Dear friends, I am so glad that many of you visit my blog each day. I know that sometimes you are so busy that the best you can do is to read quickly through whatever is there, or even just glance at it to see if anything of interest jumps out at you.
Today, however, I would like you to find time to read this passage from Carlo Carretto (In Search of the Beyond) in a contemplative way. Those of you who are not Christians might begin to understand us. Those who focus just on the Church's institutionality with all of its scandals and evil might begin to see why we remain. And those who have not been to the foot of the Cross for some time might just experience a little renewal of love for the Saviour.
Jesus As The Truth and The Sacrament
I began to know Jesus as soon as I accepted Jesus as the truth; I found true peace when I actively sought his friendship; and above all I experienced joy, true joy, that stands above the vicissitudes of life, as soon as I tasted and experienced for myself the gift he came to bestow on us: eternal life.
But Jesus is not only the Image of the Father, the Revealer of the dark knowledge of God. That would be of little avail to me in my weakness and my sinfulness: he is also my Saviour.
On my journey towards him, I was completely worn out, unable to take another step forward. By my errors, my sinful rebellions, my desperate efforts to find joy far from his joy, I had reduced myself to a mass of virulent sores which repelled both Heaven and Earth.
What sin was there that I had not committed? Or what sin had I as yet not committed simply because the opportunity had not come my way?
Yet it was he, and he alone, who got down off his horse, like the good Samaritan on the way to Jericho; he alone had the courage to approach me in order to staunch with bandages the few drops of blood that still remained in my veins, blood that would certainly have flowed away, had he not intervened.
Jesus became a sacrament for me, the cause of my salvation, he brought my time in hell to an end, and put a stop to my inner disintegration. He washed me patiently in the waters of baptism, he filled me with the exhilarating joy of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, he nourished me with the bread of his word. Above all, he forgave me, he forgot everything, he did not even wish me to remember my past myself.
When, through my tears, I began to tell him something of the years during which I betrayed him, he lovingly placed his hand over my mouth in order to silence me. His one concern was that I should muster courage enough to pick myself up again, to try and carry on walking in spite of my weakness, and to believe in his love in spite of my fears. But there was one thing he did, the value of which cannot be measured, something truly unbelievable, something only God could do.
While I continued to have doubts about my own salvation, to tell him that my sins could not be forgiven, and that justice, too, had its rights, he appeared on the Cross before me one Friday towards midday.
I was at its foot, and found myself bathed with the blood which flowed from the gaping holes made in his flesh by the nails. He remained there for three hours until he expired.
I realized that he had died in order that I might stop turning to him with questions about justice, and believe instead, deep within myself, that the scales had come down overflowing on the side of love, and that even though all, through unbelief or madness, had offended him, he had conquered for ever, and drawn all things everlastingly to himself.
Then later, so that I should never forget that Friday and abandon the Cross, as one forgets a postcard on the table or a picture in the worn-out book that had been feeding one’s devotion, he led me on to discover that in order to be with me continually, not simply as an affectionate remembrance but as a living presence, he had devised the Eucharist.
What a discovery that was!
Under the sacramental sign of bread, Jesus was there each morning to renew the sacrifice of the Cross and make of it the living sacrifice of his bride, the church, a pure offering to the Divine Majesty.
And still that was not all.
He led me on to understand that the sign of bread testified to his hidden presence, not only during the Great Sacrifice, but at all times, since the Eucharist was not an isolated moment in my day, but a line which stretched over twenty-four hours: he is God-with-us, the realization of what had been foretold by the cloud that went before the people of God during their journey through the desert, and the darkness which filled the tabernacle in the temple at Jerusalem.
I must emphasize that this vital realization that the sign of bread concealed and pointed out for me the uninterrupted presence of Jesus beside me was a unique grace in my life. From that moment he led me along the path to intimacy, and friendship with himself.
I understood that he longed to be present like this beside each one of us.
Jesus was not only bread, he was a friend.
A home without bread is not a home, but a home without friendship is nothing.
That is why Jesus became a friend, concealed under the sign of bread. I learned to stay with him for hours on end, listening to the mysterious voices that welled up from the abysses of Being and to receive the rays of that light whose source was in the uncreated light of God.
I have experienced such sweetness in the eucharistic presence of Christ.
I have learned to appreciate why the saints remained in contemplation before this bread to beseech, to adore, and to love.
How I wish that everyone might take the Eucharist home, and having made a little oratory in some quiet corner, might find joy in sitting quietly before it, in order to make his dialogue with God easier and more immediate, in intimate union with Christ.
But still that was not enough.
Jesus did not overcome the insuperable obstacle presented by the divinity and enter the human sphere simply to be our Saviour. Had that been all, his work would have remained unfinished, his mission of love unfulfilled.
He broke through the wall surrounding the invisible, and came down into the visible world to bear witness to “the things that are above,” to reveal to us “the secrets of his Father’s house,” to give us in concrete form what he called eternal life.
What exactly is it, this famous “eternal life?”
He himself defined it in the Gospel: “And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) So eternal life is, first and foremost, knowledge. It is a matter of knowing the Father, knowing Jesus. But it is not a question of any external, historical, analogical knowledge which we could more or less imagine, possess perhaps, even now; it is rather a question of real, supernatural knowledge which, although it is still surrounded here by the darkness of faith, is already the same as the knowledge we will have when the veil is torn aside and we see God face to face. It is a question of knowing God as he is, not as he may appear to us or as we may imagine him. This is the heart of the mystery I have tried to describe as the beyond, and which is the key to the secret of intimacy with God and the substance of contemplative prayer.
In giving us “eternal life,” Jesus gives us that knowledge of the Father which is already our first experience of living, here on Earth, the divine life; which is a vital participation, here and now, in the family of God; and which means that while we remain sons of man, we are at the same time sons of God.
Jesus is the Image of the Father, the center of the universe and of history.
Jesus is our salvation, the radiance of the God we cannot see, the unquenchable fire of love, the one for whom the angels sigh, the Holy one of God, the true adorer, the eternal High Priest, the Lord of the Ages, the glory of God.
Jesus is also our brother, and as such he takes his place beside us, to teach us the path we must follow to reach the invisible. And to make sure that we understand, he translates into visible terms the invisible things he has seen – as man he acts as God would act; he introduces the ways of the family of God on to the Earth and into the family of man.