TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE,
Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
"Put me as a seal upon thy heart."— Cant. viii. 6.
WHAT a sweet and powerful influence the Eucharist exercises over our heart!
Can one imagine the Christian heart without associating with it the Eucharist ? Can one mention the Eucharist without thinking of what it is to the heart ? To speak at the same time of the Eucharist and the heart, this is not separating what God has joined together; and to meditate on the mysteries of the heart and on the mysteries of the Eucharist helps us to understand better both the former and the latter.
Our heart is the blessed soil where the Christian life germinates and grows. It is through the heart that we are Christians.
But what is the seed which enriches the soil of our hearts ? It is the holy Eucharist. This it is which, dwelling in us, teaches and fashions our heart to become more thoroughly Christian.
O Christian soul! in developing these two thoughts, I would speak to you of the connection, so full of delight, which God has been pleased to establish between the Eucharist and the heart. Before entering upon the details of the Christian life, it is necessary that I should speak of the two principal elements of it—the heart and the Eucharist.
If we would turn our thoughts from our talents to our deeds; these latter are, in truth, so insignificant, that they are not worth dwelling on. Our greatest works soon pass away from the memory of man; and which of our acts of everyday do we think likely to attract the eye and notice of God ? Happily, O Christian soul! what God looks at in us is the heart. (1 Kings xvi. 7.) I love to have it so.
I know not if I deceive myself, but it appears to me that, generally speaking, one has some heart, and that, always supposing one has a fairly good disposition, one shows it in a thousand ways. One loves a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a benefactor, a friend. It is then easy to love God. Thus, one of the Fathers says: "I do not desire you to run to the East to look for charity, to return to the West to find love. Charity and love have their dwelling within our heart."
What, in reality, is the heart ? The heart is that wonderful power in each of us which, by a kind of irresistible motion, forces us towards what seems right. No doubt, we may deceive ourselves as to what is good, but the heart itself tells us the chief good is God. The heart, then, is nothing else than that within us which inclines us towards God. It is true that our heart owes love also to all that surrounds us which deserves our affection, but subject to this condition only, that all that surrounds us, and all that we love, should lead us to God. Our heart may go here and there, may turn to the right hand or to the left. It matters not, if it go always in the same direction, if it follow always the same road—that which leads to God. The heart is the power we have of going to God.
This being the case, can we be surprised that God confides chiefly to the heart all that refers to religion ?
1. Religion has two great precepts, which comprise all the others, and which, according to the words of the Saviour, contain all the Law and the Prophets. They are two precepts of the heart: " Thou shalt love God above all things, and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke x. 27.)
2. The right state of the Christian sour,, that without which it is impossible to please God, the state of habitual and sanctifying; grace which, according to the saying of the-Angelical Doctor, is already the commencement of glory, this state is essentially a state of love, for it is nothing else than " the charity of God poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given us." (Romans v. 5.)
3. The whole Christian life maybe summed up in these two things : to believe with sincere faith the truths which God reveals to us, and to show the sincerity of our faith by our actions. But to believe and to act is to love. Faith reveals to us, it is true, inscrutable mysteries r but love comes instantly, and with gentle force inclines us to accept them. The Christian soul so loves her God that she hardly thinks that she does not see Him, and her burning love dissipates part of the darkness which surrounds her faith. To believe is to love; to act is also to love. The heart gives value to the action. Love begins the work, accompanies it, and completes it, for love is the fulfilling of the law, (Romans xiii. 10.) It is love that facilitates the action; she it is which makes the yoke easy and the burden light; and on this earth which was cursed, and where sin sowed only briars and thorns, Christian love makes flowers to spring up by all the paths which we tread. I have spoken of sin. What then is sin, O Christian soul ? A movement of our heart away from God; and the measure of the sin is no other than the extent of this departure from God. But the heart itself heals the wound which it has made. If it has the sad power of departing from God, it has also the power of returning to Him. One act of repentance, one act of love united with the Blood of Jesus Christ, is sufficient to make our heart Christian again.
Finally, not only does the heart make us Christian ourselves, but it also propagates Christianity around us. The heart is a great apostle, especially in family life. Mind and talent convert very few; the heart, on the contrary, makes splendid conversions. There, where argument fails, the heart persists and triumphs. See then, O Christian soul, how above all things it is necessary that your heart should be entirely devoted to God. It is true that all the powers of our being belong to Him, and according to the saying of David, our soul and all that is in us should bless His Holy Name; (Psalm cii. i.) but there is nothing in us more than our heart under the obligation of belonging to God. If you had the intelligence of the Holy Angels, and could you speak their language, if you did not love God, you would be nothing. The Christian soul is the Christian heart.
The Christian heart! Sublimest and most beautiful of all the works of the Most High. The Christian heart! A heart so elevated that, according to the expression of S. Paul, it can only delight in those things which are above. The Christian heart! A tender heart that willingly descends from the heights where it soars to the level of our miseries, in order to succour them. The Christian heart! A heart strong to endure all trials and all sufferings. Ah ! to form this beautiful thing it needed a Divine Hand! I mistake, it needed rather the heart of a God, the Heart of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist; this it is, O Christian soul, which creates the Christian heart.