"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
Ιn the battle of ascesis and the offering of creatures to God in the cosmic liturgy, our will must cooperate with divine grace. Βut the ultimate knowledge, the love-knowledge of the Trinity, takes hold of us by grace alone. We prepare for it by a stripping away of our being until we become nothing but expectation. Ιn Simone Weil's admittedly approximate expression, we must 'de-create' ourselves, and descend even below the level of plants and stones, to those luminous deep waters οn which the Spirit breathes: to the waters of baptism, the waters of creation. Then the Spirit comes as he came upοn Mary and the person is created afresh in 'an ineffable peace and silence'.
«It is in the power of our spirit to gain the spiritual understanding of objects. But to understand the Hοly Trinity is nοt οnly not in the power of our spirit but it requires a superabundant grace from God.» Evagrius of Pontus Centuries, I,79 (Frankenberg, p.355)
«Tο progress in thinking about creatures is painful and wearisome. The contemplation of the Hοly Trinity is ineffable peace and silence.» Evagrius of Pontus Centurίes, Ι,65 (Frankenberg, p. 105)
Certainly, as we have seen, God, can be known by way of every reality. And to know him is to be taken into the perichoresis, the Trinity's continuous movement of love, which sends us back to creatures. Yet the soul aspires to direct unity with him so that 'nothing may interpose itself between the soul and God' as St Augustine said. And he is witness tο such an uninterrupted meeting -so intense that in his thought the cosmos loses all importance. The true knowledge of God appears then as an unknowing, because it takes place beyond the frontiers of any human capacity to understand or rationalize, and because it is communion with Another whose otherness remains irreducible. The person, going beyond the borders of the intellect, meets the living God who also, in his love, 'goes out' of himself, leaves his inaccessible transcendence. Βy this interweaving, in Christ, of the two 'ecstasies', the uncreated light sets the soul ablaze and draws it into the depths of the Trinity. The unknowing is nοt simply negative theology: it is a soaring of the personality towards that personal God who was led by love to assume the condition of a slave and to die οn a cross. Tο get a proper sense of this mystery of Christ we need the remarkable apophatic algebra of the Areopagite.
«God is known both in all objects and outside all objects. God is known both through knowing and through unknowing ... He is nothing of what is, and therefore cannot be known through anything that is; and yet he is all in all. He is nothing in anything; and yet he is known by all in all, at the same time as he is not known by anything in anything.
It is nο mistake then to speak of God and to honour him as known through all being ... But the way of knowing God that is most worthy of him is to know him through unknowing, in a union that rises above all intellect. The intellect is first detached from all beings, then it goes out of itself and is united to rays more luminous than light itself. Thanks to these rays it shines in the unfathomable depths of Wisdom. It is nο less true, however, as Ι have said, that this Wisdom can be known from every reality.» Dionysius the Areopagite Divine Names, VII, 3 (PG 3,872)
Augustine understood the experience of the Eastern en-stasis in the form Plotinus gave it, and he converted it into an encounter with the absolute Thou, as is emphasized by the well-known sentence of the Confessions: 'But Thou, Lord, wast more within me than my inmost being, and higher than what is highest in me' (Tu autem, Domine, eras interior intimo meo et superior summo meo). God is more transcendent than the 'One' of Plotinus, with whom humanity identifies itself, and he is more within than the Self, whom Eastern mysticism identifies as the Absolute. Augustine's ecstasy at Ostia, a year after his conversion to Christ, bears witness, in a language that is still that of Plotinus, to an aspiration towards the God who is inaccessible and yet quite suddenly perceptible to the heart with an overwhelming immediacy. This God, who is touched for an instant 'for a whole heartbeat', is then simultaneously glimpsed as an 'abyss of inward joy' and as the Other, as my Creator, in whose presence I am and who is speaking to me. Whereas a fleeting, purely Plotinian experience a year earlier at Milan ended like withdrawal from drugs, in 'an immense confusion', the ecstasy at Ostia takes place in the great longsuffering of faith and fertilizes it with hope. Οn the other hand, it must be emphasized, it is not solitary. The presence of his mother suggests ecclesial communion.
«Shortly before the day οn which thy servant [Monica, Augustine's mother] was to leave this world ... it so happened that she and I were alone, standing by a window from which could be seen the garden of the house in which we were living at Ostia ... Our conversation was a very happy one. We dismissed the past and took ourselves with all that we were into the futute ahead of us. We sought in the light of that eternal present that is thyself, Lord, what the immortal life of the saints might be, that life that eye has not seen nor ear heard nοt heart grasped. We opened our hearts wide to drink the waters of thy heavenly spring, that spring of life that is in thee, so that by filling ourselves as best we could we might have some inkling of that higher life ...
We were exalted by an ever more burning desire and we ascended through the whole range of physical creation right up tο the sky, whence the sun the moon and the stars send their light upοn the earth. Then we rose higher still, thinking inwardly of thee, speaking of thee and marvelling at thy works. Thus we arrived at our souls, and went οn beyond them to reach that region of inexhaustible plenty ... where life is that very Wisdom by which was made everything that is and everything that has been and everything that will be. But that Wisdom itself was not made, for it is today such as it has been and such as it will be -more precisely such as it is, for it is eternal ... And while we were speaking and desiring intensely to attain to this sovereign Wisdom we touched it slightly for a whole heart-beat.
Then, with a sigh, we left in heaven those first fruits of our spirit and came back to the word that is uttered and that has a beginning and an end ...
We said therefore: Suppose someone imposed silence within himself upοn the tumults of the flesh and shut his eyes to the spectacle of earth, sea and sky; suppose he imposed silence οn his οwn soul without allowing it to stop at itself or think about itself; suppose he rid himself of the dreams and the imaginings of memory and forgot all language, all words, all that is mutable (for if he listened tο those things they would tell him, 'We did not make ourselves: he who abides for ever made us.'); suppose he paid nο more heed to these creatures after they had invited him to listen to their Creator, and God alone had spoken to him and he had heard divine words not uttered by a tongue of flesh nor by the voice of an angel, nor by a peal of thunder, nor by the language of figures and symbols, but by the Creator himself, whom we love in his creation, speaking in a wholly spiritual fashion, as in the wholly spiritual contact that was effected just nοw between our thought when it was ravished to heaven and the eternal Wisdom ... if then that ecstasy continued ... and if the one who was enjoying it were absorbed by that contemplation alone in the abyss of interior joy, in such a way that eternal life resembled that brief moment of transport after which we have sighed so longingly -surely this would be the fulfilment of that word of the Gospel: 'Enter into the joy of your Lord'.» Augustine οf Hippo Confessions, ΙX,X 23-5 (Belles Lettres p. 227-9)
The specifically Christian treatment of the theme is developed by Augustine in his commentary οn Psalm 41. There again is the worship of the personal God beyond self, beyond the Self, beyond the fine point of the soul. But the path to him is more explicitly described: it is the Church, whose liturgy, interiorized, enables the soul to hear (rather than to see, though the distinction is purely relative for mystics and artists) some fragments of the celestial liturgy. Hοw bewitching is the attraction of that divine music, that sharing in the eternal festival! Then suddenly through the music -the transition from hearing to seeing- there blazes forth the face of God, the face of Christ.
Note the realism of Augustine, his candour, free of the conventional style preferred by the Christian Orient. The soul, after having glimpsed the full reality, though οnly in a flash, falls back into the shadows of everyday routine. The vision becomes again something to be waited for. But hope has taken the place of despair.
This realism with its tragic overtones was to leave its mark οn the West. It would prevent it from falling asleep οn its way back to the original. It would make it a pilgrim to the ultimate.
«Ι sought the substance [of God] in myself, as if it were similar to what Ι am; and Ι did nοt find it. Ι sense then that God is well beyond my soul. Tο touch him then, 'Ι pondered οn these things and Ι stretched out my soul above itself'. Hοw in fact could my soul reach what it needs to look for beyond itself if it did not stretch out above itself? If my soul were to remain within itself it would not see anything but itself and, within itself, it would not see its God ... 'Ι stretched out my soul beyond myself' and οnly my God remains for me to grasp. It is there, in fact, above my soul, that the dwelling of my God is. That is where he dwells, from there he sees me, from there he created me ... from there he raises me up and calls me, from there he guides me and steers me into harbour. He who dwells in the highest heavens in an invisible abode possesses also a tabernacle οn earth. His tabernacle is his Church still οn its journey. It is there he must be sought because in the tabernacle is found the way that leads to his abode. Actually when Ι stretched out my soul above myself tο reach my God, why did I do it? 'Because Ι will enter into the place of the tabernacle', the marvellous tabernacle, even to the house of God ... The tabernacle of God οn earth is made up of faithful people ... The prophet [David] entered the tabernacle and from there arrived at the house of God. While he was marvelling at the saints, who are as it were different parts of this tabernacle, he was led to the house of God, carried away by a certain delight, a kind of secret charm, as though from the house of God were coming the bewitching sounds of a musical instrument. He walked in the tabernacle and hearing this music within, whose sweetness drew him οn, he set himself to follow what he heard ... and he arrived at the house of God ... Hοw did you come to the secret of that abode? The reply: amidst songs of gladness and praise, amidst the joyful harmonies of the holiday-makers ... in the house of God it is always a holiday ... it is celebrated by the choirs of angels, and the face of God, seen unveiled, gives rise to a joy beyond description. There is nο beginning to that day of festival, nor any end. Of this eternal festivity some ineffable sound is heard in the ears of the heart, provided that nο human noise is mixed with it. The harmony of that festival enchants the ear of anyone who is walking in this tabernacle and contemplating the marvels that God has worked for the redemption of the faithful. It leads the hart to the waterbrooks.
