Iterum assumpsit eum diabolus in montem excelsum valde: et ostendit et omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum, et dixit ei: Hæc omnia tibi dabo, si cadens adoraveris me. Tunc dicit ei Iesus: Vade Satana: Scriptum est enim: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies. Tunc reliquit eum diabolus: et ecce Angeli accesserunt, et ministrabant ei. (From the Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent, Matthew iv, 8-11: "Again the devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and said to Him: All these will I give Thee, if falling down Thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone Satan! for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.")
Jesus Christ, being God, would not be satisfied with steadfast faith and immortal love; He must exact adoration. Adoration is the annihilation of one's self before a superior being; and this sentiment ... is not a stranger to us. It lies, like all the others, in the very depth of our nature, and plays a more important part there than you are perhaps aware of.
Let us not disguise this truth from ourselves; all of us, more or less, desire to be adored. It is this innate thirst for adoration which has produced every tyranny. You sometimes wonder why a prince would weave together numberless intrigues in order to free himself from human and divine laws; why he would add violence to cunning, shed streams of blood and march onward to the debasement of mankind; you ask yourselves why he does this. Ah!... for the very natural object of being adored, of seeing every thought subject to his own, every will in conformity to his will, every right, every duty emanating from him, and even the bodies of men bent like slaves before his mortal body. Such is the depth of our heart, as was Satan's.
But by a counterweight due to that frightful disease of pride, we can only desire adoration for ourselves by abhorring the adoration of others. Thence springs the execration that follows despotism. Mankind, debased by a power despising all law, concentrating its secret indignation within itself, awaits the inevitable day of the despot's weakness, and, when that day comes, it turns upon and tramples [on] the vile creature who had disdained it even demanding incense from it.
..."There is but one step from the Capitol to the Tarpeian rock." I shall say with as much truth, although in a less grand expression: There is but one step from the altar to the common sewer. Whosoever has been adored will sooner or later be hurled by the hand of the people from the lofty summit of usurped divine majesty to the execration of eternal opprobrium. Such is how we find history, [which is] that power charged with the promulgation of the judgments of God upon the pride of man.
In spite of history, however, Jesus Christ is adored. A man, mortal and dead, He has obtained adoration which still endures, and of which the world offers no other example. What emperor has held His temples and His statues? What has become of all that population of gods created by adulation? Their dust even no longer exists, and the surviving remembrance of them serves but to excite our wonder at the extravagance of men and the justice of God.
Jesus Christ alone remains standing upon His altars, not in a corner of the world, but over the whole earth... . The greatest monuments of art shelter His sacred images; the most magnificent ceremonies assemble the people under the influence of His name; poetry, music, painting, sculpture exhaust their resources to proclaim His glory and to offer Him incense worthy of the adoration which ages have consecrated to Him.
And yet, upon what throne do they adore Him? Upon a cross! Upon a cross?
They adore Him under the mean appearances of bread and wine!
Here, thought becomes altogether confounded. It would seem that this man has taken delight in abusing His strange power, and in insulting mankind by prostrating them in wonder before the most vain shadows. Having by His crucifixion descended lower than death, He made even of ignominy the throne of His divinity; and, not satisfied with this triumph, He willed that we should acknowledge His supreme essence and His eternal life by an adoration which is a startling contradiction to our senses! Can such event of such daring be in any way understood?
It is true that many have endeavored to overthrow His altars; but their powerlessness has but served to confirm His glory. At each outrage, He has seemed to grow greater; genius has protected Him against genius, science against science, empire against empire. Whatever arms have been lifted up against Him He has made His own; and, when apparently vanquished, the world has still beheld Him, calm, serene, Master, adored!
Thus has He founded the kingdom of souls: by a faith which costs us the sacrifice of our own judgment; by a love which exceeds all love; by an adoration which we have given Him alone.
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1846)
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1846)