Some years ago, I translated one of Mother Mectilde de Bar’s most important conferences; she gave it on the vigil of the Epiphany, 1694. She would have been eighty years old at the time; this conference reflects, then, her thought in its maturity. Although Mother Mectilde is addressing her own daughters, her message speaks to the heart of anyone called by God to a life of adoration.
Mystery Events of Christ
In this text, Mother Mectilde makes some very noteworthy remarks. First of all, she affirms that the Most Holy Eucharist contains all the mysteries of Christ or, if you will, Christ in all His mysteries. The mysteries of Christ are theandric events, that is to say that they correspond to Christ’s twofold nature, divine and human. Insofar as they are human, the events of Christ’s life are subject to the passing flow of time in history; they took place at a given moment in a given place, but insofar as they are divine, these same events transcend time and space, remaining ever present and actual in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The mystery–events of Christ contained in the Most Holy Eucharist are eternally present to the Father and, in time, are perpetually available to the Church, to whom it is given to apply their fruits sacramentally for the forgiveness of sins and for the growth in holiness of the faithful. Thus do we see, in the mosaic above, Saint John Chrysostom adoring the Christ Child present on the altar in the Sacred Mysteries.
Theology Shaped by the Liturgy
Mother Mectilde’s theological thought is strongly related to her experience of the sacred liturgy and, notably, to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this conference one can perceive clearly the influence of the Preface of the Mass and of the Sanctus. Mother Mectilde relates the grandeur of the eschatological liturgy in all its perfection to the vocation of those whom God has chosen to adore Him in spirit and in truth here below.
Immolation of the Victim
Mother Mectilde further relates adoration to the immolation of the victim made over to God in sacrifice. Sacrifice is, in fact, the supreme expression of adoration. One cannot adore in spirit and in truth while witholding something of oneself from God. One’s whole self must be surrendered in a sacrificial holocaust in order for one’s adoration to be what God would have it be. For this reason did the Father give us the sacrifice of the Son — the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim (as the Roman Canon puts it) — as the pattern of adoration to be reproduced in all who belong to Him, and this by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Spontaneously, Mother Mectilde breaks into prayer in the middle of her conference. In this she follows a long monastic tradition, exemplified notably by Saint Bernard, in which the speaker quite naturally addresses God, even while addressing men.
Adoration: God’s Gift
There is an almost humourous realism in Mother Mectilde’s comparison of one attempting to adore God worthily with the buzzing flight of little flies who can only go so high without falling exhausted to the ground. (Anyone who has had to sweep up dead flies from a window ledge or elsewhere, knows exactly what she is talking about. I have seen flies exhaust themselves trying to escape through a window.) Adoration in spirit and in truth is, before all else, a grace that God gives us before being something that we can give God.
Doing on Earth What We Will Do in Heaven
A life of adoration here below is a foretaste of heaven. One who adores perpetually in this life, who adores with every breath and every heartbeat, is doing already what he will do eternally in heaven. Here one adores in the darkness of faith; there it will be in the light of glory.
The Invisible Star of Grace
Tomorrow we shall celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which signifies the manifestation of Jesus to the holy Magi Kings, who sought Him in the manger of Bethlehem to offer Him their respect and their adoration. This feast must bring us a special devotion because it corresponds more than any other to the spirit of our vocation which deputes us to adore the same Christ Jesus, whom the Magi adored, in the august Sacrament of the Altar, the mystery that contains within itself all the other mysteries of His holy life. For this reason, you can adore there [in the Most Holy Sacrament] the little Child of the manger; you can adore Him together with the Holy Kings and you can say even as they did, “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him” (Matthew 2:2). The call to to the Institute [of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar] was your star, and even though you did not see a visible star, as the Magi did, you have had nonetheless the interior inspiration of grace, which is by far more secure than outward signs.
God Has Chosen Us
You have, then, seen His star, and you have come to adore Him. But what duration and extent must such adoration have? Every instant of our life, and with all our being. We are called . . . of Perpetual Adoration. Oh, let us not bear so beautiful a name in vain; let us not be illusory adorers, let us correspond with all our capacity to this calling and to God’s choice of us to adore Him continually. Has He need of us for this, poor and miserable creatures [that we are] who can do nothing good of ourselves unless we be moved by His grace? Has He not millions of angels and heavenly spirits who ceaselessly render Him perfect adoration even in our churches, which are altogether full of them? Although we do not see them, this is the truth. All the same, He has chosen us and wants us to have the privilege of adoring Him as they do, and of being His perpetual adorers. We must, in a holy manner, glory in so lofty a vocation! But to carry out such a vocation, it is not enough to spend an hour or some in His presence in choir.
In Spirit and in Truth
Our adoration must be perpetual because the same God whom we adore in the Most Holy Sacrament is always present to us in every place. We must adore Him in spirit and in truth. In spirit, by means of a holy interior recollection; in truth, by acting in such wise that all our observances become a continual adoration, and this by giving ourselves faithfully to God in all that He asks of us, because as soon as we fail in fidelity, we stop adoring.
Our Institute was created uniquely to make perpetual adorers of us. You have been called to this; it is, therefore, up to you to realise its grace and holiness by becoming authentic adorers who adore in spirit and in truth. Yes, such must be your care and diligence in adoring this God of majesty in spirit and in truth, so as to correspond to His choice of you. In spirit, by the certainty of your faith, believing all that He is in Himself, even without understanding it. His divine greatnesses and perfections deserve your homage, your respect, your adoration. In truth, by adoring Him with your whole being, in such wise that there be nothing in you that you do not wish to hand over and sacrifice to Him in order to adore Him as perfectly as possible according to your capacity and with all your heart.
With Our Entire Selves
My God, what an honour Thou hast done us in calling us to adore Thee! Grant us the grace to correspond to this calling. We ask this of Thee through the mediation of Thy most holy Mother, even as we pray her to obtain for us from Thy bounty that we may know how to fulfil faithfully the obligation of adoring Thee — adoring Thee in spirit and in truth — with our entire selves, immolating to Thy greatness all that we are.
Like Poor Little Flies in His Presence
I repeat it to you again, let us consider well the grace that the Lord has bestowed on us: He has chosen us to adore Him always, we who barely know how to think of Him and who are like poor little flies in His presence! When we think that we lifting ourselves up a little to God in contemplation, we fall down right away. The distraction of our spirit and of our imagination, our darknesses, our personal miseries are so great! No matter how much good will we may have, it is impossible for us to maintain always our mind equally raised up to God. Our adorations on earth are but momentary, so to speak, in comparison with the adoration that the angels and the blessed offer God in heaven.
Beginning Eternity’s Occupation Here and Now
Why then, my God, hast Thou chosen us, poor miserable creatures? Art Thou not content with the many holy and perfect adorations that Thou receivest from the angels and saints? And if Thou hadst not enough of these, couldst Thou not create again an infinity of others similar to those whom Thou hast already created, and who would offer Thee adorations worthy of Thy divine majesty? No, my God, Thou didst will that we should share with them the honour of adoring Thee continually, beginning in this world what we will do for all eternity.
He Who Calls Give the Grace to Respond
Oh, once again, how great is this grace! I assure you that only in eternity will you know its greatness! Do not think that I am telling you so many trifles to distract and entertain you. No, no, this is about certain truths that you will know after death. This is about truths of faith: according to the Gospel, God must have adorers who will adore Him in spirit and in truth. It is just as certain that such is your particular vocation. And if it is your vocation, it is also a matter of faith that God has given you the grace for it. It depends, therefore, only on us to make use of it by means of our fidelity.