The DIVINE MILIEU
Translated by Bernard Wall
(Selection by Jacques Severin Abbatucci)
You will find thereafter the text. of a compendium made from The Divine Milieu (Harper & Row, publish. New York 1968). The quotations are only reflecting the choice of the reader (J.S. Abbatucci) and must be taken as an invitation to read the book in its entirety.
(still under way)
In eo vivimus
The enrichment and ferment of religious thought in our time has undoubtedly been caused by the revelation of the size and the unity of the world all around us and within us. All around us the physical sciences are endlessly extending the abysses of time and space, and ceaselessly discerning new relationships between the elements of the universe. Within us a whole world of affinities and interrelated sympathies, as old as the human soul, is being awakened by the stimulus of these great discoveries, and what has hitherto been dreamed rather than experienced is at last taking shape and consistency. Scholarly and discriminating among serious thinkers, simple or didactic among the half- educated, the aspirations towards a vaster and more organic one, and the premonitions of unknown forces and their application in new fields, are the same, and are emerging simultaneously on all sides. It is almost a commonplace today to find men who, quite naturally and unaffectedly, live in the explicit consciousness of being an atom or a citizen of the universe.
This collective awakening, similar to that which, at some given moment, makes each individual realise the true dimensions of his own life, must inevitably have a profound religious reaction on the mass of mankind-either to cast down or to exalt.
To some, the world has disclosed itself as too vast: within such immensity, man is lost and no longer counts; and there is nothing left for him to do but shut his eyes and disappear. To others, on the contrary, the world is too beautiful; and it, and it alone, must be adored.
There are Christians, as there are men, who remain unaffected by these feelings of anxiety or fascination. The following pages are not for them. But there are others who are alarmed by the agitation or the attraction invincibly produced in them by this new rising star. Is the Christ of the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe ? Is the world not in the process of becoming more vast, more close, more dazzling than Jehovah? Will it not burst our religion asunder? Eclipse our God? Without daring, perhaps, to admit to this anxiety yet, there are many (as 1 know from having come across them all over the world) who nevertheless feel it deep within them. It is for those that I am writing.
1 shall not attempt to embark on metaphysics or apologetics. Instead, 1 shall turn back, with those who care to follow me, to the Agora. There, in each other's company, we shall listen to St. Paul telling the Areopagites of "God, who made man that he might seek him -God whom we try to apprehend by the groping of our lives- that self-same God is as pervasive and perceptible as the atmosphere in which we are bathed. He encompasses us on all sides, like the world itself. What prevents you, then, from enfolding him in your arms? Only one thing: your inability to see him."
This little book does no more than recapitulate the eternal lesson of the Church in the words of a man who, because he believes himself to feel deeply in tune with his own times, has sought to teach how to see God everywhere, to see him in all that is most hidden, most solid, and most ultimate in the world. These pages put forward no more than a practical attitude-or, more exactly perhaps, a way of teaching how to see. Let us begin by leaving argument aside for a moment. Place yourself here, where 1 am, and look from this privileged position-which is no hard-won height reserved for the ' elect, but the solid platform built by two thousand years of christian experience -and you will see how easily the two stars, whose divergent attractions were disorganising your faith, are brought into conjunction. Without mixture, without confusion, the true God, the christian God, will, under your gaze, invade the universe, our universe of today, the universe which so, frightened you by its alarming size or its pagan beauty. He will penetrate it as a ray of light does a crystal; and, with the help of the great layers of creation, he will become for you universally perceptible and active-very near and very distant at one and the same time.
If you are able to focus your soul's eyes so as to perceive this magnificence, you will soon forget, I assure you, your unfounded fears in face of the mounting significance of the earth. Your one thought will be to exclaim: ' Greater still, Lord, let your universe be greater still, so that I may hold you and be held by you by a contact at once made ever more intense and ever wider in its extent! '
The line we shall follow in our survey is quite simple. Since in the field of experience each man's existence can properly be divided into two parts -what he does and what he undergoes- we shall consider each of these parts in turn: the active and the passive. In each we shall find at the outset that, in accordance with his promise, God truly waits for us in things, unless indeed he advances to meet us. Next we shall marvel how the manifestation of his sublime presence in no way disturbs the harmony of our human attitude, but, on the contrary, brings it its true form and perfection. This done -that is, having shown that the two halves of our lives, and consequently the whole of our world, are full of God- it will remain for us to, make an inventory of the wonderful properties of this milieu which is all around us (and which is nevertheless beyond and underlying every- thing), the only one in which, from. now onwards, we are equipped to breathe freely.
PART ONE : THE DIVINISATION OF OUR ACTIVITIES
1. THE CHRISTIAN PROBLEM OF THE SANCTIFICATION OF ACTION
p. 50 - Nothing is more certain, dogmatically, than that human action can be sanctified. 'Whatever you do,' says St. Paul, 'do it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.' And the dearest of christian traditions has always been to interpret those words to mean: in intimate union with our Lord Jesus Chris
2. AN INCOMPLETE SOLUTION: HUMAN ACTION HAS NO VALUE OTHER THAN THE INTENTION WHICH DIRECTS IT
3.THE FINAL SOLUTION: ALL ENDEAVOUR CO-OPERATES TO COMPLETE THE WORLD IN CHRISTO JESU
A. At the heart of our universe each soul exists for God in our Lord
B. 'In our universe' we went on to say, 'in which each soul exists for God, in our Lord, all that is sensible, in its turn, exists for the soul.
p. 60 - In each soul, God loves and partly saves the whole world which that soul sums up in an incommunicable and particular way. But this summing-up, this welding, are not given to us ready-made and complete with the first awakening of consciousness. It is we who, through our own activity, must industriously assemble the widely scattered elements. The labour of seaweed as it concentrates in its tissues the substances scattered, in infinitesimal quantities, throughout the vast layers of the ocean; the industry of bees as they make honey from the juices broadcast in so many flowers-these are but pale images of the ceaseless working-over that all the forces of the universe undergo in us in order to reach the level of spirit.
C. We can now bring together the major and minor of our syllogism so as to grasp the link between them and the conclusion
p. 62 - It is through the collaboration which he stimulates in us that Christ, starting from all created things, is consummated and attains his plenitude. St. Paul himself tells us so. We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world. Omnis creatura adhuc ingemiscit et parturit. And we serve to complete it, even by the humblest work of our hands. That is, ultimately, the meaning and value of our acts. Owing to the interrelation between matter, soul and Christ, we bring part of the being which he desires back to God in whatever we do. With each one of our works, we labour-in individual separation but no less really-to build the Pleroma; that is to say, we bring to Christ a little fulfilment.
4. COMMUNION THROUGH ACTION
p. 62 - Each one of our works, by its more or less remote or direct effect upon the spiritual world, helps to make perfect Christ in his mystical totality. That is the fullest possible answer to the question: How can we, following the call of St. Paul, see God in all the active half of our lives? In fact, through the unceasing operation of the Incarnation, the divine so thoroughly permeates all our creaturely energies that, in order to meet it and lay hold on it, we could not find a more fitting setting than that of our action.
To begin with, in action I adhere to the creative power of God; I coincide with it; I become not only its instrument but its living extension. And as there is nothing more personal in a being than his will, 1 merge myself, in a sense,through my heart, with the very heart of God. This commerce is continuous because I am always acting; and at the same time, since I can never set a boundary to the perfection of my fidelity nor to the fervour of my intention, this commerce enables me to liken myself, ever more strictly and indefinitely, to God.
The soul does not pause to relish this communion, nor does it lose sight of the material end of its action; for it is wedded to a creative effort. The will to succeed, a certain passionate delight in the work to, be done, form an integral part of our creaturely fidelity. It follows that the very sincerity with which we desire and pursue success for God's sake reveals itself as a new factor-also without limits-in our being knit together with him who animates us. Originally we had fellowship with God in the simple common exercise of wills; but now we unite ourselves with him in the shared love of the end for which we are working; and the crowning marvel is that, with the possession of this end, we have the utter joy of discovering his presence once again.
