There is no pulpit more solemn than the death-bed. Every word spoken from it is a text from which many useful sermons might be preached. The dying Christian is to us as a prophet, an apostle, and martyr. In his pangs are our own foretold, in his faith we are taught how to preach Christ, in his submission an example is set us how to lay down our lives for the Lord. He who is passing away then has no need as other preachers have to conciliate his hearers, for the circumstance of his being are of themselves enough to arrest attention without the help of any of the tricks of art.
The faltering voice struggling to bid its last farewell, or to breathe a word of comfort, or to give a last advice, appeals to our hearts with an eloquence all its own. It is you know as the sun is setting that it throws its richest and most mellow tints upon the surrounding landscape, and it is as man is sinking into his grave that he utters his sweetest and most tender words to those who are met around him. And hence, brethren, it is that we cross the threshold of the dimly lighted room, to bend in stillness over the bed of him whose limbs are straightening for the grave, we strain to read in the thin white face every secret it has to tell, and, as we wipe away the dampness on his brow, we gaze intently upon the quivering lips, so only we may interpret what messages they fain would breathe, what prayer they struggle to pray.
If such be our attitude for the most part in the presence of any one whose life is passing away, more particularly is it so when he who is struggling with death is some dear friend or relative, a wife, a child, our father or mother. Then no distance is thought too long to travel, provided only we may be by in the hour of their extremity, and lend them our loving aid.
To-day, brethren, we have left our homes and occupation to meet around the death-bed of One Who is no mere kinsman, neighbour, or friend to us, but Who is nearer and dearer far to our hearts than wife or child, father or mother, for is not Jesus Christ moreover our Redeemer and our Life, our God our All? Into whose sweet face but His can we look up and say, "What have I in Heaven, and, besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth?" In less than three hours that adored face will be shrouded with the mantle of death.
And was there ever such a death-bed scene as this which we are witnessing? Instead of the comforts of home, see, He is exposed to the rude, rough blasts of curly Cavalry's hill-top; instead of a comfortable bed, He is forced to lie on the roughhewn cross; for a pillow, there is a crown of thorns, and through His sacred hands, in which we would place an image of His Blessed Mother, they have driven iron nails, transfixing them like His feet to the hard cold wood of the Cross.
Well may we wonder why the birds of the air do not hover round to make a canopy over His Head, why the beasts do not rush forth from the forests to lend their warm furs to cover His Body, stripped of its clothing, and defiled with wounds and blood and spittle.
Abandoned by His Father, betrayed by one disciple, left by the rest, yelled at by the rabble, with Priest and Scribe, and Jew and Gentile, vying with one another in their jeers and taunts at Him, Jesus is hanging between earth and Heaven with no one to comfort Him in His hour of shame. "I looked for one who would comfort Me, and I found none."
His Blessed Mother, yes, she of course is here, but her sorrow does but serve to add to His. Where then are they to whom He restored their sight, why are they not by to offer Him their tears of sympathy? And they to whom He miraculously gave the use of speech, why are not they at hand to proclaim His innocence? And the five thousand whom He fed in the desert, why have not they come with balm to stanch His wounds, and draughts to slake His thirst? Where is the Ruler and Nicodemus, Lazarus and Zacchaeus? Of all these thousands to whom He lovingly ministered in life, can only a few women, with the ardent John, be found to accompany the broken-hearted Mother to His deathbed?
Oh, my brethren, it is the same old story all the world over. Men will follow Jesus when there are loaves and fishes to be had, but not when He calls them to share His shame and to lend Him the comfort of their sympathy and love. We at least will keep by Him to the very last, and as we fix our eyes upon His bleeding face, and drink in with reverence and with love every word He has to say, we will apply them, each of them, as if they were spoken, as they will be, for our own individual hearts. For, remember this, brethren, if Jesus is our model in life, still more so is He our model in death. If each of us must learn a lesson from Him in His crib at Bethlehem, in His home at Nazareth, in the Temple at Jerusalem, under temptation in the desert, in His prayer in the garden, most of all must we learn from Him in His death on Calvary. For we all have to die, and without the example of His death, Who sanctified by the pains of His Body and the anguish of His mind which He then endured, all the trouble which will gather round our souls in the hour of our extremity, I know not how we can hope to promise ourselves a happy death.
You all want your lives to be crowned by a happy death; your very presence here to-day is itself a proof of it. Let me then ask you to put away from your hearts all distracting thoughts during these precious hours, and at the foot of the Cross now ask through the Angel of the Agony, through the sorrows of the Mother, by the merit of the five wounds, and the seven words, that we may every one of us learn from our Lord's death-bed, how to live our lives so as to die our deaths in union with Christ upon the Cross.
I.—FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.The first hour of the three begins. The noise of the nailing is over, the Cross has been raised and let down with a jolt into the place prepared for it. Between earth and heaven Jesus is hanging on the Cross, pierced in His hands and feet by iron nails. Around Him, and rending the air with their yells, stand the rabble mob, the soldiers, the scribes, and the priests. By His side His Mother takes her place, and there she will remain till the work of death is done. She has glanced up at the Bleeding Face, and thought it more beautiful and precious to her now than ever it looked as it reposed in sleep in years gone by upon her bosom, and she longs to hear the accents of His sweet familiar voice once more before He dies.
