A little story

(Image from animal.discovery.com)

I'm doing some work on medieval saints, and I came across this story recounted the Golden Legend by Jacques de Voraigne, about St. John the Evangelist and Apostle (medieval types were a little confused about this):

Someone gave a live partridge to the blessed John (as Cassian tells us in his Conferences), and he gently held and stroked the bird.  Seeing this, a boy laughed and called to his companions: "Come and watch this old man playing with a little bird like a child!" The saint, knowing by the spirit what was going on, called him and asked what it was the youngster held in his hand.  The boy said that it was a bow, and John asked what he did with it.  The answer was: "We shoot birds and animals!"  Then the lad stretched his bow and held it taut in his hand, but when the apostle said nothing, he loosened it.  John asked him why he loosened the bowstring, and he replied: "Because if you keep it stretched too long, it gets too weak to shoot the arrows."  So John told him: "That's how it is with human fragility: we would have less strength for contemplation if we never relaxed and refused to give in now and then to our own weakness.  So too the eagle, which flies higher than any other bird and looks straight into the sun, yet by its nature must come down again; and the human spirit, after it rests awhile from contemplation, is refreshed and returns more ardently to heavenly thoughts."

(From the translation by William Granger Ryan, volume 1, p. 54.)

I'm looking forward to sort of the opposite--my retreat is next week!


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