III. Turn now to the coming of Jesus Christ on earth. He came, as we know now, a Divine Teacher from heaven to make a Revelation from God; He came, that is, to demand from men a sublime Act of Faith in Himself. For He Himself was Incarnate Wisdom, and He demanded, therefore, as none else can demand it, a supreme acceptance of His claim. No progress in Divine knowledge, as He Himself tells us, is possible, then, without this initial act. Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter into it. Every soul that is to receive this teaching in its entirety must first accept the Teacher and sit at His feet.
Yet He did not make this claim merely on His own unsupported word. He presented His credentials, so to say; He fulfilled prophecy; He wrought miracles; He satisfied the moral sense. Believe Me, He says, for the very works' sake. Before, then, demanding the fundamental act of Faith on which the reception of Revelation must depend, He took pains to make this Act of Faith reasonable. "You see what I do," He said in effect, "you have observed My life, My words, My actions. Now is it not in accordance with Reason that you should grant My claims? Can you explain away, reasonably, on any other grounds than those which I state, the phenomena of My life?"
Certainly, then, He appealed to Reason; He appealed to Private Judgment, since that, up to that moment, was all that His hearers possessed. But, in demanding an Act of Faith, He appealed to Private Judgment to set itself aside; He appealed to Reason as to whether it were not Reasonable to stand aside for the moment and let Faith take its place. And we know how His disciples responded. Whom do you say that I am?... Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
At that instant, then, a new stage was begun. They had used their Reason and their Private Judgment, and, aided by His grace, had concluded that the next reasonable step was that of Faith. Up to that point they had observed, dissected, criticized, and analyzed His words; they had examined, that is, His credentials. And now it was Reason itself that urged them towards Faith, Reason that abdicated what had hitherto been, its right and its duty, that Faith might assume her proper place. Henceforth, then, their attitude must be a different one. Up to now they had used their Reason to examine His claim; now it was Faith, aided and urged by Reason, which accepted it.
Yet even now Reason's work is not done, though its scope in future is changed. Reason no longer examines whether He be God; Faith has accepted it: yet Reason has to be as active as ever; for Reason now must begin with all its might the task of understanding His Revelation. Faith has given them, so to speak, casket after casket of jewels; every word that Jesus Christ henceforth speaks to them is a very mine of treasure, absolutely true since He is known to be a Divine Teacher Who has given it. And Reason now begins her new work, not of justifying Faith, but, so to say, of interpreting it; not of examining His claims, since these have been once for all accepted, but of examining, understanding, and assimilating all that He reveals.
III. Turn now to Catholicism.
It is the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church only, that acts as did Jesus Christ and offers an adequate object to Reason and Faith alike. For, first, it is evident that if Christ intended His Revelation to last through all time, He must have designed a means by which it should last, an Authority that should declare and preserve it as He Himself delivered it. And next, it is evident that since the Catholic Church alone even claims that prerogative, clearly and coherently, her right to represent that Authority is in proportion to the clearness and coherence of her claim. Or, again, she advances in support of that claim precisely those same credentials as did He: she points to her miracles, her achievements, the fulfilment of prophecy, the unity of her teaching, the appeal to men's moral sense—all of them appeals to Reason, and appeals which lead up, as did His, to the supreme claim, which He also made, to demand an Act of Faith in herself as a Divine Teacher.
For she alone demands it. Other denominations of Christendom point to a Book, or to the writings of Fathers, or to the example of their members, and she too does these things. But it is she alone who appeals to these things not as final in themselves, not as constituting in themselves a final court of appeal, but as indicating as that court of appeal her own Living Voice. Believe me, for the works' sake, she too says. "Use your reason to the full to examine my credentials; study prophecy, history, the Fathers—study my claims in any realm in which your intellect is competent—and then see if it is not after all supremely reasonable for Reason to abdicate that particular throne on which she has sat so long and to seat Faith there instead? Certainly follow your Reason and use your private judgment, for at present you have no other guide; and then, please God, aided by Faith, Reason will itself bow before Faith, and take her own place henceforth, not on the throne, but on the steps that lead to it."
Is Reason, then, to be silent henceforth? Why, the whole of theology gives the answer. Did Newman cease to think when he became a Catholic? Did Thomas Aquinas resign his intellect when he devoted himself to study? Not for one instant is Reason silent. On the contrary, she is active as never before. Certainly she is no longer occupied in examining as to whether the Church is divine, but instead she is busied, with incredible labours, in examining what follows from that fact, in sorting the new treasures that are opened to her with the dawn of Revelation upon her eyes, in arranging, deducting, and understanding the details and structure of the astonishing Vision of Truth. And more, she is as inviolate as ever. For never can there be presented to her one article of Faith that gives the lie to her own nature, since Revelation and Reason cannot contradict one the other. She has learned, indeed, that the mysteries of God often transcend her powers, that she cannot fathom the infinite with the finite; yet never for one moment is she bidden to evacuate her own position or believe that which she perceives to be untrue. She has learned her limitations, and with that has come to understand her inviolable rights.
See, then, how the features of Christ look out through the lineaments of His Church. She alone dares to claim an act of Divine Faith in herself, since it is He Who speaks in her Voice. She alone, since she is Divine, bids the wisest men become as little children at her feet and endows little children with the wisdom of the ancients. Yet, on the other hand, in her magnificent Humanity, she has produced through the exercise of illuminated human Reason such a wealth of theology as the world has never seen. Is it any wonder that the world thinks both her Faith and Reason alike too extreme? For her Faith rises from her Divinity and her Reason from her Humanity; and such an outpouring of Divinity and such an emphatic Humanity, such a superb confidence in God's revelation and such untiring labours upon the contents of that Revelation, are altogether beyond the imagination of a world that in reality, fears both Faith and Reason alike.
At her feet, and hers only, then, do the wisest and the simple kneel together—St. Thomas and the child, St. Augustine and the "charcoal burner"; as diverse, in their humanity, as men can be; as united in the light of Divinity as only those can be who have found it.
So, then, she goes forward to victory. "First use your reason," she cries to the world, "to see whether I be not Divine! Then, impelled by Reason and aided by Grace, rise to Faith. Then once more call up your Reason, to verify and understand those mysteries which you accept as true. And so, little by little, vistas of truth will open about you and doctrines glow with an undreamed-of light. So Faith will be interpreted by Reason and Reason hold up the hands of Faith, until you come indeed to the unveiled vision of the Truth whose feet already you grasp in love and adoration; until you see, face to face in Heaven, Him Who is at once the Giver of Reason and the Author of Faith."
AUTHORITY AND LIBERTY
The truth shall make you free.—JOHN VIII. 32.
Bringing into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ.—II COR. X. 5.
We have already considered in outline the relations between Faith and Reason; how each, in its own province, is supreme and how each, in its turn, supports and ratifies the other. We pass on to a development of that theme, springing almost immediately out of it, namely, the relations between Authority and Liberty. And we will begin that consideration, as before, as it is illustrated by the accusations of the world against the Church. Briefly they are stated as follows.
I. Freedom, we are told, is the note of Christianity as laid down in the Gospels, in both discipline and doctrine. Jesus Christ came into the world largely for this very purpose, to substitute the New Law for the Old and thereby to free men from the complicated theology and the minutia of religious routine which characterized men's attempts to reduce that Old Law to practice. The Old Law may or may not have been perfectly adapted, when first it was given, to the needs of God's people in the early stages of Jewish civilization; but at any rate it is certain, from a hundred texts in the Gospel, that Jesus Christ in His day found it an intolerable slavery laid upon the religious life of the people. Theology had degenerated into an incredible hair-splitting system of dogma, and discipline had degenerated into a multitude of irritating observances.
Jesus Christ, then, in the place of all this, preached a Creed that was essentially simple, and simultaneously substituted for the elaborate ceremonialism of the Pharisees the spirit of liberty. The dogma that He preached was little more than that God is the Father of all and that all men therefore are brothers; "discipline" in the ordinary sense of the word is practically absent from the Gospel, and as for ceremonial there is none, except such as is necessary for the performance of the two extremely simple rites that He instituted, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Now this supposed spirit of liberty, we are informed, is to-day to be found only in Protestantism. In that system, if it can strictly be called one, and in that system only, may a man exercise that freedom which was secured to him by Jesus Christ. First, in doctrine, he may choose, weigh, and examine for himself, within the wide limits which alone Christ laid down, those doctrines or hopes which commend themselves to his intellect; and next, in matters of discipline, again, he may choose for himself those ways of life and action that he may find helpful to his spiritual development. He may worship, for example, in any church that he prefers, attend those services and those only which commend themselves to his taste; he may eat or not eat this or that food, as he likes, and order his day, generally, as it pleases him. And all this, we are informed, is of the very spirit of New Testament Christianity. The Truth has made him free, as Christ Himself promised.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is essentially a Church of slavery. First, in discipline, an enormous weight of observances and duties is laid upon her children, comparable only to the Pharisaic system. The Catholic must worship in this church and not in that, in this manner and not in the other. He must observe places and days and times, and that not only in religious matters but in secular. He must eat this food on this day and that on the other; he must frequent the sacraments at specified periods; he must perform certain actions and refrain from others, and that in matters in themselves indifferent.
In dogma, too, no less is the burden that he must bear. Not only are the simple words of Christ developed into a vast theological system by the Church's officials, but the whole of this system is laid, as of faith, down to its minutest details, on the shoulders of the unhappy believer. He may not choose between this or that theory of the mode of Christ's Presence in the Eucharist; he must accept precisely that, and no other, which his Church has elaborated.
