The demands of perfect adoration
Cooperators of God in his light
Making glory to God
We have considered* the soul that has come to the full development of supernatural life, to that fullness that realizes heavenly Father’s desire revealed explicitly by his divine Son, to that state that must be the object of our only ambition.
Our Lord Jesus Christ — who, as the psalm says, was placed “at the head of the book”1,that is the eldest son of every creature — has given no other end to his mortal life. In the Incarnation, in all the actions of his earthly pilgrimage — humiliation, preaching, miracles, prayers, suffering, death and resurrection — his only purpose was to give his Father all the glory that his holy humanity was capable of offering him. And his zeal was not limited to this personal effort: he expressly wished to commit with him all those of whom he was made head; and did so by example and word, revealing to us the hidden designs and secret desires of the Augustan Trinity.
In the Savior’s earthly pilgrimage there is a particular fact, which in this perspective assumes a specific importance and therefore deserves to be studied down to the smallest detail. 2 The Lord, to go from Judea to Galilee, crosses Samaria and, tired of the journey, stops at jacob’s well. He is tired, and with this effort, at the same time real and deliberate, he wanted to demonstrate to everyone the reality of his human nature and his will not to resort to the miracle at every turn.
The closeness of that well has favored the Lord’s rest; in the time of the symbols, in fact, the wells had been, not without mysterious reasons, the favorite places to conclude alliances. The hour of noon, that is, of full sunlight, was the designated time for this new revelation of the Father’s secret drawings.
Through the psalmist he had sworn not to take any rest until the day he found a temple for God: “… until I have found a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.”3 But today, when the hour has come and the fullness of time, he sits on the path of the wanderers to await humanity. And this is not long to appear, unconscious and stained, in the person of the woman of Samaria to whom he deigns to ask for a drink. But what can poor sinful humanity offer to calm the thirst of its Creator?
The Divine Offering
This request, therefore, full of deep mystery, bewilderment and wonder the woman. Through the veil of ignorance he confusedly glimpses the obstacles that stand in the way of God’s offerings; and if the reasons you give are not the truest and most probative, they nevertheless express, together with amazement, the precise feeling of your impotence. An abyss separates her from the one who asks her to drink; but as soon as she humbly recognized the obstacles, the Lord himself offers to remove them: “If you knew god’s gift!”.4 The Lord, caring to reveal new horizons to this blind humanity, begins by making her touch her miseries: “Go, call your husband, and return.”5
From the Fathers, and from St Augustine in particular, thisvir is interpreted as the intelligence that must govern the rational creature. The Lord would like to find her first of all in the Samaritan: he wishes to enlighten, instruct and guide reason, which he unnecessarily seeks in this woman; and it rightly replies: ‘Non habeo virum’, ‘I have no husband’. So far in her she has dominated the lower part; she admits it, and the gentleman affably compliments it: “You are right to say that you have no husband, for you you have had five, and the one you have at the present is not even your husband: you are truly right. 6 The senses, of which she was a slave and victim, deceived her; his life was vulgar and carnal, while he should have been spiritual and reasonable.
Christ, his saviour and doctor, wants first of all to reveal to her his wound in order to heal her. In fact, man can join God through the upper part of the soul, thanks to which he can take back the scepter that God had given him at the origin to guide and rule the lower part of his being and all the visible creatures: “May he dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the pets, the whole earth and the reptiles that crawl on the earth”.7 The Lord therefore comes to restore order; it comes to wrest humanity from the life of the senses and the yoke of passions, to free intelligence, an immortal principle that must preside over all our action; finally comes to join intelligence to be his crown of glory, as the Apostle teaches: “I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. “8 God no longer agrees to deal with the lower part of ourselves; he does not want to reveal himself to the senses or shine before the imagination, as the Apostle adds: “Carnal man does not perceive the things that belong to the Spirit of God”. 9 This behaviour of God deeply distinguishes the Old Covenant from the New. “Having spoken once to our fathers, at different times and in different ways through the Prophets, in recent times God has spoken to us through his Son who has established heir to everything, and with whom he has done the centuries.” 10
The Old Covenant offered humanity figures who addressed the senses: “All these things that have happened to them are figures, and they were written for our instruction, for us who are at the end oftime.” The New Covenant, which is established in Christ mediator and pontiff, opens a new way to go to God, as Our Lord Jesus says to the Samaritan: “Believe me, woman, the time comes when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father”.17 The mysterious hour which Christ proclaims is that of his earthly life, during which he teaches man the unique realities, when man himself must no longer worship the Father either on Mount Garizim or in Jerusalem, but, inwardly, in the secret temple of heart and intelligence. St. Augustine writes: “If you seek a place at the top, a consecrated place, offer God a temple in your depths, because the temple of God is holy, and this temple is you. Do you want to pray in a temple? Pray in yourself. But first you must become a temple of God, for he fulfills the one who prays in his temple.”13
The Lord did not want to limit himself to revealing to humanity the transilaity of the First Covenant; he also wished to reveal to her the imperishable splendors of the second: “The hour comes — and this is it — when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for these are the worshippers that the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth.14
Such is the mysterious secret of the new relationships between humanity and God its Creator. And this is not a promise: “it is now”: the moment of realization has arrived, the fullness of supernatural life will spread on earth, and the new lineage will be recognized by its way of worshipping God.
