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What I Believe


A miracle we no longer even see, so commonplace it has become, is that no human face, despite the numbers that exist and have existed, reproduces another human face.

mauriacIn contradiction to the familiar simile, no one drop of water has ever been exactly like another drop of water.  Among all the Africans races, among all the countless members of the Asian races who may seem to be the same for us, there is not a single one whom his mother or his brothers or his friends would not recognize and would not distinguish from thousands and millions of others.  There are not two faces alike in nature.  There is not a single living being who reproduces exactly feature for feature one of the billions of faces that preceded us.  A human being is a unique copy and has never been reproduced since the world has been the world. 

This singular irreplaceable characteristic of the humblest human creature, that is a fact and an evidence, that prevents our confusing any two persons and allows us to recognize them in the midst of a crowd — even those of the past, even if their features have been photographed very seldom (I would recognize Pascal or Rimbaud if they came into this room) — this singular characteristic helps me to understand that each one can be the hero of the drama of salvation whose stake is eternity.  What helps me to believe that the Almighty participates in this with each particle of that dust of creatures which rises up and falls back on the surface of a planet, itself a particle of dust in the cosmos; what even makes my belief easy and habitual is the practice of communion, the Holy Eucharist.

Each of the communicants throughout the world partakes of the body of Christ.  Each receives Christ.  Each of the countless faithful at the Easter Mass where I was present this morning returned to his seat, his eyes closed, his hands clasped, God overflowing in him, each one alone with his Creator, and He was everything for everyone.  This throughout the world on the day and the night of Easter: Christ truly living in each living soul.  For the Almighty, it is in an eternal present that these myriads and myriads of souls until the end of time are here suspended and as if condensed around this small piece of living bread.

It is indeed strange that the Eucharist, which constitutes in the Christian mystery that which defies reason the most, helps me to believe, simplifies for me faith in that God who is reduced to the proportions of the most insignificant man and the poorest woman, to the degree of giving Himself to them as food if they want Him.  My mind is such that I feel a deep satisfaction in this unbelievable humbling of the Almighty, in this absorption of the Creator by the creature. . . .

Nothing is less natural to me than the impulse which encouraged Father Teilhard de Chardin to enlarge Christ to the dimensions of the cosmos.  Not that I am shocked by this, because the priest therewith answered a need of our world today and he has greatly helped in the preservation of the faith in our atomic age.  But I belong to another race of mankind.  In my eyes, the deepest mystery is that of the Creator reduced to the dimension of each creature in particular, the least of whom, because he has intelligence and is suffering, is infinitely more important than the cosmos, which is blind and deaf and without conscience.  I do not see what the knowledge gained by these last generations would add to what Pascal said concerning the two infinities.  All of Teilhard de Chardin is, if not refuted in advance — but there is no reason to refute him — restored to the proportions of a personal viewpoint in the famous passage from Pascal.  We do not fear quoting it once again since no truth more central, more influential, has anywhere been expressed in fewer words and with such precision, so well-articulated and presented than this pensée of Pascal which seems to me the point of perfection in French thought and French writing.  It is the extreme point both of depth and clarity.  The least subtle mind can participate in this reasoning which contains the key to everything:

All material bodies, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its satellites are not worth the humblest human being.  For he knows all that and he knows himself.  And the material bodies know nothing.

All material bodies together and all human spirits together and all that they reproduce are not worth the smallest impulse of charity, which is of an infinitely higher order.

From all material bodies together, we cannot bring forth one single thought.  That is impossible and of another order.  From all bodies and human spirits, we cannot bring forth an impulse of true charity.  That is impossible and of a supernatural order.

I am enlightened by this passage, and fully enlightened.  Christian that I am, I do not believe myself condemned to the darkness more than any other man, although Christians are looked upon as adjusting to mysteries which confound man's reason.  In this connection, what is my real thought?



François MauriacFrançois Mauriac, "What I Believe": an excerpt. What I Believe  (Providence, RI: Cluny Media2020).

Reprinted with permission of Cluny Media. Author image credit: Par Studio Harcourt — RMN, Domaine public.

The Author

mauriacjjFrançois Mauriac (1885-1970) was a French, Roman Catholic novelist, poet, critic, and journalist.  Critically acclaimed and respected, Mauriac received the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française for his novel The Desert of Love; was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur; and named laureate of the 1952 Nobel Prize in Literature. He has written What I Believe, A Kiss for the Leper, What was Lost, The Life of Jesus, Genetrix, The Unknolwn Sea, The Lamb, and The River of Fire.  

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