' Dabo eis Cor, ut sciant me, et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero eis in Deum: quia revertentur ad me in toto corde suo.'
' I will give them a Heart to know Me, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, because they shall return to Me with their whole heart' (Jer. xxiv. 7).
THE POPE AND HIS DEACON.
The illustration on the opposite page represents one of the most touching scenes in the annals of the early persecutions. It was at Rome in the reign of the Emperor Valerian. The aged Pope, St. Xystus, had been dragged to the Temple of Mars, and, on his refusal to offer sacrifice, was led out to execution. On his way he met his holy Deacon, St. Laurence, the Almoner of the Roman Church. St. Laurence knelt for his blessing, and tenderly reproached him for going to death alone. "Holy Priest, whither art thou hastening without thy deacon? It was never thy wont to celebrate the Sacrifice without a minister!" The aged Pontiff knew the true solid gold of the heart of St. Laurence, and he promised him that in a short time they should be together. "I leave thee not, nor desert thee, my son. Greater conflicts for Christ await thee. The Levite shall follow the Priest after three days. Meanwhile, if thou hast in the treasury anything, distribute it to the poor." The feast of St. Xystus is kept on August 6th, the feast of the glorious martyr St. Laurence on August 10th.
GENERAL INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR AUGUST.
HATRED OF ERROR.
An alarming feature of Catholic faith is the indifference, the indulgence with which error is regarded so commonly amongst us. If faith is the most essential of all the elements of all the soul's life, then indifference to that which kills faith—and such is error-—is a mortal malady.
The hatred of error and the love of truth are not two things but one, two forms of the same passion, and they are inseparable. They will inevitably have the same degree of intensity, they grow and diminish together; and as the vigour of the will and character depend wholly upon the energy of the convictions, unless error is hated, the moral life must languish, souls grow weak, wills become irresolute, characters degraded, and either delusive ambitions, or sordid objects, take the place of noble aspirations and high thoughts. This is not nearly understood, not nearly enough thought of by us. We live in the midst of a people who in the very riot of a false toleration realize to the letter what St. Leo once said of Pagan Rome: "But this city, forgetful of Him who had made her great, while surpassing all others in power, made herself subject to all others in error, and she conceived herself to have embraced all that is true, because she repudiated nothing that is false."* There is no god so filthy as to find here no worshippers, no creed so revolting or so noxious as to fail to find amongst both a preacher and a shrine. And we Catholics grow used to this, and with custom grows a certain spirit of toleration of which we do not see the harm—but the harm is great for all that. It is not, perhaps, the grosser forms of folly which more commonly bewitch us (though spiritism has worked sad havoc in many a Catholic conscience)—but errors more subtle and less repulsive in appearance, of which the name is legion—are these hated? How many are there who put away the journals and magazines in which they are advocated, with disgust? How many are there who prefer to feed their minds with pure Catholic teaching to the enjoyment of a lively sophism, a brilliant lie? How entirely, how systematically, is not daily journalism subordinated to the support of what is not only false, but often caluminous and cruel, to the bolstering of an error which is loved, and only half unconsciously—yet see how we sit at the feet of such apostles as these! Oh, certainly, if old Mathathias + came to die in London now, his last words of exhortation would not be less burning, his reproaches less severe.
No, it is a sad truth that there is but little hatred of error, and, as a necessary consequence, but little fervour in our love of truth. We keep our faith indeed, but it is, and it is often, but cold, lethargic, and unfruitful; and the reason is that error is not hated as God hates it. One of the sins against the Holy Ghost, one of the most monstrous and diabolic, is to impugn the known truth. It is done every day on thousands of pages read by Catholics in England, done for hire, done in obedience to a mot d’ordre, (the theme) as well as from prejudice and from malice. Does it inspire the hatred of the error and the sin which St. Paul would have us feel? Alas, how rarely! Want of serious thought, want of interest, want of zeal for truth, is the only explanation, and a sad explanation it is. If - such lassitude had existed in Catholic Germany ten years ago, where would Catholic Germany be now? Let us reflect that we, who alone possess truth with absolute certainty, have the right and the power to oppose to error an effective resistance; amidst all around us there is not a principle so fundamental as to escape bold attack, even contemptuous denial, and this even from those whose names are great. Respectability is the English barrier against a thousand ideas which threaten to devour and engulf the very decencies of a social life no more sincerely Christian—how long shall that barrier stand?
Our duty, then, if we love Catholic truth, is to abominate that which is against Catholic truth, and the energy of our abomination will be the measure of the Catholicity of our lives. Error is odious to God, and we are not like God unless we hate it. There is no room to-day amongst us for those whose bland tolerance is a more pregnant source of mischief than an apostacy. The truth which claims our homage is no cold abstraction, it is the living truth of the Word, and to dally with it is to dishonour Him from whom it comes, and who gave His life that we might have it.
* Serm. i. In nat. SS. Pet. et Pauli. + I Mach. ii. 49.
Our associates will see that they have much to pray for, much which, if the interests of the Sacred Heart are dear to them, will make them pray well.
Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them in particular to obtain for Catholic hearts that vigorous hatred of error, without which they cannot love Thy truth. Heal them, O Jesus, of that deadly indifference, which is a greater harm to souls than open wickedness. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
" Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved ? " (Cant. viii. 5). THROUGH all the mysteries of the Christian Faith there runs a marvellous connecting chain, uniting one with another. The mystery of the Assumption is, in this way, most closely linked with that of the Incarna tion of the Eternal Word. For if Blessed Mary once received her Divine Son, it is right and fitting that the same Saviour should in His turn receive Mary ; that as He did not disdain to come down from Heaven to take up His abode in her, He should in due time lift her up to Himself that He might make her enter into His glory. Wonder not, then, to see the Mother of God restored to life again, beautiful and radiant, and triumphing over death and the grave with all the pomp and majesty of a royal conqueror. Do not wonder, I repeat ; for Jesus, to Whom this Immaculate Virgin gave life, now on this day gratefully repays the gift ; and, as it appertains to the very essence of the Godhead to give magnificently as no mortal can ever give, so it follows naturally that the Divine Saviour Who had received from His Blessed Mother only the poor dying life which He deigned to share with His creatures, should in His munificence bestow on her the treasure of a glorious immortality. Thus are those two mysteries linked indissolubly together ; and in order to draw the links closer the Angels take part in both, rejoicing to-day with Mary to behold this completion of the mystery which they first announced.
