If you know the secret of happiness, Reverend, for God’s sake cough it up, for we all need it enough.”
“It is being in love,” said the priest.
Solly stared at Father O’Grady with round, incredulous eyes. He had always supposed that churchmen frowned on love.
“Yes, being in love. Whatever your circumstances are, that is what is needed to turn them to joy. Unless you are in love, both riches and poverty become burdens. But when a rich man falls in love, his treasure is no longer a cause of worry and anxiety, because it is no longer something to be hoarded and hugged to himself. Instead, it is something to give away, to give to the beloved. And who would not choose a lifetime of hardship if that were, as it often is, the condition for being with the beloved?”
“There is one point though, Reverence, which you have left out. I’ll grant that being in love is the secret of happiness, but only when it is reciprocated; and, even then, provided that the other party stays faithful.”
He felt tempted to tell Father O’Grady about Ella. But Father O’Grady went on: “Precisely. That was the point I was coming to. The secret of perfect happiness is being in love with God, for God always reciprocates. Indeed, it is He who is always the suppliant. Heaven, Mr. Lee (Levin), is being in love with God. It is not something around the corner, as you put it, but something which starts here and now, and makes everything in this life joyful, even its suffering.”
“Well, Reverend, I suppose I’m a bad man, but I tell you straight, God doesn’t seem real enough to me to be in love with. And as to the other side of the penny, His loving me well that just seems quite impossible to me, and anyhow I don’t see what any of this has got to do with Father Malone’s pictures.”
“If you will be patient with me for a few minutes longer, I will tell you, Mr. Lee. You want to make people happy, so do I, and so does the Church. And she knows that the true happiness that lasts, and is not even broken temporarily by death, can only be achieved through loving God. But many people like yourself cannot grasp that as a reality. If they believe in God at all, it is only as infinitely remote Spirit whom they cannot approach, or as a hard judge whom they dare not upset. It was just to make men understand how wrong it is to think of God like that, that Christ was born of a woman and became man.
Caryll Hoselander ‘Dry Wood’