Our Lady Saint Mary
J. G. H. Barry

Part 4 out of 6

system of the Church and denial of the authority of the Catholic Church
in favour of the right of private judgment, has ended, as it could not
help but end, in open abandonment of the life-ideal of the Gospels. We
now have the application of the right of private judgment in the theory
that one's morals are one's own concern. Such things have happened
before. "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every one did
what was right in his own eyes." The social state depicted in the Book
of Judges reflects this revolt. The result of the same repudiation of
authority is seen in modern society where what is right in one's own
eyes is the whole Law and Gospel. Are we to remain quiescent, or are we
to make the attempt to generate moral force?

But how can Christendom generate any more moral force? The teaching of
the Gospel which it proclaims is perfectly plain. True, but is the
adherence of the Church to its statements perfectly plain? Is there no
falling away, no compromise, there?

When one speaks thus of the Church one is conscious of a confusion of
thought in the use of the word. The teaching of the formal documents of
the Church is not here in question; what we necessarily mean is the
effect that the existing membership of the Church is having upon
contemporary life. What we have especially in mind is the attitude of
the clergy and the action of the congregation in the way of moral force.
What sort of a front is the church presenting to the world, what sort of
moral influence is it exercising?

It seems to me perfectly evident that all along the line the conventions
of contemporary society have been accepted in the place of the
life-ideals of the Gospel of Jesus. We have accepted plain departures
from or compromises with Christian teaching as the recognised law of
action. This is due largely to the natural sloth of the human being and
his disinclination to struggle for superior standards. He feels safe and
comfortable if he can succeed in losing himself in a crowd: thus he
escapes both trouble and criticism. A violation of law may become so
common that there is no public spirit to oppose it. The same thing may
happen in morals,--violations of the Christian standard, if sufficiently
widespread, command almost universal acquiesence. What is actually
uncovered in the process is the fact that the plain man has no morals of
his own, but imitates the prevailing morality; and if fashion sets
against some particular ruling of the Christian Religion he feels quite
secure in following the fashion. The _vox dei_ in Holy Scripture and in
Holy Church affect him not at all if he be conscious that he is on the
side of the _vox populi_.

It is easy to illustrate this. The non-Catholic Christian world has the
Bible, and boasts of its adherence to it as the sole guide of life; but
in the matter of divorced persons it utterly disregards its teachings.
By this acceptance of an unchristian attitude it has vastly weakened the
fight for purity in the family relation which the Catholic Church, at
least in the West, has always waged. It deliberately divides the
Christian forces of the community and to a large extent thereby
nullifies their action. The divisions of Christendom are terrible from
every point of view; but there are certain questions on which a united
mind might well be presented, and in relation to which an united mind
would go far to control the attitude of society. An united Christian
sentiment against divorce would go far to reduce the evil.

On the other hand the progress of the movement to abolish the evils
growing out of the use of alcohol has had its strength in the Protestant
bodies. On the whole (there were no doubt individual exceptions) the
Churches of the Catholic tradition have been lukewarm in the matter. It
is quite evident that the reform could never have been carried through
if left to them, and especially if left to the bishops and clergy of the
Roman and Anglican Communions. It is a plain case of failure to support
a vast moral reform because of the pressure of opinion in the social
circles in which they move, combined with a purely individualistic
attitude toward a grave social question.

Another instance is ready at hand in the practical abandonment of the
religious observance of Sunday. To Christians Sunday is the Lord's day,
and is to be observed as such. It is not true that an hour in the
morning is the Lord's day, and is to be given to worship, and that the
rest of the day is given to us to do what we will with. But in our own
Communion do we get any strong protest in favour of the sanctity of the
day? Or are not the clergy compromising in the hope that if they
surrender the greater part of the day to the world they will be able to
save an hour or two for God? But is anything actually saved by this sort
of compromise? Do we not know that the encroachments of worldliness that
have narrowed down Sunday observance to an hour a day will ultimately
demand that hour, that is, will deny any obligation other than the
obligation of inclination? Are we not bound to stand by the Lord's day?
Are we to be made lax by silly talk about puritanism? Those who talk
about the "Puritan Sunday" would do well to read a little of the
Medieval legislation of the Church. Are we to keep silent in the pulpit
because wealthy and influential members of the congregation want to
play golf and tennis on Sunday afternoons, or children want to play ball
or go to the movies? Are we to be taken in by talk of hard work during
the week and consequent need of rest? It is no doubt well that a man
should arrange his work with a view to an adequate amount of rest; but
it is also well that he should rest in his own time and not in God's.
The Lord's day is not a day of rest. It ought to be, and is intended to
be, a very strenuous day indeed.

One could easily spend hours in pointing out where and how the Gospel
standard of life has been abandoned or compromised, and the life of the
Christian in consequence conformed to the world. The result would only
strengthen the position that has been already sufficiently indicated
that a wholly different standard of living has been quietly substituted
throughout the Western world for the standard that is contained in Holy
Scripture. Now we are either bound to be Christians or we are not; and
we are not Christians solely by virtue of certain beliefs more or less
loosely held. Our Lord's word is: "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever
I command you." And the Gospel view of life is a perfectly plain one,
and is as far removed from the common life of Christians to-day as it
possibly can be. The Gospel conception of the Christian life is
contained first of all in our Lord's life. That is the perfect human
life; and the New Testament optimism is well illustrated by its
conviction that that life in its essential features can, with the grace
of God, be imitated by man. And by those who have approached it in this
spirit of optimism it has been found imitable. Innumerable men and women
have lived the Christian life in the past and are living it in the
present. To-day the possibility of living the Christian life, of
bringing life approximately to the standard of the Gospel, is declared
to be an impracticable piece of optimism, and our Lord's teaching
hopelessly out of touch with reality. When people talk of the difficulty
of living the Christ-life under modern conditions, the plain answer is
that there is in fact only one difficulty in the matter, and that is the
difficulty of wanting to do it. It is a confession of utter spiritual
incompetence to say that we cannot follow the Gospel standards under
modern conditions because of the isolation in which we at once find
ourselves if we attempt it. If the attempt to be a Christian isolates
us, it tells a pretty plain tale about our chosen companionship. It is
asserting that it is hard for us to be Christians because we are devoted
to the society of those who are not Christians, of those who ignore it
and habitually insult the teachings of our Saviour. That is surely an
extraordinary confession for a Christian to make! Can we imagine a
Christian of the first period of the Church excusing himself for
offering incense to the divinity of Augustus on the ground that if he
did not do so certain court festivities would be closed to him, and that
his friends would think him odd!

"Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you," "The friendship
of this world is enmity with God." We have to choose. It is not that we
may choose. It is not that it is possible to have a little of both. As
Christians it is quite impossible in any real sense to have the
friendship of the world, though many Christians think that they can.
What really is open to us is the enmity of the world if we are sincere
and strict in our profession, and the contempt of the world if we are
not. You have not to read very deep in contemporary literature to learn
what the world thinks about the Christian who ignores or compromises his
standards. The world knows perfectly well what constitutes a Christian
life, and it shows a well merited scorn of those who, not having the
courage openly to abandon it, yet show by their lives that they do not
value it. We may not show the same sort of contempt for the "weak
brother" as S. Paul calls him, but we ought to make it plain that we
have no sort of approval of the brother who pleads weakness as an excuse
for laxity.

There is one law of life and only one; and that is summed up in our
Lady's direction to the servants at Cana in Galilee: "Whatsoever he
saith unto you, do it." There is no ground for pleading that our Lord's
will is an obscure will, or that circumstances have so changed that much
that He set forth in word and example has no application to-day in the
America of the twentieth century. Perhaps if any one feels that there is
some truth in the last statement, he would do well to examine the case
and to find out just what and how much of the Gospel teaching is
obsolete, and how much has contemporary application, and to ask himself
whether he is constantly putting in action that part which he thinks
still holds good. It will, I think, on examination be found that none of
our Lord's teaching is obsolete, though in some cases changed
circumstances may have changed its mode of application. Certainly there
is nothing obsolete in His teaching in the matter of purity. The virtues
that He dwells upon--humility, meekness and the rest--are universal
qualities on which time and social change have no effect.

What Christian conduct needs on our part is interest. We have to make
clear to ourselves that a certain kind of life is like the life of God,
and therefore is the medium for understanding God, and ultimately for
enjoying God. The Christian life is not an arbitrary thing; it is the
highest expression of humanity. Any other life is a distortion of the
human ideal. People talk as though they thought that by the arbitrary
will of God they were obliged to be good--a thing wholly contrary to our
nature and to our present interests. But goodness is the natural
unfolding of our nature as God made it: we find our true expression in
the likeness of God. Perfection is what nature aspires to. Religion is
not a curb on nature; religion is a help to enable nature to express
itself. Nature reaches its perfect expression when by the grace of God
it becomes godlike.

And the words of Christ are our guide to the perfect expression of our
best. Therefore the earnest Christian is willing to give time to the
careful study of them, and of the whole ideal of life that is contained
in them. He is not concerned with what they will cut him off from; he is
concerned with that to which they will admit him. He is concerned to
find the meaning of Christ's teaching. This that S. Paul says is
fundamental is his rule of life: "Be not conformed to this world: but be
ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is
that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Of one that is so fayr and bright
_Velut maris stella_,
Brighter than the day is light,
_Parens et puella_;
I crie to thee, thou see to me,
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,
_Tam pia_,
That I mote come to thee

Al this world was for-lore
_Eva peccatrice_,
Tyl our Lord was y-bore
_De te genetrice_.
With _Ave_ it went away
Thuster nyth and comz the day
The welle springeth ut of the,

Levedy, flour of alle thing,
_Rosa sine spina_,
Thu here Jhesu, hevene king,
_Gratia divina_;
Of alle thu ber'st the pris,
Levedy, quene of paradys
Mayde milde, moder _es




Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is
my brother, and sister, and mother,

S. Matt. XII, 50.

Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we may keep with an
immaculate heart the sacrament which we have received in honour of the
blessed virgin mother Mary; so that we who celebrate her feast now, may
be found worthy when we have left this life to pass into her company.
Through &c.


