A series of quotes from the Maritain’s tribute to Léon Bloy, Pilgrim of the Absolute. See this post for an intro to Bloy.
[THE SIN OF OMISSION.] I have often thought that the most dangerous injury to the soul is the sin of omission. The sin of action, however vast it may be, can be forgiven because Jesus has paid. But He has not paid for the sin of omission, which concerns the Holy Spirit. Here is a tormenting thought, especially at the end of your life, when you accurately remember certain circumstances in which you could so easily have accomplished certain acts God asked for, and which you neglected or formally refused to carry out.
That is my case. In this way, I am exactly on a level with the rich who could, without giving themselves the least trouble, have helped me to fulfill my mission, and who did not want to. All I can do is to weep bitterly, as did Saint Peter, who could have avoided denying his Master, and who obtained forgiveness only when the Holy Ghost fell upon him like a thunderbolt.
I AM GOING TO COMMUNION. The priest has uttered the fearful words which a fleshly piety calls consoling: DOMINE NON SUM DIGNUS . . . Jesus is about to come, and I have only a moment in which to prepare myself to receive Him … In a moment He will be under my roof.
I do not recall having swept clean this dwelling wherein He will enter as a king or as a thief, for I do not know what to think of this visit. Indeed, have I ever swept it clean, my dwelling place of unchasteness and carnage?
I give it a glance, a poor glance of terror, and I see it full of dust and full of filth. Everywhere there seems to be an odor of dirt and decay.
I dare not look into the dark corners. In the last shadowy places, I behold awful spots, old or new, which remind me that I have slaughtered innocents, and in what numbers, with what cruelty!
My walls are alive with vermin and trickling with cold droplets that recall to me the tears of so many unfortunates who implored me in vain, yesterday, the day before yesterday, ten, twenty, forty years ago …
And look! There, before that ghastly door, who is that squatting monster whom I had not noticed until now, and who resembles the creature I have sometimes glimpsed in my mirror? He seems to be asleep on that trap door of bronze, sealed by me and padlocked with such care, in order that I might not hear the clamors of the dead and their pitiful Miserere.
Ah! truly it takes God not to fear entering such a house! And here He is! How shall I greet Him, and what shall I say or do?
Even before He may have crossed my threshold, I shall have ceased thinking about Him, I shall no longer be there, I shall have disappeared, I know not how, I shall be infinitely far away, among the images of creatures.
He will be alone and will Himself clean the house, helped by His Mother whose slave I claim to be, and who is, in fact, my humble serving-maid.
When They will have gone, both of Them, to visit other dens, I shall return and I shall bring with me a new mass of filth.
My well-beloved sovereign, I do not know what it is to honor You in this or that of Your Mysteries, as has been taught by certain of Your friends. I want to know nothing except that You are the sorrowful Mother, that all Your earthly life was nothing but sorrow, infinite sorrow, and that I am one of the children of Your sorrow. I have placed myself at Your service like a slave, I have entrusted to You my temporal and spiritual life in order to obtain through You my sanctification and that of other men. Only in this way, under this title alone, can I speak with You. I lack faith, hope and love. I do not know how to pray and I am unacquainted with penance. I can do nothing and I am nothing but a son of sorrow. You know that long ago, more than thirty years past, in obedience to an impulse that surely came from You, I called down upon myself all possible suffering. Because of this I reason with myself that my suffering, which has been great and continual, can be offered to You. Draw from this treasure to pay my debts and those of all the beings I love. And then, God willing, vouchsafe me to be Your witness io death’s torments. I ask this of You by Your most tender name of Mary.
WE ARE CREATED THAT WE MAY BE SAINTS. If anything is written, this surely is. Sanctity is so required of us, it is so inherent in human nature, that God presumes its existence, so to speak, in each of us, by means of the sacraments of His Church, that is, by means of mystical signs invisibly making operative in souls the beginning of Glory. Sacramentum nihil aliud nisi rem sacram, abditam atque occultam significat. (A Sacrament is nothing other than a sacred, withdrawn and mysterious thing.) This sacred and mysterious thing thus alluded to by the Council of Trent has the effect of uniting souls to God. The most transcendent theology contains nothing stronger than this affirmation.
