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Fourth Week after Easter

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia.
℟. Cœli et terra laetentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

SATURDAY brings us once more to the dear Mother of our Jesus. Last Saturday, when closing our week’s considerations upon the establishment of the Church, we reverently drew a parallel between these two Mothers—Mary and the Church. During the present week, we have been considering how our Saviour confided his doctrine—that is, the object of our faith—to his Apostles; let us devote this last day to a loving remembrance of the dogmas which Jesus revealed to them regarding the dignity and office of her whom he chose for his own and our Mother.

Holy Church teaches us several truths concerning Mary; and these truths are the object of our faith, on the same ground as the other articles contained in the Catholic Creed. Now they could not be the object of our faith, except inasmuch as they were revealed by the lips of our divine Lord himself. The Church of our days has received them from the Church of past ages, just as this last named received them from the Apostles, to whom Jesus first confided them. There has been no new revelation since our Saviour’s Ascension; consequently, the manifestation of all the dogmas transmitted to the Church, and promulgated by her to the world, dates from the teaching given by Jesus to his Apostles. It is on this account that we believe them with theological faith—a faith which can only be given to truths directly revealed by God to man.

How beautiful is the affection here shown by the Son of God to his Mother! He revealed to his Apostles the impenetrable secrets of the divine Essence, the Trinity in Unity, the eternal generation of the Word in the Father's bosom, the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, the union of the two Natures in one Person in the Incarnate Word, the Redemption of the world by the Blood of the Man-God, the restoration of fallen man and his elevation to a supernatural state by grace. But this same Jesus also reveals the prerogatives of his dearest Mother; and we are to believe them with the same faith as we do the dogmas which relate to God himself! Jesus, the Wisdom of the Father, the Conqueror of death, has revealed to us Mary's dignity with the same lips that taught us what he himself is: we believe the two revelations with equal faith because both come from him.

Jesus said to his Apostles, and they, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, communicated his teaching to the Church:’Mary, my Mother, is a daughter of Adam and Eve; but the stain of original sin was not upon her. The decree that every human being should be conceived in sin was suspended in her regard. She was full of grace from the first moment of her Conception. Jeremiasand John the Baptist were sanctified in their mother’s womb; Mary was Immaculate from the first moment of her existence.’

Jesus also said to his Apostles, and commanded them to repeat his words to the Church:’ Mary is truly Mother of God, and must be honoured as such by all creatures; for she truly conceived me and gave me birth, according to my human nature, which forms but one Person with my divine nature.’

Jesus also said to his Apostles, and commanded them to repeat his words to the Church:’ Mary, my Mother, conceived me in her chaste womb without ceasing to be a Virgin, and she gave me birth without her Virginity suffering any injury.’

Thus, Mary’s Immaculate Conception which prepared her for her sublime office, her divine Maternity and her perpetualVirginity, are three dogmas of our faith, which were revealed to the Apostles directly by our Lord. Holy Church merely repeats them after the Apostles, just as the Apostles repeated them after hearing them from their divine Master.

But did not Jesus reveal other prerogatives of his august Mother—prerogatives which are consequences of the three magnificent gifts just mentioned? Let us ask the Church what she believes on this subject, and what she teaches, both by her doctrinal utterance, and by her equally infallible practice. Every development, which is produced in her by the action of the Holy Ghost, is based upon the word of God, which was spoken at the beginning. Thus it is impossible to doubt but that our Saviour made known to his Apostles his intention of raising his blessed Mother to the dignity of Queen of the universe, of Mediatrix of men, of Mother of grace, of Co-operatrix of our Redemption. Had she not, by the three unparalleled gifts just mentioned, already been raised above all other creatures? Yes, we cannot doubt it; these glories of the Mother of God were known, revered, and loved by the Apostles; and we, who have received from the Church these same sublime and consoling truths, we too prize and love our knowledge. Should we not be offering violence to every noble feeling of our nature, were we to believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, without having made known to the world the glories of his Mother, whom he loved both as her Son and her God!

What must have been thy sentiments, O Mary, thou most humble of creatures, when Jesus unveiled thy glories to the disciples? They already reverenced thee, but they could never have known the grand gifts bestowed on thee by God, unless that God himself had revealed them. What glorious things were said of theeO City of God![1] If thy humility was troubled when the archangel called thee full of graceand blessed among women; how must thou not have shrunk from the homage paid thee by the Apostles, when they were first told that thou wast the Mother of God, the ever spotless Virgin, Immaculate from thy very conception! But no, blessed Mother! thou canst not shun the honours that are richly thy due. The prophecy spoken by thyself, in Zachary’s house, must be fulfilled: All generations shall call thee Blessed![2] The time is at hand; a few days hence, the preaching of the Gospel will have commenced. Thy name, thy ministry, thy glories are an essential part of the Creed which is to be carried throughout the world. Up to this time, thou hast been shrouded in a veil of mystery; that veil must now be drawn aside —Jesus will have it so—and thou must be known as Mother of the God, who, when he came to save us, disdained not to assume our human nature in thy chaste womb. Dearest Mother! Queen of angels and men! suffer us to unite our fervent homage with that which the Apostolic College gave thee, when Jesus first revealed to them thy glories!

