Raissa Maritain on fighting error

Jacques and Raissa Maritain were zealous souls in pursuit of truth. Their love of Catholic faith inspired an apostolic life in the realm of academia and art. But they must have experienced at times the frustration of those “sons of Thunder,” the apostles James and John, who encountered opposition. They wanted to call down fire upon those who opposed them: “And when his disciples James and John had seen this, they said: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?” Our Lord rebuked them, saying: “You know not of what spirit you are.” Luke 9:54-55.

The Maritain’s obviously struggled against the same temptation as that experienced by Zebedee’s sons.  Raissa Maritain recorded the following thought in her journal:

It is very hard to see error increasing and spreading endlessly and submerging souls. . . . Certainly, if we are Christ’s, we know that “our kingdom is not of this world,” and that, if the divine Truth wished to triumph in time, nothing could be easier for Him. “I would ask my Father and He would send me twelve legions of angels . . .” One knows that and yet one ardently longs for the triumph of Christ here and now, everywhere and in everything. And this longing makes the heart impatient, demanding and afflicted.During silent prayer, I felt that the good God wanted to calm me, which he did, in a moment, by insinuating into my soul a feeling which I might express thus: error is like the foam on the waves, it eludes our grasp and keeps reappearing. The soul must not exhaust itself fighting against the foam. Its zeal must be purified and calmed and, by union with the divine Will, it must gather strength from the depths. And Christ, with all his merits and the merits of all the saints, will do his work deep down below the surface of the waters. And everything that can be saved will be saved. For our God has chosen to reign in humility, and it really seems as if he wishes to show himself only just as much as is necessary in order that the visible Church shall endure to the end and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Raissa’s Journal, p. 157

The Maritains did know of what spirit they were — “for our God has chosen to reign in humility.” The courage of the Maritains was balanced by their humility.

The qualities singled out by St Louis de Montford as constituting “the spirit of Mary” are these pairs: meek and strong, zealous and prudent,  humble and courageous, pure and fruitful. I am struck by the very pairing — how difficult it is to keep the qualities in balance. The Maritains did it well, as did Pope John Paul II. We are more often like the young and yet unformed James and John. Jesus had to rebuke them. Mary provides an example and she became John’s teacher after calvary. The words continue to move hearts — “Son, behold your Mother.” The heart consecrated to Mary will put aside his own spirit because it is tainted by the darkness, or perhaps “briney” as Augustine once said. Since the spirit of Mary is the spirit of Christ (why else would he say “Son behold your mother”?) we strive to take on the spirit of Mary and be better conformed to Christ — meek and strong, zealous and prudent,  humble and courageous, pure and fruitful. (See True Devotion §258).

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