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I Believe in God 

Holt, Rinehart and Winston New York Chicago San Francisco 

I Believe 
in God 

A Meditation on the Apostles' Creed 

Paul Claudel 

Edited by Agnes du Sarment 
Translated by Helen Weaver 
Introduction by Henri de Lubac, S.J. 

Translation copyright 1963 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 
Published in France under the title, Je Crois en Dieu, 
Copyright 1961 by Librairie Gallimard. 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book or portions thereof in any form. 

Published simultaneously in Canada by Holt, Rinehart 
and Winston of Canada, Limited. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 63-11868 
First Edition 

Nihil obstat: Richard A. Clark, J.C.L. 
Censor Deputatus 

Imprimatur: i> Walter A. Foery, D.D. 
Bishop of Syracuse 
Syracuse, New York 
March 19, 1963 

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or 
pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is 
contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and 
imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed. 

Designer: Ernst Reich! 


Printed in the United States of America 


ON THE THBESHOLD of an exposition of the Credo, any 
preface of a literary nature would be unsuitable. It is not cer- 
tain, moreover, that from the standpoint of literature the present 
collection greatly serves the reputation of Claudel. The passages 
are often too fragmentary or too long to preserve the essential 
harmonies, and their selection too lax to invite comparison with 
those Perles Noires in which Father Andre Blanchet recently re- 
vealed to us an almost new Claudel. Not that the reader suscepti- 
ble to the beauty of words and images will not find occasion in 



these pages to savor some rare delights all the more unexpected, 
perhaps, because a large number of the texts draw on less familiar, 
less celebrated, works than is usual. 

A certain prejudice and not on the part of nonbelievers 
alone has caused a neglect, even by ardent Claudelians, of cer- 
tain writings said to be the works of his old age but which, in 
fact, were begun very early, and in which the poet has confided 
to us a portion of his lifelong meditation on the Holy Scriptures, 
And yet these works overflow with riches; a new lyricism emerges, 
nourished by the symbolism of the Bible. 

But the rediscovery of such poetry was not the consideration 
which prompted Agnes du Sarment, who gathered these texts and 
arranged them in the order of the Credo. Her criterion has not 
been an artistic one, and many passages, even some with the most 
profound religious overtones, have had to be discarded in order 
to carry out a rigorously circumscribed design. Her intention was 
to realize the poet's most cherished desire by placing his work 
directly in the service (to borrow the phrase of the great St. 
Gregory, who was one of ClaudeFs most beloved mentors) of the 
"construction of the faith." 

Let us not separate the poet from the believer. Even in the 
order of belief, this poet has a great deal to give us. Let us not 
assume that his role consists only of adorning with the beauty of 
his words the teachings he has received from the masters of doc- 
trine. This would give us a very false and shabby idea of Claudel 
as a poet. Granted he was only a layman whose profession was 
not a theological one. Moreover, he was anxious to be the sub- 
missive son of "that great Mother at whose knee he learned every- 
thing he knew." Not for a moment would he seek to refine the 
divine truth with which Mother Church sustained him, in order 
to extract some sort of truth of his own to set himself apart from 
simple and humble believers. 

Thus this book, made up of his reflections, will give us no 
more, essentially and herein lies its value than the common 
faith. But the simplest and humblest believer would be untrue to 
his Christian vocation if he did not accept this divine truth as his 
sustenance. If he has received this gift, the truth which lives and 
germinates within him will bear its fruit outwardly for the good 
of his fellow men. 

Introduction vii 

The poet's contribution to this process can be of greater sig- 
nificance than one might suspect. Divine truth, by the very reason 
of its transcendence, has great need, in its formulation, of help 
from the imagination. "This was the motive of the Eternal Wisdom 
which, having itself become flesh, has spoken to us only in para- 
bles, not availing itself of reason, but teaching us the language of 
those things around us which from the day of their creation have 
never ceased to speak." (P. 289) 

It is this same inexhaustible language which the poet, enlight- 
ened by his faith, continues to decipher in order to find new cor- 
respondences. There is also, like the drapery which is unfolded at 
length in Rubens' Descent from the Cross, "that boundless stream 
of light, that multiple cataract of prophecies, analogies, and proofs, 
surrounding the figure of the Redeemer, that shroud from which 
it is being released" (p. 120) the Holy Scriptures, If it is the busi- 
ness of scholars to expound the meaning of the Scriptures, there 
still remains that "mass of allusions and faint echoes'* (p. 20) 
which the poet will be better able to catch than the various ranks 
of the learned. 

This role is a traditional one for the poet; perhaps the case 
of Claudel brings home to us today its redoubled importance. Be- 
cause theological learning has become of necessity extremely ra- 
tional and analytical in its methods, it has great trouble holding 
in its nets ( let alone putting to use ) the themes of our traditional 
faith. It is possible, for example, that only the poet would have 
dared make that analogy which evokes so vividly the relationship 
between the Church and the Christian soul, as it has been cele- 
brated by the long line of religious commentators on the CANTICLE 
OF CANTICLES: "Just as the body of Christ exists whole in every 
portion of the host, so the whole Church is behind the individual 
countenance of every Christian/' (P. 185) 

Think, too, of the great theme of the Word of God, the one 
and only Word, which was transmitted to the prophets and which 
reveals itself in the son of Mary: the written Word and the Word 
made flesh, Verbum disseminatum et coadunatum . . . Behold it 
revealed to us on the cross, at the joining of the two Testaments, 
"spread open before us, for us to read at sight." (P. 106) What a 
wealth of material is there for scriptural theology! 

And let us not overlook still another great theme, that of the 



mystical identity of the Virgin M'ary and the Church. It recurs 
again and again in Claudel because it is this that possessed him 
on the day of his conversion under the vaults of Notre Dame, 
(p. 206) These two themes intertwine, fertilize each other, and 
bring forth offspring, as it were, until we see Mary, at the hour 
when she sings the Magnificat, appearing as a "living Bible" she 
who is "the support of the Word, the stem of that sun which 
illuminates the world with the radiance of words which do not 
pass away." (P. 93) 

What accounts for the strength, as well as the fertility, of these 
insights is that they never arise from a superfluous invention or 
a search for originality. However casual may be their apparent 
means of support, their roots are deep. Even in his most imagina- 
tive flights, Claudel remains true to that fundamental objectivity 
which in theological language is called, after St. Paul, "the analogy 
of faith." He does not pretend to be a scholar, any more than he 
pretends to be a theologian. But he has read some of the essential 
authors, either in their original texts or in excerpts. Through St. 
Augustine and St. Gregory, through the good rhapsodist Raban 
Maur and the fiery Rupert, he has assimilated the patristic tra- 

Some of his most valuable interpretations of doctrine, such as 
that of the Transfiguration (p. 65), and some of his most pene- 
trating reflections, such as that on "the Heart of God and His 
fatherly bowels" (p. 15), seem to have come to him directly from 
Origen. Occasional readers have complained that he made a pas- 
tiche from ancient commentaries and that in moments of lesser 
inspiration, he found the biblical concordance more useful than 
the text itself. But there are many fortunate strokes, true discov- 
eries, which he owes to his familiarity with the Fathers. Many 
pages in his work combine traditional thought with the most 
personal of idioms, forming a unique blend which from now on 
will be a part of the treasury of an ever-growing Tradition. 

It will be seen, moreover, that Claudel, no matter how much 
a poet he is, knows how to give clear answers to precise questions 
when this is needed for the clarification of his faith. He was a 
careful student of St. Thomas, as well as of the Fathers. If we 
look closely, for instance, at what he repeatedly says about the 
resurrection of the body, we cannot fail to notice that he has his 

Introduction ix 

own theory on the subject, a very different one from the child- 
ish representations so readily attributed to us, a theory firmly 
grounded on the affirmation of the Credo, and further developed 
by the contemplation of certain Scriptural texts, his poetic imagi- 
nation, and an open-eyed consideration of the conditions of our 
present existence in the body. (PP. 285, 287, 288, 294) Next, let us 
examine the metaphor of the seventh article, "seated at the right 
hand of the Father"; we will soon find ourselves transported into 
the realm of the deepest mystery, that of the union of God and 
man in the very bosom of the Trinity, (p. 145) Or again, in view 
of the state of disorder of the world today, let us consider the 
origin of evil: he manages in three lines, and without denying 
himself a play on words, to throw into startling relief the drama 
of temptation and to illuminate the depths of the metaphor. He 
assigns the motive for the fall (and it is the most classic of an- 
swers ) to "that original separation from God in which the creature 
delights," and then he shows Lucifer, who Breathes no, I should 
say he hisses l within all creatures the spirit which he drew from 
the very mouth of God. He invites them to live their own exist- 
ence." (P. 136) 

It will also be seen that Claudel's Christian traditionalism in 
no way makes him a man chained to the past. The very word 
tradition is often misunderstood. It is carelessly applied, with its 
ordinary human connotations, to questions of faith, having no 
regard for necessary transpositions, Accordingly, an attachment to 
tradition is regarded with suspicion as a kind of slavery. This is 
far from the truth. 

For the Christian, attachment to tradition means first and 
foremost a deep-seated attachment to that divine element which 
entered our history once and for all, and which never ceases to 
move therein. It means being true to the Holy Spirit, being open 
to its inspiration. It means the promise of perpetual renewal. This 
had already been stated by the first great doctor of the Catholic 
tradition, St. Irenaeus. 

Tradition is a criterion for distinguishing not only between the 
true and the false but between the essential and the adventitious, 
between unchanging dogma and that portion of the explications 

*In the original, there is a pun on the words souffler (breathe) and siffler (hiss) 


and representations which is more or less a by-product of the 
learning of a given age. At the same time, tradition is a force which 
liberates us from all that has become irrelevant in the forms of the 
past, and which encourages and guides new syntheses. From this 
point of view, the coming together of the poet and the believer in 
Claudel has great value. One of the peculiarities of his poetic 
intuition was to place him in a state of sympathetic vibration with 
the living forces of his time even when, in order to oppose more 
energetically whatever was, or seemed to him, to be deviation, 
he sometimes affected a sort of heavily obstinate refusal to under- 
stand. The Claudelian dynamism is joined by a thousand antennae 
to the great movement of contemporary science which culminates 
in the generalized theory of evolution. 

But the poet does not usurp the role of the scientist, any more 
than he does that of the theologian or the scholar. He goes about 
his work as a poet should: he invents a myth. It is the myth of 
Prakriti. Nature, personified as Prakriti, has received from the 
Creator the "order" for this human universe. We discover her in 
her vast "workshop," first devoting herself to "study," then begin- 
ning to turn out one experiment after another, many of which are 
failures. She "falls prey to all the abuses of industrial production," 
but eventually the creatures she manufactures begin to "compete" 
with each other; progress is discernible, and "one finishes what 
another started/' At last the day comes when the "finishing 
touches" are given, and with everything now prepared "for man's 
use, to his scale, and in his image," man "finally severs himself 
from the earth" and "definitively assumes his stature as a child of 
God." Biological evolution is at an end. 

The universe has not become static, however, nor has its 
movement been reduced to mere periodic rotation or exchange of 
life: it pursues its forward course, "always in a state of creation" 
(p- 7), "a stream which carries us along with all the rest toward 
the final composition." 2 Let us emphasize this magnificent phrase, 
"toward the final composition." 

Must we not hail here the meaning of the poet and the sci- 
entist, Claudel and Teilhard de Chardin, so dissimilar, and yet 
both equally possessed by the fullness of a single vision which, 

* That is, chemical composition. Trans. 

Introduction xi 

far from threatening their faith, serves rather to exalt it? "Crea- 
tion has never ceased. ... It continues today, and the world is 
constantly emerging a little further from chaos. Through the great 
restlessness of creatures, something is always being done," and 
each of us, part of a vast progression of increasing complexity, 
collaborates in the "completion of the world." We should not fail 
to realize, as Monsignor Bruno de Solages, one of the best inter- 
preters of Teilhard pointed out, that in such a setting revelation 
"is more at home than in that of the cyclical universe where, for 
so many centuries, theologians have been accustomed to place it." 

As for revelation itself, Claudel knows that when it comes to 
us, "we have no choice but to accept and absorb/' (P. 10) But 
he makes no mistake about the nature of this essential passivity. 
He does not suppose that in this acceptance and absorption the 
intelligence must not come into active play. From the beginning 
and down through the ages, he sees it at work, whether in the 
act of believing or in the formulation of what it believes. He ac- 
cepts each article of the Credo as "a fact" (p. 10), but at the same 
time he realizes that Christianity, unlike other creeds, consists "less 
in a body of affirmations which impose themselves on the world 
than in the personality of the man who came to bring them to us/" 
(p. 140) Now this man is Jesus, the Man-God, and one of the 
characteristics of divinity is to be hidden. What would his disciples 
make of a formula which would proclaim His divinity as a "ready- 
made" truth? What meaning would it have for them? He will, 
therefore, strive to "elicit it, to draw it forth" from the very depths 
of their souls. "When the time has come to found His Church, it is 
from herself . . . out of this assent, this good will of the creature 
towards his Creator, that He will draw the necessary confession/* 
(p. 56) 

Thus, while it is indeed Jesus who reveals, who is revealed, it 
is Peter who believes and who, in the very act of answering Jesus' 
question, finds, under the inspiration of the Father, the first canon 
of faith. This is the nucleus, the core around which will be gath- 
ered and organized all the other formulae which make up that 
universe of dogma which, like the other universe, lives and grows 
within that sphere where the Word is now and forever contained; 
and for this work the co-operation of man, responding to divine 
revelation, is still of vital importance. But the commentary would 

xii Introduction 

be endless which attempted to expound all that the poet com- 
presses in a few vivid sentences: 

When in my village church I hear the Credo being recited, 
one article after another, by the harsh voice of the soloist, 
to which the naive whine of the little girls responds, I tremble 
with an inner ecstasy; it seems to me that I am present at the 
creation of the world. I know the cost of each one of those 
formulae printed in eternal truth with what rending of 
heaven and earth, what rivers of blood, by what effort, what 
mental travail, and with what overflowing Grace they came 
to be born. I see those great masses of dogma emerge and 
take form before my eyes one after the other; I see man 
struggling painfully and finally succeeding in tearing out of 
his own heart the final affirmation. It is like a cathedral, 
immovable and yet advancing with all its columns from porch 
to choir. (P. 9) 

This notion of man's active role in the reception and dis- 
semination of the gift of God is central to Claudel's belief, and it 
can be seen in other images as well. One of the most curious, 
which recurs frequently in his work, is provided by a free interpre- 
tation of the drama of the Pentecost. He has his own way of ex- 
plaining the symbolism of the tongues of fire. The action of God 
on the soul is often compared in Scripture to that of fire, (p. 
162) The primordial fire of the Pentecost is indeed that of the 
Holy Spirit; it is this divine fire which transforms the twelve 
Apostles into "inextinguishable torches/' But how? What "sud- 
denly broke forth over their heads on that holy day was the 
emanation of their. own souls which, having achieved a supreme 
state of vibration, burst into flames at the touch of the divine 
spark," (p. 162) And if this fire is experienced as a clap of 
thunder, the lightning which accompanies it does not fall from 
heaven, it returns there: it is the Virgin who, joining together 
these tongues of fire which emanate from the Twelve like so 
many glowing filaments, fashions them into a "single bolt" which 
she sends toward "heaven in a flaming spiral." (p. 167) 

Are we to conclude from this that Claudel secretly leans to- 
ward a form of humanism which would reduce the role of di- 
vine action in order to emphasize our own? Must we fear, or allow 

Introduction xiil 

others to hope, that transcendence is being threatened by im- 
manence, that the supernatural is being insidiously preyed on by 
the worm of naturalism? There could be no grosser misinterpreta- 
tion of the facts. In a word, Claudel is Catholic. Every page of his 
work reveals that spirit of synthesis which is the very essence of 
Catholicism. He contemplates God through the medium of His 
creation at whose multiform beauty he marvels. Just as he admires 
the material world, and just as th# starry field of the heavens in- 
spires from him a hymn in the style of the Psalmist (pp. 43, 44) , so 
he admires man, that sublime creature whom, the Bible tells us, 
God clothed in glory and honor. (PP. 39, 40) 

In God, our Creator and Saviour, he recognizes not only a 
Power over us, but also a Source which bursts forth within us, 
a source of fire and water, (p. 166) For God created us in His 
image, and, buried deep in the vilest human being, this image 
never ceases to shine. "Every living man is a temple" (p. 188), 
and if we know how to listen, we can hear within ourselves "that 
uninterrupted bass" which is the voice of Eternity itself, "the 
prompting murmur of that ocean where the verses of the Bible 
break one over the other, like giant waves endlessly stirred and 
lifted by the breath of the Holy Spirit." (p. 287) 

No, the truths are in no way diminished, the Credo is in no 
sense weakened. But each of its articles is a night distilled and 
pregnant with "light, love, power, and joy." (P. 10) Even the 
mystery of sin and its bloody redemption obliges us to rejoice: 
the whole of it may be contemplated in that spear thrust which 
went beyond the heart of Christ on the cross, which "opened 
God," which "pierced the very bosom of the Trinity/' introducing 
into it a new element, thnt "wound'* of mercy and that promise of 
the indissoluble partnership of man in the rhythm and life of the 
Trinity. (PP. 118, 145) 

The Church, which preserves intact for us the riches of dogma, 
is herself a "vast treasury of joy and beauty!" (P. 179) The true 
Catholic is not a creature alone or afraid; he feels "at home in 
the whole universe, he is the nucleus of a certain circle which ac- 
companies him wherever he goes. He is a center of composition.** 
(p. 188) 

Composition we meet again that word that was used before 
to indicate the direction of biological evolution. From order to 

^ Introduction 

order there is correspondence. Claudel is more sensitive to anal- 
ogies than to differences; this is indeed part of his function as a 
poet, which is to apprehend reality through signs. His realism 
is not, however, founded on illusion. The ultimate answer of the 
Church to the terrible questions which the world constantly asks 
must inevitably be that of Jesus: "only with the cross"; our prom- 
ised destiny is "travail, anguish, strife, and childbirth." (P. 196) 
But by the same token, is it not the Church alone which, "by fixing 
forever out of our reach the heavenly ideal to which we must con- 
form . . . has cured us forever of complacency and satisfaction" 
(p. 196), those enemies of joy? In this way we are prevented from 
settling down. By preserving Jesus Christ she keeps ever open 
for us the "pathway between God and man." (P. 286) This is 
why the Catholic is carried away with "the urge to sing." 

"Let us hearken to this Church within us, of us, which is in the 
act of giving birth to something everlasting," (p. 197) Let us 
lend an ear to this muffled roar: it seems at first to be in the dis- 
tance, but it is at hand; "it is an inexorable sea which lifts, floods, 
and submerges all/' (P. 296) It is the very voice of Being: 
'There is no longer anything but Being, there is nothing stronger 
than this summons from the perfect to the imperfect, which we 
call Love. . . /* 

"All things die, but they die in God/' (P. 286) 

Toward die end of his life, Claudel was still nursing a number 
of projects. He wished to devote a study to St. Paul. In imitation 
of the venerable authors who had initiated him into the Bible, he 
wished to compile a book of sermons. He used to say humorously 
that this would be his revenge for all the bad sermons to which 
he had been obliged to listen. 

This innocent desire for revenge took yet other forms in the 
case of other offenders. One day, when he was visiting a convent 
library, having paused before the shelves of scriptural exegesis, 
he selected the largest volume, took it in his two hands, brand- 
ished it, and exclaimed with appropriate gestures, "Someday I'd 
like to put all my commentaries on the Bible into a book like this 
one, and throw it in the face of my century!" 

Actually his intentions were less aggressive. His literary in- 
vectives and the provocative attitudes he occasionally adopted, 
not without malice, should not make us forget that he was more 

Introduction xv 

likely to imitate the gesture of the good Samaritan or even of the 
good Shepherd. There was no spiritual distress which left him 
cold. His published correspondence can be misleading in that here 
he addresses himself to writers, to famous men. It represents only 
a small proportion of similar letters which he poured forth from 
one end of his life to the other and of which the majority will 
doubtless never be known. These letters generally found their 
mark. The book which follows would like to continue their work. 



THIS WORK is NOT a collection of morceaux choisis: that is, 
a book one opens at random, usually at the same page, for a 
momentary diversion, with that minimum effort of attention 
which is favored by the brevity of the texts. 

This book is a paean, a poetic statement of faith, presented in 
a form accessible to all, having a solidly constructed groundwork 
and resting on the twelve columns of the Christian faith, columns 
of indestructible granite: the twelve articles of the Catholic Credo 

xvii - Foreword 

which Claudel affirmed with an unshakable conviction through- 
out the thirty-odd prose works whose riches we have plundered. 

Let us understand clearly from the outset that, strictly speak- 
ing, no one can "enrich" the doctrine as it has been given to us, 
but we are free to develop and to comment on it. To do so is the 
work of theologians and thinkers, and it is also the work of poets 
who, by means of their intuition and the resources of their art, are 
able to translate into beauty what would, for the general public, 
be dry and ban-en theory. 1 

Claudel is that deeply Christian poet who meditated at length 
on what the Church taught him and who, filled with ecstasy, chose 
to celebrate his faith, his hope, and his love. But this song of love, 
which we present here, is orderly, with a clearly determined di- 
rection. In addition to the direction provided by the Church in 
the wording of its Credo, we have, in each of these twelve articles, 
carefully sought a line of direction, sometimes very subtle, a 
gradual development in Claudel's thinking, with the result that 
each forms a little treatise in itself. 

That these treatises contain lacunae is inevitable because 
Claudel was not writing as a professional theologian, following 
the strict method required of a manual, but as a poet, following 
the drift of his inspiration, which was often very impulsive. Then 
too, certain articles are covered more amply than others. When 
Claudel was working on his giant compendium of over six thou- 
sand pages, it did not occur to him that someone would come after 
him to catalogue and label them. We have tried to handle this 
labeling discreetly, indicating briefly now and then the essential 
idea. (We are speaking now of the subtitles which are not, for the 
most part, Claudel's own. ) 

It is therefore indispensable, if one wishes to follow the de- 
velopment of his thought and take full advantage of the incom- 
parable riches contained therein, to read this book from the be- 

1 Although second to theology, art and literature play an important role in the 
propagation of the faith. The Church knows the persuasive power of a beautiful 
poem, an oratorio, a Gregorian chant, or an icon, and she encourages artists and 
writers to embellish her doctrinal heritage with their works. Has she not incorpo- 
rated into her liturgy poems of great lyric beauty such as the Victimae paschali, 
the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and the Dies irae, as pure jewels of faith as well as 
of literature? A living testimony of Christianity is imparted by the Triptych of the 
Mystic Lamb, the dome of St. Peter's in Rome, and The Satin Slipper. 

Foreword xix 

ginning and not to overlook the introductions provided to this end. 
In this way we would like to eliminate once and for all the preju- 
dice that claims Claudel is a difficult or incomprehensible author, 
and that maintains his biblical commentaries are not within the 
grasp of the uninitiated. Only let the reader open these pages, and 
he will be captivated at once by the profundity of thought, the 
enthusiastic faith, the fine sense of wonder, the fresh, unexpected, 
and vivid images, occasionally tinged with a delightful humor 
which is unforgettable. 

Since this book is intended for the general public, we have 
thought it advisable to give at the beginning of each division a 
very brief statement of doctrine, based on the Summa of St. 
Thomas and the Catechism of the Council of Trent. This is fol- 
lowed by a few explanatory words pointing out the relation of 
this theology to Claudel's poetry. We are concerned in this book 
only with prose works, those which are least familiar and whose 
riches we would like to suggest to the hesitant reader. After read- 
ing these excerpts, let him go directly to Les Aventures de Sophie, 
Un Poete regarde la Croix, La Rose et le Rosaire, and LEpee 
et le Miroir, to name only the most accessible. It will be seen 
what a wealth of treasure is contained in these masterly works, 
represented here only by small coin. 

Claudel sometimes frightens readers with his cosmic dimen- 
sions, his extravagant lyricism, his unusual images. He could very 
aptly be compared to a miner who digs out enormous lumps of 
ore from the mines of Creation. It is not his business to mint it, 
but ours. He is a geologist, not a goldsmith, even if those titan 
hands that delve in mountains may be more skilled than many 
in dissecting a rose. 

We have tried to extract the pure gold from his ore, but the 
reader must not be hurried and distracted or get discouraged too 
easily. Claudel is not to be taken piecemeal; he must be embraced 
as a whole. The reader who trusts in him will find that he has 
many wonders to relate. May the man who listens to him "leave 
heavy and unquiet," that is, burdened with a treasure which tor- 
ments him and expands in his heart. 

In each section of this Credo a dominant quality may be dis- 
tinguished: for example, faith and wonder in speaking of God 
the Father; tenderness and compassion for the Son, the Redeemer; 

xx Foreword 

a special fervor when reflecting on the Holy Spirit. Besides a 
sense of freshness in discussing the Blessed Virgin, and of com- 
plete dedication to the Church, there is fine psychological insight 
relating brotherly duty to the Communion of Saints, a subtle anal- 
ysis of the struggle of the sinner with redeeming Grace (Forgive- 
ness of Sins], and even a prophetic dimension in the twofold 
statement on the future life (Resurrection of the Body and Life 

It will be evident from a close reading of these passages that 
Claudel has a predilection for certain themes, especially the 
poignant struggle between the soul and Grace, and its counter- 
part, the invasion of the soul by God. Here the poet's mystical 
insights are disclosed in all their profundity* 

Whatever the particular theme, the reader will be struck by 
a certain characteristic attitude of Paul Claudel, which would 
change the face of the world were we all to embrace it: wonder. 
He marvels at God, he marvels at His work of creation and re- 
demption, he marvels at Christ and the Blessed Virgin, he pro- 
nounces with his Lord that all things are good and even very 
good." [Gen. 1:31] He does not complain, he does not criticize, 
he receives all things graciously, joyously, and humbly, without 
any bitterness: 

The general purpose of my life and vocation: a great long- 
ing and a great impulse toward divine joy, and the attempt to 
re-enlist the entire world in this movement . . . How I wish 
that Claudel the writer would disappear completely, and that 
from beneath the ridiculous trappings of the literary man 
would emerge the man who is incontestably there, that is, 
the servant of God; the man passionately devoted to the glory, 
the truth, and the love of God. 

The feeling he is left with at the end of his life is one of "humility, 
of a pure and childlike regard, turned less and less towards him- 
self and more and more towards the things of God." (Accom- 
pagnements, 225 and 228) 

A passage in Claudel's commentary on Psalm 28, which illus- 
trates very well his view on the further development of doctrine, 
provides a conclusion: 

Foreword xxi 

As with time there is an outward development of authority, 
so there is an inward development of doctrine. Nothing has 
changed, but everything comes into focus, and the third di- 
mension is added to the first two. Where before we could see 
only a mass, there is now a system. The perspectives become 
clear, the terrain is disclosed, the relationships are delineated 
and defined. What was confused and jumbled becomes dis- 
tinct. What was lifeless begins to move and offer itself to our 
study from all points of view. Scholastic subtlety does its work 
of restoration after heathen and heretical brutality has done 
its worst. All things become transparent, all things are illu- 
mined at once from without and within. There no longer re- 
mains a thicket where error may hide or the serpent escape 
the heel of the Woman. 

Sophie, 171 

In place of this thicket, there is a path of light cleared by all 
who have, like Claudel, meditated on the Scriptures and labored 
to publish them abroad. 

May this book guide the reader to the sacred texts, and may 
he become submissive to the voice of the Spirit which breathed 
so sublimely within the poet's soul. 

Salut, grande nuit de la Foi, infaillible cite astronomique; 
C'est la nuit, et non pas le brouillard, qui est la patrie 
d'un catholique. 



I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 3 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 46 

Born o the Virgin Mary 72 
Suffered Under Pontius Pilate, Was Crucified, Died, 

and Was Buried 96 

He Descended into Hell 126 

The Third Day He Rose Again from the Dead 137 
He Ascended into Heaven, and Sitteth at the Right 

Hand of God, the Father Almighty 144 
From Thence He Shall Come to Judge the Living 

and the Dead 149 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 158 

The Holy Catholic Church 175 

The Communion of Saints 214 

The Forgiveness of Sins 234 

The Resurrection of the Body 264 

And Life Everlasting 282 

Key to Abbreviations of ClaudeVs Works 
Used in the Text 


Accomp agnement s 

Art poetique 

Les Aventures de Sophie 

Cinq Grandes Odes 

Contacts et Circonstances 

Conversations dans le Loir-et-Cher 

Corona Benignitatis Anni Dei 

Correspondance Andre Suares et 

Paul Claudel 
Correspondance Jacques Riviere et 

Paul Claudel 

Discours et Remerciements 

L'Epee et le Miroir 
L'Evangile dlsai'e 
Figures et Paraboles 
Introduction au Livre de Ruth 
J'aime la Bible 
Paul Claudel interroge 

Paul Claudel interroge le Cantique 

des Cantiques 

Paul Claudel repond les Psaumes 
Un Poete regarde la Croix 
Positions et Propositions 
Presence et Prophetic 
La Rose et le Rosaire 
Seigneur apprenez-nous 
Toi qui es-tu? 
Trois figures saintes pour le 

temps actuel 







Corr. Suares 

Corr, Riviere 

Ev. Isai'e 










Trois figures 

The text of the Bible used in this book is that of the 
Confraternity Edition for all passages from the New 
Testament, and for the Old Testament so far com- 
pleted. For the remainder of the Old Testament, 
the Douay version has been used. 

I Believe in God 

I Believe in God, 
the Father Almighty 

O Credo, entier des chases visibles et invisibles, 
Je vous accepte avec un coeur caiholique. 

Odes, 57 

And then that event occurred which has dominated my life. In a 
single instant my heart was touched, and I believed. I believed with 
such an intensity of acceptance, with such an uplifting of my whole 
being, with such a power of conviction, with such certitude, leaving no 
room for any sort of doubt, that since then all the books, all the argu- 
ments, all the hazards of an active life have not succeeded in shaking 
my faith nor, to tell the truth, in touching it. 

Contacts, 12 

I Believe in God 

A N D so it was that on Christmas 
Day, 1886, Paul Claudel, at the 
age of eighteen, having lost his 
faith, suddenly found himself face 
to face with an inescapable reality 
which was to revolutionize his 
life. This young man walked into 
a cathedral and emerged a mo- 
ment later utterly transformed. 
He believed, and from that time 
until his dying breath, his entire 
life was to be animated by this 

This young man, who was 
hurled to the ground like another 
Paul on the road to Damascus, 
was also to learn to "suffer for my 
name" [Acts 9:16] and to become 
the spokesman of the living God. 
Because I spoke, you believed. 

Who is this God who forced 
Himself so abruptly into his life? 
Claudel will tell us throughout his 
writings where he delights in enu- 
merating the glories of his Lord 
and Master. 

"I am who am" [Ex. 3:14] the 
Lord said to Moses in the burning 
bush the one God, sovereign, 
transcendent, omniscient, eternal, 
boundless, possessing in an infi- 
nite degree Wisdom, Power, Jus- 
tice, and Goodness. 

This God is one in three Per- 
sons. This is the mystery of the 
Holy Trinity in which the Father, 
the Son, and the Holy Spirit are 
three distinct persons, all partak- 
ing of the same divine essence. 
Neque confundentes personas, ne- 
que substantiam separantes, de- 

clares the Athanasian Creed. And 
further on: Aequalis gloria, coae- 
terna majestas. All the attributes 
of the Father belong to the Son 
and the Holy Spirit: eternity, 
power, boundlessness. . . . 

The Father is Lord, the Son is 
Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord, but 
there is only one Lord. 

This sovereign Master is Crea- 
tor and First Cause of everything 
that exists outside of Himself. He 
is also Ruler of this vast universe 
which He governs with infallible 
Providence. He is, moreover, the 
end of every man, who will, ac- 
cording to his works, find in Him 
fulfillment and beatitude. 

Claudel has much to say of this 
God in his work, for He is above 
all a living God. 

He is not a passive God, sitting 
on His throne; He is not an ab- 
straction, a vague intellectualized 
notion. He is the God of Sinai and 
of the Beatitudes, a God "in full 
operation," even He who identi- 
fied Himself to Moses: I am. 

Pure Being, pure Action . . . 
"a God who breathes," Claudel 
has said. 

A God who is very close to us 
and loves us, but who for this 
reason demands much of us. A 
God who is concerned with our 
affairs, sometimes more so than we 
would like Him to be: "'Do you 
love me?' He says to the proud in- 
valid at the most unforeseen mo- 
ment *So much the worse if you 
find me abrupt, sudden, cruel, and 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 

fierce.' And the poor wretch, dis- 
concerted, cries: 'Lord, who is it 
you're after? You show me some- 
one deep inside me who is more 
myself than I am!" (Emmaus, 

This living God is God the 

All things have proceeded from 
His hands, which are the hands of 
"a scholar, a doctor, a sculptor, a 
virtuoso." (Cantique, 206) His 
fingers at work on us, anointing 
and consecrating, are "more per- 
suasive, more penetrating than 
myrrh." Claudel delights in ex- 
ploring the inexhaustible splen- 
dors of Creation, and finding 
everywhere the imprint of their 

One must read La L&gende 
de Prdkriti to see how well and 
with what relish Claudel's poetic 
energy, informed by science and 
animated by faith, has been able 
to reconstruct the colossal drama 
of geology. Prakriti appears as the 
person to whom God gives His 
orders; she is at work in an enor- 
mous laboratory; from her caul- 
drons there emerges everything 
from continents, giant trees, and 
monsters, to infusoria and echino- 

Claudel never ceases to marvel 
at the spectacle of God's handi- 
work. He is frequently reminded 
of that passage in the Book of 
Genesis where it is said that God 
found His works not only good, 
but "very good," that is, perfectly 
adapted to their purpose. 

This God is just. 

The Justice of God is a distrib- 
utive justice which provides every 
man with what he needs to 
achieve his end. His aim is har- 
mony, not a narrow equalitarian- 
ism. If He asks for an accounting, 
it is in proportion to what He has 
given and to what He expects from 
each one of us, but He never aban- 
dons His mercy. 

Far from grumbling about 
God's demands, Claudel extols 
this divine perfection whose pur- 
pose is to re-establish order and 
hierarchy among His creatures 
and who is able to examine them 
"down to the tenth part of a milli- 
meter." (Ep6e, 187) And if God 
seems to show anger at the sight 
of our transgressions, well, Clau- 
del says, "we love this anger, we 
want God to take us seriously," 
and he adds, "a jealous God, yes, 
as jealous as you please that's 
the way we like Him/' (]'aime t 

But how incomplete this picture 
would be without the addition of 
those other attributes which sur- 
pass all the rest: Mercy, Good- 

The God of Claudel is a good 
God, a Father, and it is as such 
that He inspires the poet's most 
moving protestations of filial love. 
It is love that allows him to dis- 
cover the most delicate designs of 
this Creator who did not create 
the world by force, with thunder 
and lightning, but "by means of 
entreaty." (Rose, 70) "He does 


not order, He requests." (Taime, 

He is not a monarch who forces 
nature to obey Him, but "a lover 
who questions with irresistible 
sweetness." And overcome with 
ecstasy, the poet sings his joy, he 
recites the Psalms of his predeces- 
sor, David, and translates them 
into his own idiom: 

Quel chant, 6 mon Dieu, inventor & 

la mesure de mon emerveillement? 
Tu mappelles, et je n'en finis pas 

d'user des heures a Tattein- 

dre. . . . 
Cree-moi un visage, a la recherche 

du Tien. 


O my God, what song can I devise 
to the measure of my marveling? 

You call me, and I cannot consume 
the hours until I reach You. . . . 

Give me, Lord, a countenance, that 
I may find Your own. 

And if God seems angry with 
his faults: "Do not turn away from 
me, O my God, it is so sad when 
You are not content." (Psaumes) 

This is what it means to believe 
in God: it is to believe in His love 
and entrust oneself to it blindly. 
To accept the Credo is not, for 
Claudel, to adjust oneself to it 

I Believe in God 

with an effort, but "to imbibe it 
for one's delight." (Cantique, 

The unknown, the unfathom- 
able mystery of God, does not 
frighten him; it plunges him in 
wonder: "The way of God is eter- 
nal regeneration, eternal surprise." 
(Positions II, 171) 

Claudel is a mystic and it is in 
the course of his meditations that 
he has experienced the sublime 
workings of Grace. "There are a 
great many things that He has 
chosen to confide to us only in a 
whisper," he tells us, having 
learned to come before God in 
utter silence. Finally, before the 
majesty of the All-Powerful, Clau- 
del's faith becomes completely 
humble, adoring, and prostrate 
a faith which is firmly grounded 
on the Credo of the Church, and 
wholly illumined by the most ar- 
dent love. 

In a little pamphlet, UAbr6g6 
de toute la doctrine chr&tienne, 
Claudel has made a condensation, 
not of apologetical ideas, but "a 
list of subjects to be examined, 
arranged in their logical and ob- 
jective order." (Toi, 100) 

It seems appropriate to place it 
at the beginning of this work. 

A Summary of Christian Doctrine 

1. God is the perfect Being, in whom all power is 
action, inaccessible to our senses, of whom we can only state 
what He is and what He is not. 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 7 

2. How do we know a living being whom we cannot 
see? By the movement of which he is the cause. The mole 
under the ground, the hare in the bush, the heart beneath the 
fingers. For we see that the whole universe is in movement. 
In this world all is movement, all bears witness to the divine 
restlessness of nature, always in a state of creation, incapable 
of existing by itself or in the presence of an unmoving Crea- 
tor; everything betrays perpetual change. 

3. Faith permits us to penetrate further into the mys- 
tery of divine physiology and to distinguish three aspects or 
functions, roles or persons: the Father who begets; the Son or 
Word or Reason who, by His existence perpetually defines 
the Father to Himself; the Holy Spirit, or Emanation or Love, 
which is the current running between the two, the Breath 
exhaled and inhaled. 

4. God, being all-powerful, has created only good 
things. A thing is called good which is well suited to its func- 
tion. A good pen, a good horse; more or less good because 
more or less suitable. God has only created things which are 
very good, that is, perfectly suited, according to their class, to 
bear Him clear testimony, to clarify Him. Imperfection in the 
work can, in fact, only be the result of some obstacle outside 
the will of the Creator. 

5. We see, however, that at the present time things are 
in fact no longer very good, that is, perfectly suited to bear 
clear witness to their Creator. We no longer understand their 
language. And what are we to say if we turn to ourselves? 

6. We live, then, in a state of disorder. There has been 
a corruption of the original Order, of the Order which charged 
all things to become visible; there has been a warping of cer- 
tain wheels, which causes friction throughout the mechanism. 
The disorder cannot, by definition, be the work of the Crea- 
tor, because everything that proceeds from Him is, by defini- 
tion, good. Therefore it can only be the work of the free crea- 
ture, free to choose himself as an end, instead of God who 
has no end. 

8 I Believe in God 

Difference, preference . . . this false preference is the 
so-called original sin, which is the result of this original differ- 
ence away from God in which the creature delights, and de- 
lights as an end in itself. 

7. The consequence of original sin, by which the finite 
being chooses himself as end, is the End, either death or sep- 
aration separation for the rebel angels forever banned from 
life, death for man who loses his body, or the essential differ- 
ence in which he delights. 

8. By his sin, man withdraws from God his body and 
the service of his body, to which all nature is bound in soli- 
darity. He is no longer "adjusted." What he robbed while in 
a state of grace he cannot now restore in a state of sin. God 
alone can restore God (or God's work) to Himself by a sort 
of re-creation or regeneration. Fiat, says the Father, voluntas 
mea. Fiat voluntas tua, answers the Son. 

9. After the fall, man hides, confesses, recognizes, and 
buries his origin and crime in the womb of woman: after the 
generations are accomplished, God emerges from the womb 
of Mary Immaculate. 

10. Through the fall, man accepted the end, or death, 
or finitude, or separation; through the cross, the Son of Man 
accepted the end, or death, or the destruction of finitude and 

1L The body of the faithful is restored to God in the 
visible unity of the Church, through our union with Christ, 
the head of the Church. Communion with Christ is essential. 
To relate to the Head, there must be a single body. We are 
the Body of the Church through our acceptance of its form, 
that is, the sacraments which are its arteries. 

12. Christ is with us. He never ceases to be present to 
His Church, as teacher through the pope and the hierarchy, 
as doctor through the sacrament of Penance, as sustenance 
through the Eucharist. 

13. Thus eternal joy is not far from us. It is not a dream 
or a morbid appetite; it is a fundamental, natural, and legiti- 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 9 

mate organic need. "The Kingdom of God is within us." It 
lies in a free act of our will, in our acceptance of the invitation 
of Grace. Kingdom means submission to an accepted "order." 
It consists in the re-established order of the creature in his 
proper place, obedient to his Creator, participating in His 
life. Fiat voluntas tua. 

14. This is why Catholic truth is best apprehended 
not theoretically, through the brain alone, but empirically, by 
placing our whole self in its proper order, like words in cor- 
rect sequence, by orientation to our surroundings, and by 
service with the body. 

Correspondance Andre Saures-Paul Claudel,* 204 

The Value of the Credo 

When in my village church I hear the Credo being re- 
cited, one article after another, by the harsh voice of the solo- 
ist, to which the naive whine of the little girls responds, I 
tremble with an inner ecstasy; it seems to me that I am pres- 
ent at the creation of the world. I know the cost of each one 
of those formulae printed in eternal truth with what rend- 
ing of heaven and earth, what rivers of blood, by what effort, 
what mental travail, and with what overflowing Grace they 
came to be born. I see those great masses of dogma emerge 
and take form before my eyes one after the other; I see man 
struggling painfully and finally succeeding in tearing out of 
his own heart the final affirmation. It is like a cathedral, im- 
movable and yet advancing with all its columns from porch 
to choir. 

Epee, 64 

This lif egiving Credo which we repeat faithfully every 
day, what is it but a distillation of mysteries? Each of its sue- 

10 I Believe in God 

cessive articles is the revelation of a fact which our intelli- 
gence is incapable of controlling, and which we have no 
choice but to accept and absorb to our delight. For each of 
these drops, these distilled nights, is quickened and impreg- 
nated with light, love, power, and joy. Now we fully under- 
stand the meaning of the eleventh verse of Psalm 138: "Night 

shall be my light/' 1 

Cantique, 216 


The One Religion 

What do they mean with all their religions? Are there 
really as many as all that? For me there is only one, and that 
is the Christian, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion. All 
the others are but the work of man. 

Emmaus, 24 

Sweetness of the Divine Law 

(Commentary on Canticle of Canticles, 1:16: "The 
beams of our house are cedars, our rafters, cypresses/') 

The walls around us are of cypress, we are told. Cy- 
press, like cedar, is a fragrant and incorruptible wood, but it 
has also a funereal connotation. Walls of cypress around us 
serve as a reminder of our ultimate end, of those boundaries 
before, behind, to right and to left which cannot be trans- 
gressed. We live within certain laws beyond which lie only 
death and sin. But how sweet are those laws! How agreeable 
it is within these panels which have been joined and finished 
by the carpenter's son! 

Rose, 56 

1 See also Canticle of Canticles, 5:2: Tor my liead is wet with dew, my locks 
with the moisture of the night." 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 11 

The Holy Scriptures, Foundation of Our Faith 

Through the Holy Scriptures, God has revealed to us 
without the least ambiguity all that is necessary for our sal- 
vation, and first is the content of our belief: one God, Creator 
of all things, original sin, eternal life, retribution, redemption, 
incarnation, the sacraments, the Church, etc. The Church, in 
its sovereign authority, has summed all this up over the course 
of the centuries in a body of dogmatic definitions which we 
are no more permitted to doubt than we are the sources from 
which she has drawn them. "Let your speech be, 'Yes, yes'; 
'No, no." [Matt. 5:37] This is why the Credo, enumerating all 
the articles of our spiritual agreement, does not fail to add: 
according to the Scripture. 

Ruth, 24 


The Believer 

The Christian is a man who knows what he is doing 
and where he is going in a world of men who, worse than 
brutish beasts, no longer know the difference between good 
and evil, between yes and no. He is like a god standing out 
in a crowd of invalids and alcoholics, not by his own right, 
but because he has placed himself in harmony with all nature 
by subordinating himself to the proper authority. He alone 
has liberty in a world of slaves. 

Corr. Riviere, 69 

Controversy Reinforces Faith 

It is often by means of the opposition which it arouses, 
the variety of resources it must summon in order to stand its 

jg I Believe in God 

ground and hold fast to its principles, and the strength of the 
resistance which it encounters and, one might almost say, 
provokes, that a passive faith becomes active, takes on form, 
movement, and expression; that after being dormant it be- 
comes aware, and instead of remaining ingeniously defensive, 
becomes vigorously and courageously militant. 

Having accepted this criterion, we can say that there is 
no doctrine more creative, more revealing, more searching, 
and more quickening for man than our Christian and Catholic 
faith. Its value lies not only in that deep and intimate har- 
mony with our original nature which it sustains in us, but in 
its open and determined opposition to what I will call the 
counterfeit and the idolatrous, to everything in us that is the 
work of second nature, of weakness, error, bad judgment, and 
bad practice. 

To bring about the conversion of all our faculties, to 
spread the Gospel to all the provinces of our souls, to put fire 
and sword to all our savage instincts, to drag the plowshare 
through this hard and ungrateful soil, to take arms against 
the monsters of concupiscence and imagination this is not 
the work of a day and, even with the help of Grace, it is not 
always the triumph of a lifetime. It is impossible to be a Chris- 
tian without effort. It is impossible to bring forth the new man 
without a painful and often heroic co-operation with the God 
who made us and who asks our help to make us anew. 

This unremitting warfare which the Christian's voca- 
tion obliges him to wage with the inferior side of his own na- 
ture, with the carapace of his own ignorance, and with the 
ferment of rebellion always seething within him, prepares and 
arms him for the external arena and for the struggle with 
this world which, until it has been overcome and subdued by 
the cross, as we have been promised, will not spare us its 
assaults, Man needs a banner. He needs a cause. He needs a 
leader. I will even say that he needs an enemy whose inces- 
sant activity forces him to the examination of his own actions, 
the assessment of his own resources, and the mobilization and 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 13 

deployment of his own energies. It is not only ourselves we 
must defend, it is the idea of a personal God, a superior real- 
ity without which man reverts to the beast and civilization to 

The spirit which must move us is that which inspired 
the Machabees when, alone in all the universe, they stood 
against the Hellenic civilization at its zenith and heroically 
defended the idea of a transcendent God. It is not merely our 
own lives which are at stake it is the spiritual salvation of 
mankind for which we are each responsible in our own way, 
and in whose interest we can never muster sufficient informa- 
tion, moral force, or supplies for the battle and the sacrifice. 
It is a matter which concerns ourselves, our God, and our 
fellow men. Only by becoming men who are fully aware, only 
by donning the shining armor of our calling, will we realize 
the vocation which has been given to us and be true to our 
glorious device: Agere et pati fortia christianum est. 

Contacts, 50 


He who no longer believes in God no longer believes 
in anything. 

Corr. Riviere, 59 


Go$s Transcendence 

God is unity. All that is not God is plurality. God is 
pure act. All that is not God is the product of power and 
action. God is immovable. All that is not God is movement 
by the transition from power to action. God is eternal. All 
that is not God is intermittent and successive and subject to 
the terms of what, on earth, we call Time. 

Presence, 263 

14 I Believe in God 


The divine unity exerts on all things a unifying and 
anagogical influence. 

Presence, 315 



The Father begets the Son, the Son is begotten of the 
Father, and the Love between the two is the breath of com- 

Emmatis, 143 

A Living God 

The Trinity is not something lifeless or passive; it is 
something which lives, breathes, and acts. 

Ev. Isdie, 64 


Even in God there is a respiration; we worship a living 
God who acts, who breathes, who exhales His very Self. 

Taime, 73 


Philosophy has too long accustomed us to the idea of 
an abstract God: impassive and indifferent. The Bible gives 
us a very different picture of Him. It shows us a living Being 
loving, angry, merciful, passionate someone in whom we 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 15 

are delighted to find our own resemblance, and who is not 
so much the negation of all that is in us, His children, as its 
transcendent perfection. The saints know whereof they speak 
when they talk about the Heart of God and His fatherly 
bowels. And the Old Testament resounds from first to last 
with His roar of rage over the betrayal of His firstborn, the 
shocking rebellion of His beloved son, which obliged Him to 
create the world and to suffer everything to which Bethlehem 
and Golgotha bear witness. 

Emmaiis, 183 


God is in no sense jealous of His creation. All that He 
creates, He creates in imitation of His own excellence. In- 
tolerant of inertia, He calls forth movement and then pro- 
ceeds to introduce the principle of movement, which is life. 
For He Himself is the Living One par excellence. To Moses' 
question He replies that His name is I am. But when the vol- 
canic moment is finally at hand, the moment for God to place 
Himself in the mouths of the prophets, then another name is 
revealed to us: I live! I live! Ego vivo! 

Taime, 72 


God's way is eternal regeneration, eternal surprise. 

Positions II, 171 


God is; that is one idea. Where God is, is an altogether 
different idea. God has neither body nor matter. He cannot, 
therefore, be anywhere, be bounded, as in a prison, by any- 

16 I Believe in God 

thing that is material If He were some place, it would follow 
that there was another place where He was not. He is, there- 
fore, omnipresent. 

When we want to look at a picture, we make use of 
our eyes. When we listen to music, we make use of our ears. 
When we think about God and meditate on Him, we need 
neither our eyes nor our ears, but we have the idea of cause 
to guide us. As a creating and sustaining cause, God is every- 
where present. Everything is, as a result of Him, but He Him- 
self remains always cause and never result. 

Toi, 78 

GodTs Name (Revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush) 

God imparts the Name which He confided neither to 
the three patriarchs, 2 nor to Noah, nor, doubtless, to Adam; 
the Name on which, according to St. Paul, the angels fear to 
gaze. Now for the first time it is about to take on a human 

"I am who am! This is what you shall tell the Israelites: 
I am sent me to you." [Ex. 3:14] 

This is the inauguration of that dread Name by which 
God is to swear throughout Scripture. . . . Here surrender- 
ing His Name, God surrenders Himself. 

Emmatis, 81 


We have here Someone who has taken the initiative, 
Someone who comes and introduces Himself to us by saying I. 
I am. And who are you, then? asks Moses. I am I. I am who 
am ... it is I, behold Me. For your sake I have taken on a 
temporal self as well as a presence, a self capable of listening, 
understanding, and replying. I hereby confide to you the 

* Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 17 

Name to which I will answer whenever called, whenever 
formed by your heart and your mouth, whenever acknowl- 
edged by that aspect of yourselves which partakes of Being. 
Every day we hear some stranger introduce himself: 
I am the butcher, I am the electrician, I am the notary; and 
the Lord, too, might well have told us: I am the Creator of 
heaven and earth. But instead He tells us: I am who am. I 
am He whose very essence is Being. I am He whose whole 
profession is to attend to this single duty, this single activity 
in Himself of existing, of existing with His own existence. I 
am One who never ceases to conceive Himself and to profess 
Himself as One who exists. I am One whose name is the Being 
of His Being. A man, an animal, an idea is something other 
than itself. But I am ... I am my own Being. 

Emmaiis, 82 


God as Judge 

Rebellious soul, the deed drawn up between your 
Creator and you, sealed within your body, watermarked on 
your soul, is still binding! You did not choose to avail your- 
self of the means you had of discharging your debt to God 
(for it was none other than God Himself who placed Himself 
in your hands). Now Justice is at hand. Whose impress is 
burned on that piece of you which has the power to release 
you from your debts? It is God's. Render then to God the 
things that are God's. Solve usque ad ultimum quadrantem, 
What you did not choose to fulfill positively you can still 
answer negatively. You can still pronounce the Yes by means 
of the No. "If I sink to the nether world, you are present 
there." [Ps. 138:8] 

You can still satisfy the contract by your denial, you 
can complete your interpretation of the law by your eternal 
payment of the appropriate fine. One does not escape God. 

Emmaiis, 153 

18 I Believe in God 

Exactness of Justice 

Man's machines are exact to the ten-thousandth of a 
millimeter, as may be verified through a microscope. God's 
justice is no less exact or exacting. Even in this world many 
people know what it costs them to undo the results of a major 
error: endlessly returning the job to the fire to permit further 

Epee, 187 


The word of God, St. Paul tells us, is keener than any 
two-edged sword [Heb. 4:12] whether it goes forward to cut 
down the obstacle or backward to triumph over the resistance. 

Epee, 11 

The Wrath of God 

What joy, what ecstasy it is to see our Father living 
and overflowing with love for us, with tenderness, compassion 
all the right emotions, even anger! Yes, we love this anger, 
we want Him to take us as seriously in our transgressions as 
in our attempts to do good. Those fools who talk about a 
cruel God are imbeciles. He is a jealous God, yes, as jealous 
as you please, but we love Him that way. 

faime, 43 

The Hand of God 

These are the infinite and ubiquitous fingers with 
which God touches, retouches, and controls His creation in 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 19 

the manner of an organist, a lover, a builder. Is it not written 
in the prophet Isaia that "My hand laid the foundations of 
the earth; my right hand spread out the heavens?" [Isa. 48:13] 
It is this hand, guided by the Holy Spirit, which He offers in 
confirmation of His promise to the whole Creation. It is the 
consecrated hand of the Sanctifier and the Priest, for it is 
written in the Canticle of Canticles that His fingers drip 
choice myrrh. [Cant 5:5] There is the hand that grips the 
sword and the one that swings the censer, the hand that com- 
mands and the hand that pardons, the hand that anoints 
Emperors and the hand that leads little Tobias to catechism. 

Presence., 274 

God's Benevolence 

God's great charity toward His creation is not that 
daily Providence whereby He dispenses nourishment, as the 
Psalm puts it, "in due season," or His special gifts to such as 
have found favor in His eyes. It is when He permits us to do 
something for Him. The first cry of St. Paul when he fell head 
over heels from his horse on die road to Damascus would 
you believe he does not even think to say thank you? is: 
"Lord, what wilt thou have me do?" [Acts 9:6] The first cry 
of creation, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the 
high, is: Lord, how can I serve You with these gifts You have 
granted me? 

Taime, 74 


The world is not large enough to contain the burden 
of mercy of which we must free You. 

Psaume, 118 

20 I Believe in God 

It makes suffering worth while to know how You are 
able to console. 

Psaume, 118 


As for me, I believe in a good God and in a life which 
is on the side of good, a life in which it is not a matter of 
indifference whether one takes one path or another. 

Corr. Riviere, 172 


Scripture admits of a mass of allusions and faint echoes 
which are a delight to those whose hearts have been touched 
and whose ears have been purified by love. Let us understand 
that there are many things that God has chosen to impart to 
us only in a whisper. 

Yaime, 22 


We can hardly bear to leave that fatherly shoulder to 
which the prodigal son returned in tears. 

Ruth, 70 


You have a Father in heaven who can no longer tell 
you from His Son! 

Seigneur, 72 


Take courage, then, presumptuous soul, in the thought 
that you have to do with a God whose mercy prevents Him 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 21 

from seeing clearly. The Bible teems with blind patriarchs, 
and doubtless it was the news of his father's dimmed vision 
which hastened the return of the prodigal son. For we know 
too well that when we rush into His arms, His eyes will be 
good for nothing but weeping. ... It is not by sight that 
the Father knows His son, but by touch. "The Lord beholdeth 
the heart." [I Kings, 16:7] It is of the heart alone that He 
demands the secret of OUT love, He inhales us that He may 
know our scent. 

Presence, 41 


O my God, how good it is to be with You! Like finding 
a shelter against the north wind and the bad season, or a huge 
rock which gives shade in a scorching land. Our eyes help us 
to see clearly, and it is wonderful how well our ears can listen 
almost well enough to hear. I am this poor dazed wretch 
who knows nothing, and the words with which to question 
You rise haltingly, one by one, to my lips. All that my heart 
held of artifice, or guile, or pretense, or presumption; all that 
false nourishment which prevented true hunger and thirst, 
that windmill of vain words in my head that tried to deafen 
me how good it is to have done with it all and simply to be 
here, tasting the utter annihilation of Your justice. There is 
someone in me other than myself who has taken command 
and rules over all my faculties. 

Ev. Isdie, 106 


The art and action of the devil, the mystics tell us, are 
always violent, sulphurous, and strained: the flame and the 
hammer, the fiery forge. The art and action of God, on the 
other hand, according to the description given us in the Book 
of Wisdom, works through Grace by means of a deep pene- 

22 I Believe in God 

tration, a sweet solicitation of our virtues. Could it be more 
aptly compared than to a dew, a liquid expansion responding 
to the light's persuasion, a decorum in fervor, an inclination 
for release, purification, and life? Buy it, then you do not 
need money, thirst is enough buy this precious elixir which 
is at once both milk and wine. . . . 

Listen, my child, you must see that all these gifts 
which I freely offer do not return empty to that infinite sea 
which I have opened for you. It is up to you to fashion a water 
wheel for it. Go to it, two-legged engineer: create, invent, cul- 
tivate, sow, broadcast, build, do good, multiply! 

Ev. Isaie, 266 


The Hands of Love 

"For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his 
hands give healing." [Job 5:18] 

We meet again those wise and gentle hands which not 
so long ago were thrust into us through the gaping cleft in our 
being. . . . 

The left hand sustains, presents, and adjusts, and the 
right hand creates. Let us admire the harmonious and un- 
speakably sensitive performance of these twin artisans. They 
reach out, and the heart of St. Therese melts at their touch. 
When the tumor and the wound are revealed to the unfail- 
ing forefinger by a stab of pain, they heal, unless we compel 
the physician to interfere. Quick as a glance, the hands ex- 
amine us from head to foot, not by means of our outward 
form, but by the inward configuration of our motives. The 
most accomplished virtuoso is not more intimately ac- 
quainted with the notes of his keyboard or the strings of his 
instrument than are these hands with the convolutions of our 
minds, the dilations of our hearts, and all the intersecting net- 
work of our nerves. How can we resist the hands which 
molded us and which know more than one way to resume 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 23 

their potter's work? Non conclusisti me in manibus inimicl* 
[Ps. 30:9] The clay is not made which is capable of resisting 
these two hands which attack simultaneously from within and 
from without. We see them pressing the sun like a giant 
sponge from which they squeeze the light. There are horns 
in the centers of His hands. 

Ah, these are not only the hands of the Creator, they 
are the hands of the crucified. 

