Just a few days ago, I found a treasure online, a profound work by St. Bernard which I had never seen before. However, the format of the files was so difficult to read that I was moved immediately to edit it myself, making it user friendly and scaled to fit on phone or tablet. The Table of Contents is on p.. 16. Pages are designated in blue; find titles in bold red. Enjoy!
Today I discovered a charming and deeply spiritual blog called “A Cloistered Heart.” I can’t do it justice here without stealing some of Nancy’s thunder. Let me just quote this one little part: “THE CLOISTERED HEART IS a way of living for God in the midst of the world. It is heart monasticism that can be embraced by married or single persons, religious or lay. It’s an analogy in which our lives can be “monasteries,” our hearts can live in the “enclosure” of Christ, and all things may be viewed through the will of God as through a “grille.”
This lovely mother and grandmother is a woman after my own heart! One of her initial posts explains the cloistered heart in greater and more profound detail: http://www.thecloisteredheart.org/2017/08/so-what-is-cloistered-heart.html
I return often to my own post, THE INNER CLOISTER OF FIAT–it’s the same idea which I captured from my beloved Conchita and of course, Love Crucified refers also to our “domestic monasteries.”
Enjoy her lovely artwork and the graphics. She cites so well many of the saints. What a refreshing blog!
The Holy Spirit has been much on my mind and in my prayer in the last couple of weeks. Not only do I return to Him periodically, but I often write about Him because I don’t think we appreciate His great presence as we should.
In one of our Cenacles of Love Crucified, Pati told us that we should put a copy of our Covenant where we can see and pray it daily. [Love Crucified is a Catholic covenant community, a community of lay men and women, husbands and wives in some cases, and ordained priests and deacons as well, all solemnly vowing to live in a covenant of sacrificial love as brothers and sisters helping one another on the path to Union with the Blessed Trinity. See: http://lovecrucified.com/ ]
Following Pati’s lead, I have been meditating on the covenant in the last few days, noting this part in particular: “My Lord, I surrender myself to the Holy Spirit and vow to be attentive to His promptings and movements in my soul, that I may come to a deeper knowledge of Christ and of myself….”
In the last few years I have become so conscious of the Holy Spirit, so thirsty to come to know Him and “to be attentive to His promptings and movements in my soul.” But how? How does this look in every day practice; and specifically, what does one do to accomplish this in real time?
I determined to review the posts I have already written on the Holy Spirit and see if I could gain some perspective and insight. Then I saw this article a few days ago on a Catholic website, Spiritual Direction, which published an article: “Gift of the Holy Spirit and the Divine Indwelling”:
“So, what does indwelling even mean? Indwelling is the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit in a person who is in the state of grace.’ … Christians are temples of the living God when they choose to cooperate with grace. St. Augustine says, ‘Although God is everywhere wholly present, he does not dwell in everyone. It is not possible to say to all what the Apostle says: ‘Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?’ He that is everywhere does not dwell in all, and he does not dwell equally in those in whom he does dwell.’” [https://www.spiritualdirection.com/2017/10/19/gift-of-the-holy-spirit-and-the-divine-indwelling]
The Holy Spirit dwells within us from the moment of our baptism and will leave only when we are no longer in the state of grace. But St. Augustine tells us here that “he does not dwell equally in those in whom he does dwell.” What does that mean?
What can it mean but that if we ignore the Spirit of God who Indwells us, we do not grow in grace, and that the more we cooperate with grace, the deeper and more profound the Indwelling. What could deepen the Indwelling more than “to be attentive to His promptings and movements in my soul”? Now it is clear to us WHY we need to be attentive; but HOW?
I remember a wonderful post by Mark Mallett a year ago, RAISE YOUR SAILS. He combined three aspects of spirituality: the “strong driving wind” of the Holy Spirit, abandonment to the Divine Will through the duty of the moment, and embracing the Cross, especially as we face the Storm.
My reflections on his post led to my own post , HOLY WIND. This morning I was deeply moved again by Mark’s explanation:
“At each and every moment, trust the Holy Spirit who blows where He wills according to My plan….
“Each and every moment the Divine Will of God blows in your life within the present moment. All that is required of you is to simply raise the sails of trust into the Winds of the moment and, turning the rudder of obedience, do that which the moment requires, the duty of the moment. Just as the wind is invisible, so too, hidden within this moment is the power of God to transform, sanctify, and make you holy—yes, hidden behind the mundane, the ordinary, the unglamorous; behind crosses and consolations, the will of God is always there, always working, always active.”