All this follows directly from what was said a moment back on the relationship between natural and supernatural actions in the world. Any increase that I can bring upon myself or upon things is translated into some increase in my power to love and some progress in Christ's blessed hold upon the universe. Our work appears to us, in the main, as a way of earning our daily bread. But its essential virtue is on a higher level : through it we complete in ourselves the subject of the divine union; and through it again we somehow make to grow in stature the divine term of the one with whom we are united, our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence whatever our role as men may be, whether we are artists, working-men or scholars, we can, if we are Christians, speed towards the object of our work as though towards an opening on to the supreme fulfilment of our beings. Indeed, without exaggeration or excess in thought or expression-but simply by confronting the most fundamental truths of our faith and of experience-we are led to the following observation: God is inexhaustibly attainable in the totality of our action. And this prodigy of divinisation has nothing with which we dare to compare it except the subtle, gentle sweetness with which this actual change of shape is wrought; for it is achieved without disturbing at all (non minuit, sed sacravit . . .) the completeness, and unity of man's endeavour.
5. THE CHRISTIAN PERFECTION OF HUMAN ENDEAVOUR
p.64 - There was reason to fear, as we have said, that the introduction ol christian perspectives might seriously upset the ordering of human action; that the seeking after waiting for, the kingdom of heaven might deflect human activity from its natural tasks, or at least entirely eclipse any interest in them. Now we see why this cannot and must not be so. The knitting together of God and the world has just taken place under our eyes in the domain of action. No, God does not deflect our gaze prematurely from the work he himself has given us, since he presents himself to us as attainable through that very work. Nor does he blot out, in his intense light, the detail of our earthly aims, since the closeness of our union with him is in fact determined by the exact fulfilment of the least of our tasks. We ought to accustom ourselves to this basic truth till we are steeped in it, until it becomes as familiar to us as the perception of shape or the reading of words. God, in all that is most living and incarnate in him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which lie is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle -of my heart and of my thought. By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged, to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end towards which my innermost will tends. Like those formidable physical forces which man contrives to discipline so as to make them perform operations of prodigious delicacy, so, the tremendous power of the divine attraction is focused on our frail desires and microscopic intents without breaking their point. It sur-animates; hence it neither disturbs anything nor stifles anything. It sur-animates; hence it introduces a higher principle of unity into our spiritual life, the specific effect of which is--depending upon the point of view one adopts-either to make man'sendeavour holy, or to give the christian life the full flavour of humanity.
A. The sanctification of human endeavour
p. 65 - I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that nine out of ten practising Christians feel that man's work is always at the level of a 'spiritual encumbrance'. In spite of the practice of right intentions, and the day offered every morning to God, the general run of the faithful dimly feel that time spent at the office or the studio, in the fields or in the factory, is time taken away from prayer and adoration. It is impossible not to work -that is taken for granted. Then it is impossible, too, to aim at the deep religious life reserved for those who have the leisure to pray or preach all day long. A few moments of the day can be salvaged for God, yes, but the best hours are absorbed, or at any rate cheapened, by material cares. Under the sway of this feeling, large numbers of Catholics lead a double or crippled life in practice: they have to step out of their human dress so as to have faith in themselves as Christians -and inferior Christians at that.
p. 66 - To repeat: by virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred to the men who can distinguish that portion of chosen being which is subject to Christ's drawing power in the process of consuramation. Try, with God's help, to perceive the connection-even physical and natural -which binds your labour with thebuilding of the kingdom of heaven; try to realise that heaven itself smiles upon you and, through your works, draws you to itself; then, as you leave church for the noisy streets, you will remain with only one feeling, that of continuing to immerse yourself in God.
B. The humanisation of Christian endeavour
6. DETACHMENT THROUGH ACTION
PART TWO: THE DIVINISATION OF OUR PASSIVITIES
p.74 - While man by the very development of his powers is led to discover ever vaster and higher aims for his action, he also tends to be dominated by the object of his conquests and, like Jacob wrestling with the Angel, he ends by adoring what he was struggling against. The scale of that which he has unveiled and unleashed brings him into subjection. And then, because of his nature as element, he is brought to recognise that, in the final act that is to unite him to the All, the two terms of the union are utterly disproportionate. He, the lesser, has to receive rather than to give. He finds himself in the LyriD of what he thought he could grasp.
1.THE EXTENT, DEPTH AND DIVERSE FORMS OF HUMAN PASSIVITIES
2.THE PASSIVITIFS OF GROWTH AND THE TWO HANDS OF GOD
p. 76 - Growth seems so natural to us that we do not, as a matter of fact, pause to separate from our action the forces which nourish that action or the circumstances which favour its success. And yet "quid habes quod non accepisti"? (what dost thou possess that thou hast not previously received?) We undergo life as much as we undergo death, if not more.
We must try to penetrate our most secret self, and examine our being from all sides. Let us try, patiently, to perceive the ocean of forces to which we are subjected and in which our growth is, as it were, steeped. This is a salutary exercise; for the depth and universality of our dependence on so much altogether outside our control all go to make up the embracing intimacy of our communion with the world to which we belong.
...And so, for the first time in my life perhaps (although I am supposed to meditate every day!), I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, 1 became aware that 1 was losing contact with myself At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came-arising I know not from where -the current which 1 dare to call my life.
What science will ever be able to reveal to man the origin, nature and character of that conscious power to will and to love which constitutes his life? It is certainly not our effort, nor the effort of anyone around us, which set that current in motion. And it is certainly not our anxious care, nor that of any friend of ours, which prevents its ebb or controls its turbulence. We can, of course, trace back through generations some of the antecedents of the torrent which bears us along; and we can, by means of certain moral and physical disciplines and stimulants, regularise or enlarge the aperture through which the torrent is released into us. But neither that geography nor those artifices help us in theory or in practice to harness the sources of life. My self is given to me far more than it is formed by me. Man, Scripture says, cannot add a cubit to his stature. Still less can he add a unit to the potential of his love, or accelerate by another unit the fundamental rhythm which regulates the ripening of his mind and heart. In the last resort the profound life, the fontal life, the newborn life, escape our grasp entirely.
Stirred by my discovery, 1 then wanted to return to the light of day and forget the disturbing enigma in thecomfortable surroundings of familiar things-to begin living again at the surface without imprudently plumbing the depths of the abyss. But then, beneath this very spectacle of the turmoil of life, there reappeared, before my newly-opened eyes, the unknown that I wanted to escape.
p. 78 - This time it was not hiding at the bottom of an abyss; it disguised its presence in the innumerable strands which form the web of chance, the very stuff of which the universe and my own small individuality are woven. Yet it was the same mystery without a doubt: I recognised it. our mind is disturbed when we try to plumb the depth of the world bencath us. But it reels still more when we try to number the favourable chances which must coincide at every moment if the least of living things is to survive and to succeed in its enterprises. After the consciousness of being something other and something greater than myself &endash;a second thing made me dizzy: namely, the supreme improbability, the tremendous unlikelihood of finding myself existing in the heart of a world that has survived and succeeded in being a world.
At that moment, as anyone else will find who cares to make this same interior experiment, I felt the distress characteristic to a particle adrift in the universe, the distress which makes human wills founder daily under the crushing number of living things and of stars. And if something saved me, it was hearing the voice of the Gospel, guaranteed by divine successes, speaking to me from the depth of the night: ego sum, noli timere (It is I, be not afraid).
p. 78-79 - Yes, O God, I believe it: and I believe it all the more willingly because it is not only a question of my being consoled, but of my being completed: it is you who are at the origin of the impulse, and at the end of that continuing pull which all my life long I can do no other than follow, or favour the first impulse and its developments. And it is you who vivify, for me, with your omnipresence (even more than my spirit vivifies the matter which it animates), the myriad influences of which I am the constant object. In the life which wells up in me and in the matter which sustains me, I find much more than your gifts. It is you yourself whom I find, you who makes me participate in your being, you who moulds me. Truly in the ruling and in the first disciplining of my living strength, in the continually beneficent play of secondary causes, I touch, as near as possible, the two faces of your creative action, and I encounter, 'and kiss, your two marvellous hands -the one which holds us so firmly that it, is merged, in us, with the sources of life, and the other whose embrace is so wide that, at its slightest pressure, all the springs of the universe respond harmoniously together. By their very nature, these blessed passivities which are, for me, the will to be, the wish to be thus and thus, and the chance of fulfilling myself according to my desire, are all charged with your influence -an influence which will shortly appear more distinctly to me as the organising energy of the mystical body. In order to communicate with you in them in a fontal communion (a communion in the sources of Life), I have only to recognise you in them, and to ask you to be ever more present in them.
