Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Constancy in One’s Path


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,


Once again we return to Mother Mectilde de Bar and the recent publication in English of her correspondence offering spiritual counsel to Marie de la Guesle—the Countess of Châteauvieux. These letters offer us, three centuries after they were written, guidance that is rare in our day both in its psychological insight and practical mysticism. To the modern mind the counsel offered here is sorely needed but deeply resisted.  The following letters describe the constancy of mind and heart we are to have in the embrace of God's will and the desire to give Him glory.  Such a path, regardless of one's station in life, requires the setting aside of one's ego and a willingness to allow oneself to be guided by God in order to please Him over and above ourselves and others.  So often we can treat virtue and the works of virtue as a commodity; something that we choose in accord with our sensibilities and desires.  We may spend years along a particular path and engaging in acts of piety not having died to self or become more perfect because we failed to discern the will of God and the direction of His Spirit.  God guides us along paths in accord with His wisdom and for our sanctification.  Such guidance may completely elude us or we may consciously or unconsciously seek to elude it when it requires being reduced to nothing and the humble obedience of the Son.  How many of us seek to give ourselves to God in the manner in which He calls us? Mother Mectilde tells the Countess and all of us: "Faith teaches you that the greatest and most noble glory you can give Him is to be perfectly submissive to His good pleasure, to be the prisoner of His love, to be without choice, without life, and without any will; because when you are of this kind He is glorified in you perfectly."  Perhaps most of us would shrink from viewing our life and relationship with God so soberly. For to allow the divine will to operate so powerfully in us that it is omnipotent in our souls is crucifying to the self.  There is always some secret satisfaction that creeps in to lead us away from the path that is salutary. "Simplify your mind in all things, especially with regard to what you have neither order nor obligation to examine or know; in this way your soul will remain free and detached."  Can we have such confidence in God, such a deep trust in His love, that we so detach ourselves looking to others or ourselves and abandon ourselves to the divine Teacher alone to guide and instruct us? Do we fear losing ourselves and given as prey to the spirit and grace of Jesus - to fall in to the hands of the Living God?  Mectilde responds with sharp clarity: "You have nothing which has not cost His Blood, but He desires that you labor with Him to reduce yourself to nothing, to submit yourself, and to give yourself to His cause; you owe this to Him through a thousand kind of rights and obligations." 

 

The Path of Anéantissement is the one which gives the most glory to god


My dearest daughter, I do not know if Our Lord will agree to give me the grace to say a few words to you about the constancy you must have in your path, without your being either occupied with or full of pride regarding the path of others. Daniel was told to remain in his degree in order to show you that each soul must remain in its own path and stay within its degree, without wanting to enter into those that appear to us fine and pleasing in other people. 


It is a great fault in the interior life and particularly in the way of anéantissement to enter by affection or desire into an arrangement to which God does not call you, to want to do good works in which God does not imply you. And under the pretext that you see the external acts of piety to be good and holy, your pride wants to include everything, without discerning if God desires this of you or not. Most often, with this way of acting, you do good deeds through the choice and inclination of your mind, without the order or prompting of grace, and thus it happens that after very long practice of these works of piety, you are not any more dead to self or more perfect. Therefore, it is necessary to do them through the direction of God’s spirit. 


Second, you must beware of being occupied with all the good things you see done; because what God asks of one souls He does not ask of all. Some He appoints to charity and the service of their neighbor; others, to the consolation of the afflicted; others to humility; others to poverty; others to penance and austerity, and so on. It does not follow that all should do the same thing. Sometimes there is a similarity in the exterior works but a very great difference in the ground of the soul, because of the difference of the [spiritual] paths. In this what appears, in an entirely marvelous manner, is the power and wisdom of God who has given to each one according to His good pleasure, for the sanctification of His chosen ones, without any of the paths being alike. 


O, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, who will be able to understand the sublimity and sanctity of Your ways? Within the variety of paths from God, we find those who are dedicated to honoring the hidden and reduced-to-nothing life of Jesus Christ; and these, having a powerful attraction which draws them away from all that has renown, retreat into the abyss of their nothingness, in order to have no life among creatures. It seems to me, according to the insight it pleased Our Lord to give me about your soul, that you are among the number of these and that you owe it an inviolable fidelity. 


Now it is not a small grace to know your path: for, knowing it, you can no longer go wrong except through an infidelity which can never be excused. You must give yourself to God in the manner in which He calls you. Therefore, if in your path you owe Him honor through the imitation of the hidden and reduced-to-nothing life of God’s Son, you must lead a life withdrawn from creatures, a life of silence, of humble obedience, in short, a life of death, a life which no longer looks like your life, but a life hidden in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle teaches you. 


You must take delight in the path in which God placed you. It is not you who chose it, but eternal Wisdom chose it for you and requires you to give yourself to it without being anxious that you are doing nothing great or excellent for the glory of Our Lord. Faith teaches you that the greatest and most noble glory you can give Him is to be perfectly submissive to His good pleasure, to be the prisoner of His love, to be without choice, without life, and without any will; because when you are of this kind He is glorified in you perfectly. In that state, you glorify Him more perfectly than if you were to build a thousand hospitals and if you were to do many other good works from which your self-love took life on account of your good action. Whereas, in the path where God’s goodness leads you, everything tends toward nothingness and the destruction of yourself. Your way is guaranteed; do not doubt that Our Lord calls you by this route: you receive too much grace and understanding it is to doubt. I confess that this way is more crucifying than the other; but it is more certain because there is less of ourselves and it gives us to God in a purer way. 


