instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The extra step

In a prayer written down by her companions, St. Catherine of Siena developed the image of mankind as fruit trees grafted onto Jesus through our shared humanity. At one point, she pondered the problem of evil:
And if, God eternal, You made us into trees of life again when we were trees of death by engrafting Yourself, Life, into us
(though many because of their sins produce only fruits of death because they do not engraft themselves into You, eternal Life),
then You can provide as well for the salvation of everyone I see refusing to engraft themselves into You today.
In fact, most of them are persisting in their death of selfish sensuality,
and none of them comes to the fountain where they could find the Blood to water their trees.
I come across such sentiments all the time, if not usually expressed in so relentless a metaphor. Even the allowance that God can provide for the salvation of all the louts we run into today is something plenty of folks will grant if asked.

But then St. Catherine takes her prayer in a direction most of us don't:
Oh, within us is eternal life, and we do not know it!
Oh my poor blind soul, where is your crying?
Where are the tears you ought to be shedding in the sight of your God Who is constantly inviting you?
Where is your heartfelt sorrow for the trees who remain planted in death;
where are your anguished desires in the presence of divine compassion?
These things are not in me because I still have not lost myself.
For if I had lost myself and had sought only God and the glory and praise of His name,
my heart would pour itself out in my voice and my bones would weep out their marrow.
But I have never produced anything but the fruit of death because I have not engrafted myself into You.
If I had sought only God, my bones would weep out their marrow.