Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
The destruction of Jerusalem has closed that portion of the prophetic Scriptures which were based on the institutions and history of the figurative period. The Altar of the true God, built by Solomon on the the summit of Moriah, was the authenticated evidence of the true religion, to those who were then living under the Law of expectation. Even after the promulgation of the New Testament, the continued existence of that Altar (the only one heretofore recognized by the Most High as his own), was some sort of an excuse for such of the Jews as were obstinate in clinging to the old order of things. That excuse was taken away, when the Temple was so destroyed, as that not a stone was left on stone; and the blindest partisans of the Mosaic system were compelled to acknowledge the total abrogation of a religion, which was reduced by God himself to the impossibility of ever offering those sacrifices which were essential to its existence.
The considerateness wherewith the Church had, so far, treated the Synagogue, would henceforward be unmeaning. As the beautiful queen and bride, she is now at full liberty to show herself to all the nations, subdue their wild instincts by the power of the Spirit, unify them in Christ Jesus, and put them by faith into the substantial, though not visible, possession of those eternal realities which had been foreshadowed by the Law of types and figures.
The New Sacrifice, which is no other than that of the Cross and of Eternity, is now, more than ever, evidently the one sole center where her life is fixed in God with Christ her Spouse, and from which she derives her energy in laboring for the conversion and sanctification of all future generations of men. The Church, now more than ever fruitful, is more than ever receiving of that life of Union, which is the cause of her admirable fecundity.
We cannot, therefore, be surprised that the sacred Liturgy, which is the outward expression of the Bride’s inner life, will now more than ever reflect this closeness of her Union with God. In the seventeen weeks we have still to spend of this Time after Pentecost, there is no such thing as gradation, no connection, in the Proper of the Sundays’ Masses. Even in the Lessons of the Night Office, dating from August—the historic Books have been replaced by those which are called the Sapiential and which, in due time, will be followed by the Books of Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; and here again, there is no connection further than that of sanctity in precept or in example. So far, we have found more or less of oneness of idea between the Lessons of the Office and the Proper of the Mass; but beginning with this tenth Sunday, these are independent of each other.
Henceforward, therefore, we must limit our commentary to the Proper of each Sunday’s Mass; and in doing this, we shall be respectfully taking the teachings which the Holy Spirit, who divideth as he willeth, gives us, unitedly with the Church, in each portion of each Sunday’s Liturgy. Each Epistle and Gospel, especially; and then, each Introit and Collect, each Gradual and Offertory, each Secret, Communion and Postcommunion, each of these will be a precious and exquisitely varied instruction. We shall see all this in the Epistle of this tenth Sunday.
The fall of Jerusalem—that great event, which told men how the prophecies were going to be gloriously fulfilled, now that the Jewish opposition was so completely removed—yes, the great event we were commemorating last Sunday, is one more and solemn proclamation of the reign of the Holy Ghost throughout the entire earth; for as we said of Him, at the grant Pentecost solemnity, He hath filled the whole world. We have much to learn from the tone our holy Mother the Church puts in the Liturgy of these remaining seventeen Pentecostal Sundays. In the admirable teachings she is now going to give to her children, there is no logical arrangement or sequel. She is as intent as ever on leading souls to holiness and perfection; yet it is not by following a method of any sort, but by her applying to us the united power of the divine Sacrifice and the word of the Scripture, to which she sweetly adds her own; and the Holy Spirit of Love breatheth upon it all, just where he willeth, and when he willeth.
This Sunday is, some years, the second of the dominical series which opened with the feast of Saint Laurence, and took its name (of Post Sancti Laurentii) from the solemnity of the great Deacon-Martyr. It is also sometimes called the Sunday of Humility, or of the Pharisee and Publican, because of the Gospel of the day. The Greeks count it as the tenth of Saint Matthew, and they read on it the episode of the Lunatic, which is given in the 17th Chapter of that Evangelist.
