The greatest geniuses, often after long years of reflection, suddenly discover a central thought which takes on the form of a creative intuition, and they spend the rest of their existence probing it in order to integrate it into their lives and to derive from it a flood of practical applications in the services of other men.
The same phenomenon occurs in the lives of the saints. A Therese of Lisieux walked among us thus in search of an
entirely new way of holiness. In the Church, I will be love, and thus I will be all.
Something similar is found in Conchita. A young widow of forty-one she turns more and more toward the Crucified. She accumulates in the rough drafts of her
Diary for January, 1903 all the lights of love which Christ her Master has dictated to her. "All at once, while I was listening to a lecture, I became aware as a streak of light in my intellect, as His salvific effects became sensible to my heart." As Teresa of Avila whose life was radically changed when she was around forty years old, Conchita received suddenly by direct illumination from the Holy Spirit, the sovereign intuitions which will constitute the major basics of the Spirituality of the Cross. At the summit: God as Love, at the center: Christ Crucified, and on her part, in her own life, a response of love in a single commitment to love.
There is in origin, the global intuition of the spiritual teachings with which the Holy Spirit and the experience of her own love for the Crucified, inspired her. This fresh view of the universe, prophetic and original, discovered for her in a most sublime perspective of wisdom, the two poles of the plan of Redemption: infinite Love and the call to unite with Love and become one with Love through the Cross. This intuition-key might be formulated thus: from Love to Love through Christ crucified out of love.
God is Love
Our spiritual life is linked to our concept of God. If metaphysics is the moral foundation, dogma governs the mystical. The mystery of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word animate Christian spirituality. All the teachings of the Cross depend on the view of a God crucified out of love.
St. Augustine's God is the "Supreme Good" drawing all things to Himself. St. Thomas Aquinas' God is the God of Sinai: "I am who am." St. Therese of Lisieux' God is "Merciful Love." Conchita's God is "Crucified Love" which brings us to
"Infinite Love." "I do not know how, I understood the essence of God who is all Love. I heard and said this a thousand times. But no, this was something supernatural, a movement which made my heart shake, a light which, like a flash of lightning, illumined the hiddenmost and innermost depths of my spirit… I saw how God is Love. Not only does he possess love, but He is Love itself, eternal Love, uncreated Love, infinite Love…"
Conchita's God is the God of the Gospels, such as St. John presents Him. "God is Love." Here is the supreme foundation of her spiritual doctrine. Her crucified God is before all else a God of Love.
From this transcendent God who still is all Love, she sees, derived by way of sharing all created riches of the visible and invisible universe, all the good that exists in Him, the world of souls, every legitimate love and all the great horizons of faith: the mysteries of Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of the death of Jesus on the Cross, of suffering itself and of the cross. I felt how all there is of good, descends from Him and how souls and all nature bear the imprint of the divine seal.
"I saw how every legitimate and holy love, filling man's heart, is a drop from this soundless Ocean, a luminous ray from this immense light! I experienced how love flares out from this infinite hearth of charity which You Yourself are and how You are pleased to set in the heart of man this insatiable thirst for loving, which neither the perishable nor the finite can quench but only the imperishable and the infinite…
"I felt how souls are as it were a particle of God Himself, a gentle breeze for His divine essence, a breathing of His Holy Spirit.
"Oh! The soul is such a wonderful thing, its value is immense! Souls are born of love and must live eternally in love. That is why they are created. They are the fruit of the Most Holy Trinity, and, consequently, immortal. They are heavenly daughters, engendered by love, and inevitably tend toward the infinite, toward what is pure, holy, great and divine.
"This corporal cover was given it for struggling and for meriting, but the soul - this immortal being, what a marvel! - It cannot satiate itself with the human, even when it strives out of love of creatures to erase the image engraved in the depths of its very own being. This is impossible. Another order of things draws it, a beyond calls to it constantly, an inner voice cries out thousands upon thousands of times. 'Herein is not your destiny. Higher, much higher! This thirst for the divine tears its heart away from the earth, purifying its earthly affections, even the most holy, placing them in this abyss, this immensity, this bottomless endless ocean, where it was born…' I feel how the love for my husband, my children, my family and for all material goods, is concentrated in one sole love… in God.
