A Spiritual Reflection
By Father Michael Gaudoin-Parker
Grace floods our whole lives, enlightening and transforming us to see clearly and live fully our human potential: a potential that comes from God. This means acknowledging with gratitude the gifts and blessings we receive in abundance from him, who is unstintingly generous. The Prologue of John’s Gospel states that we receive the divine outpouring of “grace upon grace” bestowed from the fullness of “grace and truth through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:16f). This phrase, “grace and truth”, in the Vulgate refers to those two characteristic qualities of God’s dealing with humankind: mercy and faithfulness, communicated through his eternal Word in our human condition of frailty. It discloses the Gospel or Good News about our calling to share eventually in the eternal life of God’s glory: that is, the Father’s and Son’s Being-in-Communion of reciprocal love in the Holy Spirit.
Grace must not be thus thought of merely as an object, but, rather, as a quality of living in the light of being related. God leads us to this life from that sin-darkened state of alienation from him and one another as isolated individuals. His gift of grace calls, sustains, and finally draws us, as St Augustine realised, to know the joy of freely responding to God’s magnificent wise design of reconciling, relating and recapitulating all creation in Christ (cf. Eph 1:6, 9f.). Drawing closer to this design is a matter of gradual conversion, or turning toward the light that grace provides us with. This is neither a matter of dangerous Quietist passivity, nor is it the rigorist attitude of Pelagian perfectionism that exalts mere rugged human effort: we must steer clear of both these heresies. Thus, at the end of Diary of a Country Priest, Georges Bernanos brings the dying priest to a serene abandonment to God: “All is Grace.”
Being so acutely aware of God the “Giver of breath and bread” overwhelming us with his sheer goodness, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in his sonnet “As kingfishers catch fire”:
…the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
None better than the Blessed Virgin Mary lived truly what these lines express. In another poem, “Rosa Mystica”, the same poet wrote how she exudes God’s sweet fragrance: “Sweet unto God and sweetness is grace.” This translucent loveliness of grace pervaded her entire being, which was manifest above all in her ready response to God’s invitation to her in an obedience to faith (cf. Rom 1:5). Because of this quality the Archangel Gabriel addressed her as enjoying God’s favour: a grace and favour which contrasted with Eve’s disobedience. Hence, Blessed John Henry Newman, following the teaching of the early Fathers of the Church Justin and Irenaeus, eloquently wrote that Mary was the “Second/New Eve”. Thanks to her cooperation with God’s gratuitous design, the new creation of his grace and truth of charity dawned in Christ.
Encompassing the Greek word for both grace and charity, the Eucharist signifies thanksgiving and praise for God’s all-transfiguring grace, which is the form of the beauty of all living. In Eucharistic worship we acknowledge the grace-filled divine giving and mercy “gentle as silence,” as the words of a beautiful hymn put it. Through this worship, we, albeit so poor in the art of gratitude, perceive the divine beauty of Christ’s gracious Presence in the self-offering of his Paschal sacrifice. Moreover, being surprised by the amazing grace of the Saviour loving us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we are filled with Eucharistic amazement at the mystery of his Presence with us for ever (cf. Mt 28:20) and impelled to live out what we celebrate, so that our whole lives become grace-filled or eucharist-hearted. As Pope Francis said in his Wednesday catechesis on 12th February 2014: “Through the Eucharist…Christ wishes to enter into our life and permeate it with his grace, so that in every Christian community there may be coherence between liturgy and life.”
Father Michael Gaudoin-Parker has been living for many years near Assisi a contemplative lifestyle enabling him to share its fruits in books, articles, and recently in a blog on the internet: Word made Eucharist.
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