Therefore, from now on be at peace when you see your neighbor who does the good works you do not do. Do not leave your path in order to enter into a foreign one and one that is not your own. And what must console you and give you peace is the union you have as a Christian with the Church. And as your form one body with all Christians who are members of Jesus Christ, all the good works that one Christian does, you share in and contribute to in a certain fashion; because you are united to that member as forming the same body. Through this sacred tie, you are charitable, humble, and patient along with your neighbor. You, in your path, should not want to do what they do. You must not say, “I would like this or that,” because the divine will must operate so powerfully in you that it is omnipotent in your soul, without allowing your self-love to wish [to do], or to be anxious about not doing, as much good as many others. If God does not want those works from you, then why do you want to do them? It is a vestige of the wickedness we received from Adam to always want to be and to do something that to us makes a show, in order to take a secret satisfaction in it. We cannot take hold of anéantissement; the thought of this tortures us and nevertheless it is our salvation. God desires you to be in this state; it is for you to desire another? Is not God’s will more holy than all the rest? What God has chosen for you, is it not more salutary for you than all the good and good works you could do? Oh, my daughter, would we be so presumptuous as to give laws to God? For myself, I confess to you that I have so much respect for His good pleasure that I would prefer to pick up straws from the ground, by His order, than to convert the whole universe by the ardor of my own will.


Let us love this divine good pleasure; let us take our delight in being attached to it. The blessed do not have any other happiness, and the satisfaction they have in the accomplishment of the divine will comprised their beatitude. You also see certain souls on earth who being completely dead to themselves, enjoy an anticipated happiness. For having lost their own will in the divine will, they are always completely content, seeing nothing on earth outside of God’s good pleasure. O my daughters when shall we be in that blessed death, which will give life to the good pleasure of God in us? It is indeed necessary to work toward the renunciation of ourselves. We must destroy our own satisfaction. 


I do not know if you truly understood what I want to tell you regarding the good actions which are done by others. I am telling you that just as your pray with all Christians because of the union [in the Mystical Body], you act with them too. All the first Christians had only one will, just as they had only one faith, one law, and one baptism, as you observe in the Acts of the Apostles; all Christians have only one will in Jesus Christ, and all have one desire to glorify Him. (At least, they could not have any other intention in their actions, or they would not act in a Christian way). Remaining, therefore, within the intention of your good mother, the Church, you honor God in all the good works which are done by her children, because, as I already told you, your form only one body. 


Here is the disposition your must have in your heart to share in these: first, consent to all the good works performed in the whole Church; second, be glad that God is glorified in many ways according to His good pleasure. And when you see a good work done, offer it to God by a simple elevation, rejoicing inwardly to see souls who do God’s work which you are not worthy to do. Do not regard your own path as better and more elevated than the paths of others. Be very reserved on this point; especially since you do not see each person’s degree of grace and it does not belong to you to judge of it. 


Remember that each souls has its way: the one that belongs to another is not yours. God gave to each one what is proper. If you were to enter into someone else’s path, you would perish in it; and if another entered yours, it would not bring about his salvation. Therefore, let all souls do what they do and if they go astray, you will not answer for it. Be faithful in yours, and beware of focusing on this one of that one. Remain detached from creatures. Do not condemn what you cannot understand. And especially since sometimes you will find souls whose ways and modes of acting are offensive to your feelings and even often to your reason, keep yourself from judging or blaming them. God does not give you any order or authority to condemn them; leave them to His judgement and do not be polluted by rash judgements. If there were souls under your direction, there would be something more to tell you; but since this is only in passing and in encounters with certain devout people, you must restrain your mind, which goes a little too fast on this subject. 


Be very circumspect, then, for fear the your might reject what God accepts and disapprove of what He approves. And although the path of death and true anéantissement may be the most genuine, the most holy, and the most secure in the Church, you must respect the grace of Jesus Christ in souls and the differences of each. For it is in the sight of Our Lord as it is in the sight of a king who has all his officers: his court is comprised of different persons where each has a different function, and the ones that the king intends to be continually in his chamber and enjoy his presence must not dawdle in the kitchen. Each one must fulfill his responsibility and his office; otherwise there would be nothing but confusion. 


Remain in your degree, and since the king, Jesus Christ, your all, does you the honor of keeping you in His holy presence and desires this fidelity from you, do not lower your arrow in order to be occupied with creatures, not even angels. When God keeps you busy with Himself, leave all creatures in God to be what God desires them to be. And you, my daughter, hide yourself in God Himself, in His divine essence which surrounds you; do not leave Him, if possible, at least voluntarily. Simplify your mind in all things, especially with regard to what you have neither order nor obligation to examine or know; in this way your soul will remain free and detached. 


Learn a truth which surprises you so often: this is when I tell you that N. is in the lowest and smallest path in the Church. Meanwhile, we are assured, and Holy Scripture teach edit by the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself, that the path of anéantissement is the holiest in the Church. And God’s servants say that it is the most elevated, most pure, and most sanctifying. As or me, by God’s mercy, I see it in its excellence, according to my ability; but with all its holiness, I find it disparaged beneath all the paths in a certain way. 

1. It is without renown.

2. It is almost unknown, and few persons make it their true state. 

3. A soul who follows this path understands herself to be so small and so much lower than everything that she cannot see in herself anything but nothingness. 

4. She does not compare herself even to devils. 

5. She sees herself as unworthy of all rejection, insult, and shame; so that she in infinitely beneath everything. 

6. She has nothing of lights or gifts from God; she has no share in anything except nothingness. 

Now is there anything less than nothing? There, she is the lowest in herself and in creatures: she sees herself as nothing in everything. See, then, how low this path is. The souls who is brought here, can she raise herself for anything? If she were to do miracles and convert the whole world, she would never leave her nothingness. It is her life, her happiness, and her delight to be immersed in it and to be so low that she can no longer be found. O blessed loss! O holy and sacred anéantissement, what happiness and benediction your produce in the souls that has you! 


See, then, that it is not without reason that I tell you that this path is low. It is the narrow and hidden path which Our Lord tells us leads to the true life, since it leads you into God Himself, where you will receive a new life; but a life of grace, a life of love, divine life, life which cannot be understood except by those who experience it, a life so holy, a life so noble that all one says to expound its excellence demeans it infinitely below what it is. Oh how good it is to live with this life! How happy and a thousand times happy is the soul who allows herself to be led into it! 


