The Dove and Rose - Chapter 2
St. Joan and St. Thérèse Spirituality
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St. Joan and St. Thérèse are the most beautiful colors in the heavens.
This motto of mine describes my feelings about both of these saints individually and in their blended spiritual kinship. I love and propagate devotion both to St. Joan and St. Thérèse as well as to St. Joan with St. Thérèse. Each saint is a unique color imbued in the magnificent, metaphorical spiritual landscape of the Kingdom of God; together, their souls create a colorful collage of even more astonishing beauty.
We could extend this metaphor of the Kingdom to say that they are like flowers in that same landscape, each with individual brilliance; together, they form a set of blossoms that dazzles even more wonderfully our spiritual senses. Furthermore, as we raise our eyes, we see that this flower bed is part of a larger, unified ensemble of trees, meadows, lakes, rivers, hills, and mountains comprising that one landscape. We can contemplate this scene as one who stands quietly on a hilltop overseeing this remarkably edifying panorama. We will begin to appreciate God's work of supernatural art, the spirituality of St. Joan and St. Thérèse.
In this contemplative image, we also begin to be enlightened as to the substance of their spirituality, both individually and as an amalgam of two souls. Individual spirituality, as presented in this metaphor whereby individual elements make up one beautiful landscape, receives its beauty and grandeur from the ground where it is planted or established. Flowers only grow to perfection in suitable soil with the proper sunlight and the right amount of fresh water. A river only looks masterfully rich and powerful in the correct location. Meadows only receive a pristine elegance in their surroundings made of lakes, forests, and mountains. Just so, St. Joan and St. Thérèse lift our souls to heavenly heights with their spiritual beauty by being uniquely inspiring within their combined, authentic context that elevates the dignity of the larger picture.
The latter point must be better understood when contemplating these two great saints. To be beautiful in oneself is one thing, but having that beauty be appropriately proportional to an even higher principle representing a unified wholeness of all parts is to reach perfection. Our spiritual perfection cannot be attained in a vacuum. By the very nature of what it means to be perfect, our spirituality must, while retaining our individuality, be moved outward from ourselves toward the authentic whole. Being a beautiful flower is lovely. Being a beautiful flower in a meadow that sits by a rushing river with majestic mountains in the distance is perfection.
St. Thérèse herself spoke of how Jesus taught her this very thing. He opened her spiritual eyes through the mystery of nature to observe how not every soul in the metaphoric landscape of His Kingdom is created equally to be a mountain, an oak tree, or even a fragrant rose. Each soul is made differently and proportionately by Him to magnify God's glory in the unified oneness of the end Principle, Himself.
Thérèse could see that this is comparable to how beautiful individual elements in nature glorify the whole landscape. Each can be seen in its own wonder, while simultaneously, all are lost in the magnificence of the unified whole. Whether one is a rose or a small violet, an oak or a shrub, our perfection comes in being that for which we were designed so that we may all celebrate as one family the beauty of the whole. This is the glory of the Kingdom of God, unity in principle while still astonishing in individual variety.
Using this general scheme, we see a mystery unfold in the particular with St. Joan and St. Thérèse as they retain their individual spiritual beauty but still blend together in that flower bed of dazzling array. Stepping further back, we contemplate that dazzling array as it brings to life a unique beauty that glorifies the entire Kingdom. This perfect ordination moves us as a unified family to glorify God.
Here we are led into a true mystery. St. Thomas Aquinas points out the obvious but often overlooked point that a multitude of particulars cannot be brought into the act of unity in a purposeful form except by a unified One Who is the first cause and final principle of all movement. The particulars do not carry in themselves, by nature, the ability to order all to a unified Form, just as the individual stars and planets do not have it in their nature to order themselves to the Form of a harmonious universe. Only One who is outside and "supernatural" to the nature of the particulars can move those particulars toward their end in that unified, beautiful whole.
A flower has nothing but the potentiality held in a seed to be transformed with soil, water, and light into its end. It is bound by the laws of the created order to appropriately actualize by applying the proper, efficient causes of change. A rose seed cannot resist becoming a rose in the appropriate environment.