TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE,Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
So, then, the heart which falls into sin gives up at once both this religion and this tenderness ; it shrinks within itself, it is hardened. I do not wish to dwell upon this. Experience, alas! proves it better than my words, and Holy Scripture itself expresses my thought, "as a dove that is decoyed, not having a heart."
Where, then, shall we recover true tenderness of heart, if not at the tabernacle ? This is the torch by which all holy fires are lighted; this is the common centre where all souls are united : the hardest hearts are softened in its presence. Remember these prophetic words, which the Lord formerly spake by Ezechiel: " I will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh." It is the God of the Eucharist who fulfils this comforting prophecy. Sin, in fact, had given us a hard stone in place of a heart; and if one cast one's eyes upon the history of the Pagan world, one sees that it had only a heart of stone. But Jesus Christ appears. He institutes the Eucharist; and hardly had the faithful partaken of the celestial Food, than everywhere it is said, on beholding them, " See how they love one another." In place of the hard stone, the Eucharist has given us a heart of flesh. And—we must not deny it—again, a third defect of the heart, and unfortunately the most common of all, is weakness. Alas! to fall, the heart need only be weak; to rise, it must be strong. The Christian life necessitates strength. Virtues to practise; trials to endure; temptations to overcome; painful duties which must be performed every day; sacrifices to be made every moment—these are the proofs which God requires of us, and there is not one of them which does not need much courage. O Christian soul, fear nothing! The God of the Eucharist can impart to you this strength and this courage. Listen how He speaks to one of the souls who loved Him best, to the Spouse of the Canticles: " Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm."
On thine heart, that it may be tender; on thine arm, that it may be strong. " Put me as a seal." Remark these words, I pray you. "Put me as a seal," so that I may be attached to Thee, may be filled with Thee, may be identified with Thee. O wonderful seal of the Eucharist, which is not only the impression, not only the device, not only the image of the Prince of our souls, but it is this well-beloved Prince Himself! When He has put His impression on our heart and on our arm, our heart and our arm no longer belong to ourselves. It is no longer our heart that loves, it is Jesus Christ that loves in us. It is no longer our arm that acts, it is Jesus Christ that acts in us. He places Himself upon our heart, and we love; He leans upon our arm, and we are strong. But He only strengthens our arm because He has warmed our heart. It is our love that is our strength, that drives away all our fears, that conquers in all our trials, that triumphs over all our sufferings, that makes us strong even against death,—A sweet thought this, O Christian soul, that it is the Holy Eucharist which creates the Christian heart! Perhaps it is an entirely new heart that It will have to create in you ; but It fears not this labour. Your heart will be docile, and the Eucharist will fashion it; and so you will have learnt by your own experience the sweet secret that I have tried to reveal to you in these pages. It is this : that God has of His goodness made the Eucharist for our heart, and our heart for the Eucharist.