This is a reprint of 2 devotionals, "The New Christian Year" (1941) and "The Passion of Christ: Being the Gospel Narrative of the Passion with Short Passages Taken from the Saints and Doctors of the Church" (1939), both chosen by Charles Williams, an English poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and teacher. Charles Walter Stansby Williams was most often associated with the Inklings (a group of christian writers including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis), Williams was also cited as a major influence on W.H. Auden's conversion to christianity and he was a peer and friend of T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers and Evelyn Underhill. These devotionals collect writings from throughout the history of christian thought. His choices were novel at the time, referencing Kierkegaard just as his translations were appearing in english print (Williams helped edit the first translations in England) and drawing upon the little known sermons of the poet John Donne.
For each day of the Church year (starting in Advent), quotes will be posted as they appeared in the 1941 edition of "The New Christian Year". They are categorized by the source on the left, so that readers can read more from each author. I will also add links to websites about each source.
During lent the "The New Christian Year" will be supplemented by quotes from "The Passion of the Christ". This text has passages from the Gospel accounts of the passion supplemented by quotes from the "Saints and Doctors of the Church".
Thou hast united, O Lord, thy divinity with our humanity and our humanity with thy divinity, thy life with our mortality and our mortality with thy life. Thou hast received what was ours and given unto us what was thine.
The Years A.D. 1-30 are the era of revelation and disclosure; the era, which is shown by the reference to David, sets forth the new and strange and divine definition of all time. The particularity of the years A.D. 1-30 is dissolved by this divine definition, because it makes every epoch a potental field of revelation and disclosure.
The will to all goodness, which is God Himself, began to display itself in a new way, when it first gave birth to creatures. The same will to all goodness began to manifest itself in another new way, when it became patience and compassion towards fallen creatures. But neither of these ways are the beginning of any new tempers or qualities in God, but only new and occasional manifestations of that true eternal will to all goodness which always was and always will be in the same fulness of infinity in God.
From all bodies together, we cannot obtain one little thought; this is impossible, and of another order. From all bodies and minds, we cannot produce a feeling of true charity; this is impossible, and of another supernatural order.
This book has been arranged on the same principles as The Passion of Christ (published in 1939), but it covers every day of the Christian Year. It is arranged, for convenience, according to the Sundays and chief Holy Days of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. It was impossible to include more Holy Days without either making the book larger than was desirable or else selecting according to my own personal wish. An effort has been made to ensure that all passages chosen shall have in them some particular greatness of phrasing. The works of the teachers and saints of the Christian Church are full of such phrases, and it sometimes seems a pity that we should prefer the looser and less powerful exhortations of contemporary piety. A recovery of a greater knowledge of the greater men is much to be wished.
There are two or three names in the following passages which may seem to recur more often than others; this may be excused by the fact that they are probably the least known at present. Kierkegaard has not yet become popular, nor has the wise master William Law, nor John Donne (as a teacher of souls). Still less known is the curious collection of goodness and dreams, the account of the eastern hermits which is called The Paradise of the Fathers. It is needless to say that many readers will complain of the omission of names, or of disproportion in choice. That is inevitable in a book of this kind; there will always be room for other books like it, and the matter in the original writers is almost inexhaustible. A very few modern writers have been included—not that there is nothing to be found in other moderns, but that the purpose of the book was rather to revive the unfamiliar than to repeat the more familiar. Certain passages have been found in books other than their authors' own; these have, I think, always been referred to the original. If I have omitted, in any case, to ask permission, is is due to the difficult conditions in which the book was compiled.
My thanks are due to Messrs George Bell for permission to include the passages from Coventry Patmore; to Messrs Burns, Oates, & Washbourne for those from The Cloud of Unknowing and those from the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas (and for these last also to the English Dominican Fathers); to Messrs Methuen for those from Richard Tauler's The Inner Way; also for those from the lady Juian of Norwich; to Messrs Chatto & Windus for extracts from The Book of Divine Consolation and from The Paradise of the Fathers; to Mr. T.S. Eliot and Messrs Faber & Faber for the one extract from Idea of a Christian Society and passages from Murder in the Cathedral; to Messrs Sheed & Ward for those from St. John of the Cross and from Leon Bloy's Letters to his Fiancee; to Messrs J.M. Watkins for the extracts from Meister Eckhart; to the Right Reverend the Lady Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey for those from St. Teresa; to the S.P.C.K. for the one extract from The Ascetic Works of St. Basil and the three from St. Seraphim of Sarov.