To respond to every impulse and movement of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Indwelling is simply to “do that which the moment requires.” If we look at our life, often hectic and confusing, paying attention to the Holy Spirit seems impossible; but Mark tells us: “hidden within this moment is the power of God.” Obedience is needed in just this moment, one moment at a time, whether mundane, ordinary, unglamorous. We are blind; but “the will of God is always there, always working, always active” in the moment. All I need is to “do that which the moment requires.”
Isn’t this the way Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, led her entire life? Each moment was filled with a simple FIAT.
In UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, Ven. Luis Martinez reminds Conchita:
“Do not forget that because of the mystical incarnation the Holy Spirit moves you almost constantly, not only in actions which seem important, but in all actions, even in ordinary and small ones. Are there perhaps common actions for souls that the Holy Spirit possesses and moves? Even though you are unaware of it, your divine Spouse constantly moves your soul, and places His divine seal on your activity” [p. 179].
What that means for us is that as living hosts, other Christs, the Holy Spirit constantly moves within us, even though we may be unaware of it. He is the constant Pulse of our life as he places His divine seal on every action, “even in ordinary and small ones.” Like Mary, spouse of the Holy Spirit, we are to submit our will in abandonment and fiat in each moment; like Mary, we too will be spouses of the Holy Spirit, as we grow in grace before God and man, yearning to be utterly filled with the Divine Indwelling.
If the Holy Spirit is not the pulse of your life, then who or what is?
LINKS TO MY OTHER POSTS ON THE HOLY SPIRIT:
“The Holy Spirit and His Seven Gifts” – https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/soul-food-talk-8-the-holy-spirit-and-his-seven-gifts/
“Touching the Holy Spirit—Part 1” – https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/touching-the-holy-spirit-part-1/
“Touching the Holy Spirit—Part 2”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/touching-the-holy-spirit-part-2/
“Sensuality and the Holy Spirit” – https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/sensuality-the-holy-spirit/
“Unity in the Holy Spirit”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/unity-in-the-holy-spirit/
“The Holy Wind”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/the-holy-wind/
POSTS ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE MOMENT:
“The Sacrament of the Moment”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/the-sacrament-of-the-moment/
“Abandonment to Divine Providence”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/soul-food-talk-5-abandonment-to-divine-providence/
“My Little Tabernacle of Ordinary Life”- https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/my-little-tabernacle-of-ordinary-life-from-ammies-testimony-on-being-a-living-host/
Before Hurricane Harvey, before Irma, I wrote in my journal: For the last few weeks I have been in somewhat of a spiritual Limbo—going to Adoration and Mass, yes, but rather dry, tired mostly from continuing insomnia. I have felt myself pulling back. I don’t know how else to say it. It was not from choice, but from feeling; I was, at best, only half conscious of this, but it grieved me. I felt I was being unfaithful.
Then, this week, while trying to walk in the mall for exercise, I made an unwise purchase, a vanity purchase, a frivolous act which is truly not in character for me; and it distresses me, pushes me to repentance. I ask myself and Jesus: “What is happening here?”
This dryness has physical cause, I know, the insomnia—but how did I come to this frivolous act so unlike me? I say with the Gospel: “An enemy has done this!”
I am little and weak, Lord. As with David, give me five stones for my slingshot: humily, purity, simplicity, trust, and courage.
Mother, help me to live always in the inner chamber of Fiat.
Trying to work myself through this strange ennui, still confused about what I had done and why I had done it, I returned to a continual meditation on FIAT, reading and reflecting on this little paragraph which I wrote last spring on HARDNESS OF HEART: “Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected….” And also on THE INNER CLOISTER OF FIAT, Jesus tells Blessed Conchita: “You are to live cloistered in the very inner sanctuary of your soul, for there is where dwells the Holy Spirit. …enter into the innermost regions of your soul…. The ‘inner cloister’ is essential for the sanctification of the soul wishing to be all Mine.” The Holy Spirit then revealed to me: ““In the perfect FIAT of my Mother, I find my inner cloister.”
I felt I had moved outside of God’s will—outside of FIAT, for as short time as perhaps it had been—that I had been unfaithful, having failed humility, prudence, and charity. For what I had spent I could have sent much relief to Texas, and now Florida. I determined that my penance would be to wear the cosmetic products, and every time I did, I would see and feel the humiliation on my very face, the shame, the disgrace I had brought upon myself—so well deserved.
Over the last few years, I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed with Blessed Conchita, her words from a holy hour [which I read and first prayed in Oct. 2014]: “I want to live and die hidden in a sacrifice…immolation, far away from every human glance, burning myself like incense in the midst of my roughness, with a constant death to all my self-will. Help me, my Life, to destroy within my heart every self-indulgence, consuming myself silently as the candle flame before your altar.”