Our Blessed Lord had begun his ministry of preaching. The mark of the
early days of that preaching was success. Crowds came about Him wherever
He taught. The fact that there were frequent miracles of healing no
doubt added to the popularity that He achieved. It was largely the
popularity of a new and strange movement, of a preaching cutting across
the normal roads of instruction to which the Jewish people were
accustomed. There was a fascination about its form, its picturesque way
of conveying its meaning, its use of the parable drawn from the everyday
circumstances of life. There was nothing of hesitation in the words of
the new Preacher, but the ring of a dogmatic certainty. "He taught as
one having authority, and not as the scribes." He pushed aside the
rulings of the traditional teaching with His, "Ye have heard it said ...
but I say." "Verily, verily, I say unto you." And yet there are people
who tell us that there was nothing dogmatic about our Lord and His
teaching! One would infer from much that is written upon the subject of
our Lord's teaching that He was a very mild giver of good advice but
evidently the Scribes and Pharisees did not think so. They saw in Him a
man who was setting himself to undermine their whole authority.

This popularity was at a high point when an interesting event happened
of which we have an account in the first of the Gospels. "His mother
and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him." One gathers
from the whole tone of the narrative that they were anxious about Him,
that they looked with doubt upon this career of popular teacher that He
was launched upon and felt that He was going too far. He needed advice
and restraint, perhaps; it may be that there were already reports of
possible interference by the national authorities. The fact that His
"brethren" were present suggests the well meant interference of the
older members of the family, who must always have thought Jesus rather
strange. That they had induced His mother to come with them makes us
think that they were counting on the influence naturally hers, an
influence which must always have been apparent in their family
relations. So we reconstruct the incident.

No doubt S. Mary herself was anxious. She must always have been anxious
as to what would be the next step in the development of her mysterious
Child. And while there was one side of her relation to Jesus which would
always have run out into mystery, the mystery of the as yet unrevealed
will of God; on the other side she was no doubt a very real normal human
mother, with all a mother's anxiety and need of constant intervention in
the life of her Child. I do not suppose that S. Mary, any more than any
other mother, ever understood that her Son had grown up and could be
trusted to conduct the ordinary affairs of the day without her help. She
was no doubt as much concerned as any mother with the fact that His feet
might be wet, or that He might not have had any lunch, or that he might
have got run over by a passing chariot, or have been taken mysteriously
ill. It was, we may think, this mother-attitude which brought her along
with the brethren to give some advice as to how to carry on the
preaching mission and avoid getting into trouble with the religious
authorities. "One said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren
stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said
unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And
he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my
mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father
which is in heaven, the same is my mother, and my sister, and
my brother."

Our Lord had a way of turning the passing incidents of the moment to
account in His preaching, making them the texts of moral and spiritual
teaching. One gathers that more than one of the parables and parabolic
sayings was suggested by something that was before the eyes of His
hearers. He was quick to seize any spoken word, any question, any
exclamation, and to turn it to immediate account. It was so now. The
report that His mother and His brethren were seeking Him, He made the
occasion of a statement of vast import. When we try to think it out, it
was not in the least, as it has been perversely understood, an impatient
rebuff of an untimely interference, an indication that He did not care
for their intervention in a work that they did not understand. There is
really nothing of all that, but a seizing of a passing incident as the
medium of an universal truth. It is the skill of one who knows that the
human attention is caught by a matter, however trifling, which is
vividly present. The scene is sharply defined for us: our Lord
interrupted in His talk; the report of the mother and the brethren
seeking Him; the obvious interest of the people as to how He will take
their intervention; and then the rapid seizing of this interest to make
His declaration: "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in
heaven, the same is my mother, and my sister, and my brother."

And what are we to understand Him to mean? Surely He is declaring that
through the revelation of God that He is, there is a new stage in God's
work for man being entered upon, and that this new stage will be
characterised by the emergence of a new set of relations, relations so
important that they throw into the background the ordinary relations of
life. He is proclaiming to them the advent of the Kingdom of God; and in
that Kingdom, the service of God will be put first, before all human
relations. It will not be antagonistic to human relations; indeed, it
will hallow them and raise them to a higher level; but in case they, as
not infrequently they will, decline to adjust themselves to the work of
the Kingdom, or set themselves in opposition to it, then will they be
brushed aside, no matter what they be. If we can consecrate our human
relations and bring them into God, then will they be ours still with a
vast enrichment and a rare spiritual beauty; but if they remain selfish,
insist on absorbing all attention and energy, then they must be broken.
The love of father and mother and children is an holy thing wherever we
find it, but it is capable of becoming a selfish and perverse thing,
insistent upon its own ends and declining wider responsibilities. In
that case it must be regarded from the standpoint of a higher good: if
it stand in the path of the Kingdom it must be swept aside. So our Lord
declared in one of the most searching of His utterances; one of the
utterances which we feel could come only from the lips of God: "Think
not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but
a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and
the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her
mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be those of his own household. He
that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he
that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

That is the teaching of the incident before us. Our Lord's primary
mission is to declare the will of God, and to make known the mind of the
Father to all who will heed. Their acceptance of this will of the Father
will bring them into a new relation to Him more important than, and
transcending, all relations of flesh and blood. But--and this is
important to mark--it does not exclude relations of flesh and blood; but
it demands that they shall be put on a new basis and be assimilated to
the higher relation. In our Lord's case they were in fact so
assimilated. The blessed Mother and the brethren did not resist God's
will when they came to understand it. They were, we know, glad of the
higher relation, the new privilege. There is no ground at all for the
suggestion of any breach between them. They are of the inner circle
always in the Kingdom of the regenerate.

This fundamental truth of Christ's teaching, that through Him a new and
closer relation to the Father becomes possible, and that the Kingdom is
its embodiment, is one of the truths which have received constant
lip-service, but have never been really assimilated in the working life
of the Church. That the Church is the Body of Christ and we His members,
and that by virtue of this membership in Him we are also members one of
another; that we are, at our entrance into the Kingdom, made, as the
Catechism puts it, members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the
kingdom of Heaven are truths of most marvellous reach and of splendid
social implications. But can we say that they have very wide or real

In face of a divided Christendom it seems almost farcical to talk of a
Christian Brotherhood. The baptismal membership of the Church of God has
fallen into group organisations whose mutual antagonism is of the
bitterest kind. The so-called "religious press" is perhaps the saddest
picture of modern Christian life. One could name a half dozen journals
off hand, organs of this or that group, every one a sufficient
refutation of the claim of the Christian Religion to be a Brotherhood of
the Redeemed. There is no possible excuse for the tone of such

No doubt it is an inevitable result of the state of a divided
Christendom that there should be disputes and controversies. We shall
never reach any expression of the Brotherhood that is the Church by
saying, Peace, Peace, where there is no Peace. The unity we look to must
be reached through painful sacrifice and through conflict; and we know
that the wisdom that is from above is "first pure, and then peaceable,"
But it is quite possible while holding with all firmness to the truth,
to hold it in the fear and love of God.

So long as Christendom is thus divided into hostile camps the ideal of
brotherhood is impossible of realisation. I do not want however to
discuss this matter from the point of view of Church unity. I want to
point out that within the groups themselves there is small vision of the
meaning of the oneness of Christ. For brotherhood is the expression of a
spiritual reality. It looked for a moment in the early days of the
Church as though the ideal would be realised. The description of the
Church was that "all that believed were together, and had all things in
common: and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all
men, as every man had need." That was, no doubt, a passing phase of the
life of the Church in Jerusalem, but we have evidence that elsewhere all
distinctions based upon social considerations were for the moment swept
away. There is "neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Our glimpses of the congregations of the early Church are of men and
women of all classes held together by the bond of a common membership in
Christ, so strongly felt as to enable them to forget all worldly
distinctions. Their sense of redemption was strong. They thrilled with
the joy of deliverance from the old life "after the flesh." They knew
that they were regenerate, new creations, and that this was the
distinction of the brother who knelt beside them at their communions. It
mattered not at all what he was in the world, whether he were Greek or
Barbarian, whether he were patrician or freedman, whether he were of the
slaves of Rome or of Caesar's household. The man who knelt to receive
his communion might be a great nobleman, the priest who communicated him
might be a slave: that did not matter; the significant thing was that
they were both one in Jesus Christ.

That did not last. I suppose that it could not be expected to last in an
unconverted or half converted world. It could only last on condition of
the fairly complete isolation of the Christian group from the rest of
society, pending the conversion of society as a whole. But it proved
impossible to secure the isolation. The only real isolation was in
monastic groups which naturally could contain only such men and women as
God called to a special sort of life: the whole of society could not be
so organised. As the Church grew and took in the various social
constituents included in the Empire, it took them in differentiated as
they were. There seems to have been no real effort to break down race
distinctions or class distinctions. There were no doubt protests, but
the protests were as ineffective then as now. "You cannot change human
nature," men say; but that in fact is precisely what Christianity
claims to do. Unless it can change human nature it is a failure.

