Exploring ‘The Mystery of Divine Love’
BOOK PICK: Using St. Thérèse of Lisieux as an example, the Dominican priest shows readers that the key to grasping the mystery of divine love is a simple, childlike friendship with God.
The Mystery of Divine Love
By Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych
EWTN Publishing, 2022
112 pages, $14.95
To order: EWTNRC.com
With our limited human thinking, we struggle to truly understand the mysterious and overwhelming love of God. We often complicate the matter with our own fears and misconceptions, telling ourselves that, before we can approach God, we must be pure and sinless. We impose upon God our own ideas about ourselves, our world and our Church and try to form our relationship with him based on false notions. We hide behind a mask that hides our true self, thinking that God will see only what we want him to see. Children are different, however. They are simple and direct in their relationships, trusting and confident. Unveiling the mystery of God’s love requires us to become childlike, unpretentious and confident.
The Mystery of Divine Love, written by Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych, does just that. It shows us how to become childlike and adeptly leads us into the mystery of God’s love.
The book is a compilation of homilies and conferences given by the Dominican in July 2016 during a retreat for laywomen in the guesthouse of the Sisters of Life. This lends a warm, conversational tone to the text, which is both inspiring and inviting. It is easy to imagine oneself sitting before the speaker, taking in his words, and being uplifted by them. This also allows for the book to be read in small parts, giving the reader ample opportunity to take in, digest and meditate on the content of each presentation.
The topics covered in the presentations offer a well-rounded opportunity for spiritual growth. The homilies include faith in the Risen Lord. The conferences include “Prayer as an Exercise in Faith,” “Being a Child Before God,” “Hope,” “Remain in My Love” and “Supernatural Life in Natural Life.” Each section begins with a corresponding Scripture passage for context.
Through the presentations, the author leads readers on a progression of deepening faith and trust in God. He begins with Martha’s testament of faith in the Resurrection after the death of her brother, Lazarus. Martha makes a declaration of belief, yet the author says that is not enough. “So, just a declaration of faith is not yet sufficient. Faith has to seep into life, into all our reactions. Because faith opens us to grace, which heals,” he said. He then points to the woman who had suffered hemorrhages for 12 years as an example of prayer as an exercise of faith. This faith is fulfilled only when we touch God, just as the hemorrhaging woman touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak. Faith, he says, is a gift from God, just as the woman’s healing was a gift from Our Lord.
“Faith, of course, needs to be nourished, and the Gospels tell us about three nourishments of faith: The first nourishment is the Eucharist: ‘Anyone who eats this bread will live forever’ (John 6:51). The second nourishment is the Word of God: ‘Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). And then the third nourishment is doing the will of God. Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me’ (John 4:34),” he wrote.
The illustration of childlikeness shows both the righteousness and inheritance of being a child of God. It is an affirmation of the value of every human being regardless of circumstances.
“The important message is that God chose us before the creation of the world. Before the sin of Adam, before our own sin, God chose us. The elective love of God precedes Creation, precedes our existence and our sins. God’s paternal love contains a project for each one of us. God does not give up His plans because of our personal history.”
Furthermore, childlikeness rests on our surrender to the Holy Spirit.
“We are called to be the children of God, and this is not a reward for good living that is granted at some final stage. It’s a divine gift that precedes our existence; it is the project of God that precedes the creation of the world. This call to be the children of God — to live out our lives as the children of the heavenly Father — continues in spite of our complicated lives and the errors that we have committed.”
The living of our divine son- and daughtership, the author states, is dependent upon our perception and recognition of, and reaction to, the movements of the Holy Spirit.
He emphasizes that our hearts yearn for a Father who accepts and loves us. This is at the center of our hope as Christians and awakens us to the reality of divine love.
Using St. Thérèse of Lisieux as an example, the Dominican priest shows readers that the key to grasping the mystery of divine love is a simple, childlike friendship with God. The basis of this is charity. He offers the reassurance, “Love is a delicate little flower planted by God within us. Charity passes through our bodies, our emotions, our choices, our decisions. Sometimes, we make mistakes. Sometimes, infatuation takes over. But there is no reason to panic. If errors are made, they can be brought to the healing grace of God.”
He adeptly concludes the conferences (and thus the book) by merging natural life and supernatural life in a clear and encouraging way by referring to the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Mary in her life of faith is most pure, most receptive with the movements of the Holy Spirit. But we, too, can in our lives try to live out pure faith without erecting obstacles, without erecting these mental contraceptives that exclude the project of God. The more our faith is pure, the more we perceive the idea of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit for us in our daily life, day to day, the more our faith is pure ...”