It is the traditional teaching of the Church that after her death Mary’s body was assumed, or taken up, by God into Heaven, there to be reunited with her soul. She now is, soul and body, with her Son and God in Paradise ; her body had not to remain on earth to await the General Resurrection at Christ’s second coming. The doctrine of the Assumption is dealt with by Cardinal Newman in one of his Discourses to Mixed Congregations. See also Richard Crashaw s poem on " The Glorious Assumption of our Blessed Lady."
Heaven, as well as earth, has its solemnities and its triumphs, its ceremonies, its magnificent spectacles, its pomp and circumstance ; or to speak more truly, earth borrows those titles to lend a fictitious splendour to its own vain, illusive display. The reality of those things is, in truth, only to be found in the glorious feasts of our heavenly country, the City of the Saints, Jerusalem the Golden. And doubtless the exaltation of the Blessed Virgin to the throne destined ior her by her Divine Son, will through all eternity be kept as a feast day of extraordinary splendour ; if indeed in that vast, limitless, unchanging eternity, days (which are the measurements of time only) will continue to be.
In order to give you some idea of the glories of Mary s Assumption into Heaven, I might represent to you the thronging hosts of Angels uniting with all the Blessed in a jubilant hymn of glad welcome and acclamation ; or I might even rise to higher flights, and show you the Immaculate Virgin presented by her Divine Son before the Throne of the Eternal Father to receive from His hand a crown of immortal glory. But no ; this spectacle, at once the wonder and admiration of Heaven and earth, is too Divine, too far beyond the grasp of our poor intelligence. Moreover I am bound, in the exercise of my sacred ministry, to set before you not only what is great and splendid, but also what may serve as an example for you. I therefore intend to show you Blessed Mary assumed into Heaven, followed, surrounded, escorted (so to speak) only by her virtues ; yet so dazzling, so resplendent are those virtues that nothing more is wanting to the glory of this triumphal progress. It is indeed the virtues of our Queen which are the object most worthy of our contemplation in this her glorious entrance into Heaven ; they prepared the way for it, they adorn it with all its splendour, they make up its consummation and perfection.
Before Mary could enter into her glory, it was necessary first to strip from her our poor mortality which like some strange garment clothed her beautiful soul ; next, to invest that soul and that immaculate body with a glorious immortality as with a royal robe of adornment ; then, finally, to place her all radiant and transcendent in loveliness upon her throne, far above Cherubim and Seraphim and all creatures. This is the mystery of to-day s Festival ; and I affirm that three of the virtues of our Queen and Mother were the motive power that accomplished it. If she must be released from the prison of this mortal body, Divine Love will do the work. Then, by the power of her spotless Purity, she will be clothed with the heavenly garment of immortal radiance. And when Divine for her glorious entrance into the Court of the King of Kings, her incomparable Humility will put the finishing touch to this imposing ceremony by placing the Queen of Angels on her Throne, there to be revered by them to all eternity. Nature and grace concur in establishing the immut able decree that we must die. It is the law of nature that all that is mortal must pay its tribute to death, and grace has not exempted man from this common necessity. Since the Son of God designed to conquer death by death itself, He laid it down that in order to escape from death we must pass through that enemy s hands, that we must go down into the grave so that we may come forth from it with life and renewed vigour, that we must all die once that we may wholly divest ourselves of the casements of this poor mortality. Therefore we must not forget that Mary truly died. Before attaining to her glorious triumph she had to leave behind her in the grave all that was mortal in her.
But do not let us imagine that while subject to this universal law of nature the Blessed Virgin died in the same way as ordinary mortals die. No ; in Mary all was, and is, supernatural. A miracle gave her Divine Son to her, a miracle is to restore Him to her again ; and her life full of miracles is at last to be closed by a death wholly divine. What was it that brought about this death so supernatural and so beautiful ? Love will do this, love maternal and divine ; this it is which will carry up the soul of Mary, and, breaking the bonds of the flesh which are hindering her reunion with her beloved Son, will bring together again in Heaven what only the most violent wrench can separate. Let us, as far as our poor intelligence will permit, try to apprehend what is the nature of the Blessed Virgin s love, what are its transports, what are the darts in its quiver, what the wounds with which they pierce the heart.
A holy Bishop (Amadeus of Lausanne) gives us a very exalted and beautiful idea of this love when he says : " The love of Mary was formed by the union of two loves into one ; for she rendered to her Son the love she owed to a God, and to her God the love she owed to a Son." Nothing greater, nothing stronger, nothing more sublime in all the range of language, could have been found to express the love ol the Blessed Virgin ; as this holy Bishop s words imply, nature and grace concur in making upon the heart of Mary the very deepest possible impression. There is nothing stronger or more constraining than the love which nature bestows for a son, and that which grace bestows for a God. These two loves are, in truth, two vast abysses the depth of which we cannot fathom, the extent of which we cannot comprehend. Here we may say with the Psalmist : Deep calleth unto deep (Ps. xxi. 8) ; since, in order to form the love of the Blessed Virgin, all that is most tender in nature and what is most powerful in grace must be blended to gether. Nature must needs have a share in it, because this love embraced a son ; and grace must act in it, because this love had for its object a God. But what passes imagination is the fact that ordinary nature and grace are not sufficient for the formation of this marvellous love ; because it is not within the range of nature s powers to find in a God a son ; nor can grace, ordinary grace at least, give what is needed in order to love in a son the Eternal God Himself. We must then take yet a loftier flight.
Yes, we must rise above nature and grace, and seek in the very heart of the Eternal Father the well- spring of this love. And for this reason. Mary, the Mother of the Divine Son, shares the possession of Him with God the Father ; that which shall be born of you (said the Angel to her) shall be called the Son of God (Luke i. 35). Thus she is united with the Eternal Father by becoming the Mother of His only Son, this joint possession of and relationship to the Divine Son being only effected by and dependent on the manner in which He was conceived by her.
But we must rise higher yet, into a region whose atmosphere seems almost too pure, too rarefied for our poor thoughts. We must consider how and whence such an honour as this came to Mary, how she con ceived the true Son of God. She conceived Him not in any ordinary manner, for she as a creature could only have conceived a creature like herself. That she might be able to conceive a God it was necessary (says the Evangelist) that the power of the Most High should overshadow her (Luke i. 35), so covering her with His own virtue and infusing into her His own fruitfulness, that in this way Mary is associated with the generation of the Eternal Word. More than this. The Everlasting Father Who condescended to give to the Immaculate Virgin His Son to be her son, in order to perfect this work kindled in her pure heart a ray or spark of that Divine Love which He Himself bears towards that only Son Who is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His substance. Now then, what is the source of Mary s love ? The heart of God has poured itself into her own ; the love of the Eternal Father and the love of the Immaculate Mother have one and the same source, for it is the source from which her Divine Son was given to her. And now, poor human reason, what have you to say to this mysterious communication ? Will you even pretend to understand the union of Jesus and Mary, since it has in it something of that perfect unity which exists between the Father and the Son ? Or will you attempt to define what is that maternal love which emanates from so sublime a source, and which is neither more nor less than an overflow of the love of the Eternal Father for His only Son ? And since you are incapable of under standing either the strength or the ardour of that love, how could you hope to form any idea of its emotions, its ecstasies ? Nothing can equal the greatness of the effort made by Mary to reunite herself to Jesus, nor was there ever a vehemence of anguish like that by which her heart was torn at the moment of her separation from her Beloved.
After the triumphant Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, Blessed Mary still for some time remained living upon earth. It is beyond my power to tell you what during that period were her daily occupations, and what were the merits gained by her during that period of exile. If to love Jesus and to be loved by Him fills the soul with heavenly benedictions, what rivers of grace and blessedness must have inundated the soul of Mary ! What mere human words can describe the ardour of that mutual love, in which all that is most tender in nature and all that is most powerful in grace was blended together ! To imagine what was the deep glowing intensity of that fire of love which was ever burning in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, each kindling the flames of the other con tinually afresh ; to imagine this, I say, passes the power of the Seraphim. Measure, if you can, by her love her holy impatience to be reunited to her Divine Son. We know that because the Son of God desired nothing so much as that baptism of blood which was to wash away our iniquities, He longed with an in credible longing a fervent longing that burned like a consuming fire in His Sacred Heart for the accomplishment of that work of Redemption. And think you that if the Divine Son was thus impatient to die for us, the Immaculate Mother would feel no im patience to live with Him ? If the great Apostle, St. Paul, eagerly desired to break the fetters of his mortal body which chained him to earth, that he might seek his Divine Master at the right hand of the Eternal Father (Phil. i. 21-23), what, think you, must have been the yearning of the Sacred Mother s heart ? When the young Tobias was absent from his mother for a year only, we read that her grief was inconsolable. What then must Mary s grief have been, from whose sight and companionship death had snatched not only her Son but her Lord and her God ? As one by one she saw the faithful St. Stephen, for example, and many others passing away from this world, we may fairly picture her grief and catch the echo of her sweet lamenting words : " Alas, my Son," we seem to hear her say, " why do You leave me to the last ? I desire nothing else but to die soon, very soon, so that I may embrace You on the throne of Your glory. Only, only let my love do its work ; then it will soon have released my soul from this mortal body and carried me on its wings to You in Whom alone I live ! " Do not weary yourselves in trying to find any other cause than this for the death of the Blessed Virgin. So intense, so ardent, so mighty was her love that one sigh breathed by it had strength sufficient to break every earthly bond, one regret was able to destroy all the harmony of her being, one longing desire, sent up by that love to Heaven, would have . had impetus enough to waft the soul of Mary with it to the Paradise of bliss. I said indeed that the death of Mary was miraculous ; 1 ought rather to say that her death was not the miracle but its cessation ; the continuing miracle had been that Mary was able to live separated from her Beloved.
But shall I tell you what put an end at last to this miracle, how it came to pass that love gave her her death-blow ? Was it, think you, some sudden quicken ing of a consuming flame, some increased activity of desire, some violent wrench of emotion, which tore this pure soul out of its mortal shell ? No, I think not ; and, if I may venture to speak as I think, I should attribute this close of the Blessed Virgin s life, not to any violent or extraordinary cause, but simply and solely to the perfection to which her love had grown. For as this Divine love reigned in her heart and occupied all her thoughts, meeting no obstacle or impediment in that pure region where God ruled alone, it increased day by day by activity, being perfected by its own desires, multiplying itself by itself ; so that at last, always extending farther and farther, it grew so limitless in its perfection that Earth was no longer capable of containing it. " Go, my son," said the Grecian King Philip to Alexander, " extend your conquests far and wide ; my kingdom is too small to hold you." O Love of the Blessed Virgin ! your perfection is too sublime, it cannot any longer be restrained in a mortal body, your fires flame too brightly to be smothered by the dust of which that body is composed. Leave earth and time behind you ; soar up into Eternity, shine and burn like a consecrated lamp before the Throne of God, losing yourself in His immensity which is alone capable of containing you.
Thus, without effort or pain, the Immaculate Mother rendered up her holy and blessed soul into the hands of her Divine Son. There was n need for her love to make any special exertion in order to effect this. As the slightest shaking detaches ripe fruit from the tree, as a flame springs up and darts to its centre, so this blessed soul was no sooner gathered than it was instantly transported to Heaven. The Blessed Virgin died from an ecstasy of Divine love, and her soul was carried up to Heaven on a cloud of holy desires. Who is she, cry out the Angels, who cometh up as a pillar of smoke of aromatic spices of myrrh and frankincense? (Cant. iii. 6). Could any comparison be more suitable, more perfect than this, more appropriate to the serene beauty of this happy tranquil death ? The sweet-smelling smoke that we see rising from a compound of delicate perfumes, is not extracted from this compound by force or driven up by violence ; a gentle temperate heat softly de taches it and turns it into a subtle vapour which rises up higher and higher as of itself. Thus it was that the soul of Maiy was separated from the body ; there was no violent disturbance of natural forces ; a Divine heat gently detached it from its mortal coil, and then lifted it borne on a cloud of heavenly longings, up and up, into the very presence of the Beloved. This was Mary s Triumphal Car, and Love built it with his own hands. Yet not for long will Mary remain a disembodied spirit ; soon, very soon, as we shall see, holy purity breathed life into her spotless body.