The ideal of Christianity is not the abolition of inequality (only a
certain sort of social theorists are insane enough to expect that). All
men are born unequal in a variety of ways, physical, intellectual,
moral; and under any form of society that so far has been invented they
are born in social classes which remain very hard realities in spite of
our theories. What Christianity aims at accomplishing is to transcend
these inequalities, natural and artificial, by raising men to a state of
spiritual equality, a state which ensures true and full enjoyment of all
the privileges of the child of God. In this state there is open to all
the gift of sanctifying grace which is the possession of God now, and in
the future will unfold into the capacity of the complete participation
of the life of heaven. This belongs to, is within the grasp of, any
child, any ignorant peasant, any toiler, as much as it is within the
grasp of bishop or priest or Religious. And this much--and how much it
is!--the Church has succeeded in accomplishing. It may be slow in
offering the riches of the Gospel to the unconverted world, but where it
has presented the Gospel, it presents it to all men as a Gospel of
salvation and sanctification. When tempted to discouragement let us
remember that whatever the shortcoming of the Church, it is yet true
that every man, woman and child in these United States of America can
through its instrumentality, become a saint whenever he desires. But,
naturally, to become a saint, effort is necessary.

Where the Church has failed is not in the offer of salvation and
sanctity, but in removing some of of the obvious obstacles to its
attainment by many to whom it appeals, to whom its divine mission is. It
has not succeeded in convincing us that we are members one of another,
that is, it has not succeeded in persuading us to act upon what we
profess in any broad way. The Church is not a fellowship in any
comprehensive sense. The divisions which run through secular society and
divide group from group run through it also. The parish which should be
the exemplification of the Christian brotherhood in action is not so.
Too often a parish is known as the parish of a certain social group.
There are parishes to which people go to get "into society." Very likely
they do not succeed, but that is the sort of impression that the parish
membership has made upon them. Then there are parishes to which people
"in society" would not be transferred. There are churches in which no
poor person would set foot, not that they would be unwelcome, but that
they would feel out of place. So long as such things are true, our
practice of brotherhood has not much to commend of it.

And when we go about setting things right I am not sure that we do not
mostly make them worse. I do not believe that it is the business of the
Church to set about the abolition of inequalities and the getting rid of
the distinctions between man and man. Apart from the waste of time due
to attempting the impossible, what would be gained? Pending the arrival
of the social millenium we need to do something; and that something, it
seems to me a mistake to assume must be social. "We must bring people
together": but what is gained by bringing people together when they do
not want to be together, and will not actually get together when you
force them into proximity. There is nothing more expressive of the
failure of well-meant activity than a church gathering where people at
once group themselves along the familiar lines and decline to mix,
notwithstanding the utmost endeavours of clergy and zealous ladies to
bring them together. The thing is an object lesson of wrong method.

Is there a right method? There must be, though no one seems to have
found it yet. There is in any case a right point of departure in our
common membership in Jesus Christ. Suppose we drop the supposition that
we make, I presume because we think it pious, that if they are both
Christians a dock labourer ought to be quite at home at a millionaire's
dinner party, or a scrub-woman in a box at the Metropolitan opera house.
Suppose we drop the attempt to force people together on lines which will
be impossible till after the social revolution has buried us all in a
common grave, and fasten attention on the one fact that, from our
present point of view, counts, the fact that we are Christians. Suppose
one learns to meet all men and all women simply on the basis of their
religion; when that forms the bond that unites us when we come together,
we have at once common grounds of interest in the life and activities of
the Body of Christ. Suppose the millionaire going down town in his motor
sees his clerk walking and stops and picks him up, and instead of
talking constrainedly about the weather or about business, he begins
naturally to talk to him about spiritual matters. Why could they not
talk about the Mission that has just been held, or the Quiet Day that is
in prospect? One great trouble, is it not? is that we fight shy of
talking to our fellow-Christians of the interests that we really have in
common and try to put intercourse on some other ground where we have
little or nothing in common. The things that should, and probably do,
vitally interest us, we decline to talk about at all. We are so stiff
and formal and restrained in all matter of personal religious experience
that we are unable to express the fact of Christian Brotherhood. The
fact that you smile at the presentment of the case, that you cannot even
imagine yourself talking about your spiritual experience with your clerk
or your employer, shows how far you are from a truly Christian
conception of Brotherhood.

Our Lord's words that we are making our subject indicate the paramount
importance that He laid upon the acceptance of God's will as the
ultimate rule of life. "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which
is in heaven, the same is my mother, and my sister, and my brother." "Ye
are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." That is the common
ground on which we are all invited to stand, the ground of a common
loyalty to God, of intense zeal for the cause of God. Our Lord gave His
whole life to that cause. As His disciples watched Him on an occasion,
they remembered that it was written: "The zeal of thine house hath
eaten me up." Zeal is not a very popular quality because it is always
disturbing the equanimity and self-complacency of lukewarm people. And
then, we dislike to be thought fanatics. But I fancy that there will
always be a touch of the fanatic about any very zealous Christian, and
it is not worth while to suppress our zeal for fear of the world's
judgment upon it. What we have to avoid is the misdirection of zeal.
There is, no doubt, a zeal which is "not according to knowledge." We
need to be sure, in other words, that our zeal is a zeal for God, and
not a zeal for party or person or cause. It is no doubt quite easy to
imagine that we are seeking to do God's will when we are merely seeking
to impose on our own will. Self-seeking is quite destructive of the
friendship and service of God. The Kingdom whose interests we are
attempting to forward may turn out to be a Kingdom in which we expect to
sit on the right hand or the left of the throne because of the
brilliance of the service rendered.

Life is simplified very much when the will of God thus becomes its
guiding principle, and all other relations of life are subordinated to
our relation to our heavenly Father. Then have we brought life to that
complete simplicity which is near akin to peace. When we have learned in
deciding any line of action not to think what our neighbours and friends
will feel, or what the world will think, but only what God will think,
we have little difficulty in making up our minds. Suppose that a boy has
to make up his mind whether he will study for the priesthood, the vital
thing on which to concentrate his thought and prayer is whether God is
calling him to that life, and if he is convinced that he is being called
the whole question should be settled. In fact in most cases it is far
from being settled because this simplicity has not been attained. There
is a whole social circle to be dealt with, who urge the hardness of the
life, the scant reward, the greater advantages of a business career, and
so on; all of which have absolutely nothing to do with the question to
be decided. It is so all through life. In most questions of life's
decisions, no doubt, there is no sense of any vocation at all, of a
determining will of God; but is not that because we assume that God has
no will in such matters, and leaves us free to follow our own devices?
Such an assumption is hardly justified in the case of One to Whom the
fall of a sparrow is a matter of interest. It is our weakness, or the
sign of our spiritual incompetence, that we have unconsciously removed
the greater part of life from the jurisdiction of the divine will. We do
not habitually think of God as interested in the facts of daily
experience; we do not take Him with us into offices and factories.
Perhaps we think that they are hardly fit places for God, and I have no
doubt that He has many things to suffer there. But He is there, and will
suffer, until we recognise His right there, and insist upon His there
being supreme.

Let us go back for a moment to Our Lady standing outside the place where
Jesus was preaching, perplexed and worried at the course He was taking.
I suppose that it is always easier to surrender ourselves unreservedly
into God's hands than it is to so surrender some one we love. I suppose
that S. Mary so trusted in God that she never thought with anxiety of
what His providence was preparing for her; but she would not quite take
that attitude about her Son; or rather, while she did intellectually, no
doubt, take that attitude, her feelings never went the whole distance
that her mind went. But surrender to the will of God means complete
surrender of ourself and ours. It means absolute confidence in God, it
means lying quiet in his arms, as the child lies still in the arms of
his mother. It means that we trust God.

Rose-Mary, Sum of virtue virginal,
Fresh Flower on whom the dew of heaven downfell;
O Gem, conjoined in joy angelical,
In whom rejoiced the Saviour was to dwell:
Of refuge Ark, of mercy Spring and Well,
Of Ladies first, as is of letters A,
Empress of heaven, of paradise and hell--
Mother of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway.

O Star, that blindest Phoebus' beams so bright,
With course above the empyrean crystalline;
Above the sphere of Saturn's highest height,
Surmounting all the angelic orders nine;
O Lamp, that shin'st before the throne divine,
Where sounds hosanna in cherubic lay,
With drum and organ, harp and cymbeline--
Mother, of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway,

O Cloister chaste of pure virginity,
That Christ hath closed 'gainst crime for evermo';
Triumphant Temple of the Trinity,
That didst the eternal Tartarus o'erthrow;
Princess of peace, imperial Palm, I trow,
From thee our Samson sprang invict in fray;
Who, with one buffet, Belial hath laid low--
Mother of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway,

Thy blessed sides the mighty Champion bore,
Who hath, with many a bleeding wound in fight,
Victoriously o'erthrown the dragon hoar
That ready was his flock to slay and smite;
Nor all the gates of hell him succour might,
Since he that robber's rampart brake away,
While all the demons trembled at the sight--
Mother of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway,

O Maiden meek, chief Mediatrix for man,
And Mother mild, full of humility,
Pray to thy Son, with wounds that sanguine ran,
Whereby for all our trespass slain was he.
And since he bled his blood upon a tree,
'Gainst Lucifer, our foe, to be our stay,
That we in heaven may sing upon our knee--
Mother of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway,

Hail, Pearl made pure; hail, Port of paradise;
Hail, Ruby, redolent of rays to us;
Hail, Crystal clear, Empress and Queen, hail thrice;
Mother of God, hail, Maid exalted thus;
O Gratia plena, tecum Dominus;
With Gabriel that we may sing and say,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus--
Mother of Christ, O Mary, hail, alway.

William Dunbar,

XV-XVI. Cents.




Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.

S. Matt. XXVI, 56.

Through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, accept, O Lord, our
prayers and save us.

May the Holy Mother of God and all the saints be our intercessors with
the Heavenly Father, that He may deign to be merciful to us, and in pity
save His creatures. Lord God all-powerful! save us and have mercy
upon us.