What does it mean to “worship God in spirit and truth”? This is the first question, a question of great importance to humanity, which must be understood in its exact sense. Like all the other realities that the New Testament would fully enlighten, perfect worship and true worshippers of God are already indicated and foretold in the Old Testament. As a wise architect, God predicted what he intended to do, and laid the corner stones, Moses was one of these true worshippers, and the Lord himself explained it to Aaron and his sister Mary who had summoned before the tabernacle: “Listen to my words: if you have any prophet of God, I will reveal it to him in vision I’m going to talk to him in a dream. Such is not my servant Moses: he is recognized faithful throughout my house; to him I speak mouth to mouth, showing me, and not for puzzles; he contemplates the face of God.”15 Here the Lord establishes a clear distinction between his common servants – even those whom he rewards of his gifts – and of a true worshipper in spirit and truth.
The Christian tradition has unanimously recognized and defined this state by proposing to the desires of all the holy ambition to be counted among the eminent worshippers sought by the Father. We will give just two examples. Saint Cyril Alexandrine, who dedicated an entire treatise to adoration in spirit and truth, comments on the aforementioned passage of the Gospel with these words: “He who adores in droves is pleasing to God when, not veiling his piety with the shadows and figures of Jewish worship, but shining in the splendor of evangelical virtues, he truly worships God with a faithful observance of divine precepts”.16
Abbot Rupert goes further: “True worshippers are not those who do not know what they adore, but those who have a true knowledge of it. They worship the Father not on the mountain, not in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth. Those who receive from him the Spirit who makes them adoptive children of God worship the Father, and become members of his Only Begotten, worship the Father. Worshipping in spirit, in fact, means having received the Spirit of adoption, which allows us to exclaim: Father, Father! Worshipping the Father in truth means dwelling in the Son, who said: “I am the truth”. 17 The true worshippers shall therefore worship one God the Father. Holy Son and Pushed, in the clear and necessary distinction of People.
“True adoration is the specific work of the Holy Spirit; it is necessary for man to receive the Holy Spirit first through an earlier grace, so as to know and confess, through the Spirit, that Our Lord has come into the flesh; is the direct way to go to the Father. Therefore it is said exactly that they worship the Father in spirit and truth, and not in truth and spirit”.18
From this teaching it appears that Heavenly Father seeks true worshippers among the children of God, the brothers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the temples of the Holy Spirit. If the Father seeks them, he will find them; and you will find them because from eternal Wisdom everything has been prepared with strength and sweetness so that they may exist. Placed so high in the father’s desires, in the solicitude of the Son and in the love of the Holy Spirit, one might believe that they constitute in humanity a separate category or a kind of caste, but this is not the case at all: the Redeemer has redeemed all men by paying the infinite price of his blood, and the strength of this blood would not end even washing millions of universes; and all men are called to become true worshippers who worship God in spirit and truth.
The Saints formed by Jesus
The Lord certainly did not ignore our radical inability to reach the regions whose entry he indicated to the Samaritan. No human effort is able to produce union with God, which forms the essence of holiness: “Without me, you can do nothing”,says the Lord. The Master must agree to meet his creature, lift it up, raise it up to him preventing and accompanying all his efforts, so that the poor creature may be able to give him the answer that he expects and seeks.