MASS—The humble and suppliant confidence, which the Church reposes in the help given her by her Jesus, will ever preserve her from those terrible humiliations wherewith were punished the persecuting jealousy and pride of the Synagogue. She exhorts her children to imitate her when they are in trouble; like her, they must let their prayers and supplications be ever sounding in God’s ear.
|Cum clamarem ad Dominum, exandivit vocem meam, ab his qui appropinquant mihi: et humiliavit eos, qui est ante sæcula, et manet in æternum: jacta cogitatum tuum in Domino, et ipse te enutriet.||When I cried out, the Lord heard my complaint against them that were coming against me; and he that was before all ages, and abideth for ever, humbled them: cast thy care on the Lord, and he will feed thee.|
|Ps. Exaudi, Deus, orationem meam, et me despexeris deprecationem meam: intende mihi, et exaudi me. Gloria Patri. Cum clamarem.||Ps. Hear, O God, my prayer, and despise not my petition: look down upon me, and hear me. Glory, etc. When I cried.|
Ever deeply impressed by the remembrance of the fearful, though most just, chastisements of the Jewish people, the Church reminds God that the marvels in his pardon and mercy are still stronger manifestations of his omnipotence; she, therefore, in her Collect, prays for an abundant effusion of this mercy upon the Christian people who are here assembled. But what grandeur, what sublimity—especially in the times immediately following Jerusalem’s ruin—is there not in the Church’s attitude when, in reply to the account given her by her Spouse of the severest justice ever shown by his Eternal Father, she, Bride and Mother, has confidence and courage enough, to begin with such words as these: Deus!—qui omnipotentiam tuam parcendo, maxime, et miserando manifestas!
|Deus, qui omnipotentiam tuam parcendo maxime et miserando manifestas: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut ad tua promissa currentes, cœlestium honorum facias esse consortes. Per Dominum.||O God, who chiefly manifestest thine omnipotence by pardoning and having mercy: increase thy mercy upon us; that, hastening to the things thou hast promised, thou mayst make us partakers of heavenly goods. Through, etc.|
The other Collects as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.||Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul, the Apostle, to the Corinthians.|
|1 Cap. xii.||1 Ch. xii.|
|Fratres, Scitis quoniam cum gentes essetis, ad simulacra muta prout ducebamini euntes. Ideo notum vobis facio, quod nemo in Spiritu Dei loquens, dicit anathema Jesu. Et nemo potest dicere, Dominus Jesus, nisi in Spiritu Sancto. Divisiones vero gratiarum sunt, idem autem Spiritus: et divisiones ministrationum sunt, idem autem Dominus: et divisiones operationum sunt, idem vero Deus qui operatur omnia in omnibus. Unicuique autem datur manifestatio Spiritus ad utilitatem. Alii quidem per Spiritum datur sermo sapientiæ: alii autem sermo scientiæ secundum eumdem Spiritum: alteri fides in eodem Spiritu: alii gratia sanitatum in uno Spiritu: alii operatio virtutum, alii prophetia, alii discretio spirituum, alii genera linguarum, alii interpretatio sermonum. Hæc autem omnia operantur unus atque idem Spiritus, dividens singulis prout vult.||Brethren: You know that when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols, according as you were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all. And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit. To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; To another, faith in the same spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit; To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches. But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.|
The Synagogue has been rejected, has been cast out; and by that, the Church is declared as the exclusive heir of the promises. She is now sole depository of God’s gifts and she leads her children to St. Paul, that he may put before them the principles which should guide them in the appreciation and use of those gifts. The reading of our Epistle shows us that it is speaking of those absolutely gratuitous favors, which at first commencement of the Church, were more or less enjoyed by every Christian assembly; and since then are imparted to the few privileged souls which, generally speaking, though not necessarily, are being guided in the extraordinary paths of mystic Theology. If, in the immense majority of God’s faithful servants, we do not meet with these infused graces of prophecy, of supernatural knowledge of the gift of tongues, or of miracles properly so called, yet the Lives of the Saints are always the common patrimony of the children of the Church; and therefore they should not neglect to provide themselves with the lights needed for understanding and profiting by a reading, which is so important and so interesting. In this season of the Liturgical Year—which is so specially devoted to the celebration of the mysteries of divine Union—it is very necessary to have certain clear ideas, without which we should be in danger of confounding what, in this higher Christian life, is the interior perfection of the soul and her real holiness, with those exterior, and intermittent, and varied, phenomena, which are but the radiation of the Spirit of love, who is Master to display his own operations in his own divine way.
