All I can remember of Chariots of Fire are the endless slow-motion track meets and a single line: “When I run, I feel his pleasure.” I had a similar feeling a couple of years ago one morning while happily cross-referencing two or three of my books. I became aware that I was made, in part, for God to enjoy my cross-referencing.
My cross-referencing is usually the first part and sometimes a large part of my devotions. It makes up most of the lectio and the meditatio of my Lectio Divina.
Do you read this way? I mean, how weird is this?
I’ll start reading a new book, or rereading an old one. It doesn’t have to be a devotional book, or even a “Christian” book, though it may be both. It may be the Bible or The Book of Common Prayer. It may be late at night and I’m reading a biography or maybe some poetry by Basho or Blake or Ben Zen.
All of a sudden, something in the book reminds me of something else in the book, or of something in another book. And I’m driven to link them with notes in the margins. I study the passages side by side. If it’s really going someplace, I type up something and save it on the computer.
I start spreading the books in front of me on the floor. Sometimes I have more than ten books out along with a few pads, a highlighter and a pen. And I’m excited. “My heart overflows with a good matter…” (Psalm 45:1).
And I’m often excited about the same thought I’ve had over several mornings over several years. My notes on the subject keep piling up, like sand on a drip castle. I sometimes interrupt my meditation with visions of writing a book on the subject.
I’d be tempted to, except my cross-referencing, like my reading, is not that extensive. I read a little at a time, and I stop and move into meditatio or oratio when I’m full enough with reading. It’s not like I’m deliberately researching or anything.
The number of books connected by my cross-references is relatively small. I have lots of books with a few cross references, and I have about twenty books with loads of cross-references. So all of the phantom books I would author would cite the same principal sources.
My method is pretty simple. I collect all references to a particular subject (or thought, if the subject is too broad) in the margin of the book that reminds me most about that subject or thought. Passages on the same subject or thought in other books are cross-referenced to that “central reference.”
I thought I’d give you a sample thought, starting with its central reference.
Thought: Our hearts can become our treasure — the playground God and we share.
Central reference: “Your heart, if it is totally surrendered to God, is itself that treasure, that very kingdom you long for and are seeking.” (Jean-Pierre deCaussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment (New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1989), p. 30.)
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, / For from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NNAS)
“He becomes to them a sensible presence Who follows them and envelops them wherever they go and in all that they do. . . . and when they have to be absorbed in some distracting work, they nevertheless easily find God again by a quick glance into their own souls.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1972), p.276-77.)
“Once the intellect has accomplished its task
of discovering the place where the heart resides,
it will immediately see things
of which it was previously ignorant
and could never have hoped to find.”
(Symeon the New Theologian, quoted in The Book of Mystical Chapters, John Anthony McGuckin, trans. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2002), p. 106.)
“The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, / But a good man will be satisfied with his.” (Proverbs 14:14, NNAS)
“All God’s creatures invite us to forget our vain cares and enter into our own hearts, which God Himself has made to be His paradise and our own.” (Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1983), p. 115.)
“Soul, you must seek yourself in Me / And in yourself seek Me.” (Teresa of Avila, “Seeking God.”)
“Isaac of Nineveh likewise used the image of Jacob’s ladder as an image for the ascent to God through descent: ‘Strive to enter the treasure chamber that is within you; that way you will see the heavenly treasure.'” (Anselm Gruen, Heaven Begins Within You, New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999), p. 21.)
“On one hand, the soul, moved by love, becomes the object of its own knowledge. On the other hand, the soul, touched and inflamed and transfigured by the illuminative flame of God’s immediate presence, is no longer the object of knowledge but the actual medium in which God is known.” (Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company 1979), p. 278.)
“…[W]here your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NNAS)