31 October 2009

Possessing the Highest Good

On this Vigil of All Saints and as we enter into a rare Sunday celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints, we learn more about the saints and how to be a saint from this Discourse of Saint Anselm’s Proslogion. This particular excerpt has several themes to ponder. First, God is wholly God forever. He is the Supreme Good. In other words, the saints are saints because of God, Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, the saints in heaven receive all goods because they love the one Good, Who is every good. Third, Saint Anselm challenges us to consider our own longings, our own desires; and then he explains that the fulfillment of those desires are to be found in heaven, where the saints dwell. Complete fulfillment or even a partial fulfillment, however, would be without joy, if it weren’t for God, the Source of all joy. Jesus promised a joy that is complete. The key to entering wholly into that joy, as Saint Anselm continues, is to rejoice, a great challenge for us in this highly secularized culture we live in. Finally, as if to expose our own human weaknesses while encouraging us to hand them over to God that He may extract good from them, Saint Anselm demonstrates his impatience in receiving the fulfillment of joy, by praying for his advancement in joy day after day. As mentioned at the start, the saints are saints because of God; and Saint Anselm shows us that becoming a saint begins here and now, by laying up treasures in heaven, that our hearts may be there as well (cf. Matthew 6:20-21).

You alone, Lord, You are Who You are, and You are the One Who is. Things that obey the law of change, one thing in the whole and another in the parts, is not altogether what it is. And what begins from non-existence, and can be conceived not to exist, and unless it subsists through something else, returns to non-existence; and what has a past existence, which is no longer, or a future existence, which is not yet, this does not properly and absolutely exist. But You, O Lord, You are what You are because whatever You are at any time, or in any way, You are as a whole and forever. In fact, You are He Who You are, properly and simply; for You have neither a past existence nor a future, but only a present existence; nor can You be conceived as at any time non-existent. But You, O Lord, are Life, and Light, and Wisdom, and Blessedness. And yet You are only One Supreme Good; You are all-sufficient to Yourself, and do not need anything; and You are He Whom all things need for their existence and wellbeing. This Good is You, God the Father; this is Your Word, Your Son. In fact, the Word by which You do express Yourself, that of You nothing can be born other than what You are. Your Word is truthful, as You are truthful, hence, it is Truth itself, just as You are, no other truth than You. And You are of so simple a nature, that of You nothing can be born other than what You are.

This highest good is the one love unique and common to You and to Your Son, that is, the Holy Spirit proceeding from both. For this love is not unequal to You or to Your Son; seeing that You do love Yourself and Him, and He, You and Himself, to the whole extent of Your Being and His. The Holy Spirit cannot differ from You, Father, or from Your Son, since He is the equal of both. Since He is Supreme Simplicity, He can only proceed from the Father and the Son. But what each is, separately, this is the whole Trinity at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; seeing that each separately is none other than the supremely simple Unity, and the supremely unitary Simplicity which can neither be multiplied nor varied. Moreover, there is a single necessary Being. Now, this is that single, necessary Being, in which is every good, and a single entire Good, and the only Good. Now, my soul, arise and lift up all your understanding, and conceive, so far as you can, of what character and how great is that Good!

If individual goods are delectable, conceive in earnestness how delectable is that Good which contains the pleasantness of all goods. It is a joy, however, very different from what we have experienced in created objects, as different as the Creator from the creature. If the created life is good, how good is the creative life! If the salvation given is delightful, how delightful is the Salvation which has given all salvation! If wisdom in the knowledge of the created world is lovely, how lovely is the Wisdom which has created all things from nothing! What goods and how great, belong to those who enjoy this Good! Joy is multiplied in the blessed from the blessedness and joy of others. Who shall enjoy this Supreme Good? And what shall belong to him, and what shall not belong to him? Whatever he wishes shall be his, and whatever he shall not wish shall not be his. These goods of body and soul will be such as eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has the heart of man conceived (cf. Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Why, then, do you wander abroad, small man, in your search for the goods of your soul and your body? Love the One Good in which are all goods, and it suffices; desire the Simple Good which is every good, and it is enough.