Through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, the Immaculate
Mother of Thine only Son, and through the prayers of all the saints,
receive, O Lord, our supplications; hear us, O Lord, and have mercy upon
us; pardon us, bear with us, and blot out our sins, and make us worthy
to glorify Thee, together with Thy Son and the Holy Ghost, now and ever,
world without end. Amen.


We try to see our Lord's passion through the eyes of His Blessed
Mother. We feel that all through Holy Week she must have been in direct
touch with the experiences of our Lord. Her outlook would have been that
of the Apostolic circle the record of which we get in the Gospels. Our
Lord's ministry had showed a period of popularity during which it must
have seemed to those closest to Him that they were moving rapidly to
success; and then, after the day at Caeserea Phillipi, when His
Messianic claims had been acknowledged, they would have been filled with
enthusiasm for the mission the meaning of which was now defined. Then
came a period of disappointment. Our Lord declined to become a popular
leader, and by the nature of His preaching, the demands that He made
upon those who were inclined to support Him lost popularity till it was
a question to be considered whether the very Apostles would not desert
Him. Then came the flash of renewed enthusiasm which is evidenced by the
Palm Sunday entry, bringing, no doubt, renewed hopes to those nearest
our Lord who seem to have been utterly unable to accept the view of His
failure and death that He kept before them. But the hope vanished as
quickly as it was roused. In less than a week the rejoicing group of
Sunday followed Him from the Upper Chamber to the shades of Gethsemane.
The betrayal, the trial, the end, come quickly on.

This to S. Mary was the piercing of the sword through the very heart.
These were the days when the meaning of close association with Incarnate
God, with God Who was pursuing a mission of rescue, came out. The
mission of the Son for the Redemption of man meant submitting to the
extremity of insult and torture, and it meant that those who were
closest associated with Him should be caught into the circle of His
pain. As our Lord was displaying the best of which humanity is capable,
so was He calling out the worst of which it is capable. These last days
of the life of Jesus show where man can be led when he surrenders
himself to the dominion of the Power of Evil and becomes the servant of
sin. The triumph of demoniac malice through its instruments, the Roman
governor, the Jewish authorities, of necessity swept over all who were
related to our Lord. The storm scattered the Apostolic group and left
the Christ to face His trial alone. Yet not alone: He himself tells us
the truth. "Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be
scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am
not alone, because the Father is with me." It was what the Prophet had
foreseen: "All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is
written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered."

We do not know where S. Mary was during these days, but we are sure that
she was as near our Lord as it was possible for her to be. We know that
her own thought would be of the possibility of ministering to Him. We
know that she would not have fled with the Apostles in their momentary
panic. She was at the Cross, and she was at the grave, and she would
have been as near Him in the agony and the trial as it was possible for
her to be. And she too was in agony. Every pang of our Lord found echo
in her. Every blow that fell upon His bleeding back, she too felt. Every
insult that the soldiers inflicted, hurt her. Our Lord in the
consciousness of His mission is constantly sustained by the thought that
His Passion and Death is an offering to the will of the Father,--an
offering even for these miserable men who are brutally treating a man
whom they know to be innocent. Her sorrow is the utter desolation of
seeing the One Whom she loves above all else suffer, while she can bear
Him no alleviation in His suffering, cannot so much as wipe the blood
from off His wounded brow, cannot even touch His hand, and look her love
into His eyes. She follows from place to place while our Lord is being
hustled from Caiaphas to Pilate and from Pilate to Herod and back again;
from time to time hearing from some one who has succeeded in getting
nearer, how the trial is going on, what the accusation is, how Jesus is
bearing Himself, what answers He has made, what the authorities have
said. Once and again, it may be, catching a distant glimpse of Him as He
is led about by the guards, seeing Him always more worn and weary,
always nearer the point of collapse. Herself, too, nearer collapse; yet
going on still with that strength that love gives to mothers, determined
at the cost of any suffering to be near Him, as near as she can be, till
the very end. So we see her on that day in the streets of Jerusalem,
and think of the distance travelled since the morning when Gabriel said
to her, wondering: "Hail thou that art highly favoured.... Blessed art
thou among women."

We, too, follow. We have so often followed, with the Gospel in our
hands, and wondered at the method of God. We have tried hour after hour
to penetrate the meaning of the Passion, to find what personal message
it brings, to discover what light it throws on our own lives. We have
gone out into Gethsemane and placed ourselves with the three chosen
Apostles while our Lord went on to pray by Himself; and we have
discovered in ourselves the same weariness, the same tendency to sleep,
in the presence of what we tell ourselves is the most important of all
interests. We call up the scene under the olives, and find that we
wander and are inattentive and idle when we most want to be attentive
and alert. We place ourselves in the group that surrounds our Lord when
the soldiers, led by Judas, come, and ask ourselves shall I too run
away? And our memory flashes the answer: You have run away again and
again: you have in the face, not of grave dangers, but of insignificant
trifles--how insignificant they look now--for fear of criticism, for
fear of being thought odd, for fear of the opinion of worldly
companions, for fear of being pitied or laughed at, over and over again
you have run away. The things that seemed important when they were
present seem pitifully insignificant in the retrospect.

We follow out of the garden to the meeting-place of the Sanhedrin, to
the Judgment seat of Pilate, to the palace of Herod. Any impulse to
criticise S. Peter is speedily suppressed: we have denied so often under
such trifling provocation. S. Peter was frightened from participation in
the act of our Lord's sacrifice through mortal fear of his life. We have
stayed away from the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, how often! from
mere sloth, from disinclination to effort, from the fact that our
participation would prevent us from joining in some act of worldly
amusement. S. Peter, following to the high Priest's palace to see the
end, looks heroic beside our frivolity. We follow through the details of
the trial, we go to Herod's palace and see the brutal treatment of our
Lord, and we remember of these men that their conduct was founded in
ignorance. We do not for a moment believe that they would have spit upon
our Lord and buffeted Him, and crowned Him with a crown of thorns, if
they had believed that He was God. But we believe that He is God. Our
desertion of Him when we sin, our contempt of His expressed ideals when
we compromise with the world, our departure from His example when we
excuse ourselves on the ground of very minor inconveniences from keeping
some holy day or fasting day, are not founded in ignorance at all. They
can hardly be said to be founded in weakness, so slight is the
temptation that we do not resist. As we meditate on the Passion, as we
keep Good Friday, very pitiful all our idleness and subterfuges appear
to us. But we so easily shake off the effect! We emerge from our
meditation almost convinced that the stinging sense of the truth of our
conduct which we are experiencing is the equivalent of having reformed
it. We go out with a glow of virtue and by night realise that we have
sinned again!

It is no doubt well that we should not be permanently depressed about
our spiritual state, but only because we have taken all the pains we can
to heal the wounds of sin. There is no need that any one should abide in
a state of sin because there has been in the Precious Blood a fountain
opened for sin and for uncleanness, and by washing therein, though our
souls were as scarlet, they shall become white as snow. We have the
right to a certain optimism about ourselves if it be founded on actual
spiritual activity which ceaselessly tries to reproduce the
Christ-experience in us, even the experience of the Passion by the
voluntary self-discipline to which we subject ourselves. A brilliant
writer has spoken of those whose view of their lives is drawn from "that
fountain of all optimism--sloth." That is a true saying: our optimism is
often no more than an idle refusal to face facts; a quaint and
good-natured assumption that nothing very much matters and that
everything will be all right in the end!

This easy going optimism is commonly as far as possible from
representing any spiritual fact. If we are seeking any serious and
fruitful relation to the Passion of our Lord, we must seek it along the
Way of the Cross. To follow His example means to follow His experience,
to treat life as He treated it. The content of our lives is quite
different, but the treatment of the given fact must be essentially the
same. We need the same repulse of temptation, the same quiet disregard
of the appeals of the world, whether it offer the alleviation of
difficulty or the bestowal of pleasure as the reward of our allegiance.
And we, sinners in so manifold ways, need what our Lord did not need,
repulsion from our sins as the necessary preliminary to forgiveness.

My experience makes me feel very strongly that we are apt to be
deficient in the first step in repentance--contrition. As we follow the
Way of Sorrows we know that our Lord is suffering _for us_; and we feel
that the starting point of our repentance must lie in our success in
making that a personal matter. In our self examination, in our approach
to the sacrament of penance, we are compelled to ask ourselves, Am I in
fact sorry for my sins? It surely is not enough that we fear the results
of sin, or that we are ashamed at our failure. This really is not
repentance but a sort of pride. There must, I feel, be sorrow after a
godly sort. That is, true contrition, true sorrow for sin, is the sort
of sorrow which is born of the Vision of God; it has its origin in love.
I have found in our Lord love giving itself to me, and I must find in
myself love giving itself to Him. To my forgiveness it is not enough
that God loves me. I know that He loves me and will love me to the end,
whether I repent or not; but the possibility of forgiveness lies in my
love of Him, whether it takes such hold on me as actually to stimulate
me to forsake sin. I shall never really forsake sin through shame or
fear; one gets used to those emotions after a little and disregards
them. But one does not get used to love; it grows to be an increasing
force in life, and so masters us as to draw us away from sin.

