Saturday, March 11, 2006

Claudel on Life Everlasting

I’d like to share here a few texts from various writings of Paul Claudel on the life of the blessed in Heaven. We can’t presume to know exactly what that will be like, but it is up to the poets and mystics to give us a few hints.

“Our life is changed; it is not taken away… We may imagine that the future life…will be that of a person utterly illuminated by his soul. The Book of Revelation tells us that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” It is not only tears that he will wipe away, but also whatever there is in us that is obscure, accidental, irrelevant, profane, and evil, leaving only understanding, love, goodwill, light, and fragrance. We will be washed from head to foot like a little child who is given his bath, who is soaped and wiped dry with infinite care…

“The hour is now come for the marriage feast spoken of in the Gospel, the prodigious arrival of a human menagerie, this herd that…the angels have come to collect by the wayside in wagonfuls… Lo, it is at hand; after endless meanderings it is upon us at last, the invasion of this torrent of joy!... The very floodgate of the deep has given way. This is the bottomless well of the void where we may quench our thirst. On all sides may be heard the booming thunder of these cataracts exploring its infinite depths… ‘But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom. 5:20). It submerges all, floods all, lifts all, cleanses all, removes all stain…

“With an intelligence so pure and so enlightened that it will have the immediacy of sensation, with an expenditure of our whole being, with a will as swift and subtle as the fiery flame, we will embrace every divine gesture and will share in the creation of all that is created… It is thus, to employ an imperfect image, that powerful music seizes us, sweeps us away, and carries us along with it; drawing us utterly into this world that it creates, it imposes on us its tempo, its rhythm, and its melody, and compels us to contribute to that booming ocean of joy which perpetually rises and falls around it. Our blessed destiny is a perfect blending of our will with the divine activity, a participation in this supreme council, the timeless conversation carried on by the three Persons. We will be at the source; like St John we will have our ear pressed to the divine heart… We will be with the Love that invites all things to itself, and it is only then that we will fully understand the Lord’s promise: ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself…’

“The soul has become pure praise… She has been utterly transformed into a musical instrument; she no longer holds the harp in her hands; she is the harp. In herself she finds the scale and, from octave to octave, the way to ascend with infinite variations from the lowest note to the highest. ‘Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre!’ (Ps 57:8)… There is a spiritual equivalent of space in which ‘distances’ are measured no longer by physical remoteness but by harmonic intervals. It is no longer through symbols but simply through their existence that the souls will communicate with one another…

“We will realize our own value in relation to God, and it is through the dance that, moved in the most profound, subtle, and active center of our gravity…we will realize ourselves in a constant and ingenious improvisation with our brothers. Then we will seize them as they will seize us, and we will lead them, and we will joyously unite with them in a flaming pirouette… The soul understands that it alone can never exhaust the gratitude it feels and that it needs the help of all other spirits in order to express it. Just as it sees in the particular act of love that created it the same necessity that implied the creation of other, complementary spirits, so it needs their voices that it may raise its own. It sees in its divine origin that of all the other souls joined to him by a common love…

“The soul hears itself pronouncing the name of God in its very own voice, with an intonation that is eternal! By means of this sound and light that it produces, the soul discovers its own identity. It realizes itself fully in the process of uttering its own name. It understands, it confirms the fact that it may draw indefinitely on its raison d’être, which is inexhaustible, because it is none other than the will of God working in it and through it.

“There, in the sight of God, I will be all flame; in his presence I will borrow all light! In his light I will kindle not only light, my own light, but the full perfection of body and soul whose primer I have been lisping too long in this low place. I will awaken in the fullness of my name. I will awaken in the fullness of my form, in the full awareness and the full mastery of my being… Weep for love, weep for joy!”