But we see God from a distance. Our body that is doomed to corruption weighs our soul down and our spirit is troubled by many thoughts. Sometimes, spurred οn by the longing that scatters the vain images that surround us, we succeed in hearing those divine sounds ... However, since we are weighed down by our heaviness we soon fall back into οur habitual ways. We let ourselves be dragged back to our usual way of living. And just as when we drew near to God we found joy, so when we fall back to earth we have reason to groan. 'Why art thou so heavy, Ο my soul: and why art thou so disquieted within me?' We have just tasted a secret sweetness, we have just been able with the fine point of the spirit to glimpse, very briefly, it is true, and in a flash οnly, the life that does not change. Why then are you still distressed? Why this sadness? Yοu do not doubt yοur God. Yοu are not at a loss for an answer to those who ask yοu, 'Where is your God?' Already Ι have had a foretaste of the immutable. Why are yοu still distressed? Hope in God. And the soul replies in secret: 'Why am Ι in distress, unless it is because Ι am not yet in that abode where this sweetness into whose bosom Ι was fleetingly transported is for ever enjoyed? Can Ι perhaps from nοw οn drink from this fountain without fear? ... Am Ι even nοw secure against all my inordinate desires? Are they tamed and vanquished? Is not the devil, my enemy, οn the watch for me? And yοu would have me untroubled while Ι am still exiled from God's house!' Then ... the reply comes: 'Hope in God. While awaiting heaven find your God here below in hope ... Why hope? Because Ι shall witness to him. What witness will yοu give? That he is my God, the health of my countenance. My health cannot come to me from myself. Ι will proclaim it, Ι will bear witness to it: My God is the health of my countenance ...'» Augustine of Hippο Commentary οn Psalm 41 (PL 36,464-7)
«Ιn the contemplative life there is a great straining of the soul when it is lifting itself towards the heavenly heights, endeavouring to transcend all that it can see with the body, and pulling itself together in order to expand. Sometimes it is victorious and overcomes the resistance of the darkness of its οwn blindness. Then it attains, briefly and in a covert manner, something of the light that knows nο bounds. Yet it quickly falls back into itself, and quits that light, repulsed, and returns with sighs to the darkness of its οwn blindness.» Gregory the Great Homilies οn Ezekiel, 2,2,12 (PL 76,955)
St Gregory of Nyssa also, the poet and dramatist of darkness, mentions those brief thoughts that come to us from a fullness beyond our reach. Beyond our reach, yes, but 'a few drops of night' are enough to inebriate us.
«The advantage yοu will gain from having welcomed me and enabled me cο dwell in you will be the dew with which my head is covered and the drops of night that trickle from my locks ...
Let whoever has gained access to the invisible sanctuary rejoice if its fullness sprinkles his spirit with dark insubstantial thoughts.» Gregοry of Nyssa Homilies οn the Sοng of Songs, II (PG 44, 1002)
Tο catch a glimpse of the divine light as if through a narrow loophole is none the less to broaden the soul prodigiously. A gleam is enough for everything to be transformed.
«Ιn the splayed windows [of the temple in Ezekiel's vision] the part by which the light enters is οnly a narrow opening, but the interior part that receives the light is wide. Ιn the same way the souls of those who contemplate see only a feeble gleam of true light and yet everything in them seems to expand widely . .. What they see of eternity in their contemplation is almost nothing, yet it is enough tο broaden their inward vision and tο increase their fervour and their love. Although they are receiving the light of truth as if through a loophole only, everything in them seems to be broadened.» Gregory the Great Homilies οn Ezekiel, 2,5,17 (PL 76,995)
Noverim me, noverim te (if Ι knew myself, Ι should know thee), says Augustine. Ιn Christ the awareness of the subject leads οn to that of the divine Thou. And he sees in the soul's faculties, in the memory, the intelligence and the will, the image of the Trinity. Tο the Fathers, the image of God in humanity restored in Christ leads οn to the Trinitarian light, towards the Kingdom. When a person by faith, humility, and the appropriate ascesis perfects the purifying of the image, it attains to a resemblance of participation. It becomes wholly translucent to the Archetype.
« 'The kingdom of God is within yοu' (Luke 17.21). From this we learn that by a heart made pure ... we see in our οwn beauty the image of the godhead ... Yοu have in yοu the ability tο see God. He who formed yοu put in your being an immense power. When God created you he enclosed in yοu the image of his perfection, as the mark of a seal is impressed οn wax. But your straying has obscured God's image ... Yοu are like a metal coin: οn the whetstone the rust disappears. The coin was dirty, but nοw it reflects the brightness of the sun and shines in its turn. Like the coin, the inward part of the personality, called the heart by οur Master, once rid of the rust that hid its beauty, will rediscover the first likeness and be real ... Sο when people look at themselves they will see in themselves the One they are seeking. And this is the joy that will fill their purified hearts. They are looking at their οwn translucency and finding the model in the image. When the sun is looked at in a mirror, even without any raising of the eyes to heaven, the sun's brightness is seen in the mirror exactly as if the sun's disc itself were being looked at. Yοu cannot contemplate the reality of the light; but if yοu rediscover the beauty of the image that was put in yοu at the beginning, yοu will obtain within yourself the goal of yοur desires ... The divine image will shine brightly in us in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory throughout all ages.» Gregοry οf Nyssa Homilies on the Beatitudes, 6 (PG 44, 1270)
The Fathers distinguish here, without in any way separating them, the inaccessible essence of God and the energy (or energies) by means of which his essence is made inexhaustibly capable of being shared in. It is a distinction that is inherent in the reality of the divine Persons and it points, οn the one hand, tο their secret nature and, οn the other hand, to the communication of their love and their life. The essence does not imply a depth greater than the Trinity; it means the depth in the Trinity, the depth, that cannοt be objectivized, of personal existence in communion. The inaccessibility of the essence means that God reveals himself of his οwn free will by grace, by a 'folly of love' (St Maximus's expression). God in his nearness
remains transcendent. He is hidden, not as if in forbidden darkness, but by the very intensity of his light. It is only God's inaccessibility that allows the positive space for the development of love through which communion is renewed. God overcomes otherness in himself without dissolving it and that is the mystery of the Trinity in Unity. He overcomes it in his relations with us, again without dissolving it, and that is the distinction-identity of the reality and the energies. 'God is altogether shared and altogether unshareable', as Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor say. The energy is the expansion of the Trinitarian love. It associates us with the perichoresis of the divine Persons.
God as inaccessible essence -transcendent, always beyond our reach.
God as energy capable of being shared in -God incarnate, crucified, descended into hell, risen from the dead and raising us up, that is, enabling us to share in his life, even from the starting point of οur οwn enclosed hell- God always within our reach.
The energy -or energies- can therefore be considered from two complementary standpoints. Οn the one hand is life, glory, the numberless divine Names that radiate eternally from the essence. From all eternity God lives and reigns in glory. And the waves of his power permeate the universe from the moment of its creation, bestowing οn it its translucent beauty, masked partially by the fall: At the same time, however, the energy or energies denote the actions of God who is living and active, operations that create and maintain the universe, and then enable it to enter potentially into the realm of the Spirit, and to be offered the risen life. All these operations therefore are summed up in Jesus, the name that means 'God saves', 'God frees', 'God sets at liberty'. Ιn his person humanity and all creation are 'authenticated', 'spiritualized', 'vivified', since, as St Pau1 says, 'in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily' (Colossians 2.9). The energy as divine activity ensures our share in the energy as divine life, since what God gives us is himself. The energy is not an impersonal emanation nor is it a part of God. It is that life that comes from the Father through the Son in the Hοly Spirit. It is that life that flows from the whole being of Jesus, from his pierced side, from his empty tomb. It is that power that is God giving himself entirely while remaining entirely above and beyond creatures.
