(This text is published as The Holy Trinity, Chapter 20 of Falling in Love, pages 503-532, and re-printed as Chapter 3 of Radiant Light: How the Work Began, pages 23-61 – see Publications)
It was on 4 August 1995 that God called me to write much of this piece about the Holy Trinity; and I've added a few extra pages during the past year, now that I've been shown so much more about prayer, and about the transforming union - and about God's great love for us all.
No-one can live daily in the company of the Three Divine Persons - as if at Their 'heart', as They dwell in the unity of the Godhead - who has been unwilling to be prepared and purified according to Their supremely wise and far-seeing plan. But God is so good that anyone who responds to the Divine invitation can achieve this magnificent friendship: of a creature with his or her God; and it's from within that state of astonishing peace and fulfilment and bliss that I now urge other people to persevere in love and in prayer, so that they, too, can experience the wonderful things which God has lavished upon me, some of which He wants me to mention in the next few pages.
God Himself has told me that this book can be seen as my own "MAGNIFICAT" (Lk 1:46), written in praise and thanksgiving to Him after a long and arduous spiritual journey. So I'll write no more about my failings, but only about His kindness. It's no use my being bashful, anymore, about God's goodness towards me, if I want to convince anyone about the sweetness of His friendship; rather, I'm willing to say that for the last year or two the manner of receiving each teaching in prayer has been wholly delightful. The state of friendship with the Father in which I now live is so wonderful and fulfilling that I've only to turn my heart and thoughts towards Him in Heaven to receive His Bliss. Every blissful prayer increases my confidence in His Love; and every new growth in confidence causes me to pray with a greater hope of being heard and answered; and, indeed, His answers have amazed me. Some have been so sweet and loving that it almost breaks my heart to think of them and makes me yearn to bring other people towards Him; and that's why I'm going to try to describe in more detail what I've learned from God about Himself. I'm going to tell what I've learned from the Holy Trinity about the Three Divine Persons, and about the joys of a loving union in prayer and in daily life with this Source of Joy Who is at the same time Father, Word and Spirit.
In order to speak accurately about God, I must begin again at the beginning. I mean that the Church has taught us through the Apostles and their successors that God is 'Being' Itself: Three Persons in One God, that is, in One Divine Being Whom we adore because He created us and because He is worthy of all possible praise, since He is Good.
What 'dry bones' are these facts, some people would say. Yet how staggering is the meaning, or rather, how staggering is the thought of God's nature, His attributes and His actions. But to continue: I can say that we've all learned from the Church - which puts God's Revelation into words for us, through her decrees and catechisms and Councils - that the Three Divine Persons are equal in Majesty. Furthermore, the Father possesses nothing that the Son does not have; the Son possesses all that the Spirit has: yet the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Son, and so on; and yet the Divine Persons are equal. Each possess the same attributes as the others; and, in a way beyond our understanding, the Three Persons are One Lord, with no beginning and no end.
I'm aware that I've received these beliefs or 'concepts' through the Church, although they've been confirmed by what I've learned in prayer. I say this because some of the above phrases are quoted from memory, for example: 'the Father is not the Son' - perhaps a phrase from the Athanasian Creed; I haven't had time to check; but I know that this is certainly our true teaching: from God, through His Church.
Many details about our life within the Most Holy Trinity are what we have learned through God's Revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ, knowledge now handed down to us through Christ's living, teaching Church; and what I've noticed in prayer only confirms something else that the Church already teaches us: something we find 'illustrated' in our liturgy; I meant that God Wills us to attribute certain acts and certain virtues to certain Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. This is what was done by Jesus Himself on earth.
So we speak of the Father creating us, of the Son redeeming us, and of the Spirit sanctifying us: to give a brief example of the language I want to consider; and the Church urges us to speak in this way, even though God the Father didn't create us without the Son, the Spirit helped to redeem us, and so on. An act by each Divine Person is an act of the Most Holy Trinity. God 'has no parts or passions' as our old catechism said. Someone who speaks about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, however, as though the distinctions we make between the Divine Persons are unimportant, won't relish the wonderful Life of the Holy Trinity and so won't yearn wholeheartedly either to know or to enter the Godhead; and I believe it's because God wants to encourage a greater interest in His inner life - and so to cause willing souls to turn to Him in fervent prayer - that I've been shown so much about the Three Persons, in prayer, and have been encouraged to notice the different 'approach' that Each One has adopted towards me - adopted as a way of teaching me about the Godhead in which Each of the Three Persons is distinct whilst sharing the same nature.
In a moment, I'll try to share what I've experienced in prayer: to describe what I've experienced as different approaches from the Three Divine Persons, and also to show how God Himself has encouraged me to attribute certain Divine actions and 'attitudes' either to Father, Son or Holy Spirit, although they are co-equal, and are one Lord. This is the foundation of my opposition to certain changes put forward by 'extreme' Christian feminists, who call for an end to 'patriarchy' and who dislike naming God our Creator as "Father"; but, more importantly, it is a reason for increased gratitude to God Who is so loving that He delights in sharing with us the riches of His own inner life and His own ways of acting; and since I can say with gratitude and confidence that this is what He's done for me, I'm writing these pages from personal experience. Nothing I'm writing is fundamentally new, but is simply a description of the different approaches made to the soul in prayer by the Three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity; and I dare to write about "different approaches" even though each Divine Person possesses the Divine Nature and All are equal in perfection, in majesty and in every good property. I dare, only because none of the three 'approaches' was seen by me as being against Truth, as I know it.
