RAISE thy mind awhile above the thoughts of flesh and blood, and the obtrusive claims of bodily enjoyment: fix thine attention upon the goodness, sweetness, and condescension of thy God. See the attitude of that crucified Body. See if there is anything there, which does not plead for thee with the Divine Father; that Head penetrated by the multitude of thorns forced in, even to the sensitiveness of the brain, while the thorn is fastened.1 This people hath surrounded Me, says our Lord by His Prophet, with the thorns of their sins. And why? lest thy head should suffer harm: that is, lest thy intention should be corrupted. His Eyes were clouded in death, and those lights which illumine the world were for a time extinguished. While those eyes were closed, was there not darkness over the face of the earth? The two great lights , 2which God made when He created the world, were veiled while those Eyes were closed: and this was done that thine eyes might be turned away that they should not see vanity3 and that if they saw it, they should not love what they saw. Those Ears, which in Heaven are regaled by the eternal song: Sanctus,Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth?4 have on earth heard, Thou hast a devil5 and Crucify Him, crucify Him6
1 Psalm xxxi. 4. 2 Genesis i. 16. 3 Psalm cxviii. 37. 4 Isaias vi. 3. 5 St. John viii. 48. 6 St. Mark xv. 14.
Why? Lest thine ears should be deaf to the cry of the poor, should be open to bad conversation, should listen willingly and with pleasure to those who take their neighbours' characters away. That beautiful Face, beautiful beyond the children of men7 is defiled with spittle, bruised with blows, and made the object of unfeeling sport ; for it is written, They began to spit upon Him, and to strike His Face, and to mock Him, saying: Prophecy unto us, O Christ, Who it is that struck Thee. 8Why this? In order that thy countenance may be made to shine, and may preserve for ever its brightness: so that it may be said of thee, as it was of Anna : and her face -was overshadowed no more. 9 Those Lips, to which angels listen, and which taught men wisdom—the Voice which spoke arid they were made, and which there is no one that can resist10 " is silent for a while in death, that thy lips may speak truth and justice, and thy voice confess the Lord thy God. Those Hands which founded the heavens are stretched out upon the Cross, transfixed with rude nails, that thy hands may be stretched out to those in need; that thou mayest be able to say: My soul is ever in my hands11 for what we hold in our hands we do not readily forget: and so likewise those who put their soul into good works, do not deliver it up to negligence and forgetfulness. The Feet, whose footstool, the Psalmist tells us, we must adore12 because it is holy, are cruelly fixed to the wood, lest thy feet should hasten to do evil; but rather that they should run in the way of the commandments of God 13 And the Heart, in which are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and the knowledge, all the riches of the goodness and mercy of God, is pierced by the soldier's lance, that thy heart may be made clean from all that is ignorant and bad: that when it is cleansed, it may be sanctified, and, when sanctified, that it may be preserved in holiness for ever. What more was left for Him to suffer for thee? They have dug His hands and feet, they have numbered all His bones14 ; for thee He has laid down Body and Soul, in order that, body and soul, He might win thee ; with the price of His whole self He bought thee, all thou art (SAINT PETER DAMIAN).
7 Psalm xliv. 3. 8 St. Matt. xxvi. 67. 9 1 Kings i. 18. 10 Jud. xvi. 17. 11 Ps. cxviii. 109. 12 Ps. xcviii. 5. 13 Ps. cxviii. 32 14 Psalm xxi. 17.
THE THOUGHT OF HEAVEN.
WHEN thy best endeavours fail,Confraternity of Messenger of the Sacred Heart
When some hope thou findest frail,
Hush the beating of thy heart,
Let no murmur claim a part;
Heavenward lift thine eyes, and say:
All is bright in Heaven to-day!
When around thee swells the strife,
Some great trouble gnaws thy life;
When the lightning-cloud hath burst
O'er a blossom, fancy-nurst,
Clasp thy hands in prayer, and say:
All is calm in Heaven to-day !
When the care that others ask
Seems too burdensome a task,
Leaving scarce a moment's space,
E'en for prayer for aid and grace;
'Mid thy toils, look up and say:
All is rest in Heaven to-day!
Bravely check the rising tears;
Soon will pass the dreadest fears.
Trusting, raise thy heart on high,
Thrones are waiting in the sky;
Soon a loving voice will say:
Joy for thee in Heaven to-day!
A LENTEN FORM OF PRAYER AND INTERCESSION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF AND THE HOLY CITY OF ROME.
A VERSION INTO ENGLISH OF A PRAYER PUBLISHED BY POPE URBAN VIII. .
WE bear our guilt in thy sight, O Lord, and we have ever before us the chastisement which we have received.
If we measure the evil that we have done, less is that which we suffer, and greater is that which we deserve.
Greater are the misdeeds that we have done, and lighter the punishment that we endure.
We feel the pains which our sins have brought on us, but we do not flee from our evil doings.
By the stripes which Thou inflictest our flesh is consumed, but our iniquity is not taken away.
Our spirit is sorely tried, but our stiff neck is not bent.
Our life pineth away for grief, but we do not mend our ways.
If thou, art patient and long suffering yet are we not corrected, and if thou strikest we fail.
When Thy hand lieth heavy on us we confess our evil doings, but when Thou takest it away we forget all that we have bewailed.
If Thou dost put forth Thy hand, we promise to amend; if Thou dost hold back Thy sword, we withold all that we have promised.
If Thou dost strike, we cry out to Thee to spare us; if Thou sparest us, we again provoke Thee to strike.
We confess our guilt in Thy sight, O Lord, and we acknowledge that except Thou dost mercifully forgive Thou mayest justly destroy us.
Almighty Father, grant to us that which we ask, not deserving to obtain it, who hast made out of nothing them who ask Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
V. O Eternal Shepherd, leave not Thy flock comfortless.
R But through Thy blessed Apostles, protect us with an everlasting defence.
V.Guard Thy people, O Lord, who cry unto Thee, and who trust in the patronage of Thy Apostles.
R. Protect us with an everlasting defence.
V. Pray for us, ye holy Apostles of God.
R.That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray. Suffer us not, we beseech Thee, Almighty and Everlasting God, to be overcome by any adversities whom Thou hast firmly settled on the rock of thine Apostles' Confession of Faith. Through our Lord, &c.
Grant, O most merciful Lord, that the words of Thy holy servant, Chrysostom (who is buried in this church) may bring to us, who devoutly recite them, timely help in our need, in which he represented Thee, speaking thus with Thy holy Apostles, " Encompass and cast up a trench round about this new Sion, that is, guard, fortify, and protect it with prayers, that when my anger waxeth hot, and I shake the foundations of the earth, looking upon your burial-place that is never to be removed, and on the bruises that you rejoice to bear for my sake, I may overcome wrath with mercy, and thereby give ear to your intercessions. For when I see the priesthood and the kingdom humbling themselves to tears, straightway having compassion I incline to show mercy, and I remember my promise." I will protect this city for the sake of David, my servant, and Aaron, my holy one.—Be it thus, O Lord. Be it thus. Amen. Amen.*
The Rosary Magazine Vol I, 1872.
THE PRESERVATION OF SOCIETY ENDANGERED BY SOCIALISM.
Wars and rumours of wars and menace of pestilence are in the distant East, and nearer home a fiercer strife and a more alarming sickness. Never since the centuries of Pagan persecution have the spirits of darkness carried on so bold a warfare against the Church of Christ as in these latest days. They hardly care any longer to take the precaution of disguising themselves in garments of light. They are almost ready to declare themselves openly, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time!”* Yet a little, and the last faint pretence of solicitude for truth and virtue will be cast aside as a superfluous restraint and the enemies of the Church will confess, when it is useless to deny, that it is not Peter whom they hate, but Jesus of Nazareth. Even now in congenial circles the fact is not concealed, although in mixed society it may be convenient for a short time longer to substitute for the ancient rallying cry, "Christianos ad leones," the more gently expressed but substantially equivalent, "Down with the Ultramontanes." Almost all who care to know, do know by this time that when Frenchmen and Italians speak of Clericals and Ultramontanes they mean Catholics who practise their religion. If a Catholic hears Mass on Sunday or goes to Communion once a year, he is by that alone an Ultramontane. God be praised, illusion is fast vanishing from the minds of honest men. The distinction between Ultramontanism and Catholicity was conceived with sufficient cleverness to do much mischief in its day, but it deceives no one now except such as wish to be deceived. It is not that the enemies of the Church are glad to drop the mask, but that they are no longer able to wear it. with advantage. In their zeal for an evil cause, they have already passed the bounds of discretion, and it is too late to draw back. They are pledged to the battle, and good men have reason to be grateful, for it is better to meet them in the open-field than to come upon them at unawares lurking in ambush or advancing through the darkness. The Church is distributing her weapons of offence and marshalling her millions. The battle may be fierce, but the issue is not doubtful. It is possible, and even easy, to fight against the Lord and His Christ; but it is quite impossible to conquer them. "He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them. . . . And now, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, you that judge the earth.”*
* St. Matt. viii. 29.
Through the mutterings of the storm and above the din of warlike preparation, is heard the calm strong voice of one whom men cannot choose but hear. "He shall not slumber nor sleep that guardeth Israel!’+ Well would it be for all who care for public tranquillity and security of life and property, if even now at this late hour they would "receive instruction" from Leo the Thirteenth. Better would it have been if they had heeded the warnings addressed to them by Pius the Ninth, or Gregory the Sixteenth. Again and again the protest has been made, but King and people heard and turned away and refused to understand and to be instructed. Half a century ago the Vicar of Christ spoke in prophetic tones of the impending evils which socialism was preparing, and exhorted the Bishops of the Church to spare no pains to counteract the mischief of bad books and seditious pamphlets and false liberty of thought.
* Psalm ii, 4, 10. + Psalm cxx, 4.
"Now that curb and bridle no longer keep men in the paths of truth, while their nature, prone to evil, bears them headlong to ruin, we say with truth that the bottomless pit has been opened, the same from which John saw the smoke arise to darken the sun when the locusts came out upon the earth.* Thence issue forth these changes for the worse in the minds of men, the corruption of youth, the contempt of the people for religion and all sacred things and laws, and, in a word, that plague which is of all plagues that can affect the commonwealth the most pernicious, since even in ancient times experience made it clear that flourishing States, which had attained wealth and empire and renown, came to their ruin by this one sufficient cause,—unrestricted freedom of opinion, license of speech, and greed of novelty."+
The echoes of the repeated warnings of the great and holy Pope, to whom we owe the Syllabus, have scarcely died away, when another, yet the same, different in person, identical in authority to teach, takes up the word and calls once more upon kings to understand, and those who judge the earth to receive instruction.
The sovereigns and the statesmen of Europe have been playing with fire, and have found out at last that it burns. Gregory and Pius told them how it would be. The man of iron and blood sat down and made his calculations, but he counted without God. He cast in the cause of German unity with the irreligious party, because in his worldly wisdom, which is only another name for foolishness, he deemed it a safer policy to persecute pious Christians than to offend clamorous infidels. The two parties, he was able to see, could not work in harmony, if only for this reason, that with difficulty one hope, or principle, or thought, could be found common to both; but, whereas Catholics might be expected to bow their heads in meek obedience to the powers that be, he was well aware that fierce unbelievers would do nothing of the sort, if he tried to carry strong measures of which they did not approve. Therefore with many pious and edifying words, which showed his trust in Providence and his happy assurance that "God was with him" in all his undertakings for Fatherland, he said plainly enough not in words, but in deeds, let Christ be crucified, and Barabbas enlarged. But as it happens to be a truth of revelation more certain than all conclusions of diplomacy that the gates of Hell shall in no case prevail against the Church of Rome, so the choice he made was not at all a wise one even in his generation, as he himself knows now, in bitterness of soul, and as the poor deluded old man, to whom his rash counsels have brought so much danger and anxiety in the close of life, has good cause to know also. To both of them, as concerns the Fatherland, repentance comes too late. Evil has been done which cannot be undone in their little residue of life. The viper warmed into life by their fostering care has bitten deep.
* Apoc, ix. 2. + Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832.
If we turn to Italy, the son of Victor Emmanuel claims our truest pity. He has accepted his father's sin, and continued the sacrilegious usurpation, and by the judgment of God he carries about with him night and day a terror, which is not at all chimerical, the ghost of unforgiven crime. Uneasy lies the head which wears any other crown than the tiara in the Quirinal.
What shall be said of poor France with her Chamber of Deputies, under the presidency of M. Gambetta? How are the mighty fallen! Where can the children of faith turn for comfort? In England the Sunday is well observed, deliberate blasphemy and sacrilege are not national offences, and the infidelity which in some classes of the population is increasing, seems to be rather a punishment of her former apostasy than a fresh iniquity. Yet England is at this moment very guilty. Her great influence is exerted to promote evil and prevent good. She looks on and applauds all that is wrong in the ecclesiastical policy of European States, and she derides or reviles all that is right, if at least the Times enjoys her confidence and gives expression to her sentiments. This is the greatest of the crimes of England at the present time, and it is one for which it will be difficult to plead invincible ignorance as an excuse.
In this almost universal darkness the Holy Father speaks to raise our hope, " Even to-day if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts." The power of God is not less than in the days when the Church came out from the Catacombs with her garments red, and if He will listen to the prayers of His servants for His enemies, the words of His representative on earth will not fall upon unheeding ears this time. "And now, O ye kings, understand."
The recent Encyclical is full of instruction. It not only tells us of the danger which threatens society at large, but it lays bare the tactics of the anti-Christian confederation, and suggests the best way of bringing it mercifully to final confusion, by asserting the principles of the eternal law. All error is only a distortion of the truth. There are a liberty, a fraternity, and an equality which God approves and even demands, but they are far different from the "levelling up" of ourselves and our friends and the "levelling down" of all above us, which constitute the essential idea of the Socialistic creed.