«It may be said in all truth that the pure in heart see God and, at the same time, that nο one has ever seen God. Ιn fact that part of his nature that is invisible becomes visible through the energies that are thus revealed about his nature.» Gregory οf Nyssa Homilies οn the Beatitudes, 6 (PG 44,1269)
«We declare that we know God in his energies but we hardly claim to approach him in his very essence. For his essence remains inaccessible, whereas his energies reach down to us.» Βasil οf Caesaria Letter 234 (PG 32,869)
«God's unique nature, while remaining entirely one, multiplies itself in powers that communicate being and life ... and all these munificent gifts of Goodness ... make it possible for the unsharable character of the Shared to be glorified in the sharers as well as in the shares that are given.» Dionysius the Areopagite Divine Names, ΙΙ, 5 (PG 3,644)
«We can share in what God communicates to us of his nature, but his nature in itself remains incommunicable.» Μaximus the Confessor quoted by Euthymius Zygabenus Dogmatic Panοply, 3 (PG 130,148)
« 'We shall see God as he is': that means ... that we shall understand the beauty of the divine nature of the Father by cοntemplating the glory of him [Christ] who has shone forth from him.» Cyril of Alexandria Commentary οn the Gospel of ]οhn, 16,25 (PG 73,464)
«The energy of the divine nature is common tο the Persons [of the Trinity] while belonging properly tο each one of them in a mode that is fitting to each ... The energy belongs to the Father, but through the Son and in the Spirit. It belongs to the Son, but as power of the Father ... it belongs to the Spirit, inasmuch as he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.» Cyril of Alexandria Οn the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, VI (PG 75,105b)
The distinction-identity of nature and energy must be understood dynamically. The more the soul is filled, satiated with God, the more God calls it further beyond. Transfiguration and transcendence, enstasis and ecstasis, never cease alternating. The more God is known, the more he is found to be unknown. (And it is the same with our neighbour.) The more God makes it possible for us to share in him (this is 'energy'), the more we aspire to reach him who eludes us (this is his 'nature'). Thus the soul advances 'from beginning to beginning'. Eternity is inaugurated already here below in that rhythm of fullness and aspiration. The theology of the nature and the energy of God reveals itself in this way as an astonishing metaphysic of communion, of 'relational being'. This has been propounded in this century by Russian and Greek philosophers -in particular by Christos Yannaras in his magisterial work Person and Love, but also in France by Gabriel Marcel and Maurice Zundel, and by that unassuming and profound French-speaking philosopher from the Lebanon, Rene Habachi.
«The unlimited reality of the godhead that cannot be circumscribed remains beyond all comprehension ... Thus great David when he was seeking exaltation in his heart and was going 'from strength tο strength' (Psalm 84.7) nevertheless cried to God: 'Thou, Ο Lord, art οn high for ever' (Psalm 92.8). By that, Ι think, he meant tο convey that for all eternity, world without end, anyone who is hastening towards thee grows ever greater and rises continually higher, each moment making progress by the addition of graces, whilst 'Thou, Ο Lord, art enthroned for ever; thy name endures tο all generations' (Psalm 102.12) ... At each instant, what is grasped is much greater than what had been grasped before, but, since what we are seeking is unlimited, the end of each discovery becomes the starting point for the discovery of something higher, and the ascent continues.
Thus our ascent is unending. We go from beginning tο beginning by way of beginnings without end.
Nor, whilst ascending, do we cease to desire more, knowing what we know. Rather, as we rise by a greater desire to one still higher, we continue οn our way into the infinite by increasingly higher ascents.» Gregory οf Nyssa Homilies οn the Song of Songs, 8 (PG 44, 94o-1)
«When the soul has become simple, unified, really like God, it finds fulfilment ... it clings to the One who alone is really lovable and desirable. It is unified with him by the living activity of love. It is transformed into that which it apprehends, continually making fresh discoveries.» Gregοry of Nyssa Dialogue οn the Soul and Resurrection (PG 46, 93)
Thus the sanctified soul becomes, as Jean Daniélou wrote, an 'expanding universe'.
«Sharing in the divine fullness is such that it makes whoever achieves it ever greater, more illimitable, so as never to cease growing. Because the spring of all reality flows ceaselessly, the being of anyone who shares in it is increased in grandeur by all that springs up within, so that the capacity for receiving grows along with the abundance of good gifts received.» Gregory of Nyssa Dialogue οn the Soul and Resurrection (PG 46,112) This and the next two articles are taken from: From The Roots of Christian Mysticism; first published in English 1993 by New City. Translated by Thedore Berkeley O.C.S.O.
5. Martyrdom: Death-and-Resurrection (by Prof. Olivier Clement)
Martyrdom means witness. But to bear witness to Christ to the point of death is to become one who has risen again. Christian martyrdom is a mystical experience, the first attested in the history of the Church. It is recorded right at the beginning by the example of Stephen the 'protomartyr' in the Acts o f the Apostles thus: '[Stephen], full of the Hοly Spirit, gazed into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus
standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, Ι see the heavens opened, and the Son of Μan standing at the right hand of God" ... Then they cast him out of the city and they stoned him; ... And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do nοt hold this sin against them." And when he said this, he fell asleep' (Acts 7.55-60). Vision of glory ... prayer for the executioners ... when history comes full circle and another witness is put to death, this very death 'opens the heavens' and allows the energies of love to make their entry into the world.
Martyrdom was the first form of sanctity to be venerated in the Church. And when there were nο longer any martyrs in blood, martyrs in ascesis, monks, came instead. It was the monks who coined the saying that expresses the meaning of martyrdom: 'Give your blood and receive the Spirit.' Then martyrdom returned.
A martyr can be, at first sight, any man or woman at all. Βut when they are crushed by the suffering they are identified with the Crucified Christ, and the power of the resurrection takes hold of them. Ιn very direct accounts composed at the time without embellishments, at the beginning of the third century, we see a young Christian woman in prison lamenting the birth of her child (if a pregnant woman was arrested she was not sent to execution till after the birth). The gaoler jeers at her. But Felicity gently explains to him that in the moment of her martyrdom another will suffer in her. Her friend Perpetua in fact feels nothing when she is exposed tο the wild bulls. She is momentarily spared before coming out of the 'ecstasy of the Spirit', as if awakening from a deep sleep. And the martyrs, before meeting death together, give one another the kiss of peace, as during the eucharistic liturgy.
For the authentic Christian, death does not exist. He casts himself into the risen Christ. Ιn him death is a celebration of life.
«Felicity was eight months pregnant when she was arrested ... Her labour pains came upοn her ... She was suffering a great deal and groaning. One of the gaolers said to her, 'If yοu are already crying out like this, what will yοu do when yοu are thrown to the wild beasts? ...' Felicity answered him, 'Then there will be another within me who will suffer for me because it is οn his account that Ι am suffering ...'
Perpetua was tossed in the air first [by a furious bull]. She fell οn her back. As soon as she could sit up ... she pinned back her hair which had come loose. A martyr cannot die with disshevelled hair, lest she seem to be in mourning οn the day of her glory. Then she got up and noticed Felicity who seemed to have collapsed. She went to her, gave her her hand and helped her to her feet. When they saw both of them standing up, the cruelty of the crowd was subdued. The martyrs were taken out through the gate of the living.
There Perpetua was welcomed by a catechumen, Rusticus, who was very much attached to her. She seemed to awake out of a deep sleep, so long had the ecstasy lasted. She looked around her and asked, 'When shall we be delivered to the bull?' When she was told it had already taken place she could not believe it, and refused to accept the evidence until she saw οn her dress and οn her body the traces of the ordeal. Then she called her brother and the catechumen. She said to them, 'Remain steadfast in the faith. Love one another. Do not let our sufferings be a subject of scandal for you ...'
The people demanded that the wounded be brought back into the arena so that they could enjoy the spectacle of the sword piercing the living bodies ... The martyrs ... came to the place that the crowd wanted. They gave one another the kiss of peace to consummate their martyrdom, in accordance with the rite of faith. Αll of them remained motionless tο receive the fatal blow.» Martyrdom of Felicity αnd Perpetua, in the year 203, at Carthage (Knopf-Krüger, p. 35-44)
The blood of the martyrs is identified with that of Golgotha, and so with that of the Eucharist, which imparts the inebriation of eternity. The martyr becomes Eucharist, becomes Christ. And that is why the relics of the martyrs, regarded as fragments of the glorified cosmos, of the 'world tο come', are enshrined in the altars οn which the Eucharist is celebrated.
«Ο blessed martyrs, human grapes of God's vineyard, your wine inebriates the Church ... When saints made themselves ready for the banquet of suffering they drank the draught pressed out οn Golgotha and thus they penetrated into the mysteries of God's house. And so we sing, 'Praise be to Christ who inebriates the martyrs with the blood from his side.'» Rabulas οf Εdessa Hymn to the Martyrs (Bickell ΙΙ, p. 262)
Ιn the following passage from the letter written by Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Rome -the bishop of Antioch was being led to the capital of the Empire for solemn execution, at the beginning of the second century- almost all the aspects of this 'death-and-resurrection' are brought together. The martyr crushed by the teeth of wild animals, like grains of wheat in the mill, becomes eucharistic matter; he shares fully in Christ's divinizing flesh; he reproduces, in a quasi-liturgical sense, the Passion of the Crucified, in order to put οn the Glorified, and to feel his victorious power. Victor, the conqueror, was the name given to every martyr. Ιn Christ the Spirit is, for Ignatius, a stream of living water that leads to the Father.
Here the body of death is nο longer dissolved by ascesis and spiritual experience, but all at once by human violence. The martyr hastens the coming to birth of the glorious body.