O God, whose call precedes the very first of our movements, grant me the desire to desire being -that, by means of that divine thirst which is your gift, the access to the great waters may open wide within me. Do not deprive me of the sacred taste for being, that primordial energy, that very first of our points of rest : Spiritu principali confirma me. And you whose loving wisdom forms me out of all the forces and all the hazards of the earth, grant that I may begin to sketch the outline of a gesture whose full power will only be revealed to me in presence of the forces of diminishment and death; grant that, after having desired, I may believe, and believe ardently and above all things, in your active presence.
Thanks to you, that expectation and that faith are already full of operative virtue. But how am1 to set about showing you and proving to myself, through some external effort, that 1 am not one of those who say Lord, Lord! with their lips only? I shall work together with your action which ever forestalls me, and will do so doubly. First, to your deep inspiration which commands me to be, 1 shall respond by taking great care never to stifle nor distort nor waste my power to love and to do. Next, to your all-embracing providence which shows me at each moment, by the day's events, the next step to take and the next rung to climb, I shall respond by my care never to miss an opportunity of rising ' towards the level of spirit '
The life of each one of us is, as it were, woven of those two threads: the thread of inward development, through which our ideas and affections and our human and religious attitudes are gradually formed; and the thread of outward success by which we always find ourselves at the exact point where the whole sum of the forces of the universe meet together to work in us the effect which God desires.
O God, that at all times you may find me as you desire me and where you would have me be, that you may lay hold on me fully, both by the Within and the Without of myself, grant that I may neverbreak this double thread of my life.
3.THE PASSIVITIES OF DIMINISHMENT
p. 80 - To cleave to God hidden beneath the inward and outward forces which animate our being and sustain it in its development, is ultimately to open ourselves to, and put trust in, all the breaths of life. We answer to, and 'communicate' with, the passivities of growth by our fidelity in action. Hence by our very desire to experience God passively we find ourselves brought back to the lovable duty of growth.
The moment has come to plumb the decidedly negative side of our existences -the side on which, however far we search, we cannot discern any happy result or any solid conclusion to what happens to us. It is easy enough to understand that God can be grasped in and through every life. But can God also, be found in and through every death? This is what perplexes us deeply. And yet this is what we must learn to acknowledge as a matter of settled habit and practice, unless we abandon all that is most characteristically christian in the christian outlook; and unless we are prepared to forfeit commerce with God in one of the most widespread and at the same time most profoundly passive and receptive experiences of human life.
The forces of diminishment are our real passivities. Their number is vast, their forms infinitely varied, their influence constant. In order to clarify our ideas and direct our meditation we will divide them into two groups corresponding to the two forms under which we considered the forces of growth: the diminishments whose origin lies within us, and the diminishments whose origin lies outside us.
p. 80 footnote - If, in speaking of evil in this section, we do not mention sin more explicitly, it is because the aim. of the following pages being solely to show all things can help the believer to unite himself to God, there is no need to concern ourselves directly with bad actions, that is, with positive gestures of disunion. Sin only interests us here in so far as it is a weakening, a deviation caused by our personal faults (even when repented), or the pain and the scandal which the faults of others inflict on us. From this point of view it makes us suffer and can be transformed in the same way as any other suffering. That is why physical evil and moral evil are presented here, almost without distinction, in the same chapter on the passivities of diminishment.
p. 81 - The external passivities of diminishment are all our bits of ill fortune. We have only to look back on our lives to see them springing up on all sides: the barrier which blocks our way, the wallthat hems us in, the stone which throws us from our path, the obstacle that breaks us, the invisible microbe that kills the body, the little word that infects the mind, all the incidents and accidents of varying importance and varying kinds, the tragic interferences (upsets, shocks, severances, deaths) which come between the world of ' other ' things and the world that radiates out from us. And yet when hail, fire and thieves had taken everything from job-all his wealth and all his family -Satan could say to God: 'Skin for skin, and all that a man hath he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand, and touch his bone and his flesh: and then thou shalt see that he will bless thee to thy face. ' In a sense the loss of things means little to us because we can always imagine getting them back. What is terrible for us is to be cut off from things through some inward diminishment that can never be retrieved.
Humanly speaking, the internal passivities of diminishment form the darkest element and the most despairingly useless years of our life. Some were waiting to pounce on us as we first awoke: natural failings, physical defects, intellectual or moral weaknesses, as a result of which the field of our activities, of our enjoyment, of our vision, has been pitilessly limited since birth. Others were lying in wait for us later on and appeared as suddenly and brutally as an accident, or as stealthily as an illness. All of us one day or another will come to realise, if we have not already done so,that one or other of these sources of disintegration has lodged itself in the very heart of our lives. Sometimes it is the cells of the body that rebel or become diseased; at other times the very elements of our personality seem to be in conflict or to detach themselves from any sort of order. And then we impotently stand by and watch collapse, rebellion and inner tyranny, and no friendly influence can come to our help. And if by chance we escape, to a greater or lesser extent, the critical forms of these assaults from without which appear deep within us and irresistibly destroy the strength, the light and the love by which we live, there still remains that slow, essential deterioration which we cannot escape: old age little by little robbing us of ourselves and pushing us on towards the end. Time, which postpones possession, time which tears us away from enjoyment, time which condemns us all to death-what a formidable passivity is the passage of time....
p. 82 - In death, as in an ocean, all our slow or swift diminishments flow out and merge. Death is the sum and consummation of all our diminishments: it is evil itself purely physical evil, in so far as it results organically in the manifold structure of that physical nature in which we are immersed -but a moral evil too, in so far as in thesociety to which we belong, or in ourselves, the wrong use of our freedom, by spreading disorder, converts this manifold complexity of our nature into the source of all evil and all corruption.
We must overcome death by finding God in it. And by the same token, we shall find the divine established in our innermost hearts, in the last stronghold which might have seemed able to escape his reach.
Here again, as in the case of the ' divinisation ' of our human activities, we shall find the christian faithabsolutely explicit in what it claims to be the case, and what it bids us do. Christ has conquered death, not only by suppressing its evil effects, but by reversing its sting. By virtue of Christ's rising again, nothing any longer kills inevitably but everything is capable of becoming the blessed touch of the divine hands, the blessed influence of the will of God upon our lives. However marred by our faults, or however desperate in its circumstances, our position may be, we can, by a total re-ordering, completely correct the world that surrounds us, and resume our lives in a favourable sense. Diligentibus Deum omnia convertuntur in bonum. That is the fact which dominates all explanation and all discussion.
But here again, as in the matter of the saving value of our human endeavour, our mind wants to validate to itself its hopes so as to surrender to them more completely.
Quomodo fiet istud? This study is all the more necessary because the christian attitude to evil lends itself to some very dangerous misunderstandings. A false interpretation of christian resignation, together with a false idea of christian detachment, is the principal source of the antagonisms which make a great many Gentiles so sincerely hate the Gospel.
Let us ask ourselves how, and in what circumstances, our apparent deaths, that is to say the waste-matter of our existences, can find their necessary place in the establishment, around us, of the kingdom of God and the milieu of God. It will help us to do this if we thoughtfully distinguish two phases, two periods, in the process which culminates in the transfiguration of our diminishments. The first of these phases is that of our struggle against evil. The second is that of defeat and of its transfiguration.
A.Our struggle with God against evil
p. 83 - When a Christian suffers, he says 'God has touched me.' The words are pre-eminently true, though their simplicity summarises a very complex series of spiritual operations; and it is only when we have gone right through that whole series of operations that we have the right to speak those words. For if, in the course of our encounters with evil, we try to distinguish what the Schoolmen term ' the instants of nature', we shall have, on the contrary, to begin by saying ' God wants to free me from this diminishment-God wants me to help him to take this cup from me.'
p. 84 - It is a perfectly correct view of things-and strictly consonant with the Gospel-to regard Providence across the ages as brooding over the world in ceaseless effort to spare that world its bitter wounds and to bind up its hurts. Most certainly it is God himself who, in the course of the centuries, awakens the great benefactors of humankind, and the great physicians, in ways that agree with the genera rhythm of progress. He it is who inspires, even among those furthest from acknowledging his existence, the quest for every means of comfort and every means of healing. Do not men acknowledge by instinct this divine presence when hatreds are quenched and their protesting uncertainty resolved as they kneel to thank each one of those who have helped their body or their mind to freedom? Can there be any doubt of it? At the first approach of the diminishments we cannot hope to find God except by loathing what is coming upon us and doing our best to avoid it. The more we repel suffering at that moment, with our whole heart and our whole strength, the more closely we cleave to the heart and action of God.
p. 84 -footnote - Without bitterness and without revolt, of course, but with an anticipatory tendency to acceptance and final resignation. It is obviously difficult to separate the two 'instants of nature' without to some extent distorting them in describing them. But there is this to note: the necessity of the initial stage of resistance to evil is clear, and everyone admits it. The failure that follows on laziness, the illness contracted as a result of unjustified imprudence, could not be regarded by anyone as being the immediate will of God.
