The Priest and the Eternal Truths
The Tremendous LoverI.
"We have learned to recognise the love God has in our regard, to recognise it, and to make it our belief." (1 John iv, 16)
I know and I believe in God's love for me; I hold it with the same firm conviction as any other article of belief. I believe in God's loving choice of me, His high esteem. And yielding to the spell of this belief, I am going to throw myself at the feet of Christ crucified and there repeat with St. Paul the glorious Hymn of the redeemed:
The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me! (Gal. ii, 20.)
Christ, the God-Man, the Divine Will poured into a Human Heart; Christ, of His own most free will, loved me, me personally with all the obscurity and wretchedness attaching to my life's story; and to convince me of His love He gave Himself up to death for my sake. Well-tested indeed is the love whose declaration is signed and sealed by the lover's own life and blood; no proof of love more profound and true!
Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John xv, 13)
Rather than doubt Thy love for me, O Lord, I must doubt and deny every other love: the love of my father, whose life of toil and privations is written large and fruitfully over the welfare of his son; or the love of my mother, wrought of tears and sorrows. . . .
Dear Lord, I know and believe, and on bended knees I confess, the charity Thou hast for me.II.
"Thanks be to God for His unutterable bounty to us."(II Cor. ix, 15)
But shall I be asked for nothing in return?
If Thou art going to ask something of me, Lord, I am I afraid; Thou hast a right to so much!
Yes, I am determined to make a request from my Cross.
That thou love me. . . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind.
(Matt. xxii, 37) He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me
. (Matt. x, 37)
O heart I made, a Heart beats here!
Face, My hands fashioned, see it in Myself! Thou hast no power, nor mayst conceive of Mine, But love I gave thee, with Myself to love,
And thou must love Me, Who have died for thee! (Browning)
Is that all Thou askest? to love Thee? . . . What less could I do? . . . I ask my dog to love me, for the bone and dry crust I throw to it, and Thou hast given me all Thy Blood. Hast Thou anything else to ask?
Yes. If you love me, keep my commandments.
(John xiv, 15)
Lord, my heart was afraid lest Thou might require me to shed at least half of my blood for Thee, or to undergo some fearful martyrdom; and that would not have exceeded Thy rights, seeing that Thou hast suffered all for me. But no, I am required to keep Thy commandments. And what does that requirement amount to? To acting reasonably in everything Thou commands me, to act in keeping with the lawful aspirations of the rational being that I am; and therefore, to follow the only course that brings me to the shores of the land of eternal happiness. If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments.
(Matt. xix, 17)
Just think of it! Jesus Christ appears before my eyes amid the tortures and ignominy of His Cross, mangled, torn, steeped in streams of Blood, pleading with anguish from each gaping wound; and He says to me: "My son, if you intend to make some return for all the pain you have cost me, you have only to follow, out of love for me, the one road that leads to thy own true happiness."
My Jesus, I know not when Thou art the more sublime: when dying for me on the shameful gibbet, or when pleading with me, like a beggar, not to refuse Thee the pleasure Thou derivest from seeing me obey the law of my own supreme welfare!III.
Lord, what has been my response? Do I love Thee? Dare I say so, having offended Thee hundreds of times for a few crumbs of vile satisfaction? Do I love Thee when I make any puny creature my preference and run after it so recklessly?
And do I keep Thy commandments? Thou knowest I do not; this is abundantly clear, even to me. Ah, many, many a time I have broken my covenant with Thee, thrown off Thy yoke, sundered Thy healthful bonds, and said "I will not serve."
(Jer. ii, 20). Try as I may, I shall never number the offences I have committed against Thee who hast loved me to the death upon the Cross, to the shedding of Thy Blood.
In Lucifer's rebellion there is at least an element of the sublime, that sublimity portrayed by Milton so vividly, and, before Milton, by the greater poetry of the Sacred Scriptures. An angelic creature, limited in his being, limited in duration - because he had a beginning - with the audacity to hurl defiance into the face of the Infinite Whose sovereign Attributes he well recognises, into the face of the Almighty who had just brought millions of worlds into being out of nothing by dint of a mere act of the Will. Yes, in that rebellion, criminal as it was, I can glimpse some trace of mysterious and fascinating grandeur.
But, my crucified Jesus, in my offenses and continued rebellion against a God-made-Man nailed to a gibbet and streaming with Blood, can I or anyone else discover the slightest hint of captivating arrogance or of sublime strength? Is it sublime to pour vinegar into the wounds, or make mockery, of One who is nailed and agonising?
So, besides being ungrateful and criminal in offending Thee, O Lord, I have just been despicably mean and vile.IV.
Even supposing that during my life as a priest I have refrained from sinning grievously, and have always sworn to serve Thee; Thou, on Thy part, hast loved me with all the strength of Thy Being; Thou hast loved me, so to speak, with Divine Passion, with a sort of incomprehensible precipitancy, with impatient longing to die for me:
I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptised, and how I am straitened until it be accomplished! (Lk. xii, 50)
How straitened! How impatient! Lord, it is as though Thy breast were all too small, as though Thy Heart, under the stress of such vehement desire, would leap its bounds.
I am enlisted in Thy service; Thy lover and servitor is the name I prize. But do I serve Thee? Well, perhaps I do. But how? Against the grain, as it were. If I do not offend Thee more, if I do not wrench myself away from Thee entirely, is it not because there is still a remnant of fear restraining me? Or rather, it is because Thy infinite mercy has encompassed me about with granite?rock ramparts to keep me within the citadel of my duty; because Thou hast walled me in, lest I flee or stray. Thou pursuest me, and at my side Thou art constraining me, oh! so gently, so lovingly, and yet almost irresistibly, with Thy grace, with Thy subtle inspirations, with Thy Shepherd's gentle call, lest I hold back. And with all this, how hard I find it to forge ahead!
Thou, dear Lord, so ardent in Thy love for me; I, so tepid and remiss in requiting Thee!
Am I above Thee? Do I excel Thee in gifts and graces?Resolutions
I propose to re-enact in my heart every day, however briefly - for instance, in my thanksgiving after Mass - the pathetic scene of the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.
Christ crucified, newly unveiled by the priest, is shown to the people, while priest and people intone the Ecce lignum Crucis in quo salus mundi pependit!
And then the crucifix is laid on the ground for all to contemplate in silence for a while. Afterwards, the suspense is broken by the doleful tones of the choir singing:
Popule meus, quid feci tibi
aut in quo contristavi te;
during which the weeping faithful prostrate themselves three times as they approach to kiss the Cross; and in answer to the remonstrations voiced by the choir, they can only babble:
I shall re-enact this scene in my heart between Christ and my sinful soul every day, either before the altar or before the crucifix in my bedroom when retiring for my night's rest.
_________________________Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
###Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!