Circular Letter: Lent 2016
The Angels & the Divine Mercy (Part 2)
JESUS – Justice to the Father and Mercy to Man
Mercy is easily misunderstood. While it does not forget justice, it goes beyond its requirements. This becomes visible in the greatest act of Divine love, the Incarnation, yet not simply in this, that the Son of God became man, but rather in that this Incarnate GOD was sent to be the victim Lamb, the holocaust for our sins. There is still discussion as to whether He would have done it, if man had not fallen into sin. More important is the fact that He became man, first to satisfy justice in relation to the Father to Whom He has made infinite satisfaction for all the faults of mankind of all times; and second to manifest mercy in relation to mankind which He won through His expiatory Passion and Death. He gained the reconciliation of “all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the Blood of His Cross.” (Col 1:20).
He not only visited the sick, discussed with them their sickness, but provided with His Blood the decisive remedy for the sickness of sin, that is, the separation from God by sin. This is an incomprehensible act of Divine love. Yet Jesus went still further: He found a way to make this remedy available to all, to each man who wishes do be saved: He founded the Church and instituted ministers, gave them the authority to act in His name and sent them out into the four corners of the earth: “I see Your mercy pressing You to give us even more when You leave Yourself with us as food …” (St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, 30). This is a spectacle for the angels (cf. 1 Cor 4:9), still less comprehensible as it were than the act of creation.
Let us again listen to Saint Faustina, the “Secretary of My mercy.” For Jesus said to her: “write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine.” (Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul. Diary, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 3rd edition with revisions (28th printing): 2012, 965; here after will be referred to by D). “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity” (Ibid.; cf. D 710, 723, 1693).
1. “The Angels were Amazed at the Greatness of the Mercy for Mankind”
Instructed about the Divine essence and attributes, Saint Faustina learned that the Divine Mercy is the greatest of all—after Holiness and Justice: “I understood that the greatest attribute is love and mercy. It unites the creature with the Creator. This immense love and abyss of mercy are made known in the Incarnation of the Word and in the Redemption [of humanity], and it is here that I saw this as the greatest of all God’s attributes” (D 180).
“God will descend to earth; the Immortal Lord of lords will abase Himself. … The Word becomes flesh; God dwells among us, the Word of God, Mercy Incarnate. By Your descent, You have lifted us up to Your divinity. Such is the excess of Your love, the abyss of Your mercy. Heaven is amazed at the superabundance of Your love” (D 1745).
The holy angels assist in the Mystery of mysteries with their service as messengers, but God Himself is the One who executes the Mystery, the Mystery of “God’s incomprehensible love for people. He lifts us up to His very Godhead. His only motives are love and fathomless mercy. Though You make known the mystery to us through an angel, You Yourself carry it out” (D 1172).
This truth is clear: we observe the incomprehensibility of the mystery of God’s essence, of His mercy and of His truth and beauty; at the same time, God reveals Himself incomprehensibly in His preferential love for a lower creature, the human being. Saint Faustina exclaims: “O inconceivable goodness of God, … may Your mercy be praised without cease. That You become a brother to humans, not to angels, is a miracle of the unfathomable mystery of Your mercy” (D 1584).
The Son of God assumed human nature, and by this action, truly became one with men. Having the same nature as we have, permitted us to enjoy already in this life, to some degree, the most intimate union possible with Him, the Creator.
Here lies the reason for the greatness of Our Lady as the Mother of God. Her faith allowed this “new, unexpected and humanly speaking incredible [event]” (J. Ratzinger – Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth. The Infancy Narratives, Image, New York, NY 2012, 41): The Divine Son takes on the human nature in order that human beings become sons of God! (Cf. Gal 4:4-7; CCC 460). The “greater mercy” is the justification of sinners, greater than “the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.” (CCC 1994)
The faithful angelic spirits followed their Lord and God into the depth of human existence, full of surprise in the face of so much mercy and humility, but willing to serve Him in His reign with total dedication, love, and disposition. “Heaven is amazed at the superabundance of Your love” (D 1745). “Why is it that You do not unite Yourself with a Seraph, but with a sinner, O Lord? Oh, because, despite the purity of the virginal womb, this is a mystery of Your mercy” (D 1746).
