' Dabo eis Cor, ut sciant me, et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero eis in Deum: quia revertentur ad me in toto corde suo.'
' I will give them a Heart to know Me, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, because they shall return to Me with their whole heart' (Jer. xxiv. 7).
The illustration on the opposite page represents one of the most touching scenes in the annals of the early persecutions. It was at Rome in the reign of the Emperor Valerian. The aged Pope, St. Xystus, had been dragged to the Temple of Mars, and, on his refusal to offer sacrifice, was led out to execution. On his way he met his holy Deacon, St. Laurence, the Almoner of the Roman Church. St. Laurence knelt for his blessing, and tenderly reproached him for going to death alone. "Holy Priest, whither art thou hastening without thy deacon? It was never thy wont to celebrate the Sacrifice without a minister!" The aged Pontiff knew the true solid gold of the heart of St. Laurence, and he promised him that in a short time they should be together. "I leave thee not, nor desert thee, my son. Greater conflicts for Christ await thee. The Levite shall follow the Priest after three days. Meanwhile, if thou hast in the treasury anything, distribute it to the poor." The feast of St. Xystus is kept on August 6th, the feast of the glorious martyr St. Laurence on August 10th.
GENERAL INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR AUGUST.
HATRED OF ERROR.
An alarming feature of Catholic faith is the indifference, the indulgence with which error is regarded so commonly amongst us. If faith is the most essential of all the elements of all the soul's life, then indifference to that which kills faith—and such is error-—is a mortal malady.
The hatred of error and the love of truth are not two things but one, two forms of the same passion, and they are inseparable. They will inevitably have the same degree of intensity, they grow and diminish together; and as the vigour of the will and character depend wholly upon the energy of the convictions, unless error is hated, the moral life must languish, souls grow weak, wills become irresolute, characters degraded, and either delusive ambitions, or sordid objects, take the place of noble aspirations and high thoughts. This is not nearly understood, not nearly enough thought of by us. We live in the midst of a people who in the very riot of a false toleration realize to the letter what St. Leo once said of Pagan Rome: "But this city, forgetful of Him who had made her great, while surpassing all others in power, made herself subject to all others in error, and she conceived herself to have embraced all that is true, because she repudiated nothing that is false."* There is no god so filthy as to find here no worshippers, no creed so revolting or so noxious as to fail to find amongst both a preacher and a shrine. And we Catholics grow used to this, and with custom grows a certain spirit of toleration of which we do not see the harm—but the harm is great for all that. It is not, perhaps, the grosser forms of folly which more commonly bewitch us (though spiritism has worked sad havoc in many a Catholic conscience)—but errors more subtle and less repulsive in appearance, of which the name is legion—are these hated? How many are there who put away the journals and magazines in which they are advocated, with disgust? How many are there who prefer to feed their minds with pure Catholic teaching to the enjoyment of a lively sophism, a brilliant lie? How entirely, how systematically, is not daily journalism subordinated to the support of what is not only false, but often caluminous and cruel, to the bolstering of an error which is loved, and only half unconsciously—yet see how we sit at the feet of such apostles as these! Oh, certainly, if old Mathathias + came to die in London now, his last words of exhortation would not be less burning, his reproaches less severe.
No, it is a sad truth that there is but little hatred of error, and, as a necessary consequence, but little fervour in our love of truth. We keep our faith indeed, but it is, and it is often, but cold, lethargic, and unfruitful; and the reason is that error is not hated as God hates it. One of the sins against the Holy Ghost, one of the most monstrous and diabolic, is to impugn the known truth. It is done every day on thousands of pages read by Catholics in England, done for hire, done in obedience to a mot d’ordre, (the theme) as well as from prejudice and from malice. Does it inspire the hatred of the error and the sin which St. Paul would have us feel? Alas, how rarely! Want of serious thought, want of interest, want of zeal for truth, is the only explanation, and a sad explanation it is. If - such lassitude had existed in Catholic Germany ten years ago, where would Catholic Germany be now? Let us reflect that we, who alone possess truth with absolute certainty, have the right and the power to oppose to error an effective resistance; amidst all around us there is not a principle so fundamental as to escape bold attack, even contemptuous denial, and this even from those whose names are great. Respectability is the English barrier against a thousand ideas which threaten to devour and engulf the very decencies of a social life no more sincerely Christian—how long shall that barrier stand?
Our duty, then, if we love Catholic truth, is to abominate that which is against Catholic truth, and the energy of our abomination will be the measure of the Catholicity of our lives. Error is odious to God, and we are not like God unless we hate it. There is no room to-day amongst us for those whose bland tolerance is a more pregnant source of mischief than an apostacy. The truth which claims our homage is no cold abstraction, it is the living truth of the Word, and to dally with it is to dishonour Him from whom it comes, and who gave His life that we might have it.
* Serm. i. In nat. SS. Pet. et Pauli.
+ I Mach. ii. 49.
Our associates will see that they have much to pray for, much which, if the interests of the Sacred Heart are dear to them, will make them pray well.
PRAYER.Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them in particular to obtain for Catholic hearts that vigorous hatred of error, without which they cannot love Thy truth. Heal them, O Jesus, of that deadly indifference, which is a greater harm to souls than open wickedness. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
Hatred of Error
SAINT LONGINUS THE CENTURION.Saint Longinus, the Centurion
I BID you welcome, brothers in the Lord,
Who come to see an old man ere he pass
In pain of body, but in joy of soul,
To his long rest. I bid you welcome, friends.
And gladly to your question make reply.
You ask if I whose sun is well-nigh set,
Remember well that day on Calvary,
When we, — may God forgive us, — crucified
The holy Jesus, — aye, from early dawn
Till night it all comes back to memory.
Clear as a legend sculptured on the frieze
Of some Greek temple to Athena reared. —
You want the story of that day complete.
Told as I saw it, not the incidents, —
These are engraved with steel upon your minds
Through hearing oft the wondrous narrative, —
But as they seemed to me, a Gentile Wind
To Jewish faith and customs, which I thought
Vain superstitions fit for eastern slaves.
But not for Romans.
I will tell the tale
Although the memory of my part therein
Wounds lke a scorpion when with angry sting
It pierces to the flesh.
Early that morn
When I commanded Pilate's guard, the Jews
Brought Jesus up for judgment. All His face
Was marred so with blows that I supposed
He had been battered in some riotous brawl.
But as I watched, surprised, such royal grace
And majesty shone in His countenance,
Although defaced with buffets, that I thought,
Here is no common culprit : Pilate, too, —
Who might, perhaps, without much questioning
Have sentenced some base slave to please the Jews, —
Seeing the unwonted dignity of Christ,
Required the Sanhedrim to state His crime ;
Whereas the Jews in their presumption thought
To have Him sentenced at their mere behest.
No question being asked. But Roman rule.
Unless by some weak hand administered,
Brooks not such rank injustice. Then the Jews, —
Whose answer deserved chastisement, — replied,
" Were He not guilty He would not be here."
Oh ! Pilate vexed me greatly on that day, —
So weak and vacillating. — Well he knew
Jesus had done no wrong, and yet he feared
The wretched Jews, and dared not set Him free.
I longed to take my hundred soldiers mailed
Straight through the crowd with sword and spear in hand,
And make short work of Caiaphas and his gang :
But Pilate gave no sign. The soldiers, too,
Who saw the Praetor yielding to the Jews
Unwillingly, were vexed, and when the word
Was given to scourge Jesus, all their rage, —
He being a Jew, — was vented upon Him.
Heinous injustice ! And I, angry too.
Checked not their cruelty ; for this I weep
Daily, and daily mourn in penitence.
Human injustice ? Nay, 'twas bestial,
Canine, not human ; see a pack of hounds, —
If one attack a weak defenceless dog
What do the rest ? Assail the criminal ?
Defend the innocent ? Not so, they side
With him who did the wrong, the stronger beast.
And join in worrying the defenceless hound.
Thus did my soldiers, and I checked them not,
Angry with Pilate, Caiaphas, and the Jews.
Men take their scourging differently ; some
Howl from the first, but others laugh in scorn
Until the iron-tipped thongs have ploughed the flesh,
And every stroke is torture ; then they groan.
Knowing the scourge will fall relentlessly
With regular pulsations ; some will faint.
And after, when the tale of strokes is done.
Are found, it may be, dead. But unlike all
Was Jesus, Who in silence bared His back,
And with a countenance resolved and firm
Walked to the post, and held His hands aloft
Until the soldiers tied them to the ring.
And then the blows descended. Not a word
Or cry He uttered, but with upturned face
Gazed skyward, and His lips moved silently
As though He prayed to some invisible God.
You ask, — did He not suffer since no cry
Revealed His anguish ? Aye, the tortured flesh
Quivered in agony, and from His brow.
With pain distorted, poured a stream of sweat ;
But not a word He uttered. This enraged
The soldiers, who regard it as their due
To hear their victims groaning, so they wove
A crown of thorns and pressed it on His head
Until the spikes had passed into His brow,
And all His face was bloodstained. O'er Him then
They cast in scorn a tattered purple robe,
And giving Him as sceptre a bamboo.
They mocked Him as a false, pretended King.
I would have checked them, but they had the right
By custom to amuse themselves at will
With culprits sent to torture.
Struck by His deep humiliation, hoped
His foes might be appeased. So deemed not I : —
Hate thrives on deeds of hatred, and each sin
Grows strong by sinning. This I knew too well
By dim self-knowledge. Oh, the dreadful cry
From many thousand raging Israelites, —
" Let Him be crucified." — It brought to mind
The yell of some huge pack of hungry wolves
Round a belated traveller at night
Lost in a German forest. Such a sound
Would in most hearts strike terror, not in His, —
The prisoner before Pilate, — silent still.
Even when Pilate asked Him " Whence art thou ? "
He did not tremble at the mob's fierce cry.
Nor kneeling ask protection, but quite calm.
As though the people's rage concerned Him not.
Spoke of the source of strength, and told the judge
His power was given by God. I thought it strange.
But now perceive He would the Praetor help
To fear not Caesar but the heavenly powers.
And so do justice, — not for Jesus' sake
All was vain, the Jewish mob
Prevailed, and Pilate's selfish, timid soul
Was stained with innocent blood. I thought it, then,
Unworthy of a Roman, and the attempt
By vain ablutions to evade the blame
His own heart uttered, childish. Now I see
Not only this, but in the fuller light
Vouchsafed me since, that all injustice meets
The wrath of God : 'Tis strange, for earth seems full
Of what we count injustice ; sickness falls.
And pain, upon the noblest of mankind.
So God ordains, and simple folk like me
Know not the reason ; but if man commit
Injustice on his fellows, God's rebuke
Will surely fall upon him, either now.
Or in the fields of Hades. Pilate then
Condemned the innocent Jesus, and his crime
The Furies saw and punished.
Many a man
Have I to crucifixion led, and aye
Their thoughts were fixed on coming agony.
Must it not be so ? Think of this, my friends ; —
Suppose you know that in a short half-hour
Your body will be racked with direst pain, —
Nerve-torture that will sometimes last three days,
Without a hope of respite, would your thoughts
Turn to aught else, or could you make them dwell
On troubles that might meet your countrymen
A generation hence ? Yet Jesus Christ,
Though staggering 'neath the burden of His cross,
Half turned to tell the women standing near
And weeping, not to vex themselves for Him
But for the sorrows coming on their babes.
I noted this as strange and wonderful,
Beyond my knowledge of the ways of men
About to die in torture.
Then I asked,
Questioning self without a spoken word,
Has this strange man no thought at all of self.
No fear of coming agony, no dread
Of those long-drawn-out hours upon the cross
Which soon must rack His frame ? Then as I looked
I saw that He was gazing on the crowd
Gathered around, with eyes so full of love
And pity that I knew He took no thought
For his own pain or sorrow.
He fell to earth exhausted. He had lived
Throughout the scourging, which will often kill ;
But pain and loss of blood, and that long night
Of sleepless torment well might sap the force
Even of the strongest. And I sometimes think.
My brothers, since I learnt the mystery
Of Love Divine, that what oppressed His soul
That night on Olivet beneath the moon,
When thrice He prayed, was not the fear of death,
Nor yet of pain, nor even mental pangs.
But dread of dying 'neath the murderous scourge.
And losing thus the glory of the cross.
And that mysterious power to win men's souls
Which Jesus' love, revealed upon the cross,
Holds as the price of suffering : But I stray, —
A simple soldier, — from my proper path.
When Jesus fell through weakness, and the blows.
And harsh spear-prickings of my soldiers failed
To make Him raise His cross, I knew not whom
To lade with its slave's burden. Fain would I
Have caught some sleek and prosperous Pharisee,
And laid it on his shoulders, but the law
Forbade such treatment of the vanquished Jews ;
Nor would the soldiers bear it. Happily
By chance came Simon of Cyrene, him
We might compel, and so he bore the cross.
Or was it God's high purpose, and not chance
That brought Him there just then, that he might watch
The faultless patience of the Son of Man,
And seeing learn to love ? I think God works
Amongst us men in that way, — little things, —
Some chance decision of our wayward wills, —
Using to serve great ends. I thank the Lord
It was my turn for duty on that day
Of Jesus' crucifixion, else His Love
I might have never known, because the sight
Of His vast patience in the midst of pain
Showed me the dreadful ugliness of sin,
And turned me from the foul delights of sense.
Which Roman vice had taught me, to the joys
Found in the thought of God and His great Love.
But not at once the change ; it slowly came
As other action in the drama dire
Wrought on my soul. For when at last we reached
The skull-shaped hill with Jesus and His cross
He spoke the words which more aroused my thoughts
Than all else done or uttered on that day.
For when the nails were driven through His flesh.
And all His body quivered with the pain,
In place of the accustomed bitter cry,
He spake the words, — well known now, then so strange, —
" Father, forgive them," and I standing by
Heard them and greatly wondered. Who was this ?
And who His Father ? and why in His pain,
When men are wont to curse their torturers.
Asked He that they be pardoned ? All day long
I pondered on this mystery as I watched
The cross and all the Jewish rabblement
That came to mock their King. And when there fell
That strange and awful darkness on the land,
And strong men trembled, and the mocking voice
Of all that abject multitude was hushed,
And men spoke low in whispers, or were dumb.
My wonder grew, and still the question came
Unanswered to my soul, — " What man is this ? "
And as I gazed upon His quivering form.
Scarred, flayed, and furrowed by the cruel scourge.
All suddenly there came into my mind
Hercules dying on Mount (OEta's crest,
Tortured by Nessus' poison, punished thus
For saving his wife's honour, — Hercules,
The son of Zeus the Thunderer. And then
The thought came of Prometheus and his woes.
The godlike Titan, who gave gifts to men,
And therefor suffered torture ; and I asked
Within myself, — Is it a trait Divine
Pain to endure for giving gifts to men ?
And I remembered then that one had told, —
Bringing me Jewish tattle, — that a man
Who seemed to be a prophet from the north.
Had brought the gift of health to sickly folk,
And even life to some who seemed as dead ;—
Was this the man now dying on the cross ?
The Jews had said He came from Galilee. —
So through the hours of darkness did my soul
Question and get no answer. Then there rang
Through the black horror the most awful cry
That ever smote my ear and stilled my heart, —
A cry that bitter anguish of the soul,
Not suffering of the body, might extort
From one in mental torment. At that cry
The firm earth trembled, and the crosses swayed ;
And then the sky grew brighter, and I saw
The face of Him I watched change suddenly
As though illumined by some wondrous joy ;
And from the parched mouth of that tortured frame.
When breath was scant, and friends beside the cross
Might scarcely hope to catch a whispered word,
There came a loud cry like the voice of one
Who shouts in victory ; and then I knew
That He who hung there dying on the cross
Could be none other than the Son of God.
A Sermon on the Apostleship of PrayerTHE Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J., preached a sermon at Farm Street on Sunday, the 17th of October, inviting attention to that great apostolic work with which the readers of the MESSENGER are so familiarly acquainted. He took his very apposite text from the last chapter of the Second Book of Machabees.
