The Young Girl and the Sea

St. Thérèse loved the sea. When she first saw it, she was captivated by its majesty:

I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville. Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. (Ms A, 21v)

Thérèse beheld the sea, and she peered into the mystery of God. In her writings, though cloistered in landlocked Lisieux, she remained the young girl pondering the majestic sea. She used images from the sea in frequent and various ways. For a summertime reflection, let’s focus on one theme.

For Thérèse, the sea symbolized the greatness of Jesus’ love for her. She often wrote of the “shoreless ocean of Your Love.” In a beautiful way, she used this image as she retells her first Holy Communion:

Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!” There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Thérèse looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Thérèse had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained. (Ms A, 35r, emphasis added)

Thérèse undoubtedly rejoiced in Jesus’ sea-sized love, but she didn’t stop there. Her personal motto was to return love for love. If Jesus’ love for her was as big as the sea, then she wanted her love for him to be just as big. She knew that Jesus thirsts for love, and she dared to quench his thirst with a whole ocean. Yet how could her love—so human and limited—be the size of the ocean?

Love attracts love, and, my Jesus, my love leaps toward Yours; it would like to fill the abyss which attracts it, but alas! it is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean! (Ms C, 35r, emphasis added)

Standing on the shore of Jesus’ infinite love, Thérèse confronts her littleness. Jesus is greater than the ocean. Thérèse is less than a drop. She accepts her littleness, but with childlike boldness, she continues:

For me to love You as You love me, I would have to borrow Your own Love, and then only would I be at rest. (Ms C, 35r, emphasis added)

God’s shoreless ocean and Thérèse’s drop are not to remain separate. By grace, God will unite Thérèse to himself. His love will fill her heart, and with this selfsame love, Thérèse will return love for love. She wrote to her sister Céline:

Let us remain joyfully His drop, His single drop of dew!… And to this drop that has consoled Him during the exile, what will He not give us in the homeland?… He tells us Himself: “He who is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” and so Jesus is and will be our ocean…. Like the thirsty hind, we long for this water that is promised to us, but our consolation is great: to be the ocean of Jesus also. (LT 142, emphasis added)

In this life, she will be but a drop for Jesus. But in the next, she will be almost like his ocean. Yes, she will remain finite, but for heaven’s eternity, Jesus and Thérèse will exchange love for love.

Whether we are at the seashore or in the church pew, let us meditate on the shoreless love of Jesus’ love for each of us. And like Thérèse, let us ask for the grace to be united to God and to return love for love. In our littleness, we offer ourselves as a little drop to Jesus. And in our boldness, we beg him to share with us his sea-sized love that our heaven will be an eternal exchange of love.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicanathe Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

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Br. Joseph Martin Hagan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2009. The following year, he spent trekking around Ireland, serving with N.E.T. Ministries. Then, he returned to Notre Dame's Echo program and completed an M.A. in theology, while serving in the Diocese of Wilmington, DE. Br. Joseph entered the Order of Preachers in 2012.

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