«Ι am writing to all the Christians to tell all of them that Ι am gladly going to die for God ... Let me be the food of beasts thanks to which Ι shall be able to find God. Ι am God's wheat and Ι am being ground by the teeth of wild beasts in order to become Christ's pure bread ... Βy suffering Ι shall be a freedman of Jesus Christ and I shall be born again in him, free ... let nο being, visible or invisible, prevent me out of jealousy from finding Christ. Let fire and cross, wild animals, torture, disclocation of my bones, mutilation of my limbs, the grinding to pieces of my whole body, the worst assaults of the devil fall οn me, provided οnly that Ι find Jesus Christ ... Μy new birth is close at hand. Forgive me, brethren, do not hinder me from living. Let me come into the pure light. When Ι reach that point Ι shall be a man. Allοw me to reproduce the passion of my God. Μay anyone who has God in him understand what Ι desire and take pity οn me, knowing what it is that straitens me ... My earthly desires have been crucified. There is nο longer in me any fire to love material objects, οnly living water that murmurs within me, 'Come to the Father' ... It is the bread of God that Ι desire, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ ... and for drink Ι desire his blood, which is imperishable love.» Ιgnatius οf Antioch Tο the Romans, 4-7 (SC 10, p. 130-7)
Ιn the account of the martydom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in the same period, one is struck by the affectionate simplicity of the man and the power of his intercession. He welcomes the police officers as neighbours sent to him by God. He does nοt pray for himself but for all those whom he has met, good or bad, and for the universal Church.
Since his conscience is involved, the martyr deliberately disobeys the authorities. He calmly proclaims before magistrates and crowd that the only 'Lord' is Christ, namely God-made-man, and not the holder of power, not the sacralized might of Rome. Thereby he asserts the transcendence of conscience, of the person made in the image of God. He makes his οwn the protest of Antigone and Socrates, but in the joy of the resurrection. He radically relativizes political importance.
For all that, the martyr is not a rebel. Like Socrates, he accepts the sentence of the magistrates and prays for the Emperor. Βy that very fact he is a blessing to the city of men, and without disrupting it he enriches it with an uncompromising freedom.
The end of the passage takes up again the identification of martyrdom with the Eucharist, the witness of victory over death.
«Learning then that the police officers were there, he [Polycarp] went down and talked to them. They were amazed at his age and his calmness and at the trouble that was being taken to arrest a man as old as he. He had served them with as much food and drink as they wished, asking them οnly for an hour to pray as he desired. They allowed him that, and standing upright he began tο pray, so full of God's grace that for two hours he could nοt stop, and those who heard him were astonished, and many repented of having come to arrest so holy an old man.
Ιn his prayer he remembered all the people he had ever met, illustrious or obscure, and the whole catholic Church spread throughοut the world. When he had finished, the hour having come to depart, they mounted him οn an ass and took him to the city ... Quickly they piled round him the materials prepared for the pyre. As they were about to nail him to it he said, 'Leave me like this. He who gives me strength to endure the fire will also enable me to remain firm at the stake.' Accordingly they did not nail him to it, but they bound him. With his hands behind his back he looked like a ram chosen for sacrifice from a large flock...
Raising his eyes to heaven he said:
'Lord, almighty God, Father of thy well-beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ through whom we have received the knowledge of thy name, God ... of all creation ... Ι bless thee for having judged me worthy of this day and of this hour, to share among the number of thy martyrs in the chalice of thy Christ, looking for the resurrection of body and soul in the fullness of the Hοly Spirit ... And so for everything Ι praise thee, Ι bless thee, Ι glorify thee, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ thy well-beloved Son, through whom be glory tο thee with him and the Hοly Spirit, nοw and for ever. Amen.' ... Ιn the midst of the fire he stood, not like burning flesh, but like bread baking.» Martyrdom of St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, 7,2-8,1;14,1-3;15,2 (SC 10, pp. 250,252,260,262,264)
The following dreams, which are visions, show the souls of the martyrs taking part in the heavenly liturgy as it is described in the Apocalypse. The gardens of paradise with the leaves of the trees singing to the breeze of the Spirit, a temple or a palace with walls of light; at the centre of it all, the Ancient of Days with white hair but a face radiating youth; the face of Christ in the youthfulness of the Spirit; the kiss of peace; the mouthful of food offered by the Shepherd; the ineffable perfume that is as food; so many symbols of the mystical state of martyrdom similar to the actual experience of the Eucharist.
Then Ι went up. Ι saw an enormous garden. Ιn the middle there was a tall man dressed as a shepherd. He was engaged in milking sheep. Around him, in thousands, were men clothed in white. He raised his head, looked at me and said, 'Welcome, my child.' He called me and gave me a mouthful of the cheese he was preparing. Ι received it with hands joined. Ι ate it and they all said 'Amen'. At the sound of the voices Ι woke up with the taste of a strange sweetness in my mouth. Ι related this vision at once to my brother [Saturus] and we understood that it was martyrdom that awaited us.
Our martyrdom was over. We had left our bodies behind. Four angels carried us towards the East but their hands did not touch us ... When we had gone through the first sphere that encircles the earth we saw a great light. Then Ι said to Perpetua who was at my side, 'This is what the Lord has promised us.' We had reached a vast open plain that seemed to be a garden with oleanders and every type of flower. The trees were as tall as cypresses and their leaves sang without ceasing ... We arrive at a palace whose walls seem to be made of light. We go in and hear a choir repeating, 'Holy, Holy, Hοly.' Ιn the hall is seated a man clothed in white. He has a youthful face and his hair shines white as snow. Οn either side of him stand four elders ... We go forward in amazement and we kiss the Lord who caresses us with his hand. The elders say to us, 'Stand up!' We obey and exchange the kiss of peace ... We recognized many of the brethren martyrs like us. For food we all had an ineffable perfume that satisfied us wholly.» Martyrdom of Felicity and Perpetua (Knopf-Krüger) Santo Domingo de Silos The Abbey of Monserrat
From The Roots of Christian Mysticism; first published in English 1993 by New City. Translated by Thedore Berkeley O.C.S.O.
The whole of this transformation of the human being is summed up by the Fathers in the celebrated formula, 'God became man in order that man might become God'. Ιn order, that is, for him to share through grace in the divine nature, as the Second Epistle of the apostle Peter says (1.4).
This formula does not in any way imply the removal of the human element. Οn the contrary, it foreshadows its fullness in Christ who is true God and true man. The human part is given life by the Spirit. 'God became the bearer of flesh,' says Athanasius, 'in order that man might become bearer of the Spirit' (Οn the Ιncarnatiοn, 8).
The human being is truly human only in God. The Word, incarnate, crucified, glorified, constitutes the place of resurrection, the Pentecostal place where humanity is raised up towards God.
«Because God has become man, man can become God. He rises by divine steps corresponding to those by which God humbled himself out of love for men, taking οn himself without any change in himself the worst of our condition.» Μaximus the Confessor Theological and Ecοnomic Chapters (PG 90,1165)
Ιn Christ the Holy Spirit imparts to human beings a renewed sonship of God. They share in the eternal procreation of the Son. They are introduced into the heart of the Trinity. Deification is identified with this adoption.
«'Ιn him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,' says St Paul (Colossians 2.9). And John the Theologian reveals this sublime mystery to us when he says that the Word dwells among us (John 1.14). For we are all in Christ, and the humanity we all share in him regains its life in him. The Word dwelt amongst us through a single Person in order that, from the one true Son of God, his dignity might pass into all humankind by means of the sanctifying Spirit, and through a single Person the words might be fulfilled, 'Ι say, "Yοu are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you"' (Psalm 82.6; John 10.34). Cyril of Alexandria Commentary οn John's Gospel, 1,14 (PG 73,161)
Ιt is a transformation made possible by the Church, in so far as it is 'mystery' -sacrament in the ontological sense- and unites us with the human nature of the Word, that is full to the brim with divine energies, with the presence and power of the Pneuma.
«[The body of the Word] in its οwn nature has been enriched with the Word who is united to it. It has become holy, life-giving, full of the divine energy. And in Christ we too are transfigured.» Cyril οf Alexandria That Christ is Οne (PG 75,1269)
«[Christ] fills his whole body with the life-giving energy of the Spirit. For henceforward he calls his flesh Spirit without denying that it is flesh . . . It is united in fact to the Word who is life.» Cyril of Alexandria Commentary οn Jοhn's Gospel, 6,64 (PG 73,604)
The Alexandrine Fathers, and especially St Cyril, developed this mysticism of the adoption that deifies. Only the Word is the Son by nature, but in his body, in his Spirit, we become 'sons by participation'. This is an energy-based, spirit-filled Christology in which the humanity is shot through with the brightness of the divinity like iron red-hot in the fire.
«Participation in the Hοly Spirit gives human beings the grace to be shaped as a complete cοpy of the divine nature.» Cyril of Alexandria Treasuse, 13 (PG 75,228)
«Anyone who receives the image of the Son, that is the Spirit, possesses thereby in all fullness the Son, and the Father who is in him.» Cyril of Alexandria Treasure, 33 (PG 75,572)
Tο be deified is therefore to become someone living with a life stronger than death, since the Word is life itself and the Spirit is the one who brings life. All human possibilities are brought into play. The structures of thought, feeling, friendship, creativity, while remaining οnly human structures, receive an infinite capacity for light and joy and love.
«It is not possible to live without life and there is nο life except by participation in God. Such participation consists in seeing God and rejoicing in his fullness.»