These are the motives which induced the Church to select, for today, this passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. If we would fully enter into her design, we must not limit our attention to the few lines we have just been reading; the end of the chapter from which they are taken, as likewise for the two subsequent chapters, are all one and same piece of teaching, and must not be separated one from the other. In this important passage, besides the summary of the principles which are unchangeable, we have also an instructive account of what the Church’s assemblies were in those early times, when the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit everywhere opened and made to flow in abundance the double spring of miracle and holiness.
The rapid conquest of the world, which from the very commencement was to give evidence to the catholicity of the Church, required a large effusion of power from on high; and in order that the promulgation of the New Testament might be made authoritatively among men, it was necessary that God should give it all possible solemnity and authenticity; and this he did, by accompanying it with signs and wonders, of which He alone could be the author. Hence, in those early days, the Holy Ghost took not possession of a soul by Baptism without giving an external sign of His presence in that new Christian—without, that is, one of those manifestations which the Apostle here enumerates. Thus the Witness of the Word, fulfilled the twofold mission he had received: he sanctified in truth the faithful of Christ, and he will convince of sin the world which would not receive the word of the heralds of the Gospel.
St. Paul mentions three proofs which were held out to the world as a sure guarantee of the divinity of Christ: these were his Resurrection from the grave; the holiness of those who became his disciples; and thirdly, the innumerable miracles which accompanied the preaching of the Apostles, and the conversion of the Gentiles. As to the first of these proofs, we shall have it proposed to our consideration next Sunday. Passing then to the second—the law given to the world by Jesus of Nazareth, was abundantly proved to be of divine origin, by the admirable change of this earth, of which, when he was born in it for our salvation, we might say in the language of the Scripture, all flesh had corrupted its way. For men that knew how to use their reasoning powers, no demonstration could be plainer or more cogent than this, which showed that from the sinks of corruption, there were everywhere coming forth harvests worthy of heaven, and that men, who had degraded themselves to the level of the brute by the indulgence of their evil passions, were now changed into angels of earth by their saintly morals and heavenly aspirations. To change the odor of death into the good odor of Christ, that is, to live his life as did the Christians—was it not a revealing God to men, by showing that the very life of God was lived by men in human flesh?
But for men who seem incapable of reasoning—for men who cannot see beyond the present, nor raise themselves above the senses—for so many beings who have become brutalized, who, in virtue which scorns to share in their debaucheries, see nothing but a something to stare at and blaspheme—for all these the Holy Spirit had prepared a demonstration which was tangible and visible, and which all could take in. It was that exuberance of supernatural gifts which were actively at work in every place where there was a church. The gift of Tongues, which had given such power to the preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, was multiplied with such frequency when men came near the baptismal font that the beholders were astonished or, as the full force of the sacred text gives it, they were stupefied; it continued to be the sign, the wonder, whose influence on the unbeliever, after first exciting his surprise, went on gradually inclining both his thoughts and his heart towards the word of faith. But the work of his conversion received a still greater impulse when he was introduced into the assembly of the men of his own neighborhood, when hitherto he had only known in the simple intercourse of everyday life: he then found them transformed into prophets who could see into the most hidden recesses of his unbelieving soul; all were his convincers, all were his judges; how was he to resist? No, he fell prostrate on the ground, he adored God, he could not but acknowledge that the Lord was indeed in such an assembly.
The Corinthians to whom St. Paul wrote that Epistle were rich in these spiritual favors; nothing of this kind of grace was wanting to them, and the Apostle gave thanks to God for his having so abundantly endowed them, for thereby a strong testimony was given to the Christian religion. But it would have been a great mistake if, from this profusion, bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit, a man had concluded that the Corinthians were perfect. Jealousies, vanity, obstinacy, and other miseries, earned for them the name of carnal, which was given to them by the same divine Spirit, and made the Apostle tell them that he was compelled to treat them as children, incapable of receiving anything like sublime teaching. These privileged receivers of gratuitous graces pointed out very clearly, therefore, the difference between the value the Christian should attach to these exceptionally great, but perhaps to the possessor’s own soul, unproductive, favors, and between the value he should set on justifying and sanctifying grace which makes the soul pleasing to God.
