27 October 2010

Unity and Distinction

The Spirit of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, murmurs only one word: Father. The soul feels a slight breath pass through it, the breath of the divine life that the Father communicates eternally to the Son. At this breath, the soul feels turned round, powerfully drawn and carried up to Him Who is giving Himself to it. The Spirit raises up the soul, takes it out of itself, breaths into it light and energies of which it is not aware. It wants to resemble, to take to itself and be united with that Spirit, Who is the Spirit of God. It recalls the words of the Son of God in the Gospels: ‘Be perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Saint Matthew 5:48). Or the word of God recorded in Leviticus: ‘Be holy because I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44). It understands that this reflection of the divine Beauty in it seems to make the Father grow greater, and gives Him joy and glory. It asks and wants that joy and glory for Him Who imparts to it His life and the glorious light of His love.

It asks it for itself and for others, for the greatest number possible -- for all men. It cannot understand why all men are not carried away and transformed by this desire. It calls them, invites them, it sings: ‘All you works of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all for ever. Earth exult, break out into cries of joyfulness; angels of heaven, virtues of earth, stars of the firmament, zephyrs of the air, showers and dews, ice and snow, mountains and hills, waters and the sea, birds of the air and fish from the waters which animate them with their rapid motions; children of men and the people of God, priests and devout servants of the Most High-praise Him and bless Him, sing that He is great above all these things, unite in that praise so that it fills heaven and the earth, time and eternity, for ever’ (cf. Daniel 3:52 ff.).

Before this picture of the whole of creation praising and blessing, the Spirit shows the indifference and incomprehension of men -- souls that revolt and give voice to hatred instead of love. We see divine Love despised and above all misunderstood. Under the very Eyes of the Father, crowds unnumbered are in danger of being hurled into the abyss, insensible to His Voice, to all the evidence of His love, to their own true interests. There are others who pass long years before this spectacle, which for them becomes living. It enters into their very soul and crushes and shatters them. Jesus allows them to share, from afar, very afar, the hours of His agony in the Garden of Olives and His supreme abandonment on Calvary. At the sight of these things which crushes and overwhelms them, they perceive what a Heart infinitely tender and delicate -- much more so than that of any mother, spouse or friend of all time -- has had to suffer in these hours. There are others whom the feeling of justice invades, fills and raises up. They ask, they demand and indeed insist on the punishment of so many crimes. ‘My God’, they say, ‘Your Eyes are purity itself; they cannot bear the sight of iniquity. How can You put up with those who do evil, and keep silent when the wicked persecute the just’ (cf. Revelation 6:10).

Again, there are some who no longer seem to see anything or to wish for anything. They enter into a deep silence. For them God is like a distant and hidden place of retreat. These souls remain there with Him; they savor Him as one savors a ripe fruit. They listen to the beauty of His Voice, and His words fill them with delights of which nothing can give any idea here below. An immense peace fills them, wraps them round, cradles them like a mother cradles her child. They seem to have crossed for an instant the threshold of the abode where one loves and is loved in the light and the truth, and they understand that to remain there is the true life. In this life, such a repose is short, such satisfaction rare. We must resume our journey and our effort; we must be resigned to continue our pilgrimage to our true home, like children loved but still in exile.

These varying forms of prayer are all part of a deep unity. The same divine Breath inspires them, the same Love directs them, the same Word speaks to them, the same Father utters this Word in the depths of their heart. Unity and distinction -- divine characteristics marking all life like all being. It is the same God still giving Himself to souls, with the same love and in the various attitudes that He assumes in their regard when they pray.

This diversity of attitude is very strange, at least at first sight. Is it not opposed to love? Do we see the same kind of thing in the relations between a mother and her child, which is the nearest comparison we can get in the realm of human tenderness? Maternal affection and all human affections are comparisons, but only comparisons. They give us some idea of the reality, but they do not reproduce it wholly. Further, we are guilty and sick souls. An erring child is still loved, but it has to be made to realize its fault, and if it is for its good it must be punished. A sick child is surrounded by the most delicate attentions, but if a painful operation is necessary, the parents do not hesitate to agree to it. When we love, we want the good of the one we love, and all that can procure it. The various attitudes of God towards our prayers have no other explanation.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~