Contrition then will be the offspring of love. It will be born when we
follow Christ Jesus out on the Sorrowful Way and understand that He is
going out for us. Then we want to get as near Him as possible: we want
to take His Hand and go by His side. We want to stand by Him in His
trial and share His condemnation. We want constantly to tell Him how
sorry we are that we have brought Him here. We shall not be content that
He feel all the pain. We are convinced that we ought to share in the
pain as we share in the results of the Passion. When we have achieved
this point of view we shall feel that our approach to Him to ask His
forgiveness needs, it may be, much more care than we have hitherto
bestowed upon it. We have thought of penance as forgiveness; now we
begin to see how much the attitude which precedes our entrance to the
confessional counts, and that we must value the gift of God enough to
have made sure that we are ready to receive it. We kneel down,
therefore, and look at our crucifix, and say: "This hast Thou done for
me," and make our act of love in which we join ourselves to the Cross of
Jesus. We tell ourselves that love is the beginning and end of our
relation to Him.

It is to be urged that every Christian should be utterly familiar with
the life of our Lord, and should spend time regularly in meditation upon
His life, and especially upon His Passion. Love is the constant
counteractive of familiarity; and it is kept fresh in our souls by the
contemplation of what our Lord has actually done for us. A general
recalling of what He has done has not the same stimulating force as the
vivid placing before us of the actual details of His work. To most of us
visible aids to the realisation of our Lord's action for us are most
helpful. A crucifix on the wall of one's room before which one can say
one's prayers, and before which also we stop for a moment time and again
in the course of the day, just to say a few words, to make an act of
love, of contrition, or of union, keeps the thought of the Passion
fresh. We gain in freshness and variety of prayer by the use of such
devotions as the litany of the Passion or the Way of the Cross. A set of
cards of the Stations help us to say them in our homes. It is much to be
desired that we accustom ourselves to devotional helps of all sorts. We
are quite too much inclined to think that there is something of
spiritual superiority in the attempt to conduct our devotional life
without any of the helps which centuries of Christian experience have
provided. It is the same sort of feeling that makes other Christians
assume that there is a superiority in spiritual attainment evidenced by
their dispensing with "forms," especially with printed prayers. It is
just as well to remember that we did not originate the Christian
Religion, but inherited it; and that the practices of devotion that have
been found helpful by generations of saints, and after full trial have
retained the approval of the greater part of Christendom, can hardly be
treated as valueless, much less as superstitious. The fact that saints
have found them valuable and one has not, may possibly not be a
criticism of the saints.

The meditation upon the Way of the Cross, the vision of Jesus scourged,
spitted upon, crowned with thorns, may well give us some searchings of
heart in regard to our own easy-going, luxurious life. Nothing seems to
disturb the modern person so much as the suggestion that the chief
business of the Christian Religion is not to look after their comfort.
They hold, it would appear, to the pre-Christian notion that prosperity
is an obvious mark of God's favour, and that by the accumulation of
wealth they are giving indisputable evidence of piety. It is well to
recall that there is no such dangerous path as that of continual
success. I do not in the least mean to imply that success is sinful or
indicates the existence of sin, but I do mean to insist very strongly
that the successful man needs to be a very spiritually watchful man. He
is quite apt to think that he may take all sorts of liberties with the
laws of God. There are, no doubt, evident dangers to the unsuccessful
man, but the Holy Scriptures have not thought it worth while to spend
much time in denouncing him. It has a good deal to say of the danger,
not so much of wealth, as of prosperity in general: "Behold, this was
the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and
prosperous ease were in her." When we find ourselves in a satisfied and
comfortable home life, so comfortable that we find it difficult to get
up to a week-day Mass, and disinclined to go out to a service after
dinner, we need watching.

And the best watchman is oneself; and the best method of
self-examination is by the Cross. Is there any sense in which we can be
said to be following our Lord on the Sorrowful Way? Have we taken up the
Cross to go after Him, or are we assuming that we can just as well drift
along with the crowd of those who only look on? We all need from time to
time to consider the Catholic teaching as to mortification and
self-discipline. I am quite aware that to insist on this is not the way
of popularity, but nevertheless I learned a long time ago that about the
only way that a priest can take if he wishes to be saved is the way of
unpopularity. And therefore I am going to insist that the practice of
rigorous self-discipline is essential to any healthy Christian life. We
cannot dispense ourselves from this, for the mere fact that we are
dispensing ourselves is the proof that we need that upon which we are
turning our back. Briefly, what I mean is that the assumption of the
Cross by a Christian means that he is taking into his life, voluntarily,
personal acts of self-sacrifice which he offers to our Lord as the
evidence and the means of his own Cross-bearing.

The unruliness of our nature can only be kept in order by continual acts
of self-discipline. We, no doubt, recognise the need of the discipline
of the passions, but our theory, so far as we can be said to have one,
would seem to be that the discipline of the passions means resistence to
special temptations as they arise. We may no doubt sin through the
passions, and therefore we need a minimum of watchfulness to meet
temptations which come our way. I submit that such a way of conducting
life is quite sufficient to account for the vast amount of failure we
witness or, perhaps, experience. When from time to time the country gets
alarmed about its health, when it is threatened with some epidemic such
as influenza, the papers are full of medical advice the sum of which is
you cannot dodge all the disease germs that are in the air, but you can
by a vigorous course of exercise and by careful diet, keep yourself in a
state of such physical soundness that the chances are altogether
favourable for your withstanding the assaults of disease. No doubt the
vast majority of people prefer not to follow this advice. A considerable
number of them resort to various magic cults, such as letting sudden
drafts of cold air in upon the inoffensive bystander with a view to
exorcising the germs. But it remains that the medical advice is sound:
it amounts to saying, "Keep yourself in the best physical condition
possible and you will run the minimum chance of being ill."

The Catholic treatment of life and its recommendation of discipline and
mortification has precisely the same basis as the physical advice--an
ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. We are exposed to
temptation constantly, and we need to recognise the fact and prepare
ourselves to meet it; and the best preparation is the preparation of
self-discipline for the purpose of keeping rebellious nature under
control. Good farming does not consist in pulling up weeds; it consists
in the choice and preparation of the ground in which the seed is to be
sown; it looks primarily to the growth of the seed and not to the
elimination of the weeds. Our nature is a field in which the Word of God
is sown; its preparation and care is what we need to focus attention on,
not the weeds.

Self-discipline is the preparation of nature, the discipline of the
powers of the spiritual life with a view to what they have to do. And
one of the important phases of our preparation is to teach our passions
obedience, to subject them to the control of the enlightened will. If
they are accustomed to obey they are not very likely to get out of hand
in some time of crisis. If they are broken in to the dominion of
spiritual motive, they will instinctively seek that motive whenever they
are incited to act. Hence the immense spiritual value of the habitual
denial to ourselves of indulgence in various innocent kinds of activity.
I do not at all mean that we are never to have innocent indulgences: I
do mean that the declining of them occasionally for the purpose of
self-discipline is a most wholesome practice. How frequently it is
desirable must be determined by the individual circumstances. It is
utterly disastrous to permit a child to have everything it wants because
there is sufficient money to spend, to permit it to run to soda
fountains or go to the picture houses as it desires. Any sane person
recognises that; but does the same person recognise the sane principle
as applying in his own life? Does he feel the value of going without
something for a day or two, or staying from places of amusement for a
time, or of abandoning for a while this or that luxury?

The principle is of course the ascetic principle of self-mastery. It is
best brought before us by the familiar practice of fasting, which is
very mildly recommended to us in its lowest terms in the table in the
Book of Common Prayer. Naturally, its value is not the value of going
without this or that, but the value of self-mastery. The very fact that
our appetites rebel at the notion shows their undisciplined character.
The child at the table begins to ask, not for a sensible meal founded on
sound reasons of hygiene, but for various things that are an immediate
temptation to the appetite. The adult is not markedly different save
that he preserves a certain order in indulgence. The principle of
fasting is that he should from time to cut across the inclination of
appetite, and either go without a meal altogether, or select such food
as will maintain health without delighting appetite. So man gains the
mastery over the animal side of his nature and shows himself the
child of God.

The actual practice of the ascetic life really carries us much farther
than these surface matters of a physical nature that have been cited. It
applies in particular to the disposition of time and the ruling of daily
actions. The introduction of a definite order into the day actually
seems to increase the time at one's disposal. I know, I can hear you
saying: "If you were the head of a family, and had children to look
after, you would not talk that way. You would know something of the
practical difficulties of life." But indeed I am quite familiar with the
situation. And if I were so situated I am certain that I should feel
all the more need of order. Families are disorderly because we let them
be; because we do not face the initial trouble of making them orderly. A
school or a factory would be still more disorderly than a family if it
were permitted to be. Any piece of human mechanism will get out of order
if you will let it. That is precisely the reason for the insistence on
the ascetic principle--this tendency of life to get out of order; that
is the meaning of all that I have been saying, of the whole Catholic
insistence on discipline. Time can be controlled; and, notwithstanding
American experience, children can be controlled; and control means the
rescuing of the life from disorder and sin, and the lifting it to a
level of order and sanity and possible sanctity.

We cannot hope to meet successfully the common temptations of life
except we be prepared to meet them, except there be in our life an
element of foresight. An undisciplined and untried strength is an
unknown quantity. The man who expects to meet temptation when it occurs
without any preparation is in fact preparing for failure. I do not
believe that there is any other so great a source of spiritual weakness
and disaster as the going out to meet life without preceding discipline,
thus subjecting the powers of our nature to trials for which we have not
fitted them. Self-control, self-discipline, ascetic practice, are
indispensible to a successful Christian life.

O STAR of starres, with thy streames clear,
Star of the Sea, to shipman Light or Guide,
O lusty Living, most pleasant t'appear,
Whose brighte beames the cloudes may not hide:
O Way of Life to them that go or ride,
Haven from tempest, surest up t'arrive,
O me have mercy for thy Joyes five.

* * * * *

O goodly Gladded, when that Gabriel
With joy thee gret that may not be numb'red,
Or half the bliss who coulde write or tell,
When th' Holy Ghost to thee was obumbred,
Wherethrough the fiendes were utterly encombred?
O wemless Maid, embellished in his birth,
That man and angel thereof hadden mirth.

