The Soul's Awareness of Jesus Christ
TAKEN FROM HOLY COMMUNION
by St. Peter Julian Eymard
Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1940
Sicut ergo aceptistis Jesus Christum Dominum, in ipso ambulate,
radicati et supraedificati in ipso. ...
As therefore you have received Jesus Christ the Lord, walk ye in Him;
rooted and built up in Him. ...
(Col. 2:6, 7.)
THE interior life is to holiness as sap to the tree, as the root to the sap.
It is certain that virtue and perfection may be measured by the depth of the interior life, and that the more interior a soul is, the more it is illuminated by Divine light, the stronger in fulfillment of its duty, and happier in the service of God. Everything make sit recollected, everything profits it, everything intimately unites it to God.
The interior life may be defined as the family life of the soul with God and with the Saints; to be interior means to love enough to converse and live with Jesus.
O you who wish to live with the Eucharist, you more than others, must devote yourselves to the interior life of Jesus! hat is your goal, your grace. You must be adorers in spirit and in truth. You are the guard of honor of the hidden God. His life in the Eucharist is wholly inward. He veils His Body in It so that you may enter into communication with His Spirit and His Heart; His voice is heard only inwardly; even His virtues are hidden in order to make you penetrate to their source, His infinite and Divine love.
But how attain to this inner life which is the foundation and completion of the external life? There is only one way, and that is by recollection.
To recollect oneself means to turn from the outward to the inward life. Recollection has three stages: recollection in the thought of duty; recollection in the grace of virtue; recollection in love.
THE first stage of recollection is attentiveness to the voice of duty, to the law of God. What is
commanded, what forbidden by the law? Is this or that thought, desire, or action in accordance with the Divine law? The recollected conscience asks itself these questions, and its answer is our guide.
The man who is mindful of his duty watches his conscience, observing its agreement or its disagreement, its yes or its no, just as a pilot keeps his eye on the compass in order to steer a ship.
This recollection in the law is easy, because the least transgression is followed by torment and trouble of spirit, as our conscience cries out in protest: "You have done wrong!" There is scarcely any one who does not hear this voice but he who is the slave of his passions and willfully guilty of sin, who flees from himself, runs and distracts his mind in order not to hear this inner reproach and see himself as he is. The devil urges him on, attaches him to an entirely naturalistic life, makes him run a feverish round of affairs, noise, change, news. In such a state, one hears neither God nor conscience.
The only remedy lies in the grace that comes from an illness or infirmity which will confine such a person to his bed and force him to face himself, or in humiliations and misfortunes which will disillusion him and bring home to him the truth of the words of the Imitation: "All is vanity but to love God and serve Him alone." 1
Then at least live mindful of the law, recollected in conscience, and obedient to its first admonition. Do not fall into the habit of disregarding its voice and making it repeat its reproaches. Be attentive to its first warning. Bind the law of the Lord on your arm and let it be ever before your eyes and your heart.
THE second stage is recollection in the inner spirit of Divine grace.
In our capacity as children of God, the Holy Spirit certainly dwells in our soul, divinely commissioned to form in it the new man, Jesus Christ, by inculcating in us His virtues, His spirit, His life, in short to make Jesus Christ anew.
If then the Holy Spirit dwells in us as our Master, our Teacher, our Sanctifier, we must listen to Him, be at His beck and call, help Him in His work of transforming the old Adam into Jesus Christ. Hence it follows that it is most necessary for us to be recollected in God present in our soul. For this transformation into Jesus is accomplished gradually, and we must forward it and work toward it. It is easy to perform one virtuous act, but to make a virtue habitual, we have to practice it constantly till it becomes natural to us.
For example, you want to become humble like Jesus, or, rather, you want to reproduce the humble Jesus within you. Then declare a ceaseless warfare on self-love, on vanity, on pride in every form. And since the enemy will launch one attack after another, and has spies within the stronghold, ---- having won a part of you by bribery, ---- you must exercise ceaseless vigilance, watch every step in order to balk his maneuvers, and keep your weapons at hand to repel his assaults.