Each 'approach' has been experienced with overwhelming intensity in contemplative prayer, or, rather, in that state of contemplative prayer where the soul can act, think, speak and reason. All is silence and 'unknowing' in other 'stages'.
As I shall soon describe, the difference I've noticed between the Divine Persons lies in what I've experienced of Them in states of prayer Willed and given by God; and my knowledge of God, it can be seen, is a gift to me from God, given because He has trained me to be obedient and therefore to worship Him just as devout persons in every century since Christ have worshipped Him: by calling Him "Father" and by striving to obey His wishes. Furthermore, I haven't been ashamed to bow towards the floor before Him in adoration and submission, as well as wonder and love; and He has stooped down to me and has lifted me up, in order to teach me about Himself; and that's why I can share my delight in Him through books, pictures and conversations.
Here I must insist that this submissive awe is what is due to God; and we ought to offer it gladly. Even when someone has been lifted into the Father's friendship through a deep, tender and intimate friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ, Who greets and consoles that soul in Holy Communion, that fortunate soul mustn't think of saying: "I'm a baptised child of God, redeemed and cherished, and therefore I don't need to bow down low before Him, like a servant." We needn't always be bowing or kneeling. When it's appropriate, we can sit to pray - or kneel, or walk, or lie in bed, if we're unwell. But although we're praying to a most tender Father, Who is 'mad' with love for us, we're always right to remember and to honour His Divinity in particular ways.
No matter how close we are to God, no matter how much loved, nor how frequently we're drawn into blissful prayer, we remain always mere creatures before our Divine Creator, for as long as we're on this earth. Not until Heaven will we "BE LIKE HIM" (1 Jn 3:2). Then, at last, though our worship of Him will continue and will give us unending joy, all fear will have been banished. We shall be utterly changed, joyful and confident in His presence; yet until that time, we must keep in mind our utter indebtedness to Christ. Only through Him has our confident prayer been made possible, and our peace-of-soul, and our hope of Heaven.
[There's a need for a brief digression here, perhaps, to suggest that it's God's Will - expressed through Scripture and Tradition - that we follow Jesus' advice and say to God: "Our Father" - not "Mother" - when we pray for help and salvation. Surely there's no need for us to address God differently; and I only say this so forcefully because it's what I've had confirmed through God's teachings-in-prayer; and this will become evident during the next dozen pages - although it's a comparatively minor matter, when set beside the greatest problem today, in worship, which is not modes of address but pride and irreverence.]
Now that I'm about to describe what I know of the Three Divine Persons - One God - I'm not afraid to say quite boldly that Christ my God, Who gave me His Divine Life in Baptism and to Whom I've given my loyalty, has drawn me into His friendship. He has led me to experience His teaching and attributes, to some small degree, during prayer; and as I've explained, Christ has drawn me into almost unceasing intimacy with Him, from our union in 1985. Such intimacy wasn't possible earlier, before various great purifications had been completed, both passive and active, and interior and exterior. It has only been through my baptism and the faith of my parents that I learned such a lot about truth, faith, God and prayer, and so - assisted by reason and observation - was led to a firm belief in the existence of a Creator/Designer-God; and only through prayer 'in' and through Jesus Christ did I grow in the knowledge of God, that is, grow in a real friendship, though it was once marred, as I said, by insecurity and sin to a degree that is only a memory to me now, through His grace; and yet now I can say with immense joy, and utter conviction, that Christ my God has allowed me to experience His Love and friendship more and more fully in prayer; and I can say from experience that His personal tenderness and care are astonishing, that is, astonishing to someone who, earlier, didn't really understand the meaning of the words "GOD IS LOVE" (1 Jn 4:16). Despite the fact that I'm not worthy of such a love I've found that Christ is ablaze with Love, especially in Holy Communion, although at other times as well.
Anyone who perseveres through several volumes of 'teachings' and who believes in them will have a glimpse of the Christ I know - the only Christ - Who is more gentle and loving than I once thought possible. There's no-one like Him. As He Himself has explained to me (in T:2064) He is the Source of every sort of consolation for those who put their trust in Him. Whether we're fearful, lonely, sinful and repentant, or weak, old, sick, or broken-hearted - or dumb, blind or dying - we can find peace in Him, if we'll trust Him. There's no embrace sweeter than His. There's no greater or kinder friend or counsellor, or Priest, or helper, or teacher, companion or hero. He knows our every thought and hope and fear; and He longs to draw us through the difficulties of earthly life towards the Bliss of Heaven; but He can't do so unless we put our trust in Him and give our consent: such is His respect for our dignity: for our free-will.
But Christ isn't solely our Priest and Redeemer; He's a poet, and a teller of stories. He's the loving Friend Who brings gifts on special occasions, Who remembers every hurt I've ever suffered and every word of thanks I've offered to Him for good things. It's He Who has bent over me, gently, to stroke my head and to comfort me as I've endured necessary trials in order to do this work. It's He Who knelt at my feet, one extraordinary day, to show me how much He sympathises with me in every difficulty, and would wash my feet, He said, just as He washed the feet of His Apostles, if it would make my journey to Heaven any easier (T:2243B).
