Signs of the Spirit of Jesus
TAKEN FROM HOLY COMMUNION
by St. Peter Julian Eymard
Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1940
Fili, diligenter adverte motus naturae et gratiae, quia valde contrarie et subtiliter moventur; et vix, nisi a spirituali et intimoilluminato homine, discernuntur.
Son, observe diligently the motions of nature and grace; for they move with great contrariety and subtlety, and can hardly be distinguished but by a spiritual man, and one that is inwardly enlightened.
(Imitation, BK III, ch. CLIV, No. 1.)
THERE are two loves in us, the natural and the supernatural; the one or the other must by necessity obtain ascendancy over us. If the first, we are culpable, but if the second, it rules and sanctifies everything. The supernatural life puts everything in order, rectifies and purifies everything. Virtue consists in keeping this life strong and active. We must know what spirit we are acting by, whether by the spirit of grace or of nature. There are moments when this is very difficult to determine. Then comes an inner struggle; the outcome will show by what spirit we act, which life rules in us.
In the world, everything serves to promote the natural life, everything fosters it, exalts it, glorifies it. On the other hand, if one desires to live by God, he must direct all his actions, use every means in his power to maintain and increase the supernatural life.
I WOULD earnestly advise you, if you wish to distinguish the different motions of these two lives, to study the fifty-fourth chapter of the Imitation. It needs only humility and delicacy of feeling to make us ascribe to ourselves all the defects there enumerated. But we must be reasonable in all things. It is true that we have within us the germ of every evil tendency, but, in practice, we do not have every defect. Let us pray God that we may recognize our faults and correct them. Let us work toward that end without haste or anxiety. God's grace will guide us and, if we are faithful to it, will make the life of Jesus triumphant in us.
Here are a few signs by which we may know that we are living the supernatural life, that it is firmly established in us and is directing our conduct.
1. The life of Jesus Christ first of all dominates our conscience, purifies it, and separates it from sin. A conscience which is either doubtful or guilty does not have this life. Let us judge by our delicacy of conscience whether Jesus dwells in us. If we do not detest sin, the spirit of Jesus is not in us. Our conscience must be free and clear, and the enemy must be kept in such strict duress that he cannot even disturb its limpid purity. To that end we must first use force, force against self and against sin; afterward, sweetness will play its part. ---- We shall describe later the sort of force we mean.
Let us see, then, whether we are grieved by sin. If not, we are outsiders, not children of the family. If we feel no sorrow at having sinned, at having grieved our Lord and raised a barrier between Himself and us that prevents His speaking to us, then our heart is dead.
2. If our will is so united to our Lord's that we not only wish to avoid sin, which is sufficient for salvation, but to do everything He asks of us, then He lives within us.
However, there are times, even in this second state, when the struggle against sin is in our will, times when the will wavers and inclines to sin by temptation. It is cast into darkness and confusion. In this case, it is no longer enough to feel good sentiments; the thing that is necessary is to strengthen the will against sin, and the gravest sins. God wills this trial. The saints are sometimes accompanied by Cherubim, sometimes by demons. The good God wills that we should not altogether forget conscience, which the sweetness of His service inclines us to lose from view; love makes us forget the combat. That is why God sends these temptations which attack the will itself. All our pride is gone then. The soul questions everything it has done heretofore; it feels it is so weak that it would fall if God did not hold it by the hand. That humbles, and it is good; we must realize that we are dust, and a little fear is necessary that we may avoid the familiarity of laziness toward our Lord. These states are more painful than actual fear of hell. The more the soul has loved and the more it has been loved hitherto, the more it now weeps for God. The good God leaves us thus until we have returned into our poverty. "Alas!" says the soul, "What was I about? Supposing God had abandoned me! And how far I should have fallen if He had not held me back!"
This good act of humility sets us on our feet again. God is content, and everything is in order.
You must expect such times as these; you will pass through them. If you are making steady progress, then you have need of purification, and it will come in God's good time. What is to be done in such moments? Lay hold on the Cross, have recourse to prayer; it is too late to take to flight. There are souls that often go through this ordeal; when they happen to have sinned by their heart, their affections, God purifies them in this way.
Perhaps you will say: "But then if they are guilty of sin, it is by their own fault that they pass through these trials." Well, what if it be so? We are not yet in Paradise! It may well be their fault; but, on the other hand, God profits by it to spur them on to greater efforts, to press forth blood and tears, to clear the way.
Let us return to what we were trying to find out above, the second sign that Jesus Christ lives in us. Aside from the temptations of which we have just spoken, this second sign is the complete union of our will with our Lord's. In our adoration and our prayers, let us never cease to strengthen our will to belong to God by giving it again and again into His keeping. For what? For everything He may will for us, both now and in time to come.
