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Be a Reservoir

I recently had the privilege of leading a pre-ordination retreat for three people to be ordained deacon and one person to be ordained a priest. Before the retreat, I sent them some introductory information, including a framing quote from St Bernard of Clairvaux’s eighteenth sermon which can be a helpful challenge to all of us:

We must not give to others what we have received for ourselves; nor must we keep for ourselves that which we have received to spend on others. You fall into the latter error, if you possess the gift of eloquence or wisdom, and yet—through fear or sloth or false humility— neglect to use the gift for others’ benefit. And on the other hand, you dissipate and lose what is your own, if without right intention and from some wrong motive, you hasten to outpour yourself on others when your own soul is only half-filled. 

If you are wise therefore you will show yourself a reservoir and not a channel. For a channel pours out as fast as it takes in; but a reservoir waits until it is full before it overflows, and so communicates its surplus . . . We have all too few such reservoirs in the Church at present, though we have channels in plenty… They [channels] desire to pour out when they themselves are not yet inpoured; they are readier to speak than to listen, eager to teach that which they do not know, and most anxious to exercise authority on others, although they have not learnt to rule themselves. . . . Let the reservoir of which we spoke just now take pattern from the spring; for the spring does not form a stream or spread into a lake until it is brimful… Be filled yourself then…pour out your fullness… Out of your fullness help me if you can; and, if not, spare yourself.

image: one of my photos of a foggara in the Sahara (Oasis of Aougrout) – these are an incredible network of dug tunnels that gather water over long distances, fill reservoirs, and then distribute it to each according to their needs.

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