Mary s sacred body, the throne of chastity, the temple of Incarnate Wisdom, the organ of the Holy Ghost, the seat of the Power of the Most High, could not be suffered to remain in the grave ; her triumph would have been incomplete had it been accomplished without including in its mystery her holy flesh, which had been, so to speak, the very source of her glory. How radiantly beautiful was that virginal flesh ! How admirable are the three wonders wrought therein by the power of Mary s sacred Virginity ! By it this pure flesh is preserved from corruption ; by it a heavenly influence is attracted and descends upon that flesh, making it live again before the resurrection day has come ; and by it a light Divine is shed over that flesh, investing it with the glory which we are contemplating to-day.
First, then, let us think of holy chastity as a Divine balm preserving the body of Mary from corruption. The more deeply we meditate upon this point, the more firmly convinced shall we be of the perfection of that virginal purity. Our Saviour Jesus Christ being, according to the flesh, so closely united to the Blessed Virgin, this most intimate union must have been accompanied by a special conformity with one another. Jesus sought for one like to Himself ; and this is why the Spouse of Virgins desired to have a Virgin Mother, so as to establish this resemblance as the foundation of their union. This being granted, you may well believe that we cannot form any adequate idea of Mary s purity, that it was no mere ordinary virtue and cannot be ranked with the purity of any other living creature. No, we shall never be able to form a just estimate of its perfection until we realize that this purity was the factor of the perfect integrity of mind and body which was a distinguishing characteristic of the Virgin Mother. This it was which made the great St. Thomas Aquinas say that an extra ordinary grace shed over her a most abundant and heavenly dew which not only tempered, as in others of the elect, but actually extinguished all the fire of concupiscence. That is to say, not only those evil deeds which are the conflagration kindled by it, not only the sinful desires which are the flames it throws out, nor only the wrong inclinations which are as a continual smouldering heat nourished by it, but even the furnace itself what theology calls fomes peccati was utterly destroyed in her. Thus her virginity and her perfect conformity with Jesus Christ had, in putting far from her and utterly extinguishing the furnace of concupiscence and thereby destroying at the same time the very principle of corruption, secured that her flesh should never see corruption. For you must not allow yourselves to regard corruption (as the reasonings of medical science would have us do) as merely the natural outcome of our physical com position and of all the mingled elements that go to make up the human body. No, we must lift our thoughts higher, and believe, as the principles of Christianity would have us believe, that what binds the flesh to the irrevocable law of corruption is the fact that it is an incentive to evil, a source of wicked desires, that it is, as St. Paul says, sinful flesh (Rom. viii. 3). Such flesh must be destroyed, even in the elect, because in the condition of sinful flesh it is not worthy to be reunited to a blessed soul or to enter the Kingdom of God which flesh and blood cannot possess (i Cor. xv. 50). It must undergo a change in its original form, in order to be renewed ; it must lose its first state of being, so as to be ready to receive a second from the hand of God. Our flesh must be reduced to dust because it has lent itself to the service of sin ; but the flesh of the sinless Mary, being absolutely pure, must in consequence be incorruptible. And it was for the same reason that the flesh of Mary was endowed with the gift of immortality, by what may be called an anticipated resurrection. Though God has appointed a fixed time for the General Resurrection of the dead, there were special reasons which induced Him to anticipate that time in favour of the Blessed Virgin. The sun brings forth the fruits of the earth only in their proper seasons, yet in some favoured spots the soil is so well cultivated that its produce is earlier. So too there are in the garden of our Heavenly Bridegroom trees that come rapidly to their perfect maturity ; and there was in the holy flesh of Mary a property that made it bring forth prematurely the fruits of immortality. Her maiden purity attracts to her a special influence ; her con formity with Christ prepares her to receive a more speedy effect of His quickening power than would otherwise have been her share. And it may indeed well be that she attracts His virtue since she attracted the very Virtue-Giver Himself. He came down from Heaven and took up His abode in this flesh, because He delighted in its purity ; He loved it so well that He remained enshrined in it for nine months, so absolutely incorporated with it as (in the words of Tertullian) to take root in it. This flesh which He loved so dearly He will not leave in the grave, but He will transport it robed in immortal glory to Heaven.
Holy Virginity will also play its part in giving Mary this robe of glory. Jesus Christ, in His Gospel, repre sents the glory of risen bodies in these beautiful words : They will be as the angels of God (Matt. xxii. 30) ; and this is why Tertullian, speaking of the risen body, calls it angelicized flesh. Now of all the Christian virtues, the one that has most power to produce this glorious effect is holy purity ; that it is which makes angels upon earth ; and of this St. Augustine is think ing when he says of it that " whilst in the flesh it has something which is not of the flesh," and which par takes more of the angel than of the mortal. That which makes angels in this lower world, may surely make them in the life to come ; and indeed I may assert that this beautiful virtue of chastity will have a share in clothing with glory the risen bodies even of us poor creatures. What then must be the ladiant splendour which enfolded and glorified the body of Mary, whose purity far surpasses that of the very Seraphim ! The Holy Scriptures are fain to seek out extraordinary comparisons to bring to our mind s eye some faint picture of this marvellous glory. Since earth fails to supply fitting imagery, the inspired writers summon to their aid the glorious lights of the heavens. They place the moon beneath her feet, the dazzling stars around her head, and the very sun itself wraps her in its radiant splendour A woman slothed with the sun (Apoc. xii. 7). Yes, all this imagery is employed to symbolize the beauty and splendour that must adorn the risen body of the Mother of God. And now Humility stretches out a hand, and conies forward to place Mary on her throne. For, as humility was the sole factor in the triumph of Jesus Christ, it must be also in that of Mary. In truth her glory would have given her no joy had she entered into it by any other road than the one which her Son had chosen for Himself.
