TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE, Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
But if it is necessary to keep the commandments, it is equally true that this obedience is painful, that it weighs heavily on our fallen nature, that it is contrary to all our passions. And this extreme difficulty of observing the commandments is, alas! that which keeps such numbers of people from the paths of religion.
How is it then that Jesus Christ, when He ordains the law and fears not to present it to us as a burden and as a yoke, hastens to add, "My yoke is sweet and my burden light! " O sweet and profound mystery! The Saviour would not abrogate from the law which He imposes either one jot or one tittle,and yet with His Divine Voice He affirms that the yoke is sweet and the burden light.
Who will tell me the secret of this enigma, and how shall this wonder be accomplished? In the first place, I remark that Jesus Christ does not say, " The yoke and the burden of the law," but " My yoke and My burden." For the law He substitutes Himself. It is no longer the law that I bear, it is Himself. Ah ! who will dread to bear Jesus Christ ? Mary bore Him in her pure womb, and her heart leaped for joy.t Simeon carried Him in his arms, and he asked nothing more of the Lord.t When Jesus Christ presents Himself to me, giving me His law, it is He Whom I first see, it is He to Whom I attach myself, it is He Whom I embrace with love; and, forgetting the hardness of the law, I feel that my yoke is sweet and my burden light.
But for Jesus Christ to make me love the law, is it sufficient for me that He is one with it ? No. I ask further that He should unite Himself closely with me. And how does He unite Himself ? How does He come even to my heart ? How does He repose in my arms ? Is it necessary that I should teach you, O Christian soul ? You have said it with me : it is by the Holy Eucharist.
Yes, it is the Eucharist which gives Itself to us at the same time as the divine commandments, and, softening their hardness with Its infinite charms, It says to us, with all truth, these consoling words: My yoke is sweet and My burden light.
Consider, O Christian soul, the immense influence which the Eucharist exercises on the observance of the commandments.
But first, is there any need for me to remind you that It cannot Itself be a substitute for this observance ? Alas! how many pious souls delude themselves in this way ! The whole of religion consists according to them in the communion; and when they have knelt in the morning at The Holy Table, they easily imagine that their day has been Christian!
No, I repeat it, the essence of Christian life is, above all, the keeping of the divine commandments. Far from permitting us to neglect them, the Eucharist has that soul which is not faithful to them in horror; and the greater empire It gains over our heart, the more It seeks to make it obedient to the least requirements of the law.
But what will then be Its course of action, and what will It do to ease the yoke of the commandments and to lighten their burden ? I will tell you in three words. It is the desire for the Eucharist that leads us to keep the commandments; it is the strength of the Eucharist which maintains us in this obedience ; it is the charm of the Eucharist which makes us love it.