Unus autem ex ipsis, Caiphas nomine, cum esset pontifex anni illius, dixit eis: "Vos nescitis quidquam, nec cogitatis quia expedit vobis ut unus moriatur homo pro populo, et non tota gens pereat." Hoc autem a semetipso non dixit: sed cum esset pontifex anni illius, prophetavit, quod Iesus moriturus erat pro gente, et non tantum pro gente, sed ut filios Dei, qui erant dispersi, congregaret in unum. (Gospel for Friday in Passion Week, John xi, 49-52: One of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them: "You know nothing. Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed.)
With the first shadows of age the sentiment of parenthood descends into our heart, and takes possession of the void left there by its former affections. It is not a state of decadence: beware of thinking so! After the regard of God upon the world, nothing is more beautiful than the regard of the old for the young, so pure that it is, so tender, so disinterested, and it marks in our life the very point of perfection and of the highest likeness to God.
The body declines with age, the mind perhaps also, but not the soul whereby we love. Fatherhood is as superior to [common] love as love itself is superior to affection. Fatherhood is the crown of life. It would be full and stainless love, if from the child to the parent there were the same equal return as from friend to friend, from the wife to the husband. But it is not so. When we were children we were loved more than we loved, and, having grown old, we also love more than we are loved. We must not complain of it. Your children take the very road upon which you have passed before them, the road of affection, the road of love, eager courses which do not permit them to reward that grey-haired passion which we call parenthood. It is the honor of man to find again in his children the ingratitude which he showed to his parents, and thus to end, like God, in a disinterested sentiment.
Yet, it is nevertheless true that, although pursuing love all our lives, we never obtain it save in an imperfect manner, a way which wounds our hearts. And even had we obtained it during life, what would remain of it to us after death? I know that fond prayers may follow us beyond this world, that our names may still be pronounced in pious remembrance; but soon heaven and earth will have advanced another step; then comes oblivion, silence dwells upon us, the ethereal breeze of love passes over our tomb no more. It is gone, it is gone for ever; and such is the history of man towards love.
I am wrong...: there is a Man whose tomb is guarded by love, there is a Man whose sepulchre is not only glorious, as a prophet declared, but whose sepulchre is loved. There is a Man who, after eighteen centuries, has not grown cold; who daily lives again in the thoughts of an innumerable multitude of men; who is visited in His cradle by shepherds and by kings, who vie with each other in bringing Him gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. There is a Man whose steps are tirelessly retrodden by a large portion of mankind, and who, although no longer present, is followed by that throng in all the scenes of His bygone pilgrimage, upon the knees of His mother, by the borders of the lakes, to the tops of the mountains, in the byways of the valleys, under the shade of the olive-trees, in the still solitude of the deserts.
There is a Man, dead and buried, whose sleep and whose awakening have always eager watchers, whose every word still vibrates and produces more than love, produces virtues fructifying in love. There is a Man, who, eighteen centuries ago, was nailed to a gibbet, and whom millions of adorers daily detach from this throne of His suffering, and, kneeling before Him, prostrating themselves as low as they can without shame, there, upon the earth, kiss His bleeding feet with unspeakable ardour.
There is a Man, who was scourged, killed, crucified, whom an Ineffable Passion raises from death and infamy, and exalts to the glory of love unfailing which finds in Him peace, honor, joy, and even ecstasy.
There is a Man, pursued in His sufferings and in His tomb by undying hatred, and who, demanding apostles and martyrs for all posterity, finds apostles and martyrs in all generations.
There is a Man, thus, and one only, who has founded His love upon earth, and that Man is thyself, O Jesus! - who hast been pleased to baptize me, to anoint me, to consecrate me in Thy love, and whose name alone now opens my very heart, and draws from it those accents which overpower me and raise me above myself.
But, among great men, who are loved? Among warriors? Is it Alexander? Caesar? Charlemagne? Among sages? Aristotle? Plato? Who is loved among great men? Who? Name me even one; name me a single man who has died and left love upon his tomb. Mohammed is venerated by Muslims; he is not loved. No feeling of love has ever touched the heart of a Muslim repeating his maxim: "God is God, and Mohammed is His prophet." One Man alone has gathered from all ages a love which never fails; Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of hearts as He is of minds.
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1846)
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1846)