The “angels were amazed at the greatness of the mercy which You have shown for mankind” (D 1743). The Church teaches that the Son of God was accompanied by angels throughout His life on earth. Their admiration became action: “From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels” (CCC 333).
2. “Blessed Host, Enchantment of All Heaven”
The Incarnation finds its continuation in the presence of God made man in the most Holy Eucharist. Through this Sacrament, the Divine Lover reaches all men in the future. Saint Faustina exclaims with joy over the “Blessed Host, enchantment of all heaven” (D 159):
“Jesus, delight of my soul, Bread of angels, My whole being is plunged in You, And I live Your divine life as do the elect in heaven …” (D 1393; cf. 1324, 1350).
Describing her preparation for Holy Communion, she offers a look at the angels:
“Today, I am preparing myself for Your coming, … Bridegroom of mine. The heavens cannot contain Him. The Seraphim who stand closest to Him cover their faces and repeat unceasingly: Holy, Holy, Holy” (D 1805).
O Eternal God, in my bosom enclosed, possessing You, I possess all Heaven, and with the angels I sing to You: Holy, I live for Your glory alone. Not with a Seraph, do You unite Yourself, O God, but with a wretched man … to him You are ever merciful (1231; cf. 522, 1489, 1808).
Saint Faustina recalls the deep respect of the angels before their God Who made Himself so small.
“What am I, and who are You, O Lord, King of eternal glory? O my heart, are you aware of Who is coming to you today? Yes, I know, … He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Before Him, all power and dominion tremble. He is coming to my heart today. … [Jesus] reassures her, saying, See, I have left My heavenly throne to become united with you … I want to tell you that eternal life must begin already here on earth through Holy Communion” (D 1810, 1811).
The trembling attitude of the angels influenced the saint so effectively that she never forgot that in the consecrated Host her Lord and Divine spouse is truly present. Therefore, she made the effort to receive her Lord in the worthiest manner:
“I receive Holy Communion in the manner of the angels so to speak” (D 1278).
“Hidden Jesus, sole desire of my soul, You alone are to me more than the delights of heaven” (D 1427).
“[N]othing can disturb my close union with Him, not even the angelic powers” (D 1135; cf. 686, 745). And she prays: “Hidden Jesus, Eternal Love, our Source of Life … I do not envy the Seraphim their fire, for I have a greater gift deposited in my heart. They admire You in rapture, but Your Blood mingles with mine. Love is heaven given us already here on earth. Oh, why do You hide in faith? Love tears away the veil” (D 278).
3. Consecration of Human Life to Christ
The Church teaches that “The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself.” Therefore, “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist” (St. John Paul II, On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church 2003, 1). Applied to our own souls, it means that God not only invites us to Holy Communion, but He also asks us to surrender all our life to Him. “What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely to Me? … Just as it would not be enough for you to have everything if you did not have Me, so whatever you give cannot please Me if you do not give yourself” (Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, IV, 8).
The Church understands the consecration in Religious Life in the context of the Eucharistic Consecration, which stands at the center of Christian life, at the center of the life of the Church, and of every vocation. “Religious consecration itself assumes a Eucharistic structure, it is the total offering of self closely joined to the Eucharistic Sacrifice” (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, Starting Afresh from Christ, 2002, 26).
Saint Faustina made her religious profession within the celebration of Holy Mass. Its culmination was the encounter with Jesus in Holy Communion, and all in the presence of the angels. Therefore, Saint Faustina wrote the night before her final vows that she invoked “Heaven and earth”:
“O Jesus, tomorrow morning I am to make my perpetual vows. I had asked heaven and earth and had called upon all beings to thank God for this immense and inconceivable favor of His when suddenly I heard these words, My daughter, your heart is My heaven. … I thought: ‘What is it going to be like in heaven, if already here in exile God so fills my soul?'” (D 238; cf. D 1369).