Cantique, 231 


The Ingenuity of Divine Grace 

We open our lips to God, we make ourselves all mouth 
to receive that white pebble mentioned in the Apocalypse 
but no, it is not a pebble we are given to swallow, it is a hand. 
It is that dactylic star whose image we bear at the end of our 
arms. A physician's hand, a lover's hand, a sculptor's hand, 
the hand of a virtuoso; it is a searching, testing, intelligent 
hand, so supple it needs only its five fingers to sort out the 
scrambled threads of our lives. It is also a technician's hand 
which fixes the pattern which we weave on our loom. 

Cantique, 206 


It is not without reason that when God approaches us, 
He chooses the disguise not only of a king, a husband, a fa- 
ther, but of a beggar, a leper, an outcast. But we we have no 
need of disguise. Our naive reality, our childlike helplessness 
in the void, our deep-seated absurdity, the ridiculousness that 
is our prerogative, our abysmal weakness they are our masks 
and our court dress. For these the angels laugh and weep; 

s ln Hebrew, strength and power are called horns. Claudel preserves this sense 
in his allusion to the horns of the cross, or the wounds in Christ's hands, where 
his power was concealed. Trans. 

24 I Believe in God 

here is the pitiful and sacred tie between our Father and us, 
here is the irresistible folly, here is the oath sworn by the 
Eternal on behalf of His bruised and bloodstained creature. 

Presence, 103 


The true God is equally concerned with the luminosity 
of a nebula and the structure of an earthworm. With what in- 
credible attention to detail, what sympathy, what benevo- 
lence, what wisdom, what compassion, what humor! He car- 
ries on an uninterrupted conversation with all His creatures. 
How, then, could He not be concerned for us? ... 

In man, the relation of cause to effect takes on the 
conscious quality of filiation, of the relation of a father to a 
son. . . . "His eyes behold, his searching glance is on man- 
kind." [Ps. 10:4] Where is the Father? He resides at the roots 
of all things, He is in no one place because He Himself is the 
Father of all location, of all geometric and mathematical co- 
ordinates of space. Theology tells us that He is pure Action, 
the living substance residing in itself. Our heart tells us simply 
that He made us, that He is involved in our existence and our 
lives as the author of the idea by virtue of which we came to 
be. And if you ask your heart where is its God, this simple 
and ignorant creature replies, like Magdalen, "He is there/' 
This is all it needs to know. It is not God who exists in rela- 
tion to the heart, it is the heart which exists in relation to Him. 
Wherever God is, the heart is with Him. It is in Him. "Where 
I am," Our Lord says in the Gospel according to St. John, 
"there also shall my servant be/' [John 12:26] 

Thus we should not try to imagine God outside of our- 
selves. We should try to meet Him within our hearts by im- 
mersing ourselves in His divine Presence. 

Tot, 78 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 25 

God Awaits Our Love 

"Dost thou love me?" [John 21:15-17] 

At any cost, we must give an answer. 

The proud man who has been knocked to the ground 
(suddenly someone is at his throat, a knee is on his chest), 
the invalid, at the mercy of his private monster for days and 
months and years, the husband surrounded by the children 
his wife has just abandoned, the merchant facing the threat 
of bankruptcy, the mother beside the child who has just 
died "Dost thou love Me? So much the worse if you find 
Me abrupt and sudden, cruel and fierce! At least, I have suc- 
ceeded in knocking you off your perch. I am down here. The 
Hindus told you to ascend, well, I tell you to come down!" 

"Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for I must stay 
in thy house today." [Luke 19:5] 

In thy house it is this familiarity that undoes me. 
Lord, who is it You are after? Surely not this nonentity, this 
cipher whose name can be found in the telephone book! You 
show me someone deep inside me, beyond me, older than I, 
but more myself than I am. 

Emmaiis, 138 


God alone can teach us to love God. All we can do is 
prepare the inflammable substance as best we can and, as the 
physicists say nowadays, wait for the chain reaction. All we 
can do, within the limitations of our miserable egotism, is 
listen for and help along that feeble cry which struggles to 
say, Father! Abba! 

The conversion of the mind is difficult enough, but how 
much more so the conversion of the heart! For the love of 
God is total, embracing all things, and jealous; it is at once 

26 I Believe in God 

personal and transcendent. It beckons us to that path which 
leads to His heart of hearts, for God is love. He is not too 
weary after all the miracles, nor all the miseries in which we 
founder, nor all the extremities through which our fortunes 
lead us, to reveal Himself to us as our one hope of salvation, 

Emmatis, 137 


"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole 
heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength!" 
[Luke 10:27] Good Lord, what a commandment, what a 
syllabus! We are only too glad to pass on these formidable 
words to our children, and if You ordered us, as You did the 
Israelites, to inscribe them on our doors, to wear them on 
little bands around our arms and foreheads, this would be far 
easier than to engrave them on our souls. You do not ask 
much just our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole 
strength. Even in our own interests and to satisfy our most 
urgent and immediate needs, we manage to use only a weak, 
inadequate, and incoherent portion of those potentialities 
which are attributed to us. As for Mr. Average Man, even 
when backed to the wall and hard pressed on all sides by 
circumstance, he can scarcely manage to summon, for better 
or worse, a feeble last recourse. And we are to do all this for 
Yow sake, for the sake of the Absentee par excellence, the 
how shall I say? professional Absentee, the One who by 
definition eludes all our direct inquiries. My reader may say, 
"I do not know about those Israelites, but as for me, the 
person under discussion, I manage to get along pretty well 
without all this." 

Tell me, do you also get along without breathing? 
There is a heart in your breast that knows more about God's 
command, and has known it longer, than you do. For this 
heart incessantly and tirelessly makes, unmakes, and remakes 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 27 

you, drenches you in Him, and forces you back to the very 
extremity of your being. 4 And what sustains this heart, what 
keeps it beating, if not our power of dilation, if not our power 
of inhalation and exhalation? Which is another way of saying 
that we live by God, we take fire from God, through God 
alone we nourish that flame which we must keep alive for 
our allotted time. I am well aware that we do not meet God 
face to face, but what more ingenious chemistry could He 
devise than to blend Himself with our breathing? 

Emmaus, 128 


It is only after the deliverance from Egypt, after the 
manna, the parting of the waters, after Sinai, after those forty 
years when an entire nation took their nourishment from His 
very hands, that God, through the mouth of His representa- 
tive, Moses, on the eve of His death, removes the veil from 
a dread choice, as if it could no longer be withheld, and de- 
cides to betray His inmost thoughts and desires. And simi- 
larly, it is only after three years of preaching, teaching, and 
petitioning, of the revelation of all the mysteries, corroborated 
by all the miracles, after the Last Supper, the Cross, and the 
Resurrection, that Our Lord ventures to ask His chief disciple, 
almost with a certain timidity, the question which has been 
postponed until then, "Peter, dost thou love me?" But once 
is not enough; the question is repeated, "Peter, dost thou love 
me?" And yet a third time for on this answer everything 
depends; the leader of our Church must hear the solemn and 
heartbreaking question, "Peter, dost thou love me?" [John 


Emmaiis, 137 

* Literally, "of your star" (etoile) which represents the body with its five "prongs" 
the head and the four limbs. Trans. 

28 I Believe in God 


And so with us Christians, it is not just once but all 
through our lives of joy and sorrow that God repeatedly asks 
us less with a voice than with that ear tirelessly bent towards 
us, "Do you love Me? Do you love Me?" and yet again, "Is it 
really true? Is it really from the bottom of your heart and 
your soul and your mind? Do you love Me?" 

Emmaus, 138 


God, our lover, tirelessly lays siege to that well- 
guarded citadel where we are the prisoners of sin, ignorance, 
and habit. He is there like the light, ready to take advantage 
of the tiniest crack. And what an enormous breach is being 
widened every hour of the day and night by those thousands 
of priests and believers who, surrendering to their duty, are 
beginning to speak to God in His own language! 

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord," Mary is continu- 
ally telling God in heaven, and the Church is continually 
telling God on earth. 

Accompagnements, 148 


There is an intelligence at work on us which the 
learned theologian calls subtle, which I like to read as in- 
genious. Under this penetrating gaze, at once grave and per- 
sistent, we feel our soul becoming clear even in its own eyes. 
Being pure, "she penetrates and pervades all things by reason 
of her purity." [Wis. 7:24] Such an intelligence can cut 
through whatever is acquired, irrelevant, artificial the allu- 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 29 

vium of sin and habit, It goes straight to the essential, it re- 
unites in us the principle of causality and reverence, and that 
attempt on our part to stand erect which results in the cry 
Abba. It releases our stiffened limbs, and teaches us not to 
use the left hand to make the sign of the cross. It penetrates 
all things. 

This does not mean that it has any traffic with sin, but 
it has that simplicity and sincerity which is able to distinguish 
light from shadows and, by separating the shadows, renders 
them distinct and ready to disappear at the confessional grill. 
It impregnates us to the roots, it takes a sort of plaster cast 
of us. This vigorous and pithy benevolence, which is not put 
off by any dodge or denial, pushes quietly and relentlessly 
into our inmost vitals. It blends baptism, union, spirit with 
our breathing. In its presence, the ordinary man suddenly 
feels that he is accepted, that he can be understood. Just let 
it try to withdraw now, and the sense of loss would wring 
from man a cry of anguish and despair. 

The Church knows what it is saying when it speaks of 
an inner light, a lifegiving light! . . . Just as one says that 
a patient has a fever, here we in our turn "have" light and 

Rose, 227 


His Love for His Creature 

"On that day says the Lord, She shall call ine, 'My 
husband/ and never again 'My baal/ " [Osee 2:18] 

This declaration of marriage which God audibly and 
distinctly makes to man do we realize even today the extent 
to which it is inordinate, unprecedented, staggering, and how 
far it exceeds the most extravagant dreams of paganism? This 
Creator God on whom the most powerful spirits fear to gaze 
becomes, against all the laws of nature, our Lover in the most 

30 I Believe in God 

possessive sense of the word, adhering to the deepest root of 
our being. He becomes not only our lover but our son, for 
He has also assumed our face and our flesh! Overcome with 
wonder, I can only say it is madness, it is too much. . . . 

Look, see God striding across the earth like a sower; 
He takes His heart in both hands, and scatters it over the face 
of the earth! 

Ev. Isdie, 200, 202 


"Could you not then watch one hour with me?" Could 
you not grant me the favor of an hour? The Eternal is at your 
feet, Israel, do you not hear Him begging for the favor of an 
hour? Has He done nothing for you, ungrateful people? Have 
you found Him faithless or untrue? What cause has He given 
you that you now refuse Him your trust? For all eternity I 
have loved you, He says, I have cared for you, I have been 
yours. One would say that I am God just for your sake. And 
you, can you not give Me an hour? One hour is all the time I 
need to give you everything. One hour is all I need to restore 
to my beloved Son all that I created for his sake. If you only 
knew what need you have of Me and I, in turn, of you! 

Ev. Isdie, 17 

The Service of God 

God has become our guest, He is seated at our table. 
Each day we give Him food and drink, we offer Him the fruits 
of our labors. There is a whole race whose sole duty is to 
serve Him. And surely not without an element of fear, that 
fear which is the beginning of wisdom. Nor without an ele- 
ment of interest; why not? God knows the human heart. He 
wants us to love Him with our whole heart and our whole 
strength; why should He not want us to invest in Him a vital 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 31 

interest, a daily interest, a basic interest composed of all other 
types of interest, including the most humble? 

Emmaus, 127 

Intimacy with God 

By means of intimacy, by means of forcing His com- 
pany on us, by means of that fine net of obligations and ges- 
tures which He spreads over all the activities of our lives, God 
hopes that eventually we will feel at home, that we will gain 
confidence, and through confidence, Faith, and through Faith, 
good faith. God hopes that we will no longer respond ration- 
ally but instinctively to His wishes, and that we will learn to 
show to Him, Who is Grace itself, something other than an 
ill grace. God hopes that one day there will move deep in 
our hearts, like an underground stream, the meaning of this 
cry: fili, praebe mihi cor tuum! and that sometime, when we 
are sure no one can hear us, we will no longer call Him You, 
or Thou with a capital T, but thou with a small t. 

Emmaus, 127 


God, Motive of Our Actions 

God, on whom no good intention is lost, nor any lovely 
object, nor any kind deed, and who knows the true value of 
the orchid and the diamond which no human eye will ever 
see, also knows anything that we do for His sake, which 
should be our sole motive. 

Com Suares, 100 


To Live in God 

I rise in the morning, I open my window to the sun, 
and I inhale God. I stretch out my arms as far as they will go, 

32 I Believe in God 

and I inhale God's creation! All this passes from the outside 
in the whole Creation, all things visible and invisible, in one 
draught, and with it that part of me which is perpetually 
creating it anew. It is worth your while to linger for a moment 
with eyes and ears closed so that, when you reopen them, 
you may partake more fully and deeply of the Cause. "Open 
wide your mouth," says the Psalm, "and I will fill it." [Ps. 

Emmaus, 129 



The Incarnation and the Redemption, those prodigious 
events, have benefited man, but the ultimate end for the Son 
was the Father, the reparation of the harm done His Father, 
the restoration of His damaged workmanship, damaged not 
only by the original sin of man but by the primordial revolt 
of Satan. It is staggering to realize that for this work He 
needed us, and continues to need us. Hence the incomparable 
dignity of the Blessed Virgin over all other saints. And we, 
too, according to our station in life, according to our vocation 
in the Church, are called to God's assistance. Even this has 
been granted usl 

Taime, 19 


Remember to Keep Holy the Sabbath Day 

The commandment begins remember. Indeed, in the 
course of the working days, in the occupations and preoccu- 
pations of the week, we are inclined to forget God, to stop 
thinking about Him. It is therefore necessary to set aside one 
day for the express purpose of thinking of Him, a day to be 
consecrated to Him, to be lived in His presence and in His 
awareness. We must insert a pause, suspend the course of our 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 33 

activities and our labors in order to place ourselves in an atti- 
tude of meditation and retreat, and to give our Master time 
to see and judge what we have done. This abstention, this 
recess, is therefore the first condition of sanctification. 

Sophie, 127 

Man and the Angels 

What do you think of this idea: man exists in order to 
know, and the Angel knows in order to exist? Man was made 
to give God the acknowledgment, the free and intelligent 
homage of the various ranks of the material Creation which 
are ranged above and beside and around him, down to the 
lowest form of life. The Angel draws his reason for being 
directly from God Whom he translates at sight, thereby real- 
izing his own existence in that peculiar manner which dis- 
tinguishes him from the other spirits around him who are 
necessary to his apparition. 

Presence, 253 


GocFs Relations with Man in the Bible 

The terrible Yahweh of Sinai, who manifested Himself 
in thunder and earthquakes, a woman has ravished with 
one glance of her eyes, with one bead of her necklace. 5 He 
has become the darling, the plaything. She brings Him into 
her mother's house, where she will prepare for Him that cup 
which He will have ample time to savor at Gethsemane and 
on Calvary. And He in turn will teach her something which 
conquers death, which is above death, and in comparison with 
which the gift of one's person, or indeed one's very substance, 
is worth nothing at all. 

From this point on, sacred history is nothing but a love 

5 The woman represents Humanity; cf. Canticle of Canticles, 4:9. 

34 I Believe in God 

story, an appeal to the tenderest, most natural and profound 
sentiments of the human heart, with whose pathos the most 
popular novels of all the world's literatures can never com- 
pare. This Humanity who is a woman and who was so moving 
in the part of Rebecca and of Ruth, and so strong in the role 
of Delilah and of Bathsheba, we now see rescued from devils 
by a youth sent into the heart of Asia for this purpose; we see 
the King of the Universe sharing his scepter with her, before 
the courage of a besieged city puts a victorious sword in his 
hands. 6 What indulgence on the part of the Husband and, 
alas, what frivolity on the part of the Wife, and what untiring 
treachery in return for constant forgiveness! 

, 28 

Covenant with the Chosen People 

You are my Seminary. You are the human plot which I 
have set aside for myself in order to obtain, out of all coun- 
tries and ages, the perfect blossom for which I have waited. 
I chose you, I transplanted you, I carried you in my arms. 
For forty years I, Myself, fed and watered you. It is My will 
that you be fed and watered only by Me; it is My will to 
possess you and to give Myself to you to possess in utter de- 
pendence, to instil in you forever the taste for Me, for the 
Father and the Mother that I am. ... I wish there to be no 
human activity, whether it be to eat or to work, to fight or to 
propagate, or to exercise whatever form of possession has 
escaped My glance. 

The problem now is to give the desired form to this 
instrument of My will which is what you must be. This is not 
the work of a day. For it is not enough for Me to fashion you 
a body, I must fashion you a heart to match. Learn from Me, 

* One will have recognized successively: Sarah and Tobias, Esther and Assuerus, 
and Judith. 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 35 

by having to do without Me, by all the methods which I will 
use to train you, by not being able to get along without Me 
and My love. Learn from Me what it has cost to teach you to 
be My son. I am not only One who imposes, but One who 
proposes. . . . 

Thus speaks the Eternal to His people, as the basket maker 
speaks to the basket taking shape in his hands. 

Emmaiis, 119 


God the Creator 

God has sown the world with His likeness. 

J'aime, 26 


From the first lines of Genesis, how happy we are to 
see divine Love operating not so much by way of injunction 
as by way of solicitation. The Fiat lux does not present light 
as a fabrication but as a spontaneous eruption in answer to a 
wish. And how could the sea and the desert ever bring them- 
selves to begrudge the fish, the birds, and all the other animals 
to that Lover who questions them with such irresistible sweet- 

Rose, 70 


During the last two centuries, Christians have had only 
two attitudes toward the world. The first has been to regard it 
as bad, as sordid and contemptible, a source of temptation or, 
at best, of distraction. This attitude amazes me and strikes me 
as close to heretical. For after all, the world is God's work, it 
speaks to us of its Author in a language which we should learn 

36 I Believe in God 

with infinite reverence, joy, and care; it is made up of things 
which God Himself has solemnly declared to be good and 
very good. The second attitude is one of filial placidity. These 
people believe in God and calmly accept His benefits, simply 
taking them at face value as useful for the welfare of their 
bodies, without trying to discover whether by any chance 
God's benefits might be useful for the welfare of their souls. 
This is somewhat the attitude of a stockholder. 

The truly Christian view is that all God's works are not 
only good, but very good, not only in relation to us, whom 
they delight, but in relation to God, Whom they signify; and 
although their material usefulness may result from the labor 
of our body, their spiritual meaning is the result of the search- 
ing of our mind. 

Toi, 49 


The Virtuosity of the Creator 

You created all things at once, and behold all things 
grow at Your summons like the seedlings in a flower bed of 
whom the gardener says, "They're coming along nicely . . ." 
You clap your hands and suddenly there appears the angel, 
the chimpanzee, the butterfly, the whale, and the toad wear- 
ing spectacles not to mention those galaxies which burst and 
spill forth like egg yolk, who knows how or why! 

Ev. Isaie, 172 


I have only to breathe, and behold, a plant, an animal. 
And wonder of wonders! . . . one fine day there emerged 
from me a living man someone capable of understanding 
when spoken to, and of asking questions and giving answers. 

Ev. Isdie, 136 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 37 


God has a design which He carries out in successive 
stages, not by virtue of an arbitrary decision but in order that 
each day may make its contribution to the one that follows, 
and each evening contain the innovations of the new day. 
First He creates light, as if in order to see clearly, and next, 
that vast expanse [of firmament] which is at once a principle 
of adhesion in form and a principle of variation in hierarchy. 
, . . Without light and space, there could be no plant life. 
God "orders" a plant as one orders some item from a workshop 
already in operation. One could just as well say that he re- 
quests it and lo, the whole mechanism, dimly conscious of its 
own hidden potentialities, responds multifariam multisque 
modis to what is required of it. 

And so it goes as the Creator orders the reptiles, the 
fish, the birds, from the earth, the sea, and the sky and finally 

J'aime, 77 


It is easy to imagine that God created the world not so 
much by a succession of tours de force as by a series of re- 
quests. This is how nature must have received the order for 
the palm tree, the mushroom, the fern, the insect, the four- 
footed animal (and why not the two-footed animal as well?), 
to which it must have replied with a wondrous variety of sub- 
missions. God acts in His own unique way, and when we con- 
sider those mysterious propositions which He addresses to 
nature, how can we imagine that He abstains from them in 
the case of his favorite creature? 

Discours, 118 

38 I Believe in God 


For all created things, inequality and particularity is a 
condition of life. "According to their kind, according to their 
nature," the Bible insists. It is a whole catalogue that is dis- 
closed at once. The creatures not only multiply, they com- 
pete. Their whole reason for existence lies in diversity. They 
act as each other's boundaries, that is to say, limitations. Each 
is defined outwardly by its form and inwardly by its needs. 
One finishes what another started. One supplies the answer to 
the question unconsciously posed by the other. . . . 

Figures, 118 


Nature at Work (Personified by Prakriti) 

We find Prakriti busily engaged in making her con- 
coctions. The giant ovens are operating on all sides, the scales 
rise and fall, the continents are subjected to an alternating sys- 
tem of baths and emersions, enormous vegetable masses are 
put on the fire, thickened, kneaded, sprinkled with salt and 
sand, and treated with powerful sauces. A mineral darkness is 
created, in which fire finds its fuel and modern man the ma- 
terials for his kitchen. . . . 

(We have arrived at the age of the giant reptiles. ) 
These are veritable animal tanks which had to be con- 
trived in order to clear a passage through the undergrowth 
of cycads, ferns, and creepers. The earth trembles, uprooted 
trees crash to the ground, the woods are filled with a mon- 
strous noise of cracking, crunching, and trampling, and in the 
clearing giant creatures appear. 

(This geological period comes to its end.) 
The experiments are finished, nothing remains but to 
send all these absurd carcasses to the rubbish heap. The time 
has come to take a step forward and conquer this obsession 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 39 

with the reptile which has definitely run its course and no 
longer meets the requirements of the situation. . . . 

(Prakriti amuses herself . . .) 

She hides surprises, and puts riddles inside certain of 
her creations, as the cook sometimes bakes favors into birth- 
day cakes. 

Or at times she becomes bored, she plays the fool, she 
repeats herself stubbornly, she falls prey to all the abuses of 
industrial production, she overproduces the most ordinary 
articles at die expense of superior models; one would say that 
she can no longer stop herself. Or again, having evidently just 
received an order, she stops in the middle of her work as if 
she finds it too difficult, or has suddenly thought of something 
else. . . . She no sooner hears the word Horse than she pro- 
duces that ridiculous little chess piece called a sea horse, 
which she drops into her aquarium. . . . She is told Lizard, 
and she makes an ichthyosaurus. . . . 

(Now the preparations are made for the coming of 

The rhythm of the seasons has been established, mod- 
ern plant and animal life have been introduced and perfected, 
the voices of the birds are heard, all has been refashioned for 
man's use, to his scale, and in his image. It is the dawn of His- 
tory, springtime in Paradise. "The flowers appear on the earth, 
the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the 
dove is heard, arise my beloved and come!" [Cant. 2:12] 

This is the final touch, man who severs himself at last 
from the earth, definitively assumes his stature as a child of 
God, and takes his place in the Paradise of pleasure. 

The myth of Prakriti: Figures, 113-144, et passim. 


The Coming of Man 

O superb creature, more beautiful than all the imita- 
tions of classical art, at once proportion, variety, volume, de- 

40 I Believe in God 

sign, and harmony, whom your maker molded as if with per- 
fumed hands! No, not molded, but called forth. All the ele- 
ments rushed eagerly together from all sides at the scent of 
your fragrance. The sculptor works from the outside, whether 
he kneads the clay or carves the marble with great mallet- 
blows. But here the human creature, consisting of a soul and 
a body, yields to the touch of inner hands. At work on us are 
fingers more seductive than myrrh, and nothing in us can 
resist their pervasive influence. This odor of immortality has 
passed over us and left its lingering scent. 

What are these fingers, you will ask, these hands at 
work on us whose impression we Christians never cease to 
feel? All that proceeds from the supreme Anointed One is 
unction, 7 and we, religious animals whom He quickens with 
His breath, are the recipients of His multiform sacrament: Tu 
septiformis munere, digitus paternae dexterae. 8 

Cantique, 158 


The Liturgy of Man and Nature 

In the inexhaustible lottery of the Infinite, God had 
already planned to win, to snatch between His fingers that 
little ball, our earth, and by breathing on it, make it the closed 
garden of His Beloved. Like an artist whose mind and hand 
separately, and one might almost say competitively, pursue 
the same design, God's justice throughout the six days was 
already plotting the means of making man the prisoner of His 
mercy. Already Space had infringed on Infinity and Time on 
Eternity, and Weight and Measure, which were pledged to 
His creature's profit, had fixed boundaries to His liberty. 

An eye and a voice have wakened to take endless 

7 Christ; the word Christ in Greek means anointed. The reference is to His sacer- 
dotal unction received at the Incarnation. 

8 Pentecostal text: Veni Sancte Spiritvs. 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 41 

notice of Him; a demand on Him has arisen which there is no 
possible way for Him to escape. Something has been born out 
of nothing, which can give Him an exposition of His goodness, 
its study, apprenticeship, and imitation. Something good has 
been born to tell Him in multiplicity and in harmony, in the 
rhythm of evening and morning, in appearance and disap- 
pearance tell Him endlessly that He is better. On earth as in 
heaven, behold the Father can now no longer escape His own 
Word. The service, the chorus, the liturgy of nature has be- 
gun. Something with innumerable voices has been tuned har- 
moniously to tell Him that He exists. Something that is perish- 
able reappears tirelessly to tell Him that He endures. 

It is not enough. Above and beyond all this activity 
God has found for Himself someone in His image, someone in 
and above the universe whose function is to understand Him, 
to explain what He means, what He says, and what He does 
with regard to His Creation, to put Him to work, to make the 
most of Him, to guide Him, to add speech to song and mean- 
ing to ceremony. Behold Man. 

AccompagnementSy 137 


Man Before the Creation 

In all that God has made we have nothing to scorn or 
reject; we have everything to understand. It is up to us to dis- 
cover in each creature the mark of its Creator, of whose praise 
He has made it the faithful guardian. What it has to teach us 
of God, we must read from within (intelligere) and confront 
without prejudice but with respect, patience, and sympathy; 
not with the attitude of a judge or a superior, but as a brother, 
as St. Francis used to address himself to Brother Fire and 
Brother Wolf. The idea is not to turn nature over to artifice, 
but to set her on fire. The idea is to come to an understanding 
with her and to teach her why she was made. What is im- 

42 I Believe in God 

portant is for every creature to make the most of its essential 
individuality, of what St. Denis calls its "dissimilitude." 

Positions II, 198 

Teaching God Through His Likeness 

The Creator is ever present within His creation, and 
it is through it that He speaks and tells us everything, not only 
the order and beauty of the universe in number, weight, and 
measure, over which preside the two great luminaries and the 
whole astronomical system, but the whole humble catechism 
of nature. The lily is purity; the lamb, obedience; the ox, pa- 
tience; the hen, maternal love; the serpent, the deadly and in- 
visible enemy; the weeds ( and what variety! ) , evil thoughts 
that kill the garden, and falling leaves are all things that 
change and reappear. 

All things arrive punctually for our instruction and 
welfare, our ordeal or punishment. When Job complains and 
blasphemes, God's only defense is to exhibit His works. What 
apparent connection is there between the Pleiades and this 
man on his dung heap, consumed by ulcers? And yet both live 
under the same watchful eye. And later Our Lord will tell us 
that He knows not only the number of His stars, but of His 
sparrows, and that not one hair can fall from our heads with- 
out His leave. Here is the primer of theology which should be 
taught to children and simple people before proceeding to 
the mysteries. "If thy eye be sound . . /' but it is God Him- 
self who undertakes to teach us how to see. 

Ruth, 77 


The Splendor of Creation: The Stars 

When at the world's prow I consider that vast rice 
field, my lips begin to murmur the opening words of that first 
prayer which the good sister at Bar-le-Duc taught me to say: 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 43 

"Our Father who art in Heaven," and the first verse of that 
great book to which I returned on the evening of my conver- 
sion, never to put it down again: "In the beginning God 
created the heavens and the earth." And further on it is writ- 
ten, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Lips of fire on 
which tremble a story without end. 

I lift my eyes to the zenith and in the vault I perceive a 
Giant, his foot on the Milky Way, delivering a sermon to the 
accompaniment of that dread millstone which he whirls 
round and round in his hands. I look to the west and there I 
recognize a million and a half throbbing maidens endlessly 
reciting the Rosary. My mind may wander elsewhere but I 
am sure to find you always in your places, O unwearying 

... It is at once a timepiece and a paradise ... it is 
a code whose key is everywhere, it is an exaltation and a choir, 
it is an equation and a city. 

Presence, 245 


Surrounded by this sea of blackness and of milk, my 
soul feels every porthole thrown open and everything rushes 
into it to raise the water level of joy. What do I care for the 
operations of algebra or the findings of physics? What knowl- 
edge and what pleasures are comparable to those told of in 
the Apocalypse and which the Latin text specifically calls cal- 
culations? They filled the hand of a Sower more prodigal than 
Hop-o'-my-Thumb. From pole to pole these unalterable 
specks describe the pathway which we are to take in pursuit 
of the pilgrim's staff of St. James. But what fascinates the be- 
holder, what sends a holy shudder to the roots of his hair, is 
the prodigious activity which animates this swarm of bees, 
this arithmetical meadowland. It was the Seer Rimbaud who 
was the first to see "the shores of the sky all covered with 
these snowy nations of joy." 

44 I Believe in God 

Although we no more understand their meaning than 
we do the social instincts of the anthill or the beehive, there 
are, in the infinite vastnesses of Space, nations busily engaged 
in an activity so strenuous that it seems as if we have only to 
cock our ears to hear a whir equal to the hum of a great 
metropolis. Pascal wrote, "I tremble before the eternal silence 
of these infinite spaces/' 

But how can one be afraid of a meadow? Is not a star 
as familiar to our hearts as a sprig of lily of the valley, as 
precious as a garnet? We have only to gather them. We have 
only to lift our eyes to read on all sides the proclamation of 
Peace. Why complain of an excess of riches? What does our 
timidity mean, if not a desire to limit them? 

And I ask you, why speak of silence when I have only 
to be still to hear a Hallelujah and a chant, a poem and a 
Credo, a Hosannah and a Confiteor, and, caught in the vast 
coil of the explications of the Father, the cries of swallows and 
children and the sobbing of a woman wild with job? Silence 
indeed. The Psalmist is right when he tells us that "the 
heavens declare the glory of God," and Isaia when he im- 
plores the islands to be still. ( Taceant insulae ad me. ) Be- 
hold their kind of silence. 

... I see the huntress Artemis with her bow, Venus 
like a green Psyche, a lamp in her hand, Mars all stained with 
the blood of sacrifice and, supreme among the Pleiades in the 
most crowded part of the firmament, Jupiter dispensing jus- 
tice in his mantle caught with a purple sash. I never tire of 
gazing on this direct confirmation of movement in fixity, 
frozen for me by distance. 

Presence, 298-301 


Glory, the Prerogative of God 

Glory is the exclusive property of God, as we are told in 
the Epistle to the Romans: "To the only wise God, through 

I Believe in God, the Father Almighty 45 

Jesus Christ, be honor forever and ever" [16:27] and in Isaia: 
"I am the Lord, my glory I give to no other." [42:8] 

This does not mean that He guards it jealously for 
Himself alone; every day at Mass we hear that heaven and 
earth are filled with His glory. But it does mean that He alone 
is its true dispenser, just as He alone is the object worthy of 
it ... This is why we see Him in the Apocalypse crowned 
with many diadems while the twenty-four elders fall on then- 
faces and cast their crowns at His feet. Although that crown 
belonged to Him by eternal right, He nevertheless chose to 
earn the right to wear it, for in the words of Isaia: "He has 
clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a 
mantle of justice" [referring to the flesh which He assumed] 
"like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem." [61:10] 

Taime, 102 

And in Jesus Christ, 
His Only Son, Our Lord 

L'Amour rrfa desarme, et man Pere ne m'est plus un rempart, 
Connaissez-vous enfin ce coeur que vous avez perce de part en part? 

Corona, 69 

"CHRIST is my only King, it is 
for Him that I fight, it is to Him 
that I have given my glove, it is 
Him I would glorify and defend, 
repeating to His blind enemies the 
heart-rending cry of the aged Ter- 
tullian: 'Farce unicae spei, totius 
generis humanil* " 

So Claudel wrote to his corre- 
spondent Andre Snares (Corr. 


Suares, 160) in the confident tone 
of a man of invincible faith. Fur- 
ther on he added, "There is only 
one truth, and that is to love Jesus 
Christ and to teach others to love 
Him, to give Him our poor miser- 
able and lacerated hearts." (Ibid., 

Who is this Christ, then, to 
whom the poet so resolutely dedi- 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 


cated his life? The Church tells 
us: He is the Word incarnate, God 
made man. The very Son of God 
who, seeing into what a state of 
disorder sin had thrown the very 
good work of His Father, seeing 
what havoc it had wrought among 
men, freely offered Himself to put 
everything to rights by means of 
His incarnation and redemption. 

Conceived of the Holy Spirit, 
He assumes flesh in the womb of 
the Virgin, receiving at that mo- 
ment the sacerdotal unction which 
anoints Him High Priest of the 
Most High, Mediator between sin- 
ful humanity and His Father, 
King of the numberless multitude 
whom He comes to redeem by be- 
coming the expiatory victim, 
Teacher of these ignorant men 
who walk in the shadow of error, 
Head of that Church which He 
has come to found, Doctor of the 
souls and bodies on which He is 
to lavish His benefits. In a word, 
the Messiah promised for long 
centuries by the prophets and, on 
the last day, Judge of the quick 
and the dead. 

Amazing privileges accorded to 
a man, these are counterbalanced 
by the crushing weight of the re- 
demptory anguish. His counte- 
nance is both supremely glorious 
and infinitely pitiful in which the 
extremes of beatitude and suffer- 
ing meet without diminishing each 

He is Alpha and Omega, the 
King of Kings, but also the Man 
of Sorrows humiliated even to 

Gethsemane and Calvary, the 
Man-God, Saviour of the world. 

Claudel speaks to us of his Sa- 
viour with a fervor that is now 
ecstatic, now compassionate. 

"Behold Him who made the sun 
recoil/* he says, recalling Joshua, 
the figure who foreshadowed 
Him. His very glance has power: 
"One look from Him at Peter, at 
John and Andrew at their nets, at 
Matthew at his ledgers, at Bar- 
tholomew under the fig tree, was 
enough to appoint them Apostles." 
(Apocalypse, 223) And above all, 
there is tender compassion for all 
human misery. "At the emanation 
of the Word all things are born, 
all things open, all things bare 
themselves, all things expand.* 
(Ibid., 20) 

What is His message? "It is not 
to make use of your eyes in order 
to see me, nor of your ears in or- 
der to hear me, nor of your legs in 
order to reach me, but of your 
hearts in order to love me." ( Ruth, 
68) His task, Claudel says further 
on (Ibid., 90), "is to reach into 
our heart of hearts. ... He is a 
benefactor, a doctor who gathers 
together the wounded, the good 
shepherd in search of the lost 
sheep, the father who embraces 
the dishonored son!" (Ibid., 91) 

His aim is to reach the soul, and 
He prefers the simplest ways to 
do so. 'The touch of a hand, the 
brushing of a garment, a bit of 
moistened earth applied to the 
locked eyelids" (Poete, 191), and 
all these cripples, these invalids, 


these bedridden souls open, ex- 
pand, and live. He works "like a 
fire, like a leaven, like a catalyst." 
(Apocalypse, 20) He is not come 
for the body alone, but for the 
soul, "not to fill our stomachs, but 
to inseminate our souls" (Ibid., 
322), to make them fruitful and 
ready for eternal life. 

In His Eucharistic aspect which 
continues the Messianic life of 
Jesus, there is tenderness for all 
those who come to refresh them- 
selves at His table. "His head is on 
my shoulder," says the poet in ec- 

I Believe in God 

stasy, "it is damp, and I hold in my 
arms this shower of rain, tears, 
and hair. ... It is the Creator in 
my arms, weeping for His crea- 
ture." (Rose, 57) Claudel sings 
with joy of "the chalice of the 
Last Supper, that lip placed to 
a living, fluid God," (Cantique, 
402) And what intimacy is re- 
vealed to us by this sentence 
which has escaped his enraptured 
heart, "Learn from me that you 
are no other than the vessel from 
which I wish to taste and drink in 
humanity." (Cantique, 271) 

God, being unable to make Himself known, contrived 
to make Himself born. 1 

Rose, 73 

The Son of God 

There is no crime greater than blasphemy. The Bible 
tells us that the specific charge brought against Christ was 
blasphemy, that is, the crime against the Deity itself, the at- 
tribution to the Deity of some quality that disparaged its 
majesty. What was this blasphemy? For answer we have the 
contemporary testimony of St. Paul. From the first historical 
evidence of any Christian, from the first undeniably authenti- 
cated conversion, that Christian believed that Christ was the 
Son of God. And if he believed that Christ was the Son of 

1 The point of this passage lies in a play on the words: connaitre (to know) and 
nattre (to be born). Trans. 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 49 

God, it follows that Jesus Himself must have stated that He 

... In the heart of the Jewish world, such a claim was 
something unprecedented and shocking. It was therefore ab- 
solutely necessary that Jesus prove the assertion, that He give 
impressive testimony of both His wisdom and power, that He 
produce proofs of Himself both by His sanctity and His 

Positions II, 162 

The orthodox theory is that in the person of Christ 
there are two natures bound together in a substantial or hypo- 
static union and that, as our Credo asserts, He is at once true 
God and true Man. The human nature, consisting of a soul 
and a body, acts as the support of the divine nature which in- 
forms, pervades, feeds, and illumines it, marks it with its seal, 
and lends it life and intelligence. The same word which 
fathered Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary con- 
tinues to be the source of His existence after He is separated 
from her. 

Toi> 81 


The Father Enthrones His Son 

Take it now, miraculous son! Take the world, says the 
prophet, [Daniel 7] take eternity! Ascend the throne of David, 
ascend the throne of Solomon, the one His mother prepared 
for Him and whose center is made of a beating heart! Become 
the center of all our scattered longing! At the intersection of 
the two diameters 2 verify that instrument which, from all six 

* Divinity and humanity. Tram. 

50 I Believe in God 

directions, attracts everything to itself, by which justice has 
forever bound itself to love and where necessity has consumed 
death. In the center of all this has been driven a kind of nail 
to prevent my ever leaving again. It is love which has 
achieved this. There is a man who holds God fast by means of 
His Word. 

JEt). Isaie, 46 

The Coming of the Messiah 

The fulfillment has begun, the earth is pondering the 
signs, and from all directions die enlisted nations are on their 
way to Bethlehem. But today is the day I have promised My- 
self to celebrate all alone. Now nothing can prevent Me from 
being God! There is no longer any way to contain this heart 
which longs to give itself, this mind which longs to open and 
reveal itself utterly to those it loves, even to that mystic and 
unfathomable degree where Someone vows to Himself that He 
is a hidden God. 

Look where He comes even as He came on that great 
day of Grace and Glory when there rose on a light-drenched 
land a Sun which marveled at itself! The time has come; I feel 
them trembling within me, and soon I will no longer be able 
to contain them, those legions of saints unborn, that long roll 
call of names almost ready to be released, all those silent na- 
tions whom I already hear saying Ave Maria. 

Ev. Isaie, 137 



There He is, for whom a heaven, suddenly swarming 
with all the notes of the antiphonal, offers the angels* im- 
promptu chorus of Gloria in excelsis. It is He who made the 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 51 

sun recoil and who tore from the mouth of the greatest of the 
prophets the names Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, 
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. It is only now, 
only today, that we can cry in truth, You are God among men! 

Ev. Isaie, 162 

By means of a wondrous ingenuity, and as a conse- 
quence of the perfect sanctity, simplicity, and innocence of 
one of His creatures, God has succeeded in overcoming the 
obstacle of the flesh. We read it every day at mass: "And the 
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." And the Apostle 
announced with a cry of joy so great that all succeeding 
generations trembled: "What we have heard, what we have 
seen with our eyes . . . and our hands have handled!" 
[I John 1:1] 

God became man not to satisfy our vain curiosity but 
to lead us safely in the way of salvation. 



We have heard Man, in the person of Job, complain of 
his destiny, of his short career that in pain, sin, and ignorance 
leads from the cradle to the tomb. Well, it is this wretched and 
cramped condition that God, the Perfect, the ineffable Being, 
chose to take upon Himself with all humility and meekness. 
He asked a creature like us to share her heart with Him. He 
had need of her, and thanks to her an extraordinary Being ap- 
pears in the midst of History who calls Himself not only the 
son of Man, but the Son of God. 

Yaime, 18 

52 I Believe in God 

Reasons for the Incarnation 

Why did God become man? That it was partly out of 
pity for the sinful creature, we cannot doubt. But we have 
been taught, and firmly believe, that God is the first and the 
last, and that just as He is the Beginning, so also He alone is 
the supreme End of all. 

If the Son became flesh it was not because it was in 
the Father's interests to become someone, but because it was 
in the Father's interests to do something. It is the service 
which explains the appearance of the Servant; it is the re- 
demption which necessitated the incarnation. There was an 
order to be restored, the order which had been upset by the 
rebellion of Satan and his angels. It was necessary that from 
the profoundest depths of hell to the very summit of heaven 
there should no longer be any creature containing a single 
spark of the creative will who might escape the necessity of 
serving serving God, serving some purpose of God's. It was 
necessary that God's work, begun in mercy, be accomplished 
forever in justice. 

ED. Isaie, 26 


When God took possession of the human form, when 
He appropriated it for His own use, when He placed Himself 
within it in hypostatic union, He committed an unpardonable 
offense against justice, good sense, and propriety. Until the 
end of time, intellectuals will respond with alternating indig- 
nation and amusement. There are certain things which are 
simply not done. Let us therefore plant on the forked gibbet, 3 
in the sight of heaven, for the edification of all ages, this trans- 
gressor caught in the very act of stealing back a possession 
which we had every reason to regard as exclusively ours. 

8 The cross. 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 53 

In procuring from us the means to die, He robbed us 
of that right to annihilation which, since the original sin, has 
constituted the most obvious part of our basic capital. He 
embezzled our funds for His own profit. In one stroke He 
reclaimed for His Father all that cultivated estate which we 
considered ours by tenants' rights, under the terms of a hard- 
won agreement. This is why He deserved the name of Thief 
which He Himself officially assumed. Is it not written that 
"He who enters not by the door/' where the devil mounts 
guard, "but climbs up another way is a thief and a robber*'? 
[John 10:1] 

Thanks to the complicity of the Virgin, there has been 
a stealthy raid on our nature. The damage is permanent, 
henceforth our walls are marred by a crack which for all our 
industry can never be mended again. "By the help of my God 
I leap over a wall," says the Psalmist. (17:30) Our homes are 
no longer our own. 

Poete, 104 


The Humiliations of the Incarnation 

It took God to perceive the extent of the harm in- 
flicted on the Father, and it took a man to expiate it by 
means of that flesh which is his peculiar property. Oh, dull 
and heavy soul, try to open your eyes for one moment and 
see the Word in His Father's arms in the very act of relating 
man to God. Behold this man in substantial union with God, 
in the process of earning his crown. . . . 

It is no longer a case of Moses invited up to Sinai: it is 
we, on the contrary, who invite a certain beloved being to 
come down to us. Utinam dirumperes coelos et descenderes, 
we heard the prophet exclaim. "Make haste and come down/' 
Jesus says later on to Zaccheus, hidden in the boughs of a tree. 

[Luke 19:5] 

Ev. Isaie, 157 

54 I Believe in God 


It is in this state of annihilation, of total resignation, 
that the Lord of Sinai, on whose fuhnination Moses could not 
have lifted his eyes without dying the ineffable Being round 
whose throne the Seraphim can only blindly fly it is in this 
form that He chose to come to the aid of His creature. He 
makes an act of faith. He places Himself naked in our arms, 
this little child from whom, according to St. Paul, all paternity 
springs. He no longer commands, He requests. He teaches us 
that it is He who needs us, His feeble hand seeks our hearts 
as best it can. He tries to arouse in us a fundamental and 
irresistible feeling of kinship. 

One would say that He has forgotten that He is God 
and that it is only from our lips that He wants to learn it. He 
submits Himself to a human scale. God places Himself in the 
arms of His creature to be weighed and measured; and I, a 
man, support God. I hold Him, I sustain Him, I contain Him, 
I possess Him utterly, I carry Him in my arms. 

Etx Isaie, 44 


The Role of the Child of Bethlehem 

This Babe whom the Prophet hails with formidable 
names and a title reserved for God alone did He come to 
take over the world by force, to establish a granite order 
based on a sort of geometry? He did not come to reshape from 
without, but to breathe from within. He came to create a 
need, a thirst which His disappearance will render unquench- 
able. And at the same time He came to bring the satisfaction 
of this need, to place the answer in our hands, to offer Him- 
self as the sole remedy for this one fundamental craving of 
our nature which is its own gratification. He came to place 
Himself at our disposal, to join forces with us. 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 55 

Son of God, He came to show us how to be sons of 

Et>. Isdie, 26-27 

The Ransom of the Incarnation 

The ransom, I see now, is none other than Mary, this 
lily in an amphitheater of valleys, this lily fashioned for my 
delight! The ransom is none other than these stigmata of light 
within a miraculous cup, none other than the conception, in 
a mysterious gathering, of that fruit capable of redeeming all. 

Ev. Isaie, 143 


Gentle and Meek of Heart 

It is no longer the God of Sinai who appears to us amid 
peals of thunder, torrents of black smoke, and terrifying blasts 
which rehearse the fanfare for the Last Judgment. It is a 
little child who stands among us, who has come bearing a 
childish lesson: God is love and there is no other command- 
ment but to love God and your neighbor. Even today, if we 
listen after Communion, we will hear the sacred syllables 
leave those blessed lips which have imbibed the essence of 
butter and honey on the very breast of the Trinity. "But in the 
midst of you there has stood one whom you do not know." 

[John 1:26] 

Epee, 34 


God in Disguise 

One of the characteristics of Divinity is to be hidden, 
and Christ brought this characteristic with Him in His career 

56 I Believe in God 

on earth. It is not His role to provide a ready-made truth but 
to elicit it, to draw it forth from those primordial depths of 
human nature. For example, He answers the messengers from 
John the Baptist not with words but with deeds, not by say- 
ing He is the Messiah but by being it. And when the time 
has come to found His Church, it is of herself, not out of 
flesh and blood but out of Peter's faith, out of this assent 
this good will of the creature toward his Creator that He 
will draw the necessary confession. 

Epee, 35 

The Promised Messiah 

"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among 
their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall 
tell them all that I command him. If any man will not listen 
to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make 
him answer for it." [Deut. 18:18-19] 

Dazzling words, triumphant words, worthy from the 
beginning to be gloriously inscribed on the banner of Chris- 
tianity! Philip was not mistaken when he told Nathanael: "We 
have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets 
wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth." [John 1:45] 
These are the very words, delapsa de coelo, which the three 
chosen Apostles are to hear echoing in their ears on the day 
of the Transfiguration. They are the words which form the 
theine of the first proclamation of the first Pope. [Acts 3:22] 
They are the words to which the first martyr testifies with his 
blood. [Acts 7:56] 

Emmaus, 150 


Something has been placed in our hands with which 
we are able to measure the immeasurable. It is the God-Man; 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 57 

with this finite we now may span the Infinite. That abyss that 
divided Heaven and Earth has been bridged, there is now a 
way across it. That many-runged ladder endlessly scaled by 
the angels which appeared to Jacob has its foot now fixed on 
that rock which is called the House of God, and its topmost 
rung is held in place by the very hand of the Almighty. 

Apocalypse, 209 


The pagan sees no pathway between God and Man, 
and despairs. The Christian has a deed from God, signed with 
the blood of Jesus Christ; he has definite rights, a belief and 
a trust. 

Con. Riviere, 64 

His Power 

The Gospels show us the Saviour coming to the soul 
and imparting truth and virtue by the touch of a hand, the 
brushing of a garment, a bit of moistened earth applied to 
the locked eyelids. One look from Him is enough to make an 
Apostle out of that idler yawning under the fig tree less 
time than it took to convince Nicodemus! Jesus did not always 
need a miracle or even a word. A tone or an inflection often 
served His purpose, and somehow the intervening gulf was 
bridged. The lost sheep recognized his master's voice and 
responded with a feeble bleat. 

Poete, 191 


His Name is Faithful and True, and He fights by means 
of Justice so that He is victorious not only when He judges, 
but when He is judged. [Psalms 50:6] From His mouth there 

58 I Believe in God 

issues a two-edged sword which thrusts home, which finds 
the essence and lops off the incidental. The inviolable unity 
triumphs over multiplicity. He feeds His sheep, He sustains 
them with a law of iron, strict and unbreakable. His answer to 
Job's objections is the blood that covers His garment. And 
what may be called the dregs error, falsehood, the unassim- 
ilable residuum He tramples underfoot and leaves to fer- 
ment. He lets the guilty conscience beneath His feet taste 
and digest its own crime; this sugar turns to alcohol, that is, 
becomes fuel for the flame. 

Emmaiis, 225 


He is come, the One before whom all powers on earth, 
in heaven, or in hell are obliged to bend the knee, and on 
whose garment and flank is inscribed this name: "King of 
Kings and Lord of Lords." [Apoc. 19:16] 

**I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and what will 
I, but that it be kindled?" [Luke 12:49] The eyes and face of 
Christ are a silent answer to that universal human longing to 
do away with the old self, to exhale the substance through 
the soul, and to illumine our whole estate with the conflagra- 
tion of that heart on which the Spirit breathes. 

Emmaus 9 225 

His Sovereignty 

Christ is like King Solomon at whose feet all the na- 
tions of the earth lie down and unfold their wealth, that he 
may wed the amber of the Baltic with the ivory of Ethiopia. 
[II Paralipomenon 9:24] 

Presence, 104 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 59 

The Power of His Gaze 

It is Christ's eyes on us, and our eyes turned toward 
Him as a servant toward his master which brings about our 
participation and our understanding. One look from Him at 
Peter, at John and Andrew at their nets, at Matthew at his 
ledgers, at Bartholomew under the fig tree, was enough to 
appoint them Apostles, to brand on them indelibly that new 
name the name of their Master. 

Apocalypse, 223 

The World Belongs to Christ 

All things created exist to bear witness to their Crea- 
tor, that is, to contribute some means of making Him known, 
to translate Him into concrete terms. We may respectfully 
assume that this is what is meant in the language of the Gos- 
pel by the word "glorify." "All things that are mine are 
thine," we are told by the Word made flesh, "and thine are 
mine; and I am glorified in them/' [John 17:10] 

Now we know that all things in heaven and earth be- 
long to the Son of God, and consequently their only purpose 
is to manifest Him, whether symbolically through their form, 
or in parable, through their behavior. 

Poete, 211 


Learn from Me that you are no other than the vessel 
from which I wish, in humanity, to taste and drink. 

Cantique, 271 

60 I Believe in God 

His Magnetism 

Something in us is drawn with irresistible force to that 
Voice which rehearses today those sounds with which it will 
tomorrow take command over death and the tempest. 

Epee, 34 

His Love on Calvary 

Look, then, to what You have been reduced, and see 
to what extremity Your mercy has let itself be led by Your 
justice! Neither the Angels nor Your Father's arms nor the 
breast of the Trinity were able to restrain you. On the very 
brink of this act by which all things exist, He found no way 
to defend Himself from the shaft of Love! 

Poete, 144 

The Miracle Worker 

We hear Christ tell the scribes and Pharisees that He 
has not come for the well but for the sick, and He gives a list 
which is confirmed on every page of the Gospel: the blind, 
the deaf, the leprous, the palsied and the lame. These are 
the ones whom the disciples are to recruit by the wayside; 
it is through them that Christ makes His way with one miracle 
after another. 

And yet these physical infirmities are merely the out- 
ward image of moral sickness. To read the Bible literally, one 
would even think that God's love for us increases in direct 
proportion to our shortcomings, that He is grateful to us for 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 61 

this cross which we ask Him to bear because it closes the 
distance from Him to us, 

Emmaus, 238 


The Miracle of His Grace 

He did not come to give us a life which would serve 
only to enable us to die. He did not come on earth to prevent 
hunger and thirst. He did not come to fill our stomachs but to 
inseminate our souls. He came with His great leaven so that 
no stone might be incapable of becoming wheat or loaf. Such 
is the miracle of grace, such is this amalgam of love and long- 
ing which no stone has the power to resist. 

Apocalypse, 322 


The Sweetness of His Love 

He knows the sweetest words of love, He murmurs 
them into the ears of our poor ravished souls. He has aroused 
in us a new kind of hunger. All these words, all these parables, 
are our food. We taste them, we roll them around on our 
tongues. They are not food for the mind alone; the whole 
man heart, stomach, senses, imagination, memory is sus- 
tained by them. We receive something that completes and 
confirms intuition, a state of becoming. Since there is a good 
shepherd, why would we not be His sheep? 

Ruth, 92 


How He Touches Hearts 

Jesus' preaching addresses itself not only to the outer 
man but to the inner. His task is to reach the heart of hearts. 

62 I Believe in God 

It is not just His power which He must display, as when he 
changes water into wine, multiplies the loaves, calms the sea. 
There are all those hard hearts, those hearts of stone which 
He must soften and melt by planting in them the spark of love 
and ridding them of the scab of habit and the ulcer of sin. 

This is why His whole campaign up to the very end 
is a profusion of good deeds; it is the suffering flesh which 
must be won over first. He gives sight to the blind and hear- 
ing to the deaf. He straightens the palsied, He purifies the 
lepers, He drives out unclean spirits, He feeds the starving 
if necessary He even raises the dead; but more wonderful 
still, He forgives sins! He knows that we cannot help loving 
someone who is good to us, and if it is through God that this 
good is done, well, perhaps we will begin to love God a little 
and to obey Him, for it is clear and evident that in this way 
lies salvation. 

Ruth, 90 


He who fashioned our minds and placed our hearts in 
our breasts, does He not possess the skill to lure them forth 
and make them vibrate? This is why, as a wise sorcerer, He 
presents Himself to us in all the forms most likely to rouse 
and win our confidence, our love, and our need. He is not 
only the benefactor, He is the doctor who gathers up the 
wounded, He is husband, father, and brother, He is the good 
shepherd in search of the lost sheep, He is the father who 
embraces the dishonored son. He is the friend of women and 
children, the refuge of fools and sinners, the brother and the 
son in whom is realized the role of the ancient Joseph. He is 
the servant of servants, the miser who turns His greed and 
anxiety to the search for souls. He is the last resort, He is the 
master to whom all things are possible and in whom there is 
no longer anything to fear: He is a little child. 

Ruth, 91 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 63 


God thirsts only for God. The Son of God desires only 
His Father. Man, the representative of all creatures, hungers 
only for his Maker. But God, looking down on His whole 
creation, needs also whatever belongs to Him, whatever loves 
Him, whatever speaks to Him. 

Poete, 120 


The Saviour 

"The Kindom of God is within you," the Gospel tells 
us; within. And so it follows that in Christ, the Word incar- 
nate, every member is word and salvation: not only the hand 
that raises the dead and hurls thunderbolts and the foot be- 
fore which all obstacles disappear, but also that which is 
within. We are to eat the Passover lamb, we are told in 
Exodus, "roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner 
organs." [Ex. 12:9] Now Israel, obeying the prescriptions 
of Sinai, has long been familiar with this visceral side of life; 
for a long time the high priests have been tirelessly probing 
the human body and working with its organic structure. And 
now that the Saviour is here and we see that He cures deaf- 
ness with His saliva, what are we to say of His tears and His 
blood? To this very day we are on Calvary, where the cen- 
turion's lance opened in His side the inexhaustible fount of 
the sacraments. 

Sophie, 112 


Fountain of Life 

Just as He affects each individual simply by virtue of 
His presence, so Christ acted and continues to act on human 

64 I Believe in God 

society as a fire, a leaven, and a catalyst, as a temptation, as 
an invitation to passion and to thought, as a hidden source 
of life and power which has never ceased to be everywhere 
present. At the emanation of the Word all things are born, 
all things open, all things bare themselves, all things expand, 
all things ripen, all things become aware of their reason for 

Apocalypse, 20 

The Signs or Miracles of Christ 

These signs, which constitute His answer to the disci- 
ples of John the Baptist, are a beginning, they are the founda- 
tion He lays: a violation of reason, of the order of things, of 
the Sabbath. Wherever He passes, nothing remains the same. 
The whole structure threatens to collapse. Society has been 
dealt a blow, logic has been dealt a blow, common sense has 
been dealt a blow. And now I must teach you not to make use 
of your eyes to see me, nor of your ears to hear me, nor of 
your legs to reach me: but of your hearts to love me. And if 
your eye offends you, do not hesitate to pluck it out. [Matt. 

Ruth, 68 


He Fulfills the Scriptures 

When He makes His tour of the synagogues, what is 
He doing but manifesting Himself within the law and the 
prophets as a living reference? Ecce venio. You have been 
told such and such, He declares in the Sermon on the Mount, 
but I have come to tell you something altogether different. 
Constantly recurring in the Gospel are the words, ". . . that 
the Scriptures may be fulfilled.*' When His disciples try to 

And in Jesus Cnrist, His Only Son, Our Lord 65 

persuade Him not to accept His Passion, He answers, "How 
then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled?" 

He never deviates from them. To the triple temptation of 
the devil His answer is, "it is written." His last words on the 
cross are a quotation from the Psalms. And when, after the 
resurrection, He meets the two disciples on the road to Em- 
maus, His whole message consists of opening to them the 
Scriptures which contain Him. When He appears to the two 
apostles on the mountain, He appears between Moses and 
Elias, and His transfiguration is the clarification and outward 
illumination of a hitherto obscure scriptural passage. 

Ruth, 88 


He Completes the Old Testament 

The Old Testament only succeeds in stammering the 
first letter of the sacred name, which is also the first letter of 
the alphabet: A, A, A, and it is only the Son who is given 
the power to complete the name and to place it in our mouths 
in its perfect form: "Abba! Father! Our Father who art in 

Ruth, 90 


Sower of Gods Word 

God who became a seed in the womb of the Blessed 
Virgin came to us for no other reason than to become a sower. 
He calls Peter, John, Andrew, Judas, and the other Apostles 
by their own names, and He lets Himself be drawn aside per- 
sonally by the bedridden woman, the man with a hemorrhage, 
by all sorts of invalids and persons possessed of devils. But 
on the whole He scatters this grain, with which His sack is 
bursting, with His eyes shut, He scatters it at random, at the 

66 I Believe in God 

mercy of the four winds. "He who has ears to hear, let him 
hear" [Matt. 11:15] 

There are stony places, there is the roadway where 
the ground has been hardened by the feet of passersby, there 
are thorns and other weeds, there are the fowls of the air 
and the bad weather. But there is also the good ground, the 
fertile soil which is conscience, concern, understanding hus- 

Ruth, 100 


I have not come to bring you paradise here and now, 
Christ tells us, I have come to bring you the horizon, the sea, 
that is to say, freedom, that body which never overflows al- 
though all the rivers flow into it without ceasing. [Cf. Eccles. 
1:7] I have come to bring you the desire and the direction, 
that secret understanding, throughout your travels, of your 
destination. "It runs over, like the Euphrates, with under- 
standing." [Sirach 24:24] To the burden that weighs you 
down, I have added longing . . . "You therefore are to be 
perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Matt. 