In fact, in doctrine and in discipline alike, the Church has gone back to precisely that old reign of tyranny which Christ abolished. The Catholic, unlike the Protestant who has retained the spirit of liberty, finds himself in the same case as that under which Israel itself once groaned. He is a slave and not a child; he binds his own limbs, as the old phrase says, by his act of faith and puts the other end of the chain into the hands of the priest. Such, in outline, is the charge against us.
* * * * *
Now much of it is so false that it needs no refutation. It is, for example, entirely false that New Testament theology is simple. It is far more true to say that, compared with the systematized theology of the Church, it is bewilderingly complex and puzzling, and how complex and puzzling it is, is indicated by the hundreds of creeds which Protestants have made out of it, each creed claiming, respectively, to be its one and only proper interpretation. Men have only come to think it "simple" in modern days by desperately eliminating from it every element on which all Protestants are not agreed. The residuum is indeed "simple." Only it is not the New Testament theology! Dogmas such as that of the Blessed Trinity, of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, of the nature of grace and of sin—these, whether as held by orthodox or unorthodox, are at any rate not simple, and it is merely untrue to say that Christ made no statements on these points, however they may be understood. Further, it is merely untrue to say that Protestant theology is "simple"; it is every whit as elaborate as Catholic theology and considerably more complex in those points in which Protestant divines are not agreed. The controversies on Justification in which such men as Calvin and Luther, with their disciples, continually engaged are fully as complicated as any disputations on Grace between Jesuits and Dominicans.
Yet the general contention is plain enough—that on the whole the Catholic is bound to believe a certain set of dogmas, while the Protestant is free to accept or reject them. Therefore, it is argued, the Protestant is "free" and the Catholic is not. And this brings us straight to the consideration of the relations between Authority and Liberty.
II. What, then, is Religious Liberty? It is necessary to begin by forming some idea as to what it is that is meant by the word in other than religious matters.
Very briefly it may be said that an individual enjoys social liberty when he is able to obey and to use the laws and powers of his true nature, and that a community enjoys it when all its members are able to do so without interfering unduly one with the other. The more complete is this ability, the more perfect is Liberty.
A remarkable paradox at once presents itself—that Liberty can only be secured by Laws. Where there are no laws, or too few, to secure it, slavery immediately appears, no less surely than when there are too many; for the stronger individuals are, by the absence of law, enabled to tyrannize over the weaker. Even the vast and complex legislation of our own days is designed to increase and not to fetter liberty, and its greater complexity is necessitated by the greater complexity and the more numerous interrelationships of modern society. Laws, of course, may be unwise or excessively minute or deliberately enslaving; yet this does not affect the point that for all that Laws are necessary to the preservation of Liberty. Merchants, women and children, and citizens generally, can only enjoy rightful liberty if they are protected by laws. Only that man is free, then, who is most carefully guarded.
In the same manner Scientific Liberty does not consist in the absence of knowledge, or of scientific dogmas, but in their presence. We are surrounded by innumerable facts of nature, and that man is free who is fully aware of those which affect his own life. It is true, for example, that two and two make four, and that heavy bodies tend to fall towards the centre of the earth; and it can only be a very superficial thinker who considers that to be ignorant of these facts is to be free from the enslaving dogmas of them. If I am ignorant of them I am, of course, in a sense at liberty to believe that two and two make five, and to jump off the roof of my house; yet this is not Liberty at all in the sense in which reasonable people use the word, since my knowledge of the laws enables me to be effective and, in fact, to survive in the midst of a world where they happen to be true. That man, then, is more truly "free" whose intellect is informed of and submits to these laws, than is the man whose intellect is unaware of them. Marconi's intellect submits to the laws of lightning and he is thereby enabled to avail himself of them. Ajax is unaware of them and is accordingly destroyed by their action.
The Truth, then, makes us free. The State which controls men's actions and educates their intellects, which, in a word, enforces the knowledge of truth and compels obedience to it, is actually freeing its citizens by that process. It is only by a misuse of words or a failure to grasp ideas that I can maintain that an ignorant savage is more free than an educated man. It is true that I am, in a sense, "free" to think that two and two make five, if I have not learned arithmetic; on the other hand, when I learn that they make four I rise into that higher and more real liberty which a knowledge of arithmetic bestows. I am more effective, not less so; I am more free to exercise my powers and use the forces of the world in which I live, and not less free, when I have submitted my intellect to facts.
III. (i) Now the soul too has an environment. Men may differ as to its nature and its conditions, but all who believe in the soul at all believe also that it has an environment, and that this environment is as much in the realm of Law as is the natural world itself. Prayer, for example, elevates the soul, base thinking degrades it.
Now the laws of this environment were true even before Christ came. David knew, at any rate, something of penitence and of the guilt of sin, and Nathan knew something, at least, of the forgiveness of sins and of their temporal punishment. Christ came, then, with this object amongst others: that He might reveal the laws of Grace and convey to men's minds some at least of the facts of the spiritual life amongst which they lived. He came, moreover, partly to modify the workings of these laws, to release some more fully, and to restrain others; in a word, to be the Revealer of Truth and the Administrator of Grace.
He came then, to increase men's liberty by increasing their knowledge, as, in another sphere, the scientist comes to us with the same purpose. Here, for example, is the law that murder is a sin before God and brings its consequences with it, a law stated briefly in the commandment _Thou shall not kill_. But our Divine Lord revealed more of the workings of this law than men had hitherto recognized. _I say unto you_, declared Christ, _that whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer._ He revealed, that is to say, the fact that this law runs even in the realm of thought, that the hating spirit incurs the guilt and punishment of murder, and not merely the murderous action. Were men less free when they learned that fact? Not unless I am less free than I was before, when I learn for the first time that lightning kills. Christ came, then, to reveal the _Truth that makes us free_, and He does so by informing our intellects and enabling us to _bring into captivity every understanding to _His obedience_.
(ii) Turn now to the Catholic Church. Here is a Society whose function it is to preserve and apply the teaching of Christ; to analyze it and to state it in forms or systems which every generation can receive. For this purpose, then, she draws up not merely a Creed—which is the systematic statement of the Christian Revelation—but disciplinary rules and regulations that will make this Creed and the life that is conformable to it more easy of realization, and all this she does with the express object of enabling the individual soul to respond to her spiritual environment and to rise to the full exercise of her powers and rights. As the scientist and the statesmen take, respectively, the great laws of nature and society and reduce them to rules and codes, yet without adding or taking away from these facts, that are true whether they are popularly recognized or not—and all with the purpose not of diminishing but of increasing the general liberty—so the Church, divinely safeguarded too in the process, takes the Revelation of Christ and by her dogma and her discipline popularizes it, so to speak, and makes it at once comprehensible and effective.
What, then, is this foolish cry about the slavery of dogma? How can Truth make men anything except more free? Unless a man is prepared to say that the scientist enslaves his intellect by telling him facts, he dare not say that the Church fetters his intellect by defining dogma. Christ did not condemn the Pharisaic system because it was a system, but because it was Pharisaic; because, that is, it was not true; because it obscured instead of revealing the true relations between God and man; because it made the Word of God of none effect through its traditions.
But the Catholic system has the appearance of enslaving men? Why yes; for the only way of aiming at and using effectively the truth that makes us free is by bringing into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ.
CORPORATENESS AND INDIVIDUALISM
He that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?—MATT. XVI. 25, 26.
No recorded word of our Lord better illustrates than does this the startling and paradoxical manner of His teaching. For He Who knew what was in man, Who spoke always down to man's deepest interests, dwelt and spoke therefore in that realm of truth where man's own paradoxical nature is most manifest; where his interests appear to flourish only by being ruthlessly pruned; where he rises to the highest development of self only by self-mortification. This is, in fact, the very lesson Christ teaches in these words. To find the life is the highest object of every man and the end for which he was created; yet this can be attained only by the losing of it for Christ's sake. Individuality can be preserved only by the sacrifice of Individualism. Let us break up this thought and consider it more in detail.
I. (i) Catholics, it is said, are the most fundamentally selfish people in the whole world, since all that they do and say and think is directed and calculated, so far as they are "good Catholics," to the salvation of their own souls. It is this that continually crops up in their conversation, and this that presumably is their chief pre-occupation. Yet surely this, above all methods, is the very worst for achieving such an end. One does not pull up flowers to see how they are growing. The very secret of health is to be unconscious of it. Catholics, on the other hand, scarcely ever do anything else; they are for ever examining themselves, for ever going to confession, for ever developing and cultivating the narrowest virtues. The whole science of Casuistry, for example, is directed to nothing else but this—the exact definition of those limits within which the salvation of the soul is secure and beyond which it is imperilled; and Casuistry, as we all know, has a stifling and deadening influence upon all who study it.
Again, see how the true development and expansion of the soul must necessarily be hindered by such an ideal. "I must not read this book, however brilliant, since it might be dangerous to my faith. I must not mix in this company, however charming, since evil communications corrupt good manners." What kind of life is that which must always be checked and stunted in this fashion? What kind of salvation can there be that can only be purchased by the sacrifice of so much that is noble and inspiring? True life consists in experience, not in introspection; in going out from self into the world, not in retiring from the world inwards. Let us therefore live our life without fear, lose ourselves in humanity, forget self in experience, and leave the rest to God!