So Nicanor being puffed up with exceeding great pride, thought to set up a public monument of his victory over Judas. But Machabeus ever trusted with all hope that God would help them. And he exhorted his people not to fear the coming of the nations, but to remember the help they had before received from Heaven, and now to hope for victory from the Almighty. And speaking to them out of the law, and the prophets, and withal putting them in mind of the battles they had fought before, he made them more cheerful. Then after he had encouraged them, he showed withal the falsehood of the Gentiles and their breach of oaths. So he armed every one of them, not with defence of shield and spear, but with very good speeches and exhortations, and told them a dream worthy to be believed, whereby he rejoiced them all. Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manner, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews. After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty. Then Onias answering said: This is a lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the Prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel. Thus being exhorted with the words of Judas, which were very good and proper to stir up the courage and strengthen the hearts of the young men, they resolved to fight, and to set upon them manfully, that valour might decide the matter, because the holy city and the temple were in danger.
There we find, my dear brethren, an instance of the general truth which St. Paul expressed when he said: Omnia in figura contingebant illis. (All these things happened to them.) The history of the ancient people is a symbol of the destinies of the true people of God, of the new Israel. Who does not see in the present situation of the Church of God the realization of that which we have been reading just now—of the abandonment to which the Synagogue was reduced in the time of the Machabees? All the earthly glories with which the Church of God was once surrounded have faded away: the holy city is in the hands of her fiercest enemies, her streets are profaned with all kinds of abominations, her treasures are dispersed, her most devoted ministers expelled, her children torn violently from her bosom and delivered up to the worst of all captivities, to the impious education which enslaves the minds and souls of men under the shameful yoke of error and of vice.
And who in this extremity comes to the help of the Church of God? We look to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and nowhere appears any human hope of salvation. All the earthly powers that once supported the Church have now turned against her, all, all! Those which are not openly hostile, at least deny her Divine rights. An immense league, embracing all the civilized nations of the world, was formed more than a century ago, to distress the Kingdom of God upon earth, and after having expelled Jesus Christ from public institutions by the so-called Liberal system, they are preparing to expel Him from families and even from the conscience of individual men by godless education.
What remains to the Church? A handful of pious Christians who in all nations form a small minority, and who compared with the numbers of their enemies, and the multitude much greater still of the indifferent and the cowardly, are less capable of fighting successfully than the Machabees were to resist the armies of Demetrius. Shall we then despair of the victory? No, my dear brethren, we shall not despair. And why not? Because Almighty God shows to us as a living and certain reality a spectacle much more consoling than that which was shown to Judas Machabeus in a dream. Do you not see those thousands of pious souls who like Onias hold up their hands and pray for the people of Israel? And above them, do you not see that other intercessor infinitely more powerful than Jeremias, the Very Son of the Almighty, Who, continually present in the midst of us at the same time that He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, is occupied in making intercession for us: Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis? (He always lives to intercede for us )This is He that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city, and by His prayer, to which He invites us to join our prayers, He renders us invincible and assures our triumph.
I have, therefore, a right to present to you the Apostleship of Prayer, exercised first by our Saviour and practised by Christians in union with the Heart of Jesus, as the last but all-powerful resource of the Church in the extreme danger with which she is threatened.
The Apostleship of Prayer thus understood is not a special association. We must distinguish two aspects of one and the same idea. The Apostleship of Prayer as a power and a duty is as old as Christianity itself, a power conferred and a duty imposed on all Christians to contribute by their prayers and good works to the edification of the Body of Christ. Under this point of view it is as old as the Church. What is new in it is a peculiarity of organization belonging to these later times by which the faithful are induced to unite together in order to exercise that power and to fulfil that duty. In order to organize this Holy League in England, and enable it to produce there the great fruits which it has produced in the other parts of the world, we need the assistance of your pious pastors.
It is not precisely under that respect that I wish to present the Apostleship of Prayer to your consideration to-day. I propose to set before you the idea of the work, to prove the immensity of the power which it puts into your hands and the stringent nature of the duty which it imposes upon you. To attain this end we must examine the Apostleship, first as it is in the Heart of Jesus, and secondly as it is in the heart of Christians.
I. Considered as it is in the Heart of Jesus, the Apostleship of Prayer appears to us as the proper apostolate of the Sacred Heart, the first apostolate which our Saviour exercised, the one which He exercised without interruption, the one which He kept for Himself when He was obliged to divest Himself of all other apostolates. Before briefly developing these three considerations, it is well to determine what is meant by the words Apostleship of Prayer. Preaching and administering the sacraments are not the only apostolate. If they were, you would not be able to give to our Blessed Lady in her own right the title of Queen of Apostles. Mary never preached : she remained silent in the assemblies of the primitive Church, although she could have spoken with more eloquence and efficacy than St. Paul or any other preacher of the Word. And nevertheless she was an apostle, nay, the Queen of Apostles, because by her prayers, her actions, her sufferings, united with those of her Divine Son, she contributed more efficaciously than all the Apostles together to the work of the apostleship, the conversion of souls, the propagation of the Kingdom of Christ. The apostleship includes every work which tends efficaciously to promote the salvation of souls, to convert the sinner, to sanctify the just, to assist the triumph of the Church. Preaching and the administration of sacraments contribute to these results, but the only indispensable means is the grace of God. Every work, therefore, which helps to impart grace to souls is included in the idea of an apostolate.
This explains the mystery of the Life of our Saviour Himself. He had come down from Heaven for one purpose—the salvation of mankind, to enlighten minds immersed in darkness, and bring back into the path of justice souls which had been led astray into the tortuous ways of sin. Having thirty-three years to spend among men, how is it that He waited till the age of thirty to show Himself and to speak? Were those long years of His Hidden Life lost? No, they were as usefully spent as the years of His Public Life. From the very beginning of His Life He had begun to suffer and to pray. He had not yet exercised the apostolate of His preaching, but He had already exercised the apostolate of His Heart, the apostolate of prayer. The first palpitation of His Heart, the first aspiration of His Soul, was the first act of that apostolate, and by that first act He had already done enough for our salvation. Why so? Because He had already obtained the grace necessary and sufficient to save the souls of all men.
I am, therefore, right in saying that the Apostolate of Prayer is the proper apostolate of the Heart of Jesus. For all other apostolates the Heart of Jesus needs cooperation. The apostolate of the word will require the movement of His sacred lips, the apostolate of charity will employ His sacred feet to run after the lost sheep, His sacred hands to bind their wounds; but before the Sacred Heart can have this cooperation of lips and feet and hands, It has already undertaken Its own proper apostolate of prayer. That apostolate was the first which our Saviour exercised. It is true that long before He began to teach men by word of mouth He had taught them by His example: coepit Jesus facere et docere.(Jesus began to do and to teach) At Bethlehem He had preached, by the mute eloquence of His poverty, the same lesson which was to be the first subject of His public exhortation; but even that apostolate of example which began with His visible Life had been forestalled by the invisible apostolate of prayer.
And that apostolate begun at the first moment will thenceforward be continued without interruption. The apostolate of the Word, even when it is undertaken after thirty years, is not exercised without intermission. However indefatigable Jesus may be in announcing the doctrine of salvation, He will only be able to speak according as men shall be disposed to listen to Him. However assiduous He may be in hunting after souls, the night will necessarily interrupt that work of mercy. But the night itself will not interrupt His prayer. When He can no longer proclaim to men the merciful designs of His Heavenly Father, He will continue to treat with that Heavenly Father about the eternal interests of men: Erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.(he spent the night in prayer )
There is only one other apostolate which shares with the Apostolate of Prayer the privilege of being uninterrupted. It is the apostolate of suffering. As the Heart of Jesus never ceased to pray for our salvation during His whole earthly Life, so He never ceased to suffer physically or morally for the expiation of our sins: Tota vita Christi crux fuit et martyrium.(The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom) But a moment will come when it will be necessary to interrupt that apostolate of suffering as well as the others. The work of Christ is consummated, His earthly Life comes to an end, His Father recalls Him to Heaven, in order to reward Him by unmixed joy for all His bitter trials. He must therefore divest Himself of His apostolic functions, and bequeath them to His ministers. He will henceforward preach by their lips, administer the sacraments, and perform works of mercy by their hands; He will fulfill in the sufferings of His devoted servants what is wanting to His own. But there is an apostolate which He will keep to Himself —the Apostolate of Prayer: semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis.(He always lives to intercede for us) In order to exert it more suitably He will create to Himself a second existence upon earth parallel to His existence in Heaven, as humble and obscure as His heavenly Life is glorious—a life of sacrifice and prayer. We see the Lamb Whom in Heaven the angels and the saints adore, "standing as it were slain," in a state of perpetual immolation, and perpetually praying for us.
And how long will that intercession last? As long as the duration of the world. As long as the Bride of Christ is exposed to the attack of her enemies and apparently suffering defeat at their hands, so long will her Divine Spouse help her by His prayers to bear those assaults and to change, as He Himself did before, apparent defeat into glorious victory. As long as one soul on the road to Heaven is exposed to the danger of falling into Hell, so long He Who gave His life for all men without exception will strive by His prayers to apply to that soul the merits of His death. The Apostolate of Prayer is therefore the last apostolate of our Redeemer as it was the first: it is the last mystery of His Life on earth, the one which crowns and makes perfect all the rest, the one by which are applied to our souls the fruits which come from all His actions and sufferings.
Is it not becoming then that there should be an association specially dedicated to the manifestation, the meditation, the glorification of that mystery? Is it not just that sanctuaries should be erected to honour that last and permanent proof of the love of our Saviour, as there are so many dedicated to the transient mysteries of His earthly Life? There is as yet only one sanctuary erected for that purpose, close to the Seminary of Vals, where the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer had its birth. There forty lamps, burning night and day, symbolize the union of our prayer with that perpetual intercession of the Heart of Jesus. But now that sanctuary is closed by those who have undertaken to destroy Christianity in France. They have put their seals upon it as the murderers of Christ once put their seals upon His sepulchre. Let us hope the heirs of the Pharisees will not succeed better than their less guilty forefathers. In the meantime we will only honour the more diligently that mystery of the love of our Saviour the more it is outraged by His enemies.
We do not meditate sufficiently upon His life of prayer. What comfort we should find in our sorrows, what light in our anxieties, what strength in our struggles, what confidence after our falls, if we did but realize that truth? There is now One Who prays for me, Who interests Himself in my difficulties, Who ardently desires my happiness, Who is ready to give me His help; and He is not only the holiest man that ever lived upon earth, He is not only more powerful in His intercession than Moses and Elias, but He is the Almighty Himself, the Son of God, Who has atoned already long ago for the sins which discourage me, and Who has no other desire than to apply to me the immense merits of His atonement.
And again, what confidence should we feel in the destinies of the Church, how easy would it be.to despise her enemies and to laugh at the dangers which surround her, if we kept ever present to our minds the thought of the protection which is given to her by the uninterrupted intercession of the Son of God? Should we not say with St. John: Fortior est qui in nobis est quam qui in mundo est (This stronger man is who is in us , than he that is in the world). Our enemies are strong. They have at their disposal the powers of hell and of earth. But there is in the midst of us One, of Whom it has been said that every knee shall bend at the very sound of His Name, on earth and in hell as well as in Heaven. He is here offering for us those prayers which cannot but be heard by His Father: Ego autem sciebam quia semper me audis (And I knew that thou hearest me always). He is here fulfilling the only condition put by His Father for gaining the triumph over all the world: Postula a me et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem tuam;(Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thy inheritance) and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Not only will the meditation of this great mystery produce in us fruits of consolation and confidence, but it must moreover lead us to unite our prayers to the perpetual intercession of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the salvation of souls in the exercise of that power imparted to us, of which I shall now briefly demonstrate the reality.
II. Few words are needed to place in the clearest light the second aspect of the Apostleship of Prayer, and when I have convinced your understanding I may leave it to your piety to feed your hearts with the practical consequences which follow from the principles explained. I am not afraid of being accused of exaggeration when I say that by exercising the Apostleship of Prayer in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus we acquire an unlimited power in cooperating with Him to the success of His great work of saving and sanctifying souls and leading His Church to a triumphant victory:—yes an unlimited power, and unlimited in every way.
That power is unlimited, first as regards the graces which we may obtain for souls. Whatever limit there may be to the results obtained is put by us and not by the promise or the action of Christ, for He says: Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My Name, that will I do. The same expression is repeated with the same universality in several passages, and as we cannot accuse our Lord of exaggeration or inaccuracy, we must believe that He has really set no bounds to the efficacy of prayer. The promise, therefore, does not apply to those prayers alone which are inspired by the legitimate desire of our own advantage. That is a kind of spiritual selfishness which, although it is not wrong, is less conformable to the example set before us. The promise of Christ applies still more, I will venture to say, to the prayers which are prompted by fraternal charity, for the prayer which most resembles the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is necessarily most acceptable to His Father. The prayers offered for our neighbour's good are more than any others made in the Name of Jesus. An evident proof that the promise of infallible efficacy applies by preference to them, is that our Lord, wishing to give us the pattern to which we must conform all our prayers that they may deserve to be heard, teaches us a form of words, according to which we are to put the interests of God and of all mankind before our own: Thus shall you pray: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. We must first think of His Divine interests, and after that we are allowed to think also of our own interests, but even then no one can be permitted to think of himself alone. What we ask for ourselves we must ask for others also. It is true that we can never be absolutely certain to obtain the conversion of the sinners for whom we pray, because the cooperation of each soul is free; but what is certain is that we shall obtain a grace proportioned to the fervour and confidence of our prayer, and as it depends upon us to enlarge more and more that measure, it depends upon us also to increase indefinitely the chances of salvation of those for whom we pray.
That power is unlimited also as regards the persons to whom it is imparted. The other apostolates require a special vocation and faculties of some particular kind. Not all men have a vocation to the priesthood, and among those who have received the vocation not all are fitted in mental acquirements and physical strength for the active ministry. But the Apostolate of Prayer can be exercised by every Christian. We all in fact have exercised it from the day in which our mother taught us to bend our knees, and join our hands, and say our prayers under the unconscious impulse of the Holy Spirit. And who is he who can exercise that apostolate with most success? Is it the most learned, the most exalted in society, the most influential, the most esteemed? No, it is the most humble, the most pious, the most united with our Lord, the most generous in fulfilling His commandments, and accepting with love all the dispositions of His Providence. A poor beggar like Benedict Joseph Labre, who says his beads at. the door of the church, while an eloquent preacher enraptures from the pulpit a distinguished audience, may contribute more efficaciously than the preacher himself to the serious results of the preaching.
That power is unlimited as to the persons in whose behalf it may be exercised. To convert a sinner by preaching, you must be heard by him; to sanctify souls by your good example, you must be seen; to extend by the press the influence of your spoken word, you must be read; but to contribute by your prayers to the conversion of sinners and to the sanctification of souls it is not necessary to be heard or seen, to know the persons whom you lead into the way of salvation, or to be known by them. By a prayer made here in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the conversion of heathens, you may cause a grace to fall upon a dying Chinese or American savage, and open the gates of Heaven to him.
That power is unlimited finally as to the time and manner in which it may be exercised. We must not imagine that it belongs only to formal prayers, to particular words recited at stated times, or to lonely meditations made in the church or in some domestic sanctuary. No, we may exercise it as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did at Nazareth, by intentions which change all our works into prayers. It is in that sense that our Lord has ordered us to pray always, and not to faint. The intention is the soul of our works, and whatever be their body, their outward shape, provided they are conformable to the law of God, the intention which animates them gives them merit according to its purity. But of all intentions the purest, the most perfect, the most meritorious, is certainly the intention of Divine charity which animates the Heart of Jesus. If therefore at the beginning of each day, and, if possible, sometimes during the day, we unite our intentions with the intentions of the Heart of Jesus, if we offer our prayers, our actions, our sufferings for the conversion of sinners, for the sanctification of the clergy and of pious souls, for the defence and triumph of the Church, that is enough to render all those actions apostolic, and to give them, together with a much greater merit for ourselves, a much greater efficacy in assisting the work of God.
Such is in its nature and in its essential practice the Apostleship of Prayer. There still remains much to be said about its necessity, its advantages, and the method of its practice, but time does not permit. I will conclude with the words of Jeremias to Judas Machabeus which I quoted at the beginning of my discourse. It is our Divine Lord Who addresses these words to every one of you, while He offers you that all-powerful weapon of prayer by which He Himself has wrought our salvation. "Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people, Israel."
