« PrécédentContinuer »
could give her, he would overwhelm her with marks of his love and gratitude.
No doubt God needs not the gifts of His people, but no doubt the withholding of gifts is a sign of a sordid, ungrateful spirit. The reasoning of the Church has ever been, "My Lord embraced poverty for me; then I will pour out my riches at His feet: for me He humbled himself, then I will exalt Him; for my sake He has exposed Himself to men's neglect, then will I redouble my homage and adoration."
To offer compensation to her Lord is the delight of the Church. She does not lament over broken alabaster boxes and costly spikenard poured out upon Him, as so much “waste,” but she opens her gifts to present Him with gold and frankincense and myrrh. To commemorate Christ's self-sacrifice, she has called out all the powers of man. For this her doctors have written, her poets have sung, her architects and artists have laboured, and her musicians have composed. All her efforts have ever been to keep alive in the minds and hearts of her children an affectionate remembrance of what their Redeemer taught, did, and suffered for their sakes.
“Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits,
But he was dead, and there he sits,
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother's face,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet
Tennyson : In Memoriam.
I cannot refrain from quoting some beautiful words of the late Arthur Henry Hallam which bear upon this subject. He is discussing the poems of Dante and of Petrarch, and shewing how by Christianity love has been enthroned in a way that to the old pagan world would not only have been impossible but injurious. "Plato, it is well known," he says, “inculcated the expediency of personal attachment as an incentive to virtue. He seems to have seen clearly enough the impossibility of governing man otherwise than through his affections; and the necessity of embodying our conceptions of beauty and goodness in some object worthy of love. But Plato had little influence on social manners. Many admired his eloquence, and many puzzled themselves with his metaphysics; but the peculiarities of his ethical system were not appreciated by the two great nations of antiquity. His kingdom was not of that world. It began only when the stone was rolled away from the Sepulchre, and the veil of the Temple was rent in twain. Platonism became the natural ally of Christianity. Mr. Coleridge has said, “he is a plank from the wreck of Paradise cast on the shores of idolatrous Greece."" Then, after remarking on the sentiment of erotic devotion which pervades Hebrew literature as compared with that of every other ancient people, he continues, “But what is true of Judaism is yet more true of Christianity, 'matre pulchrâ filia pulchrior.' In addition to all the characters of Hebrew Monotheism, there exists in the doctrine of the Cross a peculiar and inexhaustible treasure of the affectionate feelings. The idea of the OrávOputos, the God whose goings forth have been from everlasting, yet visible to men for their redemption as an earthly, temporal creature, living, acting, and suffering among themselves, then (which is yet more important) transferring to the unseen place of His spiritual agency the same humanity He wore on earth, so that the lapse of generations can in no way affect the conception of His identity; this is the most powerful thought that ever addressed itself to a human imagination. It is the mov OTW which alone was wanted to move the world. Here was solved at once the great problem which so long had distressed the teachers of mankind, how to make virtue the object of passion, and to secure at once the warmest enthusiasm in the heart with the clearest perception of right and wrong in the understanding. The character of the blessed Founder of our Faith became an abstract of morality to determine the judgment, while at the same time it remained personal and liable to love. The written word and established Church prevented a degeneration into ungoverned mysticism, but the predominant principle of vital religion always remained that of self-sacrifice to the Saviour. Not only the higher divisions of moral duties, but the simple primary impulses of benevolence were subordinated to this new absorbing passion. The world was loved in Christ alone.'
The brethren were members of His mystical body. All the other bonds that had fastened down the spirit of the universe to our narrow round of earth, were as nothing in comparison to this golden chain of suffering and self-sacrifice which at once riveted the heart of man to One who, like himself, was acquainted with grief. Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature, and union through pain has always seemed more real and more holy than any other. It is easy to see how these ideas reign in the early Christian books, and how they continued to develop and strengthen themselves in the rising institutions of the Church. The Monastic spirit was the principal emanation from them ; but the same influence, though less apparent, was busily circulating through the organization of social
life. Who can read the eloquent compositions of Augustine, without being struck by their complexion of ardent passion, tempered indeed, and supported by the utmost keenness of intellect."1
This passionate love necessarily exhibits itself in worship. As the son sets his mother's photograph in a handsome frame, and the daughter encrusts the locket containing her hair with gold and gems, so does the Christian adorn and beautify everything that is to him a memorial of his Lord. He builds Him the most beautiful shrine, he decorates it with gold and marble and cedar, he fills its windows with coloured panes and covers the walls with paintings. He makes the service speak to him of Christ, and he glorifies it with organ note and the strain of chorister.
Every gesture of the priest preserves some memorial of his Lord; the altar is hung with velvet and gold because on it his Emmanuel rests, the chalice blazes with jewels because in it is the blood shed for him. The Host is elevated amidst swing of censers and a glow of tapers, because It is the bread broken for him. Flowers beautify the sanctuary, for his Lord dwells there; bells peal out in glad announcement that the Christ is coming. All men kneel because He is there.
This is the secret of ritual and the splendour of Catholic worship. Let those who meddle with the practices of public worship to curtail ceremonies, and one by one to extinguish its glories, know that they are offering thereby an insult to the Lord in Whom they say they believe. The prelate who will lavish thousands on the adornment of his palace, or on heavy insurance of his life for the benefit of wife and children, will persecute, and drive from his church, the poor curate who, loving his Lord better than himself, out of his slender income sacrifices a third to the adornment of the altar.
1 Hallam's Remains, pp. 274-283.
A savage mob will sack a church where the ceremonial is reverently symbolical of the burning heart consumed with love to Christ, but it will leave unmolested the slovenly priest and the despised altar.
Why? Because neither prelate nor people know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, and in narrow bigotry they will not tolerate what they do not know and understand. The Saracen conqneror burned the greatest library in the world, stored with the wisdom of ages, “because,” said he, “I do not understand letters, and therefore they must be bad and worthless”-a true Protestant sentiment !
But even the stranger who has eyes to see and ears to hear, cannot altogether miss the spirit of true Christian worship :--the celebrated Lavater, a Zwinglian pastor, was not too blinded by Protestant prejudice to catch the significance of Catholic ritual; and with his impressions of a Catholic Church I close this chapter.
“He doth not know Thee, O Jesus Christ, who dishonoureth even Thy shadow. I honour all things where I find the intention of honouring Thee. I will love them because of Thee. What do I behold here? What do I hear in this place? Does nothing under these majestic vaults speak to me of Thee ? This cross, this golden image, is it not made in Thine honour ? The censer which waves around the priest, the Gloria sung in chorus, the peaceful light of the perpetual lamp, these burning tapers, all is done for Thee. Why is the Host elevated, if it be not to honour Thee, O Jesus Christ, Who art dead for love of us? Because It is no more, and Thou art It, the believing Church bends the knee. It is in Thy honour alone that these children, early instructed, make the sign of the