Perhaps you can see, now, how He breaks my heart by His tenderness; and that's why I can't bear to refuse any of His requests, even when He asks me to do difficult things - for the sake of the work - which will leave me looking foolish or very much alone.
One night I was asked by a member of my family: "What's He like? What does He look like? Do you see Our Lord every day?" It seemed right to answer; and, indeed, on the following morning at Mass, Christ taught me that in speaking out about Him with such fervour, and with the knowledge gained through our firm friendship, I'd been fulfilling His plan for me, which is that I act as a living witness to Him and to His Love.
This is more-or-less what I said about Christ. I exclaimed, joyfully, that there's no-one like Him, and that He breaks my heart with His kindness. I said: "He's devastatingly attractive, in that He's so loving and kind and encouraging. He's very strict, whom He needs to be, but even that's for my good, if I've been selfish." Then I spoke about His attitude towards me.
"He's always the same, in the sense that He's reliable: never moody, though I do see different aspects of Him; I mean that He's very funny, when He teases me - but gently - or when He makes a play on words, to amuse and to console me; yet He's so tender, at times, that I'm overwhelmed just to remember the times when He's stroked my head, to comfort me after awful difficulties, or when He's spoken about His gratitude for little sacrifices I've made.
I 'see' Him everyday in one sense, though not always by spiritual 'sight' - but usually by what's called an "intellectual vision" when He comes to the altar after the Consecration, and then comes to me in Holy Communion; and I experience His presence in this way at home as well, from time to time. But I also see Him in the sense of a vision with an image - a real Person, though seen with the soul's eyes and not by my bodily sight. This happens every few days, but with extra occasions such as special feast-days, or else the times when He suddenly appears to me to speak to me and to explain something, as a reward for a special effort on my part.
To see Christ in this way is an immense privilege. I never know in advance whether I'll see Him or not. He's been training me, for many years, to pray to Him all day and every day with a sincere, contrite and trusting heart, without ever thinking about whether He'll teach me, appear to me, speak to me, or give me new tasks to undertake. He's made it plain that I'm not to waste time speculating about His gifts, but should simply accept them joyfully when He gives them to me, and continue to pray in the usual ways when there seem to be no 'special' spiritual gifts or phenomena to be noticed; and by this training He has brought me to love Him more than any of His gifts - though it's true to say, today, that I only have to look in His direction, in church, to be swamped by His loving and consoling attention: such is the degree of friendship to which He's drawn me in recent months.
But to attempt to describe Him a little better, I need to say where I see Him: I mean, to explain in what ways He chooses to show that He's close to me.
On very special occasions when, for example, Christ wants to comfort or reward me after a particular event, He usually stands besides me: at my right side; and He talks to me as any friend talks to another, as He leans forward over my chair, since I'm usually sitting in church nowadays, due to increased weakness. But on most of the occasions when I've seen Him clearly - though almost dazzled, as I said, at the sight of His glory, and sometimes at His Mother's radiance too - I've seen Him in front of me. He usually stands one or two metres away, and speaks as anyone speaks to a close friend; and each time I'm overwhelmed with joy to be there.
This sort of appearance is always unexpected in the sense that I haven't known in advance that at this particular Mass, rather than at another, I shall have this immense joy. Such meetings as this, several years ago, were so sudden and so startling for me that Christ kept them mercifully brief, until I'd grown stronger, and had also become less ashamed and bashful in His Presence; but they are now - although unexpected - neither so startling nor so brief. Christ has spoken to me on so many of His major feast-days that I can't honestly say I'm surprised when He chooses to do so again, although I'm immensely awed and grateful, still; and since He's made me spiritually stronger, I find that I can now converse with Him and enjoy His evident company without being stricken with remorse, or made speechless, or even made oblivious to my surroundings, as in earlier times. But every time, I'm so overjoyed that my heart aches, afterwards, when I think of His goodness.
It's not possible for me to describe each of Christ's features in great detail, because although He hasn't hidden Himself from me, His face is so dazzling and so radiantly beautiful, that until very recently my soul's eyes have been half-blinded, so to speak, by the Light. But it's true to say that He's a real person: a real man, a few inches taller than His Mother - as I know, since I've been privileged to see them together on a number of occasions. He has long wavy hair, and always wears a long white robe, similar to an alb. He has a wonderful smile; and He's very expressive in His movements. He doesn't stand still like a statue but uses His arms to explain things to me, or His hands to point or to demonstrate, or to touch my head, as I said, or to gesture to different parts of the church or to certain persons - as you can see if you look at the watercolour paintings I've done.
He's so kind and so wise that my heart lurches, sometimes, just to think about Him; so it doesn't surprise me to read that people rushed around the lake, in Galilee, for the chance to be with Him for a bit longer. Those who saw what He was like, and who loved Him, must have been besotted with Him. He has that effect on you, if you can bear to go close enough to Him to feel His gaze. I mean that when He looks at you, He sees straight to your heart; and so you sometimes feel as though you can't bear it but must run away to hide for shame, or to grow angry at knowing your true self to have been 'found out'; or else you must kneel and confess your sins to Him, for the joy of hearing Him forgive you and comfort you; and that's when you find that you'll do anything to be worthy of Him, even giving up sin, and trying to be like Him: holy, gentle and child-like ; and yet He's immensely wise and mature at the same time.