Now God had hit me between the eyes with a 2X4, showing me my vanity—very much alive and well, my self-will, self-love, self-indulgence. I have been humbled, so very humbled.
Then today the Holy Spirit led me to a little book, Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange’s book PROVIDENCE, largely based on Father de Caussade’s classic. I came upon this quotation by St. Catherine of Siena: If My servants are confused at the knowledge of their imperfection, if they give themselves up to the love of virtue, if they dig up with hatred the root of spiritual self-love… they will be so pleasing to Me… that I will manifest Myself to them…. My charity is manifested in two ways; first, in general, to ordinary people. The second mode of manifestation… is peculiar to those who have become My friends…. When I reveal Myself to her it makes itself felt in the very depths of the soul, by which such souls taste, know, prove and feel it”.
God consoles. Yes, this servant is confused by the knowledge of my imperfection despite my love of virtue, and oh yes—I am digging with hatred the root of spiritual self-love…. Yet He promises to reveal Himself to me: “to those who have become My friends…. When I reveal Myself to her it makes itself felt in the very depths of the soul, by which such souls taste, know, prove and feel it.”
Certainly it is this root of spiritual self-love, self-indulgence or vanity on the sensual level, that trips us up and makes us fall. I have crawled back into my little inner cloister of FIAT humbled and grateful to my Consoler. I continue to pray Conchita’s prayer because this love of virtue is the greatest desire of my heart. The more fiery my desire for virtue, the greater the hatred with which I will attack the root of spiritual self-love. I have my five stones which served David well against Goliath: humility, purity, simplicity, trust, and courage—and they will also serve me well.
In one of her last retreats with Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez, Conchita reflects on “Absences”—especially the palpable absence of Jesus in this retreat: “Lord,” I said to Him with my heart heavy, “why haven’t You let me feel Your presence during this retreat, as in the others? Why does it seem to me that You are veiled and have hidden so as not to let me see You clearly, as on other occasions?”
Conchita uses the plural, “absences” because most of the time in her spiritual life she has enjoyed the delights of His presence as intimacy. Yet the experience of absence, whenever it occurs, invites her to a deeper level of redemptive suffering for souls and for priests. How appropriate in this retreat which probes the meaning of the mystical carnation, her vocation to be a living host, that she deeply suffers His absence.
Jesus explains to her: “… if, through My absence, through not letting you experience My sensible presence, other souls and priests give Me glory, then, do you not want it?
“Is it not true that you willingly and out of pure love for the glory of My Father, do without consolations, caresses, My nearness to your soul, for the sake of priests and especially for the glory of My Father?
“If you only understood what this detachment offered out of pure love is worth in the presence of God!
“…offer yourself in union with Him, painfully deprived of what you hold most dear: My consolations, apparent absence, veiled presence and the sensible caresses of My pure love.
“I alone understand the magnitude of this hidden martyrdom; it is the supreme sacrifice of a soul on earth, and what gives My Father the most glory, because it is a loving, motherly sacrifice.
“How few souls penetrate the secret which I reveal to you today! They see the external, but do not arrive at the very depth of My heroic sacrifice on the Cross. How could I do without the love of My Father, which wrenched a loving groan from My soul full of bitterness, a cry of infinite suffering, because the divinity had hidden itself, in a certain sense, from My sight?”
Tears came to my eyes and Jesus, so good, gentle and compassionate told me:
“Weep, weep over this more or less intense apparent separation from what you love most; but even these tears, this very sensitive and holy suffering, unite it to My suffering and offer it exclusively for the glory of My Father. Promise you will do it, won’t you?”
“For this I brought you here to make you taste this bitterness, to make you know its salvific consequences in all its extension on behalf of so many priests, so that you may sprinkle the Church in her members with your tears” [Under the Gaze of the Father, pp. 85-86].
We read in the New Testament that after the death of Jesus, two of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem mourning and confused about the loss of their Lord. After the Resurrection, He appeared to them on the road to Emmaus, walking and talking with them, finally revealing Himself to them in Emmaus. As they hurried back to Jerusalem from Emmaus, they said to one another: “Were our hearts not burning within us?” [Lk 24:32].
The burning of the heart occurs in the conviction of His presence, in the sweetness of intimacy. The suffering of absence turns this burning into ashes, no longer even warm. Sometimes it feels as though the intimacy of His presence had never been nor ever will be again. We wonder if we have deluded ourselves, that this burning delight of the heart has been merely a figment of our imagination.