(ii) So much for the one side, while from the other comes almost precisely the opposite criticism. Catholics, it is said, are not nearly individualistic enough; on the contrary they are for ever sinking themselves and their personalities in the corporate life of the Church. Not only are their outward actions checked and their words guarded, but even their very consciences and thoughts are informed and made by the collective conscience and mind of others. It is the highest ambition of every good Catholic sentire cum ecclesia; not merely to act and speak but even to think in obedience to others. Now a man's true life, we are told, consists in an assertion of his own individuality. God has made no two men the same; the mould was made and broken in each several case. If, therefore, we are to be what He meant us to be, we must make the most of our own personalities; we must think our own thoughts, not other people's, direct our own lives, speak our own minds—so far, of course, as we can do so without interfering with our neighbour's equal liberty. Once more, therefore, we are bidden to live our life to the full; not in this case, however, because we all share in a common humanity, but because we do not!
We Catholics are wrong, therefore, for both reasons and in both directions. We are wrong when we put self first and we are wrong when we do not. We are wrong when we launch out into the current of life, and wrong when we withdraw ourselves from its waters. We are wrong when we insist upon our personal responsibility, and wrong when we look to the Church to undertake it.
II. (i) Here then, indeed, is a Paradox; but it is one which our Lord Himself expressly emphasizes. For, first, there is nothing on which He so repeatedly insists as the supreme and singular value of every soul's salvation. If this is not attained, all is lost. What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? All else, then, must be sacrificed if this is in peril. No human possession, however great, can be weighed against this. No human tie, however sacred, can hold against its claim. Not only must houses and lands, but father and mother and wives and children must take second place, so soon as eternal life is at stake. And yet, somehow or another, this salvation can only be attained by loss; self can only live if it be mortified, can only be saved by its own denial. Individuality, as has been said, can only be preserved by the loss of Individualism.
(ii) But this is not peculiar to the spiritual sphere; it is a paradox that is true, in some sense, of life on every plane—civic, intellectual, artistic, human. The man that desires to bring his intellectual and personal powers to their highest pitch must continually be sinking them, so to speak, in the current of his fellows, continually exhausting, using, and wearing them out. He must risk, and indeed inevitably lose, in a very real sense, his personal point of view, if he is to have a point of view that is worth possessing; he must be content to see his theories and his thoughts modified, merged, changed, and destroyed, if his thought is to be of value. For, so far as he withdraws himself from his fellows into a physical or mental isolation, so far he approaches egotistic madness. He cannot grow unless he decreases; he cannot remain himself unless he ceases to be himself.
So, too, is it in civic and artistic life. The citizen who truly lives to the State of which he is a member—the man to whom his country raises a monument, for example—is one, always, who has lost himself for his nation, whether he has died in battle or sacrificed himself in politics or philanthropy. And the citizen who has merely hugged his citizenship to himself, who has enjoyed all the privileges he can get and paid nothing for them,—least of all himself—who has, so to say, gained the whole world, has simultaneously lost himself indeed and is forgotten within a year of his death. So with the artist. The man who has made his art serve him, who has employed it, let us say, purely for the sake of the money he could get out of it, who has kept it within severe limits, who has been merely prudent and orderly and restrained, this man has, in a sense, saved his own life; yet simultaneously he has lost it. But the man to whom art is a passion, to whom nothing else is comparatively of any value, who has plunged himself in his art, has dedicated to it his days and his nights, has sacrificed to it every power of his being and every energy of his mind and body, this man has indeed lost himself. Yet he lives in his art as the other has not, he has saved himself in a sense of which the other knows nothing; and exactly in proportion as he has succeeded in his self-abnegation, so far has he attained, as we say, immortality. There is not, then, one sphere of life in which the paradox is not true. The great historical lovers in romance, the pioneers of science, the immortals in every plane, are precisely those that have fulfilled on lower levels the spiritual aphorism of Jesus Christ.
(iii) Turn, then, once more to the Catholic Church and see how in the Life which she offers, as in none other, there is presented to us a means of fulfilling our end.
For it is she alone who even demands in the spiritual sphere a complete and entire abnegation of self. From every other Christian body comes the cry, Save your soul, assert your individuality, follow your conscience, form your opinions; while she, and she alone, demands from her children the sacrifice of their intellect, the submitting of their judgment, the informing of their conscience by hers, and the obedience of their will to her lightest command. For she, and she alone, is conscious of possessing that Divinity, in complete submission to which lies the salvation of Humanity. For she, as the coherent and organic mystical Body of Christ, calls upon those who look to her to become, not merely her children, but her very members; not to obey her as soldiers obey a leader or citizens a Government, but as the hands and eyes and feet obey a brain. Once, therefore, I understand this, I understand too how it is that by being lost in her I save myself; that I lose only that which hinders my activity, not that which fosters it. For when is my hand most itself? When separated from the body, by paralysis or amputation? Or when, in vital union with the brain, with every fibre alert and every nerve alive, it obeys in every gesture and receives in every sensation a life infinitely vaster and higher than any which it might, temporarily, enjoy in independence? It is true that its capacity for pain is the greater when it is so united, and that it would cease to suffer if once its separation were accomplished; yet, simultaneously, it would lose all that for which God made it and, saving itself, would be lost indeed.
I live, then, the perfect Catholic may say, as none other can say, when I have ceased to be myself. And yet not I, since I have lost my Individualism. No longer do I claim any activity at all on my own behalf; no longer do I demand to form my opinions, to follow my own conscience apart from that informing of it that comes from God, or to live my own life. Yet in losing my Individualism I have won my Individuality, for I have found my true place at last. I have lost the whole world? Yes, so far as that world is separate from or antagonistic to God's will; but I have gained my own soul and attained immortality. For it is not I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.
MEEKNESS AND VIOLENCE
Blessed are the meek.—MATT. V. 4.
The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.—MATT. XI. 12.
We have already considered the Church's relations towards such things as wealth and human influence and power, how she will sometimes use and sometimes disdain them. Let us now penetrate a little deeper and understand the spirit that underlies and explains this varying attitude of hers.
I. (i) It has been charged against Christianity in general, and therefore implicitly and supremely against the Church that was for so long its sole embodiment and is still, alone, its adequate representative, that it has fostered virtues which retard progress. Progress, in the view of the German philosopher who explicitly made this charge, is merely natural both in its action and its end; and Nature, as we are well aware, knows nothing of forgiveness or compassion or tenderness: on the contrary she moves from lower to higher forms by forces that are their precise opposite. The wounded stag is not protected by his fellows, but gored to death; the old wolf is torn to pieces, the sick lion wanders away to die of starvation, and all these instincts, we are informed, have for their object the gradual improvement of the breed by the elimination of the weak and ineffective. So should it be, he tells us, with man, and the extreme Eugenists echo his teaching. Christianity, on the other hand, deliberately protects the weak and teaches that the sacrifice of the strong is supreme heroism. Christianity has raised hospitals and refuges for the infirm, seeking to preserve those very types which Nature, if she had her way, would eliminate. Christianity, then, is the enemy of the human race and not its friend, since Christianity has retarded, as no other religion has ever succeeded in retarding, the appearance of that superman whom Nature seeks to evolve.... It is scarcely to be wondered at that the teacher of such a doctrine himself died insane.
A parallel doctrine is taught largely to-day by persons who call themselves practical and businesslike. Meekness and gentleness and compassion, they tell their sons, are very elegant and graceful virtues for those who can afford them, for women and children who are more or less sheltered from the struggle of life, and for feeble and ineffective people who are capable of nothing else. But for men who have to make their own way in the world and intend to win success there, a more stern code is necessary; from these there is demanded such a rule of action as Nature herself dictates. Be self-confident and self-assertive then, not meek. Remember that the weakness of your neighbour is your own opportunity. Take care of number one and let the rest take care of themselves. A man does not go into the stock-exchange or into commerce in order to exhibit Christian virtues there, but business qualities. In a word, Christianity, so far as it affects material or commercial or political progress, is a weakness rather than a strength, an enemy rather than a friend.
(ii) But if, on the one side, the gentleness and non-resistance inculcated by Christianity form the material of one charge against the Church, on the other side, no less, she is blamed for her violence and intransigeance. Catholics are not yielding enough, we are told, to be true followers of the meek Prophet of Galilee, not gentle enough to inherit the blessing which He pronounced. On the contrary there are no people so tenacious, so obstinate, and even so violent as these professed disciples of Jesus Christ. See the way, for example, in which they cling to and insist upon their rights; the obstacles they raise, for example, to reasonable national schemes of education or to a sensible system in the divorce courts. And above all, consider their appalling and brutal violence as exhibited in such institutions as that of the Index and Excommunication, the fierceness with which they insist upon absolute and detailed obedience to authority, the ruthlessness with which they cast out from their company those who will not pronounce their shibboleths. It is true that in these days they can only enforce their claims by spiritual threatenings and penalties, but history shows us that they would do more if they could. The story of the racks and the fires of the Inquisition shows plainly enough that the Church once used, and therefore, presumably, would use again if she could, carnal weapons in her spiritual warfare. Can anything be more unlike the gentle Spirit of Him Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; of Him Who bade men to learn of Him, for He was meek and lowly of heart, and so find rest to their souls?
Here, then, is the Paradox, and here are two characteristics of the Catholic Church: that she is at once too meek and too self-assertive, too gentle and too violent. It is a paradox exactly echoed by our Divine Lord Himself, Who in the Upper Chamber bade His disciples who had no sword to sell their cloaks and buy them, and Who yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, commanded the one disciple who had taken Him at His word to put up the sword into its sheath, telling him that they who took the sword should perish by it. It is echoed yet again in His action, first in taking the scourge into His own Hand, in the temple courts, and then in baring His shoulders to that same scourge in the hands of others. How, then, is this Paradox to be reconciled?