But Jesus is holding ineffable communion with the Father. He is pleading with Him for these very murderers from whom He is suffering most of all, but that Father has asked what excuse can be found for the sin of crucifixion. The Sacred Heart has invented an excuse, and now Jesus breaks the silence—not to breathe a word of comfort to the Mother, not to thank the virgin John that he at least is loyal to His Master, no not to assuage the sorrow of Magdalen sobbing at His feet. Oh, no! His prayer all along has been for those who needed most His mediation. He from the first has forgiven every sin and sinner, and now that His Sacred Heart has found an excuse which with the Father must have weight, He looks up and prays aloud, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Look up at your Elder Brother, does He not seem to say, Father, though now I cannot bend my knees before you, nor lift my outstretched arms, now bow my Head in prostrate adoration, yet here on my hard bed of the Cross I ask you, if you love your Son, to hear my dying prayer. I am He of whom it is written, " He shall call upon Me, and I will hear Him." It is not for myself I now am pleading, I will drink the chalice to the very dregs, I will stay upon My bed of pain till My work of life is done. Spare not Me, for I am laden with the sins of all, but pity those for whom I am offering up My death. No longer do I ask you if it is possible, but I claim as My right as your only Son that you will ratify in Heaven the pardon I now extend to every sinner on the earth. Oh, pardon every sin and sinner ere I breathe My last.
Oh, notice, brethren, the loving tenderness of the excuse accompanying this—"They know not what they do."
Jesus has clearly before His failing sight the hearts of each one of us, He has looked it through and through if perchance some spark of love Divine might therein be found, and He has found so little, that He has been forced to frame an excuse for our sins which none but His love could dare to offer to the outraged majesty of His Father. It is the only excuse left.
Oh, beautiful unending prayer, true of every sinner! No one knows what he does when he gives way to sin. Oh, eloquent appeal, pleading with force as strong upon the love of our poor wayward hearts, as it does efficaciously upon the mercy of His Father.
But, brethren, can it really be said that we know not what we do when we sin? Has God condemned the rebel host, and opened up the deep pit, and visited upon His the chastisement our sins deserve, and yet can it be said we know not what we do? Did not Cain know what he did when he murdered his elder brother? Did not Solomon know what he did when he abandoned himself to his vices? Did not Peter, and Judas, and Pilate, and Herod, and Priests and Scribes, and Jews and Gentiles, know what they did in the hour of the power of darkness? Do not you know what you do when you deliberately sit down to sin —plan your sins—rush into the occasions of sin, and are greedy to find out new methods of sinning? Can young men feel their life wasting away under the ravages brought on by their long continued habits of sin, and it be said they know not what they do?
No, my brethren, truely none of us know what we do. Surely if it were given us to understand the frightful enormity, the hideous malice of a single mortal sin, if we could see but for one moment what a revolting object a soul is that is steeped in one mortal sin, no power in the world would be ever strong enough to induce us to give way again. But now we have heard the loving excuse made for us from the dying lips of our agonizing Brother, we ought to be persuaded that this very knowledge, that the malice of sin is past our comprehension, will make up a great part of the enormity of our sin if ever we come to fall again. But for you, brethren, it is enough to look upon the work of sin as you see it in the condition to which it has brought the Son of sinless Mary, to fill your souls with a horror of the past and resolutions of amendment for the future. This, then, remember. The day is not far distant when you too will be face to face with death. It will then be all-important for you to bear in your hearts no malice, grudge, or bitterness towards friend or foe. For what at that hour would profit you, your protests of love for God, if you will not forgive those He forgives and loves, if you will not find some excuse for what may have been their cruelty towards you. In the measure we forgive those that trespass against us, we ourselves will be forgiven our trespasses against our Father.
But some of you may say, How can I forgive such an one who has robbed me of my good name, injured my reputation, or kept from me what was my due? If there be any one here present so minded, any one who still bears rancour in his heart, let him argue with himself as he might with some dear friend whom he knew to be about to appear before his Judge in these dispositions. Take up your crucifix, and fixing your eyes upon the mangled Body of your Saviour, ask yourself what was the first word of the seven uttered by those dying lips upon the Cross. And then turn to your own black heart. Say, Have my enemies treated me as cruelly, as savagely, as I myself have treated Jesus my Saviour? Where are the nails piercing my hands, digging my feet? Does a thorny crown press upon my head? Where are the wounds and scars upon my body, inflicted by the thongs and the scourge?—and you will exclaim, Not a hair of my head have they touched, not one drop of my blood have they shed. No, but they have spoken evil against me. And was it before impious judges in open court that they bore false witness? Have they dragged me through the streets, to be hissed and hooted at by the rabble? Was it on my death-bed that they gathered round in throngs to assail me with their foul-mouthed villainies.
Oh, dear brethren, if instead of hugging our grievances, of pondering over our real and imaginary wrongs till we magnify them beyond all measurement, we would but learn quietly and patiently to compare them with what our dear Lord has had to put up with from our own selves, they would dwindle into insignificance, and we should rejoice that we had something to suffer which made us more Christ-like.
Besides, we may always ask ourselves, What good have I done to men that they should treat me better than our Lord was treated? Have I spent my life in setting good example, in being a model of every virtue? On the contrary, have I not gone about spreading discord, doing evil myself, and setting others an example of sin?
For if men could read on our foreheads the true story of our life, as Jesus Christ reads it written in our hearts, how many friends should we have remaining to us? Would there be one besides Him and His Mother?
Oh, make your dying Brother this promise, before we pass on to consider the second word, that never will you lie down to rest at night with rancour gnawing at your heart, that if you can find no excuse for the evil done you, you will offer up His first word, and say it in His dispositions: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Then, brethren, when your turn shall come to lie down to rise no more, this same disposition will reign in your heart. And then in your extremity Jesus Christ will offer up this same kind prayer for you, and all your sins will be wiped away, and you will die with Christ upon the Cross.
2.—THIS DAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.