This piercing sorrow of absence has been experienced by many saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for example. This dark night of the soul lasted throughout most of her life. [See “The Kiss of Jesus”: https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/the-kiss-of-jesus-mther-st-teresa-of-calcutta/
Isn’t this “suffering of absences” also the essence of the Soledad of our Sorrowful Mother Mary? Father Philipon, the editor of Conchita’s Diary explains soledad in this way: “solitude,” “isolation,” and silent martyrdom in pure faith, in the apparent absence of God…” [Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 172].
He adds further: “Mary’s solitude is the most perfect association with the redemptive act of Christ. The drama of our salvation is decided at the very moment when Jesus was abandoned mysteriously by His Father, and when He Himself abandoned Himself, in response, with confidence and love, into His hands. It is the consent of a man in supreme agony” [Diary, 177].
Furthermore, Jesus Himself explains to Conchita: “You had for long pondered the first solitude of Mary, that is, the exterior solitude, but you had not thought about the cruelest and the bitterest, the interior solitude which tore her to pieces and in which her spirit felt an agony on account of being abandoned.
“The martyrdom of Mary after My Ascension was not caused solely by My material absence. She suffered terrible tests of abandonment like to that I Myself underwent on the Cross. My Father united her to Mine which gained so many graces.
“As co-redemptrix, Mary heard in her soul so wholly pure the echo of all My agonies, humiliations, outrages and tortures, felt the weight of the sins of the world which made My Heart bleed, and the moving sorrow of the abandonment of heaven which obtains graces.
“You are to be a faithful echo of this Mother of Sorrows. You must experience the pure abandonment, My own abandonment, this desertion which through purification acquires graces.”
He clarifies for us that this suffering of absence is the abandonment of the “Trinity, which hid itself from her, leaving her in a spiritual and divine abandonment….
“This abandonment of Mary, this vivid and palpitating martyrdom of her solitude, the desolating martyrdom of divine abandonment, which she suffered heroically with loving resignation and sublime surrender to My will, is not honored.
“Imitate her in your littleness, in your poor capabilities strive with all the strength of your heart: you must do it in order to obtain graces and to purify yourself” [Diary, 177-178].
Christ makes it clear that this abandonment, the suffering of absence, is redemptive: “It is a great honor for souls when the Father calls them to associate them with Redemption; with the co-redemption uniting them with Me and Mary; with the apostolate of the Cross, that is, with that of innocent suffering, of sorrow full of love and pure, expiatory and salvific sorrow on behalf of the culpable world” (Diary, June 23, 1918) [178-179].
Love Crucified pleads with us to “suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one in My sacrifice of love.” Mary suffers all with Him, including the pinnacle of His passion—the abandonment of the Father—which tears from the humanity and heart of Jesus these words: “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” Mt. 27:46]. As we suffer with Jesus and Mary the hidden martyrdom of the suffering of absence, we too participate in redemptive love. In the Diary we read: “Solitude is participation in the inmost Passion of Christ’s Cross and a consequence of the mystical incarnation” [p. 174].
If we are nailed to the Cross with Love Crucified, if we are living hosts, we must also participate in the grievous sorrow of abandonment by the Trinity, the tangible loss of His presence, the cold ashes of the dark night of the soul. In her last days Conchita wrote in her Diary:
“Mother of Sorrows whom I love so much, teach me to suffer as You suffered and to love Jesus as You loved Him in your awful solitude” (Oct. 13, 1936). “I promise Him with all my heart to abandon myself in the God who abandons me” (Oct. 6, 1936) .
Today I was stunned by the profound beauty which I found in UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, a retreat on the mystical incarnation, which Archbishop Luis Martinez gave in 1935 to Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida, our beloved Conchita. On the ninth day of her retreat, Archbishop Luis spoke of sacrifice.
Having referred often to the mystical incarnation, living host, as well as a host of other beautiful teachings, I am humbled by the difficulty of explaining or even showing in the remotest way how all of this is related to our life in the Spirit. It occurs to me that this gift of our baptism, our new life in the Holy Spirit, could be compared to a splendid jewel with thousands of brilliant facets. Jesus himself compared the Kingdom to the pearl of great price. I think what I try to do in each post is to explore one tiny facet of this jewel of our spiritual life, yet all remains deepest mystery which we can only touch upon, but never fathom.
In his meditation on sacrifice, our beloved Archbishop explains that Jesus loves Abba so much that He willingly sacrifices Himself on the Cross, but he also explains why the Cross is the ultimate vehicle for that love. He says, “…because divine love is infinite, its expression is infinite, its gift is infinite, and its canticle is infinite. In heaven, in the bosom of God, the expression of love is the ineffable communication of the Divinity in the inscrutable divine processions.” [Under the Gaze, p. 77]
What he means is that divine love in heaven, in the bosom of God, expresses itself in the interplay of the persons of the Trinity, the Father pouring himself wholly and completely into His Word, the love of the Father and the Son expressing through the Holy Spirit—the entire mystery of the Trinity—the uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal love.
