The negative virtues (1961)
We must get used to humility and silence, we must love humility and silence. The contemplative life re-quires a progressive divesting of the soul: the soul must allow itself to be sweetly deprived by God of everything human; it must be reduced to its original creaturely poverty. Having become pure capacity, it opens to God, and God gives Himself to it, so that He becomes its whole life. We look for nothing else, we desire nothing else: God alone.
Our prayer must be simple and pure. We mustn’t believe in fine thoughts, we mustn’t trust our feelings; in the humility of faith we cleave to God, who remains hidden. We mustn’t allow our occupations, study, work, human relations, to distract us from Him; in particular we mustn’t think or behave as though God and our union with Him served to obtain or possess some secondary object. We must content ourselves with God. This means that the soul should remain in peace, what-ever happens. Nobody and nothing can tear us away from the Lord.
The progressive shedding from the soul must make it evident, not only to ourselves but to others, that our only good is God: in our serenity, in our humble and pure joy. This is the supreme testimony that is required of every Christian today, the testimony that we must render to the world. Our greatness is humility, our riches are peace, our joy is in silence.
The exercises of the religious life are not the reli-gious life itself, but means to achieve it; our religious life goes far beyond these exercises, in the tranquil cleaving of the soul to the God who is present. For us everything points towards the purity and the simplicity of this cleaving. Not only continuous attention to Him, not only living His presence: God is not only the One who is present, He is the One who loves. Your faith is not merely the recognition of the absolute reality of God. His immensity does not appear to your spirit as an indifferent and impersonal reality. He is everything for you. The act which you must live, which is already the life of heaven, is the act by which you receive Him continuously, the act by which you cleave to His love, take your pleasure in Him, rest in Him.
You have no need of words. You do not need many thoughts or sentiments. Just as the life sheds every-thing superfluous, so too does prayer. And all the more does the Lord become present, in the poverty of every-day things.
We live, dear brethren, in this continuous need for humility and silence, the pure condition for the presence of God in our poor life. How much sweetness there is in the full acceptance of God’s action in removing from us, day by day, our every secret ambition, our every desire for power! How sweet it is to drown the soul in the forgetfulness of creatures! In the pure silence of the soul, love is not denied, but love is no longer ex-clusive, closed, egotistical, troubled, anxious. This life absorbed in God is not denied its fertility, but its fertility does not detract from its purity.
It is not poverty, humility and silence that make God present: rather it is God who, the closer we approach, the more He gives Himself to a soul, the more He makes it poor, humble and alone. It is not for you to make God present in your poor life; it is He who, making Himself present, consumes and destroys your opacity, turning you into pure crystal for His light, reduces to nothing your power and strength and will, leaving you with the absolute simplicity of infinite light.
I ask God’s blessing on all of you.