At last, the very commandment I was waiting for! To 
become intolerant of imperfection is to be perfect already. 

Ruth, 105 

Christ's Paradoxes 

When one reads the Gospels one is struck by the harsh, 
violent, hyperbolic, paradoxical, and sometimes apparently 
contradictory style in which the divine Preacher often ad- 
dresses His audience. He even goes so far as to say, as if boast- 
fully: "This is a hard saying." Far from trying to win agree- 
ment, He strikes with His terrible right hand and says nothing. 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 67 

A fig tree refuses to yield its fruit in the month of March; He 
curses it and lo, the tree withers to its roots. "I am bread, I am 
wine," He says. This is no figurative saying. It is the truth. 

The Pharisees demand explanations and He offers 
none. He only repeats and insists; He presents a truth which 
is inseparable from the image. To illustrate divine justice He 
gives the example of reapers who are paid the same wage for 
several hours of work or for only one. He praises the disloyal 
steward. He seems to recommend usury. He warns us that He 
demands what does not belong to Him, that He reaps where 
He has not sown. He tells us that He has not come to bring 
peace but the sword, that He has come to teach us to hate 
our kin, to leave our families and our native soil. And we must 
not resist evil: we must turn the other cheek, go three leagues 
when asked to go one. 

All this, if one reads literally, must be done without 
reservation, against reason and common sense, at the risk of 
scandal and the neglect of our most immediate duties. The 
small-minded who are usually called strong-minded, the 
modern Sadducees can only snicker; it must be admitted 
that even the simple-minded are at a loss. 

Ruth, 102 


Of course He intended to outrage the Pharisees, but 
at times it seems as if the whole purpose of His mission was 
to scandalize the entire world. He dares, He defies. He is care- 
ful to state that the rock on which He means to found His 
Church is a "rock of scandal." And as St. Paul points out, 
what mystery could be more outrageous, more shocking, more 
offensive to reason, good sense, and the instinct of self- 
preservation than that concept which perplexed even the 
Angels of a God (yes, God, author of all things, master of 
worlds out of mindl ) become man, become flesh, become a 

68 I Believe in God 

worm, spat upon, trampled underfoot, and finally crucified 
between two thieves, bound, bruised, crushed, and drained of 
the last drop of His life and bloodl 

"It's charming!" the lady says, adjusting her lorgnette 
before a painting of the Crucifixion. 

Behold someone to whom everything happened by 
way of parable, in a color scheme divorced from reality. 

Ruth, 103 


But the real man, though superficially shocked, is 
nevertheless glad at heart, or more accurately, enchanted. 
What if his deep-seated habits have been challenged? With- 
out being able to identify the truth, he feels its sting, feels 
the home-thrust which can only be made under cover of dark. 
God does not enter by the door but by scaling the wall. He 
goes right to the heart. There are regions in man's soul which 
he had believed to be inaccessible, and now, suddenly, he 
feels stirring within him that truth which lies deeper than 
justice. He reels, he is torn, he is tormented, he becomes 
leavened dough, he has received one of those blows which 
compel one to respond. If there is a door, he studies the door- 
posts, not one but both, not just the one that permits the fold- 
ing leaf to turn, but the other, the one that allows the door 
to close precisely. "Happy the man watching daily at my gates, 
waiting at my doorposts." [Prov. 8:34] 

These are the posts which the Angel has stained with 
the blood of the Lamb. 

Ruth, 104 


His Most Precious Gift y the Eucharist 

Lord, we say every morning as the priest places the 
host between our lips, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 69 

enter under my roof. And so I beseech You not to tell me who 
You are, pretend not to tell me Your formal name; the only 
one I want to hear is not composed of letters or any breath 
of the mouth but of a thrust to the heart. . . . 

His head is on my shoulder, it is damp, and I hold in 
my arms this shower of rain, tears, and hair! And it came to 
pass that the Shepherd had need of His flock, that it might 
comfort Him a while. 

It is the Creator in my arms weeping on His creature, 
it is the Redeemer in my arms asking me to reckon His worth- 
lessness, it is the Consoler who is without consolation. 

Rose, 57 


Every morning this abyss opens between our lips, be- 
tween our teeth, this tongue rises, fervent flower of the spirit 
within, and every morning the Son of Man, the Judge, the 
Husband, the Father, the Master, the Doctor, and the Victim 
humbly and majestically enters us in the liquefaction of our 
substance and the trembling of our very being. There is not 
one of these invasions, not one of these vital confrontations, 
not one of these fusions with our living sap, which has not 
left its traces in our souls, though unperceived of our senses. 
Look, Lord, I pray, on this threshold worn with your constant 
footsteps. You are like the miser who comes every day to 
inspect His hoard. 

Cantique, 321 


Through this temporal sacrament, we commune with 
Christ who is eternal. It is not He who leaves His dwelling 
place, it is the veil of this world which is rent. It is we who 
are in a sense freed by Him from time and space. 

Positions II, 62 

70 I Believe in God 


The lamb is to be "roasted whole," it is written in the 
Book of Exodus. You will assimilate Him completely. No 
longer will you merely feast your eyes. No longer will you 
satisfy your curiosity but satisfy your soul; no longer feed your 
mind but your faith; no longer yeam for your instruction but 
for your construction. "Christianus alter Ghristus" To teach us 
to become Christians and to say not "I live," but "Christ lives 
in me," Jesus offers Himself to us completely, body and soul. 
He presents us with His own key, He teaches us to imitate in 
our secret lives all that is done by the Christ in Him, He yields 
Himself to our touch with a tact infinitely more delicate and 
more thorough than that of the saint's fingers when they 
probed the open wound. 

Positions II, 64 


In this material world, the Eucharist is the greatest of 
mysteries. In penetrating it, the senses are of no use whatso- 
ever. Our Lord is so well hidden in the sacrament that even 
His mother's eye would not recognize Him. 

. . . The Christ who exists today beneath the appear- 
ances of bread and wine is Christ in all His fullness, risen in 
all His glory, and seated at the right hand of His Father. He 
is no longer the seed, which is die suffering body, but the 
mature fruit, which is the glorified body, the spiritual body, 
the first born among the dead, luminous, quick, subtile, im- 

. . . Let us note one thing, however: this mystery 
which confounds our minds is accepted by our hearts imme- 
diately and unreservedly as something simple and easy, a gift 
as supremely fitting as it is gratuitous. Our stomachs do not 
receive bread more eagerly than our hearts, anticipating our 
sluggish reason and rushing ahead of it, go out to the Euchar- 

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord 71 

1st. Our hearts go without doubts and with a voracity and 
violence of longing as toward some food which our whole 
being craves. Nature ennobled by grace, deaf to our argu- 
ments, confronts her Creator with a passion which disconcerts 
us. Here is the exact antithesis of philosophical justifications 
which take place outside us and which the inner heart is slow 
to accept. Here is a moment when being speaks directly to 

Positions II, 58-59 


"Eye has not seen nor ear heard . . . what things God 
has prepared for those who love him." [I Cor. 2:9] Perhaps 
not the eye or the ear but St. Paul says nothing about the 
tongue! What three years of communal living failed to teach 
the Apostles, the chalice of the Last Supper, when lip is placed 
to a living, fluid God, revealed to them at last. 

Cantique, 402 


Jesus, my life! 

Private journal; unpublished 

Born of the Virgin Mary 

Salut, Vierge & genoux dans la splendeur, 
Premiere-nee entre toutes les creatures. 


THIS woman, unique in all the 
world, is celebrated throughout 
ClaudeFs writings with incompar- 
able tenderness, wonder, and en- 

Let us briefly review the 
Church's doctrine with regard to 

Her prerogatives: The Immac- 
ulate Conception which, from the 


first moment of her conception, 
preserved her from any stain of 
sin; her perpetual Virginity be- 
fore, during, and after the concep- 
tion of the Son of God; her divine 
Motherhood which permitted her 
to bring into the world, through 
the action of the Holy Spirit, a 
man who is also God. Mother of 
God, she is also mother of man- 

Born of the Virgin Mary 

kind, which is what Jesus meant 
when He pointed her out to John 
as his Mother. She had a real role 
in our redemption, by virtue of 
her acceptance of, and total par- 
ticipation in, the Passion of her 
Son; with her assumption into 
heaven, she continues to bring 
men to Jesus until the end of time. 

This humble child of Nazareth 
is the fulfillment of what was writ- 
ten in Genesis, when, after the fall 
of Adam, God tells the serpent 
that He will "put enmity between 
him and the woman," [3:15] Isaia 
hails her from afar: "Behold the 
virgin shall be with child, and 
bear a son" [7:14], and the Apoca- 
lypse pictures her as giving birth 
in heaven, pursued by the dragon. 

Claudel calls her "a living 
Bible." (J'aime, 117) She was 
present in the mind of God when 
He created the world, and she al- 
ways had an underlying role 
throughout the history of Israel. 

The Gospel shows her at the 
Annunciation, at the Visitation, at 
all the episodes of Jesus' boyhood 
from His Nativity to the marriage 
at Cana, through Calvary and the 

For Claudel, Mary, the Church, 
and the human soul are images 
which constantly overlap and in- 
tersect in Scripture. What is said 
of one may often be applied, mu- 
tatis mutandis, to the other two. 
Take, for example, the Angel's 
phrase, futt of grace. Strictly 
speaking, it refers to Mary, but it 
may also be applied to the Church 


and to the soul redeemed by the 
blood of Christ. It is in this triple 
perspective that one must read the 
major work Claudel devoted to 
the Mother of God, his commen- 
tary on the Canticle of Canticles. 

She is this lily "for whom the 
Holy Spirit provided the pollen" 
(Cantique, 265), and this "golden 
mansion which has ever been open 
to the light of Nazareth and of 
Calvary" (Taime, 103) 

There is enchanting simplicity 
in that scene between Mary and 
Joseph when he is thinking of 
sending her away. "She says noth- 
ing, he says nothing." Doubt 
gnaws the heart of this righteous 
man who does not understand the 
mystery. And when the Angel has 
enlightened him he looks at her; 
tears roll down his grey beard, and 
from his lips issue the words: 
"Hail, Mary, full of grace." (Rose, 

Then it is the hour of the Na- 
tivity. Here, too, Claudel skillfully 
recreates the scene in the stable 
at Bethlehem in captivating de- 
tail; but he goes beyond the sur- 
face to reflect on the action of the 
Holy Spirit on this immaculate 
creature from whom it must "ex- 
tirpate** a Man-God. It pounces 
on this human prey." Did the An- 
gel not say that "the Holy Spirit 
shall come upon thee"? "Burst 
forth," says the Third Person to 
the Second.* 9 Now it is over for 
her: "the fullness of Motherhood 
and the resting place of the 
Deity." (Rose, 117, 118) She was 


chosen "to bring forth the Sun, 
and all Space is filled with her 
Splendor." (Cantique, 293) 

The joys of childbirth are fol- 
lowed by the thorns of Calvary. 
Tor the sword touches our very 
soul," Jeremiah had said, 1 [4:10] 
and Mary "welcomed it and treas- 
ured it in all her heart." (Epee, 
76) She is its sheath. (Ibid., 89) 
But she is strong, she remains in 
the name of the Church and con- 
templates her Beloved as He 
hangs on the instrument of His 
victory. "For her this is not the 
moment to weep, but to take a 

I Believe in Cod 

lesson in catechism." (Ibid.} 

But now it is the hour of the 
Assumption, when Mary "scatters 
in the sky a pathway of roses." 
She is that Esther of whom it was 
written that "all the stars that are 
kindled do not suffice to hold up 
her train." (Rose, 145) 

The splendor of the Virgin and 
her role in the Church have been 
sung by Claudel with a lyricism 
that is fresh, delicate, or ecstatic. 
Truly it was not in vain that he 
gazed upon "that resplendent Sis- 
ter who assails us with her Christ- 
bearing virtue." (Rose, 221) 

Mary, Vehicle of the Promise 

The promise was not given to man but to woman. It is 
to her that petition must be made, it is in her womb that the 
seed of redemption germinates. As she was the instrument of 
the fall felix culpa! she is the proprietress of salvation. It 
is her duty to justify to God that creation which, through her, 
was severed from Him. Generation follows generation, and at 
last on our disinherited soil there springs forth amid the thorns 
the precious lily of the Immaculate Conception. When man 
falls, it is to her ( and she was not absent when he was pulled 
from the mire) that God turns to remake man in His image. 
It is to her that He chooses to surrender Himself as spiritual 
prisoner of His own clay. 

Accompagnements, 140 

1 However, in the version with which Claudel was familiar: "The sword wi 
drink your blood even unto drunkenness; it will devour you whole.** Trans. 

Born of the Virgin Mary 75 

Israel Waits for Mary 

For centuries no man will look upon a virgin without 
secretly wondering; Is it you, or must we wait for another? 

Emmaus, 150 


The Incarnation 

The artist studies his unfinished work, he contemplates 
this stainless lily which must be extricated from the thorns and 
the mud, this sacred mouth which is capable of pronouncing 
the supreme Fiat in an attitude of patience, piety, compassion, 
understanding, supplication, and counsel. There must be noth- 
ing pure in human nature that does not share in this fruition, 
and nothing impure that does not share in this purification. 

Emmaus, 291 

From the Angel of Paradise to the Angel of the Apoca- 
lypse, who swears that time is no more, from the Angels who 
flog Heliodorus to the one who guides the child Tobias, from 
the Angel who consoles Hagar to the one who delivers St. 
Peter, all sacred history is visited by these formidable, in- 
structive, and sympathetic brothers. But the culmination of 
their ambassadorial functions is Gabriel's announcement to 
the Virgin of Nazareth that "she has found grace with God" 
and that "the power of the Most High shall overshadow her." 2 
[Luke 1:30, 35] 

Presence, 257 

3 The bride of the Canticle of Canticles, the image of Mary. 

76 I Believe in God 

I am a garden, says the Sulamite. From Eden to Naz- 
areth, I have been this garden which He requires. In Mary 
and Joseph He married the lily with the lily. I am all these 
lilies in one. They form a single stalk and a single glorious 
corolla for which the Holy Spirit will ever provide the pollen. 

From my whiteness, He has taken milk, from my sta- 
mens, He has taken gold, from my perfume, he has taken 
honey. My beloved is mine and I am His. In my arms He 
drinks in all Humanity, that He may find nourishment. 

Cantique, 265 


The Canticle of Canticles tells us the power of this Su- 
lamite, the power of "a single bead of her neck," when we but 
follow her. What will be the power of her face? Or of a direct 
glance from her eyes, those eyes that disturbed the Trinity 
itself, and invited it to create the world? What will be the 
power of that mouth which, when it opened to say Yes robbed 
the Word of the power to breathe? 

Rose, 23 

Mavy and Joseph at Nazareth 

This screeching of plane and saw; it is Joseph in his 
workshop: the crack of raw lumber, the ring of a broken vase; 
Mary is there. Morning, noon, and evening they pray together, 
sometimes they sing; they eat from the same plate at the same 
table, they divide die chores between them . . . 

And one day, suddenly . . . Mary and Joseph look at 
each other, he guesses the truth, and she sees that he has 

Born of the Virgin Mary 77 

guessed. She says nothing and he says nothing. "But Joseph 
her husband, being a just man, was minded to put her away 
privately." [Matt. 1:19] 

Behold the first thrust to that pure heart, the prelude 
to the Seven Sorrows of the divine office. Behold the humilia- 
tion which serves as a stepping stone for her whom we call 
Queen of Heaven and Queen of Angels. Notice how she ushers 
God into the world: in secret, as an intruder, under suspicion. 
And watch this righteous man who must be sacrificed, first 
victim of Him who said that He had not come to bring peace, 
but the sword. What can she do? Her lips are sealed; it is 
not in her power to breathe the Word which is there within 

He who becomes the friend of God must be prepared 
for surprises. It is not Judas, it is my love, my beloved wife, 
bound to me by a tie stronger than marital love, who has be- 
trayed me. In his pain, he hurriedly devises a plan. 

There is something strange in the atmosphere; some 
new element has been introduced which works against the 
carrying out of that decision he reached so sorrowfully. Joseph 
has now the feeling that if he sent this woman away, it would 
be he and not she who would be excluded. 

And then occurs the event of which we are told in the 
Gospel: An angel appears to him in a dream, the angel of 
the Annunciation, we may be sure. And it is the very scene 
of the Annunciation, for all the explanation he is given! Good 
God, he has understood! 

A day, two days pass. And on the third day Mary does 
not rise from the table; she lingers there, looking at her hus- 
band. She does not look at his eyes, she looks at his lips. His 
eyes are closed and tears are rolling down over his grey beard. 
His lips are moving, they begin silently to form that first salu- 
tation which passed from the mouth of the Angel to that of a 
priest: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. 

Rose, 141-144 

78 I Believe in God 



The days are accomplished, and it is Christmas night. 
Look, here is this chance refuge, this stable which provides 
a makeshift shelter for these two comrades, these two four- 
footed attendants, the ox and the ass. . . . The ground has 
been tidied up a bit, and the few poor belongings that were 
brought have been unpacked; they do not amount to much. 
To one side, carefully laid out as in a vestry, is the baby's 
modest linen: the shirt, the leading string. The angel told 
them not to bother with anything more. 

But since one must eat, husband and wife have shared 
a bit of old bread. The lantern has been hung in a corner, 
where it gives a queer sort of light. Joseph is sitting down, he 
is silent; he has not far to travel before he will find the com- 
pany of the Eternal and that profound instructor whose daily 
concern is to teach him the word Yes. 

The Virgin is also seated, and if you were to assure me 
that she kneels for a moment, I would ask no more. I watch 
her: she is calm, her eyes are closed, and it is more than 
enough for me to be here without wanting to be seen. Except 
for the breathing and the vague stirring of the animals, there 
is no sound. A moment ago the ass indulged in a terrible fit 
of braying which seemed to go on forever, a clamor that 
shook heaven and earth. It was some time before silence was 
restored. Nevertheless, the time passes: an hour, two hours, 
and each is distinguished by an increased solemnity. Joseph's 
heart repeats the psalms. He understands, he trembles: a cer- 
tain verse in Hebrew characters appears to him with sweet 
authority, and another look, he begins to weep takes its 
place, bearing the irrefutable Word! 

O my God, then it is true? This is to be placed in my 
heart, in my arms? I, the heir of Abraham and Jacob and 

Born of the Virgin Mary 79 

Judas and David! I have been chosen to be the witness, and 
more than the witness, you say, the father! "J esus himself . . . 
being as was supposed the son of Joseph/' [Luke 3:23] 

Rose, 114 

It is Mary who was chosen to be the victim of the 
great Incongruity. The time has come for the Holy Spirit to 
rush at this human prey and exact this Man-God which He 
must have. There must be an uprooting, the stalk must be 
torn a life for a life, a self for a self, a heart for a heart. 
Something is pierced deeper than our bowels. How are we to 
believe that this violence could be accomplished without the 
agony of nature if not physical, at least spiritual? 3 Eruc- 
tavit cor meum verbum Verbum bonum, says the Psalms, 
It is time for barrenness to be finished and the desire of all 
the earth to be accomplished. It is time for the arrow to fly 
from the drawn bow. It is time for Samson to tear himself 
with a mighty effort from that temptress who held him 

Rose, 117 


"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole soul, 
with thy whole strength," says the Commandment. But now it 
is no longer enough to love Him, to contemplate Him; now 
we must bring Him forth from our vitals, we must bring Him 
into the world, we must expel this incomprehensible Word! 
Mary desires the will of God with all the strength in 
her sinews, with all the passion in her bonesl I speak figur- 
atively, because not for a moment do I think that her chastity 

* Claudel does not mean that the Blessed Virgin was subject to the law of the 
daughters of Eve who must bring forth their young in pain. 

80 I Believe in God 

sustained any injury; and yet the severing of this mother and 
this Son was not done lightly or innocuously, as a ray of light 
penetrates a piece of glass. Now for the first time she under- 
stands the meaning of those words which will be spoken to 
her later, at the marriage at Cana: "Woman, what is that to 
me and to thee?" 

Now there must be a dividing of their substance. She 
is abandoned and empty, there is no longer for her the full- 
ness of Motherhood and the resting place of the Deity. It is 
not until the evening of the Last Supper that she will regain 
that fullness, which she will then share with all the guests at 
the Holy Table. No longer will a single soul serve two beings. 

Rose, 118 

The Flight into Egypt 

Mary fled with her child in her arms, thus inaugurating 
that hegira, that state of suspense, that vigilance, that con- 
stant readiness for escape which will characterize the Church 
until the end of time. 

Ep6e> 20 


The Mother of Sorrow 

That flesh-eating sword which Jesus Himself said He 
came to bring to mankind and which St. John saw issuing 
from His mouth, that infinitely destructive weapon which is 
one of the forms of the Holy Spirit, Mary welcomed for all 
time and stored in her heart. Of her own free will she ap- 
peased its hunger; she betook herself in the name of all man- 
kind to meet its Justice, And wielded by an unerring hand, 
"the sword touches our very soul." [Jer. 4:10] 

Epee, 76 

Bora of the Virgin Maiy 81 

The Descent from the Cross: Jesus Restored to His Mother 

And now the moment more bitter than aloes: Jesus is 
delivered into His Mother's arms. He is dead. The dagger is 
buried finally and forever in that heart which was destined 
to become its sheath. Now it is no longer her eyes which 
watch, which understand, and give evidence. This Jesus, who 
was just on the cross, has been again laid in her arms. She em- 
braces Him, she holds Him, she supports Him, she contains 
Him. At last it is hers, this lifeless body from which the soul 
has fled her Son and her God. She holds it in her lap. 

Here is the first moment of complete possession which 
has been granted her since the days of Bethlehem and Naza- 
reth, a moment of perfect union between the consummated 
Christ and this woman who is the Church, now confirmed 
forever in her maternal ordination. And surely we cannot 
think that those lips which He offered to Judas and chastised 
Simon for not seeking are now denied His mother. For now 
He depends on her alone, He has been placed completely in 
her hands length, breadth, and weight this Christ whom 
she has just watched being unfastened limb by limb from 
that rigid framework which held Him fixed to the ancient 

Electe ramos, arbor alta! Now it is she who is the cross: 
she has become the scale on which is weighed that "eternal 
weight of glory" [II Cor. 4:17] before which, unlike Moses, 
she does not shrink. It is she who will henceforth be the hu- 
man stalk and stem of this Christ five times opened. 4 He is her 
impression, and she is his expression. 

Epee, 89 

4 That is, once for each of his five wounds. Trans. 

82 I Believe in God 

The Significance of Mary at Calvary 

While God created the world, our Mother was there 
singing and rejoicing in His presence, and now that He has 
completed His work is it not right that she be there too, and 
that mingled with the cry of her torn heart should be heard 
the strain of the Magnificat? As she rejoiced on the first day, 
so must she smile on the last, for the day of the consumma- 
tion of Jesus Christ is that of the fulfillment of Mary. 

Epee, 86 


At one time the Word descended to her, but now it 
is she who rises. After the bitter delay exacted by necessity, 
she can no longer avoid ascension. 

She has risen, and yet the high position she enjoys 
among the blessed has robbed her of none of her faculty of 
aspiration: without withdrawing, she never ceases to rise still 
higher, to give expression and gratification to the longing and 
straining of the whole Universe toward its efficient and final 
cause. Through her, as a smoke which dissolves into a scent, 
is achieved the release and flight of all that throughout the 
ranks of vegetable, animal, and spiritual nature fosters the 
ability to ascend. From the very beginning, says the Prophet, 
before anything was created, she rejoiced. 

Yes, even in the dense chemical mists of the age of 
fossils, her sacred image played before the eye of God. 

Cantique, 24 


Mary has occupied her place in the sun, and now it is 
a pathway to the sun which she scatters in the sky behind 

Born of the Virgin Mary 83 

her like a waste of roses. "Had I but wings like a dove, I would 
fly away," says the Psalmist. [54:7] It is Mary, precisely, who 
will give these wings to us. For what is the rose with its whorl 
of petals but an arrangement of wings? And it is wings that 
the Apostles, gathered from the four corners of the earth, 
found in His sepulchre in place of the sacred body. 

Rose, 145 


Behold, that cloud in which the Eternal chose to wrap 
Himself on Sinai and in which Moses was engulfed has been 
torn to shreds by our Mother. Concidisti saccum meum. 

She scatters it in the blue in fiery bursts of red and 
gold! Dispersit dedit pauperibus! There is enough for all! 
Everyone gets a scrap! There is no willow-shaded pool which 
does not receive its little rag of crimson, nor a divinity student 
under the old avenue of lime trees without his verse of Scrip- 
ture. The Rhone below translates in a turbulence of spirals 
and eddies that heavenly queen clothed in variety, that Esther 
for whom all the stars do not suffice to hold up her train. 

Rose, 145 


Marys Beauty 

She is the full moon, that nocturnal resplendence, that 
witness forever powerless to avert her face or her confession 
from the One she loves. But she is more than a reflection, 
however pure. She is the chosen sun, the "woman clothed 
with the sun" mentioned in the Apocalypse [12:1] who 
marches from hill to hill like an army in battle formation, 
under the command of love, and who appears at last on the 
farthest range of the horizon, glowing, with sword in hand. 

Epee, 9 

84 I Believe in God 


One can resist force, skill, or self-interest. One can 
even resist Truth, but one cannot resist Beauty, holding Inno- 
cence in her arms. 

Ei}. Isaie, 316 


Do we not read in the Book of Kings that the glory of 
the Lord fills God's house? What shall we say, then, of that 
golden mansion which has ever been open to the light of 
Nazareth and Calvary? Gold belongs to God, says the prophet 
Aggai [2:8], but Mary herself is all gold, she is all crystal, she 
is all reflection, she is all purity, she is all fidelity. It is she 
whom the Canticle of Canticles compares to the moon, the 
full moon, immaculata. She borrows the beam of light but 
reserves nothing for herself; yet it would be wrong to say 
that, like the snowy sentinel of our nights, she throws it all 
away. On the contrary, we are told that Mary takes all those 
things which she has received from God and ponders them 
in her heart, and that all the glory of the King's Daughter 
comes from within. 

fainte, 102 


It was Mary who was chosen to bring forth the Sun, 
and all space is filled with her splendor. 

Cantique, 293 

Her Innocence 

"You are beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blem- 
ish in you/' [Cant. 4:7] It is this purity, this beauty, this 

Born of the Virgin Mary 85 

total receptivity, this halo, this dominion and claim on God, 
which permitted her to place her hand on His own scepter. 5 
It is this grace and this justice which the Virgin descended 
from heaven to bring to us. 

Apocalypse, 193 

Union with God 

She hears and understands what the Father tells the 
Son in heaven, and its echo lies in the heart of the Son. 

She does not simply understand, she incarnates, she 
elaborates an image, she is the mother of God. 

Through the action of the Holy Spirit, it is she who 
produces God, who makes Him accessible, who transforms 
Him and presents Him whole to our flesh and our eyes. It 
is she who provides us with Christ as a complete man. It is 
she who embraces the Father in all the force of His genera- 
tive power so that He begets Christ not just once, but end- 
lessly, in the heart of each Christian. 

Epee, 195 

Union with Christ 

The veil of Veronica that is preserved today at Turin 
has absorbed for all time the emanation of Christ's humanity, 
of His face and body. But is not the soul of the Virgin Mary 
a more appropriate medium than mere scraps of cloth to ab- 
sorb, reproduce, and fix in changeless currency the mystery 
of the incarnation? I see the image of the suffering face of 
God on the day of His Redemption, stamped on her soul as 
on a piece of money, by means of which we are rendered 

Epee, 194 

B A reference to Esther, to whom Assueras offered his scepter. (Cf. Esther 15:14) 

86 I Believe in God 


It is Mary who, in the name of Humanity, fully an- 
swers God's call, that "Where are you?" which reverberated 
through the Garden of Eden after the fall of man. "Where 
are you?" asks the grief-stricken Father, As for the blind 
creature who is victim of that pride to which he yielded with 
passionate reluctance he, poor creature, cannot check the 
desperate query that comes to his lips: "You, Father, where 
are you?" 

If someone will only show us the Father, it will be 

And lo, a great cry rings out; it is the voice of a woman, 
a virgin: "I found him whom my heart loves . . . and I 
would not let him go/' [Cant. 3:4] I have found Him so 
utterly that never again will He succeed in ridding Himself 
of me. I hold Him, I withhold Him, I contain Him how 
shall I say it? it is He who contains me. I am that stem from 
whom, before the eyes of nations, He borrows root, stature, 
life, personality, and speech! 

Taime, 101 


Mary Bequeathed to Mankind 

When on Calvary Jesus makes His last will and testa- 
ment in favor of mankind and when to His mother He leaves 
a son, and to the son He leaves His mother, His own, it is not 
simply an affectionate formality. It is a solemn and sacra- 
mental transaction. He leaves this son with all his needs, 
which will allow no rest for her maternal instincts, and He 
leaves this mother, His own, with all her prerogatives. 

One is to preserve, the other to serve. 

Taime, 106 

Born of the Virgin Mary 87 


As all fatherhood is in God, so all motherhood is in 
Mary. At least she is the chosen depository of that mother- 
hood which is in God, according to the words placed in His 
mouth by the prophet Isaia: "That even should your mother 
forget you, I will never forget you." [49:15] 

Mary became mother of Jesus Christ, which means that 
through her all women, honored by her and inseparably one 
with her, have become in a certain sense the mothers of Jesus 
Christ, Daughter of Eve, He who is born of you, a woman 
like any other, "shall be called the Son of God." [Luke 1:35] 
For our sake a God emerges from the deepest bowels of Hu- 

Taime, 107 


Our heavenly Father who by the Word is Author of all 
that is, has chosen to share His creative power with a woman. 
She has the Word, she carried this Beauty, this Love, and 
now holds It proudly aloft before the eyes of Him who since 
time began has been the mighty instigator of life and growth. 
By the birth of this Son, she becomes Mother of all that time 
has brought forth from its very conception. 

Rose, 120 


Since God made use of her to obtain the Man-God who 
is Christ, is it not natural that He turn to her to obtain this 
regenerated son who is the Christian? . . . She understands 
God's request, His peculiar need for this new soul. She is the 
intimate and all-embracing Church which knows it cannot 
dispense with this new member , . . Slow, yielding, patient, 

88 I Believe in God 

persistent, wise, tender, she makes a cast of this new saint 
(for every man ready to be born is a potential saint). . . . 
This is what I understand by the nursing or motherly role of 

Rose, 126-127 

Dialogue Between Mary and the Soul of Man 

Mirror of peace, torch of the spirit, overflowing vessel 
of the soul! Harvest of meditation, doorway to our lips, moon, 
nectar drawn from a source invisible to our eyes! We look 
up at you as you sit in contemplation. Bestower of alms! The 
sun solemnly shows us where we are, but the moon rouses in 
us the sense of where we are not. 

"Fellow spirit!" she says, "shrouded eye, friend, emana- 
tion from your center of that name spelled by love, ah, if 
there is in you some secret spring of gentleness and fragrance, 
do not refuse this beam which I have borrowed for your sake, 
a distillation of reverence and of dew! It is the darkness that 
allows me to reach you, it is the silence that permits you to 
hear me. Bathed in the one I love, I invite you to share my 

Cantique, 288 


Role as Mother of Mankind 

Just as deep in her womb she fashioned Christ, so she 
fashions the Christian in the image of her Beloved until it is 
time for him to emerge. This is why the sacred text specifically 
represents her as presiding over doorways: "By the gates of 
the City," says the Book of Proverbs, "in the entryways." [8.3] 
"Happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my 
doorposts/' [8:34] These are the Two Commandments. 

Poete, 96 

Born of the Virgin Mary 89 

Marys Role at Our Death 

As she held the living Christ in her arms, Mary now 
embraces the dead Christ. 6 And as every man bom of woman 
lived in Him and lay on her breast, so every man who dies, 
dies only in her embrace and receives as his first burial place 
the very mother who made him in the image of her Son. 

In the cradle or on the deathbed, when man is no 
longer able to stand on his own feet, his mother appears to 
comfort him. It is she who tucks us in and prepares us for 
that deep sleep from which the Angel's trumpet will awaken 
us at last 

Epee, 156 

Presence and Role 

Hail to Thee, Our Father who art in heaven, and good 
morning to you, Celestial Mother, clothed with the sun! 

It is you who, according to the rhythm of the months, 
which are also years and centuries, remain at the center of the 
zodiac under that sign which bears your name, whose diadem 
is crowned in turn by Sagittarius, the Ram, and the Lion; it is 
you whose countenance dispels the shadows of darkness and 
death, it is you whose breath warms this living earth of ours, 
rousing all things and bringing them to their fullness. It is you 
who every morning greet the curved path of the planet as it 
swims into your sight, spilling toward you a cataract of 
mountains, seas, and deserts, great blue and yellow patches 
between the twin stigmata of its poles, It is you who come 
streaming through the windowpanes of hospitals and factories 
and of cathedrals, when the priest lifts the host and the 
chalice in his hands. 

9 At the descent from the cross. 

90 I Believe in God 

It is you who shower the blank page of the writer with 
ideas, and the woodland paths beneath our feet with countless 
gold. It is you who bend over the cradles of sleeping children 
and who gently unlock the hearts of the innocent. 

And it is you, too, who train the old man's feet for 
those first timid steps beyond the flesh which he is about to 
take. There they are, carefully ranged in the churchyards, 
those numberless generations who have pronounced you 

Rose, 65 


From the first moment when she felt that hungry 
mouth gnaw her breast and imbibe her heart, Mary has been 
the prey and the accomplice of that great theological desire of 
the Ail-Powerful. She participates in the vigor and indignation 
of this God who cries out from His bowels, What! I who cause 
others to give birth, shall I not give birth myself? She gives 
herself to be consumed, to be plowed to the roots. 

Yes, I understand that great longing that compels You 
to turn to me, to release from that prison, which I am for you, 
those two arms that will find their full spread only on the 
cross. Take my son, then O my God take all of me! Take 
my blood, take my heart, take my soul, take them all! And do 
not think that You will even succeed in leaving me; do not 
think that wherever You are and wherever You go, Your 
mother will ever cease to be with You! or that, whatever You 
do, she will not do it with You! 

Rose, 168 


"She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings 
she plants a vineyard." [Prov. 31:16] This field which she 
picks out is the Church, and it is also the soul of man for which 

Bora of the Virgin Mary 91 

she has provided the ransom and of which it is said that it was 
redeemed at great cost. The vine, which she planted with this 
fruit which we see in her arms, is the cross. 7 

Poete, 93 


That resplendent sister who was equal to bearing a 
God . . . Mary who assails us with her Christ-bearing virtue. 

Rose, 221 

Her Prerogative 

There are things that Christ Himself does not under- 
stand unless His Mother whispers them in His ear. 

Rose, 76 


Mary, you are our living tongue, you are our elo- 
quence without end. You alone can talk face to face with God! 
Only you can divine our thoughts, express our souls, pray our 
prayers, desire our desires, cry our cries, suffer our pain . . . 
For that Word which begets all things is ever with you in 
order that you may express all things, in order that you may 
whisper in the Father's ear the names of all who are capable 
of being His sons. And if He pretends not to see, your skill 
insures that His groping fingers will find His Lamb! 

Rose, 92 


Mary and the Church 

1 am the heart of the Church! It is I who, indissolubly 
wed to God by love, must lead Him deep down into the old 

* A propos of the verse, "When one finds a worthy wife," [Prov. 31:10] 

92 I Believe in God 

wine cellar of the corporeal mansion, that He may revive the 
whole body to its extremities, and not suffer it to die. 

Cantique, 27 

Our Lady of Lourdes 

This is the sublime countenance which the Eternal 
kept in sight as an inspiration from which to create the world! 
Small wonder, then, that at the sight of her, sores are healed 
and cripples, whose whole architecture is out of joint, are 
made straight. Blocked passages reopen, torn tissues are re- 
built, and constricted hearts expand. Body and soul are drawn 
to the emulation of that image of God, resplendent, humble, 
victorious, grateful, faithful, prayerful . . . She hands us her 
rosary as an invitation to ascend. Yes, Mother of God, image 
of God, it is with you, in Joy without end, that we would rise 
from rose to rosel 8 

Seigneur, 81 


Prolific virgin, says the prophet, abound and fill me 
with admiration of those teeming multitudes to whom you 
gave birth on a single day. Behold, they come to you from 
north and south, and there is not one of these radiant citizens 
of eternity who does not recognize you as his mother, 

Taime, 98 

Mary and the Bible 

It has been said of many of the saints and monks, St. 
Bernard in particular, that they knew all of Scripture literally 

8 A rose, in French, can also be a species of precious stone, thus completing the 
image of the rosary as a pathway of gems leading the way to heaven. Trans. 

Born of the Virgin Mary 93 

by heart, and that, like the thousand shields that embellished 
the walls of King David's mystic arsenal and vibrated at the 
sound of his harp, the sacred verses crowded to their lips to 
answer all the needs of their minds and hearts, and to solve all 
the problems of their daily lives. 

What, then, of the Blessed Virgin, who does not need 
to learn the Bible since she herself is a living Bible? She is the 
support of the Word, the stem of that sun which illuminates 
the world with the radiance of words that do not pass away. 
She stands singing the Magnificat and telling God of the won- 
drous work He chose her to perform. She is the voice of the 
whole universe which encircles her like a crown and which 
she eases of that great burden of glorification and thanks- 
giving with which it swells. 

Taime, 117 


It is she; it is she! At the thought of her the whole Bible 
catches fire in my mind in a blaze of syllables, like a fabric 
sown with brilliants! 

It is she; it is she! She is the drop of manna the Lord 
placed in the mouth of Eve to take away the taste of the for- 
bidden fruit and to impart it to Adam. It is she who set all 
sacred history in motion. 

It is she who lured Abraham from the town of Ur of 
the Chaldees, away from those hydraulic complications and 
regulations and all that bakery of clay idols, and who sum- 
moned him out into the world to take command and leader- 
ship of his flock. It is she who led him to those plateaus where 
we meet Melchisedech, King of Salem, and who raised that 
pavilion where the guests are the Three Persons of the Trinity. 

She is the image of Isaac in the heart of Rebecca, she is 
the treaty of Jacob through all those years of slavery. She was 
waiting, drum in hands, on the opposite bank of the Red Sea 
to greet the terrified column of refugees. She beguiled David 

94 I Believe in God 

through the eyes of Bathsheba and through the mouth of 
Solomon she gave caravans to the Queen of Sheba in exchange 
for the incense of the desert and the ivory of Ethiopia, a won- 
drous remuneration of riddles and enigmas. 

Down through the generations of Kings and Pontiffs, 
mortified believers and wailing women, through the trans- 
plantations of Babylon and Medea, she fed silently on the milk 
and honey of the prophecies. She whom "all generations have 
called blessed" is the central figure and the culmination of a 
whole race tormented by the word of God. 

Rose, 121 

Devotion to Mary (The Rosary) 

We know from the example of Bernadette that these 
worthless stones, which we can hardly spit out of our mouths, 
become, when transformed by the fingers of the Virgin, sips of 
an ecstatic dew! 

Seigneur, 89 


What are these roses which never cease to appear, 
bloom, shed their petals, and bloom again around those bare 
feet which bruised the serpent? Are they not the very ele- 
ments of the Rosary, those humble prayers of ours which rise 
no higher than the feet of the Immaculate Virgin but which, 
thanks to that chain she lets down to us, are raised to her 
heart and to her lips? And if, at the invitation of that cross 
which hangs suspended from a crown, we dare raise our eyes 
toward that Lady whose girdle is all Heaven, do we not see 
each bead of our rosaries mount the ladder and scaffolding of 
these ten fingers, each crowding its neighbor and bringing it 
to its knees, each reaching at last those lips that once received 
the kiss of the Holy Spirit? The blessed mouth awaits our 

Bom of the Virgin Mary 95 

humble words, and the upturned eyes bear them at last into 
the bosom of the Trinity! 

Seigneur, 91 


A child of Eve like us, granted but I am not one of 
those who, through literary or personal prejudice, exaggerate 
her rustic side: goodwife, poor woman, simple housekeeper. 
No, no! Sovereign of Angels, Queen of Philosophers, Mother 
of God, maintain your august rank, do not put off that splen- 
did garment in which you are clothed! This is the way we 
love you! In fimbriis aureis: that golden fringe is but the out- 
ward show of that glory gleaming from within. 

Seigneur, 83 

Suffered Under Pontius 
Pilate, Was Crucified, 
Died, and Was Buried 

Je crois sans y changer un seul point ce que mes peres ont cm auant 


Confessant le Sauveur des hommes et Jesus qui est mart sur la croix. 

Odes, 203 

IT WAS not with a cold or un- 
feeling eye that the poet regarded 
the crossl x The Passion of his 
Master pierced his heart like a 
sword. There is not one of his 
poems or commentaries which 
does not bear its image in minia- 
ture. Claudel is the disciple of the 

X A reference to Claudel's Un Poete 
regarde la Croix. 


Christ who was crucified on Cal- 
vary. He could not forget Him if 
he tried, and his finest lyric flights 
and his most profound medita- 
tions, those richest in doctrine, are 
devoted to the Mystery of the Re- 

He takes us to Gethsemane 
where the Son of Man is seized by 
rude hands: "these are no longer 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 

the delicate fingers of the Blessed 
Virgin, nor the eager but fearful 
adoration of that other Mary," 
these hands are "skilled and full 
of hate, the hands of a butcher." 
(Poete, 60) 

Then the agony begins: "this 
naked and shivering body is all 
wrapped in stripes, all clothed in 
wounds," while expert hands 
weave the crown of thorns, "that 
ring of fire and needles." (Poete, 

Behold the Redeemer on the 
Way of affliction, "this nameless 
creature, His harness strapped on 
His back, staggering under the 
monstrous framework" of the 
Cross like "Atlas shouldering the 
Universe/' (Ep6e, 49) 

And when His executioners 
have fastened Him to the instru- 
ment of His torment, He appears 
not as one who is vanquished but 
as "a God fully in action, utterly 
absorbed in the effort to raise the 
whole world to His level . . . 
The cross is God at work." (Ibid., 
240, 244) 

Claudel's Christianity is not a 
defeatist resignation, it is a dy- 
namic union with a victorious 
Messiah. His whole faith is illu- 
mined by the triumph of Christ. 
With the utmost delicacy he per- 
ceives the Creator "in the attitude 
of a suppliant," bathing our feet 
"with His kisses and His tears/* 
and who knows? he adds poig- 
nantly, "perhaps He is still there. 
We must take care not to step on 
Him." (Ibtd., 240) 


This cross where God hangs dy- 
ing is also the wine press where 
the heavenly fruit is to be pressed: 
"You can hear the bones cracking 
under the screw, between the two 
plates of this machine cranked at 
the base/' (Seigneur, 107) 

It is not only on these two in- 
tersecting beams that the Re- 
deemer, "spread out to the ut- 
most," extends His arms, it is "on 
the Universe whose knot, center, 
reason for being, heart, and hinge 
He now and forever forms. . . . 
It is the whole world which He 
draws to Himself with each in- 
halation, tearing it out by the 
roots with the beams from His 
hands and feet" and which He 
restores to His Father "in that ex- 
halation which is a Word/* And 
Claudel concludes with this pow- 
erful sentence: "The Cross is that 
Deed in the heart of the world by 
which all is fulfilled in the Word/' 
(Poete, 149) 

Let us note, that all the po- 
et's compassion for the suffering 
Christ, which inspired his most 
beautiful writing, never deterio- 
rates into insipidity or bathos. 
The sublime struggle of the Son 
of God with the powers of dark- 
ness must not be an occasion for 
sentimentalized pity. This is made 
clear in the description of the Vir- 
gin at the foot of the Cross: she 
is not swooning in the arms of St. 
John; she is on her feet, vigorously 
participating in the great work of 
the Redemption, With what force- 
ful, telling strokes Claudel depicts 


this Mother, not overcome by sor- 
row, but a "valiant woman" par ex- 
cellence, "fully awake and aware 
. , the image of the Church," 
conscious of her unique role, "She 
sees, she knows, she watches, she 
witnesses!" (Epee, 72) 

It is in such passages that Clau- 
del's virile faith asserts itself, de- 
void not of sentiment, but of sen- 
timentality. It is a powerful and 
lucid faith, humble and repentant, 
stretched taut in the effort to con- 
centrate on "this beating Heart to 
which it is drawn." (Poete, 244) 

Wherever he turns, his sharp- 
eyed faith points out to him the 

I Believe in God 

blessed traces of the Redemption 
of the Son of God: "There is not 
a pebble on the road, not a thorn 
in the hedge, on which He has 
not left a drop of His blood or a 
shred of His flesh." (Ep6e, 48) 

Although the emotion is strong 
and the language occasionally of 
a piercing realism, Claudel never 
indulges in exaggeration or excess; 
he abandons at the outset any 
mere oratorical effects. He does 
not address himself to a surface 
sensibility but to that secret spring 
of the human will which must re- 
spond with nobility and magnani- 

Job as the Suffering Christ 

The Book of Job belongs to the most ancient bedrock 
of the literature of the Bible. And at the other end of this long 
road of Scripture, which extends through the ages, there ap- 
pears another Job, but how much more sorrowful, how much 
more the perfect summation of all that the human condition 
can present not only of physical or spiritual suffering, but of 
injustice and not of an arbitrary injustice, but an essential 
one. We are at Gethsemane; the case is no longer of a rich 
landowner who loses his fortune, or a father bereft of his 
children, or a man at the mercy of a blind enemy who does not 
know what he is doing. This time it is God who has become 
man, who has taken upon Himself all the horror of our hu- 

Look now, old Job! You call Him to justice; behold 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 99 

how He has answered your summons. You asked Him to ap- 
pear in court on equal terms; He has done so. What do you 
have to say now? Is He sufficiently stripped of His divinity? 
You could search in vain for anything more naked or de- 

Job had friends who clumsily but sincerely took an in- 
terest in his predicament. Christ too has friends, friends whom 
for three years He has nurtured with the deepest secrets of 
His heart and mind His very flesh and blood. There they are, 
snoring on the ground, and when they rouse themselves from 
their dull stupor, they will take to their heels as fast as they 
can. Peter denies Him, Judas has betrayed Him for silver. In 
the name of the very Law which He Himself gave to the 
world He is solemnly accused, tried, condemned, excom- 
municated, and put to death. 

Taime, 16 

The Treachery of Judas 

The moment of expulsion is at hand. This Christ who 
last Sunday entered Jerusalem in triumph on a path strewn 
with the spoils of nature and the harvest of humanity, this 
irresistible Christ before whom the gates of the city fell spon- 
taneously from their hinges, this Christ who in the sight of 
His people and on the rock of David proclaimed Himself in 
words confirmed by thunder this Christ, Judas solemnly de- 
clares is no longer wanted, The time has come to eliminate 
Him. The time has come to expel once and for all that bene- 
diction which, down through the ages, has tormented the 
bowels of Israel. He is not only condemned, but accursed. 
Away with Him! 

The tradition of Christianity begins with the extradi- 
tion of Jesus Christ 

Poete, 51 

100 I Believe in God 

Jesus Stripped of His Clothing 

"What our hands have handled of the Word of life," 
says St. John. No longer the delicate fingers of the Blessed Vir- 
gin lifting the veil from the newborn child, nor the eager but 
fearful adoration of that other Mary clinging to the feet of her 
Saviour, not even the meaningless aggression of those brute 
furies to whom He was first delivered: this is the hour of the 
technician, the executioner who knows his job. It is to the 
whole body of Christ in its mass, volume, and division into 
limbs that these coarse hands, skilled and full of hate, now 
turn in a gesture that belongs at once to the butcher and the 

Let us strip Him before we are forced to hold Him 
down and feel the body scream at the pull of the jack. Let 
us begin by seizing that coat of many colors in which Joseph's 
mother dressed her son, the dreamer of dreams, that whole 
prophetic tissue of forms and colors in which the Divine Wis- 
dom wrapped the Messiah; let us tear it off Him with a loud 
guffaw, and it's just too bad if the skin comes too! 

Po&te, 60 

The Flagellation 

Behold first the flagellation from head to foot carefully 
administered by experts. Now comes the malicious and linger- 
ing crown of thorns made of three brambles artfully inter- 
twined. And then, forward I Vexilla Regis prodeunt. Behold 
the victor beneath His cross; now begins that sacred proces- 
sion under which the foundations of the earth have never 
ceased to tremble. Here is Calvary, where the Mother has 
followed her Son, and where, I think, she perhaps preceded 

guttered Under rontius dilate 101 

Him. Behold the Word incarnate, stripped of all Its outer 
coverings, without a rag to hide It from our eyes. 

Discours, 31 

This body ... all wrapped in stripes, all clothed in 
wounds, so that not an inch of this sacred flesh has escaped 
the cruel inquisition of Justice, these lashes armed with 
plumbs and hooks which have descended on it. ... These 
are not passages which we must decipher line by line, this is 
the whole Passion presented to our eyes in a single image. 

Toi, 14 


Blind rage is succeeded by clear-eyed hate. Now His 
dimmed countenance is no longer enough, we must have the 
whole body of Christ stripped from head to foot of all veils 
and accessories. He is the one we are after! It is time we took 
measure of this body all naked and shivering before us. ... 

Hurled at random, the whip cleaves to the victim, it 
hisses, it clings, it writes on Him, it pierces the surface, it 
penetrates the inmost recesses like a flame, it leaves a sharp 
and deadly record of us on His whole length. It lashes, it 
cuts, it severs, and that heavy barb at its end tears out and 
brings back bits of living flesh. . . . Strike, strike, torturer, as 
hard as you can, wherever you can! With every scrap of flesh 
you tear a soul from Him! 

Poete, 46 

The Spitting 

The first humiliation for Christ is the spitting. It is the 
first blind and almost instinctive reaction of the animal faced 

102 I Believe in God 

with the danger of divinity. Our whole being shrinks back in 
horror, and we try to fling it from us. I mean both the verbal 
spitting of insult and blasphemy, and the actual ejection of 
spittai We try to give Him physical contact with our denial 
The moisture that fills our mouths and serves the 
faculties of digestion and of speech we fling in His face; we 
spit Him our salutation. Speech has become excrement. With 
His saliva, with His word mingled with earth, the Lord once 
made an ointment to heal our blindness: let us repay Him 
with this gob of slime! 

Poete, 44 

The Buffeting 

These are the animal instincts, the brute passions, the 
wild agitation of an intoxicated mob which hurls itself on 
Christ and tries to crush Him under its weight, to bruise Him, 
to grind Him, to disfigure Him. . . . Listen to the slapping 
of these hands raised at random against the sacred flesh! Our 
right hand, the image of the one that created the world! 

Poete, 44 


The Crown of Thorns 

But what are they doing, those amateurs over there? 
Really, they are true artists who are fashioning with taste a 
little masterpiece of weaving skill. To take these three care- 
fully chosen lengths of bramble, to bend them, to intertwine 
them, to fasten them firmly together in the perfect shape of 
a crown, to arrange these cruel thorns without hurting them- 
selves, so that the lucky recipient derives the full benefit, is a 
delicate operation which is entrusted to cleverer hands than 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 103 

those of gross soldiers. This King who has been delivered to 
us, must He not have a crown? A real crown, something 
strongly woven, durable, something secure, stitched to the 
very flesh, planted in the temples and the bones of the skull? 
It is the ram caught in the brambles which Providence 
offers to Abraham to take the place of his own son on the altar. 
No longer the shower of repeated blows, the ruinous power 
of the lash; now He is surrounded by a hostile and unyielding 
circle. Here is doubt, more painful, more poisonous than 
denial. The band, the serpent encircling His head, is there to 
stay; it is a circle of fire and needles. 

Poete, 47 


"Art thou, then, a King?" Pilate asks; and this Man with 
His hands tied answers, "Thou sayest it." 

Come forth, daughters of Jerusalem, and look upon 
Him in the crown with which His mother has crowned Him 
on the day of his marriage! [cf. Canticle 3:11] How many 
mysteries are contained in this one simple phrase! The crown 
is the crown of thorns, and who has placed it on His head? Not 
His enemies, but His Mother! This is the means she has found 
to make a king of Him. And why a king? Because nothing less 
would honor the bride whom she has chosen for Him the 
bride who is none other than the human soul. And this nuptial 
crown is not a mere decoration, a dead object; it is alive. It is 
the grafting, the stitching, the driving into the head, it is the 
piercing and greedy embrace of the thorn of humanity, it is 
the insatiable measuring of desire and doubt endlessly inter- 
twined . . . 

Behold it is here, the grievous day of His wedding on 
earth, prelude to the one which will be consummated in 

C antique, 112 

104 I Believe in God 


Like Moses, we have been allowed to look directly on 
the burning bush. It is not for nothing that the world has re- 
claimed the royalty which the vine and the palm concealed. 
It is not for nothing that in a tangled thicket was found this 
ram to take Isaac's place under the sacrificial knife this ram 
whose horns wind around his ears in matching spirals. 

Rose, 182 


Here, at last, is the cross, the supreme instrument of in- 
terrogation in the legal sense of the word, the windlass rigged 
to sail to the limit of hypostasis, the admirably designed 
stretching machine which measures with its four arms just 
how far the flesh of this victim entrusted to it cleaves to 

Discours, 32 


Behold the Victor who steps forth to do battle; see 
Him standing erect on the threshold, the redresser of the uni- 
verse, the restorer of justice. . . . Here I ami Who could go 
forth in My place, when it is the very axis of the world that 
needs righting? 

Rose, 169 


Through Him, the wilderness takes on form. It is He 
who justifies History, releases time, and sets the distant hills 
in motion. 

Rose, 188 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 105 

The Way of the Cross 

Like the rising sun, like Adas shouldering the Uni- 
verse . . . this torn and tottering mass, this nameless crea- 
ture, His harness strapped on His back, staggering under the 
monstrous framework, this living tower under its own scaffold- 
ing, this Samson come to the edge of Gaza, this anathema 
come to the edge of the rampart and who appears, murdered 
and victorious, above that abyss which is the downfall of all 
it is You, my Son! Murdered and victorious, mauled and mas- 
sacred, torn and lacerated from head to foot, pouring forth 
blood, light, and divinity from every pore it is You, my 

It is You, my God, my Creator and Redeemer, the 
scapegoat which for centuries Jerusalem has been laboring to 
uproot and expel from her bowels! At last she has succeeded 
in driving it out in a storm of blows and curses! She has 
gotten rid of Him. Like Judas she has voided herself with a 
single effort, and she delivers Him to the world with a final 
scream of childbirth. 

Now it is as if the dike of a dam has burst and the un- 
leashed flood sweeps everything along with it: present, past, 
and future, the people and prophecies of the Old Testament, 
pell-mell, the seeds of posterity and the scattered members 
of the future Church, the uprooted obstacle caught in the 
whirlpool, the vomitings of hate and despair, the invasion of 
that vast sunken land around us that demands to be filled. 

Jesus Christ advances, formidable, amid this tidal 
wave, and the Virgin follows Him with dry feet. He has 
brought with Him a torrent and it rests with Him whether we 
may moisten our lips or not. 

Epee, 49 

106 I Believe in God 


The Elevation of the Cross (After the Painting by Rubens) 

This powerful diagonal, this great bird which rises and 
takes its flight, this Man being hoisted up to meet His Father, 
this hand triumphantly raised which calls Heaven to witness, 
all this toiling and grinding of teeth which is resolved by that 
enthronement at the right hand of the Father; all this vibrat- 
ing between hope and terror forces the beholder off balance. 
... It is one of those moments when devotion bows to 

Poete, 202 

On the Cross 

Behold the great Word open before our eyes, spread 
out before us, for us to read at sight. He is fixed forever be- 
fore us in that primitive position in which He made heaven 
and earth. All the heretics may attack His limbs, they may 
succeed in dislocating His f emur but they will not succeed in 
disturbing the hypostatic union, that vital articulation, that 
other femur on which the Apocalypse tells us are inscribed 
the words "King of Kings and Lord of Lords/' [19:16] 

Here is the invitation directed to us by those two arms 
which made the world and which will remain there all day 
until they have remade it. Behold those great wings unfurled 
through which two things become one. Behold God, behold 
Love shamelessly exposed and unveiled before our eyes. Be- 
hold Jesus crucified on a triangle and the completion in His 
own person of the man envisioned by Zacharias who 
"stretches forth the measuring line over Jerusalem/* [Zach. 

Poete, 61 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 107 


"And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all 
things to myself." [John 12:32] I am instantly reminded of 
that elevation which is the central moment of the Mass, when 
the priest, modern counterpart of the ancient sacrifice^ dis- 
plays to heaven and earth this victim, this throbbing heart, 
that lives in his hands. As this standard is raised, the tide of 
the faithful rises from the back of the Church to break on the 
steps of the sanctuary. And I associate their supplication with 
that strange episode of the brazen serpent [Numbers 21], that 
deadly and devouring principle which Moses plucks from the 
sand and hoists on the end of a pike, to become the means of 
curing his maddened people, That which, when hidden on the 
ground, bit and killed, now visible, held aloft, becomes our 
deliverance. The minister of death has become an instrument 
of salvation. 

Poete, 238 


Jesus Christ tells us that the measure of His exaltation 
is that of His abasement. There is nothing so low that He has 
not chosen to befriend it. Not only does He crawl in the mud 
like the serpent or in corruption like the worm; He is under 
our feet. It is our very foundations, the basis of our movement 
and our equilibrium alike, that He has come to verify, sanc- 
tify, and baptize. It is at our feet that the Creator has assumed 
the attitude of a suppliant; our feet that He has watered with 
His kisses and His tears. (And who knows? He may be there 
still. We must take care not to step on Him.) 

