The Humbling of Oscar Wilde, Part 4

I thought it fitting to end this little series on Oscar Wilde with what is […]

Todd Brewer / 2.14.11

I thought it fitting to end this little series on Oscar Wilde with what is probably my favorite Wilde quotation. (Click for: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 3.5.)

Christ, like all fascinating personalities, had the power not merely of saying beautiful things himself, but of making other people say beautiful things to him and I love the story St. Mark tells us about the Greek woman who, when as a trial of her faith he said to her that he could not give her the bread of the children of Israel, answered him that the little dogs who are under the table eat of the crumbs that the children let fall.

Most people live for love and admiration. But it is by love and admiration that we should live. If any love is shown us we should recognize that we are quite unworthy of it. Nobody is worthy to be loved. The fact that God loves man shows that in the divine order of ideal things it is written that eternal love is to be given to what is eternally unworthy. Or if that phrase seems to you a bitter one to hear, let us say that everyone is worthy of love, except he who thinks that he is. Love is a sacrament that should be taken kneeling, and ‘Lord, I am not worthy’ should be on the lips and in the hearts of those who receive it.”

By way of slight explanation, the first half demonstrates a profound understanding of the earthly ministry of Christ. Here Christ’s words and acts are themselves creative events. Jesus’ life is not simply a model to pursue or a mere prerequisite before his death, but is gospel. Jesus was not simply a prophet, but an evangelist. What follows in the second half is Wilde’s own personal reflection as affected by his reading of St. Mark. In other words, Jesus’ words have reached out to Wilde, now 1850 years later, so that Wilde speaks beautiful words back to Jesus. The humbled, yet worshipful, Wilde speaks of God’s eternal love for that which is ‘eternally unworthy’, namely everyone.