Yes, my dear brethren, it is my firm persuasion that by divesting His Church of all earthly advantages and depriving her of all human help our Lord wishes to show that He alone is her Saviour. And what He requires from us is to unite in an immense effort of prayer to obtain from Heaven the assistance which earth refuses. We must not remain idle. Every one of us must fight as did the Machabees, even though there is no human hope. But while we do on our part all that is in our power to move our fellow-men, we must display our energy in procuring help from on high. More than ever we must cry from the bottom of our hearts, Adveniat regnum tuum—“ Thy Kingdom come!" That is the war-cry which we must oppose to the cry of rebellion of the anti-Christian sect which has sworn to destroy the Kingdom of Christ upon earth. That is in fact the device of the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer; and in order to encourage us to repeat that motto, and to make it the rule of all our desires and ambitions, the Holy Father has granted an indulgence of one hundred days to all the Associates of the Apostleship who, wearing an image of the Sacred Heart upon their breasts make that aspiration either orally or mentally. Let us therefore repeat it often by the movement of our lips, and oftener still and more continually by the wishes of our heart, that the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may be fully established in our hearts and in the hearts of all men. Nothing more is wanted to change earth into a paradise and the vestibule of the Heavenly Paradise. Amen.
******** - Latin Translations added by webmaster
Sermon on the Apostleship of Prayer by Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
Book on the Apostleship of Prayer by Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
HOW TO USE A CRUCIFIX.
A MEDITATION FOR HOLY WEEK.
RAISE thy mind awhile above the thoughts of flesh and blood, and the obtrusive claims of bodily enjoyment: fix thine attention upon the goodness, sweetness, and condescension of thy God. See the attitude of that crucified Body. See if there is anything there, which does not plead for thee with the Divine Father; that Head penetrated by the multitude of thorns forced in, even to the sensitiveness of the brain, while the thorn is fastened.1 This people hath surrounded Me, says our Lord by His Prophet, with the thorns of their sins. And why? lest thy head should suffer harm: that is, lest thy intention should be corrupted. His Eyes were clouded in death, and those lights which illumine the world were for a time extinguished. While those eyes were closed, was there not darkness over the face of the earth? The two great lights , 2which God made when He created the world, were veiled while those Eyes were closed: and this was done that thine eyes might be turned away that they should not see vanity3 and that if they saw it, they should not love what they saw. Those Ears, which in Heaven are regaled by the eternal song: Sanctus,Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth?4 have on earth heard, Thou hast a devil5 and Crucify Him, crucify Him6
1 Psalm xxxi. 4. 2 Genesis i. 16. 3 Psalm cxviii. 37. 4 Isaias vi. 3. 5 St. John viii. 48. 6 St. Mark xv. 14.
Why? Lest thine ears should be deaf to the cry of the poor, should be open to bad conversation, should listen willingly and with pleasure to those who take their neighbours' characters away. That beautiful Face, beautiful beyond the children of men7 is defiled with spittle, bruised with blows, and made the object of unfeeling sport ; for it is written, They began to spit upon Him, and to strike His Face, and to mock Him, saying: Prophecy unto us, O Christ, Who it is that struck Thee. 8Why this? In order that thy countenance may be made to shine, and may preserve for ever its brightness: so that it may be said of thee, as it was of Anna : and her face -was overshadowed no more. 9 Those Lips, to which angels listen, and which taught men wisdom—the Voice which spoke arid they were made, and which there is no one that can resist10 " is silent for a while in death, that thy lips may speak truth and justice, and thy voice confess the Lord thy God. Those Hands which founded the heavens are stretched out upon the Cross, transfixed with rude nails, that thy hands may be stretched out to those in need; that thou mayest be able to say: My soul is ever in my hands11 for what we hold in our hands we do not readily forget: and so likewise those who put their soul into good works, do not deliver it up to negligence and forgetfulness. The Feet, whose footstool, the Psalmist tells us, we must adore12 because it is holy, are cruelly fixed to the wood, lest thy feet should hasten to do evil; but rather that they should run in the way of the commandments of God 13 And the Heart, in which are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and the knowledge, all the riches of the goodness and mercy of God, is pierced by the soldier's lance, that thy heart may be made clean from all that is ignorant and bad: that when it is cleansed, it may be sanctified, and, when sanctified, that it may be preserved in holiness for ever. What more was left for Him to suffer for thee? They have dug His hands and feet, they have numbered all His bones14 ; for thee He has laid down Body and Soul, in order that, body and soul, He might win thee ; with the price of His whole self He bought thee, all thou art (SAINT PETER DAMIAN).
7 Psalm xliv. 3. 8 St. Matt. xxvi. 67. 9 1 Kings i. 18. 10 Jud. xvi. 17. 11 Ps. cxviii. 109. 12 Ps. xcviii. 5. 13 Ps. cxviii. 32 14 Psalm xxi. 17.
THE THOUGHT OF HEAVEN.
WHEN thy best endeavours fail,Confraternity of Messenger of the Sacred Heart
When some hope thou findest frail,
Hush the beating of thy heart,
Let no murmur claim a part;
Heavenward lift thine eyes, and say:
All is bright in Heaven to-day!
When around thee swells the strife,
Some great trouble gnaws thy life;
When the lightning-cloud hath burst
O'er a blossom, fancy-nurst,
Clasp thy hands in prayer, and say:
All is calm in Heaven to-day !
When the care that others ask
Seems too burdensome a task,
Leaving scarce a moment's space,
E'en for prayer for aid and grace;
'Mid thy toils, look up and say:
All is rest in Heaven to-day!
Bravely check the rising tears;
Soon will pass the dreadest fears.
Trusting, raise thy heart on high,
Thrones are waiting in the sky;
Soon a loving voice will say:
Joy for thee in Heaven to-day!
A LENTEN FORM OF PRAYER AND INTERCESSION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF AND THE HOLY CITY OF ROME.
A VERSION INTO ENGLISH OF A PRAYER PUBLISHED BY POPE URBAN VIII. .
WE bear our guilt in thy sight, O Lord, and we have ever before us the chastisement which we have received.
If we measure the evil that we have done, less is that which we suffer, and greater is that which we deserve.
Greater are the misdeeds that we have done, and lighter the punishment that we endure.
We feel the pains which our sins have brought on us, but we do not flee from our evil doings.
By the stripes which Thou inflictest our flesh is consumed, but our iniquity is not taken away.
Our spirit is sorely tried, but our stiff neck is not bent.
Our life pineth away for grief, but we do not mend our ways.
If thou, art patient and long suffering yet are we not corrected, and if thou strikest we fail.
When Thy hand lieth heavy on us we confess our evil doings, but when Thou takest it away we forget all that we have bewailed.
If Thou dost put forth Thy hand, we promise to amend; if Thou dost hold back Thy sword, we withold all that we have promised.
If Thou dost strike, we cry out to Thee to spare us; if Thou sparest us, we again provoke Thee to strike.
We confess our guilt in Thy sight, O Lord, and we acknowledge that except Thou dost mercifully forgive Thou mayest justly destroy us.
Almighty Father, grant to us that which we ask, not deserving to obtain it, who hast made out of nothing them who ask Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
V. O Eternal Shepherd, leave not Thy flock comfortless.
R But through Thy blessed Apostles, protect us with an everlasting defence.
V.Guard Thy people, O Lord, who cry unto Thee, and who trust in the patronage of Thy Apostles.
R. Protect us with an everlasting defence.
V. Pray for us, ye holy Apostles of God.
R.That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray. Suffer us not, we beseech Thee, Almighty and Everlasting God, to be overcome by any adversities whom Thou hast firmly settled on the rock of thine Apostles' Confession of Faith. Through our Lord, &c.
Grant, O most merciful Lord, that the words of Thy holy servant, Chrysostom (who is buried in this church) may bring to us, who devoutly recite them, timely help in our need, in which he represented Thee, speaking thus with Thy holy Apostles, " Encompass and cast up a trench round about this new Sion, that is, guard, fortify, and protect it with prayers, that when my anger waxeth hot, and I shake the foundations of the earth, looking upon your burial-place that is never to be removed, and on the bruises that you rejoice to bear for my sake, I may overcome wrath with mercy, and thereby give ear to your intercessions. For when I see the priesthood and the kingdom humbling themselves to tears, straightway having compassion I incline to show mercy, and I remember my promise." I will protect this city for the sake of David, my servant, and Aaron, my holy one.—Be it thus, O Lord. Be it thus. Amen. Amen.*
The Rosary Magazine Vol I, 1872.
OF THE CHURCH AND OF THE POPEfrom the SSPX Asia site.
This essay by Fr. Roger Calmel, O.P. (1914-75) helps us in these difficult times to preserve our love of the Church. More than 30 years after its first publication, this article retains all its relevance, so much so that it even seems to have been written for our time, in which the crisis in the Church deepens at an unprecedented pace.
This essay will help the reader to think clearly, keep the Faith, and maintain serenity in the troubled times we are navigating.
“My country has hurt me,”wrote a young poet in 1944 during the purge1when the head of state [Charles De Gaulle] implacably pursued the sinister job that had been in the works for more than four years. My country hurt me: this is not a truth that one shouts from the rooftop. It is rather a secret one whispers to oneself, with great sorrow, while trying nonetheless to keep hope. When I was in Spain during the 1950’s, I remember the extreme reserve with which friends, regardless of their political allegiance, would let escape certain details about “our war.” Their country was still hurting them. But when it is no longer a question of one’s temporal motherland, when it is a question, not of the Church considered in herself, for from this perspective she is holy and indefectible, but of the visible head of the Church; when it is question of the current holder2of the Roman primacy, how shall we come to grips with it, and what is the right tone to adopt as we acknowledge to ourselves in a low voice: Ah! Rome has hurt me!
Undoubtedly, the publications of the “good” Catholic press will not fail to inform us that, in the last 2,000 years, the Lord’s Church has never known such a splendid pontificate! But who takes these pronouncements of the establishment’s hallelujah choir seriously? When we see what is being taught and practiced throughout the Church under today’s pontificate, or rather when we observe what has ceased to be taught and practiced, and how an apparent Church, which passes itself off as the real Church, no longer knows how to baptize children, bury the dead, worthily celebrate holy Mass, absolve sins in confession; when we apprehensively watch the spread of Protestantizing influences swelling like a contaminated tide without the holder of supreme power energetically giving the order to lock the sluice gate; in a word, when we face up to what is happening, we are obliged to say: Ah! Rome has hurt me.
And we all know that it involves something other than the iniquities, in a sense private, which the holders of the Roman primacy were too often wont to commit during the course of history. In those cases the victims, more or less maltreated, could recover from it relatively easily by being more vigilant over their personal sanctification. We must always watch over our sanctification. Only, and this is what was never seen in the past to such a degree, the iniquity allowed to happen by the one who today occupies the throne of Peter consists in his abandoning the very means of sanctification to the maneuvers of the innovators and the negators. He allows sound doctrine, the sacraments, the Mass, to be systematically undermined. This throws us into a great danger. If sanctification has not been rendered all together impossible, it is much more difficult. It is also much more urgent.
At such a perilous juncture, is it still possible for the simple faithful, the little sheep of the immense flock of Jesus Christ and His vicar not to lose heart, not to become the prey of an immense apparatus which progressively reduces them to changing their faith, worship, religious habit, and religious life-in a word, to changing their religion?
Ah! Rome has hurt me! It would be truly meet and just to repeat gently to oneself the words of truth, the simple words of supernatural doctrine learned in catechism, so as not to add to the harm, but rather to let oneself be profoundly persuaded by the teaching of Revelation, that one day Rome will be healed; that the impostor Church will soon be officially unmasked. Suddenly it will crumple into dust, because its principal strength comes from the fact that its intrinsic lie passes for truth, since it has never been effectively disavowed from above. In the midst of such great distress, one would like to speak in words that are not out of phase with the mysterious, wordless discourse that the Holy Ghost murmurs to the heart of the Church.
But where shall I begin? Doubtlessly, by recalling the first truth touching the dominion of Jesus Christ over His Church. He wanted a Church having at its head the Bishop of Rome, who is His visible vicar and at the same time the Bishop of the bishops and of the entire flock. He conferred upon him the prerogative of the rock so that the edifice might never collapse. He prayed that he at least, among all the bishops, not make shipwreck of the faith, so that, having converted after the failures from which he would not necessarily be preserved, he confirm his brethren in the faith; or, if it is not himself in person who confirms his brethren, that it be one of his closest successors.
Such is undoubtedly the first consoling thought that the Holy Ghost suggests to our hearts in these desolate days in which Rome has been at least partially invaded by darkness: there is no Church without the infallible vicar of Christ endowed with the primacy. Moreover, whatever the miseries, even in the religious domain, of this visible and temporary vicar of Jesus Christ, it is still Jesus Himself who governs His Church, and who governs His vicar in the government of the Church; who governs in such wise that His vicar cannot engage his supreme authority in the upheavals or betrayals that would change the religion. For, by virtue of His sovereignly efficacious Passion, the divine power of Christ’s regency in heaven reaches that far. He conducts His Church both from within and from without, and He has dominion over the antagonistic world.
The strategy of modernism has been elaborated in two stages: firstly, to get heretical parallel authorities whose strings they pull to be mixed with the regular hierarchy; then, engage in a self-styled pastoral activity for universal renewal which either omits or systematically falsifies doctrinal truth, which refuses the sacraments, or which makes the rites doubtful. The great cunning of the modernists is to use this pastoral approach from Hell, both to transmute the holy doctrine confided by the Word of God to His hierarchical Church, and then to alter or even annul the sacred signs, givers of grace, of which the Church is the faithful dispenser.
Indeed, there is a head of the Church who is always infallible, always impeccable, always holy, with no interruption or halt in his work of sanctification. And that head is the one head, for all the others, even the highest, merely hold their authority by him and for him. Now, this head, holy and without stain, absolutely separated from sinners and elevated above the heavens, is not the Pope; it is he of whom the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks so magnificently; it is the Sovereign High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Before ascending into heaven and becoming invisible to our eyes, Jesus, our Redeemer by the Cross, wanted to establish for His Church, above and beyond numerous particular ministers, a unique universal minister, a visible vicar, who alone holds supreme jurisdiction. He heaped him with prerogatives:
Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18-19).
Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs....Feed my sheep (Jn. 21:16-18).
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren (Lk.22:32).
Now, if the Pope is the visible vicar of Jesus, who has ascended into the invisible heavens, he is nothing more than vicar: vices gerens, he holds the place but he remains another. The grace that gives life to the mystical Body does not derive from the Pope. Grace, for the Pope as for us, derives from the one Lord Jesus Christ. The same holds for the light of Revelation. He has a singular role as the guardian of the means of grace, of the seven sacraments as well as of revealed truth. He is specially assisted to be the guardian and faithful servant. Yet, for his authority to receive a privileged assistance in its exercise, it must not fail to be exerted. Besides, if he is preserved from error when he engages his authority in such a way that it is infallible, he can err in other cases. But should he do wrong in matters that do not engage papal infallibility, that does not prevent the unique head of the Church, the invisible High Priest, from continuing the governance of His Church; it changes neither the efficacy of His grace nor the truth of His law. It cannot make Him powerless to limit the failings of His visible vicar nor to procure, without too much delay, a new and worthy Pope, to repair what his predecessor allowed to be spoiled or destroyed, for the duration of the insufficiencies, weaknesses, and even partial betrayals of a Pope do not exceed the duration of his mortal existence.
Since He has returned to heaven, Jesus has chosen and procured 263 Popes. Some, just a small number, have been such faithful vicars that we invoke them as friends of God and holy intercessors. A still smaller number have fallen into very serious breaches. Yet the great number have been suitable. None of them, while still Pope, has betrayed nor could betray to the point of explicitly teaching heresy with the fullness of his authority. This being the situation of each Pope and of the succession of Popes in relation to the head of the Church who reigns in heaven, the weaknesses of one Pope must not make us forget in the least the solidity and the sanctity of our Savior’s dominion, nor prevent us from seeing the power of Jesus and His wisdom, who holds in His hand even the inadequate Popes, and who contains their inadequacy within strict bounds.