Let us, in honour of the blessed Mother, recite this sequence of the Cluny Missal of 1523. It is a graceful imitation of the Victimœ Paschali.

Sequence

Virgini Mariæ laudes
Intonent Christiani.

O beata domina,
Tua per suffragia
Reconcilientur peccatores.

Fiant per te liberi
A fermento veteri,
Victimae paschalis perceptores.

Da nobis, Maria,
Virgo clemens et pia,

Aspectu Christi viventis,
Et gloria frui resurgentis.

Tu prece nos pia,
Christo reconcilia,

Quæ sola Mater intacta,
Es Genitrix Verbi Dei facta.

Credendum est ex te Deum
Et hominem natum, resurrexisse glorificatum.

Scimus Christum surrexisse
A mortuis vere;
Conserva Mater nos et tuere.

Amen.
Let Christians offer to the Virgin Mary
their hymns of praise.

O Lady ever blessed!
let sinners be reconciled to God
by thy prayers.

May they that receive the Paschal Lamb be,
by thy intercession,
cleansed from the old leaven.

Give us, O Mary,
thou merciful and loving Virgin!

To enjoy the sight of the living
and Risen Christ.

Reconcile us with Jesus
by thy holy prayers,

O thou the spotless
Mother of the Word of God!

We believe that the God-Man
who was born of thee hath risen again in glory.

We know that Christ hath truly risen from the dead.
Do thou, O Mother!
preserve and defend us.

Amen.

[1] Ps. lxxxvi 3.
[2] St Luke i 48.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia.
℟. Cœli et terra laetentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

PRAISE be to our Risen Jesus, for his having said to us: He that believeth and is baptizedshall be saved![1] Thanks to his infinite mercy, we believe and have been baptized; we are, therefore, in the path of salvation. It is true that faith will not save us without good works; but, on the other hand, good works without faith cannot merit eternal salvation. With what transport of joy ought we not to give thanks to God, for his having produced in us, by his grace, this unspeakable gift,[2] this first pledge of our everlasting happiness! How carefully ought we not to strive to keep it pure, yea and increase it by our fidelity! Faith, like other virtues, has its degrees: we should, therefore, frequently use the prayer addressed to Jesus by his Apostles: Lord! increase our faith![3]

We are living in an age when faith is weak amongst the majority even of them that believe; and it is one of the greatest dangers that could befall us in this world. When faith is weak, charity must needs grow cold. Our Saviour one day asked his disciples if they thought that he would find faith upon the earth when he should come to judge mankind.[4] Have we not reason to fear that we are fast approaching that awful time, when the want of faith will paralyze men's hearts?

Faith proceeds from our will moved by the Holy Ghost. We believe because we wish to believe; and for this reason it is a happiness to believe. The blind man to whom Jesus restored his sight said to him, when he bade him believe in the Son of God: Who is he, Lord? that I may believe in him.[5] These same dispositions ought to animate us, when there is question of our making an act of faith—we should believe, in order that we may know that which, without faith, we could not know: then will God manifest himself to both our mind and heart.

You will meet with Christians who seem to make it their business to keep down the faith of their friends as much as possible. They seem to be jealous of faith getting too much; are ever talking about the rights of reason; and will have it that they who are so ready to believe are guilty of underrating the dignity, range, and divine origin of reason. Let them that are thus accused, answer: ‘We are far from denying the existence of that natural light within us, which is called reason. The teaching of the Church is too express on this point to admit of any doubt; but she also teaches us that this light—even had it retained its primal power, and had not been obscured by original sin—is incapable of discovering, by itself alone, the end for which man was created, and the means whereby that end is to be gained. Faith alone can enable man to attain to such sublime knowledge as this.’

Others, again, maintain that as soon as a Christian comes to the full age of reason, he has a right to suspend the exercise of his faith, in order that he may examine for himself whether it be reasonable or not to continue believing. Such an opinion is most false and has made many an apostate. The Church has ever taught from the days of the Apostles down to our own times, and will so teach to the end of the world, that the child who has received holy baptism has also, and at that same instant, received the gift of infused faith; that he thereby became a member of Christ, and child of his Church; and that if, when he comes to the age of reason, he should be tempted with doubts regarding matters of faith, he receives grace to resist those doubts by faith, and that he would be risking his salvation were he to suspend his faith. This does not imply that the Church forbids him to confirm his faith by study and science; far from it. This is a totally different thing from suspension of one’s faith; it is, according to the admirable saying of the great St Anselm,’faith seeking understanding,’ and, we may add, finding it, for God gives this recompense to faith.

You may probably meet with persons who think it right that there should be found among us a class of men, called free-thinking philosophers, that is to say, men without faith, who hold, with regard to God and creatures, doctrines which are wholly independent of revelation, and who teach a morality that entirely ignores the supernatural element. Is it possible that Catholics can not only countenance and praise such men as these, but even defend them, and be partial towards them?