To make war on evil, however, is not the whole of virtue. That merely does the work of clearing and preparing the ground. It is a proof of fidelity which God demands of us at the very beginning and which frees us from the habit of sin. But virtue itself is attained only through the love and respect it inspires in us as we observe it in our Lord. It is attractive only as seen in Him and practiced for Him. We see it as an attribute of His and are drawn toward it by the sympathy of love. For whatever our friend detests is hateful to us; we love whatever he loves, imitate everything he does. To love virtue in its various manifestations is, therefore, really to acquire it. The love of a certain virtue becomes a rule of life to us, makes us strive toward it, and gives birth to it in our soul. We feel a continual need of it and are happy only when we meet with opportunity to practice it. But as occasions to practice virtue outwardly, especially heroic virtue, are seldom met with, our love of it would soon be extinguished if these exterior acts were its only nutriment. Love therefore keeps virtue alive in the depths of the soul; the mind constantly contemplates its beauty and excellence in Jesus Christ, sees it divinely embodied, and keeps in constant communication with it. For the loving and recollected soul, humility simply is Jesus meek and humble of heart; it sees Him, contemplates Him, admires Him, praises Him, loves Him, and follows Him in all His different acts of humility. It offers itself to follow His example whenever and in whatsoever manner He may will, leaving it to His goodness to furnish the necessary occasions, unconcerned whether they be frequent or rare, secret or public. The virtue of humility is in the soul's love, which is everlasting and contains in itself alone all virtues with all their various acts. Such is recollection in its second stage, recollection in the grace of the Holy Ghost, in the love of virtue He inspires in the soul.
RECOLLECTION in love constitutes the third stage. The soul, having given itself hitherto to inner recollection in order to consult either its conscience or its grace, ---- the voice of the Holy Spirit, ---- now leaves itself to enter into God, to live in God. For that is the natural effect of love, to transport one into the beloved, so that one lives in and for him. It labors solely to please the loved one and be acceptable to him, consults, therefore, first and foremost, his thought, or influence, or desire, and, when that is not clear, even guesses it, penetrates it.
So the first thought of a soul thus recollected in its God is not to consider whether a certain act suggested to it will please or profit itself, but to consult Jesus Christ to see whether it will please Him and be to His glory. The soul is all the happier if, to please Him, it must deny itself and make some sacrifice.
This is not recollection in an act or in a virtue to be practiced, like the first two types; it is recollection in the Person of Jesus Christ Himself and in a devoted love for Him. This love being the center of the soul's life becomes also the law thereof; everything Jesus wills and desires, everything that can give Him pleasure, becomes the pure and all-absorbing passion of the heart. It is thus that a dutiful child lives for a dear father, for a tenderly loved mother; thus, too, a faithful wife, who belongs wholly to her spouse. Et ego illi. 2 "And I to Him."
In this stage of recollection the soul enjoys entire liberty, because it lives by the spirit of love; it belongs to everything and to nothing; everything increases its recollection, because it sees God's will in everything. This is the recollection indicated by our Lord's words at the Last Supper: "Abide in Me, and I in you. ... He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit. ... If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. ... If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in His love." 3
Thus perfect recollection consists in abiding in the love of our Lord.
Is it very difficult, and does it take long to attain to it? All depends on the love that is in the heart. When love of Jesus Christ has become an habitual thought, full of sweetness and strength, when we desire it with a holy passion, when our heart is sad without Jesus, unhappy in His absence, happy at the very thought of Him, then we are abiding in His love.
The essential thing is to make all our life contribute to this love, to render our affection for Jesus habitual, our attention to Him constant.
Finally, the facility with which we practice recollection, the peace and the sweetness we enjoy in recollection, these are Divine evidence that we possess it and that we are abiding in the love of Jesus. Manete in dilectione mea. 4 ---- "Abide in My love." May our Lord grant us this love by which we shall attain to holiness and happiness in this world and in the one to come!
1. Bk. I, Ch. I, No. 3.
2. Cant. 11:16.
3. John 15:4, 5, 7, 10.
4. John 15:9.