John Lydgate of Bury,
XV Cent.
From Chaucerian and Other
Poems, edited by W. W. Skeat,




And after they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put
his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

S. Matt. XXVII, 31.

Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the sins of thy people:
that we, who are not able to do anything of ourselves, that
can be pleasing to thee, may be assisted in the way of
salvation by the prayers of the Mother of thy Son. Who.

Having partaken of thy heavenly table, we humbly beseech thy
clemency, O Lord, our God, that we who honour the Assumption
of the Mother of God, may, by her intercession, be delivered
from all evils. Through.


The way of the Cross is indeed a Sorrowful Way. We have meditated upon
it so often that we are familiar with all the details of our Lord's
action as He follows it from the Judgment Seat of Pilate to the Place of
a Skull. I wonder if we enough pause to look with our Lord at the crowds
that line the way, or at those who follow Him out of the city. It is not
a mere matter of curiosity that we should do so, or an exercise of the
devout imagination; the reason why we should examine carefully the faces
of those men who attend our Lord on the way to His death is that
somewhere in that crowd we shall see our own faces: it is a mirror of
sinful humanity that we look into there. All the seven deadly sins are
there incarnate.

It is extremely important that we should get this sort of personal
reaction from the Passion because we are so prone to be satisfied with
generalities, to confess that we are miserable sinners, and let it go at
that! But to stop there is to stop short of any possibility of
improvement, because we can only hope to improve when we understand our
lives in detail, when we face them as concrete examples of certain sins.

There was pride there. It was expressed by both Roman and Jewish
officialism which looked with scorn on this obscure fanatic who claimed
to be a king! Pilate had satisfied himself of His harmlessness by a very
cursory examination. This Galilean Prophet with His handful of
followers, peasants and women, who had deserted Him at the first sign of
danger, was hardly worth troubling about. The only ground for any action
at all was the fear that the Jewish leaders might be disagreeable. Those
Jewish leaders took a rather more serious view of the situation because
they knew that through the purity of His teaching and His obvious power
to perform miracles, a power but just now once more strikingly
demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus, He had a powerful hold on the
people. They, these Jewish leaders, declined a serious examination of
the claims of such a man in their pride of place and knowledge of the
Scriptures. They were concerned to sweep Him aside as a possible leader
in a popular outbreak, not as one whose claim to the Messiahship needed
a moment's examination.

This intellectual pride is one of the very greatest sins to which
humanity is tempted. It goes very deep in its destructive force because
it is a sin, preeminently, of the spiritual nature, of that in us which
is akin to God, His very image. It is, you will remember, the sin on
which our Lord centres His chief denunciation. And common as it has
always been, it has never been so common as it is to-day. Pilate and the
chief priests are duplicated in every community in the thousands who
reject Christianity without any adequate examination as incredible in
view of what they actually hold, or as inconvenient in view of what they
desire to practice. We have only to read very superficially in the
current literature of the day, we have only to examine the teaching in
colleges, to be completely convinced of the vast extent of the revolt
against the Christian Religion. This revolt is for the most part a
revolt without adequate examination. It assumes that the Christian
Religion is contrary to science, or to something else that is
established as true. It looks at Christianity superficially through the
eyes of those who reject it and are ignorant of it. The fact is that
Christianity cannot be understood in any complete sense of the word by
those who do not practice it. Its "evidence" is no doubt of great force;
of sufficient force to lead men to experiment; but the actual
comprehension of Christ as the Saviour of man is an experience. The
operation of the Holy Spirit in life is necessarily proved, and only
completely proved, by the action of the Spirit Himself.

Another demonstration of the same pride is seen in the refusal, without
adequate examination, to accept the Catholic Religion, and the picking
and choosing among articles of belief and sacraments and practices as to
what we will use or observe. Men do not like this or that, and they
therefore decline it. The whole attitude is one of self-will and pride.
Whatsoever comes to us with a great weight of Christian experience back
of it certainly deserves careful consideration; it demands of us that we
treat it as other than a matter of taste. Pride is the commonest of sins
and the most dangerous for it attacks the very heart of the spiritual
life. It runs, to be sure, through a broad range of experience and not
all manifestations of pride are mortal sin; but all manifestations of it
are subtle and insidious and capable of expansion to an indefinite
degree. For there is no difference in nature between the spiritual
attitude of the person who says, "I do not see any sense in that and
will not do it," when the matter in question may be the Church's rule of
fasting, and that of the man who before Pilate's Judgment Seat cried
out, "We have no king but Caesar."

It was in fact because they found their own power and place threatened
that the Jewish authorities were so determined on our Lord's death.
Their sin from this point of view was the sin of covetousness. This sin
reaches its highest point when it is greed for power over other men's
lives and destinies, when it is ready to sacrifice the lives of others
in order to gain or maintain its ends. In this broad sense it is the
most socially destructive of sins. The wars of the world for these many
years have been wars for commercial supremacy. The world is being
continually exploited by commercial enterprises which will stop at
nothing to gain their ends. Some day a history of the last two hundred
years will be written which will tell the story of the commercial
expansion of the world we call civilised, and it will be the most
horrible book that has ever been written. It will contain the story of
the Spanish colonisation of America. It will contain the history of the
slave trade. It will contain the history of the Belgian Congo, and of
the rubber industry in South America. It will contain the history of the
American Indian and of the opium trade of India--and of many
like things.

But while we shudder at the world-torturing ways of the pursuit of
wealth, of the world-wide seeking of money and power, we need not forget
that the sin of covetousness is as common as any sin can be. It is so
common and so subtle that it is almost impossible to know how far one is
a victim of it. It is deliberately taught to us as children under the
guise of thrift, which if it be a virtue is certainly one that the
saints have overlooked. We are constantly called on to strike a balance
between what are the proper needs of life and what is an improper
concentration of attention upon ourselves. Waste of money, like waste of
any other energy, is a sin; but it is a very nice question as to what is
waste. I think it a pretty safe rule to give expenditure the benefit of
the doubt when it is for others, and to deny it when it is for self.

However, I imagine that those who are conscientiously trying to conduct
their lives as the children of God will have little difficulty in this
matter. The real trouble is not in the matter of expenditure but in the
matter of gain. The ethics of business are very far from being the
ethics of the Gospel, and we are often frankly told by those engaged in
business that it cannot be successfully conducted on the basis of the
ethics of the Gospel, That it is not so conducted is sufficiently
obvious from a cursory scanning of the advertising columns of any
newspaper or magazine. The ideal of the business world is success.
Naturally, one cannot carry on an unsuccessful business, but need it be
success by all means and to all extents? Are there no limits to the
methods by which business is to be pushed, except legal limits? If there
is no room for Christian ethics in the business world there can be but
one end; competitive business will lead the civilisation that it
controls to inevitable disaster. Our Lord said: "Take heed and beware of
covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the
things that he possesseth." And He went on to speak a parable which has
come to be known as the Parable of the Rich Fool. The "practical man"
may be as angered as he likes by this teaching, but in his soul he knows
that our Lord was right. When such things are pointed out from the
pulpit the "practical man" says: "What would become of the Church were
it not for the rich and the successful?" I think that the answer is that
in that case the Church would no more represent the rich and would have
a fair chance of once more representing Jesus Christ.

It may seem at the first sight that of the mortal sins lust was not
represented here upon the Sorrowful Way; but that, I think is but a
superficial analysis of the nature of lust, thinking only of some
manifestations of it. There is however one sin that has its roots deep
in lust which psychologists tell us is one of its commonest
manifestations, and that is cruelty. Lust is not always, but commonly,
cruel; and the desire to inflict pain on others is a very common form of
its expression. There are sights we have seen or incidents we have read
of, it may be a boy torturing an animal or another child, it may be a
shouting mass of men about a prize-ring, it may be soldiers sacking a
town,--when the action seems so senseless that we are at a loss to
account for it; but the account of it lies in the mystery of our
sensual nature, in the ultimate animal that we are. The savage joy that
is being expressed by the participants in such scenes is ultimately a
sensual joy. These men who delighted in the torture of our Lord were
sensualists; and there are few of us who if we will watch our selves
closely will not find traces of the animal showing itself from time to
time. Of this crowd about the Cross relatively few could have known
anything about the case of our Lord; but they were fascinated by the
spectacle of a man's torture. If the executions of criminals were public
to-day there would undoubtedly be huge crowds to gaze upon them.

It is one of the lessons we learn from the study of sin that what we had
thought was the essence of the sin was in fact but one of the
manifestations of it, and that we have to carry our study far before we
arrive at the ideal, Know thyself. It is always dangerous to assume that
we know when we have not been at the pains to look at a subject on all
sides. Our sensual nature needs a very careful discipline, and the mere
freedom from certain forms of the sin of lust is not the equivalent of
that purity which is the medium of the Vision of God.

It is the sin of gluttony which is the least obvious in the Way of the
Cross. There are no doubt plenty of gluttons there, but that is not what
we are trying to find; we are trying to see how each sin contributed to
this final act in the drama of our Lord's life, how each sin contributed
to put men in opposition to our Lord. It is not the actual sin of
gluttony that we shall find in operation here but certain inevitable
effects of it, What is the effect of gluttony on the soul of man?
Absorption in the pursuit of the pleasures that spring from material
things; the indulgence of the appetite, and the natural result of such
indulgence which is to render the soul insensitive to the spiritual. The
man whose motto is, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," puts
himself out of touch with the spiritual realities of life. He is
materialistic, whatever may be his philosophy. He wants immediate
results from life. When he is confronted with our Lord, when he is told
that our Lord makes demands upon life for self-restraint and
self-discipline, that He demands that the appetites be curbed rather
than indulged, he declines allegiance. One can have no doubt that in our
Lord's time as to-day indifference to His teaching and failure even to
take in what the Gospel means or how it can be a possible rule of life
is largely due to the dull spiritual state, outcome of the indulgence of
the appetite for meat and drink. Men whose brains are clogged by over
eating, and whose faculties are in a deadened state through the use of
alcohol, cannot well understand the Gospel of God.