But to have this confidence in the sovereign, invisible head of the Church without straining to deny the serious failings from which, despite his prerogatives, the visible vicar, the Bishop of Rome, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, is not necessarily exempt; in order to place in Jesus this realistic trust which does not evade the mystery of the successor of Peter with his heaven-guaranteed privileges and his human fallibility; so that this overwhelming distress caused by the occupant of the papacy might be subsumed in the theological virtue of hope we place in the Sovereign Priest, obviously our interior life must be centered on Jesus Christ, and not the Pope. It goes without saying that our interior life, while taking into account the Pope and the hierarchy, must be established, not in the hierarchy and in the Pope, but in the Divine Pontiff, in the priest which is the Word Incarnate, Redeemer, on whom the visible, supreme vicar depends even more than the other priests: More than the others, for he is in the hand of Jesus Christ in view of a function without equivalent among the others. More than any other, and in a more eminent and unique way, he cannot leave off confirming his brethren in the faith-he or his successor.
The Church is not the mystical body of the Pope; the Church with the Pope is the mystical Body of Christ. When the interior life of Christians is more and more focused on Jesus Christ, they do not despair, even when they suffer an agony over the failings of a Pope, be it an Honorius I or the rival Popes of the Middle Ages, or be it, at the extreme limit, a Pope who fails according to the new possibilities of failing offered by modernism. When Jesus Christ is the principle and soul of the interior life of Christians, they do not feel the need to lie to themselves about the failures of a Pope in order to remain assured of his prerogatives; they know that these failures will never reach such a degree that Jesus would cease to govern His Church because He would have been effectively prevented by His vicar. He would yet hold such an erring Pope in His hand, preventing him from ever engaging his authority for the perversion of the faith which he received from above.
An interior life centered as it should be on Jesus Christ and not on the Pope would not exclude the Pope, or else it would cease to be a Christian interior life. An interior life focused as it should be on the Lord Jesus thus includes the vicar of Jesus Christ and obedience to this vicar, but God served first; that is to say, that this obedience, far from being unconditional, is always practiced in the light of theological faith and the natural law.
We live by and for Jesus Christ, thanks to His Church, which is governed by the Pope, whom we obey in all that is of his purview. We do not live by and for the Pope as if he had acquired for us eternal redemption; that is why Christian obedience can not always nor in everything identify the Pope with Jesus Christ. What ordinarily happens is that the vicar of Christ governs sufficiently in conformity with the Apostolic tradition so as not to provoke major conflicts in the consciences of docile Catholics. But occasionally it can be otherwise. And exceptionally things can be such as to cause the faithful to legitimately wonder how they can hold fast to tradition if they follow the directives of this Pope?
The interior life of a son of the Church who would set aside the articles of Faith concerning the Pope, obedience to his legitimate orders, and prayer for him would have ceased to be Catholic. On the other hand, an interior life which includes yielding to the Pope unconditionally, that is to say, blindly in everything and always, is an interior life which is necessarily subject to human respect, which is not free with regard to creatures, which is exposed to many occasions of compromise. In his interior life, the true son of the Church having received with his whole heart the articles of the faith with regard to the vicar of Christ prays for him faithfully and obeys him willingly, but only in the light, that is to say, only while the Apostolic tradition and, of course, the natural law are preserved whole and entire.
Holy Church, Sinful Churchmen
Let us remember the great prayer at the beginning of the Roman Canon, in which the priest, having earnestly implored the most clement Father by His Son Jesus Christ, to sanctify the spotless sacrifice offered in first place for Ecclesia tua sancta catholica, continues thus: “...una cumfamulo tuo Papa nostro...et Antistite nostro....” The Church has never envisaged him saying: “una cum SANCTO famulo tu Papa nostro et SANCTO Antistite nostro,’“ while she does have him say, “for Thy HOLY Church.” The Pope, unlike the Church, is not necessarily holy. The Church is holy with sinful members, among whom are we ourselves; sinful members who, alas! do not pursue or no longer pursue holiness. It can even happen that the Pope himself figures in this category. God knows. In any case, the condition of the head of the holy Church being what it is, that is to say not necessarily that of a saint, we should not let ourselves be scandalized if trials, sometimes very cruel trials, befall the Church because of her visible head in person. We must not let ourselves be scandalized from the fact that, subjects of the Pope, we cannot, after all, follow him blindly, unconditionally, always and in all.
The Lord, by the Pope and the hierarchy-by the hierarchy subject to the Pope-governs His Church in such a way that it is always secure in the possession and understanding of its tradition. On the truths of the catechism, on the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and on the sacraments, on the fundamental structure of the hierarchy, on the states of life and the call to perfect love, let us say on all the major points of tradition, the Church is assisted in such way that any baptized Catholic having the faith clearly knows what he must hold. Thus the simple Christian who, consulting tradition on a major point known to all, would refuse to follow a priest, a bishop, an episcopal conference, or even a Pope who would ruin tradition on this point, would not, as some charge, be showing signs characteristic of private judgment or pride; for it is not pride or insubordination to discern what the tradition is on major points, or to refuse to betray them. Whatever may be the collegiality of bishops, for example, or the secretary of the Roman Congregation who uses subterfuge to arrange things so that Catholic priests end up celebrating the Mass without giving any mark of adoration, no exterior sign of faith in the sacred mysteries, every faithful Catholic knows that it is inadmissible to celebrate Mass making this display of non-faith. One who would refuse to go to such a Mass is not exercising private judgment; he is not a rebel. He is a faithful Catholic established in a tradition that comes from the Apostles and which no one in the Church can change. For no one in the Church, whatever his hierarchical rank, be it ever so high, no one has the power to change the Church or the Apostolic tradition.
On all the major points, the Apostolic tradition is quite clear. There is no need to scrutinize it through a magnifying glass, nor to be a cardinal or a prefect of some Roman dicastery to know what is against it. It is enough to have been instructed by the catechism and the liturgy prior to the modernist corruption.
Too often, when it is a question of not cutting oneself off from Rome, the faithful and priests have been formed in the sense of a partly worldly fear in such a way that they feel panic-stricken, that they are shaken in their consciences and they no longer examine anything once the first passer-by accuses them of not being with Rome. A truly Christian formation, on the contrary, teaches us to be careful to be in union with Rome not in fear or without discernment, but in light and peace according to a filial fear in the Faith.
For it must be said, first of all, that on the major points the tradition of the Church is established, certain, irreformable; then, that every Christian instructed in the rudiments of the Faith, knows them without hesitation; thirdly, that it is faith and not private interpretation which makes us discern them, just as it is obedience, piety and love, and not insubordination, which make us uphold this tradition; fourthly, that the attempts of the hierarchy or the weaknesses of the Pope which would tend to upset this tradition or let this tradition be upset will one day be overturned, while Tradition will triumph.
Tradition Will Triumph
We are at peace on this point. Whatever may be the hypocritical arms placed by modernism in the hands of the episcopal collegialities and even of the vicar of Christ, tradition will indeed triumph: solemn baptism, for example, which includes the anathemas against the accursed devil will not be excluded for long; the tradition of not absolving sins except after individual confession will not be excluded for long; the tradition of the traditional Catholic Mass, Latin and Gregorian, with the language, Canon, and gestures in conformity with the Roman Missal of St. Pius V, will soon be restored to honor; the tradition of the Catechism of Trent, or of a manual exactly in conformity with it, will be restored without delay.
On the major points of dogma, morals, the sacraments, the states of life, the perfection to which we are called, the tradition of the Church is known by the members of the Church whatever their rank. They hold fast to it without a bad conscience, even if the hierarchical guardians of this tradition try to intimidate them or throw them into confusion; even if they persecute them with the bitter refinements of modernist inquisitors. They are very assured that by keeping the tradition they do not cut themselves off from the visible vicar of Christ. For the visible vicar of Christ is governed by Christ in such wise that he cannot transmute the tradition of the Church, nor make it fall into oblivion. If by misfortune he should try to do it, either he or his immediate successors will be obliged to proclaim from on high what remains forever living in the Church’s memory: the Apostolic tradition. The Spouse of Christ stands no chance of losing her memory.
“Quod Ubique, Quod Semper...”
As for those who say that tradition is a synonym of sclerosis, or that progress occurs by opposing tradition, in short, those who conjure up the mirages of an absurd philosophy of becoming, I recommend the reading of St. Vincent of Lerins3 in his Commonitorium and the careful studying of Church history: dogma, sacraments, fundamental constitution, spiritual life, in order to descry the essential difference which exists between “going forward” and “going astray”; between having “advanced ideas” and “advancing according to right ideas”; in short, distinguishing between profectus (development) and permutatio (change).
Even more so than in times of peace, it has become useful and salutary to us to meditate on the Church’s trials by the light of faith. We might be tempted to reduce these trials to persecutions and attacks coming from the outside. But enemies from within are, after all, even more to be feared: they know better the weak points; they can wound or poison where or when it is least expected; the scandal they provoke is much more difficult to overcome. Thus, in a parish, an anti-religious institution will never succeed, whatever it does, in ruining the faithful as much as a high-living, modernist priest. Equally, the defrocking of a simple priest, though more sensational, has consequences far less baneful than the negligence or treason of the bishop.
Be that as it may, it is certain that if the bishop betrays the Catholic faith, even without abandoning it, he imposes on the Church a much heavier trial than the simple priest who takes a wife and ceases to offer holy Mass. What then can be said of the kind of trials that the Church of Jesus Christ would suffer were it to come by the Pope, by the vicar of Jesus Christ in person? Merely raising this question is enough to make some hide their faces in their hands and push them to the brink of crying blasphemy. The mere thought torments them. They refuse to face up to a trial of this gravity.
I understand their feeling. I am not unaware that a sort of vertigo can grip the soul when it is placed in the presence of some iniquities. “Sinite usque hue-Suffer ye thus far,”3 Jesus in agony said to the three Apostles when the rabble of the high priest came to arrest Him, drag Him before the tribunal and to death, Him who is the eternal High Priest. Sinite usque hue. It is as if the Lord were saying: “The scandal can indeed go that far, but let it go, and follow my recommendation: Watch and pray, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Sinite ad hue: “By my consent to drink the chalice, I have merited for you every grace while you were sleeping and left me all alone. I obtained for you in particular the grace of a supernatural strength that is up to every trial, even the trial that can come upon the Church by the Pope’s own doing. I have made you able to escape even that vertigo.”
On the subject of this extraordinary trial there is what Church history says and what Revelation about the Church does not say. For nowhere does Revelation about the Church say that the Popes will never sin by negligence, cowardice, or worldliness in the keeping and defense of the Apostolic tradition. We know that they will never sin by making the faithful believe in another religion: that is the sin from which they are preserved by the nature of their mandate. And when they engage their authority in such a way as to invoke their infallibility, it is Christ Himself who speaks to us and instructs us: that is the privilege with which they are robed as soon as they become successors of Peter. But if Revelation instructs us in the prerogatives of the papacy, nowhere does it say that when he exercises his authority below the threshold of infallibility, a Pope will never become Satan’s pawn and favor heresy up to a certain point. Likewise, it is not written in sacred Scripture that, though he cannot formally teach another religion, a Pope will never go so far as to sabotage the conditions indispensable to the defense of the true religion. The possibility of such a defection is even considerably favored by modernism.
Thus, Revelation about the Pope nowhere guarantees that the vicar of Christ will never inflict on the Church the trial of some major scandals; I speak of serious scandals, not just in the domain of private morals, but rather in the religious sphere properly so-called, and, so to speak, in the ecclesiastical domain of faith and morals. In fact, the Church’s history teaches us that this sort of trial inflicted by the Pope has not been spared the Church, although it has been rare and not prolonged to an acute stage. It is the contrary that would be astonishing, when we consider the small number of canonized Popes since the time of Gregory VII who are invoked and venerated as the friends and saints of God. And it is more astonishing still that the Popes who suffered very cruel torments, like Pius VI or Pius VII, were never prayed to as saints, neither by the Vox Ecclesiae, nor by the Vox populi. If these Pontiffs, who nonetheless had to suffer so much as Popes, did not bear their pain with such a degree of charity as to be canonized saints, how can we be astonished that other Popes, who looked upon their position from a worldly point of view, would commit serious breaches or inflict on the Church of Christ an especially fearful and harrowing trial. When they are reduced to the extremity of having such Popes, the faithful, priests and bishops who want to live the life of the Church take great care not only to pray for the Supreme Pontiff who is the subject of great affliction for the Church, but first and foremost they cleave to the Apostolic tradition, the tradition concerning dogma, the missal and the ritual, the tradition on the interior life and on the universal call to perfect charity in Christ.
St. Vincent Ferrer
In such a juncture, the mission of the Friar Preacher who, undoubtedly among all the saints worked the most directly for the papacy, that son of St. Dominic, Vincent Ferrer (1350?-1419), is particularly enlightening. Angel of Judgment, Legate a latere Christi (from the side of Christ), causing the deposition of a Pope after exercising towards him infinite patience, Vincent Ferrer is also, and from the same inspiration, the intrepid missionary full of benignity, abounding in prodigies and miracles, who announces the Gospel to the immense multitude of the Christian people. He carries in his heart of an apostle not only the Supreme Pontiff, so enigmatic, obstinate and hard, but also the whole flock of Christ, the multitude of the hapless, humble folk, the “turba magna ex omnibus tribubus et populis et linguis-ihe great multitude...of all...tribes, and peoples, and tongues” (Apoc. 7:9). Vincent understood that the major concern of the vicar of Christ was not, indeed was far from, faithfully serving the holy Church. The Pope was placing the satisfaction of his own obscure will to power ahead of everything. But if, at least among the faithful, the sense of the life of the Church could be reawakened, the concern to live in conformity with the dogmas and the sacraments received in the Apostolic tradition, if a pure and mighty wind of prayer and conversion were to unfurl upon this languishing and desolate Christendom, then doubtlessly there would come a vicar of Christ who would be truly humble, who would have a Christian conscience about his super-eminent charge, who would preoccupy himself with exercising it to the best of his ability in the spirit of the Sovereign High Priest. If the Christian people could rediscover a life in accord with the Apostolic tradition, then it would become impossible for the vicar of Jesus Christ, when it comes to upholding and defending this tradition, to fall into certain derelictions, to abandon himself to lying compromises. It would be necessary that, without delay, a good Pope, and even a holy Pope, succeed the bad or misguided one.
Worthy Flock, Worthy Shepherd
But too many of the laity, priests and bishops in these days of great evil, when trial overtakes the Church by the Pope, would like order to be restored with their having to do nothing, or almost nothing. At most will they agree to mutter a few prayers. They even balk at the daily Rosary: five decades offered daily to our Lady in honor of the hidden life, the Passion, and the glory of Jesus. In this vein, they have very little interest in deepening their understanding of that part of the Apostolic tradition that applies directly to them in a spirit of fidelity to that tradition: dogmas, missal and ritual, interior life (for progress in the interior life obviously is a part of the Apostolic tradition). Each in his station of life having consented to lukewarmness, they take scandal at the fact that neither is the Pope, in his place as Pope, very fervent when it comes to upholding for the entire Church the Apostolic tradition, that is to say, to faithfully fulfilling the unique mission confided to him. This view of things is unjust. The more we need a holy Pope, the more we ourselves must begin by putting our own lives, by the grace of God and holding fast to tradition, in the path of the saints. Then the Lord Jesus will finally give to His flock the visible shepherd of whom it will have striven to make itself worthy.
This was the lesson of St. Vincent Ferrer at an apocalyptic time of major failings by the Roman Pontiff. But with modernism we are in the midst of experiencing even greater trials, reasons all the more compelling for us to live even more purely, and on all points, the Apostolic tradition; on all points, including a real tending towards perfect charity. And yet, in the moral doctrine revealed by the Lord and handed down by the Apostles, it is said that we must tend to perfect love, since the law of growth in Christ is part and parcel of the grace and charity which unite us in Christ.
A Fundamental Mystery
There is indeed both transcendence and obscurity in the Church’s dogma relative to the Pope: a supreme pontiff who is the universal vicar of Jesus Christ, yet who nonetheless is not sheltered from failings, even serious ones, which can be quite dangerous for his subjects. But the dogma of the Roman Pontiff is but one of the aspects of the fundamental mystery of the Church. Two great propositions introduce us to this mystery: firstly, that the Church, whose members are recruited from among sinners, which we all are, is nonetheless the infallible dispenser of light and grace, dispenser by means of a hierarchical organization, dispenser governed from heaven above by its head and Savior, Jesus Christ, and assisted by the Spirit of Jesus. On the other hand, on earth, the Savior offers by His Church the perfect sacrifice and nourishes it by His own substance. Secondly, the Church, holy Spouse of the Lord Jesus, must have a share in the Cross, including the cross of betrayal by her own; but for all that she does not cease to be sufficiently assisted in her hierarchical structure, beginning with the Pope, and to be on fire enough with charity; in a word, she remains at all times holy and pure enough to be able to share in the trials of her Spouse, including betrayal by certain members of the hierarchy, while keeping intact her self-mastery and supernatural strength. Never will the Church be subject to vertigo.
