Wisdom

Wisdom has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town, ‘You that are simple, turn in here!’…
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me…

After her “complete conversion” Thérèse of Lisieux, the late 18th Century Carmelite mystic and “Little Flower of Jesus”, understood that she needed to stop striving to be good and instead accept her imperfections, trusting God to remove them in God’s time.  Thérèse came to see that imperfection is part of the human experience.

Striving for perfection only ever became identifiably Christian after the Church was “wedded” with empire in 313. Once aligned with the mind and will of empire and success, spirituality focuses on perfection, willpower achievement, performance and attainment. This “ladder theology” has undergirded much Western church doctrine since and only now are we beginning to shrug it off. It is not the way of Hebrew Bible Wisdom, nor is it coincidental with the teachings of Jesus and his early followers.

Shortly before she died, still aged only 24, Thérèse said, “I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence”. Her life’s quest: “I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus”. This elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

Imperfection or littleness, in all the great spiritual traditions, is not an enemy to human/divine being. Neither is it just to be tolerated, made excuses for, or even need to be forgiven. It is in fact the very theatre in which God makes Godself known and where he calls all created into gracious communion. It is the moments of clarity, in which our disability is laid bare for us, when we realise we are not the makers of our own virtue and never can be, that allow us – sometimes force us – to “fall into the arms of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31) and so live.

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Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (Born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897)

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~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on August 9, 2015.

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