Poete, 239 

108 I Believe in God 


The God we worship is not simply upright, He is ex- 
alted. He is unfurled to the utmost, there is not a fiber of His 
body where power is not in action! He is above everything, 
He holds onto nothing, but it is He who holds us and we who 
hold fast to Him, indissolubly. He is suspended there for all 
time as an intermediary between heaven and earth. He is a 
God in full operation. Not only is He Himself raised, but with 
His eyes fixed on His Father, He is utterly absorbed in the 
effort to raise all else, even ourselves, to His own level. 

Poete, 240 

The Cross 

Of this inexhaustible energy of Christ which draws 
everything to Him, of this fourfold longing exerted at once 
on the left and on the right, on the heights and on the depths, 
of this all-embracing Unity, of this cosmic transaction, the 
Cross is not merely the abstract symbol but, I venture to 
suggest, the concrete mechanism. The crucified Christ never 
ceases to function. It is a visible machine in constant use. It 
is the unfailing leaven which never ceases to operate on the 
three measures of meal. 

Poete, 243 


The Cross is God at work. It is not only His rack, it is 
His active self, His extracting and unifying role, His extension 
between the four cardinal points: the North, or Zenith, which 
is its heavenly origin; the South, or Nadir, which is matter 
wanned by grace, on which force must be exercised; and 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 109 

those aims to right and left which are the implements of its 
earthly power. 

Poete, 244 


Since God was crucified in the center of the world, its 
sole concern has been to pay closer and closer attention to this 
beating heart to which it is drawn. 

Poete, 244 


"X am not come to be served, but to serve/* [Matt. 

Well, if it is true that You came to serve, I dare say You 
got what you were after! I do not speak for myself alone, but 
for the whole lot of us, people just like me. It is painful to 
know that You are here at our disposal and that we can think 
of no better use for You than to help pass that tedious half- 
hour before dinner on Sunday. I may be right in thinking that 
You prefer downright sinning to such chill good manners. All 
the same, those two who kept You company on the Cross were 
not very desirable types. And, incidentally, where are You 
coming from now? . . . "Here is the smell of crowded 
fields," someone said. You smell of fields, You smell of hovels 
and evil holes, of universities and hospitals, of cemeteries and 
theaters, of battlefields and factories, of all the slaughter- 
houses where the bodies and souls of men, women, and chil- 
dren perish. 

"The good smell of Christ," Your protege, St Paul, used 
to call it. We cannot get rid of You so easily, and the bond that 
attaches You to the cross, that marriage You celebrated with 
her, is still in force. As the peasant smells of the land and the 
shoemaker of leather, as the baker smells of bread, and the 
painter of paint, and the fanatic scholar just try to have a 

110 I Believe in God 

chat with him! reeks from every pore of that laboratory 
where he buries himself twenty-six hours a day, so the Christ 
I press to my heart is not the ruddy athlete of Delacroix. 2 
This Christ is the miserable rag of humanity, buffeted, bled, 
crushed, drained, rent, twisted, stretched, wounded, pierced, 
broken, probed, harassed, clawed, torn, mauled, and assailed 
from head to foot not only by hate and all the powers of hell, 
but by faith, pure faith I tell you, and also by that terrible 
faith without faith, by the faith and love and despair of all 
Mankind. So do we drive out any trace of Almighty God from 
this flesh which belongs to us and which He has no right to, 
which is ours because He gave it to us! There is no doubt 
about it: it is all man and all God who is tonight my wretched 
and triumphant victim! This is not my own idea, it is Scrip- 

Seigneur, 103-105 


Of the two pieces of the cross, one is designed for 
elevation, the other for extension. One fixes the cross in the 
earth and connects it to heaven; the other, going from right 
and left, spreads it abroad as far as the eye can see, thus 
establishing the scales of that Money-changer on which all 
values are weighed, 

Cantique, 106 


There is not a pebble on the road, not a thorn on the 
hedge, on which He has not left a drop of His blood or a shred 
of His flesh. 

Epee, 48 

fl See the painting depicting Jacob wrestling with the angel, in the Church of 
Saint Sulpice. 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 111 


Jesus is planted for all time on Calvary with His back 
turned to Jerusalem and the Jews, He no longer recognizes 
them. It is over; they will not see His face again. His mouth 
will no longer be turned toward them, they will have nothing 
more from Him but this human silhouette in the void with 
which He erases the future. From now on they can only know 
Him a posteriori, backwards. They will remain forever behind 
Him, in the place occupied by Satan ( Vade post me, Satana), 
like a negative and spurious shadow. 

The heavy impact of the cross being driven in place 
resounded like the blow of a battering ram to the very center 
of the earth, introducing an irreparable gap between the Gate 
and the Way. Israel has at last succeeded in expelling that 
promise which has been tormenting her bowels since the time 
of Abraham. Like Judas, she has emptied herself with a single 
effort of what was inside, and now she has nothing. 3 

Poete, 66 


It is not only on these two pieces of wood that the 
Redeemer is stretched and crucified, but on the Universe of 
which He henceforth forms the knot, center, raison d'tre> 
heart, and hinge, the vital and essential member, the organ 
which controls respiration and circulation. It is the whole 
world that He draws to Himself with each inhalation, tearing 
it out by the roots with the beams from His hands and feet 
and restoring it to His Father in that exhalation which is a 

8 Whatever the difficulties of the free interpretation adopted by the poet here (and 
earlier in this chapter, Section 15), it should be pointed out that in the original 
source, it is immediately followed by a moving and noble meditation on the first 
word of Our Lord on the Cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what 
they do." Editors note. 

112 I Believe in God 

Word. The Cross is that deed in the heart of the world by 
which all is fulfilled in the Word. 

Poete, 149 

Christ's Solitude 

"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" God 
the heavenly Father, who raised His voice like a thunder roll 
at the moment of Christ's baptism and of His clash with the 
Pharisees, is silent. One would say that He is deliberately 
hiding, He withdraws, He does not want to see, He covers His 
eyes. It is the moment of the supreme manifestation, that of 
Absence. Long ago Adam hid himself from God among the 
trees of Paradise; now it is God's turn to hide. And Christ, in 
the throes of this terrible metaphysical detachment mingled 
with the onset of the death agony, hears at His feet this in- 
flated persiflage, this explosion of mirth, this pseudoscientific 
self-congratulation which for centuries has fed the egos of all 
so-called intellectuals. 

There he is, the one who had faith in Godl Yes, gentle- 
men, let's take a good look; let's feast our eyes on him. . . . 
YouVe had it, my friend! You got what was coming to you, 
but good! It looks as if you like it up there; well, we try to 
oblige. Try to come down, if you can. This God you were 
always spouting off about, isn't it about time he showed up? 
It seems to me we've given him a good opportunity. Come 
down from your cross, tell him to help you. . , . 

Poete, 134 


His Thirst 

"I thirst!" God is thirsty! In the heart of this world 
which He made this creation which owes its entire existence 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 113 

to Him, whose beginning and end He is He looks around 
and concludes, not by means of an abstract philosophical 
process but in the painful grip of the most immediate and 
urgent necessity, that there is nothing for Him. He created 
the world, and the world denies Him a sip of water. A drop 
of water: the only thing in the world that costs nothing, a 
thing one would not refuse to a wounded animal, a sick dog, 
Humanity is refusing to its Maker and Saviour. 

Poete, 118 


The Presence of Mary 

At the moment when He announces His thirst, and the 
tormenter raises to His lips that rag streaming with an unholy 
wine, there stands at His feet that Vessel of Devotion which is 
raised like a chalice to receive the twin jets of blood and water 
about to stream from the wounded side of die crucified Christ. 
This overflowing will fill that cup to which all priests until 
the end of the world will ever raise a penitent and intoxicated 

Epee, 76 

The Good Thief 

"Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy king- 
dom!" The man on the left manfully persists in that vigorous 
attitude which earns him the sympathy of the "strong- 
minded." It hardly matters, because the other man, this 
courtier of death and destruction, this shameless profiteer, like 
an empty vessel which suddenly overflows, feels himself 
flooded by the prodigious promise: "This day thou shalt be 
with Me in Paradise." 

114 1 Believe in God 

Today! With a single phrase he is not only absolved, he 
is sanctified! In one instant, grace has touched this repulsive 
exterior, and has made good all the deficiencies of virtue. On 
this sordid fork it is no longer a criminal brought to justice 
that we see, it is a martyr, a sacrificial offering that shines 
forth. The murderer, the f ornicator, the thief, the convict, the 
professional bandit, has become a saint. . . . This funda- 
mental acceptance was enough. It was enough, this imper- 
ceptible shift, this tiny chink in the water-tight reservoir of 
our egoism. One look from beneath those bloodied eyelids was 
enough to release this cataclysm of repentance, this resurrec- 
tion mingled with the death agony, this irresistible explosion 
of Eternity, 

Poete, 114 

The Game of Dice 

Let us now consider Christ "on the block," raised up 
above the whole world. At His feet, squatting around a dis- 
ordered pile of garments, is a group of gnomes playing cards, 
and mingled with all the other sounds of the Passion can be 
heard the rattle of the dice in the cup. For it is not enough 
that Christ be "liquidated"; He must be parceled out. The 
sun, dying in the sky, leaves to blind chance, to the empty 
weapon in the drunkard's fist, the task of vomiting Him forth. 
What we have here is a contest so confused, a game of chance 
so complex, between Man, Time, Justice, and Providence, 
that only this travesty of a chalice is fit to pronounce with its 
repeated hiccups the final and unaccountable figures. The 
caprice of dice forming at the bottom of the cup, the bets 
placed since the beginning of the world, come from blind 
chance and return to it. No longer is the interest only being 
distributed; the whole principal is up for auction. 

Poete, 64 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 115 

The Death on the Cross 

He who learned to be bom and to suffer by our hand 
must now teach us how to die, 

Poete, 142 


A god is about to die before our eyes* . . . Let us 
watch as He trembles, struggles, and becomes distorted be- 
fore us. Let Magdalen stay at the foot of the cross, burning 
with sacrificial ardor, let this fragrant volcano send forth great 
cries of love and despair beneath that shower of blood which 
rains on her drop by drop. Leave that humble sinner in her 
ecstasy of grief with all those who sorrow, all the hurt and 
humiliated, all the disgraced and defeated children who 
behold their only friend being pierced by this terrible 
spear. . . . 

Look, then, to what You have been reduced, and see to 
what extremity Your Mercy has been led by Your Justice! 
The Angels were not able to restrain You, nor Your Father's 
arms, nor the breast of the Trinity! On the very brink of this 
act by which all things exist He found no way to defend 
Himself from the shaft of Love. 

. . "God, O my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" 
This is not the pain of absence, but of separation. . . . The 
second Person of the Trinity perceives in all its nakedness the 
denouement of the adventure He has undertaken, and He 
Himself proclaims, publishes, and parades as on a banner its 
fundamental absurdity. . . . 

Potie, 142-146 

116 I Believe In God 


At the moment when Christ's soul leaves His body 
with a great cry and the centurion's lance makes a passage for 
that stream which has its source in His heart, the narrow 
vessel of the holy Earth bursts, and the spiritual topography 
of the Universe is changed. 

Epee, 57 


The earth trembles and gapes, the curtain of the 
temple is torn from top to bottom, the graves vomit up their 
dead. There is a universal shuddering of the whole creation 
around the cross. On all sides things break asunder and yawn 
open: a fissure is produced in response to the event, a separa- 
tion is established, and a veil is torn. 

Epee, 54 


The curtain of the temple is torn, the stunned animals 
flee in all directions and bump against each other, bellowing. 
The dead weep. A great cry escapes from the Holy of Holies 
and fills the whole town, from Antonia to the valley of Hinnon: 
let us leave this place! And meanwhile the blackened moon, 
like the pious Veronica with her handkerchief, wipes away 
the bloody face of the Sun. To the right and left of Christ the 
good and bad thieves hang, hideous and shattered. Calvary is 
deserted, and on the winding road, down below, can be seen 
the tiny figure of a lone man, running away as fast as he can. 

Poete, 201 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 117 

The Dead Christ 

Let us take advantage of this moment of Your death 
and the circumstance that prevents You from being buried 
and of the fact that we are alone to seal tenderly the mouth 
of that wound, those lips which can no longer remember any 
other kiss! And then, come with us, silence! Silence is the 
place where we will lead You, a place more destitute than 
Bethlehem, more humble than the inn at Emmaus. It is a sub- 
terranean spot frequented only by those shades which have 
fled the black face of the morning sun, a place stripped of all 
beauty. But a table is there on which, between two candles, 
the bread and wine have been disposed. Bless them, O Lord, 
with Your sacred hand, that hand which pretended to be 
dead and which lives, so that once more we may take with 
You the Passover! 

Epee, 98 


The Pierced Side 

Now let it flow, we are thirsty! Let that virtue which is 
within Him pour forth, let that source in Him be released, 
whether by draining the blood from the hands and feet, or by 
opening ourselves a passage directly to the heart. ... It was 
not idly that He spoke of that living water "springing up unto 
life everlasting/' [John 4:14] There is, gushing forth in great 
sobs, through the deep gashes in that still burning heart. 

Poete, 61 


We have obeyed the teaching of the Gospel: "Knock and 
it shall be opened unto you/* We have not merely glanced 

118 I Believe in God 

through this text offered for our study but, as was recom- 
mended, we have probed right to its root and source, passing 
from the outer to the inner. Beginning with the visible, we 
have tapped the very soul. 

Poete, 62 


The lance in the hand of Longinus went beyond 
Christ's heart; it opened God, it pierced the very bosom of the 
Trinity. This is "the Lamb who has been slain from the 
foundation of the world." [Apoc. 13:8] That foundation in the 
Word is one with eternity. "Knock, and it shall be opened to 
you," Christ said. Very well, we have knocked, and it has been 
opened to us. It was for this that God became flesh, for this 
that He procured a heart with the help of the Virgin. We have 
placed a seal on Him, a stigmata. The crucifix has been added 
to the Trinity not just a scar, however resplendent, but an 
open wound. "For we have not a high priest who cannot have 
compassion," says St. Paul. [Heb. 4:15] Indeed, there is no 
quality on which Scripture insists more strongly than that of 

Epee, 256 


The Church and the Cross 

The sacred lance is placed in the hands of the cen- 
turion. He thrusts it with all his might into the side and heart 
of the crucified Christ, and the Gospel tells us that out gushes 
blood and water. And then, out of the darkness covering 
heaven and earth, rises that cry, that confession which still 
echoes down through the ages: "Truly this man was the Son 
of God!" [Mark 15:39] 

At last it is out, at last it has been wrung from us, this 
full and sufficient response, a response which the Son left His 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 119 

Father to win from us. And He has obtained it only by means 
of the cross. Now, Our Lord is with us in His Church until 
the end of the world, and it is she who is fastened in His 
place, who is coerced and cross-examined in His stead! 

She, too, will answer only with the cross; only by be- 
coming the cross will she "be able to comprehend with all the 
saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth/' 
[Eph. 3:18] She must go forth from her master, unfurling in 
all directions the wings of that great Eagle which is spoken 
of in the Apocalypse! 

Depth means being firmly rooted in faith, in the doc- 
trine and on the rock which is Peter; width, those right and 
left arms wide enough to embrace not only this world but the 
other as well. The moment is come which is spoken of in 
Ecclesiastes, the moment to embrace. [Eccles. 3:5] And fi- 
nally, for what purpose are the wings of the great Eagle if 
not to transport us aloft? Where? St, John tells us: into the 
wilderness, that wilderness of prayer where we are alone, 
face to face with the sun, face to face with our Maker, This 
is what we need above all; we need prayer more urgently 
than bread. 

Discours, 32 

The Descent from the Cross (After the Painting by Rubens) 

It is no longer to us individually, but to the whole 
Church, kneeling peacefully, that the Saviour is released to 
be welcomed with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our 
full consent. . . . 

The key element of the composition is that great sacra- 
mental cloth, like the communion cloth, which ties all the 
figures and various parts of the scene together and which 
forms around the noble body a sort of luminous halo and a 
radiant pathway linking heaven and earth. Everywhere, hands 
stretch out but dare not touch. The arm of the man at the top 

120 I Believe in God 

is parallel to Christ's and clings to His arm rather than sup- 
ports it. St. John, with his two arms barely visible under the 
ritual linen, prepares to lower the body down to the ecstatic 
heart and soul of the Magdalen waiting below. Another figure 
is carefully picking up a comer of the cloth so it will not drag 
on the ground. The only physical contacts in the painting are 
that arm at the top clinging to the arm of the Father, and 
that bare foot in the foreground resting tenderly on the bare 
shoulder of the Magdalen. 

Those two men on the crossbar one young, the other 
old who are releasing Christ to us are, I submit, the per- 
sonification of the two Testaments, the New and the Old. The 
old man is holding a corner of the drapery between his teeth, 
so that there seems to issue from his mouth that boundless 
stream of light, that multiple cataract of prophecies, analo- 
gies, and proofs surrounding the figure of the Redeemer, that 
shroud from which it is being released. The descent of the 
body is being attended by two venerable figures, one on the 
right, the other on the left. I imagine these represent the 
scholars and ecclesiastical authorities whose ranks are sug- 
gested by the two ends of that ladder which appear, one 
above (under the feet of that young man who is almost in 
flight) , the other at the very bottom, resting on the unfastened 
motto which is propped up by a heavy rock, and on the blood- 
stained copper basin holding the nails and the crown. 

The Pope, prudent and respectful, has his eyes on the 
ground, but St. Paul receives his impulse and inspiration from 
heaven. The group in the foreground is composed of four 
figures: the Blessed Virgin in blue, the two kneeling persons 
in green, and St. John in red. The first, whose upraised hands 
follow her eyes in an attitude of supplication, represents 
Faith; the kneeling couple, Hope; and the eager young man 
whose right foot both steadies the ladder and prepares to 
ascend, is Charity. 

The body of Christ with the wide span of its arms and 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 121 

that simple and powerful curve beginning at the toe and 
terminating in the eloquent hand which bestows its blessing, 
acts as a liaison between heaven and earth. He gives Himself 
in all directions; He has nothing left for Himself; and it is on 
the bare shoulder of the Magdalen that He chooses to descend 
to earth. 

Poete, 203-204 

Mary at Calvary 

She was upright, and not merely her body; her soul 
was upright, full of energy, intelligence, power, and love, 
straight and tall, fully awake and aware. Indeed, was this the 
moment for the valiant woman, the Mother of God, the image 
of the Church, to waver or give way? Could she rob Him of 
a single moment of those three hours she must face her Son, 
this Son who, firmly fixed to the cross could now no longer 
escape her? Was this a time to collapse or faint or be pre- 
occupied with her personal sorrow? Is there a single moment 
to lose in this sacrificial rite in which He has His prearranged 
role and function? 

She has a thousand years to make up for, that mystical 
thousand years which comprise the reign of the Lamb. When 
she hears this Son of her flesh and her soul exclaim trium- 
phantly the dread words, "It is consummated!/* she trembles 
from head to foot but must not weep. Let the earth quake, 
let the sun hide its face, let the curtain of the temple be torn 
from top to bottom, but Mary remains on her feet, unshaken. 
She sees, she understands, she watches, she witnesses, she 
gives, she receives, she consents. 

Ecce ancilla Domini Behold now and forever, once 
again, the handmaid of the Lordl 

Epee, 72 

122 I Believe in God 


Jesus Restored to His Mother 

I sit on the throne of the ages, on the promised throne, 
with the lifeless body on my knees. I share, I embody, this 
whole responsibility; I contemplate it face to face. "If thou 
art the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves 
of bread." [Matt. 4:3] But these two have wrought another 
miracle, and behold, out of this bread they have made a 
rock. 4 

Epee, 245 

The Entombment 

This gaping mouth of annihilation which once swal- 
lowed Jesus' friend 5 and before which the sacred flesh can- 
not repress a shudder (infremuit spiritu) now closes over the 
Son of Man. Even His Mother may not cross this threshold. 
When the stone was rolled in front of the opening and "sealed 
with the ring of the King," can we not imagine that "Mary 
also trembled in her heart," and that she re-echoed that cry 
she heard from the cross, "Eloi, Eloi, [the Lord God invoked 
by His real name] why hast Thou forsaken me?" [Mark 15:34] 

Epee, 266 


Then Jesus was laid in the tomb. But what of the Gos- 
pel, the written Word still present and among us, living, 
speaking, and guiding: has it not also been laid in the tomb? 
Well pinned, well tied, well bound, the Bible is now no longer 
preserved with myrrh and aloes, but with naphtha. Its grave 
is the dustiest corner of our library; in the place of honor is 

*The Church (rock) is the body of Christ. 
8 Lazarus. 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 123 

prominently displayed a magnificent set of the novels of 
Renan and Anatole France. 

You have to look hard to find that old copy of the 
Bible it probably belonged to somebody's grandmother. At 
Mass, most people prefer to look around at their neighbors 
and yawn. Indeed, the yawn is our standard method of open- 
ing ourselves to the Word of God! 

Epee, 267 


Jesus is laid in the tomb. The tomb is the tabernacle 
and the Holy Elements. When we receive Him at communion, 
He is carrying with Him, as it were, this tomb in which He 
is buried, and we are placed in possession of His absence, 
"In the midst of you there has stood one whom you do not 
know." [John 1:26] 

Ep&e, 271 


When I see the Christ emerging from that tomb which 
is His tabernacle to make His way toward that other tomb 
which is man's heart, toward that row of mouths which open 
one by one to receive Him, I am reminded of a passage in 
the Psalms: "Their throat is an open grave" [5:10] a sepul- 
cher from which one rises again, a grave which is a garden. 
St. Paul also tells us that baptism is a sort of communion in 
the tomb: "For you were buried together with Him in Bap- 
tism, and in Him also rose again/* [CoL 2:12] 

Epee, 273 


Gocf s Ways of Calling Man 

God's attitude toward man is that of a father toward 
his ungrateful son, a husband toward his cruel and faithless 

124 I Believe m God 

wife, and why not? a passionate inventor toward a re- 
luctant money-lender. The most accurate image we can form 
of Him is to be found not in Jupiter on Olympus but in Jesus 
at Gethsemane. The face of Jesus is covered with blood, His 
mouth is filled with the bitter taste of the Passover which for 
so long He has wished to share with us. 

"Peter, dost thou love me?" From out of the past I 
hear that same voice with the same intonation. I am speaking 
stupidly, but let me go on. I hear someone who roars and 
struggles in the arms of Moses, Someone who cannot sleep in 
His anxiety, and summons little Samuel. Finally I hear Him, 
blind and groping at the dawn of the Christian era, claiming 
that miserable wretch on the road to Damascus. O Saul, it 
was worth losing my Son to have found you! 

ED. Isaie, 29 

To Carry Our Cross 

O my God, now I understand, it is not a light thing! 
I do not ask to carry Your cross, but merely to accompany it, 
to consider it with that unflinching gaze from which neither 
longing, wonder, nor fear is absent. Look, it has taken flight 
and beckons to me from above. How can I follow it? I feel 
that I have undertaken something beyond my strength. These 
wings of wood, how can I adjust them to fit my shoulders? 
And here on earth, simply to budge this unf athomable in- 
strument, let alone lift it off the ground where will I find the 
strength of sinew, the enormous effort of the will which would 
be required? 

Poete, 237 




It is not his outward dress that distinguishes the Chris- 
but an intense and passionate submission to the will of 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 125 

Jesus Christ and the eager acceptance of the cross He has 
given us to carry. 

Con. Snares, 98 


"I have come to bring a sword not peace/* says the 

I have come to bring the cross, which is the wine press. 

I, the Word, have come to interrogate you. All the 
lives of the saints and histories of the patriarchs ring with the 
complaints of the clay rebelling against those cruel hands 
which attempt to refashion it. As St. Therese cried raptur- 
ously, "Ah, Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is 
no wonder You have so few of them!" And what does Job say 
as he scratches his sores with a fragment of that vessel which 
has just been shattered by the rod of iron? "Perish the day 
on which I was born, the night when they said, 'The child 
is a boy/ " [3:3] "I have done nothing!" he shouts in a roar 
of pain and rage which even today makes our hair stand on 
end. And from all corners of the earth I hear answering cries 
and inconsolable sobbing. "What is man that you make much 
of him, or pay him any heed?" [7:17] And when he re- 
proaches his friend for their advice, the bitterest insult he 
can fling at them is, "Why do you hound me as though you 
were divine and insatiably prey upon me?" [19:22] 

Centuries pass, and we see the prophet Elias throw 
himself face down on the ground, crying, "I am no better 
than my fathers/* [II Kings 19:4] And Jonah, to escape his 
vocation, rushes joyously into the jaws of the whale. As for 
St. Paul, the Lord explains to the hesitant Ananias what He 
has in store for this "chosen vessels": "I will show him how 
much he must suffer for my name." [Acts 9:16] 

When Paul has reckoned the disasters, the blows, the 
betrayals, the anxieties, he speaks for all: "It is a fearful thing 
to fall into the hands of the living God!" [Heb. 10:31] 

Rose, 32 

He Descended into Hell 

Je suis mort et je suis ressusciti une fois pour toutes. 

La Messe Id-bas 

CHRIST'S descent into hell is a 
difficult subject, and only mature 
reflection upon the doctrines of 
theology could guide the poet 
through this seldom explored ter- 
ritory. Nevertheless, it is surpris- 
ing how deeply Claudel's religious 
and poetic intuition has been able 
to penetrate this inaccessible 
realm. But perhaps it is not as in- 


accessible as it appears to be at 
first; has not every soul that yields 
to a grave temptation elected hell 
as its chosen residence? 

Separation from God, estrange- 
ment from His friendship, brings 
"that sulphur that consumes the 
heart, those hamstrung limbs, that 
taste of vitriol in the mouth.*" 

He Descended into Hell 

Alas, hell is not so far away that 
we do not occasionally spend a 
"season" there. It is so close, in 
fact, that it is within us. As for 
Lucifer, that invisible tempter, 
who incessantly prowls around us 
"as a roaring lion'' [I Peter 5:8], 
can we not discern his features 
in the soot-stained light of his 
crimes? He breathes, he hisses at 
our backs, Claudel tells us, he de- 
lights in vile swamplands. The 
Gospel pictures him prowling 
around Jesus, now "like a monkey 
in the palm trees of Jericho," now 
"astride the shoulders of Judas." 
(Rose, 78) 

The Credo tells us that Christ 
descended into hell during His 
stay in the tomb; but what hell, 
precisely? It would seem that at 
this point, hell was nothing more 
than a waiting room of uncertain 
purpose, which the Saviour was 
responsible for putting in order. 

By His coming He accom- 
plished the segregation of the ir- 
revocably damned, excluded for- 
ever from His kingdom, and the 
righteous which He was to con- 
vey with Him to His heavenly 

"The gap between Hell and 
Purgatory, which had until then 
been contiguous, was widened, 
and their separation was com- 


pleted." Hell which had hereto- 
fore been loose and ill-defined 
took on its definitive form; "it was 
concentrated and consolidated 
within itself." (Ep6e, 147) 

It was only fitting that Christ, 
who was to display His omnipo- 
tence on earth and in heaven, 
should also descend into the in- 
fernal regions to assert His au- 
thority there. 

And what a commotion on His 
arrival! Listen to the noise of 
gates being torn off their hinges, 
of those vast mobs of bottled 
fiends. Now it is no longer Laz- 
arus who rises half -wasted from 
his grave, it is God Himself. 
(Poete, 231) He rips open Purga- 
tory and releases the millions of 
souls imprisoned there. (Rose, 

He is the Good Shepherd come 
to the rescue of His sheep fallen 
down the mouth of the cistern. 
Into this pit of corruption Jesus 
suddenly brings His exalted pres- 
ence, His poignant fragrance, His 
sweet and austere majesty. (Ibid., 

"Forward, divine pilgrim. There 
is many a swamp, many a quag- 
mire yet to be crossed before You 
. . . place Your hand at last on 
the shoulder of the ancient Adam." 
(Ibid., 232) 

128 I Believe in God 

The Coming of the Lord 

There remains in hell something yet to be brought 
down by the blow of this mighty ax. Listen to the noise of 
these gates being torn off their hinges, these sections of wall 
giving way, steel being dismantled, these huge mobs of 
bottled fiends, who screech and clamor like a pack of boars, 
laid open to their very vitals by the crack of the divine lash. 
Someone approaches in a roll of thunder: He is coming! He 
is drawing near, He is almost here someone irresistible, in- 
exorable, who will ride roughshod over all this swarming 
bestiality! The very roots of things are filled with dread. It is 
as if someone were shaking the tree of life with his two bare 
hands. Are all the stars together going to fall on our heads? 

Poete, 200 

The Presence of Christ 

Into this pit of corruption, this larder of corpses, this 
morgue, this warehouse of coffins, this garden of skulls, this 
valley of the shadow of death, Jesus Christ suddenly brings 
His presence, His unequaled power, His poignant fragrance, 
His sweet and austere majesty, His invincible, inexorable 
light, at once merciless and desired. Not long ago the door of 
the grave had been violated for the first time, and at the sum- 
mons of that terrible voice and that awful right hand there 
was seen rising from the tomb a Lazarus who was half- 
consumed. But now it is no longer death who comes to con- 
front God and offer to His eyes this handiwork which is not 
His, it is God Himself in the person of His second power 

He Descended Into Hell 129 

who, availing Himself of this opening, descends towards death 
and sin and comes to cross-examine Chaos. 

Poete, 231 

It is truly He, it is the sun we had heard about! For- 
ward, divine pilgrim. There is many a swamp, many a quag- 
mire yet to be crossed before You reach Your destination, 
many a tenacious river where some unnamable and viscous 
slime darkly flows. Before, at the central knot of our nature, 
almost embedded in the rock, as deeply rooted as the stump 
of an oak tree through all the geological ages, You place Your 
hand at last on the shoulder of the ancient Adam. 

Poete, 232 

The Emptiness of Absence 

Jesus descended to the foundations of the world not 
only to strengthen them, to consolidate hell and give it its 
full meaning, to translate the implicit negation of Satan into 
an explicit denial, but by the introduction of His countenance 
to complete the physical sense of the absence of God. 

Poete, 226 


The Multitude of the Redeemed 

When Jesus walked through the public square of Cap- 
harnaum or when, emerging from the synagogue, He was 
greeted by that whole bazaar and clinic of the blind, crip- 
pled, epileptic, and leprous which people took pains to shove 
under His nose, what an uproar carried to the booths and 

130 I Believe in God 

back rooms of the shops when all this humanity, still a little 
unsteady, but strengthened and cleansed, began to advance 
behind Him. But now it is no longer a few dozen unfortunates, 
a small proportion of the vast swarming misery of an oriental 
town; now it is all eyes which are opened simultaneously, 
myriads at a time, it is untold generations which He reaches 
and revives, one after the other, like the sun when it appears 
at the eastern gates and illuminates a continent in one flash: 
a general stampede of humanity, the whole vast pocket of 
darkness which evacuates its population! The whole world 
meets and recognizes itself, the whole human family is re- 
organized under the eye of God . . . 

All those who were about to take flight in great panic 
now begin to ask each other what has happened. Ah, we will 
not be able to hold out very long against this irresistible light! 
It is time for the first ranks to emerge triumphantly into the 
populous sky and lose, amid the fragrance of the Angels, any 
lingering trace of this animal odor. All that was ranged ver- 
tically in time is now ranged horizontally in space. 

We later generations will find there a design which is 
already known, explored, and portioned out, where thou- 
sands of landmarks and familiar sights will greet us; but for 
these refugees from hell on Easter morning, it is the whole 
landscape of eternity that each new arrival must learn to sur- 
vey for himself. Let us leave them to their task and follow, 
with one hand over our eyes, each successive band as it soars, 
turns, and comes to rest beyond the nebulae. As for us, we 
will remain bound to Jesus Christ, as intimately associated as 
possible with that group of patriarchs and prophets which 
prepared His way and can now no longer be separated from 

Poete, 232 

He Descended into Hell 131 


Let us remain calmly in our places while Jesus Christ, 
Our Lord, takes advantage of that discarded garment 1 to 
visit the most inaccessible part of the Creation and to nego- 
tiate that knot and that mighty lock which is held fast by 
Leviathan himself, just as on that day when, stooping to wash 
the feet of His disciples, He removed His outer clothes. 

Presently He will appear in the flesh to the world of 
the flesh; but today it is in spirit that He will appear to the 
world of spirits, be it those demons who by their denial of 
God have made themselves a fitting habitation, or those un- 
told generations of the disembodied surrounding Adam and 
Eve, that root transplanted from Eden, and bound to them 
by the teeming fertility of the original sin. They have been 
waiting a thousand years for deliverance from, or confirma- 
tion of, their punishment. Descendit ad inferos: He descended 
into hell, to those dwelling below, 

Poete, 217 

The Deliverance of the Sotds 

Jesus came to bring deliverance to the multitudes be- 
low who awaited Him "in the shadow of death." Let us clearly 
understand the meaning of this phrase. There is death, that 
second death spoken of in the Apocalypse which is hell 
proper; and there is the shadow of death, that is, not death 
itself, but the shadow it casts, the physical effect produced 
by its proximity, that interception of the light, that paralysis 
resulting from a loss of direction, that accumulated sense of 
our own weight. We read in the Book of Acts that the shadow 
of Peter was sufficient to bring about healing and life; so the 
shadow of Satan, the dark area described by his intervention, 

1 Tbe flesh. 

132 I Believe in God 

is sufficient to spread around Mm paralysis and cold. It is an 
atmosphere, and night is mingled with the very air I breathe. 
Then it is that our guilty flesh, the gift of Eve, is permitted to 
savor the full bitterness of this phrase from the Canticle of 
Canticles: *1 delight to rest in his shadow, and his fruit is 
sweet to my mouth." [2:3] 

Poete, 226 

The Compassion of the Good Shepherd 

The father does not abandon his child at the bottom 
of the well; the shepherd will contrive to recover the sheep 
who has fallen into the mouth of the cistern. "I will descend 
in mourning," says Jacob, the patriarch, "to my son in the 
nether world/' 

Poete, 228 


It is He who, when the hour is come, rips open Pur- 
gatory and releases the millions of captive souls. 

Rose, 123 


The sinners have done not only evil, they have also 
done good, and often good has come out of the evil they have 
done, a good which sometimes has vast and far-reaching 

Among the elect and the damned there can be a rela- 
tionship of legality, of debts and services giving rise to obliga- 
tions. Will God deny to His creatures some version of die 
power and privilege of repaying those who have been good 
to us? I am well aware that we live in a state of chaos mag- 
num. But on the other hand, neither the heights nor the 
depths shall separate us from the love of God. 

He Descended into Hell 133 

Scripture shows the divine Mercy to be eternally vig- 
ilant for any opportunity to outwit its justice. 

Ev. hate, 112 

Belief in Hell 

"But where the offense has abounded, grace has 
abounded yet more." [Rom. 5:20] Grace floods and fills, ex- 
alts and cleanses everything, it removes all obstacles. It is up 
to you, reader; I am no professional guide to lead you among 
the old, almost obliterated frescoes where the eye, half -bored, 
half -contemptuous, is caught for a moment by some amusing 
detail. If you do not believe in hell, you have only to leave me 
here and lend an ear to those guides over there who are con- 
tending for your business. You have only to let yourself go, 
and follow them. They are all there, the prostitute, the ma- 
terialist philosopher, the man of letters, the demagogue, the 
drug peddler. They know the way. Just go through that door, 
you do not have to go through the formality of death, admis- 
sion is open to the living. You have only to treat yourself to 
one short "season" in this spot whose charm and convenience 
are praised by all. True, you can't get a round-trip ticket, but 
once there, most of our customers feel so much at home that 
the matter of departure is always being postponed. "C'etait 
bien I'Enfer, Tancien dont le Fik de THomme a ouvert les 
portes" * 

Poete, 230 



Hell is that which is low, not per accidens but per se, 
of an essential baseness which excludes any capacity to ascend 
and whose physical reality merely confirms its moral image. 

* Arthur Rimbaud. Literally, That was indeed Hell, that ancient place whose 
gates were opened by the Son of Man." 

134 * Believe in God 

Just as movement creates space, so this fascinated absorption 
with that non-existent point in itself to which it is chained 
creates die area of the soul's captivity and the vicious circle 
in which it is trapped. This is what the prophet meant by the 
man of hell. [Cf. Isaia 5:14] "The cords of hell compassed 
me," it says in the Book of Kings. [II, 22:6] It is not only the 
passive acceptance of a situation, it is an act of the will. "We 
have made a pact with the nether world." [Isaia 28:15] 

Here liberty is at an end, and only the Law remains 
with its precision which is both penal and mathematical. The 
possibility of higher appeal is replaced by an inflexible sever- 
ity, the impossibility of either escaping or of obeying the eye 
of God. 

Poete, 220 


Hell is not only around us, it is within us. It is not only 
tomorrow, my good sirs and dear friends, that we will be in 
hell but immediately, as soon as mortal sin has been com- 
mitted, as soon as grace has been lost. Ah, I recognize only 
too well all the symptoms as they have been described by the 
prophets, the characteristics of the climate: stupor, darkness, 
nausea* constriction, oppression, emptiness, pricking, itching, 
sticky pitch, consuming sulphur, hamstrung thighs, and in our 
mouths a gag of vitriol and lime the sudden accessibility of 
those lower strata of our nature where dwell rage, hate, mal- 
ice, and disgust! Fortunate is the man who on entering this 
domain loses the sight of his two eyes; but what of him who 
remains clear-eyed and conscious? 

Poete, 231 

The Action of the Holy Spirit in Hell 

What a terrifying revelation is that of the Holy Spirit 
breathing on the penal flames so that the fire would burn 

He Descended into Hell 135 

brighter. That breath which the Creator blew into the nostrils 
of Adam and which the priest imitates on the day of our bap- 
tism, that kindled flame over which our plastic form was 
modeled, now contends with that impenetrable corpse, that 
irreducible idol which our own will has carved and erected in 
the mocking image of God. Instead of the liquefaction and 
clarification of Love, we have here the calcination, the illu- 
mination, the minute and merciless accusation of Justice. 

Poete, 223 



His habitat is the mountain of pride, or rather those 
swampy and congested lowlands where the spongy ground 
yields softly underfoot and lends, to idleness and willfulness, 
the unclean complicity of a moist and rotten soil Here that 
friend of darkness schemes in the shade of rootless and un- 
wholesome vegetation among the reeds of the moment, the 
willows on the stream-banks that are in perpetual flight. Here 
he reviews his memories and brews his plans, while the carnal 
instincts gambol about him. As for that flowing fountain of 
benediction and grace, that inexhaustible baptism which 
heaven prepares for all the earth, he is confident that his 
stomach is large enough to swallow it all. 

Poete, 110 


The Book of Job shows the devil in the Eternal's pres- 
ence twined around that branch in the Garden of Eden where 
he accomplished his greatest exploit; he is demanding the 
patriarch's soul in order to tempt and test him. The evangel- 
ists mention him on every page. Our Lord is content simply 
to wave him aside with His hand. He restores him to his place: 
"Get thee behind, Satan/' 

136 I Believe in God 

I see him perched like a vulture on that polluted 
branch o the barren tree, on the whited sepulchers of the val- 
ley of Hinnon, or like a monkey in the palm trees of Jericho, 
in the turpentine trees of Samaria. Or I see him like a wink- 
ing baboon picking the lice off his stomach in a corner of the 
Temple of Jerusalem, until Our Lord allows him, mercifully 
incorporated into a herd of swine, to hurl himself into the 
water of the lake of Tiberias. 

He is that old fury who, brandishing a lantern, marches 
at the head of that accursed procession which sets off in search 
of Christ. He sits astride the shoulders of Judas, blowing into 
a shrill little trumpet. Next we see the Master of the world 
who descends in order to visit him in his home. For ultimately 
it is Christ who will reign over this world, that object of de- 
sire for Marxists and all atheistic social reformers, in which 
Justice alone will reign. 

Rose, 78 


God is the author of life, but Lucifer, if not the breath 
itself, is the breather. He has gotten hold of the manual. He 
breathes no, I should say he hisses within all creatures the 
spirit which he drew from the very mouth of God. He invites 
them to live their own existence. He tempts them with an 
irresistible temptation, the emulation of his own success. 
Harmless as yet, he is as cunning as a monkey. 

Rose, 81 

The Third Day He Rose 
Again from the Dead 

Vous qui dormez, ne craignez point, parce que cest vrai que fai 

vaincu la mort. 
f6tais mort et je suis ressuscitti dans mon dme et dans mon corps! 

Nuit de Pdques 

IT is Easter morning. Having 
completed His task in hell through 
His own divine power, Jesus re- 
sumes possession of His body, 
thereby fulfilling His promise, 
"Destroy this temple, and in three 
days I will raise it up. 9 * [John 

This resurrection is an event 
unique in all history which it dom- 

inates with its radiant splendor. 
It is the very pole of the earth. 
For if indeed Elias and Eliseus 
performed resurrections, still they 
did not release their subjects from 
the necessity of dying later on, 
nor did they rise from the dead 
themselves. But Christ vanquished 
death so utterly that He is forever 
immune to it, ~Death shall no 



longer Lave dominion over him," 
says St. Paul in a triumphant tone. 
[Rom. 6:9] 

How did Jesus look after His 
resurrection? Just as He did be- 
fore, but glorified, that is, possess- 
ing the four qualities peculiar to 
glorified bodies/ while still pre- 
serving the scars of the Blessed 
Wounds in order to be recognized 
by men, and to show to His Fa- 
ther as a sign of intercession. 

How vividly and movingly 
Claudel recreates that dawn when 
the holy women silently prepare 
to visit the tomb! While "the shoe- 
maker's cock" hurls his challenge 
to his friend across town, "there 
takes place a meeting of veiled 

I Believe in God 

women who exchange questions in 
hushed voices. Who will roll the 
stone back from the entrance of 
the tomb for us?* It is the very 
fragrance they bear which pro- 
vides the answer," says ClaudeL 
(Rose, 195) And what is the an- 
swer? "Death vanished, the grave 
deserted, time which now exists 
only to flow into Eternity." (Ev. 
Isale, 258) "The Lord is risen 
from the dead. We have probed 
His wounds, we are buried forever 
in His heart." (Emmaus, 132) 

Such was the Resurrection of 
the Son of God, that "awe-inspir- 
ing miracle on which the whole 
of Christian faith depends." (Toi, 

Easter Day 

Let us lie still with our eyes closed a moment before 
dawn breaks on the day of the Resurrection. It is yet night, 
but already someone is stirring in two or three houses in Jeru- 
salem. Lamps are being lit, and women are hurriedly dressing 
and combing their hair. The Sabbath is over, and one incom- 
parable star irradiates the upturned face of our first Sunday. 
The shoemaker's cock prepares to take up the challenge flung 
at him by his friend on the other side of the Cedron. It is no 
longer Passover, it is Easter! Look, listen: in the Hebraic still- 
ness there takes place, at the joining of three roads, a meeting 
of veiled women who exchange questions in hushed voices. 
"Who will roll the stone back from the entrance?" [Mark 
16:3] Who will take it away? The very fragrance they bear 

1 See the chapter, "The Resurrection of the Body.** 

The Third Day He Rose Again from the Dead 139 

provides the answer. It is this irresistible quality of hope in 
their hearts, this emanation of mysterious ingredients pre- 
pared in the bosom of the night by the very hands of the 
dawn. Stored up for centuries, slowly expanding, this sacred 
chemistry which just now rose from sleep advances to triumph 
over death. 

As for the remaining events of that wondrous morning, 
thanks to the bewildered and incoherent echo of the four 
interwoven Gospels, they reverberate to this day in every 
church in Christendom. 

Rose, 195 


The sun is risen. "O death! where is thy sting?" The 
grave is empty. "O truly blessed night, thou alone wast worthy 
to know the hour and the moment when Christ was risen from 
hell!" 2 Death is vanished, the grave deserted, time now exists 
only to flow into Eternity: is this not an event that resounds 
to the very ends of the earth, shaking all foundations, and 
robbing humanity of all possibility of yielding to the ancient 
despair? It is done; I promise you that all that is at an end! 
Ah, I swear that it is come, the day of wrath and indignation! 

Ev. Isale, 258 


Mary and the "Resurrection 

Just as I know that the living Mary died with Christ, 
I am sure that she rose with Him from the dead. Just as on 
the pathway of the cross she did not merely follow her Son, 
she preceded Him, just as on Calvary she stretched forth her 
arms to detain Him, so in the heart of that first tabernacle and 

a Liturgy of Holy Saturday. 

140 * Believe In God 

that moment which no human eye was allowed to see, I am 
sure she was there to share it with the Angels. The Church 
was standing by in attendance. Just as she stood on Calvary to 
witness His sacrifice, so she stood in the grave to witness His 

And we, whose faith assures us that God did not create 
us only to die, know that in the hour of our need Mary will 
be standing by to teach us how to be reborn. 

Rose, 197 

The Foundation of Our Faith 

The only man in all creation who ever dared call Him- 
self the Son of God dies before our eyes under the most sor- 
did, cruel, and humiliating circumstances, and in the most 
utter abandonment. It is obvious that His doctrine could not 
be permitted to remain in the shadow of such a grievous de- 
feat of its author, such a total contradiction of its assertions. 
For unlike other religions, ours consisted less in a body of 
affirmations which imposed themselves on the world than in 
the personality of the Man who came to bring them to us. The 
score had to be evened, some sort of proof given, that this 
man who called Himself the Son of God had not been de- 
feated. And indeed we do not find that Christ's death was 
followed by the least discouragement on the part of His disci- 
ples. There were no interpretations, no far-fetched explana- 
tions, no elaborate consolations or justifications. His death did 
not give rise to those disagreements, conflicts, and divisions of 
opinion which would have been the inevitable result of a lie. 
On the contrary, His death was immediately seen as a striking 
and triumphant corroboration of His teachings. There pre- 
vailed among His disciples an altogether new and unanimous 
spirit of exhilaration, of overflowing joy, of indomitable con- 
fidence, of energetic enterprise. What was this new fact, this 
new success that came hard on the catastrophe of Calvary? 

The Third Day He Rose Again from the Dead 141 

St. Paul tells us that it was the Resurrection, that awe-inspir- 
ing miracle on which the whole Christian faith depends. 

Toi, 20 


Characteristics of the Risen Christ 

The Lord is risen from the dead. Yes, we know that 
He is truly risen. We have touched Him with our hands, we 
have probed His wounds, we are buried forever in His heart. 
He has taken fish and honey at our table. And at the same 
time He passes through closed doors, distance does not exist 
for Him, and He can withdraw from our senses at will. 

Emmaus, 132 

The Reality of His Resurrected Flesh 

I write these lines during the Easter season. The Gos- 
pels which are read to us at Mass show us the Lord continu- 
ally appearing and disappearing before the eyes of His disci- 
ples, "though the doors had been closed/* [John 20:19] It was 
not only from their eyes that He was free to withdraw, but 
from all their senses, especially the sense of touch, the ap- 
praiser of space and dimension, of volume and mass. 

Faith informs us that this flesh and body were per- 
fectly real but that, without ceasing to serve as the hypostatic 
support of the soul, they possessed the ability to be percep- 
tible or not to our various empirical sentries. Just as here on 
earth we do not continually consider our bodies, so in heaven 
it will be optional to a glorified being to consider or not, to 
realize or not, a body which is accessible to our present organs 
of perception. The body of Christ was not, as the Nestorians 
claimed, like a garment which could be doffed or donned at 
will. It was and continues to be joined to the soul in a sub- 
stantial union. Hence in St. John [10:17-18], Our Lord does 

142 * Believe in God 

not say that He has the power to lay down His body and take 
it up again (as He did, however, during the three days He 
remained in the tomb) ; He says that He has the power to lay 
down His life (that is, His soul) and take it up again. 

His soul always remains the master of His body: it 
never ceases to do whatever is necessary to produce the body, 
it maintains physical and spiritual contact with the body, it 
is in full control of its own power to beget, apprehend, and 
employ the body, of its informative power. 

Moreover, even when the body of Christ is in the 
tomb, at the mercy of the laws of matter, that which irradiates 
the nether world is not the Word alone, but the soul insep- 
arably joined to the expression provided by the body it re- 
ceived from the Virgin Mary. It would be impossible to de- 
prive the soul of the power it exercises over the body, and of 
which it never ceases for a moment to be in full possession. 
While the soul advances to the rescue of those multitudes in 
hell who are gathered to await it, it is expressed on the fu- 
neral slab by a dead body, just as previously it was expressed 
at the Last Supper or before Pilate by an active, living body. 

The soul never ceases to belong to the body or to hold 
over it a right of repossession which indeed it stands ready to 
exercise at a moment's notice. Even in this moment of sep- 
aration, the Father continues to regard the Son as Someone 
indissolubly united to, hypostasized in a human body. He is 
the Cause who temporarily withholds His effects with regard 
to this corporal person which He has laid aside, but continues 
to have at His disposal. And when we in turn are reborn in 
the image of Him who is "first born from the dead," our glori- 
fied bodies will no longer be the masters of our souls, but will 
depend entirely on our souls, which in turn will depend en- 
tirely on that God who is the direct source and wellspring of 
their existence. 

It is only in relation to God, and as subject to this 
creative cause, that we will be able to provide ourselves with 
a person, an unvarying self consisting of one soul and one 

The Third Day He Rose Again from the Dead 143 

body, and to realize ourselves as such. Our milieu in the heart 
of this new heaven and earth foretold by the prophet will no 
longer be the one in which we now lead our mortal life and in 
which the Apostles were immersed at the time of Christ's 
appearances. Substance will then be in command of its acci- 
dents such as consistency, dimension, color, but within the 
limitations of that blessed role determined by its individual 
vocation. No longer will it be rigged to withstand the shocks 
and hazards of this present existence on the troubled sea of 
second causes. It will have only to live a blessed existence at 
the source, to share and publish abroad that particular image 
of God which it is called upon to provide. 

Does not modern science teach us that living matter is 
simply a mass of movements adapted to the organization and 
preservation of our various organs and senses? We will no 
longer be the blind slaves of this continuous pattern of 
rhythms and emanations, but the conscious and intelligent 

Apocalypse, 187-188 

He Ascended into 
Heaven, and Sitteth at 
the Right Hand of God, 
the Father Almighty 

Nous prenons place & noire tour au banquet de Tamour eternel. 
Hommes de Galilee, que regardez-vous dans le Ciel? 

Corona, 37 

THE Gospel tells us that forty 
days after His Resurrection Our 
Lord, having assembled His Apos- 
tles on the Mount of Olives, rose 
from their midst and disappeared 
in a cloud. 

It must be understood that the 
miracle consists in the fact that 
He rose to heaven not as God 
(having never ceased to be God), 


but as Man, body and soul; and 
rose by His own power, and not 
by a borrowed power, as was the 
case with Elias and Henoch. 

The phrase "seated at the right 
hand of God" gives us an idea of 
the pre-eminent honor Jesus re- 
ceived from His Father and of 
how by this act His blessed Hu- 
manity was placed above all else. 

H Ascended into Heaven 

What is the point of the Ascen- 
sion? It is to crown Christ's work 
of redemption, and also to show 
us that His Kingdom and the one 
He promised to His elect is not of 
this world. In this way He spirit- 
ualizes our love and fortifies our 
hope, while at the same time He 
receives the greatest degree of 
glory for His work of redemp- 

"This body, seemingly fashioned 
for the earth," Claudel tells us fer- 
vently, the Son of God "was able 
to take with Him to heaven." 
(Emmaus, 134) And what was 


His parting message? ""Where I 
am, there also shall my servant 
be.' And lo, all creatures feel deep 
within them this summons, this in- 
junction to ascend/* (Presence, 

Too long in this low place have 
we been the slaves of gravity, 
Claudel adds, while continuing to 
feel within us "a certain propen- 
sity for blessed suspension and 
flight." The time has come to fol- 
low our Master and to take that 
hand "which has mighty dominion 
over Hell." (Rose, 201; Poete, 

Christ's Humanity in Heaven 

The Man-God, the Word indissolubly joined in hypo- 
static union to the flesh received from Mary, appears after 
His ascension seated at the right hand of His Father. "Seated 
at the right hand" is, of course, only a metaphor which is in- 
adequate to describe that intimate union, that essential rela- 
tionship on which the Trinity rests and by which, if I may 
use the word, It functions : a union of which something human 
is henceforth a permanent member. Now it is no longer the 
Word alone, but the Word made flesh which, by means of the 
Holy Spirit, draws from the Father the breath with which to 
express Him to Himself. 

Rose, 203 

I Believe in God 

Jesus Tells the Father About Us 

Communication lias been established. Now there is at 
the Father s right hand a voice to explain this new acquisition 
and extension of His Son, this Passover which He so longed to 
take with us, this sin which was somehow unspeakably trans- 
lated into love, this enriched declension of His Word, this 
bridal bouquet which sacrifices to Him its sweetness! A voice, 
and I could also say an ear: a divine ear within us pressed to 
our heart, a divine ear within us pressed to the heart of God! 

Rose, 205 

Our Flesh Borne to Heaven Through Christ 

This human body to which we owe our redemption, 
and through which God Himself owes us the means of our 
redemption, this lump of clay fairly purchased for thirty 
pieces of silver by the hand of the authorized representative* 
accompanied the Son of Man when He ascended to the right 
hand of His Father. This body, seemingly fashioned for the 
earth, the Son was able to take with Him to heaven and have 
it draw its life directly from the Father. But what was His 
parting message? "Where I am, there also shall my servant 
be." We are one with Him who Himself is one with the other 
two Persons of the Trinity. 

Emmaiis, 134 

Christ Draws All Things to Himself 

"You have ascended on high, taken captives, received 
men as gifts," says the Psalmist. [67:19] The Man-God, high- 
est expression of Creation, rises from the depths of matter 

He Ascended into Heaven 147 

where the Word was born by uniting with woman's obedi- 
ence, toward that throne which was predestined for Him at 
the right hand of the Father. From this position He continues 
to exercise His magnetic power on all creatures: all feel deep 
within them that summons, that injunction, to ascend. 

Presence, 311 

Mary and the Ascension 

"It is expedient for you that I depart/' the Master told 
His disciples, "and no one of you asks me "where art thou 
going?' " This question, which they had forgotten to ask until 
die very moment when the wounded feet disappeared in the 
luminous cloud, the Church now undertakes to answer, and 
each answer provokes fresh questions, more numerous and 
more eager: Where has your Beloved gone, O most beautiful 
among women? Answer us, Mary! Take up in your hands this 
bead of our rosary that you may consider it with care. Tell us 
where He has gone. And if, for answer, you place your finger 
on that line of golden letters running across the purpled 
parchment, "I ascend to my Father and your Father," and if 
at these words a pathway appears beneath our feet, then 
lead us, we pray; plant your pilgrim's staff as a landmark at 
every step, that it may shield us from the pitfalls on either 
side, for since this place is no longer our permanent home, 
we cannot wait until all things cease to be obstacles and be- 
come stepping stones. 

Cantique, 244 


We Are Invited to Ascend 

Jesus" Ascension toward His Father and our own as- 
cension in which we are invited to follow Him are not limited 
to a given moment in time. Ascension in Him, as in us, is the 

148 * Believe in God 

result of a certain tension, a certain attraction ad extra, a cer- 
tain longing to be swept away and carried off almost in spite 
of ourselves. It is like a swimmer who, his lungs fully ex- 
panded and resting on this gulf of air which fills him, rises 
out of the depths. Sursum corda! The invitation is extended to 
us every day at Mass. And Colossians tell us to "seek the 
things that are above, where Christ is." Trahe me! Draw me 
to you, says the Sulamite. And indeed the Lord tells us that 
when He is lifted up from the earth, He will draw all things 
to Him. 

Rose, 200 

Too long in this low place we have been the slaves of 
gravity and the law of matter. Too long we have been at the 
mercy of chance and vanity. The time has come for us to 
take our flight, body and soul, towards our higher Cause. St. 
Augustine told us long ago that the foundations of the City 
of God, unlike the one we creep about in now, are not be- 
neath our feet but above our heads, and that we are drawn 
and ordered there according to our burden of love and our 
degree of glory. 

Long ago a certain inner voice warned us in a dream 
that we were not fashioned for inertia, but for suspension, 
for the perfect use of our mass, for a blessed state of equilib- 
rium, for flight, for the enjoyment of a certain faculty of per- 
ception, for a total awareness, for a condensation and expan- 
sion of our will which provides both perfect control within 
and acute sensitivity to the harmonies without. It is time that 
weight cease to be our doom and become instead our most 
delicate instrument of perception. Authors at present only of 
ourselves, it is now time for us to translate God with the help 
of our physical and material selves, bathed forever in the per- 
fection of our understanding and our role. 

Rose, 201 

From Thence He Shall 
Come to Judge the 
Living and the Dead 

C'est le jour du Jugement ou le Seigneur considers toute la terre, 
Et ou Flntendant doit montrer ses comptes au proprietaire. 

Odes, 193 

As JESUS Himself declared, 
there will be a Judgment or, more 
precisely, two judgments: an ini- 
tial individual judgment at our 
death, and a general judgment at 
the end of the world, that the 
Justice of God may blaze forth in 
the eyes of all. 

The Bible tells us that it is 
Christ Himself who will judge us: 

"He it is who has been appointed 
by God to be judge of the living 
and of the dead." [Acts 10:42] 

After the warning signals the 
preaching of the Gospel to the 
whole world, apostasy, the ap- 
pearance of Antichrist "Our 
Lord will appear in all His glory 
and will say to those on the one 
hand, "Come, blessed of my Fa- 



tlier, take possession of the King- 
dom prepared for you" and to 
those on the other, "Depart 
from me, accursed ones, into the 
everlasting fire/' [Matt 25:34, 

While the elect will receive the 
reward of their good work, the 
reprobate will suffer a double 
punishment: the pain of damna- 
tion, or deprivation of the pres- 
ence of God, and the pain of the 
senses, or unremitting torment at 
the hands of the demons. 