It seems important to say that He's very manly, in the sense of seeming to be strong, brave, and authoritative in a manly sort of way - whilst still being tender and gentle. He makes you feel as though He can cope with any problem. You know that He can provide wisdom, truth and protection - all things which a woman can also provide, yet He does so in a manly sort of way; and this is no accident. It's because of His very manliness - His heroic and authoritative stature which is wholly suffused with kindliness - that He can provide men with a certain sort of friendship - a sort desired and planned by Him, our Incarnate God; and He can provide women too, and children, with just the sort of friendship by which He can help and encourage them best.
Just for the sake of adding a few more words about what Christ is 'like' when I meet Him, I suppose I can't fail to show Him out more clearly if I try to describe His reactions, if I can use that word, to the different sorts of prayers and requests I make before Him. I mean that it's become plain, after hundreds of conversations with Him, and after thousands of confessions to Him of my sins and weaknesses, that He is made even more joyful by some things than by others.
This doesn't mean that He's not perpetually and forever joyful in Heaven, as the Divine Son of God; but it means that as the Incarnate Son Who is fully human as well as Divine, He expresses more delight in meeting one sort of approach than another - just as He did when on earth, towards those who came to Him, as recorded in the Gospels. So I've discovered, from His reactions, what sorts of prayers please Him most; and perhaps it's worth my listing a few things here, on this subject - though with a reminder that the sort of reactions I describe are those revealed only in these past few months - in 1998 - now that He has brought me to a previously-unimagined degree of intimacy and contentment.
If I start at the 'lowest' level of what I must call Christ's response to prayer, I can say that if I am in my 'right place' for a time of prayer, but am day-dreaming or distracted, I am aware that Christ is holding me in the peace which is His gift; but He is silent, since He never forces anyone to pray. I can say that He has invited me to pray - by His Spirit's prompting - but yet He 'waits' for me to begin.
But as soon as I 'turn' my heart and mind towards Him, His Glory shines out, and warms my soul to its depths.
Whenever I express my love for Him, I see that Glory increase; and the joy within my soul increases, too, in accordance with His plan.
Whenever I ask for His help, believing that He will help me, I am rewarded for my trust by a further increase of Glory, of joy, and of peace and spiritual warmth: such is His goodness.
Whenever I beg Christ, with confidence, for some help for a needy neighbour - or else turn to the Father with Christ to offer that sort of prayer in Christ's Name - I am rewarded even more lavishly.
The prayer which brings the greatest reward, however - and which is greeted by Christ with the greatest delight and tenderness - is a sincere confession of sin or sinfulness after every un-Christlike thought or action; and this is one of the reasons why numerous words about sin appear so frequently in this story. Whenever I open my heart to Christ, to confess a fault or to reveal a lack of virtue, I am shown in a swift and almost overpowering manner that He is thrilled - deeply touched - by each act of humility and trust and love.
He sees humility in the heart of everyone who makes a sincere confession to Him of wrong. He sees trust whenever someone opens his heart to Him, on any subject; and He sees love wherever someone endures the humiliation of admitting his weakness and yet endures this because he wants to please Christ and to change; and Christ is overjoyed at such sights. I have seen that joy, in prayer; and that's why I no longer feel inadequate or remorseful when I confess my sins to Christ.
Now that I've learned how good He is, and how constant and unchanging is His attitude, I know that whenever I go to Him with some new cause for shame, I'll be loved, heard, forgiven and consoled - and also rewarded for my honesty and trust. Who could be kinder than Christ? No-one; and I wish everyone could come to know Him, and to know what it's like to believe in His Love, and to grow so close to Him through prayer and penance and service that Divine Love becomes almost the 'air' which the soul breathes throughout each day: an almost palpable sweetness which suffuses one's whole being; and Christ has told me that such sweetness is Heaven's 'medium', whereas the glory with which He adorns my soul in prayer is Heaven's livery; and these are the rewards for all who are repentant and reconciled - after they have patiently endured their purifications. Truly, there is no-one like Christ.
In order to help you to picture Him to some degree as I'm now able to picture Him because of all His appearances to me, I can't do better at this point than to ask you to think of the kindest, most tender and loving person you've ever met: someone who is also generous, understanding, funny and articulate and yet simple and straightforward, and then to realise that Christ is all of these things, and that He's real. He's a warm, affectionate Person, but Someone Who knows every thought and emotion that I ever experience; and so He is Someone Whose relationship with me and Whose conversations with me can be based - at my consent - wholly on truth, without a shadow of misunderstanding on His part.
This, then, is the Person Whom Peter and the other Apostles grew to know and love; and yet they had to deal with another 'aspect' of Christ that I've hardly mentioned so far; one which I, too, have found difficult to 'handle' in my heart and mind. I'm speaking of the fact that Christ Who is true man is also true God: the Son of God, now glorified and living in Glory.
