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tion of the thoughts of the Creator, His ideas written on the world He has called into being; to them no Incarnation is necessary, for they can love directly, without need of an exteriorization of that love; but to us it is not so, double in our nature, being composed of body and soul, and these compounds being so united that lesion of one wounds the other, God operates upon us through a medium. He gives vital force through food, intellectual force through the study of His works, spiritual force through sacraments.
Everything may become a sacrament of good, as everything may be made a sacrament of evil. As the trail of the serpent is over all the flowers of earth, so has the shadow of the ascended Christ fallen over them all and sanctified them. The mountain peak glowing with the last evening light, the pine reflected in the still green lake, the dew dripping flowers at morning and the high-soaring lark, are all sacraments, or may be sacraments to us--sacraments of the beauty and goodness of the Creator. But there are other sacraments conferring moral force; sacraments which make the Incarnation not a mere history of the past, but an ever-present, living, earnest reality to the Catholic.
As the life man has to preserve requires constant nourishing, as the mind requires a constant supply of intellectual nutriment through observation, reading, or listening,—and what is literature but the materialized thoughts of the writers, and what are words but embodied ideas?-so the moral life requires constant moral nutriment, that is grace. And as the moral life is exposed to various dangers, and to times of sickness, and fits of exhaustion, it needs a variety of means of grace to sustain and stimulate it at all times. This is what the Church provides in all her sacraments and pious rites. There is a constant overflow of divine grace through material channels.
A writer on the visions of the Old Testament thus elegantly illustrates the idea. I condense his words.
He is speaking of the visions of Zechariah. The prophet had been shown a series. One represented the rebuilding of the Church, another shewed the priesthood of Christ, and then came one exhibiting the sacramental system of the Church. He saw in vision "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof."
The lights, says Fernandez, are the different estates of Christians, the pipes conveying the oil which nourishes these lights are the sacraments, and the olive branches whence the oil distils are the two natures of Christ. The little child gathers its sweet innocence, its simple faith and pure love, through the channel of Baptism shedding the golden oil of divine grace into the clean vessel of its simple heart. The youth goes forth to new trials against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and he requires more of the divine assistance than did the child; whence does he obtain his strength, but through the channel of Confirmation distributing the golden renovating oil. In the battle of life every day, the flagging soul requires a renewal of the moral life, and it is quickened and invigorated by the golden oil flowing through the channel of Communion. The penitent bewailing lost grace, whose lamp is dying out, whose vessel is clogged and stained, needs the golden stream rolling through Penance to cleanse the defiled vessel and quicken the expiring flame. Those who desire to enter on the marriage state and preserve the virginity of the clean heart, need powers and grace to protect them from
1 Fernandez: in Visiones Vet. Test., Lugduni, 1617, p. 779 et seq. 2 Zech. iv. 2, 3.
falling into sensuality. And again through the channel of Matrimony gushes the precious oil.
Those who seek to minister to the spiritual wants of others, need special grace and authority.
“Unless Thou fill me with Thy light,
I cannot lead Thy flock aright;
But, lo! through the channel of Holy Order the anointing oil is shed. Lastly, the period of sickness and the hour of death have their special trials and needs of grace, and it is supplied through Holy Unction.
Commentators have regarded the parable of the good Samaritan as typical of Christ and mankind. He brings man to the house of His Church, and He gives to the host, His ministry, the two pence of the two great Sacraments of the Gospel to be his stay and support, “and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee,” commissioning His Church to multiply means of assistance to weak and ignorant souls, as it may deem expedient.
Whether it be so or not, this is certain the Incarnation is the descent of God from the unapproachable regions of the Absolute to the lowest depths of man's spiritual needs. Let that be granted-and if it be not granted, the value of the Incarnation is naught—and the whole sacramental system flows from it inevitably.
Man needs the help of God continually, and continually therefore is that help given; but it is given according to the law of man's nature and the law of God's Incarnation, that is, grace becomes embodied in an outward, material
1 Longfellow : The Golden Legend.
form. Man receives every other gift of God in an outward, material shape. He receives moral force thus also.
This is the principle which renders, not merely the sacraments grace-giving, but those numberless other gifts of the Church grace-giving also-scapulars, holy water, images, and the like.
Our Reformers abolished a host of means of grace; with rude hands they hacked away all the lower steps of the ladder that reaches to heaven, by which the ignorant and the feeble could lift themselves and look up. And now they have cast themselves in a sullen despair upon the earth; it is no gate of heaven to them, but a pillow of stones, which they will hug, and on which they will die, without a mounting hope or a descending angel.
"I gazed upon Christ, the Saviour of man,
HEINE: PICTURES OF TRAVEL.
Prayer the affirmation of the link between God and man-affirms grace
Grace must coincide with the law of the Incarnation- An historical Christ does not satisfy the needs of man-Man needs a Christ immanent in the Church as an object of worship—This is also necessitated by the nature of the Incarnation—The Real Presence in every Christian-in all Sacraments—in the Eucharist-Impossibility man labours under of avoiding localization of the Deity-Christ, as God, is everywhere present—as Man is localized — These ideas do not contradict one another, both are true—The worship of the localized Christ springs up at once
- This doctrine in accordance with the law of the Incarnation-Emmanuel, God with us in many ways.
By prayer we affirm the link between ourselves and God,
we assert our own free-will, and impetrate the grace of God. If we had not free-will, we should not pray. We pray for assistance because we know that we can do wrong as well as right, and we want assistance to enable us to do what is right. If we are fatally ruled in all we do, prayer is out of the question. Consequently prayer is illogical to