II. The Church, let us remind ourselves again, is both Human and Divine.
(i) She consists of human persons, and those persons are attached both to one another and to the world outside by a perfectly balanced system of human rights known as the Law of Justice. This Law of Justice, though coming indeed from God, is, in a sense, natural and human; it exists to some extent in all societies, as well as being closely defined and worked out in the Old Law given on Sinai. It is a Law which men could have worked out, at any rate in its main principles, by the light of reason only, unaided by Revelation, and it is a Law, further, so fundamental that no Revelation could conceivably ever outrage or set it aside.
At the coming of Christ into the world, however, Supernatural Charity came with Him. The Law of Justice still remained; men still had their rights on which they might insist, still had their rights which no Christian may refuse to recognize. But such was the torrent of Divine generosity which Christ exhibited, so overwhelming was the Vision which He revealed of the supernatural charity of God towards men, that a set of ideals sprang into life such as the world had never dreamed of; more, Charity came with such power that her commands actually overruled in many instances the feeble claims of Justice, so that she bade men henceforward to forgive, for example, not merely according to Justice, but according to her own Divine nature, to forgive unto seventy times seven, to give good measure, heaped up and running over, and not the bare minimum which men had merely earned.
It was from this advent of Charity, then, that all these essentially Christian virtues of generosity and meekness and self-sacrifice sprang which Nietsche condemned as hostile to material progress.
For, from henceforth, if a man take thy coat, let him take thy cloak also; if he will compel thee to go with him one mile, go two; if he strike thee on one cheek, turn to him the other also. The Law of Natural justice is transcended and the Law of Charity and Sacrifice reigns instead. Resist not evil; do not insist always, that is to say, on your natural rights; give men more than their due, and be yourself content with less. Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and find rest to your souls. Forgive one another your trespasses with the same generous charity with which God has forgiven and will forgive you yours. Judge not and you shall not be judged. Do not, in personal matters, insist upon bare justice for yourself, but act on that scale and by those principles by which God Himself has dealt with you.
Meekness, then, is undoubtedly a Christian virtue. Sometimes it is obligatory, sometimes it is but a Counsel of Perfection; it stands, in any case, high among those ideals which it has been the glory of Christianity to create.
(ii) But there are other elements in life besides the human and the natural, beyond those personal rights and claims which a Christian may, if he is aiming at perfection, set aside out of charity. The Church is Divine as well as Human.
For the Church has entrusted to her, besides the rights of men, which may be sacrificed by their possessors, the rights and claims of God, which none but He can set aside. He has given into her keeping, for example, a Revelation of truths and principles which, springing out of His own Nature or of His Will, are as immutable and eternal as Himself. And it is precisely in defence of these truths and principles that the Church exhibits that which the world calls intransigeance and Jesus Christ violence.
Here, for example, is the right of a baptized Catholic child to be educated in his religion, or rather, the right of God Himself to teach that child in the manner He has ordained. Here is the revealed truth that marriage is indissoluble; here that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Now these are not human rights or opinions at all—rights and opinions which men, urged by charity or humility, can set aside or waive in the face of opposition. They rest on an entirely different basis; they are, so to speak, the inalienable possessions of God; and it would neither be charity nor humility, but sheer treachery, for the Church to exhibit meekness or pliancy in matters such as these, given to her as they are, not to dispose of, but to guard intact. On the contrary here, exactly, comes the command, He that hath not, let him sell his cloak and buy a sword,, for here comes the line between the Divine and the Human; let all personal possessions go, all merely natural rights and claims be yielded, and let a sword take their place. For here is a matter that must be resisted, even unto blood.
The Catholic Church then is, and always will be, violent and intransigeant when the rights of God are in question. She will be absolutely ruthless, for example, towards heresy, for heresy affects not personal matters on which Charity may yield, but a Divine right on which there must be no yielding. Yet, simultaneously, she will be infinitely kind towards the heretic, since a thousand human motives and circumstances may come in and modify his responsibility. At a word of repentance she will readmit his person into her treasury of souls, but not his heresy into her treasury of wisdom; she will strike his name eagerly and freely from her black list of the rebellious, but not his book from the pages of her Index. She exhibits meekness towards him and violence towards his error; since he is human, but her Truth is Divine.
It is, then, from a modern confusion of thought with regard to the realms of the Divine and the Human that the amazing inability arises, on the world's part, to understand the respective principles on which the Catholic Church acts in these two and utterly separate departments. The world considers it reasonable for a country to defend its material possessions by the sword, but intolerant and unreasonable for the Church to condemn, resisting even unto blood, principles which she considers erroneous or false. The Church, on the other hand, urges her children again and again to yield rather than to fight when merely material possessions are at stake, since Charity permits and sometimes even commands men to be content with less than their own rights, and yet again, when a Divine truth or right is at stake, here she will resist unfaltering and undismayed, since she cannot be "charitable" with what is not her own; here she will sell her cloak and buy that sword which, when the dispute was on merely temporal matters, she thrust back again into its sheath.
To-day as Christ rides into Jerusalem we see, as in a mirror, this Paradox made plain. Thy King cometh to thee, meek. Was there ever so mean a Procession as this? Was there ever such meekness and charity? He Who, as His personal right, is attended in heaven by a multitude on white horses, now, in virtue of His Humanity, is content with a few fishermen and a crowd of children. He to Whom, in His personal right, the harpers and the angels make eternal music is content, since He has been made Man for our sakes, with the discordant shoutings of this crowd. He Who rode on the Seraphim and came flying on the wings of the wind sits on the colt of an ass. He comes, meek indeed, from the golden streets of the Heavenly Jerusalem to the foul roads of the Earthly, laying aside His personal rights since He is that very Fire of Charity by which Christians relinquish theirs.
[Footnote 1: This sermon was preached on Palm-Sunday.]
But, for all that, it is riding that thy King cometh to thee.... He will not relinquish His inalienable claim and He will have nothing essential left out. He has His royal escort, even though a ragged one; He will have His spearmen, even though their spears be only of palm; He will have His heralds to proclaim Him, however much the devout Pharisees may be offended by their proclamation; He will ride into His own Royal City, even though that City casts Him out, and He will have His Coronation, even though it be with thorns. So, too, the Catholic Church advances through the ages.
In merely human rights and personal matters again and again she will yield up all that she has, making, it may be, but one protest for Justice' sake and then no more. And she will urge her children to do the same. If the world will let her have no jewels, then she will put glass beads in her monstrance, and for marble she will use plaster, and tinsel for gold.
But she will have her Procession and insist upon her Royalty. It may seem as poor and as mean and as tawdry as the entrance of Christ Himself through the royal gate; for she will yield up all that the world demands of her, so long as her Divine Right itself remains intact. She will issue her orders, though few be found to obey them; she will cast out from her the rebellious who question her authority, and cleanse her Temple Courts even though with a scourge at which men mock. She will give up all that is merely human, if the world will have it so, and will resist not evil if it merely concerns herself. But there is one thing which she will not renounce, one thing she will claim, even with violence and "intransigeance," and that is the Royalty with which God Himself has crowned her.
THE SEVEN WORDS
THE "THREE HOURS"
The value, to the worshippers, of the Devotion of the Three Hours' Agony is in proportion to the degree in which they understand that they are watching not so much the tragedy of nineteen hundred years ago as the tragedy of their own lives and times. Merely to dwell on the Death of Christ on Calvary would scarcely avail them more than to study the details of the assassination of Caesar at the foot of Pompey's statue. Such considerations might indeed be interesting, exciting, and even a little instructive or inspiring; but they could not be better than this, and they might be no better than morbid and harmful.
The Death of Christ, however, is unique because it is, so to say, universal. It is more than the crowning horror of all murderous histories; it is more even than the type of all the outrages that men have ever committed against God. For it is just the very enactment, upon the historical stage of the world, of those repeated interior tragedies that take place in every soul that rejects or insults Him; since the God whom we crucify within is the same God that was once crucified without. There is not an exterior detail in the Gospel which may not be interiorly repeated in the spiritual life of a sinner; the process recorded by the Evangelists must be more or less identical with the process of all apostasy from God.
For, first, there is the Betrayal of Conscience, as a beginning of the tragedy; its betrayal by those elements of our nature that are intended as its friends and protectors—by Emotion or Forethought, for example. Then Conscience is led away, bound, to be judged; for there can be no mortal sin without deliberation, and no man ever yet fell into it without conducting first a sort of hasty mock-trial or two in which a sham Prudence or a false idea of Liberty solemnly decide that Conscience is in the wrong. Yet even then Conscience persists, and so He is made to appear absurd and ridiculous, and set beside the Barabbas of a coarse and sturdy lower nature that makes no high pretensions and boasts of it. And so the drama proceeds and Conscience is crucified: Conscience begins to be silent, breaking the deepening gloom now and again with protests that grow weaker every time, and at last Conscience dies indeed. And thenceforward there can be no hope, save in the miracle of Resurrection.
This Cross of Calvary, then, is not a mere type or picture; it is a fact identical with that so dreadfully familiar to us in spiritual life. For Christ is not one Person, and Conscience something else, but it is actually Christ who speaks in Conscience and Christ, therefore, Who is crucified in mortal sin.
Let us, then, be plain with ourselves. We are watching not only Christ's Death but our own, since we are watching the Death of Christ Who is our Life.
