In reading volume 3 of The Book of Heaven, written by the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, one comes across and gets in touch with some interesting points that truly help one spiritual progress.
To begin with there is a splendid teaching about the priceless spiritual gem of purity that the soul can ever have.
After Jesus told Luisa: I am the receptacle of pure souls, the Holy Spirit (intellectual light) helped her understand Jesus’ statement in the following manner:
It seemed to me that purity is the noblest gem that the soul can possess. The soul who possesses purity is invested with candid light, in such a way that blessed God, in looking at her, finds His very image; He feels drawn to love her, so much so, that He reaches the point of becoming enamored with her, and He is taken by so much love that He gives her His most pure Heart as dwelling, because only that which is pure and most clean enters into God; nothing stained can enter that most pure bosom. The soul who possesses purity maintains within herself her original splendor which God gave her in creating her; nothing is disfigured or disennobled in her; rather, like a queen aspiring to her wedding with the celestial King, she preserves her nobility until this noble flower is transplanted into the celestial gardens. Oh, how this virginal flower is fragrant of a distinct odor! It always rises above all other flowers, and even above the very Angels. How it stands out with varied beauty! So, all are taken by esteem and love, and give it free step, to let it reach its Divine Spouse, in such a way that the first place around Our Lord belongs to these noble flowers. And Our Lord greatly delights in strolling in the midst of these lilies which perfume the earth and Heaven; and He delights even more in being surrounded by these lilies because, He being the first noble lily and the model, He is the specimen of all the others. Oh, how beautiful it is to see a virgin soul! Her heart gives off no other breath but that of purity and of candor; it is not even shaded by any other love which is not God, and even her body gives off fragrance of purity. Everything is pure in her: pure in her steps, pure in operating, in speaking, in looking, and also in moving. So, at the mere sight of her one feels the fragrance and recognizes a soul who is truly pure. What charisms, what graces, what mutual love and loving stratagems between this soul and her Spouse Jesus! Only one who experiences them can say something. One cannot even narrate everything, and I don’t feel it is my duty to speak about this, therefore I keep silent and I move on (December 21, 1899).
Hence, purity is noblest gem a soul can ever have. Second, purity invests the soul with a candid light. Third, God finds his image in pure soul and becomes one with her. Fourth, a pure soul retains her original splendor imparted to her by God. Fifth, pure souls are at the front in the celestial glory.
Another insight which comes from this third volume is how God draws us to love Him in three ways as well as how He reveals Himself to the souls in three manners. In the entry December 22, 1899, Jesus teaches Luisa: I draw you to love Me in three ways: by dint of benefits, by dint of sympathies, and by dint of persuasions.
Then, aided by the same intellectual light, Luisa wrote: Who can say how many things I comprehended in these three words? It seemed to me that in order to attract my love and also that of the other creatures, blessed Jesus makes benefits rain down for our good, and in seeing that this rain of benefits does not reach the point of gaining our love, He reaches the point of rendering Himself sympathetic. And what is this sympathy? It is His pains suffered for love of us, to the point of dying, deluging blood upon a cross, where He rendered Himself so sympathetic as to enamor of Himself His very executioners and His fiercest enemies. Even more, in order to attract us more and render our love stronger and more stable, He left us the light of His most holy examples, united to His celestial doctrine, which, like light, dispel for us the darkness of this life and lead us to eternal salvation.
Hence, Jesus makes himself sympathetic to draw us to himself. In other words, he suffered the fiercest passion for us, left us holy examples and his celestial doctrines. But how does Jesus manifest to the individual soul? Within the same entry of December 22, 1899, Jesus said to Luisa: I manifest Myself to the soul in three different ways: by power, by news and by love. The power is the Father, the news is the Word, the love is the Holy Spirit.
On this powerful statement of Jesus Luisa commented: Oh, how many more things I comprehended! But too little is that which I am able to manifest. It seemed to me that God manifests Himself to the soul, by power, in the whole of creation; from the first to the last being is the omnipotence of God manifested. The heavens, the stars and all the other beings speak to us, though in a mute language, of a Supreme Being, of an Uncreated Being, of His omnipotence. In fact, the most learned man, with all of his science, cannot arrive at creating the most wretched mosquito, and this says that there must be a most powerful uncreated Being who created everything, and gives life and preservation to all beings. Oh, how the whole universe, in clear notes and with indelible characters, speaks to us of God and of His omnipotence! Therefore, one who does not see Him is voluntarily blind! By news: it seemed to me that blessed Jesus, in descending from Heaven, came upon earth in person to give us news of what is invisible to us; and in how many ways did He not manifest Himself? I believe that everyone can comprehend the rest by himself, therefore I will not go on speaking.