On Calvary there are three crosses. On the middle one hangs the mangled body of the King of the Jews, on the other two are writhing two thieves, one on the right hand of Jesus, and one on the left. These two men are known to us by the names of the good thief and the bad thief. As we look upon this strange and awful sight of Jesus on His Cross between these two outcasts of society, we are natality led to think of another day when the Son of Man will appear with this same sign of the Cross in the clouds of heaven, and shall summon to His right hand and on His left all those who to-day are represented by the good and by the wicked thief. Then Jesus will appear on His throne of justice as now on His throne of mercy. Now His one long-continued prayer is for mercy upon His enemies, and if we could enter into the hearts of these two culprits who are undergoing their deserved chastisement, we might then learn how Divine Pity is busy at its work. Grace, like flights of angels, has come down from the mercy-seat, and now hovers over these two human hearts, wooing them to repent and apply the merits of Christ's prayer to their sin-stained souls. Even grace may do no more than this. Though with its ineffable beauty it may lure men to repent, though by the whisperings of its sweet voice it may plead with strangely beautiful eloquence, it may put no constraint upon the freedom of man's will, it may not catch us by main force from the bondage of sin into love's pure liberty. Though God made us without our cooperation, He will not save us unless we will it. What new triumph of grace can the angels record this day? Will these two criminals, whose singular privilege it is to die in the very presence of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, accept the grace offered to them, sweetly urged upon them by the words of the Son and the tears of the Mother? Listen, brethren, for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. What say the robbers? He who is on the left of the Holy One of Israel speaks first. And oh, must I say it—to utter blasphemies against his Lord. "If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us "—is the only answer he has to make to grace. But, blessed be God, he on the right rebukes his fellow-criminal, saying to him, " Neither dost thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same condemnation, and we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man hath done no evil" Thus speaks, in his last agony, a robber, one who by profession is a highwayman, a man with seared conscience, without instruction, now delivered over by Divine Justice into the hands of human justice. In a moment, quicker than I can tell you, his mind is given to see that to revile our Lord in His shame is to be void of the fear of God, that to bear his own in union with Christ is to atone for his past sins. He confesses his own guilt, preaches the Divine innocence of Jesus, and of an unbeliever becomes a confessor of the faith, of a criminal becomes a glorious martyr. Oh, the unction of his contrition, the wonders of his confidence!
"Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom." And Jesus lifts His drooping head, and turning His gracious eyes upon His own repentant sinner, says to him with melting tenderness, " This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." If the humble request of the contrite Dymas is full of confidence, the promise made by his dying Lord is the answer of One Who had come to call not the just but sinners. Poor Dymas, the picture of his past sinful life stood out before him in all its frightful hideousness, and he saw no means of making reparation. He had but a few more hours of life, and then he must appear before another tribunal more searching far than any judgment-seat on earth, and even were his sins to be blotted out in the Blood of his Saviour, he felt his past life had been barren of all good, and he therefore throws himself on his Lord's goodness, pleading " Lord, remember me." Repentant, stricken sinner ! never, Dymas, didst thou know before how loving is that Heart thou hadst pierced so often, or surely thou wouldst have offended less. The three hours' companionship of Christ upon the Cross taught thee more theology than we learn in our lives.
Brethren, the whole Gospel narrative bristles with the wondrous deeds wrought by Jesus Christ, but this sweet incident told of the triumph of Jesus in His death over a criminal undergoing the sentence of death is without its parallel. So long as there is life there is hope for the worst of us.
But if this beautiful death-bed conversion teaches us never to despair, the equally dreadful obstinacy in sin of the other thief may well make us tremble with fear. Oh, the frightful evil consequences of resistance to the voice of grace, of putting off repentance till the hour of death; for we are not likely to have such wondrous supernatural helps then as the wicked thief had offered him. We shall not have the example of Dymas; not the presence of Jesus seen with our bodily eyes; not the audible accents of His sweet voice urging us to repent; not the quick-falling tears of His gentle disconsolate Mother.C Remember this every day of your lives: grace is waiting to find admittance into your heart. If you resist it in life, what reason have you to believe you will cooperate with it in death? Let me beg of you, as you love your souls, never to lie down to rest with grace still knocking at your heart; let in the angel messenger and chase away the evil one before you fall to sleep, lest some night you wake up as others have, to find yourself hopelessly lost and for ever. Do not flatter yourselves that you may live without Jesus and then find His mercy in death. May we all remember we too are thieves; we have robbed God of His glory; we have stolen from Him and given to others the praise, the reverence, and the service which He alone had the right to claim. And death is already upon our track. And as the detective will lay hold of the thief when he thinks himself most secure, so death will find us out when we least expect, and there is no time to put ourselves right with the outraged justice of God. Let us then, one and all, like the repentant thief, confess our sins before our crucified Lord, and ask Him to remember us; to remember us now, and each hour of our lives, not in justice but in mercy, and give us grace so to live, that when we too come at last to be stretched upon our cross—for to whom is not his death-bed a cross—we may look to hear on our severance from the body the blessed words, "Thou shalt be with me in Paradise!”
(To be continued.)
