Anéantissement

"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12.24


As a Catholic foil to Maria van Schurman, Madame Jeanne Guyon comes out of a different stable yet pioneers a similar devotional trajectory. Using the Song of Solomon as her guide, Madame Guyon discovers that the route to intimacy with God involves at least three stages: First, there is the essential denial of one's selfish interests in response to Jesus' condition that would-be disciples must shoulder their crosses. This is followed by the even costlier denial of one's essential rights and privileges as a human being. And, because such profound gestures are impossible for weak and fallen humans, the final stage is to throw ourselves unreservedly into the arms of our crucified and risen Saviour.


Lest there be any doubt about the thorough nature of what Madame Guyon is expressing (which, importantly, is a reflection of her own experience), she employs graphic language, full of blood and gore. Anéantissement means annihilation and that it what must happen to every individual who would be included in the heavenly Bride of Christ, which is the Church.


It sounds grim but, again like Maria van Schurman, Madame Guyon insists that the fruit of such radical self-abandonment is the unparalleled resurrection joy which can only be experienced on the other side of crucifixion. As the apostle Paul famously declared in Galatians 2.20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

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