And what must we say of the sad effects resulting from living with heretics? Most of us could give instances of the dangerous compromises and deplorable concessions made in consequence of much intercourse with those who are not of the faith. The terrible line of demarcation specified by St John, in his second Epistle,[6] is being forgotten; the very mention of it is offensive to modern ears. A strong indication of this is to be found in the frequency of mixed marriages, which in a number of cases, though often by imperceptible degrees, result in leading the Catholic party to religious indifference. Let us listen to the energetic language of that illustrious ascetical writer, Father Faber:’The old-fashioned hatred of heresy is becoming scarce. God is not habitually looked at as the sole Truth; and so the existence of heresies no longer appals the mind. It is assumed that God must do nothing painful, and his dominion must not allow itself to take the shape of an inconvenience or a trammel to the liberty of his creatures. If the world has outgrown the idea of exclusiveness, God must follow our lead, and lay it aside as a principle in his dealings with us. What the many want they must have at last. This is the rule and the experience of a constitutional country. Thus discord in religion, and untruth in religion, have come to be less odious and less alarming to men, simply because they are accustomed to them. It requires courage, both moral and mental, to believe the whole of a grand nation in the wrong, or to think that an entire country can go astray. But theology, with a brave simplicity, concludes a whole world under sin, and sees no difficulty in the true Church being able to claim only a moderate share of the population of the earth. The belief in the facility of salvation outside the Church is very agreeable to our domestic loves and to our private friendships. Moreover, if we will hold this, the world will pardon a whole host of other superstitions in us, and will do us the honour of complimenting the religion God gave, as if it were some literary or philosophical production of our own. Is this such a huge gain? Many seem amazingly pleased with it, and pay dear for it quite contentedly. Now it is plain that this belief must lower the value of the Church in our eyes. It must relax our efforts to convert others. It must relax our efforts to convert ourselves. Those who use the system of the Church least will of course esteem it least, and see least in it; and are therefore least fitted to be judges of it. Yet it is just these men who are the most forward and the most generous in surrendering the prerogatives of the Church to the exigencies of modern smoothness and universalism.'[7] Another sign of the decay of the spirit of faith, even among many of those who do not neglect their religion, is the disregard for, one might almost say the ignorance of, holy practices recommended by the Church. How many Catholic houses are there, where there is never a drop of Holy Water, or a blessed Candle, or a Palm to be seen? These sacred objects, given to us to be a protection, deserve from us that same reverence and love which our forefathers had when they defended them, even at the risk of their lives, against the Protestants of the sixteenth century. What a jeering look of incredulity is evinced by many amongst us, when mention is made of any miracle that is not found in the Bible! With what an air of contemptuous disbelief they hear or read of anything in connection with the mystic life, such as ecstasies, raptures, or revelations! How uneasy they seem, when the subject of the heroic acts of penance done by the Saints, or of the simplest practices of bodily mortification, happens to come across them! How loudly and pathetically do they not protest against the noble sacrifices which some favoured souls are inspired to make, whereby they break asunder the dearest ties, and shut themselves out of the world, behind the grille of a monastery or convent! The spirit of faith makes a true Catholic appreciate the beauty, the reasonableness, and the sublimity of all these practices and acts; whilst the want of this spirit makes them be condemned as extravagant, unmeaning, and folly.

Faith longs to believe; for believing is its life. It limits not itself to the strict Creed promulgated by the Church. It knows that the Spouse of Christ possesses all truths, though she does not solemnly declare them all, nor under the pain of anathema. Faith forestalls the declaration of a dogma; it believes piously, before believing under obligation. A secret instinct draws it towards this as yet veiled truth; and when the dogma is published by a definition of the supreme Pontiff, then does this same faith rejoice in the triumph of the truth which was revealed from the very commencement of the Church; and its joy is great in proportion to the fidelity wherewith it honoured the truth, when only generous and loyal hearts embraced it.

Glory, then, be to our Risen Jesus, who requited his Mother’s faith, who strengthened that of the disciples and the holy women, and who, as we humbly pray, will mercifully reward ours. Let us offer him our homage, in the words of a sequence from the ancient Missal of Saint Gall.

Sequence

Pangamus Creatoris
Atque Redemptoris gloriam.

Qui bene creatos, sed seductos
Astutia callidi serpentis,
Sua refecit gratia.

Praedicens,
Futurum ut germen
Sancta proferret fœmina;

Quod hostis antiqui
Nociva exsuperaret capita.

Quod primitus perdita, serius nostra
Cernunt saecula.

Quum splendida flosculo virgula.
Novo pollet Maria.

Qui editus
Mire edidit miracula.

Nec juvenis tantum,
Sed statim inter suæ nativitatis primordia.

Per sideris lumen,
Per Simeonis verba
Judaica ad se vel corda, vel munera
Attrahens nutu gentilia.

Quem Pater in voce,
Atque Spiritus Sanctus specie, glorificat.

