The Divine Furnace

By: Brian Robertson

"I understood so well that it is only love which makes us acceptable to God that this love is the only good I ambition. Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to this Divine Furnace, and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father's arms."

-St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux  Christian Mystics


One of the clearest examples of a being totally taken by the love of God comes from St. Therese of Lisieux and her quote is an invitation to step, fearlessly, into that Divine Furnace.

Therese, known as "The Little Flower" lived a short but intensely spiritual life. In a letter to her sister, she wrote, "The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity... "

The mystic is aware that the the way to God is the way of Love, and so the image of the "Divine Furnace" seems jarring. But the idea here is that in the intense love of God, one's entire being is transformed and the impurities are burned away.

One of the striking things about Therese's quote is that one will willingly walk into that fire and the key to it is surrender of the will, of that which says, "Me first," and ignores all others. It is also, she states, the same surrender that a child makes when he or she sleeps in its father's arms, safe and secure.

The question, then, becomes what do you have that would be burned in that consuming fire? What is it that you would feel taken away so that the very true part of your being is exposed and uplifted?

As a thought or way for a contemplative, how easy it would be to sit, quietly, and immerse oneself in the love of God by easing into it, imagining that you, as a child, are protected by and enveloped by the loving presence of the Divine. Time and time again, the quotes that are selected point to the utter compassion and tenderness of God.

Jesus' relationship to God was not as a servant to a Master, but rather as a child to a father, but not a stern father with rules and judgments. The tenderness with which Jesus called, "Abba" -- which would be like us crying, "Papa" or "Daddy" -- is to say that God incorporates what we traditionally have called masculine as well as the feminine traits.

In times of aridity when I am incapable of praying, of practicing virtue, I seek little opportunities, mere trifles, to give pleasure to Jesus; for instance a smile, a pleasant word when inclined to be silent and to show weariness. If I find no opportunities, I at least tell Him again and again that I love Him; that is not difficult and it keeps alive the fire in my heart. Even though this fire of love might seem extinct I would still throw little straws upon the embers and I am certain it would rekindle.

XVI Letter To Her Sister Celine

I do not will that creatures should possess a single atom of my love; I wish to give all to Jesus, since He makes me understand that He alone is perfect happiness. All shall be for Him, all! And even when I have nothing to offer Him I will give Him that nothing.

II Letter To Mother Agnes Of Jesus

Jesus! Jesus! if it be so sweet to desire Thy Love, what will it be to possess and to enjoy it forever!

Story Of A Soul, Chapter XI

I know of one means only by which to attain to perfection: LOVE. Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else. Sometimes I seek another word to express Love, but in this land of exile the word which begins and ends (St. Augustine) is quite incapable of rendering the vibrations of the soul; we must then adhere to this simple and only word: TO LOVE.

But on whom shall our poor heart lavish its love? Who shall be found that is great enough to be the recipient of its treasures? Will a human being know how to comprehend them, and above all will he be able to repay? There exists but one Being capable of comprehending love; it is Jesus; He alone can give us back infinitely more than we shall ever give to him.