We learn still more about this moment. The very day of her profession she prayed: “Father of Mercy, look upon the sacrifice of my heart, but through the wound in the Heart of Jesus” (D 239). Then during the Holy Mass Jesus said to her, “My spouse, our hearts are joined forever. Remember to Whom you have vowed” (D 239). And in her answer she prayed: “Thank You, o my dearest Bridegroom, for the dignity You have conferred on me, and in particular for the royal coat-of-arms which will adorn me from this day on and which even the angels do not possess; namely, the cross, the sword, and the crown of thorns. But above all, O my Jesus, I thank You for Your Heart—it is all I need” (D 240).
In the following observation, we can see the link of religious consecration with Christ crucified and offered, in the God made man for the redemption of men. The consecrated virgins share in the life of their Spouse and in His mission. In this exchange, the angels remain both amazed and distant, and these virgins become like “earthly angels,” present in the life of Jesus (cf. D 1220, 534-535). In a poem, St. Faustina said:
“O virgin, no one will sing your hymn. In your song lies hidden the love of God. Even the angels do not comprehend What the virgins sing to God. … O virgin, earthly angel, Your greatness is renowned throughout the Church. You stand guard before the tabernacle And, like a Seraph, become all love.” (D 1735)
The angels’ admiration follows the Son of God incarnate, then “sacramented” in the Eucharist, and now united to the souls consecrated in His Mystical Body.
“Hidden Jesus, take at last to Yourself my thirsting heart which burns for You with the pure fire of the Seraphim” (D 1427).
“Jesus gave me to know … In convents too, there are souls that fill My Heart with joy. They bear My features; therefore, the Heavenly Father looks upon them with special pleasure. They will be a marvel to angels and men. Their number is very small. They are a defense for the world before the justice of the Heavenly Father and a means of obtaining mercy for the world” (D 367; cf. D 180; Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe salvi – on Christian Hope, 2007, 15).
Still, the spiritual army of consecrated souls on earth seeks and finds support from the angelic army in heaven. Therefore, St. Faustina said: “Jesus, when I myself cannot sing You the hymn of love, I admire the singing of the Seraphim, they who are so dearly loved by You. I desire to drown myself in You as they do” (D 195). “I will not stop singing my song of love until the choir of angels picks it up. There is no power that can stop me in my flight toward God” (D 761).
Even though she possessed such an intimate love of God, Saint Faustina recognized her own fragility, and therefore, in dependence on the support, the help and company of the holy angels. Also consecrated souls in the world manifest this desire: “If only I could be a Seraphim, to offer Him his burning ardor! … If only I possessed the purity of the angels to shelter Him!” (Concepción Cabrera de Armida, (Conchita), in: Juan Gutiérrez González, Irresistibly Drawn to the Eucharist, Alba House, New York, NY 2002, 13).
4. A Passion of God for Man – Mystery of His Mercy
It is evident what great value the Eucharistic Communion had for Saint Faustina: “The most solemn moment of my life is the moment when I receive Holy Communion. I long for each Holy Communion, and for every Holy Communion I give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity” (D 1804). This led to a still greater profundity, to a deeper union and permanence of Christ in her soul—incomprehensible mercy of her beloved spouse:
“I have been aware, for a long time, that Holy Communion continues in me until the next Communion. … A vivid and even physically felt presence of God continues throughout the day and does not in the least interfere with my duties” (D 1821); this grace is known from various Saints. Being aware of the Majesty Whom she receives and of her unworthiness, she prayed: “O my Master, shape my soul according to Your will and Your eternal designs!” (D 195; cf. 420).
In this mystery, Saint Faustina’s vocation and mission developed, and her union with God deepened even more. In a passage about the adoration of her “Creator and Lord, hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament”, she confessed: “What I talk to You about, Jesus, is our secret, which creatures shall not know and angels dare not ask about. These are secret acts of forgiveness, known only to Jesus and me; this is the mystery of His mercy, which embraces each soul separately” (D 1692). Another time she put it in these terms: “There is one mystery which unites me with the Lord, of which no one—not even angels—may know. And even if I wanted to tell of it, I would not know how to express it. And yet, I live by it and will live by it for ever. This mystery distinguishes me from every other soul here on earth or in eternity” (D 824).
