God’s fiery determination to have a people He could call “His own” has been evidenced to you in every covenant He made with the Jews, for no matter who the mediator was, the sacred pact always closed with the words: “and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
But what deference God shows to man’s free will! He had dowered man with liberty. He will never take back that gift. He will invite and even call. But He will force no man to accept. To date, man’s response has been none too gracious and none too generous. Yet we know that God’s determination is to know final fulfillment, for St. John, at the close of the book of Revelation, shares with us his vision of the “new Heaven and the new earth” and allows us to hear the voice from the throne exclaiming, “How wonderful! God’s dwelling place is among men; he shall make His home among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall abide in their midst.”
That is the future that not only explains all past history for you, but tells you very exactly just what is going on at present. God is building His “new Jerusalem”; He is fashioning His “new Heaven” and His “new earth”; He is shaping a people He can call His very own, and you are one of them!
The blindness of many modern historians is equaled and occasionally surpassed only by the ignorance of commentators on current events. Although they see precisely what is happening, they have no idea of exactly what is going on; or in the events that pass before their eyes, they never note the strong hand of God.
You are a child of this very confused century, but you need never be the least bit confused. All you need to do is realize that the tempo of modern times, which lately has been elevated higher than the speed of sound, means only that the hammer of God is falling faster, the marble moves beneath His chisel, and the statue is all but stepping forth from the cold stone. In all truth, the city of God is being built rapidly, and the people of God are crowding in!
That is why it can be said that in all mankind’s long history, there was never a more glorious time in which to be alive, for God is nearer now than you know! If Moses, in what was very like his last will and testament, could say, “No other nation is so great; no other nation has gods that draw near it, as our God draws near to us,” what must you say of yourself and your fellow Catholics who this day form the Mystical Body of Christ, with God’s only Son as your Head and the Blessed Trinity’s Third Person as your Soul?
How almost infinitely distant was God from His Chosen People under the Old Covenant when compared with the divine intimacy granted you under the New! They heard His voice from a burning bush; you have seen His Word, clothed in your own flesh, walking your own dusty earth. They received two tablets of stone that held ten stern commands, and they were given these amid the thunder and lightning of Sinai; you have been given a Law of Love. It came to you from a human heart that had broken out of love, but which was, nonetheless, the Sacred Heart of God.
They had a “cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night”; you have Emmanuel — God with you! They fed on manna and quail, and drank water that gushed from a rock, but they died; you eat the Living Bread that came down from Heaven — and you will live forever. They had the Ark of the Covenant, which was made of purest gold, but it held only a vessel of manna, the tables of the Law, and Aaron’s rod; you have Jesus Christ in person — Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity — tenting in your tabernacle under the guise of a tiny white Host. They had promises; you have fulfillment. They looked on symbols, and shadows; you look on substance. They had men of God who were truly His messengers; but you have God Himself and Him whom He sent — His only Son — plus the Holy Spirit. They had the Temple of God, which had a Holy of Holies; but you are God’s temple and are to be holy with God’s own sanctity.
This last is the reality that proves beyond all doubt or quibble that the most startling and marvelous thing on the face of the earth at this moment is the Holy Roman Catholic Church — the Mystical Body of Christ, God’s Chosen People, of which you are one! For to be holy with God’s own holiness is very truly “something out of this world.”
God invites you to oneness with Him
St. Bernard of Clairvaux clarified it more when he took as his text: “Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth” and explained the deepest drive in man — a drive about which your present-day depth psychologists know so little. He told his monks that what the human soul desires in this “Kiss of God” is the infusion of the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit who can transform the soul and bring it to supreme happiness.