The white man and the negro, the rich man and the poor man, are equal in the sight of Jesus Christ, but it is no more according to the intentions of our Creator and Redeemer that the rich man and the poor man should meet on the common ground of a comfortable competence, than that the black man and the white man should be toned down into a medium tint.
The king and the beggar are sons of the same Father, and in that sense most truly brothers; and, if they are not living upon terms of intimate friendship through the eternal ages which will follow this brief moment of their earthly pilgrimage, it will be the fault of either the king or the beggar, not of God their Father. But here on earth there are different relationships of life, master and servant, father and son; and the master and his servant are no more intended to speak and behave to one another on all occasions like twin brothers, than the father and his son.
All men alike, earl and churl, even when they are suffering imprisonment and bonds, are free with that highest freedom which belongs to created natures in the period of their probation, children and the insane alone excepted. As long as reason can exert its power, no terrors or fascinations can prevent free choice, no chains can bind the human will. The movements of the body may be controlled by external force, but thoughts and affections are at the absolute disposal of each man, so that his consent cannot be compelled, if he is resolute to withhold it.
Justum ac tenacem propositi virumBut there is no liberty at all conceded by the great Creator, if by liberty is to be understood immunity from the pressure of legislation. Liberty is not license. Men are born subject to the moral law, which speaks in their conscience as soon as reason dawns, commanding them to "decline from evil and do good" It is only the wilfully ignorant who do not know this first condition of man's existence upon earth. "A vain man is lifted up into pride, and thinketh himself born free like a wild ass's colt.” +
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni,
Mente quatit solida.*
* The man who stands in virtue strong,
Nor flinches from his purpose high,
Can fearless meet the surging throng,
The tyrant's frown defy.
+ Job xi. 12.
Socialism, by promising emancipation from legitimate restraint, only deludes men with fair words to bring about their ruin; for if a man break the law of God, "he shall bear his doom, whoever he be." All men are free, all are members of one family, all are equal, but not with a liberty which is only another name for slavery, or a fraternity which is another name for civil war, or an equality which means anarchy and chaos.
Public order is founded upon domestic virtue. To destroy the sanctity of home affections is the first object of the friends of misrule, and to sustain it is the first solicitude of the Holy Father. To secure the safety of nations, it is only necessary to adhere to the teaching of the Church. The code of the new Covenant which makes Christian marriage a Sacrament raised the Roman world from its moral infamy, and is quite sufficient to prevent a relapse into heathendom. All will go well with society at large, if Jesus Christ has his place of honour in every household; if parents regard the Christian education of their children as a precious charge committed to their care by One in Whose eyes it is an almost unpardonable sin to scandalize little ones; and if children give to their parents the reverence and obedience due to those who are to them the representatives of the paternity of God; if masters are kind and servants are faithful.
Again, the principles of the Gospel are the only safe defence against the persistent attacks upon the laws of property. No one can say without conscious and deliberate falsehood that the Church does not care for the poor. Innumerable institutions has she formed for the relief of the suffering poor, and in every epoch she tries with consistent endeavour to promote among her children the spirit of Divine compassion. Yet she knows that it is by the dispensation of God that the gifts of fortune, as of nature, are bestowed in vast variety, and that the right to acquire property, and the duty of respecting that right, are necessary conditions of our present life, and independent of time, and place, and ordinary circumstances. To her wise moderation neither wealth nor want is criminal; property is not robbery, and poverty is not dishonour. To plunder the rich in order to endow the poor is the cry of men who are ready to grasp and loth to give. To make the rich man generous and the poor man contented is the mission of the Church. Socialist doctrines tend to lift every man's hand against his neighbour, and class against class, employers and employed. The Gospel has power to make the whole civil system work in harmonious subordination of the different grades according to their various functions in the State, yet without ever once doing violence to the essential equality of Christian souls, or that spiritual dignity of Baptism, which, while it is common to all the children of the Kingdom, is of far higher worth than any patent of earthly nobility.
The Encyclical of Leo the Thirteenth is a noble protest. Even those who like Papal interference least must yet be struck by this calm vindication of Gospel morality. No Christian man can fail to see on which side of the European quarrel is unfurled the banner of Jesus Christ. Not only every Catholic, but every honest Christian, at this moment surveying the armies marshalled for war, and looking from the one to the other to make comparison, ought to be able to say to Leo the Thirteenth, as St. Jerome said to Pope Damasus, "He Who does not gather with thee scatters." It is much to have dispelled illusion, "Why will you die, O house of Israel?"* If the nations will not accept the warning, at least they have received it—"Destruction is thy own, O Israel.”+
The pastors of the Church will emulate the vigour of their chief, for the Church possesses an episcopate unsurpassed in any age. Will the secular rulers "harden their hearts," or will they "listen awfully to His words, and bend their knees before His holy altars?" God holds in His hands the hearts of princes, and prayer is still allpowerful. "Holy Mary, succour the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the weeping, pray for the people, defend the clergy, intercede for the devout female sex: let all experience thy aid who celebrate thy memory"
Ezech. xviii. 31. + Osee xiii. 9.
The Holy Father shall tell us how to pray.
"May He, to Whom we must necessarily ascribe all good in its origin and its successful consummation, assist Our efforts, Venerable Brethren, and yours. For what remains, this season of the annual celebration of the birthday of our Lord gives us fresh hope of prompt assistance; for those glad tidings of salvation which Christ at His birth brought to the world grown old, and almost reduced to the last extremity of evil, He bids us also receive hopefully; that peace which He then proclaimed to men by His angelic messengers, He has promised to us likewise. 'Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is His ear heavy that it cannot hear! *
"In these days then of blessed promise we earnestly implore the Giver of all good gifts, desiring for you, Venerable Brethren, and for all the faithful of your churches all joy and happiness in order that once more 'the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour ‘+may appear, Who has snatched us from the power of our cruel enemy, and has raised us to the exalted dignity of the children of God. And, that our desires may be more speedily and more completely accomplished, unite, Venerable Brethren, your fervent prayers to ours in supplicating God, and claim the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate from the beginning, of Joseph her spouse, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in whose intercession we have the greatest confidence." The month of St. Joseph reminds us that he is specially the patron of all who labour with their hands. The example of the carpenter's house in Nazareth is the best remedy of Socialism. To holy Joseph, therefore, we appeal to avert the appalling danger which menaces society, yet not to him alone. We invoke besides, in behalf of a foolish generation, the yet more prevailing prayer of "* Thou, O Virgin, canst accomplish by thy prayer what God by His command. the Mother of fair love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope."X It cannot be that the Sacred Heart of Jesus will refuse to grant even that miraculous aid, which alone can wake to higher thoughts hearts hardened by long resistance to grace, steeped in sin, and vainly trying to persuade themselves that there is no God, no personal responsibility, no retribution; that the inequalities of rank and fortune are only a standing monument of past abuse of power, and have no higher sanction than the caprice or the violence of those who first established dynasties and titles and large estates. We ask for very much, but nothing less than very much will save society in Europe now.
Quod Deus imperio tu prece, Virgo, potes.*
Thou, O Virgin, canst accomplish by thy prayer what God by His command.
* Isaias lix. I. + Titus iii. 4. X Ecclus. xxiv. 24.
PRAYER. O Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee all the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in union with those intentions for which Thou dost unceasingly offer Thyself a Victim of love on our altars. I offer them to Thee in particular for those who labour and suffer, that they may regain, with the faith which ennobles toil, the hope also which soothes the bitterness of want. O God made Man, Who didst vouchsafe to work in Nazareth, turn aside the dangers which we have drawn down upon our heads by banishing Thee from our factories and workshops. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
March Apostolate of Prayer
Confraternity of Bona Mors
THE SEVEN WORDS.
INTRODUCTION.There is no pulpit more solemn than the death-bed. Every word spoken from it is a text from which many useful sermons might be preached. The dying Christian is to us as a prophet, an apostle, and martyr. In his pangs are our own foretold, in his faith we are taught how to preach Christ, in his submission an example is set us how to lay down our lives for the Lord. He who is passing away then has no need as other preachers have to conciliate his hearers, for the circumstance of his being are of themselves enough to arrest attention without the help of any of the tricks of art.Seven Words (Part I)
The faltering voice struggling to bid its last farewell, or to breathe a word of comfort, or to give a last advice, appeals to our hearts with an eloquence all its own. It is you know as the sun is setting that it throws its richest and most mellow tints upon the surrounding landscape, and it is as man is sinking into his grave that he utters his sweetest and most tender words to those who are met around him. And hence, brethren, it is that we cross the threshold of the dimly lighted room, to bend in stillness over the bed of him whose limbs are straightening for the grave, we strain to read in the thin white face every secret it has to tell, and, as we wipe away the dampness on his brow, we gaze intently upon the quivering lips, so only we may interpret what messages they fain would breathe, what prayer they struggle to pray.
If such be our attitude for the most part in the presence of any one whose life is passing away, more particularly is it so when he who is struggling with death is some dear friend or relative, a wife, a child, our father or mother. Then no distance is thought too long to travel, provided only we may be by in the hour of their extremity, and lend them our loving aid.
To-day, brethren, we have left our homes and occupation to meet around the death-bed of One Who is no mere kinsman, neighbour, or friend to us, but Who is nearer and dearer far to our hearts than wife or child, father or mother, for is not Jesus Christ moreover our Redeemer and our Life, our God our All? Into whose sweet face but His can we look up and say, "What have I in Heaven, and, besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth?" In less than three hours that adored face will be shrouded with the mantle of death.
And was there ever such a death-bed scene as this which we are witnessing? Instead of the comforts of home, see, He is exposed to the rude, rough blasts of curly Cavalry's hill-top; instead of a comfortable bed, He is forced to lie on the roughhewn cross; for a pillow, there is a crown of thorns, and through His sacred hands, in which we would place an image of His Blessed Mother, they have driven iron nails, transfixing them like His feet to the hard cold wood of the Cross.
Well may we wonder why the birds of the air do not hover round to make a canopy over His Head, why the beasts do not rush forth from the forests to lend their warm furs to cover His Body, stripped of its clothing, and defiled with wounds and blood and spittle.
Abandoned by His Father, betrayed by one disciple, left by the rest, yelled at by the rabble, with Priest and Scribe, and Jew and Gentile, vying with one another in their jeers and taunts at Him, Jesus is hanging between earth and Heaven with no one to comfort Him in His hour of shame. "I looked for one who would comfort Me, and I found none."
His Blessed Mother, yes, she of course is here, but her sorrow does but serve to add to His. Where then are they to whom He restored their sight, why are they not by to offer Him their tears of sympathy? And they to whom He miraculously gave the use of speech, why are not they at hand to proclaim His innocence? And the five thousand whom He fed in the desert, why have not they come with balm to stanch His wounds, and draughts to slake His thirst? Where is the Ruler and Nicodemus, Lazarus and Zacchaeus? Of all these thousands to whom He lovingly ministered in life, can only a few women, with the ardent John, be found to accompany the broken-hearted Mother to His deathbed?
Oh, my brethren, it is the same old story all the world over. Men will follow Jesus when there are loaves and fishes to be had, but not when He calls them to share His shame and to lend Him the comfort of their sympathy and love. We at least will keep by Him to the very last, and as we fix our eyes upon His bleeding face, and drink in with reverence and with love every word He has to say, we will apply them, each of them, as if they were spoken, as they will be, for our own individual hearts. For, remember this, brethren, if Jesus is our model in life, still more so is He our model in death. If each of us must learn a lesson from Him in His crib at Bethlehem, in His home at Nazareth, in the Temple at Jerusalem, under temptation in the desert, in His prayer in the garden, most of all must we learn from Him in His death on Calvary. For we all have to die, and without the example of His death, Who sanctified by the pains of His Body and the anguish of His mind which He then endured, all the trouble which will gather round our souls in the hour of our extremity, I know not how we can hope to promise ourselves a happy death.
You all want your lives to be crowned by a happy death; your very presence here to-day is itself a proof of it. Let me then ask you to put away from your hearts all distracting thoughts during these precious hours, and at the foot of the Cross now ask through the Angel of the Agony, through the sorrows of the Mother, by the merit of the five wounds, and the seven words, that we may every one of us learn from our Lord's death-bed, how to live our lives so as to die our deaths in union with Christ upon the Cross.
I.—FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.The first hour of the three begins. The noise of the nailing is over, the Cross has been raised and let down with a jolt into the place prepared for it. Between earth and heaven Jesus is hanging on the Cross, pierced in His hands and feet by iron nails. Around Him, and rending the air with their yells, stand the rabble mob, the soldiers, the scribes, and the priests. By His side His Mother takes her place, and there she will remain till the work of death is done. She has glanced up at the Bleeding Face, and thought it more beautiful and precious to her now than ever it looked as it reposed in sleep in years gone by upon her bosom, and she longs to hear the accents of His sweet familiar voice once more before He dies.
But Jesus is holding ineffable communion with the Father. He is pleading with Him for these very murderers from whom He is suffering most of all, but that Father has asked what excuse can be found for the sin of crucifixion. The Sacred Heart has invented an excuse, and now Jesus breaks the silence—not to breathe a word of comfort to the Mother, not to thank the virgin John that he at least is loyal to His Master, no not to assuage the sorrow of Magdalen sobbing at His feet. Oh, no! His prayer all along has been for those who needed most His mediation. He from the first has forgiven every sin and sinner, and now that His Sacred Heart has found an excuse which with the Father must have weight, He looks up and prays aloud, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Look up at your Elder Brother, does He not seem to say, Father, though now I cannot bend my knees before you, nor lift my outstretched arms, now bow my Head in prostrate adoration, yet here on my hard bed of the Cross I ask you, if you love your Son, to hear my dying prayer. I am He of whom it is written, " He shall call upon Me, and I will hear Him." It is not for myself I now am pleading, I will drink the chalice to the very dregs, I will stay upon My bed of pain till My work of life is done. Spare not Me, for I am laden with the sins of all, but pity those for whom I am offering up My death. No longer do I ask you if it is possible, but I claim as My right as your only Son that you will ratify in Heaven the pardon I now extend to every sinner on the earth. Oh, pardon every sin and sinner ere I breathe My last.