This second—the regularly appointed result of the Sacraments, which were instituted by our Lord’s munificence for the use of all men—this justifying, this sanctifying, grace is the necessary basis of salvation; it is also the one sole measure of future glory, for its development and increase depend on the merit of each individual possessor. Gratuitous Grace, on the contrary, is irregular and spontaneous both in its origin and its effects, and is quite independent of the recipient, be his dispositions of merits what they may. Like the authority given to one over the souls of others—like those several ministries mentioned in our Epistle—this Gratuitous Grace has for its aim, not so much the advantage of him who receives it, as the advantage of his fellow men; and this aim is realized independently of the virtue or the imperfection of the whom whom God has selected as his instrument. So that miracles or prophecy do not necessarily presuppose a certain amount of holiness in the thaumaturgus or the prophet. We have a proof of it in our Corinthians, and a still stronger in Balaam and Judas; God, who had his own designs, which were not to be frustrated by their faults or sins, left them in possession of his own gifts, just as he does in the Priest, who may perhaps be anything but what he should be, and who nevertheless validly makes use of faculties and powers more divine than any of those others. We have it from our divine Master himself: Many, says he, will say to me on that day (of judgment), “Lord! Lord! have we not prophesied in thy name, and in this name, cast out devils, and done many wonderful works in thy name?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity!”
In these days, when such manifestations of supernatural power are no longer needed for the promulgation of the Gospel, and are therefore less frequent, it it generally the case that when they are found in a Christian, they are an indication of a real and sanctifying Union existing between him and the Spirit of love. That Holy Spirit, who raises such a Christian above the ordinary paths, takes pleasure in his own divine work, and wishes to have it attract the attention either of all the faithful or at least of some privileged souls—who, being moved by these extraordinary signs, give thanks to God for the favors he has bestowed on that soul. And yet, even in such case, it would be a mistake to measure the holiness of that favored soul by the number or greatness of such exterior gifts. The development of charity by the exercise of the several virtues is the only thing that makes men be Saints. Divine Union—whether it be that degree of it which is attainable by all or those grand heights of Mystic Theology which are reached by a few privileged ones—Divine Union does not, in any way, depend on those brilliant phenomena. These, when they are bestowed upon a servant of God, do not generally wait for his reaching perfection in divine love, though it is love alone will give him, if he be faithful, the perfection of true holiness.
The practical conclusion we are to draw from all this is what the Apostle makes the summary of his teaching on this subject: Have a great esteem for all these gifts; look on them as the work of the Holy Ghost, who thereby bestows manifold degrees of adornment on the whole body of the Church; do not despise any of these; but when you see or hear of any of them, count those as the most precious which produce most edification in the Church and in souls.
Let us, above all, hearken to what St. Paul adds: I have a way to show unto you more excellent than all these! If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels;—if I should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge;—if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains;—if I have not charity, I am nothing, it profits me nothing. … Prophecies will be made void, tongues will cease, knowledge will be destroyed and be substituted by the vision beatific; but Charity will never fail, will never cease; of all things, Charity is the greatest!
In the Gradual, the Church returns, once more, to speak of the confidence which, as Bride, she puts in her Lord’s help; encouraged by the love she bears him, and which keeps her in the paths of equity, she does not fear his judgments. The Alleluia-Verse extols the Spouse’s glory in Sion; but this time, and henceforth forever, when Sion and Jerusalem are spoken of, they are the true and the new ones.