“The Son reveals Himself and the Father to whom He pleases,” says the saint. “But the revelation is made by a Kiss, that is, by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle bears witness when he says, ‘But to us God has revealed them by His Spirit. . . .’ By this revelation, the Holy Spirit not only communicates the light of knowledge, but kindles in the soul the flames of love. Hence the words of St. Paul: ‘The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.’ ”
Knowledge and love — how St. Bernard insisted on these two! By his insistence, he was giving his monks the anatomy of their souls. Bernard showed how both faculties could be filled by being kissed with the “Kiss of His mouth” — God the Holy Spirit. Then he proved himself a real psychologist by adding, “If you are a slave, you will fear the face of the Lord. If you are a hireling, you will hope that He will hire you. If you are a disciple, you will attend to the instructions of your Master. If you are a son, you will honor your Father. But if you are a lover, you will ask your Beloved for a kiss!”
What a climax! And how expertly defended: “In the human soul,” says Bernard, “love holds the first place among all the affections.” Then he describes the kind of love you should have: “She loves with an ardent love who is so inebriated with love that she loses sight of the Majesty of her Beloved. What! She dares to ask for a kiss from Him who ‘looketh upon the earth and maketh it tremble!’ Is she drunk? Obviously! And fully drunk!”
You, a soul thirsting for God, are to quench that thirst by becoming “God-intoxicated.” That is the language St. Bernard used back in the twelfth century as he commented on the Song of Songs, which Solomon had written ten centuries before Christ. That is the language used today by men who have seen truth and know what mankind must have if it is to be mankind!
Do you feel that you are one “intoxicated with God”? You should, for you have been “kissed with the Kiss of His mouth” at Baptism and Confirmation. You should, for you breathe by the God who burns.
If you have not reached this point of inebriation, it may be because you have not yielded yourself to that Spirit of love who has been given to you as gift. He dwells in you to deify you by making you a partaker in the divine nature, so that you may know the union with God that merges into that stupendous unity Christ prayed for at His Last Supper and then went out and died so that it might be achieved.
Ferdinand Prat, S.J., in his book Theology of St. Paul, writes that “the mystery par excellence is the design conceived by God from all eternity, but revealed only in the Gospel, to save all men without distinction of race, identifying them with His beloved Son in the unity of the Mystical Body.”
Paul tells you that this unity spells unity with the very Trinity, since it brings you to the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. That is the degree of intimacy to which you have been called!
Take as addressed to you the words Paul penned to his Ephesians: “You, too, after you had heard the message of truth, the Good News proclaiming your salvation, and had believed in it, in Him you have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the first installment of our inheritance. The final purpose of thus being sealed is our redemption as God’s possession to the praise of His glory.”
“It follows that you are no longer foreigners and guests; no, you are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household. You are an edifice built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole structure is being closely fitted together by the Spirit to become God’s temple consecrated to the Lord. In Him you, too, are being fitted by the Spirit into the edifice to become God’s dwelling place.” At this moment, the Holy Spirit is working in you, to fit you for the intimacy God decreed and desires: oneness with Himself through the same Holy Spirit!
One with God: of course it is breathtaking — and frightening. But it is a truth that scares you into adoring gratitude to God and a real reverence for yourself and all your fellowmen.
We Are Called to Intimacy with God
You need hardly be told that this oneness is organic, not numerical. You do not become God; you become one with God. You become an independent cell that maintains its own individual life, while contributing to the total life of the organism that is Christ’s Mystical Body. Unity is not sameness. Your oneness with God is real, but it never bespeaks equality, nor does it even destroy distinguishability. Unity in any and every living being supposes diversity; hence, oneness with God will always admit distinctness.
The distinctness is there; so is the unity. Your individuality remains, but it does not prevent closest intimacy with God! Branches as branches are nothing unless they are in the vine; and members as members are nothing unless they are in the body; likewise Christians as Christians are nothing unless they are in Christ Jesus, abiding in Him as He abides in them, according to those words He addressed to them the night before He died.
Now, the essential point in all this is that your happiness lies in your intimacy with God. But your intimacy with God lies in your oneness with Christ, for there is only one way to God: the Man, Christ Jesus. He said so Himself, and He cannot deceive. You were made one with Him by Baptism, and that oneness was deepened by Confirmation. Hence, in all truth, Christ is the source of your real life.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Raymond’s Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.