Moreover, it is very evident that true worshippers, although not yet — like the blessed — confirmed forever in the vision, are not even weak souls who take their first steps on the ways of God. True worshippers are those who live in God, by God and with God, in the one and continuous convenient attitude to the intelligent creature who relentlessly addresses his activity to God; they are those whom popular language calls ‘saints’. Saints are people like the others; but they took seriously their own condition as creatures and the purpose that God proposed by creating them. They were faithful in making good use of all the misfortunes that the Lord made available to them. The very meaning of the Gospel narrative clearly shows that true worshippers are born to supernatural life by becoming Christians at the baptismal font. As we have just seen, at the well of Jacob Our Lord reveals god’s plans to the Samaritan, first offering her a mysterious water that is within the reach of all men and is destined to quen them forever. The true worshipper was therefore born in us with baptism, which provides us with all the energies that can make us those whom the Father seeks.
Even the nourishment that is prepared for us contains in itself everything that can transform us, so that we acquire the characteristic attitude of true worshippers. Is our Lord Jesus Christ not, as a man, the worshipper par excellence, the one who offered himself and continues to offer himself to the glory of his Father in a close obedience? Even in us, he never comes to participate in his divine and human virtues until he has paid the debt of an adoration that surpasses the homage of all creatures. Will he not turn us into true worshippers who, “having the very nature of God, did not believe that it was a robbery to be equal to God”, and yet “annihilated himself”20? And to offer the Father this tribute of adoration and praise he annihilated to the point of dying on the cross.
The true worshipper follows his Master in complete self-denial, practicing to the letter the invitation of the Lord Jesus: “If anyone wants to come to my following, deny himself, take his cross and follow me”.21 This way is not extraordinary; on the contrary, it is open to all the baptized; and for those who follow with perseverance the Savior leads to perfection, that is, to the realization of what our heavenly Father desires from us.
The demands of perfect adoration
But first of all we must be convinced that no one can claim to be a worshipper in spirit and truth if first he has not resolutely denied all kinds of idolatry. And idolatry, if we believe what the Apostle says, is not only the cult of the false gods. Even in ourselves we can raise many idols, to whom we sacrifice blindly: “Know that no fornicator, no impudic, no avare — which is idolatry — will be heir to the kingdom of Jesus Christ and God”. 22 We must destroy all these simulacra and build in ourselves, for God’s reason, a dwelling place perfectly clear of all false deities: “What relationship can there ever be between the temple of God and the idols? Indeed, you are the temple of the living God, as God says: I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.23
The separation between darkness and light must therefore be radical in the true worshipper, who stands out precisely for stability for good. All Christians worship God, but not everyone can strictly claim the title of ‘worshippers’. This noun is very rare in the scriptures; indeed, to our knowledge, it seems to be used only in Chapter 4 of the Gospel of St John, where the Lord’s ineffable encounter with the woman of Samaria is described.
Adoration is the noblest act that can be performed by the intelligent and free creature; it is the form in which divine love returns to God through a created spirit; it is the homage of submission, subjugation and perfect obedience that being contingent offers to the necessary. Finally, it is an act of solemn donation, as a universal recognition, carried out in a perfect holocaust, of the supreme dominion of God.
But adoration “in spirit and truth” is still something more. it is the only answer that intelligence can give to god’s revelation of himself in the unity of his essence and in the Trinity of People. Such an act is possible only to the soul that has been baptized in the name of the Father, the and of the Holy Spirit, Therefore St Athanasius said: “We must worship God, that is, the father, in truth, that is, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit; in other words, one must worship God and one, worship the Holy Trinity and its three People.24 The act of adoration in spirit and truth, which the Christian can perform by his baptism, therefore makes him a “worshipper” only if adoration is in him not a dispersal act, rare but an almost permanent attitude, a kind of professional state and constant disposition.
Return to unity
“True worshipper” is the one whose soul, free from all multiplicity and returned to perfect simplicity, has managed to compose itself in harmony without dissonance, having suppressed with a constant effort every separation and division, every contradiction, so as to return to the primitive unity of its being. The simple soul has only one look, one love, one intention, one ambition, one end. One look, because he sees only God; one love, because he loves only God; one intention, because it tends exclusively to God; one ambition, pleasure to God; one end, the possession of God. It knows neither a retreat from the past nor a worrying forecast of the future; calmly concentrates all its forces on the unity of the present moment; and in the present moment it sees only the unity of God’s approval. The simple soul lives in a happy detachment and a wonderful indifference: time, place, occupations, success, ultimately all events, whatever they may be, never disturb the peace and security that derive from the complete abandonment of itself to the approval of God.