I want to keep silent, then, about the sanctity of this path and about its privileges and excellence, which it takes from Jesus. It does not belong to me to speak about such noble matters, poor and worthless runt that I am. It is not at all the affair sinners like me to speak about the favors and graces which the divine Spouse grants to faithful souls. I retreat into my nothingness and into the silence which I must eternally observe.


I think I am obliged to leave you some time to ruminate on what Our Lord wanted me to show you, although I am very unworthy. You will make use of it as will please Him, and you will learn to detach yourself entirely from everything and to purify and simplify your mind so greatly that the virtues of others will not be vices to you. 


Our Lord says to you, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Leave creatures among creatures, and you, my daughter, retreat into God, in whom you must make your continual dwelling. Do not voluntarily leave Him to waste time among creatures. Do not leave the All for the nothing. 


Farewell, my daughter, I think I will be unable to write to you for some time. I withdraw into my center to leave you with God. He is your divine Teacher, and I pray Him that He will instruct you, and pardon me all the infidelities I commit in not receiving with the purity that I owe them the truths which He makes me understand so as to express them to you; I diminish their grace and this is what makes me wish that you received [them] from God without any mediation. This will be when it will please Him. 


Each soul has a different path for giving glory to god


Oh, the ingratitude of the human heart! Oh, the blindness of our mind which, being so full of its own interests, cannot be separated from them to make room for those of Jesus Christ! 


I confess that it is a blessing to be innocent: but who can assure you that you have this? And if you do have it, are you sure you will persevere in it? Oh! How uncertain is the salvation of a soul when it relies upon its life or dispositions, or on I-know-not-what inner habit which produces neither good nor evil! Compare these souls to the happiness of a soul who tends toward God, seeks Him, and loves Him. The difference is almost infinite. The souls who lives in a slack way never receives divine communications, it does not taste God, it does not know Him, it does not glorify Him, it is like one dead, or to put it better: in a sickness which tends toward death; and little is needed for these souls to fall into mortal sin. 


Let us leave the proofs of this truth until our meeting (it would take too long now), in order for me to tell you that I feel inwardly urged to reprove you for your meanness and sloth with respect to God. See from your attitude—at least based on what you tell me in you letter—how full you are of your own interests, and the impurity of your depths in reflecting on yourself and telling you that you ask no more than to be assured of your salvation. Oh! How unfaithful you are after the promises you made to Jesus Christ, and which you renewed with so much ardor! Where are the resolutions to be purely God’s out of reverence for God Himself? Where is that profession of Jesus Christ that you made in baptism, to live from His life and to be animated by His Spirit? See how well you are imitating your Head, and if you are, like Him, clothed with the interests of His Father’s glory. The Son of God never acted for Himself as a man. His heavenly Father’s glory was His perpetual and constant motive, in all His dispositions, and in all His actions. But you are satisfied with the certainty of being saved, wanting to abandon the rest without working anymore! This is a thought from temptation, which comes from your impure ground, and from your pride’s secret fear of one day being stripped of yourself and clothed in Jesus Christ. You fear losing yourself and being given as prey to the spirit and grace of Jesus. 


“The one who loves his life will lose it and the one who hates it in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” It is Jesus Christ who speaks this truth to you, in St. John. Do you want to be assured of your salvation? Be stripped of your own interests, even about your salvation, and abandoning yourself to the guidance of God, go forward in poverty, seeking no other interest than to please God. 


Are you not very miserable to esteem so little God’s gifts and mercies? You noticed how He desires you to be entirely His—and you are so unfaithful that you do not want to give yourself to His love which wants to permeate you, or to His holiness which wants to sanctify you? You want only to be assured of your salvation, without caring about the operations or the other particular effects of grace? I cannot understand such ingratitude or rather, such blindness—to esteem God so little that you do not want to consider the interests of His glory! 


“The one to whom much is given, of him will much be required,” says Our Lord. One soul will be saved with a small grace and another will perish in having an equal one. The matter of our salvation is in God’s control and within His view and eternal designs. If He wants you in a perfect state even in this life, necessarily you must enter it and give yourself to His grace. For this reason, do not waste time considering the path of others, but consider and weigh your own correctly. Another person will be saved through a very ordinary life, and you, you would be shipwrecked there. We must give ourselves to God’s designs and enter into the purity of the paths by which He calls us if we do not want to perish eternally. It is a great secret of the interior life to know one’s path and to walk faithfully in it. Another’s path is not your path, which is why you do not control the work of your sanctification: each one must follow what God desires of him. Understand this matter rightly and you will live in more peace and be more faithful. 


In support of your position, you say that God, being essentially glorious in Himself, has no need of accidental glory. It is true that God was as glorious in Himself as He is now, before the creation of the world. However, He was pleased in His wisdom to create the universe and to fashion creatures in order to manifest His greatness and His divine perfections, and at the same time to oblige us to adore them. He delights in His works, He is glorified in them, and He requires us to glorify Him according to what is possible for us. 

1. Because He is our creator: He drew us out of nothingness, we owe Him our being, and  that being must glorify Him; it was created for this reason. But there are many ways to glorify Him, and each soul has an obligation and an inner path through which God desires to be glorified in it. And the soul must show here submission and reverence. 

2. A king’s glory increases by having many servants and persons subject to his greatness, and who render homage to his crown. Likewise (but without any comparison), God desires to have subjects who extol His supreme authority, who are obliged to render Him homage and are sacrificed to His greatness in order to teach us that He is King and that He must be revered; that He is God and must be adored; that He is our Master who must be respected; that He is our Judge who must be feared; that He is our Spouse who must be loved, and that He is our Father and our all, who must be obeyed and honored. In brief, He has obliged us to give Him glory, and it is His delight. There is nothing to say about this: it is for this He created us and it is for this He keeps us in being, and gives us His graces and so on. 


O presumption of the human heart which says, “Why should we give ourselves so much trouble when we think we are in [a state of] grace, and Jesus Christ having completely atoned for our sins, we have only rest left, without [the need of] bothering ourselves further?” “God created you without you, but He will not save you without you,” said a Church Father. Jesus Christ repaired all the glory that sin took away from His Father, and merited for you the grace to cooperate in your salvation. You have nothing which has not cost His Blood, but He desires that you labor with Him to reduce yourself to nothing, to submit yourself, and to give yourself to His cause; you owe this to Him through a thousand kind of rights and obligations. 


