). “Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me…. To do this perfectly and consistently is sanctity. To find Him here is to find Him everywhere….

"Two considerations, however, are worth remarking: (1) We have to remind ourselves constantly of the duty, and to remain discontented with ourselves until we are at least attempting to practise it….(2) A second aid to this recognition of Christ lies in an increase of self-knowledge. My supreme difficulty is the merely superficial and imaginative difficulty of realizing how it is possible to discern the Unique beneath the disguise of the Average. Therefore, as I learn to know myself better, and learn therefore how very average I myself am, and, at the same time, discover that Christ still bears with me, tolerates me and dwells within me, it becomes easier for me to realize that Christ is also in my neighbour. As I penetrate deeper and deeper by self-knowledge into the strata of my own character, learning afresh with each discovery how self-love permeates the whole, how little zeal there is for God’s glory, and what an immensity of zeal for my own, how my best actions are poisoned by the worst motives — and yet, all through, that Christ still condescends to tabernacle beneath it all and to shine in a heart so cloudy as mine — it becomes increasingly easy for me to understand that He can with even greater facility lie hid beneath that exterior of my neighbour whom I find so antipathetic, but of whose unworthiness I can never be so certain as I am of my own.

" “Cleave the Wood” — look down into your own wooden stupidity of head, “and you shall find me. Lift the stone ” — wrench out that rocky senseless thing that you call your heart “and I am there.” And then, having found Christ in yourself, go out and find Him in your neighbour too."

The Reverend Fr. Robert Hugh Benson