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THE NAVE OF THE CHURCH.
“O veræ quietis locus, et quem non immerito cubiculi appellatione censuerim, in quo Deus, non quasi turbatus irâ, nec velut distentus curâ prospicitur, sed probatur voluntas ejus in eo bona, et beneplacens, et perfecta. Visio ista non terret, sed mulcet, inquietam curiositatem non excitat, sed sedat; nec fatigat sensus, sed tranquillat. Hic verè quiescitur. Tranquillus Deos tranquillat omnia, et quietum aspicere, quiescere est.”— Sti. Bernardi, super Cant. Ser. xxiii. fol. 139, L. H.
“O Place of True Rest, and which I think is well called a bed-chamber, in which God is seen, not as one disturbed with wrath, neither as vexed with care, but wherein is proven his good, and gracious, and perfect will. This vision terrifies not but soothes ; stirs not up unquiet curiosity but allays it; neither does it weary the senses, but tranquillizes them. Here, in very deed, there is rest. God, tranquil, stills all, and the sight of Him resting is rest.” How goodly and how many are the holy thoughts, like winged worshippers, unseen too as they, that throng the heart of the silent worshipper, as he kneels in meditation in the NAVE OF THE CHURCH. But to feel them aright, to lavish therein in full sweep, he must needs enter into the chancel, where the Holy of Holies dwells, and where all is redolent of Paradise. Yet even there, there is but a glimpse, a shadow, as it were, of the good things to come, in that sanctuary of sanctuaries, the chancel of the New Jerusalem, where alone is to be found that full fruition which here we love in prospect, and long for, saying, Usquequo, Domine, usquequo. “But Thou, O Lord, how long!"
In the porch we sow the seed, and the shoots young and tender break forth; but in the Nave the blossoms come forth in their beauty, and form into fruit,-fruit that is ripened in the sanctuary. Hence every thing around is to be turned to the advantage of the yet frail plant. Unseen agency and quickening suggestions from heavenly guardians must needs be heedfully received; the very silence of the holy place tells of that long-suffering patience with which Forbearing God holds back till we dissolve in tears, and that chair of penance where we have so lately knelt proclaims that, to those that have wept aright, answering angels have rejoiced in heaven, and the long line of Community of Holiness is still intercessionally imploring that we may watch aright, and by humble perseverance continue in the new and better way
which their much prized but common grace has begotten ;-in us the tears, in them new joy, and imprecating its descent on us, that we may receive it now as they too receive it, and that in us it may beget a better assurance of our, one day, feeling the effects thereof which they now experience,—increase namely of holy love, and continually increasing devotion to the one end, aim, and object of their and our creation.
From the alpha of the western porch, to the brilliant omega of the chancel, from transept to transept, from pillar to pillar, from the symboled tiles of the pavement to the golden stars that semée the azure spandrils of the lofty roof;—from the depth of the under-croft, to the watchful bird of St. Peter that crowns the cross of the massy tower's spire,--there is not an inch of ground that is not full of subjects suited to the deepest heart. God is a Spirit and a Mystery; our souls also are Spirits, and they are mysteries. Therefore it is fitting that He should be in all our thoughts, and that there should be congruity between us, by means of that which unites us with Him; albeit the union can only be that of the finite and created, with Him the Infinite'and Increate,—the one and only Fountain from which all life flows. Thus also Spirit may, or rather cannot, join with Spirit, but in that communion which leads link-like towards Him; seeing that, however their degree in the order of creation, the highest as well as the lowest emanated solely from Him, who is the common source from whom all orders have sprung. Hence, in compassion to our compound nature, which is half angelic, half plastic,—of heaven and earth,--designed for ever for heaven; and moulded of earth, for earth for a time; and modified for heaven for eternity ;-so, while we are in the material state of existence, there are given therein, as it were, windows, through which the soul may read, in sensible things, subjects for mysteries as deep as shall give full scope in eternity for the glorified being to contemplate, and in contemplation to rejoice.
Hence we have food for the soul in all the tangible objects that are around us, the suggestions of which we must perfect by that wondrous, tangible, and material mystery of the Incarnation, which not only our souls enjoy, but also our bodies, in the verily and indeed presence of the adorable victim, who for every want and use rests tangibly on the altar within the sanctuary. Hence, by a needful corollary, the use of sensible images, as books or landmarks of the soul, are needful and required by the example of Him who gave the Highest Mystery of Love to us in a double form sensibly,—first, in the Incarnation, from the cradle of Bethlehem to the altar of Calvary,--and since, in his veiled humanity, under which he daily and hourly dwells in his Church, under the semblance of supersubstantial bread, on the fruits of which two mysteries we are nourished, and fed, and guided, from the cradle, through baptism, to the grave, through the last viaticum in the administration of which comfort is poured on the soul, when the light of this world is closing, but the brighter light of a better day is dawning.
Like one watching the pale sky at eventide, when the sun is down, sees at first through the dim light, only the pale and uniform arch that spans the heaven ; but as he fixes his eye, star by star becomes visible, and having once been seen, is lost to the eye no more, but continues in the deep blue sky, travelling onward serenely, till it descends into the dim horizon, or the haze which springs from earth's long dull atmosphere. Such is the true course of the soul of man, in reference to and connexion with the Church; from the time when it becomes espoused to her, and through her, to Him who first gave it being, and clothed it in the garment of flesh,-visible, palpable, material. It seems to leap out of infinite space, and by its union in baptism with the Church, becomes a star that gladdens the heart of Angels, and Allhallows in the court of heaven; by cooperating with grace, it is clothed in a mantle of light, and travels onward, till its material shell fades away, and it is lost to the eyes of men. Albeit, if upheld by perseverance, and made strong by the holy rites of the Church, in the infinite beyond our narrow vision, it shall shine as a star, in justice to all eternity. Once it was impalpable_when apart from grace ;-once united, if the haze of temptation and sinful propensity be shaken off, it becomes bright and visible, and goes on its way rejoicing, to be lost and tarnished no more.
