Vassula Ryden's writings
by Fr. Michael OÂ´Carroll, CSSp
More has been written on Jesus Christ in the last fifty years than in all the previous Christian centuries. This immense volume of writing, with its echo in the spoken word, in pulpit and lecture room, constitutes undeniable testimony to His might; His uniqueness within human experience and the flow of history is manifest. A very different kind of testimony with a tragic overtone is the fact that, at the present time, more than twenty thousand churches, communities sects, groups and splinter groups claim Him as their nominal central figure or their founder. Within a cosmic or worldwide setting it is noteworthy that though He was a Jew, a Semite and an Asiatic, his following is minimal among His own people and race, and in His continent. The temptation is to settle for this in a fatalistic spirit; to do so deliberately would be to surrender belief in his universal mission and message.
Will the immense intellectual ferment, the labours of scholars, effect the change so desirable, not only among those who do not explicitly accept Jesus as their Saviour, but among those who do but pay little heed to his teaching? We have had so many Christologies; so much has been written on the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of faith"; every possible detail and aspect of the Bible has been scrutinized; marginal disciplines like archaeology, the Qumran fields, inter-testamental and Jewish-Christian texts have been studied; we have recently had a whole new literature on the most obvious thing about Jesus, his Jewishness.
Having had to go through some of this literary forest I am convinced that all who search for Jesus Christ, who wish to share in his healing, transforming self-disclosure must seriously heed the claim of the mystics. I submit that to ignore their testimony is to miss a powerful, enlightening dimension of Jesus Christ. It is also to close his mystery to the sincere votaries of the great world religions, which we are invited to view with sympathy and understanding. They are open at times strikingly to the appeal of mysticism, have not allowed perversion of its meaning. On the level of history great mystics have profoundly influenced their times. Jesus Christ, by his action on them, discloses a psychic potential, deep, subtle, rich on which he alone can directly act. What history and psychology indicate, theology clarifies and confirms.
It is in such a deep perspective that I would wish to present this volume of Vassula Rydn's writings. I would ask to be taken as speaking a strictly theological language, valid and accurate, when I describe her work as a valuable record of mystical experience. Irrespective of terminology the value is beyond question. Others like Maria Concepcion de Armida and Adrienne von Speyr have taken dictation directly from the Lord, or given it to another under his inspiration. Vassula's case is singular in that the handwriting is directly controlled. We have the transcription of an intensely personal experience of Jesus Christ with the assurance that he was involved down to the physical element of putting the words on paper.
Readers who have not seen the scientific evidence for this phenomenon, in so far as there can be evidence, may be reassured. An expert graphologist, attached to the Paris Court of Appeals, J A Munier, examined the writing with no knowledge of the author's identity and found it astonishing in many particulars; to the ordinary observer it is in marked contrast with Vassula's normal handwriting.
To those who accept the message of Jesus in Vassula's testimony, the contents of her books are thought-provoking, at times disturbing, overall elevating and powerfully encouraging. It is easy to see why her books have caused so many striking conversions. The leit-motiv throughout is the love of Jesus, expressed in the sponsal terms characteristic of mysticism, but manifested as an effulgence, an outpouring of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I consider this revelation one of the most helpful, promising of all that have been recorded in recent times. It is so, for the Lord's messenger is of the Orthodox Church, and we have never heard the language of the Sacred Heart from this communion. Historically unique for this reason, it is the long-awaited revival for Catholics of an ideal, an intuition of Jesus, which for centuries, especially since the age of St Margaret Mary, made countless saints and apostles. After Vatican II what really was an outlook, a total vision of the Saviour was dismissed by many as mere "devotion". Those who hoped for better days scarcely expected the dawn to appear in the East.
The message is thus an augury for the Christian unity which is a cherished theme and a promise in Vassula's pages. Where could Christians meet more securely than in the Heart of Christ? He has made it clear that the miracle of unity will be seen as his work.
It is not the first benefit that we have received from the Orthodox. During the Second Vatican Council it was the Orthodox, notably one Greek theologian, Nikos Nissiotis, who kept pressing for a theology of the Holy Spirit, without this the Council Documents would have little impact in their world. Much has been done since then to make good any possible loss. It is noteworthy that Jesus instructs Vassula on the Holy Spirit, speaks to her of Him frequently.
The language which He speaks to her is that of love. But He does not dispense with the Commandments; the reader is urged to contrast the clarity of His utterance with so much that is hazy and vague in some popular presentations of the faith. Ecumenists would also read with profit the warnings against dilution of doctrine; as preachers should take to heart the advice not to give priority to social concern over the divine claim to adoration - they must not cut themselves off from God the source of life, nor minimize the divinity of Jesus Christ, nor the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection.
There are searing pages in Vassula's communications on the present state of the Church. How are we to react to the application of Apocalypse XIII to our time? I would say with great humility, attentive to its realism, concerned to reap the reward of fidelity. There is much to console in the whole corpus. We have a word of reassurance on the many apparitions and visions which in our day the Spirit is bestowing on the faithful. We are reminded that the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus cares for His Church with all the love of His Heart, realizes its dreadful need and intends to renew it.
At this stage I am reminded of another work which has some similarity with that of Vassula, Confidences de Jesus given to an Italian priest, Mgr Ottavio Michellini of the diocese of Carpi. He was given a very clear idea of the evils within the Church, but also a firm hope that through the intercession of Mary, through her triumph over the forces of evil, the reign of Jesus would be established. Pius XII, in a broadcast message to the International Marian Congress at Lourdes on 17th September 1958, three weeks before his death, spoke these words: `I wish to affirm my unshakeable confidence that the reign of Jesus will come through the reign of Mary.'
True to the great Orthodox tradition, Vassula believes in the power of Mary. How many people forgot this rich, living legacy when they spoke of Mary as an obstacle to Christian unity ! If Christian unity is to be complete it must include the Orthodox, who would never compromise on Marian theology or devotion. This was made crystal clear in the early days of Faith and Order by one of its most committed members, the giant of modern Russian Orthodox Marian theology, Sergey Bulgakov.
In Marian devotion Vassula is responsive to a particularly Catholic form of piety, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Heart of Mary united to the Heart of Jesus is a theme to inspire and encourage. Pope John Paul II speaking of it used the phrase `Alliance of the Two Hearts.' This was chosen as the title of an international symposium sponsored in Fatima from 14th to 19th September, 1986 by Cardinal Sin. The symposium enjoyed formal approval in a special message received from the Pope, who later received the participants in Rome and was given the complete proceedings. In these papers speciality theologians had supported with impeccable research the continuity of the theme through the centuries, noting obviously the high points; the great saints of Helfta in medieval times, the saints and teachers of seventeenth century France, notably St John Eudes, the awakening of the nineteenth century and then the culmination in our time, with the formal teaching of the Popes since Pius XII, the promise of Fatima that with the triumph of the Immaculate Heart over Russia, Jesus wishes it to be glorified along with his own Sacred Heart - and so many other private revelations at the present time.
I am convinced that we may expect an enriched theology of the heart within the Church from a close, profound fusion of the eastern and western traditions. It is well known that the idea of divinization, of man made in the image of God, is basic to the thinking of the Greek Fathers, especially those of the school of Alexandria. In the theological renewal which will precede the Christian unity which we long for, there must be serious reflection on the Heart of Jesus, God-man, as the means and model of divinization.
An immense perspective opens before us in Christian theology. John Paul II has shown how his philosophy of the human person, influenced to some extent by his studies in phenomenology, may be integrated in the theology of the heart. At the symposium of Fatima the theologians agreed that it is with the idea of the Holy Spirit that the fruitful synthesis will be achieved. There is here a sense of profound spiritual harmony. But the field is still open for theological research and reflection.
It is, meanwhile, a matter for deep satisfaction that Vassula Rydn, guided word by word by Jesus, joins the company of theologians and spiritual writers vowed to the regeneration and divinization of mankind through the mediation of the two Hearts. It is an honour to commend and by so doing to support the ideal which she proposes with such clear intuition and courageous candour, with the eloquence of simplicity, at times poignant: the Ideal who is Christ himself, the "Mediator and the fullness of all revelation" as Vatican II calls him, the One who is the Centre of all life and of all creation, for He is the Origin, the Alpha and the Omega. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and understanding (Colossians 2:3); He is the first-born of all creation... in whom all things subsist (Colossians 1:15,17). To Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory from all creatures evermore, through the mediation of Blessed Maria Theotokos.
19th May, 1991 - Pentecost Sunday