B. Our apparent failure and its transfiguration
p. 85 - With God as our ally we are always certain of saving our souls. But we know too well that there is no guarantee that we shall always avoid suffering or even those inward defeats on account of which we can imagine our lives to ourselves as failures. In any event, all of us are growing old and all of us will die. This means to say that, however fine our resistance, at some moment or other we feel the constraining grip of the forces of diminishment, against which we were fighting, gradually gaining mastery over the forces of life, and dragging us, physically vanquished, to the ground. But how can we be defeated if God is fighting on our side? or what does this defeat mean?
The problem of evil, that is to say the reconciling of our failures, even the purely physical ones, with creative goodness and creative power, will always remain one of the most disturbing mysteries of the universe for both our hearts and our minds. A full understanding of the suffering of God's creatures (like that of the pains of the damned) presupposes in us an appreciation of the nature and value of ' participated being ' which, for lack of any point of comparison, we cannot have. Yet this much we can see: on the one hand, the work which God has undertaken in uniting himself intimately to created beings presupposes in them a slow preparation in the course of which they (who already exist, but are not yet complete) cannot of their nature avoid the risks (increased by an original fault) involved in the imperfect ordering of the manifold, in them and around them; and on the other hand, because the final victory of good over evil can only be completed in the total organisation of the world, our infinitely short individual lives could not hope to know the joy, here below, of entry into the Promised Land. We are like soldiers who fall during the assault which leads to peace. God does not therefore suffer a preliminary defeat in our defeat because, although we appear to succumb individually, the world, in which we shall live again, triumphs in and through our deaths.
But this first aspect of his victory, which is enough to assure us of his omnipotence, is made complete byanother disclosure -perhaps more direct and in every case more immediately experience able by each of us- of his universal authority. In virtue of his very perfections, God cannot ordain that the elements of a world in the course of growth -or at least of a fallen world in the process of rising again should avoid shocks and diminishments, even moral ones: necessarium est ut scandala eveniant. But God will make it good -he will take his revenge, if one may use the expression- by making evil itself serve a higher good of his faithful, the very evil which the present state of creation does not allow him to, suppress immediately. Like an artist who is able to make use of a fault or an impurity in the stone he is sculpting or the bronze he is casting so as to produce more exquisite lines or a more beautiful tone, God, without sparing us the partial deaths, nor the final death, which form an essential part of our lives, transfigures them by integrating them in a better plan -provided we 1ovingly trust in him. Not only our unavoidable ills but our faults, even our most deliberate ones, can be embraced in that transformation, provided always we repent of them. Not everything is immediately good to those who seek God; but everything is capable of becoming good: omnia convertuntur in bonum.
p. 88 - Uniting oneself means, in every case, migrating, and dying partially in what one loves. But if, as we are sure, this being reduced to nothing in the other must be all the more complete the more we give our attachment to one who is greater than ourselves, then we can set no limits to the tearing up of roots that is involved on our journey into God. The progressive breaking-down of our self-regard by the 'automatic' broadening of our human perspectives...., when accompanied by the gradual spiritualisation of our tastes and aspirations under the impact of certain setbacks, is no doubt a very real foretaste of that leap out of ourselves which must in the end deliver us from the bondage of ourselves into the service of the divine sovereignty. Yet the effect of this initial detachment is for the moment only to develop the centre of our personality to its utmost limits. Arrived at that ultimate point we may still have the impression of possessing ourselves in a supreme degree-of being freer and more active than ever. We have not yet crossed the critical point of our ex-centration, of our reversion to God. There is a further step to take: the one that makes us lose all foothold within ourselves -oportet illum crescere, me autem minui. We are still not lost to ourselves. What will be the agent of that definitive transformation? Nothing else than death.
In itself, death is an incurable weakness of corporeal beings, complicated, in our world ' by the influence of an original fall. It is the sum and type of all the forces that diminish us, and against which we must fight without being able to hope for a personal, direct and immediate victory. Now the great victory of the Creator and Redeemer, in the christian vision, is to have transformed what is in itself a universal power of diminishment and extinction into an essentially life-giving factor. God must, in some way or other, make room for himself, hollowing us out and emptying us, if he is finally to penetrate into us. And in order to assimilate us in him, he must break the molecules of our being so as to re-cast and re-model us. The function of death is to provide the necessary entrance into our inmost selves. It will make us undergo the required dissociation. It will put us into the state organically needed if the divine fire is to, descend upon us. And in that way its fatal power to decompose and dissolve will bc harnessed to the most sublime operations of life. What was by nature empty and void, a return to bits and pieces, can, in any human existence, become fullness and unity in God.
C. Communion through diminishment
p. 89 - It was a joy to me, O God, in the midst of the struggle, to feel that in developing myself I was increasing the hold that you have upon me; it was a joy to me, too, under the inward thrust of life or amid the favourable play of events, to abandon myself to your providence. Now that I have found the joy of utilising all forms of growth to make you, or to let you, grow in me, grant that I may willingly consent to this last phase of communion in the course of which I shall possess you by diminishing in you.
After having perceived you as he who is ' a greater myself grant, when my hour comes, that I may recognise you under the species of each alien or hostile force that seems bent upon destroying or uprooting me. When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind) ; when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am abso1utely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself
The more deeply and incurably the evil is encrusted in my flesh, the more it will be you that I am harbouring -you as a loving, active principle of purification and detachment. The more the future opens before me like some dizzy abyss or dark tunnel, the more confident I may be -if I venture forward on the strength of your word- of losing myself and surrendering myself in you, of being assimilated by your body, Jesus.
You are the irresistible and vivifying force, O Lord, and because yours is the energy, because, of the two of us, you are infinitely the stronger, it is on you that falls the part of consuming me in the union that should weld us together. Vouchsafe, therefore, something more precious still than the grace for which all the faithful pray. It is not enough that I should die while communicating. Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion.
D. True resignation
p. 90 - There are many reasonable men who honestly consider and denounce christian resignation as being one of the most dangerous and soporific elements in ' the opium of the people '. Next to disgust with the earth, there is no attitude which the Gospel is so bitterly reproached with having fostered as that of passivity in the face of evil -a passivity which can go as far as a perverse cultivation of suffering and diminishment. As we have already said, with reference to ' false detachment ': this accusation, or even suspicion, is infinitely more effective ' at this moment, in preventing the conversion of the world than all the objections drawn from science or philosophy. A religion which is judged to be inferior to our human ideal -in spite of the marvels by which it is surrounded- is already condemned. It is therefore of supreme importance for the Christian to understand and live submission to the will of God in the active sense which., as we have said, is the only orthodox sense.
p. 91 - No, if he is to practise to the full the perfection of his Christianity, the Christian must not falter in his duty to, resist evil. On the contrary, during the first phase as we have seen, he must fight sincerely and with all his strength, in union with the creative force of the world, to drive back evil -so that nothing in him or around him may be diminished. During this initial phase> the believer is the convinced ally of all those who think that humanity will not succeed unless it strives with all its might to realise its potentialities. And as we said with reference to human development, the believer is more closely tied than anyone to this great task, because in his eyes the victory of humanity over the diminishments of the world -even physical and natural-to some extent conditions the fulfilment and consummation of the quite specific Reality which he adores. As long as resistance is possible, the son of heaven will resist too -as firmly as the most worldly children of the world- everything that deserves to be scattered or destroyed.
Should he meet with defeat-the personal defeat which no human being can hope to escape in his brief single combat with forces whose order of magnitude and evolution are universal-he will, like the conquered pagan hero, still inwardly resist. Though he is stifled and constrained, his efforts will still be sustained. At that point, however, he will see a new realm of possibilities open out before him., instead of having nothing to compensate for and master his coming death except the melancholy and questionable consolation of stoicism (which, if carefully analysed, would probably prove in the end to owe its beauty and consistency to a despairing faith in the value of sacrifice). This hostile force that lays him low and disintegrates him can become for him a loving principle of renewal, if he accepts it with faith while never ceasing to struggle against it. On the experimental plane, everything is lost. But in the realm of the supernatural, as it is called,there is a further dimension which allows God to achieve, insensibly, a mysterious reversal of evil into good. Leaving the zone of human successes and failures behind him, the Christian accedes by an effort of trust in the greater than himself to the region of suprasensible transformations and growth. His resignation is no more than the thrust which lifts the field of his activity higher.