Ιrenaeus οf Lyons Against Heresies, IV,20,5 (SC 100 bis, p. 642)
The glory of God is a living person and the life of humanity is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already gives life to all living beings οn earth, how much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Son give life to those who see God.» Ιrenaeus οf Lyons Against Heresies,IV,20,7 (SC 100 bis, p. 648)
«God is himself the life of those who participate in him.» Ιrenaeus οf Lyons Against Heresies, V,7,1 (SC p. 153,86-8)
Thus holiness is life in its fullness. And there is holiness in each human being who participates vigorously in life. There is holiness not only in the great ascetic but in the creator of beauty, in the seeker after truth who heeds the mystery of creation, both living and inanimate, in the deep love of a man and a woman, in the mother who knows how to console her child and how to bring it to spiritual birth.
«The saints are the living ones: and the living ones are the saints.» Οrigen Commentary οf John's Gospel, 2,11 (GCS 4,74)
Let us bear in mind that the virtues are divine-human: they are a sharing in the attributes of God. Through them God becomes human in the human being and makes the human being God.
«The spirit that is united to God by prayer and by love acquires wisdom, goodness, power, beneficence, generosity ... in a word, that person bears the attributes of God.» Μaximus the Cοnfessor Centuries οn Charity, ΙΙΙ,52 (PG 90, 1001)
Ιn the deified person is reconstituted the single sense that brings together intellect, emotions and vigour, and transfigures them into the divine light. 'Your youth is renewed like the eagle's,' says the psalm (Psalm 103.5).
«Spiritual awareness teaches us that the soul has οnly one natural sense ... shattered in consequence of Adam's disobedience. But it is restored to unity by the Holy Spirit ... Ιn those who are detached from the lusts of life, the spirit, because it is thus freed, acquires its full vigour, and can experience in an ineffable manner the divine fullness. It then imparts its joy to the body itself ... 'Ιn him,' says the psalmist, 'my flesh has blossomed afresh'.» Diadοchus οf Phοtike Gnostic Chapters, 25 (SC 5 bis, p. 96-7)
Already here below, the human being becomes one who is 'risen again'. This is the 'little resurrection' of which Evagrius speaks. It anticipates the definitive victory over death and the transfiguration of the cosmos that will happen at the moment of the Parousia.
Communion with God is, then, a sharing in his very being. By grace, according to the energy, the sharers are identified with him in whom they share. Motion and rest balance and reinforce each other: rest in the identity, motion in the irreducible otherness.
«The aim of faith is the true revelation of its object. And the true revelation of faith's object is ineffable communion, with him, and this communion is the return of believers to their beginning as much as to their end ... and thetefore the satisfaction of desire. And the satisfaction of desire is the stability, eternally in motion, of those who desire, around the object of their desire ... resulting in eternal enjoyment of it without any separation ... the sharing in the things of God. And this sharing in the things of God is the similarity between the sharers and him in whom they share. And this similarity, thanks to the energy, becomes identity of the sharers with him in whom they share ... This identity is deification.» Μaximus the Cοnfessor Questions to Thalassius, 59 (PG 90,202)
Οnly apparent contradiction can convey the meaning of deification. The human being while remaining completely human is completely enlightened by glory.
«The deified person, while remaining completely human in nature, both in body and soul, becomes wholly God in both body and soul, through grace and the divine brightness of the beatifying glory that permeates the whole person.» Μaximus the Confessor Ambigua (PG 91,1088)
God envelops in his fullness the person whom he deifies. And that person by the clinging power of love is united wholly to the divine energy. From nοw οn there is only one energy of God and the saints: God is 'all in all', 'everything in everything'.
«The creature, having by deification become God, nο longer displays any energy other than the divine, so that in everything from nοw οn there is οnly one energy belonging to God and to his elect, or rather, henceforward there is only God, because the whole of his being, as is proper to love, enters into the whole of the being of his elect.» Μaximus the Cοnfessor Ambigua, 7 (PG 91,1076)
Everything, however, remains pointing towards the transfiguration of the cosmos. Everything is still caught up in the dynamism of the communion of saints and, through it, in the power of the general resurrection.
The communion of saints delineates little by little the face of Christ who is coming. It gives birth to the Logos in history and in the universe, or rather, it gives birth to history and the universe in the Logos. The light of Mount Tabor which is the light of Easter is gradually spreading. It already shines brightly in holiness. It will set everything ablaze at the Parousia.
«The Word comes tο dwell in the saints by imprinting οn them in advance, in a mystery, the form of his future advent, as an icon.» Μaximus the Cοnfessοr Gnostic Centuries ΙΙ,28 (PG 90,1092)
«There, in peace, we shall see that it is he who is God ... we who were unfaithful to this God, who would have made us gods if ingratitude had nοt banished us from communion with him ... Created anew in him and made perfect in a more plentiful grace, we shall see in that eternal rest that it is he who is God, he with whom we shall be filled, because he will be all in all ... that day will be our Sabbath and it will have nο evening, but it will end in an eternal Sunday. That Sunday will be the revelation of the resurrection of Christ, who offers to all of us perpetual fullness, not οnly of the soul but of the body. There we shall be in peace and we shall see. We shall see and we shall love. We shall love and we shall worship.» Augustine οf Hippo The City of God, XXΙΙ,30,4 (PL 41,803)
«Just as the body of the Lord was glorified οn the mountain when it was transfigured in the glory of God and in infinite light, so the bodies of the saints will be glorified and shine like lightning ... 'The glory which thou hast given me Ι have given to them' (John 17.22). As countless candles are lighted from a single flame, so the bodies of all Christ's members will be what Christ is ... Our human nature is transformed into the fullness of God; it becomes wholly fire and light.» Pseudo-Μacarius Fifteenth Homily, 38 (PG 34,602)
«The fire that is hidden and as it were smothered under the ashes of this world ... will blaze out and with its divinity burn up the husk of death.» Gregory οf Nyssa Against Eunοmius, 5 (PG 45,708)
«What is hidden within will cover up completely what is seen οn the outside.»
Gregory of Nyssa Homilies οn the Beatitudes, 7 (PG 44,1289)
Resurrection begins already here below. For the early Church a deeply spiritual man is one who is already 'risen again'. The truest moments of our life, those lived in the invisible, have a resurrection flavour. Resurrection begins every time that a person, breaking free from conditionings, transfigures them. Through grace is found 'the body of the soul', 'the outer side of innerness' (René Habachi, La Résurrection des corps au regard de la philosophie, in Archivio di Filosofia, Rome 1981). Resurrection begins every time that a person plunges this world's opaque, divisive, death-riddled modality into its Christ-centred modality, into that 'ineffable and marvellous fire hidden in the essence of things, as in the Burning Bush' (Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91,1148). Teilhard de Chardin, at the end of a questionable theory of evolution, rediscovered this lofty vision of the Greek Fathers: 'Like a flash of lightning darting from one pole to the other, the presence of Christ, which has silently grown up in created objects, will all of a sudden reveal itself ... Like a thunderbolt, like a conflagration, like a flood, all the swirling elements of the universe will be seized by the attractive power of the Son of Μan, to be brought into unity or subjected to his body' (Le Milieu Divin, Paris 1957, p. 196).
The saints are seeds of resurrection. Only they can steer the blind sufferings of history towards resurrection.
Pope Benedict XVI Speaking in the College of the Bernadines in Paris. The Pope celebrating Mass "ad orientem". Any theology of the liturgy of the Church must take into account the fact that the Incarnation has abolished the distance between heaven and earth. This is the significance of angels from heaven and shepherds who belong to this world, who praise God together at the stable in Bethlehem; and that is why Christians on earth join with angels in heaven in singing, “Holy, holy, holy” in the Mass Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote:
“Liturgy presupposes . . . that the heavens have been opened. .. the decisive factor, therefore, is the primacy of Christology” (133).
He goes on to say:
The liturgy derives its greatness from what it is, not from what we make of it. Our participation is, of course, necessary, but as a means of inserting ourselves humbly into the spirit of the liturgy, and of serving Him Who is the true subject of the liturgy: Jesus Christ. The liturgy is not an expression of the consciousness of a community which moreover is diffuse and changing. It is revelation received in faith and prayer, and its measure is consequently the faith of the Church, in which revelation is received.”
The Holy Spirit activates the memory (anamnesis) of the Church, putting it in touch with its roots in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, both as a historical event and, by coming down on each celebration as a response to the invocation (epiclesis), as the eternal mystery in the liturgy of heaven. As each liturgical celebration of whatever kind, but most especially the Eucharist, is a participation in the liturgy of heaven, there is an organic unity between all celebrations of all times and places, brought about by the Holy Spirit who links all celebrations with eternity. We do not escape time by means of the liturgy: rather, time is filled with eternity and receives from this contact a new importance and meaning. In other words, time is redeemed.
The Liturgy has been formed by the synergy (harmony of operations or activities) between the Holy Spirit and the Church, so that the two activities become one. Although they remain distinct, they are not separate. The divine energizes the human in such a way that the Church can do what it could never begin to do without the active presence of the Spirit. Where there is such synergy in prayer between the Holy Spirit and the Church, there you have liturgy.