|Custodi me, Domine, ut pupillam oculi: sub umbra alarum tuarum protege me.||Guard me, O Lord, as the apple of thine eye: and protect me under the shadow of thy wings.|
|℣. Devultu tuo judicium meum prodeat: oculi tui videant æquitatem.||℣. Let my cause be tried in thy presence: let mine eyes see justice done.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion: et tibi reddetur, votum in Jerusalem. Alleluia.||℣. A hymn is due to thee, O God, in Sion: and in Jerusalem, shall a vow be paid unto thee. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.|
|In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus ad quosdam, qui in se confitebant tamquam justi, et aspernabantur ceteros, parabolam istam: Duo homines ascenderunt in templum ut orarent: unus pharisæus et alter publicanus. Pharisæus stans, haec apud se orabat: Deus, gratias ago tibi, quia non sum sicut ceteri hominum: raptores, injusti, adulteri, velut etiam hic publicanus: jejuno bis in sabbato, decimas do omnium quæ possideo. Et publicanus a longe stans, nolebat nec oculos ad cælum levare: sed percutiebat pectus suum, dicens: Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori. Dico vobis, descendit hic justificatus in domum suam ab illo: quia omnis qui se exaltat, humiliabitur, et qui se humiliat, exaltabitur.||At that time: Jesus spake this parable to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.|
Commenting on the Gospel passage of St. Luke, Venerable Bede thus explains the mystery: “The Pharisee is the Jewish people, who boasts of the merits he had acquired to himself by observing the precepts of the law; the Publican is the Gentile who, being far off from God, confesses his sins. The Pharisee, by reason of his pride, has to depart in humiliation; the Publican, by his lamenting his miseries, merited to draw nigh to God, that is, to be exalted. It is of these two people, and of every man who is proud or humble, that it is written: The heart of a man is exalted before destruction, and it is humbled before he be glorified”.
In the whole Gospel, then, there was no teaching more appropriate as a sequel to the history of Jerusalem’s fall. The children of the Church who, in her early years, saw her humbled in Sion, and persecuted by the insulting arrogance of the Synagogue, now quite understand that word of the Wise Man: Better is it to be humbled with the meek, than to divide spoils with the proud. According to another Proverb, the tongue of the Jew—that tongue which abused the Publican and ran down the poor Gentile—is become, in his mouth, as a rod of pride, a rod which, in time, struck himself by bringing on his own destruction. But while adoring the justice of God’s vengeance and giving praise to his mercy, the Gentiles must take care not to go into the path wherein was lost the unhappy people, whose place they now occupy. Israel’s offense, says St. Paul, has brought about the salvation of the Gentiles; but his pride would be also their ruin; and whereas Israel is assured, by prophecy, of a return to God’s favor when the end of the world shall be approaching—there is no such promise of a second call of mercy to the Gentiles, should they ever apostatize after their baptism. If, at present, the power of Eternal Wisdom enables the Gentiles to produce fruits of glory and honor, let them never forget how once they were vile barren trees: then, humility—which alone can keep them right, as formerly it alone drew upon them the eye of God’s mercy—humility will be an easy duty; and at the same time, they will understand the regard they should always entertain for the people of Israel, in spite of all his sins.
For at the time that the original defect of their birth made the Gentiles be as so many wild olive trees, producing nothing but worthless fruits, the good, the genuine, the natural olive tree, through whose branches flowed the sap of grace, was growing and flourishing, sucking sanctification into its branches from the holy root of the Patriarchs, blessed of God. We must remember that this tree of salvation is ever the same. Some of its branches fell off, it is true, and others were substituted; but this accession of the Gentiles, who were permitted by grace to graft their branches into the holy stock, this accession effected no change, either in the stock or in its root. The God of the Gentiles is not another, but the same as the God of Isaac and Jacob; the heavenly olive tree is one, and only one, and its roots nest in Abraham’s bosom: it is from the faith of this the just man by excellence—it is from the blessing, promised to him and to his divine Bud, the blessing which was to be imparted to all the nations of the earth—that flows the life-giving and rich sap which will transform the Gentile world in all future ages. When, therefore, Christian nations are boasting of their origin and descent, let them not forget the one which is above all the rest. The founders of earthly empires are not, in God’s way of counting, the true fathers of the people of those empires: in the order of supernatural, that is, of our best interest, Abraham the Hebrew, he that went forth from Chaldea at the call of God—he, by the fecundity of his faith, is the truest father of nations.
Now we can understand those words of the Apostle: Boast not, O thou, wild-olive tree, that, contrary to nature, wast ingrated into the good olive-tree, boast not against the original branches. But if thou art tempted to boast, remember, thou bearest not the root, but the root beareth thee. Therefore, be not high-minded, but fear.