Do we not all have within us a 
powerful and deep-seated need to 
be judged? Claudel knew it well, 
and was able to express it with in- 
comparable force: "Straw does not 
surrender to the flame, nor does 
lime fuse more eagerly with sand, 
than the guilty soul craves its pun- 
ishment ... On the day of the 
Last Judgment it is not only that 
the Judge will descend from 
heaven, but the whole world will 
rush forth to meet Him/* ( Apoca- 
lypse, 180) 

It will be the H-hour of Justice 
and even at his own expense, each 
man will long for its full realiza- 

I Believe in God 

"It is this hunger for justice and 
confession which grips the bowels 
of the earth," Claudel adds (Epee, 
183), which will then demand its 
due from the only Judge who un- 
derstands the secrets of the hu- 
man heart. "Nothing will escape 
that accusing shaft of light, the 
blinding countenance of the Au- 
thor of all things" (Ibid., 160), 
that two-edged sword which St. 
John saw issuing from the mouth 
of Christ, "made of a steel purer 
than those Japanese blades" which 
the warrior shielded from his 
breath for fear of dulling them. 
(Ibid., 10) 

Happy, then, is the man who 
"has learned through faith to be 
one with Christ . . . and who 
lends himself fully to His image." 
(Rose, 198) As for the man who 
has distorted this image, he will be 
committed to an unrelenting fire. 
"The flame will force from us that 
transparence we denied to the 
light." (Epee, 173) Severe trial! 
"As between the jaws of a vise, the 
sinner finds himself held fast be- 
tween his beginning and his end, 
between his raison d'etre and his 
personal vocation." (Ibid., 174) 

Universal Need for Judgment 

It is not only the righteous who desire the end of the 
world! Though we all need mercy, I think we have an even 
greater need for justice. All that proceeds from the Creator 

From Thence He Sliall Come to Judge tlie Living and the Dead 151 

needs the Judge and the examining eye of definitive criticism. 
"The works of his hands are faithful and just." [Psalms 110:7] 
Straw does not surrender to the flame, nor does lime fuse 
more eagerly with sand, than the guilty soul craves its punish- 
ment. "Your justice is like the mountains of God/' says the 
Psalmist. [35:7] And what are the exact words placed in the 
mouths of the sinners by the Apocalypse, and the Gospel as 
well: "Mountains, fall upon us!" On the day of the Last Judg- 
ment it is not only that the Judge will descend from heaven, 
but the whole world will rush forth to meet him. 

Apocalypse, 180 

We Must Pay Our Debts 

We must all pay our debts; we must pay to the last 
penny. The steward in Christ's parable is not more stern and 
unsparing than that law imposed on us by brotherly love 
which we must all obey and execute. If we have been wanting 
in charity, we must present ourselves for purgation. It is the 
whole crew, the whole company, which must prepare for H~ 
hour. And no longer will we be able to excuse ourselves on 
the grounds of lack of strength, intelligence, or will power. 
The fire will be there to make up for our deficiencies, to melt 
and illuminate all things; that fire for which we will serve at 
once as fuel and stokers. 

Epee, 178 


The Need for Justice Throughout Nature 

It is necessary that the scales be equally balanced be- 
tween heaven and earth, and that one return to the other as 
much as it has received. It is this hunger for justice and con- 
fession which grips the bowels of the earth and expresses it- 
self in eruptions and convulsions, those cramps and colics of 

152 I Believe in God 

nature which are represented by mountainous masses. Noth- 
ing in nature was made to rest content in itself. There is no 
living substance which does not struggle to break out of its 
mold. "I announced your justice in the vast assembly . . . 
your justice I kept not hid within my heart." [Psalms 39:10- 


Ep&e, 183 

God Sees All 

Nothing escapes that accusing shaft of light, that blind- 
ing countenance of the Author of all things, that God who 
like Gedeon's soldiers stooped to place His lips to the infernal 
fount. In vain the amphibian people attempt to bury them- 
selves in the mud, and the monstrous serpents seek the pro- 
tection of their own nests. Nothing, of all the monstrosities and 
deformities wrought by evil, escapes the eye of the Judge. 

Ep6e, 160 


The Judgment Seat 

"I lift up my eyes toward the mountains: whence shall 
help come to me?" What mountains? It is they who make up 
that great white throne described by the visionary of Patmos, 
it is on them that Christ, on the day of His Parousia, will sit 
in judgment on the world. Courage, you who are baptized! 
What you build for me with snow, I will carve out from 
within with fire. 

Rose, 150 

From Thence He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead 153 


The Universe Restored to Christ 

The whole creation, that tide which carries us along 
with all the rest towards the final composition, is raised, re- 
dressed, and returned to its Maker, so that all may be restored 
to the Father in the person of the Son. This is the justice for 
which Jesus thirsts and which the Psalmist described when 
he said, "For you my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, life- 
less, and without water. Thus have I gazed toward you in 
the sanctuary to see your power and your glory." [62:1-3] 

Poete, 132 

The Sword of the Son of God 

That formidable weapon in the hand of the Word/ 
must deal the deathblow to whatever in us is mortal, the prod- 
uct of flesh allied with sin. This weapon also becomes the 
instrument of judgment and achieves its work in us in spite 
of our pain and resistance. It is unyielding, it is true, it is 
incorruptible, it is made of a steel purer than those Japanese 
blades which the warrior never touched without covering his 
breath with tissue paper for fear of dulling them. It has an 
edge designed to pierce our successive layers right to the heart 
and bowels, or until it has reached that vital spot which, in 
some, is indeed the heart but which in others is buried in 
the viscera. 

Epee, 10 

1 A reference to the sword that issues from Christ's mouth in the Apocalypse 3:16. 

154 I Believe in God 


Liber Scriptus 

We hand over to the clear-sighted Judge a document 
which He can examine line by line. There is not an event or 
action in our lives which was not noted down somewhere in 
full detail. This is the Liber scriptus, a sort of dossier which 
will accompany us when we emerge from the grave. This ex- 
plains the salutary effect of relics and saints' bones which, 
like a vessel saturated with a powerful fragrance, continue to 
give off that love which dominated their growth, that unction 
which penetrated their marrow, that gift of communication 
which, in death as in life, is the prerogative of the pious. 

Poete, 216 

The Souls Speech in Its Defense 

From unjust and deceitful men, deliver me. O Lord, 
disengage the true man from this false and deceitful, shallow 
and evasive, lustful and selfish individual which I have suc- 
ceeded in constructing in anything but Your image! Oh, if 
only You could rid me of it once and for all; it is something 
that I have only managed to shed for these three quarters of 
an hour, along with that overcoat beside me on the seat. . . . 
What have I done since the last Mass, what road have I trav- 
eled by yielding to Your enemies, and why do 1 go about in 
sadness, while the enemy afflicts me? 

Epee, 68 


Judge me, O God! This opening phrase of the Mass is 
also the first cry of the soul as it casts off the flesh to resume 
it later in its final ordination; as it lays aside all other laws and 

From Thence He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead 155 

injunctions but that of appearing before its Creator, clad only 
in the completion of its works and the nakedness of its essen- 
tial truth. Since now he must draw his whole life from the 
Father, happy is the man who has learned through faith to 
become one with the Son! Happy is the man who, beneath his 
Mother's eye, gives himself passionately to the full image of 
Christ which is now demanded of him, and who fully em- 
braces the organic transformation required by the new role 
he is now assigned! He feels expanding within him those 
lungs with which he may inhale the Father through the 
mouth of Jesus Christ. 

Rose, 198 


The Refining Fire 

The purpose of the fire, when it is not purely and 
simply to obliterate our outward form, is to expand, open, 
melt, break down, and overcome the form through the yield- 
ing of the flesh and the resistance of the spirit, to refine by 
destroying or separating whatever is irrelevant or unnecessary. 
This is why God chooses to compare Himself to this pene- 
trating and all-powerful element. "For the Lord our God is a 
consuming fire," we read in Deuteronomy. [4:24] And St. 
Peter speaks of the fire which will judge the world by destroy- 
ing it. [Cf. II Peter 3:7] These heavens and this earth are 
destined for the fire on the day of Judgment, and even now 
present themselves for the refinement of the very texture of 
our souls and our deeds. 

Poete, 121 


The Outer Fire 

The funeral pyre which the pagans felt compelled to 
erect for their dead awaits us Christians in the next world, 

I Believe in God 

and It is our own works which will provide its fuel. The outer 
fire will conspire with the flame within us to break down and 
recast that idol which we have substituted for the image of 
God. The flame will force from us that transparence we de- 
nied to the light. 

Epee, 173 

The Inner Fire 

So much for the outer fire which is the expression of 
God's terrible love for His creature and His need for him 
in his original form. Corresponding to that outer fire, how- 
ever, there is a fire within us. 

I am referring to remorse and painful self-examination, 
the children of memory and conscience, and which find such 
perfect expression in the penitential Psalms. 

"Their works follow them," we are told in the Apoca- 
lypse [14:13], because they become part of us, as in the old 
adage that habit is second nature, and it is precisely this 
second nature, like the eighteen-year curvature and contrac- 
tion of that daughter of Abraham who appears in the Gospel, 
which we must throw off no easy matter! The hospitals and 
clinics overflow with these masses of the broken-down, the 
twisted, the endless casualties which would provide us with 
illustrations, if we needed them: some encased in armor and 
plaster casts, others lying flat on their backs in their own 
excrement and that inner putrefaction which endlessly con- 
sumes their bones. Time is required before any part of im- 
provement or semblance of a cure can be reached. 

But now it is not merely the body but the soul which 
must be corrected. As between the jaws of a vise, the sinner 
finds himself held fast between his beginning and his end, 
between his reason for existence and his personal vocation. 

Ep6e, 174 

From Thence He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead 157 

The Work of Redemption 

We spoke earlier of one of those factories with shafts 
sunk into the fertile veins of the earth and smokestacks comb- 
ing the sky like narrows whose thick fumes are occasionally 
illumined by a blast of fire. Now we have been conducted in- 
side the shop, and it is up to us to figure out the complicated 
machinery, some lying idle for repair, some turning the wheel 
in a series of precise and unerring movements all glistening 
with oil, all responding to the pulleys, to the driving shaft, to 
the electric current, and to the double-time rhythm which, 
like the furious fingers of a virtuoso on the keys of a piano, 
animates this whole mechanical process. A single message 
from the brain has issued the order to these materials which 
have been pressed into service. The whole world has become 
part of the machine. 

All this is only a clumsy metaphor (we could just as 
easily have used a chemical analogy: that whole laboratory 
of baths, acids, and fermentations ) for the enormous job of 
repair which the divine mercy must undertake on all those 
cartloads of cracked, bruised, rusty, twisted, and dislocated 
souls. The Psalmist refers to "corrupt vessels," evoking an 
image of jagged fragments, staved-in saucepans, and half- 
flattened tin cans which litter rubbish heaps; it is this stream 
of immortal refuse which is furnished to His ovens every day 
by the overflow of the cemeteries. 

It is an infinitely delicate operation, because not only 
is it necessary to salvage the original purpose and intention 
which we have so miserably sabotaged, but it is also neces- 
sary to make use of the sin itself and of that absurd handi- 
work (contrary to all art and judgment) which we have prac- 
ticed on ourselves for so long. 

Ep6e, 185 

I Believe in 
the Holy Ghost 

O ami . . . je sute ? Amour qui est au-dessus de toute parole. 

Odes, 74 

THE Holy Spirit Is the third per- 
son of the Blessed Trinity, pos- 
sessed of the same divine nature 
but distinct from the other two in 
that the Father begets, the Son is 
begotten, and the Holy Spirit ema- 
nates from the Father and the Son. 
He is the essence of Their love. 

By virtue of a single act com- 
mon to the Father and the Son, an 


act of the will or of love, the Holy 
Spirit is said to proceed from the 
Father and the Son. St. Bernard 
writes in his commentary on the 
Canticle of Canticles, "If we im- 
agine the Father bestowing the 
lass and the Son receiving it, the 
Holy Spirit will be this kiss itself, 
since He is the indissoluble bond, 
the inseparable love, and the in- 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 

divisible unity between the Father 
and the Son." 

We read in the Book of Genesis 
that the Holy Spirit took part in 
the Creation. [1:2] Since then He 
continues to guide the world and 
to speak through the prophets. 
Qui locutus est per prophetas, as 
we are told by the first Ecumeni- 
cal Councils. 

At Pentecost, in accordance with 
Jesus' promise, He came upon the 
Apostles in an altogether unique 
manner to illuminate them, to 
fortify their faith, and to give 
unity to the nascent Church. 

The Holy Spirit is the quicken- 
ing and sanctifying soul of the 
Mystical Body: Christians are 
temples in which He never ceases 
to act by means of divine Grace, 
assisting them all towards their 
blessed eternity. He acts on us 
primarily by means of His gifts 
Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, 
Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and 
Fear of the Lord which heighten 
the activity of our minds and wills. 
In the liturgy He is called "our 
soul's most gracious host" who 
corrects our mistakes, strengthens 
our weakness, rekindles our ardor. 

Difficult as it is to give any idea 
of the Holy Spirit by means of a 
metaphor, since He is so subtle 
and inaccessible to our senses, He 
is commonly represented by the 
image of fire, because of the form 
He took at Pentecost: "the fire 
which illuminates, which pene- 
trates, which melts and welds, this 
is how He appears to Moses and 


later to Elias and the other proph- 
ets as well." (Canticjue, 325) 
Nothing can resist the solicitation 
of this flame. On all of these 
chosen ones the Holy Spirit de- 
scends like a bird of prey, tearing 
them from their personal plans, 
and sometimes assigning them 
overwhelming tasks. If they lack 
eloquence, behold, the tongue of 
fire supplies the deficiency. Is it 
any wonder then, asks Claudel, 
that "the Holy Spirit cannot enter 
us without sounding the full range 
and diapason of our souls, or leave 
us without calling forth from 
our depths that intelligible sound 
which is a word?" (Epee, 40) 

This is the brand that inflamed 
the saints, "this is the spark with 
which the seraphim's spear, to the 
anguish of Francis and Therese, 
will be able to kindle a great 
conflagration." (Emmaus, 298) 

It is the Holy Spirit who sur- 
rounds us, hems us in, assails us in 
a thousand ways, now gentle and 
delicate, now violent and tem- 
pestuous, as it assailed that Phari- 
see flung to the ground on the 
road to Damascus: "I am at the 
mercy of One who demands all 
that is mortal in me in order that 
He may make it immortal. . . 
Sobbing in the flames, I embrace 
the Septenary Spirit!" (Gantique, 
356) Later this same Paul will 
"scatter in all directions the burn- 
ing seed, the spark and the coal, 
the vein and the wick of that fire 
which will utterly ravish him on 
the last day." (Ibid.) 


Quickening and sanctifying 
Spirit, He is also unifying, as was 
revealed at the Cenacle: "Of old, 
tlie Tower of Babel had marked 
the introduction of particularity 
and disorder," and behold at Pen- 

I Believe in God 

tecost "He restores to the Church 
all these scattered tongues, disper- 
titae linguae, to make of them a 
single flame." (Ruth, 94) In this 
incandescent crucible is wrought 
the Ecclesia una et sancta. 

The Holy Spirit Is Love 

The Holy Spirit is love, and love is properly a longing 
or intention toward someone. Thus when God sends His 
Spirit, when He directs toward some particular point this 
finger of the Father's right hand, He is sending a longing, an 
invitation to all things that exist to exist in relation to Him 
and in dependence on Him. It is this necessity and this need 
that is represented or released by the appearance of a dove 
above a baptistry, or the breath of the priest, or the tongue of 
fire, or a given sacred text which we inhale. I opened my 
mouth and drew forth the Spirit. The combined forces and 
faculties of our personality immediately conspire with this 
desire, as we have already read in the Canticle of Canticles: 
"Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth!" 

He has ordered everything in me with respect to love. 
Thus when a vacuum is created in Mary by the words, "Be- 
hold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according 
to Thy word!" it is the Holy Spirit mingled with that rush of 
air who fills her, who directs the charity that is in her and 
prepares all the forces of her body and soul for the realization 
of Jesus. She conspires with this inspiration: she conceives of 
the Holy Spirit 

Cantique, 329 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 181 

The Spirit on the Waters 

In the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis it 
says that "The Spirit of God was stirring above the water." 
Are we to believe that He is absent from them now, or that He 
could have divorced Himself so easily from that element 
not only from those material waters but from those other tides 
which swell in the Apocalypse, which are "the tongues, the 
nations, and the tribes"? He was there above these waters, 
borne on them and penetrating to the roots of their being to 
prevent them from serving anything but the glory of God. 
He was there and He is there still. He was there and still is, 
transforming history into song, chaos into melody, and inco- 
herence into assent. He is there to bring all things to their 

Rose, 214 


The Holy Spirit and Christ 

It is not in the body that the Son is united to the 
Father, but in the Spirit, in that breathing which is common 
to them. He draws inexhaustibly, from the very mouth of His 
Progenitor, the formative reason for that enduring flesh with 
which a mortal mother nourished His hypostasis for eternity. 

Rose, 181 


The Holy Spirit as Fire 

From end to end the Holy Scriptures can find no better 
way of representing the direct effect of God on the soul than 

162 I Believe in God 

by the operation of fire. Ezechiel even goes so far as to com- 
pare It to an electrical phenomenon. 

This is the fire which inflamed the twelve Apostles on 
the day of Pentecost and transformed them into inextinguish- 
able torches; the flame that suddenly broke forth over their 
heads on that holy day was the emanation of their own souls 
which, having arrived at a supreme state of vibration, burst 
into being at the touch of the divine spark. 

Poete, 275 

Throughout the Bible, fire is used to represent that God 
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. "For the Lord 
your God is a consuming fire," we are told in Deuteronomy 
[4:24] and again in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in Exodus, 
and in the theophanic prophecies. "The glory of the Lord was 
seen as a consuming fire." [Ex. 24:17] Fire is the element 
that seizes, surrounds, and penetrates; it is the outward form 
and inward quality of love. Its attributes are heat, light, pene- 
tration, merciless examination, and destruction. It is the me- 
dium through which God appears and communicates with us, 
by which He expresses Himself, searches us, sounds us, smells 
us, tastes us, holds us fast, speaks to us, questions us, expands 
us, and embraces us. 

This explains why that sacramental fire, distributed to 
us at confirmation, is in the form of a tongue. The fire has 
come down from Sinai; somehow it has been divided up and 
portioned out like bread, that each of us may have his share. 

Sophie, 163 


A fire which unifies in Paradise, purifies in Purgatory, 
and calcifies in Hell. 

Trois figures, 91 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 163 

"Can a man take fire to Ms bosom, and his garments 
not be burned?" [Prov. 6:27] Only the Church of God has 
been able to fashion this Pentecostal fire into a sacrament 
whose spark she plants deep in every Christian heart. A spark 
which the seraphim's spear, to the anguish of Francis and 
Therese, will be able to kindle into a great conflagration. This 
fire, which was the joyous mantle of St. Joan of Arc, is praised 
in song by the Fool of Assisi, and by St. John of the Cross in 
The Living Flame of Love, who borrow the accents of the 
Easter Vigil service. What is the purpose of the fire which the 
Saviour brought to earth, if not to burn? For only when He 
has thoroughly cleansed us with this fire on the day of Judg- 
ment will the Father recognize us as His own handiwork. 

Emmaiis, 298 

The Prick of the Spirit 

"The truth shall make you free!" [John 8:32] It is this 
work of liberation which that sudden invasion by fire on the 
day of Pentecost was to complete. There fell upon that room 
full of men and women just as on us, without our being 
aware of it, in the middle of our confirmation a turbulence 
of scattered tongues and every one of us received his own! 
God came to pierce each soul; it was His way of opening a 
passage for Himself! He made a puncture in each of our 
mouths. He came to provide an outlet for that inner force 
which is the source of our being and awareness, and which 
deep down has never stopped responding to the primordial 
Fiat of His will 

Rose, 206 

Believe in God 

Someone has clarified us, someone has placed in our 
mouths a tongue which speaks clearly and distinctly. Some- 
one has placed in our mouths an insatiable organ which trans- 
forms into intelligibility all it takes, all that our minds and 
bodies force us to go outside to seek. This tongue, this flame 
not only dissolves things by breaking them down into their 
component parts, it not only refines them by rendering them 
assimilable to the spirit, but translates them once and for all 
into the written word, invests them with a meaning independ- 
ent of time and eternally comprehensible, transforms them 
into a text and a Scripture. 

Rose, 207 


Grant, O my God, that I may make good use of that 
tongue of flame You have placed in my mouth! May I become 
a tuning fork, may I vibrate from head to foot in giving the 
right note, the sincere confession, the invincible Credo. Since 
You have provided oil in which is immersed a seven-ply wick, 
what now prevents me from being a lamp? You have not 
placed this tongue in my mouth for me to gag or champ on, 
like the blasphemers of the Apocalypse. I received it this 
morning in order to commune with You! Let it then serve to 
clarify me, to draw from me heat and light, sound and scent, 
and not to waste and consume me in foul and blackened 

Rose, 208 


How It Operates on Man 

When the Apostles are gathered at the Cenacle after 
ten days* retirement and the divine Spirit descends on them, it 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 165 

takes only a moment for contact to be made, and for that 
flame rooted in their hearts to burst forth from their brows. 
What a variety of ways they have of coming together, two 
pairs of lips exhaling a double breath! The reaper Habacuc 
struggles in the grip of the angel of God, and Jona contends 
with all his might against those wings which would tear him 
from the earth; Jeremia, however, is chosen from the moment 
of his conception, and we see Isaia ensconced pen in hand, as 
it were, right in the bosom of the Trinity; and how many pious 
women must pay with a long period of barrenness for that 
prophet demanded of them by some passage of Scripture! 

Jaime, 93 


The spirit through which God created the world by 
breathing on it (like the priest who with his lips and his lungs 
forms the letter psi on the baptismal font) continues to move 
among us. It is the great south wind which has swelled the 
sails of the Church since the day of the Pentecost, Now it is a 
gale which uproots oak trees, now the enameler's blowpipe, or 
the sudden incarnation of the irresistible scene of roses. . . . 
A word, less than that, the shape of a word; it was enough. 

Poete, 242 


It was the Holy Spirit that summoned Christ from the 
womb of the Virgin Mary, and it is Christ Himself who in turn 
summons, gathers, and animates that Church which is His 
collective body, and which is roused, united, and animated by 
faith in a single head and participation in the selfsame sacra- 

Podte, 242 

166 I Believe in God 


The twofold illuminating and unifying virtue of the 
Holy Spirit may be expressed by a single image: fire which 
illumines and penetrates, which melts and welds. God ap- 
pears in this form throughout the Old Testament; in Exodus, 
for example, we read: "Erat species gloria Domini quasi ignis 
ardens" This is how He appeared to Moses and later to Elias 
and other prophets as well. 

What does it want from us, this eternal fire? It does not 
claim, it reclaims: it reclaims that image of God whose spark 
we have each received and which it is our individual duty to 
restore to Him. He pursues us insistently for what is rightfully 
His. But how will we be able to meet this demand with our 
finite powers? The Pentecostal Hymn gives the answer: Fons 
vivus, ignis, cantos. God is not only above us as a demand, He 
is within us as a source, a living source, a source of living 
water, says St. John, a source of fire, springing up unto life 
everlasting. But what if this source is blocked, blocked by 
that irreducible obstacle which is our free will? The fire will 
not then cease to be a destroying, devouring fire, but turns 
against this obstacle to subject it to the fixity of Hell. "I have 
brought out fire from your midst which will devour you," says 
Ezechiel [28:18] and Isaia, "Spiritus vester* (note this vester, 
it refers to our spirit, our peculiar vocation which we have 
failed) "ut ignis devorabit vos." 

Cantique, 335 


The fiery Spirit is not only a destructive but a construc- 
tive element. We see this at Pentecost when all those men and 
women were gathered in one room, with the Blessed Virgin 
above them like a great distaff, winding off aU these glowing 
filaments, twisting and tying them around herself, fashioning 

I Believe in tlie Holy Ghost 167 

all these varied hues into a single bolt, and sending them to 
heaven in a flaming spiral 

Rose, 213 


The commandment to love God with all our strength, 
to the limits of our individual capacity, does not extend 
simply to man, but to all nature which was created for no 
other reason than to glorify Him, to reveal Him, to love Him, 
and to annihilate itself in confession, devotion, and regenera- 
tion. And it is up to us, seasoned, stirred, sharpened and 
whetted by the breath of the Holy Spirit, to apply to the uni- 
verse that fiery tongue capable of translating it and transmut- 
ing it into splendor, fragrance, song, poetry, and praise. 

Rose, 212 


All that the Father has wrought in me, all that He has 
devised to let me be His son and to be bom into the under- 
standing of Him, the how and the why, the Spirit is there to 
explain it all, to instill it in me, to impart it to my soul. 

Cantique, 333 

The Sweetness of the Spirit 

Ah, Jerusalem, with what perfumed fingers you have 
learned to touch our hearts! It is love alone; I recognize its 
musical fingers which hold the keys to our liberty in either 
hand. Looking high and low I can see there is no way to 
escape love. "Releasing those bound unjustly, untying the 
thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every 
yoke/* [Isaia 58:6] All this is the wondrous work of the Holy 
Spirit which is celebrated in the rapturous hymn of Pentecost. 

108 I Believe in God 

That spiritual liberty which alone matters (thanks to which I 
am both witness and agent), frees the body that is bathed in it 
from the body's own weight 

Ev. Isaie, 272 


The Holy Spirit makes its way through all our outer 
appearances until it reaches the soul, until it reaches whatever 
nourishment the soul has to offer it, which it absorbs utterly 
into itself. It is a glowing breath which penetrates, dilates, 
pacifies, clarifies, and places in a state of suspension, order, 
and clear visibility the various faculties of our nature, allow- 
ing nothing to resist its divine Cause. 

Cantique, 266 


It is not without significance that the Holy Spirit ap- 
peared to us in the form of a tongue. "For the Spirit of the 
Lord is all-embracing," we are told in the Book of Wisdom 
[1:7] It surrounds all things, holds them together, and com- 
prehends them, inseparable as it is from the engendering 
word, "and knows man's utterance," in other words, the art 
of voice. 

Presence, 72 

Our Receptivity 

Is there a gift more precious than that perfect vacuum 
of love, that capacity, that receptivity which no longer offers 
any obstacle to the will of its Creator? Since "the Spirit of the 
lord is all-embracing and knows man's utterance/' is it any 
wonder that the Holy Spirit cannot enter us without sounding 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 169 

the full range and diapason of our souls, or leave us without 
calling forth from our depths that intelligible sound which is 
a word? Epee y 40 

The Inspiration of the Scriptures 

We who are faithful Catholics know the Author of the 
Scriptures to be the Holy Spirit. What a dazzling, remarkable 
privilege we enjoy in possessing, bound in the pages of a book, 
that Holy Spirit of whom it is said that He is capable of sug- 
gesting all things to us! With what faith, with what reverence, 
with what fervor should we consult it! It is not just a word of 
advice, it is a commandment we are given when the Lord tells 
us to study the Scriptures* He did not mean a hurried glance 
but an impassioned study to which we would be well advised 
to bring all the resources not merely of our own minds and 
hearts (that would be little enough), but of doctrine and 
liturgy which the Church majestically unfolds for us. 

Accompagnements, 171 

The Holy Spirit Inspires David 

It is the Holy Spirit ardent, luminous, and quicken- 
ing by turns which fills him and makes him aware of himself, 
of his filial position, of his weakness, of his discontent, of his 
state of sin, of his dangers, of his duty, and also of the un- 
worthiness and inadequacy of everything around him. It is not 
without reason that he is called a man inspired. For through 
him the world inhales God, and through him God inhales the 
world and, if I may say so, continually renews His knowledge 
of it 1 

Accompagnements, 142 

1 By reciting tEo Psalms composed by David at the dictation of the Holy Spirit. 

170 I Believe in God 

The Holy Spirit and St. Paul 

Sobbing in the flames, I embrace the Septenary Spirit! 
I am at the mercy of One who unsparingly demands all that 
is mortal in me that He may make it immortal, and all that 
is human in me that He may make it divine. From Damascus 
to Ephesus, from Thessalonica to Rome, I am like a flaming 
tower spreading the blaze. I am the fire! And what will I, but 
that it be kindled? There is nothing in this created world 
which is not capable and susceptible of fire. There is nothing 
in the world which is not capable of the iniquity of refusing 
me the fire which I must have if not after the manner of the 
elect, then after the manner of the damned! I disseminate in 
all directions the burning seed, the spark and the coal, the 
vein and the wick of that fire which will utterly ravish me on 
the last day! Consume, consummate! 

Cantique, 356 

The Seven Gifts 

Wisdom is that total and immediate apperception (in- 
cluding the sense of taste) which addresses itself directly to 
the divine essence. Understanding is discursive knowledge. 
Counsel is its practical application, and Force the ability to 
apply. Knowledge is the ability to discriminate between good 
and evil, yes and no, left and right, greater and lesser, and to 
penetrate accidents to their divine raison d'etre for, in the 
words of the Psalmist, "Mimbilis facta est scientia tua ex me." 
And finally the Fear of God is that which lies deeper than 
knowledge and which addresses itself directly to the divine 
presence; it is the shudder in the marrow of our bones and the 
roots of our nerves at the divine breath. The Messiah, the 
little Christ child, brings all these gifts in a single package, for 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 171 

from the Fear of God to Wisdom all is one inseparable unity: 
seven gifts, but a single Spirit. 

Ev. Isaie, 52 


Fear of the Lord is at once a negative and a dynamic 
force, the reinforcement of an instinctive consent by a specific 
act of the will, a spontaneous outburst of loyalty to its Creator 
on the part of the creature, the resistance of our reason to the 
temptation of autonomy, the unhesitating choice of duty over 
its alternative. 

Piety consists in a sympathetic, receptive, and ob- 
servant attitude toward all those things around it which ex- 
press the glory and the will of God, 

Knowledge is the taste and appetite for truth. 

Fortitude is that strengthening quality which obtains 
from us what it wants by instilling desire; a desire so strong, 
says the Canticle of Canticles, that it can stand up to death it- 
self. But this patient, long-suffering Spirit can also be a vio- 
lent Spirit when occasion demands, as our Lord reminded us, 
"the Kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault, 
and the violent have been seizing it by force," [Matt. 11:12] 
This is why on Pentecost He descended on the Apostles like a 
hurricane, like a gust of wind, and a flash of lightning; not just 
on their heads, but deep in their breasts, so as to make them 
appear like drunken men. [cf. Acts 2:1-13] This is the Spirit 
that knocked Saul to the ground on the road to Damascus and 
in a single flash illumined and gathered into one incandescent 
brand, tore apart and welded together, that dark and raging 

And on another road, that of Caesarea Philippi, Simon 
suddenly came forward and, hand raised to heaven and foot 
planted on the rock, swore before all the ages that Jesus is the 
Son of the living God. And Thomas on the eve of Calvary 
bravely exclaimed, "Let us also go that we may die with 

172 I Believe in God 

Him!" [John 11:16] And wlien the Lord asked John and 
James if they could drink from His cup they replied without 
hesitating, "We can." "I can do all things," says the Apostle, 
"in Him who strengthens me." [Phil 4:13] What a ring that 
has: all things! I can do all things! We can do all things! 

Counsel: Is it not written of this gift that it is like 
"water far below the surface"? [Prov. 20:5] In other words, 
like a well, like a capital resource. 

Understanding may be defined as an impassioned con- 
version of all the forms of the soul to that eye which it opens 
and that eager gaze which it directs toward God and His 
works, Intelligentia enim est opus in visione says Daniel, a 
man of passion. Knowledge, as we have seen, was a certain 
appetite for truth, a certain innocent and profound taste for 
that bread which is a way and which the Father of light never 
tires of offering to our lips. But Understanding is more than 
an appetite, it is a participation which is sustained by recogni- 
tion. Just as Counsel may be compared to water and sap, so 
Understanding acute, intense, subtile, luminous, irresistible, 
inexhaustible may be compared to that form of breath 
which is fire eloquent respiration. Indeed, it is in the form 
of a fiery tongue, that organ of taste and speech, that He 
descended on the heads of the Apostles. 

Wisdom: And now behold the dread moment when I 
place my foot on the highest rung, and must attempt to ar- 
ticulate the idea of Wisdom, as if we had been discussing any- 
thing else all along. For Wisdom, as the Bible frequently 
states, is Understanding, and Counsel, and Fortitude, and 
Knowledge, and Piety, and above all, it is Fear of the Lord. 
But all these virtues are second to Wisdom, we are told in the 
Book of Wisdom; it was she who went before us unawares 
and showed the other virtues the way. [7:12] It is Wisdom 
who ushers into intimacy with God those who have been 
made worthy by the other disciplinary gifts. Wisdom pre- 
cedes the light. [Ibid., 7:29] "Indeed she reaches from end 

I Believe in the Holy Ghost 173 

to end mightily and governs all tilings well." [Ibid., 8:1] 2 

Sophie, 67-83 

The Gift of Tongues 

Among the most enigmatic passages in Scripture are 
those in First Corinthians and in the Book of Acts dealing 
with the gift of tongues. Formerly the Tower of Babel had 
marked the introduction of particularity and disorder in hu- 
man communication. Come ye, the Holy Spirit had said to 
the other persons of the Trinity, 'let us go down, and there 
confuse their language so that they will not understand one 
another's speech . . . For this reason it was called Babel, be- 
cause there the Lord confused the speech of all the earth/* 
[Gen. 11:7-9] 

And now at Pentecost the Holy Spirit descends from 
heaven once more. He does not just descend, He hurls Him- 
self like a thunderbolt. He restores to the Church all these 
scattered tongues, dispertitae linguae, to make of them a 
single flame. The tongue of old Zacharia is loosened and lo, he 
celebrates in all the dialects of the world magnalia Del "But 
they were all amazed and marveled, saying, Behold, are not 
all these that are speaking Galileans? And how have we heard 
each his own language in which he was born? Parthians and 
Medes and Elamites . . . Cretans and Arabians. . . . What 
does this mean?" But malicious minds who are not so easily 
impressed are quick to find the answer; "They are full of new 
wine!" [Acts 2:7-13] 

Ruth, 93 

* See the long passage (Wisdom, 7:22-24), to which Claudel refers further on; 
"For in her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, suhtle, agile, clear, un- 
stained, certain, not baneful, loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent . . . 
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.** 

174 I Believe in God 


This gift of tongues, intimately connected with that of 
prophecy, remained with the Church for some time, as is at- 
tested by the Book of Acts as well as the Epistles of St. Paul; 
it was a period of ferment. It is as if the Holy Spirit, which 
had for so many years confined its murmuring to a few chosen 
and consecrated individuals, and which had held its peace 
from Malachia to St. John the Baptist, now suddenly bursts 
forth and attacks mankind en masse in a sort of mad frenzy, 
speaking of God to God in all the languages of the world at 
once. "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" says 
the Psalmist. [150:6] 

All the obstacles palate, tongue, lips, and teeth, and 
the use thereof which are erected by all the nationalities of 
the world to prevent the free flight of man's soul, lo, they are 
all lifted at once, and the vowel triumphs over the consonant! 
"And He put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God!" 
[Psalms 39:4] All the noise of which the human spirit is ca- 
pable is wrung from it by the Holy Spirit and the vast organ, 
filled with this rush of air, begins to swell and sing in every 
pipe. The entire human vocabulary comes into play, and all of 
human speech issues forth from every portal to meet the 

Ruth, 94 


Once fermentation was introduced, the effervescence 
of the new wine bursts the old bottle. God spoke to Moses in 
Hebrew; behold, now He addresses strange races, each in its 
own tongue. This is the first characteristic of glossology, and 
the first symptom of that indwelling and possession of the 
soul by the Holy Spirit. For if a man speaks in a tongue which 
is unknown to him, it is a sure indication that someone else is 
speaking through his mouth. 

Ruth, 94 

The Holy Catholic Church 

Le protestant vit seul, mais le catholique vit dans la communion de 

Soulier de satin 

THE Church is a society founded 
by Jesus Christ, composed of the 
baptized, and united in the dec- 
laration of a common faith and 
the bond of a mutual communion. 
All its members respect the au- 
thority of the Pope in Rome and of 
the bishops in communion with 
him, and their end is Me everlast- 

The Church is by definition a 
thing of massive density, in which 
the divine is intimately related to 
the human, with the result that 
this society has a unique quality. 
Christ founded the Church when 
He said to Peter: "Thou art Peter, 
and upon this rock I will build my 
church" [Matt. 16:18], thus indi- 
cating that He meant it to be an 


hierarchical society, under the 
guidance of a leader. 

The Church is called militant 
when we are speaking of the faith- 
ful living on this earth; suffering, 
when we are speaking of those 
who, having departed this world, 
have still to atone for their sins; 
and triumphant, when we are 
speaking of those who, by their 
merits or their atonement, have 
finally and forever attained the 
heavenly kingdom. 

The Church possesses three 
qualities: It is visible, i.e., made 
up of bodies and souls. It is in- 
fallible, because it is guided by 
the Holy Spirit. It is indefectible, 
because it will endure until the 
end of time and into eternity, as 
Christ Himself promised: "the 
gates of hell shall not prevail 
against it." 

There are four marks of the 
Church: It is one. It has only one 
Lord, one faith, one baptism, ac- 
cording to St. Paul. Its founder, 
the Son of God, is its head, and 
the Church is His Mystical Body. 
He has transmitted His authority 
to Peter and to all his successors, 
who speak and act in His name. It 
is informed by a single spirit, the 
Holy Spirit, and it is united in a 
single hope and a single charity. 

It is holy, because its end, its 
sacraments, and its Founder, as 
well as its chosen ones, are 

It is catholic, because it is des- 
tined to embrace the entire world, 
without distinction of race or 

1 Believe in God 

tongue, an end which is already 
realized in part. "All have been 
grounded and established on the 
cornerstone Jesus Christ/' [Eph. 

It is apostolic, because it was 
built up by the Apostles of Jesus 
Christ, whose successors transmit 
His doctrines and sacraments to 
us. From the time of St. Peter this 
hierarchical society has suffered 
no interruption. 

Only the Roman Catholic 
Church possesses these peculiar 
qualities and attributes; it alone 
is the true Church of Christ 

What is Paul Claudel's position 
with regard to the Church? Let us 
state at once that it would be dif- 
ficult to find a Christian writer 
with a more deep-rooted sense of 
his membership in the Church. So 
profoundly has he felt the power, 
the love, and the divine majesty 
of that great family which opened 
its arms to him on Christmas day 
at Notre Dame that since then his 
filial love has never failed. 

"Love of God, total submission 
to the Church, this is all I have 
ever tried to say/* he wrote reso- 
lutely to Jacques Riviere. (Toi, 
30) She was that "honored Moth- 
er" whom he encountered through- 
out his travels across continents: 
whether in Boston, Tokyo, or Rio 
de Janeiro he was delighted to find 
her at every port of call, now in 
her splendor, in the form of a 
magnificent cathedral, now in 
humble guise, in some little village 

The Holy Catholic Chnrcli 

*lt was then that I realized the 
value of this mother of the earth's 
four corners, who had brought me 
into the world, and who would not 
let me go, ... Everywhere I 
went I found a Catholic church 
opening its arms to receive me. 7 * 
Even the poorest chapel was for 
him "the golden mansion, the 
gate of heaven, the Ark of the 
Covenant." (J'aime, 110) 

He knows the struggles and the 
suffering of this Mother Church, 
and he has shared them with the 
tender heart of a son. "Among the 
promises which God made her, 
there is not one which has been 
more constantly and visibly kept 
than that of persecution. Not for 
an instant has she been permitted 
to be at peace or to leave the 
world in peace." (Discours, 16) 
We must, therefore, place all our 
energies at her service and dedi- 
cate ourselves to her. 'Tor two 
thousand years the Catholic 
Church has been in the position 
of a besieged city, and to defend 
her is not a task for children, 1 * he 
tells us, not without indignation. 
(Contacts, 246) 

"Not ... to leave the world in 
peace,** says Claudel, Is the 
Church warlike by nature? Let us 
remember that her Founder said, 
**I have come to bring a sword, 
not peace. 1 * How, then, could His 
Church be a house of repose, a 
refuge from the cares of the 
world? God forbid that she ever 
become one! Bearer of truth in a 
world corrupted by lies, must not 


her very appearance create a scan- 

Again, ""You are the salt of the 
earth/* Jesus told His Apostles, 
"but if the salt loses its strength, 
what shall it be salted with?" It 
is necessary that the evangelical 
salt retain all its savor, all its 

"Know, Church of God, that 
your business is to fight," writes 
Claudei "Know, Truth, that you 
did not come into the world with 
impunity, know that you are a per- 
petual threat" (I&aie, 81) Let us 
not forget that the confirmed 
Christian is a soldier of Christ, 
and if necessary he must give his 
life to defend Him. 

This Church, which can have 
no traffic with evil or error, is 
above all a mother full of compas- 
sion for her children. How rap- 
turously Claudel has celebrated 
her bounty! What concern for the 
little ones, for those who kborl 
"She invites all this confused and 
suffering multitude to her wed- 
ding feast, to that table which she 
keeps eternally prepared. Tou 
were the slaves of money/ she 
says, *but I will make you the 
servants of music/ ** (Discours, 
25) That is, the flesh has enslaved 
you, but my Spirit will set you 
free, and teach you to sing in the 
regained liberty of the children of 

The Church is the sole dispenser 
of divine life by means of the 
sacraments. The water has given 
us birth, the oil has permeated 


and strengthened us, the blood 
has purified us, the bread has 
sustained us, and the wine 
has illuminated us." 1 (Cantique, 

In the center of this Church 
there is a queen, an immaculate 
creature who unites it. "Just as 
the physical heart unites the body, 
so the heart of Mary, linked with 
that in our own breast, strives for 
the unity of the Church in a 
single collective Christ." (Accom- 
pagnements, 125) At its head 
there is a visible leader, the Pope, 
"clothed with the whole world," 
who identifies himself daily with 
"the needs, the sufferings, the ne- 
cessities, and even with the sins" 
of tie whole Church. (Ibid., 164) 
He is more than a leader, he is a 
father whom "we can question, 
and who answers us with lumi- 

I Believe in God 

nous lips ... a father who is ever 
at the service of his children . , . 
who inhales the Holy Spirit with 
his own lips that he may impart 
it to us," (Ibid., 161) The poet has 
understood not only the grandeur 
but the devotion of this father; 
what touching, what filial respect 
he has for him! 

And we, like Claudel, must 
count ourselves fortunate to be- 
long to this divine society, "which 
has more spirit than we have/' be- 
cause it is under the guidance of 
God and cannot fail. 

The Church is a living person, 
the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, 
"anything but the abstract defini- 
tion of a collective reality. It has a 
life, a mind, an activity, a face, 
a personality . . . and above all 
this a name, and above this name, 
a crown." (Poete, 98) 

Foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the Synagogue 

Shadow and chrysalis of the future Church. 

Cantique, 36 

Her Foundation 

That which does not pass away is my foundation and 
my throne, says the Church. 

Cantique, 56 

1 Reference to Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, and the Eucharist 

The Holy Catholic Church 179 


Her Authority 

The Church is an enduring voice. 

Cantique, 139 


The Church is anything but the abstract definition of a 
collective reality. It has a life, a mind, an activity, a face, a 
personality, a head, an intelligence above and beyond instinct 
with regard to a clearly perceived end, a power of judgment 
with regard to inward and outward decorum which is in- 
finitely vigilant, patient, and subtle, a sure ability to eliminate 
any extraneous and harmful elements, a common vocation 
served by an organization which is infinitely complex and 
precise, a government and an administration of her own, and 
above all this a name, and above this name, a crown. 

Poete, 98 


Her Wealth 

The Church * . . that vast treasury of joy and beauty! 

Cart . Suares, 126 


Mother of Immortality 

The Church, this mother of immortality, born always 
to breathe new life, to drink at the source to die limit of her 

ISO I Believe in God 

internal capacity, with flared nostrils gazes toward the rising 
Sun. 2 

Cantique, 380 

Basilica: House of the King 

The Church is a basilica, that is, the residence of a 
Sovereign in the heart of His court. 

Positions II, 190 

The Christian's Good Fortune 

A great wonder has befallen me, for I have come to 
know the living God, the personal God promised to future 
generations by the Blessed Virgin in her Magnificat. And yet 
another wonder, which all those years of storm and confusion 
were perhaps necessary for me to appreciate: in a world 
which is falling apart I have felt once more beneath my feet, 
triumphant and unsinkable, that vessel which is called the 
Catholic Church and which bears on its mainmast the stand- 
ard of the crucified Christ. 

Discours, 84 



This unity which I have taught you through love, that 
you may be One, as my Father and I are One in the unity of 
substance and the separation of persons, this unity I leave in 
your hands to realize through your own will and ingenuity. 
Let brother come to the aid of brother, and the hammer to the 
aid of the fire. And when these have done their work, it will be 

2 Cluist 

The Holy Catholic Churcli 181 

the turn of the nail, the bolt, and the screw. "Well done/' you 
will say then, "it holds/' 

Et?. Isaie, 126 


We have at our command not only our own resources 
for loving, understanding, and serving God, but everything 
from the Blessed Virgin in the highest heaven down to this 
miserable African leper who, bell in hand, opens a half- 
wasted mouth to utter the responses of the Mass. All creation, 
visible and invisible, all history, past, present, and future, all 
nature, all the wealth of the saints compounded by grace, all 
this is at our command, all this is our extended self and our 
wondrous equipment. All the saints, all the Angels, are ours. 
We can avail ourselves of the mind of St. Thomas, the arm of 
St. Michael, and the heart of St. Joan or St Catherine of 
Siena, and of all the hidden resources which spring into 
effervescent life at our touch. 

All that goodness, majesty, and beauty have wrought 
from one end of the earth to the other, everything that ra- 
diates sanctity like a patient that runs a fever is as though 
wrought by us. The heroism of missionaries, the inspiration 
of doctors, the generosity of martyrs, the genius of artists, the 
burning prayers of Poor Clares and Carmelites, it is as though 
they belonged to us, and they do belong to us. From North to 
South, from Alpha to Omega, from East to West, we are a part 
of it all. We wear it like a garment, we set it all in motion in 
an orchestral performance in which we are at once revealed 
and undone. 

All that is within us, almost without our awareness, 
the Church boldly translates and bodies forth in the world on 
a magnificent scale. 

Such is this mother by whom, through Baptism, we 
have received a second birth. 

Poete, 100 

182 I Believe in God 


In short, the Catholic religion must be substantiated by 
means of a Catholic demonstration, that is, a total one, and 
by means of this very totality. The Catholic religion is true 
because it is catholic, that is, all-embracing; it is the keystone 
and coping of all. It triumphs only by answering all partial 
criticism with its indivisible mass. 

Positions II, 73 


The Three Faces of a Single Church 

Militant, suffering, triumphant, she is not three 
Churches, but one, all of a piece, indivisible and enduring in 
the eye of God. The first merits, the second atones, the third 
enjoys. It must not be imagined that each member of these 
three divisions enjoys, atones, or earns solely on his own ac- 
count. He enjoys, he atones, he merits also as a member of 
the group to which he belongs, and in which he has been 
assigned a role. 

Cantique, 364 



The Church is hungry for God. She is hungry for 
realization. She desires God's will and purpose. She hungers 
to draw from Him the life and being of these millions of souls 
to whom she is continually giving birth, to convert eternity 
into time, to exploit the inexhaustible resource, to bring each 
thing to completion, to equal the capacity of the abyss. What 
does she not gather from God? All kinds of saints, one after 
the other, all kinds of events and ideas. And, above all, she 
craves all lands of sacrifices. This is what she perpetually de- 

The Holy Catholic Church 183 

sires, without realizing it all forms of enlightenment, that 
she may turn them into music! For, O my beloved, says God to 
His Bride, can He who placed that ear deep within you ever 
tire of listening to you? 

Accompagnements, 144 


The Sacraments 

The Christian is the result of the sacraments, and he 
carries their emanations with him, but it is the Church who is 
their agent: Opus pigmentariL . . . The water has given 
us birth, the oil has permeated and strengthened us, the blood 
has purified us, the bread has sustained us, the wine has illu- 
minated us, Holy Orders and Marriage have crept into the 
very marrow of our bones. 

Cantique, 159 


Sanctity of the Members 

Closer yet to Jesus than those who share His glory are 
those who have been permitted to share His affliction. Choicer 
than the unblemished fruit is that, bruised and broken, from 
which spurts a precious juice! Of the Cure of Ars, spent, 
burned, and broken by confession, or Father Damien, de- 
voured by leprosy who will dare say that "there was neither 
beauty nor elegance in him"? Never could the creature 
emerging fresh and whole from the bosom of his Creator have 
dazzled the Angels with an explosion of light such as theirs! 

And what of St. Francis staggering down Mount Al- 
verno on his wounded feet, what of this living crucifix, for 
whom all use of his stigmatized hands was agony, what of this 
half torn and broken form from which an angel emerges, 
who seems almost a perfect likeness? There are such souls, 
Lord; along with the rest of us, look at them so that you may 

184 I Believe in God 

recognize them. It is such as these, Lord, that You have chosen 
for Your friends! 

Cantique, 242 


Nothing short of the very circumference of the earth 
can stop the Church in her work of catholicity. She alone 
knows what can truly be called progress. "Who is this who 
comes forward like the rising dawn?" Truth lights her path, 
history precedes her, even error makes way for her. The world 
has been delivered to her, that she may take it, not by force, 
but by love. 

Cantique, 249 


The union of Christ and the soul, of Christ and the 
Church, is compared to marriage. We must offer him a chaste 
bride, for what alliance could there be between Christ and 
Belial? Sanctified by the word, purified by the water, "without 
blemish or wrinkle but holy and blameless." God asks the 
soul, He asks the Church, simply to come before Him, to be 
revealed to Him in a spirit of complete faith, without guilt or 
shame, and straightway He supplies all deficiencies. By means 
of a universal perfection He completes any individual im- 
perfection. The Church is beautiful because it is whole, that 
is, catholic throughout her body. 

Cantique, 150 


I understand the word Catholic in the universal sense: 
someone who has truly risen above the world and who no 

The Holy Catholic Church 185 

longer sees in it anything which is not of Christ, even in con- 
tradiction, even in evil and sin. 

Taime, 115 


My solitude was augmented by the loneliness of exile. 
It was then I realized the value of this mother of the earth's 
four corners, who had brought me into the world, and who 
would not let me go. Everywhere I went I found a Catholic 
church opening its arms to receive me. It was no longer the 
glorious vaults of Notre Dame in Paris; it was some wretched 
hut in a missionary settlement, some humble refuge for poor 
people at the end of a side street in Boston or Hamburg. In 
their shabby and self-conscious humility, they became for 
me the golden mansion of the litany which our prayer books 
translate as "sanctuary of charity," the gate of heaven, the Ark 
of the Covenant over which shone the morning star, the very 
star which the priest was about to place in my mouth. 

faime, 110 


How can I explain that without the Church I cannot 
fully be myself, I cannot fully realize myself, I cannot fully be 
the creature God loves? Just as the body of Christ exists whole 
in every portion of the host, so the whole Church is behind the 
individual countenance of every Christian, and expresses itself 
through his voice, and hears itself called perfecta mea* It is 
the whole Church which has undertaken a given assignment 
in each one of us, for the good of the whole; it is the Church 
as a whole, tota pulchra es (the Bride is beautiful only be- 
cause she is complete), which is the object of the Spouse's 
desire, and it is with the favors of the whole Church, from 
which nothing in time or space is absent, that each of us is 
called upon to overwhelm Him. 

I Believe in God 

At the moment of the Annunciation, Mary had al- 
ready become the whole Church. A single soul, a single eye, 
may mirror the whole image of God. "With one glance of your 
eyes, with one bead of your necklace/' says the Bridegroom 
of the Canticle. There are many souls, he continues, but only 
one is "my dove, my perfect one." 

Emmaus, 141 



(Commentary on the verse of the Canticle of Can- 
ticles: "Do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own 


What are we to understand by the sleep of the soul, 
the sleep of the Church? It is a state in which the passive 
triumphs over the active, or rather passive activity over ag- 
gressive activity, wisdom over will, the spirit of delight over 
the spirit of pursuit "Do not stir up love before its own time," 
until a sure voice swelling deep within her has taken the form 
of an urgent summons. It is then that St. Louis embarks on 
the crusade, and Maria Theresa Noblet sets out for Papua, 
and Maria of the Incarnation for Canada. It is then that St. 
Therese sets forth to sow Spain with castles; it is then that a 
son of Francis seizes the shield of Austria and the sword of 

But what of those moments when the Church, her eye 
fastened on the stream of appearances, her doctrinal harp 
hanging from a barren willow, no longer feels quivering on 
her shoulders the wings of the great Eagle? And when, in 
the depths of boredom and lethargy and worldHness, she 
recognizes that unforgettable voice: "Peter, dost thou love 
ine?" she rises, she knows, she speaks as herself: Yes, Lord, 
I am here and I love you! I know that voice, for it is the one 
that gladdened my youth! 

Cantique, 64 

The Holy Catholic Church 187 

Her Passion for the Universe 

Ah, Catholic Church, how utterly I share with you in 
my own way your passion for the universe! 

Ev. Isaie, 290 


Her Christlike Hunger for Souls 

This thirst for action, this compassion which has be- 
come a passion in the hearts of so many noble women, edu- 
cators, and missionaries, this need for order, meaning, purity 
and response all around us, this way of intimately embracing 
the sinner in order to transform him, this craving for under- 
standing and enlightenment which torments the bowels of so 
many students, all this is related to that hunger on the part of 
the Saviour which He communicated to His Church: "Where 
is my guest chamber, that I may eat the passover there with 
my disciples?" [Mark 14:14] 

Poete, 120 


All that the Church does, we do with her. With her 
help we are enabled, within the limits of our humble powers, 
to take the world in our hands and offer it to God and even 
to take God Himself in our hands and offer Him to the world. 

Emmaus, 145 

The Vast Territory of the Church 

All the earth is called on to provide the foundation, all 
mankind is called on to provide the material for this living 

188 I Believe in God 

tower, this Tower of David built to reconcile heaven and 
earth, which is the Catholic Church. O my beautiful one, says 
the Bridegroom, come, 'let me hear your voice, for your voice 
is sweet!" 

Emmaiis, 53 


The Catholic Church does not confine herself to the 
realm of the spirit; she has pitched her tent, to speak the 
language of Isaia, on the very frontier of Creation. Nothing 
that is the work of God is alien to her. Nothing that con- 
tributes to the glory of God and the welfare of man is outside 
her understanding or beyond her jurisdiction. The universe 
is her responsibility, and it is she who must guide our week- 
day labors to their Sunday rest. 

Accompagnements, 153 

The Catholic Way 

The silent voice which spoke to me on Christmas day 
has now become audible, and to respond to it there is within 
me a congregation that cries out in all the languages of the 
earth. For is it not written that every living man is a temple? 
Yes, my God, and when You speak, someone is listening who 
feels that he himself is a whole church! Someone who all 
alone, O my God, is capable of an ecumenical roarl 

Ev. hale, 206 


The Catholic is at home in the whole universe, he is 
the nucleus of a certain circle which accompanies him wher- 
ever he goes. He is a center of composition. The non-believer, 
by whatever name he is called, carries with him the curse of 

Hie Holy Catholic Church 189 

isolation. He is parallel to everything. Is there anything more 

hopelessly lonely than the parallel position? 

Cantique, 283 

Isolation Outside the Church 

A man who is outside the Church soon becomes iso- 
lated. He has no longer any landmarks and he does not know 
where he is going. He suffers from the terrible curse of no 
longer being able to help anyone. All ties are broken, save 
those which hold him fast. 

Positions II, 138 



"Who will bring me into the fortified city?" asks the 
Psalmist. [59:11] Through the iron curtain and into the heart 
of the pagan wilderness: who will bring you, Lord? This is the 
task which You reserve for Your Catholic and Apostolic 
Church, for that woman pictured by St. John, crying out in 
the sun. [Apoc. 12:1-2] We see St. Peter, the first Pope, in the 
house of the pagan Cornelius; he is told to "arise," that is, to 
broaden his horizon, and he is presented, by an angel, with a 
sheet which contains all the animals of creation. "Kill and 
eat," says the heavenly messenger, thus putting an end to the 
legal distinction between clean and unclean animals. 

But another meaning may be discerned: the animals 
stand for the various races of men, and the Head of the 
Church is ordered to assimilate them, after having destroyed 
in the baptismal water whatever in them invited destruction. 
Indeed, everything capable of contributing to the Body of 
Christ is food for die Church. 

All those artificial barriers which His enemy works in- 
cessantly to raise: class, caste, and iron curtain, racial prefu- 

190 I Believe in God 

dice, chauvinistic nationalism, are dissipated by the luminous 
breath of the Church. Is it possible not to share, at this spec- 
tacle, the prophetic rapture which fills the last chapters of 
Isaia: "Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of 
the Lord shines upon you/' [60:1] 

faime, 35 

The Pope, Successor to the Apostles 

We are not like the unhappy Protestants; we have a 
father whom we may question and who answers us with 
luminous lips. Everything he tells us is true, and we come 
away calm and reassured. A father! And not just one father, 
but a fountain of fathers, an inexhaustible source of priests 
and sacraments, enough for all the world! 

When we have children, a father is standing by to 
take them in his arms, to cleanse them with water and season 
them with salt. When we are hungry, someone is there to 
place the host in our mouths. When we marry and when we 
say yes to one another, someone is there to hear us. When we 
have done something wrong, someone is there to scold us and 
to make a little cross on our foreheads. And when we are 
ready to die, someone is there to loosen all those cruel bonds 
which would detain us. Go freely, Christian soul! Go, my 
child, do not be afraid; Run along, my child, run along, my 
little child! 

And all this is the Pope, the Pope serving us in God's 
name, part of our very life and breath! Or rather it is Jesus 
Christ, Son of God, in the person of the Pope, acting for His 
Father "even until now," [John 5:17] as it is written. Let us 
heed Him who tells us in deep humility, "I did not come to be 
served, but to serve." All that I ask is to be allowed to work in 
your service. 

Should we not rejoice to have such a father, a father 
who is ever at the service of his children? The ancient He- 

The Holy Catholic Church 191 

brews had the mercy seat which the High Priest consulted 
from time to time. But we have a priest, set over this vast 
tonsured flock and ordained by the breath of His mouth, a 
priest who inhales the Holy Spirit with his own lips that he 
may impart it to us. 

Accompagnements, 161 


Once I saw a young priest weeping all alone, weeping 
his heart out in his deserted church. But what of the vicar of 
Jesus Christ, the Pastor of the universe; must not he too 
sometimes weep, shed tears of blood, dash his forehead 
against the sacred steps of the ecumenical altar? The world is 
so wicked, and above all, so deaf! So horribly heedless, so 
stupid, so appallingly deaf! 

That red lamp burning before the tabernacle is the 
Pope Jesus Christ in the Pope, alone under the eye of God, 
watching, listening, looking, understanding, working, and 

Accompagnements, 163 


It is glorious to see the whole earth shaken to its foun- 
dations, moving toward this white figure which stands on 
the immovable rock and, with its two arms outstretched over 
the human multitude, seems at once to be calling them, hold- 
ing them, blessing them, and in the image of the Psalmist, 
hushing them like the conductor of an orchestra. Before our 
eyes is gradually emerging for the first time since the Roman 
Empire a united Europe, born out of common consent and 
necessity. This unity which is imposed on our selfish concerns 
under pain of death, can we refrain from hoping that in a 
future perhaps less distant than we think it may be extended 
to our souls? 