The Church of God has fierce fighting before it in the immediate future, and the Holy Father and the members of the hierarchy are principally concerned, nor can they delegate to others their exalted duties and formidable anxieties. They cannot shift the growing burden from their shoulders, but they can receive from the prayers of the faithful increase of strength to bear it. Men who bear high office in the State might feel their dignity alarmed if those beneath them in rank and power proffered their assistance unbidden, but in the Church of God the highest and the lowest are closely united in the bond of prayer. A child's prayers are worth a Pope's having, and if the Pope, from his throne, were to look down disdainfully upon simple souls in humble life as one who could not condescend to ask for help from those so far below him, he would not be worthy of his place in the house of God. St. Paul, in his Epistles,* asks the faithful to pray for him, and St. Peter, on a memorable occasion,+ received help from prayers which he had not enjoined. Therefore we need never wait to be asked, but we may pray at all times for our Holy Father and our Bishops, knowing well that they desire our prayers because it is a part of their duty to desire them.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the prayers of the faithful for their pastors were never at any time in the past more needed than they are now. There have been periods of greater apparent suffering for the children of the Church, but not of greater danger to souls. The truth seems to be that the enemy of man gains wisdom by experience. He has a greater number of willing slaves and conscious dupes now than in the days of pagan persecution or heretical violence, and his best servants have always been those who sin against light. The most uncompromising opponents of the Church are the unhappy men, counted by multitudes in France alone, who were once by their Baptism the children of God, but who, having lost first their goodness and then their hope of Heaven, have more or less successfully extinguished in their hearts the faith of early years, and envying those who still walk in its blessed radiance, devote their energies to bring to as many as possible the desolation of spirit which makes their own life unendurable. Such men are enthusiasts in the bad cause. They have chosen their part. They have said with their master: "Evil be thou my good!" Hate supplies to them a force and a singleness of purpose which charity too often fails to produce in the breasts of those who profess to belong to the standard of Jesus Christ. They are like the poor creature in the Greek fable, maddened by the sting of the gadfly which pursued her pitilessly. The torment of their apostasy is with them day and night, driving them to seek relief in perpetual motion. One object claims their whole attention. Not Carthage now, but Rome must be destroyed; for it is the memory of their lost heritage of sacramental grace within her sacred walls which constitutes that woe too great for words —the punishment in this world of a renegade. "Rome," they say, "must be destroyed." But there is One Who has said that the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Rome, in the sense in which modern pagans use the name, can never be destroyed. Every attempt in the past has recoiled, and every attempt in the future will recoil, upon the heads of those who make it. Yet the attempt is constantly renewed, and apparently with fresh hope of success each time. Herein is a wonderful thing.* The man who had been born blind opened his eyes at the bidding of Christ, but the Pharisees were only confirmed in their blindness by the evidence of the miracle. Men who do not choose to learn cannot be taught. Such, and so blind, are the men who in these our days lay sacrilegious hands on all that is consecrated to God. They are not open to conviction, they deny manifest facts, they undertake a war which can have only one result—defeat; but they cannot be turned aside from their foolish endeavour, for what they are doing they are doing in the wilful blindness of a hatred springing from despair of salvation. They serve their master well, for the very reason that they know who he is, and what he wants, for "every creature loves its like." He is the enemy of Christ, with a will fixed in impenitence. They day by day put repentance further from their thoughts. He does not delude himself with the hope of final victory, but he fights for the sake of slaying and wounding. They seek only the satisfaction of revenge, and if they cannot destroy the Church, will do her all the damage in their power. With docile agents, thus willing to concur to their own perdition, if only they may hope to drag others after them, it is no wonder that Satan can raise a "storm of darkness." And he is trying to raise such a storm as the world has not seen before. AntiChristian education laws are not so frightening to flesh and blood as the rack and the gallows, but they are far more pernicious to souls. If Satan, assisted by timeserving parents, gains his wicked will in primary education, he will banish the Crucified from the hearts of children as surely as the crucifix from the walls of their schoolroom, and anarchy and bloodshed and terrorism, soon to begin and long to continue, will reward his efforts.
* Ephes. vi. 19; Colos. iv. 3; 2 Thess. iii. I. t Acts xii. 5. * St. John ix. 30.
What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us?* The battle has still to be fought. It is no time for sitting down to weep by the rivers of Babylon. Not only can our enemies gain no final triumph, but they cannot even do us much mischief, unless we ourselves give them an indolent permission. Why have the Gentiles raged and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth have stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord, and against His Christ. . . . He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them.*The rulers of the Church of God, while they see the danger and the necessity of vigorous action, have shown no sign of timidity, have uttered no word of compromise. They stand prepared, each at his post. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? ... If armies encamped should stand against me, my heart shall not fear.* They are not afraid, and they will not allow us to fear, but it is grace alone which can give them light amid the gathering gloom, and courage to confront the hosts of Hell. Now grace comes as the answer to prayer.
We must pray for ourselves that each one among us may do his duty in the battlefield; but, in addition to these more selfish prayers, there must be once again, as when Herod cast St . Peter into prison, prayer without ceasing unto God for the Head of the Church on earth, and with him for all in every land who bear their part in the cares of spiritual government. And once more let it be most urgently declared that those who desire in the sincerity of their hearts to lend efficient aid in the tremendous struggle now so near at hand must begin by self-correction. If they have faith so as to be able to move mountains, if they give their goods to the poor and their bodies to be burned, it profits nothing, St. Paul assures them,§ unless they keep their souls in charity. Prayer is the weapon with which the victory must be won, but prayer does not consist in pronouncing forms of words. It is true that even the cry of alarm, or the expression of a vague desire of better life, is not useless, because it may help to bring repentance to one sinner's soul, but, before his prayers can be of much service to others, he must set his own house in order. Therefore, to say the least, every Catholic who lives in sin deducts a fighting man from the army of the Lord, and this at a moment of decisive action. Dull must his conscience be, and impervious to shame, who can rest undisturbed under the reproach of being a deserter from the very battlefield. We must pray for ourselves and our brethren, that as many as possible m.ay be made worthy to unite their voices with effect in the great prayer which the Church still makes without ceasing for her pastors through Mary to Jesus.