But on earth, in Jesus, now the God/man, how can this “uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal love” hope to express itself in finite flesh? As Archbishop Luis exclaims,
“When this love is transplanted on earth, as it was when Jesus appeared on it, what will its expression, gift and canticle be like? What will Jesus, who bears eternal love in His Heart, do in order to tell His Father that He loves Him, in order to intone the full and just canticle to God’s glory?”
“On earth, there is no infinity! Here all expressions are narrow and all gifts limited, and all canticles are poor in harmony, faded and ephemeral, since they cannot fill the universe with sonority, nor contain in their poor notes the infinite fullness of harmony!”
“On earth, heavenly love found its expression and canticle in the Cross…. The suffering and death which are symbolized by the Cross are the infinity of earth, the infinity of poverty and misery, but in the end, infinity.” [ p. 77]
The Cross is the ultimate canticle of the God/man. In the Cross lies earth’s infinity of suffering, self-giving, and holocaust of love. If Christ could have given more, He would have. The very fact that the Cross was the way He chose to express the completeness, the fullness of outpouring of His love for the Father tells us that there was simply no other way to do it. The Cross is the ultimate kenosis. No other way for Him. No other way for us.
Ven. Luis gives us this:
“On earth, the expression of the divine love is the Cross, which is the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner and the canticle of this love is the “Consumatum est” of Calvary. It is the voice of the Spirit which cries out, of the blood which is shed, of the water which flows out of the open side.” [p. 78]
But the Canticle of the Cross is not for Jesus alone. He speaks to each of His baptized children: “If you would come after Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” [Lk. 9:23] Archbishop Luis adds:
“… in order to show its love for the Father, in order to find its expression and canticle, the soul seeks the mysterious and unspeakable canticle of the Cross. On the Cross, the soul offers Jesus and nails itself to it with Him.”
I wrote in an earlier post, “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.” Nailed to the cross with Christ, the victim with the Victim outpours to Abba from a finite little heart the infinity of an eternal Canticle of Love. Here is “the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner” of which Archbishop Luis speaks. St. Theresa understood this kind of canticle, doing the little things with great love. Like St. Theresa, we are crucified, too, in the ordinary tedium of our little lives.
Most beautiful is the way Archbishop Luis ended his meditation. After reflecting on the Works of the Cross and those points particular to Conchita, he says:
“…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.” [p. 79]
The transformed soul is, of course, the soul which has received the gift of mystical incarnation. For a long time I wondered if this gift was special, only for Conchita, but Archbishop Luis refers on several occasions to “mystical incarnations.” For example on p. 68-69, he tells Conchita,
“How, without being Jesus, could the soul realize the intimate and fine work of the sacrifice and the intimate priesthood of Jesus?”
And on p. 74:
“Being Jesus, the soul loves the Father, reflecting Jesus’ love and seeking His glory as Jesus sought it so that the love, suffering, actions and life of the soul aim with perfect unity and intense concentration at one point, just as all the activities of Jesus’ soul converged to the glory of the Father, the center and crowning of Jesus’ life.” Don’t we have here in the “love, suffering, actions, and life of the soul,” the Canticle of the Cross? One Victim, one Song.
The Holy Spirit transforms the soul, if it is faithful; it is in and through the Holy Spirit that the Canticle of the Cross pours forth to the glory of the Father. I learned from Archbishop Luis long ago, that “wherever the little Dove nests is the Heart of Jesus.” When the Holy Spirit nested in the Blessed Virgin, she incarnated the Son of God. So it is with us. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit and in our complete abandonment to Him can our hearts be fused to the Heart of Christ and we become one spirit.
It is through the Holy Spirit that we are transformed into His living hosts [which is another way of expressing Conchita’s “mystical incarnation”]. We read in A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, in message 49 on the Eucharist:
“Your ordinary and hidden life through the Cross becomes united to My Eucharistic life. Your hidden life takes on the same power as My hidden life because we are no longer two but ONE. These are My living hosts. In this union of love, you enter and live in the realm of God. Through Me, with Me and in Me your most ordinary life is the power of God. Your thoughts, words, deeds, but most especially your tears and sorrows of heart, possess the power of God to bless the world. Your hidden life not seen by anyone is seen by God; and through Me, with Me and in Me, He blesses many. Your life as ONE with My Eucharistic life moves beyond time and space.” [A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, P. 162]
This is the end for which we were created, for which we were baptized. From the hearts of His living hosts, the Canticle of the Cross rises to the glory of the Father: “…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.”