It's true that it was only on rare occasions that the Apostles glimpsed that glory; but the more they listened to Christ, and watched Him, the more they noticed the things about Him which made Him different from other men; and this must have had them racking their brains for an explanation, before they could accept the astonishing and in some senses appalling truth about His Divine nature: and I say appalling because I believe that their respect for the Godhead was far more profound than ours, in our century; and they must have been shaken to the depths of their hearts at finding out Who Christ is, and then learning to cope with the implications.
Here amongst them - and now before me - was Someone utterly true and pure Who was totally trustworthy, even if He seemed impredictable at times because His way of thinking wasn't what they expected. He was never petulant or self-seeking. There was no sin in Him: no greed, lust or pride; He never lied, but went to the heart of things and spoke truth, all the time. How uncomfortable that must have been for those who were used to lies, flattery or evasions.
What a struggle for Christ's friends: to hold together in their minds what they saw before them, and what they had begun to know of Christ through His words and actions. What an extraordinary problem confronted them, as they tried to develop a friendship with Someone Who looked just as ordinary as themselves, yet Who was, in some respects, so utterly Other that they wanted to fall down in front of Him, or else to run away from His gaze.
I can say from experience that it's when we can't face that gaze in prayer - whether we actually see it or not - that we find it very hard to pray. Yet it's in the merciful darkness of prayer, if we'll spend our lives freely choosing to meet Christ there, that we're given the opportunity to unveil to His compassionate gaze our shoddy lives and pitiful attitudes, and our foolish sins and yearnings. Little by little, we can agree to abandon all that's unworthy of a close friendship with Him; and when we're reconciled and have begun to trust Him a little more, we can even bear a little of the radiance which He begins to shine upon us in our prayer. His Light is so dazzling, as I mentioned, that it hurts our soul's eyes, at first; and so we imagine that we're still living in spiritual darkness when in fact we're very close to God, and we're undergoing the marvellous process of purification, which we must endure either here or in Purgatory, if we're to be ready for the Glory and beauty of Heaven.
Now that I've tried to describe Christ, I want to say what I've found so marvellous about knowing Him: not all the obvious points, but the fact that He, my God and Saviour - Who has led me to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit - is so approachable, as man, that in knowing Him I understand much more about the Godhead, and I'm drawn closer towards the Holy Trinity. Furthermore, I can say from experience - about Christ's effect on our souls - that it's in knowing and loving Christ, the perfect man Who is unendingly patient, loving and trustworthy that I'm brought to a clearer understanding of the meaning of love, Salvation, Eternity, and sin and Heaven.
Now you can see, perhaps, that regular prayer is essential for everyone who hopes to change, to grow in virtue, to please Christ, and to be able to look forward to Heaven. Who will look towards death and Eternity with any peace, let alone any scrap of joy, if he's spent a life-time avoiding Christ's gaze, and has refused to pray, and has hoped to shrug off his responsibility which is to lead a life worthy of someone who was created by God, from love, for a life of perpetual bliss in His friendship?
Truly, Christ is so good, tender - and beautiful - that He's worthy any effort or any sacrifice, for those who believe in Him.
To meet Christ in Holy Communion, when one's friendship with Him has been tested, and when He appears to the eyes of the soul at each meeting, or else speaks of His love, or perhaps wordlessly communicates His wishes - or His thanks, or His plans - is to meet a uniquely pure and powerful Love. It's to meet, at close quarters, an all-consuming Divine Love; and so it's to meet, all-at-once, as Christ has shown me (in T:1916) the warmth of His loving glance, the fire of His pure affection, the sight of His open arms, the embrace of a lover, the strength of a brother - and it's also to meet the tenderness of our God, with the now-painless scorching of His radiant Glory.
In every such meeting, Christ makes possible the acceptance of painful memories. He enables the soul to surrender to His care. It's as though He irradiates the soul by His holiness, and so transforms everyone who is willing to be changed; and He persuades us, at last, of His power to lead us into a holy and Eternal Communion; and this goodness, and these gifts, are truly extraordinary - yet are freely available for all who believe in Christ and who put their trust in Him.
Something extraordinary that I've already mentioned, about Christ - and which is extra-ordinarily strange to learn how to 'deal' with - is the wonderful union, in Him, of a Divine nature and a human nature. He is one Person, Who is truly both God and man. I'm mentioning this again because it's sometimes difficult to keep a 'balance', in prayer, when one speaks in Holy Communion, for example, with Someone Who is true man, and tender, and also wise, helpful and very much Present, yet Who is burning within Himself with an utterly pure and Divine holiness which is awesome to be near. This holiness is also awesome to 'see', when Christ chooses to let His Glory be seen in a more dazzling manner than usual, on special occasions, as I've mentioned, or in order to teach a special lesson.
Yet Christ's Love for us is wholly true, unswerving and forgiving. He delights in us, and relishes our friendship. As He's encouraged me to approach Him in prayer, He has taught me to be both trusting and respectful: to confide in Him as one confides in a best friend and yet always to remain aware that He is my Creator. He has been training me - with infinite love - to come to Him with the most foolish or embarrassing problems, in the certainty that He delights in my trust and will help me; and yet He wants me to remember that He died to save me, and that I can't do anything good without His grace; and that's what I mean by speaking about 'balance'. Christ wants me to be like a little child with Him; He wants to see me living in His burning Truth, in humility, able to gaze admiringly upon His majesty; and yet He wants me to be as confident of His love as of His power, and to be wholly convinced that by living in both truth and trust I can be brought to true happiness.