Here is St. Faustina just speaking about God’s exclusive grace for her alone. This is reminiscent of our Lord’s promise in Revelations: “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it” (Rev 2:17). Even so we may recall what Jesus told her: “The graces I grant you are not for you alone, but for a great number of other souls as well” (D 723). We can find a confirmation in the Catechism where the Church says: “To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all” (CCC 2672).
One is tempted to speak of “God’s passionate love for His people—for humanity” (Benedict XVI, God is Love, 10) when we hear about such depth, intimacy and exclusiveness. It is demanding of both sides: The love of Jesus demands from the Saint highest purity: “You are My spouse forever; your chastity should be greater than that of the angels, for I call no angel to such intimacy as I do you. The smallest act of My spouse is of infinite value. A pure soul has inconceivable power before God” (D 534).
And the love of the Saint seems to oblige the Divine Spouse: “My daughter, your look disarms My anger. Although your lips are silent, you call out to Me so mightily that all heaven is moved” (D 1722; cf. 873). “My beloved child, delight of My Heart, your words are dearer and more pleasing to Me than the angelic chorus. All the treasures of My Heart are open to you” (D 1489.11). “Beloved pearl of My Heart, I see your love so pure, purer than that of the angels… For your sake I bless the world” (D 1061).
St. Faustina could never comprehend how God could love her so much. There exists a secret between the soul and God, and which is hidden before the angels, “For thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of the children of men” (2 Chr 6:30; cf. 1Kings 8:39; Rev 2:17). There is also “the law of love”: the smallest desire of the beloved has greater value and obliges the lover more than the greatest offer of an unknown person. Saint John of the Cross discussed this and arrived at this conclusion: When a soul arrives at this stage of union of love she should avoid unnecessary distractions and activities. “For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even if it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 29.2; cf. D 439). This intimacy hidden before the angels explains another affirmation of Saint Faustina which could be considered exaggerated; however, it finds its explanation in this context: “Pure love has made me strong and brave. I fear neither the seraphim nor the cherubim, standing with sword in hand” (D 1632). She even desired “to surpass them in my love for [Jesus]” (D 334; cf. 781).
If this were not yet sufficient, the Saint observed that she not only doesn’t envy the angels (cf. D 278), but—if it were possible—the angels are the ones who would envy men!
“If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering” (D 1804).
Saint Faustina is not the first to think this way. We may mention one other Saint with such thoughts, the Doctor of the Church, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. Among “her last conversations” we find these words: “The angels can’t suffer; therefore, they are not as fortunate as I am. How astonished they would be if they suffered and felt what I feel! Yes, they’d be very surprised because so am I myself” (St. Thérèse de Liseux, Her Last Conversations, (August 16.4), Washington, DC 1977, 150).
And in the play The Angels at Jesus’ Manger she said, “The Angel of the Holy Face sings … Seraph, weep in silence, / You see this day-old Child. / … Alas! Why am I an angel, / Incapable of suffering? …. / Jesus, with one sweet exchange / I would like to die for You!!!….” (The Angels at Jesus’ Manger, 25 December, 1894, in: The Plays of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Washington, DC 2008, 116). And in the same play, “The Angel of the Last Judgment kneels and sings …: Before You, sweet Child, the cherubim bows down! / Dazed, he admires Your ineffable love. / He wishes, like You, on the somber hill / To die one day! …” Then sing “All the angels … How great is the good fortune of the humble creature. / The seraphim in their ecstasy would wish / To leave, O Jesus! their angelic nature / and become children! …” (Ibid., 130).
Saint Faustina recognized the love of God for men: He loves man not because of man’s greatness, not because of his strength, not because of his success, but precisely because of pure divine mercy.
“I, this chasm of misery, this abyss of misery; and You, O God, who are the incomprehensible abyss of mercy, swallow me up as the heat of the sun swallows up a drop of dew!” (D 334). “I would not want to change places even with a Seraph” (D 1049).
“O eternal God, how ardently I desire to glorify this greatest of Your attributes; namely, Your unfathomable mercy. I see all my littleness, and cannot compare myself to the heavenly beings who praise the Lord’s mercy with holy admiration. But I, too, have found a way to give perfect glory to the incomprehensible mercy of God” (D 835).
Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC
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