When Adam awakes without a past, he is impelled to ask the question, “Who am I?” and yet this question itself is already cradled in the awe of first discovery, in which his heart is stirred to childlike wonder and playfulness at his contact with a beautiful world that he had almost lost forever. But whenever his memory comes flooding back in, and his whole being is shaken by the trauma of a painful life, will he be able to retain his childlike wonder, and will he be able to answer this question, both for himself and for others?His only hope lies in letting himself be buoyed up by what has gone before him, carries him now, and will always remain—a mystery greater than himself and yet enfolding him in his uniqueness, a mystery knitting his life together with the lives of so many others in a tapestry that, while composed of light and darkness, of joy and sorrow, of profound hope and inexpressible anguish, is nonetheless a masterpiece of unspeakable beauty.In the fabric of human history each human life emerges as an unrepeatable mystery of profound beauty, while also remaining intimately interwoven with the life of ever other person. And both the uniqueness and the interweaving are beautiful, good, and true. There is one reality, however, and one reality alone, which can twitch the threads again between the longing of the human heart for intimacy and the need to be sheltered and affirmed in one’s uniqueness: love. Indeed, in true love these two become simply aspects of a single reality of communion, in which unique hearts, giving themselves to one another, are interlaced in the joy of a single, life-giving embrace.This is, therefore, a novel about the deep meaning of human life, which is found only in love and intimacy. It therefore seeks to paint a rich panorama composed of many themes gathered together into a harmonious unity, in the hope that, as the image becomes more visible and tangible, it may form a face lovingly gazing or arms outstretched to embrace. Such themes, reflections of the single mystery, include: the beauty of human sexuality, the reality of fatherhood and motherhood, the possibility of hope in the face of death, the roots of the contemporary cultural crisis and a glimpse toward a remedy, the reality of personal identity, the mystery of childlike wonder and playfulness and how this can endure and even grow in the face of great tragedy, and much more.
There are many books that have been written as aids in preparing for “consecration” or “entrustment” to Mary. This present book, while enriched by these approaches, nonetheless seeks to express a different word…or, more accurately, to express this same word in a different way. It is a response to the desires of a number of persons (and to the sense that there are many such persons) who want to go deeper in a life of entrustment to Mary, to grow ever more in intimacy with her and her Son.How can we learn to let ourselves be looked upon by our loving God and healed by his gentle touch? We can allow Mary into our lives, she who was looked upon by God in the most intense of ways, chosen to be Daughter, Bride, and Mother of God. We can allow her to foster this receptivity within us, she who is, above everything else, a little child of the heavenly Father. And here she is indeed not raised up far from us, but right at our side, a little one just as we are little. She knows, more than anyone else, what it means to be a child of God.In being looked upon with love by the Virgin Mother, as well as especially by the heavenly Father, we will find ourselves healed, freed, and transformed, and will discover that we too are beginning to look upon others with eyes of love, within the light that has first bathed us in its radiance.This emphasis on heart-healing through relationship with Mary—this is the approach of this book, which is intended either to be an avenue for entrusting oneself to Mary for the first time, or for renewing and deepening this entrustment.
A Flame of God Himself: Reflections on the Song of Songs
There is nothing more intimate than the breathtaking union that blossoms between the human heart and God…this beautiful exchange of loving looks that allows hearts themselves to communicate and to be woven together in a single life of love. This is God’s ultimate and all-encompassing desire: to enfold each one of his precious children within the tenderness of his cradling embrace, and, within this embrace, to make all of us one with each other in the single Mystery of his all-encompassing Love.
Whenever I encounter such an amazing, awe-inspiring Love, I am profoundly healed in the innermost recesses of my being, and my life itself is bathed in a radiant and beautiful light. We have seen all of this above. Yes, I find the true and deepest meaning of my life in being God’s beloved, in letting my existence unfold in childlike playfulness and joy, as I welcome each moment as a gift of his Love and entrust myself totally to him in return. Indeed, all created things begin to reveal the radiant light of the Beloved’s countenance, shining through the veil that has been stretched thin by God’s own prodigal generosity.