We have come a long way, christianly speaking, from the justly criticised notion of' submission to the willof God ' which is in danger of weakening and softening the fine steel of the human will, brandished against all the powers of darkness and diminishment. We must understand this well and cause it to be understood: to find and to do the will of God (even as we diminish and as we die) does not imply either a direct encounter or a passive attitude. I have no right to regard the evil that comes upon me through my own negligence or fault as being the touch of God. I can only unite myself to the will of God (as endured passively) when all my strength is spent, at the point where my activity, fully extended and straining towards betterment (understood in ordinary human terms), finds itself continually counter-weighted by forces tending to halt me or overwhelm me. Unless I do everything 1 can to advance or resist, I shall not find myself at the required point -I shall not submit to God as much as I might have done or as much as he wishes. If, on the contrary, 1 persevere courageously, I shall rejoin God across evil, deeper down than evil; 1 shall draw close to him; and at that moment the optimum of my ' communion in resignation' necessarily coincides (by definition) with the maximum of fidelity to the human task.
Conclusion to the two first parts
Some General Remarks on Christian Asceticism
1. ATTACHMENT AND DETACHMENT
A.First, develop yourself, Christianity says to the Christian
B.And if you possess something, Christ says in the Gospel, leave it and follow me
C.Thus, in the general rhythm of Christian life, development and renunciation, attachment and detachment, are not mutually exclusive
2. THE MEANING OF THE CROSS
3.THE SPIRITUAL POWER OF MATTER
PART THREE: THE DIVINE MILIEU
p. 112 - No man lives or dies to himself. But whether through our life or through our death we belong to Christ ( St.Paul )
By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite, adoremus.
1. THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE DIVINE MILIEU
p. 114 - However vast the divine milieu may be, it is in reality a centre. It therefore has the properties of a centre, and above all the absolute and final power to unite (and consequently to complete) all beings within its breast. In the divine milieu all the elements of the universe touch each other by that which, is most inward and ultimate in them. There they concentrate, little by little, all that is purest and most attractive in them without loss and without danger of subsequent corruption. There they shed, in their meeting, the mutual externality and the incoherences which form the basic pain of human relationships
In the external spheres of the world, man is always torn by the separations which set distance between bodies, which set the impossibility of mutual understanding between souls, which set death between lives. Moreover at every minute he must lament that he cannot pursue and embrace everything within the compass of a few years. Finally, and not without reason, he is incessantly distressed by the crazy indifference and the heart-breaking dumbness of a natural environment in which the greater part of individual endeavour seems wasted or lost, where the blow and the cry seem stifled on the spot, without awakening any echo.
p. 115 - All that desolation is only on the surface.
But let us leave the surface, and, without leaving the world, plunge into God.
Let us establish ourselves in the divine milieu. There we shall find ourselves where the soul is most deep and where matter is most dense. There we shall discover, where all its beauties flow together, the ultra-vital, the ultra-sensitive, the ultra-active point of the universe. And, at the same time, we shall féel the plenitude of our powers of action and adoration effortlessly ordered within our deepest selves.
p. 116 - In the first place, the sojourner in the divine milieu is not a pantheist. At first sight, perhaps, the depths of the divine which St. Paul reveals to us may seem to resemble the fascinating domains unfolded before our eyes by monistic philosophies or religions. In fact they are very different, far more reassuring to our minds, far more comforting to our hearts. Pantheism seduces us by its vistas of perfect universal union. But ultimately, if it were true, it would give us only fusion and unconsciousness; for, at the end of the, evolution it claims to reveal, the elements of the world vanish in the God they create or by which they are absorbed. Our God, on the contrary, pushes to its furthest possible limit the differentiation among the creatures he concentrates within himself. At the peak of their adherence to him, the elect also discover in him the consummation of their individual fulfilment. Christianity alone therefore saves, with the rights of thought, the essential aspiration of all mysticism: to be united (that is, to become the other) while remaining oneself. More attractive than any world-Gods, whose eternal seduction it embraces, transcends and purifies-in omnibus omnia Deus (En pasi panta Theos) -our divine milieu is at the antipodes of false pantheism. The Christian can plunge himself into it whole-heartedly without the risk of finding himself one day a monist.
Nor is there any reason to fear that in abandoning himself to those deep waters, he will lose his foothold in revelation and in life, and become either unrealistic in the object of his worship or else chimerical in the substance of his work. The Christian lost within the divine layers will not find his mind subject to the forbidden distortions that go to make the 'modernist ' or the 'illuminati '.
To the Christian's sensitised vision, it is true, the Creator and, more specifically, the Redeemer (as we shall see) have steeped themselves in all things and penetrated all things to such a degree that, as Blessed Angela of Foligno said, ' the world is full of God.' But this augmentation is only valuable in his eyes in so far as the light, in which everything seems to him bathed, radiates from a historical centre and is transmitted along a traditional and solidly defined axis. The immense enchantment of the divine milieu owes all its value in the long run to the human-divine contact which was revealed at the Epiphany of Jesus. If you suppress the historical reality of Christ, the divine omnipresence which intoxicates us becomes, like all the other dreams of metaphysics, uncertain, vague, conventional -lacking the decisive experimental verification by which to impose itself on our minds, and without the moral authority to assimilate our lives into it. Thenceforward, however dazzling the expansions which we shall try in a moment to discern in the resurrected Christ, their beauty and their stuff of reality will always remain inseparable from the tangible and verifiable truth of the Gospel event. The mystical Christ, the universal Christ of St. Paul, has neither meaning nor value in our eyes except as an expansion of the Christ who was born of Mary and who died on the cross. The former essentially draws his fundamental quality of undeniability and concreteness from the latter. However far we may be drawn into the divine spaces opened up to us by christian mysticism, we never depart from the jesus of the Gospels. On the contrary, we feel a growing need to enfold ourselves ever more firmly within his human truth. We are not, therefore, modernist in the condemned sense of the word. Nor shall we end up arnong the visionaries and the ' illuminati '.
p; 118 - At the heart of the divine milieu, as the Church reveals it, things are transfigured, but from within. They bathe inwardly in light, but, in this incandescence, they retain-this is not strong enough, they exalt-all that is most specific in their attributes. We can only lose ourselves in God by prolonging the most individual characteristics of beings far beyond themselves: that is the fundamental rule by which we can always distinguish the true mystic from his counterfeits. The heart of God is boundless, multae mansiones. And yet in all that immensity there is only one possible place for each one of us at any given moment, the one we are led to by unflagging fidelity to the natural and supernatural duties of life. At this point, which we can reach at the right moment only if we exert the maximum effort on every plane, God will reveal himself in all his plenitude. Except at this point, the divine milieu, although it may still enfold us, exists only incompletely, or not at all, for us. Thus its great waters do not call us to defeat but to perpetual struggle to breast their floods. Their energy awaits and provokes our energy. just as on certain days the sea lights up only as the ship's prow or the swimmer cleaves its surface, so the world is lit up with God only when reacting to our impetus. When God desires ultimately to subject and unite the Christian to him, either by ecstasy or by death, it is as though he bears him. away stiffened by love and by obedience in the full extent of his effort.
p; 119 - The pagan holds that man divinises himself by closing in upon himself; the final act of human evolution is when the individual, or the totality, constitutes itself within itsel£ The Christian sees his divinisation only in the assimilation by an ' Other ' of his achievement : the culmination of life, in his eyes, is death in union.
To the pagan, universal reality exists only in so far as it is projected on to the plane of the perceptible:' it is immediate and multiple. The Christian makes use of exactly the same elements: but he prolongs them along their common axis, which links them to God: and, by the same token, the universe is thus unified for him,although it is only attainable at the final centre of its consummation.
p. 120 - at the centre of the divine milieu, all the sounds of created being are fused, without being confused, in a single note which dominates and sustains them (that seraphic note, no doubt, which bewitched St. Francis), so all the powers of the soul begin to resound in response to its call; and these multiple tones, in their turn, compose themselves into a single, ineffably simple vibration in which all the spiritual nuances-of love and of the intellect, of zeal and of tranquillity, of fullness and of ecstasy, of passion and of indifference, of assimilation and of surrender, of rest and of motion-are born and pass and shine forth, according to the times and the circumstances, like the countless possibilities of an inward attitude, inexpressible and unique.