Oh, notice, brethren, the loving tenderness of the excuse accompanying this—"They know not what they do."
Jesus has clearly before His failing sight the hearts of each one of us, He has looked it through and through if perchance some spark of love Divine might therein be found, and He has found so little, that He has been forced to frame an excuse for our sins which none but His love could dare to offer to the outraged majesty of His Father. It is the only excuse left.
Oh, beautiful unending prayer, true of every sinner! No one knows what he does when he gives way to sin. Oh, eloquent appeal, pleading with force as strong upon the love of our poor wayward hearts, as it does efficaciously upon the mercy of His Father.
But, brethren, can it really be said that we know not what we do when we sin? Has God condemned the rebel host, and opened up the deep pit, and visited upon His the chastisement our sins deserve, and yet can it be said we know not what we do? Did not Cain know what he did when he murdered his elder brother? Did not Solomon know what he did when he abandoned himself to his vices? Did not Peter, and Judas, and Pilate, and Herod, and Priests and Scribes, and Jews and Gentiles, know what they did in the hour of the power of darkness? Do not you know what you do when you deliberately sit down to sin —plan your sins—rush into the occasions of sin, and are greedy to find out new methods of sinning? Can young men feel their life wasting away under the ravages brought on by their long continued habits of sin, and it be said they know not what they do?
No, my brethren, truely none of us know what we do. Surely if it were given us to understand the frightful enormity, the hideous malice of a single mortal sin, if we could see but for one moment what a revolting object a soul is that is steeped in one mortal sin, no power in the world would be ever strong enough to induce us to give way again. But now we have heard the loving excuse made for us from the dying lips of our agonizing Brother, we ought to be persuaded that this very knowledge, that the malice of sin is past our comprehension, will make up a great part of the enormity of our sin if ever we come to fall again. But for you, brethren, it is enough to look upon the work of sin as you see it in the condition to which it has brought the Son of sinless Mary, to fill your souls with a horror of the past and resolutions of amendment for the future. This, then, remember. The day is not far distant when you too will be face to face with death. It will then be all-important for you to bear in your hearts no malice, grudge, or bitterness towards friend or foe. For what at that hour would profit you, your protests of love for God, if you will not forgive those He forgives and loves, if you will not find some excuse for what may have been their cruelty towards you. In the measure we forgive those that trespass against us, we ourselves will be forgiven our trespasses against our Father.
But some of you may say, How can I forgive such an one who has robbed me of my good name, injured my reputation, or kept from me what was my due? If there be any one here present so minded, any one who still bears rancour in his heart, let him argue with himself as he might with some dear friend whom he knew to be about to appear before his Judge in these dispositions. Take up your crucifix, and fixing your eyes upon the mangled Body of your Saviour, ask yourself what was the first word of the seven uttered by those dying lips upon the Cross. And then turn to your own black heart. Say, Have my enemies treated me as cruelly, as savagely, as I myself have treated Jesus my Saviour? Where are the nails piercing my hands, digging my feet? Does a thorny crown press upon my head? Where are the wounds and scars upon my body, inflicted by the thongs and the scourge?—and you will exclaim, Not a hair of my head have they touched, not one drop of my blood have they shed. No, but they have spoken evil against me. And was it before impious judges in open court that they bore false witness? Have they dragged me through the streets, to be hissed and hooted at by the rabble? Was it on my death-bed that they gathered round in throngs to assail me with their foul-mouthed villainies.
Oh, dear brethren, if instead of hugging our grievances, of pondering over our real and imaginary wrongs till we magnify them beyond all measurement, we would but learn quietly and patiently to compare them with what our dear Lord has had to put up with from our own selves, they would dwindle into insignificance, and we should rejoice that we had something to suffer which made us more Christ-like.
Besides, we may always ask ourselves, What good have I done to men that they should treat me better than our Lord was treated? Have I spent my life in setting good example, in being a model of every virtue? On the contrary, have I not gone about spreading discord, doing evil myself, and setting others an example of sin?
For if men could read on our foreheads the true story of our life, as Jesus Christ reads it written in our hearts, how many friends should we have remaining to us? Would there be one besides Him and His Mother?
Oh, make your dying Brother this promise, before we pass on to consider the second word, that never will you lie down to rest at night with rancour gnawing at your heart, that if you can find no excuse for the evil done you, you will offer up His first word, and say it in His dispositions: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Then, brethren, when your turn shall come to lie down to rise no more, this same disposition will reign in your heart. And then in your extremity Jesus Christ will offer up this same kind prayer for you, and all your sins will be wiped away, and you will die with Christ upon the Cross.
2.—THIS DAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.
On Calvary there are three crosses. On the middle one hangs the mangled body of the King of the Jews, on the other two are writhing two thieves, one on the right hand of Jesus, and one on the left. These two men are known to us by the names of the good thief and the bad thief. As we look upon this strange and awful sight of Jesus on His Cross between these two outcasts of society, we are natality led to think of another day when the Son of Man will appear with this same sign of the Cross in the clouds of heaven, and shall summon to His right hand and on His left all those who to-day are represented by the good and by the wicked thief. Then Jesus will appear on His throne of justice as now on His throne of mercy. Now His one long-continued prayer is for mercy upon His enemies, and if we could enter into the hearts of these two culprits who are undergoing their deserved chastisement, we might then learn how Divine Pity is busy at its work. Grace, like flights of angels, has come down from the mercy-seat, and now hovers over these two human hearts, wooing them to repent and apply the merits of Christ's prayer to their sin-stained souls. Even grace may do no more than this. Though with its ineffable beauty it may lure men to repent, though by the whisperings of its sweet voice it may plead with strangely beautiful eloquence, it may put no constraint upon the freedom of man's will, it may not catch us by main force from the bondage of sin into love's pure liberty. Though God made us without our cooperation, He will not save us unless we will it. What new triumph of grace can the angels record this day? Will these two criminals, whose singular privilege it is to die in the very presence of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, accept the grace offered to them, sweetly urged upon them by the words of the Son and the tears of the Mother? Listen, brethren, for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. What say the robbers? He who is on the left of the Holy One of Israel speaks first. And oh, must I say it—to utter blasphemies against his Lord. "If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us "—is the only answer he has to make to grace. But, blessed be God, he on the right rebukes his fellow-criminal, saying to him, " Neither dost thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same condemnation, and we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man hath done no evil" Thus speaks, in his last agony, a robber, one who by profession is a highwayman, a man with seared conscience, without instruction, now delivered over by Divine Justice into the hands of human justice. In a moment, quicker than I can tell you, his mind is given to see that to revile our Lord in His shame is to be void of the fear of God, that to bear his own in union with Christ is to atone for his past sins. He confesses his own guilt, preaches the Divine innocence of Jesus, and of an unbeliever becomes a confessor of the faith, of a criminal becomes a glorious martyr. Oh, the unction of his contrition, the wonders of his confidence!
"Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom." And Jesus lifts His drooping head, and turning His gracious eyes upon His own repentant sinner, says to him with melting tenderness, " This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." If the humble request of the contrite Dymas is full of confidence, the promise made by his dying Lord is the answer of One Who had come to call not the just but sinners. Poor Dymas, the picture of his past sinful life stood out before him in all its frightful hideousness, and he saw no means of making reparation. He had but a few more hours of life, and then he must appear before another tribunal more searching far than any judgment-seat on earth, and even were his sins to be blotted out in the Blood of his Saviour, he felt his past life had been barren of all good, and he therefore throws himself on his Lord's goodness, pleading " Lord, remember me." Repentant, stricken sinner ! never, Dymas, didst thou know before how loving is that Heart thou hadst pierced so often, or surely thou wouldst have offended less. The three hours' companionship of Christ upon the Cross taught thee more theology than we learn in our lives.
Brethren, the whole Gospel narrative bristles with the wondrous deeds wrought by Jesus Christ, but this sweet incident told of the triumph of Jesus in His death over a criminal undergoing the sentence of death is without its parallel. So long as there is life there is hope for the worst of us.
But if this beautiful death-bed conversion teaches us never to despair, the equally dreadful obstinacy in sin of the other thief may well make us tremble with fear. Oh, the frightful evil consequences of resistance to the voice of grace, of putting off repentance till the hour of death; for we are not likely to have such wondrous supernatural helps then as the wicked thief had offered him. We shall not have the example of Dymas; not the presence of Jesus seen with our bodily eyes; not the audible accents of His sweet voice urging us to repent; not the quick-falling tears of His gentle disconsolate Mother.C Remember this every day of your lives: grace is waiting to find admittance into your heart. If you resist it in life, what reason have you to believe you will cooperate with it in death? Let me beg of you, as you love your souls, never to lie down to rest with grace still knocking at your heart; let in the angel messenger and chase away the evil one before you fall to sleep, lest some night you wake up as others have, to find yourself hopelessly lost and for ever. Do not flatter yourselves that you may live without Jesus and then find His mercy in death. May we all remember we too are thieves; we have robbed God of His glory; we have stolen from Him and given to others the praise, the reverence, and the service which He alone had the right to claim. And death is already upon our track. And as the detective will lay hold of the thief when he thinks himself most secure, so death will find us out when we least expect, and there is no time to put ourselves right with the outraged justice of God. Let us then, one and all, like the repentant thief, confess our sins before our crucified Lord, and ask Him to remember us; to remember us now, and each hour of our lives, not in justice but in mercy, and give us grace so to live, that when we too come at last to be stretched upon our cross—for to whom is not his death-bed a cross—we may look to hear on our severance from the body the blessed words, "Thou shalt be with me in Paradise!”
3. WOMAN, BEHOLD THY SON: BEHOLD THY MOTHER.
Twice has Jesus raised His drooping Head to speak. He lias prayed for His enemies, His persecutors, His murderers, and He has absolved poor Dymas dying by His side. And now He is about to break the stillness of the air to do a further kindness to prove the love He bears to His Holy Church and all its children.
It is to her whose eyes never wander from His sacred face that this word of grace is spoken. She stands a little way aside from the Cross, in her obedience to the Divine decree surpassing the holy Patriarch Abraham, for while he was prepared to sacrifice by God's command His son Isaac, Mary has offered up her only Son to appease the wrath of the Father. In union with the great High Priest, in union with the Church which He represented, she stood at the Altar of the Cross, assisting there and offering the Victim of sin, even as she assists at every Mass that is being offered up day and night in all parts of the earth.
Mary's place beside the Cross is rather that of the second Eve than of Mother. As Mother she can offer her Son no relief, She may not reach His sacred face to wipe away the tears and blood that are blinding His aching eyes. She may not untie the cruel crown which penetrates His throbbing brow. No word of sweet comfort may she utter, but in silence ponder in her heart all the wonders that are wrought, that so she may hereafter relate them to His Spouse the Church. As Eve beneath the tree of the forbidden fruit became the mother of the dead, and Adam brought sin into the world and with sin death, so Jesus the second Adam on the tree brought grace into the world and with grace life; and Mary the second Eve beneath the tree upon which the fruit of her womb is hanging becomes Mother of all the living. She stands before the world now fulfilling the prophecy of her that she should crush the serpent's head. Jesus looks upon her, that woman who was more to Him than ever woman has been to any other son, the woman who alone of all His creatures was singled out to be His Mother, and now He was going to install her in her office of second Eve. The beloved disciple was by her side, and Jesus speaks to her, "Woman, behold thy Son: Son, behold thy Mother."
Mary heard the word, effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword, reaching unto the division of her soul and of her spirit, and it was given her to understand the meaning of the mystery. She knew by that word she was made the Mother of all those represented by the newly-ordained disciple. It was a creative word creating in the heart of Mary a passionate love for the children brought forth in sorrow. Her thoughts went forth to that other Annunciation when, in her silent chamber at midnight, the angel broke in upon her extatic (ecstatic) prayer to proclaim her Mother of God. And now, in the dim light of the eclipse, her silent prayer is interrupted by the very Angel of the Lord making her Mother of all mankind. Oh! the thrill of joy that went with the first Motherhood, and what a pang of grief with the second; John instead of Jesus, the servant instead of her Lord, the disciple instead of the Master, the son of Zebedee for the Son of God!
Children of her sorrow are to replace the Child of her joy. But the supreme calm of Mary's soul remains unruffled, and her whole nature rises up to meet the word, her lips still murmuring low, "Be it done unto me according to thy word." From that moment Mary entered upon her great, anxious charge, the charge of the Mother of all the brethren of Jesus. And the disciple took her as his own.
Oh, wondrous mystery of surpassing love, that Jesus should have made over to us, should have trusted to our poor keeping her, the only one who always loved Him with all the vehemence of her soul, and the only one for whom He had the love of a son for a mother.
But Jesus knew His Church would be no real home for his children, unless they too were nurtured and nursed and taught by the tender love and care of a Mother. What is it, brethren, to have a mother? Ask those who have lost a mother—for they best can tell. It is to have one whose love nobody can replace in our heart. It is to have one who can never do enough for us, one of whose sympathy we always may be sure, into whose ear we may pour the story of all our woes, our wrongs, our sins, and who will support and bear us up no matter how dark our life may look, no matter what evils may befall us, and who will be our sure comfort in the evil hour. This it is what Mary is to us. If she is not all this to each one of us the fault is our own, for we are her children, the children of her sorrow, filling her heart, for a little sorrow fills the heart even if it takes a joy that is infinite to replenish it Brethren, honour your Mother, for she is the Mother of Jesus; pity your Mother, for she is the Mother of the seven-fold sorrows; love your Mother, for she is always proving hers for you; cling to your Mother, for then you will cling to Jesus; leave her not lest you leave your Elder Brother. Take warning from Peter and the other disciples. Had they been by their Mother like blessed John, they would have been nearer Jesus.
Young men, behold your Mother, look on her when the Evil One would lead you off into sin. Behold her beauty and grow disenchanted with the charms of the sinner Behold her spotless virginity, and refrain from your deeds of shame. Let none be afraid of loving her too much, the more you love her the more she will make you love her Son. Look into the lives of those who have loved her most and be satisfied.
