« PredošláPokračovať »
Thus all is fresh and beautiful as when first she came forth from God in all her perfection—a perfection complete in itself, save only in the numbers of the elect, that in the latter days were to enter in through her porch, to fulfil the number of the faithful. In all things else she is complete. “ It is finished,” said our Blessed Saviour on the cross ; the work of man's redemption has been consummated; the treasury of His Spouse has been filled to overflowing,-a goodly store of all that man can need has been laid up, and only waits his knocking at the gate, that God's almoners may come forth, and impart from the wealth that is within what is needful to each of the suppliants. Here all may come, that come in the spirit of blessed poverty, and they shall be filled. Here all that are in sorrow shall find rest to their souls,—" The blind shall see, the lame walk, the lepers be cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them."*
“Oh ! how wondrous is this prophetic proof daily fulfilled and renewed in the body of the faithful. To the elder sister were vouchsafed tokens only, and palpable miracles, but to the younger those higher privileges of seeing spiritual wonders worked, and daily renewed in her pale. Here those that were blind by prejudice or sin, are enlightened by the splendour of His light; they that halted in the path of justice are strengthened to walk stedfastly, through the holy oils of confirmation ; they that were polluted in the leprosy of sin are cleansed. They whose ears were open only to the wiles of the world, are now closed to the syren, and opened to hear the music of heavenly joys; they that were swathed in the grave of sin, hear God's voice calling to them to come forth, and awake to the resurrection of life; and, oh! above all, the doctrine that poverty is blessed, is indeed proclaimed; for while the rich wallow in the pleasures of the flesh,' and are sent empty away,' the poor
have the gospel preached unto them, and are exalted.”+ Such are the hopes, such are the beatific expectations of those, who as yet stand in the porch of the Church. Nigra sum, sed formosa,” says the spouse of herself; and most truly she is dark but beautiful. She is dark in her solemn and inexplicable mysteries, but beantiful in the
way they are unfolded to our weak comprehension. She is dark in the veil that covers her sanctuary, but beautiful in her clothing “ of varieties." She is dark in the silent thoughts that fill the hearts of those that love her, with solemn meditations, but beautiful in the joys that flow from her heavenly countenance. She is dark in the penitential
weeds of purple, but beautiful in the fruits that spring from penance; she is dark to the sinner, but beautiful when seen through contrite tears. She is dark to him who wanders apart on the barren hills of this dreary world, but beautiful when the way-worn pilgrim returns to find in her that rest which he has sought for in vain elsewhere. She is dark to him whose eye is as yet but opened to her perfection, whose callow wings are as yet unused to lofty flight ; but beautiful when he hath learned from her how to soar upward to the region of solemn thought. She is dark when in the vestments of death she mourns over her Redeemer's sepulchre, but beautiful when our hearts are wounded thereat with the sword that pierced the sweet soul of Mary.* She is dark, when in the same colour of woe she pours forth her sighs of intercession for the faithful departed, but beautiful when the prison of hope is made glad" by the coming of St. Michael, the standard-bearer, to tell the captives that her prayers and supplications have been heard, and that he has come to bring them unto holy light.”+
As long as we are in the weeds of flesh, our words and thoughts must be clothed in material garb; so that to express what is most spiritual and exalted, we are constrained to use a phraseology drawn from what is earthly and corporeal. And thus, as in the immaterial view of Christ's holy spouse, we use the language which she herself adopts, by God's Spirit
, as suited to our confined ideas : so also, when standing in the porch of Christ's material temple, the humble worshipper looks through the wicket, and beholds that she is dark, materially dark ;—but as his eye gets used to her dim religious light, he finds that she is indeed most beautiful. First it is the stately line of tall columns, flanking the pave that strikes his view; then the lively cerulean of the roof, spangled with enrichments, like the stars of heaven-the dim coronæ held as it were by the hands of angels ;-the blessed rood of Jesu, with his holy Mother and her beloved Son, standing below in all the suffering of what was more than actual martyrdom ;—these breaking the dim storied lights of the solemn chancel, till, as his eye is used to this glimpse of a better and more hopeful Eden, it rests on the pale lamp of the sanctuary, burning continually before " the resting love” of the adorable victim. Then it is that he feels the full power of the mystic words of the spouse-Nigra sum, sed formosa--that he enters on the full depth of her supersubstantial fairness, and from the inmost sanctuary of his soul exclaims—that she is, in very deed, most beautiful !
* “ Coll. in Fest. Sept. Dolor. B. V. M.
† “Office. Mort. Offert."