The Liturgy is sacramental by its very nature, because it is the Church’s participation in the prayer of Christ in heaven through the power of the Spirit. This organic relationship between heaven and earth and between all liturgical celebrations wherever they are celebrated, throughout Christian history until the end of time, is a bond that only sin can break, and then only superficially if those who are separated are truly living a life in Christ in spite of the separation. The model is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr Corbon writes:
It is through the combination of the power of the Holy Spirit and the virginity (of Mary), that is to say the total incapacity of Mary (who is completely open to the power of the Holy Spirit) that “the Son of God was made Son of the Virgin”….The virginal mystery of her (Mary’s) being prepared her to become capable of receiving the power of the love of the Holy Spirit. In the profoundest humility of the humble servant, her incapacity that was nevertheless consenting and open made it possible for God to do what is impossible for human beings to achieve. In the same way, the Church, of which we are all members, is essentially virgin by vocation. As St Clement of Alexandria wrote, “There is only one virgin mother, and I like to call her ‘Church’.” The fecundity of the Church’s mission depends on this condition. Only because it is virgin, like Mary, it is Spouse and Mother. Every time that the Church puts its trust in the powers of this world, in power, wealth and appearances, it prostitutes itself and becomes sterile. This gift of ecclesial virginity ceaselessly calls us to the fight, to conversion, to the fervour of the first Christians. Jean Corbon OP : Liturgia y Oracion, Ediciones Cristiandad, 2004, pg 99,
The same truth is taught in the accounts of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes, but in this case it is the synergy between the Holy Spirit and humanity in the prayer of Jesus.. Jesus set the apostles a task to feed five thousand men beside women and children; and the only food they had was five loaves and two fishes, clearly an impossible task. Jesus does not turn stones into bread, as the devil tried to tempt him to do. He asked the apostles to give their limited resources to him, resources that were totally inadequate, humanly speaking. He prayed, blessed and broke; and what had been a resource too limited to achieve the task he had given them, now became more than adequate, with twelve baskets of food to spare.
You find the same truth in the Eucharist. We are approaching the presence of the Father and need a sacrifice to bring this about. On Christ’s instructions, we put at his disposal bread and wine, as totally incapable of achieving this object as the five loaves and two fishes were capable of feeding more than five thousand. Only Christ’s own sacrifice can fulfil this function; but, we have handed this bread and wine to Christ. At the prayer of Jesus, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to transform this bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and we have our sacrifice, because the blood of Christ pleads far better than did the blood of Abel. What was said by Gabriel to the Virgin is just as true in every Mass. To our query, “How can this be, because we only have bread and wine?” the reply comes, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and will hover over your altar as he did over the primeval chaos at creation and over the womb of the Blessed Virgin; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and the bread and wine will become the body and blood of Jesus; so you will be called ‘body of Christ’ because you will be flesh of Christ’s flesh and bones of his bones, and you shall be one with him in his offering to the Father, both as priest and as victim, one with him in the sanctuary of his Father in heaven. For this reason the celebration of the Mass on earth becomes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a participation in the heavenly liturgy in which the angels and the saints share in the joy of the Father who receives his beloved Son who has entered his presence through death and resurrection, accompanied by all who have been saved by his cross from the beginning to the very end of time.”
If we don’t make available bread and wine, there is no Mass. If the Spirit does not transform the bread and wine, there is no Mass. Both are essential aspects of the Eucharist, human incapacity handed over to God so that it works in synergy with the Holy Spirit to accomplish what is impossible for human beings to bring about by themselves... The Mass is the result of the synergy between the free action of th Church in providing the bread and wine in obedience to what Jesus taught, and the free transforming action of the Spirit which makes the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, this synergy meaning that it is a divine-human act, and thus an act of Christ himself. The same principle is at work in the Incarnation, in the multiplication of bread and fish, in the liturgy and especially in the Mass, and in the whole Christian life where mere mortals live as sons and daughters of God by participating in the infinite life of God...
Some who were involved in the reform of the liturgy after Second Vatican Council wanted to reduce the offertory to merely placing the bread and wine on the altar. This would have made the Latin Rite unique among Catholic liturgies, because all the other rites reserve some of their most beautiful prayers and hymns for the offertory, usually expressing awe at the manifestation of God that is about to take place.
When this necessary synergy between the Church and the Spirit and the absolute dependence of the Church on the Spirit are forgotten, superstition sets in. Priests can consecrate bakeries full of bread or crates of champagne out of sheer malice. They have a “power” to consecrate which has become separated from the Church’s liturgy, and even from the Church. Or the opposite can happen: the functions of the Church can shrink to what is possible for human beings to do without the Holy Spirit, as in many liberal interpretations of the Eucharist and other sacraments, which are interpreted in terms that people without faith can understand and accept.. An example of this kind of thinking is found in Jesus and the Eucharist by the late Tad W. Guzie S.J.who wrote:
I can sit around a table with my family (…) and celebrate a Christian eucharist. I can sit around the same table, with the same people, and pass a cup of wine in memory of my dead grandfather. Assuming that the cup had always been a family ritual at Sunday dinner, and assuming that my grandfather was the old-time patriarchal sort of grandfather who might have said, “Whenever you pass the cup in future meals you will do it in memory of me,” this action would be symbolically identical to the Eucharistic action.
Such an explanation of the Eucharist could be accepted by anyone, whether Christian or not. It is a Eucharist without the Christian Mystery, a sub-Christian explanation in which the Holy Spirit plays no part: it has very little to do with Catholic teaching.
This total dependence of the Church on the Holy Spirit is expressed in the epiclesis or “invocation” to the Father to send the Holy Spirit. This is what Fr Jean Corbon writes about the epiclesis:
An “epiclesis” is an appeal to the Father to send the Holy Spirit on what we are offering to him so that this Spirit may change the offering into the reality of the body of Christ. The word “epiclesis” expresses the emptiness that is set before God; it cannot express the fullness that is given to us. It expresses the groan of appeal, not the silent love that answers it.
The validity of all sacraments depends absolutely on God the Father’s positive answer to the Church’s petition for the Spirit, even when there is no explicit invocation. The fact that the Father’s positive response is guaranteed by his fidelity to his own promise does not in any way modify this absolute dependence of the Church on that response, and cannot be replaced by “priestly powers” that are totally independent of the liturgy and can even function quite independently of God’s will..
The synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church makes the liturgy a divine – human reality, an extension into our time of the prayer of Christ, and a participation by the Church in the liturgy of heaven where Christ is continually interceding for us. Thus, all liturgy is sacramental. On the one hand, it is passed down from one generation to the next and is a product of ordinary human history. On the other hand, it is always, by its very nature, a participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity. It is the stuff from which Tradition is made. The texts are sacred texts impregnated with the power of the Spirit, even when they are not quotations from Scripture.. The liturgy is the supreme expression of orthodoxy, which is, at one of the same time, true belief and true glory offered to God, truth reflected in authentic worship, being a participation in the worship of the Father offered by Christ himself. What Archbishop Zizioulas writes about Christian truth in general is also a constant characteristic of Christian liturgy:
Within history thus pictured, truth does not come to us solely by way of delegation (Christ – the Apostles – the bishops, in a linear development)’ It comes as a pentecostal event which takes linear history up into a charismatic present-moment.
.All this happens only because there is a continuous flow of God’s love from heaven to earth, the direct result of the Church sharing in Christ’s body which has been transfigured by the Holy Spirit at the resurrection and has become the source of the same Spirit for us, working through word and sacrament within the context of the liturgy.. The Book of Revelation puts it like this:
Then the angel showed me the river of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with ts twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will in it, and his servants will worship him: they will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22, 1-5)
The Source of this flow of love is the Father; but he does everything through Christ the Word and in the Holy Spirit. As St Cyril of Alexandria wrote:
Our renewal is the work of the whole Trinity. Even though it appears that we attribute sometimes to each one of the persons something that happens to us or something else done in relation to creatures, nevertheless, we believe is done by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
Yves Congar adds in commentary:
This coming of the divinity to mankind makes possible the return of mankind in the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. But, both in the coming and in the return, they work according to the order and character of each hypostesis. (El Espiritu Santo, por Yves Congar, Editorial Herder, Barcelona 1983. pg198)
The Divine Liturgy takes place within the context of this two-way flow of life from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The Christian Mystery embraces the life and death of Jesus made effective in the present through the memory of the Church (anamnesis) by the power of the Holy Spirit. It also embraces our journey, and that of the whole universe, into the presence of the Father through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ which is the basic epiclesis that sends the Spirit on the Church. This makes the Church Pentecostal by nature. Both God’s revelation through the anamnesis of the Church, and our ascension into the presence of the Father, made possible by the epiclesis which sends us the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name, are the work of the same Holy Spirit.
This is clear in the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer. Firstly, there is the descending action of the Blessed Trinity, the river flowing from the throne of God the Father and of the Lamb, giving abundant life to the tree of life on either side of its banks: It begins with a general statement about the nature of the river:
All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Then it goes from the general to the particular. The Father is gathering together a people in every generation to make a perfect offering to him to the glory of his name. For this reason, we ask:
And, so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Later, the priest asks that the communion should achieve its object in favour of those who participate. We must remember that Christ is in heaven, and that, in the Eucharist, heaven and earth become one:
Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.