THE FIRST WORD
Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
In previous considerations we have studied the Life of Christ in His Mystical Body from an angle at which the strange and innumerable paradoxes which abound in all forms of life at a certain depth become visible. And we have seen how these paradoxes lie in those strata, so to say, where the Divinity and the Humanity meet. Christ is God and God cannot die; therefore Christ became man in order to be able to do so. The Church is Divine and therefore all-holy, but she dwells in a Body of sinful Humanity and reckons her sinners to be her children and members no less than her saints.
We will continue to regard the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the Words which He spoke from the Cross from the same angle, and to find, therefore, the same characteristic paradoxes and mysteries in all that we see. In the First Word we meet the Paradox of Divine Forgiveness.
I. Ordinary human forgiveness is no more than a natural virtue, resulting from a natural sense of justice, and if a man is normal, his forgiveness will be a natural and inevitable part of the process of reconciliation so soon as a certain kind of restitution has been made. For example, a friend of mine sins against me—he injures, perhaps, my good name; and my natural answer is the emotion of resentment towards him and, perhaps, of actual revenge. But what I chiefly resent is my friend's stupidity and his ignorance of my real character. "I am angry," I say, with perfect sincerity, "not so much at the thing he has said of me, as at this proof of his incapacity to understand me. I thought he was my friend, that he was in sympathy with my character or, at least, that he understood it sufficiently to do me justice. But now, from what he has just said of me, I see that he does not. If the thing he said were true of me, the most of my anger would be gone. But I see that he does not know me, after all."
And then, presently, my friend does understand that he has wronged me; that the gossip he repeated or the construction he put upon my actions was not fair or true. And immediately that I become aware of this, from him or from another, my resentment goes, if I have any natural virtue at all; it goes because my wounded pride is healed. I forgive him easily and naturally because he knows now what he has done.
II. How entirely different from this easy, self-loving, human forgiveness is the Divine Forgiveness of Christ! Now it is true that in the conscience of Pilate, the unjust representative of justice, and in that thing that called itself conscience in Herod, and in the hearts of the priests who denounced their God, and of the soldiers who executed their overlord, and of Judas who betrayed his friend, in all these there was surely a certain uneasiness—such an uneasiness is actually recorded of the first and the last of the list—a certain faint shadow of perception and knowledge of what it was that they had done and were doing. And, for the natural man, it would have been comparatively easy to forgive such injuries on that account. "I forgive them," such a man might have said from his cross, "because there is just a glimmer of knowledge left; there is just one spark in their hearts that still does me justice, and for the sake of that I can try, at least, to put away my resentment and ask God to forgive them."
But Jesus Christ cries, "Forgive them because they do not know what they do! Forgive them because they need it so terribly, since they do not even know that they need it! Forgive in them that which is unforgivable!"
III. Two obvious points present themselves in conclusion.
(1) First, it is Divine Forgiveness that we need, since no sinner of us all knows the full malice of sin. One man is a slave, let us say, to a sin of the flesh, and seeks to reassure himself by the reflection that he injures no one but himself; ignorant as he is of the outrage to God the Holy Ghost Whose temple he is ruining. Or a woman repeats again every piece of slanderous gossip that comes her way and comforts herself in moments of compunction by reflecting that she "means no harm"; ignorant as she is of the discouragement of souls of which she is the cause and of the seeds of distrust and enmity sown among friends. In fact it is incredible that any sinner ever knows what it is that he does by sin. We need, therefore, the Divine Forgiveness and not the human, the pardon that descends when we are unaware that we must have it or die; the love of the Father Who, while we are yet a great way off, runs to meet us, and Who teaches us for the first time, by the warmth of His welcome, the icy distances to which we had wandered. If we knew, anyone could forgive us. It is because we do not that only God, Who knows all things, can forgive us effectively.
(2) And it is this Divine Forgiveness that we ourselves have to extend to those that sin against us, since only those who so forgive can be forgiven. We must not wait until wounded pride is made whole by the conscious shame of our enemy; until the debt is paid by acknowledgment and we are complacent once more in the knowledge that justice has been done to us at last. On the contrary, the only forgiveness that is supernatural, and which, therefore, alone is meritorious, is that which reach out to men's ignorance and not their knowledge of their need.
THE SECOND WORD
Amen I say to thee, to-day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
Our Divine Lord, in this Second Word, immediately applies and illustrates the First and drives its lesson home. He shows us how the rain of mercy that poured out of heaven in answer to the prayer He made just now enlightens the man who, above all others present on Calvary, was the most abjectly ignorant of all; the man who, himself at the very heart of the tragedy, understood it less, probably, than the smallest child on the outskirts of the crowd.
His life had been one long defiance of the laws of both God and man. He had been a member of one of those troops of human vermin that crawl round Jerusalem, raiding solitary houses, attacking solitary travellers, guilty of sins at once the bloodiest and the meanest, comparable only to the French apaches of our own day. Well, he had been gripped at last by the Roman machine, caught in some sordid adventure, and here, resentful and furious and contemptuous, full of bravado and terror, he snarled like a polecat at every human face he saw, snarled and spat at the Divine Face Itself that looked at him from a cross that was like his own; and, since he had not even a spark of the honour that is reputed to exist "among thieves," taunted his "fellow criminal" for the folly of His "crime."
"If thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us."
Again, then, the Paradox is plain enough. Surely an educated priest, or a timid disciple, or a good-hearted dutiful soldier who hated the work he was at, surely one of these will be the first object of Christ's pardon; and so one of these would have been, if one of ourselves had hung there. But when God forgives, He forgives the most ignorant first—that is, the most remote from forgiveness—and makes, not Peter or Caiphas or the Centurion, but Dismas the thief, the firstfruits of Redemption.
I. The first effect of the Divine Mercy is Enlightenment. Before they call, I will answer. Before the thief feels the first pang of sorrow Grace is at work on him, and for the first time in his dreary life he begins to understand. And an extraordinary illumination shines in his soul. For no expert penitent after years of spirituality, no sorrowful saint, could have prayed more perfectly than this outcast. His intellect, perhaps, took in little or nothing of the great forces that were active about him and within him; he knew, perhaps, explicitly little or nothing of Who this was that hung beside him; yet his soul's intuition pierces to the very heart of the mystery and expresses itself in a prayer that combines at once a perfect love, an exquisite humility, an entire confidence, a resolute hope, a clear-sighted faith, and an unutterable patience; his soul blossoms all in a moment: Lord, remember me when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom. He saw the glory behind the shame, the Eternal Throne behind the Cross, and the future behind the present; and he asked only to be remembered when the glory should transfigure the shame and the Cross be transformed into the Throne; for he understood what that remembrance would mean: "Remember, Lord, that I suffered at Thy side."
II. So perfect, then, are the dispositions formed in him by grace that at one bound the last is first. Not even Mary and John shall have the instant reward that shall be his; for them there are other gifts, and the first are those of separation and exile. For the moment, then, this man steps into the foremost place and they who have hung side by side on Calvary shall walk side by side to meet those waiting souls beyond the veil who will run so eagerly to welcome them. To-day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
III. Now this Paradox, the last shall be first, is an old doctrine of Christ, so startling and bewildering that He has been forced to repeat it again and again. He taught it in at least four parables: in the parables of the Lost Piece of Silver, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, and the Vineyard. The Nine Pieces lie neglected on the table, the Ninety-nine sheep are exiled in the Fold, the Elder Son is, he thinks, overlooked and slighted, and the Labourers complain of favouritism. Yet still, even after all this teaching, the complaint goes up from Christians that God is too loving to be quite just. A convert, perhaps, comes into the Church in middle age and in a few months develops the graces of Saint Teresa and becomes one of her daughters. A careless black-guard is condemned to death for murder and three weeks later dies upon the scaffold the death of a saint, at the very head of the line. And the complaints seem natural enough. Thou hast made them equal unto us who have borne the burden and heat of the day.
Yet look again, you Elder Sons. Have your religious, careful, timid lives ever exhibited anything resembling that depth of self-abjection to which the Younger Son has attained? Certainly you have been virtuous and conscientious; after all, it would be a shame if you had not been so, considering the wealth of grace you have always enjoyed. But have you ever even striven seriously after the one single moral quality which Christ holds up in His own character as the point of imitation: Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart? It is surely significant that He does not say, expressly, Learn of Me to be pure, or courageous, or fervent; but Learn to be humble, for in this, above all, you shall find rest to your souls. Instead, have you not had a kind of gentle pride in your religion or your virtue or your fastidiousness? In a word, you have not been as excellent an Elder Son as your brother has been a Younger. You have not corresponded with your graces as he has corresponded with his. You have never yet been capable of sufficient lowliness to come home (which is so much harder than to remain there), or of sufficient humility to begin for the first time to work with all your heart only an hour before sunset.
Begin, then, at the beginning, not half-way up the line. Go down to the church door and beat your breast and say not, God reward me who have done so much for Him, but God be merciful to me who have done so little. Get off your seat amongst the Pharisees and go down on your knees and weep behind Christ's couch, if perhaps He may at last say to you, Friend, come up higher.
THE THIRD WORD
Woman, behold thy son. Behold thy mother.
Our Divine Lord now turns, from the soul who at one bound has sprung into the front rank, to those two souls who have never left it, and supremely to that Mother on whose soul sin has never yet breathed, on whose breast Incarnate God had rested as inviolate and secure as on the Bosom of the Eternal Father, that Mother who was His Heaven on earth. Standing beside her is the one human being who is least unworthy to be there, now that Joseph has passed to his reward and John the Baptist has gone to join the Prophets—the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain on the breast of Jesus as Jesus had lain on the breast of Mary.