"I do not know what I experienced on glimpsing this eternal hearth which creation produced, redemption realized… founding the Church, which sustains her and setting all hearts afire. And He who is Love, who else is He but the Holy Spirit, the Term of Love?… He it is who inspired the creation, the redemption… the incarnation… the death on the cross…the reign of suffering… and the Apostolate of the Cross" (Diary).
Let us now take up the second panel of this triptych: the Cross. Her God is a Crucified God, the central point of her intuition. She will not make a conceptual analysis of it. As all mystics, she speaks from the heart. For her, the Cross is the supreme sign of Love. She does not give a dissertation on the Cross and on Love. She lives them. There is a constant coming and going in her thinking about Love and the Cross, the one inseparable from the other. She sees souls who run away from the Cross, to their misfortune, since they run away from Love. "Show them the Cross. Show them Love." In her eyes, it is one and the same thing. She would like to go all over the world "raising up on high the standard of the Cross," for the Cross is the one and only pathway of Love. "Then comes up the magical name of
Jesus. Love is He, and He is nailed to a Cross. At the base of her directive intuition and in the very core of her life, for her Jesus is Love Crucified.
"He who is Love wants to make us happy though the Cross, the sole means which after sin, brings us to, urges us, unites us and identifies us with Love itself.
"Why this pitiable error? Souls flee the Cross and, consequently Love, making themselves miserable.
"On my part, I became aware of the worth of a soul and, rightly, how the Heart of God breaks and suffers on seeing them irremediably lost, they who are His own by a thousand titles of love.
"Now I contemplate, my mind filled with light, in all created beings a vestige of Love… the trace of God, the outstanding proofs of His infinite Charity, which ceaselessly flows over man, vile and wretched being deserving of nothing. Oh! The immensity of the grandeur of this God, bottomless abyss of perfections! Why do we not give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him? Why do we not live absorbed in Him, one with Him?
"Love, Love, all about me cries out!… When I see creatures gloating over the vain things of earth, steeped in vice and their minds filled with all that is not God… a terrible pain pierces my soul, makes my heart tremble and cry out. 'Save them… Show them the Cross… Sacrifice yourself for them in silence and obscurity…' In my heart a love overflowing with zeal grows and grows. I would run and cry out, I would want my voice to be heard throughout the world and penetrate deeply consciences so that hearts would be moved. I would want to remove the blindfold from the eyes of their souls and show them Love… tell them that everything the soul perceives is but a spark, a flash, a ray which must return to its center and lose itself in Him to bring us happiness. I would want to raise aloft the standard of the Cross and traverse the world, announcing that here is the pathway of Love, that it is solely through thorns, blood and suffering that there we rise to be united with the Holy Spirit. He and He alone is the source which can fulfill the infinite aspirations of the soul.
"Pain, the cross! Her is the sole divine ladder by which the soul can reach the consummation of divine love… Detachment from the earth and nearness to heaven, to the Heart of God… Come, Lord, come into my arms, nail me on Yourself… I wish to suffer since it was Love itself that inspired Jesus to suffer in order to make me learn how much He himself loved. Thence will come such a union between love and suffering that he who loves rejoices in suffering. Jesus loved and suffered. No longer do I wish for love without suffering since without sacrifice, love is not pure, not true, not lasting. If pain is great, love should be great, if love is immense, pain should also be immense… Yes, I repeat, may there come immolation, complete annihilation, so that love may come and absorb what is still of the earth, all the dross and dregs of vices and every stain on creatures."
A response of Love
"Love responds only to love," said St. Therese of Lisieux. We see in Conchita the same heroic ardor to deliver herself constantly over to Love. Her life is an endless offering to Love but to Love on the Cross. She cried out boldly. "My God, if I could take anything from Your Being, I would take away from You Love in order to love You.
"I want to live on love, but on a love which crucifies me. My soul constantly enters into the abyss of Love. My spirit feels as if absorbed in this God and Lord, living as it were in Him, aspiring and breathing in Him alone… I feel as if I were deified, in an atmosphere pure and divine, with great yearnings to sacrifice myself on the altar of love by Love itself.
"Oh, what a wonderful thing love is! I would want to speak only of this Love. All around me, all creation says over and over again: Love!
"One day while riding on a trolley, all of a sudden I heard the Lord's voice. He told me: 'You will enkindle in a multitude of hearts the fire of the Holy Spirit, you will bless them with the sacred wood of the Cross. I was confused and full of shame, but I felt that the Lord would carry out all this, myself being jus a poor and miserable instrument.