To have access to the divine milieu is to have found the one thing needful: him who burns by setting fire to everything that we would love badly or not enough; him who calms by eclipsing with his blaze everything that we would love too much; him who consoles by gathering up everything that has been snatched from our love or has never been given to it. To reach thosepriceless layers is to experience, with equal truth, that one has need of everything, and that one has need of nothing. Everything is needed because the world will never be large enough to provide our taste for action with the means of grasping God, or our thirst for undergoing with the possibility of being invaded by him. And yet nothing is needed; for as the only reality which can satisfy us lies beyond the transparencies in which it is mirrored, everything that fades away and dies between us will only serve to give reality back to us with greater purity. Everything means both everything and nothing to me; everything is God to me and everything is dust to me: that is what man can say with equal truth, in accord with how the divine ray falls.
p. 121 - ' Which is the greater blessing,' someone once asked, ' to have the sublime unity of God to centre and save the universe ? or to have the concrete immensity of the universe by which to undergo and touch God?'
We shall not seek to escape this joyful uncertainty. But now that we are familiar with the attributes of the divine milieu, we shall turn our attention to the Thing itself which appeared to us in the depth of each being, like a radiant countenance, like a fascinating abyss. We can now say 'Lord, Who art thou?''
2. THE NATURE OF THE DIVINE MILIEU, THE UNIVERSAL CHRIST AND THE GREAT COMMUNION
p. 121 - Under what form, proper to our creation and adapted to our universe, does the divine immensity manifest itself to, and become relevant to mankind? We feel it charged with that sanctifying grace which the Catholic faith causes to circulate everywhere as the true sap of the world; which, in its attributes, is very like that charity (manete in dilectione mea) which will one day, the Scriptures tell us, be the only stable principle of natures and powers; which, too, is fundamentally similar to the wonderful and substantial divine will, whose marrow is everywhere present and constitutes the true food of our lives, omne delectamentum in se habentem. What is, when all is said and donc, the concrete link which binds all these universal entities together and confers on them a final power of gaining hold of us?
The essence of Christianity consists in asking oneself that question, and in answering: 'The Word incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ.'
p; 122 - Let us examine step by step how we can validate to ourselves this prodigious identification of the Son of Man and the divine milieu.
A first step, unquestionably, is to see the divine omnipresence in which we find ourselves plunged as an omnipresence of action. God enfolds us and penetrates us by creating and preserving us.
Now let us go a little further. Under what form, and with what end in view, has the Creator given us, and still preserves in us, the gift of participated being? Under the form of an essential aspiration towards him -and with a view to the unhoped-for cleaving which is to make us one and the same complex thing with him. The action by which God maintains us in the field of his presence is a unitive transformation.
Let us go further still. What is the supreme and complex reality for which the divine operation moulds us? It is revealed to us by St. Paul and St. John. It is the quantitative repletion and the qualitative consummation of all things: it is the mysterious Pleroma, in which the substantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a whole which, without adding anything essential to God, will nevertheless be a sort of triumph and generalisation of being.
At last we are nearing our goal. What is the active centre, the living link, the organising soul of the Pleroma? St. Paul, again, proclaims it with all his resounding voice: it is he in whom everything is reunited, and in whom all things are consummated -through whom the whole created edifice receives its consistency -Christ dead and risen qui replet omnia, in quo omnia constant.
And now let us link the first and last terms of this long series of identities. We shall then see with a wave of joy that the divine omnipresence translates itself within our universe by the network of the organising forces of the total Christ. God exerts pressure, in us and upon us -through the intermediary of all the powers of heaven, earth and hell -only in the act of forming and consummating Christ who saves and sur-animates the world.
p. 123 - The divine milieu henceforward assumes for us the savour and the specific features which we desire. In it we recognise an omnipresence which acts upon us by assimilating us in it, in unitate corporis Christi. As a consequence of the Incarnation, the divine immensity has transformed itself for us into the omnipresence of christification. All the good that I can do opus et operatio is physically gathered in, by something of itself, into the reality of the consummated Christ. Everything I endure, with faith and love, by way of diminishment or death, makes me a little more closely an integral part of his mystical body. Quite specifically it is Christ whom we make or whom we undergo in all things. Not only diligentibus omnia convertuntur in bonum but, more clearly still, convertuntur in Deum and, quite explicitly, convertuntur in Christum.
p. 124 - When the priest says the words Hoc est Corpus meum, his words fall directly on to the bread and directly transform it into the individual reality of Christ. But the great sacramental operation does not cease at that local and momentary event. Even children are taught that, throughout the life of each man and the life of the Church and the history of the world, there is only one Mass and one Communion. Christ died once in agony. Peter and Paul receive communion on such and such a day at a particular hour. But these different acts are only the diversely central points in which the continuity of a unique act is split up and fixed, in space and time, for our experience.In fact, from. the beginning of the Messianic preparation, up till the Parousia, passing through the historic manifestation of Jesus and the phases of growth of his Church, a single event has been developing in the world; the Incarnation, realised, in each individual, through the Eucharist.
All the communions of a life-time are one communion.
All the communions of all men now living are one communion.
All the communions of all men, present, past and future, are one communion.
Have we ever sufficiently considered the physical immensity of man, and his extraordinary relations with the universe, in order to realise in our minds the formidable implications of this elementary truth?
Yes, the human layer of the earth is wholly and continuously under the organising influx of the incarnate Christ.
Now how does the human world itself appear within the structure of the universe? ...the more one thinks of it the more one is struck by the obviousness and importance of the following conclusion: it appears as a zone of continuous spiritual transformation, where all inferior realities and forces without exception are sublimated into sensations, feelings, ideas and the powers of knowledge and love. Around the earth, the centre of our field of vision, the souls of men form, in some manner, the incandescent surface of matter plunged in God. From the dynamic and biological point of view it is quite as impossible to draw a line below it, as to draw a line between a plant and the environment that sustains it.
p. 125 - If this is the case, then we find ourselves (by simply having followed the ' extensions ' of the Eucharist) plunged once again precisely into our divine milieu. Christ -for whom and in whom we are formed, each with his own individuality and his own vocation- Christ reveals himself in each reality around us, and shines like an ultimate determinant, like a centre, one might almost say like a universal element. As our humanity assimilates the material world, and as the Host assimilates our humanity, the eucharistic transformation goes beyond and completes the transubstantiation of the bread on the altar. Step by step it irresistibly invades the universe. It is the fire that sweeps over the heath; the stroke that vibrates through the bronze. In a secondary and generalised sense, but in a true sense, the sacramental Species are formed by the totality of the world, and the duration of the creation is the time needed for its consecration. In Christo vivimus, movemur et sumus.
p. 126 - Grant, 0 God, that when I draw near to the altar to communicate, I may henceforth discern the infinite perspectives hidden beneath the smallness and the nearness of the Host in which you are concealed. I have already accustomed myself to seeing, beneath the stillness of that piece of bread, a devouring power which, in the 1 words of the greatest doctors of your Church, far from being consumed by me, consumes me. Give me the strength to rise above the remaining illusions which tend to make me think of your touch as circumscribed and momentary.
I am beginning to understand: under the sacramental Species it is primarily through the ' accidents ' of matter that you touch me, but, as a consequence, it is also through the whole universe in proportion as this ebbs and flows over me under your primary influence. In a true sense the arms and the heart which you open to me are nothing less than all the united powers of the world which, penetrated and permeated to their depths by your will, your tastes and your temperament, converge upon my being to form it, nourish it and bear it along towards the centre of your fire. In the Host it is my life that you are offering me, 0 Jesus.
...living and dying, I shall never at any moment cease to move forward in you...
3.THE GROWTH OF THE DIVINE MILIEU
p. 128 - The kingdom of God is within us. When Christ appears in the clouds he will simply be manifesting a metamorphosis that has been slowly accomplished under his influence in the heart of the mass of mankind.
A.'The coming of the divine milieu. The taste for being and the diaphany of God
p; 129 - A breeze passes in the night. When did it spring up? When does it come? Whither is it going? No man knows. No one can compel the spirit, the gaze or the light of God to descend upon him.
On some given day a man suddenly becomes conscious that he is alive to a particular perception of the divine spread everywhere about him. Question him. When did this state begin for him ? He cannot tell. All he knows is that a new spirit has crossed his life.
' It began with a particular and unique resonance which swelled each harmony, with a diffused radiance which haloed each beauty...
