“Consume me incessantly!” St. Theresa of Lisieux

            One of my regular spiritual practices is frequent spiritual communions.  Through the last two years, I have often reflected on the practice, constantly struggling to enter more deeply, to keep my prayer spontaneous and fresh.  Then today, I revisited New & Divine, St. Theresa’s “To live in One Single Act of Perfect Love”—as I pray with each chime of my clock all through the day, it seems that this truly is what I seek.

Hugh Owens explains on p. 83:  “…the love of God is not a series of acts but a single successionless act in which a soul can actually abide through perfect abandonment.

“Thus on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, 1895, St. Therese performed the most important act of her life, her ‘great offering.’  She wrote:

‘In order to live in one single act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim or holocaust to your merciful love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God.’”

            What a tender, extraordinary prayer of the heart!  Yet what most struck me is the central short phrase:  Consume me incessantly.”  This should be the constant prayer of our hearts—this act of spiritual communion.

            In Sept. 2015 I read in The Simple Path to Union with God:  “Advice from St. Cajetan:    ‘Do not receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to use Him as you judge best, but give yourself to Him and let Him receive you in this Sacrament, so that He Himself, God your Savior, may do to you and through you whatever He wills.’”

            Recognizing something new in this phrase “let Him receive you,”  I realized that Communion works both ways: I consume Jesus and Jesus consumes me. I am communion, bread for Jesus.  Together, we are communion, bread for the Father.

            I was reminded of a letter to the Romans by St. Ignatius of Antioch; so rich is this word of one of the earliest bishops and martyrs of the church that I repeat it in its entirety here:

A letter to the Romans  by St. Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-108 A.D.):

            “I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

“The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

“The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still – my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

“I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”

                                    ***

Who or what are the lions in our simple, ordinary lives?  Let us realize that we, too, are ground by the teeth of the beasts in our humble way, to be the bread of God.

How humbled and privileged should we be to long for this communion, to be consumed and to consume. I remember the words of Jesus.  When He said, “Eat my body,” he used the Aramaic word for chew.  We should pray: “As I receive you, my Jesus, receive me into Your Body, Your Sacred Heart.   Chew me up, swallow me entirely, consume me completely, Your little victim of love.  My love has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.”

            Like St. Theresa, may I live as the perfect living holocaust, live in love, not through a series of acts but in a single successionless act, abiding in holy abandonment, crying, “Consume me incessantly!”

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3 thoughts on ““Consume me incessantly!” St. Theresa of Lisieux

  1. The Holy Spirit has been so good to us in our troubled times. NEW AND DIVINE: THE HOLINESS OF THE THIRD CHRISTIAN MILLENNIUM is such an astonishing wealth and richness for us. Anthony, are you also familiar with UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER? This is the retreat directed by Ven. Luis Martinez for Conchita on the grace of the Mystical Incarnation. Be sure, in this one, not to skip the Introduction, which in itself is so enlightening!

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  2. Excellent piece! Thank you for your beautiful insights!! On that same note, I highly recommend the book, “Living the Mystery of Merciful Love:30 Days With Therese of Lisieux” by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke. It explains more deeply her self offering to merciful love by expounding on many of the letters she wrote during her life.

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