In other words, God shows himself to the soul by creation. Here his omnipotence is highly and supremely at work. Then, God shows himself to the soul by news because through his incarnation Jesus shares with us the invisible reality. Thirdly, God shows himself to the soul by the Spirit’s manifestations in one’s life.
The third point which is beautifully presented in volume 3 of the Book of Heaven is certainly that of charity who is like a mantle to cover one’s actions. In entry December 27, 1899, Jesus said to Luisa: Charity must be like a mantle which must cover all of your actions, in such a way that everything must shine with perfect charity. What is the meaning of your being displeased when you do not suffer? That your charity is not perfect, because suffering for love of Me and not suffering for love of Me, without your will, is all the same.
Thus, if she wanted to suffer for Jesus she had to do that out of charity. And Jesus, in his inifinte mercy, permitted Luisa to undergo a deluge internal suffering to teach her two things: First, With just souls I act with justice, or rather, I give them double recompense for their justice by favoring them with greater graces, and by speaking to them of just words and of sanctity. Second, he also told her: Do not fear, I am the shield of the tribulated.
Finally, volume 3 of The Book of Heaven presents to us an excellent piece of cathecesis on the effects of humiliation and mortification. In the entry of December 30, 1899, Jesus teaches Luisa:
Humiliation must not only be accepted, but also loved; so much so, as to chew it like food. And just as when a food is bitter, the more one chews it, the more he feels the bitterness, in the same way, humiliation, when it is well chewed, gives rise to mortification. And these – that is, humiliation and mortification – are two most powerful means in order to get out of certain hitches and obtain those graces which are needed. While it seems to be noxious to the human nature, just like the bitter food which seems to do harm rather than good – so with humility and mortification. But it is not so. The more the piece of iron is beaten on the anvil, the more it sparkles with fire and is purged. The same for the soul: the more she is humiliated and beaten on the anvil of mortification, the more she sparkles with celestial fire and is purged – if she really wants to walk along the path of good. If then she is false, it happens all the opposite.
Upon reading these words of Jesus I asked myself: Am I accepting humiliation? Am I loving it so as to chew it like food? If I am really accepting and loving humiliation do I let it take me to mortification? In other words, can I ever attain holiness if I, all the time, avoid humiliation?
On the last point there is Pope Francis’ very interesting insight, which is to be found in his apostolic exhortation which speaks on the call to holiness in today’s world, Gaudete Et Exsultate:
Humility can only take root in the heart through humiliations. Without them, there is no humility or holiness. If you are unable to suffer and offer up a few humiliations, you are not humble and you are not on the path to holiness. The holiness that God bestows on his Church comes through the humiliation of his Son. He is the way. Humiliation makes you resemble Jesus; it is an unavoidable aspect of the imitation of Christ. For “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). In turn, he reveals the humility of the Father, who condescends to journey with his people, enduring their infidelities and complaints (cf. Ex 34:6-9; Wis 11:23-12:2; Lk 6:36). For this reason, the Apostles, after suffering humiliation, rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for [Jesus’] name” (Acts 5:41).
Here I am not speaking only about stark situations of martyrdom, but about the daily humiliations of those who keep silent to save their families, who prefer to praise others rather than boast about themselves, or who choose the less welcome tasks, at times even choosing to bear an injustice so as to offer it to the Lord. “If when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval” (1 Pet 2:20). This does not mean walking around with eyes lowered, not saying a word and fleeing the company of others. At times, precisely because someone is free of selfishness, he or she can dare to disagree gently, to demand justice or to defend the weak before the powerful, even if it may harm his or her reputation.
I am not saying that such humiliation is pleasant, for that would be masochism, but that it is a way of imitating Jesus and growing in union with him. This is incomprehensible on a purely natural level, and the world mocks any such notion. Instead, it is a grace to be sought in prayer: “Lord, when humiliations come, help me to know that I am following in your footsteps” (Nos, 118-120).
How merciful to us is the Lord in Luisa Piccarreta’s Book of Heaven volume 3!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap