All Day (Monday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 4: Monday A Life Hidden in God (II) My life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:4). It is here that we
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 4: Monday
A Life Hidden in God (II)
My life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:4). It is here that we must open our hearts in silence and peace in the consideration of the hidden life of Jesus.
The God of glory hides himself under the veil of a mortal nature: “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are in him, but they “are hidden” (Col. 2:3). This is the first step. And the second is that he hides in the womb of a virgin, and the wonder of his virginal conception remains hidden under the veil of marriage. He caused John the Baptist to recognize him within his mother’s womb, where he lay. “When the voice of your greeting came to my ears,” said Elizabeth, “the child in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Will he at least show himself upon coming into the world? Yes, to the shepherds, but otherwise, it was never more true than at the time of his birth that “he was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not” (John 1:10). The whole universe ignored him; his childhood had nothing special about it. “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:15). He appears only once, at the age of twelve, but still it is not said that he taught: “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” In truth, he did so learnedly, but it does not appear to be the case that he decided matters then, even though this was one of the reasons that he came among us. “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers,” but he had begun by listening and asking (Luke 2:46-47).
After having shone for a moment like the sun breaking through dark clouds, he again plunged into voluntary obscurity. When he responded to his parents, who had been searching for him, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” they “did not understand” (Luke 2:49-50). Mary, to whom the angel announced his divine birth and his grand and eternal reign, was as if ignorant, inasmuch as she spoke not a word of them. All she did was to listen to what was said about her son and be astonished, just as St. Luke says: “His father and his mother marveled at what was said about him” (Luke 2:33). This was the time to hide the treasure that had been entrusted to them, and so we know very little about him from these thirty years: he was the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself; he worked in the shop of the man who was thought to be his father; and he was obedient to his parents and served them in their home and at work just as the children of the other artisans. His condition, then, was that he was hidden in God, or rather, that God was hidden in him. We will participate in the perfection and the happiness of the hidden Christ if our life is hidden in God with him.
He came out of this holy and divine obscurity, and he appeared as the light of the world. But at the same time, the world — the enemy of the light that revealed its evil works — heaped calumny upon him from every side, like black vapors to overshadow him. There is no sort of falsehood that was not tried against Jesus. No one knew what to believe of him. He was called a prophet and a deceiver. Some said he was the Christ; others denied it. He was a man who loved pleasure, good meals, and good wine. He was a Samaritan, a heretic, impious, an enemy of the Temple and of the holy people. He delivered those possessed by the power of Beelzebub; he was himself possessed; he had an evil spirit. Can anything good come out of Galilee? We do not know where he comes from, but certainly not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath; instead he cures men and works miracles on that day. Who is this man who comes into Jerusalem and the Temple with such fanfare? We do not know him: “so there was a division among the people over him” (John 7:43). Who knew you, O Jesus? “Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (cf. Isa. 45:15).
Yet when the hour came to save the world, he could be hidden no longer: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces” (Isa. 53:3). No one recognized him. He seemed even to forget himself: “My God, my God” — he no longer called him Father — “why hast thou forsaken me?” (cf. Matt. 27:46). What! Is this no longer the well-beloved Son who had said: “He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone” (John 8:29)? And now he says, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Covered with our sins and, as it were, become a sinner in our place, he seems to have forgotten himself, and this is why the psalmist adds in his name: “Far from my salvation are the words of my sins” (Ps. 21:2, Douay-Rheims [RSV = Ps. 22:2]).
He died. He descended into the tomb. Soon he departed, and Mary Magdalene could not find him: she had lost the body of her Master. After his Resurrection, he appeared and disappeared eight or ten times. He showed himself for the last time, and a cloud took him from our sight: we will never see him again. His glory is proclaimed throughout the world, but if he is the power of God for believers, he is a scandal to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). The world does not know him, does not wish to know him. All the earth is covered with his enemies and those who blaspheme him. Heresies grow up in the very bosom of his Church to disfigure his mysteries and doctrine. Error prevails in the world, and even among his disciples there are some who do not know him, for no one knows him, he told us, except those who keep his commandments. And who keeps them? The impious have multiplied beyond all number; they can no longer be counted. But your true disciples, O my Savior, how rare are they, how scattered throughout the earth, and even in your Church! Scandal mounts, and charity cools. We seem to be living in the times you predicted: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). But you do not thunder; you do not make us feel your might. Mankind blasphemes with impunity. Were we to judge according to human standards, we would think nothing more equivocal or dubious than your glory. It is found only in God, where you are hidden. And I, too, wish to be hidden in God with you.