One request I have ever made of the Lord, let me claim it still, to dwell in the Lord’s house my whole life long. V. Gazing at the beauty of the Lord, haunting his sanctuary (Ps 26:4, Gradual of the Mass of the Holy House of Loreto)
The feast of the Holy House of Loreto — the liturgical feast of the hidden God — has, for us, Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration and, I should think, for most monks, a profound significance. (See Hidden and Solitary) In 1654, Jean de Bernières wrote to Mother Mectilde de Bar:
I am persuaded that the greatness of your vocation and of the institution [founding] of your Community are, without doubt, incomparable, since your are called to be victims of the Holy Sacrament, that is, of pure love, and that you must remain hidden and solitary in the enclosure of your little house, following the example of Our Lord who remains hidden and solitary under the species of the Most Holy Sacrament, leading there a life all of love for men.
In his emphasis on hiddenness, Monsieur de Bernières comes very close to what Saint Thérèse, another child of Normandy, would write two centuries later: “Ah, I desired that, like the face of Jesus, my face be so truly hidden that no one on earth would know me.” I am also reminded of little Saint Francisco Marto who, at the age of ten, hid himself in a corner of the parish church so as to console there the “hidden Jesus” of the tabernacle.
The liturgy of this feast brings into focus three places, three mysteries, and three graces. The first is Nazareth: the hiddenness of the Incarnation. “Verily thou art a hidden God, the God of Israel the saviour” (Isaias 45:15)
The second is the tabernacle: the hiddenness of the Sacred Host. “Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).
The third is the cloister: the hiddenness of the monk. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues” (Psalm 30:21).
Truly, thou art a hidden God. I adore thee in thy hiddenness, and I beseech thee to hide me in thyself, even as thou art hidden.
– Hidden in the bosom of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Virgin Mother’s womb, I adore thee.
– Hidden in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Passion beneath a veil of sorrow and of blood, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy holy sepulchre beneath the shroud and napkin, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the night of thy holy resurrection, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the glory of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the Sacred Host and in the tabernacles of Thy churches the world over, I adore thee.
– Thou who art the splendour of the Father’s glory and the very image of His substance, thou hast chosen hiddenness for thyself and thou hast chosen hiddenness for me. Hide thou me in the secret of thy Face. Hide thou me in the deep cavern that is thy sacred side pierced by the soldier’s lance. Hide me with thee in the Sacrament of the thy love. Let me abide alone with thee where thou art most alone. What is man that thou shouldst choose him to share this solitude of thine? Who am I that thou shouldst want to share thy solitude with me?
There are souls to whom Our Lord says, in effect:
I want to draw a veil between your soul and the world. I want to reserve you for myself alone and hide you far from the gaze of demons and of men. I want to cover you with a veil and draw you into the sanctuary of my Heart, there to exercise with me, through me, and in me, a hidden priesthood and a hidden victimhood.
This is the hiddenness into which I drew my most holy Mother, beginning with her Presentation in the temple and perfected in her glorious Assumption. This is the hiddenness into which I drew the friend of the Bridegroom, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint John, the disciple beloved of my Heart.
This is the hiddenness into which I still draw souls who consent to renounce appearances and enter into a state of apparent death, of silence, of uselessness, of nothingness in the eyes of the world. This is the hiddenness of the Host, my true Body, now exposed before your eyes and, then, hidden away in the tabernacle. Looking at the Host, the world sees nothing: no action, no usefulness, no message, no significance. Looking at the same Host with the eyes of faith, what do you see? Do you not see, however faintly and obscurely, what the Father and the angelic hosts see: the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; the very work of redemption unfolding; the glory of my Face filling the universe with the radiance of my divinity; the one Face that all the world desires to see?
Consent to be hidden, even as I am hidden, and you shall want for nothing. Consent to be hidden, and I shall give you all that I created you to receive from me, all that my Father would give you because he loves you even as he loves me: you in me and I in you. (From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest)