Summary of The Passion of the Infant Christ by Caryll Houselander

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The Sown Field: Patience & Rest

“The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man who has sown his field with good seed” (Mt 8:24).

On a physical level, the farmer is just as patient and aware of life in winter as in summer. He is at peace because he knows that life is stronger than death – that although the seed is buried, it grows while sleeping & will eventually spring from the grave.

  • Rest is the condition for natural growth.

“Think of a child asleep in his mother’s arms; the abandon with which he gives himself to sleep can only be because he has complete trust in the arms that hold him. He is not lying asleep on that heart because he is worn out with anxiety. He is asleep there because it is a delight to him to be asleep there. The mother rests, too… Rest is a communion of love between them. It is a culmination of content…. (17).

On a spiritual level, we too must be content during winter. Although the winter season seems most empty, it is actually the most pregnant with life. Allow the roots to grow deeper during this time.

  • Rest is the condition for super-natural growth.
  • Be patient during the winter months of your spiritual life.
  • Trust is the first condition for rest to happen. Trust that Christ is resting in you.
  • Be at peace, knowing that Christ’s life is there, underneath the dry and seemingly lifeless feelings that we experience.
  • Allow the secret life of Christ within you to grow silently.
  • Allow the grain of wheat – Christ – to be buried in the darkness and grow through the ordinariness of daily care.

“Rest is not idleness; indeed; restlessness is the torment of idle people. It is not relaxation. Relaxation should never be necessary, because the nervous tension which makes it so should never be present. Rest, far from being relaxation, is a culmination, a fullness of gathering peace, like the fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide” (17).

“The soil must not be disturbed. Above all we must not disturb it ourselves by our own egoism. We must not turn it over and dig it up by anxieties and scruples, we must not shift it by fretting for a sense of personal perfection; to feel sinless that we may feel free from the pain of guilt and anxiety; to feel pure for the sake of vanity; to be reassured of the hidden presence of Christ in us by experiencing sensible consolation” (14-5).

When God created the world, He rested – not because He was tired, but “His rest was the infinite peace of infinite love” (18).

“Christ prepared for the Incarnation by rest. He prepared for the Resurrection by rest. Rest in the womb – rest in the tomb” (24).

“If Christ is to come full flower & bear fruit in individual lives, there must be seasons of rest in which there is almost no activity but the giving wholly of self to nourish the supernatural life; just as the earth in which the seed is buried is given to nourish the bread. But, and this is even more important, there must be a permanent state of inward rest, founded in the peace of mind which comes from complete trust” (2).

“The same thing happens when, allowing the Infant Christ to rest in us, we wait patiently on His own timing of His growth in us, and give Him just what He asks, the extremely simple things that are ourselves, our hands and our feet, our eyes and ears, our words, our thoughts, our love. Not only does He grow in us, but we are formed in Him” (23).

The Infant Christ

The Child never died in Christ. All through His manhood He kept the essential qualities of His childhood; the capacity for complete joy and complete sorrow; the child’s simplicity; the child’s love of the father. One example was when Jesus told Peter to get the coin out of a fish’s mouth (117).

The Infant Christ demands everything (45). In the service of the Infant Christ we are made whole. Every detail of our life is set by it into a single pattern & ordered by a single purpose. We are integrated by the singleness of one compelling love (48). The giving up of self, which is Holy Poverty (48). It is of absolute necessity for our peace that we surrender ourselves wholly to God (42).

How the Christ-child will change our lives:

“This happens so often, too, to those who foster the Infant Christ in their souls. We like to plan the life that we shall offer to God in just the way that seems good and aesthetically right to us, to achieve holiness between four walls, with every modern convenience, besides undisturbed sessions of solitude, work and prayer, and a selected number of friends on whom to exercise our charity and with whom to live, reasonably easily, at peace. It is difficult to imagine that a plan like this – so full of sweet order and prudence and common sense; so harmless – could not be pleasing to God. Yet God changes everything. He sends us to where He wants to be; among those whom He wishes to be among; to do that which He wishes to do in our lives.” (119).

“So it is today and always; we would like to give God gifts of our own choosing which, even if they are in one sense part of our life, are yet things added on, on purpose to give, without having to pull up anything of ourself at the roots” (64).

Our humanity is to clothe Him. Our love to be the four walls that shelter Him. Our life to sustain Him. Our prayer must be Our Lady’s prayer: “Be it done to me according to Thy word!”

Becoming Like Little Children

“Believe me, unless you go back and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).

“All the way to Heaven is Heaven” – St. Catherine of Siena. And this is a thousand times true of the heaven of spiritual childhood, because it means becoming not any child, but the Christ Child who is the life and the heaven of the soul (79).

“The way to begin the healing of the wounds of the world is to treasure the Infant Christ in us; to be not the castle but the cradle of Christ, and, in rocking that cradle to the rhythm of love, to swing the whole world back into the beat of the music of Eternal Life” (82).

“We are “other Christs”. Our destiny is to live the Christ-life. To bring Christ’s life into the world. To increase Christ’s love in the world. To give Christ’s peace to the world (78). Christ-life = Christ Himself is the life of our souls. We live our Christ-life through our bodies, by natural means.

Prayer for the Christ-life:

May Christ live the life in me he wants to live in me, where he wants, with whom he wants, and how we wants to live it – “be it done unto me according to thy word”.

Herod ordered the children to be killed because he was afraid that any one of them might be Christ. Any child might be Christ! – the fear of Herod is the fear of every tyrant, the hope of every Christian, and the most significant fact in the modern world (89).

