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“ They were as gay, as free from guile,
Music." And Tasso, in apostrophizing a Benedictine abbey, exclaims :
“What delightful silence, pleasant abode, and how cheerful.”ı This is perfectly true, the ascetic is the happiest man in the world. Do you doubt it? Visit a Trappist monastery or a convent of Carmelite nuns, and you will be convinced by their radiant countenances and beaming eyes.
That which constitutes the ascetic is love; and the true ascetic always overflows with charity :
“Vast was the love which from your chalices,
Mysterious monks! with a full heart ye drew :
Ye loved with ardent souls! Oh, happy lot for you!”? " It is always a question with me,” says a Protestant traveller who visited the Trappist convent of La Melleray, “ what is the basis of this overflowing warmth of affection which monks always shew to any one of us wanderers of the outer world whenever we happen to throw any little tenderness into our manner towards them? I find this invariably the case. Perhaps it is that these men are always walking along their path of life with the words, Love of God, Love of their fellow-creature on their lips, and that thereby a certain stock of sensibility is created, which is ready to overflow at any moment upon any one who, by word or act, touches the spring, or utters the 'Open Sesame.'”3
1 “Silenzi amici, e vaghe chiostre, e liete!” ? Alfred de Musset: Rolla.
3 Louth : Wanderer in Western France, p. 263: compare also M. Algemon Taylor's Monasteries of France.
In the purely material life, the object man sets before him, and the motives that determine him, are furnished by the sensations of his organism or by his passions, which may all be resumed in love, concentrated on self. But that he may act in the higher spiritual order, he needs a new principle of action, not blind like that of his animal nature, nor placed in himself, but conscient, free, and external. This principle is love, but love of a different kind. In the first order, the end is self; in the second, it is God. In the first the motive of determination is pleasure; in the second, it is sacrifice, the outward form of love.
In the history of the human race, the first of these two orders is represented by pagan antiquity. Love could not attach itself to the infinite. Intellect could do this; but this infinite was only, like thought itself, an abstract, metaphysical infinity, and not a living, real, personal God. Consequently the only means by which the spiritual nature could attach itself to God, was by love of the only sensible manifestation it knew, the world, and it darkened into Pantheism. This is the sole form of religion possible in which the affections can find play, outside of Christianity in its full acceptation.
If modern feeling in Protestant countries has turned to Pantheism once more, it is because the Reformation destroyed the significance of the Incarnation. “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." The ideal of the spiritual and moral life having been given exclusively by science, it became an exercise of the intellect, not an aspiration of the heart. Consequently it was something to be concluded, not to be loved. Pure science attempted to determine the notion of God and of our relations with Him. This inspired all initiators of philosophic religions. But this thought of the Infinite being only obtained by the negation of the finite, God, thus negatively conceived, became the ideal of Buddhism, the Being absolutely incomprehensible, the Great Nothing.
Christ came. At once the axis of human life is displaced. To science succeeds love, not to the exclusion of reason, but to its harmonization with the truths of the heart. To love God, to love mankind, to love all creation is the revelation of Christ. This religion combines mysticism, positivism, and pantheism. For what is mysticism but the love of the Ideal alone? What is positivism but the love of humanity alone? What is pantheism but the love of creation alone? They are three passions, like the three primary colours; but Christianity combines them into pure light.
This love, which is possible now that God is Incarnate, is the motor of the spiritual life, the cause of unity. “It appears manifest,” says Bossuet, “ that man is the delight of man.” “There is no real key to the heart but love. Love is the law of the heart. It is this which moves its most secret inclinations and energies,” and this love is possible in the spiritual order, only because God is Man; and as Man, lle is an object to which love may attach itself, and as God, He is the ideal which may exalt and fill up the highest imaginings of love. If man seeks the object of love within himself he deifies himself, or trusting to reason forms a negative God which he cannot love. But under the Gospel, he can look out, and everything is transformed into a medium of love. The universe is to him a book written within and without, to reveal to him the invisible perfections of God.
In Jesus Christ, he sees God entering into and pervading humanity. Thus, by love, the two poles of his life are united; one placing him en rapport with the world of infinity; the other, with the world of finalities. He sees
in the material universe the expression, of which God is the sense; in humanity the body, of which God is the soul.
The law of Christ is the complete manifestation of the law of universal love everywhere destroying contradictions and producing unity. Love sees all in One, and One in all. It sees God in all His creatures, humanity in God, the spirit in the letter, the essence in the accidents, force in matter, justice in charity, reason in faith, each in all. It unites all, but confounds none. It distinguishes, but does not separate. Nay, it distinguishes that it may unite.
By uniting all men with one another and with God, love produces in man the unity of his own being, and thereby, serenity, order, life, joy, and happiness. Man thus replaced in the plenitude of his unity, reproduces it in all the acts of his life. Loving God, he hears, sees, feels, tastes Him everywhere; he loves all men, because they are the creatures of God, he loves all creation, because it is the language of God.
As peace consists in the reduction to unity of all discordant elements, not the obliteration of any, of Christ may be said what was spoken of one who carried out His spirit, S. Benedict,-
" Ipse fundator placidæ quietis.”
The faculties which broken refuse to transmit light, are welded together into translucent crystal, and rest serene.
I have spoken at some length of the love of God which manifests itself in the heart of man, and which is but the repercussion of the love of God to man, because it is the foundation of sacrifice. As soon as, by faith, man realizes the love of God to him, exhibited in creation and in the Incarnation and Atonement, he desires to return that love, and exhibit his gratitude by sacrifice. But he knows well
that nothing he can “render to his God for all His gifts” are to be measured beside what God has done for him, and he hesitates. The passion in his soul is driving him on, " but whither shall he go?"
The Protestant spirit steps in like a spectre, and lays its icy finger on his bounding heart, and paralyzes him ; “You can do nothing but lie still and freeze."
But the Catholic spirit, like an angel of light, with the odours of paradise fanned from its wings, lifts the fevered soul and says, “Up, flee to the altar, there is your sacrifice!” And the soul sees the solution to its perplexity. What offering can it render to its God worthy of that great sacrifice He gave to man, but that sacrifice itself? That is the return man makes to God; he offers to Him the sacrifice of Christ; the best thing he knows, the only thing at all adequate to the occasion. He says to God, You have given me all, I give You back, in the fulness of my gratitude, all that I value highest, and that is Christ incarnate, dying on the cross for me.
This is the signification of the sacrifice of the altar, the Mass. It is the recoil wave of the Divine love.
And this will explain a point in Catholic teaching obscure to some. I will give the explanation in the words of a gifted lady. "All the masses that have been celebrated since our Lord's time till now, and all those that will be celebrated till the Last Day, are only one mass.
The multitude of priests is but one priest. The victim is one, the sacrifice is one; for Christ being both priest and victim, and He being eternal and infinite, the sacrifice, priest and victim can be but one and lasting. Tomasa Rossi, the great theologian and philosopher, makes a beautiful comparison on this subject, explaining remarkably well the unity and multiplicity of the holy sacrifice of the mass.