J'aime, 38 

192 I Believe in God 


There Is a man who stands alone but of whom it may 
be said, with even greater justice than of the High Priest of 
the Ancient Law, that he is clothed with the whole world. 
As for us humble believers, the sphere of our orisons does not 
extend very far; we pray for our "near and dear," a handful 
of more or less dimly illumined figures. It is only on Good 
Friday that we are officially invited to pray for the whole 
Church. But for the Pope, every day is Good Friday. 

Every day he identifies himself with the needs, the 
sufferings, the necessities, and even with the sins of the whole 
world. He is conscious every moment of this Church of which 
he is the concrete embodiment. At every moment he presents 
to God the universe upon which he is crucified. The whole 
universe is not too wide to help him explain to God what each 
of us tries to stammer on our own. 

Accompagnements, 164 


The Struggles of the Church 

For two thousand years the Catholic church has been 
in the position of a besieged city, and to defend her is not a 
task for children. 

Contacts, 246 


Besieged Citadel 

Well, this position, that of a besieged citadel or rather 
of an "emporium" overflowing with riches of which their 
owners are unaware but which the poverty of the surround- 
ing universe has scented from afar and comes from all direc- 

The Holy Catholic Church 193 

tions to claim in a suppliant and menacing tide this posi- 
tion has been the Catholic church's from its foundation. 

Often she tries to close her doors, to stop her ears. 
"Leave me alone," says the materfamilias, "I am resting, I 
am with my children, they are my responsibility!" But she is 
not left alone; there are the heresies, the persecutions, the in- 
vasions, the internal convulsions, there are the plagues of all 
varieties, physical and spiritual, there is the endless succes- 
sion of fanatics who never tire of pounding on her door 
those who demand life and those, pursued by a no less stern 
necessity, who demand death. There is a whole troubled sea 
of wickedness which harasses the bark of St. Peter. 

Ev. Isafe, 309 


Among the promises which God made the Church, 
there is not one which has been more constantly and visibly 
kept than that of persecution. Not for an instant has she been 
permitted to be at peace, or to leave the world in peace, or 
be free from the burden of an unbearable treasure which 
must be defended and shared. 

Discours, 16 


The Church Persecuted from Birth (The Flight into Egypt) 

Why this retreat of Mary and her child, this tender, 
lactescent Church, into the deepest night of paganism? 

Epee, 25 

The Church and the Reformation 

(The symbolism of the colored stained glass windows 
being replaced by transparent ones.) 

194 ^ Believe in God 

In a flash all Is extinguished! From the assaults of 
heresy the Church has defended herself with light. ... It is 
no longer the time for her to divide and color it. Let it stream 
in, pure white, flooding this sanctuary of formal dogma illu- 
mined by apologetics and glossed by eloquence. The Church 
is no longer a sublimation of the city of God, she has become 
a specialized instrument of salvation, a machine for seizing 


Vitraux des cathedrales de France 


The Church in Perpetual Exodus 

St. John depicts her with the wings of the great Eagle 
on her shoulders, fleeing to Egypt in order to escape the river 
Time, the temporal monster, in this place where time no 
longer exists. Her whole history is one long migration, a mi- 
gration across kingdoms, through short-lived civilizations 
which vainly attempt to detain her, to force her into servi- 
tude. The plagues of Egypt are merely the symbolic repre- 
sentation of the evils resulting from this insane desire. 

Emmaiis, 89 


Ah! How fortunate we are today to be Christians, to 
be able to say to ourselves that in spite of all our faults we 
belong to the Church, that we have never stopped proclaim- 
ing her before men and trying to restore to this injured mother 
the affection and respect denied her by so many ungrateful 

Con. Suares, 172 

The Holy Catholic Church 195 

The Church and Her Struggles Throughout History 

After that desperate dialogue between East and West, 3 
after tliat mitred and tonsured mob has torn itself apart, out of 
the profound confusion of the Scriptures, there emerges, after 
a long digestive process, the bloodstained articles of the Credo 
and the unbreakable design of anathemas. In the center of all, 
eternal, patient, and powerful, Rome weighs, measures, and 
prevails. All that is not of her breaks away, withers, and dies. 

Ruth, 108 


The Vitality of the Church 

For two hundred years we have been saturated ad 
nauseam with a learned theory to the effect that Christianity 
is an oriental religion in the manner of Buddhism and Mo- 
hammedanism, a doctrine of resignation, fatalism, and death. 
It is a pity that, on the contrary, the history of the Church 
from its origin up to our own time presents the spectacle of 
an intense energy, a spirit of universal enterprise, a spiritual, 
moral, and physical activity against evil and error which has 
never seen a decline, and which ceases only in those areas 
where schism and heresy have extended their deadly influ- 

Our great minds answer this with cliches about the 
western "temperament" or European "pragmatism" which has 
miraculously managed to reverse the negative doctrines of the 
East like a rabbit's skin, and change black to white, etc* etc. 
It is Europe, it would appear, which, by virtue of some mys- 
terious force analogous to Moliere's virtus dormitiva* has cre- 

* A reference to the rivalry between the Eastern aod Western Empires. 

* Soporific value. 

196 I Believe In God 

ated Christianity. As for me, I believe that it is Christianity 
which has created Europe. 

Positions II, 180 


The Catholic Church was not founded merely to re- 
store the world's dignity, to reinstate it in its joyous and in- 
telligent role of paradise by making it the anteroom and step- 
ping stone to something infinitely greater. From the first day 
the Church was ordered by her divine Master to cultivate 
this paradise. After His Resurrection, did not He Himself ap- 
pear to Magdalen as a gardener? And does not the Gospel 
state, "My Father works even until now, and I work." 

Through what misunderstanding, what aberration, 
have we come to believe, and through what obsession has an 
ignorant public been convinced that religion is a sort of opium 
whose sole virtue consists in what Moliere calls its soporific 
value? It is true enough that in the Canticle of Canticles the 
Church is made to say, through the mouth of the Sulamite, 
that she is seeking repose; but she knows that this repose exists 
only in conformity with the will of God. She does not put her 
trust in any utopia, in any millennium. She knows that until 
the last day* until the end of the world, she will suffer. She 
knows that she can expect nothing but travail, anguish, strife, 
and childbirth. 

Is it not she and she alone who, by fixing forever out 
of our reach the heavenly ideal to which we must conform 
and which demands our collaboration, has cured us forever 
of complacency and satisfaction? Is it not she who, by estab- 
lishing order and unity not through an accumulation and re- 
arrangement of effects, but under the high inspiration of the 
divine Cause, has created in the world a universal ordination 
of charity which no element, however minute, may escape? 
Indeed, does not St. Augustine tell us that the cornerstone of 
tjie Christian city is not below but above? Far under the 

The Holy Catholic Church 197 

watchful eye of this universal mother, nothing is lost or 
wasted, no penny may rust in the mud; everything that is 
God's handiwork is infinitely precious to her and worthy of 
all respect. 

Dlscours, 44 

The Church Militant 

Know, Church of God, that whether you will or no, 
your business is to fight, These enemies who come at you from 
out of nowhere and have mobilized all their forces to destroy 
you, understand that they are not to blame, they had no alter- 
native, it is you who are the aggressor. They had no choice 
but to defend themselves! Know, Truth, that you did not come 
into this world with impunity; you constitute a perpetual and 
terrible threat to error and all its attendant interests, a threat 
which settles for nothing short of utter annihilation. Experi- 
ence has shown you to be invincible, so do not wonder if 
they try to drive you back through every exit, through every 
opening, to your very doors, those doors against which it has 
been promised that die gates of hell shall not prevail. 

Isaie, 82 


Her Generosity 

Let us hearken to this Church within us, of us, which 
is in the act of giving birth to something everlasting. 

Apocalypse, 248 


The Catholic Church as she is and as God sees her is 
something other than this feeble and anxious flock exemplified 
by that squad of ancient females who attend Mass in the 

198 * Believe in God 

obscurity of a Parisian crypt. It is a dynamically functioning, 
triple-barreled engine which transforms eternity into time, 
and tune back into eternity. 

Cantique, 363 


"I did not come to be served, but to serve." And the 
Church herself with all her sacraments, how eagerly and dili- 
gently she places herself at our service! To what height does 
she not lead us that, catholic like her, we may command a 
view of all the kingdoms of the earth. Whatever is mine, she 
says, is yours. 

Rose, 129 

Liberating Role 

"Come to me," says the Saviour, "all you who labor 
and are burdened; and I will give you rest/' [Matt. 11:28] 
And the Church too, like her prototype Wisdom of the sacred 
text, goes forth to every highway and byway and invites all 
the confused and suffering multitude to her wedding feast, to 
the table which she keeps eternally prepared. You were the 
slaves of money, she says, but I will make you the servants of 
music. You, who in paradise were given the ancient order to 
work the land, shall no longer work it as hirelings, in igno- 
rance and slavery, but as rulers, in freedom, understanding, 
knowledge, and responsibility. 

Discours, 25 


Nurturing Role 

"Unless a man be born again," says the Saviour, "he 
cannot enter into the kingdom of God/' [John 3:5] But, mar- 

Hie Holy Catholic Church 199 

vels Nicodemus, can I re-enter the womb to be bom again? 
Of course, doubter, the only alternative is to re-enter the 
Church that you may receive form and sustenance, and im- 
bibe her clear-eyed ability to endure. 

Emmaiis, 63 


Bearer of Truth 

"And I will write upon him the name of my God, and 
the name of the city of iny God, the new Jerusalem, which 
comes down out of heaven from my God, and my new name." 
[Apoc. 3:12] This is the voice of the Church, and it explains 
the definition of the councils and the instruction contained 
in the encyclicals distributed by the infallible Pope. For any- 
thing that is written down requires precise formulation and, 
in the process, even clarifies the opposing thesis. This is why a 
definition is often given in the form of a denunciation or of 
an introduction to a catalogue of errors. The name of God, the 
name of the Catholic Church thus legibly inscribed as on 
granite for all to see, is there in opposition to anything which, 
because of its exclusively secularist origin, contradicts the 
whole idea of God and the Church. Error is thus compelled to 
come forward and reveal itself in the attitude of total and 
fundamental denial. 

Apocalypse, 348 


There is one question that is continually being asked of 
the Catholic Church. Not only is it audibly asked by her 
children and her enemies, by charity and by persecution, but 
it is silently posed by the solemn and terrible spectacle of 
misery, crime, sin, and despair surrounding her in the uni- 
verse. Is she not the heiress and the authorized agent of Him 
who said, "I have come into the world, to bear witness to the 

200 I Believe in God 

truth" [John 18:37], and again, "I am the way, and the truth, 
and the life" [John 14:6], and finally, "and the truth shall 
make you free." [John 8:32] 

It is the whole universe in the fullness, consciousness, 
and agony of its need and its necessity which interrogates the 
Church and asks her, "What is Truth?" 

Discours, 27 


Her Wealth 

O Holy Church, it is this gathering of your own fruits, 
this deliberation on the sacred presence within you of your 
beloved burden, which accounts for your external beauty. 
For in the words of Job, "My root is spread out to the waters: 
the dew rests by right on my branches/' [29:19] "Open up 
the gates to let in a nation that is just." [Isaia 26:2] 

Enter, O blessed guest, and learn that my gates are 
closed only enough to prevent your escaping! 

Apocalypse, 308 


God has looked upon this creature consisting of a head 
and a body, at once temporal and eternal, who provided what 
He needed to establish His residence and who permitted the 
Creator to enjoy an intimate union with His Creature. It is 
for her and through her, the Church, that all has been accom- 
plished. It is with her help that "he made from the skies 
above" [Prov. 8:28] that heaven whose keys He entrusted to 
her along with the power to lock and unlock. It is she who pro- 
vides Him with a contact, as it were, a point of support, a 
duality justified by love, a strength in disparity, a base, an 
abyss deep enough to absorb this sublimity. It is she who 
orders all His wealth and who has been appointed its dis- 
penser; she has it all stored away in her cupboard. 

The Holy Catholic Church 201 

"When he set for the sea its limit" [Prov. 8:29]: these 
are the dogmas, the canons, the theological definitions, the 
disciplinary and moral prescriptions. 

Poete, 102 

The Wealth of the Christian 

What have I done to deserve this incomparable priv- 
ilege of being a Christian and a Catholic? How is it possible 
for men to have a miracle like the Christian faith, like the 
Catholic church, right under their noses, and act as if they 
did not know it was there, as if it did not exist? 

There is light, there is love, there is certitude, there is 
the matchless beauty of this world, and of our fellow men, 
and the even greater beauty of the one promised to us; there 
is God, there is the Blessed Virgin, there is this heart, this 
power to revive us which the priest asks only to place each 
morning in our mouths, if we will and to all this the world 
prefers what? Not just pleasure, but anxiety, despair, degrada- 
tion! There are even people today who are insane enough to 
tell you that they prefer anxiety, despair, degradation for its 
own sake! 

Discours, 35 


The Construction of the Church 

In caverna maceriae! 5 In the hollow places of the wall, 
in the depths of the masonry! 

There are many walls, there is much masonry. There 
is the Church herself which the hymn of All Saints* Day tells 
us is made of living rock. There is also the masonry of theol- 

* Cf. Canticle o Canticles, 2:14; "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret 
recesses of the cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, 
and you are lovely." 

202 I Believe in God 

ogy, made of the blocks of faith and the industry of the mind, 
ordered by the most austere and exquisite geometry, offering 
a base for the giddiest calculations of metaphysics. 

Cantique, 74 

Work and Testimony of the Church 

"Let me see you," continues the Spouse. This is the 
request which the long succession of councils and dogmatic 
definitions has sought to fill, this is the whole direction of 
thought and history for two thousand years: this face is the 
image and reflection of Mine. "Let me hear your voice" 
the voice of Gregory and Palestrina and Bossuet! "For your 
voice is sweet" yes, even the harsh cry of these Chinese 
orphans, "and you are lovely" yes, even the terrible face of 
Father Damien after he had contracted leprosy 1 For "a joyful 
heart gladdens the countenance." 

Cantique, 75 


Power of Consecration 

(On Our Lord's words at the marriage at Cana: "What 
wouldst thou have me do, woman?") 

Ah, Mary, you will know how to answer Me. For it is 
this mouth clinging to yours which will teach you the words 
of the consecration, these almighty words, "This is my body! 
This is my blood!" which have the power to change the very 
substance of things. Thus you and I may be as one, and your 
words become My words. 

And now it is no longer the attendants of Cana but we 
ourselves who, as we look towards the eyes and mouth of 
Mary and the Church, receive her admonition to "do what- 
ever he tells you." Blessed are those of us who, less frivolous 
than the young man in the Gospel, lend an attentive ear. For 

The Holy Catholic Church 203 

when we have been filled to the limit of the capacity of our 
five senses, the water of Baptism will be transformed in us 
into the wine of the spirit, 

Rose, 137 


Christ, the Strength of the Church 

The great commandment of Deuteronomy, "You shall 
love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your 
soul, and with all your strength," is not addressed merely to 
the artist, the engineer, the scholar, the priest, or the saint. It 
includes this little girl at catechism, this cripple on her sick- 
bed who, in the eyes of the Angels, has the strength of an 
army in battle formation. And naturally I hail, with an esteem 
not unmingled with irony, those magnificent examples of 
bodily perfection and human animality turned out by modern 
physical education, and whose petrified models the museums 
are there to preserve and offer to the admiring eyes of suc- 
cessive generations. But all the same, the true athlete, the 
man who has succeeded in making perfect use of that strength 
beyond his own strength, which is exacted by an unsparing 
lawmaker, is not Carpentier or Jack Dempsey, it is St. Francis 
of Assisi on that cross which his outstretched hands wrench 
from his wounded feet 

But above and beyond the image is the dazzling real- 
ity! There is that extraordinary hero suspended between 
heaven and earth whom humanity has gaped at, open- 
mouthed, for two thousand years, that Man-God forever 
forced beyond Himself, as it were, pulled, torn, unfurled in 
the unprecedented strain of a sort of bodily clamor. And in- 
deed, it is the last cry, the cry of Jesus on the cross which 
never stops ringing in our ears, and even today makes us 
tremble to the very marrow of our bones, that "lion's roar" of 
which St. John speaks in the Apocalypse, by which all the 
false gods of the earth are reduced to silence. It is a cry of 

204 I Believe in God 

supplication but also a cry of victory, a cry of defiance, whose 
echo we men and women of the Christian faith are here to 
receive and spread abroad. 

Discours, 46 


It is not only with all our strength, but with the 
strength of the whole Church, past and present, of all that, 
preceding us, still needs us to exist, that we embrace Christ, 
and that we try to understand and carry out His will. 

Poete, 251 

Diversify of Roles in the Church 

There has always been a Church that sees and a 
Church that listens, a Church of shepherds and a Church of 
sheep (of "men and mules" as the Psalmist says), a Church 
whose desire constitutes obedience and a Church whose eyes 
are the instant servants of her mouth. There have always been 
Martha and Mary, one prolific, the other profound. 

Poete, 283 


I Must Become the Church 

When God demands "all" my soul, He is actually or- 
dering this of the whole Church, for it is only within this 
Church of which I am both the end result and the co-worker, 
that I will be able to obey. Only through the Church am I 
able to understand this need which God has of me. Only 
through the Church have I been desired from the dawn of 

It is no small matter to have been the object of an 
infinite love; now I must do something in return. I must have 
something to give other than my own individuality; I must 
become the Church! I must realize my soul. 

The Holy Catholic Church 205 

Something deep within me gradually rouses at the 
sound of these words, each of which has the power to uproot 
me and to give me life. 

Ernmaiis, 141 

The Church of Stone, Image of the Church of the Spirit 

Chartres, before all others, is the church of Our Lady. 
How amply, how generously, her choir lies open to our eyes! 
She is overshadowed by the power of the Most High, she is 
humility exalted, she is sorrow crowned by glory! She is fra- 
grance and unity, she is a gathering of balm. Honored vessel, 
reservoir of orthodoxy, secret spring of the spirit, well of wis- 
dom, noble sanctuary of devotion! Full of grace, she may be 
seen from all directions completing the poor and ancient 
town; she seems to draw strength from it with her roots, she 
seems to settle into it with her mortises. She shares and tran- 
scends the rhythm of its rooftops, and, with her twin spires 
establishing the span of the city, she does not disappoint the 
ecstatic eye which asks to be transported to heaven. 

Art poetique, 218 


"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one!" 
I think of that formidable choir of churches whom the 
heavenly Pastor has called each by its name, nominatim, 
which belongs to no other: Chartres, Strasbourg, Beauvais, 
Albi, Perigueux, Paray-le-Monial, Vezelay, Villeneuve-sur- 
Fere! "Arise my beloved, my beautiful one. In the openings 
of rock, in the hollow of wall!" That stone which was the soul's 
prison is now become its garment! "What a shower of variety! 
Flowers have appeared in our land" flowers in which the 
sculptor's hand has collaborated with divine inspiration. 

You asked me to arise, says France, Are you satisfied 

206 I Believe in God 

with my response? What do you think of these javelins which 
I brandish in my two hands? What do you think of all these 
spires, and these towers full of bells? What say you to these 
enormous edifices and these coffers fashioned of the very stuff 
of your will which I have raised with a mighty effort? And 
what of these dazzling parterres, the like of which Persia has 
never boasted, nor the setting sun unrolled upon the deep: 
this interplay of colors and stories which I have laid down 
between the piers of my confession? 

The clefts, the chinks, the hollow places in the rock, 
see how I have filled them, and when I pray within, prostrate 
before your tabernacle, it is in the light of the deeds of all 
the ages and all the saints that You see me. You enter, Lord, 
and I have come forth. Do not say that I did not find a way to 
meet you. A prodigious clergy is at my portals, a procession 
of priests, monarchs, and warriors, of scholars, women, and 
maidens. How many angels there are to sound the trumpet at 
my gables! How many mothers display their babes trium- 
phantly to a marketplace vanquished by their smiles, to the 
river flowing down there under the succession of its bridges! 
What arches, what garlands, what limbs, what exfoliations, 
what mastics cling eagerly to the atmosphere! Neither Angels 
nor doves nor daws can complain of these nooks, crannies, 
and roosts which I offer on aU sides. In foraminibus petrae: 
behold Jacob's ladder in full operation, for ascent and descent. 
Behold the house of God and with it, man, suspended from 
heaven by means of a cross. 

Cantique, 73 


Mary in the Church 

Just as the physical heart unites the body, so the heart 
of Mary, linked with that in our breast, strives for the unity 
of the Church in a single collective Christ. 

Accompagnements, 123 

The Holy Catholic Church 207 


Mary in the Church at Calvary 

"It is consummated," cries the crucified Christ. With 
the Son, the Mother is consummated, and with the Mother, 
the Church whose heart and eyes she is, a sepulcher and a 
body. Behold the testament to which we are the heirs. Behold 
the outcome of the seven sorrows, the seven days, each of 
which contains an evening and a morning, a mystery and an 
illumination. This sepulcher has become a baptistery where 
we are all immersed as children and where we continue to 
bathe whenever, overwhelmed with weariness and toil, we 
come to ask our Father to revive us and make us new. 

Epee, 193 


The Church Praises God 

Listen, says the Church, to this lover who says that I 
have wounded His heart, now I understand what He wants 
of me, and which I alone can give Him, and whose purchase 
makes it worthwhile to die by me, for me, with me! He loves 
me, and I am engaged for eternity in giving Him, with all my 
heart and soul, whatever He asks. It is no longer Sinai emit- 
ting smoke, but the Temple which the Bible tells us was filled 
on the day of its consecration with the exhalation of God's 
glory. Humanity steams like soil which has been turned over, 
and between this verse and the next, what do I prepare but 
the raising of the Magnificat? 

Emmaus, 140 


The Liturgy, Universal Prayer 

Listen! Listen and hear all together, rising and falling, 
swelling and subsiding, wave after wave, the foaming tide of 

208 I Believe in God 

this sea of words! Interspersed with rude Hebraic syllables, 
by those mighty accents which sound as if Adam brought 
them with him from the earthly paradise, the rattle of our 
familiar dialect is mingled with the thundering vaults of the 
Roman language and the sharp precision of the Greek logos. 
What you hear are not the slender inventions of a 
finite author; what you hear is the ascension, from pole to 
pole, from the remotest depths of the origin of man and of 
the world he lives in, of matter at the mercy of spirit! What 
you hear is the voice that has been raised to God since the 
creation of the world, the voice of all that exists, all that 
suffers, all that believes, all that hopes, all that loves, all that 
desires, all that sees and all that does not see, all that can 
speak and all that cannot speak! Non sunt loquelae neque 
sermones quorum nan audiantur voces eorum, Such prayer 
becomes something which, as in EzechieFs vision, at first 
touches only our toes, then our knees, then our loins, then our 
hearts, until finally it becomes a tide which sweeps us away. 

Accompagnements, 149 


The School of the Liturgy 

Though still a stranger to the sacraments, 8 I was al- 
ready participating in the life of the Church; at last I could 
breathe, and life was rushing into me at every pore. 

But the great book which had been opened to me and 
which was my schoolroom was the Church. Eternal praise to 
that great mother at whose knee I learned everything I knew! 
I spent all my Sundays at Notre Dame and I went there as 
often as possible during the week. At this time I was as ig- 
norant of my religion as most people are of Buddhism, and 
the sacred drama unfolded before my eyes with a splendor 
that surpassed my dreams. Ah, this was no longer die lan- 
guage of books of devotion, but of the profoundest and most 

* At the time of his conversion. 

The Holy Catholic Church 209 

awesome poetry; here were the noblest gestures ever en- 
tnisted to human beings. I could not take my fill of the spec- 
tacle of the Mass, and the priest's every movement inscribed 
itself indelibly upon my mind and heart. The reading of the 
Office of the Dead, the Office of Christmas, the procession of 
the days of Holy Week, the sublime song of the Exultet, be- 
side which the most inspired accents of Sophocles and Pindar 
seemed pale to me all this overwhelmed me with reverence 
and joy, with gratitude, repentance, and adoration. 

Contacts, 16 

Liturgical Life 

Notre Dame T was, of course, the Blessed Virgin, whom 
I was beginning to understand with all my soul. But it was 
also that grotto which, through the day-to-day unfolding of 
its annual mystery in a succession of extraordinary surprises, 
welcomed me into its dazzling and secret life, into this Passion 
of Three Hundred Days. That vehement confession of faith 
which made the stone tremble did not issue from the ordered 
rows of the choir stalls; it was the victorious culmination of 
a race which, from the creation of the world, had finally come 
into its own. That solo voice which rose from time to time was 
not this laboring child, his eyes fastened on his music; it was 
Zion celebrating its love! 

And when at the foot of the steps the sacerdotal Angel 
veiled his face with a scrap of gold, 8 with what a trembling 
heart, with what a deep pang of recognition and consent I 
beheld Abraham mounting the altar where the sacrificial lamb 
awaited him! Before my eyes he re-enacted the sacrifice of 
Melchisedech and I was there, looking on, beside myself 
with joy; I had passed from death to life* 

Emmaiis, 139 

T The cathedral of Paris, image of the Blessed Virgin. 

* Claudel refers to the subdeaeon's carrying the patea, covered by the humeral* at 

the Offertory. 

210 I Believe in God 

The Annual Office of the Church 

The Church is the crown of Humanity, just as Human- 
ity is the crown of nature. Both man and nature observe di- 
vine worship, and this is why we read in the Psalm that God 
has crowned the year with His bounty. [C Psalm 64:12] 

Taime, 114 

Unfolding of the Liturgical Cycle Around the Earth 

This planet, this Messiah among worlds, more fortu- 
nate than her fellows, prae consortibus tuis freezing, scorch- 
ing, wild or barren she appears, she is bathed, she revolves 
throughout the procession of the year in a series of majestic 
attitudes and obeisances, the glory radiating from a flaming 
center, no portion of her surface deprived of the ordered and 
tempered munificence of this Father of luminaries. Indeed, 
may she not be said to be perpetually anointed and stream- 
ing, as it were, with the oil of gladness, oleo laetitiae? And 
similarly, Christ, King, Master, and Founder of the Church, 
the Vir agricola of the Gospel, gathers and reaps day after 
day, in the perpetually renewed cycle offered Him by the 
ecclesiastical year, the harvest of successive benedictions end- 
lessly poured on Him, and through Him on us, by that first 
Creature whose heart He has managed to win. 

Cantique, 126 


The Bible, Foundation of Her Faith and Her Prayer 

Say what you will, it is an amazing thing for God to 
have spoken distinctly to man and for His word to be re- 
corded for all time in a written document. The Church places 

The Holy Catholic Church 211 

this word, this prayer, in the mouths of each of her priests in 
the incomparable binding of the breviary. But it is not enough 
to glance through it with our eyes and lips, we must take hold 
of it, live with it, steep ourselves in it as did the ancient fa- 
thers, in a spirit not of idle curiosity, but of devotion; we 
must dwell in it, we must store it within ourselves, we must 
wake and sleep with it We must be persuaded, and per- 
suaded by actual experience, that, in the words of St. Paul, 
"All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching" 
[II Timothy 3:16] that it is all bread and the only bread we 
need; we will not accept stones, nor intricate problems with- 
out head or tail, in its place. 

Ruth, 20 

Her Prayer: the Breviary 

Indeed, you will find in it a world of the loftiest poetry, 
but in order to understand it fully it is not enough to read 
here and there, one must force oneself to follow a whole office, 
hour by hour the office of the Assumption, for example. 
Then, however splendid this collection may be, one must not 
forget that it is only one inseparable part of the vast structure 
of the Liturgy: the Missal, the Antiphonary, the Ritual, the 
Pontifical. Never has such a cathedral been built to the glory 
of God. 

The mistake of the Jesuits, whom in other areas I heart- 
ily respect, has been to neglect this magnificent sanctuary and 
replace it with little devotions which are, I might add, very 
beautiful in themselves. It is a case of substituting the art of 
the jeweler for that of the architect. 

The curious thing about sacred poetry, which brings 
the holy literature to life and presents it to us ready-made in 
the form of an eternal drama, is its close resemblance to the 
other related Christian arts. As the mosaic-worker takes little 
cubes of gold and the glass-worker little squares of glass in 

212 I Believe in God 

order to create new and wonderful patterns, so the great poet 
which Is the Catholic Church has collected from everywhere 
fragments of the Fathers, of the Bible, of legends, of the 
poets, to fashion from them a living structure in which all the 
riches of the universe join harmoniously in a hymn of praise 
to the Creator. 

Corr. Snares, 154 


The Treasure of the Scriptures 

What a dazzling, remarkable privilege we enjoy in 
possessing, bound between the pages of a book, that Holy 
Spirit which is said to have universal power of suggestion! 
With what faith, with what reverence, with what fervor must 
we consult it! 

It is not just a word of advice, it is a commandment 
when the Lord tells us to study the Scriptures. He did not 
mean a hurried glance, but an impassioned study to which we 
would be well advised to bring all the resources not merely 
of our own minds and hearts (that would be little enough), 
but those which the Church majestically unfolds for us in her 
doctrine and liturgy, "Ask the beasts," we are told in the Book 
of Job. [12:7] What beasts? Well, those four who preside over 
that prodigious Gospel of two testaments with one message, 
and those four are the Ox, the Lion, the Eagle, and the Angel. 

Accompagnements, 171 


The Grandeur of Preaching 

(Addressed to a priest) 

It is not a matter of spinning phrases, or laboriously 
stitching together some overwrought conceits, but of rising like 
a tower of strength, like a spear, in a ray of light that rouses us! 

The Holy Catholic Church 213 

What if we have to stammer a little at the beginning, like 
Moses and the prophets? Preaching is not a painful task; it is 
simply thinking out loud, praying out loud, loving out loud. 
Forget the congregation. Someone is listening to you besides 
these children and these old women the Angels are there, 
the enormous family of the living and the dead is there, all 
eternity is watching these words of purple and gold which 
escape your lips. 

Accompagnements, 282 


Lord, I am part of your Church; Lord, I am part of this 
woman to whom You owe the restoration of Your shaken 
throne! Emmaiis, 139 


Love of God, total submission to the Church, this is all 
I have ever tried to say. 

Toi, 30 

The Communion 
of Saints 

Le chretien dans le del de sa foi sent palpiter la Toussaint de tons ses 
freres vivants. 

Odes, 88 

THE communion of all those who 
liave been regenerated at the same 
baptismal font and are gathered 
around the same eucharistic table 
saints and sinners, living and 
dead, strengthened by the blood 
o Jesus Christ all are but a 
single body, participating in his 
life, helping one another, sharing 
their labors and rewards. Such is 


the concrete aspect of the Chris- 
tian community, such is the com- 
munion of the saints. 

In his role as gatherer of the 
flock, Claudel stresses the impor- 
tance of this unity, and urges us 
not to let ourselves be upset by 
our neighbor's external appear- 
ance, so often misleading. Our 
faith should enable us to pene- 

The Communion of Saints 

trate beyond the worldly exterior. 
"Yes, this peasant with his leathery 
face," he tells us, "this alcoholic, 
this storekeeper with her mean 
scowl . . . these are our brothers 
and sisters." We must learn to de- 
tect in them "the star which is em- 
bedded in the heart of this tor- 
mented flesh," (Poete, 265) 

Let us widen our horizons, so 
easily limited to our own tiny 
province. "The Cenacle has ex- 
panded around me/' the poet ex- 
claims, "until it coincides with the 
world." (Ibid., 274) This traveler 
sitting across from us is not a 
stranger; "even if his role is a 
silent one," we have something 
to give him and, in return, "he 
augments us, he makes a new man 
of us." (Rose, 130) 

Claudel carries this interdepend- 
ence to its logical conclusion: "the 
Parisian working girl peels an 
African banana for her lunch, and 
a lemon ripened by the sun of 
Sicily cures the scurvy of a sailor 
in the polar seas." (Apocalypse, 
255) Indeed, whether we like it 
or not, we are all formed from the 
same dough "in the hands of this 
formidable baker who molds us in 
his kneading trough!" (Isaie, 181) 

The Conversations dans le Loir- 
et-Gher, among other works of 
Claudel, contain a great many 
valuable insights 1 regarding the 
problem of this life in common 

1 **I will call it the art of human beings 
living together," the author writes in 
his Preface, in which he considers those 
human groups which are the family, the 


which has become more unavoid- 
able than ever in our time. Here 
Claudel retraces the features of a 
universal experience whose sig- 
nificance escapes many of us, but 
not his shrewd and synthesizing 
eye. Roads with which man has 
furrowed the earth since ancient 
times, the progressive clearing of 
the land, the radio, and the air- 
plane, with their power to reduce 
distances what are all these tech- 
nical advances but opportunities 
for communication, for fraterniza- 
tion between different nations, or. 
in other words, a direct contribu- 
tion to love and fellowship? In this 
drama, what an important role 
has been played simply by the 
development of tourism, which 
brings remote peoples together 
and teaches them to understand 
and, hence, to love each other! 

So proceeds the mysterious con- 
struction of that Universe for 
which God provided the material 
and which man, His collaborator, 
must guide to its full and har- 
monious perfection. ""We must 
come to the rescue of the bramble 
which wants to become a rose, we 
must come to the rescue of the 
birds and the wild animals" by 
domesticating them, working to 
bring about a complete commun- 
ion between man and nature, be- 
tween man and man, in a single 
offering to the Creator. 

household, the castle, the small town, 
the factory, the skyscraper "\ . . so 
many cells, of more or less complexity, 
in the great Christian family." 

216 I Believe in God 

"The Universe, that impulse to- Claudel, **is the harmony of the 

ward unity (versus ad unitatern) Creation in the confession of a 

in the etymological sense," writes single Godl" 

Interdependence of All Creatures Since the Creation 

The Bible does not show God arranging the various 
species ( all of which He has indiscriininately produced out of 
nothing), in such a way that they owe each other nothing. On 
the contrary, there is communication among them, assistance, 
love, intercourse, invitation, frustration, decorum, and, within 
certain prescribed limits, provision for the mutual expression 
of this vital need for obedience and generation, the offering of 
the breast to this unknown mouth whose life depends on us. 
God says not only, Fiat herba, fiant volatilia et reptilia, but, 
germinet terra herbam virentem; producant aquae reptile et 

Figures, 112 

When God says, "Let the earth bring forth vegetation, 
let the waters abound with life," He is not speaking to the ele- 
ments individually but to the unanimity of these vast bodies, 
so that no part of them may be exempt from care and obe- 
dience. Alone and unaided, the soil would be incapable of 
producing the green grass; it must have water, sunlight, a 
harmonious complex of previous or attendant conditions sur- 
rounding this conception. And this is even truer in the case of 
animate creatures. Nothing is possible without universal co- 
operation, without a laboratory completely arranged in ad- 

God speaks in turn to the two parts of the material 
creation: the dry land and the waters, which correspond to 

The Communion of Saints 217 

that mysterious pair who were first created: the earth and the 
heavens. The reptiles and the birds correspond to the devils 
and the angels, while this living soul which the earth is re- 
quested to produce presupposes the combined industry and 

effort of all these successive births, from the reign of chaos to 
the dawn of meaning and of man. For man is a part of all the 
Creation under him; like Job, he addresses it as "my mother 
and my brothers," a kinship which resides not only in his flesh 
and bones but in his very soul, whose final kindling would not 
have been possible without the sun. 

Figures, 117 

Love of Neighbor 

The second of the great commandments charges us to 
love our neighbor as ourselves. This is what is meant by fel- 
lowship: that there is not one of these individuals whom an 
ill-named chance thrusts in our path and offers to our scrutiny 
who is not our brother and with whom, as children of God, 
we are not the co-heirs of a certain joint legacy. 

Yes, this peasant with his leathery face, this cringing 
and surly alcoholic, the image of the concierge's fat dog, this 
storekeeper, with her mean scowl, repainting her ancient lips: 
these are our brothers and sisters; Jesus Christ died for them. 
There is a star embedded in the heart of this tormented flesh, 
deeper than the redeeming drachma in the belly of the carp 
of Genesareth. 

Poete, 265 

Loving our neighbor means something altogether dif- 
ferent from courtesy, or a doubtful and meager forbearance. 
It springs from the awareness of this universal summons, this 
interrogation which will not tire of knocking until the door 

218 I Believe in God 

has been opened; somewhere, some debt is owed to us which 
we cannot remove until it has been discharged. 

The day has come when it is absolutely necessary that 
we learn to get along with this brother who is thrust forcibly, 
whether we want him or not, into our arms. 

Epee, 66 

Interdependence of Souls 

The individual soul, in order to be itself, to know itself 
in its individuality, to find itself and to give itself, has need of 
the whole Church; it exists only in relation to the indispen- 
sable role and duty to which it has been assigned. It is only 
then that it begins truly to live and to function, it is only then 
that it becomes meaningful, as the word becomes meaningful 
in relation to the sentence, the sentence in relation to the 
page, and so forth. 

Cantique, 120 


The eye of the Christian does not remain on the sur- 
face of things, but sees through to the bottom, He knows that 
the man sitting across from us in this train compartment, and 
whom we will have ample time to observe and study between 
Lyon and Paris, is our brother, he is an irreplaceable image of 
God; we have the power to do him good, and he in turn has 
the power to bring out some new and strange side of our 
nature. Even if his role is a silent one, we know that together 
we are engaged in a solemn and momentous drama in which 
any mistake or failure involves fearful and grievous conse- 
quences. Friend, enemy, whoever comes in contact with us, 
has something to give us, and we have something to give him. 
He augments us, he makes a new man of us. 

Rose, 130 

The Communion of Saints 219 

All around us we feel the presence and claims of a 
choir and a congregation whom we are obliged to maintain 
out of our own resources. Look compassionately, Lord Jesus, 
on this invisible network, this city of prayer whose services 
are sustained by a single budget, and all these branches work- 
ing for me, some within arm's reach, others beyond the hori- 
zon. Listen indulgently to this phrase which we are struggling 
so painfully to achieve together. 

Poete, 268 

The Cohesion of the Mystic Body 

More firmly, more substantially than stone is joined to 
stone or beam joined to wall, more organically than the heart 
is connected to the lungs or the intestine to die backbone, or 
than the mi blends with the do to present the ear with a single 
tone, is each member of the church dependent on all die 
others. Only by this dependence is he fully himself, fully able 
to discharge his vital duty to become the child of God. He 
can no more dispense with the others than he can escape their 
reciprocal need of him, in the fullness of that freedom whose 
enjoyment is called love. This is what is meant by the Com- 
munion of the Saints. 

Apocalypse, 202 


The idea of love carries with it the notions of debtor 
and creditor. Love makes each of us a debtor and a creditor 
in relation to God, and in relation to our neighbor, who is 
God's image. Our neighbor's existence ceases to be a pure and 
simple reality which we must adjust to and put up with as best 

220 I Believe in God 

we can. We exercise a legal claim and "interest" over him, 
just as he exercises one over us. We reckon on him and we 
have him to reckon with; we must take him into considera- 
tion, make allowances for him, and answer to him. We serve 
him and he serves us. We live by him, in him, through him, 
and for him. He is to us both cause and effect. He produces a 
certain image of God in relation to us, and we produce a cer- 
tain image of God in relation to him. Can we have too much 
of God or too much of God's image? 

Ev. Isaie, 171 


Non impedias musicam. [Sirach 32:3] What is this 
music that should not be interrupted? First of all, that of the 
concert of human life, in which we must all carry our part, 
whether great or small. We are not grasshoppers who can 
chirp at the top of their voices, hanging to the back of a pine 
tree all through a long summer's day. We must pay attention 
to what goes on around us; and our fate depends in large 
measure on the acuteness of our hearing, the quality of our 
intelligence, and the virtuosity of our reflexes. 

Sophie, 214 


Communion of Sinners 

The Credo speaks of a communion of Saints, but there 
is also a communion of sinners. It is impossible to observe that 
engine up there in the vault of the church, 2 or, rather, that 
handle, that hook, which is used to manipulate the vast living 
net which drags and plunders the deep, without each of us 
becoming aware of the knot which I represent, the weight 
and pull of this living network around me in which I am 
grievously enmeshed by all four members of my person. 

Poete, 267 


The Communion o Saints 221 

Universal Participation in Christ 

In partaking of the flesh of Christ, we partake also of 
His goodness and His kindness, and hence of His desire to 
communicate Himself; for goodness, theology informs us, is 
self -propagating. By partaking of Christ we attain a ripeness 
suitable to the refreshment of other souls. Thus the Parisian 
working girl peels an African banana for her lunch, and a 
lemon ripened by the sun of Sicily cures the scurvy of a sailor 
on the polar seas. 

Apocalypse, 255 


All these nations which claimed to live independently 
of one another, each within itself, like islands, are now com- 
passed by a single pair of arms. It is good to be cured of these 
limitations in the arms of a lover who is stronger than they are; 
it is good to be in the hands of this formidable baker who 
molds us in his kneading trough! 

Ev. Isale, 181 


Souls Compared to the Stars 

Baruch says that God has called the stars, and they are 
continually replying, Adsumus! And the Psalmist tells us that 
He has not only called them, but called each by name. Let us 
consider them, ranged above us, each one admirable, though 
different in rank and worth, each one equally precious to its 
Creator, and each one perpetually enriching in a new way the 
columns of an inexhaustible almanac! O nations! O grains of 
flour! O multitude! O blossoming of All Saints' Day! O echo, 
O thing of infinite motion all absorbed in standing still! 

Rose, 238 

222 I Believe in God 

Unity in Prayer 

God knows me not only through the relations I main- 
tain with Him, but through those I carry on with that number- 
less company to which I belong, with all my brothers who, in 
order to know, love, and work with God, constitute a single 
body, a single Catholic church in time and space. All this God 
led out of the land of Egypt, all this He called together to 
make a sacrifice to Him in the desert. "For where two or three 
are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of 
them." [Matt. 18:20] If this is true on earth, what will it be in 
heaven, where it will no longer be only two or three people, 
but all Humanity who will be reunited in a single love, a 
single desire, a single understanding? Alone and unaided, I 
am unable to know God or be known by Him. I need the 
whole Church! It is only through this social organization that 
I come into my own and find, by being born into it, the path- 
way to understanding and power. What joy to find and give 
myself utterly, my whole self effectively; not just give all of 
myself, but give all to all! 

Cantique, 333 


Union in Daily Life 

And how can we fail to be interested in the idea of 
these millions of tables, cafes, salons, shops, and bars where, 
as on so many carpenters' benches, is accomplished for better 
or worse the joining of the news of the day with our personal 

Conversations, 19 

The Communion of Saints 223 

The Joy of Giving 

I mean the joy of not being nothing for not to live for 
anything or anyone is to be nothing. I mean the joy of ceasing 
to be ourselves in order to become one with the will of God 
who has made us His instruments! The need, the duty, the 
necessity, is to surrender our life to those around us to whom 
it belongs that life which is perpetually bom and reborn 
within us! 

Conversations, 37 

The Art of Communal Living 

Were we not saying just now that the communal life of 
a complex group of human beings is by no means a simple or 
spontaneous thing, the natural result of throwing people to- 
gether, animal-fashion, achieved on the first try by some crude 
instinct, but that it is a difficult experiment, demanding in- 
finite virtue and art? 

No doubt; especially virtue. 

Virtue, indeed, but almost as much art, with all that 
the word connotes of acute observation, intelligence, per- 
severance, flexibility, courage, and delicacy of execution. 

Conversations, 59 


The Model of Monastic Life 

How fine it would be if all men were at once aware of 
what they were doing in the sight of someone who watches 
them with care, of how they help one another, of the ritual in 
which they take part, of the invaluable offering they make 

224 I Believe in God 

simply by raising their eyes to heaven, of the delightful com- 
munication which they enjoy! There is something of this 
quality in the Benedictine life. 

The life of the monk means more than chanting in the 
choir, rendering for each hour of the day the burden of praise 
it owes the Creator; it is the life itself, ordinary, everyday life: 
getting up, the garden, the work, the communal meal, almost 
as solemn as Mass. At a less serious level, there are habits to 
be laundered; lamps to be lit, which are great symbols; a sick 
person to be tended; a visitor to be greeted. If men were only 
a little more aware of what they are all doing together this 
very moment, they would feel as if they were in church, sing- 
ing in a chorus. How they all love one another without know- 
ing it, and how beautiful it would be if they knew! If only 
they could do consciously what they now do unawares! Then 
there would no longer be anything secular; everything would 
be sacred, everything would be dedicated to God. 

Conversations, 102 

Communal Life 

When we consider that the war against ourselves, the 
straggle of the water against the clay and the fire against the 
wick, is our first duty, that penance is one of the basic needs 
of our nature, that we are incomplete, an unacceptable rough 
draft which must be offered patiently and manfully to the 
hand of Providence and circumstance in order to spring forth 
and germinate at last what could be more ideal than com- 
munal living? Where could we find more opportunities for 
forgiveness, humility, and charity, so that our most ordinary, 
everyday existence and our simplest actions were a constant 
application of these excellent virtues? And from another point 
of view, where could we find keener mortifications, a more 
salutary or merciless revelation of our weaknesses, a more 
punctual surveillance, a more point-blank opposition to our 

The Communion o Saints 225 

flabbiness and capriciousness, a more unyielding yoke for our 
pride and jealousy and, in the phrase of St. Therese of Lisieux, 
a salad with more seasoning? 

If our Christian calling is indeed a reality for us, if we 
are truly seeking eternal life at the expense of our immediate 
instincts, are not these better than chains, fasting, and hair 
shirts? What could be more natural or more ingenious? What 
better path to perfection? To suffer while doing good: should 
not this be the aim and normal way of life of every Christian? 
For if a man does not suffer, it is because life has suspended 
its work on him. 

Conversations, 178 

Communion with the Dead 

The dead continue to help us by means of their works, 
their merits, and their intercession; we enjoy their inheritance. 
And fortunately, we, too, can help them; the prayer of a good 
priest can depopulate entire provinces of Purgatory, and who 
shall say what unknown souls we have touched now and then 
with the beads of our rosaries? 

But our charitable duty to the dead does not end here, 
and what I was saying a moment ago about charity to the 
living applies to them as well. It is not enough for us to help 
them, we must place them in a position to do good and, like 
those underground seeds recovered in ancient tombs, to bear 
fruit. It is up to us to bring all these dead back to life. Be- 
tween the two worlds, a circulation with myriad ramifications 
is established by the ever-beating heart of the Church. 

Cantique, 359 

The Offering Up of the Whole Universe Through Man 

Everything communes and communicates with God, 
God has placed die whole creation in my hands that I may 

226 I Believe in God 

petition Him and gain an audience, and present Him with the 
spectacle of His own goodness, and of the irresistible com- 
mitment to which His goodness has given rise. 

God did not find the whole world too great a gift to 
give me, nor do I find it too great a gift to give Him in return. 
I sympathize with every creature's need to praise God, and 
with its need of me in order to do so. And this is the true 
meaning of that word misericors which recurs in every line of 
the Psalms, and which gives us the key to the whole world. 

The universe represents an absence of something, and 
it is this lack which is the source of our wealth. The world 
needs God, and God has placed Himself in the hands of each 
of us that we may restore Him to the world. 

Emmaus, 228 


God, God Himself, Lord of Battle, has surrendered 
Himself to me for all time, to possess and to portion out! 

Emmaus, 230 

Suffering and the Communion of the Saints 

Therese does not stir. She is in the wine press. The 
whole universe is in the wine press. And this prisoner, held 
fast in the narrowest confines of the law, has been named by 
the Church, patron saint of Missions. The whole universe ex- 
erts pressure on her in order to extract her blood; it needs this 
blazing fire in order to burn away its darkness in an odor of 
sweetness. She does not stir. She cannot stir. How could she 
help you and me if she evaded this geometrical captivity, this 
duty to the world? Or, if I may be permitted a more daring 
image, she is like an abscess on this sick body which is man- 
kind: the malady is divine; she draws its inflammation . . . 

She asks nothing for herself, for this would thwart the 

Hie Communion of Saints 227 

divine work in which she is utterly absorbed. Behold Therese, 
completely annihilated in her duty. 

Trois figures, 47 


The Unifying Role of the Market Place 

An experimental study might be done on town life and 
the way in which one organ gradually becomes specialized 
amid the random activity of the populace. Commerce tends 
always to collect around a crossroads; the great stores of today 
are the logical conclusion. The halls, the markets, the shop 
windows: what beautiful architectural analogies might be 
found for the display of meats, vegetables, and fabrics were 
we not blinded by our private greeds and by the hideous 
development of advertising! 

Commerce would soon lose its feverish, greedy, brutal, 
and mercenary quality. 3 It would be first and foremost, as its 
name implies, a means of bringing people together and en- 
abling them to help one another. How beautiful are the feet of 
those good people who each morning bring us tomatoes and 
fresh milk, and all those splendid fish packed in ice! Com- 
merce should be looked upon as a way of making these mag- 
nificent and excellent things available to us; if we cannot cram 
everything into our baskets, at least nothing prevents us from 
feasting our eyes and exercising, albeit empty-handed, the 
royal privilege of choice. 

A market place is a sort of Pentecost, a daily offering of 
all the good fruits of the earth. And the wholesome influence 
of the pharmacy, which I almost forgot to mention; yes, no 
market would be complete without a little bitter-sweet visit to 
the dealer in medicines. 

Conversations, 150 


8 If we were to erect statues in tlie market place to the patron saint ol butchers, 
of milliners, etc. . . . 

228 I Believe in God 

Commerce and Chanty 

The act of the man who buys a loaf of bread at the 
bakery would be, if both participants knew what they were 
doing, as grave, as solemn, and as sacred as the gesture of the 
two priests who salute each other after communion by placing 
their hands on one another's shoulders. 

Positions II, 47 

The Role of Industry 

( Niagara, center of activity. ) 

Niagara has taken on a distinctly industrial appear- 
ance. It is a machine among machines, a formidable sluice 
gate, a torrent of such magnitude that it demands not only our 
admiration, but the precise and perpetual yoking of a world 
of wheels and gadgets to its thrust It is a whole Mediter- 
ranean, it is the five Great Lakes, it is the central reservoir of 
an entire continent which flows through this narrow conduit. 
How could we have left this energy untapped and incom- 
plete? Was it not just as necessary to attach a dynamo to it as 
it is to saddle a horse? Now Niagara is a whole world moving 
and creating movement which, by means of enormous whirl- 
ing spindles, is translated into motion, light, chemical de- 
composition, and streams of molten metal, heating our water 
and grilling our chops* 

Conversations, 225 

Work in a Factory 

Just as the music draws the dancers from all directions, 
so the power and the plant attract the workers. There is a 

The Communion of Saints 229 

mass kidnaping of people carried away by a common rhythm. 
They lose themselves in the singleness of the job to be done, 
like marching soldiers at the sound of the military band. A 
multitude of people at once realize that they are no different, 
and that they are all obeying the same tempo. Perhaps the day 
will come when all human productivity will proceed in the 
manner of a great orchestra, and the Spirit will breathe over 
our towns as into the coils of a gigantic musical instrument. 

Conversations, 226 

The Earth Reunited (Vision of the Future) 

ST. MAUBICE: Do you really think the day will come 
when the earth will begin to emerge as a single church? 

GREGORY: It has akeady begun. . . . This is the goal 
of the millions of workers and engineers who have understood 
that order once given to the Precursor to make the crooked 
ways straight and the rough places smooth. What could be 
smoother than that cement highway which runs along the 
Pacific coast from Los Angeles to Seattle? 

ST. MAURICE: And all those wires above the roads! And 
my airplane at large in the freedom of the sky! 

GREGORY: And these boats on the sea! Yes, and these 
secret antennae which tickle the atmosphere and the invisible, 
the thrill imparted to the fluid which penetrates everything, 
so that we are brought together not only by the outer organs 
but by the inner compass of a vast sensibility. 

Conversations, 232 


This taming of Nature, of which we are speaking, is it 
not everywhere under way? Have we not made roads through 
the Alps, built causeways across the swamplands, and staked 
out land in the desert? 

230 I Believe in God 

These views, these terraces, these hotels, these belve- 
deres never before had anyone ever thought to stop at them 
and stay a while. They provide us with all sorts of texts which 
we have only to decipher. Each year millions of unconscious 
pilgrims on vacation go to pray to God in the desert and, at the 
sight of the setting sun, discover deep in their souls a sort of 
embryonic psalm. 

Conversations, 238 


That golden angel atop the steeple which flashes for 
a second amid a fall of clouds, that track of flour down there 
which is a new suburb, and that smoke in the wheatfield be- 
low is the railroad. While I speak the plane has flown on to 
the next county. Within my arms* span I measure the earth 
which belongs to me, and I swim in the glory of God. 

Conversations, 239 


We must fly to the rescue of each creature and bring 
it whatever it needs to achieve that Catholic confession it 
labors painfully to bring forth that is, the Universe, that im- 
pulse toward unity: the harmony of the Creation in the con- 
fession of a single God! 

Yes, we must come to the rescue of this suffering Crea- 
tion which has need of us. We must come, first of all, to the 
rescue of humanity, but we must also come to the rescue of 
the bramble which asks to become a rose, of this mighty river 
which asks us to prevent it from overflowing; we must come to 
the rescue of the birds and wild beasts and all the animals 
according to their kind. 

Situated as we are between God and Nature, we must 
come to the rescue of both; we must throw open between 
them those arteries, those conduits through which Mercy 
rushes to meet Justice; we must help them find each other 

The Communion of Saints 231 

again, no longer merely in future hope or past pain, but in the 
present possession of the Pentecost and of Easter. 

We must carry everywhere order, proportion, fertility, 
and law. Nature must understand in her bowels this command 
which we bring her in the name of her Creator. The Redeem- 
ing Word must be heard by everything that the Creating 
Word has begot, and nothing must remain ignorant of its 
glorious revelation. 

Conversations, 257 


The Cenacle has expanded around me, until it coin- 
cides with the world. I am one, not only with this church of 
stone which surrounds me like some insubstantial organism 
like a harp with its filaments taut but with all the souls who 
are longing and praying at this moment, I am one with all 
these good hearts struggling to find a voice, with all this pa- 
tient supplication. 

Poete, 274 



GREGORY: A great invitation has been issued to the four 
corners of the universe, like the one in the parable when the 
Father invites us to His Son's marriage feast. The table is set, 
and everywhere the order has been issued for communion 
with God. 

ST. MAURICE: So from now on the order of the day is 
communion with God. 

GREGORY: Communion of all men with one another. 
Communion of man and Nature. 

ST. MAURICE: Through knowledge and power, and 
through a great sowing of words. . . Communion of man 
and Nature through communication, law, and husbandry. 

232 I Believe in God 

GREGORY: Consecration of all Nature by herself, and 
in a state of universal grace. 

ST. MAURICE: Consecration by herself by her Creator. 

Conversations, 263 

The Church Bell Calls Christians Together 

I am not the monk in the choir; I am the bell in the 
belfry, tirelessly calling, the bell ringer who summons all earth, 
all heaven, all nature, aH mankind, all the universe to the 
service of God. 

I am that great bell in the heart of the universe; 4 I 
am not a single peal, like that melancholy summons, that des- 
perate entreaty which rings from time to time in Buddhist 
monasteries as if to deepen their gloom, but a mighty tide, 
wave after wave, which invades and drowns everything. 

Lettres inedites 5 


The Belfry of Brangues Speaks to Its Flock 

It is good to send one's prayers aloft, but it is also good 
to take the benediction, the doctrine, and the word, wring 
them from one's heart, and scatter them beneath one in great 
handfuls as grain to fowls. 

Thanks to this Angel whose soaring wings are ever at 
my service, there is a whole diocese at my feet whose tempo- 
rary priest I have become. I say good-day, from up there, to 
sixty thousand souls at a time. 

How good they would become if they knew that there 
is someone up there who is watching them all at once! 

And I hail my vertical colleagues down there in the 

* Cf . Claudel's poem, La nuit de Pdques. ( Trans. ) 

8 Lettres in&dttes de mon parrain Paul Ckudel, by A. du Sarment ( Gabalda, 1959 ) . 

The Communion of Saints 233 

distant haze, like so many petrified landmarks on whose fa- 
ades a ray of sunlight picks out a flash of gold. 

But when one realizes the tremendous force for life 
and growth of Almighty God, of the spirit of the whole King- 
dom of Heaven which each of us carries within us, tell me, 
is it not sad that we let ourselves be welled and confined in 
this manner? Is there not some way to channel the tremen- 
dous force of the Catholic faith to all mankind? 

Lettre a I'Ange gardien 6 


There are times when I want to speak to the whole 

Lettre a TAnge gardien 

8 Article from Vie Intellectuelle, December, 1946. 

The Forgiveness of Sins 

Je regards et uois toutes mes annees dewier e moi et toutes mes actions 

bonnes et mauvaises. 

Les mauvaises sont effacees par le sang du Christ et par la penitence. 
Et sil jut quelque bien de jait, que Dieu lui donne croissance. 

Odes, 201 

in guilt was I bom, 
and in sin my mother conceived 
me/' says the Psalmist [50:7] All 
of us without exception, save the 
Mother of God, come into the 
world stamped with the seal of 
sin, have been born children of 
wrath ever since GUI first father, 
by his fall, closed to us the gates 
of paradise. But God, without 


weakening His justice, contrived 
to become man. The Incarnation 
of the Word effects a reconcilia- 
tion between the irate Father and 
mankind: through the merits of 
His life and of His ignominious 
death, Christ, voluntary expiatory 
victim, has renewed relations be- 
tween His Father and Humanity. 
"You know that you were re- 

The Forgiveness of Sins 

deemed . . . not with perishable 
things, with silver or gold, but 
with the precious blood of Christ, 
as of a lamb without blemish and 
without spot." [I Peter 1:18-19] 

The sacrifice of Calvary is the 
essential Deed which procures the 
forgiveness of sins and restores to 
us the good will of God. 

How is this forgiveness be- 
stowed on us as individuals? By 
means of a sacrament which trans- 
forms a child of wrath into a 
Christian: Baptism. This rite, a 
prerequisite for admission into the 
Father's Kingdom, obliterates 
from our souls not only the orig- 
inal sin inherited from Adam, but 
all the personal sins we may have 
acquired, together with their cor- 
responding penalties. It incorpo- 
rates us into the Church, grants us 
sanctifying grace, or the life of 
God within us, and confers upon 
us the glorious name of child of 
God. Such magnificent gifts and 
prerogatives indicate the vital im- 
portance of this sacrament. 