There are even three sacraments that imprint a character, and whose mark cannot be effaced. Thus we are virtually saints, pillars of eternal Glory. A Christian may disown his baptism, debar the Holy Spirit from his thought, and, if he is a spoiled priest, reject the succession of the Apostles conferred upon him by holy orders; in short, he may damn himself forever; nothing will be able to disunite him, to separate him from God, and what an unfathomable mystery of terror is this persistence of the sacred Sign even into the infinite pangs of perdition. Hence it must be said that hell is peopled with fearsome saints become the companions of the hideous angels!
However evil such saints or angels may be, they have God in them. Otherwise they would not be able to subsist, even in the state of nothingness, since nothingness, also inconceivable without God, is the eternal reservoir of Creation.
All that God has made is sacred after a fashion which only He could explain. Water is holy, stones are holy, plants and animals are holy, fire is the devouring likeness of His Holy Spirit. His entire work is holy. Man alone, who is more holy than other creatures, will have none of sanctity.
He considers it ridiculous and even insulting to his dignity. Such is, in the twentieth century of the Redemption, the visible and perceptible result of the unfaithfulness of so many shepherds, of the monstrous blindness brought about by those who should have been the light of the world, and who extinguished all light.
It is certain indeed that never, at no age of the world’s history, were men as far from God, as contemptuous of the Sanctity which He demands, and yet never has the necessity for being saints been so manifest. In these apocalyptic days it truly seems as though only a film of nothingness separates us from the eternal gulfs.***
“Not all men are called to saintliness,” says a Satanic cant phrase. To what then are you called, O wretch? and above all in our day and age? The Master said you must be perfect. He said it in an imperative, absolute way, giving to be understood that there is no alternative, and those whose duty it is to teach His word, by themselves presenting an example of perfection, ceaselessly assert that it is not necessary, that a reasonably trifling average of love is more than enough for salvation, and that the desire for the supernatural way of life is rash, when it is not culpable presumption.
Aliquam partem, “a certain portion,” they argue, debasing an expression in the Liturgy, a tiny little corner in Paradise, that is what we need. To this base retreat, to this formal denial of the divine Promise, they give a color of humility, cunningly omitting the heroic sequel to the two liturgical words, in which is specified that the “portion” in case is nothing less than “the company of the Apostles and the Martyrs.”
But cowardly minds and mediocre hearts can avail nothing against the Word of God, and the Estote perfecti (Be ye perfect) of the Sermon on the Mount continues to weigh upon us infinitely more than all the globes in the firmament.
Sanctity has always been required of us. In older days, it was possible to believe that sanctity was demanded from afar, like a debt due on a vague date, which might possibly lapse. Today sanctity is laid on our doorstep by a wild-eyed, blood-smeared messenger. Behind him, a few steps behind him, are panic, fire, pillage, torture, despair, the most frightful death ..
And we have not even a moment in which to choose!
[THERE IS BUT ONE SADNESS . ..] Today Clotilde is forty-eight, and looks as though she were at least a hundred. But she is more beautiful than before, and resembles a pillar of prayer, the last pillar of a temple wrecked by cataclysms.
Her hair has become entirely white. Her eyes, burned by the tears that have furrowed her face, are almost extinguished. Yet she has lost none of her strength.
Hardly ever is she to be seen sitting still. Ever journeying from one church to another, or from cemetery to cemetery, she stops moving only to get on her knees, and you might say that she knew no other posture.
Her head covered only with the hood of a great black coat which reaches to the ground, her invisible feet naked in sandals, upheld for ten years by an energy far more than human, there is no cold or foul weather capable of frightening her. Her dwelling place is that of the rain which falls.
She asks for no alms. She limits herself to taking with a very tender smile whatever is offered to her, and giving it in secret to the destitute.
Whenever she encounters a child, she kneels down before it, as did the great Berulle, and, with its pure little hand, traces upon her forehead the sign of the cross.
Comfortable and well-clad Christians, who are inconvenienced by the Supernatural and who “have said to Wisdom: Thou art my sister,” judge her to have a disordered mind, but ordinary people are respectful to her, and a few churchdoor beggarwomen believe her to be a saint.
Silent as the celestial spaces, she seems, when she speaks, to return from a beatific world situate in an unknown universe. This can be felt in her distant voice, which age has deepened without impairing its tender charm, and this can be felt even better in her words.
“Everything that happens is divine,” is her usual comment, with the ecstatic air of a creature a thousand times overwhelmed, who would find no other utterance for every movement of her heart and mind, were the occasion a universal plague, or were the moment that of her being devoured by wild beasts.
