This is the ninth reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Henri de Lubac.
You are the centre, Lord, of my life. The centre of my life. Amid all my preoccupations, all the worries and hassles and concerns in my mind right now, can I focus for a moment on the centre of my life? Can I open my heart to God, my guide, my healer, my teacher? Can I stop for a moment and listen to God’s voice?
Henri de Lubac was born in 1896 and was arguably one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Like his friend and fellow-French Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, it was his study of the past that made him a revolutionary scholar. In de Lubac’s case it was a deep academic rediscovery of the writings of the early Christian church that caused him to call for a more orthodox, redefinition of what were thought by many people to be accepted Church positions concerning such matters as Grace, the Eucharist and the social nature of Salvation. De Lubac enriched the study of God for the entire Christian community. Though his ideas came under suspicion and scrutiny in the early 1950’s, it was gradually recognised that his profound insights and understanding of Church tradition were remarkably prophetic and he became one of the key theological experts of Vatican II, and was a major influence on the final texts of the documents on The Church (Lumen Gentium) and The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). In recognition of his contribution to the modern theology, Pope John Paul II appointed de Lubac a Cardinal in 1983. He died in 1991.
God is not a spectacle. He freely manifests himself by his Word “is never something closed, which could be taken in at a glance like a circumscribed landscape; it is something which is always happening anew, like water from a spring or rays from a light”. Hence it is not enough, as St Augustine said, to have been initiated once unless one is unceasingly inebriated at the fountain of eternal Light. “To anyone who loves, this truth is immediately obvious; the face and the voice of the Beloved are at each instant as new for him as though he had never yet beheld them.” Such a one cannot fear that the day might come when he will have exhausted God; he drinks at the source of a knowledge and of a love which, he understands better and better, will eternally surpass him:
The characteristic of God, who, in revealing himself, shows himself to be incomprehensible, is not conditioned simply by the obscurity of earthly faith. This faith therefore cannot simply disappear in the face-to-face vision; on the contrary, it is then, precisely, that the incomprehensibility of God in every perception of God will reach its maximum. It would be ridiculous and contrary to all experience as well as to all true faith to interpret this face-to-face vision as a definitive grasping, after the fashion of an acquired science or a human philosophy.
Augustine’s axiom, ‘si comprehendis non est Deus’, applies in heaven as well as on earth.
“God”, says Irenaeus, “will always have to teach us, and we shall always have to be instructed about the things of God; the divine riches are ‘never-ending’, just as the kingdom of God is without end.” St John has taught us that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness.” We must be careful not to lose sight of that teaching. But we also know, as the Psalmist says, that “he made the darkness his dwelling place”; in other words, his light is too intense and too profound ever to be penetrated. Whoever makes progress into it as though into a “luminous cloud” understands better and better that his true knowledge and his true vision consist in “not-grasping”. It is thus that he enters and plunges deep “into the joy of the Lord”.
And even the humblest movement of faith secretly introduces us to this end that knows no end.
Henri de Lubac describes an encounter with a person not an idea. Reflect over your own experiences of encountering God.
Is there anything in what De Lubac describes that you recognise? If so, dwell there for a few moments.
Is there anything in what De Lubac describes that you long for? Longing and searching can also be another way of encounter. If so, dwell in your longing and your searching, can you get a sense of it not as an absence but as, in itself, a presence that is holding you and calling you?
De Lubac speaks about a knowing or a knowledge which is not grasping - it is not a mastery of God but rather receptivity. As you listen again, think what that grace of presence might mean for you. What do you need to learn or unlearn in order to accept it?
There is always a joy in seeking God even when things are dry or difficult and a joy in finding God or letting God find us. De Lubac uses a striking image of plunging deep into that joy - plunging deep into God’s self. Take time at the end of this reflection to give thanks, to discover the signs and the intimations of that joy in the day, and ask for the grace of saying ‘I accept for love of You'.