You are not ignorant of the truth that it is the chief characteristic of humility that it impoverishes itself and strips itself of all its own advantages, yet at the same time, by some marvellous contradiction, the more it despoils itself the richer it grows, securing to itself everything that it casts away. Nothing so well describes it as the beautiful words of St. Paul : As having nothing and yet possessing all things (Col. i. 19).
Mary possessed three precious gifts : she had an exalted dignity ; she had an incomparable purity of soul and body ; and, what is infinitely beyond all other treasures, she possessed Jesus Christ, she had a beloved Son in Whom dwelt all fulness (Col. i. 19). Yet her profound humility will, to a certain extent, strip her of all these advantages. She who, as the Mother of God, is by that dignity raised far above all others, takes her place among the poor and lowly on earth, ranking as a servant. She who is separated from all other women by her immaculate purity, actually identifies herself with sinners by submitting herself to the rite of Purification. But more than this, she even loses her Divine Son on Calvary. I do not mean only that she loses Him by seeing Him die a cruel death ; but she loses Him because in a manner He ceases to be her Son, when, substituting another for Himself, He says to her : Woman, behold thy son (John xix. 26). It would seem as though the Saviour no longer recognizes Mary as His Mother ; He calls her Woman, not Mother. But this term has its mystical meaning. Jesus Himself is in humiliation, His holy Mother must be in the same. Jesus has a God for His Father, and Mary has a God for her Son. This Divine Saviour has lost His Father and calls upon Him only as His God ; Mary must in like manner lose her Son, He no longer gives her the title of Mother. But what is still more humiliating for her, He gives her another son : Behold, He says, thy son. What could have moved our Divine Lord to utter those words ? " Jesus, being about to pass," says St. Paulinus, " from that con dition of human weakness by which He was born of a woman, does what ? He delegates His filial duties, He gives St. John as a son to Mary, He bequeaths to a mortal that treasure of natural piety." What an exchange (cries St. Bernard), John for Jesus, the servant for the Master, the son of Zebedee for the Son of God ! Mary has lost everything ; humility has stripped her of all : as having nothing. But look a little deeper, a little further rather, and you will see that this humility restores it all again with interest : yet possessing all things.
O Mother of Jesus Christ ! because you called your self a handmaid, to-day humility prepares a throne for you ; mount up to this place which is so highly exalted, and as the Queen of Heaven receive our veneration. O Virgin, all holy and innocent, purer than the sunbeams, since you condescended to submit to the law for sinners you now are to be exalted by that very humility ; you now will be the advocate of all sinners, their refuge and their hope next after Christ Refugium peccatorum. You had indeed lost your Son, it seemed as if He had quitted you, leaving you to sigh and mourn in this land of exile ; but the Divine Son is now eager to resume those rights which He only yielded for a little while to St. John. Yes, dear Mother, I see Him stretching out His sacred arms to you, while all the Court of Heaven are watch ing their Queen as she ascends full of rapture and leaning upon her Beloved (Cant. viii. 5).
Yes, Blessed Virgin, you are indeed supported by this Beloved Son ; it is from Him that all your glory flows ; He is the foundation of all your merits. The very heavens seem to unite in glad acclaim, the music of the spheres in its hitherto changeless harmony breaks forth to-day into a new melody in honour of the ascending Queen. If my poor reasoning, if indeed the imagination of any mortal may dare to blend itself with those divine harmonies, I feel that we are reminded of the prophecy of Moses, and know that to-day he sees in the Blessed Virgin s Assumption its fulfilment : A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel (Num. xxiv. 17). Isaiah, too, in a sort of ecstasy, inspired by the Spirit of God, cries out : Behold that Virgin who was to conceive and bear a Son (Isa. vii. 14). Ezechiel recognizes in her that closed door that was never again to be opened, because the Lord the God of Israel had entered in by it (Ezech. xliv. 2). And there, in the midst of all those prophets and seers, the sweet singer of Israel, the Royal David, tunes his heavenly harp and chants these triumphant words : On Thy right hand stood the Queen in vesture of gold, wrought about with variety. This King s daughter is indeed all glorious within, but she is also outwardly adorned with beauty and splendour. After her shall virgins be brought unto the King. With joy and gladness shall they be brought unto Him (Ps. xliv.). And the Virgin of Virgins will keep those happy souls hushed and silent while she herself pours forth her rapturous canticle : My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His hand maid ; for behold from henceforth all generations shall called me blessed (Luke i. 46-48).
Crypt of Saint Louis de Monfort
in the Basilica of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre
Miraculous Medal Prayer
O MARIA sine labe concepta, ora pro nobis, qui confugimus ad te; O Refugium peccatorum, Mater agonizantium, noli nos derelinquere in hora exitus nostri, sed impetra nobis dolorem perfectum, sinceram contritionem, remissionem peccatorum nostrorum, sanctissimi Viatici dignam receptionem, Extremae Unctionis Sacramenti corroborationem, ut magis securi praesentari valeamus ante thronum iusti sed et misericordis Iudicis, Dei et Redemptoris nostri. Amen.
O MARY, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee; O refuge of sinners, Mother of the dying; forsake us not at the hour of our death; obtain for us the grace of perfect sorrow, sincere contrition, the pardon and remission of our sins, a worthy receiving of the holy Viaticum, and the comfort of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, in order that we may appear with greater security before the throne of the just but merciful Judge, our God and Redeemer. Amen.
From the Raccolta #643, (Secretariat of Briefs, March 11, 1856; S. P. Ap., March 7, 1932).
Acts of Spiritual Communion
By St. Alphonsus Maria de' Ligouri
MY Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen.
By Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val.
AT Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer Thee repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.
THE Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J., preached a sermon at Farm Street on Sunday, the 17th of October, inviting attention to that great apostolic work with which the readers of the MESSENGER are so familiarly acquainted. He took his very apposite text from the last chapter of the Second Book of Machabees.