Mother Mectilde of the Most Blessed Sacrament

The Breviary of Fire





Monday, May 10, 2021

Reduced to Nothing


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,


We turn once again to the wisdom of Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament found in a new publication in English of her correspondence with the Countess of Chateauvieux.  It is a privilege to have access to these writings both for their beauty and depth.  We are truly being nourished on the solid food of a life spent seeking to make oneself a sacrifice of praise to God and of a heart willing to embrace the martyrdom that comes from dying to self and sin on a daily basis. We are shown that to place oneself in the hands of the Living God requires great faith.  God allows the soul to be humbled to seemingly immeasurable depths.  Yet, one must not given in to fear or doubt. Rather, with the the simplicity of a child one must trust that God allows such humiliation and the stripping of the self only to clothe the soul in grace and raise it up to the very heights of intimacy.


Having considered your letter of this morning, the content of which moved me, I have some compassion for you, my dearest daughter, but the graces Our Lord presents to you by bringing you into the state you know do not allow the tenderness of my heart for yours—although it is very great—to hold back for a moment the mighty hand of God who is working to reduce you to nothing. And on this occasion I believe I have as much courage as that good and generous mother who held the limbs of her child when the tyrants cut them to try to make him renounce faith in Jesus Christ. 


I acknowledge that the martyrdom one used to suffer in ancient times was cruel; but it was not of long duration. The sight of the reward would quicken them. But the martyrdom of the inner life is with respite: it ends only when life does. And we must have an invincible constancy to not become discouraged and lose heart with the attacks of so many violent temptations which come to assail us, whether from the devil, from ourselves, or from God Himself testing the soul. This requires fortitude, this requires patience; and to better win the victory, we must be reduced to nothing. It is a war in which we must lose ourselves to win. Your trophies will be shown by the magnitude of your privation. It is necessary to be generous amid discouragement, strong in your weakness. Not by making acts of resistance, but by abandoning yourself to the fires and tortures. 


I greatly desire, in your miseries, that you separate yourself from sin, namely, hate in yourself your weaknesses, malignancies, and that which dishonors God. But you are not allowed to be separated from the pain and humiliation. Here is what you must do: I fall into some infidelity. At the same time haute would like to be saddened and I experience in myself some small bitterness in the heart which would pull me toward seeing myself delivered from this wickedness. In such encounters, we can be affected by God and by ourselves. For myself, I discovered by experience that the majority of our soul’s wailings are nothing but products from the spring of our self-love; and we have an insatiable tendency to deliver ourselves from the cross and from humiliation. This is what we must think about a little. For there is nothing that humiliates a soul more than its frequent falls, because, of necessity, it acknowledges its weaknesses and that it has need of a help more powerful than that which our pride and our sufficiency think to find in us. In consequence, we must perforce experience how small we are in ourselves, a distrust of self, and a tendency to be constantly detached from ourselves. 


Understand, then, the blessing contained in your weaknesses. See if, in a certain manner, your miseries are not likeable. They are so useful to you that without the sentiments you have on account of them, you would never firmly possess a holy knowledge of yourself. 


Therefore, you must hate your infidelities, because the dishonor God, but not be disturbed or anxious about them. Hate the sin, but love the pain dearly. Be grieved about opposing God, but be glad that this embarrasses you and shows you your wicked ground. I want you to groan, with St. Paul, under the weight of this body of sin, but I desire that you enter into his profound humility. For the miseries that he felt cast him into such an extreme abasement that he called himself a little miscarriage and unworthy of the name of apostle. Did he not say that he would glory in his infirmities? What were the infirmities of St. Paul? They were the stings of sin which he endured and continually felt in himself. And when he asked to be delivered from them, he learned that by all these miseries his soul was being perfected.


My dearest daughter, do not be upset, your state is good; but do not think about things too much. Be more abandoned and have more trust in God. Your perfection is the work of Jesus Christ. Be certain that He will crown it with His blessings. However, you must remain steadfast, enduring the destruction that He brings about of everything in you which is opposed to His rule. I pity your soul which is tormented in its darkness and its ignorance; and because it does not understand the path by which Our Lord draws it to give itself entirely to Him, it is needlessly tormented and troubled. 


Become a little child, more submissive than ever and more simplified in your thoughts. Be assured that your own path is good and holy, and go forward in trust. 


What it is necessary to do to enter into the way of anéantissement (1)


My dearest daughter, I remained this whole day in a very particular solicitude about your person in the midst of all my little affairs. I had you present in my mind, in the fear that your soul might be in some disposition which would crucify you and cast you into temptation. Nevertheless, I am entirely at peace in the goodness of Our Lord who will not allow you to be tempted above your strength. 


Entrust yourself to His mercy above your aversions and the malignity of your ground which pulls you as much as it can away from your precious abandonment. Do not leave it, do not give up, so that you may sink in to a profound nothingness. This is your refuge; but you have not yet really perceived it. You are still very inexperienced in the way of grace. You still cannot understand that you can live in dying and die in living. 


Oh! How few there are to whom Jesus was speaking in Holy Scripture: “You desire to be perfect? Give your goods to the poor, renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” We still find many who give their goods to the poor, but we find almost none who follow Jesus Christ. Blessed is the soul who recognizes His call and follows it faithfully. 


What are you afraid of? To lose yourself, or creatures? Alas, do not fear this, because such a loss is the beginning of your eternal happiness. It is in leaving ourselves that we find God and receive the grace to follow Him. Do not regret losing everything since this is the only way to possess Jesus. Take care, my daughter, that creatures do not carry you off and rob you of yourself. Never be too ager for anything human and beware of preferring anything to Jesus Christ. 