...And then, contrary to all expectation and all probability, I began to feel what was ineffably common to all things...The unity communicated itself to me by giving me the gift of grasping it. I had in fact acquired a new sense, the sense of a new quality or of a new dimension. Deeper still: a transformation had taken place for me in the very perception of being. Thenceforward being had become, in some way, tangible and savorous to me; and as it came to dominate all the forms which it assumed, being itself began to draw me and to intoxicate me...'
That is what any man might say, more or less explicitly, who has gone any distance in the development of his capacity for self-analysis. Outwardly he could well be a pagan. And should he happen to be a Christian, he would admit that this inward reversal seemed to, him to have occurred within the profane and ' natural ' parts of his soul.
It often happens that, like children opening their eyes for the first time, men do not accurately place the reality which. they sense behind things. Their gropings often meet with nothing but a metaphysical phantorn or a crude idol. But images and reflections have never proved anything against the reality of objects and of the light. The false trails of pantheism bear witness to our immense need for some revealing word to come from the mouth of hini who is. With that reservation, it remains true that, physiologically, the so-called ' natural ' taste for being is, in each life, the first dawn of the divine illumination -the first tremor perceived of the world animated by the Incarnation. The sense (which is not necessarily the feeling) of the omnipresence of God prolongs, sur-creates and supernaturalises the identical physiological. energy which, in a mutilated or misdirected form, produces the various styles of pantheisin.
...the divine milieu discloses itself to us as a modification of the deep being of things...
p. 131 - If we may slightly alter a hallowed expression, we could say that the great mystery of Christianity is not exactly the appearance, but the transparence, of God in the universe. Yes, Lord, not only the ray that strikes the surface, but the ray that penetrates, not only your Epiphany, Jesus, but your diaphany.
B.Individual progress in the divine milieu: purity, faith and fidelity-the operatives
p. 132 - It could be said that three virtues contribute with particular effectiveness towards the limitless concentration of the divine in our lives-purity, faith and fidelity; three virtues which appear to be 'static ' but which are in fact the three Most active and unconfined virtues of all.
Purity, in the wide sense of the word, is not merely abstaining from wrong (that is only a negative aspect of purity), nor even chastity (which is only a remarkable special instance of it). It is the rectitude and the impulse introduced into our lives by the love of God sought in and above everything.
Thus understood, the purity of beings is measured by the degree of the attraction that draws them towards the divine centre, or, what comes toi the same thing, by their proximity to the centre.
p. 134 - If we want the divine milieu to grow all around us, then we must jealously guard and nourish all the forces of union, of desire, and of prayer that grace offers us. By the mere fact that our transparency will increase, the divine light, that never ceases to press in upon us, will irrupt the more powerfully.
Faith, as we understand it here, is not--of course-simply the intellectual adherence to christian dogma. It is taken m a much richer sense to mean belief in God charged with all the trust in his beneficent strength that the knowledge of the divine Being arouses in us. It means the practical conviction that the universe, between the hands; of the Creator, still continues to be the clay in which he shapes innumerable possibilities according to his will. In a word, it is evangelical faith, of which it can bc said that no virtue, not even charity, was more strongly urged by the Saviour.
p. 135 - Now, under what guise was this disposition so untiringly revealed to us by the words and deedsof the Master? Above all and beyond all as an operative power. But, intimidated by the assertionsof an unproven positivism, or ' put off ' by the mystical excesses of Christian Science, we are sometimes tempted to gloss over the disconcerting promise that the efficacy of prayer is tangible and certain. Yet we cannot ignore it without blushing for Christ. If we do not believe, the waves engulf us, the winds blow, nourishment fails, sickness lays us low or kills us, the divine power is impotent or remote. If, on the other hand, we believe, the waters are welcoming and sweet, the bread is multiplied, our eyes open, the dead rise again, the power of God is, as it were, drawn from him by force and spreads throughout all nature. One must either arbitrarily minimise or explain away the Gospel, or one must admit the reality of these effects not as transient and past, but as perennial and true at this moment. Let us beware of stifling this revelation of a possible vitalisation of the forces of nature in God. Let us, rather, place it resolutely at the centre of our vision of the world -careful, only, that we understand it aright.
When we say that faith is ' operative ', what do we mean ? Is divine action, at the call of faith, going to replace the normal interplay of the causes which surround us? Do we, like the ' illuminati', expect God to bring about directly, upon matter or upon our bodies, results that have hitherto been obtained by our own industrious research?
Obviously not. Neither the internal inter-relations of the material or psychical world, nor man's duty to make the greatest possible effort, are in any way undermined, or even relaxed, by the precepts of faith. Iota unum aut unus apex non praeteribit. All the natural links of the world remain intact under the transforming action of ' operative faith '; but a principle, an inward finality, one might almost say an additional soul, is superimposed upon them. Under the influence of our faith, the universe is capable,without outwardly changing its characteristics, of becoming more supple, more fully animate-of being 'sur-animated'.
p; 136 - In our hands, in the hands of all of us, the world and life (our world, our life) are placed like a Host, ready to be charged with the divine influence, that is to say with a real presence of the incarnate Word. The mystery will be accomplished. But on one condition: which is that we shall believe that this has the will and the power to become for us the action-that is to say the prolongation of the Body of Christ. If we believe, then everything is illuminated and takes shape around us: chance is seen to be order, success assumes an incorruptible plenitude, suffering becomes a visit and a caress of God. But if we hesitate, the rock remains dry, the sky dark, the waters treacherous and shifting. And we may hear the voice of the Master, faced with our bungled lives: '0 men of little faith, why have you doubted ..'
p. 137 - We have only to believe. And the more threatening and irreducible reality appears, the more firmly and desperately must we believe. Then, little by little, we shall see the universal horror unbend, and then smile upon us, and then take us in its more than human arms.
No, it is not the rigid determinism of matter and of large numbers, but the subtle combinations of the spirit, that give the universe its consistency. The immense hazard and the immense blindness of the world are only an illusion to hini who believes.
p. 138 - Through fidelity we open ourselves so intimately and continuously to the wishes and good pleasure of God, that his life penetrates and assimilates ours like a fortifying bread
Through fidelity we open ourselves so intimately and continuously to the wishes and good pleasure of God, that his life penetrates and assimilates ours like a fortifying bread.
And finally, through fidelity we find ourselves at every moment situated at the exact point at which the whole bundle of inward and outward forces of the world converge providentially upon us, that is to say at the one point where the divine milieu can, at a given moment, be made real for us.
It is fidelity and fidelity alone that enables us to welcome the universal and perpetual overtures of the divine milieu; through fidelity and fidelity alone can we return to God the kiss he is for ever offering us across the world.
...the one point at which the divine milieu may be born, for each man, at any moment-is not a fixed point in the universe, but a moving centre which we have to follow, like the Magi their star
Under the converging action of these three rays -purity-faith and fidelity- the world melts and folds.
c.The collective progress in the divine milieu. The communion of saints and charity
p.141 - for whatever extraordinary solidarity we have with each other in our development and in our consummation in Christo Jesu, each of us forms, nonetheless, a natural unit charged with his own responsibilities and his own incommunicable possibilities within that consummation. It is we who save ourselves or lose ourselves.
It was all the more important to stress this christian doctrine of individual salvation precisely as the perspectives developed here became more unitary and more universalist. It must never be forgotten that, as in the experimentai spheres of the world, each man, though enveloped within the same universe as all other men, presents an independent centre of perspective and activity for that universe.
p. 142 - ...the task of each one of us is to divinise the whole world in an infinitesimal and incommunicable degree.
Across the immensity of time and the disconcerting multiplicity of individuals, one single operation is taking place: the annexation to Christ of his chosen; one single thing is being made: the mystical body of Christ, starting from all the sketchy spiritual powers scattered throughout the world. Hoc est Corpus meum.
...If this is so, then our individual mystical effort awaits an essential completion in its union with the mystical effort of all other men. The divine milieu which will ultimately be one in the Pleroma, must begin to become one during the earthly phase of our existence.
To what power is it reserved to burst asunder the envelope in which our individual microcosms tend jealous1y to isolate themselves and vegetate ? To what force is it given to merge and exalt our partial rays into the principal radiance of Christ ?
p. 144 - To charity, the beginning and the end of all spiritual relationships. Christian charity, which is preached so fervently by the Gospels, is nothing else than the more or less conscious cohesion of souls engendered by their communal convergence in Christo jesu. It is impossible to love Christ without loving others (in proportion as these others are moving towards Christ). And it is impossible to love others (in a spirit of broad human communion) without moving nearer to Christ.