Humility, which produces within us this salutary fear, is the virtue that makes man know his right place with regard both to God and his fellow men. It rests on the deep-rooted conviction, put into our hearts by grace, of how God is everything in man, and of how we, by nature, are nothingness—nay, less than nothingness, because we have degraded ourselves by sin. Reason is able, of herself alone, to convince anyone who takes the trouble to reflect, of the nothingness of a creature; but such a conviction, if it remain a mere theoretical conclusion, is not Humility: it is a conviction which forces itself on the devil in hell, whose vexation at such a truth is the chief source of the rage of that leader of the proud. As faith, which reveals to us what God is in the supernatural order, does not come from mere reason, nor remain confined to the intellect alone, so neither does humility, which teaches us what we ourselves are: that it be true real virtue, it must derive its light from above, and in the Holy Spirit, must move our will also. At the same time that this Holy Spirit fills our souls with the knowledge of their littleness and misery, he also sweetly leads them to the acceptance and love of this truth, which reason, if left entirely to herself, would be tempted to look on as a disagreeable thought.
And when this holy Spirit of truth, this divine witness of hearts, takes possession of a soul, what an incomparably stronger light is there in the humility which He imparts, than in that which mere human reason forces on a man! We are bewildered at seeing to what lengths this sentiment of their own misery led the Saints: it made them deem themselves inferior to everyone; it drove them to act and speak in a way which, in our flippant judgment, outstepped the bounds of both truth and justice! But the Holy Ghost, who guided and ruled them, passed a very different judgment; and it is precisely of His being the Spirit of all truth and all justice—in other words, because of his being the Sanctifying Spirit—that as he willed to raise them to extraordinary holiness, he therefore gave them an extraordinary clear-sightedness, both as to what they themselves were, and what God is. Satan, the spirit of wickedness, makes his slaves act just the opposite to the divine way. The way he makes them take is the one he took for himself, from the very beginning; and which our Lord thus expresses: He stood not in the truth; he aimed at being like unto the Most High. This pride of his succeeded in fixing him, for all eternity, in the hell of absurdity and lie. Therefore, Humility is Truth; and as that same Jesus says: The Truth shall make you free; by liberating us from the tyranny of the father of lies; and then, having made us free, it makes us holy; it sanctifies us by uniting us to God, who is living and substantial Truth.
In proportion as the human creature advances in the paths of divine Union, and draws nigher to this infinite all, this One who alone is by essence—man, far from losing any of his own borrowed being, receives a marvelous increase of both light and heat. It would be more correct, perhaps, to say that as by drawing nigher to God, he lives, not he, but Christ lives in him, so, together with that life of his own self, he is entirely losing the factitious light which used to accompany that diminished life of his, and which, when he was far removed from the divine center of light, may have seemed to him grand, because it came from no source but his own poor Self! Yes, when he is in close union with the divine Light, all that flicker of his own is lost; and what a happy loss, when it gives him such a gain! The stars which gravitate round the sun, get more brilliant with his light, the nearer they approach him; till at last they quite disappear under the immediate action of their glorious center; whereas the brightness they have from him seems less dependent when in the isolatedness produced by distance; it seems all the more to be their own, the further they are from him.
There are men who, like Satan, have done all in their power to throw themselves out of the orbit of the divine sun. Rather than acknowledge that they owe all they have to the Most High God, they would sink back again into nothingness, if they could. To the heavenly treasures which the common Father opens out to all who own themselves to be His children, they prefer the pleasure of keeping to natural good things, for then, so they talk, they owe what they get to their own cleverness and exertions. They are foolish men not to understand that, do what they please, they owe everything they have or get to this their forgotten God. They are weak sickly minds, taking for principles which they may be proud of, these vapors of conceit in which their disordered brain finds delight. Their high-mindedness is but ignominy; their independence leads but to slavery; for though refusing to have God as their Father, they must by necessity have Him as their Master; and thus, not being his children, they must be his slaves. As slaves, they keep to the vile food, which they themselves preferred to the pure delights, wherewith Wisdom inebriates them that follow her. As slaves, they have acquired the right to the scourge and the fetter. They chose to be satisfied with what they had, and would have neither the throne that was prepared for them nor the nuptial robe; let them, if they will, prefer their prison, and there deck themselves in the finery which moths will be soon making their food! But during these short years of theirs, they are branding their bodies with a deeper slavery than ever red-hot iron stamped on vilest bondsman. All this comes, because with all the empty philosophy which was their boast, they would not listen to the Christian teaching—that real greatness consists in the Truth, and that Humility alone leads to it.