* Rom. viii. 31. t Psalm ii. 1—4. X Psalm xxvi. I, 3. § I Cor. xiii. 2, 3.
PRAYER.Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular for the prelates of Thy Church, which is assailed by numerous and powerful enemies in these days. Assist them, dear Lord, with Thy light and Thy strength, and after Thou hast given them the merit of valiant fighting, make them know the joy of victory. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
February Intention - Apostleship of Prayer
INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR JANUARY.
A REFORMATION AMONG CATHOLICS AS AN ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH.THE sympathy of Christendom is still with suffering France, where the year opens darkly. The words which usher in the time of preparation for the birth of Christ rise to our lips and hearts, "Brethren, it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep."* There is one that works in the darkness to oversow the wheat with tares. "An enemy hath done this." There is one that goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but a saint has told us that the best and the only way to escape from his fury is to confront him boldly. If we turn and flee or try to hide ourselves, his ferocity knows no bounds; if we dare him to do his worst, he shrinks from the encounter. It is idle to think of making terms with Antichrist. Perhaps it would be true to say that never since the Church reached adolescence, having extorted from the Roman Empire the right to live—never since she left the catacombs, have the rulers of the world of this darkness assailed her prerogatives with such determination to effect her ruin. Not now, at least in France, is there question of doctrine or discipline, symbols of faith, or rules of conduct, or motives of belief, but there are two great armies encamped face to face. Satan calls his principalities and powers, and bids them lead their servants to destruction in a hopeless contest . Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, meek and humble, invites all in whose breast yet lingers one thought of Heaven to range themselves without delay beneath the banner of His Sacred Heart.
* Romans xiii. II.
The infidels of France have declared their purpose. Now will we declare ours. They mean to drive the faith of Christ from the hearts of children and we mean to prevent them. They fight with the arm of flesh. They make laws and significantly allude to their power of enforcing them. Can prayers avail against rifles and bayonets? That is a question for us to consider. Prayer is avowedly the strength of our Apostleship. Can we then, in this age of hard facts, pretend that words of prayer can parry a bayonet-thrust or break the force of a cannon ball?
We who have faith in the efficacy of prayer do in sober earnest believe that prayer of the right kind is far more powerful, even in external results, than all the artillery of modern warfare. It is not that prayer by its own operation directly interposes a material obstacle, by which bullets are checked in their flight and bayonets are turned aside, but that it can change the human will, and so arrest the impending blow. The hearts of men are in God's hands, and their lives are at His disposal. He can break the froward and put down the mighty when and how He chooses. He can remove every contumacious rebel from His war-path if He chooses when He moves to victory. He can protect us. But will He do so for the asking? Yes, if we ask Him properly. He will not work alone. He demands cooperation, and He is a jealous God, not willing to accept a blemished victim, or careless workmanship, or secondary service. According to the earnestness of the cooperation offered by His creatures will be the measure of the power which He will exert for their protection. We need no other knowledge than this to awake both fear and hope in our hearts as we contemplate the great array of battle.
For the existence of the Church there can never be a moment's misgiving in the mind of a Catholic, but he may doubt whether she is to be eclipsed totally or partially in this or that region of the earth, or is to rise in her beauty and strength, scattering her enemies in the power of the Holy Name. One thing we know, and it is this, that Catholics have their fate in their own hands. Victory or defeat depends upon them alone. Our only fear in the presence of the gathering hosts of Hell is that Catholics will not be true to themselves. Our only hope is that they will see and understand, and will turn and call upon the Lord in the sincerity of their hearts.
The prayer that is needed now is the cry that pierces the clouds, the war-cry of heroic souls, strengthened from afar by the united voice of a great multitude, imploring mercy with repentance in their hearts: Parce, Domine! "Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people: and give not Thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations, Where is their God ?"* There should be, both at once, a chosen band of "Invincibles" and a whole population ready to lend support; but, if we cannot have both, then it is more necessary and also more feasible to prepare a phalanx of picked warriors, devoted and loyal, serving God with undivided hearts. This will be granted to our prayers.
God helps those who help themselves. He does not need their service from any want of power to work without them, but He requires a practical proof of their fidelity, and if they do their little best, though it be but as the widow's mite, He will raise them above themselves and make them stronger than all their enemies, who are also His. It is not necessary to dwell upon the urgency of the danger and the necessity of action. Already Catholic France is strewn with ruins. Liberties achieved by long-continued efforts, at the price of many sufferings, have been subverted in a moment, for in this world, where all things tend to quick decay, it is a much more simple task to destroy than to construct. Even to retrieve what has been lost in the last few months will not seem easy to the wisdom of the flesh, but we ask for much more than that. We ask—let it be said without disguise—for a miracle of grace. We ask with hope, for our Lord is more anxious to grant than we to solicit.
* Joel ii. 17.