Our Lord has just shown how He deals with His dear sinners; now He shows how He will be glorified with His Saints. The Paradox of this Word is that Death, the divider of those who are separated from God, is the bond of union between those that are united to Him.
I. Death is the one inexorable enemy of human society as constituted apart from God. A king dies and his kingdom is at once in danger of disruption. A child dies and his mother prays that she may bear another, lest his father and she should drift apart. Death is the supreme sower of discord and disunion, then, in the natural order, since he is the one supreme enemy of natural life. He is the noonday terror of the Rich Fool of the parable and the nightmare of the Poor Fool, since those who place their hope in this life see that death is the end of their hope. For these there is no appeal beyond the grave.
II. Now precisely the opposite of all this is true in the supernatural order, since the gate of death, viewed from the supernatural side, is an entrance and not an ending, a beginning and not a close. This may be seen to be so even in a united human family in this world, the members of whom are living the supernatural life; for where such a family is living in the love of God, Death, when he comes, draws not only the survivors closer together, but even those whom he seems to have separated. He does not bring consternation and terror and disunion, but he awakens hope and tenderness, he smooths away old differences, he explains old misunderstandings.
Our Blessed Lord has already, over the grave of Lazarus, hinted that this shall be so, so soon as He has consecrated death by His own dying. He that believeth in Me shall never die. He, that is to say, who has died with Christ, whose centre henceforward is in the supernatural, simply no longer finds death to be what nature finds it. It no longer makes for division but for union; it no longer imperils or ends life and interest and possession, but releases them from risk and mortality.
Here, then, He deliberately and explicitly acts upon this truth. He once raised Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus and the Widow's Son from the dead, for death's sting could, at that time, be drawn in no other way; but now that He Himself is tasting death for every man, He performs an even more emphatically supernatural act and conquers death by submitting to it instead of by commanding it. Life had already united, so far as mortal life can unite, those two souls who loved Him and one another so well. These two, since they knew Him so perfectly, knew each the other too as perfectly as knowledge and sympathy can unite souls in this life. But now the whole is to be raised a stage higher. They had already been united on the living breast of Jesus; now, over His dead body, they were to be made yet more one.
It is marvellous that, after so long, our imaginations should still be so tormented and oppressed by the thought of death; that we should still be so without understanding that we think it morbid to be in love with death, for it is far more morbid to be in fear of it. It is not that our reason or our faith are at fault; it is only that that most active and untamable faculty of ours, which we call imagination, has not yet assimilated the truth, accepted by both our faith and our reason, that for those who are in the friendship of God death is simply not that at all which it is to others. It does not, as has been said, end our lives or our interests: on the contrary it liberates and fulfils them.
And all this it does because Jesus Christ has Himself plunged into the heart of Death and put out his fires. Henceforth we are one family in Him if we do His will—his brother and sister and mother; and Mary is our Mother, not by nature, which is accidental, but by supernature, which is essential. Mary is my Mother and John is my brother, since, if I have died with Christ, it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me. In a word, it is the Communion of Saints which He inaugurates by this utterance and seals by His dying.
THE FOURTH WORD
My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
Our Blessed Lord in the revelation He makes from the Cross passes gradually inwards to Himself Who is its centre. He begins in the outermost circle of all, with the ignorant sinners. He next deals with the one sinner who ceased to be ignorant, and next with those who were always nearest to Himself, and now at last He reveals the deepest secret of all. This is the central Word of the Seven in every sense. There is no need to draw attention to the Paradox it expresses.
I. First, then, let us remind ourselves of the revealed dogma that Jesus Christ was the Eternal Son of the Father; that He dwelt always in the Bosom of that Father; that when He left heaven He did not leave the Father's side; that at Bethlehem and Nazareth and Galilee and Jerusalem and Gethsemane and Calvary He was always the Word that was with God and the Word that was God. Next, that the eyes even of His Sacred Humanity looked always and continuously upon the Face of God, since His union with God was entire and complete: as He looked up into His Mother's face from the manger, He saw behind it the Face of His Father; as He cried in Gethsemane, If it be possible, even in His Sacred Humanity He knew that it could not be; as He groaned out on Calvary that God had forsaken Him, He yet looked without one instant's intermission into the glory of heaven and saw His Father there.
Yet simultaneously with these truths it is also true that His cry of dereliction was incalculably more of a reality than when first uttered by David or, since, by any desolate sinner in the thickest spiritual darkness. All the miseries of holy and sinful souls, heaped together, could not approach even afar off the intolerable misery of Christ. For of His own will He refused to be consoled at all by that Presence which He could never lack, and of His own will He chose to be pierced and saturated and tormented by the sorrow He could never deserve. He held firm against the touch of consolation every power of His Divine and Human Being and, simultaneously, flung them open to the assaults of every pain. And if the psychology of this state is altogether beyond our power to understand, we may remind ourselves that it is the psychology of the Word made Flesh that is confronting us.... Do we expect to understand that?...
II. There is a human phrase, however, itself a paradox, yet corresponding to something which we know to be true, which throws some faint glimmer of light upon this impenetrable darkness and seems to extend Christ's experience upon the Cross so as to touch our own human life. It is a phrase that describes a condition well known to spiritual persons: "To leave God for God." (1) The simplest and lowest form of this state is that condition in which we acquiesce with our will in the withdrawal of ordinary spiritual consolation. Certainly it is an inexplicable state, since both the ordinary aids to our will—our understanding and our emotion—are, by the very nature of the case, useless to it. Our heart revolts from that dereliction and our understanding fails to comprehend the reasons for it. Yet we acquiesce, or at least perceive that we ought to do so; and that by doing so—by ceasing, that is, to grasp God's Presence any longer—we find it as never before. We leave God in order to find Him.
(2) The second state is that in which we find ourselves when not only do all consolations leave us, but the very grip of intelligent faith goes too; when the very reasons for faithfulness appear to vanish. It is an incalculably more bitter trial, and soul after soul fails under it and must be comforted again by God in less august ways or perish altogether. And yet this is not the extremest pitch even of human desolation.
(3) For there is a third of which the saints tell us in broken words and images....
III. Our final point, for application to ourselves, is that dereliction in some form or another is as much a stage in spiritual progress as autumn and winter are seasons of the year. The beginners have to suffer one degree, the illuminated another, and those that have approached a real Union with God a third. But all must suffer it, and each in his own degree, or progress is impossible.
Let us take courage therefore and face it, in the light of this Word. For, as we can sanctify bodily pain by the memory of the nails, so too can we sanctify spiritual pain by the memory of this darkness. If He Who never left the Father's side can suffer this in an unique and supreme sense, how much more should we be content to suffer it in lower degrees, who have so continually, since we came to the age of reason, been leaving not His side only, but His very house.
THE FIFTH WORD
Our Lord continues to reveal His own condition, since He, after all, is the key to all Humanity. If we understand anything of Him, simultaneously we shall understand ourselves far better.
He has shown us that He can truly be deprived of spiritual consolation; and the value of this deprivation; now He shows us the value of bodily deprivation also. And the Paradox for our consideration is that the Source of all can lose all; that the Creator needs His creation; that He Who offers us the water springing up into Life Eternal can lack the water of human life—the simplest element of all. In His Divine Dereliction He yet continues to be Human.
I. It is very usual, under this Word, to meditate on Christ's thirst for souls; and this is, of course, a legitimate thought, since it is true that His whole Being, and not merely one part of it, longed and panted on the Cross for every object of His desire. Certainly He desired souls! When does He not?
But it is easy to lose the proportion of truth, if we spiritualize everything, and pass over, as if unworthy of consideration, His bodily pain. For this Thirst of the Crucified is the final sum of all the pains of crucifixion: the physical agony, the fever produced by it, the torrential sweat, the burning of the sun—all these culminated in the torment of which this Cry is His expression.
Bodily pain, then, since Jesus not only deigned to suffer it, but to speak of it, is as much a part of the Divine process as the most spiritual of derelictions: it is an intense and a vital reality in life. It is the fashion, at present, to pose as if we were superior to such things; as if either it were too coarse for our high natures or even actually in itself evil. The truth is that we are terrified of its reality and its sting, and seek, therefore, to evade it by every means in our power. We affect to smile at the old penances of the saints and ascetics as if we ourselves had risen into a higher state of development and needed no longer such elementary aids to piety!
Let this Word, then, bring us back to our senses and to the due proportions of truth. We are body as well as soul; we are incomplete without the body. The soul is insufficient to itself, the body has as real a part to play in Redemption as the soul which is its inmate and should be its mistress. We look for the redemption of our body and the Resurrection of the Flesh, we merit or demerit before God in our soul for the deeds done in our body.
So was it too with our Lord of His infinite compassion. The Word was made Flesh, dwelt in the Flesh, has assumed that Flesh into heaven. Further, He suffered in the Flesh and deigned to tell us so; and that He found that suffering all but intolerable.
II. In a well-known book a Catholic poet describes with a great deal of power the development of men's nervous systems in these later days, and warns his readers against a scrupulous terror lest they, who no longer scourge themselves with briers, should be neglecting a means of sanctification. He points out, with perfect justice, that men, in these days, suffer instead in more subtle manners than did those of the Middle Ages, yet none the less physical; and puts us on our guard lest we should afflict ourselves too much. Yet we must take care, also, that we do not fall into the opposite extreme and come to regard bodily pain, (as has been said) as if it were altogether too elementary for our refined natures and as if it must have no place in the alchemy of the spirit. This would be both dangerous and false. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder! For, if we once treat body and soul as ill-matched companions and seek to deal with them apart, instantly the door is flung open to the old Gnostic horrors of sensualism on the one side or inhuman mutilation or neglect on the other.