If, in our spiritual life, the Christian truth concerning the Pope is rightly situated within the Christian truth about the Church, by that light shall we overcome the scandal of all the lies, not excluding those that can befall the Church by the vicar of Christ or by the successors of the Apostles.
When we think of the Pope now and of the prevailing modernism, of the Apostolic tradition and perseverance in this tradition, we are more and more reduced to considering these questions only in prayer, only in an unceasing petition for the entire Church and for him who, in our days, holds in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He holds them in his hands, but he does not use them, so to speak. He leaves the gate of the sheepfold open at the approach of thieves; he does not close these protective doors which his predecessors had invariably kept shut with unbreakable locks and bolts. Sometimes, as is the case with post-conciliar ecumenism, he even pretends to open what will forever be kept shut. We are reduced to the necessity of never thinking of the Church except to pray for her and for the Pope. It is a blessing. Nevertheless, thinking of our Mother, the Spouse of Christ, in this piteous condition does not diminish in the least our resolve to think clearly. At least, let this indispensable lucidity, lucidity without which all courage would flag, be penetrated with as much humility and gentleness as the vehemence with which we assail the Sovereign Priest, that He make haste to help us. Deus in adjutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adjuvandum mefestina. May it please Him to charge His most holy Mother, Mary Immaculate, with bringing us as soon as possible the effective remedy.
Meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosaryfrom the From French of Father Monsabre, O.P.
translated by Very Reverend Stephen Byrne, O.P.
THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES.
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN — THE INCARNATE WORD.
GOD is about to descend from heaven and to clothe Himself with our poor and fragile human nature in the womb of a virgin ; this is the mystery that the Archangel Gabriel announces to Mary (Luke i.) It is an incomprehensible and ineffable mystery, expected for four thousand years and prepared from all eternity. Let us contemplate this preparation even in the bosom of God Himself.
Before the birth of ages God saw all that was to be. The work conceived by Him unfolded itself before His eyes with all its wonders, with all its mighty revolutions. He saw sin enter into His work, and He decreed that sin should be punished. But the Word intervened and proposed to His Father to receive in His own adorable person the strokes of divine justice. Sin will be expiated by a Victim equal to the Majesty it offends ; it will be pardoned. To effect the reconciliation of mercy and justice, the Word, a member of the divine family, must become a member of the family of sinners and permeate with His infinite merits the guilty nature He would save. To this effect an unspotted and sanctified humanity, which God will wound and put to death on account of our iniquities, will be formed in the virginal womb of a daughter of Adam by the mysterious and chaste operation of the Holy Ghost. Such is the admirable and merciful design of the Holy Trinity. Let us adore it in the depths of our hearts.
The hour of its accomplishment has struck. Mary has pronounced the fiat (let it be done) of a new creation more glorious than that of the world; and "the Word was made flesh." The Word, the true Son of God, eternally begotten of Him, equal to His Father in all things, the resplendent mirror and living image of His original principle, the personal splendor of the divine substance — this is the Word made flesh. Flesh ! did I say ? Yes ; He has passed by the angels and has not noticed their pure and holy natures, and He has espoused our soul with its weak and corruptible companion. He takes the world at its worst, in order to associate all creatures to His divinity ; He descends to the lowest depths, for it is not the immortal and impassible flesh of innocence and justice He assumes, but the miserable flesh of sinners. If His sanctity shrinks from contracting the stain of sin, His merciful condescension assumes its entire responsibility. Thus, in the eyes of His Father, He becomes sin itself : " Him, who knew no sin, He hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in Him" (2 Cor. v. 21). How well it is expressed by the great Apostle of the Gentiles : "He has annihilated Himself" (Philip, ii.)
In this annihilation all is pure goodness ; we have done nothing to deserve it. The rare desires of holy souls were washed away in torrents of iniquity. After waiting long the world, in decay and in rottenness, appeared more deserving of destruction than at its beginning ; but the errors and crimes of man had not exhausted the indefatigable love of Him who annihilated Himself.
In presence of this great mystery the sentiments of our soul should be those of profound astonishment, of loving and grateful admiration. The principle of our greatness is to be found in this abasement of the Divinity. Having adored the Son of God annihilated, let us consider what we are by the Incarnation : Brothers of God ! Nothing is more certain than this great honor ; for the Word incarnate, which Mary calls Jesus, is clothed in our veritable human nature and carries in His sacred veins blood drawn from the same source whence ours has descended. Whilst we give to Him, by the flesh, our earthly father, He gives to us, by the hypostatic union, His heavenly Father. Children of wrath, we are made in Him children of benediction ; condemned to a double death, we receive from Him resurrection and life ; proscribed by the malediction pronounced in the beginning of the world, we are called by Him to the inheritance of glory and beatitude promised also at the moment of our creation. Our debased soul is raised to honor ; our flesh, humbled by suffering, aspires to immortality. With Jesus, and through Him, and in Him our thoughts, desires, and actions are purified, transformed, and raised to heaven. The aspiration of our nature, a prey, from the day of its origin, to the mysterious longing for the infinite, is at length satiated ; now we are indeed divine beings. Oh ! what honor, and, in consequence, what respect we owe ourselves ! "O man !" says St. Leo, "recognize your dignity; and having become a participant in the divine nature by the incarnate Word, never lower yourself by returning to the meanness of your former life."
THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN — THE FIRST GIFT OF JESUS.
THERE is commotion in an humble home at Nazareth. They who live in it seem agitated, hurried ; they are preparing for a journey. What is its purpose ? Is Mary, till then so humble and discreet, now hastening to publish the wonders performed under Her roof and in Her womb ? No ; filled with the Holy Spirit, she carefully guards the secret of the King of Kings. But an interior voice says to Her : Go. It is Jesus who wishes to justify His name of Saviour without delay, to begin His mission of redemption, to destroy in souls the empire of sin, and to show Himself beneficent and merciful. One day the Apostle St. Peter will say of Him: " He went about doing good " (Acts x. 38). Even before He was born He merited this testimony. Hidden from human view, silent and imprisoned, He goes to manifest Himself and to give expression to His omnipotent goodness in visiting His Precursor.
Why does He not call the Precursor to Him? Is it not the duty of the servant to go to his master, of the sick man to seek his physician, of the poor man to go to the rich whose alms he begs ? But love reverses all these rules; the King of Kings, the heavenly Physician, the Author of grace anticipates the advances of His creatures. Not yet in condition to move of Himself, He wishes to be carried. "Behold," says St. Ambrose, "the inferior has need of succor, and his superior goes to his aid — Mary goes to Elizabeth, Christ to John. The wonderful meeting of the mothers is the signal for divine benefits. Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary ; John is touched by the grace of his Redeemer." At the same instant the severe laws of nature, which confine the Infant in a mysterious repose, yield to the pressure of the Author of nature. " Before he was born John speaks by his motions of joy. Before entering into the world he announces his God; before seeing the light he points out the Eternal Sun. Still a prisoner in his mother's womb, he nevertheless performs the office of precursor, and says to all: “ Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world" These are the words of St. John Chrysostom.
Let us admire the full and sudden correspondence of the Precursor with the grace which purifies him from sin, illumines his soul, and calls him to the service of God. Let us consider the mystery of the Visitation as a type of the sweet anticipations of the divine bounty in our own regard, and of the line of conduct we should follow when we are visited by God's grace.
After the days, too quickly passed, which our Lord spent on earth, in which men could see and feel and touch Him, in which they could contemplate His charms, hear His words, ad- mire His works, condole with Him in His sufferings, and receive His promises, He is again hidden from human view in a manner even more profound than in His Mother's womb. Hidden indeed He is, but He has not withdrawn Himself to an inaccessible distance. "His delight is to be with the children of men." He is with us in our tabernacles, more imprisoned, more immovable than He was as an infant in the living sanctuary in which He first learned to live.
Thither He calls to Him His priests, and commands them to carry Him with reverential hands to visit our souls and fill them with His presence. What do I say ? He stands night -and day at the door of our hearts, knocking and demanding an entrance. " Behold I stand at the door and knock" (Apoc. iii.) Every grace that we receive, every advance He makes to us, every light, every good counsel, encouragement, or impulse towards good, is a visit of Jesus.
O dearly-beloved Saviour ! How do we respond to so much honor and to so many benefits ? Our souls, in order to become the abode of their Spouse in His sacramental visits, ought to deck themselves out in the most tender and perfect virtues. Like docile harps they ought to sing and thrill with joy at the touch of the Saviour's hand in the same manner as the unborn Precursor leaped for joy in His presence. But, alas! we meet Him more frequently with coldness, indifference, hesitation, and even a refusal to accept His heavenly visits. Oh, how shameful !
Thou seest us, 0 Lord! penetrated with confusion and remorse at the thought of Thy many visits we have lost. Grant that they may not be lost again! Strengthen our faith, that we may be able at all times to adore Thy holy presence under the veil by which Thou concealest Thyself from our eyes. Make our souls delicately sensitive to the touch of Thy grace. Let every good impression received be at once transformed into a virtue. Let the prompt and abundant growth of Thy gifts draw from those who will see our spiritual transformation the words of the Psalmist : " Thou hast visited the earth and hast plentifully watered it ; Thou hast many ways enriched it " (Psalm lxiv.)
THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD — THE INFANT JESUS.
THE heavens resound with a joyous and sublime canticle : “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth to men of goodwill." Angels bear the glad tidings to the world: " This day is born to you a Saviour." O heavenly spirits ! tell us where shall we find this Saviour so ardently desired, so long expected ? In Bethlehem, the city of David. In Bethlehem ! A small city indeed for so great a King ! But surely some ancient, stately palace, the last relic of the fallen fortunes of those who once ruled in Juda, has been fitted up to receive the Son of God. Ah ! no. His poverty finds no place for Him even in the public inns of the old city. The owners of human habitations refuse to receive Him ; and His Mother, all desolate, sees Herself forced to share with animals a corner of their stable. " And this shall be a sign to you," continue the angels : " you shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger."
What a change, great God, in Thy manifestations ! Formerly, when Thou didst appear to our fathers of the old law, it was always under striking, and even terrible, figures ; and often those who had been honored by Thy manifestation were heard to cry out : " We have seen the Lord ; let us die the death." Now Thou presentest Thyself to us in the form of an infant.
An infant attracts us by its charms and touches our hearts by its helplessness. Its weak cries, its sweet smile, its peaceful rest soften the heart. What is more amiable than an infant ? And behold, my Saviour is one ! He does not resemble the children of some royal house around whom servants and courtiers gather in crowds. A cradle gilt with gold, a sumptuous service, would repel the lowly and the poor ; and Jesus came that all should approach Him with confidence and love. This is why He shows Himself to us "wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger."
But at this crib how many precious lessons unfold themselves to me !
The infant Jesus teaches me to trample under foot the vain honors which human pride pursues with frantic eagerness.
The infant Jesus teaches me to despise the false and fleeting goods which my covetous heart rushes after.
The infant Jesus teaches me that privations and sufferings are intended to tame and reduce to obedience my rebellious flesh, the enemy of all virtue and of my perfection.
The infant Jesus calls me to a state of simplicity and candor, to an obscure, solitary, and hidden life.
With deepest reverence I receive these lessons in my heart, for it is love that gives them to me.
Love ! Behold what moves me most to-day. The imperial edict which tore the Holy Family from the sweets of the domestic fireside, the blindness of men who refused an asylum to the Son of God hidden in the womb of His Mother, the cold December night of His nativity, the stable of Bethlehem, the swaddling clothes, the crib — all this was prepared in His eternal councils by the love of my God.
The Splendor of eternal light, the infant Jesus clothes Himself with our poor flesh. It is for love of me. My impure eyes could never have borne the brightness of His glory ; and yet I had need of coming near my God, of seeing Him, of hearing Him, of touching and embracing Him. After the anxious waiting of humanity we had need of being delighted in the light of His sensible presence. Master of all the goods of the world, the infant Jesus condemns Himself to poverty. It is for love of me. My heart, so easily charmed with earthly things, had to learn that they are too small and too mean for my love, and that those who have the smallest portion of them ought to possess, like their Saviour, the fullest measure of spiritual goods.
Eternally and perfectly happy, the infant Jesus began to suffer at the moment of His birth into the world. It is for love of me. I will be less inclined to rebel against the hard necessity of suffering when I see my Saviour submit to it from the first moment of His mortal life.
Who will not return the love of Him who has loved so much ?
Would that I possessed the most pure heart of Thy Mother, O my Jesus, in which to love Thee as I ought !
"Would that I could unite my affections with those of Thy adopted Father, so full of humility and reverence !
Would that I had a place among the shepherds whom the angels notified of Thy birth, so as to take part in their simple and fervent adoration !
Would that I could enter into the company of the kings and lay down at Thy feet the gold of my charity, the incense of my adoration, the myrrh of my penance !
O beloved Child ! drive me not away. Allow me at least to envy the lot of the poor, dumb beasts that warmed Thee by their breath ; and, even if it is small indeed, deign to unite the humble love of my poor heart with Thy infinite love.
‘THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN — THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS." " AND presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to the temple. Behold He cometh, saith the Lord of hosts " (Malachy iii.) The holy souls did truly desire His coming. They anxiously waited for that event and seriously desired it. And they filled the ages with their plaintive invocations. In the mystery now under our consideration these true Israelites are represented by an old man, just and fearing God, who looked for the consolation of Israel, for the Holy Spirit had promised him in sleep that he would not die before he saw the " Christ of the Lord " ; also by a venerable and holy widow who, although old, was less burdened with years than with austerities. Simeon, taking in his arms the Child of heavenly promise, chanted his canticle of eternal farewell to the world in the beautiful words recited every day in the offices of the Church : "Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant in peace, O Lord ! for my eyes have seen Thy salvation " (St. Luke ii.) Anna, the prophetess, in an ecstasy of joy on seeing Him, whom she had invoked in her prayers day and night, "hastened to publish His glory everywhere and to tell of His coming to those who looked for the redemption of Israel."
These just souls are holding high festival, yet nothing extraordinary is seen in the temple ; to other eyes it is only a poor Infant that is brought to be presented to God according to the law of Moses. But this Infant accomplishes an admirable substitution that can only be comprehended by true Israelites. To all appearance He is redeemed before the law ; but in reality He immolates Himself instead of the insufficient victims of the law. "Holocausts for sin were not pleasing in Thy sight ; then said I : Behold I come."
Let us carefully consider this mystery. The labors, the fatigues, the sweat, the humiliations, the opprobrium, the sufferings and wounds, the blood and death of Jesus Christ are all laid at the feet of God in this presentation. All is offered and accepted ; it is a sacrifice of propitiation and salvation. Mary takes part in this sacrifice. The sword of sorrow which will one day consummate Her anguish has a prototype in the sad prophecy addressed to Her to-day : " Thy own soul a sword shall pierce." But will not all humanity, or at least the chosen people of God, profit by this offering of Jesus ? Alas, no ! The divine Child will meet with a thousand contradictions, and along with those who shall rise to glory by virtue of His sacrifice we shall see many, who shall despise it, eternally lost. " Behold this Child is set for the ruin and resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted."
Let us aspire to be of those included in the resurrection ; and, as Christ offers Himself for us, let us also offer ourselves through Him to His Father. It is only infinite perfection that can fill the void of our unworthiness and of our insufficiency. The victims of the old law, permeated with our intentions and our faults through the imposition of human and guilty hands, represented our guilty lives. Therefore God rejected them. He will reject us also if we dare present ourselves to him alone ; but in company with His well-beloved Son He can refuse us nothing.
Receive, then, O my God ! from our unworthy hands this unspotted Host that gives Himself to us ; this living religious worship which unites heaven with the earth in the union of the divine and human natures.
