Eighth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart
Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer
There being in Christ two complete natures, the divine and the human, there must also be in Him two distinct and complete operations: He must have divine thoughts and human thoughts, divine inclinations and human inclinations, divine love and human love. Having studied His divine, uncreated love as manifested in Creation, in the Incarnation and in Heaven, there remains for us to consider His human and created love.
According to a general opinion, from the first moment of His conception in the womb of His Mother, our Lord had the full use of all the faculties of His human soul. His human intellect, as we have already seen, was, from its creation, gifted with infused knowledge, and since love follows knowledge, His human will was also from its creation glowing with human love. This human love manifested itself in many ways, and first of all, in our Lord's private life.
In the created love of the Sacred Heart as manifested in the private life of Christ, the first trait that impresses us is His Poverty. He made Himself poor because He loved the poor and desired their love. Real poverty is indeed hard to bear. The poor man often wants bread to sustain him, clothing to cover him, fire to warm him, a time of relaxation in his fatigues, a physician and remedies in his sickness. He has no choice, he takes what is given to him. His life is a laborious, rough and troubled one. From early dawn till late into the night, he must pursue his painful task. He does not regard weariness and discomfort, if only he can obtain work. He does not rest when he is weak; he does not complain when his hands are toil-worn and the heat is almost overpowering him; he does not seek repose as long as he can earn even a scanty pittance. He is satisfied with a hard bed, coarse clothing, poor food. He does not think of murmuring or seeking sympathy. Nor is he less patient in suffering and sickness. He is content with little; he does not ask for any special attention: and when he is left alone through the weary night, he utters no complaint, when but a word of consolation is spoken to him, his heart wells up, and his eyes fill with glistening tears of gratitude.
Such is veritable poverty: and such was the portion our Lord took for Himself on earth. The whole world was obliged to acknowledge Him as its true proprietor, its Creator, its God: all joy, all delight, all honor and beauty could have been His: but He renounced all to win the poor man's love. His parents were poor, and He was born poor, not even in an ordinary dwelling house, but in a deserted stable, His cradle was a manger; the breath of animals, the fire to warm Him; He was satisfied with the stall of the ox and the ass. Like a hunted beast of prey, He fled into Egypt, and there in exile He was poor. He remained poor in Nazareth. He grew up a poor carpenter's son. On His youthful shoulders He carried the timber to build for His own creatures; till the age of thirty He labored in the sweat of His brow with the square, the hammer and the saw. Later on, He continued to live among the poor and was indeed the lowliest among them. He who fed the birds suffered from hunger. He who created the sun endured the cold. He who found a hole for every fox of the field had not whereon to rest His head. He who clad kings with purple wore all His life the woolen garment woven by His Mother's hands. He who possessed all things had not a coin wherewith to pay the tribute. Deprived of all, naked and bleeding away His last blood on the cross, He was forced to cry out: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" It was in this way our Lord strove to win the hearts of men ! and why? Because He loved them: love seeks to be loved.
But there was another way by which He sought to draw all to Himself. In every sin there is pride, for in every sin there is rebellion of the proud self against the will of God. Christ became man to destroy the reign of sin by being obedient to His Father even unto the death of the cross. Obedience is a death-blow to pride. Christ came, then, to teach men obedience. But how did He impart the lesson? Not only by fulfilling the commands of His heavenly Father and drinking the chalice of the Passion to its bitterest dregs! His Heart was too full of love for men to be satisfied with that. He went further: He took no thought of the profound humiliation it was to cost Him; He was determined in His love to give them an example which would break down every pretext of pride and consequent insubordination. What course did He pursue? Of the thirty-three years He spent on earth, He lived thirty in complete subjection to the will of His creatures. Try to fathom those mysterious depths of humiliation, for they were dug by love.
"He was subject to them!" (Luke 2:51) He was their God and Creator and Lord, yet He was subject to them. In Him were all the depth and riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God, yet, when they commanded, He was subject to them. It was He who framed the laws of the universe and who marked the courses the stars are traveling, yet He listened to the orders of His creatures, and was subject to them. His hand it was that held them up and preserved them, His bounty it was that gave to them the light of understanding, and the power of speech; yet their directions were for Him a law. "He was subject to them."
Mary and Joseph knew that He was God, and that all wisdom was in Him. A trial indeed, then, it was to be obliged to command. Still such was their Child's will. They must command, for He would obey. His Mother called Him hither and He came; she directed Him to go thither and He went. His foster-father bade Him carry this plank and He carried it, to saw or fasten those joists of timber, and He obeyed. "He was subject to them!"
And not only was He subject to Mary and Joseph, but to all men. He, with St. Joseph, hired Himself out to His creatures. He built them houses and made them furniture; He asked for their directions and followed them; He received their advice, even their reproofs; no work was too menial for Him! He was but the carpenter's son, men engaged Him as such, and He was subject to them! Whose heart is not touched when meditating on this mystery of our Lord s obedience? Remember it was all prompted by love; His Heart was consumed with love for man, and nothing is too difficult or humiliating for love.
By His voluntary poverty Jesus wins our compassion; by His obedience He gains our admiration. But love is excited by beauty, beauty of body, of soul, of character; for beauty is a certain aspect of goodness. In its root, only the good is beautiful; for beauty arises from order, harmony, due arrangement and subjection, and that is goodness. Now, our Lord came to win the hearts of men, and therefore He made Himself beautiful. He took to Himself, not only the infirmities of human nature, but also its goodness; He was physically and spiritually the most beautiful of the children of men. His humanity was a lattice through which His divinity appeared.
I know some authors have doubted the physical beauty of our Lord, and have fancied that there was nothing extraordinary in His appearance, that He looked like any ordinary mortal. This, however, cannot be. A perfect soul requires a fitting instrument to actuate it, that is, a perfect body; the more tender and fine the fibre, muscle and nerve, the more sensitive also is the human being to shame, the more deeply does he feel degradation or dishonor. Our Lord's body must consequently have been perfect in form and symmetry, and a mirror of the soul within. But our Lord's beauty was especially and principally spiritual. Beauty of body becomes repulsive when it cloaks a wicked soul. Christ's outward beauty all came from within. His beauty was too pure and holy to be equally appreciated by all. What Jesus was in the sight of His Mother, He was not in the sight of any other; what He was for His Apostles and intimate friends, He was not for strangers; what He was for the just, the pure, the humble, the faithful, He was not for the unjust, the immodest, the proud and the unbelieving.
Still, His character was so grand, and yet so beautifully human, that in every age it attracts and subdues the hearts of men. Holy Scripture indicates this when it tells us that He grew in grace and loveliness before God and man. Children pressed around Him on the streets and gathered on His knees, for He was innocent and mild like them. Multitudes paused to look upon Him as He passed; when He spoke, though His words were often severe, men felt strangely stirred and hung entranced upon His lips, and the thought entered the hearts of the women in Israel, "How happy to be the mother of such a Son!" Yes, He took to Himself our nature with all its littleness and lowliness so far as they are innocent; He was one like ourselves, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity; yet His sacred character, even at this distant day, appears so beautiful and excellent that it captivates all hearts and causes even professed infidels in unguarded moments, to confess that He was Divine.
One day we shall see Him. We shall contemplate His holy feet, His gentle hands, His sacred lips, His noble brow. We shall look into His blessed countenance, His loving eyes, His opened side. We shall rest our heads upon His bosom and listen to the beatings of His tender Heart. "Dearly beloved, we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him: because we shall see Him as He is!" (1 John 3:2) God grant it!