Not only does man not unman himself by humbling himself—for he thereby is but believing himself to be what he really is—but according to the Gospel expression, the degree of that voluntary abasement is the measure of God’s exaltation of him. The Holy Ghost is, beyond measure, liberal in bestowing his gifts on one, who is sure to refer all the glory of them to the divine Giver. It is to the little that the Lord of heaven and earth makes revelations, which he hides from the proudly wise and prudent. More correctly, the truly wise, the perfect ones of whom St. Paul speaks, who alone understand the mysteries of God’s infinite love, of which they have had experience even in this present life—are not those little ones of whom we spoke elsewhere, whom divine Wisdom calls to his banquet, who are nothing in their own eyes but whose confiding simplicity ravishes his heart, and who find that all things come to them together with this divine visitor? Verily, it is in them that among the children of men he finds his delights. It is just what the disciples could not understand, when after the words of our Lord, which are given in today’s Gospel, they insisted, as St. Luke tells us, on keeping back the little ones who wanted to get too near Him. But this Jesus of ours, this Wisdom Incarnate insisted on their being brought to him, saying very much the same as he had already done in the Old Testament pages: Suffer little children to come to me: do not ye forbid them! for, of such is the kingdom of God, and of them that are like them. Amen I say to you: whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it!
In that heaven, that Kingdom of God, the Humility of the Saints is far greater than it was while they were here on earth, because they now see the realities which then they could only faintly take in. Their happiness, yonder above, is to be gazing on and adoring that altitude of God, of which they will never have an adequate knowledge; and the more they look up at that infinite perfection, the deeper do they plunge into their own original nothingness. Let us get these great truths well into us, and we shall have no difficulty in understanding how it was that the greatest Saints were the humblest creatures here below; and how the same beautiful fact is still one great charm of heaven; it must be so, for the light of the elect is in proportion to their glory. What, then, must all this exquisite truth be, when we apply it to the great Mother of God? The nearest to the throne of her divine Son, she is precisely what she was in Nazareth; that is, she is the humblest of all creatures, because she is the most enlightened of all, and therefore understands, better than even the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatness of God and the nothingness of creatures.
It is Humility which inspires the Church with the confidence she expresses in the Offertory. The more this virtue enables a man to feel his own weakness, the more, likewise, does it show him the power of God, who is ever ready to help them that call upon him.
|Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam: Deus meus, in te confido, non erubescam neque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te exspectant, non confudentur.||To thee, O Lord, have I raised up my soul: my God, I put my trust in thee, let me not be put to shame: neither let mine enemies scoff at me: for, none that rely on thee, shall ever be confounded.|
The Mass is both the highest worship which can be given to the divine Majesty, and the sovereign remedy of our miseries. The Secret tells us this.
|Tibi, Domine, sacrificia dicata reddantur: quæ sic ad honorem nominis tui deferenda tribuisti, ut eadem remedia fieri nostra præstares. Per Dominum.||May the sacrifice we offer, O Lord, be presented before thee, which thou hast appointed to be offered in honor of thy name; and, at the same time, become a remedy to us. Through, etc.|
The other Secrets as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
The Communion-Anthem sings the praise of this Oblation, which is all pure and full of most perfect justice; it has replaced, on the Altar of God, the victims prescribed by the mosaic law.
|Acceptabis sacrificium justitiæ, oblationes et holocausta super altare tuum, Domine.||Thou wilt accept the sacrifice of righteousness, oblations, and whole burnt-offerings, on thy altar, O Lord.|
The august Sacrament is ever repairing the losses we sustain through our many miseries; and yet, all this would not be of much profit to us, unless the divine benignity were to be continually bestowing on us those actual graces which preserve and increase the treasures of the soul. We cannot get on without this special aid; let us ask for it, in the Postcommunion.
|Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster; ut quos divinis reparare non desinis sacramentis, tuis non destituas benignus auxiliis. Per Dominum.||We beseech thee, O Lord, our God, that, in thy mercy, thou wouldst never deprive those of thy help, whom thou continually strengthenest by these divine mysteries. Through, etc.|
The other Postcommunions, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)