The mind a mill

October 15, 2007

St. Caesarius of Arles (c. 470 – 542), Sermo VIII.4. Latin text in Dom Germanus Morin, ed., Sancti Caesarii Arelatensis sermones…, pars prima, 2nd ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1953) [= Corpus Christianorum, series latina, vol. 103], p. 44.

Now consider what I am going to say, since it has to do with the matter about which we are speaking. Our mind seems to bear a resemblance to those millstones, which are continually turned by the force of running waters. In the same way as these stones cannot be inactive, so likewise human minds are never entirely at rest — while, nevertheless, what it is we choose to work on, whether with those mills of stone or with our own minds, stands, with God’s help, in our own power. Just as, if you put wheat into that granite mill, it grinds wheatmeal, and if you put in chaff, or dirt, or thorns, it doubtless turns this, too, into flour, so also in the mill of our mind, which cannot remain inactive, if we put in holy and upright thoughts, we grind a kind of spiritual wheat, with which we prepare a banquet for Christ, who deigns to abide and take supper with us. If, on the other hand, we grind indolent, unedifying thoughts, like chaff, if we grind thoughts tending to quarrels and greed or to wickedness, we are preparing a flour as it were of thorns and brambles, a food by which the devil is fed; if, again, we think something from motives of lust or wanton dissipation, we are providing ourselves with a food made of dirt or sludge. But let everyone know this thing, that whatever he chooses to grind in the mill of his heart in this world, he will carry with him as his food later in the world to come. And, for this reason, let everyone examine his own conscience, and if he recognizes that his mind is forever saddled with thoughts of pride or of greed or of wantonness, let him act swiftly to cast out what is bad, and to think constantly what is holy and pleasing to God.

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