And now Jesus is stretched on his death-bed to teach us how to die. How does He die? With His Mother by His side. His last bequest to us is the gift of her that she may be by our side too when our hour shall come.
We are always asking her to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. May we not hope and pray that no matter when or how death may come she at last may be near to help us in the evil hour? Whether visibly or invisibly let that be as God wills. Whether we hear the accents of her sweet voice, or only feel its effects, at least she must promise this, not to let us die without her. Fear not, brethren, she will surely be by the death of every one of us if only we are devout to her. Bear her image about you, recite her Litany and her Rosary, often tell her you love her, and prove it to her by greater purity of life, deeper reverence for the Divine commands, by more frequent confessions and communions. Then when we fall asleep it will be in her arms, and we shall wake to behold our Mother enthroned in glory beside her own sweet son Jesus.
4.—MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU ABANDONED ME?
Many touching lessons we have already learnt from the dying lips of our crucified Brother, wonderful examples He has set us how rightly we are to die. Every word uttered from the Tree of Shame midst pains indescribable has sunk deep into our sorrowing hearts, and we have been taught that the first disposition for a happy death is to be at peace with all the world, and like Him to find out some loving excuse for the wanton malice of our foes, no matter what cruel wrongs they have done us, perchance—let us forgive: "They knew not what they did,"' that so our own transgressions may be forgiven without the need of cleansing fires to keep us back a day from Paradise. Our souls thus reconciled with God and all mankind, holy Mary will minister to us, be sure, through all that agony to which the mind and body falls a prey when the soul is struggling to free itself from the ligaments of the flesh. For such is our nature, brethren, such the penalty of its first revolt, that death is usually the hour of the powers of darkness, of darkness not such as Christ our Elder Brother went through, but yet of darkness worse than any of Egypt—a darkness of the mind. Oh, the terrible dereliction which Christ endured that we might be strengthened in the valley of the shadow of death!
The pain of loss is pain in its most searching form. It is the keenest torture of the damned, and it is the most poignant known on earth. Ask the young wife if words can tell the anguish of her mind when news had reached her from the field of battle that he for whom she lived has fallen—is no more. Ask the mother what grief shot through her soul like a flame when her little one has died before its time. Ask the Queen of Martyrs what the seventh sword of sorrow did in her heart when He who drew His Blood from her was laid in her lap with all His beauty faded, silent and lifeless. But what are all these forms of unutterable woe to compare with that to which our Elder Brother willed to yield Himself when in the supreme moment of His mental anguish He cried out upon the Cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou abandoned Me?" 0, my Mother, how the words transfixed thee to the Cross! Was He then abandoned on His bed of death by His Heavenly Father at the very moment when the gathering horror of His loneliness seemed to ask more aid? Was it possible that He who is very God of very God should have been left without succour of His own Divine personality, left by His Father, abandoned by the Spirit of Comfort? No, though His sinless soul might part from His adorable Body, the Divinity remained unseparable from each. That awful cry breaking like thunder through the preternatural darkness on Calvary is to tell to all the world that the tide of suffering possible for human nature to endure has reached its fullest height. It was the human cry of the Sacred Heart choosing for our sake to endure anguish of soul with no Divine support sensibly lent from on high. Jesus will not use His Divine power to screen Himself, He puts away the defences of His Divine Nature that as man He might experience what depth of woe the human mind may sound.
Till He looked up into the darkness of the heavens and the cry of bitterest anguish vibrated through the air, no word had He spoken of His own keen torments. But now He willed to prove to all the redeemed what price the redemption cost Him, what were the pangs and woes which filled His Soul in death that their passage might be through smooth waters to the haven of rest . What lesson, then, are we to take home to our hearts from the fourth word spoken from the Cross? It must be this, to remember that the keenest form of suffering—dereliction by God—is spared us on our death-bed by the merit which our Elder Brother reaped for us by His dereliction on the death-bed of the Cross; and not to forget that if only we live our life hidden with Christ in God, God our Father too will despatch Divine succours to uphold us at its close. Then Mary's care will cherish us and our heavenly Father's smile will bathe our souls in light and peace and love, as the shades of evil are chased and fade away for ever.
Jesus cried from the Cross to merit for us the grace and strength to bear through life whatever loss we may sustain in the absence of those in whom we trust, in whose love we live, who are our comfort and support; to merit for us the grace to bear God's will from day to day, in aridity in prayer, in the sense of loneliness, and want of Divine help. Brethren, never abandon God in life,"and He will not abandon you in death. Cling to Him in joy and in sorrow, and in trial, by day and by night, in the sacraments of the Church, in the word of His command. Whatever you lose, lose not Him, or if you lose, seek Him straight, knock till He opens, and then hold Him fast and never let Him go, till in death you fall asleep on His breast, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.
5.—“SITIO" —I THIRST.We have dwelt upon the fourth word spoken by our Lord when the agony of His soul had reached its highest point. We will now pause to meditate on that fifth word, "I thirst," which reveals us the pangs brought on by the physical pains of His Body. He had cause for thirst. Since He had drunk the chalice with His disciples the night before nothing had moistened His fever-scorched lips but the wine mingled with gall. He had passed three terrible hours in the garden which had well nigh drained Him of His Precious Blood as well as strength. Then add to this the frightful strain undergone during those long hours of the night when He was delivered up to be the sport of soldiers whose brutality need fear no blame. And the morning brought with it no relief. From early dawn till the sun was full in the heavens he was dragged from one tribunal to another, jostled by the mob, flouted by the priests, hooted and hissed at by the very children whom He had greeted with blessings and a smile. Next followed the scourging which stripped Him of His flesh so that His bones could be numbered. They had not spared even His Sacred Head. He must be made to wear a crown of thorns piercing to the very bone till the whole Head throbs with fierce fever. Then forget not the burden of the Cross under whose weight He staggered and fell almost to swoon away. The nails were burning in His hands and feet, and unutterable pain is searching out every part of that most sensitive Body. Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins. Surely he has reserved for Himself a death in which is summed up every crudest form of physical pain and sleeplessness, long continuance of torments, publicity of shame, exposure to the chilling blasts, all intensified to the point in which endurance was possible, and stopping short just of that point which brings the relief of unconsciousness. Oh, cast an eye of pity on Him as He hangs between earth and Heaven, His most sensitive and delicate Body supported entirely on four gaping wounds, so that it is not possible for Him even to move His Sacred Head to look upon His Mother without increasing their thrilling pain. And yet how can He long be still, stretched on such a rack as this, a fierce thirst parching all the juices of life, His lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbing with burning fever. The arteries are swollen and surcharged with blood, His whole frame craving for water, but one drop must not moisten His lips; He must bear the torment as He best can, till He suffers death to bring Him release from His pain.
Oh, the agony of the thirst brought on by physical pain which broke the silence of our Brother on the Cross by the piteous cry, "I thirst."
Was there ever thirst like His? Did ever shipwrecked mariner burn with more agonizing thirst? Was wounded soldier on the field of battle ever tormented with such intolerable agony? Did Dives himself plead for one drop of water to cool his parched tongue with more piteous cry than Christ upon the Cross? Yet we know this pain has been enough in the case of strong men to sweep reason from its throne, so that there is no departure from life we can imagine more horrible than death from thirst.
Oh, poor forlorn Mother, to have to stand by and be unable to allay the agony of thy Son!
And now, brethren, ask yourselves why has the sinless Son of Man endured all this?
Was it not to prove in deed that He has loved us to the end? Was it not that the martyrs on racks, under the fangs of wild beasts, that confessors laden in prison with their chains, might be able to look up to the Cross and say, "Thy love, sweet Jesus, is deeper than mine?" Was it not that we might live to endure our small pains in union with Him? That instead of shirking our little troubles and ridding ourselves of the pangs and ills that flesh is heir to, we might press them to our hearts and wear them as a precious relic of the Saviour's Cross; that we might press the chalice to our lips to taste what He has drank to the very dregs for us; that we might prove that while we love Him at the table, most of all we love Him on the Cross? And so when death comes we will thirst to suffer all its pangs for Him and thirst for more, and He will come to pour the balm of holy oils, and not great nails into our wounded hands and feet, and upon our tongues place the Bread of the strong, and from the tree of the Cross press the juice, not of gall, but of his Precious Blood, into our lips, and turn all our thirst into craving for the strong living God, to see His beauty and His glory, to slake our thirst at the gushing streams of His love. Then shall be heard the accents of His voice whispering, "Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow. Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here, and I will come and wake thee on the morrow."
6.—IT IS FINISHED.
Most of us, I dare say, can recall that strangely awful feeling of relief, mingled with regret, that has come over us when we were told by the death-bed of one, over whom we had lovingly watched during a lingering painful illness, " It is all over: it is finished."
We drew a sigh of relief to think at last the suffering was ended, the crown deserved and won, and then like summer tempest came our tears; we sobbed because the loved one was gone and we were lonely and desolate. From what our feelings have been we imagine something of our Blessed Mother's feelings as she heard this sixth word from her agonizing Son, "It is finished." She will help us, if only we ask her, to penetrate the meaning of this wondrous word, " It is finished." What is finished? all is finished. All the prophecies are fulfilled, atonement for every sin is made. The cup of suffering which our sins had filled to overflowing has been drank to the dregs. Sinners have done their worst, and Jesus has loved us to the end, to the end of love, to the end of life. He may now die and we can live, live His life over again, for He has taught us how to do it, and made ready the means. By his birth at Bethlehem Jesus has sanctified the beginning of life, by His thirty years at Nazareth he has taught us how to live in domestic peace, by His public ministry how to deal with men doing good, by His prayer in the garden how to pray even in sadness unto death, by His Passion how to bear calumny, reproach and pain, by His death upon the Cross how to die and be obedient unto death. His life of example then is finished. But more than this, He has provided for the wants of each of us. He has set up His Church, the treasure-house in which each one of us may find the graces necessary to live His life, and die His death over again. He had each one of us before Him in all the actions of His life, and He lived His thirty-three years for each separate soul as though there had been no other for whom to live and die, so that each one of us may say, In His life He had my life before Him, in His agony my agony, in His death my death. And because He knew so well that in the sorrows of death it would be difficult for me to possess my soul in that patience, resignation, and contrition which I could wish, He has anticipated all this for me in His own patience, resignation, and contrition for all sin, so that all I shall have to do in that dread moment will be to unite myself with Him upon the Cross, and if I be in grace all His Divinely holy acts my Father will take as mine. What more could our Elder Brother have done for those He loved to the end?
Let us now draw closer round His bed of death to receive His blessing ere His eyes are closed in death, and we will ask Him to grant us this one grace, that when we come to die we too may be able to say, "It is finished "—not only our term of life in this world of woe, but the work set us to do. For we each of us, like Him, are sent into this world to do a definite and distinct work, and till it, or expiation for its incompleteness, be done, we cannot be admitted to see our Father's face at home. This then is the advice I give you met around the Cross. Bear and do God's will from day to day. The past is gone, the future is not yet, the present day alone is ours. What can be worse than for us to be harping on the past? You will say to me, "but the past is laden with sin!" repair it then by the wellspent present, by acts of sorrow for the past, not that past sins are not already forgiven, but because we can never be too sorry for having offended God. Live in the present, the future is not yet, and how do you know that you will ever see the rising of tomorrow's sun? Leave the future to the future; what God wants of us is to live from hour to hour, bearing His holy will, bearing the trials, the sorrows, and the troubles which are fitted to the graces and the blessings of the hour. This we all can do, and this is all He asks us when doing His holy will from day to day, doing it perfectly, doing finished work, so that at the end of our prayer we may be able to say, "It is finished;" at the end of our domestic duties to say, "It is finished; at the end of our hours of business and of work to say, "It is finished;" at the end of confession, and of pious reading, and holy Mass, and Benediction, and examination of conscience, to be able to say, "It is finished." And at the end of the day as we lie down to rest with out beads around our necks, kissing the crucifix, and image of our Mother in our hands, we may be able to offer up the whole day to God, and take our rest in peaceful consciousness that the day is past and finished, finished perfectly, for it has all been for God, offered through the hands of Jesus and Of Mary.
Is there any one here present who can dare to look up into the dying face of Christ and say he cannot do this? If there is, let him know with that word he is gainsaying the word of Christ. He is saying Christ is dying before His time, that His work is not finished. For His work was this, to provide us graces to live our lives from day to day, bearing and doing the will of God. Oh, my brethren, you know our Elder Brother has done His work, and done it perfectly.
Make then the resolution of living thus from day to day, that so at whatever hour your summons may come you may be ready, like children glad to show your work, in good hope that to you will be granted the high reward which shall never fail—your Father's priceless smile all the days of eternity.
7.—FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT.
The grandest life and the simplest, the noblest life and the lowliest, the holiest and the humblest, that ever was led upon earth was the life of thirty-three years led by Jesus of Nazareth. And of all the actions which went to make up that life the most pleasing to His Father and the most meritorious for us was the sacrifice He made of it upon the Cross. It was the act to which all the others converged and led up, the act which has the motive of all the rest. The shadow of the Cross flung itself over all His life, the Cross was always before Him. At Bethlehem that sacrifice commenced which terminated only when He bowed His Sacred Head and gave up the ghost. From Bethlehem to Calvary we may trace the Via Crucis, for all His life long that Cross pressed upon His sacred shoulder, and His life was a life of sacrifice. He came into the world in the double character of High Priest and Victim, and He—always exercising His priestly office and offering in atonement for sin the sacrifice of praise, of mortification, of self-denial, of self-abnegation, self-abasement— pressed forward day by day nearer to the final goal.