However, we are weak crea- 
tures and subject to sin even after 
baptism. It was therefore appro- 
priate that there be a second sac- 
rament to re-establish, when nec- 
essary, our innocence and our 
union with God: this is the sacra- 
ment of Penance, which only 
priests can administer and which, 
by means of complete repentance 
for our sins, cleanses us of all im- 

External circumstances for 
which the soul is not responsible 


can sometimes prevent the receiv- 
ing of one or the other of these 
sacraments; in such cases, Baptism 
of desire or perfect contrition take 
their place. 

Martyrdom, or testimonial of 
faith by the sacrifice of one's life, 
can also take the place of Baptism: 
this is called Baptism of blood. As 
for the mental attitudes required 
in all cases, whatever the circum- 
stances, they are: faith in the true 
God professed by the Catholic 
Church, theological hope, peni- 
tence, and at least some love of 
God. Only children in early in- 
fancy receive the sacrament with- 
out being aware of it, but their'" 
godfather or godmother answers 
for them. 

Claudel takes it for granted that 
his readers are familiar with the 
above catechism. A shrewd psy- 
chologist, he analyzes with a 
searching profundity the hostile 
attitude of the soul which resists 
God's forgiveness. He makes this 
startling statement, 'The AI1- 
Powerful is defeated." (Poete, 
260) Indeed, the Lord does not 
violate our free will, but He does 
take advantage of the slightest 
chink in the armor of our pride, of 
our slightest impulse away from 
sin, to work His way into us and, 
deep in our hearts, to plant the 
seeds of repentance. He searches 
out "the weak spot and the joint" 
in this 'liard kernel" which resists 
Him. (Poete, 228) 

If the soul then agrees to ac- 
cept its remodeling, its cure, it 


will come to know this correcting 
band "which has resumed Its work 
on us and which often so cruelly 
searches, pursues, insists, undoes, 
redoes. . . . The hand of God at 
work," says Claudel, is now no 
longer carving Its commandments 
on the rock of Sinai, but "on the 
living, quivering flesh of Its crea- 
tures." But will He harrow this 
flesh beyond all bearing? No, be- 
cause He wants only to inscribe on 
it the "propositions of Love." (Pre- 
sence et Prophetic, 111 ) 

The Lord did not disdain to 
mingle with the rabble of sinners 
and publicans, those people pro- 
tected by "a thick layer of fat, 
grime, and petrified habits." (Pr^- 
sence, 112) And behold, each one 
has felt the bonds of sin snap 
within him, life has returned to 
the hardened limb. And if the 
soul's defenses were such that, af- 
ter having knocked all night long 
on our door, whose bolts are *bad 
habits and ill will," ii: still holds 
out, perhaps by dawn it will be 
weary of this persistence and will 
say, "Lord, we wiU try to admit 
you!" (Tot, 52) Unless Mary her- 
self comes to unlock "our eyelids 
with her rose-fresh fingers." 
(Cantique, 282) 

Who knows but that sometimes 
a grave error, with the repentance 
it provokes and the great breach it 
opens in our defenses, may not 
become the providential opportu- 
nity for the Good Shepherd to find 
His way in? Hence David in tears, 
after his error, became reconciled 

I Believe in God 

to his beloved Yafaweh, who ex- 
claims, "I have him. Inveni 

"We went through fire and 
water," says the Psalmist [65:12], 
the water of tears and the fire of 
remorse, and behold, we live 
again. "Ah! How good it is, this 
air which is breathed into me," 
says the sinner after he has been 
cleansed and purified. "Full of 
grace," yes, this is the cry of the 
guilty soul, "suddenly acquitted, 
which cannot have enough of its 
pardon." (C 'antique, 293) 

To what can we attribute this 
complete transformation? Only to 
the boundless mercy of God. "Ah, 
we know that between the Father 
and our eyes a look of love is pos- 
sible," says Claudel. (Presence, 
104 ) It is no longer heaven, "it is 
God Himself who welcomes the 
trusting and contrite heart." (Ibid., 

If the example of David did not 
suffice, that of the good thief 
would finally convince us of the 
inexhaustible goodness of our 
heavenly Father; "This day thou 
shalt be with Me in Paradise." In 
one flash, grace has touched this 
repulsive exterior and made good 
all the deficiencies of virtue. . . . 
On this sordid fork, it is no longer 
a criminal brought to justice that 
we see; it is a martyr, a sacrificial 
offering that shines forth," (Poete, 

"Happy is he whose fault is 
taken away, whose sin is covered." 
[Psalm 31:1] 

The Forgiveness of Sins 237 


Wherein lay the original sin? In an action which con- 
stituted the first heresy or falling away, that is, a preference 
of ourselves to God. 

This sin immediately affected the man who committed 
it, not only as a creature, but as a cause and source in his own 
right. God made man, and sin counterfeited him. Thus man 
passed himself onto his descendants just as he was. He could 
not give them more than he was himself God's image ex- 
communicated, as it were, from its model, isolated, corrupted, 
and counterfeit. He perverted the original impulse. He can 
no longer bring forth in the free, open air a living image of 
God, but must forge in this closed space, which will hence- 
forth be his abode, that idol which he has chosen in its stead. 

Through mortal sin, man ceases to be one with Christ; 
he places himself in a state of isolation and estrangement. 

If at the moment of death the soul is under the influ- 
ence of original sin, it comes before God as a thing equipped 
for finitude to which one would offer the infinite, that is, 
something it cannot assimilate. It has no organs suitable for 
divinity. It is like a fish out of water. Thus God cannot give 
Himself to this soul, but if it has earned a finite happiness, 
He can grant it a finite happiness in Limbo: a peace without 
possession, a sort of outward consent, in sum, not unlike that 
conception which the Buddhists and pagans have of the fu- 
ture life. 

Positions H, 93-97 

The Resistance of the Sinner 

Long enough our Lord has waited on the threshold of 
our soul, meeting only a blank stare. Long enough we have 

238 I Believe in God 

carried on across tlie sill, as it were, a dialogue full of mis- 
understanding and hesitation. Across the confessional grill 
the admission of our sins has flown. "Let me hear your voice, 
my son, for your voice is sweet!" But what of that voice which 
grants me absolution! 

Apocalypse, 228 

The Shutting Off of the Soul 

"Behold I stand at the door and knock." [Apoc. 3:20] 
What is meant, if not that lost door in the basement of our 
soul, that door stained with the blood of the Lamb, that mys- 
terious eastern gate mentioned by the prophet Ezechiel 
[10:19], through which only the Saviour of mankind may 
pass. How sad and unfair that this door must be shut! 

We are like a bad tenant allowed to remain through 
charity in a house which does not belong to him, which he 
has neither built nor paid for, and who barricades himself 
and refuses to receive the rightful owner even for a minute. 
But one stormy night he is all alone in his lonely and desolate 
house and, suddenly, there comes a knock! The knock is not 
at the front door, but at that old door which he thought was 
boarded up for good. There is no mistake, someone is knock- 
ing! Someone has knocked inside him and it has brought him 
pain, as when a child stirs for the first time in its mother's 

Who was at the door? There is no doubt about it; it is 
He who comes like a thief in the night, He of whom it is 
written, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming, go forth to meet 
him!" [Matt 25:6] And he listens, panting with terror. 

Perhaps He will knock only once? Or perhaps He will 
hurl Himself against the door all night, and he will listen until 
morning as though the noise was merely a banging shutter. 

It is such a nuisance to get up and open that old door! 
It is fastened with two bolts which sum up all that is inert 

The Forgiveness of Sins 239 

and immovable: one is called "bad habits" and the other, "ill 
will." As for the lock, that is our own secret. The key is lost. 
We would have to get oil to make it turn. And then, if we 
were to open the door, what would be there? The night, the 
great primeval wind that breathes upon the Waters, someone 
whom we cannot see, but who would never again let us be 
comfortably at home. Spirit of God, do not come in, I am 
afraid of the night air! 

And yet, there was a knock; and where did we feel it? 
In our heart, our mind, our flesh. God not only knocks, He 
pushes. Now a violent shove, a profound testing of our re- 
sistance, now a persistent, nagging, and constant pressure. 
And not only does He push (pulso, pulsation) like the arteries 
throbbing painfully around a bruise; He strikes, with one of 
those sudden blows that stop the heart. Or He simply blends 
Himself with each beat of this heart which He has made, and 
which continues to make us, this inner forge which constantly 
turns out feelings and thoughts. He is continually sounding 
us. And always and everywhere He meets only this unyield- 
ing and immovable wall. 

Ah, Lord, we will try to admit You, we know that it 
grieves You to have to knock on our door. 

Toi, 53 


"And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows 
God." [I John 4:7] And if we do not love, there forms in us 
a sort of hard core of obduracy, a sort of anti-Christian organ 
which inhales itself, which attempts to draw from itself its 
vital breath, its raison d'etre. 

Cantique, 337 

If we had the eyes of angels, we would not see many 
little St. Francises, all naked. Instead we would see those 

240 I Believe in God 

ponderous performers of the Dance of Death: the General, 
the Doctor, the Tradeswoman, the Noblewoman, and the Pro- 
fessor, larded with iron, leather, fur, parchment, and three or 
four layers of clothing, not to mention the fat underneath. 
Armor-plated, soldered, and steeled the Apocalypse could 
tell us all we need to know on the subject of armor! 

It is our own workmanship of petrification, the armor 
which we have fitted for ourselves, manufactured a section at 
a time, conceived by intelligence, adjusted by art, buckled on 
by habit! It is this flabbiness, more impenetrable than stone, 
and this skintight reptilian garment, slippery and shining! 
And finally it becomes this ever-shifting tissue of reflections 
and inventions which makes us not only forbidding but in- 
visible! Let us not forget the filth which covers us from head 
to foot! 

A chink in the armor, a chink leading to the soul! It 
would take more than a hatchet to make an impression here! 

Cantique, 201 


The Pursuit of the Sinner 

The Good Shepherd will have His troubles recovering 
this stray who has lodged himself in the most "impossible" 
place, as they say but is anything impossible for such an 
animal? He has come a long way from the naivete of Genesis; 
he has succeeded not only in hiding but in disappearing alto- 
gether, in banishing from his soul or his countenance any 
traces which might betray him as a child of God. But he will 
not escape these creating and judging hands, these fearful 
and jealous hands which resume their work. 

Presence, 110 

The Forgiveness of Sins 241 

The All-Powerful is defeated. 1 He is powerless. He 
created heaven and earth but He cannot do anything with 
this creature who simply says, "No." This child it is hopeless; 
never will He succeed in winning him over. Never will He 
succeed in retrieving that piece of Himself which has been 
buried in the rebel. He is not wanted. He shows us hell, and 
we laugh; it is an overworked threat. He offers heaven and 
earth, and we decline. He comes down in person, He offers 
Himself. "He laid aside his garments." [Cf . John 13:4] He falls 
at our feet, He seizes them, He kisses them, He waters them 
with His tears. We thrust Him aside with abhorrence, with 
hatred, with mockery, or, worse still, with boredom, with a 
yawn, with a weary and indolent gesture. It is not even worth 

Poete, 260 


Man can refuse his creator his mind; he cannot refuse 
him his lungs, No sooner has man finished uttering his denials 
and his blasphemies than he is forced on pain of death to re- 
claim that breath which created him and draw it into the 
depths of his being. Here there dwells a prisoner whose bolts 
and walls will not indefinitely prevent him from escaping, for 
the Son of Man not only forced the gates of hell from with- 
out, but tore them off their hinges from within. In the dead of 
night we are suddenly aware that a light has been kindled 
deep in that secret place where someone lies dozing and 
bound with two chains, and lo, all at once he has risen, all 
shackles have been thrown off as if at the scent of fire. 

Presence, 115 

1 Ckudel refers to Christ on the cross, suffering for hardened sinners. 

242 I Believe in God 

Our Supreme Master 

This is the creating hand, "the finger of the right hand 
of the Father," which has resumed its work on us and which 
(so cruelly for the poor flesh) searches, pursues, insists, un- 
does, redoes. "Pity me, pity me, O you my friends, for the 
hand of God has struck me!" cries Job [19:21] and with him, 
all the tormented souls of the Old and New Testaments. 

We benefit from an intervention. We are robbed of a 
part of our autonomy, and diminished in our ability to abuse 
it. We have taken a boarder. We must live with this intruder 
who has His own ideas and who tends to His own comforts; 
He is someone who does not hesitate to drive nails into the 
walls wherever He pleases, and who cuts up the furniture for 
firewood, taking over our bodily and earthly property, We 
must keep a record of this internal activity, this exploitation 
for unknown motives, this inborn adversary who carries on 
His work at our expense and for our profit. 

Presence, 113 


The eye of God is not halted by this hard kernel, this 
perfect and spherical resistance whose weak spot and joint 
the keenest blade would seek to no avail. "I will give them a 
new heart and put a new spirit within them. I will remove 
the stony heart from their bodies, and replace it with a natural 
heart" [EzecL 11:19] 

Poete, 228 

The Forgiveness of Sins 243 


The Expiatory Suffering 

Suffering was for Clirist the essential element in man's 
nature. Through Him, suffering ceased to be gratuitous; now 
it purchases something, and this something is what Christ 
came to earth to bring us. He came to show us what we are 
capable of purchasing and redeeming with this payment, of 
purchasing and redeeming for ourselves and for others with a 
coin of universal currency whose expenditure, moreover, is 
obligatory, our only choice being whether to invest it or let 
it go to waste. 

Thus the man who suffers is, in no sense, idle or un- 
used wealth. He is at work and, through his collaboration with 
the cruel and beneficial hands at work on him, he earns not 
perishable and relative wealth, but absolute and world-wide 
securities of his own. He is altogether transposed by neces- 
sity. For his suffering is necessary in the sense that he is not 
free to refuse it; he himself is necessary to the suffering. Some- 
thing is happening for which his body and soul, his presence 
is indispensable, and which could not happen without him. 
Through sacrifice, everything in him has become action. 
Wonder of wonders! His work is to be worked upon; it is he 
himself who provides the raw material for this mysterious 
craftsmanship. It is his soul which undergoes the operation of 
hands as skilled and delicate as those of an artist; there is 
someone at work on him who forbids him to revert to normal, 
who demands something more from him, and who patiently, 
interminably, and in a strangely human manner, interrogates 
him tormenting him until he has given the essential re- 
sponse, that "yes" which often is mingled with his dying 


Positions II, 246 

244 I Believe in God 


Thus suffering resembles Grace in that it is a gratuitous 
choice if it be permissible to make an analogy between na- 
ture and the gift of God. Nevertheless, there is this distinc- 
tion, that we can avoid the one but not the other, which takes 
us by force. The first reaches the body by way of the soul, the 
other addresses itself to the soul by way of the body. One 
resembles a poisoning, the other an assault. But both isolate 
us from the world and place us in the hands of someone who 
is in the world not as the part in the whole, but as the cause 
in the effect. It is the Cause who made us and who is not 
satisfied with His work, and who in resuming it, compels our 
attention. The invalid and the saint: both are people whom 
God will not leave in peace. 

Positions II, 247 


The Difficulty of Conversion 

This Christian and reasonable life is not an easy one. 
It is not easy in the observance, and still less so for the convert 
who, through his own weakness, has lost the advantages of 
habit and training. The idea of losing that freedom enjoyed 
by the horse in the pasture, the obligation of going period- 
ically to some authority, however paternal, and making the 
most humiliating confessions, are not particularly delightful, 
and nature violently resists these usages whose value reason 
alone enables us to see. 

Positions II, 144 


The Repentance of the Believer 

Oedipus, faced with his guilt, finds no solution but to 
gouge out his eyes. But David does not destroy his: he needs 
diem to weep with. 

Emmaus, 235 

The Forgiveness of Sins 245 


God Finds Us Through Sin 

The true David is not that luminous figure atop the 
highest tower who created worlds with a harp in his hands; 
he is this naked and haggard worm at the bottom of the lake, 
swallowing his tears in the suffocating gloom. And it is only 
now that God who, like a sculptor, had been eying His work 
with some misgiving, exclaims, "I have him! I have him, at 
last! Tve got him at last the David I was looking for! Here 
he is, as he really is." 

Emmaiis, 236 


No sooner do I sin than I procure for myself an atten- 
tive judge. In the eyes of my Maker, I revert to my original 
self, and I read in His eyes what I have done to Him. 

Emmaus, 236 

The Conscience 

It is no longer outside myself, on stone, that the com- 
mandments of Sinai are inscribed, but in my heart, like a 
new message to my most secret sensibility, my most private 
communications. . . . Malum coram Te fed. ... I have 
sinned in Your eyes, yes, I know it. It is You only whom I have 
sinned against and if, by sinning, I have succeeded only in 
finding a judge, this alone would be a great blessing to me, 
but this is not enough and You have permitted me to find a 

Emmaus, 238 

248 I Believe in God 

Appeal to the Messiah 

Holy Messiah! Come and bring peace to this dis- 
ordered factory, come and teach us the meaning of care, come 
and tighten the bolts of this machine which keeps coming 
apart, destroy in us the whims of unbridled fancy and all that 
is dead but tries to pass for living, put our accounts in order. 
I know, Lord, that You ask only one thing, O Patience! and 
that is for us to rid the floor of all these inferior foremen who 
prevent You from doing Your job! 

Ev. Isale, 96 


The Painful Purification of the Soul 

It is no easy matter to bring into the world and offer to 
eternal life a child of God! It is a constant struggle and then, 
if only we could see what we are doing! But no, we must labor 
in the dark, weeping in our throes, against nature, by faith 
alone! Every sick person is actually giving birth before our 
eyes. It is no easy matter to strip off the chrysalis, for, when 
we have cast aside the husk of the body, there remains the 
pupa of sin which we have inherited from our parents and im- 
proved through our own industry. The spiritual hammer is at 
work on us: the mighty tool of the blacksmith, the persistent 
tool of the dentist, the delicate tool of the engraver, not to 
mention the file and the sandpaper. 

Epee, 176 

The World of Penitence 

With the sin of David and the adulterous kiss of Bath- 
sheba, a new world is ushered in: the world of penitence. 

The Forgiveness of Sins 247 

Now man can cry out almost triumphantly, Confiteor adver- 
sum me injustitiam meam Domino. It is no small thing to 
have discovered good and evil! 

Emmaus, 237 


This purity, this innocence, are not in man an inborn 
radiance, but the reward of a painful ascent, a conquest, the 
result of a long, groping collaboration with Grace. 

Apocalypse, 197 

Fatherly Love 

Ah, we know that between the Father and our eyes a 
deep look of love is possible; something may be communi- 
cated! There is freedom in this instant bond of allegiance 
which enables the servant to read his Master's wishes in His 
eyes and adjust himself accordingly, to reply to His order 
with an order of his own. 

Presence, 104 

GodTs Indulgence 

Take courage, then, presumptuous soul, in the thought 
that you have to do with a God whose mercy prevents Him 
from seeing clearly. The Bible teems with blind patriarchs, 
and doubtless it was the news of his father's dimmed vision 
which hastened the return of the prodigal son. For we know 
too well that when we rush into His arms, His eyes will be 
good for nothing but weeping. 

Presence, 41 

248 I Believe in God 


"Bring here thy finger, and see my hands; and bring 
here thy hand, and put it into my side." [John 20:27] Now, 
as in the days of the Sulamite, you may verify this opening 
[Canticle 5:4] and gaze on this wound which I have received 
in my Beloved's house. It is no longer the heavens which are 
torn asunder, it is God Himself who opens and who guides 
your hand to the very throbbings of His heart. 

Presence, 118 

GocFs Mercy in Purgatory 

Like an artist bent over his crucible, God bends over 
this flaming basin where, not satisfied with having wrought 
the human soul, He returns it to the flame! It is a delicate 
operation, partaking at once of the engineer, the gardener, 

and the scientist. 

Epee, 169 


Rejoice, O people in darkness! No longer will you live 
in the shadow of Hell but in the shadow of the Cross. He 
whose Law ordains that even on the Sabbath we must rescue 
the calf and the ass who have fallen into the cistern, He has 
not forgotten those who, burning or extinguished in the dense 
gloom, can neither find their way nor distinguish right from 

Epee, 164 

The Work of Grace 

The Gospel shows it to us: the hand of God at work! 
It is no longer on the rock of Sinai that it carves its command- 

The Forgiveness of Sins 249 

ments, but on the living, quivering flesh of its creatures that 
it inscribes the propositions of love. He who fashioned man 
with a bit of clay is retouching His work. "The blind see, the 
lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead 
rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them." [Matt. 
11:5] He touches us and the Church humbly imitates these 
gestures on the eve of our second birth on the forehead, the 
eyes, the ears, and the tongue; He takes us by the hand, He 
wraps us from head to foot in the accents of His irresistible 
Word. Death itself offers Him no resistance. 

Presence, 111 


He has taken on our countenance and our costume, 
He has been swallowed up and lost in the miserable multi- 
tude. He profits from the confusion; who would think to look 
for Him in this bazaar? He surrenders Himself to chance and 
the crowd. He knows what will come out of these collisions 
and these blind jostlings. And presently it is no longer He 
alone who notices that "power has gone forth from him/' 
[Cf. Luke 2:43-48] The woman with the hemorrhage sud- 
denly realizes that her wound is healed and her blood has 
resumed its normal flow. The child, the sinner, the scholar, 
all of human innocence, hidden and paralyzed under thick 
layers of fat, grime, and petrified habit, have been touched 
by an invisible electric current, by a glance, a hint, an idea, 
a strange hand in theirs, and they feel shifting within them 
that tiny grain of sand which marks the beginning of the 
metamorphosis of Grace. 

Ah! Lord, when all other refuges are denied You, when, 
as You complained, there is no longer any place in the world 
where You may lay Your head [Cf. Matt. 8:20], there is al- 
ways one place which will not fail You and where most peo- 
ple will not think to look for You: the human heart 

Presence, 112 

250 I Believe in God 


In starting this work, the hand of God has no trouble 
finding a grip on us; I am not speaking of those people who 
are so distended, so puffed up or, as we say nowadays, so full 
of themselves, that one does not know where to take hold of 
them, Life and our own weaknesses have carved on our sur- 
face all sorts of reliefs which Providence turns to account. 
"My lover put his hand through the opening; my heart trem- 
bled within me, and I grew faint." [Canticle 5:4] 

He has obtained a sounding; in entering us He has 
procured a plaster cast. He has set us out like a precious gem 
on a black cushion. Tenebrae et palpatio, says Isaia in a curi- 
ous passage which seems to anticipate the modern techniques 
of radiology and auscultation, factae sunt super apeluncas. 

Presence, 113 


Buried beneath this carapace, buried among the 
shaken foundations, perhaps we will find the living water, 
that water "springing up unto life everlasting" which the 
thirsty Saviour requested of the Samaritan woman. Water 
which is free-flowing, clear, and luminous, water which is 
grace and the element of our obedience. 

Sophie, 167 


Grace abounding beyond sin has engulfed us like an 
ocean. We are in it, and it is in us. We absorb it through our 
gills. We possess it and it possesses us. We dwell in it and it 
dwells in us. The Lord is within us and we are within Him. 
It is He who will give strength to his people; and bless them 
with peace. [C Psalm 28:11] Hence Mary, our Mother, 

The Forgiveness of Sins 251 

whose Latin name means sea. She inhabits the ocean, and 
an ocean of grace is in her womb. That ocean of grace and 
light resides today in the narrow house, that tabernacle over 
the altar in which the ancient symbol is fulfilled. 

Sophie, 173 


The Purifying Gaze of the Lord 

O gaze of Him who is all life, to be suffered for my 
purgation, my torment, and my glory! Later, as our souls 
stand for trial, their bodies will return to join them, and the 
whole man will be consolidated in the Judgment. 

Art poetique, 177 


Felix Culpa 

Our Lord carried away in His glorified flesh the marks 
of the insults which His tormenters had inflicted on Him: the 
whip, the crown of thorns and as for the five Wounds, we 
know what a source of seen and unseen splendor they have 
been for the saints. 

Painters depict the Martyrs victoriously brandishing 
the instruments of their torture. And so, without wanting to 
strain the analogy, behold those evils, those sins and weak- 
nesses which alas! for our complicity have wrought in us 
a mockery of the will and image of our Creator. It is the whole 
catalogue of human weaknesses which Our Lord has gathered 
at the doors of prisons and hospitals, schools, factories, in 
order to fill His house for the wedding. It is for this that He 
came into the world. It is through us and all these wretches 
that He won His title of Redeemer. 

Cantique, 455 

252 I Believe in God 


Each has his specialty, each has had his cross to bear, 
his instrument of shame and misery, which the Lord has mir- 
aculously turned into an instrument of correction. Nothing has 
been wasted. Even the sluggard, half-conscious (like that 
deaf and dumb person whom the Gospel tells us is so hard 
to reach), behold, he has emerged from his cocoon and is 
jumping rope with his tourniquet! At any rate, he did not sin 
actively. And all those people who believed they were doing 
evil, of what good have they not been the unconscious instru- 
ments? "Their works follow them." Yes, all their works, and 
not just the evil ones. 

Cantique, 455 


The Joy of Forgiveness (A Ptopos of David) 

How beautiful is this world of repentance which 
David, with the help of Bathsheba, has just discovered! How 
wonderful it is to have found redemption by means of sin, 
to have assured oneself of love! "Happy is he whose fault is 
taken away, whose sin is covered." [Psalin 31:1] The Bible 
tells us that the concern of the Almighty extends to such 
humble events as the fall of a hair and the death of a sparrow. 
How much more so to that sin which is rightly called mortal 
since it causes at least the temporary death of the soul, the 
willful separation of the soul from its constant source. 

I come to life, I open my eyes. Ah! how good it is, this 
air which is breathed into me. You will give me oxygen, and 
your Holy Spirit You will take not from me. 

Fount of life, how good you are to me! 

Emmaiis, 239 

The Forgiveness of Sins 253 


"I lift up my eyes toward the mountains, whence shall 
help come to me?" [Psalm 120:1] And at once the plain, the 
desert, the level landscape which surrounds us on all sides, 
is robbed of its importance. Now it is no more than a tempo- 
rary carpet over which we urge our impatient feet, some- 
thing no longer to be inhabited but traversed; the measure of 
earth which our toes no sooner gain than they hurriedly kick 
it behind them. It is true. There they are at last, rising before 
our eyes, those "timeless hills'' for which w r e have longed from 
the creation of the world, and to which we feel bound by 
some mysterious kinship. We do not discover them, we recog- 
nize them. All has been cleansed, all is transformed around 
us, all is in movement. From a marshy plain, where only the 
obscure croaking of the frogs, a graveyard verbosity, had 
risen, I now hear the music of obedience, the great living 
language of water rushing to its inescapable duty. 

Poete, 258 


O Infinite, my heart has nothing strait enough to con- 
tain you! O Silence, if I cannot hear you yet, at least I can 
make out the infinite murmur of those multitudes bidding 
each other hush! 

Ev. Isaie, 97 


Surrender, blessed earth, to this springtime which in- 
vades you, to this sowing which the nations round about are 
already demanding. And do not think that I will spare you; 
there is a difference between correction and contemplation. 
There is between us a common rhythm, as between two musi- 
cians who draw their inspiration from each other. Feel this 

254 I Believe in God 

wound which I inflict on you, feel this cruel hand which does 
you good. 

Open your gates, city of the soul! Desert of love! 
Garden of love which, the Canticle says, is promised to that 
sacred beast who browses among the lilies! 

Ev. Isaie, 97-98 


The Grace of Salvation 

Full of grace, 2 the guilty soul, suddenly acquitted, 
hears, and cannot have enough of its pardon. Where is the 
nation so great that it has been granted such blessings? Pau- 
percula vermis Jacob! Creature of clay, hear this unprece- 
dented promise which still re-echoes in your awestruck 
womb: Blessed art thou among women. 

Cantique, 293 


The Church y Instrument of Our Pardon 

It is the whole Church which the priest applies to the 
sin to extract its confession. I do not know how it has hap- 
pened, but the evil has been drawn off. I was dead, and be- 
hold I live again. 

Ev. Isaie, 117 


The Good Thief, Classic Example of Penitence 

This day with a single phrase he is not only absolved 
but sanctified! Grace, touching his repulsive exterior, has in 
one instant made good all the deficiencies of virtue. On this 
shameful gibbet it is no longer a criminal brought to justice 

*This phrase may apply, mutatis mutandis, to the soul which has received a full 
pardon for its sins: afi heaven admires its beauty, Trans. 

The Forgiveness of Sins 255 

that we see, it is a martyr, a sacrificial offering that shines forth. 
The murderer, the fornicator, the thief, the convict, the pro- 
fessional bandit, has become a saint. The fundamental ac- 
ceptance was enough. It was enough, this imperceptible shift, 
this tiny chink in the watertight reservoir of our egoism. One 
look from beneath those bloodied eyelids was enough to re- 
lease a cataclysm of repentance, a resurrection mingled with 
the death agony, an irresistible explosion of Eternity. 

"This day, thou shalt be with me in paradise." [Luke 
23:43] It is done. Thus the prophecy that "the Publicans 
. . . are entering the kingdom of God before you" [Matt. 
21:31] has been fulfilled to the letter. 

Poete, 114 

The Rebirth of the Soul 

The soul trembles with astonishment. What, is this 
really me? "Who is this that comes forth like the dawn?" 
[Canticle 6:10] The prophet had foretold it: then shalt thou 
marvel and come in great numbers! 

What is taking place in her is at once the answer, in 
the night of unexpected battalions, to the cheer of the legions 
of light; it is also the bridal emotion of those forces surrender- 
ing to the sweetness of these honeyed syllables, "The bride- 
groom comes." 

Cantique, 292 


Expansion of the Purified Soul 

I breathe God, and God in turn breathes me. He in- 
hales me wholly and profoundly, and He knows what I make 
of this breath which endlessly makes me. I am one of this 
world of souls which He inhales all together and with which 
He endlessly enjoys blessed intercourse. 

Cantique, 294 

256 I Believe in God 

The Garment of Innocence 

The white gown is our garment of baptism, but it is 
also that of martyrdom and of penitence. . . . Someone in 
Voltaire's time understood that injunction, "at all times [to] 
let your garments be white." [Eccles. 9:8] It was St. Benedict- 
Joseph Labre; also, the daughters of Louis XV who are buried 
at Carmel. 

Apocalypse, 300-301 


Alas! This white garment, which of us can boast that 
he has not soiled it? But we may wash it in the blood of the 
Lamb. Sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, murmurs the priest 
sadly and tenderly as he gives us absolution. 

Apocalypse, 302 

The Whiteness of Innocence 

Whiteness is our way of saying Yes to whatever light 
there may be. It is the blankness of this open page on which 
God is free to write whatever He pleases. The infant in his 
baptismal gown, the old fellow who goes into the confessional 
to put on a clean shirt, the priest preparing for Mass, the girl 
at her first communion, the bride under her veils, the deceased 
under the solemn pall, each is like a blank book whose in- 
effaceable title page is enough. In capite librum scriptum est 
de me. It is not we who are white; it is Christ in whom we are 
clothed. "Yeaniing to be clothed over," writes St. Paul, "with 
that dwelling of ours which is from heaven." "I have taken 
off my robe," says the Bride of the Canticle, "am I then to 
put it on?" This is the business of Grace, O penitent soul. 

Apocalypse, 299 

The Forgiveness of Sins 257 

The Baptismal Robe 

It is written that the hosts who follow Christ in heaven 
on those white horses, which represent the Gospels, are ar- 
rayed in fine linen, white and pure. This is the baptismal gar- 
ment in which St. Paul tells us we are "clothed over/' the 
baptismal water which has become a supple fabric adjusted to 
our form, the beam of light which has come to cover us and 
to glorify our souls. 

Emmaus, 225 

Function of the Baptismal Waters 

It is once and for all that we have been baptized, and 
those waters in which we have been immersed will always be 
a part of us. For those waters over which the Holy Spirit once 
stirred are no longer a meaningless or untamed body; they 
have taken on meaning and direction. If they do not actually 
know what they are doing, at least they are aware that there 
is someone who knows it for them, who is with them and one 
with their flow. They are conscious of their power and their 
mission, for all the enterprises in the creation are yoked to 
them; they will not fail Niagara, that formidable staircase 
which summons them! 

Epee, 51 


We know them, these living waters; they are the waters 
of baptism and grace, which the centurion with the head of 
his lance caused to flow from between the ribs of the divine 
Victim. And should we forget them, the Samaritan woman 
would be there to refresh our memory. 

Epee, 55 

258 I Believe In God 


The Water of Salvation 

See how it spreads out, how it surrounds, how it em- 
braces, how it examines, how it yields, how it alternately 
divides and comes together and adapts its course to all 
changes, how it profits from the tiniest fissure and sluice to 
work its way in, and finally how, living, mobile, and supple, it 
expands, fills, invades, gains, bathes, sounds, overcomes, 
breaks down, drains, possesses, unlocks, and releases, and in 
the midst of gravity, introduces suspension. This is why God 
chose water as the sacramental element of that baptism which 
not only cleanses us but is a source of profound transforma- 
tion. It is the transparent and unseen vehicle of that Wisdom 
of which it is written, "But whence can wisdom be obtained, 
and where is the place of understanding?" [Job 28:12] It is 
that secret sap which seeks out all elements capable of fashion- 
ing in a single body a child of God. 

Poete, 123 


"We went through fire and water,'* says the Psalmist. 
[65:12] The fire was necessary to bring forth the water, that 
spiritual water, the fruit of baptism, "springing up unto life 

Epee, 177 

We Are Transformed by Baptism 

Baptism turns our water into wine, and our wine into 
radiance. We are become the children of that furnace fired 
by the flame of Truth. 

Cantique, 502 

The Forgiveness of Sins 259 


Christ^ Ransom for Our Sins 

"And I found delight in tlie sons of men/* [Prov. 8:31] 
But we too, my God, find delight in You! "Who shall feast in 
the kingdom of God?" [Luke 14:15] And we want none of 
Your ways of being with us to deprive us of any of the others. 
It is not enough for us to feast our eyes on that radiant flesh 
You received from Your mother, that unique flowering of a 
twice-blessed blood. Straw is no more eager for the flame than 
we, driven by our sins, to partake of your flesh! 

Blessed be the sin which made all this possible! Blessed 
be the unbearable enormity of our guilt which straightway 
earned us that opening in Your side! 

Is this what you expected, old Devil? You wanted to 
throw Him off His throne, but this was not enough for Him. 
Behold, He has come to meet you, He has placed Himself in 
your hands. Take Him, kill Him, tear Him apart, He is a bag 
of grapes beneath your feet. Go on, the time has come for 
you to go to work on Him with all four feet; let the Godhead 
gush forth, let our Testament gush forth, in that great, dread 
cry of Good Friday, in that final unleashing of the great sacra- 
mental Waters! There you are, chained forever to tie machina 
Christl Now, bend the knee! Serve! There is no longer a sin 
in the world which must not serve our redemption. 

ED. Isale, 256 


Jems and John the Baptist 

Jesus brings the water, but it is John who brings the 
desert. It is Jesus who brings Grace, but John who makes us 
thirsty for it. 

Cantique, 360 


I Believe in God 


The Bitterness of Our Sins 

The gall that cures Tobias is the Passion of Christ. He 
declines the bitterness of sin that we carry to our lips, but 
that bitterness of the inner spirit and of remorse, that slow 
distillation of an inexhaustible and corrosive grief, that golden 
dram which has the power to cleanse and clarify our inner 
landscape, is His gift to us. 

Sophie, 113 


Our Lord and Sin 

Numbness, swelling, contraction, decay, disfigure- 
ment: these are the symptoms of that physical leprosy for 
which the reading of our charming contemporary fiction pro- 
vides us with ample moral equivalents. Lepers make up a con- 
siderable portion of Our Lord's clientele. The cure of ATS, at 
the confessional, experienced that suffocating odor of mortal 
sin. What of the ordeal inflicted for thirty years on those 
sacred nostrils? 

Rut h, 80 


Sacramental Grace 

When from time to time I present myself at Your con- 
fessional, it is not with warm water that I ask to be cleansed 
but with Your blood. Sanguis Domini Nostri Jem Christi, 
mumbles the priest He mumbles, but this does not prevent it 
from being blood, the real thing, the very blood released by 
the centurion! 

Seigneur, 107 

The Forgiveness of Sins 261 


Anne-Catherine Emmerich tells us that of aU the Sa- 
viour's agonies at Gethsemane, the bitterest, the most poig- 
nant, was the realization of His powerlessness in the face of 
the hardened sinner, His impotence before Judas, and in the 
eyes of those countless multitudes for whom nothing had hap- 
pened and Jesus Christ had come in vain. It is this spiritual 
spectacle which the cross on Calvary translates and trans- 
forms into a physical torture, the fearful rack of love in the 
grips of an insuperable resistance. 

Poete, 259 


The Humiliations of the Redeemer 

What metaphor could more appropriately describe the 
Word that took on sin and corruption in its final humiliation 
than the worm. "But I am a worm," cries the Psalmist, "not a 
man!" [Psalm 21:7] This is what God chose to take and "make 
great above all things" [Psalm 137:2], that we might see en- 
twined on the cross in a single calligram the roots of our error 
and of our salvation. 

Behold the Tree which the Kingdom of Heaven has 
brought forth for our amazement from that grain of mustard 
seed mentioned in the Gospel, so small that it is "the smallest 
of all the seeds" [Matt. 13:31-2], so small that it entirely 
escapes our notice. This is the seed which has become this 
enormous Tree. 3 

Poete, 239 

8 The Church. 

262 I Believe in God 

The Role of Mary 

It Is she, the lily among thorns, it is she, who out of 
this hostile and tangled and impenetrable thicket which was 
mankind, out of this soil which seemed capable of germinating 
nothing but resistance, criticism, dissension, and venom, has 
wrought this wondering welcome. She has prevailed through 
the contagion of an irresistible sweetness; it is she, this soft- 
ness and submission, this conquest, this sense of security, this 
blossoming of our good will, who spreads within us like a 
dawning. For it is she who has made us, it is she who holds 
the keys to all the secrets of our flesh! 

Cantique, 296 


Unless unseen, unless annihilated, unless I came by a 
path of shadows, asks Mary, how could I arrive at the dark- 
ness and rebellion that lies stored in man's heart? What, Lord! 
To lend a little of that grace of which I am full to this mon- 
strous and misshapen chaos, must I pretend to forget Your 
very name? Must I re-create out of this filth and corruption, 
out of these criminals and hard hearts, the mouth You offered 
to Judas? At what cost must I plant in the depth of this stone 
and this fat and this pus the seed of innocence and dread 
which only death and the trumpet of our impending dissolu- 
tion have the power to bring to fruition? 

"The fire on the altar is to be kept burning; it must 
not go out/* [Lev. 6:5] Yes, beyond the dung hill is that 
smoke-dream which is confounded with the stench of corrup- 
tion! And yet who knows but that under the breath of the 
Spirit this noisome reek may not become coal and flame? For 
I am the mother of the Beloved. "Can a man take fire to his 

The Forgiveness of Sins 263 

bosom, and his garments not be burned?" Who can say just 
how far the frontiers of the invisible Church extend? 

Rose, 94 


Mary and Her Stubborn Children 

It is not only the good who need me. It is not only 
Catherine Laboure, the humble cook who kneels at my side, 
her arms stretched out on my lap as on a prayer stool. There 
are all these idle creatures whom I must muster for inspection, 
all those for whom God died in vain still, they are my chil- 
dren, she says all those ways of not seeing and not hearing, 
of not acting and not loving! Through all this I must wade; 
I must plunge my arms into this chaos of primeval matter until 
the end of time. "Show yourself to be a mother." So I would, 
Lord, I ask no more, but they will not have me! They offer me 
their eternal denial; it is only in hell that I can bring all this 
into the world! Thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon: "Be- 
hold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many 
in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted." [Luke 

Where may this sign be driven, now and forever, but 
into the heart of His mother, of her who is responsible for His 

Epee, 248 


Which is the one who, whether we will or not, gradu- 
ally unlocks our eyelids with her rose-fresh fingers? 

Cantique, 292 

The Resurrection 
of the Body 

Notre tour viendra bientdt d?tre rassembles dans votre grange et dans 


Quand le gloire du Dieu vivant eclatera comme un coup de tonnerre. 

Odes, 193 

BEFORE proceeding to the two 
final articles of the Credo, let us 
briefly review the foregoing ar- 
ticles as a whole. It cannot be de- 
nied that Claudel's faith is in com- 
plete agreement with the Catholic 
dogma which lends it its solid 

If one wished to characterize 
ClaudeTs religious doctrine, one 


might say that it is essentially 
Christological, for indeed, Christ 
figures in it as an eternal presence, 
always in His role of Redeemer. A 
second feature of his spirituality is 
the central importance of Mary. 
There could be nothing warmer, 
more natural, or or more moving 
than the intense devotion sworn 
by the poet to the immaculate 

The Resurrection of the Body 

Mother of the Saviour. Christ- 
centered, Mary-centered, ClaudeFs 
thinking is also, as we have 
pointed out, profoundly Church- 
centered. It would be difficult to 
find a lay author as respectful of 
the priority of the Church in the 
field of faith and morality. 

We can add a fourth character- 
istic, even rarer in men of letters: 
the eschatological aspect. A rare 
quality, it will be easily recog- 
nized in spite of the novelty of the 
term, which is seldom used in 
modem speech: it means every- 
thing that pertains to the final end 
of man. In general we prefer not 
to broach this subject of death and 
its consequences except pejora- 
tively, to emphasize with wry 
irony its gruesome, truly gro- 
tesque, aspects. 

But this is not Claudel's attitude 
toward death, even in a work he 
called La Danse des Moris in 
which he has brought out effec- 
tively both the misery and gran- 
deur of humanity: "Remember 
that you are dust," and "Remem- 
ber that you are rock" 

In his apologetic writings, there 
are innumerable passages dealing 
with the future life. Indeed it is 
even easy to ascertain to what ex- 
tent, as the years began to weigh 
on his shoulders, he was pursued 
(I do not say "haunted") by the 
thought of those "first timid steps 
beyond the flesh/* For let us state 
at once that in spite of that "hor- 
rible dread" which he acknowl- 
edges on one occasion, and which 


is the natural reflex of the average 
man, Claudel has voiced much 
oftener his intense desire to reach 
his blessed home. 

His work as a whole may be 
said to be implicitly, if not ex- 
plicitly, directed toward the here- 
after. What counts for Claudel is 
not this transitory world, but the 
one where we will live without 
the shadow of change, in the pure 
vision of God; where we will be, 
in a phrase which is dear to him, 
"with the Cause." No more sec- 
ond causes, deficient, limited, un- 
certain, as here below, but the 
sole Cause of everything: the Al- 
mighty Lord. 

On every page one can feel 
Claudel's soul inspired by the 
same longing felt by the first 
Christians for the divine Parousia, 
when the glorified Christ was to 
appear as the triumphant Leader 
of the Universe, gathering His 
myriad faithful sheep under His 
crook and inviting them to the 
wedding feast. 

One has only to read the sub- 
lime pages of Presence et Pro- 
phetie to be immediately con- 
vinced of the intensity of this con- 
centration on Paradise which gives 
rise to an endless declaration of 
faith. There would be little point in 
a profound devotion to the Passion 
of Christ and to the Blessed Vir- 
gin, or in a full and joyous com- 
munion with all one's brothers on 
earth and in heaven, did not all 
this ultimately result in the great 
apotheosis of the heavenly wed- 


ding of the Redeemer and His 
Church, as it has been described 
to us in the pages of the Apoca- 
lypse. It is from this belief in the 
future life that Claudel's thinking 
draws its irresistible force of hope. 

What does the Church mean 
when it asks us to adhere to the 
twofold dogma of the resurrection 
of the flesh and life everlasting? 
Will our lot in the Hereafter con- 
sist, as the poet humorously de- 
scribes it, in savoring "tarts as 
big as wagon wheels and wine by 
the Jeroboam?** (Cantique, 191) 
The pleasures awaiting us there 
are of an altogether different na- 
ture, although they may be con- 
ferred on the body as well as on 
the soul. 

Let us review the teaching of 
the Church: All the bodies of all 
men who have ever lived will be 
resurrected, those of the good to 
blessed life, those of the sinners to 
eternal damnation. This dogma is 
based on the resurrection of 
Christ, our Leader and Prototype. 
"Just as Christ has arisen from the 
dead through the glory of the 
Father, so we also may walk in 
newness of life." [Rom. 6:4] When 
we speak of resurrection, we are 
speaking of the flesh, for the soul, 
being immortal, has no need of 
resurrection. It will continue to 
live until its reunion with the 

^Nothing that we possess here 
below will be destroyed, with the 
exception of our defects. But all 

I Believe in God 

will be restored and exalted to the 
highest degree, not only restored 
but illuminated." (Poete, 169) 

The body, which will have been 
the instrument of our sanctifica- 
tion, will be rewarded along with 
the soul, in fact its bliss will aug- 
ment that of the soul. "For this 
corruptible body must put on in- 
comrption," says St. Paul [I Cor. 
15:53], and it is in this body that 
we wiU see God. [Job 19:26] 

Our bodies will be endowed at 
last with four properties peculiar 
to glorified bodies: Impassibility, 
or immunity to all evil, infirmity, 
or pain; Agility, or ease of move- 
ment; Subtlety, or the ability to 
penetrate and dominate all things; 
Light, or Glory, luminous radiance 
similar to that of Christ at the 
Transfiguration, according to that 
dazzling promise of the Epistle 
to the Philippians: "We eagerly 
await a Saviour, our Lord Jesus 
Christ, who will refashion the 
body of our lowliness, conforming 
it to the body of his glory." [Phil. 

What an inspiring theme for a 
writer like Claudel! And how 
readily his pen catches fire to ex- 
pand it, though always guided by 
the wise doctrine of the Divine 
Teacher! He speaks ecstatically of 
that "new tunic," our garment of 
glory, which will replace this 
"squalid rag" which is unworthy 
"to clothe a child of God." (Epee, 
150) "This flick of the nail" will 
suffice to "split our pod from top to 

The Resurrection of the Body 267 

bottom" (Ibid., 149), and to pre- don the gorgeous robe which is 
pare us when the time comes to waiting for us, 

This flick of the nail which will split our pod from top 
to bottom . . . 

Epee, 149 

Hear, dust! Listen, ashes! God, who knows the number 
of His stars and is mindful of each of His sparrows, has not 
forgotten you on the funeral slab! 

Ep6e, 165 

Our material body yellows and withers until the seed 
of immortality is ready. 

Epee, 157 

Your judgments are an unfathomable abyss. (Judicia 
tua abyssus multa. ) In this abyss each creature, according to 
his destiny, comes to take his place of honor or punition. 

Toi, 66 


The Summons 

All that is raised like a vast field under the plow, and 
all these dead the living dead as well, sinners who are being 
converted hurriedly get back into their ribs and their limbs, 

268 I Believe in God 

and under the feet of the last warriors of Armageddon the 
giants who are roused from the polished stone and the 
shivered rock. Ros lucis, ros tuus. Behold, their foreheads have 
been touched by this dram of light, this initial of the resurrec- 
tion, this limpid drop on the tip of Lazarus* finger for which 
the rich man of the Gospel dies of envy. 

Ev. hale, 95 

Universal Dressing 

On that day it is not only the dead who will reassume 
their form and flesh in the fullness and justification of their 
raison d'etre; it is the Father Himself who is pontifically ar- 
rayed in the raiment of all His children. The day is come once 
and for all when death has been swallowed up in victory, No 
longer are all these individual wills held together as if with in- 
tersecting lines and all sorts of juggling in the right places; now 
it is a living pattern which we complete and color as the fin- 
ished work completes the rough draft; it is a living design 
which we have embraced. What we have here is the Incarna- 
tion of Christ within us. "It is now no longer I that live, but 
Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live 
in the faith of the Son of God." [Gal. 2:2,0] This body which we 
have inherited through a series of intersecting accidents is 
now rightfully ours through grace; we have borrowed it di- 
rectly from the Source! Now we translate our Author on sight! 
Now they are realized at last, this city, these filial frontiers 
which only we were capable of offering to the Uncircum- 

Ev. Isaie, 95 

Necessary Separation of the Soul and the Mortal Body 

In this moment of essential recognition, the soul no 
longer has any use for this soiled garment, this counterfeit 

The Resurrection of the Body 269 

linage which daily living has led her to make of her body until 
it was time to produce, with eye and mind fixed on the Crea- 
tor, that "new tunic" which will replace the one we made for 
ourselves, in ignorance and sin, when at the mercy of all the 
second causes. The soul therefore surrenders her old tunic to 
the elements while waiting to be reclothed in that new and 
innocent garment which He has promised. For this squalid 
rag is unworthy to clothe a child of God. "Broken was the 
snare, and we were freed." [Psalm 123:7] 

Epee, 150 

The Seed of Immortality in Us 

The sinful flesh is at the mercy of decay, but we cany 
within us the sublime blueprint of our immortality. 

Cantique, 366 


The Fittingness of the Resurrection of the Flesh 

Is it right that this body which was the product, the 
expression, and the instrument of the soul which gave it birth, 
form, and movement, should be abandoned henceforth to 
dissolution and nothingness, tossed aside like a rag, or a 
cocoon from which the insect has disengaged itself? Is it pos- 
sible to accept the idea that this clay, molded and formed by 
the personality of which, in God's design, it was an essential 
and inseparable part, can be discarded without there remain- 
ing from its obligatory term of service some impression and 
some influence, some aptitude, like the remembrance which 
clings to a souvenir? The Bible even suggests that there re- 
mains a capacity for growth. "The earth is changed as is clay 
by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment." [Job 

Epee, 150 

270 I Believe in God 


"The bones of Joseph/' says the Preacher, "were 
searched, and after death they prophesied." Thus the ele- 
mental stone in us reabsorbs the flesh, but no matter how far 
our remains may advance in the novitiate of the dust, they do 
not escape that record which their Creator keeps of them; 
they harbor a promise of resurrection, for in the words of 
Psalm 15, "my body too abides in confidence." [Cf. also Acts 

Poete, 217 


"I know that my Vindicator lives!" [Job 19:25] This is 
the cry, echoing down the ages, which issued from the tor- 
mented throat of the old Job. This same hope is rooted in my 
bowels, for I know my Redeemer lives! He is there, He is 
present, He is already with us in the form of faith and hope 
in the womb of the living Eve and of all women after her to 
whom she has transmitted her heartbeat. In the arms of his 
own wife, the patriarch arouses and embraces that promise in 
which all successive generations have been born. 

Accompagnements, 140 

The Body of Christ, the Christians Shield 

While he is alive that is, possessed of a soul and a 
body the sinner can always be utterly reconciled with Christ 
through penitence and faith. The man who dies in a state of 
sin loses this body which he possessed in common with Christ, 
this refuge which has sheltered him since Eden, and he is no 

The Resurrection of the Body 271 

longer in a position to give it to Him. Henceforth he has only 
a soul, a soul which henceforth sees clearly, and which, there- 
fore, can no longer gain merit. It is indeed true that after the 
final resurrection, the souls recover their bodies, but they are 
no longer opaque bodies. 

"Naked before him is the nether world, and Abaddon 
has no covering/* [Job 26:6] 


Union with Christ, Pledge of Resurrection 

Man in a state of innocence was bound to God by what 
the theologicans call fides oculata. Redeemed man is united 
with God through Christ, and with Christ through baptism by 
faith. Christ died for us and henceforth we die with Christ. 
What was punishment becomes through Him expiation and 
redemption. And as He is risen, so shall we rise. 

Toi, 64 


Our Communion with Christ 

"My food is to do the will of Him who sent me" [John 
4:34], says the Saviour. Ours is to do the will of Christ. And 
it is not only in this world but in the next that we will take 
communion, that we will fully comprehend, not only with our 
spirit but with our flesh, on behalf of our flesh and our spirit 
and our fully realized being, that His body is indeed food, and 
that His blood is indeed drink. From the birth of Christianity, 
do we not find numerous examples of saintly men and women 
whose sole nourishment has been the word of God and the 
sacramental elements? 

Emmaus, 134 

272 I Believe in God 


Negative Imprint of Christ on the Damned 

Brought face to face with God, we will submit both 
our cause and the distortion we are producing our cause and 
the violence we do it to a merciless examination. The 
damned soul will come to know what it means to produce this 
abortive and counterfeit image, to bear the ineffaceable brand 
of blasphemy. There is in him a desire to be God, which he 
can neither realize nor destroy. "I have brought out fire from 
your midst which will devour you." [Ezechiel 28:18] 

Every man who does not die in Christ and in commun- 
ion with Christ, dies in his own image. Henceforth he is 
powerless to remove this seal of selfhood which every moment 
of his life has helped to imprint in the eternal substance. So 
long as the word has not been completed, the hand can go 
back and erase it with the cross. But once finished, it is in- 
effaceable, as indestructible as the matter which received it 
Quod scripsi, scripsi. 

Toi, 65 


The Body Witt Not Be Lost 

"The very hairs of your head are all numbered" [Matt. 
10:30], says the Gospel. Job tells us that there is a hope of 
resurrection lodged in his bones, part of their substance, a 
hope which he would like to cut in the rock forever [cf. 19:24] 
and what rock could be more fundamental than that on which 
he himself has been framed? "Nor was my frame unknown to 
you when I was made in secret," says the Psalmist. [38:15] 
And again, "He watches over all his bones." [Ps. 33:21] Isaia 
adds, "He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a 
watered garden/' [Isa. 58:11] 

Ep6e, 151 

The Resurrection of the Body 273 


Nothing that we possess here below will be destroyed, 
with the exception of our defects, but all will be restored and 
exalted to the highest degree, not only restored but illu- 
minated, as it were, transported from the realm of empirical 
proof to the realm of intuitive understanding. 

Po&te, 169 

The Testimony of Blood 

The Bible tells us in many passages that the blood shed 
by the innocent the blood of Abel, of the martyrs is not a 
passive substance; it bears witness, it will not be silent, it cries 
out. For blood, that element sprung from the rock, is the 
vehicle of the soul, the matter of this sacrament of our unity, 
and St. John tells us that like water and spirit, it is imbued with 
a testimonial quality. From the first chapters of Genesis, God 
solemnly declares to Abraham, "Surely I will require an ac- 
count of your life's blood; from every beast I will require it, and 
from man; from every man I will require the life of his fellow. 
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be 
shed; for in the image of God man was made." [9:5-6] A very 
important passage, because it indicates that in the perfect 
realization of this image, the corporeal substance plays an 
indispensable role. 

Epee, 151 

Our Body Will Be a Spintud Body 

It is written that our bodies will be glorified. They will 
not be glorified in the way in which, today on earth, we honor 

274 * Believe in God 

saints' relics. To be sure, it is fitting and proper that we should 
venerate all that has aided those august persons to be such 
beautiful images of God, to radiate the grace and will of God, 
and we are rewarded for our faith by the beneficence which 
still emanates from these blessed remains. But after all, today 
it is no longer the femur or the clavicle of a given saint that 
helps him to come before God fully realized as Ignatius or 
Clara; it is no longer the wounded heart of Saint Therese, as 
it is preserved in Spain, which determines, in the presence of 
her Spouse, the throbbing of that seraph. 

Emmaiis, 133 

We Cannot Say What It Witt Be 

Theologians have formulated ideas regarding the fu- 
ture state which will be ours, since Jesus is but the first born 
among the dead. Impassible, agile, subtle, and glorified: such, 
according to St. Paul, will be these heavenly bodies into which 
our earthly bodies will be transformed. We are told that 
basically they will be the same, but the scholars do not hesitate 
to endow them with properties contradictory to those that 
condition their present existence. 

Does this worry us, is it a cause for alarm? And when, 
in addition, people ask us where we will be, and in what place 
these extraordinary creatures we will have become are to 
take their pleasure, this is just the question we were waiting 
for and in answer to which we were holding in readiness a 
triumphal burst of laughter. 

For before He left us, Jesus made the promise which is 
all in all: "Where I ain, there also shall my servant be." In- 
deed this is all we ask. He who created what we call Time and 
Space will be at no loss to find whatever ways He pleases of 
being with us. 

For we are the present owners of these bodies which 
we need in order to make the most of this world which has 

The Resurrection of the Body 275 

been offered to our understanding. But if Jesus requires it, He 
need only ask, and we will have no trouble producing just the 
bodies we need to be with Him. 

Emmaus, 132 

We Will Retain Our Faculties 

All of Scripture, all that we have of the revelation of 
the Saints, shows us souls continuing to live in God's presence 
with the full possession of their faculties. Their being is not 
then changed as here below it would be, Just as the body is 
changed by the loss of more than one limb. (Thus the addi- 
tion or subtraction of a single molecule suffices to alter the 
identity of a chemical composition. ) But there is no such in- 
terruption in our souls and, as we are told in the Apocalypse, 
our works follow us. We carry away with us the faculties 
which have been responsible for them. They are the fulcrum 
for judgment and sanction. Our total humanity will not be too 
much with which to love and understand God, to realize our- 
selves in that irreplaceable individuality which has been the 
delight of the Creator. 

It will be objected: but how can we see without eyes, 
and how can we hear without ears? God and the Angels have 
no eyes or ears, and yet I do not imagine they are thereby pre- 
vented from seeing and hearing! Now we see and hear imper- 
fectly in the world of effects, but they see and hear in the 
world of Cause. And we who in the next world will have em- 
braced the WiH of God, in whom all things consist and subsist, 
we shall see and hear, and we shall taste and feel, in the world 
of Cause. In every creature, in every object, we will be aware 
of that God who at that very instant is in the act of creating it, 
and creating it with its own co-operation. We will be One with 
God the Creator. 

Emmaus, 210 

276 I Believe in God 


No Christian will deny that after death we are per- 
mitted to see God. Is this not enough? In seeing God, do we 
not see all the rest? "Shall he who shaped the ear not hear? or 
he who formed the eye not see?" [Psalm 93:9] We take with 
us into the next world our whole self, that whole soul whose 
business it is to fashion the body. We can have complete con- 
fidence in God who, if He created the soul indestructible, 
must have done so because He will never cease to need it. Far 
from being impaired, it will be purified, glorified. Ah, the 
whole Creation will not be too wide, Eternity will not be too 
long for us to tell Him all that we still have to tell Him and ex- 
plain. Who knows? Perhaps He would remain forever ig- 
norant were we not forever there to explain to Him. 

Emmaiis, 131 


The position of the divided soul is not so unfortunate 
as you think, according to Thomism. Reread those sublime 
pages devoted to the deific vision in which the creature ac- 
quires something of God's own powers in order to plumb His 
depths by a process somewhat analogous to the o-wcuycta of 

The famous story of the rich man in the Gospel in- 
dicates in no uncertain terms that the divided soul retains 
memory and even sensibility and that it gains, moreover, a 
power of vision which no longer has any physical limitations. 
The text of St. Luke contains a rather surprising remark on the 
separation of the two lives: "Between us and you a great gulf 
is fixed" [16:26], which recalls the first verses of Genesis. The 
separation goes right to the very roots of the Creation; it 
precedes the mystery of the firmament. With regard to the 
resurrection of the body, the teaching of the Church, or rather 

The Resurrection of the Body 277 

its formulation, is not complete; but most of the elements are 
there, like stones on a block, some of which are already cut. 

