The Dove and Rose - Chapter 4
“Je ne suis rien mais un accent”
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“St. Joan and St. Thérèse – Together they are the most beautiful color in the heavens. I am nothing but an accent.”
One wonders just why Our Lord gives each of us certain devotions. These devotions are particular favors that reflect Jesus’ goodness in our lives. He demonstrates His affection for us, sometimes directly and sometimes through others. I think that it is when we step back to see the whole that we gain insight as to why He prefers one way over another in particular.
We might relate this to understanding the principle behind an action. It is one thing to know we are walking down a dirt path. Knowing that our purpose is to reach a beautiful creek pouring into a deep lake sitting in a peaceful meadow is another. One might say, “I care not about the reason I travel. I simply trust the One Who leads me. I will just let the mystery unfold!” That is well and good. Yet, what if we were to say, “I trust the One Who leads me, and He has promised to lead me to a beautiful creek pouring into a deep lake sitting in a peaceful meadow!” Now, that is even more marvelous. That is more fulfilling. And there is a reason for this. It is our nature to seek the wholeness of understanding through the principle that drives our actions and desires.
St. Thomas Aquinas says truth is the principle whereby the intellect moves. The desire for the perfect good, i.e., happiness, i.e., God, is the principle whereby the will is moved. Neither the intellect nor the will can rest until perfect truth and happiness are attained. Only when the perfect good is achieved do all of the other appetites of our soul rest, there being no higher good to reach. It is weakly comparable to resting under a shade tree by the ocean on a perfect afternoon with no pressing issues. We have much going on in our lives; however, everything else seems unimportant at that moment. Our spiritual house is at rest. We now think there is nothing more to attain; therefore, we have no unruly, anxious, and unmet desires roaming our souls to disturb us. This is what it means to have our appetites quieted.
We can see from this why we can know what perfect happiness is in principle and even journey toward it in the movement of intellect and will, but we nevertheless cannot attain it in its fullness in this life. The perfect good before which all other truth and desire are surpassed, and therefore before which all unruly spiritual appetites are stilled, is God Himself. Though understanding Him to be our End, we still cannot attain Him perfectly in this life, for we can do this only in the next. Such is our state that no matter how happy we become in this life, we continue to feel a tug on our hearts toward something even higher. “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee, O Lord,” says St. Augustine.
So, even though we may tell ourselves that we do not need to know the end principle behind our spiritual journey, that it is “just an unknowable mystery,” our nature is such that we are constantly pursuing just that principle. Our spirit is such that the intellect seeks more, the heart seeks more, and there will be no final rest until that toward which our entire being yearns is attained.
What a state in which we would find ourselves, if not for the benefit of being further blessed, beyond our human nature, to receive from God the graces that lead us in the direction of that End Principle, which is Himself in all of His glory. We call those graces the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. Where the natural intellect can reach no further with earthly reason, Faith provides that which it seeks. Where the innate desire for earthly happiness yields the inevitable lack of fulfillment, Hope delivers the desire for that which is genuinely fulfilling beyond the material world. Faith and Hope beckon us to that which is genuine and authentic but remains beyond our nature. That End Principle, that state of being beyond our purely human nature, is Divine Love, the highest of the theological virtues. As it is beyond our human nature to attain this Divine Love on our own and as it is only attainable through sanctifying grace, we call this final state of being glory. It is glorious indeed to be raised to such sublime heights. To live in Glory in Heaven is to attain God, Who is perfect Love. In glory, the soul has reached the End toward which it has yearned and will be at perfect peace, its intellect and will now resting in Love.
This is a curious introduction to a discussion of my devotion to Sts. Joan and Thérèse. Yet, it is all of this that, in fact, drives me to say, “St. Joan and St. Thérèse – Together they are the most beautiful color in the heavens. I am nothing but an accent.” I will need to explain. Though not immediately apparent, these words reflect an essential grace in my life that corresponds to the entire flow of ideas above. It concerns the movement toward the Principle, the End, and the Person Who is Love.
My devotion to Sts. Joan and Thérèse throws into living color how it is that I fit into the whole, unified panorama of metaphoric creeks, rivers, and meadows mentioned above, and the unified wholeness of which represents the End Principle of my movement on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed. The unity and completeness of the panoramic landscape are the Principles of Divine Love in the Kingdom of God. The trail represents the movement of my intellect and will toward those principles. We all desire to know where and how we fit into God’s plan. Our intellect and will move by nature toward answering this question and then actualizing the answer, as demonstrated above. To understand even a little more and to have our desire increase even a little more is a great satisfaction in the heart of the soul. Traveling on the Trail of the Dogmatic Creed is what it means. One never reaches the End Principle in this life, but joy and meaning come from moving toward it with both heart (will) and mind (intellect). And my devotion to Sts. Joan and Thérèse has been a gift that carries me along that trail.
In summary, this devotion has given me true freedom by showing me the End, which is Divine Love, and the means to reach the End. Authentic freedom is the freedom to obey. It is the freedom to do what I ought to do: love God and my neighbor as myself. It is the freedom to seek that End that the intellect desires to know and the will chooses to Love. I did not have that freedom before. I “did that which I did not want to do, and did not do that which I wanted to do.” Therefore, I was a slave. I was the victim of “license,” demanding my “right” to be allowed to do whatever I please and by which I felt “affirmed,” which is the world’s understanding of freedom.
In this devotion, I found true freedom, which is that of obedience. If joy is found in moving toward the authentic End, which is Happiness, which is God, then one needs to be obedient to that trail that leads the intellect and the will there. The principle is quite simple. If you follow the proper course, you will arrive at the desired location.