So Nicanor being puffed up with exceeding great pride, thought to set up a public monument of his victory over Judas. But Machabeus ever trusted with all hope that God would help them. And he exhorted his people not to fear the coming of the nations, but to remember the help they had before received from Heaven, and now to hope for victory from the Almighty. And speaking to them out of the law, and the prophets, and withal putting them in mind of the battles they had fought before, he made them more cheerful. Then after he had encouraged them, he showed withal the falsehood of the Gentiles and their breach of oaths. So he armed every one of them, not with defence of shield and spear, but with very good speeches and exhortations, and told them a dream worthy to be believed, whereby he rejoiced them all. Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manner, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews. After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty. Then Onias answering said: This is a lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the Prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel. Thus being exhorted with the words of Judas, which were very good and proper to stir up the courage and strengthen the hearts of the young men, they resolved to fight, and to set upon them manfully, that valour might decide the matter, because the holy city and the temple were in danger.
There we find, my dear brethren, an instance of the general truth which St. Paul expressed when he said: Omnia in figura contingebant illis. (All these things happened to them.) The history of the ancient people is a symbol of the destinies of the true people of God, of the new Israel. Who does not see in the present situation of the Church of God the realization of that which we have been reading just now—of the abandonment to which the Synagogue was reduced in the time of the Machabees? All the earthly glories with which the Church of God was once surrounded have faded away: the holy city is in the hands of her fiercest enemies, her streets are profaned with all kinds of abominations, her treasures are dispersed, her most devoted ministers expelled, her children torn violently from her bosom and delivered up to the worst of all captivities, to the impious education which enslaves the minds and souls of men under the shameful yoke of error and of vice.
And who in this extremity comes to the help of the Church of God? We look to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and nowhere appears any human hope of salvation. All the earthly powers that once supported the Church have now turned against her, all, all! Those which are not openly hostile, at least deny her Divine rights. An immense league, embracing all the civilized nations of the world, was formed more than a century ago, to distress the Kingdom of God upon earth, and after having expelled Jesus Christ from public institutions by the so-called Liberal system, they are preparing to expel Him from families and even from the conscience of individual men by godless education.
What remains to the Church? A handful of pious Christians who in all nations form a small minority, and who compared with the numbers of their enemies, and the multitude much greater still of the indifferent and the cowardly, are less capable of fighting successfully than the Machabees were to resist the armies of Demetrius. Shall we then despair of the victory? No, my dear brethren, we shall not despair. And why not? Because Almighty God shows to us as a living and certain reality a spectacle much more consoling than that which was shown to Judas Machabeus in a dream. Do you not see those thousands of pious souls who like Onias hold up their hands and pray for the people of Israel? And above them, do you not see that other intercessor infinitely more powerful than Jeremias, the Very Son of the Almighty, Who, continually present in the midst of us at the same time that He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, is occupied in making intercession for us: Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis? (He always lives to intercede for us )This is He that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city, and by His prayer, to which He invites us to join our prayers, He renders us invincible and assures our triumph.
I have, therefore, a right to present to you the Apostleship of Prayer, exercised first by our Saviour and practised by Christians in union with the Heart of Jesus, as the last but all-powerful resource of the Church in the extreme danger with which she is threatened.
The Apostleship of Prayer thus understood is not a special association. We must distinguish two aspects of one and the same idea. The Apostleship of Prayer as a power and a duty is as old as Christianity itself, a power conferred and a duty imposed on all Christians to contribute by their prayers and good works to the edification of the Body of Christ. Under this point of view it is as old as the Church. What is new in it is a peculiarity of organization belonging to these later times by which the faithful are induced to unite together in order to exercise that power and to fulfil that duty. In order to organize this Holy League in England, and enable it to produce there the great fruits which it has produced in the other parts of the world, we need the assistance of your pious pastors.
It is not precisely under that respect that I wish to present the Apostleship of Prayer to your consideration to-day. I propose to set before you the idea of the work, to prove the immensity of the power which it puts into your hands and the stringent nature of the duty which it imposes upon you. To attain this end we must examine the Apostleship, first as it is in the Heart of Jesus, and secondly as it is in the heart of Christians.
I. Considered as it is in the Heart of Jesus, the Apostleship of Prayer appears to us as the proper apostolate of the Sacred Heart, the first apostolate which our Saviour exercised, the one which He exercised without interruption, the one which He kept for Himself when He was obliged to divest Himself of all other apostolates. Before briefly developing these three considerations, it is well to determine what is meant by the words Apostleship of Prayer. Preaching and administering the sacraments are not the only apostolate. If they were, you would not be able to give to our Blessed Lady in her own right the title of Queen of Apostles. Mary never preached : she remained silent in the assemblies of the primitive Church, although she could have spoken with more eloquence and efficacy than St. Paul or any other preacher of the Word. And nevertheless she was an apostle, nay, the Queen of Apostles, because by her prayers, her actions, her sufferings, united with those of her Divine Son, she contributed more efficaciously than all the Apostles together to the work of the apostleship, the conversion of souls, the propagation of the Kingdom of Christ. The apostleship includes every work which tends efficaciously to promote the salvation of souls, to convert the sinner, to sanctify the just, to assist the triumph of the Church. Preaching and the administration of sacraments contribute to these results, but the only indispensable means is the grace of God. Every work, therefore, which helps to impart grace to souls is included in the idea of an apostolate.
This explains the mystery of the Life of our Saviour Himself. He had come down from Heaven for one purpose—the salvation of mankind, to enlighten minds immersed in darkness, and bring back into the path of justice souls which had been led astray into the tortuous ways of sin. Having thirty-three years to spend among men, how is it that He waited till the age of thirty to show Himself and to speak? Were those long years of His Hidden Life lost? No, they were as usefully spent as the years of His Public Life. From the very beginning of His Life He had begun to suffer and to pray. He had not yet exercised the apostolate of His preaching, but He had already exercised the apostolate of His Heart, the apostolate of prayer. The first palpitation of His Heart, the first aspiration of His Soul, was the first act of that apostolate, and by that first act He had already done enough for our salvation. Why so? Because He had already obtained the grace necessary and sufficient to save the souls of all men.