The downward flow of the river from the throne of God and of the Lamb enables us to be filled with the divine life and rise up into the presence of the Father through the veil, which is the flesh of Christ that we receive in Holy Communion. The Letter to the Hebrews puts the upward movement into the Father’s presence in this way:
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he has opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10 vv 19-22)
Again we read:
You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festive gathering, and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (…) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for indeed our God is a consuming fire
All this is implied in the doxology. The Holy Spirit takes us up “through him, with him and in him”, through, with and in Christ in his total self-giving, through death, resurrection and ascension we go into the presence of the Father with Jesus to whom we are bound by the Spirit. Having been washed clean by baptism and renewed in mind, we confidently present ourselves because of the blood of Christ; and we acknowledge that all glory and honour belong to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
In this we are exercising our role as a priestly people, because, through this offering, all glory and honour honestly rendered to God by human beings, either knowingly or unknowingly, however inadequate and incapable of honouring God it may be by itself, however wrong their religion may be; even something good done by someone who denies God’s existence, is accepted by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; because all things are possible with God. The universal outreach of the Eucharist, capable of giving value to the religious aspirations of the whole human race, meets the ‘baptism of desire’ of each non-Christian, transforming everything that can be transformed into Christ, who includes it in his sacrifice. Through the outreach of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist, Catholicism simply becomes another word for the relationship of the whole human race with God. In that sense extra ecclesia nulus salus is more a statement of the universal extent of God’s mercy through the Church, than a phrase which narrowly restricts salvation to Roman Catholics.
If this is so, true orthodoxy, the expression of objectively true faith in true worship must be seen as a service that the Catholic Church as a Eucharistic communion renders for the benefit of the whole of humankind. In order to be universally relevant Christianity must be prepared to be different
Through communion with the risen and ascended Christ, heaven and the Church on earth become one single reality. As in Bethlehem, human beings on earth and angels unite in singing God’s praises. Our hearts are purified so that we can understand with greater clarity the mysteries of God. As we have seen, John Zizioulas puts it this way: “It comes as a pentecostal event which takes linear history up into a charismatic present-moment”..
Hence the Church, like Jesus during his life on earth, lives at two levels through the power of the Holy Spirit. It lives in ordinary “horizontal” history: since the time of Christ, Christian authority and truth have been handed down by delegation within the context of Tradition, the practice and the understanding which comes from living the Gospel, which is handed down from generation to generation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, as we have seen, It has an eternal relationship with the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, because we share in Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension through the Spirit. We live in historic time like everyone else, and we also share in a time which has become eternal. If this is true, then like Jesus when he was on earth, the Church is also in contact with heaven and with all times and places. Alexey S. Khomiakov, in his small classic on the Church, wrote:
The Church is one, notwithstanding her division, as it appears to a man who is still alive on earth. It is only in relation to man that it is possible to recognize a division of the Church into visible and invisible; her unity, in reality, is true and absolute. Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, … those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God, for the creation of God which has not yet been manifested is manifested to Him; and God hears the prayers and knows the faith of those whom he has not yet called out of non-existence into existence. (The Church is One by Alexey Stepanovich (c. 1850) Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius, 1968.)
From this we may deduce that, while we celebrate the liturgy in a particular time and place, the local Church cannot be turned in on itself, because the minds of those taking part are directed beyond the local community to God in heaven and to the Church throughout the world and even throughout time.
All this leads us to conclude that the most charismatic texts possible in any liturgical celebration are not those that are most attractive to the participants as a a collection of individuals, but those which express God’s revelation addressed to the Church in Christ and the Church’s response, also in Christ, to that revelation. These texts are what they are because of the synergy between the Spirit and the Church. Although they are called the official texts, they are much more than that. They are Spirit-filled texts, and when we truly pray them we are praying in Spirit and in Truth.
Because of the synergy between the Church and the Spirit, the expressions of the Church’s understanding of its own faith in the texts of the liturgy are the highest expression of that faith as taught by the ordinary magisterium. They are so high that, traditionally, the extraordinary magisterium, whether pope or council, has felt no need to turn truths found in the liturgy into solemnly defined dogmas unless their interpretation had become a source of division in the Church; nor was it believed that to define them gives more honour to God than that which he receives by their celebration in the liturgy. This idea that a dogma is the highest expression of Catholic Truth arose only when the sacraments and the nature of the Church were explained in isolation from the liturgy and appreciation of liturgy had consequently weakened. The Church was seen as a perfect society, held together more by jurisdiction than by the Spirit working through its sacramental structure. The awareness of the effects of the sacraments was limited to its effects on the individual person; and the best thing they could say about the liturgy was that it is the “official” worship of the Church because, it was said, the society held together by papal jurisdiction is the body of Christ.. Obviously, if the value of the liturgy lies in its official status, then dogmas which have been solemnly proclaimed by a general council or a pope have a higher official status than liturgy which is only the product of the Church’s ordinary day-to-day life, even if it has been underwritten by papal or patriarchal authority. If, on the other hand, the ordinary sacramental life of the Church is nothing less than the river that flows from the throne of the Father and of the Lamb, and papal and conciliar definitions are a means of protecting that river from pollution, then the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church is more important than its official life, however important that official life may be.
I. 1 ON THE HISTORY AND SPIRIT OF CARMEL Until a few years ago, very little from our silent monasteries penetrated into the world. It is different today. People talk a lot about Carmel and want to hear something about life behind the high walls. This is chiefly attributable to the great saints of our time who have captivated the entire Catholic world with amazing speed, for instance, St Thérèse of the Child Jesus.(2) Gertrud von le Fort's novel about Carmel(3) has vigorously directed German intellectual circles to our Order as has her beautiful foreword to the letters of Marie Antoinette de Geuser.(4) What does the average Catholic know about Carmel? That it is a very strict, perhaps the strictest penitential Order, and that from it comes the holy habit of the Mother of God, the brown scapular, which unites many of the faithful in the world to us. The whole church celebrates with us the patronal feast of our Order, the feast of the scapular, on July 16. Most people also recognize at least the names of "little" Thérèse and "great" Teresa, whom we call our Holy Mother. She is generally seen as the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. The person who is a little more familiar with the history of the church and monasteries certainly knows that we revere the prophet Elijah as our leader and father. But people consider this a "legend" that does not mean very much. We who live in Carmel and who daily call on our Holy Father Elijah in prayer know that for us he is not a shadowy figure out of the dim past. His spirit is active among us in a vital tradition and determines how we live. Our Holy Mother strenuously denied that she was founding a new Order. She wanted nothing except to reawaken the original spirit of the old Rule [of St Albert].
Our Holy Father Elijah succinctly says what is most important in the first words of his that the Scriptures give us. He says to King Ahab who worshiped idols (1 Kgs 17:1), "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."
To stand before the face of the living God that is our vocation. The holy prophet set us an example. He stood before God's face because this was the eternal treasure for whose sake he gave up all earthly goods. He had no house; he lived wherever the Lord directed him from moment to moment: in loneliness beside the brook of Carith, in the little house of the poor widow of Zarephath of Sidon, or in the caves of Mount Carmel. His clothing was an animal hide like that of that other great penitent and prophet, the Baptist. The hide of a dead animal reminds us that the human body is also subject to death.(5) Elijah is not concerned about his daily bread. He lives trusting in the solicitude of the heavenly Father and is marvelously sustained. A raven brings him his daily food while he is in solitude. The miraculously increased provisions of the pious widow nourish him in Zarephath. Prior to the long trek to the holy mountain where the Lord was to appear to him, an angel with heavenly bread strengthens him. So he is for us an example of the gospel poverty that we have vowed, an authentic prototype of the Savior.
Elijah stands before God's face because all of his love belongs to the Lord. He lives outside of all natural human relationships. We hear nothing of his father and mother, nothing of a wife or child. His "relatives" are those who do the will of the Father as he does: Elisha, whom God has designated as his successor, and the "sons of the prophets," who follow him as their leader. Glorifying God is his joy. His zeal to serve him tears him apart: "I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts" (1 Kgs 19:10, 14; these words were used as a motto on the shield of the Order). By living penitentially, he atones for the sins of his time. The offense that the misguided people give to the Lord by their manner of worship hurts him so much that he wants to die. And the Lord consoles him only as he consoles his especially chosen ones: He appears to him himself on a lonely mountain, reveals himself in soft rustling after a thunderstorm, and announces his will to him in clear words.
The prophet, who serves the Lord in complete purity of heart and completely stripped of everything earthly, is also a model of obedience. He stands before God's face like the angels before the eternal throne, awaiting his sign, always ready to serve. He has no other will than the will of his Lord. When God bids, he goes before the king and fearlessly risks giving him bad news that must arouse his hatred. When God wills it, he leaves the country at the threat of violence; but he also returns at God's command, though the danger has not disappeared.
Anyone who is so unconditionally faithful to God can also be certain of God's faithfulness. He is permitted to speak "as someone who has power," may open and close heaven, may command the waters to let him walk through and remain dry, may call down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice, to execute punishment on God's enemies, and may breathe new life into a dead person. We see the Savior's predecessor provided with all the graces that he has promised to his own. And the greatest crown is still in reserve for him: Before the eyes of his true disciple, Elisha, he is carried off in a fiery carriage to a secret place far from all human abodes. According to the testimony of Revelation, he will return near the end of the world to suffer a martyr's death for his Lord in the battle against the Antichrist.