But miracles are not granted to the prayers of weak and irresolute Christians, and, pray as we may and exhort as we can, it is to be feared that the great mass of Catholics will not rise to the level of heroic virtue and all-conquering prayer. Therefore, if a miracle is to be wrought, our hopes must principally rest upon the prayers of those who in the cloister or in the busy world are serving God with all their hearts. Others may and must help the good cause, but as long as they are only half determined to be good, or as long as their highest ambition is to give to their Creator just so much service as they are commanded on their salvation to give, so long their prayers will not be very powerful. They are not idle words, for no honest prayer is ever wasted, but they can only indirectly conduce to the working of a miracle. Those who are too feeble to fight can, if they do not add treason to feebleness, lend help from a distance; but faint hearts in battlefield are worse than useless, for they only make disorder in the ranks. The Associates of the Apostleship of Prayer are by the very fact of their membership pledged to an unselfish service. The interests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus they have made their own. They do not belong to the temporizing and minimizing crowd. During this month let their prayers be offered for all Catholics, that they may lead lives more worthy of their profession of faith, but let their most fervent prayers be made for souls which can be roused to generosity in the service of God, and in particular let them strive to win from the tender mercy of the Sacred Heart, with the aid of the Virgin Mother, a special gift to France of valiant warriors like the three hundred who marched with Gideon to victory,—men not simply good, but ready to sacrifice time and wealth and labour and life, to keep the lamp of faith burning in the heart of a great nation. From self-denial the strength must come. Catholics worthy of the name, Catholics who prize the gift of faith for themselves and their children beyond all that earth could offer in exchange, must nerve themselves for a more active opposition than might be needed in peaceful times to false maxims and vicious fashions. They must set their faces against light literature of the wrong sort, and amusements fit for pagans, but not such as Jesus Christ can bless. They must declare open war against the follies of the time, the theatres where immorality is taught, the dances from which Christian modesty should shrink. They must teach their sons to be more manly, not holding themselves, as too often is the case, at the mercy of any little wretch who laughs at them for saying their prayers. They must teach their daughters that Christian virgins need not conform to the latest fashion, and that they also must be independent and refuse to compromise their principles or surrender their self-respect at the bidding of silly women of the world.
The hosts of Madian and Amalec are gathering in their strength, but we march against them in the name of God. When Gideon led his twenty-two thousand men to meet "all the eastern people whose army lay scattered in the valley, as a multitude of locusts," God, Whose ways are not as our ways, instead of declaring that the Israelites could not without madness venture to offer battle with numbers so inadequate, said on the contrary that they were too numerous: The people that are with thee are many, and Madian shall not be delivered into their hands. By Divine command announcement was made to all the soldiers of Gideon's army that whoso wished might depart home unmolested. More than two-thirds of the army at once disbanded, content in their shameful cowardice to leave others to fight for their protection. Ten thousand good and earnest men refused to desert their leader. But again God thinned the ranks by a sifting process. Only three hundred out of thirty thousand were left after the application of the second test, and to these brave men and true God gave the victory. That second test to which respectable soldiers succumbed while only heroes stood firm was an act of spontaneous self-denial. Gideon was ordered to observe with attention the behaviour of his men at the crossing of a stream. Those, who though tired and thirsty were so eager to meet the enemy that, instead of stopping as the rest to drink at their ease, they hastily raised the water to their lips as they marched forward, were the selected champions of Israel.
Such should be the men who are to win from God the miraculous victory for which we pray. It is no time for half-hearted Catholicity. Sadly numerous all the world over, and in France as elsewhere, are the esprits forts, as they call themselves, the cowardly defaulters, as we should prefer to call them, who follow the example of the twenty-two thousand in the Bible narrative, and leave others to do all the work and run all the risk. Even for these we must pray that they may find a little more courage, but our prayers must be chiefly for the men of high principle and loyalty and public spirit who correspond to Gideon's ten thousand, that in their ranks our Lord may find as many as are needed to drive from the field in scattered flight and final confusion the leagued revilers of all holy things, the enemies of the Cross, the destroyers of the faith of children, the conscious tools of the Wicked One.
May God grant in answer to the prayers of many friends of the Sacred Heart the royal gift of generous, uncompromising, unflinching Catholicity, first to those upon whom in the gracious Providence of God depends the liberation of France at the present moment, and from whom by community of interests and by the contagion of example much influence for good may spread to other lands; and secondly for Catholics in England and elsewhere, inasmuch as the same storm which has burst in its fury upon our neighbours is sure to visit our own shores before its force is spent.
Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular to obtain for all Thy servants grace to render themselves worthy of the miraculous assistance which alone can save us. Make us understand, dear Lord, that we may with confidence expect all aid from Thee as soon as we have ceased to divide our hearts between Thee and Thy great enemy. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
ISRAEL UNDER THE JUDGES - BARAC- GEDEON- JEPHTE
January - Apostleship of Prayer
Rules for proper observance of Novenas
Novena for the nine days preceding the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin to commence on January 24.
Day 1 Jan 24 Day 2 Jan 25 Day 3 Jan 26 Day 4 Jan 27 Day 5 Jan 28 Day 6 Jan 29 Day 7 Jan 30 Day 8 Jan 31 Day 9 Feb 1
St. Francis de Sales and the Rosary
Translated From the French of the Annales Salesiennes
By S. F. J. F.AS a result of the beautiful Encyclicals of Leo XIII, the month of October has been definitely consecrated to the salutary devotion of the Rosary.
Originating at the time of the Albigensian crisis—true social war preluding the terrible social war of to-day— the prayer of the Rosary, according to historians, was even more active for the defeat of Satan than were the valiant arms of the Crusaders.
"Guided by this thought," said Leo XIII in his first Encyclical on the Rosary, "and by the example of our predecessors, we have believed it opportune to establish for the same cause at this time solemn prayers, and to try, by means of supplications addressed to the Blessed Virgin in the recitation of the Rosary, to obtain from her Son Jesus Christ, like help against the dangers which menace us. You see," continues the Sovereign Pontiff, "the grave trials to which the Church is daily exposed: Christian piety, public morality, faith itself, which is the supreme good and the source of all other virtues, all that is each day exposed to greater peril. * * *
We have in our time as much need of divine aid as at the epoch when the great Saint Dominic raised the standard of the Rosary of Mary with the design of checking the evils of his age. This great Saint, enlightened by a celestial ray, clearly foresaw that to cure his century no remedy would be more efficacious than that which would bring men back to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and urged them to address themselves to that Virgin, empowered to destroy all heresies, as to their patroness near God."