Unpublished letter to Paul Valery, 

Copenhagen, November 13, 1919 

The Four Properties of Glorified Bodies 

IMPASSIBILITY: The term impassibility does not mean 
that henceforth we will be insensible to the signs and means 
of an outward and physical movement toward us, but only 
that sensation will no longer be forced on us, that we will re- 
tain full freedom in the bosom of love and law, that hence- 
forth nothing will be offered to us in regard to which we have 
not stored up an inexhaustible potentiality for harmony and 
adjustment, for brotherhood. Everywhere we go we will carry 
with us the prerogative of creation, and our contact with 
effects will be replaced by a radiant communion with causes; 
not so much impassibility, as the extension of "self-administra- 
tion" to our whole person, as the performance and enjoyment 
of sympathy, of the unending duty which embraces the law, 
and of the verb which is one with the clause. 

Poete, 169 


SUBTLETY: The property of subtlety is the transposi- 
tion into the physical realm of that searching and insinuating 
spiritual quality of discernment which no surface or obstacle 
can resist, whose strength and persistence are unparalleled, 
according to this passage from the Book of Wisdom: "For in 
her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, 
clear, unstained, certain, not baneful, loving the good, keen, 
unhampered, beneficent." [7:22] 

It is owing to this quality that the glorified soul, now 

278 I Believe in God 

protected from intrusion from without, becomes absolute 
mistress of her internal and instrumental domain. It is thanks 
to this property that the risen Christ was able to appear be- 
fore His disciples at a moment's notice, "though the doors had 
been closed"; it is thanks to this that so many saints, even in 
this world, were given the power to "lay down their bodies 
and to take them up again," to dispose of them according to 
their charity, that is, their own style of outward manifestation, 
whether perceptible or no, as the occasion and their love may 
direct them. 

Everything that is born must give way before this 
bearer of the Word. "Lift up, O gates, your lintels!" cries the 
Psalmist. [23:7] And Ezechiel: "The glory of the Lord entered 
the temple by way of the gate/" [43:4] He availed Himself of 
this inner vacuum, of this universal weakness in the presence 
of the perfect Being. 

Light passes through everything, as has been demon- 
strated by the recent discovery of those exploratory waves of 
matter. Well, the risen being will be clothed in light, "robed 
in light as with a cloak," in the words of the Psalm [103:2], 
and not only in light, but in all its properties of awareness and 
intelligence. Vestimento does not mean the assumption of 
something external or irrelevant, but a mantle which is closely 
and intimately related to that source which is in each of us, 
according to St. Paul: "We do not wish to be unclothed but 
rather clothed over." [II Cor. 5:4] We will be clothed with 
grace, with that irresistible splendor which nothing can im- 
pede because it is utterly devoted to the service of God, ac- 
cording to the prophet Ezechiel: "I ... anointed you with 
oil* I clothed you with an embroidered gown." [16:9-10] 

Poete, 170 


Long enough the body has imposed on the spirit the 
bonds of weight, finitude, and possibility. Long enough we 

The Resurrection of the Body 279 

have plotted against it, and now the time has come for the 
body to learn the meaning of obedience. What was a prison 
has become an engine. What was a carapace has become pure 
power, conquest, and vitality. What was opacity has become, 
informed by the spirit, a pure vehicle of intelligence and in- 
telligibility. "O Death, where is thy victory?" Ancient ob- 
stacle, where is your resistance? 

We have embraced the Cause, no longer need we 
dwell on the effects. We have embraced the Spirit which is 
"all embracing, and know man's utterance"; no longer need 
we be confined by anything save the necessities of music. No 
longer can any creature stand in our way, we are in the crea- 
tion with its Creator. The divine adoption, whereby we have 
become children of God, has invested even material elements 
with an irresistible superiority of subtlety and penetration. 

Rose, 199 


AGILITY: Just as the property of subtlety represents a 
triumph over inert matter, the property of agility represents 
an indifference to space and distance. The magnificent pas- 
sage from the Book of Wisdom which we started to quote 
just now continues: "For Wisdom is mobile beyond all mo- 
tion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of 
her purity. For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure 
effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nought that is 
sullied enters into her. For she is the refulgence of eternal 
light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his 
goodness" [7:24-25] 

Poete, 179 


Agility is that endowment which enables the individual 
to realize himself anywhere at will ( as if there were anything 

280 I Believe in God 

in Mm but God's will), that is, instantly to assume a certain 
outward form in the scheme of things, in an ever-fresh har- 
monic and melodic relationship with this scheme, a relation- 
ship begotten of the endless necessities of love. Distance for 
him is no longer a separation or a removal, but what in the 
language of music is called an interval, In praising God, he 
passes over all of paradise with a marvelous sonority, as the 
bow passes over the string; and it is impossible to tell if he 
is singing, or if everything is vibrating in his wake. And as 
there is an agility in space (if the term is applicable to this 
spiritual order), so too there will be an agility in time, so that 
the individual, thanks to this deliberate acceleration or re- 
tardation of which stellar rays give us some experience 
wiH become part of the infinite variety of causes and effects of 
which he was the invisible and universal center. 

Poete, 179 


GLORY (Inner Light) : The first three endowments which 
we have just examined are primarily concerned with the rela- 
tion of the risen being to what is outside himself. But the 
fourth, glory, is more intimately related to his intrinsic 
makeup. In the Bible, it is most frequently compared to a 
garment: "gown of glory," "robed in light, as with a cloak/* It 
is the seamless robe, inconsutile, which was worn by Christ. It 
is an untearable mantle, a principle of unity which gathers all 
the virtues under a single head. 

"The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard/* says 
Isaia, [58:8] And this principle, as we know, is the fire which 
breaks forth and feeds on all substances and combines all that 
it seizes into a single tongue of clear flame. Clarified Me, 
Clarify Me, is the prayer of Our Lord at the Last Supper. 
Now, there is inner clarity and outer clarity. Inner clarity, or 
inner light, is that of the conscience which is alluded to in that 
passage in Matthew and Luke: "The lamp of the body is the 

The Resturection of the Body 281 

eye. If thy eye be sound, thy whole body will be full of light." 
[Matt6:22; Luke 11:34] But in the life to come our eye is 
"sound" because it sees only one thing, its first cause, and this 
single vision kindles throughout the individual being a par- 
ticipation in a single knowledge and a single desire. 

Poete, 172 


GLORY (Outer Light): The outer light is the clarification 
of its own nature which our own soul provides by shining out- 
wardly, like a metal under the blowpipe, and also the light it 
sheds on the surrounding context, like a letter in a word. This 
light which proceeds from each of us, albeit kindled at a 
single source is, insofar as it represents individual testimony, 
of infinite variety. This is why the Bible compares the right- 
eous to the stars without number, which differ from one an- 
other in size and quality and which God nevertheless knows 
and calls like sheep, each by its own name. 

Poete, 173 

And Life Everlasting 

Void Jerusalem qui est constmite comme une cite! 
Void la vision de la paix ou toutes les larmes sont essuyees. 

Odes, 198 

* e lx WOULD be a great tempta- 
tion for me to dwell on those 
prospects of the future life which 
the continual meditation of a long 
life has afforded me." So writes the 
octogenarian poet after long and 
profound reflection on a subject 
worthy of his mind. Beyond the 
finite creation he sees divine in- 
finity; beyond time he surveys 


eternity. Naturally, Claudel is well 
aware that his human vision is 
limited, and that no man knows 
"what things God has prepared for 
those who love him/' He remains 
humbly on the brink of the un- 
fathomable abyss which is the 
mystery of the Beyond, but his 
faith and his hope, illumined by 
prayer and the reading of the Holy 

And Life Everlasting 

Scriptures, have already shown 
him splendors in which he dreams 
of losing himself. 

What do we mean by Life Ever- 
lasting? It is the joy without end 
resulting from our possession of 
the very life of God. The Bible 
refers to it by various names: 
Kingdom of Heaven, Heaven, 
Paradise, New Jerusalem, My 
Father's House. 

What is the nature of this life? 
Christ has told us in the Gospel; 
"Now this is everlasting life, that 
they may know thee, the only true 
God, and him whom thou hast 
sent, Jesus Christ." [John 17:3] 
This knowledge will be total, not 
fragmentary or superficial as is 
our earthly knowledge of things; 
it will be a veritable possession of 
the Truth which is God, and a par- 
ticipation in His divine life. "We 
will be like gods," because we will 
see God in His very essence. The 
glorious light in which He will 
clothe us will enable us to know 
Him as He is. 

We will also know the merits 
and the splendor of our fellow- 
elect, the saints, and the blessed 
Virgin Mary. We will be able to 
communicate with them directly, 
by a mere glance, a mere touch: 
their joy will augment our own, 
and no fear of loss will over- 
shadow it. We will automatically 
be rendered immune to all ills, 
spiritual or physical. It will be 
beatitude total and without end. 

Utterly united with Christ, its 
Head, we will realize the won- 


drous harmony of the mystic 
Body, as well as our brotherhood 
with it, in sinu Patris. Thanks to 
Him, Claudel tells us, we have "a 
draft from God, signed with the 
blood of Jesus Christ." (Toi, 29) 

The first condition of our ad- 
mittance into heaven will nat- 
urally be to have undergone the 
bodily death and all the struggles 
that it presupposes. No earthly 
body is received in heaven. We 
must have cast it off, 'layer by 
layer, as the insect frees itself of 
its chrysalis." (Epee, 187) All in- 
firmities will be healed, only the 
martyrs will retain on their glori- 
fied bodies the stigmata of their 
victory. As for those who have not 
had to shed their blood for Christ, 
they must have paid all their 
debts as a prerequisite for admis- 
sion. No one enters into the House 
of the Father who does not wear 
the bridal gown of innocence, 
whether preserved or regained. 
But then there will be "immersion 
in the joy divine . . . the inex- 
orable sea which lifts, floods, and 
submerges all" (Poete, 229) 

And then shall the soul cry, "O 
Infinite! There is nothing in my 
heart strait enough to contain 
you!" (Isaie, 96) Erimussicut dei! 
We will be like gods, "having em- 
braced our Cause." There will be 
not one of the divine motions "in 
which we do not participate." 
(Poete, 163) "We will share in 
each of the creative acts of God, 
and feel its effect on our very sub- 
stance" (Ibid.) "Then I shall 


know even as I have been known." 
[I Cor. 13:12] 

"What is human love with its 
most ardent delights," asks Clau- 
del, "in comparison with this di- 
vine ravishment, like lime seizing 
sand, and what death . . . grants 
so fatherly and so loving a gift?" 
(Art poetique, 181) "Beatific un- 
ion, that great sacrament of the 
wedding of God and His Church, 
of which marriage is the fruitful 
and sacred image." (Sophie, 89) 

"Our ear will be pressed to the 
heart of God ... we will be with 
the Love that invites all things to 
itself. ... we will embrace every 
divine gesture with a pure intel- 
ligence and a swift and subtile 
will." (Poete, 164) 

"In the sight of God, I will be 
all flame!" cries the poet in a burst 
of lyricism, "I will awaken in the 
fullness of my name." (Emmatis, 

Commenting for a bereaved 
mother on St. Gregory's book, De 
vitro et auro, Claudel celebrates 
the transparency of the souls of 
the blessed which will enable us to 
"absorb them in a single glance" 
and to admire their golden splen- 
dor. (Contacts, 48) 

This splendor will be that of 
divine charity, diffusa in cordibus 
nostris, that theological virtue 
which will continue to exist in 
eternity, while faith and hope will 
fall away of their own accord. Di- 
vine love will kindle praise in the 
hearts of all the blessed. Not one 

I Believe in God 

will be able to escape this sublime 
chorus in honor of the blessed 
Trinity. Each "will himself be- 
come a harp," writes the poet: "O 
arpeggio! true and mighty com- 
mandment! O endeavor supported 
by weight!" (Poete, 168) But this 
harp plays in concert with all the 
others, "all are necessary" to swell 
this numberless chorus in which 
the blessed Virgin, seraphs and 
Archangels sing. 

However lofty the poet's flights, 
he knows that they are mere stam- 
merings compared with what 
awaits us in the heavenly king- 
dom, and in his heart he feels only 
a great longing to be there. What 
could be more moving than the 
invitation which he sees in the 
starry sky, image of his future 

"When will it be my turn to 
leave? When will I plunge head- 
long into the mathematical Para- 
dise? . . . How much longer must 
I remain bound to this dismal 
shore where my nostalgia has no 
wings save the compass, and my 
slow pencil scratches a few que- 
ries in the margin of my naviga- 
tor's log?" (Presence, 245) 

"Weep for wonder! Weep for 
God!" (Cantique, 288) 

"I know that the Joy exists!" x 

"Blessed are they who are called 
to the marriage supper of the 
Lamb." [Apoc. 19:9] 

'Ode jubttaire pour le Centenaire de 

And Life Everlasting 285 

Beatific union, that great sacrament of the wedding of 
God and His Church, of which marriage is the fruitful and 
sacred image. 

Sophie, 89 

How many times have I been sorry to see St. John's 
descriptions in the Apocalypse taken literally. The author is 
continually warning us that they are there only as exercises 
for our minds. And how many times have I also been sorry 
not to see made available to believers (who after all are hu- 
man beings in need of joy and consolation) those sublime 
chapters of St. Thomas which are the crown of his theology, 
in which he expounds the deific Vision. 

Discours, 40 

Consider that familiar sentiment which sums up the 
passionate yearning of a whole group of pious souls: "What a 
sorry thing the earth is when I consider the heavens!" To this 
group I would like to propose its converse: "How magnificent 
heaven must be to have such an ealrth for its introduction and 
anteroom!" And indeed faith and Scripture provide us with 
many insights into the future abode of our bliss which present- 
day preaching is perhaps guilty of overlooking. 

Discours, 39 

The great reality is that longing for joy and happiness 
which is not satisfied in this life. It has the clear-cut, spon- 

286 I Believe in God 

taneous, and profound quality of a need, and we have no more 
reason not to trust it than not to trust the appetite which tells 
us we must eat. 

From this source flows all of Christianity; the pagan 
sees no pathway between God and Man, and despairs, as is 
natural, but the Christian has a draft from God signed with 
the blood of Jesus Christ; he has definite rights, a belief, and a 

There is no longer anything but Being, there is nothing 
which can resist this summons from the perfect to the im- 
perfect which we call Love. 

All things die, but they die in God, like a child breath- 
ing his last on the breast of the beloved Father who holds him 
in His arms. In such a death there is joy. 

Toi, 29 

The Great Day of Reconciliation 

When man's earthly role is over, so also will be the 
earthly role of Nature. When Humanity has been reconciled 
with itself and forms a single whole throughout the continuity 
of its duration, so will it be with the Creation, whose meaning 
will not be fully clear until it is complete. 

The day will come when the reign of apparent chance 
(what the Preacher calls vanity), of corruption, of violence, 
of cruel necessity, and also of mystery, of secret suggestion, of 
the figure of speech and the indirect allusion, will be at an end, 
when the Source will have rejoined the totality of its conse- 
quences down to the very last one, and when the whole Crea- 
tion, unified in time and space, will offer its Creator, in the 
sacrament of the figure Twelve and the vision of its Cause, 
the full revelation of its meaning! Dies ilia, this will no longer 
mean day of Wrath, day of judgment, but the day of recon- 
ciliation! Between the Creator and His work there will be a 

And Life Everlasting 287 

covenant without end which St. John describes as a wedding. 
"You would call, and I would answer you; you would esteem 
the work of your hands." [Job 14:15] 

Apocalypse, 190 

Thoughts Turned Toward Eternity 

The sea is something which is healthful and necessary 
to our physical well-being. Are not excursions organized every 
year to allow city dwellers to breathe this free and invigorat- 
ing air? Why, then, would it not be permissible to organize 
from time to time a little expedition in the direction of 
eternity, whose climate, after all, should not be too rarefied 
for Christian lungs? For how could we have that desire to 
sing, which St. Paul saw as the sign of a clear conscience, if we 
did not hear deep within ourselves the prompting murmur of 
that ocean where the verses of the Bible break one over the 
other, like giant waves endlessly stirred and lifted by the 
breath of the Holy Spirit? 

Sophie, 220 

No! The living soul will not remain forever the prisoner 
of death: unable to bear it any longer, in the end it will rise 
up, and out of the violence of its longing it will utter the cry 
of the Psalm of the Epiphany: "Let us throw down the yoke; 
let us break the bonds/' 

In a frenzy of trust and despair the living soul will 
rush blindly, without feet, without hands, toward the ex- 
cruciating light and toward eternity run like a little baby 
whose crying must be stilled. 

Corr. Snares, 51 

288 I Believe in God 

Longing for Heaven 

When care and study have darkened the spirit, I wan- 
der on the shores of the starry Heavens and I converse with 
these points without number which rise from out of the In- 
finite to lap my feet, wave after wave. Glorious populationsl 
Riches which in filling our hearts to the brim serve only to 
whet their desire! 

When will it be my turn to leave? When will I plunge 
headlong into the mathematical Paradise? When, yoking my 
impulse to these giant intersecting forces, will I embark at 
last on this intellectual Sea and fix a steady course toward 
these constellations ranged above me which hold their alge- 
braic tower poised in the blackness? In vain you try to dis- 
suade me by speaking of billions of light years and of that In- 
finite multiplied by Eternity which surrounds me on all sides. 

I swallow all your computations in a single draught. 
This is not something strange or fearful to me; this is where I 
belong, this is what I was born for, this is my home. Here at 
last is the deathless country where I know that finitude has 
been freed forever by distance. I have been granted unlimited 
entry into something at once populous and utterly deserted, a 
Sahara luminous in pitch blackness, made up of millions of 
grains of sand, and I know that over there lies my true native 
land. Be it bottomless void or infinite number, both are to the 
measure of my desire. How much longer must I remain bound 
to this dismal shore where my nostalgia has no wings save the 
compass, and my slow pencil scratches a few queries in the 
margin of my navigator's log? 

Presence, 244 


Christians are instructed to desire heaven, and this 
desire, like any other, should involve not only the mind but 

And Life Everlasting 289 

the whole person, which is made up of the soul together with 
the body. We must desire God whom the Pater Nosier tells us 
is in heaven, and accordingly we must also desire Heaven 
which is His dwelling place, a certain sphere common to us 
both. "Where I am," says St. John, "there also shall my servant 
be." But how can we truly desire from the bottom of our 
hearts and bowels, even with the help of Grace which does 
not contradict nature but brings it to perfection, something of 
which we cannot form an idea, let alone a concrete image? 
This was the motive of the Eternal Wisdom which, having it- 
self become flesh, has spoken to us only in parables, not avail- 
ing itself of reason, but teaching us the language of those 
things around us which from the day of their creation have 
never ceased to speak. 

Positions 1, 172 


It is a great blessing for a man to have had the op- 
portunity to try his strength against eternity. 

Apocalypse, 206 


Our Election Is Gotfs Mystery 

Divine grace works in such an inscrutable way ("two 
women will be grinding at die millstone, one will be taken, 
and one will be left" [Matt 24:41] ) that it could give a few 
lessons to chance and the thunderbolt! And we remember the 
Parable of the Marriage Feast in which the king, angry at all 
these distinguished people who refuse his invitation, sends 
his servants to the subway exits and the doors of factories and 
department stores to force people to attend, to collect indis- 
criminately whoever comes along. 

Apocalypse, 33 

290 * Believe in God 

Free Gift 

Let us note first of all that the happiness which the 
Blessed, redeemed by the blood of Christ, will enjoy in 
heaven, and which will endow them with some version of the 
divine powers, is not natural but supernatural; that between 
our nature and His there is a relation not of necessity, but of 
love. This is not the result of Justice, but of Grace. 

Positions II, 92 


Between our works and the eternal weight of glory 
there is a fundamental disproportion, a difference not only of 
degree but of kind. We can no more earn the kingdom of 
heaven than a road worker by breaking rock can earn the 
kingdom of France. Naturally, where no claim is in force, a 
covenant is possible, There is nothing to prevent God from 
establishing a conventional relationship between our deeds 
and His mercy. If we will, we can have all the advantages 
on our side. But naturally, again, the Lord will not allow His 
mercy to be confined by any covenant: "Have I not a right 
to do what I choose?" it is written in the Parable of the Labor- 
ers. [Cf. Matt. 20:1-15] "Or art thou envious because I am 

The kiss 2 is gratuitous. Nothing can change the sacred 
quality of the kiss which is by definition gratuitous. This does 
not prevent there being a posteriori, in the eyes of the angels, 
in the eyes of the angelic intelligence, a sort of nexus between 
the old man and the new man, between the earthly man and 
the heavenly man, as it is expressed in Corinthians [I Cor. 
15:48], between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Apostle, nor 

8 That is, grace. 

And Life Everlasting 291 

does it prevent God from continually resisting the temptation 
to have on His heart as much virtue as is rightfully His. 

Canfique, 454 

To Answer Christ's Call 

Arise, we must get up, and leave this dull stupor; we 
must leave our habits, we must leave our bodies! Above all, 
we must not neglect our lamps, 3 for if we do not have this 
glimmer, however faint it may be, to light our way, what will 
we do? how will we see, I do not say the face but the feet of 
that fearful and beautiful person who comes to us in the night 
and who says He is our bridegroom, and how will He, in turn, 
be able to find us out? How will He see us? The electricity is 
no longer functioning. We no longer have anything to dispel 
the darkness but what we hold in our hands and refuel with 
our souls. 

Apocalypse, 375 


Meeting God 

The body must perform its own little task of disintegra- 
tion until nothing remains but the mineral framework. It will 
have all the time it needs. But the soul, if you please, once dis- 
engaged from this costume whose sleeves are removed one by 
one, what does it do? What does it become? 

The Church tells us that it comes immediately into the 
presence of God, that it is judged as if by its own weight with 
a hydrostatic precision, and that it finds its level of justifica- 
tion or condemnation. Such words come easily, but make 
the ink congeal in the tip of my pen. 

My God, You know that I have a boundless desire to 
see You, and that I also have a horrible dread! "Who will hold 

* An allusion to the parable of the Ten Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13. 

292 I Believe in God 

me up?" says die Psalmist. How am I equipped, how am I 
framed to face the terrible experience of enduring Your 
presence? We cannot shed our skin in a day. How, stripped 
of armor and of body, will I swallow all this newness and vast- 
ness which is thrust upon me all at once, and this intolerable 
assault of the Absolute on my limitations? 

Epee, 145 


Flight of the Soul 

And then comes the moment of final separation, of the 
second death, when the soul, victorious at last, in an ecstasy of 
indignation, tears its garment from top to bottom and shrugs 
off this dead husk which until now has been fastened to its 
limbs. The sword has burst forth from its sheath! "The earthly 
man/* that shabby garment which has been patiently de- 
tached and destroyed and from which we have emerged layer 
by layer, like an insect half out of his chrysalis, has given way 
in one or two places. Suspended, screaming, torn between this 
double pull of heaven and earth, the soul abandons its shell 
to the claws of Potiphar, and like that aquatic fly which uses 
its castoff skin as a raft, now strengthened, fortified, finally 
takes its flight toward the sun, 

Epee, 187 


Christ Delivers Us from Evil 

"He has led captivity captive," 4 and like Samson who 
bore on his shoulders the gates of Gaza, He has left below 
those other broken gates which have not prevailed against 
Him. [Matt 16:18] He conveys with Him to heaven those 
very obstacles of matter and flesh which held us prisoner, and 
which inhibited our vision and our movement. It is matter 
which was made to be penetrated, dominated, and utilized by 

* Christ in His Ascension. 

And Life Everlasting 293 

spirit, and not spirit, inversely, winch submits unwillingly to 
this temporary outrage. 

Poete, 166 

The Soul Relieved of the Body's Weight 

Our heart has stopped and here at last is what has hap- 
pened to us: our cross has been lifted from our shoulders and 
lies there on the ground. For now it is undone until the day 
of Resurrection, when we must again put on this armature, 
burdensome or buoyant, opaque or radiant: that secret agree- 
ment which our soul had plotted with the body, that machine 
for manufacturing the self to whose conditions we have had to 
submit and whose possibilities we have had to exploit all our 
lives, the heritage of our parents and the argument of Prov- 
idence, a subtle master of invitation and denial. Now we are 
rid forever of this sly and unreliable servant, this demanding, 
stubborn, and dishonest partner, now grimly forbearing, now 
ridiculously rebellious. But for his part, if Corpus could speak, 
he would have something to say to us. We have given him 
green apples to swallow, as he uncouthly puts it. 

Poete, 215 


The True Faces of the Children of God 

Vita mutatur, non tollitur* 

Our life is changed, it is not taken away. It is not 
enough to say that it is restored to its most characteristic and 
essential form. You have noticed that in the lives of those we 
love there are moments when they seem to us to be "them- 
selves," when they express the best that is in them: these are 
the moments we like to remember. These are the moments 

8 Preface to the Mass for the Dead. 

294 I Believe in God 

when they are more nearly "children of God," when they 
come closer to realizing the intention of the heavenly Father 
in calling them into existence. Well, we may imagine that the 
future life, which Our Lord described as a clarification, will 
be that of a person utterly illuminated by his soul. The Apoca- 
lypse tells us that "God will wipe away every tear from their 
eyes." [7:17; 21:4] 

It is not only tears that He will wipe away, but also 
whatever there is in us that is obscure, accidental, irrelevant, 
profane, and evil, leaving only understanding, love, good will, 
light, and fragrance. We will be washed from head to foot 
like a little child who is given his bath, who is soaped and 
wiped dry with infinite care. 

Contacts, 47 

Our Pains Rewarded 

The hour is now come for the marriage feast spoken 
of in the Gospel, the prodigious arrival of a human menagerie, 
this herd which, whether or not it is willing, the Angels have 
come to collect by the wayside in wagonsful. Just as the 
martyrs are said to take into the next world the glorious stig- 
mata of their sacrifice, so all these legions of the sick, and I 
do not mean only in body but in heart and in spirit, will be 
seen proudly flourishing their bandages and their orthopedic 

Cantique, 190 


The blind must thank their blindness that they now 
can see, the tubercular must thank their cough that they now 
can play the trumpet, the lame must thank their wooden leg 
that they now can dance, can dance like . . . the hills! Foi 
it is not venison and caviar and tarts as big as wagon wheels 

And Life Everlasting 295 

and wine by the Jeroboam which will be served at the prodi- 
gious table of the Infinite, but movement, only movement, 
this special kind of movement, this living and lived and know- 
ing ecstasy which each will assume like a garment! "Walk 
bravely in My presence, and be perfect." 

Cantique, 191 

Preservation of Our Faculties 

Some theologians regard the soul that has been sep- 
arated from the body as divested of everything that connects 
it to the material conditions of this life, including even mem- 
ory. What do they make of that statement in the Apocalypse 
that our works follow us? Where is remorse, with its biting 
precision, if there is no memory? And where the means of our 
purgation, or the "crown" of our sanctity? 

In the story of the Rich Man of the Gospel [Cf, Luke 
16:19-31], we see Lazarus' patron retain in the next world 
sensitivity, memory, speech, desire, thirst, and concern for his 
family. Will we be in any way diminished in our being, in our 
personality and in our knowledge by being profoundly drawn 
to the heart of our Cause, to that living and life-giving prin- 
ciple? "Then I shall know," says the Apostle, "even as I have 
been known." [I Cor. 13:12] 

Emmaiis, 130 


Invasion of the Divine Life 

Lo, it is at hand; after endless meanderings it is upon 
us at last, the invasion of this torrent of joy! It was released at 
the command of Moses' staff, the treasure of living water. [Cf. 
Numbers 20:6] The very floodgate of the deep has given way. 

This is the bottomless well of the void where we may 
quench our thirst. On all sides may be heard the booming 

296 I Believe in God 

thunder of these cataracts exploring its infinite depths. "Lo, I 
will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of 
the nations like an overflowing torrent." [Isaia 66:12] It is not 
that great body of water mentioned in Ecclesiastes one of 
those rivers like the Bekong or the Nile which supplies a vast 
irrigation system no, it is an inexorable sea which lifts, 
floods, and submerges everything. 

Poete, 229 


"But where the offense has abounded, grace has 
abounded yet more." [Rom. 5:20] It submerges all, floods all, 
lifts all, cleanses all, removes all stain. 

Poete, 230 


O Infinite, there is nothing in my heart tight enough to 
hold you! 

Ev. Isdie, 97 

We Will Be Like Cods 

From enslavement to sin, the false freedom which St. 
Peter calls a "cloak for malice" [I Pet. 2:16], from this sub- 
jection to space and external reality, we advance to enlight- 
ened adoption, to insight, to active, substantial, and total 
union with the true generative principle in the bosom of the 
Trinity. We are no longer with the effects, we are with the 
Cause. We are no longer with the clay earth, we are with 
those two omnipresent hands of the divine Potter. We are no 
longer with time, we are with the fount of life, we are with 
Him who overcame the World. 

In the person of our leaders, we have exhausted all 
the worst that death could do to us, and from now on we can 

And Life Everlasting 297 

cry with the Apostle, "Where is it, this vaunted sting?" [C. 
I Cor. 15:54^55] It is no more; death is forever "swallowed 
up in victory." 

The Kingdom of Heaven is promised to us not as sub- 
jects, but as rulers, as thrones on which Christians who are 
one with Christ will sit in judgment; that is, we will exercise an 
intelligent power, based on the authority of a living text. 

Poete, 166 

Participation in the 'Nature and Activity of God 

Henceforth there will no longer be any of God's works, 
or any action of the divine will in which we do not partici- 
pate, to which we are not linked in the past, in the present, in 
the future, and in eternity, by a type of profound understand- 
ing and by deep and intimate union. Through understanding 
our own origin, we will understand how God goes about 
creating and sustaining all things. We will share in each of 
His creative acts, and feel its effect on our very substance, 
that is, on the particular purpose that we fulfill. There is not 
one of these initiatives, not one of these morning visitations 
mentioned by the Psalmist, in which we are not involved. 

Poete, 163 

The Soul Embraces the Divine Witt 

We know that after death the soul will be brought face 
to face with God, and enabled to understand and embrace 
the divine will, according to that particular purpose which 
fathered it in true conformity with and in full awareness and 
intelligent possession of its Master and its Servant, the divine 
model, and to work and pattern itself faithfully and lovingly 
after Him. Hence that remarkable amoeba proteus which 
Paul Vignon tells us about, that blob of protoplasm which 

298 I Believe in God 

fashions for itself, at will, legs with which to travel and an- 
tennae with which to see and apprehend. 

From now on there is not a particle of the soul's vision 
or its liberty which does not serve its obedience; this is why 
it is compared to that tongue of fire quickened by the spirit 
which comes into being as a result of vibration. "He makes 
... his ministers a flame of fire." [Heb. 1:7] To express this 
intimate dialogue between the intelligent and articulate flame 
and the divine Word, the Psalmist employs this image: "The 
voice of the Lord strikes fiery flames/' [28:7] 

Poete, 168 


In disembodied souls, the attraction of the beloved 
Being does not operate, as the pantheists imagine, by means 
of a dissolution ending in a fusion, but on the contrary, by 
means of a confirmation of the delightful disparity, by a full 
and enlightened preservation of the form of the individual 
will, our love depending on the clarity of that particular 
image of the supreme Goodness in which God created us and 
which underlies our being. 

Cantique, 448 


Beatific Vision 

"Then I shall know even as I have been known," says 
the Apostle. [I Cor. 13:12] Then shall we see, as unity is seen 
in variety, the essential rhythm of that movement which is my 
soul, that measure which is my self. We will not only see it, 
we will be it, we will present ourselves in the fullness of 
freedom and knowledge and in the purity of a perfect love. 
From the bosom of the Lamb we will borrow our individ- 
uality, in order to have something to give to Him, In this 
bitter mortal existence the most poignant joys revealed to our 

And Life Everlasting 299 

nature are those which attend the creation of a soul by the 
joining of two bodies. Alas, they are but the lowly image of 
that substantial embrace when the soul, having learned its 
name and purpose, will surrender itself with a word, will in- 
hale and exhale itself in succession. O continuation of our 
heart, unutterable word! O dance divine! 

All carnal possession is of limited span and duration; 
what are its transports compared to this royal wedding? "You 
have made your people feel hardships; you have given us 
stupefying wine." [Psalm 59:5] What is the seizing of an em- 
pire or of a woman's body in a ruthless embrace in comparison 
with this divine ravishment, like lime seizing sand, and what 
death (death, our very precious inheritance) grants us in the 
end so perfect a sacrifice, so generous a restoration, so fatherly 
and so loving a gift? Such is the reward promised to all the 
righteous, and this unprecedented wage which amazes the 
workers of the parable. 

But in reality the dowry of each soul will difier from 
the next, like the will of which it is the embodiment, the pur- 
pose that gave it birth, and the one that gave it glory. 

Art poetique, 181 


Vision of the Divine Essence 

We will contemplate the first Cause of everything in 
us that has meaning. With an intelligence so pure and so en- 
lightened that it will have the immediacy of sensation, with 
an expenditure of our whole being, with a will as swift and 
subtle as the fiery flame, we will embrace every divine ges- 
ture, and will share in the creation of all that is created ac- 
cording to its kind, as far as the eye can see. It is thus, to 
employ an imperfect image, that powerful music seizes us, 
sweeps us away, and carries us along with it; drawing us 
utterly into this world which it creates, it imposes on us its 
tempo, its rhythm, and its melody, and compels us to con- 

300 I Believe in God 

tribute to that booming ocean of joy which perpetually rises 
and falls around it. Our blessed destiny is a perfect blending 
of our will with the divine activity, a participation in this su- 
preme council, this timeless conversation carried on by the 
Three Persons. 

We will be at the source; like St. John we will have 
our ear pressed to the divine heart, in that place vacated by 
Lucifer, to which the Prophet refers when he speaks of that 
throne once occupied by the King of Tyre "in the heart of 
the sea." And indeed, we will be at the center, at the heart 
of this vast movement, of this ebb and flow, of these universal 
tides of longing and of grace. We will be with the Love that 
invites all things to itself, and it is only then that we will 
fully understand the Lord's promise: "And I, if I be lifted up 
from the earth, will draw all things to myself." 

Poete, 164 


One look from the crucified Christ is enough to place 
all paradise within reach of a thief. It is enough to ordain 
Mary and through her, the whole Catholic Church, in her 
office of universal motherhood. Let us bear in mind what 
theology tells us about the direct confrontation, the deific 
vision which endows us with divinity and ushers us into the 
very bosom of the Trinity. 

Abraham, father of his people, was told to lift up his 
eyes and see. [Cf. Gen. 13:14] And Job: "I had heard of you 
by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you." [42:5] 

We see Him and He sees us with that life-giving eye: 
Ego, ego sum; ego vidi! And it is with our eyes that we place 
before Him the only thing that belongs to us, namely our 
imperfection. ("Your eyes have seen my actions" [Psalm 
138:16]), the thing He needed and which inspired this par- 
ticular gradation of His mercy, this gift which we borrow at 
the source of the Seven eyes. It is from the eye of the absolute 

And Life Everlasting 301 

Being that we draw permanence for this relative being which 
we are. 

Apocalypse, 224 


What we are talking about is that essential eye which 
the Sermon on the Mount tells us enables the clean of heart 
to see God simply by looking at Him. It is by cleansing it, 
saturating it with Grace, and purging it of congestion that 
one endows this life-giving heart with sight. Thus in Ezech- 
ieFs vision of the divine beasts, it is eyesight alone that en- 
dows them with movement, speech, and song. 

Apocalypse, 378 

At the fount of Life 

We are clothed from head to foot in the glory of God, 
we are an animate force of God, a word of God at work! 
Something precious, inestimable, irreplaceable, of which we 
must keep hold! There is only one way to give off light and 
that is to inhale life. 

Apocalypse, 265 


Transparence of the Souls 

The dead will be "as transparent as glass, as magnif- 
icent as gold," in the words of St. Gregory. We know only 
too well how impenetrable, during their lives, were those 
whom we love the most. We were obliged to take them by 
surprise, to guess them out. They frequently acted for com- 
plex motives which they themselves would have had trouble 
explaining. Our affection collided with these superficial de- 

302 I Believe in God 

fenses. We were powerless to clasp to our hearts what they 
themselves were powerless to give. 

After death, on the other hand, everything becomes 
clear, everything becomes legible and transparent, What St. 
James calls the shadows of alteration [Cf. St. James 1:17], 
this constant and misleading variation, will have disappeared. 
We will take in our loved ones in a single glance, in a single 
draught, in a single spiritual inhalation. 

Contacts, 48 


The Splendor of Souls 

When St. Gregory writes that the souls will be "mag- 
nificent as gold," he means that they will radiate in all direc- 
tions that truth which pervades them and which has made 
them free. On earth all things are evaluated according to 
their worth in gold; this is what constitutes what we call their 
exchange value. Similarly, death, like a blessed alchemist, 
transmutes everything in us that was good, but transitory, into 
a fixed and permanent value. Death lives by gold and swears 
by gold; he awakens in our hearts the dormant gold, that is, 
the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. He touches us with his 
wonder-working fingers, he turns our resignation and our 
good will into gold, and his figure casts a gentle glow over 
that path which we still must travel and that threshold which 
he has already crossed. 

Contacts, 48 


Understanding, Knowledge 

For the glorified creature, totally illumined by the 
Holy Spirit, ignorance is at an end. Everything relates to God; 
everything is part of His design. 

Ep6e, 260 

And Life Everlasting 303 


In the next life, when we will be permitted to dive into 
the text and read it at sight, we will clarify it, we will trans- 
late it in all its force and vigor, each in his own idiom. We 
will know by the same process as the one by which we exist; 
that is, no longer by means of an interpretation of signs, but 
directly, by means of a certain expansion, adjustment, inhala- 
tion, and exhalation of our whole being, transmitting a mes- 
sage, a code, around us like a star flashing signals. 

There will no longer be anything to hide us from view. 
Everything in us will have become luminous, vibrant, and 
legible. And in the same manner our knowledge of other, co- 
existing spirits, will be full and direct, thanks to that suspen- 
sion of the being (of which, as we have seen, this physical 
vibration is the image) on which every sensation will be 
registered. Not only will we be part of this numberless body 
of all our brothers in Christ, as the word (with the accent and 
the comma) is part of the sentence, but we will also know 
how to show them that, though separate in the sight of God, 
in a certain sense we exist only through them and they exist 
only through us. Not the slightest variation can be introduced 
into their essential and spiritual make-up without having an 
immediate effect on our own. Our fundamental diversity will 
publish joyously around us an invitation to unity. Around His 
throne we will all take part in a conversation without end. 
On all sides cause will speak directly to Cause, and will be 

Poete, 213 


Our soul, spreading her wings to the measure of her 
inspiration, invents the outward rendering of that rhythm 
which she draws up from the depths of her own nature. She 

304 I Believe in God 

hears herself talking to God, and presently the powerful well- 
ing up of a pure and serene thought succeeds this initial in- 

Let us entrust this musical angel within us with the 
responsibility of extending the range, of developing around 
the altar the eulogy and the praise, and providing this eternity 
which is our natural and acquired habitat with the inexhaus- 
tible metaphor of time. 

Poete, 184 


Vision of Heaven 

I am a student of a world where form no longer exists 
and where the senses in their superficial state no longer have 
anything on which to work. 

Here everything is reduced to one dimension and to 
the musical modification of this dimension which we call 
Time. For me it is Time which is the basis of all order and 
composition, which has become legible to my eyes by means 
of the innumerable landmarks provided for me, just as a mu- 
sical score becomes legible to the inner ear of the performer 
by means of those symbols crowded in apparent disorder but 
which provide the signatures of the successive staffs. 

Presence, 301, 302 


Here space has been transformed into a statistic. There 
is no longer any continuity or expanse, but only a sparkling 
of correspondences, a population of mathematical beings en- 
gaged in their reciprocal evaluation, related by comparisons 
of speed or proximity and by basic proportions which we ex- 
press on paper in terms of weight and mass. 

Presence, 304 

And Life Everlasting 305 

The Light of Charity 

"Then your light shall break forth like the dawn." 
[Isaia 58:8] Not like the inconstant light which illumines our 
night . . . your souls will be splendors as diverse as the mo- 
tives that called them into being; that is why they are com- 
pared to the stars, these numberless explorers of the Infinite 
... it is light, infinitely more delicate than all the organs of 
perception, which has become the organ of charity, of this 
species of touch, of sensation, of fraternal communication 
within the hive which enables them to give, and not just to 
give, but to give themselves. 

Poete, 176 

Our White Garments 

Those white garments we have heard about, we know 
what they are! White means light: "The whiteness of eternal 
light," says the morning litany. This is the stuff of our bap- 
tismal gown, the fabric which the angels wear clasped about 
their breasts with a girdle of gold. This is the cloth which 
heaven supplies to the wardrobe of the Holy Father. This is 
the linen closet where we would like to plunge our arms and 
draw forth those noble fabrics with which we would clothe 
ourselves in folds of glory! 

"Clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light" 
[Psalm 103:1-2], like the alb worn by newly ordained priests: 
clothed with that light which is speech, strength, severity, 
that garment which we fashion to cling to us like a skin, like 
a mane, like a magnetic field: "Strip off the old man with his 
deeds and put on the new, one that is being renewed unto 
perfect knowledge according to the image of his Creator/ 7 
[Col. 3:9-10] Our glorified body represents the collision of 

306 I Believe in God 

that light within, that creative purpose which we abuse, with 
the one that we inhale in great lungfuls from without. 

Apocalypse, 377 

The Glory of the Blessed 

Glory does not only shine forth, it is not only in us and 
above us as a triumphant source of light, expression, endur- 
ance, and movement, it is also something subtly and substan- 
tially wedded to the very basis of our mass. It is "weight" 
according to that idea which St. Paul offers to our considera- 
tion: "For our present light affliction, which is for the moment, 
prepares for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all 
measure." [II Cor. 4:17] 

Weight, in us, is a property much more subtle, more 
abstract, more intrinsic than all the other perceptible acci- 
dents. It is the center of our unity, the basis of our selfhood, 
the soul of our individuality. And what is more remarkable is 
that, while to all appearances so intimately and inseparably 
bound to the creature himself that it seems to be a measure of 
his size, proportion, and value, nevertheless the law of gravity 
informs us that it is merely the result of a traction or "pull" 
exerted by some outside force. 

At every moment we are being weighed against the 
whole universe whose invisible pull preserves our individual 
density and unity; not for a second do we escape the metic- 
ulous scales of Justice, those scales by which King Balthazar 
was once found wanting. It is this weight which smothers, 
oppresses, and dismembers the damned and keeps the blessed 
in their proper place in the bosom of eternal grace. Here as 
everywhere else, the measure of God seizes the measure of 
man in order to enrich and multiply it. It is a little like Pascal's 
principle of hydrostatics. 

Poete, 189 

And Life Everlasting 307 

Living Stones 

It is a commonplace of ecclesiastical rhetoric to speak 
of the Blessed as the very materials of which the City of God 
is built; whether we mean those hewn blocks which are the 
martyrs, or those unfinished nuggets which are the Innocents, 
or those other stones which have long been used, polished, 
and wrought. Here there is no eye which may not see, nor 
tongue which may not respond to the Word, nor anything 
capable of eternity which may not partake of the living God. 

In heaven, I daresay weight will prevail over all, for 
as St. Paul says, "our present light affliction . . . prepares for 
us an eternal weight of glory." This weight, this constant reck- 
oning of justness and justice, this absorption, this acquisition 
of Grace by nature for our eternal dower, will be like a sense 
that is an inherent part of us, a constant power of gravitation 
and of flight, a source of freedom, an infinitely delicate in- 
strument for the evaluation of the distance, size, and quality 
of all that advances or retreats toward or away from us. Is it 
not written in the Book of Wisdom that God has disposed aU 
things by measure and number and weight? [11:20] Thus the 
soul too must make use of the specific weight at her disposal 
that she may be aware of her movements from within and 
from without 

Apocalypse, 203 


Heavenly Transactions 

Who could believe that heavenly universe which 
awaits us to be less strongly and skillfully organized than this 
vale of tears? 

The garden into which we are admitted is given over 
not only to the irresistible obligations of love, but to the in- 

308 I Believe in God 

exhaustible discoveries of liberty and the triumphal wedding 
of the One and the Many. 

I have spoken of this new sense of weight with which 
we will be endowed. I wonder whether I ought not add an- 
other: Value. Each of us is like a piece of money, an accred- 
ited stock which is capable of redeeming all the rest. Dizzy 
transactions! When I search the starry sky, I seem to see one 
vast bank engaged in a monumental transaction of credit No 
unemployed money, no false economy here; everything is in 
constant use. Everything is being bought and sold. I purchase 
not only with my own value but also with the inexhaustible 
credit granted me by faith, which enables me to satisfy in full 
my infinite creditor, and to render to God the things that are 

This might be a way of explaining that rather strange 
parable of the Gospel concerning the lost drachma. A woman, 
after turning her house inside out, finds a penny one would 
not think this an occasion for great rejoicing. And yet this 
woman, in whom I see a symbol of Mary and the Church, 
when she has recovered this infinitesimal sum, is literally be- 
side herself. She wakes up the neighborhood. She flourishes 
the wretched copper aloft. "Rejoice with me," she cries. 

One would think that now there is nothing which is not 
within her means, that she is now in a position to purchase 
this whole world, not to speak of the next. And so she is! For 
this coin which bears on one side the likeness of some man 
is stamped on the other with the seal of God. 

Rose, 202 

The New Name 

Such is this new name mentioned in the Bible, this 
proper name by which we have been called unto eternal life, 
this unutterable name which always remains a secret between 

And Life Everlasting 309 

the Creator and us, and which is imparted to no other. To 
learn this name is to understand our own nature, to be sus- 
tained by our own raison d'etre. Like a word made up of 
vowels and consonants, our soul draws from God with each 
breath the fullness of its resonance. Thus, for the soul, birth 
will be identical with understanding, with a fully illuminated 

Art poetique, 180 

Our Activity in Heaven 

"My Father works even until now, and I work." [John 
5: 17] And, similarly, if we are one with Christ, our food will be 
not only to know the will of the Father, but to do it. Thus 
we see how childish and inadequate is that common concep- 
tion expressed by artists and poets in a naive or delightful 
style, the notion that the state of the blessed is purely con- 
templative, a state of emptiness. All these saints, all these 
heroes, all these great workers, these movers of heaven and 
earth, what? Are they to do nothing but stroll about, eat and 
drink (spiritually, of course), make music, and be waited 

How vastly I prefer the remark of little Therese, "I 
will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth." 

But why just on earth, I pray, dear sister? That ten- 
stringed psalmist's harp which I see in your hands is not just 
a musical instrument but a symbol of communication and 
action. Modern industry has shown us all that can be done 
with fibers. And the Blessed Virgin herself in highest heaven, 
what does she do but forever serve? Ecce ancilla Domini. 
And so with all the saints invoked not vainly, I imagine 
by our litaniesl 

Cantique, 209 

310 I Believe in God 


To Inhale God 

What will the saints do in Paradise, you ask, and I 
reply that they will be engaged in inhaling God, and God will 
be engaged in inhaling them. He will inhale their souls, let- 
ting them pass into Himself, and they in turn will inhale His 
Spirit, letting it pass into themselves. The Father lives the 
lives of His children, and His children live the life of their 
Father. "That all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me 
and I in thee." [John 17:21] Ego, ego vivo! says the Lord. 

Just as the life-giving gift of oxygen kindles in us intel- 
ligence and will, so the gift of God, that mysterious invest- 
ment of divinity, that spiritual and voluntary embrace of the 
creative principle, will kindle in us understanding and love, 
the love of our Maker and the love of all these indispensable 
brothers around us with whom we are One breath and with 
whom universal, Catholic we will commune every time 
we fill our lungs. 

Trois figures, 99 


Our Duty of Praise 

Our occupation in eternity will be the fulfilling of our 
role in the performance of the Divine Office, the maintenance 
of our everchanging equilibrium in the vast loving network of 
all our brothers, the raising of our voice in the ineffable moan 
of Lovel 

Art poetique, 192 


Singers in the Light 

In the presence of its Author, the soul experiences a 
sort of explosion, releasing, discharging, extrapolating every- 

And Life Everlasting 311 

thing with which life has burdened its inner consciousness, its 
inner form. That self-made consciousness will henceforth be 
irresistibly forced from its testimony. "I have brought out fire 
from your midst which will devour you," says Ezechiel 
[28:18], referring to the damned, It will devour the damned 
in the sense that the Holy Spirit, in reclaiming from them 
that breath which first gave them life, will encounter an 
irreducible obstacle, something which cannot be assimi- 

But as for the souls of the blessed, those who still have 
sin to expiate, bad workmanship to correct, it will be a heal- 
ing by fire: fire, brought carefully to bear on something re- 
duced from obstacle to fuel, will provide for their needs. As 
for the purified souls, when they have adjusted their pitch, 
they will begin to sing in the light. 

Cantique, 447 


The Language of the Blessed 

While our earthly existence is comparable to a broken 
and barbarous language, our life in God will be like poetry 
of the most exquisite felicity. For the word, as we have seen, 
is not just the sign of a certain state of sensibility; it is the 
measure of the effort we must make to form it, or, rather, to 
be formed by it. The poet, who has mastery over all words 
and the art of employing them, has the skill to arouse in us 
through a clever arrangement of the objects they represent, 
a mental state which is harmonious and intense, strong and 
true. But then we will all be "poets," composers of ourselves. 
This acute sense of our intrinsic prosody, the impossibility of 
escaping our own admirable meter will then be conferred on 
us directly without the accidental and empirical complement 
of spoken language. 

Art poetique, 190 

312 I Believe in God 


The Music of the Souls 

" Arise, my beloved, let me hear your voice," as I have 
taught you to hear mine, "for your voice is sweet." The soul 
has become pure praise and the "daughter of song/' Eccle- 
siastes' phrase [12:4] for that full-throated and melodious sos- 
tenato, or neume (pneuma}* the need for which was com- 
municated to her by night. She has been utterly transformed 
into a musical instrument; she no longer holds the harp in 
her hands; she is the harp. In herself she finds the scale and, 
from octave to octave, the way to ascend with infinite varia- 
tions from the lowest note to the highest. "Awake, O my soul; 
awake, lyre and harp!" [Psalms 56:9] It is not without reason 
that we speak of a man or a musical instrument as "true/* 

Poete, 177 


It is our very captivity which has become the theme 
of our rejoicing. It is our bonds which have become our wings, 
and our bewildered soul, like a prisoner playing happily with 
his chains, perceives to her delight the utter impossibility of 
escaping the divine joy. We shoot toward heaven like an 
arrow, we pounce down on our prey like an eagle, like a streak 
of lightning. O arpeggio, O unfurling of mighty wings! O full 
acceleration of power! O true and mighty commandment, O 
radiant liberty of all that now, far from ground, passes into 
the realm of air! All space is ours to erase triumphantly with 
the sign of the cross! 

Poete, 183 


Our whole life will be a presentation of ourselves to 
God in a sort of recitative without end. Free at last of its 

* Neume: sequence of notes sung to one syllable in plain chant. 

And Life Everlasting 313 

refractory element, the soul has begun to celebrate its being. 
Having attained justice and justness, having arrived at the 
true limit imposed by the law of its individual nature, it has 
become light. It diffuses itself abroad, it declares its own 
value, it broadcasts its spiritual weight in all directions, it 
hears itself pronouncing the name of God in its very own 
voice with an intonation that is eternal! 

By means of this sound and light which it produces, 
the soul discovers its own identity. It realizes itself fully in 
the process of uttering its own name. It understands, it con- 
firms the fact that it may draw indefinitely on its raison d'etre 
which is inexhaustible because it is none other than the will of 
God working in it and through it 

Cantique, 449 


The Communion of the Blessed 

It is through our weight that we will realize our own 
value in relation to God, and it is through the dance that, 
moved to the most profound, subtle, and active center of our 
gravity, to the very marrow of our bones, we will realize our- 
selves in a constant and ingenious improvisation with our 
brothers. Then we will seize them as they will seize us, and 
we will lead them, and we will joyously unite with them in 
a flaming pirouette. "For in Him we live," St. Paul has said, 
"and move and have our being/' [Acts 17:28] 

Cantique, 191 


The soul feels this total power, the initial shock not of 
God, who is an unchanging act, but of the mysterious diver- 
sity which simultaneously begets all the creatures bound to- 
gether by the blessed vision. The soul understands that she 
alone can never exhaust the gratitude she feels and that she 
needs the help of all other spirits in order to express it. Just as 

314 I Believe in God 

she sees in the particular act of love which created her the 
same necessity that implied the creation of other, complemen- 
tary spirits, so she needs their voices that she may raise her 
own. She sees in her divine origin that of all the other souls 
joined to him by a common love. She needs them all, all have 
their place in the economy of her well-being, from the Virgin 
and the greatest of the Angels down to the tiniest baby whom 
the midwife scarcely has had time to baptize. 

Art poetique, 183 

Reciprocal Communication of the Blessed 

Not only do the souls communicate with each other 
through God, but they carry on a direct communication 
among themselves. Just as body perceives body, and matter 
apprehends matter, so spirit discerns spirit. 7 

There is a spiritual equivalent of space in which "dis- 
tances'' are measured no longer by physical remoteness but by 
harmonic intervals. It is no longer through symbols but simply 
through their existence that the souls will communicate with 
one another. 

Art poetique, 184 


At no moment will I be permitted to withdraw my 
participation from the communion of the saints. At no mo- 
ment will the divine Mercy and Justice be permitted to dis- 
pense with me or with anything whatever that is capable of 
bearing them witness. 

Emmaus, 131 

f $t Gregory develops these ideas in his treatise, De auro et vitTO. Cf. also 
the text of St, Paul, "The Lord will both bring to light the things hidden in 
darkness and make manifest the counsels of hearts." [I Corinthians, 4:5] 

And Life Everlasting 315 

The Heavenly Banquet 

When the Holy Scriptures tell us that the citizens of 
the eternal Sabbath eat an invisible food, we may believe that 
this phrase corresponds to a reality; that it is not ( as indeed 
nothing is in the Bible) a mere literary device. If really and 
truly we are asked to believe that the body and blood of 
Jesus Christ are both food and drink not only nourishment 
for the spirit, but satisfaction for the appetite if it is true 
that "Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word 
that comes forth from the mouth of God" [Matt. 4:4], how 
can we suppose that in the next world there will be nothing 
corresponding to Eucharistic communion and that we will not 
be provided with "the bread of angels"? In that world we will 
meet the naked realities of which the physical manifestations 
of this earth are but the poor shadow and image. This is why 
the "table" which establishes a level among the guests is 
singled out as one of the essential pieces of the sacred furnish- 
ings. It is situated in the North, which represents immutable 
fixity. And around this table is celebrated that eternal Pass- 
over which the Lord longed to eat with us, and the very 
thought of which consoles us amid our troubles. "I shall be 
content in your presence." [Psalms 16:15] 

Poete, 186 


O trumpet which is both bread and wine! O first fruits 
of that inexpressible banquet where we are served the secret 
meaning of all that until then was but the pacifier of our 
physical senses! O marrow of all meat, sap of life, unblemished 
vintages! O sacred wine wrought by priceless fermentations! 

Ev. Isale, 92 

316 I Believe in God 

Multitude of the Blessed 

The Bible tells us that the Lord knows the number of 
His stars and of His sparrows and even the number of hairs 
on our heads. We have here such a variety of types, such a 
multiplicity of special cases, of personal experiences, and pe- 
culiar temperaments, that they confound classification. Even 
the old men who preside over the sifting of this human tide 
lose track of what they are doing. Who are they? asks one of 
them. All ages, all races, all places are represented; they come 
in abundance, new examples keep arriving in a steady stream. 

But now the Prophet no longer speaks of a mark im- 
printed on their flesh, but of a robe which they have been 
given and have washed in the blood of the Lamb, the same 
blood which has nourished that victorious palm branch they 
bear in their hands. This is the populus acquisitionis which 
has been rescued from the gloom of the sea floor and the un- 
certainty of the surface. As in the ancient Temple, it is an 
influx which no longer recognizes any distinction between the 
inner and outer sanctuary. Nor is it any longer a case of set- 
ting up three tents, as St. Peter proposed on Mount Tabor. 
It is His own tabernacle whose shade the Lord promises to 
extend to all this multitude. "How goodly are your tents, O 
Jacob!" [Numbers 24:5] 

Apocalypse, 32 


Contact with the Earth 

There remains to be examined what intercourse the 
disembodied souls can have with material things and with the 
spirits of the living. 

Man, like all creatures endowed with movement, ac- 
quires a direction and a meaning, a purpose and an end. 

And Life Everlasting 317 

Having a soul, he is aware of this purpose, but separated from 
God in this life he can only judge by appearances, by time 
which holds him prisoner, and by the various parts of the 
external world with which he comes in contact. 

But once separated from his body, he possesses in God 
alone the fixed point which determines his course, independ- 
ent of perceptible landmarks and bearings. He sees God 
whole, and in the mere fact of his existence he fully under- 
stands his distinctive essence or formative purpose. The pur- 
pose, or power, of a man (in the same sense as we speak of the 
"power" of a machine) is directed toward an influence on 
external things; from this influence proceeds sensation and 
movement which are the image to which the influence gives 
rise. The creature who is cut off from the vision can only turn 
to the image. 

Art poetique, 186 


The Role of Mary 

Mary, in heaven, helped God draw up the plans of 
this new Jerusalem; she laid its foundations. She was there 
when He made the Creation out of nothing, when He fathered 
forth the light, when He quickened these vast circular orbits 
with His Law, when He balanced the deep! 

Apocalypse, 191 



There, in the sight of God, I will be all flame; in His 
presence I will borrow all light! In His light I will kindle not 
only light, my own light, but the full perfection of body and 
soul whose primer I have been lisping too long in this low 
place. I will awaken in the fullness of my name. I will awaken 

318 I Believe in God 

in the fullness of my form, in the full awareness and the full 
mastery of my being. 

Emmaiis, 134 


Weep for wonder, weep for shame! Weep for joy! 
Weep for God! Weep for His mercy, weep for His power! 
Weep, weep, my beloved son! Weep for love, weep for joy! 

Cantique, 288 


Inhale me, O my God, and let me inhale You from end 
to end! 

Yoime, 127 


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