Our piety is very defective if we fasten our will upon one particular thing; if that thing fails and another appears, we are unprepared. Therefore be ready for anything. If God does not speak to you at this moment, never mind; you belong to Him, are waiting for Him to speak.
That is the real sign that Jesus lives in your will. If you have reached that point, you are living by His life; for the supernatural life, the life in God, is a life of the will. Whatever man's will accepts is accomplished in the sight of God; he has merited all he has willed. To be at God's disposal is to act.
Then when God makes His particular will known to us, we are ready and we do it. Whether nature inclines to it or finds it repugnant does not matter. We hear the Divine command, and we go to fulfill it. Our spiritual self will always be content whatever the good God asks of it. As for the natural self, we must subdue it by violence, for it must obey. If it will not go, it must feel the spur. If it finds you weak, it will throw you to the ground; if it feels your strength, it will obey in spite of itself. Then let us not fall into the error of always wanting to know what we shall have to do at such and such a time. No, no! Belong to God ever and forever! Never a free moment; there is none in Heaven! Your rule doubtless prescribes different exercises at certain times, but, in the intervals, be always at God's command.
It is even imprudent to desire to foresee sacrifices which the good God does not for the moment require. That is wanting to fight without weapons. Wait till God asks those sacrifices of you, and He will give you grace for them at the same time. Let Him determine for you what you have to do. Keep within His Divine will and abandon whatever good works may appear outside that Divine boundary. If the good God asks nothing of you, do nothing; if it is His will that you rest awhile, sleep at His feet.
3. When does our Lord live in our heart? When our heart finds joy and happiness only in God. This joy is not always felt; it is often the joy of the cross; it is the joy of loving God above all else: for the heart, in the Divine life, comes to the point of living more by suffering than by joy. We end by loving our suffering and our cross for love of God. To belong to God is what makes the heart joyful, even in suffering. It does not live in itself, but in God.
It is not always easy to recognize whether our heart lives in God. In order that we may love more and more, God often permits our heart to be in darkness and to think it does not love enough. Then it is inclined to love, and tries to love still more; thinking it has not yet reached the mark, it endeavors to love twice as much.
4. But with regard to the mind, it is easier to tell, and even with certainty, when the mind lives in God. And the certainty of this supernatural life is itself proof that the heart and will are living by our Lord. For it is the mind which supplies the motives and thoughts which support both in the Divine life; it is fuel to the fire.
Now to have one's mind in God is to have the thought of God ever present, ruling, sustaining, and fructifying. Do you habitually think of our Lord? If you do, He is in your mind and is living there; He lives there, since He is there as Lawgiver and as Master.
If the mind does not live in God and does not nourish the supernatural life, then the heart and the will possess that life only fitfully, by sudden starts. It is not firmly established and constant unless so nourished. Therefore pious souls must read, meditate, lay up provision of light and strength. The more interior one's life is, the more one needs instruction either from books, meditation, or from God Himself. Thus it happens that the great crowd of Christians who never think are virtuous enough; but loving? Ah, no! There are childishly pious souls who never think of our Lord, excepting, perhaps, to imagine Him fleetingly. One must keep such people busy with a host of devotional practices and little personal sacrifices. They do not know how to reflect; they think only of obtaining particular and momentary graces. They never think of our Lord Himself, have no idea of asking for His love or for the grace of the interior life. They think only of good works; of God Himself, the principle of His love, and His perfections, never! They do not rise very high; they are outside the supernatural life of the spirit. Thus young girls who give evidence of angelic piety within their families, become very ordinary Christians after they are married. And why? Their piety consisted wholly in outward practices of devotion, and these practices having become impossible in their new state of life, their piety vanished.
To change all this, our Lord must be known and loved in Himself. Then, whether we do this thing or that, we shall still love Him. The aspect, the outward appearance of our life changes, but our store of true inner life remains intact.
Why do people not set about really loving our Lord for Himself? Ah, but our Lord is strict! He always demands something more; He is a fire that requires ever more fuel. People are afraid of our Lord, and that is why there are so few who hear the call to adoration. When piety is only a matter of devotional practices, people have fulfilled the law and are blameless once they have performer! these duties. But with our Lord, one has never done enough; He asks more and more, and one has no right to stop. He is seen to be so perfect, and one feels so far from ever resembling Him!
So the supernatural life may be measured thus: to what degree does our Lord live in you? Is He withdrawing from you, or is He entering even more fully into your being? You will know by the warmth or the coldness of your soul. Let us then attain to the life of abnegation; that is the life we must live because it is the life of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, in Which He never ceases to give Himself, despoil Himself, and humble Himself. Let our Lord alone live in us!
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