The Rosary appears then, to-day, as it did six centuries ago, the supreme resource of the Church and of society. It seems that it has come, with a more pressing need than ever, to replace ancient forms of social prayer which alas! are no longer to the taste of new nations. It has come at least to fill the void made larger each day by the lack of public intercession.
"If we could penetrate into the secrets of God and of history," says Donoso Cortez, "I believe that we would be filled with admiration at the amazing effects of prayer, even in human things. For the repose of society, a certain equilibrium, known only to God, must exist between prayer and action, between the contemplative and the active life. I believe, so strong is my conviction on this point, that if there were a day or an hour when earth would send up no prayer to Heaven, that day or that hour would be the last day or the last hour for humanity."
In many places the holy psalmody has ceased. Religious men and women have been banished; liturgical, official and social prayer is silenced;—at least it is constantly lessening. Now, the Holy Spirit does not wish the equilibrium to be compromised; He wishes likewise to protect for the isolated souls of our sad times, the essential of that life of prayer, of faith, of Christian virtues, formerly maintained among Christian nations by the public and repeated celebration of the great Office; and this is the part confided henceforth ' to the humble chaplet.
Undoubtedly, long before the thirteenth century popular piety made us of what has been called the “lay psalter,” namely, the Angelic Salutation repeated one hundred and fifty times, but it was the dividing of the Ave Marias into decades, ascribing the consideration of a particular mystery for each, which constituted the Rosary. Divine expedient, simple as the Eternal Wisdom which had conceived it, and of such great capacity; for at the same time as it drew to the Queen of Mercy misled humanity, it turned aside ignorance, fosterer of heresy, and taught anew the “paths consecrated by the Man-God and the tears of His Mother.” This is the language of the great Pontiff who, in deep anguish, pointed out salvation where already more than once our fathers had found it. *****
To the authorized voice of Leo XIII let us unite, in loving obedience, the teaching by word and action of him whom we have taken for Father and Master, St Francis de Sales.
From his youth, Francis de Sales had formed the habit of saying his chaplet daily. Later, he made a vow to do so "in order to obtain deliverance from a troublesome temptation which molested him," and it is the only vow of the kind found in his life. To recite it, he employed a considerable time which seemed to him brief,—an hour said St. de Chantal,—lingering in pious consideration on the mysteries of the Rosary; it was a familiar, childlike talk with his heavenly Mother, and he readily forgot himself near her. By his regulations, the chaplet was to be recited after Vespers; but this rule often yielded to the solicitudes of the episcopal charge. Fearful of being unfaithful to his vow, when affairs deprived him of leisure to say this prayer during the day, he detached a long chaplet laden with blessed medals brought from Rome and Loretto from his girdle, where it was habitually worn, and fastened it on his arm as a reminder to recite it before retiring. However great was his fatigue, he never shortened the prayer vowed to Mary.
On one occasion extraordinary occupations had not permitted him to say the chaplet at the hour appointed; the night being already advanced, he prepared, notwithstanding excessive fatigue, to fulfil this pious duty. His secretary, having perceived it, begged him to consider the extreme need he had of repose, and to defer his chaplet till the morrow. "My friend," answered the Saint, "we must never put off till tomorrow what can be done to-day."
He was exact, said the Annalist of the Visitation, in assisting every month, chaplet in hand, at the procession of the Confraternity of the Rosary, of which he was a member.
When sick and unable to speak, he had the pious prayer said by another, and accompanied it mentally. On his death-bed, at Lyons, after having received Extreme Unction he placed his chaplet on his arm, wishing to die thus and appear before God and the Blessed Virgin Mary with the arm of prayer in his hands.
****** The holy Doctor loved to recommend and propagate the daily use of the chaplet, a practice so dear to him.
"The chaplet," said he in the "Introduction to a Devout Life," "is a most useful manner of praying, provided that you know how to say it properly. For this purpose, procure one of those little books which teach the manner of saying it."
In tracing a rule of life for the Baroness de Chantal while in the world, he wrote: "I desire that the chaplet be said as devoutly as possible every day either at Mass or at some other time."
He loved the chaplet to be said at low Mass. Meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary unites the faithful as intimately as possible to the prayer and action of the celebrant. "At Mass," he wrote to the Abbess of Puy d'Orbe, "I advise you to recite your chaplet in preference to any other vocal prayer, and you may interrupt when necessary to observe the points I have marked for you at the Gospel, the Credo and the Elevation, then resume where you had stopped. Do not doubt that it will be better said through all these interruptions; and if you cannot finish it at Mass, do so later in the day, continuing where you had broken off."
The chaplet is not only for devout persons, it is suitable to all; it is the breviary of the simple, the ignorant and the poor. St. Francis de Sales recommended it to everybody. He readily preached on the Chaplet, the Rosary. Mention is made in the Journal of his Episcopacy of a sermon delivered at Annecy, October 1, 1608, on devotion to the Rosary which might serve as an introduction to the Encyclicals of Leo XIII. In the year 1606, during his pastoral visit to the mountains of Faucigny, his delight was to preach the chaplet to these poor people. On the fourteenth of August, visiting the parish church of Aulph, he taught an affected and charmed multitude a method of saying the chaplet. Some days later, at Ville-en-Salaz, he again spoke of Mary and the chaplet. On that occasion, an extraordinary fact occurred, related by Mere de Chaugy:
"The Octave day of the glorious Assumption of Our Lady, St. Francis de Sales preached in the parish of St. Sebastian and St. Pancratius in Salaz. His sermon was in a catechetical form on the honor due to the Mother of God, in order to instruct the people more familiarly on what they should believe and do to be true children of Mary, retrenching all the superstitious opinions of these good souls, to whom he distributed so large a number of chaplets that it could not be imagined where he had procured them. M. Favre, his valet, deposed that they multiplied miraculously, as it was impossible for the Saint to procure so many; and that he exclaimed with joy that the Sacred Virgin had favored his inclination, furnishing him wherewith to distribute chaplets to the multitude; because every one, poor and rich, great and little, desired to receive from his hands. He gratified all, and still possessed many chaplets."