There is abundant evidence of anger all along the Way of the Cross. The
constant thwarting of the purpose of the Jewish authorities by our Lord,
His unsparing criticism of them before the people, had stirred them to
fury. If our Lord had seemed to them to threaten their "place and
nation" we can understand that they would show toward Him intense
hostility. Their attitude toward the people whose religious interests
they were supposed to have in charge was one of utter contempt: "This
people which knoweth not the Law is cursed." Our Lord's attitude was
the opposite of all this. It was not, to be sure, as to-day it is
represented to be an appeal to the people. He was not bidding for
popular support, but he showed unbounded sympathy with the people; He
cast His teaching in a form that would appeal to them and draw them to
him. He made a popular appeal in that He showed Himself understanding of
the popular mind and without social prejudice of any sort. This setting
aside of the arrogant authorities of Israel roused them to implacable
wrath. They felt that our Lord was setting Himself to undermine their
authority, and as they felt that their authority was "of God" their
indignation translated itself into terms of zeal for God.

This anger that manages to wear a cloak of virtue is peculiarly
dangerous to the soul. When we are just ordinarily mad over some offence
committed against us it is no doubt a sin; but it is not a sin of the
same malignity as when we feel that we can go any lengths because we are
not angry on our own behalf, then our anger almost becomes an act of
religion in our eyes. We have become the defenders of a cause. No doubt
there is such a thing as "righteous indignation," but it is not a virtue
that we are compelled to practice, and we would do well to leave it
alone as much as possible lest our indignation exceed our righteousness,
and we indentify our personal interests with the cause of God.

The worst feature of tempermental flare-ups is the testimony they bear
to our lack of discipline. When we excuse ourselves or others on the
ground that action is "temperamental" we are in fact no more than
restating the fact that there is sore need of discipline; and there is
no more ground for excusing one variety of temperament for its lack of
discipline than an other. In fact, the more inclined a temperament is to
certain sins, the more necessity there is for the appropriate sort of
training. People without self-control, who are constantly losing their
temper, are public nuisances and ought to be suppressed. There is the
worst kind of arrogance in the assumption that I do not have to control
myself and can speak and act as I like. No one, whatever his position,
has the right to ignore the feelings of others; and the more the
position is one of authority, exempting him from a certain kind of
criticism, the more is he bound to criticise himself and examine himself
as to this particular sin.

There are sins under this caption which do not contain much malice but
are disturbing to life, and they are especially disturbing to one's
spiritual life. There are peevish, complaining people, who do not seem
to mean much harm, but keep themselves in a state of dissatisfaction
which renders their spiritual growth impossible. They grow old without
any of the grace and beauty of character which should mark a Christian
old age. One knows old people who have been in intimate contact with the
Church and the sacraments for many years but do not show any signs of
having reached our Lord through them. They are dissatisfied and
complaining and critical and generally disagreeable so that the task of
those who take care of them is rendered very disheartening. What is the
trouble? Has there never been any true spiritual discipline, but only a
certain superficial conformity to a spiritual rule? When old age comes
the will is weakened and the sense of self-respect undermined, with the
result that what the person has all along been in reality, now comes to
the surface and is, perhaps for the first time, visible to every one.

Envy is closely related to pride on the one hand and to covetousness on
the other. It begins in the perception of another's superiority, and
carries its victim through the feeling of hurt pride at the contrast
with himself to desire for that which is not his own. The envious person
covets the qualities of possessions of another, while vividly denying
that they are in fact superior to his own, except, it may be, in certain
apparent and not very valuable aspects. The contrast between the
superior and the inferior has one of two results: either the inferior is
stirred to admiration, or he is stirred to a greater or less degree
of envy.

It was thus that contact with our Lord _revealed_ the reality of men. It
was a very true judgment to associate with him. His apostles were simple
men who never thought of putting themselves in comparison with Him: the
more they knew Him the more wonderful He seemed to them. We feel all
through the Gospel story what an overwhelming impression His personality
made upon men. There is no criticism raised on His character from any
point of view. His enemies fell back on the accusation of blasphemy
growing out of His claims, an accusation that would be true, if the
claims were not true. What we really discover in those who oppose Him is
envy, envy of the influence He exercises over others, envy stirred by
His obvious superiority to themselves.

Envy is one of the sins of which we are least conscious. When people
affirm that they envy others this or that: their leisure, their beauty,
or what not, they clearly do not envy them at all, but are mildly
covetous of the things that they see others possess. Where envy does
show its presence and where we do not recognise its nature, is in that
horrible inclination to depreciate others which is visible in certain
characters. They seem never to hear another mentioned but they try to
think of something which limits the praise bestowed upon him, or
altogether counteracts it. It seems to be an instinctive hostility to
superiority as involving an implied criticism of one's own inferiority.
It is that curious love of the worst that lies at the root of gossip.

And what about the last of the deadly sins, the sin of sloth? One is
almost tempted to say that it is at once the least obvious and the most
destructive of all the deadly sins. That would no doubt be somewhat of
an exaggeration, but it would not be very far off the truth. It is
spiritual sloth that prevents us from considering as we should the
spiritual problems that are presented to us, and therefore prevents us
from gaining their promise. It is the quality in humanity that blocks
the consideration of the new on the ground that we already know and can
gain nothing by further exertion. The Jewish religious leaders declined
the intellectual and spiritual effort of considering our Lord's claims;
they just set them aside unconsidered. And is not that just what we are
constantly doing, and what constitutes the most pressing danger of the
spiritual life? We will not consider the future as the field of
constantly new opportunity and therefore new stages of growth. We do not
want to make the effort that is implied in that attitude.

Our sloth binds us hand and foot and delivers us to the enemy. There are
no doubt some who cry out: "But I am not at all slothful; I am busy from
morning to night; of whatever else I may be guilty, it is not of sloth!"
My friend, busy people are quite often the most slothful people that
there are. They are busy dodging their rightful duties and the
opportunities that God offers them, all day long. Have you never
discovered that when you had something that you ought to do and do not
want to do, that the easiest method by which you can still your
conscience is to make yourself terribly busy about something else, and
then to tell yourself that the reason why you have not done what you
know that you ought to have done is that really you have not had time?
Do you not know that being busy is one of the most effective screens
that you can put between your conscience and your obligation? Do you not
know that tens of thousands of men and women to-day are putting the
screens of good works, of social service of some sort, between their
souls and the worship of God and the practice of the sacraments? Beware
lest while you wear yourself out with activity your besetting sin be
found to be sloth!

And shall we find there on the Way of Sorrow the virtues that are the
opposite of the Seven Sins? Perhaps, if we had time to look, or had
sufficient knowledge of the crowd that lines the way. There are certain
women over there wailing and lamenting; perhaps they could help us. In
any case we know that there is one woman who has succeeded in keeping
near whose love of Jesus is so intense that it will enable her to
overcome all obstacles and be near Him to the very last. Jesus as He
staggers along the way and falls at length under the intolerable weight
of the Cross is the embodiment of all virtues and of all spiritual
accomplishment, and his blessed Mother through His grace has been kept
pure from all sin. She will show the perfection of purely human
accomplishment. She is the best that humanity in union with the
Incarnate Son has brought forth. We have seen--we have caught glimpses
of her life through what the Scriptures tell us of her--how completely
she has responded to grace in all the actions of her life. Not much do
the Scriptures say, but what they do say is like the opening of windows
through which we catch passing aspects of her life which we feel are
perfectly characteristic and revealing.

And we have seen there, or we may see, may we not? the virtues which are
the work of the Holy Spirit enabling us to overcome the deadly sins. We
have seen the humility with which, without thought of self, she answered
God's call to be the Mother of His Son. We have seen the liberality with
which she places her whole life at God's disposal, withholding nothing
from the divine service. Purity undefiled had been God's gift to her
from the first moment of her existence. Hers too was that meekness
which willingly accepted all that the appointment of God brought her,
showing in her acceptance no withholding of the will, no trace of
self-assertion. Hers was the great virtue of temperance, the power of
self-restraint and self-discipline, which suppressed all movements of
nature that would be contrary to God's will. There too was the love of
the brother and of the neighbour which is the contrary of envy; and
there was the eagerness in fulfilling the will of God which is the
opposite of sloth.

We have then two spotless examples,--how shall we not be stirred to
follow them! There is Jesus manifesting the qualities of His sinless
life, of the life of God's election, of humanity as God wills it to be,
and as it ultimately will be when it gives itself to His will; and Mary
in whom we see the work of God's grace perfectly accomplished by virtue
of her perfect response to the love of her Sen. We look at these two
lives and we see what is possible for us. We do not say, we cannot say,
these things are too wonderful and great for me. We can only say,
through the grace of God which is given me, "I can do all things." It is
not my inevitable destiny that I should abide a sinner. I have the
choice of being a sinner or a saint.

MARY: Ever I cried full piteously:
"Lordings, what have ye i-brought?
It is my Son I love so much:
For God's sake bury Him nought."
They would not stop though that I swooned,
Till that He in the grave were brought.
Rich clothes they around him wound:
And ever mercy I them besought.

