Images de page
PDF
ePub

unfading brightness, that keep watch round the seat of glory above. At the foot of the altar kneel immovable, in silent adoration, the priests of the sanctuary, relieving each other day and night, pouring the prayers of the people, as fragrant odours, before it. But look at the body of the Church! no pews, no benches, or other incumbrances are there; but the flood of radiance from the altar seems to be poured out upon the marble pavement and to stream along it to the very door. But not during the day will you see it thus: the whole, except during the hours of repose, is covered with kneeling worshippers. Looking at the scene through the eye of memory, comes nearer to the contemplation of a heavenly vision than anght else that we know.

It seems to us as though on these occasions flesh and blood lost their material grossness, and were spiritualized as they passed the threshold. Softly and noiselessly is the curtain raised which covers the door, and passed uplifted from hand to hand in silent courtesy, as a succession of visitors enter in; they who in the street just now were talking so loud and laughing so merrily, here they steal in with slow pace and gentle tread, as though afraid to break upon the solemnity of the scene! For before and around them are scattered, without order or arrangement, persons singly or in groups as they have entered in, all lowly kneeling, all reflecting upon their prayerful countenances the splendour from the altar; and as they pass among them to find place, with what careful and quiet steps they thread their way, so as least to disturb those among whom they move, and then drop down upon their knees too in the first open space, upon the same bare stone floor, princess and peasant, priest and layman, all equal in the immeasurable distance between them and the eternal object of their

a

a

adoration. In no other time or place is the sublimity of our religion so touchingly felt. No ceremony is going forward in the sanctuary, no sound of song is issuing from *the choir, no voice of exhortation proceeds from the pulpit, no prayer is uttered aloud at the altar. There are hundreds tliere, and yet they are engaged in no congregational act of worship. Each heart and soul is alone in the midst of a multitude--each uttering its own thoughts, each feeling its own grace. Yet are you overpowered, subdued, quelled into a reverential mood, softened into a devotional spirit, forced to meditate, to feel, to pray. The little children who come in are led by a mother's hand, kneel down by her in silence, as she simply points towards the altar, overawed by the still splendour before them; the very babe seems hushed to quiet reverence on her bosom. The hurried passer by who merely looks in, cannot resist the impulse to sink, if only in a momentary genuflexion, upon his knees; nay, the English scoffer, who will face anything else, will not venture to stalk as elsewhere up the nave heedless of other's sacred feelings, but must needs remain under the shadow of the doorway, or steal behind the shadow of the first pillar, if he wishes to look on without partaking."1

I do not say that such a rite is congenial to all minds, but I do say that it is distinctly an act of worship, and that this worship is addressed to Christ. It cannot halt at the syinbol, for it is through the symbol that it reaches Christ, the God-man, at once spiritual and material, infinite and finite, everywhere present and local.

I do not say that worship cannot be addressed to him anywhere, in the closet, on the high road, in the mountain solitude, and in the crowded thoroughfare. He is God, and

[ocr errors][merged small]

therefore He can hear and receive His creature anywhere and at any moment. But He is man also, and therefore He has His finite, local, material manifestation. Those who worship Him localized do not deny His ubiquity and omnipresence. Those who worship Him in vague immensity must not deny His local presence. These are two aspects of Christ, the object of worship--that which is infinite and divine, and that which is finite and human; and these are not contradictory.

It is the same with charity. How shall we exhibit love to God?—By our love to men. Suffering mankind is Christ suffering, and every act of mercy shewn to man is received by Christ. Every sufferer is Christ localized to accept our love. If Christ specializes himself to be the recipient of our charity, it is certain that He can specialize Himself to receive our worship. Though he accepts our love in the person of the poor, He does not accept our worship in their person, that is evident. Then He must have some other, but analogous, method of receiving our devotion and homage. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," said Christ, and the promise, according to the theory of the Church, is fulfilled. He is with us in the body of His Church authoritatively, with us in the person of His poor to receive our charity, with us in the sacramental species to dispense His grace and to receive our worship. Thus is He Emmanuel to the end of time.

A modern traveller, writing his impressions of Western France, makes the following remark: “I do not think I ever went into a Roman Catholic church anywhere without seeing two or three female figures. It has a conventional look. A query will come into one's mind whether it is not a part of the business of the priest to maintain and keep up this air of life by a steady infliction of small penance upon female members of the flock. Poor women sin a little bit, so often, and so easily; and then it is so useful to send them to Church-does them good and has a pleasing effect."1

No, it is not that which sends them to the Church, it is the Sacred Presence on the altar which draws them with the cords of love. I have seen the market woman leave her basket on the portal step, the soldier, the peasant, and the little child enter and pay their “visit” to the blessed Sacrament,—an act of love and homage to Him Who made Himself of no reputation that He might win men through their weakness.

I was standing in the churchyard of Ventonne on the mountain side above the Rhone, watching the sun go down in glory over Sion. Strange sounds issued from the interior of the sacred building, and I entered it softly. I found an idiot woman, with thin straggling grey hair, great blear eyes, and wan cheeks, kneeling at the chancel steps, wringing her hands, sobbing and praying. Apparently some one had injured her, some boys had pelted her with stones, and she had fled to the presence of her Emmanuel, to pour out into His sympathizing ear the story of her troubles.

I was at the Cathedral of Sion on Sunday morning. A poor woman came in, radiant with joy, a piece of good fortune had befallen her-a cow had calved, and she brought a sprig of flowers, and gave it to the sacristan to insert in the vase beside the tabernacle, as she knelt to thank her Lord.

To the Christian He is Emmanuel, God present to him in his joys and in his sorrows. In the deepest

i Louth: Wanderer in Western France, 1863, p. 307.

griefs, man puts out his hand as he sinks to catch Him; in the greatest joys he looks to his Emmanuel to rejoice with him. He is Emmanuel to the child, to the youth, to the adult, and to the aged; God with us in work, in relaxation, at meals, and in sleep, with us in all temptations to hold us back, with us in all good to urge us on, with us in life to be our guide, with us in death to open to us immortality.

« PrécédentContinuer »