Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Rose Made of Hearts

My kingdom grows in all of you. You do not see this kingdom, or you only have distant inklings of it in bits and pieces. But I am the King and the center of all hearts, and the innermost and best-kept secret of all hearts is to me an open book. You see but the outer wrapping by which men conceal themselves from one another. I look into souls from the inside, from that center to which they stand open, defenselessly.

And there, at their innermost, is where their true face is to be found. There is where their gold glitters; there the hidden pearl lies. There gleam the Image and the Likeness, the signs of nobility imprinted upon them. There is where the eyes are open that perpetually behold the face of the Father. There the lamp keeps watch before the tabernacles, even when the body and the exterior soul slumber.

In that interior chamber there is something pure, something stirring and well-intentioned, which corresponds to what men try to accomplish externally in an awkward, inept and often perverted manner. And when they really love and do good to one another, their inner countenance also beams and smiles upon me, and I receive more than do their human brothers.

The inconceivable beauty of souls, which my father has hidden from them so that they do not become enamored of the creaturely mirror: this beauty, which next to God’s is the most awe-inspiring , stands unveiled before my eyes. Do you not think it wonderful to see all of this, to see how these millions of hearts, which only I can count, open up in a gigantic sphere like a huge rose of sorrows all about my own Heart, laboriously breathing up towards the light? So much struggle, so much exposure, so much blind daring, so much frantic search for help and, always, constant anguish, obstacles, hesitations, stumblings, fallings, getting up again, continuing down the road: and all of it towards me.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Heart of the World, 164-6

Reflection – ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ We have all heard that Gospel, that word of our Lord Jesus. In our world today, it is often distorted to mean ‘have no moral clarity’ or ‘deny the moral law.’ In consequence of this distorted reading of the Gospel, some in the Church today react in the other direction and have a lamentable quickness of judgment, a reversion back to a censorious hyper-critical attitude towards their fellow man.

But the Lord says, and says it in more than one place, ‘Do not judge.’ And this beautiful passage from von Balthasar really gets to the heart of the matter. And that heart of the matter is that we simply do not see one another rightly. We see the outer shell of a person—even someone we may think we know intimately well. We see the behavior, the external presentation, the ‘outer wrapping.’ But this is a tiny fragment of who the person is; what is really going on in the depths of the soul of virtually every human being remains utterly hidden from us.

And each person bears within them an inconceivable beauty of soul, a grandeur, a magnificence such that our eyes would be blinded to behold it. There is a greatness in the human person, a nobility, a splendor, a reflection of glory that virtually every one of us has.

And this is why judgment, contempt, dismissal, disrespect, belittlement of the other is so desperately, utterly and wholly wrong. This is why the Lord warned us against it over and over again in the strongest language possible (call your brother a fool, and you will answer for it in hellfire…).

We are not our sin. We are not our ‘awkward, inept and often perverted’ effort to achieve the good. We are not the clumsy oafs, the disordered chumps, the silly gooses that our actions so often show us to be (I speak for myself in this matter!). We are… so very, very much more. This is why abortion is so terrible—the throwing away of this magnificent creature of a human person because his or her existence is not wanted by another human person. This is why fornication is so terrible—what is meant to be a joining of two unfathomably beautiful human beings into a lifelong union of love and life is reduced to a transient exchange of physical please and bodily fluids. And lying and theft and all the other moral laws… all of them pertain to reducing human beings to something so much less than what they are.

Non-judgment and compassionate acceptance of the other does not exist in tension with the moral law. It flows directly from the moral law, or rather, both the moral law and non-judgment flow from the near-infinite value and inestimable beauty and goodness of the human person, made in God’s image, and desired by Him for eternal life and splendor in His kingdom. 

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