In our Love Crucified Community, Jesus tells us, “Suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one, in My sacrifice of Love.” In an earlier post, “The Kiss of Jesus,” I commented, “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.” I continue to come back to that reflection, that it is in suffering WITH Christ that we enter intimacy.
It is not enough that we “offer it up”—this offering I learned as a child from my mother. No, to suffer with is intimate. To offer up is to stand outside, independent, separate. Love Crucified teaches us:
“…unless we touch His wounds, love remains an idea in our minds with no power to heal our hearts. By touching His wounds, we touch His love, the love by which He laid down His life for us. We touch Christ’s wounds by uniting our sufferings with His.
“This condition exists because only through our own sufferings are we able to come personally to touch the sufferings of Christ.…Because when we touch Jesus’ sufferings, we touch Love itself.
“For example, if we never suffer the pain of rejection, we can never come to know and experience the rejection that Jesus suffered.
“This is the necessary process to union with God. St. Paul tells us there is a condition for us to be “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ”: “provided we suffer with Him” (Rom 8:12-17) (The Simple Path, p. 86-87).
How long has it taken me to learn this: only through my own sufferings can I experience the sufferings of Christ. If I dodge, distract myself, or complain, I dodge, distract myself from Christ who is Love Crucified. Or another way of putting it: Through my wounds I enter the wounds of Christ.
This week I watched THE SEVENTH CHAMBER, the life of Edith Stein, canonized by Pope John Paul in 1998. She has been on my heart all week. The brilliant child of a Jewish family in Germany, she became a professor of philosophy, a skeptic of religion. But when she read St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS, her conclusion was, “This is the truth.” St. Teresa led her to conversion, to the Catholic Church. After persecutions began under the Nazis, she entered Carmel to become Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross—not to dodge persecution, but because she wanted an intimate relationship with Christ.
Her sufferings were great, as she endured betrayal of professional friends and the agonized refusal of her family, especially her mother, to accept her conversion to Catholicism or her vocation to the Carmelites. Even the order itself wondered if she had chosen Carmel as a refuge from persecution. But Edith had realized finally that religion was not a set of moral directives but a Person. Her joy in her suffering was in this extraordinary relationship as she learned intimacy through what she suffered.
Counseled to leave the country, she finally went to Carmel in Holland, where the Nazis intruded to extricate her and her sister, Rosa, to Auschwitz. As her superior wept, Sister Teresa Benedetta comforted her with these words—not to be concerned because, “I have finally accepted my destiny.”
One of the greatest sufferings endured by St. Teresa Benedetta was the crushing oppression of her people by Hitler whom she viewed as a satan. What she meant by “I have finally accepted my destiny” is that she would embrace all suffering, one with her people, one with her Christ.
This word destiny recalled to me a reflection which I wrote on Romano Guardini’s article “Acceptance”:
“Destiny is not an accident. It possesses a logical consistency which is determined externally by the connection of events but also internally by the nature and character of the person involved .” Finally, acceptance of self means that I consent simply to be. Here is the rub: “I did not confront the possibility of my own existence and decide that I wished to be, but I was cast into being. I came forth from the lives of my parents, of my ancestors, out of the condition of the age.”
This “age” I remarked, “ is filled with the effects of unredeemed original sin…complicated by repeated, serious, unrepented personal sin.”
How is destiny fair? It is not, nor can it be; not for us, not for Edith Stein. But Romano Guardini reminds us:
“Through the Incarnation, He stepped into the space which forms a single chain of destiny for him who lives in it. God stepped into history. When the eternal Son became man, He did so in reality, without protection or exception, vulnerable by word and act; woven, like us, into the stifling web of effects that proceed from the confused hearts of men….He does this prepared for all that would happen to Him, without reservation, without evasion, without resorting to resistance or craft. Men, who have really no power over Him to whom is given ‘all power in Heaven and on earth,’ inflict a bitter destiny upon Him. But this is the form of His Father’s will for Him. This will is His own will; to accomplish it is the ‘food’ of His life.”
Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross told her superior, “I have finally accepted my destiny.” THIS is the destiny which she accepted, cast as she was into her unique place in history, among her people, in her family—the sweet destiny of suffering with Christ. For her, the Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.
Before she is sent to Auschwitz, she is explaining the seven chambers of St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS to another sister. After revealing the meaning of the first six chambers, the sister asks her, “and what of the seventh?” The saint replies, “I have not yet entered the seventh chamber.”