Visentes doctorem, ve larchiatrum,
Docent auctoritate sua.

Qui postquam salutis
Dona dedit multa,
Doctrinaeque perplura verba
Ore suo promulgavit saluberrima;

Ad probra, sputa,
Colaphos, et flagella,
Vestem quoque ludo quæsitam,
Et spineum venit sertum
Ad crucis brachia.

Qui hodie triumphali
A mortuis resurgens,
Sprevit victoria, ducens secum primitiva
Ad coelos membra,
Et nuper dispersa
Revocans ovilia.

Quæ et nobis in fine speranda,
Licet ultima membra simus, spondet dona.

Amen.
Let us proclaim the glory
of our Creator and Redeemer!

By his grace, he gave a new existence
to them whom he had created aright,
yet who were seduced by the cunning of the crafty serpent.

He foretold
that a holy Woman would,
one day, bring forth a Fruit,

That should crush
the baneful head of the old enemy.

Our times have seen fulfilled
these promises that were long forgotten.

Mary, the lovely Branch,
put forth a new Flower.

His birth was a prodigy,
and miracles marked his life,

Not only when he had grown to manhood,
but immediately after his birth.

By the light of the star,
and by Simeon’s words,
he drew to himself the heart of the Jew
and the gift of the Gentile.

He was glorified by the Father’s words,
and by the visible form under which the Holy Ghost appeared.

They that saw this Teacher, this Physician of men,
were appointed to teach others in his name.

After bestowing on men
abundant gifts of salvation,
and promulgating, with his own lips,
the doctrine of eternal life,

He came to his Passion,
in which he was insulted, spit upon,
buffeted, scourged, vested as a mock-king,
crowned with thorns,
and nailed to a Cross.

But to-day, by a glorious victory,
he rises triumphant from the grave;
he takes them that belonged to the generations of old,
and leads them with himself to heaven;
he forms into one fold
the scattered sheep.

Yea, and to us, though the last of his children,
he promises future gifts, and bids us hope.

Amen.

[1] St Mark xvi 16.
[2] 2 Cor. ix 15.
[3] St Luke xvii 5.
[4] Ibid. xviii 8.
[5] St John ix 36.
[6] 2 St John 10.
[7] Spiritual Conferences: Hcaven and Hell.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia.
℟. Cœli et terra lætentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

THE Apostles have received their mission. The Sovereign Master has bade them divide among themselves the nations of the earth, and preach everywhere the Gospel—that is, the Good Tidings—the tidings of man's Redemption wrought by the Son of God, who was made flesh, was crucified, and arose again from the dead. But what is to be the grand support of these humble Jews, who have been suddenly transformed into conquerors, and have to win the whole world to Christ? Their support is the solemn promise made to them by Jesus, when, after saying: Go, teach all nations! he adds: Lo! I am with you all dayseven to the consummation of the world! Hereby he promises never to leave them, and ever to direct and guide them. They shall see him no more in this life; and yet he assures them that he will be ever in their midst.

But these men, with whom Christ thus promises that he will abide for ever, and preserve them from every fall and from every error in the teaching of his doctrine—these Apostles are not immortal. We shall find them, one after the other, laying down their lives for the faith and so leaving this world. Are we, then, condemned to uncertainty and darkness, like men who have been abandoned by the light? Is it possible, that the appearance of our Emmanuel upon the earth has been but like that of a meteor, which we sometimes behold in the night, emitting a lurid light, and then suddenly disappearing, leaving us in greater darkness than before? No: the words of our Risen Jesus forbid us to fear such a calamity. He did not say to his Apostles:’Lo! I am with you even to the end of your lives;' but Lo! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. So that those to whom he addressed himself were to live to the end of the world! What means this, but that the Apostles were to have successors, in whom their rights were to be perpetuated? successors whom Jesus would ever assist by his presence and uphold by his power. The work founded by a God, out of his love for man, and at the price of his own precious Blood, must surely be imperishable! Jesus, by his presence amidst his Apostles, preserved their teaching from all error; by his presence he will also, and for ever, guide the teaching of their successors.

O precious and necessary gift of Infallibility in the Church! Gift, without which the mission of the Son of God would have been a failure! Gift whereby faith, that essential element of man’s salvation, is preserved upon the earth! Yes, we have the promise; and the effects of this promise are evident even to them that are not of the Church. Where is there an unprejudiced man, who would not recognize the hand of God in the perpetuity of the Catholic Symbol of Faith, whereas everything else on earth is for ever changing? Can we attribute to natural causes such a result as this—that a society, whose link is unity of belief, should live through so many ages, and yet lose nothing of the truth it possessed at its commencement, nor imbibe anything of the falseness of the world around it; that it should have been attacked by thousands of sects, and yet have triumphed over them all, survived them all, and be as pure in the faith now at this present day, as it was on the day when first formed by its divine Founder? Is it not an unheard-of prodigy, that hundreds of millions of men, differing from each other in country, character, and customs, yea, and frequently enemies to each other, should be united in one like submission to one same authority, which, with a single word, governs their reason in matters of faith?

How great is thy fidelity to thy promises, O Jesus! Who could help feeling that thou art in the midst of thy Church, mastering by thy presence the warring elements, and by irresistible yet sweet power, subjecting our pride and fickleness to thy dear yoke? And they are men, men like ourselves who rule and guide our faith! It is the Pope, the successor of St Peter, whose faith cannot fail,[1] and whose sovereign word is carried through the whole world, producing unity of mind and heart, dispelling doubt, and putting an end to disputation. It is the venerable body of the bishops united with their Head, and deriving from this union an invincible strength in the proclamation of the one same truth in the several countries of the universe. Oh yes; men are made infallible because Jesus is with and in them! In everything else they are men like ourselves; but the Chair on which they are throned is supported by the arm of God; it is the Chair of Truth upon the earth.

How grand is our faith! Miracles gave it birth; and this continued miracle, of which we have been speaking, and which disconcerts all the calculations of human wisdom, directs it, enlightens it, and upholds it. How stupendous are the wondrous works done by our Risen Jesus during these forty days! So far, he had been preparing his work; now he carries it into effect. May the divine Shepherd be ever praised for the care he takes of his Sheep! If he exacts their faith as the first pledge of their service, we must own that he has made the sacrifice not only meritorious by the submission of our reason, but most attractive to our heart.

Let us honour his glorious Resurrection by a new canticle—one from the ancient Missals of Germany. 

Sequence

Laudes Christo redempti,
Voce modulemur supplici.

Omnis in hac die
Rerum natura jubilans,

Personet immensas
Filio Dei gratias.

Jam nostri concives,
Coelestis sanctuarii milites,

Ordines noveni,
In vestra nos adunate gaudia.

Hymnite nunc superi,
Pariter resonate inferi,

Et omnis in Domino
Spiritus gratuletur ænesi;

Qui hominis causa,
Deus homo nascitur;

Et fragili carne,
Se deitas occulens,
Probra sustinuit patiens:

Virtutibus, signis ut
Deus emicuit;

Et corporis nostri necessitate fruens,
Verus terrigena claruit.

Ab hoste tentatus,
Non est agnitus neque divinitas patuit:

Ars artem delusit,
Donec veteris nodum piaculi secuit.

In ara crucis hostiam
Se pro nobis Christus obtulit Deo Patri,
Morte sua nostra mortificans crimina.

Jam victor Christus,
Barathro populato,
Mortis principe vinculato,
Ab inferis pompa regreditur nobili.

Hæc est dies quæ illuxit, post turbida
Regni Æthiopum tempora;

Christus in qua resurrexit
Ultra victurus,
Cum carne quam sumpsit de Maria virgine.

Qui ovem
Cum gaudio Patri quam perdiderat,
Humero revexit suo.

Amen.
Let us, the redeemed,
sing with suppliant voice our praise to Christ.

On this day let all nature,
in a transport of joy,

Sound forth one universal hymn of thanks
to the Son of God.

And you,
our fellow-citizens,

the nine-choired hosts of heaven,
permit us to share in your joys.

Sing a hymn, ye that are highest!
Intone a loud canticle, ye that are lowest!

Yea, let every spirit be glad in the Lord,
and praise him!

For he, God,
became Man for man's salvation.

Hiding his divinity
with the veil of our frail flesh,
he patiently endured every insult;

But his power and miracles
revealed him as our God.

He subjected himself to all our human wants,
and was verily a wayfarer on our earth.

He was tempted by the enemy;
but he made not known his divinity.

Craft by craft was foiled,
till the hour came for him to cut the knot of Adam's sin.

For our sake, he offered himself to his Father
a victim upon the altar of the Cross: and by his Death,
he put our sins to death.

And now hell is ravaged
and the prince of death enchained,
and Christ returns from Limbo,
in all the pageant of his victory.

This is the day which has shone upon the world,
after the stormy times of the Ethiopian sway.

It is the day whereon,
with the flesh he assumed from the Virgin Mary,
Christ rose again, to live for evermore.

With joy, he carried on his shoulders,
to his Father,
the sheep that had been lost.

Amen.

[1] St Luke xxii 32.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia.
℟. Cœli et terra laetentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

THE Son of God is soon to ascend to his Father. He has said to his Apostles: Going, teach all nations: preach the Gospel to every creature. Thus, then, the nations are not to receive the word from the lips of Jesus, but through his ministers. The glory and happiness of being instructed directly by the Man-God were for none but the Israelites, and even for them for only three short years.

