Here’s a book that would bless anyone who receives it for Christmas, Tears of an Innocent God” by Br. Elias Marechal. Brother Elias is the novice director at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, where we have lived together for many years.
Each human being has a unique relationship with God. At the same time because of our shared humanity there is a commonality that allows us to speak of our experiences that may be a help to others. In fact our experiences and thoughts about our lives, struggles and relationship with God can also bring healing for those who listen and read. For the Holy Spirit speaks through us all, all we need do is to learn to listen and ponder in silence.
As it grows, the human heart becomes more deeply human, less fearful, and more compassionate, taking on the ‘Heart of Christ.’ In this wonderful book, Br. Elias is truly giving us a glimpse into his heart that is enveloped by the love of God. Elias is a humble man, who knows of his own need for continued healing, he is a true wounded healer, something we are all called to be.
There are stories that Br. Elias shares that are touching, even heart breaking that can give some insight into the mystery of Infinite Love. He understands that for God to love us completely there has to be a ‘seeing’ that is total, for to know all is to understand all.
In a chapter entitled, “The Radiant Christ,” we receive insight into how Jesus saw others:
“Christ’s gaze pierces the insides of the Romans, each one squatting over broken glass-the wreckage of their inner lives. Many have collapsed into spiritual oblivion and emotional stupor. By day, their mouths squeeze into thin lines; by night, they are captive to fitful dreams filled with hanging sentences, broken phrases and soundless screams.”
“Christ knows all this, which is why—right in the middle of his passion—he stands absolutely still and asks his Father to forgive the unaware for they do not know what they are doing”.
This passage speaks to me, for I see myself in the Romans who killed Christ. At times I feel as if I am alienated not only from myself and others, but from God as well. Once we understand that all is seen, we learn that there is no need to try hide from God, or from ourselves, from what lies within our souls. For God is the true eternal foundation that we can stand from, love unchanging, grace filled, bringing all of our inner struggles and fragmentation to a place that is healing.
While having a deep faith in Christ Jesus and grounded in his faith, Br. Elias also has a deep insight in how the Holy Spirit works in others faith paths. In the chapter, “When God’s Ways Seem Irrational,: he relates a story about how an old man, a Buddhist monk from Tibet dealt with being imprisoned by the communist. His name was Patrul. For the first week he was kept in a cell (a box) constructed in such a way that he could not fully stand, nor stretch out, a true torture, a level of cruelty that only we humans could think up.
After a week, a guard dragged him semi-conscious into a windowless cell. For fifteen years this old man suffered unspeakable torture and deprivation. When he was released he was able to travel to the large Tibetan settlement in India. What touched me deeply is what this monk told the Dali Lama after he gently asked him this question: “Tell me, Patrul, was there ever a time when you felt in serious danger?” His answer: “Only when I sensed the possibility of losing the compassion I felt toward my captors—one in particular. The loss of compassion would have split my heart in two”
When the Dali Lama asks him if he hates the Chinese, his response is always the same: “Why would I want to drag more hatred into the world”? His love and compassion compares to the work of the “Living Flame of Love” that St. John of the Cross talks about. Did not this monk see, in the way that Christ saw those, who brought about his own death in such a cruel and unjust manner?
There is so much richness in this book that it needs to be read slowly and perhaps more than once. In a world that often places our inner growth towards Infinite Love to an unimportant place, this book can enliven people from any tradition to begin the journey toward a love that we can only dive into, experience, but never truly understand.
That is the joy of the Eternal Journey to a God who cannot be owned, captured, or fit into some narrow ideology. For in that beautiful soul, the old Tibetan monk, will not a Christian see the Heart of Christ at work?
I have only scratched the surface of this book, but I highly recommend it to everyone, no matter their faith path, no matter the season of the year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: THE CHRISTIAN REVIEWS WISHES BROTHER MARK DOHLE A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!