There are two or three steps which will cost your dearly, but will also give you an immense happiness. The first is contempt for creatures, for their praise, and for the esteem that they can have for you; become insensible to their opinions and judgements. The second is to take your intellect captive to the continual presence of God. Before you acquire this habit, you will suffer in your mind, especially since it is very scattered in the senses and in attention to self. The third is abandonment above your feelings and human reasoning; the mind always wants to see and understand everything in order to draw from it support and its own satisfaction. 


Oh! It is a very great secret to know how to be entirely abandoned in profound silence before Our Lord! Remain their peacefully, in the highest part of your soul; find it good that He will purify you as He pleases. Beware of wanting to give God laws about how to lead you. The humiliating states are the most holy and the most useful. If we were illumined by faith’s pure light, we would never wish to leave the state of weakness and abandonment. 


Oh! How good it is that you be reduced to your nothingness, without perceiving it, as the prophet says. The soul which is reduced to nothing becomes a pure capacity for Jesus Christ, it no longer opposes Him. Oh, my daughter, when will I see you in the anéantissement? Alas, for then you will see everything in a different light, because your senses will no longer deceive you. Let yourself be led there, in secret and as if by stealth, in order to avoid the obstacles that you may bring to it. The hand of God has an infinite power to lead you into it, only do not resist Him. Consent to every impoverishment which eternal Wisdom will bring about in you, whether it be regarding your soul’s operations, or the created things that you still possess, to which you can still have hidden attachments. Present yourself to the power of divine love completely stripped, and you will experience its power. Our Lord looks for empty souls in order to fill them with Himself, and He does not find any. We are so stingy with respect to God. When you give Him one little moment of your life or suffer a quarter of an hour of pain, it seems to you that He owes you a great deal in return. You do not have enough gratitude for what Our Lord did for you, or for the love He bears for you. 


You still have the fault of bring too human, and of wanting to reconcile grace too much with fleshly prudence. You lower the trajectory of your arrow and sometimes you destroy it by examination or on account of human fears. You do not simplify your mind sufficiently and you do not surrender yourself enough to divine action. You lose yourself in creatures. You are not faithful at seeing events within the divine ordering and within the divine dispensation. That is the point to which you must be most strongly fixed, and you must break, with the grace of Jesus Christ, the bad habit of always considering creatures, which you have had until now. This is the practice you must work at constantly, and gently keep your mind bridled, for fear that, like an untamed horse, it may escape. 


Therefore, humble yourself once and for all. Consent in a spirit of humility to all the poverties and miseries that Providence makes you experience: the privations, the darkness, and the helplessness; all are good, since it is God, eternal Wisdom, who gives them to you. Only remain continually abandoned, and do not trouble about the rest. God will provide for all your needs: your sanctification is His work. 


My daughter, I am writing to you the lesson I would have given you this morning, if Providence had permitted me the consolation of seeing you. I do not know if it will be useful to you. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot take them in right now. They must wait until your soul is a little stronger. In the meantime, work faithfully and without listening to the complaints of nature. I pray Our Lord to strengthen you with His graces and to grant me the light and gifts of His Holy Spirit to assist you in this, according to the affection He gave me for your soul and the obligation I have to work for His glory.  


What it is necessary to do to enter into the way of anéantissement (2)


My dear daughter, do not be discouraged about this state of complete death to self. It is not in any way the creature’s work, but the work of God’s omnipotent hand which causes the soul to enter into it, in the measure that it is stripped and renounces all that occupies it and fills its depths. This is the pure and holy state which you vowed in baptism. It is the one which makes us cease to be what we are in order to allow Jesus Christ to be and live in us. 


This death appears cruel and very harsh to nature and to the senses; but it is very sweet to the soul. And a soul which has even a little esteem, love, and reverence for God willingly sacrifices her life and being to His greatness, out of a deep desire to see Him live and reign in us, and to glorify Him according to His good pleasure. 


The longer I know you, the more I am certain of your call to this pure path. It is not that you have to be led into it just now; but you must always keep the desire to attain it, and tend toward it according to your grace and ability. In order for us to see from afar the dispositions of Jesus Christ, we must not fail to aspire to them, and to do all that the Providence of our good God has put in our power, abandoning all the rest to His mercy and love. 


The remoteness from the blessed condition in which you find yourself at present comes from a very great light which shows you your miseries and unworthiness. You must not know your progress in this path; instead you must walk it blindly, submitting to the guidance God has given you, without allowing your soul to reflect on itself to see its progress. Everything must tend toward death. I know that you are still far from this state; but patience and grace amend everything, and Our Lord will make you enter into it by a route you do not guess. Always remain very abandoned. Do not leave the state of sacrifice in which He keeps you. Allow yourself to be led by His divine Spirit. 


I am very cooled by your confidence in God, and by the peace and tranquility which you have in view of your distance [from the goal] and the many obstacles you meet in that pure path. The one who, from all eternity, did you the honor and favor of ordaining you to this perfection, will be your strength and virtue by which to enter it. Never be discouraged. Continue to sacrifice yourself, since you feel yourself urged to do so, in view of you obstacles and your cross. 


Now is the time for fidelity you must be constant through the constancy and fortitude of Jesus Christ. Allow yourself to be slain since you are a victim. Adore the precious and lovable hadn’t which crucifies you, and beware of considering anything according to the conduct of creatures. View all events within God’s conduct and submit to them reverently. His work must be accomplished. 


You will never be a true Christian if you are not on the cross, and if you do not spend your life like your divine master Jesus Christ. What are you afraid of, my child? A little shame and embarrassment from the side of creatures? And are you not afraid of the insult you give to God and His grace? For the sake of vanity we put ourselves in danger of losing a blessed eternity. Alas! If creatures could sanctify us, then it would be necessary to consider them; instead they cause us to perish and are constantly opposed to our sanctity. And since you give me the liberty to speak to you according to my opinions and experience: I only ever tasted true happiness in death to creatures. Would to God that you could know the harm they do us. Let us give them up willingly, not preferring them to the love of Jesus Christ. We cannot serve two masters, God and ourselves. We must of necessity leave the one for the other. Is it not right to leave everything for Jesus? The one who does not renounce himself is not worthy to be His disciple. 


