It is beyond the power of any human mind to know or measure the depths of sorrow that filled the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing, however, we do know: that His sorrows were begotten of love; of love for His Father so offended by the sins of men and of love for men so helpless in their sins. The pain of this love is so intense that even in the moment of His greatest earthly triumph when He rides in royal state into the city of Jerusalem amidst the acclamation of the people, His wounded heart bursts forth in tears, and His sacred lips utter that most tragic of all lamentations: “If thou hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace: but now they are hidden from thy eyes”; and He goes on to foretell the destruction that was to come upon the city “because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation” (Lk 19, 41–44). His complaint is no new one. Twice we hear the utterance of this frustrated love that is breaking His Sacred Heart: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee; how often would I have gathered thy children as the bird doth her brood under her wings, and thou wouldest not!” (Lk 13:34, Mt 23:37). And it is not His own loss that touches Him so much as the loss which those who reject Him would suffer: “Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate.”
These are but instances of a sorrow that ran through His whole life. It is the sorrow of a lover who knew that He, and He alone, could give real joy and happiness to the heart of His beloved. It is the sorrow of a lover whose heart was on fire to give rather than to receive—whose ardent desire was that His beloved might have life and have it more abundantly. It is the sorrow of a lover who came down from heaven and lived on earth and was to die in order that a share of His own divine joy might fill the heart of His beloved. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He knew that but one thing was necessary, and it was to give His beloved this one thing that He delivered Himself and emptied Himself, becoming, “obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil 2:7, 8).
Throughout the whole of His life and death, one can trace the desire to convince us of His love for us and of our need of Him. And one should remember that His intention is not merely directed to humanity in general. He loves us as individuals, and died for us as individuals. Each of us can truly say with St. Paul: “He loved me, and delivered Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). If then our Lord thought it of such urgency for us to seek the kingdom of God which is within us, that He deliberately endured His terrible passion and death for each of us, we, on our part, must realize that for our own sake, as well as for His, it is of vital importance that we should endeavor to understand and to perform what He requires of us.
That is the purpose of these pages—to show what our Lord’s plan for our happiness is and to indicate how we are to cooperate in its achievement. What is written in this book is addressed to every Christian, especially to those who have come to feel the limitations set by their own human self, and who feel the need of something more than their own unaided efforts can achieve. For this book is the story of a partnership—a partnership between God and the human soul, which begins at baptism—a partnership which should, by the joint action of both partners, lead to an ecstasy of perpetual union in heaven. To perform one’s own share of the work, one must have knowledge. To live as a true Catholic one must have some idea of what a Catholic really is; to seek the kingdom of God, one must know something about it; to find Christ and live in union with Him, one must have the necessary knowledge, for knowledge must come before love. Knowledge, of course, is not enough; it must lead to action, to that action that is summed up in the two great commandments of love: the love of God for His own sake, and the love of our neighbor in God. But we are rational beings, and the service of God is a rational service. Too often do we find devotion based on mere sentiment and emotion, or on a foolish sort of faith that by defying reason approaches superstition. Moreover, God is supreme wisdom, and nowhere does His wisdom shine forth more remarkably than in His plan for our Redemption.
If then many pages of this book are given to an attempt to show the fundamental unity and connection of God’s plan, it is because the effort to grasp the fundamental principles underlying His work is well worthwhile. Once one has caught a glimpse of the meaning of God’s plan to restore all things in Christ, one has the key, not only to the whole history of the universe, but also to the history and destiny of one’s own soul. All the details of the spiritual life fall into their proper perspective, and the quest of perfection is seen to be both possible and reasonable for every Christian.
But the plan is a complex one. It ramifies from time into eternity and from eternity into time. It involves both the natural and the supernatural, closely interwoven. It joins Eden to Calvary, and connects Calvary with each moment of time. It involves realities that have no parallel in the natural order. One can only speak of it in metaphors, and yet the reality signified is far more real than the symbols used for its signifying. It is, in truth, God’s masterpiece. But our happiness here below and our eternal joy in heaven depend on it, and therefore, even if the plan be not an easy one to grasp, any trouble its comprehension may involve is well worth while.
The difficulty will be lessened if we note that this plan of God is of a piece. It has a unity of purpose and a unity of pattern which give an order to all its variety. As we said in the Preface, it resembles a crystal. The pattern of the whole is found in each of its parts, and in fact the parts are only incorporated into the whole by being made conformable to the whole—who is Christ. For Christ is all and in all. The whole Christ—head and members—resembles Christ the Head. Each member is an image of the Head, for each Christian is another Christ. And the bond between the members is like the bond that unites the whole; so much so that St. Paul does not hesitate to compare the union of two single members in marriage to the union of the Head with the whole Body. In fact, there is something “sacramental” in all the units of the pattern, in the sense that each member, and each member’s story, in some way and in some degree, resembles and reflects the Head and the story of the Head—and even the whole Christ and the story of the whole Christ. Each tiny chapter of the story re-echoes the end of the whole story so daringly summed up by St. Augustine: “And there shall be one Christ loving Himself.” For Christ saves us and sanctifies us by making us part of Himself, so that His story is our story also.
It is, in fact, a love story—the story of God’s love for man, and therefore our own love story. But the happy ending of the story depends on ourselves, and we must make sure of our part in it. Journeys end, they say, in lovers’ meetings; if so, life is, indeed, a journey, which ends not merely in the meeting of lovers, but in their eternal union. That eternal union which is the end of all, is modeled on the eternal union that is the beginning of all, and so to get a proper grasp of God’s plan for us it is necessary to go back to the very beginning.