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The Divine Pudeur

Daniel Bourguet is a French Lutheran pastor who lives as a hermit in Provence. Like Thomas Merton, Bourguet’s a hermit who writes, preaches retreats, receives people.

As far as I know, his works have not been translated into English. They should be. There is a rare purity, simplicity, and depth in what he writes, which somehow remind me of Péguy at his best. Like Péguy, Bourguet is not afraid of “anthropormorphizing” God. We are, after all, created in God’s image and likeness and our sentiments towards Him mirror His sentiments toward us. (One of the best sermons I’ve ever heard began with a rhetorical question: “Why should we pray to God?” The preacher’s answer was perfectly simple: “God likes us to pray to Him.” And that was that. Why complicate things further?)

One of Bourguet’s recent books is titled Le Pudeur de Dieu. “Pudeur” is a word almost impossible to translate into English. It hints at discretion, timidity, delicateness. And there is delicateness, as well as depth, in Bourguet’s way of reading Scripture. What he finds in familiar episodes of the gospels is often disconcertingly beautiful.

The only place in the synoptic gospels where we read that Jesus “loved” anyone is in the story of the rich young man who went away sad. Jesus never imposes himself and seldom takes credit for anything. The evangelists use a passive form in many of the miracle cures. Not “I have restored your sight, forgiven your sins,” but “your sight is restored, your sins forgiven.” The silence of Jesus, his pudeur, is that of someone who leaves space for the one he loves to respond freely. Is it this that accounts for the silence of God which so often scandalizes us? (We all know from experience that the person who makes big professions of love is often insincere. When I was courting my wife and finally decided to roll the dice, the only thing I could come up with is “I love you more than words can say.” Thirty-seven years later that is still the best I can do.)

One of Bourguet’s most powerful meditations is on the Passion of the Father during the Passion of the Son. Here we are far from the image of an angry God accepting (and willing) the sacrifice of His Only-Begotten. The suffering of the Father has no words. He has sent His Son into the vineyard and they have killed Him! All of the synoptic gospels recount the mysterious rending of the veil of the Temple. Bourguet sees in this an indication of the great Passion of the Father, tearing His vestments in a mute sign of grief. He also observes that none of the Evangelists states that Jesus “died” but rather that he “gave up His spirit,” the Consoler, to comfort the grieving Father and reveal the communication of love between the Father and the Son.

This is pretty powerful stuff. We don’t think too much about the involvement of the whole Trinity in the Passion. Bourguet sees other signs of a silent presence of the Father during the Passion. The man who helps Jesus carry his cross, Simon the Cyrenian, is introduced to us not as someone’s son but rather as the father of Alexander and Rufus—two unknowns. Simon is thus cast in a paternal role—as though the Father came to help His son by means of this simple human father. At the end of the Passion appears Joseph of Arimathea who, like Simon, is an unknown. He speaks only to Pilate. As another Joseph had the role of father for the child Jesus, this Joseph also makes visible the presence of the invisible Father, placing the Son in a tomb—as God Himself, many years before, buried His friend Moses in a tomb the Israelites were never able to find.

About the Author

Jerry Ryan joined the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1959. He lived and worked with them for more than two decades in Europe and South America. He and his family now live in Massachusetts.



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The Divine Pudeur

Love this; it's so French! 

Admittedly, I've never heard of Daniel Bourguet, but a quick Googling/Amazon searching says he also wrote books titled, Le silence de Dieu pendant la Passion and La tendresse de Dieu, and am now immensenly intrigued!


Any idea if and when his writings might be translated into English? 

Thank you, Jerry Ryan, for introducing me to Daniel Bourguet. I think that I could get hooked on his spirituality.

An atheist scientiss recently wrote an article for the New York Times about how wondrous a depiction of the Aids virsus looks. From there he attempt to dismantle the notion of God as creator since evolution and things like the Aids virus do not appear as part of a divine design. 

Why not?  The notion of God is truly awesome and all creation must tremble in that presence. We talk of God always so much that we lose the awesomeness. Here is where awesome has its proper usage. The more simply a spiritual writer can bring that across to us the more we are grateful. 

I also hope Bourguet's works will be available in English. I am especially drawn to his imagery of the suffering of the Father during the passion of the Son.  We are all familiar with the pietas in which Mary is holding the body of Jesus. I have always loved this pieta of God the Father by Lucas Cranach the Elder:

@ Katherine Nielsen:

That pinterest link you provided leads to a page full of cookies, muffins, cakes and all kinds of sweets (which I'm sure are also signs of God's love and care for us) but no pieta.




Oh darn.  I wish there was an edit button.  Try this link instead of the Pinterest one:

That one didn't seem to work either.  Just Google Lucas Cranach the Elder "The Trinity".

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