The Truth to Which Christ Bears Witness
“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).
A Carthusian reflects on these words of the Lord addressed to Pontius Pilate. He believes that these words reveal the most essential secret of Christ’s life. He explains:
“It is awesome to discover that he came to bear witness: that is, to confront each of us with a responsibility that he has to assume personally, in the depths of his own conscience. What is my attitude going to be? Jesus does not come to exercise any sort of exterior or interior compulsion. No, the witness he bears calls for a response that comes from the heart, and a commitment, not to a system of ideas, but to a person: to Someone who, in his very being, is a witness to the Truth, the truth which every human heart should be ardently seeking. In the presence of the Son of God, let us ask ourselves what our attitude really is towards this truth to which he is bearing witness before us.”
What is striking about this passage is the awareness of what a personal encounter with the Lord is really all about. For some people, spirituality is about what feels good. For others, it is a system of ideas, an intellectual trip. But genuine faith in Christ always involves a radical desire to encounter Him, a readiness to accept what He reveals, and an openness to generously respond, no matter the personal cost. The monk goes on to describe the dynamism of the Lord:
“Jesus does not exercise his kingship by force, nor by authority, nor by seduction; his sheep follow him freely, because he knows them personally and they know him. It is the same type of knowledge as the mutual knowledge that the Father and the Son have of each other: a knowledge of love.” (The Wound of Love: A Carthusian Miscellany, Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications (1994), pp. 127-128.)
This kind of knowledge is so rare in the world today, and so very needed. It is a knowledge that only prayer and great personal suffering can yield. Yet those who open themselves in faith to Jesus, to his kingship, discover this knowledge to be more precious than life itself. To know that Love is a person, that one is personally awaited by Him, that this Person has held nothing back but given all for your sake – this kind of knowledge changes everything, fills life with purpose and meaning, it is a knowledge that must be acted on and when we live in it, this knowledge transforms the soul into a living icon of hope.
Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.
Art: Detail of Chemin de croix, église Saint-Symphorien de Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France. Station I. Détail de Pilate et des accusateurs (First Station of the Cross St Symphorien de Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhine, France, Detail of Pilate and the accusers), photographed by Pethrus, 3 February 2012 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.