To indicate this form of unity and simplicity — which is man’s supreme restoration in the integrity in which God had fixed it by creating it — Scripture often designates holy souls as “doves” and “virgins”.” At this point of restoration, the whole life becomes a continuous homage of adoration to the most holy and serene Trinity.
The “true worshipper” is therefore the one who, having excluded from his life any foreign solicitude, lives before God, protected from the fears and passions of men: “You protect them in the secret of your face”.25 There is no more darkness but those of faith, but of a pure faith, faith which made St Lawrence proudly say: “My night has nothing dark: all shines forth in your living light. “26 The faith of the true worshipper becomes his life. God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – takes possession of all his activities directs and governs it so that although it is destined by God for multiform duties or missions, he actually accomplishes only one work, adoration.
The true worshipper can rightly be referred to the beautiful judgment issued by Saint Nile in his book on prayer: “If you are a theologian, you will truly pray; and if you really pray, you are a theologian.” 27 Who lives in the presence of God. who subordinates their inner activity to God and addresses it totally to him. he is necessarily a theologian. His state is described by the holy abbot himself also where he says: “The state of prayer is a habitual and quiet disposition that, thanks to a great love, kidnaps the wise and spiritual mind at heights”. 28
In ancient times all the Fathers recognized in the “true worshippers” those who have reached the summit of supernatural life; their baptism is totally realized: they act not so much with what they do what rather through what have become. Brought back to perfect unity, their souls go to God through more angelic than human ways: “They went where the Spirit pushed them, nor did they turn back walking. “29
The same thing st Nile also says: “Do you wish to pray? Escape the earth, and now your conversation is in heaven, not only with the simple conversation of prayer, but with truly angelic actions and with an ever higher intelligence of divine things”. 30 Dedicated directly to God, true worshippers must equip themselves to initiate and attract to God – as is said of the blessed spirits who live before him – all those who still need symbols, who have not yet been able to dissolve from the bonds of flesh, senses and passions, which, still divided, take their first steps in spiritual life.
The demands of perfect adoration
These worshippers, which God the Father seeks. they form his glory because, closely united with his only-begotten, they continue and carry out his work on earth with a particular effectiveness and vigour. Of them he equals St Dionysians when he says that “the perfection of the members of the hierarchy consists in approaching God with courageous imitation and – what is even more sublime – in having his cooperators. as the holy word says: “We are cooperatorsof God” 31,and finally in making the wonders of divine action shine in one’s own righteousness according to the forces of each one”. 32
To true worshippers in spirit and truth can also be applied this other passage in which the same author speaks of the angelic intelligences: “They are inundated with a light that surpasses all spiritual knowledge and are admitted, as far as their nature allows, to the vision of supreme beauty that is the cause and origin of every beauty and that shines in the three adorable People : they benefit from the Savior’s humanity not only in the sense suggested by some symbolic representation in which traces of his august perfections are found: in fact, for the free access they have with him they receive and know his holy lights directly; finally they are allowed to imitate Jesus Christ in a higher way, because they can draw, according to their ability, on the main source of his divine and human virtues.33
And in order to avoid the accusation of unduly attributing to man what is the exclusive privilege of the Angel, we will cite these other expressions of the glorious Areopagita: “There are among us”, he says, “some spirits. very high grace, that of approaching the angel as much as possible to human nature: they are those who. overcome all intellectual efforts, enter into intimate union with ineffable light”.34 They are the true worshippers, who worship in spirit and truth, who take literally and put into practice the apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in charity, as Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself to us, offering himself as an oblation and a victim with a pleasant scent”.35
Here are the true worshippers that Heavenly Father seeks, that he has shaped and formed with all his divine industriousness. Indeed, if in the beginning the Augustan Trinity has in a certain sense gathered and gathered in itself to create man, in this recreation, which takes up and perfects the first, God, one in substance and trino in People, carries out an even more admirable and glorious work, a work in which his august image and resemblance is more faithfully imprinted and more nobly reproduced.
*This “article” takes up chapter 20 of the text “Spiritual life and prayer” by Mère Cécile Bruyère
3 Donec inveniam locum Domino, tabemaculum Deo Jacob (Ps. 131,5).
4 Si scires donum Dei! (Jn, 4:10).
5 Vade, vota virum tuum et veni huc (there, 16).
6 Well dixit quia non habeo virum. Quinque enim viros habuisti, et nunc quem habes, non est tuus vir: hoc vere divisti (there, 17-18).
