Week One, Day Two
from Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ
"The only fruitful self-knowledge, and the only true one, is that which grows out of man's self-confrontation with God. We must first look at God and His immeasurable glory, and then put the question: 'Who art Thou, and who am I?' We must speak with St. Augustine: "Could I but know Thee, I should know myself." It is only in recognition of our metaphysical situation, only in awareness of our destiny and our vocation that we can become truly cognizant of ourselves. Only the light of God and His challenge to us can open our eyes to all our shortcomings and deficiencies, impressing upon us the discrepancy between what we ought to be and what we are. Contemplation of one's own self in this light is animated by a profound earnestness; it is vastly different from all species of a neutral and purely psychological self-analysis.
"Still, can we avoid becoming a prey to despondency, when we peer into the dark abysses of our failures? Will not our zeal abate, our vigor be paralyzed, when we see how remote we still are from our goal, and how much lower we rank than we had supposed? Can anyone acquire a clear insight into his inner wounds and weaknesses without becoming discouraged? Certainly, self-knowledge may result in discouragement and despondency, on the supposition that our general attitude still remains a purely natural one. The true Christian, however, who lives by the Faith, will not be driven to such utter despair by self-knowledge, nor collapse under the weight of his sins when sensing their import and magnitude. For he knows that God wills his sanctification; that Christ, "in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins," has called him, and laid His hand upon him. In defiance of all his sins and all the darkness in him, he will say with St. Thomas Aquinas: 'O Loving Pelican, Lord Jesus, wash me clean in thy blood.' He knows that he can accomplish nothing through his own power but everything in Christ. Not by his own force shall he span the abyss that yawns between him and God: Christ shall carry him over, if he is willing to follow Him without reserve.By His light, there is no darkness that cannot be dispelled, nay, even changed into radiating brightness. 'Darkness shall not be dark to Thee, and night shall be light as the day.' "