Although they know she is a vagrant, the police, themselves astounded by her power, have never sought to molest her.
After Leopold’s death — his body was never found amid the nameless and appalling ruins — Clotilde had sought to conform herself to that one of the Precepts in the Gospels the rigorous observation of which is considered more unbearable than even the torture of fire. She had sold all that she possessed, had given the proceeds to the poorest of the poor and overnight had become a beggar.
What the first years of this new life must have been like, God only knows! Wonders have been told about her which resemble those wrought by the Saints, but what seems altogether likely is that the grace was granted her of never needing rest.
“You must be very unhappy, my poor woman,” some priest once told her, after he had seen her bathed in tears before the Blessed Sacrament exposed — a man who happened to be a real priest.
“I am perfectly happy,” she answered. “You do not enter Paradise tomorrow, or the day after, or in ten years, you enter it today, when you are poor and crucified.”
“Hodie mecum eris in paradiso (Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise),” murmured the priest, who moved off overwhelmed with love.
By virtue of suffering, this pulsating and vigorous Christian found out that there is, above all for women, only one way of being in contact with God and that that way, that wholly unique way, is Poverty. Not that easy, beguiling poverty of complicity, which gives alms to the world’s hypocrisy, but that difficult, revolting, scandalous poverty, which must be succored without the least hope of glory and which has nothing to give in return.
She even understood — and this is not very far from the sublime — that Woman really exists only on condition of being without bread, without abode, without friends, without husband and without children, and that only thus can she force her Saviour to descend.
After the death of her husband, this beggarwoman of good will became even more the wife of that extraordinary man who gave his life for Justice. Perfectly tender and perfectly implacable.
Linked to every form of wretchedness, she was able fully to see the murderous horror of what calls itself public charity, and her constant prayer is a torch shaken against the mighty…
Lazare Druide was the sole relic of her past who still occasionally saw her. Here was the only tie she had not broken. The painter of Andronic was too upright to have been able to win the favors of fortune, whose age-old custom is to spin her wheel in filth. This made it possible for Clotilde to visit him without exposing to the mud of a worldly luxury her ragged vesture of a wanderer and “pilgrim of the Holy Sepulchre.”
At rare intervals, she came to inject into the soul of that profound artist a little of her peace, of her mysterious grandeur, then she went back to her vast solitude, in the midst of the streets swarming with people.
“There is but one sadness,” she told him, the last time she saw him, “and that is for us NOT TO BE SAINTS ..:’
[IN PARADISE.] The basis of Paradise or of the idea of Paradise is union with God starting in the present life, which is to say the infinite Distress of man’s heart, and union with God in the future Life, which is to say Beatitude. ***
Union with God is certainly achieved by the Saints, starting in the present life, and is perfectly consummated at once after their birth into the other Life, but that is not enough for them and it is not enough for God. The most intimate union is not enough, there must be identification, which itself will never be enough, and thus Beatitude cannot be conceived or imagined except as an ascension ever more lively, more impetuous, more thundrous, not toward God, but in God, in the very Essence of the Unbounded. A whirlwind of the knowledge of God without end or surcease, which the Church, speaking to men, is forced to name Eternal Rest!
The raging multitude of the Saints is like unto a vast army of cyclones, hurling itself upon God with a blast able to uproot the nebulae, and this for all eternity …***
It will be a firmament of differentiated, inconceivable splendors. The Saints will rise to God like lightning, supposing that lightning doubled itself in strength, second by second, forever and ever, their charity ever growing along with their brilliance — ineffable Stars who will be followed at an enormous distance by all those who will have known only the Face of Jesus Christ and who will have been unaware of His Heart. As for the others, the poor Christians called practicing, the observers of the easy Letter, yet not perverse, and capable of a certain generosity, they will follow in their turn, not being lost, at a distance of billions of lightning flashes, having previously paid for their places at an unutterable price, but joyful all the same — infinitely more so than could express the rarest lexicon of happiness – and joyous precisely at the incomparable glory of their elders, joyful in depth and in width, joyful as the Lord when He finished creating the world!
And all, as I have said, will climb together like a tempest without lull, the beatific tempest of the endless end of ends, an assumption of cataracts of love, and such will be the Garden of Delights, the indefinable Paradise named in the Scriptures.