This is an exerpt from a great article by Jill Carattini on the conversion of Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician and physicist. You can read the entire article over at A Slice of Infinity, an online publication of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).
Shortly after the death of Blaise Pascal in 1662, a housekeeper was sorting through closets and clothing and happened to notice something sewn into Pascal’s coat. Beneath the cloth was a parchment and inside this was another faded piece of paper. In Pascal’s handwriting, on both the parchment and the paper were nearly the same words. Beside hand-drawn crosses, Pascal had carefully written:
The year of grace 1654.
Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement…
From about half-past ten in the evening
until about half-past midnight.
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob…
The God of Jesus Christ…
Your God will be my God.
More than 30 descriptive lines tell the story (unbeknownst to friends and family) of Pascal’s conversion to Christ. He is said to have been reading of the crucifixion when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the nearness of Christ. Pascal then meticulously transcribed the night of his conversion, his “night of fire,” as he called it thereafter, sewing it into his jacket where it would remain beside him until his death eight years later. Though the details of the story and the parchment were unknown to those around him, the change in his life could have scarcely gone unnoticed. Whatever else it marked, November 23, 1654 marked both death and life for Pascal. He reoriented all his activities (including his unparalleled work in the field of mathematics) to further serve a life of worship and service to God. He retired to the monastery at Port Royal and set to writing his Pensees, a collection of thoughts on life and theology.
The Incarnation boldly assures us that Christ is always near. The Cross assures that he can come nearer still and forgive you completely and instantaneously. He will also walk with you over a lifetime, transforming and shaping you according to the will of God. Whether by fire, water, or Spirit, in an instance of spiritual certainty or a lifetime of wordless mystery, Christ comes near not to beckon better children but to make his creations entirely new.
A Slice of Infinity