Hence the sting of death is in very deed robbed of its virulence, and when the sun of mortal life hath set, neither to itself nor to those that remain is its substance fled, nor its purpose in creation at an end. If robed in lustre, the soul leave this world, its powerful intercession is exerted in favour of those who remain on earth; like that of the canonized Saints of the Church, whom she th
many more than those whom she hath singled out for man's worship,—such as those twelve thousand who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, in white garments ; or that multitude of tribes, and nations, and peoples, and tongues, which no man could number. Those, by their continual prayers,
obtain perpetual dew of grace to fall unseen into the hearts of men, with that individual tenderness, with which they loved their homes on earth ; and mourned and prayed in secret, while yet alive; but whom they still pray
for with renewed fervour, all the more powerful now, that it is sinless and immaculate, and that instead of a single sigh sent upwards, it is joined with the united suffrages of all their fellow-saints.
How many saintly innocents are there, taken away hence, ere reason had come, not indeed like those of old, in Bethlehem, baptized with blood, but in the regenerating streams of baptism ;-how many lift up their pure hands in the sight of God, and invoke mercy on those, who were their means of life and bliss; whose parents haply mourned over their early loss, and shed bitter natural tears over the waxen stillness of dead infancy, and who for a while refused to be comforted by the words of the Church, whose tones of joy assured them, that Beati immaculati in viâ,--that they have exchanged the perils and shares of an uncertain end, for the beatific vision and angelic nature. Pray, then, dear little ones, sweet rosebuds of heaven,- for your earthly parents; pray, angels of God, for your brothers and sisters, whose little hearts were half broken when ye went, and whose playful mood was hushed with unwonted awe, when they gazed on the peaceful slumber of death, and on the narrow bed where the vessel that contained your heavenly fire still lay, beautiful in death, as if it had shared in the sudden joy, into which you went, and retained in death a moulded smile of heavenly contentment. Pray, sweet innocents, for her that bore ye, and suffered so much for you,-long sickness, weary pangs, and much anxiety,—and who wept for ye, as is nature's wont. Pray for him who was your father in the flesh; and pray for those who led ye to the font, and for him who, by virtue of the power of the Church, drove out the wicked spirit from its too fair dwelling, and who poured on your head those cleansing waters of regeneration, which made ye fitting temples for the Holy Ghost, and meet for what ye now possess—the kingdom of Heaven.
Death is indeed bitter, where the seal of faith has not been set. To such it is hopeless and a void; with the parting spirit all is broken, and neither for the living nor the dead is there a further communion, save only in the treachery of affection, or unavailing memory that veils while it embitters. But in the deep-rooted faith of ages, the sting of death is indeed taken away, the grave is no longer victorious, and hell no longer triumphs. The link that binds the quick, the dead, and the glorified, is not made of flesh, but rather is riveted and welt by its dissolution, and is made meet to be hereafter renewed in the glorified, what here had its origin in the imperfect state; so that the loosing of a band by death, is made to act doubly on the living and the dead, and to call forth a wondrous interchange of purification, which flows through the alembic of affliction, distilling charity.
We are not one on earth-we are many: the cold and chilling creed that turns a deaf ear to the collective graces that emanate from the
Church Catholic, may pride itself in an ideal assembly, but the onhappy individual who embraces it is indeed isolated; he lives apart, and in the midst of thousands he is alone. Each one is one of those for whom the accumulated treasures of the Church have been laid up in store, and if he will not be of the number of those who shall inherit a blessing, he must needs be of those who shall receive a doom. Alas! such an one is isolated—he is a withered and a broken branch, that shall not give out its goodly leaves for ever. He dies, and the shadows of night cover him; those behind weep, but pray they cannot, save only in a natural terror for themselves alone in unavailing sorrow. They are of the number of those who have no hope—a mist, dark and impenetrable, shrouds the future,- no vision of a gathering Angel pours forth in the vast unknown its incense of holy prayers, hidden sighs of contrition, or golden fruits of secret almıs-deeds ;—no Angel guardian waits for their dead, to shield the soul of the departed from the deep pit, or to guide its way to holy light ;-no office of holy Church is offered up for its repose ;—00 tapers lit attend it to the grave, and point to a joyful resurrection ;-no prayers are uttered as the spirit passes away ;—no morning, mid-day, nor evening remem. brance supplicates absolution and forgiveness for whatever it may have committed through human frailty ;-no communion of glory stills the sighs and sobs of natural affection, and makes that sorrow sweet that draws the weeping survivor closer to the Cross, by the side of her whose soul was pierced through with the sword of grief. Alas! their dead was but one, and they who remain are desolate.
Speak we this in bitterness ? Alas, it is not so, but as a motive for renewed desire that not one, but all may partake of the blessings of Christ's kingdom, which is not of this world, though to us begun herein; that the glorious time may come for the filling up of that kingdom, and that through those who now dwell apart that happy time may
The marriage feast is laid, but there is yet room for many guests ; the porch stands open, and on the symbolled pavement of this Nave there is place for countless kneeling worshippers. The clustered pillars were made to hide the tears of the gentle but broken spirit. Why are they not filled, and why should the afflicted not seek refuge in the bosom of a mother that loves so tenderly, and can sooth so sweetly? The pavement was laid for the knees of the contrite, and why then should there be hearts so proud as to stand aloof, and not to seek for consolation where it is alone to be found ? Why should the confessionals be deserted, when sin is not deserted ? When the rankling of an uneasy conscience pricks, galls, or festers under concealment; when the virtue