This poem is rather full, so I would suggest that you read it especially slowly and thoughtfully, probably more than once. Here I seek to understand (or, better, simply to gaze upon) the mystery of love and intimacy God intended for us in the beginning, and to which he draws us back through Christ. You will see that the reality of “threefold” is repeated under many different forms, and all of these different aspects of the mystery are woven together inseparably to one another, yet distinct.
There is first of all the threefold reality of childhood, spousehood, and paternity (about which I have written another reflection). Then there is the “threefold concupiscence” according to the Church’s terminology, by which our desire, once unified, is fragmented to grasp out wrongly in sin. This is, as John says in 1 John 3:…, the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” To counter and heal this threefold fragmentation of sin, and to draw us back into unity, is the threefold reality of the “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These lead us back to the primary truth of childhood, spousehood, and paternity that God intended for us in the beginning, and indeed, are the very reality of this state of loving intimacy. Finally, all of the dynamics of this movement flow from and return to the threefold Reality above all others, and alone giving meaning to everything: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Integrity of heart, soul, and body,
this is our deep vocation and your pure gift.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve
lived in this wonderful truth,
integrated in the depths of the heart
because dwelling in the realm of your gift,
in your all-enfolding, paternal arms.
Beloved children, at peace within themselves
because at peace, Father, with you,
they were also open, naked without shame,
before one another in spousal love and gift,
and open, indeed, to the whole creation,
with hearts sensitive to its beauty and its grace.
This openness of love, in childhood and in nuptial love,
was also transparent in the beauty of fruitfulness,
in the union of two in one flesh,
but also in all manner of work and creative act.
You presented all creatures to the man
and in a single glimpse he knew and understood,
naming them, a sign of his childlike, grateful gaze
as well as of his loving, free stewardship,
receiving them, Father, from your trusting hands,
and carrying them in his own filial trust,
back to you again, in and through himself, transformed.
But when the tempter comes in
and leads the two of them into sin,
he strikes the very root of childhood,
their filial acceptance of your loving gift,
which purely, freely, and unreservedly gives all things
into their open and receptive hearts.
They are led, through a spirit of fear and greed
(both mingled together, confused)
to grasp for something apart from your loving will.
The wellspring of childhood is cut off,
and the deep unity in the sanctuary of the heart, fragmented.
The union of the two, therefore, is also fractured,
and alienation is experienced in relation to the whole world.
The open transparency of love and gift
gives way to shame, fear, and the spirit of possessiveness.
When Eve looked on the fruit of the tree
she saw that it was “good for food,
delightful to the eyes,
and desirable for gaining wisdom.”
Ah, she experienced what the Apostle John named,
and what we all, now, experience:
“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
The pure sacramentality of the body,
radiating with the beauty of the inner person
and vehicle of their complete acceptance and reciprocal gift,
then becomes a broken, fractured vessel,
reaching out for enjoyment, pleasure,
apart from the truth for which it was made.
And the heart itself, deep within,
bears wounds and disorder, sinful concupiscence,
seeing the other person, and the world,
no longer with a gaze of pure, grateful love,
but with a movement of possessiveness,
as well as of prideful domination, greed.
But the inner root of all this disorder
is to be found in the cutting-off of the truth,
the beautiful reality of childhood.
And the healing, therefore, begins and ends,
and is penetrated through and through, with this truth:
the return to the joy of sonship and daughterhood
before you, loving Father, wonderful God,
healing our disordered image of you
and rediscovering, within this light,
the reality of all things, renewed, transformed.
Then the lust of the flesh is purified
and the body becomes a pure vessel again,
a temple of your wondrous presence,
a sacrament of your love, and a home, indeed,
where I dwell, and offer a beautiful hospitality
to the other who comes to me.
So too the lust of the eyes,
weaned away from disordered gazing,
is slowly transformed back to its original truth
(and indeed something even more, in Christ)
to look upon every thing, every person,
within the radiant light of your eternal love,
seeing in each person a beloved child of God,
a spouse of the eternal Son of the Most High,
and someone transparent, shining
with the image of your own creative life.
Finally, the pride of life,
this disordered desire to “be like God,”
a god whom we assume to be living
a kind of exalted, solitary life of autonomy,
a domineering authority and possessiveness,
gives way to the true, ardent thirst, my God,
to be like you: One wholly open in love,
in trusting acceptance and reciprocal gift,
yes, an eternal Communion of blessed Love
and the delight and joy of endless Embrace,
Father and Son, abiding with and in One another,
in the single Breath and Kiss of the Spirit of Love.
This threefold fragmentation, loving Father,
into which we have fallen in sin,
is healed by a threefold movement inward,
yet expanding out in the openness of love.
You reveal to us the beauty of love, again,
in your incarnate, crucified, and risen Son,
and he himself teaches us the way,
the path of integrity, unity, and joy,
in the radiant reality of poor, chaste, and obedient love.
For each of us, in the unique path that you mark out,
indeed, upon which you lead us, hand in hand,
this threefold reality which is only one,
unfolds its beautiful, inner truth.
We find ourselves sharing, mysteriously,
in the threefold life which is you own.
From the possessive grasping of sin
we return to the poverty of childhood,
open hands and an open heart, receptive of gift,
and surrendering, wholly, in simple trust,
to you, Father, who approach us through every thing.
From the disordered desire of broken love
you lead us back to the virginal place
deep within our heart, alone with you,
and thus transform our very eyes and flesh,
to love in a chaste and beautiful way,
enfolded wholly within your own radiant light,
within the dimension of your will and your gift.
From the pride which springs, more deeply,
from the insecurity that we are truly loved, and lovable,
you draw us back to the place of acceptance,
where we drink, unceasingly, from your endless Joy,
as you gaze upon us with those wondrous eyes of Love,
delighting in the beloved child and spouse whom you see.
Thus we descend into the truth of humility,
not exalting ourselves, falsely, to what we are not,
nor abasing ourselves in shame and hatred of self,
but returning home to our inmost truth, loved,
and opening out to embrace others in pure love.