[Footnote 1: Health and Holiness by Francis Thompson.]
The Church, on the other hand, is very clear and insistent that body and soul make one man as fully as God and Man make one Christ; and she illustrates and directs these strange co-relations and mutual effects of these two partners by her steady insistence on such things as Fasting and Abstinence. And the saints are equally clear and insistent. There never yet has been a single soul whom the Church has raised to her altars in whose life bodily austerity in some form has not played a considerable part. It is true that some have warned us against excess; but what warnings and what excess! "Be moderate," advises St. Ignatius, that most reasonable and moderate of all the saints. "Take care that you do not break any bones with your iron scourge. God does not wish that!"
Pain, then, has a real place in our progress. Who that has suffered can ever doubt it again?
Let us consider, therefore, under this Word of Christ, whether our attitude to bodily pain is what God would have it to be. There are two mistakes that we may be committing. Either we may fear it too little—meet it, that is to say, with Pagan stoicism instead of with Christianity—or we may fear it too much. Despise not the chastening, on one side, or faint on the other. It is surely the second warning that is most needed now. For pain had a real place in Christ's programme of life. He fasted for forty days at the beginning of His Ministry, and He willed every shocking detail of the Praetorium and Calvary at the end. He told us that His Spirit willed it and, yet more kindly, that His Flesh was weak. He revealed, then, that He really suffered and that He willed it so.... I thirst.
THE SIXTH WORD
It is consummated.
He has finished His Father's business, He has dealt with sinners and saints, and has finally disclosed to us the secrets of the Soul and the Body of His that are the hope of both sinners and saints alike. And there is no more for Him to do.
An entirely new Beginning, then, is at hand, now that the Last Sabbath is come—the Last Sabbath, so much greater than the First as Redemption is greater than Creation. For Creation is a mere introduction to the Book of Life; it is the arrangement of materials that are to be thrown instantly into confusion again by man, who should be its crown and master. The Old Testament is one medley of mistakes and fragments and broken promises and violated treaties, to reach its climax in the capital Mistake of Calvary, when men indeed knew not what they did. And even God Himself in the New Testament, as man in the Old, has gone down in the catastrophe and hangs here mutilated and broken. Real life, then, is now to begin.
Yet, strangely enough, He calls it an End rather than a Beginning. Consummatum est!
I. The one and only thing in human life that God desires to end is Sin. There is not a pure joy or a sweet human relationship or a selfless ambition or a divine hope which He does not desire to continue and to be crowned and transfigured beyond all ambition and all hope. On the contrary, He desires only to end that one single thing which ruins relationships and spoils joy and poisons aspirations. For up to the present there is not one page of history which has not this blot upon it.
God has had to tolerate, for lack of better, such miserable specimens of humanity! Jacob have I loved! ... David a man after my heart; the one a poor, mean, calculating man, who had, however, that single glimmer of the supernatural which Esau, for all his genial sturdiness, was without; the other an adulterous murderer, who yet had grace enough for real contrition. Hitherto He has been content with so little. He has accepted vinegar for want of wine.
Next, God has had to tolerate, and indeed to sanction—such an unworthy worship of Himself—all the blood of the temple and the spilled entrails and the nameless horrors. And yet this was all to which men could rise; for without it, they never could have learned the more nameless horror of sin.
Last, for His worshippers He has had to content Himself with but one People instead of all peoples and nations and languages. And what a People,—whom even Moses could not bear for their treachery and instability! And all this wretched record ends in the Crime of Calvary, at which the very earth revolts and the sun grows dark with shame. Is it any wonder that Christ cried, Thank God that is all done with at last!
II. Instead of this miserable past, then, what is to come? What is that New Wine He would drink with us in His Father's Kingdom? First; real and complete saints of God are to take the place of the fragmentary saints of the Old Dispensation, saints with heads of gold and feet of clay. Souls are to be born again in Baptism, not merely sealed by circumcision, and to be purified before they can contract any actual guilt of their own. And, of these, many shall keep their baptismal innocence and shall go, wearing that white robe, before God Who gave it them. Others again shall lose it, but regain it once more, and, through the power of the Precious Blood, shall rise to heights of which Jacob and David never even dreamed. To awake in His likeness was the highest ambition of the man after God's Heart; but to be not merely like Christ, but one with Him, is the hope of the Christian. I live, the new saints shall say with truth, yet now not I, but Christ liveth in me.
Next, instead of the old worship of blood and pain there shall be an Unbloody Sacrifice and a Pure Offering in which shall be all the power and propitiation of Calvary without its pain, all the glory without the degradation. And last, in place of the old enclosed Race of Israel shall be a Church of all nations and tongues, one vast Society, with all walls thrown down and all divisions done away, one Jerusalem from above, that shall be the Mother of us all.
III. That, then, is what Christ intended as He cried, It is consummated. Behold the old things are passed away! Behold, I make all things new!
And now let us see how far that is fulfilled. Where is there, in me, the New Wine of the Gospel?
I have all that God can give me from His Throne on Calvary. I have the truth that He proclaimed and the grace that He released. Yet is there in me, up to the present, even one glimmer of what is meant by Sanctity? Am I even within an appreciable distance of the saints who knew not Christ? Have I ever wrestled like Jacob or wept like David? Has my religion, that is to say, ever inspired me beyond the low elevation of joy into the august altitudes of pain? Is it possible that with me the old is not put away, the old man is not yet dead, and the new man not yet put on? Is that New Sacrifice the light of my daily life? Have I done anything except hinder the growth of Christ's Church, anything except drag down her standards, so far as I am able, to my own low level? Is there a single soul now in the world who owes, under God, her conversion to my efforts?
Why, as I watch my life and review it in His Presence it would seem as if I had done nothing but disappoint Him all my days! He cried, like the deacon of His own Sacrifice, Go! it is done! Ite; missa est! The Sacrifice is finished here; go out in its strength to live the life which it makes possible!
Let me at least begin to-day, have done with my old compromises and shifts and evasions. Ite; missa est!
THE SEVENTH WORD
Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.
He has cried with a loud voice, and the rocks have rent to its echo, and the earth is shaken, and the Veil of the Old Testament is torn from top to bottom as the Old Covenant passes into the New and the enclosed sanctity of the Most Holy Place breaks out into the world. And now, as the level sun shines out again beneath the pall of clouds, He whispers, as at Mary's knee in Nazareth, the old childish prayer and yields up His spirit into His Father's hands.
The last Paradox, then, is uttered. He Who saves others cannot save Himself! The Shepherd of souls relinquishes His own. For, as we cannot save our lives unless we lose them for His sake, so He too cannot save them unless He loses His for our sake.
I. This, then, is merely the summary of all that has gone before; it is the word Finis written at the end of this new Book of Life which He has written in His Blood. It is the silence of the white space at the close of the last page. Yet it is, too, the final act that gives value to all that have preceded it. If Christ had not died, our faith would be vain.
Oh! these New Theologies that see in Christ's Death merely the end of His Life! Why, it is the very point and climax of His Life that He should lay it down! Like Samson himself, that strange prototype of the Strong Man armed, he slew more of the enemies of our souls by His Death than by all His gracious Life. For this cause He came into the world. For Sacrifice, which is the very heart of man's instinctive worship of God, was set there, imperishably, in order to witness to and be ratified by His One Offering which alone could truly take away sins; and to deny it or to obscure it is to deny or to obscure the whole history of the human race, from the Death of Abel to the Death of Christ, to deny or obscure the significance of every lamb that bled in the Temple and of every wine-offering poured out before the Holy Place, to deny or to obscure (if we will but penetrate to the roots of things) the free will of Man and the Love of God. If Christ had not died, our faith would be vain.
II. Once again, then, let us turn to the event in our own lives that closes them; that death which, united to Christ's, is our entrance into liberty and, disunited, the supreme horror of existence.
(1) For without Christ death is a violent interruption to life, introducing us to a new existence of which we know nothing, or to no existence at all. Without Christ, however great our hopes, it is abrupt, appalling, stunning, and shattering. It is this at the best, and, at the worst, it is peaceful only as the death of a beast is peaceful.
(2) Yet, with Christ, it is harmonious and continuous with all that has gone before, since it is the final movement of a life that is already dead with Christ, the last stage of a process of mortality, and the stage that ends its pain. It is just one more passing phase, by which is changed the key of that music that every holy life makes always before God.
There is, then, the choice. We may, if we will, die fighting to the end a force that must conquer us however we may fight, resisting the irresistible. Or we may die, in lethargic resignation, as dogs die, without hopes or regrets, since the past, without Christ, is as meaningless as the future. Or we may die, like Christ, and with Him, yielding up a spirit that came from the Father back again into His Fatherly hands, content that He Who brought us into the world should receive us when we go out again, confident that, as the thread of His purpose is plain in earthly life, it shall shine yet more plainly in the life beyond.
One last look, then, at Jesus shows us the lines smoothed from His face and the agony washed from His eyes. May our souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through His Mercy, rest in Him!
LIFE AND DEATH
As dying, and behold we live.—II COR. VI. 9.