Thrice blessed Majesty of God ! I cannot offer anything proportionate to the greatness of Thy being out of my nothingness. The benedictions of all humanity, the universal canticle of praise taken up by all creatures, would be far too little for Thy glory ; but we adore Thee with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him.
Unbounded goodness of God ! neither our acts of thanksgiving nor the joyful transports of a world filled with Thy gifts can perfectly respond to Thy infinite benefits; but with whatever spiritual or temporal good there is in us we thank Thee with Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus.
Terrible justice of God ! Thou wilt not be appeased by the sacrifice of our poor, sin-stained life. A hecatomb of all nature could not restore Thee the honor that sin has taken from Thee ; but we implore pardon with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him.
Author of all good ! Thou hast anticipated us in the effusion of Thy gifts. But how can we hope to secure a continuance of these, except with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him ?
O heavenly Father ! we present to Thee Thy only-begotten and well-beloved Son, the object of Thy eternal complacency. We hide ourselves in His heart ; we present ourselves with Him in the arms of Mary to be immolated to Thy glory, if it is Thy good pleasure. Take all that we have — our mind, our heart, our body, our thoughts, affections, and desires, our life itself — and declare to us that our sacrifice is agreeable to Thee, so that we may joyfully sing with the holy old man, Simeon :
" Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine"
THE FINDING OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE — JESUS MASTER.
THE law was fulfilled by the presentation in the temple. Jesus offered Himself to His divine Father in the name and in favor of humanity ; and now He enters into the humble and obscure dwelling of Nazareth, where He increases in years and in strength, and is filled with wisdom, " for the grace of God is in Him."Joyful Mysteries by Bishop Monsabre, O.P.
Twelve years of silence and obscurity pass quickly by, after which we find Him, when it was supposed He was lost in the excitement of a great festival, among the doctors of the law, hearing them and asking them questions.
O marvel ! These men, who have grown gray in study and in learning, who almost know the number of letters contained in the Sacred Writings, who scrutinize the mysteries and reduce to a nicety the interpretation of the law — these wise men of Israel, whose grave and learned word had the greatest weight in the land, have found their Master. They have found Him in a child of twelve years ! Their humbled pride is astonished at the profundity of His teaching and at the wisdom of His answers. It was the first wound it received, and its sting will continue to rankle in their hearts until the time of His public preaching shall have come. The people simply give way to ecstasies of admiration : " And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers " (Luke ii. 47).
Dear and admirable Child ! I know who Thou art. Divine Word, infinite Wisdom, Thou art come from the " mouth of the most high God." In God Thou hadst subsisted before the birth of time, and in Him Thou wilt subsist when time shall be no more. Hear His inspired word in the eighth chapter of the book of Proverbs: "When He prepared the heavens I was present ; when with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths ; when He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters ; when He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits ; when He balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him, forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times : playing in the world , and my delights were to be with the children of men." Thou knowest, O Lord! all secrets, even the most profound secrets of the Divinity. What Thou hast revealed to men is no more than a drop from the ocean of Thy infinite knowledge. The Sacred Scriptures, full of Thee, have been written by Thy inspiration. Who, then, can so well explain them as Thyself ? Therefore I am not astonished that questions and answers should fall from Thy lips which confounded the learned doctors of the law. I wonder not, but rather cry out in my simple ignorance, with the prophet Isaias : "Behold I have given Him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the gentiles" (chap. lv. 4).
Speak, O Master ! speak. It is Thy right and Thy function. Is it not right, and even necessary, that Thou shouldst be "engaged in the business of Thy Father," Who, by Thy teaching, hast deigned to instruct us in the mysteries of eternity? Speak, O Jesus ! to the great and powerful, too often surfeited with empty grandeur ; speak to the worldly-wise of our clay, whose proud reason too often vanishes in the delirium of folly ; speak to the worldly-prudent, who, in their presumption, pretend to have no other rule of life than common honesty. Show them that nothing is truly great which does not lead up to a participation in the divine Sonship ;, that human science must submit itself to the science of heaven ; that the wisdom of the world, from the moment it refuses to enter upon the heroic way of Christian virtue, is supremest folly.
Speak to the poor, the ignorant, the humble, to raise them from their abject state ; teach them the mysteries which no human reason can fathom ; and conduct them by humble and despised pathways to the dwelling-place of life eternal. Speak to me, O my Jesus ! I listen to Thee, and I wish to receive no other promises than Thine, no doctrine but Thine, no law but Thine. For me it is not necessary to behold Thee with the eyes of the flesh to submit to Thy teaching. It is enough for me to read Thy books in which Thy words are engraven : to hear the Church, the guardian of Thy truth and of Thy commandments ; to feel within me the mysterious attractions of Thy holy grace.
O adorable Jesus ! speak to me especially by Thy grace. Speak to my spirit and to my heart. Let my thoughts, desires, affections, discourses, and acts be regulated by Thy internal word. Speak to me, as Thou didst in the temple, with the sweetness and amiability of a child ; but if my obdurate heart refuses to be moved by Thy loving words, speak to me with authority and with the just severity of an offended Master. Press, insist, reproach, threaten, annoy, and torment me. I am prepared to submit to Thy rigors. Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.
THE DOLOROUS MYSTERIES.LET us humbly ask our Blessed Saviour to admit us among the chosen disciples who followed Him to Gethsemani. There, casting off sleep, let us enter into the grotto in which Jesus is prostrate, and contemplate His agony. What a sad and sorrowful spectacle ! The human nature of our Saviour, till then calm and serene, is disturbed, saddened, and afraid at the approach of death; yet death is not for that nature a surprise. For a long time its cruel necessity, the hour in which it would take place, its many mournful circumstances were well known to Him. Then His humanity was not troubled; but now at the supreme moment the storm breaks more relentless and more dreadful than upon any other nature. Whence comes this awful change ? From a secret weakness long held under the mask of a hypocritical peace ? Blasphemy ! Every circumstance in the agony of our dear Master is a prodigy. The exercise of His omnipotence was necessary to open the door of His holy soul to grief at all ; and, again, His omnipotence was needed to prevent His death in His unspeakable anguish. It was because He willed it that passions hitherto submissive were agitated and troubled. It was His divine foreknowledge that placed clearly before Him the living and frightful images of death and sin. He brought before Him in one appalling vision all the evils He was about to endure — the treason of His disciples, the abandonment of those whom He loved, the sacrilegious hatred of the Jewish priests, the injustice of the great, the ingratitude of the people, the despair of His friends, the tortures of His beloved Mother; the insults, injuries, humiliations ; the spittle, the scourging, the crown of thorns ; the cross and, at last, His death as the most infamous of malefactors. And all these evils for sinners who had loaded past ages with their iniquities ! Sins of the mind, of the heart, of the senses; the abominations of idolatry, injustices, violences, debaucheries of pagan races; the prevarications and apostasies of His own people — Jesus saw it all. But the future weighed more heavily upon His dismayed soul than the past. His precious blood would be shed for millions to no purpose; they would ungratefully refuse His grace and would reject His merits.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN — THE ANGUISH OF JESUS.
" And He began to fear and to be sad" (Mark xiv.) Jesus is seized with a mysterious sadness. His sacrifice seems to be repugnant to Him, and He implores God to spare His life, threatened with so much ingratitude and profanation. We read it in the twenty-ninth Psalm, in which David had already spoken in His name : " What profit is there in My blood whilst I go down to corruption ? " Why shed it if, in a great measure, it is sure to be lost?
" Jesus begins to fear." His spirit and His flesh, so tenderly and so purely united, protest against the horrors of a cruel and unmerited separation.
"His soul is sorrowful, even unto death." He falls with His face to the ground ; a sweat of blood flows upon it ; He is in an agony. He would certainly have expired if He had not been sustained for the bitter death of the cross by divine power.
Oh, what a conflict ! Human nature, left for a moment to itself, repels the too bitter chalice which God presents to it. "O my Father ! if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me." But His human nature is promptly lifted up by the divine nature and abandons itself to the most holy will of its heavenly Father in the words : " Not My will but Thine be done."
O most sweet and blessed Jesus ! I am not scandalized in Thy agony and dereliction; rather do I see, under the doleful veil of this mystery, Thy sacred divinity, and I offer to it the homage of my faith and adoration. Prostrate in spirit before Thee in the grotto of Gethsemani, I tenderly pity Thee in Thy awful sorrows, and I beg the grace to take part in them. Have I not merited these by my innumerable faults ? Is it not to me that this disgust with a sinful life, this fear of the terrors of divine justice, this sadness unto death, properly belong ? Be just and severe, O my Jesus ! Give me strength to suffer with Thee ! How bitter soever Thy chalice may be, grant me grace to submit to it, and accept it as Thou didst accept the holy will of God.
IN the sixteenth chapter of the book of Job we find words which admirably prefigure the awful scourging of our Lord: " He hath gathered together his fury against me, and threatening he hath gnashed with his teeth upon me ; my enemy hath beheld me with terrible eyes. They have opened their mouths upon me ; and, reproaching, they have struck me on the cheek. They are filled with my pains."
THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR — THE BLOOD OF JESUS.
Having fallen into the hands of His enemies, having been judged and condemned, Jesus is delivered up to a troop of malefactors, the vilest and most cruel of whom act the part of executioners in the pretorian court. They seize their victim violently and bind Him fast to a pillar at which He is to be scourged. They arm themselves with rods and thongs, and strike Him with all their strength without counting their blows. The sacred body of our Saviour shudders. In the midst of the hissing of the scourges His deep moans and sad, low cries are heard. The fierce butchers, already drunk with wine, are infuriated at the sight of His blood.
They yield to fatigue, but the awful work is not yet finished. Still more ! Still morel is the cry that is heard. Some bring knotty brambles bristling with thorns, others bring iron-mounted thongs. These frightful cruelties last nearly an hour, a part of the people gloating over their victim, a part of them buried in stupor. Not to have expired under this treatment required the strength of God. Jesus can no longer stand erect. His body is one red, gushing wound. His eyes, almost closed with tears and blood, see only His executioners ; yet so sweet and mild are they that they would soften a savage beast. But under control of the passion of hatred man is more savage than any beast. So much love on the part of our dear Sayiour only irritated His enemies all the more. At last, when He had received five thousand strokes, as it has been revealed to His Saints, Jesus is untied from the pillar and falls covered with blood.
What hast Thou done, O sweet Lamb ! to bring upon Thyself this fearful barbarity ? Thou hast selected these people from among the gentile nations ; Thou hast delivered them from the slavery of Egypt. Through a thousand dangers Thou hast brought them into the land of benediction. To them and to us all Thou hast promised the blessed liberty of the children of God. Is it for this Thy beneficent hands are torn and bruised ? Is it for this Thou art tied, like a rebellious slave or a vile malefactor, to a pillar ?
Thou hast consoled the just and holy men of Israel, "the men of desires/' who, inclining their hearts and souls to the future, looked for the coming of God's envoy. Thou didst go about doing good, and Thou hast stretched out Thy loving hand to solace all human infirmities. Thou hast cured the paralytic and the lame ; Thou hast given hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, life to the dead. Is it for this Thy sacred body has been beaten until it became one bleeding wound ? Thou hast brought down manna from heaven like the dew of the morning, and from the hard rock Thou hast brought pure water to relieve Thy people about to die of thirst in the desert. Thou hast multiplied a few loaves in another desert to feed the famished multitude that fol- lowed Thee. Thou hast allowed a torrent of heavenly doctrine to flow from Thy lips. Thou hast opened for our souls fountains of living water, the divine virtue of which will make it leap to the abodes of eternal life. Is it for this Thy flesh was torn and Thy blood shed ?
O my dear Saviour ! Thou didst merit nothing but our tender respect and loving gratitude ; but I hear the prophet Isaias say (liii.) : " He was wounded for our iniquities ; He was bruised for our sins." And how truly has his word been realized in Thee !
Nothing could be more just than that our sinful flesh should be tied to a pillar and beaten to death ; but, even if our blood were drawn drop by drop until no more remained, of what value would it be as long as it was impure and sinful ? But there must needs be blood, for I hear the Apostle of the Gentiles say in his Epistle to the Hebrews: " Almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood ; and without the shedding of blood there is no remission" (chap, ix.)
Adorable Jesus, Thou hast fulfilled this austere law, and the lashes of Thy executioners, more effectual and more salutary than the rod of Moses, have opened, even in our flesh, wounds through which our salvation enters.
Flow on, flow on, O adorable stream of my Saviours blood ! I cast myself into this sacred fountain. Penetrate me and wash me, not only from all impurity and weakness of the flesh, but from all weakness and languor of soul. Go to the root of my imperfections and spiritual miseries. Wash away and bear far from me sin and the principles of sin.
"GO forth, daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon in the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the joy of his heart " (Cant, iii.)
THE CROWNING WITH THORNS — THE IGNOMINY OF JESUS.
This King Solomon means my Saviour. The Church, His spouse, invites us to go with her and contemplate the strange and unheard-of diadem with which the synagogue, His cruel and relentless step-mother, crowns our Holy Saviour.
Those who were employed to scourge Him are now glutted with blood ; the soldiers lying listlessly around wish to amuse themselves. " Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus in the hall, gathered together unto Him the whole band " (Matt, xxvii. 27). A broken column and a shaky stool is found. It will answer for a throne. Our dear Saviour is stripped of His garments a second time. An old scarlet mantle is thrown upon His shoulders ; this is His royal purple. A reed is put into His right hand ; this is His sceptre. Now, O my Saviour, be seated ! Thou art about to be crowned !
The soldiers have obtained three thorny branches, which, with diabolical art, they twist together in the form of a crown, bristling on the inside with a hundred sharp points. These ruffians, assuming a solemn air and simulating a grave ceremony, place this newly-invented crown on the head of Jesus. It will not keep its place at first, but they force it to remain by the blows of a piece of wood. The thorns pierce His head on all sides, and His eyes are almost destroyed. All the veins of the head are pierced ; blood flows like water from this newly-opened source. Jesus now loses the power of sight ; He is a prey to burning fever ; He is devoured by extreme thirst, and He shudders with pain and anguish. Nothing can be conceived more frightful, but it is mere sport for His tormentors. One after another they come before Him, bending the knee in mockery, saluting Him with the words, " Hail, King of the Jews ! " Then they throw down the throne and its Occupant, and again put Him on it with brutal violence. All this lasts at least half an hour, and is applauded by the full cohort which surrounds the pretorian. Then our dear Saviour is brought to Pilate, who presents Him to the people with the words: "Behold the Man!"
Yes, behold the Man ! No longer the glorious being whom the Father presented to a world just fresh from His creating hand, saying to it : "Be ruled by Him, be His subject.” Behold now the Man such as sin has made Him! The ignominy of our Lord is a living and a horrible image of the ignominy of the sinner. How wretched indeed the sinner is ! He thinks that it will increase his power, or at least his independence, to throw off the yoke of the divine will and to follow no longer any but his own. Soon he becomes a marvel of shame and misery.
Behold the Man ! Jesus is despoiled of His clothing and covered with a ragged purple garment. The sinner is stripped of the white robe of innocence. Grace, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the reflection of the glory of God in his soul, all disappear at the very instant in which he becomes a sinner. Only the tattered remnants of a dishonored nature are left to him.
Behold the Man ! Jesus is crowned with thorns, the sharp points of which pierce and torture His adorable head. The sinner is wild with joy in his transgression. His joy comes quickly and flies away again like the lightning. The enjoyment of past iniquity soon becomes nothing more than the sharp thorn of disgrace and remorse.
Behold the Man ! Jesus is forced to take into His hand a reed for a sceptre ; it is a mock sceptre, an insult to His omnipotence. The sinner holds over his passions only a power enfeebled by the consent he has given to sin. His reason, deprived of the supernatural vigor derived from grace, no longer knows how to rule the appetites. It is no longer the rigid sceptre to which obedience is given ; it is now but a reed that bends with the least resistance.
Behold the Man ! Jesus has His hands tied and is led without effort from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate. The sin- ner has forfeited his liberty, for t; he that commits sin is become the slave of sin " (John yiii. 34).
