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Heart speaks to heart: The most essential reality of true religion

Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

December 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – St. John of the Cross writes:

In giving us His Son, His only Word (for He possesses no other), He [the Father] spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word—and He has no more to say . . . because what He spoke before to the prophets in parts, He has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.

The Father has spoken His Word. This is what we remember at Christmas, each and every year. In the Fall, man turned away from God’s voice, no longer willing to listen. The Lord who “walked” in the garden every day with Adam and Eve seemed to hide His face, though in reality it was mankind that hid in fear from the light of God’s countenance.

After centuries of stumbling like a blind man through the darkness of ignorance, error, and sin, the old Adam – at least in the form of the prophets of Israel and the wise men of the Gentiles, the most self-aware of men and, for the same reason, the most God-aware – knew that some kind of dramatic rescue from the outside would be necessary for restoring humanity to health.

What they did not know is that the rescue “from outside” would be, even more profoundly, a rescue from within. When the Word was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father became man, so that He might insert into human nature the grace and glory of His divinity. It was to be a reparation and restoration from within our nature, not “from the outside,” like repainting an old building.

The Word became flesh. The Voice took up a bodily habitation. The hidden God has a human face. His holy lips preach the words of everlasting life. Now it is for us to sit at His feet, like Mary of Bethany, and listen continually to Him, soaking up His words and holding fast to His Heart.

When John Henry Newman chose for his Cardinal’s motto Cor ad cor loquitur, “heart speaks to heart,” he was capturing in a phrase the most essential reality and medium of true religion: it is, before all else, a personal relationship in which everything is at stake. It is a total gift of oneself to the Lover of mankind. It is a question of friendship, not of doctrinal propositions, moral rules, liturgical customs, and so on.

The one who loves accepts everything else – all of the propositions, rules, customs – without complaint, indeed with an infectious joy, because they are the expressions, tokens, and reminders of the one we love. We cannot dismiss or disdain these things without offending the beloved.

The crisis of theology today, and, more broadly, the crisis in the Church, is due at root to the prevailing absence of the spirit of the “holy fools,” the “fools for Christ,” who are ready to throw everything else away if only they can cling to the Lord. The holy foolishness of being in love with our crucified Savior is the very opposite of the worldliness that has infected the Church. What we need today are holy fools, not crafty bureaucrats, media-savvy apologists, or unquestioning automatons. The divine Son lying as a babe in the trough of farm animals: this is the “foolish” way God introduces Himself when He comes among us, with a wisdom far greater than that of the philosophers of this age.

You see this spirit of holy folly – sometimes a rushing torrent like white river rapids, sometimes as silent and peaceful as snow – in flourishing religious communities. You see it, too, in faithful Catholic families who are living out the demands of the Beatitudes as well as they can, and are winning the Lord’s blessings for it. In such communities or families, the poisonous atmosphere of an egoistic rationalism has been driven away, replaced by the pure, fresh air of living for the divine Lover who loved us and gave Himself for us.

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