After mentioning these few examples of Christ's evident tenderness and humanity, I'm going to describe an occasion on which He revealed Himself to my astonished gaze in the Glory of His Divinity. In this way, I hope to show how wonderful He is in dealing so sweetly with a difficult person who has served Him so grudgingly. It happened in December, 1995, when I turned to the Father in prayer to thank Him for Our Blessed Lady, and when I also thanked Our Lady for giving her whole life to God and for giving us Christ: flesh from her flesh.
I've mentioned this in Chapter sixteen. It was at the Vigil Mass of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception that I was praying in this way; and Christ suddenly appeared to me and began to teach me about Himself, and about His Incarnation; but He didn't just teach. He stood before me, radiant with Heavenly Glory (T:1734A).
The majesty and dignity of our Risen Saviour are awesome to see, if He has chosen to show them, and are impossible to describe well. Yet, even with all His Glory, Christ is as simple, straightforward and gentle as a good child.
On that occasion, I was speechless with joy at His sudden appearance; but I felt my soul being held up by God's power; indeed, only because of God's power was I enabled to bear Christ's radiant Light. Here, seen more clearly than ever before, was the Saviour to Whom I had tried to be loyal for so many difficult years. Here was the Mind which had planned the work I was doing, and had called me to do it. Here was the Person Who had trained me in obedience; but here, too, embodied, was the Love which yearned to make me happy forever, even as He was using me - at my consent - to bring reminders of Truth to His People: truths which could lead them, also, to true happiness.
And what did I see, with the eyes of my soul, in that moment?
Before me stood a figure of radiant beauty: a pure man, with every cell of His body and every thought of His heart and mind irradiated by an astonishing Light and grace. I saw the risen Christ, a Divine Person; and as I gazed upon Him, I was taught by Him, soundlessly, about his dual nature. In His glorified Body, Christ was shining with a light which was more like moonlight than sunlight, in the sense that His Light, as shown to me, was glowing rather than searing, soothing rather than scorching; yet it's a bright light which cannot be borne by anyone who is afraid to look upon truth: upon Truth Itself: true God-made-man.
Even more astonishing than the Light was Christ's purity. As I gazed upon Christ, I 'saw', by my soul's sight and by a spiritual teaching, that every aspect and every movement of this pure and Divine Person had the quality of pure water, or a perfect crystal. Christ was wholly 'transparent', in the sense that no shadow of imperfection obscured the depths of His Being; and within that radiant glory I saw, in Christ, the clear patient intelligence of the Divine Person Who knows and Is all Truth, yet Who is as simple and direct as a pure little child.
Ever since my conversion, I had believed wholeheartedly that this pure Christ is a Divine Person, come down to earth, through Mary, made flesh from her flesh and so born fully human yet also Divine. Yet now I was given a clearer understanding of this marvel; that no-one on earth before Christ had ever 'graced' this earth with such a graceful presence. Even the saintly and sinless Virgin who conceived Him was not more than a creature on earth fulfilling the Will of her Creator, whereas Christ's real humanity was irradiated by the beauty of His Divine perfections; and His Divine beauty was the source of His effective words and work during His life on earth.
Can you imagine how I almost shook with awe, whenever I reflected in the days and weeks to come that I had clearly seen the Saviour Who had spoken with Apostles and disciples on earth two thousand years ago? Whose heart could stay the same after such a meeting? Who could look into Christ's eyes and speak to His Heart without trembling at the mystery of it: at meeting a grown man Who has the clear gaze of a child? Yet at the same time I had met a mature and intelligent Christ - Truth Incarnate - upon Whom every conversational ploy, half-truth or piece of flattery or insinuation must be broken as surely as an incoming wave is shattered on a rock.
With my whole heart, I felt thankful that during the previous few years Christ had prepared me to be able to meet His gaze. There was no fear in me, now. I could have died for joy. His human soul was adorned, I know - like His Mother's - with every virtue. But what I saw that day was the radiance of His Divinity, though it was a radiance muted by His own loving Will. It flashed out toward me in our prayer just as it had blazed out occasionally on Earth in His speech, whether through reprimands or tender phrases.
Who saw Divine beauty in the bleeding figure Who trudged through Jerusalem on the day of His Passion? Christ kept His Divine Glory hidden, by His Will, during most of His time on Earth; yet there was much that He didn't hide. He offered to everyone the Divine wisdom of His words, the Infinite strength and purity of His Love, and the Divine authority by which He could speak clearly about Salvation - and could provide the means of achieving it; and this Christ was the very Saviour Who had come to me, in my prayer.
Christ proceeded to teach me about His Holy Mother: about why she had been conceived 'Immaculate' in her own mother's womb. He showed me something of His own perfection: of how, by His love for the Father and by His obedience to the Father's Will, He had been willing to die for us on Calvary. I was even shown how Christ, as a true representative of mankind, had bridged the chasm between mankind and the Godhead; and the aim of this whole teaching, I was shown, was to provide me with a message for His People: a request that we all allow Christ's pure life and virtues to flow through us, when we are reconciled to Him, and are living in union with Him, indwelt by His Holy Spirit, and devoured by a longing for the Father's Glory.
