The child is a totally unique revelation of God. Here we have a term which cannot be so quickly exhausted. We want to distinguish: Every creature is a unique revelation of God, and each one of us is a unique revelation of God. If we call the child a unique revelation of God in this context, it is because we want to underscore a certain value. Please listen: Become what the child is! What am I called to become? What the child is by nature, imperfectly and in passing, you must acquire perfectly and perminantly!
This is the main outline point which you must keep in mind the whole day. It implies two tasks-- to study the unique revelation of God which the child presents to us, and then to say: this is what we must become!
What does this unique revelation of God look like which the child presents? I must generalize, for the time is unfortunately too short for me to depict all the many delicate and delightful features of the child. I ask you to do that for yourselves. If what I now give are a few metaphysical expressions, you can be certain that a great number of observations stand behind them. So what does this unique revelation of God look like? I will give three answers. The child is first of all a unique prophet of God; secondly the child is a unique reflection of God; thirdly, the child is in a unique union with God.
Unless you become like little children! Do you understand what this means? Unless you become like little children-- in a perfect manner-- and acquire as you perminant condition the state of being a unique prophet and reflection of God, and being in unique union with God, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
When we think of being a unique reflection of God, then two great truths rise before us: the child is the unique reflection of the simplicity of the Father and the child is a unique reflection of the self-surrender of the Son. You will notice that all dogmatic teaching, all of psychology and philosophy stands before us.
The child is a unique prophet of God. Just think of what this means! The child points to God. Anyone with a keen eye for life and a down-to-earth sense of reality, or for that matter anyone who likes to be around children-- which should really be all of us, for the child belongs to the Child!-- knows what I mean. Let me summerize the main points in metaphysical terms. The child points to God, in part directly, in part indirectly. If I allow myself to observe the child, what does this awaken in me? Yes, a child spontaneously reminds us of two things: first of mankind's paradise and secondly of the paradise of our own life.
The child reminds us directly of the twofold paradise. Is this really true? Alban Stoltz* wrote that there are three things which remind us of paradise again and again. The stars, the flowers, and a child's eyes. The child's eyes point emphatically to the paradise of mankind:
"Child's eyes, diamonds
in earth's desert sands
Worlds of long lost happiness
radiate from your loveliness."
Is the poet right? Does a child remind us of paradise? Let me ask the philosophical and dogmatic question: What is the distinguishing feature of paradise? It is walking and conversing with God. Hence the child points directly to God. The child is a prophet of God.
A similar symbolism rings true when you realize that a child's eyes-- and the child himself-- quickly and easily transport us to the paradise of our own childhood. Is it not true? When we are tired, when life has tossed to and fro and then we stand before a child in the cradle, if we allow ourselves to be absorbed by the child's charm, does not everything quicken again in our soul? How many memories are stirred-- memories of a time when our passions were still in check, memories of our life's paradise! What is it that makes the life of a child, at least a Catholic child, akin to paradise? It was this simple carefree conversing with the Divine, with the angels. This is part of the essence of the child. The child expressly urges us back to God and to His realness in our lives.
The child is therefore a direct prophet of God, but is also and indirect one. Here I must enquire into my own experience. Is it not true that when I stand before a child and look into his wondering eyes-- that a child's eyes can really express wonder!-- I am fascinated and filled with joy? Do we not come away feeling how small the seperation is between God and us? Yes, let me appeal again to your own experiences and observations. When our retreat is over, stand in front of a baby carriage and begin to study-- to find out what we should be! We are called to become what a child is: a prophet of God!
It is true: in the pure eyes of a child we see reflected all the greatness the child sees in creation. This is what shines out to me when I look into the child's eyes. But it is not only that, or even the mirroring of things Divine, that we see. We spontaneously sense that there is only a thin veil, a thin partition-- and behind it is God! We therefore feel compelled to stand in awe before the eyes of a child.
Excerpt from "Childlikeness Before God- Reflections on Spiritual Childhood" pp. 62-64. Printed by the Schoenstatt Fathers 2001. Translated from the German by Fr. Jonathan Niehaus
*Fr. Alban Stoltz (1808-1883), German theologian and author