Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
The other day I was browsing in a second hand book shop – anything to do with books or book shops and you have lost me for hours! There is just something about the smell and feel of old books that I love, and there is always something interesting to be found amongst the assortment of donated books. This time I came across a paperback The Sign of Jonas by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton which I had to buy. On the frontispiece inside the book I found the Latin words Ad Usum. Not being a Latin scholar I was at a loss as to their meaning. More importantly I wondered why the previous owner had inscribed these words in a paperback in such careful copperplate handwriting; the words obviously meant something important to him. A bit of online research revealed that literally they mean ‘for use’. That doesn’t help much. Further digging showed that in the past novice monks were sometimes required to write these words inside every book given to them. The idea was to instil in their minds the idea that although the book was given to them for their temporary, personal use, ultimately it did not belong to them.
Now this is quite a sobering thought since even a few minutes reflection of the words Ad Usum will bring home the realization that in this life we do not own anything really, not our books, our cars, our computers, our homes, our gardens, not even the clothes we stand up in. Everything is a gift, a gift of God. Ultimately we do not own anything whatsoever. Therefore struggling to achieve more; more wealth, more power or more recognition is a useless waste of time. Remember: ‘For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’ 1 Timothy 6:7 (AV) and ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Job 1:21 AV. All we have, and all we think we own, is a gift God gives us for our use on this earth. Thus we must take care of it, treasure it, as we would any gift. But whilst a material gift will rust or crumble away there is one gift God gives us that will remain with us for eternity; a gift more valuable than any other: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 AV And remember God gives us gifts in abundance not because we have been good but because God is good.
So those two simple words found inside a second hand book in a charity shop remind me of the depth of gratitude I owe to God for everything He has given to me. What do they mean to you?
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK