A peasant who has never passed beyond his own poor village only faintly realizes its poverty. But set him amid fabulous palaces and courts, and he will perceive how filthy his own home is and how pathetic his rags are compared with such magnificence. Even so we realize our own loathsomeness and unworthiness when brought face to face with the beauty and greatness of God.
Talk as much as you will of the vanity and emptiness of the world, the shortness and uncertainty of life, the inconstancy of fortune and friends, the delusions of grandeur, life’s inevitable and bitter disappointments, the failure of bright hopes, the emptiness of all we attain, and the pain of the evils we endure: all these things, true and just as they are, do not touch the heart. They do not reach far enough or alter people’s lives. People sigh over the bondage of vanity, yet they do not seek to break their bonds.
But let one ray of heavenly light penetrate within, and immediately seeing the depth of goodness, which is God, they likewise see the depth of evil, and know what fallen creatures they are. Then they despise themselves, and they hate, shun, fear, and renounce self. They throw themselves upon God and are lost in him. Truly such people’s loss is a blessed one, for they find themselves without seeking. They have no more selfish interests, but everything turns to their profit, for everything turns to good to those who love God. They see the mercies that flow into their weakness, sin, and nothingness. They see and rejoice.