The Little Way is Lived in Hidenness (Part 3)

The Little Way is not about self-praise, but a school of small acts done with great love for God’s glory. Humility, self-effacement, obedience, hiddenness, unfaltering charity and all the discipline they require are what define St. Therese’s Little Way. For her, God does not demand great deeds, recitation of long prayers, or ascetical practices, but only gratitude and self-surrender. “Offer to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” (Ps. 50:14).“God has need of our love; He has no need of our works”.[1] Small acts done with love exceed great deeds done for personal glory, gratification or simply out of obedience. So, to perfect ourselves, we ought to love God above all things and humble ourselves below all things. The aim is to perform small acts of love without reckoning, or being noticed. God who sees in secret will notice. “In reality, I am only what God thinks of me. I expect the praise I deserve only from God”.[2] My joy is to “Appear before God empty-handed, and spend your treasures as you gain them”.[3] Hiddenness and self-forgetfulness are two of the most important themes in Therese’s life and teachings. After all, did not Christ himself live a hidden life for 30 years?unknown

She became devoted to the suffering ‘Holy Face’ of Christ in order to enwrap herself in hiddenness. According to Von Balthazar, “her whole life in Christ is concentrated into her devotion to the Holy Face”.[4] In fact, the whole Monastery had a devotion to the suffering Holy Face of Jesus that was reflected on the veil of Veronica. This included an outdoor shrine in the cloister garden. Therese was constantly looking to see the hidden Holy Face of Jesus in everyone and everything. Her devotion to the ‘Holy Face’ even exceeds her devotion to the Child Jesus. This devotion became the centerpiece of her spirituality. Behind the Holy Face, she disappeared so that Christ may appear for all to see. Here lies the depth of her humility.

unknown-1Hiding behind the Holy face of Christ was a mean to console those through whom Christ is suffering. First, through the Holy Face, she associates the suffering of her father, who was mentally ill, by extension all sufferings, to the passion of Christ. She thus received permission to add to her religious name ‘of the Holy face’. Thus, her complete name became “St. Therese of Lisieux of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face”. It was the mirror through which she conceived Christ.[5] Secondly, her devotion to the Holy Face was a way to reawaken the indifferent and the complacent. As someone puts it, “This is a commentary on our callousness, our myopia, our devaluation of what is precious, our blindness to the poor, and our lack of awareness in our relationship to God”.[6] She believes ”to live from love is to dry Christ’s face”[7] in the needy. Thirdly, her attraction to the Holy face was her own way to hide herself so that her acts may glorify God instead of herself. Thus, she made the words of the suffering servant entirely hers: “…There was no beauty or majesty in him. There was nothing special about… him. People looked down on him. They didn’t accept him. He knew all about pain and suffering… (Cf. Is 53: 2-3). Therese thus wished to be hidden from all view, go unnoticed, and be forgotten by all in order to find her beloved. “Christ is a hidden treasure. To find a hidden thing, we must be hidden ourselves”.[8] So, our life like the divine face, hidden with Christ in God, is revealed in the same measure as it is hidden in the divine mysteries. In this ambiance, the soul is no longer set before the veil that hides Christ’s face, but behind it.[9] Consequently, Christ’s face will be revealed in her, and so one cannot look at her without seeing the face of Christ.[10] This veiled face becomes the medium through which Christ is consoled and wretched souls are saved.

[1]Story of a soul, 113

[2] Stertenbrink, 126

[3] story of a soul, Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, 277

[4] Von Balthazar, 157

[5] Von Balthazar, 157

[6] unknown author, Key Elements in Therese’s spirituality, p2

[7] ibid, from her last conversation,

[8] von Balthazar, 158

[9] von Balthazar, 158

[10] von Balthazar, therese, 159

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