The impious may murmur at this, and say, in their pride:’Why should there be men between God and us?' God might justly answer:’And what right have you to expect me to speak to you myself, seeing that you can otherwise be as certain of my word as though you heard it from myself V Was the Son of God to lose his claim to our faith unless he remained on this earth to the end of time? If we reflect on the infinite distance there is between the Creator and creature, we shall detest such a blasphemy. If we receive the testimony of menthe testimony of God is greater:[1] and how can we reject it? Can we call that testimony human, which was given by the Apostles, when, in proof of their being sent by God, they showed the power, conferred on them by their divine Master, of working miracles? Of course the pride of reason may rebel; it may protest, and refuse to believe men who speak in God’s name. Did not the very Son of God meet with more unbelievers than believers? And why? Because he affirmed himself to be God, yet showed nothing exteriorly but his human nature. So that there was an act of faith to be made, even when Jesus himself spoke; and pride might rebel, and say:’I will not believe just as it will do when the Apostles speak in his name. The two cases are alike. God demands of us, as long as we are in this world, that we give him our faith; and faith is not possible without humility. God confirms his word by miracles; but man has always the power to resist, and for that very reason faith is a virtue.

If it be asked—why, when God took his Son from this earth, he did not commission his angels to teach us in his name, instead of giving such a sublime office to men, frail and mortal as we ourselves are who receive their teaching—the reason is, that man could not be raised up from the state of degradation into which he had fallen by pride, except by submission and humility; and consequently, it was fitting that the ministry of the divine word should not be entrusted to angels, inasmuch as our pride might have been flattered by our having for our teachers beings so noble and exalted. We believed the serpent when he spoke to us, and we had the pride to think that we might one day become gods: our merciful Creator, in order to save us, has imposed it as a law upon us, that we should yield submission to men, when they speak in his name.

These men, therefore, are to preach the Gospel to every creature; and he that believeth notshall be condemned. O word of God! thou heavenly seed planted in the field of the Church, how fruitful hast thou not been! Yet one little while, and the harvest will be ripe. Faith will have spread throughout the world; the faithful shall be found in every land. And how came they by the faith? By hearing, answers the great Apostle of the Gentiles.[2] They heard the word, and they believed. How honoured above the rest of our senses is our hearing, at least in this present life! Let us listen to St Bernard, speaking on this subject.’One would have thought that the Truth would have entered into our souls by that noblest of our senses, the eye: but no, my soul! that is reserved for the future life, when we shall see face to face. For the present, let the remedy come in by the same door through which crept the malady; let life, and light, and the antidote of truth, come to us in the track previously taken by death and darkness, and the serpent’s poison. Thus the troubled eye will be cured by the ear, and will see, when calm, what she cannot when troubled. The ear was the first door of death; let it be the first to be opened to life. The ear took away our Light; let it now restore our Light; for unless we believe, we shall not understand.[3] Hearing, therefore, is the instrument of our merit; sight is to be our reward. . . . Observe, too, how the Holy Ghost follows this order in the spiritual education of the soul: he forms the ear, before he gladdens the eye. He says to her: HearkenO daughterand see![4] Forget thine eye for the present: it is thine ear I now ask for. Dost thou wish to see Christ? First hear him; hear what is said of him: that so, when thou dost see him, thou mayest say: As we have heardso have we seen![5] The brightness is immense; thine eye is weak; and thou canst not bear the splendour. But what thine eye cannot do, thine ear can; . . . only let this ear of thine be fervent, and watchful, and faithful. Faith will give to thine eye the clearness it lost by sin; disobedience shut it, but obedience will open it.”[6]

To the glory of him who has sent us his word by his ambassadors, and whom we have received as himself, let us recite this ancient sequence of Saint Gall: it expresses the faith of our fathers, and this faith is ours also.

Sequence

Grates Salvatori,
Ac Regi Christo Deo
Solvant omnes insularum incolæ,

Quem exspectatum dies jam tenent, et leges ejus
Mentibus captent promptulis.

Quos derelicto populo
Delegit Judæo,
De Abrahæ carne genito,

Et per fidem
Quos Abrahæ natos fecit, et cognatos
Suum sanctum per sanguinem.

O Christe,
Consanguinee naturae nostrae, nos fove,

Atque per divinam potentiam
Tuere ab omni incursu inimici, et insidiis.

Quem per carnis edulium
Delusisti hamo tuae majestatis, Fili Dei.

Tu resurgens imperitas,
Non moriturus amplius.

Tu mortalem nostram
Et terream naturam
Resurgens incorruptivam fecisti,
Atque cœlis invexisti.

Amen.
Let the inhabitants of all islands
render thanks to Christ,
our Saviour, King and God,

The Expected One, who is at length come,
and whose Law is now devoutly obeyed by mankind.

He cast off the Jewish people,
who were born
of Abraham according to the flesh;

And he chose, for his own,
them that he made children of Abraham by faith,
them that he had made his brethren by his precious Blood.

O Jesus
who art united to us by the bond of consanguinity! protect us,

And, by thy divine power,
defend us from every attack and snare of the enemy.

Thou, O Son of God! didst show him the Flesh thou hadst assumed,
and he, taking it, was taken by the hook of thy divinity.

Rising again, thou triumphest,
for death shall never more triumph over thee.

By thy Resurrection,
thou gavest incorruptibility
to our mortal and earthly nature,
and didst raise it to heaven.

Amen.

[1] 1 St John v 9.
[2] Rom. x 17.
[3] The Saint seems to be here quoting the celebrated Septuagint version of Isaias (vii 9). See the 3rd vol. of Paschal Time, Friday in Whitsun Week, last page.—Tr.
[4] Ps. xliv 11.
[5] Ps. xlvii 9.
[6] In Cantica, Serm. xxviii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia. ℟. Cœli et terra laetentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia. ℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

WE are bound to believe the word of God: but this word is accompanied with every proof of its really coming from God. When Jesus told men that he was the Son of God, he gave ample proof of his being such: in the same manner, he insists on our believing what he reveals, but he gives us a guarantee of its being the truth. What is this guarantee? Miracles. Miracles are the testimony which God bears to himself. A miracle rouses man’s attention, for he knows that it is by God’s will alone that the laws of nature can be suspended. If God employ a miracle to make his will known, he has a right to find man obedient. The Israelites were convinced that it was God who was leading them, for the sea opened a passage to them, immediately that Moses stretched forth his hand over its waters.

Now Jesus, the author and finisher of faith  did not demand our belief in the truths he revealed to us until he had proved the divinity of his mission by miracles. The works which I do, said he, give testimony of me.  And again: If you will not believe me, believe my works.  And what are these works? When St John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus, that they might ask him if he were the promised Messias, Jesus gave them this answer: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. 

Such is the motive of our faith. Jesus requires of us that we receive his word, as being that of the Son of God—for he has proved himself to be so by the works he has wrought. Truly may we exclaim with the Psalmist: Thy testimonies, O Lord, are become exceedingly credible!  Whom shall we believe, if we refuse to believe him? And what must be the guilt of them who refuse to believe! Let us hearken to our Jesus speaking of those proud men who, though they had witnessed his miracles, rejected his teaching: If, says he, I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin.  It is their incredulity that led them astray; but their incredulity showed itself when, after witnessing such miracles as the raising Lazarus to life, they refused to acknowledge the divinity of him who bore testimony to himself by such works as these.

But our Risen Jesus is soon to ascend into Heaven; the miracles he wrought will be things of long past; are we, henceforth, to have no testimony for his word, which is the object of our Faith? Let us not fear. Do we forget that historical documents, when genuine, bring the same conviction to our minds, with regard to past events, as though we ourselves had been witnesses of those events? Is it not a law of the human mind—is it not a basis of certainty—that we yield assent to the testimony of our fellow-men, as often as we have evidence that they are neither deceived themselves, nor wish to deceive us? The miracles wrought by Jesus will be handed down to the end of time, supported by guarantees of authenticity which no facts of history could possibly have. If the authority of history is what all acknowledge it to be, then is he a fool who doubts the miracles which we are told were worked by our Saviour. Though we have not been eye-witnesses of them, yet such is our certainty of their having been done, that our faith is as strong and as docile as though we had assisted at the admirable scenes described in the Gospel.

Our Lord had sufficiently provided for our yielding our Faith to his word, by letting us know that he had confirmed his teaching by his miracles. But he would do more. He gives his disciples the power to do what he himself had done, and this in order that our faith might be strengthened by these supernatural evidences. It was on one of the forty days spent with his Apostles before his Ascension, that he spoke these words to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.  We have already stated the basis on which this faith was to rest—the miracles of the God-Man who demands our faith. But there were to be other miracles superadded to his own. Let us continue the text just quoted: And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.  Here, then, we find the power of working miracles given to Jesus’ disciples. He bids them go and preach his word to men, and men must yield their faith; he therefore gives his disciples a power over nature which will prove them to be the ambassadors of the Most High. Their word is not their own; it is that of God. They are the ministers of the Incarnate God, and we must believe their teaching. By believing them, we are, in reality, believing him who sends them, and who, to make us sure of their rightful authority, gives them the credentials which he himself deigned to show to men, when he spoke with his own lips.

Neither is this all. If we carefully weigh his words, we shall see that he does not intend the gift of miracles to cease with his first disciples. It is true that history proves how faithfully Jesus fulfilled his promise, and that, when the Apostles went forth commanding the world to believe what they preached, they gave testimony of their divine mission by countless miracles; but our Risen Lord promised more than this. He said not:’These are the signs which shall follow my Apostles;' but: These are the signs which shall follow them that believe. By these words he perpetuated in his Church the gift of miracles; he made it one of her chief characteristics, and one of the grounds of our faith. Before his Passion, he had gone so far as to say: He that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do.  It is now that he graces her with this prerogative: so that, dating from that hour, we must not be surprised at finding that his saints perform miracles greater even, at times, than his own. He promised that it should be so, and he has kept his word; thus showing us how desirous he is that faith (which is one of the main objects of a miracle) should be fostered and made vigorous in his Church. Far, then, be from every loyal child of the Church that fear, that uneasy feeling, yea, that indifference which some people evince when they hear or read of a miracle. The only thing we should ask is—are the witnesses trustworthy? If so, a true Catholic should receive the account with joy and gratitude; he should give thanks to our Jesus who thus mercifully fulfils his promise, and keeps such a watchful eye over the preservation of faith.