Full union with Love Crucified would come with the saint’s embrace of all the sufferings that went with the gas chamber of Auschwitz, for her—the seventh chamber of Union. This suffering consisted not only of her personal physical distress and that of her sister Rosa, but also included her sufferings for the people around her, the Jewish men, women, and children who were also ravaged by Nazi oppression.
As I reflected on this precious saint, I realized once again that my unique sufferings are the key to the unique intimacy, Union, holiness, which God has chosen for me personally. To enter holiness is not to enter a state of being so much as to accept my destiny, God’s Will, the Cross. Holiness is to embrace a Person, Christ, Love Crucified, through the intimacy of suffering.
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!”
AUDIO (parts 1 & 2)
One of the consequences of hardness of heart is that it makes us deficient in faith and trust. The object of faith is God Himself. Faith, the theological virtue infused through the Holy Spirit at baptism, enables us to submit our intellect and will to God. It is only through faith that we are able to approach God.
Mary’s faith is the perfect example and model of faith. As all of us do, Mary used her understanding to approach God, but did not rely on it, stand on it alone, for it would have failed her. Her FIAT, “let it be done to me according to your word,” was based, instead, on faith. At some point, human understanding, however well developed it may be, always fails. Mary entered her Fiat, Mary entered the Mystery of God through the darkness of faith. Understanding will carry us only so far.
No transition exists between understanding and faith: understanding is a human faculty; faith is a divine virtue. Understanding requires use of the intellect; faith requires abandonment of the will to God along with intellectual consent. We must leap a gulf from understanding to faith. One does not flow smoothly into the other.
Here is the irony: our seeing, our human understanding and expectations blind us to Who God Is. It is only when we abandon understanding for naked faith, cleaving to God in the darkness of faith, that we truly see.
When we conceive a vision or understanding or expectation of God, our hearts are bound to that expectation, which is limited. We cleave to the expectation, to our own vision of God and not to God Who Is.
Jesus Himself said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” [Mt. 5:8]. To be pure of heart is to be emptied, divested of plans, designs, expectations and visions of our own devising—all of which blind us.
The aspect of the Mystery that we understand and perceive can be expected; but the greatest dimension of the Mystery is not understood by the intellect, is unknown, is unexpected, is apprehended only by faith, approached only by abandonment to it. St. Albert the Great tells us: “ He cannot be comprehended, but can be loved in his fullness with a pure heart, for he is above all lovable and desirable, and of infinite goodness and perfection.” He tells us also: “… simply cleave to God with faith and good will in naked understanding.”
For these reasons abandonment is superior to understanding. Abandonment is consonant with faith—it is how faith operates in us. Faith leaps forward into darkness leaving understanding behind in open-mouthed bewilderment. Faith steps out unseeing, open arms clutching nothing, cleaving naked to the mystery of God.
All of our lives we have read and heard about the faith of Abraham. God told him to take his only beloved son, Isaac, and to sacrifice him on the mountain. This YES to God which he willingly gave was full of darkness, for it completely overwhelmed his understanding. It was not rational for him to kill the child of the promise—how then could he be the father of many? God’s request made no sense—it contradicted events as Abraham saw them—in the natural order. Yet he assented. In darkness he assented. His Yes was complete though he understood nothing about it at all except that he had to give his complete Yes.
How wonderfully do St. Albert’s words apply to Abraham as also to Mary: “the devout man should cleave to God with naked understanding and will …for it is his delight to be with the sons of men, that is those who…seek him with a pure and simple mind, empty themselves for him, and cleave to him.”
As I wrote earlier: “Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected….” Doesn’t this also describe the faith of Abraham? However powerful in the will and sincere the fiat of the heart, it doesn’t eliminate the sorrow, the pain of those who “empty themselves for Him.” We can only imagine the struggle of Abraham within himself as he forced himself calmly to lead his only son to immolation—facing the destruction of the promise that God Himself had given him—that he would be the father of many. Yet he emptied himself, divested himself of all hope, all expectation, all desire, all plans, and cleaved naked to His God in the darkness of faith.
Not only does Abraham show faith, but also trust. When we have divested ourselves of every last crutch, every last hope, nothing remains but for us to trust the God whom we cannot understand, but love. As Job 13:15 says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
AUDIO (parts 1 & 1)
Today I must speak of wounds and the blindness of many years, and of hardness of heart. Recent years, especially the last few weeks and days, have brought home the realization that I am a deeply wounded mother, [like so many others], wounded by my broken expectations and by the ingratitude of my children.
