Friday, 27 April 2007

Night of Fire

Blaise Pascal was 39 when he died, and he was a genius. His mathematical skills were proven from childhood but his theological thinking was transformed and empowered during his final eight years. After he died a scrap of paper was found sewn into the lining of his jacket with the following words:

The year of grace 1654.
Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement,
pope and martyr and others in the martyrology.
The eve of Saint Chrysogonus martyr and others.
From about half-past ten in the evening
until about half-past midnight.
Fire.
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.
Not of the philosophers and intellectuals.
Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace.
The God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God [in Latin, accusative case].
Your God will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything except God.
One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught
in the gospel.
The grandeur of the human soul.
Oh just Father, the world has not known you,
but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have separated myself from him.______________
They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water [in Latin].
My God, will you leave me?
May I not be separated from him eternally.
This is eternal life, that they know you the one true God
and J.C. whom you have sent.
Jesus Christ.____________________
Jesus Christ.______________
I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him,
renounced him, crucified him.
May I never be separated from him._______________
One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught
in the gospel.
Renunciation total and sweet.
And so forth.

This intense experience of intimacy with God prompted Pascal to give up mathematics and instead use his abilities to engage in apologetics. It seems he had a lot of very good things to communicate (and defend). Without having read his ‘Pensées’ or anything else (yet) I can’t comment any further, but it is reassuring to me in the week that I turned 31 that God can, without warning, greatly use a person who is deeply in love with him.

What use is my learning, or indeed my spirituality, if I do not love God passionately, trust him, and allow him to direct my paths? Then my thinking and working will be more effective, and my heart will reflect his.

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