Let us adore him in that miracle of miracles, his Resurrection. Let us enter into the sentiments of the following fine sequence; it dates from the ninth century, and is from the rich treasury of Saint Gall.

Sequence

Laudes Salvatoris
Voce modulemur supplici,
Et devotis melodiis
Coelesti Domino
Jubilemus Messiæ:
Qui seipsum exinanivit,
Ut nos perditos
Liberaret homines.

Carne gloriam Deitatis occulens
Pannis tegitur in præsepi,
Miserans praecepti transgressorem,
Pulsum patria
Paradisi nudulum.

Joseph, Mariae, Simeoni, subditur, circumciditur,
Et legali hostia mundatur, ut peccator,
Nostra qui solet relaxare crimina.

Servi subit manus baptizandus,
Et perfert fraudes tentatoris,
Fugit persequentum lapides.

Famem patitur,
Dormit et tristatur,
Ac lavat discipulis pedes Deus homo, summus humilis.

Sed tamen
Inter haec objecta corporis ejus Deitas
Nequaquam quivit latere, signis variis,
Et doctrinis prodita.

Aquam nuptiis
Dat saporis vinei.

Caecos oculos
Claro lumine vestivit.

Lepram luridam
Tactu fugat placido.

Patres suscitat mortuos,
Membraque curat debilia.

Fluxum sanguinis constrinxit,
Et saturavit quinque de panibus quina millia.

Stagnum peragrat fluctuans,
Ceu siccum littus, ventos sedat.

Linguam reserat constrictam,
Reclusit aures privatas vocibus; febres depulit.

Post haec mira miracula taliaque,
Sponte sua comprehenditur,
Et damnatur, et se crucifigi non despexit,
Sed sol ejus mortem non aspexit.

Illuxit dies,
Quam fecit Dominus,
Mortem devastans,

Et victor suis apparens dilectoribus vivens,
Primo Mariae, 
Dehinc Apostolis;

Docens Scripturas,
Cor aperiens,
Ut clausa de ipso reserarent.

Favent igitur resurgenti Christo cuncta gaudiis.
Flores, segetes redivivo fructu vernant,
Et volucres gelu tristi terso dulce jubilant.

Lucent clarius sol, et luna
Morte Christi turbida.

Tellus herbida
Resurgenti plaudit Christo,
Quæ tremula ejus morte se casuram minitat.

Ergo die ista exsultemus
Qua nobis viam vitæ
Resurgens patefecit Jesus.

Astra, solum, mare jocundentur,
Et cuncti gratulentur in cœlis
Spiritales chori Trinitati.

Amen.
Let us with humility
sing the praises of our Saviour;
let us joyously offer our devout melodies
to the God of heaven,
our Messias;
who emptied himself,
that he might deliver us men
from the perdition whereinto we had fallen.

He hides under a human body the glory of his Divinity;
he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger;
for he has pity on man who transgressed the commandment
and was driven naked
from the land of Paradise.

He is subject to Joseph, Mary, and Simeon; he is circumcized;
and he that is wont to forgive us our sins, deigns to be ransomed,
as a sinner, by the offering prescribed in the Law.

He bows down beneath the hand of his servant, and is baptized by him;
he permits the tempter to lay snares for him;
he has to fly from his enemies, who seek to stone him.

He suffers hunger,
sleep, and sadness:
he, God and yet Man, most High and yet humble, washes his disciples’ feet.

But notwithstanding
these outward humiliations, his divinity could not be hid;
it was made evident
by his miracles and teaching.

He gives water the savour of wine
at the marriage feast.

He gives to the blind
the light of day.

He drives hideous leprosy away
by his gentle touch:

He raises the dead to life;
he cures them that are maimed.

He stays a flux of blood;
and with five loaves feeds five thousand men.

He walks upon the waters
as though they were dry land; he calms the winds.

He makes the dumb to speak,
and the deaf to hear; he drives fever away.

After these and other such wonderful miracles,
he allows himself to be taken by his enemies,
and condemned; he refuses not to suffer crucifixion;
but the sun refuses to witness his Death.

Then comes the day
which the Lord hath made:
it destroys death.

Jesus triumphs; he returns to life; he appears to them that love him,
to Mary first,
and then to the Apostles.

He explains the Scriptures to his disciples,
opening their hearts
that they might understand what was there written concerning him.

All creatures keep a feast of joy at the Resurrection of Jesus.
Flowers spring up, meadows are again clothed in their rich verdure,
and birds, now that gloomy winter is past, carol in sweet jubilation.

The sun and moon,
which mourned at Jesus’ death, are brighter now than ever.

The earth, that shook at his death,
and seemed ready to fall to ruin,
now puts on her richest green to greet her Risen God.

Let us, therefore, be glad on this day,
whereon our Jesus, by his Resurrection,
opened to us the way of Life.

Let stars, and earth, and sea rejoice:
let all the choirs of the blessed in heaven
give praise to the Trinity.

Amen.