After years of struggling to understand and help them to get on their own feet after years of drug addiction, misuse of alcohol and general irresponsibility—you get the picture—I finally accepted this week my complete loss. Shock and hurt that so much that was valuable to me has so casually been discarded by them.
This has been a cherished, if difficult revelation today. This wound I have known before as I struggled decades ago with a young son with whom I could do nothing. But surely, I reasoned with myself, here I was dealing with an adult; here I could make a difference at last. Yet the wound remains, as it was, yet dredged deeper.
The image is sharp in my mind: that of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, “How often have I longed to gather you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not!” And neither would my children.
This week I had to eject my grown children from my home and take a hard tack against them. I have entered again that same old wound, but at a deeper lever. Why? Why? What was God trying to teach me?
During Adoration, as I pondered this revelation with a pierced heart, I began to read in THE SIMPLE PATH TO UNION WITH GOD, P. 41:
“Hardness of heart is not the exclusive domain of Christ’s enemies; it is also found in those closest to Jesus, the disciples, who had left everything to follow Him. The gospel tells us that they did not recognize Him when he walked on water because ‘they had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.’ They must have been amazed at the miracle but failed to grasp its meaning: that Jesus has divine authority over all of creation.
“It is the same with us; our hardness of heart blocks us from understanding fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives. Like the apostles, we all need to live the process of purification and allow God to take us beyond our expectations.
[Our expectations are based on our human understanding and knowledge. Our understanding is always only human–never grasping MYSTERION, forever missing the mark. Abandonment is superior to understanding. We can never plumb the deep things of God–better to cleave naked, to plunge in faith.]
“A hardened heart is set in its ways. It reduces the work of God to make it fit in its natural logic and experience. It is not open to see beyond what it controls. A pure heart, on the other hand, believes that for God nothing is impossible. It is docile and malleable, willing to be pierced, pruned and made new by God.
“The soul which receives the gift of self-knowledge and sees the hardness of its heart, arrives at a moment of decision: accept the gift or remain in darkness.”
I did not want to own hardness of heart. I’ve always seen this as the sin of the Pharisees, an obstinacy, a culpable unwillingness to see. I saw myself as longing for God’s will in my life, accepting all from His hands, totally abandoned to Him—so how could I suffer hardness of heart? But I was convicted here, because wasn’t this the problem? “…our hardness of heart blocks us from understanding fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives.”
Lo, these many years, and I mean decades—how is it that I have not understood fully who Jesus is and what He is doing in my life? For I understood now that it is the hardness of my stubborn heart, set in its ways, full of its own expectations, that set me up and sustained in me such a wound.
Expectations, my own expectations, devised of the desires of my mother’s heart, hardened my heart, made it brittle, unable to respond to what Jesus was doing in my life; and I could not see, in my blindness, anything beyond my own expectations and hopes. It is our own expectations that blind us.
I had failed to see that Jesus has divine authority over creation, over me, my children and all that happens in all of our lives. My heart, hardened in its limited expectations (which always seem righteous in themselves), is too small. I have conceived in my own heart a vision of what my children’s salvation would, could, or should be instead of emptying my heart of my own designs, my own petty attempts to control. God’s own recourse is to break open that brittle heart, so small and inadequate to His Uncreated Love and Light, to HIS vision of salvation for my children.
How ironic. All my life I have been praying, “Be it done to me according to Your Will.” But this describes also how we should submit to Plenitude, to the Fullness of His Will as we abandon our limitations and poverty of our own will. Over the many years the prayer had reached my mind, but evaded my heart.
You see how I describe this reflection as touching on wounds, blindness, and hardness of heart?
All of this reading comes from the section of The Path on KNOWLEDGE OF SELF AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Finally, I read: “The soul which receives the gift of self-knowledge and sees the hardness of its heart, arrives at a moment of decision: accept the gift or remain in darkness.”
Our Love Crucified community teaches us that it is in our wounds that Satan plants his lies, the roots of our disordered tendencies. Here was mine: to use all my love, compassion, and substance to save my children—but what was hidden under this deception [Satan’s deception and my deception of myself] was the sinful attempt to control what only God may control.
As I continue to reflect on this merciful revelation which God continues to unfold to me, I can finally begin to pray truly, “Be it done to me according to Your Will.” Expectations must be shattered for hope to thrive. Only when we abandon expectations can we be open to what God gives.
Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, unconditional, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected Incarnation, Divine birth in a stable, flight into Egypt, hidden life, Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Soledad. Fiat does not preclude sorrow. But Fiat does give peace in sorrow. Wholeness in sorrow. Let us pray for the humility to enter our mother’s Fiat.