[Prayer: a dark 'veil'. Speaking from the heart, I must add that Christ might terrify us, so astonishing is His purity and beauty, if we hadn't learned already through the prophets and then through Christ Himself and His Apostles, something of His nature. We've only to look at the terrible suffering He bore for our sake to be reminded that although He is Truth He is also Infinite Love, Mercy and Compassion. We're only to remember the Resurrection to remember, too, that Christ is Infinite Joy - and can share that joy with all who believe in Him and do His Will.
Through faith, and also through experience, I can say with complete conviction that Christ's wish is not to crush us with His Truth, but to let us approach Him with our icy hearts or dirty garments - whatever image will most plainly show us that the pure, tender, truthful Christ longs to relieve us of our burdens, to warm and wash us, and to pour His grace and truth upon and within us. This is our only hope of true joy, on Earth or in Eternity, and Christ yearns to see us joyful.
It's true that faith is needed, to believe that a Saviour so pure and holy can love people like ourselves, whom He died to save; but He's yearning to press His gifts upon us, if we'll freely approach Him. We're tempted to think He holds Himself aloof and critical. Yet if we saw Him now, and saw His Love for us, we would die - either of terror or joy; and this is why we should always remain grateful for the marvel which is prayer. Under the cover of its mysterious and veiling silence and darkness, we can grow close to the God Whose Light would otherwise dazzle us. We can learn to unwrap our sore hearts and sore lives, whilst still hidden in Christ's temporary, merciful, gloom.
One day, Heaven's Light will break into our lives. When we die, how glad we'll be, if our wounds have healed. How happy we shall be if our eyes have grown used to Christ's Light, slowly, during prayer: if we're not faced, as some are, with the sudden and tormenting glare of Truth after twenty, fifty or even eighty years of wilful darkness.]
What I really long to do now is to rush ahead with a 'description' of the Father; but I must first complete my verbal 'impression' of Christ with a few more words about how loveable and loving He is; and I'm going to use a few paragraphs I wrote in 1995. But there's a special reason why I'm incorporating those words into this piece of text. It's because on the day after I'd listed those things about Christ which so delight and console me, I greeted Christ in church, before Mass began, only to hear Him say to me: "You've written well, Lizzie!" So you can see that He liked this description of Himself; and by making His approval plain He encouraged me to speak even more boldly about Him, so that other people can begin to believe that they, too, can find joy in prayer and in the practice of the Catholic Faith.
It's from experience, then, and with Christ's approval, that I can say: "Christ is calming, tender, wise and understanding; and as He forgives every confessed sin or feeble effort, He is gently drawing one forward to make greater efforts to please Him and to grow like Him: but for one's own happiness, as well as God's Glory. Its only with sweetness and gratitude that He rewards and thanks the soul even for pathetic attempts to bear sufferings patiently, for love of Him and for what He suffered in His terrible Passion.
No-one takes such delight as Christ in private anniversaries. Often, when I've forgotten a special date, Christ has astonished me with His special gifts; then I've remembered the date, and have remembered the occasion which He wants to see me celebrate all over again! So we're right to cherish our liturgical cycle of fasts and feasts and anniversaries, which of course is inspired by God.
No-one is as utterly constant and sympathetic towards us as Christ, when we bravely confide the most embarrassing, gruesome, silly or muddled details of our lives. Christ is unshockable. He sees, knows and understands everything. How I hope that good priests will all model themselves on Him.
There's something else that's tremendously reassuring to remember, about Christ, God and man. Christ is more thrilled by certain things than by certain other things; and so I've written a list of these things from memory:-
Christ is thrilled, whenever we repent, by our humility, though we don't feel much in the way of thrills at the time. He is thrilled by the sincere efforts we make to begin again, when we've been 'backsliding' or have failed or 'fallen' again; and I'm speaking about big sins as well as little faults. Christ is never wagging His finger sarcastically when someone returns to him for the two-thousandth or even the ten-thousandth time to say a sincere 'Sorry'. Christ is all smiles and joy at our real, pitiful efforts. He is just like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son.
Christ is thrilled by our gratitude, and is very 'touched' by our sincere thanks for any and every good thing in our lives, and by our thanks for answers to prayer. He is thrilled by something often neglected by us: by our thanks for forgiveness, and thanks for the Sacraments.
But Christ is thrilled, more than ever, by our gratitude for what He suffered for us during His Passion. Although He's living in Glory now, He's full of joy at the mere sight of someone thanking Him, for example, by devotedly praying the 'Stations of the Cross'; and if we comfort Him in His Passion by accepting our sufferings and by uniting them, mysteriously, to Christ's, so joining in His work of Redemption, He counts us as His special friends.
Holy Scripture says: 'GOD HAS NO FAVOURITES' (Ro 2:11); but the God-man, like any of us, is touched by acts of true devotion. It's worth noting that Christ was 'closer' - by choice - to some Apostles than to others, although He loved them all immensely, and died for them all.