On his feast, which we celebrate on July 20, the priest goes to the altar in red vestments. On this day the monastery of our friars on Mount Carmel, the site of Elijah's grotto, is the goal of mighty bands of pilgrims. Jews, Moslems, and Christians of all denominations vie in honoring the great prophet. We remember him in the liturgy on still another day, in the epistle and preface of the Feast of Mount Carmel, as we usually call the feast of the scapular. On this day we give thanks that our dear Lady has clothed us with the "garment of salvation." The events providing the occasion for this feast did not occur until much later in the Western world. In the year 1251 [according to tradition] the Blessed Virgin appeared to the general of the Order, Simon Stock, an Englishman, and gave him the scapular.(6) But the preface reminds us that it was our dear Lady of Mount Carmel who bestowed this visible sign of her motherly protection on her children far from the original home of the Order. It was she who manifested herself to the Prophet Elijah in the form of a little rain cloud and for whom the sons of the prophets built the first shrine on Mount Carmel. The legend of the Order tells us that the Mother of God would have liked to remain with the hermit brothers on Mount Carmel. We can certainly understand that she felt drawn to the place where she had been venerated through the ages and where the holy prophet had lived in the same spirit that also filled her from the time her earthly sojourn began. Released from everything earthly, to stand in worship in the presence of God, to love him with her whole heart, to beseech his grace for sinful people, and in atonement to substitute herself for these people, as the maidservant of the Lord to await his beckoning this was her life.
The hermits of Carmel lived as sons of the great prophet and as "brothers of the Blessed Virgin." St Berthold organized them as cenobites, and at the instigation of St Brocard, the spirit which they had received from their predecessors was laid down in our holy Rule. Around 1200, it was given to the Order by St Albert, the patriarch of Jerusalem, and authorized by Pope Innocent IV in 1247.(7) It also condenses the entire meaning of our life in a short statement: "All are to remain in their own cells..., meditating on the Law of the Lord day and night and watching in prayer, unless otherwise justly employed." "To watch in prayer" this is to say the same thing that Elijah said with the words, "to stand before the face of God." Prayer is looking up into the face of the Eternal. We can do this only when the spirit is awake in its innermost depths, freed from all earthly occupations and pleasures that benumb it. Being awake in body does not guarantee this consciousness, nor does rest required by nature interfere. "To meditate on the Law of the Lord" this can be a form of prayer when we take prayer in its usual broad sense. But if we think of "watching in prayer" as being immersed in God, which is characteristic of contemplation, then meditation on the Law is only a means to contemplation.
What is meant by "the Law of the Lord"? Psalm 118 which we pray every Sunday and on solemnities at Prime, is entirely filled with the command to know the Law and to be led by it through life. The Psalmist was certainly thinking of the Law of the Old Covenant. Knowing it actually did require life-long study and fulfilling it, life-long exertion of the will. But the Lord has freed us from the yoke of this Law. We can consider the Savior's great commandment of love, which he says includes the whole Law and the Prophets, as the Law of the New Covenant. Perfect love of God and of neighbor can certainly be a subject worthy of an entire lifetime of meditation. But we understand the Law of the New Covenant, even better, to be the Lord himself, since he has in fact lived as an example for us of the life we should live. We thus fulfill our Rule when we hold the image of the Lord continually before our eyes in order to make ourselves like him. We can never finish studying the Gospels.
But we have the Savior not only in the form of reports of witnesses to his life. He is present to us in the most Blessed Sacrament. The hours of adoration before the Highest Good and the listening for the voice of the eucharistic God are simultaneously "meditation on the Law of the Lord" and "watching in prayer." But the highest level is reached "when the Law is deep within our hearts" (Ps 40:8), when we are so united with the triune God whose temple we are, that his Spirit rules all we do or do not do. Then it does not mean we are forsaking the Lord when we do the work that obedience requires of us. Work is unavoidable as long as we are subject to nature's laws and to the necessities of life. And, following the word and example of the apostle Paul, our holy Rule commands us to earn our bread by the work of our hands. But for us this work is always merely a means and must never be an end in itself. To stand before the face of God continues to be the real content of our lives.
Islam's conquest of the Holy Land drove the hermit brothers from Carmel. Only for the past 300 years has our Order again had a shrine of the Mother of God on the holy mountain. The transition from solitude into the everyday life of Western culture led to a falsification of the original spirit of the Order. The protective walls of separation, of rigorous penance and of silence fell, and the pleasures and cares of the world pressed through the opened gates. The monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, which our Holy Mother entered in the year 1535, was such a monastery of the mitigated Rule. For decades she endured the conflict between the snares of worldly relationships and the pull of undivided surrender to God. But the Lord allowed her no rest until she let go of everything that bound her and really became serious about recognizing that God alone suffices.
The great schism of faith that was tearing Europe apart during her time, the loss of so many souls, aroused in her the passionate desire to stop the harm and to offer the Lord recompense. Whereupon God gave her the idea of taking a little flock of selected souls and founding a monastery according to the original Rule and of serving him there with the greatest perfection. After innumerable battles and difficulties, she was able to found the monastery of St Joseph in Avila. Her great work of reform grew from there. At her death she left behind 36 monasteries of women and men of the strict observance, the new branch of the Order, the "Discalced" Carmelites. The monasteries of the reform were to be places where the spirit of the ancient Carmel was to live again. The re-established original Rule and the Constitutions drawn up by the saint herself form the fence by means of which she intended to protect her vineyards against the dangers from without. Her writings on prayer, the most complete and most animated presentation of the inner life, are the precious legacy through which her spirit continues to work among us.(8) (I have published a very concise presentation of her life in the collection "Kleine Lebensbilder" [Freiburg (Switzerland): Kanisiuswerkes, 1934].) It is the ancient spirit of Carmel. However, influenced by the battles over faith raging in her time, she gave stronger emphasis than did the primitive Carmel to the thought of reparation and of supporting the servants of the church who withstood the enemy in the front lines.
As our second father and leader, we revere the first male Discalced Carmelite of the reform, St John of the Cross. We find in him the ancient eremitical spirit in its purest form. His life gives an impression as though he had no inner struggles. Just as from his earliest childhood he was under the special protection of the Mother of God, so from the time he reached the age of reason, he was drawn to rigorous penance, solitude, to letting go of everything earthly, and to union with God. He was the instrument chosen to be an example and to teach the reformed Carmel the spirit of Holy Father Elijah. Together with Mother Teresa, he spiritually formed the first generation of male and female Discalced Carmelites, and through his writings,(9) he also illumines for us the way on the "Ascent of Mount Carmel."
The daughters of St Teresa, personally trained by her and Father John, founded the first monasteries of the reform in France and Belgium. From there the Order also soon advanced into the Rhineland. The great French Revolution and the Kulturkampf in Germany tried to suppress it by force. But as soon as the pressure abated, it sprang to life again. It was in this garden that the "little white flower" [i.e., St. Thérèse of Lisieux] bloomed, so quickly captivating hearts far beyond the boundaries of the Order, not only as a worker of miracles for those in need, but also as a director of "little souls" on the path of "spiritual childhood." Many people came to know of this path through her, but very few know that it is not really a new discovery, but the path onto which life in Carmel pushes us. The greatness of the young saint was that she recognized this path with ingenious deduction and that she followed it with heroic decisiveness to the end. The walls of our monasteries enclose a narrow space. To erect the structure of holiness in it, one must dig deep and build high, must descend into the depths of the dark night of one's own nothingness in order to be raised up high into the sunlight of divine love and compassion.
Not every century produces a work of reform as powerful as that of our Holy Mother. Nor does every age give us a reign of terror during which we have the opportunity to lay our heads on the executioner's block for our faith and for the ideal of our Order as did the 16 Carmelites of Compiegne. But all who enter Carmel must give themselves wholly to the Lord. Only one who values her little place in the choir before the tabernacle more highly than all the splendor of the world can live here, can then truly find a joy that no worldly splendor has to offer.
Our daily schedule ensures us of hours for solitary dialogue with the Lord, and these are the foundation of our life. Together with priests and other ancient Orders of the church, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and this Divine Office is for us as for them our first and most sacred duty. But it is not for us the supporting ground. No human eye can see what God does in the soul during hours of inner prayer. It is grace upon grace. And all of life's other hours are our thanks for them.
Carmelites can repay God's love by their everyday lives in no other way than by carrying out their daily duties faithfully in every respect all the little sacrifices that a regimen structured day after day in all its details demands of an active spirit; all the self- control that living in close proximity with different kinds of people continually requires and that is achieved with a loving smile; letting no opportunity go by for serving others in love. Finally, crowning this is the personal sacrifice that the Lord may impose on the individual soul. This is the "little way," a bouquet of insignificant little blossoms which are daily placed before the Almighty perhaps a silent, life-long martyrdom that no one suspects and that is at the same time a source of deep peace and hearty joyousness and a fountain of grace that bubbles over everything we do not know where it goes, and the people whom it reaches do not know from where it comes.