And now, brethren, we are about to witness the consummation of the life-long sacrifice, for the High Priest will bow His Sacred Head and permit death to separate the Soul from the Body of the Victim of sin. Then will be fully restored to God the honour robbed from Him by man's offences, and due thanksgiving will be made for all His heaped benefits to us, and pardon will be extended to every sin, and graces and blessings will flow in upon our souls instead of condemnation and anger. Over Calvary hangs a mantle of thick darkness lifted by no gusts of wind. The thunder is rolling, fitful flashes of lightning have split the rocks, and men are stealthily moving to and fro as though they feared at every step the earth would open beneath their feet. Even the reckless Roman soldiers are struck with alarm. Then all is silent, and Jesus, with a loud voice, calls out, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." Then, bowing down His Head, He gives up the ghost. The life of sacrifice is past, the life of suffering is over. The Soul has fled down to Limbo's dungeon, and to Mary is left that tenantless Body which was bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh. Under her direction the adorable Relic will be placed in a snow-white tomb, whence, like the sunbeam piercing through a crystal casket, It will issue forth once again radiant and beautiful, never to suffer change more.
Who, after such a death of atonement as this, will be afraid to die? Is there any one here who would escape death even if he could? To be deprived of the privilege of dying would be to be deprived of the grandest, the humblest, the holiest, the most meritorious act of our lives. For by uniting the last act of our lives with Jesus Christ we become both priest and victim, offering to our Father a sacrifice which we alone can then make, a sacrifice which sums up all the merit and crowns all the acts of our whole lives. "O death, where is thy victory, where is thy sting!" Thou art shorn of thy strength, robbed of thy bitterness in the very hour of thy seeming triumph. For it is then that the veil of this temple of the Holy Ghost is rent in twain, and the Holy of Holies is given to our sight. Over the sombre gates of death, see, there rises a triumphal arch, through which the soul is borne on wings of angels to its home.
Oh, my brethren, learn from the death we have been witnessing to take a Christian view of life and death. And remember that if to those we leave behind it looks sad and full of bitterness, and the tears come, and friends weep as Jesus did over His friend, as Mary did over her Child, as Augustine did over his mother, as Bernard mourned his brother, Elizabeth her sister, and all of us over dear departed ones, yet for him who dies in the grace of God it is gain, for he goes from exile to home, from earth to Heaven, from conflict to triumph, from a very sea of trouble to the haven of rest. So should death be for each of us, and so will it be if only now we die every day we live, if we will now begin the sacrifice which must be consummated on our death-bed. Now we must begin to take up our cross and follow Christ, that we may be near Him when we come to die. We must now begin the sacrifice which He will then claim from us.
Begin it by sacrificing now your own wills, by sacrificing for His sake the dangerous occasions of sin, those objects upon which you would feast your eyes, those cruel words which rise to your lips, that forbidden fruit which you fain would handle, that poisonous drink which you are thirsting to taste. Oh, my brethren, how can we ever hope to lay down our life for our Friend, our Brother, our God, in rightly-felt dispositions if now we are ever fanning into flame those fires which are enkindled with our birth? How can we be so foolish as to expect that we shall see but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph by our death-beds, if during life there are floating before our imaginations nothing but objects whose very names are incitements to sin? Oh, no. Believe the word of your Elder Brother; we must now take up our cross, we must now renounce all we possess, if on our death-bed we would deny ourselves, sacrifice our lives for Him Who sacrificed His for us.
May God our Father grant to each one here present through the merits of the five wounds and the riven Heart, through the sorrows and the compassion of the Mother, this great grace that our lives may be so pleasing in His holy sight that when we cry to Him, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," He will receive it into everlasting dwellings.
Seven Words (Part II)
Confraternity of Bona Mors
OF THE CHURCH AND OF THE POPEfrom the SSPX Asia site.
This essay by Fr. Roger Calmel, O.P. (1914-75) helps us in these difficult times to preserve our love of the Church. More than 30 years after its first publication, this article retains all its relevance, so much so that it even seems to have been written for our time, in which the crisis in the Church deepens at an unprecedented pace.
This essay will help the reader to think clearly, keep the Faith, and maintain serenity in the troubled times we are navigating.
“My country has hurt me,”wrote a young poet in 1944 during the purge1when the head of state [Charles De Gaulle] implacably pursued the sinister job that had been in the works for more than four years. My country hurt me: this is not a truth that one shouts from the rooftop. It is rather a secret one whispers to oneself, with great sorrow, while trying nonetheless to keep hope. When I was in Spain during the 1950’s, I remember the extreme reserve with which friends, regardless of their political allegiance, would let escape certain details about “our war.” Their country was still hurting them. But when it is no longer a question of one’s temporal motherland, when it is a question, not of the Church considered in herself, for from this perspective she is holy and indefectible, but of the visible head of the Church; when it is question of the current holder2of the Roman primacy, how shall we come to grips with it, and what is the right tone to adopt as we acknowledge to ourselves in a low voice: Ah! Rome has hurt me!
Undoubtedly, the publications of the “good” Catholic press will not fail to inform us that, in the last 2,000 years, the Lord’s Church has never known such a splendid pontificate! But who takes these pronouncements of the establishment’s hallelujah choir seriously? When we see what is being taught and practiced throughout the Church under today’s pontificate, or rather when we observe what has ceased to be taught and practiced, and how an apparent Church, which passes itself off as the real Church, no longer knows how to baptize children, bury the dead, worthily celebrate holy Mass, absolve sins in confession; when we apprehensively watch the spread of Protestantizing influences swelling like a contaminated tide without the holder of supreme power energetically giving the order to lock the sluice gate; in a word, when we face up to what is happening, we are obliged to say: Ah! Rome has hurt me.
And we all know that it involves something other than the iniquities, in a sense private, which the holders of the Roman primacy were too often wont to commit during the course of history. In those cases the victims, more or less maltreated, could recover from it relatively easily by being more vigilant over their personal sanctification. We must always watch over our sanctification. Only, and this is what was never seen in the past to such a degree, the iniquity allowed to happen by the one who today occupies the throne of Peter consists in his abandoning the very means of sanctification to the maneuvers of the innovators and the negators. He allows sound doctrine, the sacraments, the Mass, to be systematically undermined. This throws us into a great danger. If sanctification has not been rendered all together impossible, it is much more difficult. It is also much more urgent.
At such a perilous juncture, is it still possible for the simple faithful, the little sheep of the immense flock of Jesus Christ and His vicar not to lose heart, not to become the prey of an immense apparatus which progressively reduces them to changing their faith, worship, religious habit, and religious life-in a word, to changing their religion?
Ah! Rome has hurt me! It would be truly meet and just to repeat gently to oneself the words of truth, the simple words of supernatural doctrine learned in catechism, so as not to add to the harm, but rather to let oneself be profoundly persuaded by the teaching of Revelation, that one day Rome will be healed; that the impostor Church will soon be officially unmasked. Suddenly it will crumple into dust, because its principal strength comes from the fact that its intrinsic lie passes for truth, since it has never been effectively disavowed from above. In the midst of such great distress, one would like to speak in words that are not out of phase with the mysterious, wordless discourse that the Holy Ghost murmurs to the heart of the Church.
But where shall I begin? Doubtlessly, by recalling the first truth touching the dominion of Jesus Christ over His Church. He wanted a Church having at its head the Bishop of Rome, who is His visible vicar and at the same time the Bishop of the bishops and of the entire flock. He conferred upon him the prerogative of the rock so that the edifice might never collapse. He prayed that he at least, among all the bishops, not make shipwreck of the faith, so that, having converted after the failures from which he would not necessarily be preserved, he confirm his brethren in the faith; or, if it is not himself in person who confirms his brethren, that it be one of his closest successors.
Such is undoubtedly the first consoling thought that the Holy Ghost suggests to our hearts in these desolate days in which Rome has been at least partially invaded by darkness: there is no Church without the infallible vicar of Christ endowed with the primacy. Moreover, whatever the miseries, even in the religious domain, of this visible and temporary vicar of Jesus Christ, it is still Jesus Himself who governs His Church, and who governs His vicar in the government of the Church; who governs in such wise that His vicar cannot engage his supreme authority in the upheavals or betrayals that would change the religion. For, by virtue of His sovereignly efficacious Passion, the divine power of Christ’s regency in heaven reaches that far. He conducts His Church both from within and from without, and He has dominion over the antagonistic world.
The strategy of modernism has been elaborated in two stages: firstly, to get heretical parallel authorities whose strings they pull to be mixed with the regular hierarchy; then, engage in a self-styled pastoral activity for universal renewal which either omits or systematically falsifies doctrinal truth, which refuses the sacraments, or which makes the rites doubtful. The great cunning of the modernists is to use this pastoral approach from Hell, both to transmute the holy doctrine confided by the Word of God to His hierarchical Church, and then to alter or even annul the sacred signs, givers of grace, of which the Church is the faithful dispenser.
Indeed, there is a head of the Church who is always infallible, always impeccable, always holy, with no interruption or halt in his work of sanctification. And that head is the one head, for all the others, even the highest, merely hold their authority by him and for him. Now, this head, holy and without stain, absolutely separated from sinners and elevated above the heavens, is not the Pope; it is he of whom the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks so magnificently; it is the Sovereign High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Before ascending into heaven and becoming invisible to our eyes, Jesus, our Redeemer by the Cross, wanted to establish for His Church, above and beyond numerous particular ministers, a unique universal minister, a visible vicar, who alone holds supreme jurisdiction. He heaped him with prerogatives:
Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18-19).
Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs....Feed my sheep (Jn. 21:16-18).
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren (Lk.22:32).
Now, if the Pope is the visible vicar of Jesus, who has ascended into the invisible heavens, he is nothing more than vicar: vices gerens, he holds the place but he remains another. The grace that gives life to the mystical Body does not derive from the Pope. Grace, for the Pope as for us, derives from the one Lord Jesus Christ. The same holds for the light of Revelation. He has a singular role as the guardian of the means of grace, of the seven sacraments as well as of revealed truth. He is specially assisted to be the guardian and faithful servant. Yet, for his authority to receive a privileged assistance in its exercise, it must not fail to be exerted. Besides, if he is preserved from error when he engages his authority in such a way that it is infallible, he can err in other cases. But should he do wrong in matters that do not engage papal infallibility, that does not prevent the unique head of the Church, the invisible High Priest, from continuing the governance of His Church; it changes neither the efficacy of His grace nor the truth of His law. It cannot make Him powerless to limit the failings of His visible vicar nor to procure, without too much delay, a new and worthy Pope, to repair what his predecessor allowed to be spoiled or destroyed, for the duration of the insufficiencies, weaknesses, and even partial betrayals of a Pope do not exceed the duration of his mortal existence.
Since He has returned to heaven, Jesus has chosen and procured 263 Popes. Some, just a small number, have been such faithful vicars that we invoke them as friends of God and holy intercessors. A still smaller number have fallen into very serious breaches. Yet the great number have been suitable. None of them, while still Pope, has betrayed nor could betray to the point of explicitly teaching heresy with the fullness of his authority. This being the situation of each Pope and of the succession of Popes in relation to the head of the Church who reigns in heaven, the weaknesses of one Pope must not make us forget in the least the solidity and the sanctity of our Savior’s dominion, nor prevent us from seeing the power of Jesus and His wisdom, who holds in His hand even the inadequate Popes, and who contains their inadequacy within strict bounds.
But to have this confidence in the sovereign, invisible head of the Church without straining to deny the serious failings from which, despite his prerogatives, the visible vicar, the Bishop of Rome, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, is not necessarily exempt; in order to place in Jesus this realistic trust which does not evade the mystery of the successor of Peter with his heaven-guaranteed privileges and his human fallibility; so that this overwhelming distress caused by the occupant of the papacy might be subsumed in the theological virtue of hope we place in the Sovereign Priest, obviously our interior life must be centered on Jesus Christ, and not the Pope. It goes without saying that our interior life, while taking into account the Pope and the hierarchy, must be established, not in the hierarchy and in the Pope, but in the Divine Pontiff, in the priest which is the Word Incarnate, Redeemer, on whom the visible, supreme vicar depends even more than the other priests: More than the others, for he is in the hand of Jesus Christ in view of a function without equivalent among the others. More than any other, and in a more eminent and unique way, he cannot leave off confirming his brethren in the faith-he or his successor.
The Church is not the mystical body of the Pope; the Church with the Pope is the mystical Body of Christ. When the interior life of Christians is more and more focused on Jesus Christ, they do not despair, even when they suffer an agony over the failings of a Pope, be it an Honorius I or the rival Popes of the Middle Ages, or be it, at the extreme limit, a Pope who fails according to the new possibilities of failing offered by modernism. When Jesus Christ is the principle and soul of the interior life of Christians, they do not feel the need to lie to themselves about the failures of a Pope in order to remain assured of his prerogatives; they know that these failures will never reach such a degree that Jesus would cease to govern His Church because He would have been effectively prevented by His vicar. He would yet hold such an erring Pope in His hand, preventing him from ever engaging his authority for the perversion of the faith which he received from above.
An interior life centered as it should be on Jesus Christ and not on the Pope would not exclude the Pope, or else it would cease to be a Christian interior life. An interior life focused as it should be on the Lord Jesus thus includes the vicar of Jesus Christ and obedience to this vicar, but God served first; that is to say, that this obedience, far from being unconditional, is always practiced in the light of theological faith and the natural law.
We live by and for Jesus Christ, thanks to His Church, which is governed by the Pope, whom we obey in all that is of his purview. We do not live by and for the Pope as if he had acquired for us eternal redemption; that is why Christian obedience can not always nor in everything identify the Pope with Jesus Christ. What ordinarily happens is that the vicar of Christ governs sufficiently in conformity with the Apostolic tradition so as not to provoke major conflicts in the consciences of docile Catholics. But occasionally it can be otherwise. And exceptionally things can be such as to cause the faithful to legitimately wonder how they can hold fast to tradition if they follow the directives of this Pope?
The interior life of a son of the Church who would set aside the articles of Faith concerning the Pope, obedience to his legitimate orders, and prayer for him would have ceased to be Catholic. On the other hand, an interior life which includes yielding to the Pope unconditionally, that is to say, blindly in everything and always, is an interior life which is necessarily subject to human respect, which is not free with regard to creatures, which is exposed to many occasions of compromise. In his interior life, the true son of the Church having received with his whole heart the articles of the faith with regard to the vicar of Christ prays for him faithfully and obeys him willingly, but only in the light, that is to say, only while the Apostolic tradition and, of course, the natural law are preserved whole and entire.
Holy Church, Sinful Churchmen
Let us remember the great prayer at the beginning of the Roman Canon, in which the priest, having earnestly implored the most clement Father by His Son Jesus Christ, to sanctify the spotless sacrifice offered in first place for Ecclesia tua sancta catholica, continues thus: “...una cumfamulo tuo Papa nostro...et Antistite nostro....” The Church has never envisaged him saying: “una cum SANCTO famulo tu Papa nostro et SANCTO Antistite nostro,’“ while she does have him say, “for Thy HOLY Church.” The Pope, unlike the Church, is not necessarily holy. The Church is holy with sinful members, among whom are we ourselves; sinful members who, alas! do not pursue or no longer pursue holiness. It can even happen that the Pope himself figures in this category. God knows. In any case, the condition of the head of the holy Church being what it is, that is to say not necessarily that of a saint, we should not let ourselves be scandalized if trials, sometimes very cruel trials, befall the Church because of her visible head in person. We must not let ourselves be scandalized from the fact that, subjects of the Pope, we cannot, after all, follow him blindly, unconditionally, always and in all.
The Lord, by the Pope and the hierarchy-by the hierarchy subject to the Pope-governs His Church in such a way that it is always secure in the possession and understanding of its tradition. On the truths of the catechism, on the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and on the sacraments, on the fundamental structure of the hierarchy, on the states of life and the call to perfect love, let us say on all the major points of tradition, the Church is assisted in such way that any baptized Catholic having the faith clearly knows what he must hold. Thus the simple Christian who, consulting tradition on a major point known to all, would refuse to follow a priest, a bishop, an episcopal conference, or even a Pope who would ruin tradition on this point, would not, as some charge, be showing signs characteristic of private judgment or pride; for it is not pride or insubordination to discern what the tradition is on major points, or to refuse to betray them. Whatever may be the collegiality of bishops, for example, or the secretary of the Roman Congregation who uses subterfuge to arrange things so that Catholic priests end up celebrating the Mass without giving any mark of adoration, no exterior sign of faith in the sacred mysteries, every faithful Catholic knows that it is inadmissible to celebrate Mass making this display of non-faith. One who would refuse to go to such a Mass is not exercising private judgment; he is not a rebel. He is a faithful Catholic established in a tradition that comes from the Apostles and which no one in the Church can change. For no one in the Church, whatever his hierarchical rank, be it ever so high, no one has the power to change the Church or the Apostolic tradition.
On all the major points, the Apostolic tradition is quite clear. There is no need to scrutinize it through a magnifying glass, nor to be a cardinal or a prefect of some Roman dicastery to know what is against it. It is enough to have been instructed by the catechism and the liturgy prior to the modernist corruption.
Too often, when it is a question of not cutting oneself off from Rome, the faithful and priests have been formed in the sense of a partly worldly fear in such a way that they feel panic-stricken, that they are shaken in their consciences and they no longer examine anything once the first passer-by accuses them of not being with Rome. A truly Christian formation, on the contrary, teaches us to be careful to be in union with Rome not in fear or without discernment, but in light and peace according to a filial fear in the Faith.
For it must be said, first of all, that on the major points the tradition of the Church is established, certain, irreformable; then, that every Christian instructed in the rudiments of the Faith, knows them without hesitation; thirdly, that it is faith and not private interpretation which makes us discern them, just as it is obedience, piety and love, and not insubordination, which make us uphold this tradition; fourthly, that the attempts of the hierarchy or the weaknesses of the Pope which would tend to upset this tradition or let this tradition be upset will one day be overturned, while Tradition will triumph.
Tradition Will Triumph
We are at peace on this point. Whatever may be the hypocritical arms placed by modernism in the hands of the episcopal collegialities and even of the vicar of Christ, tradition will indeed triumph: solemn baptism, for example, which includes the anathemas against the accursed devil will not be excluded for long; the tradition of not absolving sins except after individual confession will not be excluded for long; the tradition of the traditional Catholic Mass, Latin and Gregorian, with the language, Canon, and gestures in conformity with the Roman Missal of St. Pius V, will soon be restored to honor; the tradition of the Catechism of Trent, or of a manual exactly in conformity with it, will be restored without delay.
On the major points of dogma, morals, the sacraments, the states of life, the perfection to which we are called, the tradition of the Church is known by the members of the Church whatever their rank. They hold fast to it without a bad conscience, even if the hierarchical guardians of this tradition try to intimidate them or throw them into confusion; even if they persecute them with the bitter refinements of modernist inquisitors. They are very assured that by keeping the tradition they do not cut themselves off from the visible vicar of Christ. For the visible vicar of Christ is governed by Christ in such wise that he cannot transmute the tradition of the Church, nor make it fall into oblivion. If by misfortune he should try to do it, either he or his immediate successors will be obliged to proclaim from on high what remains forever living in the Church’s memory: the Apostolic tradition. The Spouse of Christ stands no chance of losing her memory.
“Quod Ubique, Quod Semper...”
As for those who say that tradition is a synonym of sclerosis, or that progress occurs by opposing tradition, in short, those who conjure up the mirages of an absurd philosophy of becoming, I recommend the reading of St. Vincent of Lerins3 in his Commonitorium and the careful studying of Church history: dogma, sacraments, fundamental constitution, spiritual life, in order to descry the essential difference which exists between “going forward” and “going astray”; between having “advanced ideas” and “advancing according to right ideas”; in short, distinguishing between profectus (development) and permutatio (change).
Even more so than in times of peace, it has become useful and salutary to us to meditate on the Church’s trials by the light of faith. We might be tempted to reduce these trials to persecutions and attacks coming from the outside. But enemies from within are, after all, even more to be feared: they know better the weak points; they can wound or poison where or when it is least expected; the scandal they provoke is much more difficult to overcome. Thus, in a parish, an anti-religious institution will never succeed, whatever it does, in ruining the faithful as much as a high-living, modernist priest. Equally, the defrocking of a simple priest, though more sensational, has consequences far less baneful than the negligence or treason of the bishop.
Be that as it may, it is certain that if the bishop betrays the Catholic faith, even without abandoning it, he imposes on the Church a much heavier trial than the simple priest who takes a wife and ceases to offer holy Mass. What then can be said of the kind of trials that the Church of Jesus Christ would suffer were it to come by the Pope, by the vicar of Jesus Christ in person? Merely raising this question is enough to make some hide their faces in their hands and push them to the brink of crying blasphemy. The mere thought torments them. They refuse to face up to a trial of this gravity.
I understand their feeling. I am not unaware that a sort of vertigo can grip the soul when it is placed in the presence of some iniquities. “Sinite usque hue-Suffer ye thus far,”3 Jesus in agony said to the three Apostles when the rabble of the high priest came to arrest Him, drag Him before the tribunal and to death, Him who is the eternal High Priest. Sinite usque hue. It is as if the Lord were saying: “The scandal can indeed go that far, but let it go, and follow my recommendation: Watch and pray, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Sinite ad hue: “By my consent to drink the chalice, I have merited for you every grace while you were sleeping and left me all alone. I obtained for you in particular the grace of a supernatural strength that is up to every trial, even the trial that can come upon the Church by the Pope’s own doing. I have made you able to escape even that vertigo.”
On the subject of this extraordinary trial there is what Church history says and what Revelation about the Church does not say. For nowhere does Revelation about the Church say that the Popes will never sin by negligence, cowardice, or worldliness in the keeping and defense of the Apostolic tradition. We know that they will never sin by making the faithful believe in another religion: that is the sin from which they are preserved by the nature of their mandate. And when they engage their authority in such a way as to invoke their infallibility, it is Christ Himself who speaks to us and instructs us: that is the privilege with which they are robed as soon as they become successors of Peter. But if Revelation instructs us in the prerogatives of the papacy, nowhere does it say that when he exercises his authority below the threshold of infallibility, a Pope will never become Satan’s pawn and favor heresy up to a certain point. Likewise, it is not written in sacred Scripture that, though he cannot formally teach another religion, a Pope will never go so far as to sabotage the conditions indispensable to the defense of the true religion. The possibility of such a defection is even considerably favored by modernism.
Thus, Revelation about the Pope nowhere guarantees that the vicar of Christ will never inflict on the Church the trial of some major scandals; I speak of serious scandals, not just in the domain of private morals, but rather in the religious sphere properly so-called, and, so to speak, in the ecclesiastical domain of faith and morals. In fact, the Church’s history teaches us that this sort of trial inflicted by the Pope has not been spared the Church, although it has been rare and not prolonged to an acute stage. It is the contrary that would be astonishing, when we consider the small number of canonized Popes since the time of Gregory VII who are invoked and venerated as the friends and saints of God. And it is more astonishing still that the Popes who suffered very cruel torments, like Pius VI or Pius VII, were never prayed to as saints, neither by the Vox Ecclesiae, nor by the Vox populi. If these Pontiffs, who nonetheless had to suffer so much as Popes, did not bear their pain with such a degree of charity as to be canonized saints, how can we be astonished that other Popes, who looked upon their position from a worldly point of view, would commit serious breaches or inflict on the Church of Christ an especially fearful and harrowing trial. When they are reduced to the extremity of having such Popes, the faithful, priests and bishops who want to live the life of the Church take great care not only to pray for the Supreme Pontiff who is the subject of great affliction for the Church, but first and foremost they cleave to the Apostolic tradition, the tradition concerning dogma, the missal and the ritual, the tradition on the interior life and on the universal call to perfect charity in Christ.
St. Vincent Ferrer
In such a juncture, the mission of the Friar Preacher who, undoubtedly among all the saints worked the most directly for the papacy, that son of St. Dominic, Vincent Ferrer (1350?-1419), is particularly enlightening. Angel of Judgment, Legate a latere Christi (from the side of Christ), causing the deposition of a Pope after exercising towards him infinite patience, Vincent Ferrer is also, and from the same inspiration, the intrepid missionary full of benignity, abounding in prodigies and miracles, who announces the Gospel to the immense multitude of the Christian people. He carries in his heart of an apostle not only the Supreme Pontiff, so enigmatic, obstinate and hard, but also the whole flock of Christ, the multitude of the hapless, humble folk, the “turba magna ex omnibus tribubus et populis et linguis-ihe great multitude...of all...tribes, and peoples, and tongues” (Apoc. 7:9). Vincent understood that the major concern of the vicar of Christ was not, indeed was far from, faithfully serving the holy Church. The Pope was placing the satisfaction of his own obscure will to power ahead of everything. But if, at least among the faithful, the sense of the life of the Church could be reawakened, the concern to live in conformity with the dogmas and the sacraments received in the Apostolic tradition, if a pure and mighty wind of prayer and conversion were to unfurl upon this languishing and desolate Christendom, then doubtlessly there would come a vicar of Christ who would be truly humble, who would have a Christian conscience about his super-eminent charge, who would preoccupy himself with exercising it to the best of his ability in the spirit of the Sovereign High Priest. If the Christian people could rediscover a life in accord with the Apostolic tradition, then it would become impossible for the vicar of Jesus Christ, when it comes to upholding and defending this tradition, to fall into certain derelictions, to abandon himself to lying compromises. It would be necessary that, without delay, a good Pope, and even a holy Pope, succeed the bad or misguided one.
Worthy Flock, Worthy Shepherd
But too many of the laity, priests and bishops in these days of great evil, when trial overtakes the Church by the Pope, would like order to be restored with their having to do nothing, or almost nothing. At most will they agree to mutter a few prayers. They even balk at the daily Rosary: five decades offered daily to our Lady in honor of the hidden life, the Passion, and the glory of Jesus. In this vein, they have very little interest in deepening their understanding of that part of the Apostolic tradition that applies directly to them in a spirit of fidelity to that tradition: dogmas, missal and ritual, interior life (for progress in the interior life obviously is a part of the Apostolic tradition). Each in his station of life having consented to lukewarmness, they take scandal at the fact that neither is the Pope, in his place as Pope, very fervent when it comes to upholding for the entire Church the Apostolic tradition, that is to say, to faithfully fulfilling the unique mission confided to him. This view of things is unjust. The more we need a holy Pope, the more we ourselves must begin by putting our own lives, by the grace of God and holding fast to tradition, in the path of the saints. Then the Lord Jesus will finally give to His flock the visible shepherd of whom it will have striven to make itself worthy.
This was the lesson of St. Vincent Ferrer at an apocalyptic time of major failings by the Roman Pontiff. But with modernism we are in the midst of experiencing even greater trials, reasons all the more compelling for us to live even more purely, and on all points, the Apostolic tradition; on all points, including a real tending towards perfect charity. And yet, in the moral doctrine revealed by the Lord and handed down by the Apostles, it is said that we must tend to perfect love, since the law of growth in Christ is part and parcel of the grace and charity which unite us in Christ.
A Fundamental Mystery
There is indeed both transcendence and obscurity in the Church’s dogma relative to the Pope: a supreme pontiff who is the universal vicar of Jesus Christ, yet who nonetheless is not sheltered from failings, even serious ones, which can be quite dangerous for his subjects. But the dogma of the Roman Pontiff is but one of the aspects of the fundamental mystery of the Church. Two great propositions introduce us to this mystery: firstly, that the Church, whose members are recruited from among sinners, which we all are, is nonetheless the infallible dispenser of light and grace, dispenser by means of a hierarchical organization, dispenser governed from heaven above by its head and Savior, Jesus Christ, and assisted by the Spirit of Jesus. On the other hand, on earth, the Savior offers by His Church the perfect sacrifice and nourishes it by His own substance. Secondly, the Church, holy Spouse of the Lord Jesus, must have a share in the Cross, including the cross of betrayal by her own; but for all that she does not cease to be sufficiently assisted in her hierarchical structure, beginning with the Pope, and to be on fire enough with charity; in a word, she remains at all times holy and pure enough to be able to share in the trials of her Spouse, including betrayal by certain members of the hierarchy, while keeping intact her self-mastery and supernatural strength. Never will the Church be subject to vertigo.