Behold the Man ! Jesus is the sport of a troop of soldiers, who deride Him, buffet Him, treat Him as a fool, and mock Him in His miserable state. The sinner, when his eyes are opened, will see around him a troop of devils well pleased with their triumph, laughing at the misfortune of their victim and feasting on their victory with atrocious joy. For a long time they had looked for his fall, which they effected by their wiles. Their hour is come ; they hold fast this proud soul that wished to be its own master. It is become in their hands a mock-king, whilst it listens only to their flatteries and is invisibly saturated with their outrages.
What ignominy ! O my God ! Behold what sin has made of man !
O humbled yet blessed Saviour ! I bring to Thy feet this miserable soul, which at length confesses its disgrace. I bring it confused, repentant, wounded not merely by cruel remorse, but also by the salutary thorns of contrition. Have pity on it. Touch it with one drop of that precious blood which flowed from Thy adorable head. It comes to Thee to be transformed, to be invested with glory and honor ; a master again, and possessed of the blessed liberty of the children of God. Seeing it, restored the angels will cry out in joy : " Be- hold the Man."
"NOTHING- in the Passion of our Saviour can possibly resemble ordinary sufferings ; all His ignominies, all His dolors are outside of the common description of punishments or of executions. He was scourged as no one had ever before been scourged ; no one before Him had been insultingly and barbarously crowned with thorns ; and now He is brought to the place of His execution in a manner different from all others.
THE CARRIAGE OF THE CROSS — JESUS FALLS UNDER THE CROSS.
The custom of the age required slaves to carry the gibbet of a condemned person to the place prepared for it. But figures and prophecies had proclaimed in advance the additional and special tortures reserved for Him. Abraham had placed the wood of the sacrifice on the shoulders of his son Isaac ; Jesus, the new Isaac, is made to bear His cross to the hill of sacrifice. The prophet Isaias had seen Him in this state of humiliation and suffering when he cried out : " The government is on His shoulder" — Principatus super humerum ejus (ix. 6).
Wherefore Jesus, having heard His sentence, is brought to the middle of the forum. His cross is there. He prostrates Himself to take it upon Him ; He embraces it as if it were a long-wished-for spouse. The trumpet is heard ; the officers cry out : " Move on ! " Jesus rises. On the right and on the left the people stare at Him.
With naked and bloody feet our dear Saviour, stooping low, tottering on His limbs, torn with wounds, exhausted by a long fast and by the loss of blood, advances, or rather creeps, to Calvary. Officers in front of Him are dragging Him along; others are pushing Him forward. He cannot make one firm step. Loaded as He is, and not being able to advance as they desire, those who follow Him ever press Him on, and thus he falls several times with His face to the ground, and the cross falls with Him. The executioners raise Him with imprecations and kick Him as they would the meanest animal. It is the most frightful spectacle to be imagined. O Christian soul ! veil not your face ; look on. Move forward along with Him. Follow your Saviour piously on the sorrowful way to Calvary. Content not yourself with weeping, like the holy women who will not leave Him ; but gather up and carefully guard, in an humble and contrite heart, the deep lessons He gives you. The burden of the cross is, after all, less heavy to Him than the immense weight of our sins. It is really under this weight He falls to teach us what a heavy load to carry is a sinful life. If we do not take steps to throw it from our souls as soon as we feel its weight, it will drag us down and cast us into an abyss. Vain thoughts, frivolous desires, culpable levities appear to us as nothing; yet bow often are they the cause of shameful falls ! Jesus falls several times on His way to Calvary. Herein He gives, for our benefit, a sign of our sad weakness. This Man, weakened, bruised, pushed forward, thrown down by soldiers and spectators, is a symbol of ourselves. The infirmities of nature and the tribulations of life cast us down ; the passions make us feel in our souls their terrible sting; the demon tempts and torments us; the world multiplies its seductions around us ; yet we go on in our course without serious attention to the dangers that beset us, and without any safeguard, as if there was no danger to our virtue. Our Saviour says to us : " Take care, take care, for the strong- have fallen ! "
He fell in the dolorous way, but He quickly rose again, notwithstanding His bruises and wounds, to show us that we too, when thrown down by the enemy of our salvation, ought to rise quickly again. To make no effort to gain our feet, not to call any one to our assistance, to make known to no one our great misfortune, would be the part of sloth and pride. And then the evil one, whose hatred rejoices in our falls, endeavors to persuade us that it is better to wait. Of what use is it to rise ? We are still so very weak we will fall again. Later in life, when age shall have fortified our reason, when the passions, growing cold, no longer make such pressing demands, when we shall have been satiated to disgust with pleasures the attraction to which has hastened our fall, then it will be time to say, " Rise, go on ! "
Oh ! how foolish. Who has promised that death will not come and find us in our sin, or that the inveteracy of evil habits will leave us any power at all to repent ? No, no ! Away with cowardly sloth, away with presumptuous delays ! Then all the rest will follow.
Bat can we repent now ? Are not our repeated falls an evidence of ingratitude which has exhausted the divine mercy ? Here is another temptation of the evil spirit against which the infinite goodness of our Saviour protests, as well as the "plentiful redemption" we will find in His blood. "With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption" (Psalm cxxix.) He came to save sinners ; He will not break the reed bent down by the tempest. He wishes to receive us to His mercy, and to pardon all our sins each time we go to Him with an honest and sincere heart. Up, then, poor sinner, up ! It is Jesus invites you. It is possible you may fall again, notwithstanding all your good resolutions, But stay down not a moment ; always beg the grace of God to give you true penance until the supreme moment comes when God's last pardon shall be the answer to your last act, an act of contrition.
WEAKENED almost to death by wounds, exhausted by a most painful journey, crushed and bruised under the weight of His cross, Jesus reaches the summit of Calvary. Let us concentrate our thoughts upon this last and most awful scene of His Passion.
THE CRUCIFIXION — THE DEATH OF JESUS.
The executioners seize upon our dear Saviour and roughly drag off His garments, now adhering to the wounds made in His scourging. They stretch Him upon the cross and violently lay hold of His bruised and torn members, driving rough nails into His hands and feet. The breaking and disjointing of His bones is distinctly heard. Oh ! how horrible. Finally the cross is set upright and the Victim is exposed to the view of a degraded and immoral crowd, gathered from all parts to Jerusalem to feast on the spectacle of His agony and to insult Him in His expiring pains at a time when the suffering of the most infamous criminal would command pity and make of him an object sacred to respect and compassion.
But the sweet Lamb of God forgets all injuries and all cruelties. He pardons His murderers, promises paradise to the repentant thief, gives His Mother to us to be our Mother for evermore, thirsts for souls and invites them to Him. He submits to the divine will, and fulfils the prophetic oracles until all is consummated. He lovingly complains that He is abandoned by the Father, commends His soul to Him, utters a loud cry, and expires.
Jesus is dead ! But He has not yet poured out upon us all the treasures of His love. His Sacred Heart is pierced by a lance, which brings with it blood and water to give living virtue to the sacraments and to regenerate sinful souls.
Jesus is dead ! Let us contemplate His body, all livid and covered with blood. To our carnal eyes it is without beauty or glory ; but His Father joyfully turns to Him : He clasps the Victim of sin in a loving embrace, and gathers into His merciful bosom all the merits and sufferings of that divine Victim. He is the well-beloved of whom Solomon, sang ; He is the well-beloved, clothed in the white robe of innocence and in the purple of sacrifice : " My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands " (Cant. v. 10).
Jesus is dead ! Let us unite ourselves with the invisible angels who surround the cross and adore in silence His lifeless flesh. The soul of which it was the unspotted tabernacle has left it to visit the sombre prison in which the just souls of the old law awaited His coming ; but His divinity is still there, preparing in those dead members the triumph of the resurrection.
Jesus is dead ! Let us weep with His Most Holy Mother, and beg of Her to obtain for us a portion, at least, of Her tender and profound compassion. All the dolors of Her Son are felt in Her maternal Heart. Her tears are a reproach to our guilty hearts, yet She desires nothing so anxiously as our pardon. O Queen of Martyrs! O Mother of God and of men ! we will cling for eyer to the memory of Thy great mercy. That we may continually bring it to mind, imprint deeply in our souls the wounds of Thy crucified Love :
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.
Jesus is dead ! Let us lament with Magdalen, and with the centurion strike our breasts ; our sins indeed have crucified our Saviour. Come forward now, all ye impieties, blasphemies, ingratitudes, sacrileges, proud thoughts, tumultuous ambitions, egotism, injustices, lies, deceit, pleasures of sense, shameful indulgences — come to the mangled body of your Saviour and be confounded. " Of a truth you have murdered the Author of life.” O my Jesus ! I am ashamed to appear before Thee ; I fear the fate of Thy executioners ; I would fly far away from Calvary, the scene of my infamy, if I were not kept there by Thy merciful words and by Thy promises of pardon.
Jesus is dead ! Let us forget all else, and give our hearts without reserve to the contemplation of the holy Cross, as if we were alone in the world with it. It is for us, for each one of us, He was crucified. For us, in this sense : that He is our substitute on that frightful gibbet on which, but for Him, we would have received the strokes of God's justice. For us, in the sense that He has expiated our faults and accomplished the work of our salvation. To Jesus crucified be ever given the homage, too long withheld, of our heartfelt repentance ! To Jesus crucified be ever given the homage of our deepest gratitude for the greatest of all benefits — that of our redemption !
THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES.
THE RESURRECTION — THE TRIUMPH OE JESUS.JESUS, having been taken from the cross, is placed in a new sepulchre in which His flesh, fearfully mangled by the ordeal through which it had passed, reposed for a little while. Its rest was not the deep sleep which weighs down human beings after they breathe their last sigh, and from which only the trumpet of the angel will awaken them ; it is a tranquil slumber from which the voice of God will soon arouse Him.Plot Against the Church by Maurice Pinay 1962 1 of 4
Two passions — hatred and fear — watch round His tomb. It is covered with a huge stone and secured by the seal of the synagogue. The soldiers are on guard to prevent any secret approach. It is confidently believed that these precautions will stifle for ever in the tomb the voice of Him who had said of His body : "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again (John ii. 19). How ridiculous and foolish men make themselves when they attempt to run counter to the designs of God or to give the lie to His promises ! On the morning of the third day there is an earthquake ; an angel descends and rolls away the stone ; and the flesh of Jesus, receiving Life again by the divine power, springs forth, glorious and immortal, from the arms of Death.
Let us adore our risen Saviour! No longer is He a prisoner whom the soldiers of the synagogue and the pretorium drag about from one tribunal to another ; no longer is He the man forsaken by His Father and His friends, and complaining most touchingly of the rigors of divine justice ; no more is He the condemned man whom all insult who dare address Him ; no longer is he the man covered with wounds and become like a leper whose aspect is fearful to look upon ; nor is He any more the dead body which His afflicted Mother enshrouded with reverent hands and saw laid in a sepulchre. Now He is free, joyous, triumphant, radiant, immortal. Let us, with the Psalmist, sing to the Lord : " Thou hast broken my bonds, and I will offer to Thee a sacrifice of praise." Thou hast not forgotten the Just One in His tomb, "nor hast Thou allowed Thy Holy One to see corruption." With St. Paul we will cry out : " O death ! where is thy victory ? O death ! where is thy sting?" (1 Cor. xv.) "Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall have no more dominion over Him ; for in that He liveth, He liveth to God" (Rom. vi.) Let us sing these canticles of joy and then turn our thoughts upon ourselves.
This great mystery includes for us a lesson, a figure, and a promise.
The ineffable joy and glory of the Resurrection have been purchased at the price of most horrible sufferings. It was inevitable. It is our Saviour Himself who tells it to those who, like the disciples of Emmaus, might be scandalized or weakened on account of His Passion : " Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to have entered into His glory ? " (Luke xxiv.) Now, the road of soldiers must be the same as that travelled by their leader. Enlisted under the banner of Jesus Christ, we cannot hope to attain the incorruptible glory and unalloyed happiness, promised by Almighty God, through the broad pathway of pleasure and enjoyment, which is unhappily too much frequented. Jesus did not take that road. It was the rough way of sorrow and pain, in which we can easily trace His bloody foot- steps, that conducted Him to eternal honors. It was the cross He bore and on which He died that opened the gates of heaven, barred and bolted against the luxury of worldlings. The motto of every Christian ought to be : "Let me suffer, O Lord ! in this life, that I may live eternally in the next."
This is the lesson of the Resurrection.
There is in it also a symbol or figure. The mystery of the Resurrection is a lively figure of the spiritual transformation which ought to take place in each of us. Sin is death. It is the tomb in which the captive soul sleeps a fatal sleep. The enemy takes all manner of precautions to prevent its awakening. Yet he cannot prevent the voice of God from reaching even this sepulchre of the sinful soul. " Arise," says that voice, " thou who sleepest ; arise from the dead. Christ will enlighten thee " (Ephes. v.) At the first sound of that voice let us rise from sin. We may never hear it more. Death long continued will breed corruption.
But how will I rise ? How break the cords that tie me down ? How roll away the heavy stone that is laid over me ? How break the inveterate habits and the shameful laxity of the will, which is weakened so much by its many consents to sin ? Courage, Christian ! In the figure just given there is a promise. For us Christ died, and " for our justification He rose again." The divine virtue of His glorified humanity will one day bring together the scattered dust of our bodies, and will make our flesh, dissolved in death, live again eternally incorrupt ; but at present He addresses Himself to the soul especially to draw it from sin to justice, and to give it strength to " walk in the pathway of a blessed newness of life."
I count on Thee, O my adorable Master ! Have pity on me ! I am dead, or at least I feel myself dying day by day ; for it is not life that languishes in tepidity. In virtue of Thy blessed Resurrection enable me to rise from the tomb of my failings. Create, O Lord ! a new spirit within me, so that, penetrated with Thy light, disengaged from the influences of the flesh, active and alert in good works, and bent upon the perfection of my life, I may live henceforth only for Thee, as Thou livest only for God.
THE ASCENSION — JESUS IN HEAVEN.LET us go to Mount Olivet. Thither Jesus brings His disciples for the last time. He recalls to their minds their divine mission, confirms the powers conferred upon them, again promises the Holy Spirit, gives them His blessing, bids them adieu, and rises towards heaven. The hearts of the apostles, divided between grief and wonder, follow with their eyes their adorable Master, who is leaving them, and whom they will never see again on earth. A bright cloud intercepts their view of the triumphant humanity of their Saviour, but they continue to look towards the heavens whither He had ascended. Now they understand all ; and their hearts, so recently gross and carnal, break all earthly chains.
Let us with them raise our hearts to heaven. Sursum corda ! If Jesus leaves us He does not forget us, nor does He abandon us to our exile without hope. His going is not to put an immense distance between His glory and our misery ; it is to prepare a place for us : " I go to prepare a place for you " (John xiv. 2). This is His promise ; can we suppose He will not keep it?
O Jesus, our only love! we have need of hearing this good word fall from Thy adorable lips to console us in Thy absence. Thou goest to prepare a place for us; is this world, therefore, not our most suitable home? Ah ! no. It is too full of troubles to give that joy to the heart to which it aspires; it is too narrow to satiate the immensity of our desires ; it is too uncertain to give us any assurance of eternal possession, the idea of which is inseparable from all our dreams of happiness. The eternal life of God, His infinite perfections, the perfect love of God, the boundless space which His immensity fills — this is the "length and breadth and depth" of which St. Paul speaks; this is the place to which we should direct our course and in which we should anchor our bark of life, the place which Jesus went to prepare for us.
He is there indeed. It is our humanity that triumphs in his person and sits at the right hand of God. Even if we were not called to a participation in His glory and beatitude we ought to be anxious to know where it is and to register His victory in our human records. If he belongs to God He belongs to us also; if He is of the divine substance He is also of our flesh and blood, and we may well declare with a holy doctor: " Where a part of me reigns, I believe I reign also; where my flesh is glorified, I am glorified; where my blood is king, I too am king."
But listen, Christian! Jesus does not wish to reduce you to the sterile honor of knowing His triumph. By His ascension He enters into the bosom of God the Father, not as a delegate, but as a precursor of humanity. This is the expression of St. Paul in his sixth chapter to the Hebrews. The precursor prepares the way for those who follow Him, and the place in which they are to rest after the fatigue of the journey. The precursor puts all things in order; He waits for His friends and calls them in. But how much more certain and efficacious His office is when, instead of being a servant merely, He is master of those for whom He prepares a place, and master of the place as well!