I am, therefore, right in saying that the Apostolate of Prayer is the proper apostolate of the Heart of Jesus. For all other apostolates the Heart of Jesus needs cooperation. The apostolate of the word will require the movement of His sacred lips, the apostolate of charity will employ His sacred feet to run after the lost sheep, His sacred hands to bind their wounds; but before the Sacred Heart can have this cooperation of lips and feet and hands, It has already undertaken Its own proper apostolate of prayer. That apostolate was the first which our Saviour exercised. It is true that long before He began to teach men by word of mouth He had taught them by His example: coepit Jesus facere et docere.(Jesus began to do and to teach) At Bethlehem He had preached, by the mute eloquence of His poverty, the same lesson which was to be the first subject of His public exhortation; but even that apostolate of example which began with His visible Life had been forestalled by the invisible apostolate of prayer.
And that apostolate begun at the first moment will thenceforward be continued without interruption. The apostolate of the Word, even when it is undertaken after thirty years, is not exercised without intermission. However indefatigable Jesus may be in announcing the doctrine of salvation, He will only be able to speak according as men shall be disposed to listen to Him. However assiduous He may be in hunting after souls, the night will necessarily interrupt that work of mercy. But the night itself will not interrupt His prayer. When He can no longer proclaim to men the merciful designs of His Heavenly Father, He will continue to treat with that Heavenly Father about the eternal interests of men: Erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.(he spent the night in prayer )
There is only one other apostolate which shares with the Apostolate of Prayer the privilege of being uninterrupted. It is the apostolate of suffering. As the Heart of Jesus never ceased to pray for our salvation during His whole earthly Life, so He never ceased to suffer physically or morally for the expiation of our sins: Tota vita Christi crux fuit et martyrium.(The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom) But a moment will come when it will be necessary to interrupt that apostolate of suffering as well as the others. The work of Christ is consummated, His earthly Life comes to an end, His Father recalls Him to Heaven, in order to reward Him by unmixed joy for all His bitter trials. He must therefore divest Himself of His apostolic functions, and bequeath them to His ministers. He will henceforward preach by their lips, administer the sacraments, and perform works of mercy by their hands; He will fulfill in the sufferings of His devoted servants what is wanting to His own. But there is an apostolate which He will keep to Himself —the Apostolate of Prayer: semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis.(He always lives to intercede for us) In order to exert it more suitably He will create to Himself a second existence upon earth parallel to His existence in Heaven, as humble and obscure as His heavenly Life is glorious—a life of sacrifice and prayer. We see the Lamb Whom in Heaven the angels and the saints adore, "standing as it were slain," in a state of perpetual immolation, and perpetually praying for us.
And how long will that intercession last? As long as the duration of the world. As long as the Bride of Christ is exposed to the attack of her enemies and apparently suffering defeat at their hands, so long will her Divine Spouse help her by His prayers to bear those assaults and to change, as He Himself did before, apparent defeat into glorious victory. As long as one soul on the road to Heaven is exposed to the danger of falling into Hell, so long He Who gave His life for all men without exception will strive by His prayers to apply to that soul the merits of His death. The Apostolate of Prayer is therefore the last apostolate of our Redeemer as it was the first: it is the last mystery of His Life on earth, the one which crowns and makes perfect all the rest, the one by which are applied to our souls the fruits which come from all His actions and sufferings.
Is it not becoming then that there should be an association specially dedicated to the manifestation, the meditation, the glorification of that mystery? Is it not just that sanctuaries should be erected to honour that last and permanent proof of the love of our Saviour, as there are so many dedicated to the transient mysteries of His earthly Life? There is as yet only one sanctuary erected for that purpose, close to the Seminary of Vals, where the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer had its birth. There forty lamps, burning night and day, symbolize the union of our prayer with that perpetual intercession of the Heart of Jesus. But now that sanctuary is closed by those who have undertaken to destroy Christianity in France. They have put their seals upon it as the murderers of Christ once put their seals upon His sepulchre. Let us hope the heirs of the Pharisees will not succeed better than their less guilty forefathers. In the meantime we will only honour the more diligently that mystery of the love of our Saviour the more it is outraged by His enemies.
We do not meditate sufficiently upon His life of prayer. What comfort we should find in our sorrows, what light in our anxieties, what strength in our struggles, what confidence after our falls, if we did but realize that truth? There is now One Who prays for me, Who interests Himself in my difficulties, Who ardently desires my happiness, Who is ready to give me His help; and He is not only the holiest man that ever lived upon earth, He is not only more powerful in His intercession than Moses and Elias, but He is the Almighty Himself, the Son of God, Who has atoned already long ago for the sins which discourage me, and Who has no other desire than to apply to me the immense merits of His atonement.
And again, what confidence should we feel in the destinies of the Church, how easy would it be.to despise her enemies and to laugh at the dangers which surround her, if we kept ever present to our minds the thought of the protection which is given to her by the uninterrupted intercession of the Son of God? Should we not say with St. John: Fortior est qui in nobis est quam qui in mundo est (This stronger man is who is in us , than he that is in the world). Our enemies are strong. They have at their disposal the powers of hell and of earth. But there is in the midst of us One, of Whom it has been said that every knee shall bend at the very sound of His Name, on earth and in hell as well as in Heaven. He is here offering for us those prayers which cannot but be heard by His Father: Ego autem sciebam quia semper me audis (And I knew that thou hearest me always). He is here fulfilling the only condition put by His Father for gaining the triumph over all the world: Postula a me et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem tuam;(Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thy inheritance) and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Not only will the meditation of this great mystery produce in us fruits of consolation and confidence, but it must moreover lead us to unite our prayers to the perpetual intercession of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the salvation of souls in the exercise of that power imparted to us, of which I shall now briefly demonstrate the reality.
II. Few words are needed to place in the clearest light the second aspect of the Apostleship of Prayer, and when I have convinced your understanding I may leave it to your piety to feed your hearts with the practical consequences which follow from the principles explained. I am not afraid of being accused of exaggeration when I say that by exercising the Apostleship of Prayer in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus we acquire an unlimited power in cooperating with Him to the success of His great work of saving and sanctifying souls and leading His Church to a triumphant victory:—yes an unlimited power, and unlimited in every way.
