05 May 2017

The Church: An Eastertide Reflection

I read this today in The Liturgical Year, and found it packed with insight, as Gueranger often is. It beautifully describes what the Church is in her essence, interprets the storms of history, in its discussion of the travails of the Church leading to the Lateran Treaty, it bears such easy application to the rise of Modernism and the situation in the Church. Right. Now.:

Church of Jesus! that wast promised by him to the earth during the days of his mortal life; that camest forth from his sacred Side when wounded by the spear upon the Cross; that wast organized and perfected by him during the last days of his sojourn here below; we lovingly greet thee as our mother; thou art the Spouse of our Redeemer, and it is through thee that we were born to him. It is thou that gavest us life by baptism; it is thou that givest us the word, which enlightens us; it is thou that ministerest to us the helps, whereby we are led, through our earthly pilgrimage, to heaven; it is thou that governest us, in the spiritual order, by thy holy ordinances.

Under thy maternal care we are safe; we have nothing to fear. What can error do against us? Thou art the pillar and ground of the truth! What effect can the revolutions of our earthly habitation have upon us? We know, that if everything else should fail us, thou wilt ever be with us. It was during these very days which precede the Ascension, that our Lord Jesus said to his Apostles, and through them, to their successors: Behold! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. What a promise of duration was this! If we consult the history of these last eighteen hundred years, it will tell us that this promise has never once been broken. The gates of hell have risen up against thee innumerable times; but they have never prevailed against thee, no, not for one single moment!

And thus it is, O Church! that being founded on Christ thy Spouse, thou givest us a share in thine own divine immutability! Established as we are in thee, there is not a truth which the eye of our faith cannot see; there is not a blessing which, despite our weakness, we may not make our own; there is no object shown us by hope, which we may not attain. Thou holdest us in thine arms; and from the height whereto thou raisest us, we see the mysteries of time and the secrets of eternity. Our eye admiringly follows thee, whether we consider thee as militant on earth, suffering in thy dear ones who are in the temporary state of expiation, or triumphant in heaven. Thou art with us in our exile, and already art thou, in millions of thy children, heiress of the eternal kingdom. Keep us near thee, nay, within thee, O thou our Mother, who art the beloved Spouse of Our Lord. To whom shall we go but to thee? Is it not to thee, and to thee alone, that he has entrusted the words of eternal life?

How much they are to be pitied, O Church! who do not know thee! And yet, if they are seeking God with all their heart, they will, one day, know thee. How much they are to be pitied who once knew thee, and afterwards, in their pride and ingratitude, denied thee! And yet no one ever fell into such misery, unless he first voluntarily shut his eyes against the light that was within him. How much they are to be pitied who know thee, and still live enjoying what thou givest thy children, and who yet take side with thine enemies in insulting and betraying thee! They are men whose character is shallowness of mind; they speak their opinions as though they were oracles; they have contracted the flippant effrontery of our age: and to hear them speak of thee, one would suppose that they look on thee as a human institution, which they may approve or blame according to their humour.

Instead of revering whatsoever thou hast taught regarding thyself and thy rights; instead of revering what thou hast ordained, regulated, and practised; these Catholics, whose sympathies are all with thine enemies, would have thee conform thy teachings and conduct with the so-called Progress of the times. The whole world is given to thee as thine inheritance; and yet these insolent children would have thee be content with what they think proper to assign to thee. Thou, the Mother of mankind, must be under their wise care! it is from them thou must, henceforth, learn how best to fulfil thy mission! Godless men, adorers of what they called the rights of man, dared, a century back, to expel thee from political life, which up till then thou hadst kept in harmony with its divine Master. These men have left disciples, who would have thee withdraw from everything that regards the outward world, and look on as a mere stranger. Thou must no longer exercise the rights given thee by the Son of God over both soul and body; this royalty of thine is out of date, and thou must be satisfied to enjoy the liberty which, in virtue of the law of Progress, is granted alike to error and to truth. The wise and powerful ones of this world have dethroned the Vicar of thy Spouse after a thousand years' reign; and instead of resenting such a project with holy indignation, as tending to the destruction of the last bulwark of Christendom-- there are many among us who approve of it, and this on principles which are, it is true, in favor with rationalistic politicians, but which are formally condemned by thy teachings, thy acts, nay, by thy very existence. How short-sighted are such Catholics as these, who hope to make thee acceptable to the world by giving thee the semblance of a human institution! The world is too shrewd: it knows thee to be essentially supernatural, and this is what it never can tolerate.

Wiser and more Christian by far are they who, detesting such profane theories, have, like devoted Machabees, drawn the sword against thine enemies, O Church of Christ! and even in an age like this, when faith has grown weak, have so well understood their Christian duty as to die in thy defence, and, by so dying, to win the crown of martyrdom. Yes, it is our duty to confess thee: to disguise thee is to belie thee. Thou art one of the articles of our Creed: 'I believe the holy Catholic Church.' Thou hast been known these nineteen hundred years; and shall men now pretend that thou must conform to the world's capricious views? This cannot be. Jesus made thee be like himself-- a sign of contradiction: and as such we must receive thee. We must listen to thy protestations against false principles and practices, and not attempt to remodel thee. Only God has power to give his Church a form other than that he has already given her.

Blessed are they who share thy lot, dear Church of our Redeemer! In these unchristian times thou art unpopular. Thou wast so in ages long gone by, when men could not become thy children save at the risk of being despised. It is the same now, and we are resolved to espouse thy cause. We confess thee to be our mother, inaccessible to the changes of the world. Whether honoured or persecuted, thou continuest thy mission here below. Thus will it be until the time comes when this earth, which was created to be thy kingdom, shall see thee ascend to heaven, and flee from a world which will deserve the severest chastisements of God's anger, because of its having despised and rejected thee. 


2 comments:

christine said...

Is that a very bad reproduction of the Last Judgement? Or is there some reason there is purple that vaguely suggests a human face that is superimposed? What is going on there? Anyone?

Mary said...

for a better perspective:
http://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/Last-Judgement.html