Then first do we attain to the fullness of God's love as His children, when it is no longer happiness or misery, prosperity of adversity, that draws us to Him or keeps us back from Him. What we should then experience none can utter; but it would be something far better than when we were burning with the first flame of love, and had great emotion, but less true submission.
Love does the work of all other graces without any instrument but its own immediate virtue. For as the love to sin makes a man sin against all his own reason, and all the discourses of wisdom, and all the advices of his friends, and without temptation, and without opportunity, so does the love of God; it makes a man chaste without the laborious arts of fasting and exterior disciplines, temperate in the midst of feasts, and is active enough to choose it without any intermedial appetites, and reaches at glory through the very heart of grace, without any other arms but those of love.
Give peace, that is, continue and preserve it; give peace, that is, give us hearts worthy of it, and thankful for it. In our time, that is, all our time: for there is more besides a fair morning required to make a fair day.
In suffering and tribulation there are really certain situations in which, humanly speaking, the thought of God and that he is nevertheless love, makes the suffering far more exhausting . . . For either one suffers at the thought that God the all-powerful, who could so easily help, leaves one helpless, or else one suffers because one's reason is crucified by the thought that God is love all the same and that what happens to one is for one's good . . . The further effort which the idea of God demands of us is to have to understand that suffering must not only be borne but that it is good, a gift of the God of love.
He who did not suffer as the man suffers upon whom hardships and adversity suddenly fall but who has before him every instant the possibility that everything nevertheless might be redressed—for He knew that it was inevitable; He who knew that with every new sacrifice He made in behalf of the truth He was hastening His persecution and destruction, so that He had control of His fate, could ensure for Himself the splendour of royal power and the devout admiration of the race if He would let go of the truth, but knew also with even greater certainty that He would ensure His destruction, if (oh, eternally certain way to destruction!) He were in any respect to desert the truth—how did he manage to live without anxiety for the next day? . . . He had Eternity with Him in the day that is called to-day, hence the next day had no power over Him, it had no existence for Him. It had no power over Him before it came, and when it came, and was the day that is called to-day it had no power over Him than that which was the Father's will, to which He had consented with eternal freedom, and to which He obediently bowed.
[There are] . . . those who form too strong a love for one spiritual art, and make, as it were, an end for themselves of this act, and if, by any chance, they lose it, straightaway they despair and cease from all other acts.
Some men the fiend will deceive in this manner full wonderfully. He will enflame their brains to maintain God's law, and to destroy sin in all other men. He will never tempt them with a thing that is openly evil. All men will they reprove of their faults right as though they had a cure of their souls: and yet they think that they dare not else for God but tell them their faults that they see. And they say that they be stirred thereto by the fire of charity, and of God's love in their hearts; and truly they lie, for it is with the fire of hell, welling up in their brains and in their imagination.
Would wicked men dwell a little more at home, and descend into the bottom of their own hearts they would soon find Hell opening her mouth wide upon them, and those secret fires of inward fury and displeasure breaking out upon them.
When the devil leaves any one he watches his time for return, and having taken it, he leads him into a second sin . . . Something like this took place in Judas, who after his repentance did not preserve his own heart, but received that more abundant sorrow supplied to him by the devil, who sought to swallow him up . . . But had he desired and looked for place and time for repentance, he would perhaps have found him who has said, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Or perhaps he desired to die before his Master on his way to death, and to meet him with a disembodied spirit that by confession and deprecation he might obtain mercy; and did not see that it is not fitting that a servant of God should dismiss himself from life, but should wait God's sentence.
Origen, quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas: Catena Aurea.
In the midst of my morning prayers I had a good meditation, which since I have forgotten. Thus much I remember of it—that it was pious in itself, but not proper for that time; for it took much from my devotion, and added nothing to my instruction; and my soul, not able to intend two things at once, abated of its fervency in praying. Thus snatching at two employments, I held neither well.
How easy is pen and paper piety, for one to write religiously? I will not say it costeth nothing, but it is far cheaper to work one's head than one's heart to goodness. Some, perchance, may guess me to be good by my writings, and so I shall deceive my reader. But if I do not desire to be good, I most of all deceive myself. I can make an hundred meditations sooner than subdue the least sin in my soul.
You still shall tramp and tread on endless round of thought, to justify your action to yourselves, weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave, pacing forever in the hell of make-believe which never is belief.