“To reach the Creator, I must make myself a creator – at least in so far as my dispositions are concerned. I must break all the moulds in which I constantly fashion myself, for they are invariably restrictive; I must reject all securities, all familiar words, all riches, so as to offer myself utterly poor and virginal to the breath of the Spirit. In this way is the only creativity that counts made possible: the creativity that forms Christ in us, that gives birth to the Son, the creativity which forms ourselves, not just some object, into a poem of love to God, a poem that is completely unique.
Sometimes the Spirit gives me my being through solemn words of love, sometimes through words of joy. There are very mundane words, like bread, or water; there are words of humiliation, of suffering, even of sin. It is necessary to let ourselves be formed, through these various words, so that the glory of God may be sung.
If I am the poet of the poem which is my life, I am also the priest. The word which is given to me – as a Christian* and, in a particular way, as a priest – has the power to transform all things into the body of Christ. This is my body, this is my blood, given for you. Just as God creates, by his Word, at every moment, so he recreates us, takes us up again in all our humanity, with the whole of creation, into the eternal offering of the love of Christ to the Father, into the heart of which we are immersed by the sacrifice of the Mass.” (The Wound of Love, 162-3)
*The priesthood of the faithful is a genuine participation in the priesthood of Christ, and gives us from the start the power of offering ourselves and all things in Christ, with the ordained priest. This dignity conferred in baptism is all too often forgotten.
This is from a chapter on Conversion, called “To Create is to Forget”. At first glance, it seems as remote from our lives as the life of the Carthusian monk who spoke it and those who heard it. This is hardly the Christianity wich we learnt (if we learnt any at all) in a local parish church, in the odd Christmas sermon, or the Christianity we read about and decided was only for those who had the magical gift of faith which we, like most people, just didn’t happen to get.
When I first read this and other texts in the volume, my reaction was, “Why didn’t anyone ever talk to me about the Christian religion like this?” I felt like the weekend rock climber I once was, coming face to face with El Capitan and those who made its first ascent (3,000 feet of smooth vertical or overhanging granite).
Now, having read it a number of times and thought about it, I realise that while it is the word of a contemplative monk and a priest – and thus of someone who can and must devote all his time and energy to this alone – we others are not necssarily excluded from it. If we absorb this, say, in our morning prayer at the beginning of the day, and keep its essence (as St Francis de Sales said) as a “posy” or buttonhole bouquet to sniff at periodically in the intervals of work or play –- when we are driving, or bicycling, or walking; while we are doing the dishes or cooking –, then the breaking of moulds, the emptying out, the opening of inner doors and shutters, followed by the delicate reshaping of our inwardness to become a line, or a stanza, of that poem becomes not only possible but an entirely natural step to take.
(The third paragraph, of course, goes quite far, and is a challenge. Even for the Carthusian priest, saying that all things can become the body of Christ might be questioned by his superiors as being dangerously Teilhardian; but his insistence on the priesthood of all believers, conferred by baptism, is currently very much echoed even by our local parish priest. More about that in a future post.)
El Capitan, Yosemite, California