Nor does this beauty ever diminish. As if even material things, consecrated to her use, should be hallowed, by the gift, we do not say of sufficiency, but of that relative sufficiency which satisfies the heart, and yet claims it not-as all other objects of affection do, tliat dance round our hearts with a lure that glitters for a while; the material Church, when erected on the true principles of Christian art, made subservient to Christian faith, grows in beauty with our gaze, and draws afresh on our love, in proportion as we come nearer to the fountain head, the adorable victim--from whom welleth all that gives life andi grace to the remotest corner of the hallowed edifice. Visit her in the early morning, before the sun is risen, when as yet in her vast extent there
may be but one or two silent worshippers, when the earliest bell gives warning of a day-break mass; when visible shadows fall from the tapers of the altar, when even a sigh may be heard through the silent pile. Watch her as the day begins to grow, when from darkness, as on a sudden, light returns at once; when now the hum of early worshippers grows apace; when the tapers, that but a short time since were bright, have subsided into tranquil radiance ;--when on other altars other holy men offer up the august sacrifice, when mass after mass succeeds, and still the church is filled with worshippers ;-when the lights on the high altar are kindled, the solemn organ fills the vaults, and the voices of the faithful rise in symbolic unison with the odorous clouds of incense. Yet tarry awhile, and see as the garish day advances God's house is not deserted; prolong your vigils and meditate with the few who still remain, as noon wears away, to take their fill of the sweet glimpse of heaven-whose footfalls are like shadows, not of earth but of heaven. Ohl truly then in every hour that has passed, you will exclaim--that she is indeed most beautiful.
Go from pillar to pillar, from altar to altar, meditate, take thy fill ; thou art sure that there is the manna that comes down from heaven!
Who that has once heard the deep rolling of the bell in its tower, can ever forget the emotion that this voice of the Church excites ? It is the vesper bell. The solemn line of priests and acolites approaches; the psalms,--the language of the Church more especially from the hour of her renovation on the altar of the Cross, when our blessed Saviour entoned the “Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabachthani” till this day, yea, till eternity, are chaunted. The Miracle of Canticles, the huinble song of our blessed Mother, is sung, the commemorations are recited, till last of all the anthem of praise to the blessed Virgin Mary is sung, like the last, fairest link in the communion of saints—and still all is beau. tiful.
The shadows of evening begin to fall, the eastern oriel is dim, darkness has again veiled the church, but yet there appears suddenly a bright light, from numberless tapers gleaming on the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. Before night hath finally closed in, we are to be strengthened against the illusions of the dark, by the benediction of the adorable victim-Noctem quietem da nobis. And truly under the shadow of such wings the night must be quiet. Again the sound of heavenly music is heard echoing through the ample vaults ; the remonstrance is turned, with bended knee and head, the blessing is given and received, the lights are extinguished, but yet for awhile the song of the faithful continues, and the remembrance of the joyful day
Meanwhile all retire to their several homes the pilgrim or devout worshipper is for the first time left alone, and the pale lamp of the sanctuary tells him-ALONE with his GOD!
In Catholic countries this is no fanciful picture, no creation of a warm imagination, but the unvarnished recollection of simple facts. “ Hodie legimus in libro experientiæ.' Such scenes were once common in England, in those noble piles which for God's honour and worship the piety of our forefathers erected; and over all Christendom there are no buildings more suitable for symbolizing such devotional beauty than in our own country, nor perhaps are there hearts constituted for appreciating such thoughts more common than the English heart! With God's blessing, these happy days may be restored, though for a while the faithful can only weep and say—“ But thou, O Lord, how long!" With God's blessing we may rebuild our Sion, though still there will be those who will weep when they look on our best exertions—ancient men, who call to mind the splendour of former temples-and in humbleness of heart confess, that we cannot equal the simplicity of faith of those whose works remain as a silent witness against men who have profaned their use, by the abomination of desolation. But every stone that has been consecrated has a tongue, and if we but weep before the altar, in His good time, who alone searcheth the secret hearts of men, they shall be restored again, or give testimony hereafter to the purity of our earnest desires.
For how many are there who now long after the ancient beautywho dwell as it were in the PORCH OF THE CHURCH, who see her dark, but not beautiful. Let us bear and forbear, and this darkness shall be light, for charity is beautiful though sorrow may make her seem dark
* Sti. Bernardi Ser. iii., super Cantic. Cantic.
while it lasts. It is not the will that is wrong in' many, but the haze of early prejudice: Let the faithful cling to the altar, and raise up the voice of intercessional prayer in the behalf of those who look not beyond the verge, and, ah ! 'how brightly shall light come at their call; how many shall confess that Christ's spouse though dark, is beautiful, and bless the day that called them to enter, when as yet they stood but in the PORCH OF THE CHURCH !
In Oct. Bened. Corp. Christ., 1842.
AD GALLI CANTUM” FROM THE CATHEMERINON OF AURELIUS PRUDENTIUS
Hark! 'tis the bird of light that sings
The coming of the nearing day,
Awake to Christ, our loving way.
Slothful, or sick, or healthful, hear,
chaste and just to keep
While shines the blazing sun in heaven,
The hours for toil and labour given.
Reflect, that while he sings above,
From higher throne, thy worth to prove.
Thy bed of sloth—to action rise;
To [bold intent] and glowing skies.
Disperses o'er the tempered air,
For holier hope of light more rare.