My God, my daughter, how I want to see you perfectly submissive to the action of God and entirely full of His divine Spirit! And that you be truly generous in [bearing] your crosses—that human fears and concerns not cause you to withdraw from the holy resolution you made to be entirely God’s! Would you be so wretched as to give me the death blow of seeing you return to creatures and leave the true path that leads you to God? Alas! If you have the will to do it, ask God that I may die rather than see such frightful baseness in a soul for whom I sacrificed my own a thousand times, and for whom I prayed and still pray to God with such ardor. 


Oh, how true it is that the love of fathers and mothers is so much stronger than that of children! I know it by my own experience. But after all, I must be deprived of you according to God’s good pleasure. You are more Jesus Christ’s than mine. I do not have you except through Him and I do not want to have you except to give you and sacrifice you to Him. I do not care to have you in any other way, or to become the proprietor of someone who is a prize of Jesus’ blood, whom His providence entrusts to me. I hold you and I do not hold you. I have hold of you by command of Jesus Christ, and nevertheless I leave you most perfectly to Him, not wanting to occupy your thoughts for an instant with any product or sentiment of my affection. Alas! Would I be so wicked as to profane the temple of the Holy Spirit, to take the place of the divine Master in your heart, and to appropriate what must be uniquely His? I assure you that I fell no such desire or inclination; on the contrary, I have a passionate desire to see you be all His. 


The "Breviary of Fire": Letters by Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament

Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament




Wednesday, April 7, 2021

To Become Another Jesus Christ



Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,


As enter more deeply into Eastertide, it seemed appropriate that we would consider the implications of the Paschal Mystery for us; what the redemptive work of our Lord made possible for us and how it is received.  For this we turn once again to Mother Mectilde de Bar who speaks to us of the New Creatures we have become in Christ.  She draws us ever deeper into the excesses of Our Lord's Love, especially as they are expressed in the Blessed Sacrament and received in Most Holy Communion.  In and through this Communion we are to take on the dispositions of Christ and seek to foster it continually through the ascetic life and mortification. The question she puts to her Sisters she puts to us: "You are fed with Jesus Christ, Sisters; are you another Jesus Christ?"  Do we seek to respond to this holy gift through becoming what we receive -  an "alter Christus"?  Jesus gives Himself entirely to you.  Why should you not give yourself entirely to Him?  After receiving the Holy Eucharist we should see and hear only Jesus. 


I think you are all renewed in the desire to live a new life. Please God, my Sisters, that this little saying from the Apocalypse may apply to you and me: Ecce nova facio omnia, that we are new creatures and that we walk in newness of life as St. Paul exhorts us.


            It is true, and St. John says it out of awe, that “God so loved the world that He gave His Son for it . . .” The Father gives Him to us in the Incarnation for the salvation of all men, but the love of the Son does not stop there. He is not satisfied to have borne all the rigor of divine justice and suffered such an ignominious death by being made the victim for sinners; I believe that He continues to endure these humiliations in our Most Holy Sacrament . . . 


            Are these not the excesses of Jesus’s love, which found this invention to attract into our souls the holiness of God, who had nothing in common with His creatures? But Jesus, by the transformation of the soul in itself that He brings about through Holy Communion, attracts the gaze of the whole august Trinity, which is joined to the soul in an ineffable manner. 

 

            We must not only have charity for our Sisters, but embrace everyone in this union of the charity of Jesus Christ. Isn’t this what He wishes through Holy Communion, which we receive so often; and how can it be, after so many Communions, that we have any other inclination than that of Jesus Christ, who is all charity, gentleness, and patience in this divine Sacrament? Oh! It is certain that if we prepare ourselves by charity itself to receive Him, He would communicate to us all His loving disposition . . . 


            We must die if we desire to enter into the dispositions of Jesus Christ in this divine Sacrament and become another Jesus Christ. That is what He wishes. And who would conceive the happiness of a soul thus become Jesus Christ? It is beyond words; the soul has the liberty of the children of God. You will say to me, “You speak of a joy and a divine liberty, but at the same time it is always necessary to renounce oneself and to die unceasingly?”  Yes, my Sisters, the one is arrived at only through the other. The beginnings of it are difficult; one finds bitterness there, but the progress is sweet. 

 

            I have told you before that it is a dogma of faith to believe that after Holy Communion, as long as the species subsists in the person, the soul is completely transformed in Jesus Christ, and if the soul were visible, one could see only Jesus Christ in her. (I assume it is in a state of grace.) But after we have consumed the holy and adorable species, the reason this transformation does not continue in us—a transformation which is the intention of Jesus Christ—comes from the fact that after our thanksgiving we are too easily dissipated, we fill ourselves with creatures, and then we return to ourselves, namely, to our moods and habits. We are not faithful to the practice of mortification, and this is the reason there is so little fruit from so many Communions which I call unworthy (for those made in mortal sin are sacrilegious). Yes, they are unworthy of the holiness and love of Jesus Christ, lodging Him in a heart impure and defiled with a thousand faults that we take no trouble to correct. We should never approach Holy Communion except with the resolution to mortify one passion or another, an inclination, or some attachment that we know to be displeasing to God—the fruit of one good Communion being a fidelity to the practice of mortification. 


            And I have no doubt that Our Lord would transform into Himself a soul who would be faithful to this practice: that is His intention and His heart’s desire. I do not say that at first it would have complete perfection; no, that is for some chosen souls; those are extraordinary graces. You will observe that, just as there are diverse states in Jesus Christ, and infinite virtues and perfections in Him, there are always various transformations to be made in a soul during the whole course of its life, no matter how advanced it may be. This is done by degrees, according to His good pleasure. If a soul is very faithful and puts up no obstacles to God’s designs, it will soon be completely transformed into Him. Just as there are various degrees of union in the interior life, so there are various states and various stages of transformation which Jesus causes in souls. 