What are your longings, my flesh? What do you yearn for, my soul? What fulfills your desires is in heaven. If beauty delights you, there shall the righteous shine forth as the sun (cf. Matthew 13:43). Do you delight in swiftness or endurance, or freedom of body, which no one can withstand? The resurrection of the dead shall be like the angels, because it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:44). If it is a long and healthy life that pleases you, in God there is an eternity of health, for the righteous shall live forever (cf. Wisdom 5:16), and the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord (cf. Psalm 36:39). If it is satisfaction of hunger, they shall be satisfied when the glory of the Lord has appeared (cf. Exodus 16:7; Psalm 16:15). Do you want to taste an unspeakable joy? There draw water with joy from the springs of salvation (cf. Isaiah 12:3). If it is melody, there the choirs of angels sing forever before God. If it is chaste delights, in heaven you shall drink from the river of divine delights (cf. Psalm 35:9). If it is wisdom that delights you, the very Wisdom of God will reveal itself to you. Do you want the delights of friendship? There you will love God more than yourself, and others as yourself. God shall love you more than you yourself; for you love Him, and yourself, and others, through Him, and He, Himself and all, through Himself.

Are you looking for harmony? You’ll find it in heaven because the elect will have a single will. If power, you shall have all power to fulfill your will, as God to fulfill His. As God will have power to do what He wills, through Himself, so the blessed will have power, through Him, to do what they will. If honor and riches, God shall make His good and faithful servants rulers over many things (cf. Luke 12:42). In fact, they shall be called sons of God, and share in His divinity; and where His Son shall be, there they shall be also, heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (cf. Romans 8:17). If true security delights you, undoubtedly they shall be as sure that those goods, or rather that Good, will never and in no way fail them; as they shall be sure that they will not lose it of their own accord; and that God, Who loves them, will not take it away from those who love Him; and that nothing more powerful than God will separate Him from them against His will and theirs.

The possession of the highest Good is accompanied by an indescribable happiness. If you could dive into that ocean of joy, your human heart, so poor, so experienced in pain, even submerged in it, would be filled with delight. Ask your inmost mind whether it could contain its joy over so great a blessedness on its own. Yet assuredly, if any other whom you did love altogether as yourself possessed the same blessedness, your joy would be doubled, because you would rejoice no less for him than for yourself. But, if two, or three, or many more, had the same joy, you would rejoice as much for each one as for yourself, if you did love each as yourself. Thus, in that perfect love of innumerable blessed angels and sainted men, where none shall love another less than himself, every one shall rejoice for each other as for himself.

How shall the human heart contain its joy over its own great good, how shall it contain so many and so great joys? Doubtless, seeing that everyone loves another so far as he rejoices in the other's good, and as, in that perfect felicity, each one should love God beyond compare, more than himself and all the others with him; so he will rejoice beyond reckoning in the felicity of God, more than in his own and that of all the saints with him. The elect shall love God with all their heart, and all their mind, and all their soul. But if all the heart, all the mind, and all the soul will not equal the greatness of this love, how will they be able to support the fullness of their joy? My Lord and my God, You are the hope and joy of my heart. You have promised this happiness for my soul, saying through the Mouth of Your Divine Son: “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).

My meditation revealed the existence of an overabundance of joy that fills the heart, soul and mind. It penetrates the whole person and will still remain beyond measure. Not all of that joy shall enter into those who rejoice; but those who rejoice shall wholly enter into that joy. Speak to Your servant in his inmost heart the joy that is prepared for those who enter into Your Kingdom of heaven; Your saints will enjoy those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9). My words and thoughts could never conceive how greatly those blessed ones of Yours shall rejoice. They shall rejoice according as they shall love; and they shall love according as they shall know. How far they will know You, Lord, then, and how much they will love You! Hear, O Lord, my voice: If I cannot attain to full joy in this life, may I at least advance from day to day, until that joy shall come to the full. Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it; let my tongue speak of it. Let my heart love it; let my mouth talk of it; let my soul hunger for it; let my flesh thirst for it; let my whole being desire it, until I enter into the joy of my Lord, Who is the Triune God, blessed forever. Amen.