Walter Hilton was born about 1340. He was a hermit, and he wrote to a devout layman of wealth and household responsibility, advising him not to give up his active life to become a contemplative, but to mix the two. He wrote about the value of the sacraments but not all the rules and "obligations" which later would be attached to them. His stressed that there is no love of God unless there also is love of neighbour (one cannot love the head of the Body and neglect the feet) He suggested that Christians progress from fear of punishment to fear of offending love. He said that heretics were often the deeper explorers into the mystery of God, which the church regarded as a threat because it did away with the need for priests to be the only arbiter of what was `right'.
Hilton continually uses the term `prayer' in his writings, and we need to amend this to `contemplation' or an inward reaching out to the Divine which, perversely usually means going deep within! ""Seek that which is lost, God wishes to be found. Every one who seeks will find. The search may at times be arduous, but the finding is full of joy, dig deeply for it, you shall find it; you must dig deeply in your heart, you must cast out love and desire for Earthly things together with the sorrows and fears that go with them. In this way you will find true wisdom."
"The purpose of prayer is not to inform our Lord what you desire, for He knows all your needs. It is to render you able and ready to receive the grace which our Lord will freely give you. This grace cannot be experienced until you have been refined and purified by the fire of desire in devout prayer. For although prayer is not the cause for which our Lord gives grace, it is nevertheless the means by which grace, freely given, comes to the soul." Book I, ch. 24 (p. 28)
I am glad that I found the following because it is something I have often thought in relation to Confession - that if you only confess `mortal sins' then you are glossing over the faults of everyday life that show much of the state of your soul: "A venial sin of your own is a greater obstacle to your experiencing the love of Jesus Christ than the sin of anyone else, however great it may be. It is clear, then, that you must harden your heart against yourself, humbling and detesting yourself more strongly for all the sins that hold you back from the vision of God than you detest the sins of others. For if your own heart is free from sin, the sins of others will not hurt you. Therefore, if you wish to find peace, both in this life and in heaven, follow the advice of one of the holy fathers, and say each day: "What am I?" and do not judge others." Book I, ch. 16 (p. 18)
Bodily pride should only affect the men and women of this world; but spiritual pride is always there, waiting for us to succumb to it. Hilton says that this will turn us into hypocrites. An example of how even folk like Hilton can reproduce the arrogance of the Church, which condemned any deviation from their nonsense as this pride, applied to `heretics' which he did. "It is no achievement to fast until your head aches and your body sickens; or to go to Rome and Jerusalem on your bare feet (on pilgrimages) or to rush about preaching as though you are expected to convert everybody. Nor is it an achievement to build churches, to feed the poor, to build hospitals. But it is a great achievement to Love, to hate the sin but to love the sinner .Although the above actions are good in themselves, they can be done by bad as well as good men alike for anyone can do them if they had the means. But to love your fellow man whilst hating the sin can only be done by the Grace of God and not through his own efforts".
By nature we take pride in any physical efforts we make to build this or do that, and we need God's help to overcome the natural instinct to hate those who do wrong to ourselves and others. This help is through the Great Spirit, our Love for it being in harmony with the Love that the Source has for us, This Divine Love comes to our aid to go against natural instincts: "The Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.... this gift of love is granted only to chosen souls."
The "food" of the world is as a poison. This is the propaganda we receive in schools, colleges and universities as well as governmental philosophies and Society pressures, often bent on loveless sex, drugs, alcoholism, and physical violence. We may not be all of these, and have just a small smearing of it in our lives, but Hilton advises; It is a shame to act in this way, so return home to yourself and remain there. Do not wander abroad begging for the food of swine...do not wander about like a beast from the flock any longer, or like a worldly person who has not the pleasure of anything except his bodily senses." This returning home is but a returning to the Divine who evolved us, and our Spiritual journey is one that eventually ensures, perhaps eons later will be the terminus of this journey. However far we may get on this particular phase of the Journey to God, it will be a mere episodic scrap compared with the Infinite Depths we can go. So let us never be full of ourselves or feel superior, we have done but a microscopic step or two towards this Infinity. This mention of our feeding on the food of swine is a reference to the prodigal son who left the home of his father (representing God) and went into the world of riotous living having asked for his share of the family fortunes in advance. He spent all his inheritance, almost starved, and was forced to eat the food of the pigs. This is a parable concerning our leaving the world of the Divine Source, and going into the world and its excesses. He decided to return home to his father and on doing so was not condemned but welcomed, and was given his place in the family back again. How true we find this in our own Spiritual lives! The subsequent return is made and we feel the Spirit within that brings us back to the "flock" and that peace within is ours once more.
"Do your utmost to guard your heart, for out of it comes life."