If, in our spiritual life, the Christian truth concerning the Pope is rightly situated within the Christian truth about the Church, by that light shall we overcome the scandal of all the lies, not excluding those that can befall the Church by the vicar of Christ or by the successors of the Apostles.
When we think of the Pope now and of the prevailing modernism, of the Apostolic tradition and perseverance in this tradition, we are more and more reduced to considering these questions only in prayer, only in an unceasing petition for the entire Church and for him who, in our days, holds in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He holds them in his hands, but he does not use them, so to speak. He leaves the gate of the sheepfold open at the approach of thieves; he does not close these protective doors which his predecessors had invariably kept shut with unbreakable locks and bolts. Sometimes, as is the case with post-conciliar ecumenism, he even pretends to open what will forever be kept shut. We are reduced to the necessity of never thinking of the Church except to pray for her and for the Pope. It is a blessing. Nevertheless, thinking of our Mother, the Spouse of Christ, in this piteous condition does not diminish in the least our resolve to think clearly. At least, let this indispensable lucidity, lucidity without which all courage would flag, be penetrated with as much humility and gentleness as the vehemence with which we assail the Sovereign Priest, that He make haste to help us. Deus in adjutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adjuvandum mefestina. May it please Him to charge His most holy Mother, Mary Immaculate, with bringing us as soon as possible the effective remedy.
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."
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 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.
" " 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 law was fulfilled by the presentation in the temple. Jesus offered Himself to His divine Father in the name and in favor of humanity ; and now He enters into the humble and obscure dwelling of Nazareth, where He increases in years and in strength, and is filled with wisdom, " for the grace of God is in Him."Joyful Mysteries by Bishop Monsabre, O.P.
Twelve years of silence and obscurity pass quickly by, after which we find Him, when it was supposed He was lost in the excitement of a great festival, among the doctors of the law, hearing them and asking them questions.
O marvel ! These men, who have grown gray in study and in learning, who almost know the number of letters contained in the Sacred Writings, who scrutinize the mysteries and reduce to a nicety the interpretation of the law — these wise men of Israel, whose grave and learned word had the greatest weight in the land, have found their Master. They have found Him in a child of twelve years ! Their humbled pride is astonished at the profundity of His teaching and at the wisdom of His answers. It was the first wound it received, and its sting will continue to rankle in their hearts until the time of His public preaching shall have come. The people simply give way to ecstasies of admiration : " And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers " (Luke ii. 47).
Dear and admirable Child ! I know who Thou art. Divine Word, infinite Wisdom, Thou art come from the " mouth of the most high God." In God Thou hadst subsisted before the birth of time, and in Him Thou wilt subsist when time shall be no more. Hear His inspired word in the eighth chapter of the book of Proverbs: "When He prepared the heavens I was present ; when with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths ; when He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters ; when He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits ; when He balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him, forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times : playing in the world , and my delights were to be with the children of men." Thou knowest, O Lord! all secrets, even the most profound secrets of the Divinity. What Thou hast revealed to men is no more than a drop from the ocean of Thy infinite knowledge. The Sacred Scriptures, full of Thee, have been written by Thy inspiration. Who, then, can so well explain them as Thyself ? Therefore I am not astonished that questions and answers should fall from Thy lips which confounded the learned doctors of the law. I wonder not, but rather cry out in my simple ignorance, with the prophet Isaias : "Behold I have given Him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the gentiles" (chap. lv. 4).
Speak, O Master ! speak. It is Thy right and Thy function. Is it not right, and even necessary, that Thou shouldst be "engaged in the business of Thy Father," Who, by Thy teaching, hast deigned to instruct us in the mysteries of eternity? Speak, O Jesus ! to the great and powerful, too often surfeited with empty grandeur ; speak to the worldly-wise of our clay, whose proud reason too often vanishes in the delirium of folly ; speak to the worldly-prudent, who, in their presumption, pretend to have no other rule of life than common honesty. Show them that nothing is truly great which does not lead up to a participation in the divine Sonship ;, that human science must submit itself to the science of heaven ; that the wisdom of the world, from the moment it refuses to enter upon the heroic way of Christian virtue, is supremest folly.
Speak to the poor, the ignorant, the humble, to raise them from their abject state ; teach them the mysteries which no human reason can fathom ; and conduct them by humble and despised pathways to the dwelling-place of life eternal. Speak to me, O my Jesus ! I listen to Thee, and I wish to receive no other promises than Thine, no doctrine but Thine, no law but Thine. For me it is not necessary to behold Thee with the eyes of the flesh to submit to Thy teaching. It is enough for me to read Thy books in which Thy words are engraven : to hear the Church, the guardian of Thy truth and of Thy commandments ; to feel within me the mysterious attractions of Thy holy grace.
O adorable Jesus ! speak to me especially by Thy grace. Speak to my spirit and to my heart. Let my thoughts, desires, affections, discourses, and acts be regulated by Thy internal word. Speak to me, as Thou didst in the temple, with the sweetness and amiability of a child ; but if my obdurate heart refuses to be moved by Thy loving words, speak to me with authority and with the just severity of an offended Master. Press, insist, reproach, threaten, annoy, and torment me. I am prepared to submit to Thy rigors. Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.
THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES.
THE RESURRECTION — THE TRIUMPH OE JESUS.
JESUS, having been taken from the cross, is placed in a new sepulchre in which His flesh, fearfully mangled by the ordeal through which it had passed, reposed for a little while. Its rest was not the deep sleep which weighs down human beings after they breathe their last sigh, and from which only the trumpet of the angel will awaken them ; it is a tranquil slumber from which the voice of God will soon arouse Him.Eleison Comments by His Excellency Bishop Williamson's
Two passions — hatred and fear — watch round His tomb. It is covered with a huge stone and secured by the seal of the synagogue. The soldiers are on guard to prevent any secret approach. It is confidently believed that these precautions will stifle for ever in the tomb the voice of Him who had said of His body : "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again (John ii. 19). How ridiculous and foolish men make themselves when they attempt to run counter to the designs of God or to give the lie to His promises ! On the morning of the third day there is an earthquake ; an angel descends and rolls away the stone ; and the flesh of Jesus, receiving Life again by the divine power, springs forth, glorious and immortal, from the arms of Death.
Let us adore our risen Saviour! No longer is He a prisoner whom the soldiers of the synagogue and the pretorium drag about from one tribunal to another ; no longer is He the man forsaken by His Father and His friends, and complaining most touchingly of the rigors of divine justice ; no more is He the condemned man whom all insult who dare address Him ; no longer is he the man covered with wounds and become like a leper whose aspect is fearful to look upon ; nor is He any more the dead body which His afflicted Mother enshrouded with reverent hands and saw laid in a sepulchre. Now He is free, joyous, triumphant, radiant, immortal. Let us, with the Psalmist, sing to the Lord : " Thou hast broken my bonds, and I will offer to Thee a sacrifice of praise." Thou hast not forgotten the Just One in His tomb, "nor hast Thou allowed Thy Holy One to see corruption." With St. Paul we will cry out : " O death ! where is thy victory ? O death ! where is thy sting?" (1 Cor. xv.) "Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall have no more dominion over Him ; for in that He liveth, He liveth to God" (Rom. vi.) Let us sing these canticles of joy and then turn our thoughts upon ourselves.
This great mystery includes for us a lesson, a figure, and a promise.
The ineffable joy and glory of the Resurrection have been purchased at the price of most horrible sufferings. It was inevitable. It is our Saviour Himself who tells it to those who, like the disciples of Emmaus, might be scandalized or weakened on account of His Passion : " Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to have entered into His glory ? " (Luke xxiv.) Now, the road of soldiers must be the same as that travelled by their leader. Enlisted under the banner of Jesus Christ, we cannot hope to attain the incorruptible glory and unalloyed happiness, promised by Almighty God, through the broad pathway of pleasure and enjoyment, which is unhappily too much frequented. Jesus did not take that road. It was the rough way of sorrow and pain, in which we can easily trace His bloody foot- steps, that conducted Him to eternal honors. It was the cross He bore and on which He died that opened the gates of heaven, barred and bolted against the luxury of worldlings. The motto of every Christian ought to be : "Let me suffer, O Lord ! in this life, that I may live eternally in the next."
This is the lesson of the Resurrection.
There is in it also a symbol or figure. The mystery of the Resurrection is a lively figure of the spiritual transformation which ought to take place in each of us. Sin is death. It is the tomb in which the captive soul sleeps a fatal sleep. The enemy takes all manner of precautions to prevent its awakening. Yet he cannot prevent the voice of God from reaching even this sepulchre of the sinful soul. " Arise," says that voice, " thou who sleepest ; arise from the dead. Christ will enlighten thee " (Ephes. v.) At the first sound of that voice let us rise from sin. We may never hear it more. Death long continued will breed corruption.
But how will I rise ? How break the cords that tie me down ? How roll away the heavy stone that is laid over me ? How break the inveterate habits and the shameful laxity of the will, which is weakened so much by its many consents to sin ? Courage, Christian ! In the figure just given there is a promise. For us Christ died, and " for our justification He rose again." The divine virtue of His glorified humanity will one day bring together the scattered dust of our bodies, and will make our flesh, dissolved in death, live again eternally incorrupt ; but at present He addresses Himself to the soul especially to draw it from sin to justice, and to give it strength to " walk in the pathway of a blessed newness of life."
I count on Thee, O my adorable Master ! Have pity on me ! I am dead, or at least I feel myself dying day by day ; for it is not life that languishes in tepidity. In virtue of Thy blessed Resurrection enable me to rise from the tomb of my failings. Create, O Lord ! a new spirit within me, so that, penetrated with Thy light, disengaged from the influences of the flesh, active and alert in good works, and bent upon the perfection of my life, I may live henceforth only for Thee, as Thou livest only for God.
THE ASCENSION — JESUS IN HEAVEN.LET us go to Mount Olivet. Thither Jesus brings His disciples for the last time. He recalls to their minds their divine mission, confirms the powers conferred upon them, again promises the Holy Spirit, gives them His blessing, bids them adieu, and rises towards heaven. The hearts of the apostles, divided between grief and wonder, follow with their eyes their adorable Master, who is leaving them, and whom they will never see again on earth. A bright cloud intercepts their view of the triumphant humanity of their Saviour, but they continue to look towards the heavens whither He had ascended. Now they understand all ; and their hearts, so recently gross and carnal, break all earthly chains.
Let us with them raise our hearts to heaven. Sursum corda ! If Jesus leaves us He does not forget us, nor does He abandon us to our exile without hope. His going is not to put an immense distance between His glory and our misery ; it is to prepare a place for us : " I go to prepare a place for you " (John xiv. 2). This is His promise ; can we suppose He will not keep it?
O Jesus, our only love! we have need of hearing this good word fall from Thy adorable lips to console us in Thy absence. Thou goest to prepare a place for us; is this world, therefore, not our most suitable home? Ah ! no. It is too full of troubles to give that joy to the heart to which it aspires; it is too narrow to satiate the immensity of our desires ; it is too uncertain to give us any assurance of eternal possession, the idea of which is inseparable from all our dreams of happiness. The eternal life of God, His infinite perfections, the perfect love of God, the boundless space which His immensity fills — this is the "length and breadth and depth" of which St. Paul speaks; this is the place to which we should direct our course and in which we should anchor our bark of life, the place which Jesus went to prepare for us.
He is there indeed. It is our humanity that triumphs in his person and sits at the right hand of God. Even if we were not called to a participation in His glory and beatitude we ought to be anxious to know where it is and to register His victory in our human records. If he belongs to God He belongs to us also; if He is of the divine substance He is also of our flesh and blood, and we may well declare with a holy doctor: " Where a part of me reigns, I believe I reign also; where my flesh is glorified, I am glorified; where my blood is king, I too am king."
But listen, Christian! Jesus does not wish to reduce you to the sterile honor of knowing His triumph. By His ascension He enters into the bosom of God the Father, not as a delegate, but as a precursor of humanity. This is the expression of St. Paul in his sixth chapter to the Hebrews. The precursor prepares the way for those who follow Him, and the place in which they are to rest after the fatigue of the journey. The precursor puts all things in order; He waits for His friends and calls them in. But how much more certain and efficacious His office is when, instead of being a servant merely, He is master of those for whom He prepares a place, and master of the place as well!
Christ, our precursor, is all this. Let us consider carefully the words of the apostle. He teaches us that Christ asserted our rights by His very presence in the bosom of God. For we are His property, and He has a right to enter into heaven with what belongs to Him. " He is our head; we are the body and members of that head." But where the head is, there likewise ought to be the body and the members. But Jesus would be our precursor only half-way if, by His action, He did not put us in condition to realize our lights — that is to say, if He did not prepare God to receive us and did not prepare us to take possession of God.
He is our priest "for ever"; or, in other words, He presents eternally to God the most sacred gifts that humanity has to offer, and to humanity the most sacred gifts of God. Our acts of religion would never have penetrated this sanctuary, in which they ought to mark out a place for us, if they did not pass through the hands of Jesus Christ. And if we return to God after our transgression, our repentance is only acceptable because "we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Just." If the groans of our misery or the expressions of our love are heard in heaven it is because Jesus appropriates them; for "He lives only to intercede for us.' He shows to the Father the marks of His glorious wounds, and makes His blood plead more strongly than that of Abel.