He propagated Confraternities of the Most Holy Rosary. The verbal process, written and signed by himself, for the erection of the Confraternity in the church of Petit Bornand can yet be seen. ******
What was this method which he taught to the people of Faucigny, and to which he undoubtedly made allusion when he said: "The chaplet is a very useful manner of praying, providing you know how to say it properly."
One of his historians, Pere de la Riviere, gives us this method in detail, and in early editions of the "Introduction to a Devout Life" it was added at the end of Part Fifth. The following has been taken from one of the oldest editions:
"Kiss the cross of your chaplet after having signed yourself therewith, and place yourself in the presence of God, saying the Creed.
"On the first large bead, beg God to accept the service you wish to render Him, and to assist you by His grace to accomplish it worthily.
"On the first three small beads, implore the intercession of the Sacred Virgin, saluting her on the first as the most cherished daughter of God the Father; on the second, as Mother of God the Son, and on the third, as beloved Spouse of God the Holy Ghost.
"At each decade think of one of the mysteries of the Rosary according to your leisure, remembering it principally when pronouncing the holy names of Jesus and Mary, with great reverence of heart and body. If any other sentiment should animate you (sorrow for past sin or a purpose of amendment) meditate thereon throughout the chaplet as well as you can, recalling this sentiment or any other that God may inspire in a special manner when murmuring the sacred names of Jesus and Mary.
"On the large bead at the end of the last decade, thank God for having been permitted to recite your chaplet. Passing to the three following small beads, salute the most holy Virgin Mary, entreating her at the first to offer your understanding to the Eternal Father that you may continually consider His mercies; at the second, supplicate her to offer your memory to the Son that your thoughts may constantly turn to His Passion and Death; at the third, implore her to offer your will to the Holy Ghost that it may ever be inflamed with His holy love. On the large bead at the end, beg the divine Majesty to accept all for His glory and the good of His Church, asking Him to keep you ever in its pale and to bring back those who have wandered; pray for your friends, and conclude as you commenced by the profession of faith, the Creed and Sign of the Cross.
"Wear your chaplet at your girdle or in some other prominent place as a protestation of your desire to be a servant of God our Saviour, and of His most Blessed Virgin Spouse and Mother, and to live as a true child of the holy, apostolic, Roman Catholic Church." ******
Formerly it was a custom, even among seculars, to wear the chaplet at the girdle; now only religious Orders retain this practice. Let us at least be faithful to carry it about us, and above all to recite it exactly and devoutly, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary as far as possible without interruption, for this is an essential condition to gain the magnificent indulgences of the Confraternity of the Rosary.
Without binding ourselves by vow,— for it is said that St. Francis de Sales, who had made this vow, did not readily advise souls under his direction to do the same,—let us attach ourselves unfailingly to this pious practice. It is the thermometer of our spiritual life.
When the entire day has been occupied, it is sweet at evening to recollect one's self close by the tabernacle, and at the feet of our heavenly Mother.
Nothing is more consoling than this devotion. The monotonous repetition of the Ave, like to the rocking of our mothers when we were little children, soothes our sorrows and is a balm for life's wounds; little by little, as the holy crown glides silently through our fingers, troubles are appeased, calm penetrates the soul, a sort of spiritual refreshment revives the fatigued body and ushers in a night of repose. Who has not experienced this, and how sweet it is to speak to God and to Mary after having long tarried with creatures? "Dieu soit beni!” (God be blessed - translation provided).
St. Francis de Sales
The Death of St. Athony the Hermit
VILADOMAT Y MANALT, Antonio
Death of Saint Paul, the Anchorite
At daybreak, Paul tells Antony of his approaching death, and begs him go and bring the cloak, which Athanasius had given him, and wrap his corpse in it. As Antony was returning from his cell, he saw Paul's soul going up into heaven, amidst choirs of Angels, and a throng of Prophets and Apostles. When he had reached the hermit's cell, he found the lifeless body: the knees were bent, the head erect, and the hands stretched out and raised towards heaven. He wrapped it in the cloak, and sang hymns and psalms over it, according to the custom prescribed by Christian tradition. Not having a hoe wherewith to make a grave, two lions came at a rapid pace from the interior of the desert, and stood over the body of the venerable Saint, showing how, in their own way, they lamented his death. They began to tear up the earth with their feet, and seemed to strive to outdo each other in the work, until they had made a hole large enough to receive the body of a man. When they had gone, Antony carried the holy corpse to the place, and covering it with the soil, he arranged the grave after the manner of the Christians. As to the tunic, which Paul had woven for himself out of palm-leaves, as baskets are usually made, Antony took it away with him, and, as long as he lived, wore it on the great days of Easter and Pentecost.
from the Office.
Of the Church and the Pope
“My country has hurt me,”wrote a young poet in 1944 during the purge1more from the SSPX Asia site.
when 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 holder of 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....
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.Eleison Comments by His Excellency Bishop Williamson's
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).
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