We have considered, so far, a number of paradoxical phenomena exhibited in the life of Catholicism and have attempted to find their reconciliation in the fact that the Catholic Church is at once Human and Divine. In her striving, for example, after a Divine and supernatural Peace, of which she alone possesses the secret, she resists even unto blood all human attempts to supplant this by another. As a human society, again, she avails herself freely of human opportunities and aids, of earthly and created beauty, for the setting forth of her message; yet she can survive, as can no human society, when she is deprived of her human rights and her acquired wealth. As human she numbers the great multitude of the world's sinners among her children, yet as Divine she has produced the saints. As Divine she bases all her gospel on a Revelation which can be apprehended only by Faith, yet as human she employs the keenest and most profound intellects for its analysis and its propagation. In these and in many other similar points it has been attempted to show why she offers now one aspect and now another to human criticism, and how it is that the very charges made against her become, when viewed in the light of her double claim, actual credentials and arguments on behalf of that claim. Finally, in the meditations upon the Seven Words of Christ, we considered very briefly how, in the hours of the deepest humiliation of His Humanity, He revealed again and again the characteristics of His Divinity.
It now remains to consider that point in which she most manifests that double nature of hers and, simultaneously therefore, presents, as in a kind of climax, her identity, under human terms, with Him Who, Himself the Lord of Life, conquered death by submitting to it and, by His Resurrection from the dead, showed Himself the Son of God with power.
I. Death, the world tells us, is the final end of all things, and is the one universal law of which evasion is impossible; and this is true, not of the individual only, but of society, of nations, of civilization, and even, it would seem, ultimately of physical life itself. Every vital energy therefore that we possess can be directed not to the abolition, but only to the postponement of this final full close to which the most ecstatic created harmony must come at last.
Our physicians cannot heal us, they can merely ward off death for a little. Our statesmen cannot establish an eternal federation, they can but help to hold a crumbling society together for a little longer. Our civilization cannot really evolve an immortal superman, it can but render ordinary humanity a little less mortal, temporarily and in outward appearance. Death, then, in the world's opinion, is the duellist who is bound to win. We may parry, evade, leap aside for a little; we may even advance upon him and seem to threaten his very existence; our energies, in fact, must be concentrated upon this conflict if we are to survive at all. But it is only in seeming, at the best. The moment must come when, driven back to the last barrier, our last defence falters ... and Death has only to wipe his sword.
Now the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Death is not only the most violent reversal of the world's policy, but the most paradoxical, too, of all her methods. For, while the world attempts to keep Death at arm's length, the Church strives to embrace him. Where the world draws his sword to meet Death's assault, the Church spreads her heart only to receive it. She is in love with Death, she pursues him, honours him, extols Him. She places over her altars not a Risen Christ, but a dying One.
If thou wilt be perfect, she cries to the individual soul, give up all that thou hast and follow me. "Give up all that makes life worth living, strip thyself of every advantage that sustains thy life, of all that makes thee effective." It is this that is her supreme appeal, not indeed uttered, with all its corollaries, to all her children, but to those only that desire perfection. Yet to all, in a sense, the appeal is there. Die daily, die to self, mortify, yield, give in. If any man will save his life, he must lose it.
So too, in her dealings with society, is her policy judged suicidal by a world that is in love with its own kind of life. It is suicidal, cries that world, to relinquish in France all on which the temporal life of the Church depends; for how can that society survive which renounces the very means of existence? It is suicidal to demand the virgin life of the noblest of her children, suicidal to desert the monarchical cause of one country, and to set herself in opposition to the Republican ideals of another. For even she, after all, is human and must conform to human conditions. Even she, however august her claims, must make terms with the world if she desires to live in it.
And this comment has been made upon her actions in every age. She condemned Arius, when a little compromise might surely have been found; and lost half her children. She condemned Luther and lost Germany; Elizabeth, and lost England. At every crisis she has made the wrong choice, she has yielded when she should have resisted, resisted when she should have yielded. The wonder is that she survives at all.
Yes, that is the wonder. As dying, behold she lives!
II. The answer of course is easy. It is that she simply does not desire the kind of life which the world reckons alone to be life. To her that is not life at all. She desires of course to survive as a human society, and she is assured that she always shall so survive. Yet it is not on the ordinary terms of ordinary society that she desires survival. It is not a natural life of which she is ambitious, a life that draws its strength from human conditions and human environment, a life, therefore, that waxes and wanes with those human conditions and ultimately meets their fate, but a supernatural life that draws its strength from God. And she recognizes, as one of the most fundamental paradoxes of all, that such a life can be gained and held only through what the world calls "death."
She does not, then, want merely the life of a prosperous human state, whether monarchy or republic. There are times indeed in her history when such an accompaniment to her real existence is useful to her effectiveness; and she has, of course, the right, as have other societies, to earthly dominions that may have been won and presented to her by her children. Or through her ministers, as in Paraguay, she may administer for a while the ordinary civil affairs of men who choose to be loyal to her government. Yet if, for one instant, such a responsibility were really to threaten her spiritual effectiveness—if, that is, the choice were really presented to her between spiritual and temporal dominion—she would let all the kingdoms of the world go in an instant, to retain her kingdom from God; she would gladly suffer the loss of all things to retain Christ.
And how is it possible to deny for one instant that her success has been startling and overwhelming—this fructification of Life by Death.
Are there any human beings, for example, who have been more effective and influential than her saints—men and women, that is to say, who have died daily, in order to live indeed? They have not, it is true, prospered, let us say, as business men, directors of companies, or government officials, but such a success is simply not her ideal for them, not their own ideal for themselves. That is precisely the kind of life to which they have, as a rule, determinedly and perseveringly died. Yet their effectiveness in this world has been none the less. Are any kings remembered as is the beggar Labre who gnawed cabbage stalks in the gutters of Rome? Are the names of any statesmen of, let us say, even a hundred years ago, reverenced and repeated as is the name of the woman of Spain called Teresa of Jesus who, four hundred years ago, ruled a few nuns within the enclosure of a convent? Are any musicians or artists loved to-day with such rapture as is God's little troubadour, called Francis, who made music for himself and the angels by rubbing one stick across another?
Or, again, is any empire that the world has ever seen so great, so loyally united in itself, so universal and yet so rigorous as is that spiritual empire whose capital is Rome? Is there any nation with so fierce a patriotism as she who is Supernational? Earthly kings speak from their thrones and what happens? And an old man in Rome who wears three crowns on his head speaks from his prison in the Vatican and all the earth rings with it.
Has her policy, then, been so suicidal after all? From the world's point of view it has never been anything else. Her history is but one long example of the sacrifice of human activities and earthly opportunities; she has expelled from her pulpits the most brilliant of her children, she has silenced or alienated the most eloquent of her defenders. She has cut off from herself all that she should have kept, and hugged to her arms all that she should have relinquished! She has never done anything but die! She never does anything but live!
III. Turn, then, to the life of her Lord for the solution of this riddle. Last week He was going to His Death. He was losing, little by little, all that bound Him to Life. The multitudes that had followed Him hitherto were leaving Him by units and groups, they who might have formed His armies to seat Him on the throne of His father David. Disloyalty had made its way even among His chosen body-guard, and already Judas is bargaining for the price of His Master's blood. Even the most loyal of all are dismayed, and presently will forsake Him and flee when the swords flash out in the garden of Gethsemane. A few weeks ago in Galilee thousands were leaving Him for the last time; and when, once again, a company seemed to rally, He wept! And so at last the sacrifice was complete and, one by one, He laid down of His own will every tie that kept Him in life. And then on Good Friday itself He suffered that beauty of His Face to be marred so that no man would ever desire Him any more, silenced the melody of the Voice that had broken so many hearts and made them whole again; He stretched out His Shepherd's Hands with which alone He could gather His sheep to His Breast, and the Feet that alone could bear Him into the wilderness to seek after that which was lost. Was there ever a Suicide such as this, such a despair of high hopes, such a ruin of all ambition, a dying so complete and irremediable as the Dying of Jesus Christ?
[Footnote 1: This Sermon was preached on Easter Day.]
And now on Easter Day look at Him again and see how He lives as never before. See how the Life that has been His for thirty years—the Life of God made Man—itself pales almost to a phantom before the glory of that same Life transfigured by Death. Three days ago He fainted beneath the scourge and nails; now He shows the very scars of His Passion to be the emblems of immortal strength. Three days ago He spoke in human words to those only that were near Him, and limited Himself under human terms of space and time; He speaks now in every heart. Three days ago He gave His Body to the few who knelt at His Table; to-day in ten thousand tabernacles that same Body may be worshipped by all who come.
In a word, He has exchanged a Natural Life for a Supernatural in every plane at once. He has laid down the Natural Life of His Body to take it back again supernaturalized for ever. He has died that His Life may be released; He has finished in order to begin.
It is easy, then, to see why it is that the Church dies daily, why it is that she is content to be stripped of all that makes her life effective, why she too permits her hands to be bound and her feet fettered and her beauty marred and her voice silenced so far as men can do those things. She is human? Yes; she dwells in a body that is prepared for her, but prepared chiefly that she may suffer in it. Her far-reaching hands are not hers merely that she may bind up with them the broken-hearted, nor her swift feet hers merely that she may run on them to succour the perishing, nor her head and heart hers merely that she may ponder and love. But all this sensitive human organism is hers that at last she may agonize in it, bleed from it from a thousand wounds, be lifted up in it to draw all men to her cross.
She does not desire, then, in this world, the throne of her Father David, nor the kind of triumph which is the only kind that the world understands to be so. She desires one life and one triumph only—the Risen Life of her Saviour. And this, at last, is the transfiguration of her Humanity by the power of her Divinity and the vindication of them both.