Christ, our precursor, is all this. Let us consider carefully the words of the apostle. He teaches us that Christ asserted our rights by His very presence in the bosom of God. For we are His property, and He has a right to enter into heaven with what belongs to Him. " He is our head; we are the body and members of that head." But where the head is, there likewise ought to be the body and the members. But Jesus would be our precursor only half-way if, by His action, He did not put us in condition to realize our lights — that is to say, if He did not prepare God to receive us and did not prepare us to take possession of God.
He is our priest "for ever"; or, in other words, He presents eternally to God the most sacred gifts that humanity has to offer, and to humanity the most sacred gifts of God. Our acts of religion would never have penetrated this sanctuary, in which they ought to mark out a place for us, if they did not pass through the hands of Jesus Christ. And if we return to God after our transgression, our repentance is only acceptable because "we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Just." If the groans of our misery or the expressions of our love are heard in heaven it is because Jesus appropriates them; for "He lives only to intercede for us.' He shows to the Father the marks of His glorious wounds, and makes His blood plead more strongly than that of Abel.
O God! Thou canst not resist this strong cry. It must be that Thou permittest us to mark our places in the sacred tabernacles which Thou fillest with Thy blessedness. This is the will of my Lord Jesus; and in preparing Thee to receive us He prepares us to take possession of Thee. The incarnate Word, humbled and annihilated in the days of His life on earth, became on the day of His ascension the inexhaustible treasury of the gifts of God. "Christ, ascending on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men" (Ephes. iv. 8). Thus it is that the remedies of our faults, the succor of our weakness, the light of our darkness, the solace of our pains, the impulses towards good, all descend into our souls to make them worthy of God, whom we ought to possess. He extends His benign influence even to our corruptible flesh, which He prepares for the resurrection.
O Christian! meditate upon this glorious and consoling mystery. Never more turn to creatures as the end of your life. This world is not your resting-place. Honors, riches, pleasures, human affections are unworthy of a great and generous soul. Look to your Leader and Precursor; have confidence in His divine ministry; abandon yourself to His holy grace; raise your heart to heaven. Sursum corda!
THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY GHOST — THE SPIRIT OF JESUS.
THE apostles were assembled together in one place, awaiting in recollection and prayer the effect of the promises of Jesus. For He had said: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself ; that where I am you also may be. . . . And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete [comforter or advocate], that He may abide with you for ever ; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not nor knoweth Him ; but you shall know Him, because He shall abide with you and be with you " (John xiv. 3, 16, 17). Ten days after the Ascension of our Lord a mighty event took place. It was the fulfillment of the promise, and is thus recorded in the Acts of the Apostles : And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them cloven tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon each one of them ; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak" (Acts ii.)
O wonderful prodigy ! But a moment ago these men were ignorant and could not clearly understand the doctrine of their Master; now they possess a full knowledge of the most sublime truths. At one moment they express themselves in a weak and stammering manner; the next they are filled with a marvelous eloquence. At one moment they are weak and timid even to the extent of cowardice — they hide themselves, so as not to be involved in the misfortunes of their Master ; the next they come forth boldly, and fearlessly proclaim their faith and love, and this, too, before a people who load them with injuries and drag them before, their tribunals. They seem at one moment ungrateful and almost without hope; the next they are devoted to the words of their Master, even unto death. Now they are sad and downcast ; all at once their hearts abound in hope and joy. What has happened ? The Holy Ghost, having descended from heaven, has brought to perfection in the souls of the disciples the spirit and form of the Christian life, which until now were only in a crude, inchoative state. This is His special mission. The holy Fathers have sometimes called Him the " perfective force."
Learn from this, O Christian soul ! that the effusion of the Holy Spirit is as necessary for thy salvation as is the application of the blood and merits of Jesus Christ. " The end of man, which is to see God and possess Him eternally, is beyond the powers of nature," says St. Thomas of Aquin ; " our reason cannot conduct us to it, if its natural movement does not bring to its aid the instinct and motion of the Spirit of God. 9 ' It is so necessary for us that without it we possess only the rudiments of the Christian and supernatural life.
Jesus, the divine Architect, makes of our souls His temples, having purified them with His precious blood. It is the Holy Ghost who consecrates us in marking us with His character, and conferring upon us the unction of His love and the illumination of His gifts. Pentecost is therefore, in the Church, a universal and perpetual festival. Our baptism is a pentecost; our confirmation is a pentecost. Besides this, as St. Thomas teaches, the divine Paraclete returns constantly in His secret visits, to illuminate, strengthen, and beautify with His gifts the souls of the just.
But let us hear attentively the word of God : " The Lord does not come in times of disturbance " (3 Kings xix.) We must have peace in our souls ; we must remove the agitation of vain thoughts and of vain desires, if we would receive the Spirit of God. Let us await His coming, like the apostles, in recollection and prayer.
It is not likely that God will surprise us by sudden visits of His light and grace ; in the ordinary workings of His providence He only sends His Holy Spirit to us when we say with earnest fervor : Come ! Veni Sancte Spiritus !
Let us invoke Him, then, in the dark night of temptation, in the agony of doubt. When, enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and drawn on by the glare of creatures, our uncertain spirit asks for the truth to guide it ; and when, desirous of the knowledge and light of faith, we desire to penetrate the divine mysteries, let us invoke the Holy Spirit, for he is indeed the " Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge."
When we are moved to determine and fix our vocation in life, when we are about to perform some work in which our consciences are deeply concerned, or if it is our duty to direct. souls in the ways of God, let us invoke the " Spirit of counsel."
When we feel the love of God languish in our hearts, or even when we are moved by a holy zeal and we wish to love God with good effect, let us invoke the Holy Spirit, for He is truly the " Spirit of piety ."
When the power of evil attacks us and the world persecutes us, when passion torments us, and when sorrow oppresses us, let us earnestly call Him to our assistance, for He is the " Spirit of fortitude."
When the abyss of sin is open before us and ready to engulf us, let us invoke Him with all our strength, for He is the "Spirit of the fear of the Lord,"
In all our sufferings let us invoke Him, for He is indeed the Paraclete — the Comforter.
Against the slavery of all evil habits that weigh down the will let us invoke Him, for " where the Spirit of God is, there is true liberty."
Has He come ? Then let us meet Him with attention, vigilance, and profound respect. Let us not "'grieve the Spirit of God by our faults and imperfections."
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN — JESUS AT THE TOMB OF HIS MOTHER.MARY languished waiting anxiously many years for the blessed day that would reunite Her with Her Son. It came at length. Her lamp of life was peacefully extinguished in the home of the beloved disciple, St. John, surrounded by other apostles, whose messages she bore to heaven. A virgin sepulchre received the mortal remains of the spotless Virgin. It was the mysterious cradle soon to be visited by the Author of life. Sleep on, dear Blessed Mother, sleep on, whilst the infant Church mourns around thy grave !
Soon one of the disciples desired to see again His Mother's face, and to kiss the blessed hand that had caressed the Saviour of the world. The tomb was opened, but the immaculate body was not there ; instead of it were found roses and lilies of the sweetest perfume — a fitting symbol of her perfections and virtues.
Thus a miracle is performed in the silent shade of the tomb. Jesus, from the highest heavens contemplating the spotless body which was the tabernacle of His humanity, repeated the words of the prophet : " Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption." He applies it to His holy Mother ; He will not suffer Her to feel the corruption of the grave. Mary slumbers in death, as Her Son once did, but He awakes Her with these loving words of the Canticles : "Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. The winter is now past ; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land ; the time of pruning is come ; the voice of the turtle is heard. The fig-tree has put forth her green figs ; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. . . . Come from Libanus, where the incorruptible cedars grow. Come and be crowned." *
* Antiphon of the Assumption.
Mary can neither rise nor ascend to heaven of Her own power, but the Author of life extends to Her His omnipotent force, places His angels at Her service, and they bear Her to Her home in heaven.
To us poor mortals the privilege of incorruption in the tomb does not belong. Wretched children of Adam, defiled, from the first moment of our existence, by original sin, unfaithful to the grace of our regeneration, frequently guilty of sin after having been pardoned, we have opened to death all the avenues of life. Death entered with sin and has written on our flesh this terrible word : Corruption ! Nothing escapes its cruel tooth. The skin, gradually eaten away, soon disappears entirely, leaving only a dry skeleton ; and this, too, silently crumbling into dust, is mingled with the surrounding earth by the grave-digger's spade when he is preparing a place for other dead bodies. This is the end of all.
Let us not be terrified, however, at our nothingness. Men may seek for us in vain ; but the all-seeing eye of God follows through the mazes of nature the wanderings of the particles which once composed our bodies. When the world shall have finished its course the Author of life will visit the empire of death, and with His sovereign voice will address the elements of which human bodies were once constituted, saying : " Unite, arise, come." Then the bones of each human being shall be recomposed, and the flesh shall recover the texture and color by which it was once before known. This is a certain truth.
And it is no less certain that our resurrection will be the same as our death. It will be glorious or ignominious, it will be for eternal joy or eternal sorrow, according as our death shall have been in justice or sin.
Let us meditate seriously on these truths ; and whilst we carry about with us our bodies as vessels made by the divine hand for honor, and destined to receive from the same hand a new existence which no inimical force can destroy, let us take good care not to make of them objects of almost idolatrous attention which cannot save them from the ravages of time or the corruption of the grave. If to-day we hear the forebodings of death, if we are saddened by our infirmities, if our thoughts are gloomy and dark, if the perfection of our souls is retarded or burdened with the weight of our bodies, let us not repine. Patience ! Patience ! One day this poor companion of the soul will rise immortal, incorruptible, brighter than the stars of heaven, obedient to the commands of the soul which will impart to it a wonderful agility. If the body presses us with gross demands, and even incites to sin, we must inexorably repress it. We must preserve ourselves from all defilement by wise precautions, strong resolutions, and salutary chastisements. The more we resemble in the flesh the unsullied flesh of our Holy Mother, the more resplendent will be the glory of our resurrection.
THE CORONATION OF THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN — JESUS THE REMUNERATOR.
HEAVEN is opened. Our Most Holy Mother, invited by Her Son, triumphantly enters in. " Come and be crowned,’ our Saviour says to Her. Let us assist in spirit at this coronation. It is the eternal consecration of all the virtues, of all the dolors of Mary. It is the recompense which confers upon Her the greatest power ever before imparted to a creature. All the kings of Judah gather round their well-beloved daughter. " David dances for joy ; the angels and archangels unite with Israel's sweet singer to chant the praises of their Queen. The virtues proclaim Her glory ; the principalities, powers, and dominations exult with joy ; the thrones felicitate Her who was the living and immaculate throne of the Most High. The cherubim salute Her in a canticle of praise, and the seraphim declare Her glory," says St. John Damascene. Finally Jesus comes, and, amid the plaudits of the whole Court of Heaven, places a crown on the brow of His Most Blessed Mother.
Jesus forgets nothing. All is crowned in Mary : Her thoughts, Her desires, Her actions, Her virtues, Her merits — even Her privileges, of which She had rendered Herself most worth by Her constant correspondence with the admirable designs of God. The feast of the Coronation is a feast of justice.
Christian soul, this feast of justice ought to rejoice your heart ! It is your Mother is honored, it is your Mother's triumph ; and Her triumph teaches us that we have a just God in heaven, who, when the day of remuneration comes, will remember all. Therefore what signify the difficulties, sorrows, languors, and tribulations of our short lives ? "For the rest there is laid up for us a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will bestow upon us in that day" (2 Tim. iv.) O senseless souls who run after earthly goods, can you say this of the world you seem to adore or of the rulers of the world ? They promise riches, pleasures, celebrity, love. Your whole soul is held in a state of tension by the toys of imagination, covetous desires, or other passions ; your senses themselves are disturbed, your health is injured, your life is filled with intrigues, troubles, and meannesses. Humble yourselves, throw away earthly cares, else you will never be able to say, with the noble and fervent confidence of the true Christian : " There is laid up for me a crown." Crowns of gold or of roses, of honor or affection, often slip from your grasp just when you think you hold them most securely. And if you were able to obtain at once all the crowns of the world, you must bring them at last before the "just Judge," who will, with pitiless hand, tear them from your brow and throw them down to rot where you received them. We cannot carry with us to heaven useless or hurtful ornaments. Our crown in heaven — our true crown — will remain eternally on our brow and will never fade. "And when the Prince of pastors shall appear you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory " (1 Peter v. 4).
Feed yourself, then, O my soul ! on these deep and consoling thoughts. The all-just Rewarder of all faithful souls sees you and knows you. Despise the vain objects of worldlings and cling to the road that brings you to a crown of glory. It is a rough and difficult road. You will have to overcome obstacles, to leap over more than one abyss, to avoid ambuscades(def. attack from an ambush.), to fight the enemy, to repair reverses and even defeats. Courage ! Courage ! All your marches, all your efforts, all your labors and combats are in God's keeping : " For the rest there is laid up for you a crown." You will say: " If I could only march alone on the hard road leading to glory ! But no ; I must carry along with me this miserable body. It is a furnace of sin, and of sorrow too. It obscures my sight so that I cannot see clearly what I ought to see ; from it come doubts, scruples, dryness, disquietude, chagrin, and anguish. From time and from nature it receives many blows and wounds. How many are the evils, both external and internal, of our sad lives ! " Courage ! Courage ! All these are counted ; all will be crowned. At once a champion, a pilgrim, and a martyr, you will be able to say with the great Apostle of the Gentiles : " I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me at that day ; and not to me only, but to them also who love His coming " (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8).
The four Audiobook-Parts contain:
(1 of 4) : Beginning -- Part 3, Chapter 8
(2 of 4) : Part 3, Chapter 9 -- Part 4, Chapter 15
(3 of 4) : Part 4, Chapter 16 -- Part 4, Chapter 27
(4 of 4) : Part 4, Chapter 28 -- End
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|Date||Liturgical Schedule||August 1:||
Saint Peter's Chains
Commemoration of the Seven Brothers Machabees
Saint Alphonsus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Commemoration of Saint Stephen I., Pope and Martyr
Blessed Jane of Aza, Mother of Saint Dominic, OP Rite
Invention Of Saint Stephen, Protomartyr
Saint Dominic, Confessor
Our Holy Father, Saint Dominic, OP Rite
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Our Lady Of The Snow
The Transfiguration Of Our Lord
Same day.—Saint Sixtus II., Pope and Martyr, and Saints Felicissimus And Agapitus, Martyrs
Saint Cajetan, Confessor
Commemoration of Saint Donatus, Bishop and Martyr
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart (First Friday)
Saints Cyriacus, Largus, And Smaragus, Martyrs
Blessed Augustine of Lucera, Bishop and Confessor OP Rite
Vigil Of Saint Laurence. — Saint Romanus, Martyr
Blessed John of Salerno, Confessor OP Rite
Saint Laurence, Deacon and Martyr |
Second Day Within The Octave Of Saint Laurence—Saints Tiburtius And Susanna, Martyrs
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Saint Clare, Virgin
Saint Radegonde, Queen of France |
Commemoration of Saints Hippolytus and Cassian, Martyrs
Vigil Of The Assumption |
Commemoration of Saint Eusebius, Confessor
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Saint Hyacinth, Confessor
Saint Hyacinth, Confessor OP Rite
Saint Roch, Confessor
The Octave Day Of Saint Laurence |
Blessed Emily Bicchieri, Virgin, OP Rite
Fourth Day Within The Octave Of The Assumption
Commemoration of Saint Agapitus, Martyr
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifth Day Within The Octave Of The Assumption
Saint Bernard, Abbot, Doctor of the Church |
Saint Jane Frances Fremiot DeChantal, Widow |
The Octave Day Of The Assumption
Commemoration of Saints Timothy, Hippolytus, and Symphorian, Martyrs
Saint Philip Benizi, Confessor
Blessed John of Mevania, Confessor, OP Rite
Saint Bartholomew, Apostle |
Saint Louis, King of France, Confessor
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost |
Saint Joseph Calansanctius, Confessor
Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church |
Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church OP Rite
Commemoration of Saint Hermes, Martyr
Decollation of Saint John the Baptist
Commemoration of Saint Sabina, Martyr
Saint Rose of Lima, Virgin
Saint Rose of Lima, Virgin OP Rite
Saints Felix and Audactus, Martyrs
Saint Raymund Nonnatus, Confessor