7 Qui praesit piscibus maris, et volatilibus caeli, et bestiis, universaeque terrae, omniunque reptili quod movetur on earth (Gen. 1:26).
8 Volo vos scire quod omnis viri caput, Christus est; caput autem mulieris, vir; Christi, Deus (1 Cor. 11, 3).
9 Animalis homo non percipit ea quae sunt Spiritus Dei (there, 2,14).
10 Multifariam multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in prophetis. novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit haeredem universorum, per quem fecit et saecula (Ebr. 1,1-2).11 Haec autem omnia in contingebant illis figure; scripta sunt autem ad correptionem nostram, in quos fines saeculorum devenerunt (1 Cor. 10.11).
12 Mulier, believes mihi, quia venit hora quando neque in monte hoc, neque in Jerosolyims adorabitis Patrem (Jn. 4:21).
13 Si forte quaeris aliquem locum altum, aliquem locum sanctum, in te exibe te templum Deo. Templum Dei sanctum est quod estis vos. In temple vis orare? In you now. Sed prius esto templum Dei, quia ille in temple suo exaudiet orantem(In Iohannis Evangelium, Homilia XV, 4,25) (trans. Quirinus Prince).
14 Venit hora, et nunc est, quando veri adorares adorabunt Patrem in spiritu et veritate. Nam et Pater tales quaerit qui adorent eum. Spiritus est Deus, et eos qui adorant eum, in spirita et veritate oportet adorare (Jn. 4:23-24).
15 Audite sermones meos: Si quis fuerit inter vos propheta Domini, in visione apparebo ei, vel per somnium loquar ad illum. At non talis servus meus Moyses, qui in omni domo mea fidelissimus est; hours enim ad os loquor ei; et palam, et non per aenigmata et fìguras Dominum videt (Num. 12:6-8).
16 Spiritualis adorar gratus est, qui non forma et figuris judaicis ad pietatem obumbratur, sed evangelica virtute fulgens, retta dogmatum disciplina, veramperagit adorationem(In lohannis Evangelìum, II, 93).
17 Ego sum veritàs (Jn. 14:6).
18 Expositio in Iohannem IV, 3.
19 Sine me nihil potestis dore (Jn. 15:5).
20 Cum in the form of Essets. not rapinam arbitratus est esse se aequalem Deo; sed semetipsum exinanivit (Phil. 2,6-7).
21 Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et se- quatur me (Mt. 16, 24).
22 Hoc enim scitote intelligentes, quod omnis fornicator, aut immundus,, aut avarus. quod est idolorum servitùs, non habet haereditatem in kingdom Christi Dei (Eph. 5,5).
23 Qui autem consensus temple Dei cum idolis? Vos enim estis templum Dei vivi, sicut dicit Deus: Quoniam inhabitabo in illis, et inambulabo inter eos: et ero iliorum Deus, et ipsi erunt mihi populus (2 Cor. 6,16).
24 Oportet worship Deum, scilicet Patrem in veritate, id est, in Filio et in Spiritu Sancto, hoc est, oportet adorare Deum trinum et unum, oportet adoraresanctam Trinitatem ac tres ejus personas (Letter to Sera pione).
25 Proteges eos in abscondito faciei tuae (Ps. 30:21).
26 Mea nox obscurum non habet; sed omnia in clarescunt light.
27 Si theologus es, vere orabis; et si vere oraberis, eris theologus.
28 Status orationis est habitus absque passion, love summo ad celsitudinem intelligibilem rapiens mentem sapientem et spiritualem.
29 Ubi erat impetus spiritus, illuc gradiebantur, nec revertebantur cum ambularent (Ez. 1, 12).
30 Cupis orare? Transferendo te hinc, conversationem jugiter in caelis habe, non nudo verb simpliciter, sed actu angelico et diviniore cognitione.
31 Dei enim sumus adjutores (1 Cor. 3,9).
32 De coelesti hierarchia, III.
33 There, VII.
34 De Divinis Nominibus, I.
35 Estote imitatores Dei, sicut filli carissimi, et ambulate in dilectione, sicut et Christus dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis oblationem et hostiam Deo in odorem suavitatis (Eph. 5, 1-2).