In response to this awesome gift—and cradled always in this Love from which, as Jesus said, nothing can snatch me away (cf. Jn 10:28-29)—my heart dilates and expands to love in return. I have spoken much about “heart-healing” throughout these meditations, about the healing that occurs when my searching gaze encounters the loving and cherishing gaze of God, when my thirst encounters God’s even more ardent thirst for me. But I have also spoke about the fragrant flower and succulent fruit of adoration, in which my heart, amazed at the Beauty of the One who looks upon me in such a way, who touches me so tenderly and lovingly, cries out in gratitude and jubilation. I have spoken about the spontaneous desire to pour oneself out as a perfume of love upon the sacred Body of Jesus, simply in order to praise him who is worthy of all praise, to love him who is infinitely lovable. This is simply to be caught up into the very throbbing of the divine Heartbeat, the movement of Love that is eternally passing between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is to allow this surging movement, pouring forth into me through God’s loving gaze, through his arms that embrace me, to surge back to him anew in the complete childlike abandonment of myself to him.In this place my littleness and weakness is cradled in the tenderness of the Trinity’s Love, and I am liberated by the abiding touch of his grace, which sustains me at every moment within the lightheartedness of love that allows me even to walk on the stormy water of this world, with my gaze fixed upon the radiance of the Beloved who illumines even the darkest night. Ah, yes…I am held unceasingly by God. This is the cause of my freedom to rejoice, to play, and to adore.
Holiness is often seen as a state unattainable by the ordinary person and reserved for some spiritual “elite,” or at least for those who have a special vocation in the Church. However, the teaching of the Church is very clear that each one of us is called by God to sanctity. But what is sanctity, and how is it to be attained? In this book, the effort is made to illuminate the central reality of all holiness, its “inner core.” And when this reality begins to shed its light, we realize that holiness is not a human “accomplishment,” a state of self-attained virtue and autonomy, but simply a state of childlike receptivity to our loving Father, a state of communion with Christ…the state of loving intimacy with the Trinity who dwells within us. It is nothing but the loving and trust-filled openness of a little child who knows that he or she is infinitely loved, and so can welcome the gift poured forth unceasingly by such a loving God, and can surrender entirely into his embrace in return. This state of intimacy, lost once through sin but restored within us through God’s pure gift, is a wellspring of abiding peace and joy, which nothing can take away.
This attitude of childlike trust and loving confidence is manifested, in a special way, in an interior openness of heart before God and before every person. Such openness, in turn, bears a “threefold” character, which is revealed through what are traditionally called the “evangelical counsels,” namely, poverty, obedience, and chastity. These are not the reserve of consecrated religious persons, but manifest true holiness in the heart of every state of life, in the existence of each individual. Healing the wound of “closedness” that came about through the sin of Adam and Eve, in their pride, possessiveness, and pleasure-seeking, they are simply the expression of loving openness, an openness that flowers in profound intimacy with God.
This is a short book, but I hope and pray that it proves to be an instrument of grace. It is but a collection of meditations on the meaning of prayer—especially the deepest and most intimate form of prayer, which can be called the “prayer of the heart.” I have written these meditation from the depths of my own personal experience, as well as from my encounter with others whom I have been graced to accompany in their journey of faith within the love of God. Through both of these, it has become ever clearer to me that we live in a world and a culture that is profoundly lost—lost because we have forgotten the truth of our identity.
What is this identity? For each one of us it is unique and unrepeatable—the mystery of God’s personal love unveiled in the depths of our heart.
— From the Introduction
This book seeks to be, above all, an aid to the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity, who is present and active in our world, lovingly moves in our hearts, and seeks to draw us into intimacy with himself and with one another. In this way it aims to deepen our understanding and living of the spirituality of communion called for by John Paul II, in all of its aspects. This work, subtitled “A Drama,” is not properly speaking a “play,” but a theological and spiritual reflection on the greatest and most beautiful of all dramas: the history of salvation. You will therefore not find in this work the same dramatic engagement as you would in a play (at least not deliberately sought), because the aim is not to create a good and engaging “story,” but rather to re-engage (or rather allow oneself to be engaged by) the Story that is ever ancient and ever new. At every point, the words in this book simply seek to allow places of entry into deeper understanding of God’s love: in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit themselves, who have revealed themselves to us and opened themselves to our loving contemplation, or in the works of the Trinity in creation—especially God’s greatest work, the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, perpetuated in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The mercy of God is like water, which always descends to the lowest place, to the places of our greatest dependency and need. The meditations contained within this book, flowing from an encounter with this wonderful mercy, are a kind of personal testament to the Heart of God who is filled to overflowing with infinite tenderness.