It's important that I also write that we delight Christ by our acts of devotion and gratitude towards His Holy Mother. Conversely, in order to wound Christ, one need only belittle, ignore or insult her. He loves her tremendously, with a respect and gratitude He shows in just such a way to no other human being; and so He is genuinely thrilled whenever we show our love for her, or thank her for giving Jesus to us, or when we thank St. Joseph for looking after them both."
I could write for ever, about Him; but I must move on, in order to speak about the Father.
I have to say that my experiences of God our Father are different: not because God's nature is different in different Persons, nor because one Divine Person has something that Another doesn't have, but because God has chosen to reveal Himself to me in a different way, or, rather, wishes to confirm that what His Church recommends is what He desires, which is that we should 'tailor' our perception of the Holy Trinity in accordance with Divine Revelation-expressed-in-certain-language, for example: about God's Fatherhood, and His Son's Priesthood, and the Spirit's role as Consoler. I mean that God the Father has taught me in prayer that we cannot improve upon the way in which the Three Divine Persons - One Lord - have been portrayed for us through Holy Scripture and the Sacred Tradition. It's God's Will that we know and believe that the Three Divine Persons are equal, and that we approach the First Person to acknowledge His Fatherhood, the Second to acclaim Him as our Saviour and the Third to rejoice in His power, for example; and I say this with such confidence because this is what I've been taught by the Holy Trinity during the past two or three years.
God our Father has allowed me to experience His teachings and attributes in prayer, to some small degree; and they are experienced in a different way from that experienced with Christ in Holy Communion, even though "God is God", whichever Divine Person is instructing me. God Wills that this different approach is experienced by me. He is responsible for it. It's manifested partly in the feelings He evokes in me, when, as Father, He offers His awesome touch in prayer, a touch which is different from Christ's gentle 'touch' in Holy Communion; but it's revealed also by the Father's special choice of words as He teaches me during the silent 'teaching' of contemplative union.
(I can hardly believe that I dare to write this, but I just have to do it, and to stop being so self-conscious. Its part of my work, work which isn't self-chosen, but God-given.)
The difference which I experience can be described in the following way:- God the Father Most Holy, by His own Will, 'stirs' within me tremendous pangs of awe and reverence, even when I'm only thinking about Him. Of course, I'm full of reverence for Christ, but His gentleness banishes all fear, whereas an immense but wholesome reverence is something Willed by God our Father, for an earthly creature in His presence.
Until very recently, this reverence was accompanied by an immense joy-tinged-with fear; yet in recent months that fear has entirely disappeared, to be replaced in prayer by what I can only describe as an exhilaration at being able to communicate - to converse, with sincere questions and infinitely-loving answers - with my Creator.
Although it seems at times as though I am only a 'whisper' away from God the Father, in the intimacy of prayer, it should be understood that my imagination has no part in such prayer, but is wholly subdued, so to speak, as are my memory and intellect, as my spirit pierces the clamour of thought and rises 'above' the mind to meet God in the silence of contemplation; and it does so only by God's power, and God's invitation; and so of course I never see the Father standing in front of me (- forgive me for saying this, yet I have to) - as Christ does, frequently, in Holy Communion. The Father is inaccessible, unless we come to Him in Christ; and even now that I've been 'lifted' in the prayer of contemplation through the cloud which separates us from the Glory of the Godhead, and even now that I hear the Father speak to me and teach me, I sense that He is so transcendent and 'Other' that I want to cover my face and bow low as I approach Him, as my spirit is lifted towards Him, in the 'heights'.
From experience, I can describe the attitude which the Father encourages me to adopt towards Him. It's because the Father chooses to make Himself known to me, every few weeks, or every few days, by calling me to a genuine conversation in prayer, that I can speak from experience: although these conversations are only possible because I already live "in Christ," and so am the Father's true child. So that's why I say quite firmly, that whenever the Father begins our 'conversations', He summons me to His Presence, summoning me from my normal life, into prayer, yet upwards - as though to a great height, far away - where He lives in a region which, unless He calls us, is inaccessible. He even calls me from my armchair to another room, where - in order to obey Him - I must kneel down and pray, if I am well enough to do so.
I have to describe it thus, although I know that we live "in God". I'm writing about real intimacy with God, and about the limits which He places on that intimacy - for our good - during our life on earth.
Now, although the Father is extraordinarily tender, so tender and understanding that He can make me weep with delight and gratitude, He leaves me in no doubt that when I'm called to listen to Him, I'm being given an extraordinary privilege. I mention this because - by contrast - the Divine Son, Christ, in Holy Communion, has only rarely, as far as I can remember, given that impression. Christ seems to present Himself to me always as Friend first, and God at the same time, whereas the Father is always my Majestic God - Who can also be known as Love. Just in case anyone says that my perception of the Divine Persons is different, because my expectations have been different, I can only stress that never in my life have I expected to be taught by God in this way; indeed, I didn't know that it was possible. I had only hazy ideas about 'mystical contact' with God, that is, about felt contact, since I know that even a breath of 'dry' but sincere prayer establishes or reinforces our 'contact' with God. I know that it's through faith that we have become His children, not through emotion. Also, I had no pre-conceived ideas about the Father seeming to be more remote and powerful than Christ, though just as loving.