Reality of the Christ-life within us:

“If we work with His hands there is no work that is without dignity; whether it is a sheet of typing, scrubbing a floor, making a pie, adding a page of figures, carving a statute, playing the piano, or anything else, it is the work of Christ’s hands. It would be incredible if anyone knowing that they worked with His hands, did any work that was shoddy and careless, or was not the best that they could do: whatever they do or make will be warm and living from their touch.” (12).

Redemptive Childhood & Suffering

Meditation on the unity of Christ’s life, of how the Passion is in the Infancy and the Infancy in the Passion (inscape), proves to us that our own lives need not be lived on a heroic scale to be redeeming. This is of huge significance for us today, faced by appalling suffering all over the world (83).

Inscape = the pattern of the universe within a little thing. The pattern within it, not reflected on it, but integral to it, and whole and complete in it, so that in a sense it is true to say of such a little created thing that its very being is the pattern of its Creator’s mind (28-9). Every flake of snow is an inscape of the universe. Bethlehem is an inscape of Calvary.

In Christ, all our individual suffering is integrated in one redeeming act of Love (86).

Suffering = does not redeem simply because it is suffering. It does not help those in need more or less because it is greater or less great suffering. Suffering does not necessarily help at all; it does not necessarily unite us to God, in fact it can separate from Him. Suffering can make us bitter, cynical, cruel; it can drive us to despair. … But in those in whom Christ abides, it is Christ who suffers every humiliation… It is not what is suffered that redeems and heals, it is who suffers. One tear of Christ’s could redeem the world: all the tears of the whole world that are not His are of no avail to comfort one child. What matter to us is not that we suffer, or that we suffer a little or a lot, but that Christ suffers in us. That Christ suffers whatever we suffer. Not that our lives are small or are lived on a heroic scale, but that they are lived by Christ in us; therefore our way to share in the world’s healing, to mitigate the world’s suffering, is simply to foster and cherish the Infant Christ in our souls (87-8).

As Christ grows in the soul, suffering and the capacity for suffering increase in the life, and with it the desire to suffer grows, not because of any morbidity, such as masochism; but because if Christ increases, love increases; when the love of God increases, the desire to atone for sin increases, because the lover of God wishes to offer Him a shadowless world, and the desire to suffer for sin increases, because the lover of man wishes to heal the wounds from which mankind is bleeding to death (112-3).

St. Therese of Lisieux – An example of the Christ-Child’s Redemptive Suffering

St. Therese discovered that holiness means becoming a child, not just any child, but the Christ-child. (90). She did not value her extraordinary sufferings more than her ordinary ones; she estimated the minute irritating things of every day as being of equal value to the tragic things in her life. She knew that the nervous irritability of an exhausted body, tortured by the rattling of a rosary in silence, has the same kind of power to redeem as the pains of her death. No one has ever realized the value of little things as she did; for no one has ever realized more that the Christ-Child suffered in her, and that the Christ-Child can suffer nothing that is not in the redeeming Passion of Infinite Love… To overcome the world we must become children. To become children we must fold our consciousness upon the Divine Infant who is the centre of our being; who is our being itself; and all that we are must be absorbed in Him; whatever remains of self must be the cradle in which He lies (92-3).

Mary – The Christ-Child’s Mother

Christ’s rest in Mary: Advent = Christ rested in Mary. “While he remained hidden in Mary, His rest was a tremendous activity, He was making her into Himself, making Himself from her…”  (23). Christ’s 1st & last sleep in Mary’s arms (65).

What a symbol of the Virgin Mother of God that pure water is. Water is of all things the most selfless, yet without it nothing has life. It irrigates the earth, it gives the spring its tender greenness, it is the life of the flowers and their loveliness, it quenches thirst, it purifies all that it touches. It is the perfection of poverty, it has nothing of its own, it has no shape or colour or taste or radiance; yet it gives unceasingly to all living things, and all beauty is perceived in it. In it we see the blue sky and the green leaves and the passing clouds; in it we look with naked eyes uno the moon and the stars and the sun. As the selfless water at Cana was given up to Christ and was changed to wine by His coming, the selfless virginity of Mary was given to Him, and in her the tasteless, colourless, shapeless water of human nature was changed to wine – the wine of Christ, alive and life-giving. (113-4).

“Woman, behold your son!” He meant her to see Himself in St. John; but in this He included all men, through all time. (115).

The Host-Life = How the Christ-Child is Born Today

Every day, every hour, Christ is born on the altar in the hands of the priest; Christ is lifted up and sacrificed; Christ is buried in the tomb of the human heart; Christ rises from the tomb to be the life of the world through His Communion with men (121).

Living the Christ-life means that we are given the power of Christ’s love. We are not only trustees of God’s love for man, entrusted to give it out second-hand, but, miraculously, our love IS His love! (124).

Our only power to do anything in this world is the power of Christ’s love in us (85).

Have you ever stood before the Tabernacle and asked yourself: “Why is He silent, while the world rocks with blasphemies and lies? Why is He passive while His followers are persecuted and innocent people are crushed?” It is almost frightening to seek an answer to the question…. It is a frightening question until we remember what it is which alone can restore humanity to happiness; that it is one thing only that can do it, namely supernatural life, beginning secretly in each individual heart; just as Incarnate Love began secretly on earth in the heart of Mary. It is one thing only, the birth of the Infant Christ in us, Incarnate Love (125).

Everyone with whom the communicant has even a passing contact during the day is someone whom Christ wished to meet (126).

The glory of the Host-life is hidden, a secret apostolate, a secret Kingdom of Heaven on earth (133).

There is Incarnation everywhere – everywhere the Infant Christ is born; every day the Infant Christ makes the world new (134).

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