ACT OF OBLATION
Lord Jesus, I unite myself to your perpetual, unceasing, universal sacrifice. I offer myself to you every day of my life and every moment of every day, according to your most holy and adorable will.
You have been the victim of my salvation, I wish to be the victim of your love.
Accept my desire, take my offering, graciously hear my prayer: let me live by love, let me die of love, and let my last heartbeat be an act of the most perfect love.
- Saint Therese Couderc
The following reflection on St Therese Couderc’s “Act of Oblation” is by Sister Elizabeth Hillmann.
I unite myself – to this sacrifice…
What is this sacrifice?
Humanity, not God, is responsible for the crucifixion. Crucifixion was an evil deed, a form of torture.
As Augustine says, it is not the physical suffering of Jesus that we love. It is the reality that he overcomes evil by love. “Having loved his own…he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). It is the returning of love for evil that overcomes the wickedness of all of us. And the Resurrection confirmed this. All is healed by the Resurrection of Jesus, which is central to the Christian. If Christ be not risen from the dead, Paul says, we are of all people the most foolish (1 Corinthians 15).
Paul also writes these mysterious and yet wonderful words:
“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ).
So what in the world do we mean when we say, I unite myself to the sacrifice of Jesus?
I unite myself to the only real power: the power of love. Love is so easy to ignore, seemingly fragile, and indeed is fragile: yet in this fragile, disarmed self is the true power and the true glory of the world.
- Does uniting myself with this sacrifice mean I am willing to go on loving and trying to be loving and pure of heart even if it looks totally unimportant in the great events of world history? Do I realize that the simplest acts of loving and kindness are greater that all the magnificent works of construction, of art, of music, of science, of bombs?
- Does it mean I am willing to live in the mystery of human existence with trust in God my only support?
- Does it mean that I am willing to accept what seems to be my total unimportance in the greater scheme of things, just another of the 6 billion people around?
(This does not mean giving up excellence; it does mean giving up one-upmanship. In the pursuit of excellence, we seek to do our own best, not to win over someone else.)
- Does it mean that I can live without anxiety in the midst of the demands of life?
- Could it also mean that I live more aware that I am intimately connected to other humans and am willing to feel my own connection to those who suffer? That whatever they suffer, I stand with them as Mary stood at the foot of the cross?
Does it mean standing with the homeless, the persecuted people of Darfur , the innocent victims of war – and also the people who make war and persecute others, the peaceful and the enraged as well?
Mary was there standing with Jesus but standing in the midst of the people who did the crime of killing Him. We are the Body of Christ. We have an intimate connection to the suffering of others – as if it were our own. “By what boundless mercy, my Savior, have you allowed me to become a member of your body?” asks St. Symeon.*
I am reminded of the two saints writing to each other. One said she had a sore toe. The other wrote back that her toe hurt him. Are we to feel the pain and suffering of others as our own because we are all one body?
- Does it mean forgiving from the cross, as Jesus did? As Augustine reminds us, “If, therefore you have learned to pray for your enemy, you are walking in the way of the Lord” (Sermon on I John 1:9).
- Does it mean that I have faith that God is with me when I am suffering, whatever that suffering might be?
- Is this what it means to unite oneself to the sacrifice of Christ: to give witness to God’s great love by our own forgiveness, our own compassion, our own kindness, our own simple care of another’s needs?
- Does it mean that I have no other desire except to do the will of God?
This is what St. Therese asks of God in her “Act of Oblation” – to live by love, to die of love. What a mysterious and wonderful gift – to live by love night and day. St Ignatius says to ask for what we want. (You know: like what do you want for Christmas.) Why not beg for this gift, to live by love, to die of love? This is greater than a want. It is the need of our hearts. Our hearts are restless till they rest in God.
What more could we ask for?
* The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives, trans. John Anthony McGuckin.