The Truth & the Life: A Meditation for Lent

“I am the truth and the life” (cf. John 14:6). I am the Word that was “at the beginning,” the word of the eternal Father, his concept, his wisdom, the true light that enlightens every man (John 1:9). I am the truth itself and consequently the support, the nourishment, and the life of all who hear me, the one in whom there is life, the same life that is in the Father.

It is in and through faith that we must consider these things, for if they were not necessary to our salvation, Jesus would not have revealed them to us.

I am the truth and the life, he says, because I am God; but at the same time I am man. I am come to instruct mankind by bringing the words of eternal life, and together with this teaching I have given the example of how to live well. Yet as all of this remained only an outer work, it was still necessary to bring grace to men, and so I made myself their victim in order to merit this grace for them. Men can approach God and eternal life only through my doctrine, my example, my merits, and the grace that I bring to the world. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ … [and] we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:17, 14). Let us enter by this way, and we will find truth and life.

This article is adapted from a meditation in Bishop Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent.

It is astonishing to think that one could be both means and end together at once, the “truth and life” which are the terminus and at the same time the “way” that is to be traveled. Yet Jesus explains this mystery to us. What can lead us to truth, if not the truth itself? The truth is sovereign. No one can force it or move it in any way; it must give itself to us freely. It is when we possess the truth, that is to say, when we know it, when we love it, when we embrace it that we really live. God forbid that we imagine we have arms to encompass it! We enjoy it as we enjoy the light: by seeing it. The truth convinces all those who see it as it is, for the truth reveals to us everything beautiful and is itself the most beautiful of all the objects that it can reveal to us.

To see light, all we need do is open our eyes; the light comes in by itself. There is no other path that we need to take to light. Now truth is more light than light itself, so nothing can take us to truth other than truth itself. It must approach us, humble itself, and make itself lowly.

And what is Jesus if not this very truth which comes toward us, which hides itself under a form that accommodates itself to our weakness, to show itself as much as our weak eyes can stand to see? And so, in order to be the
way, he also had to be the truth.

Come then, O Truth! You yourself are my life, and because you come close to me, you are my way. What do I have to fear? How can I be anxious? Do I fear that I will not find the way that leads to truth? The way itself, as St. Augustine said, presents itself to us; the way itself comes to us. Come then and live by the truth, reasonable and intelligent soul! What light there is in the teaching of Jesus!

This light is all the more beautiful for shining amid the darkness. But let us take care lest we be like those of whom it is written: “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Of what use to me is a light that reveals only my ugliness and shame? Retire from me, Light; I cannot endure you. Holy doctrine of the Gospel, eternal truth, all-too-faithful mirror: you make me tremble! We cannot change the truth; let us then change ourselves, for we exist only by a ray of the truth that is within us.

Let us love the truth. Let us love Jesus, who is the truth itself. Let us change ourselves so that we may be like him. Let us not put ourselves in a condition that will oblige us to hate the truth. The one who is condemned by the truth hates and flees it. Let there be nothing false in one who is the disciple of the truth.

Let us live by the truth and feed ourselves with it. It is for this that the Eucharist is given to us. It is the body of Jesus, his holy humanity, the pure grain that nourishes the elect, the pure substance of truth, the bread of life, and it is at the same time the way, the truth, and the life. If Jesus Christ is our way, let us not walk in the ways of the world. Let us enter into the narrow gate through which he walked. Above all, let us be mild and humble. Man’s falsehood is his pride, because in truth he is nothing, and God alone is. This is the pure and only truth.

This article is adapted from a meditation in Bishop Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent. It is available as a paperback or ebook from Sophia Institute Press.

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

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Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704) was a theologian and French bishop. With a great knowledge of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, he devoted himself to writing in a way that was approachable to every person. Though lionized by the great English converts such as Waugh, Belloc, and Knox, his writing has only recently been made available in English. His Meditations for Advent is available from Sophia Institute Press.

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