This inevitable conjunction of forces has always been manifested, in the interior lives of the saints, by an overflowing love for everything which, in creatures, carries in itself a germ. of eternal life.
The only subject ultimately capable of mystical transfiguration is the whole group of mankind forming a single body and a single soul in charity.
p. 145 - ...Grant ' 0 God, that the light of your countenance may shine for me in the life of that ' other '. The irresistible light of your eyes shining in the depth of things has already guided me towards all the work I must accomplish, and all the difficulties I must pass through. Grant that I may see you, even and above all, in the souls of my brothers, at their most personal, and most true, and most distant.
The gift which you call on me to make to these brothers-the only gift which my heart can make-is not theoverwhelming tenderness of those specially privileged affections which you have placed n our lives as the most potent created factor of our inward growth, but something less sweet, but just as real, and more strong. Between myself and men, and with the help of your eucharist, you want the foundational attraction (which is already dimly felt in all love, if it is strong) to be made manifest-that which mystically transforms the myriad of rational creatures into a sort of single monad in you, Jesus Christ. You want me to be drawn towards ' the other ', not by simple personal sympathy, but by what is muck higher: the united affinities of a world for itself, and of that world for God.
p. 146 - Humanity was sleeping -it is still sleeping- imprisoned in the narrow joys of its little closed loves. A tremendous spiritual power is slumbering in the depths of our multitude, which will manifest itself only when we have learnt to break down the barriers of our egoisms and, by a fundamental recasting of our outlook, raise ourselves up to the habitual and practical vision of universal realities...
iii. The outer darkness and the lost souls
p. 146 - The history of the kingdom of God is, directly, one of a reunion. The total divine milieu is formed by the incorporation of every elected spirit in Jesus Christ. But to say 'elect' is to imply a choice, a selection. We should not be looking at the universal action of jesus from a fully christian point of view if it were seen merely as a centre of attraction and beatification. It is precisely because lie is the one who unites that lie is also, the one who separates and judges. The Gospel speaks of the good seed, the sheep, the right hand of the Son of Man, the wedding feast and the fire that kindles joy. But there are also the tares, the goats, the left hand of the judge, the closed door, the outer darkness; and, at the antipodes of the fire that unites in love, there is the fire that destroys in isolation. The whole process out of which the New Earth is gradually born is an aggregation underlaid by a segregation.
p. 147 - In the foregoing pages (solely concerned with rising towards the divine focus and with offering ourselves more completely to its rays) our eyes have been systematically turned towards the light, though we have never ceased to feel the darkness and the void beneath us -the rarefication or absence of God over which our path has been suspended. But this nether darkness, which we soughi to flee, could equally well have been a sort of abyss opening on to sheer nothingness. Imperfection, sin, evil, the flesh, appeared to us mainly as a retrograde step, a reverse aspect of things, which ceased to exist for us the further we penetrated into God.
Your revelation, 0 Lord, compels me to believe more. The powers of evil, in the universe, are not only an attraction, a deviation, a minus sign, an annihilating return to plurality. In the course of the spiritual evolution of the world, certain conscious elements in it, certain monads, deliberately detached themselves from the mass that is stimulated by your attraction. Evil has become incarnate in them, has been 'substantialised' in them. And now I am surrounded by dark presences, by evil beings, by malign things,intermingled with your luminous presence. That separated whole constitutes a definitive loss, an immortal wastage from the genesis of the world. There is not on~y nether darkness; there is also outer darkness. That is what the Gospel tells us.
Of the mysteries which we have to believe, 0 Lord, there is none, without a doubt, which so affronts our human views as that of damnation. And the more human we become, that is to say conscious of the treasures hidden in the least of beings and of the value represented by the smallest atom in the final unity, the more lost we feel at the thought of hell. We could perhaps understand falling back into inexistence . . . but what are we to make of eternal uselessness and eternal suffering?
You have told me, 0 God, to believe in hell. But you have forbidden me to hold with absolute certainty that any single man has been damned. I shall therefore make no attempt to consider the damned here, nor even to discover-by whatsoever means-whether there are an . I shall accept the existence of hell on your word, as a structural element in the universe, and I shall pray and meditate until that awe-inspiring thing appears to me as a strengthening and even blessed complement to the vision of your omnipresence which you have opened out to me.
Each soul that is lost in spite of the call of grace ought to spoil the perfection of the final and general union; but instead, 0 God, you offset it by one of those recastings which restore the universe at every moment to a new freshness and a new purity. The damned are not excluded from the Pleroma, but only from its luminous aspect, and from, its beatification. They lose it, but they are not lost to it.
I pray, 0 Master, that the flames of hell may not touch me nor any of those whom I love, and even that they may never touch anyone (and I know, my God, that you will forgive this bold prayer) ; but that, for each and every one of us, their sombre glow may add, together with all the abysses that they reveal, to the blazing plenitude of the divine milieu.
In Expectation of the Parousia
p. 150 - We are sometimes inclined to think that the same things are monotonously repeated over and over again in the history of creation. That is because the season is too long by comparison with the brevity of our individual lives, and the transformation too vast and too inward by comparison with our superficial and restricted outlook, for us to see the progress of what is tirelessly taking place in and through all matter and all spirit. Let us believe in revelation, once again our faithful support in our most human forebodings. Under the commonplace envelope of things and of all our purified and salvaged efforts, a new earth is being slowly engendered.
One day, the Gospel tells us, the tension gradually accumulating between humanity and God will touch the limits prescribed by the possibilities of the world. And then will come the end. Then the presence of Christ, which has been silently accruing in things, will suddenly be revealed -like a flash of light from pole to pole. Breaking through all the barriers within which the veil of matter and the water-tightness of souls have seemingly kept it confined, it will invade the face of the earth. And, under the finally liberated action of the true affinities of being, the spiritual atoms of the world will be borne along by a force generated by the powers of cohesion proper to the universe itself, and will occupy, whether within Christ or without Christ (but always under the influence of Christ), the place of happiness or pain designated for them by the living structure of the Pleroma.
Such will be the consummation of the divine milieu.
Successors to Israel, we Christians have been charged with keeping the flame of desire ever alive in the world. Only twenty centuries have passed since the Ascension. What have we made of our expectancy?
p. 152 - No doubt we see with greater or less distress the approach of individual death. No doubt, again, our prayers and actions are conscientiously directed to bringing about ' the coming of God's kingdom '. But in fact how many of us are genuinely moved in the depths of our hearts by the wild hope that our earth will be recast?
p. 154 - Jerusalem, lift up your head. Look at the immense crowds of those who build and those who seek. All over the world, men are toiling -in laboratories, in studios, in deserts, in factories, in the vast social crucible. The ferment that is taking place by their instrumentality in art and science and thought is happening for your sake. Open, then, your arms and your heart, like Christ your Lord, and welcome the waters, the flood and the sap of humanity. Accept it, this sap -for, without its baptism, you will wither, without desire, like a flower out of water; and tend it, since, without your sun, it will disperse itself wildly in sterile shoots.
The temptations of too large a world, the seductions of too beautiful a world-where are these now?
They do not exist.
Now the earth can certainly clasp me in her giant arms. She can swell me with her life, or take me back into her dust. She can deck herself out for me with every charm, with every horror, with every mystery. She can intoxicate me with her perfume of tangibility and unity. She can cast me to my knees in expectation of what is maturing in her breast....
But her enchantments can no longer do me harm, since she has become for me, over and above herself, the body of him who is and of him who is coming.
The divine milieu.
Tientsin, November 1926-March 1927
FRENCH EDITOR'S NOTE
In March 1955, the last month of his life, Père Teilhard de Chardin's thoughts went back to Le Milieu Divin, and he wrote at the beginning of a final profession of faith :
It is a long time now since, in La Messe sur le Monde and Le Milieu Divin, I tried to put into words the admiration andwonder I felt as 1 confronted perspectives as yet hardly formulated within me.
Today, after forty years of constant reflection, it is still exactly the same fundamental vision which I feel the need to set forth and to share, in its mature form, for the last time. With less exuberance and freshness of expression, perhaps, than at my first encounter with it, but still with the same wonder and the same passion.
No work of this great believer can bc understood except in relation to this 'fundamental vision' of Le Milieu Divin -the vision (always implicit, even when not stated) of Christ as All-in-everything ; of the universe moved and com-penetrated by God in the totality of its evolution.