"God!… God! In these words I find abysses of love, of most pure and ardent charity. I experience and feel very strongly in my soul that the Cross springs form Love!
"Love! Everything cries out to me, and an inner voice, which springs from the depths of my soul, urges me on to pain, to humiliation, to constant suffering. What a remarkable affiliation between love and suffering! I undergo, as it were, remorse for having lifted myself up to these regions of divine charity, and I seek the Cross… I want to be nailed on it and to abandon myself in its loving arms. Yet, something strange happens, seized by the Cross and my own misery, I feel myself carried along with my miseries and with Cross, and cast into this bottomless ocean of perfection.
"Lord! Lord! I have nothing but poverty, filth and misery. Allow me to prostrate myself on the ground and cry out, from the deep abyss of my iniquities: 'Mercy!'
"Crosses are testimonials of the love which draws us to God and makes us merit.
"The sole torment of love consists in not suffering enough for the Beloved… but therein is the great secret of the Cross, which is discovered only by the souls who voluntarily and lovingly sacrifice themselves, nailed on it never to come down from it…
"What should I do, I, plunged in this abyss of light and of fire? How should I, poor me, correspond to this God, Charity in essence, who has overwhelmed me? My God! My God! I die on seeing my nothingness, and I love You! If I could take something from Your Being, I would take away Love in order to love You...
"Yes, I hunger for love, I thirst for love. I desire to love and my heart is so little a thing to hold this immensity of love which overflows within and outside of me!
"It is impossible for me to hold the Love of God in my poor soul. What I do is plunge into this boundless ocean… hurl myself into this fire… into the bondless depths of the infinite essence of God. I know no other thing than to lose myself like an imperceptible point in the immensity of the possession of God" (Diary).
The two poles
This triptych, displaying itself like an immense fresco under her contemplative gaze, is inspired by a grandiose and dramatic vision which revels to her the plan of the Universe of the redemption set around two poles: God and man, the infinite Love of God for man and the rejection of love by a multitude of human beings called to love. Between the two poles stands the Cross to which Christ is nailed between God and men.
"The plan of Redemption unveiled itself, as it were, before my eyes. I behold it as through a magnifying glass and under a flood of light. In this field of vision, all illuminated, there stands out the immense and incomparable Love of God for man and of man for God, the two poles which unite them in the abyss of its grandeur.
"I tremble upon contemplating these things, for it seems to me that God will demand of me a strict accounting if I do not profit from them by loving Him and being grateful to Him for them.
"I discover His admirable eternal patience an the incredible hardness of the human heart. I think I am dreaming when I see men wearing themselves out running after vanities of the world, and never stopping to consider their redoubtable debt of love, of suffering and of blood…
"How is what I see possible? Of what sort of insensitive nature are we formed? No, what makes the soul insensitive, is the life of the sense, this sensuality which seeks only self-satisfaction in laxity and in ease, binding the spirit and cutting off its wings.
"The absence of the Cross is the cause of all evils. Yet what do we do, we others who love? Why not go about helping our souls awakening them and inflaming them with the wood of the Cross? My God! I feel so powerless to satisfy these vehement yearnings of my heart which, on seeing that I cannot vanish nor make my voice heard by souls, as a loud cry, I feel the desire to act furiously against myself, to tear myself to pieces, to sate myself with the Cross, to compensate in myself as much as possible, although I am worthless, this need to render glory to God which consumes my poor wretched soul" (Diary).
"Love! I feel I am hardly at the threshold of Love and yet it carries my heart, my soul and my life toward Him.
"I see with great clarity, accompanied by rapid flashes of light, all that is vain and perishable on this earth and all that is great, divine and hole in the attributes of God, penetrating in detail all His movements which augment as it were His Bounty. What I think is going on is that the Lord deigns to let fall certain veils. And also, it is evident that I discover more light, more warmth, more fire."
The Curtain Rises
Conchita could conclude. "I feel that Jesus is behind the door of my mind. Today I feel His warmth, His radiance, His light, His splendor, and, I might say, the comprehension of His mysteries, seeing them clearly, as necessary, in natural order. My heart also felt the need for the Church, the victory won by the Work of Redemption, and all this, all at once, as when a stage curtain rises and one grasps all the details of the scene" (Diary, Jan. 1903).