O God! Thou canst not resist this strong cry. It must be that Thou permittest us to mark our places in the sacred tabernacles which Thou fillest with Thy blessedness. This is the will of my Lord Jesus; and in preparing Thee to receive us He prepares us to take possession of Thee. The incarnate Word, humbled and annihilated in the days of His life on earth, became on the day of His ascension the inexhaustible treasury of the gifts of God. "Christ, ascending on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men" (Ephes. iv. 8). Thus it is that the remedies of our faults, the succor of our weakness, the light of our darkness, the solace of our pains, the impulses towards good, all descend into our souls to make them worthy of God, whom we ought to possess. He extends His benign influence even to our corruptible flesh, which He prepares for the resurrection.
O Christian! meditate upon this glorious and consoling mystery. Never more turn to creatures as the end of your life. This world is not your resting-place. Honors, riches, pleasures, human affections are unworthy of a great and generous soul. Look to your Leader and Precursor; have confidence in His divine ministry; abandon yourself to His holy grace; raise your heart to heaven. Sursum corda!
THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY GHOST — THE SPIRIT OF JESUS.
THE apostles were assembled together in one place, awaiting in recollection and prayer the effect of the promises of Jesus. For He had said: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself ; that where I am you also may be. . . . And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete [comforter or advocate], that He may abide with you for ever ; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not nor knoweth Him ; but you shall know Him, because He shall abide with you and be with you " (John xiv. 3, 16, 17). Ten days after the Ascension of our Lord a mighty event took place. It was the fulfillment of the promise, and is thus recorded in the Acts of the Apostles : And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them cloven tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon each one of them ; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak" (Acts ii.)
O wonderful prodigy ! But a moment ago these men were ignorant and could not clearly understand the doctrine of their Master; now they possess a full knowledge of the most sublime truths. At one moment they express themselves in a weak and stammering manner; the next they are filled with a marvelous eloquence. At one moment they are weak and timid even to the extent of cowardice — they hide themselves, so as not to be involved in the misfortunes of their Master ; the next they come forth boldly, and fearlessly proclaim their faith and love, and this, too, before a people who load them with injuries and drag them before, their tribunals. They seem at one moment ungrateful and almost without hope; the next they are devoted to the words of their Master, even unto death. Now they are sad and downcast ; all at once their hearts abound in hope and joy. What has happened ? The Holy Ghost, having descended from heaven, has brought to perfection in the souls of the disciples the spirit and form of the Christian life, which until now were only in a crude, inchoative state. This is His special mission. The holy Fathers have sometimes called Him the " perfective force."
Learn from this, O Christian soul ! that the effusion of the Holy Spirit is as necessary for thy salvation as is the application of the blood and merits of Jesus Christ. " The end of man, which is to see God and possess Him eternally, is beyond the powers of nature," says St. Thomas of Aquin ; " our reason cannot conduct us to it, if its natural movement does not bring to its aid the instinct and motion of the Spirit of God. 9 ' It is so necessary for us that without it we possess only the rudiments of the Christian and supernatural life.
Jesus, the divine Architect, makes of our souls His temples, having purified them with His precious blood. It is the Holy Ghost who consecrates us in marking us with His character, and conferring upon us the unction of His love and the illumination of His gifts. Pentecost is therefore, in the Church, a universal and perpetual festival. Our baptism is a pentecost; our confirmation is a pentecost. Besides this, as St. Thomas teaches, the divine Paraclete returns constantly in His secret visits, to illuminate, strengthen, and beautify with His gifts the souls of the just.
But let us hear attentively the word of God : " The Lord does not come in times of disturbance " (3 Kings xix.) We must have peace in our souls ; we must remove the agitation of vain thoughts and of vain desires, if we would receive the Spirit of God. Let us await His coming, like the apostles, in recollection and prayer.
It is not likely that God will surprise us by sudden visits of His light and grace ; in the ordinary workings of His providence He only sends His Holy Spirit to us when we say with earnest fervor : Come ! Veni Sancte Spiritus !
Let us invoke Him, then, in the dark night of temptation, in the agony of doubt. When, enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and drawn on by the glare of creatures, our uncertain spirit asks for the truth to guide it ; and when, desirous of the knowledge and light of faith, we desire to penetrate the divine mysteries, let us invoke the Holy Spirit, for he is indeed the " Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge."
When we are moved to determine and fix our vocation in life, when we are about to perform some work in which our consciences are deeply concerned, or if it is our duty to direct. souls in the ways of God, let us invoke the " Spirit of counsel."
When we feel the love of God languish in our hearts, or even when we are moved by a holy zeal and we wish to love God with good effect, let us invoke the Holy Spirit, for He is truly the " Spirit of piety ."
When the power of evil attacks us and the world persecutes us, when passion torments us, and when sorrow oppresses us, let us earnestly call Him to our assistance, for He is the " Spirit of fortitude."
When the abyss of sin is open before us and ready to engulf us, let us invoke Him with all our strength, for He is the "Spirit of the fear of the Lord,"
In all our sufferings let us invoke Him, for He is indeed the Paraclete — the Comforter.
Against the slavery of all evil habits that weigh down the will let us invoke Him, for " where the Spirit of God is, there is true liberty."
Has He come ? Then let us meet Him with attention, vigilance, and profound respect. Let us not "'grieve the Spirit of God by our faults and imperfections."
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN — JESUS AT THE TOMB OF HIS MOTHER.MARY languished waiting anxiously many years for the blessed day that would reunite Her with Her Son. It came at length. Her lamp of life was peacefully extinguished in the home of the beloved disciple, St. John, surrounded by other apostles, whose messages she bore to heaven. A virgin sepulchre received the mortal remains of the spotless Virgin. It was the mysterious cradle soon to be visited by the Author of life. Sleep on, dear Blessed Mother, sleep on, whilst the infant Church mourns around thy grave !
Soon one of the disciples desired to see again His Mother's face, and to kiss the blessed hand that had caressed the Saviour of the world. The tomb was opened, but the immaculate body was not there ; instead of it were found roses and lilies of the sweetest perfume — a fitting symbol of her perfections and virtues.
Thus a miracle is performed in the silent shade of the tomb. Jesus, from the highest heavens contemplating the spotless body which was the tabernacle of His humanity, repeated the words of the prophet : " Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption." He applies it to His holy Mother ; He will not suffer Her to feel the corruption of the grave. Mary slumbers in death, as Her Son once did, but He awakes Her with these loving words of the Canticles : "Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. The winter is now past ; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land ; the time of pruning is come ; the voice of the turtle is heard. The fig-tree has put forth her green figs ; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. . . . Come from Libanus, where the incorruptible cedars grow. Come and be crowned." *
* Antiphon of the Assumption.
Mary can neither rise nor ascend to heaven of Her own power, but the Author of life extends to Her His omnipotent force, places His angels at Her service, and they bear Her to Her home in heaven.
To us poor mortals the privilege of incorruption in the tomb does not belong. Wretched children of Adam, defiled, from the first moment of our existence, by original sin, unfaithful to the grace of our regeneration, frequently guilty of sin after having been pardoned, we have opened to death all the avenues of life. Death entered with sin and has written on our flesh this terrible word : Corruption ! Nothing escapes its cruel tooth. The skin, gradually eaten away, soon disappears entirely, leaving only a dry skeleton ; and this, too, silently crumbling into dust, is mingled with the surrounding earth by the grave-digger's spade when he is preparing a place for other dead bodies. This is the end of all.
Let us not be terrified, however, at our nothingness. Men may seek for us in vain ; but the all-seeing eye of God follows through the mazes of nature the wanderings of the particles which once composed our bodies. When the world shall have finished its course the Author of life will visit the empire of death, and with His sovereign voice will address the elements of which human bodies were once constituted, saying : " Unite, arise, come." Then the bones of each human being shall be recomposed, and the flesh shall recover the texture and color by which it was once before known. This is a certain truth.
And it is no less certain that our resurrection will be the same as our death. It will be glorious or ignominious, it will be for eternal joy or eternal sorrow, according as our death shall have been in justice or sin.
Let us meditate seriously on these truths ; and whilst we carry about with us our bodies as vessels made by the divine hand for honor, and destined to receive from the same hand a new existence which no inimical force can destroy, let us take good care not to make of them objects of almost idolatrous attention which cannot save them from the ravages of time or the corruption of the grave. If to-day we hear the forebodings of death, if we are saddened by our infirmities, if our thoughts are gloomy and dark, if the perfection of our souls is retarded or burdened with the weight of our bodies, let us not repine. Patience ! Patience ! One day this poor companion of the soul will rise immortal, incorruptible, brighter than the stars of heaven, obedient to the commands of the soul which will impart to it a wonderful agility. If the body presses us with gross demands, and even incites to sin, we must inexorably repress it. We must preserve ourselves from all defilement by wise precautions, strong resolutions, and salutary chastisements. The more we resemble in the flesh the unsullied flesh of our Holy Mother, the more resplendent will be the glory of our resurrection.
THE CORONATION OF THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN — JESUS THE REMUNERATOR.
HEAVEN is opened. Our Most Holy Mother, invited by Her Son, triumphantly enters in. " Come and be crowned,’ our Saviour says to Her. Let us assist in spirit at this coronation. It is the eternal consecration of all the virtues, of all the dolors of Mary. It is the recompense which confers upon Her the greatest power ever before imparted to a creature. All the kings of Judah gather round their well-beloved daughter. " David dances for joy ; the angels and archangels unite with Israel's sweet singer to chant the praises of their Queen. The virtues proclaim Her glory ; the principalities, powers, and dominations exult with joy ; the thrones felicitate Her who was the living and immaculate throne of the Most High. The cherubim salute Her in a canticle of praise, and the seraphim declare Her glory," says St. John Damascene. Finally Jesus comes, and, amid the plaudits of the whole Court of Heaven, places a crown on the brow of His Most Blessed Mother.
Jesus forgets nothing. All is crowned in Mary : Her thoughts, Her desires, Her actions, Her virtues, Her merits — even Her privileges, of which She had rendered Herself most worth by Her constant correspondence with the admirable designs of God. The feast of the Coronation is a feast of justice.
Christian soul, this feast of justice ought to rejoice your heart ! It is your Mother is honored, it is your Mother's triumph ; and Her triumph teaches us that we have a just God in heaven, who, when the day of remuneration comes, will remember all. Therefore what signify the difficulties, sorrows, languors, and tribulations of our short lives ? "For the rest there is laid up for us a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will bestow upon us in that day" (2 Tim. iv.) O senseless souls who run after earthly goods, can you say this of the world you seem to adore or of the rulers of the world ? They promise riches, pleasures, celebrity, love. Your whole soul is held in a state of tension by the toys of imagination, covetous desires, or other passions ; your senses themselves are disturbed, your health is injured, your life is filled with intrigues, troubles, and meannesses. Humble yourselves, throw away earthly cares, else you will never be able to say, with the noble and fervent confidence of the true Christian : " There is laid up for me a crown." Crowns of gold or of roses, of honor or affection, often slip from your grasp just when you think you hold them most securely. And if you were able to obtain at once all the crowns of the world, you must bring them at last before the "just Judge," who will, with pitiless hand, tear them from your brow and throw them down to rot where you received them. We cannot carry with us to heaven useless or hurtful ornaments. Our crown in heaven — our true crown — will remain eternally on our brow and will never fade. "And when the Prince of pastors shall appear you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory " (1 Peter v. 4).
Feed yourself, then, O my soul ! on these deep and consoling thoughts. The all-just Rewarder of all faithful souls sees you and knows you. Despise the vain objects of worldlings and cling to the road that brings you to a crown of glory. It is a rough and difficult road. You will have to overcome obstacles, to leap over more than one abyss, to avoid ambuscades(def. attack from an ambush.), to fight the enemy, to repair reverses and even defeats. Courage ! Courage ! All your marches, all your efforts, all your labors and combats are in God's keeping : " For the rest there is laid up for you a crown." You will say: " If I could only march alone on the hard road leading to glory ! But no ; I must carry along with me this miserable body. It is a furnace of sin, and of sorrow too. It obscures my sight so that I cannot see clearly what I ought to see ; from it come doubts, scruples, dryness, disquietude, chagrin, and anguish. From time and from nature it receives many blows and wounds. How many are the evils, both external and internal, of our sad lives ! " Courage ! Courage ! All these are counted ; all will be crowned. At once a champion, a pilgrim, and a martyr, you will be able to say with the great Apostle of the Gentiles : " I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me at that day ; and not to me only, but to them also who love His coming " (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8).
Dominican Saints by a Sister of the Congregation of St. Catherine of SienaUpdated 08.30 Children of the Rosary Footsteps of the Preacher
Fourth Friday of Lent |
Saint Patrick, Confessor
Sunday of Passion Week |
Saint Gabriel, The Archangel
Monday of Passion Week
Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin
Tuesday of Passion Week |
Wednesday of Passion Week|
Saint Benedict, Abbot
Thursday of Passion Week
|March 23:||The Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin, Friday of Passion Week Dominican Martyrology|
Saturday of Passion Week |
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE EVER BLESSED VIRGIN
Monday of Holy Week
Tuesday of Holy Week |
Wednesday of Holy Week
HOLY SATURDAY |
Stigmata of Saint Catherine, OP Book
Monday in the Octave of Easter
Saint Francis of Paula
Tuesday in the Octave of Easter|
Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Saint Vincent Ferrer, Confessor
Saint Vincent Ferrer, Confessor OP Book
Friday in the Octave of Easter
Saturday in the Octave of Easter
|April 8:Quasimodo or Low Sunday||Dominican Martyrology|
Monday of the Second Week after Easter
Saint Mary of Egypt
Blessed Anthony Pavone, Martyr OP Book
Tuesday of the Second Week after Easter|
Blessed Anthony Neyrot, Martyr OP Book
Wednesday of the Second Week after Easter
Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Thursday of the Second Week after Easter
Friday of the Second Week after Easter |
Saint Hermenegild, Martyr
Blessed Magaret of Castello, Virgin OP Book
Saturday of the Second Week after Easter |
Sts Tiburtius,Valerian, Maximus, Martyrs
Blessed Peter Gonzalez, Confessor, Patron of Sailors, OP Book
Second Sunday after Easter