Christians, by definition, know the love of Christ. Yet, Paul’s prayer for all Christians (Ephesians 3.14-21) is that Christ would continually dwell in them. He asks that we may be strengthed to know what surpasses knowledge: the love of Christ. He wants us to see the difference between knowing the love of Christ, and gazing at it until our hearts are transformed. Every Christian knows the love of Christ, and yet, we don’t fully know it. If we could comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth” we would be shaken, pulled apart, put together, and remade. I shared two examples of this in the sermon I preached yesterday at Christ Community Church. The first comes from philosopher Blaise Pascal, the second from St. Ignatius of Loyola.
When Pascal died his servant found the following note sewn into the interior of his coat:
In the year of the Lord 1654
Monday, November 23
From about half-past ten in the evening
until half-past twelve.
God of Abraham, God if Isaac, God of Jacob
Not of philosophers nor of the scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy, Peace.
God of Jesus Christ,
My God and thy God.
“Thy God shall be my God.”
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is to be found only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the soul of man.
“Righteous Father, the world hath not know thee,
but I have know thee.”
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have fallen away: I have fled from Him,
denied Him, crucified him.
May I not fall away forever.
We keep hold of him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on earth.
I will not forget Thy word. Amen.
Ignatius of Loyola wrote the following into his rules for practicing spiritual discernment:
Third Rule. The third: OF SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION. I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all.
Likewise, when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise. Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all
interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.
Both of these examples tease out what Paul is getting at. We, who know the love of Christ, should continually seek a deeper experience of that love. We should continually ask God to shake us with his reality.