That power is unlimited, first as regards the graces which we may obtain for souls. Whatever limit there may be to the results obtained is put by us and not by the promise or the action of Christ, for He says: Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My Name, that will I do. The same expression is repeated with the same universality in several passages, and as we cannot accuse our Lord of exaggeration or inaccuracy, we must believe that He has really set no bounds to the efficacy of prayer. The promise, therefore, does not apply to those prayers alone which are inspired by the legitimate desire of our own advantage. That is a kind of spiritual selfishness which, although it is not wrong, is less conformable to the example set before us. The promise of Christ applies still more, I will venture to say, to the prayers which are prompted by fraternal charity, for the prayer which most resembles the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is necessarily most acceptable to His Father. The prayers offered for our neighbour's good are more than any others made in the Name of Jesus. An evident proof that the promise of infallible efficacy applies by preference to them, is that our Lord, wishing to give us the pattern to which we must conform all our prayers that they may deserve to be heard, teaches us a form of words, according to which we are to put the interests of God and of all mankind before our own: Thus shall you pray: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. We must first think of His Divine interests, and after that we are allowed to think also of our own interests, but even then no one can be permitted to think of himself alone. What we ask for ourselves we must ask for others also. It is true that we can never be absolutely certain to obtain the conversion of the sinners for whom we pray, because the cooperation of each soul is free; but what is certain is that we shall obtain a grace proportioned to the fervour and confidence of our prayer, and as it depends upon us to enlarge more and more that measure, it depends upon us also to increase indefinitely the chances of salvation of those for whom we pray.
That power is unlimited also as regards the persons to whom it is imparted. The other apostolates require a special vocation and faculties of some particular kind. Not all men have a vocation to the priesthood, and among those who have received the vocation not all are fitted in mental acquirements and physical strength for the active ministry. But the Apostolate of Prayer can be exercised by every Christian. We all in fact have exercised it from the day in which our mother taught us to bend our knees, and join our hands, and say our prayers under the unconscious impulse of the Holy Spirit. And who is he who can exercise that apostolate with most success? Is it the most learned, the most exalted in society, the most influential, the most esteemed? No, it is the most humble, the most pious, the most united with our Lord, the most generous in fulfilling His commandments, and accepting with love all the dispositions of His Providence. A poor beggar like Benedict Joseph Labre, who says his beads at. the door of the church, while an eloquent preacher enraptures from the pulpit a distinguished audience, may contribute more efficaciously than the preacher himself to the serious results of the preaching.
That power is unlimited as to the persons in whose behalf it may be exercised. To convert a sinner by preaching, you must be heard by him; to sanctify souls by your good example, you must be seen; to extend by the press the influence of your spoken word, you must be read; but to contribute by your prayers to the conversion of sinners and to the sanctification of souls it is not necessary to be heard or seen, to know the persons whom you lead into the way of salvation, or to be known by them. By a prayer made here in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the conversion of heathens, you may cause a grace to fall upon a dying Chinese or American savage, and open the gates of Heaven to him.
That power is unlimited finally as to the time and manner in which it may be exercised. We must not imagine that it belongs only to formal prayers, to particular words recited at stated times, or to lonely meditations made in the church or in some domestic sanctuary. No, we may exercise it as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did at Nazareth, by intentions which change all our works into prayers. It is in that sense that our Lord has ordered us to pray always, and not to faint. The intention is the soul of our works, and whatever be their body, their outward shape, provided they are conformable to the law of God, the intention which animates them gives them merit according to its purity. But of all intentions the purest, the most perfect, the most meritorious, is certainly the intention of Divine charity which animates the Heart of Jesus. If therefore at the beginning of each day, and, if possible, sometimes during the day, we unite our intentions with the intentions of the Heart of Jesus, if we offer our prayers, our actions, our sufferings for the conversion of sinners, for the sanctification of the clergy and of pious souls, for the defence and triumph of the Church, that is enough to render all those actions apostolic, and to give them, together with a much greater merit for ourselves, a much greater efficacy in assisting the work of God.
Such is in its nature and in its essential practice the Apostleship of Prayer. There still remains much to be said about its necessity, its advantages, and the method of its practice, but time does not permit. I will conclude with the words of Jeremias to Judas Machabeus which I quoted at the beginning of my discourse. It is our Divine Lord Who addresses these words to every one of you, while He offers you that all-powerful weapon of prayer by which He Himself has wrought our salvation. "Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people, Israel."
Yes, my dear brethren, it is my firm persuasion that by divesting His Church of all earthly advantages and depriving her of all human help our Lord wishes to show that He alone is her Saviour. And what He requires from us is to unite in an immense effort of prayer to obtain from Heaven the assistance which earth refuses. We must not remain idle. Every one of us must fight as did the Machabees, even though there is no human hope. But while we do on our part all that is in our power to move our fellow-men, we must display our energy in procuring help from on high. More than ever we must cry from the bottom of our hearts, Adveniat regnum tuum—“ Thy Kingdom come!" That is the war-cry which we must oppose to the cry of rebellion of the anti-Christian sect which has sworn to destroy the Kingdom of Christ upon earth. That is in fact the device of the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer; and in order to encourage us to repeat that motto, and to make it the rule of all our desires and ambitions, the Holy Father has granted an indulgence of one hundred days to all the Associates of the Apostleship who, wearing an image of the Sacred Heart upon their breasts make that aspiration either orally or mentally. Let us therefore repeat it often by the movement of our lips, and oftener still and more continually by the wishes of our heart, that the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may be fully established in our hearts and in the hearts of all men. Nothing more is wanted to change earth into a paradise and the vestibule of the Heavenly Paradise. Amen.
“My country has hurt me,”wrote a young poet in 1944 during the purge1when the head of state [Charles De Gaulle] implacably pursued the sinister job that had been in the works for more than four years. My country hurt me: this is not a truth that one shouts from the rooftop. It is rather a secret one whispers to oneself, with great sorrow, while trying nonetheless to keep hope. When I was in Spain during the 1950’s, I remember the extreme reserve with which friends, regardless of their political allegiance, would let escape certain details about “our war.” Their country was still hurting them. But when it is no longer a question of one's temporal motherland, when it is a question, not of the Church considered in herself, for from this perspective she is holy and indefectible, but of the visible head of the Church; when it is question of the current 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....
more from the SSPX Asia site.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."
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.
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.
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 79 (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 hear- ing 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 minis- try; 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). Rules for proper observance of Novenas