            In Holy Communion, I observe two different ways of praying. The first is that of souls united to Jesus Christ, through whom they are always at prayer. Having heart and soul united to God, they have no great trouble: it is Jesus Christ who prays in them. The other way of prayer is that of souls who tend toward this union and who unite themselves to Jesus Christ by loving desire, and who in prayer unite themselves to His divine understanding, and to the affections and desires of His divine will. This done, they remain in silence and reverence at His feet, clinging to Jesus, without whom they can do nothing. He says it Himself in the holy Gospel: “Without Me you can do nothing. No one can go to the Father except through Me. If you are not united to me as the branch to the vine, you will bear no fruit.” And a great many other passages indicate to us our need to be united to Jesus Christ. He also says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In these three words are contained all the perfection and holiness of Christians. Prayer that is not made in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ is ineffectual and cannot be accepted by God. 

 

            Jesus Christ instituted this divine Sacrament in order to give glory to His Father and to come to us to change us into Himself . . . 


You are fed with Jesus Christ, Sisters; are you another Jesus Christ? 


Since the time you received Communion, we should see only Jesus Christ. If someone asked you if your actions are the actions of Jesus Christ, your words the words of Jesus Christ, your thoughts the thoughts of Jesus Christ—if you were asked to imitate God in His divinity, you would have some excuse, saying that he is elevated in His divine perfections, and that this is beyond you: His power, His immensity, and the rest. But one is offering you Jesus Christ in His holy humanity, having been subject to the same weaknesses as you, yet without sin. His love made Him institute our divine Sacrament so that, consuming Him, you would receive His power, and so that you might be totally His. It is not with this mystery as with some others, my Sisters, for those pass, granting the grace attached to the mystery when they are presented to us by the Church. Our great mystery endures always, it does not pass like the others; He is always ready to give you the proofs of His love, today, tomorrow, every day . . . 


Oh, my Sisters, a soul who gives Him carte blanche, that is, who puts no limit on the powers of Jesus Christ or His designs, experiences miracles of grace! We must keep nothing back: Jesus Christ gives Himself entirely to you, so why would you not give yourself entirely to Him? . . . 


Pray to the most holy Virgin to quicken your hearts. You should never receive Communion unless you have called on her and asked her to prepare your heart that it may be worthy to receive her Son—or rather, ask her that she give you’re her own. 

 

My Sisters, what did you do today? You all received Communion. Our Lord says in the Gospel that the one who eats His Flesh and drinks His Blood abides in Him, and in another place He says, “My Father and I will come to him and we will make our abode with him.” Therefore, we are all divinized by His coming to us. At that time, He causes a transformation: not that God is transformed into us, but that we are transformed into God. 


Perhaps a Sister will say to me that we do not experience this, that we always feel a certain weight from our passions, the same weaknesses, the same moods. It must amaze and embarrass us to see how little fruit we obtain from so holy an action, which is the noblest, the greatest, the most important in Christianity. If we truly understood this mystery of God with us, we would have such joy in receiving it and at the same time a reverence so profound that it would give us . . . fear in approaching it. 


            O blessed possession of God, how you should be cherished! How happy is the soul who knows how to keep Him and make Him live in her! 

 

Oh! My Sisters, this is the mystery of mysteries for us. Jesus Christ enters the soul in Holy Communion . . . He passes into this holy sanctuary in the most intimate part of our souls, where He renews His adorable mysteries, principally that of His sacrifice, in a way most profitable to the soul. For, Jesus being substantially united to us by the Eucharist, we become (according to the opinion of the Fathers) simply one with Him; for we are bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh, and so fully united to Him that this union fills the whole Church with astonishment; she cannot admire it enough. This is a dogma of faith and we must believe it. 


            But I ask you, when you receive Communion, is it you who cause that union and transformation? Certainly not; it is Jesus, by virtue of His divine Sacrament. It is enough on your part that you are in a state of grace, and all the rest is done by Jesus Christ’s infinite love. This being so, and a dogma of faith, why is it that we teach souls nothing about how to conduct themselves and what they should do during this divine exchange? I say that they need do very little: only two things. First, they should adhere to Jesus in the depth of their wills, and second, they should not interfere by attempting to know, to enter, to perceive what is happening in them, to feel it and be assured of it. 


            It is necessary to remain recollected, if the soul can, and simply give its consent to all this is happening in it through the divine and personal reality of Jesus Christ. If the Sisters cannot remain peaceful, or have neither reverence nor concentration, let them say with all their hearts, along with the whole Church: Amen.

 

What is the spirit of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? See if it is not a spirit of love and charity. Can we find or see a love greater than that of Him who gives Himself entirely to us, without holding anything back? And after this, will we not be all love and charity for our Sisters, being the daughters of a God whose charity reaches far into infinity? This is the great charity you should have for each other. It is by this that you will be known as my disciples, says the Lord. 


It is the proper effect of the Holy Eucharist to make us into Jesus Christ; and, in like manner, if we were able to see a soul when she comes from Communion, we could see nothing then except Jesus Christ.

 

How does it happen, then, that we do not remain in Him? One Communion should create a perfect transformation in us, and it should do so at the very moment of Communion. So why is it that we are always ourselves, proud, full of self-love, and further, quick to follow our passions and indulge our senses? It is because we do not understand the greatness of this action; we do not have faith. 


“But,” you will say to me, “can these faults take away from us the graces of Holy Communion?” No, since its proper effect is to transform us, we cannot hinder that . . . but to live in imperfection in such a manner deprives us of the graces that Jesus Christ would have brought us in Holy Communion. 


            Do not cause such a great grace as this to be in vain, for is there anything greater than to be transformed into Jesus Christ? We do not cause this transformation; it is Jesus Christ Himself who causes it and who transforms us into Himself through this adorable Sacrament. He hides us in Himself, He absorbs us into Himself, His love carries us even to the point of uniting us to Him, in such a manner that we are simply one with Him. Can there by anything greater? Has Our Lord not extended His love even to excess? Ah! If we had the faith to believe it, and if we would think about how we receive a God of infinite majesty as He truly is, would we not be overwhelmed with reverence? 