The author, progressively living a deeper life of solitude and prayer over a number of years, has here opened up the fruits of this prayer to be shared. Though he speaks from his own experience, from the mystery of his own solitude before God, his words nonetheless seek to express a truth that all of us bear deep within ourselves: the mystery of thirst. This book is a snapshot of the journey of someone touched by the love of God and longing for union with him, yet trudging haltingly along the dusty paths of this world. It also expresses the longing, not only for God and for his eternal gladness, but also to draw near in compassion to the pain and suffering of the world.
But above all it a joyous witness to the drink which God has given, and which he yearns to give ever more deeply, to each of us. This is the most beautiful truth: not only do we thirst for God, but he thirsts infinitely more for us, ardently desiring to satisfy our thirsty hearts and to fill us with his infinite joy.
These meditations are intended to speak more to the heart than to the mind, to engage the imagination and the emotions, to awaken the secret desires hidden in the soul. What you will find here is more a book of prayers than a treatise of any kind–a book intended to allow God to reach out more deeply to touch the heart with the love and intimacy that alone can fully satisfy it.
In this book I hope that I have expressed in a more mature and holistic way the mystery that I was grappling with in At the Wellspring of Childhood. This can be seen as a sequel to that book, though the other does not need to be read first. The first book was more a cry from the depths of night into the breaking dawn than it was a simple contemplation of the mystery from the experience of clarity and repose. I think this is both its strength and its weakness–and I hope allows it to speak in a particular way to the heart of persons whom no other voices can reach.
During the period following At the Wellspring, my awareness has been growing into a more profound simplicity and harmony. The immense love of the Father, which broke so powerfully into my life through the path of suffering expressed in the first book, has been, through the period marked by these meditations, teaching me more deeply the mystery of childhood and belovedness, the reality of the all-enveloping mystery of his love which alone gives meaning to all else.. This does not exclude the experience of struggle, but reveals that its deepest meaning is precisely the continual return into the shelter of the Heart of Christ and dwelling, living, and acting unceasingly from this place. Indeed, it reveals that the whole unfolding of life in this world is enveloped in the prior and enduring reality of God’s love that holds us gently within itself. So too, from within this place, compassion and love blossom forth more deeply and purely, born, as it were, from the very womb of restfulness in God’s own loving compassion that holds each of us unceasingly within itself.
I hope that in some way my words and my experience can help you to enter into contact with the same love, the same repose that I believe God desires for each and every one of us. This is, indeed, the very reason that he created us: to cradle us unceasingly as a little child within the tenderness of his loving embrace.
This is a book that was born from years of prayer and reflection concerning the beautiful mystery of human sexuality. The meditations that are contained here are also an expression of the prayer of empathy and compassion, in which I have carried before God the struggles, concerns, and hopes of the many people whom I have been gifted to love and to receive into my life.
I have sought in these words to show how human love and family life is a reflection of the love of the Most Holy Trinity, and also how it unceasingly points toward the fullness of God’s embrace, in which alone every heart is at rest. Indeed, I have sought to show how the entirety of our existence is marked through and through by the spousal love of God for us. These two mysteries, indeed–human love and divine Love–are knit together, woven tightly, in the simple day-to-day truth of our lives, if only we have the eyes to see. Hopefully this book helps in some small way to foster this kind of seeing.
This book contains the meditations for a retreat for the renewal of vows of the consecrated lay women of the Apostles of the Interior Life, given from May 28 to June 1, 2018. The theme was “the mystery of evangelical love” or the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In these reflections, I tried to gaze upon the foundational realities of our existence–especially the truth of our belovedness in the arms of our heavenly Father–within which alone all the other elements of our life find their meaning and their place. It is my hope that what I have said may prove helpful to persons in every state of life, whether religious, priest, single, or married, opening the way to a deeper restfulness in God and a greater freedom and playfulness within his tender care.