            Let us try to approach Holy Communion with the most faith, reverence, and attention possible for us, so that, having these dispositions which Our Lord requires, He can freely work His divine effects in our soul. And let us make use of it as we should, my Sisters, for what a reckoning we shall have to give to God! I tell you, it is one of the greatest we will have at death—this one of such a great grace neglected, and which, nevertheless, we receive so often and with so little fruit. This should make us lament. After Holy Communion, does Jesus Christ live in us as He should live? Do we live from Him? Are we animated with His spirit? Do we practice His virtues? Alas! Far from it. How does this happen, since He does not keep anything to Himself? It is because we fail, as I said before, to make use of the grace of transformation that He works in us through this precious mystery. 


            Can Jesus Christ give us more than Himself? And since in Holy Communion He give Himself completely to us—all that He is, and all that He has of what is great and holy, His virtues, His merits, and the rest of His adorable perfections—what more do you want? If Jesus Christ gave you some favor, some lights or ecstasies or raptures in prayer, these would be real graces; but what are they, compared to Jesus Christ? And besides, you would have cause to fear, since such things are subject to illusion, and we can be deceived. But regarding Holy Communion, there is nothing to be apprehensive about, since it is Our Lord in His own person who give the reality of Himself. We are obliged to believe this. 


            Therefore, endeavor that Holy Communion may bring about in your souls a true transformation from now on; that you may no longer be seen, but Jesus Christ wholly in you; and also that you no longer see anything but Him in everything and everywhere—so that you may be like the Apostles, who saw Him truly in the mystery of His Transfiguration, and having come back to themselves, saw no longer either Moses or Elijah, or anything else: Jesus Christ alone was visible to their eyes. That is where we must remain. May this divine object hold our sight and our attention; may we think only of Him, may we act only for Him, seek only Him.

 

            Let us pray to the most holy Mother of God to prepare us for Holy Communion and to put us into a state to receive efficaciously the grace of transformation which Jesus Christ causes in us, so that, this grace remaining always at work, we may all blessedly abide in Jesus Christ. This is what I desire for you.


The Mystery of Incomprehensible Love

The Eucharistic Message of Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Renewing in Us the Ineffable Mystery of the Incarnation


Our Lord 
comes into us through Holy Communion; He is incarnate anew, so to speak, in all who receive Him so that we may keep and manifest Him by our good works and express His virtues in the course of our life.  There are infinite mysteries in Holy Communion since when you possess Jesus Christ in your bosom, Jesus Christ possesses you.  But you do not change Him into yourself, rather He changes you into Himself, and, presenting you to His Father like this, reclothed with Himself, we can only be very pleasing to Him.

He also performs His office of High Priest by means of Holy Communion: the heart of the person who receives Him is the altar, and on it He sacrifices all that is opposed to Him.  Therefore, we have only to unite ourselves to Our Lord in this precious time, gently acquiescing to what He does in us, without being encumbered by many multiple acts, since all that we can do of ourselves is nothing compared to what Our Lord Himself does in us.

Ask the most holy Virgin to prepare you to celebrate this great feast, so that you can receive the effects of her dear Son's birth.  Entreat her to bring it about spiritually in you.  Remain at her feet, unite yourself to her, and ask for a share of her faith, her profound humility - but first of all, for the desires and holy ardor she had seeing her divine Son born into the world.

The Mystery of the Incarnation is a mystery of love, and Holy Communion is its completion and consummation . . .  .

It is the glory of the eternal Father to see His Son humbled out of His love for Him, and to render to Him what we cannot because of our indigence.  We have nothing except from Him and through Him; we must therefore receive Communion, but, as much as possible, in amazement at the excess of the mercies of Jesus, who renews in us the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation. . .  .

I said that Jesus enters into us through Holy Communion.  He was there captive, in darknesss, and in a kind of powerlessness.  This is true, you know it, but this is not something to be troubled about, since it is what we are because of original sin.  Therefore, this should not discourage us and make us sad, but rather delight us with amazement and oblige us to be more faithful to Him, as much as possible, through abandonment to His will, through a continual gaze toward His goodness and His love.

When one awaits a great gift, one thinks about it at night as well as during the day.  We await the birth of Jesus in our hearts, which is the gift of gifts.  You desire it ardently, and you have already done so millions of times, but these were ineffectual and passing desires.  The holy Virgin desired to give Him to the world, the holy Patriarchs desired Him.  Let us ask the holy Virgin, Mother of God, to show us the preparations necessary for us, so that her Son may be born into our souls . . .  .

The eternal Father gives us Jesus every day in Holy Communion.  He "so loved the world that he gave His only Son."  Oh! The excellence of that gift, the gift of gifts!  It surpasses our understanding . . .  . 

It is faith that gives us entry into the mysteries; without faith we will not be admitted.  There are two kinds of faith: a speculative and a practical faith.  Speculative faith without practical faith will not save us. To believe that God is in the Most Holy Eucharist is a totally divine faith, which causes us to see and understand a God who is poor, humble, ennothinged, reduced as if to a speck to come to us and to be eaten by us.  What great mysteries faith discloses to us! . . . 


The mystery has passed, I acknowledge it, and it happened only once, but the grace of it is not past for souls who prepare to have Jesus Christ born into their hearts.  He was born once in Bethlehem, and He is born in our hearts every day through Communion, which is an extension of the Incarnation, as the Fathers say.

The reason the mysteries are represented to us by our Mother, the holy Church, is that we may be conformed to them by state, as much as we are able.  Meditate on and examine seriously the situations found in them in order to act in the same manner as Christians and members of Jesus Christ, our Head; for we will never be united to Him if we do not do the same things He did.

We must never leave the Heart of Jesus in the Host: in it we receive the grace of all the mysteries, since they are all found in the Most Holy Eucharist.  I find in it the mystery of the birth of Jesus; the mystery of the Circumcision; the mystery of the Epiphany, which is the manifestation of Jesus Christ.  In short, we have His baptism, His hidden life, His public life - the Eucharist contains all the mysteries.

Of all that the holy Church possesses, the august Sacrament is the most divine.


Mother Mectilde de Bar

Th Eucharistic Message of Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament:

The Mystery of Incomprehensible Love