* * * * *

They said there was no better way
But take and bury him full snel.
They looked on my cousin John
For sorrow both a-down we fell--

* * * * *

By Him we fell that was My Child.
His sweet mouth well full oft I kissed.
John saw I was in point to spill,
That nigh mine heart did come to break.
He held his sorrow in his heart still
And mildly then to me did speak:
"Mary, if it be thy will
Go we hence; the Maudeleyn eke."
He led me to a chamber then
Where my Son was used to be,--
John and the Maudeleyn also;
For nothing would they from me flee.
I looked about me everywhere:
I could nowhere my Sone see.
We sat us down in sorrow and woe
And 'gan to weep all three.

From St. Bernard's Lamentation on Christ's Passion. Engl. version,
probably 13th Cent, by Richard Maydestone.




And they crucified him.

S. Matt. XXVII, 35.

In as much as we have no confidence because of our many sins,
do thou, O Virgin Mother of God, beseech him who was born of
thee; for a Mother's supplication availeth much to gain the
benignity of the Master. Despise not the prayers of sinners,
O all-august, for merciful and mighty to save is he, who
vouchsafed to suffer for us.


We have followed the Way of Sorrows to the very end and now stand on
Calvary watching by the Cross, waiting for the death of the Son of God.
The mystery of iniquity is consummated here where man in open rebellion
against his God crucifies the Incarnate Son. Here is fulfilled the
saying: "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." All that
man can do to prove his own degredation he has done. In the person of
Pilate he has condemned to death a man whom he knows to be innocent. The
representative of human justice has denied justice for the sake of his
own personal ends. In the person of Herod he has permitted the insult
and abuse of One of whom he knows no ill, and has displayed toward Him
wanton and brutal cruelty. In the person of the Jewish authorities he
has rejected the Messenger of the God whom he recognises as his God, and
will not listen to the voice of prophecy because he finds his personal
ends countered by the fulfilment of the promises of the religion whose
subject he professes to be. In the person of the disciples he shows
himself too cowardly and self-regarding to stand by his innocent Master
and to throw in his lot with Him. In the person of the people he shows
himself cruel, hardened, indifferent to suffering and to justice, ready
to be made the tool of unscrupulous politicians, unstable and ignorant.
As we look on, we succeed in retaining any shred of respect for
humanity only through the contemplation of the exceptions--of S. John
and the little group of women who are faithful to the end: above all in
the sight of blessed Mary standing by the Cross of her Son.

It is the will of God that our Lord should follow the human lot to the
very depth of its possible sufferings. There are no doubt many
sufferings of humanity that our Lord does not share, they are those
which spring out of personal sin. He in Whom was no sin could not suffer
those things which spring from one's own wrong doing. That is one broad
distinction between the burdens of the crosses on Calvary, a distinction
which the penitent thief caught easily when he said to his reviling
fellow-criminal, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our
deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." And in as much as a great
part of what we suffer is plainly just, the pain we bear is intensified
by the knowledge that what we are is the outcome of what we have been.
But our Lord, while He does not suffer as the result of His own sin,
does suffer as the result of sin in that He wills to bear the result of
men's sin by putting Himself at their mercy. He bears the burden of sin
to the uttermost, looking down from the Cross at the faces of these men
whose salvation He is making possible if in the days to come they will
associate themselves with Him. One wonders how many of those who saw Him
crucified came, before they died, to accept Him as the Saviour and their
God. There must have been many wonderful first Communions in the early
Church when those who had rejected Jesus in His humility came to receive
Him glorified.

But as we look at this scene of the dying we feel that the powers of
evil are working their uttermost, they are driving their slaves to
incredible sins. One feels the tremendous power that evil is as one
looks at these human beings who are body and soul wholly under its
dominion. The Power of Darkness appears utterly in control of the world
of humanity; but we know that this moment in which its triumph seems
most complete is in fact the moment in which its defeat is at hand. The
victory that is being won is the victory of the Vanquished: and the
moment when the victory of evil seems assured by the dying of Jesus, is
in fact the moment when the chains of the slaves of sin are broken, and
men who will to be free are henceforth free indeed. From that moment a
new freedom is within the reach of men, the freedom which comes to them
through their participation in the redemption wrought for them by God.
Presently S. John will announce the great message of freedom to the
Church, a message that he will tell in his own wonderful simplicity, a
simplicity which almost deceives us as to its unfathomable depth of love
and mystery: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and
this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.... We
know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but He that was begotten
of God keepeth him, and the evil one toucheth him not. And we know that
we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one. And we know
that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we
may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His
Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."

This is what the dying of Jesus achieved for us, that we should be free
as men had never been free, and that we should be strong as men had
never been strong.

On their crosses the thieves agonise in the realisation of the sin that
has brought them there; but our Lord, Who is free from sin, looks out on
the scene before Him in a wonderful detachment from His personal
suffering. Being without sin our Lord is without egotism, and never
treats life from that purely personal standpoint that we are constantly
tempted to adopt. Our own needs, our own interests, occupy the
foreground and determine the judgment; and we are rarely able to see in
dealing with the concrete case that our own interests are ultimately
indentical with the interests of the whole Body. The lesson that if one
member suffer, all the members suffer with it, that we are partners in
joy and sorrow alike, is almost impossible of assimilation by the
radical individualists that we are. Our theories break down before the
test of actuality. But our Lord was not an individualist. He, in His
relations with men, is the Head of the Body; and He admits no division
of interests between His members. He therefore can think of the needs of
others while He Himself is undergoing the last torture of death. He can
impartially judge the separate cases of His members; He can attend to
the spiritual welfare of a needy soul; He can think of His own death as
an act of sacrifice willed by God, and not as a matter concerning
Himself alone; and in doing these things He teaches us a much-needed
lesson of the handling of life.

No lesson is to-day more needed because we are more and more being
influenced to treat life as a private matter. I have spoken of this
before and need not elaborate it now; but I do want to insist, at
whatever risk of repetition, that a Christian must, if his religion mean
anything at all, look on the interests of the Body, not as a separate
group of interests to which he is privileged or obligated to contribute
such help as seems to him from time to time appropriate, but as in fact
his own primary interests because his true significance in the world is
gained through his membership in the Body. His life is hid with Christ
in God and his conversation is in heaven. The life that he now lives in
the flesh he lives by the faith of the Son of God, who loved him and
gave Himself for him. To assert separate interests is to break the
essential relation of his life. He is nothing apart from the Body but a
dry and withered branch fit for the burning. No doubt our egotism rebels
against this view of life, but it is certain that it is the view of the
Christian Religion. If we would realise the ideals of the Religion we
must act as those who are in constant relations with the other members
of the Body and whose life gets its significance through those

There is no more outstanding lesson of our Lord's life than this. It is
true from whichever angle you look at it. If you think of our Lord as a
divine Person it is at once evident how much of His meaning is included
in His relations to the other Persons of the Blessed Trinity. He claims
no independent will; it is the will of the Father that He has come to
do. He claims no original work: it is the work that the Father has given
Him to do that He is straightened until He accomplish. He has no
individual possession, but all things that the Father has are His.
Considered as God, our Lord is One Person in the one divine nature, no
Unitarian interpretation of Him is possible. On the other hand, if you
look at Him as Incarnate, as having identified Himself with humanity, He
is in that respect made one with His brethren. He has made their
interests His, and as their new Head is opening for them the gate of the
future. He is inviting them into union with Himself, that in the status
of His "brethren" and "friends" they may be also the true children of
the heavenly Father. There is no hint anywhere that these things may be
accomplished apart from Him, in individual isolation: indeed, if they
could be so accomplished the Incarnation would be meaningless. He is the
Way and no one cometh to the Father but by Him. He is the Truth, and no
one knows the Father but he to whom the Son reveals Him. He is the Life,
and no one spiritually lives except through His self-impartation. "He
that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life. He that
eateth me, even he shall live by me." In this outlook from the Cross
which we recognise in our Blessed Lord when, forgetting His own
sufferings in His appreciation of the needs of others, we see Him still
fulfilling His ministry of mercy and of sympathy, we are certain that
His eyes would rest upon one group which could not fail to pierce His
heart with its pathos and tragedy. Our Lord's love is not a general,
impersonal love of humanity; it is always love of a person. He no doubt
felt a special love for this thief who appealed to Him from the cross by
His side. In the whole course of His life our Lord had shown His oneness
with us in that He loved special people in a special way. He loved
Lazarus and his sisters, He loved S. John. Above all others He loved His
Blessed Mother. And now looking down from the Cross He sees that the
disciple whom He loved was succeeded in leading His mother into the very
shadow of the Cross. How S. Mary had made her way there we do not know:
only love knows how it triumphs over its obstacles and comes forth
victorious. There is Blessed Mary, looking up into the face so scarred
and bleeding, and there is the Son, looking down through the blinding
blood into the face of the mother. This is the supreme human tragedy of
Calvary. We can only stand and watch the exchange of love.

And then comes the word--the word, by the way, which when it was spoken
years ago in Cana of Galilee, men have interpreted as a harsh and
rebuking word, with how much truth this scene tells--then comes the
word: "Woman, behold thy son." In His love He gives her that which He
had so much loved, the friendship of S. John. He brings together those
who had so supremely loved Him in an association which would support
them both in the trial of their loss. "Woman, behold thy son; behold thy
mother." Bitter as was their sorrow in this hour, we know that they were
marvellously comforted by this power of love which is able to transcend
suffering and death. We know, because we know how utterly our Lord is
one with us, that it was much to Him to look on the face that bent over
Him in the Manger in Bethlehem. We know, because we know the perfect
woman that was Mary, that there was deep joy as well as deep agony in
being able to stand there at the last beneath the Cross.

Do you think that we are going too far when we see in S. Mary not simply
the mother of our Lord, but when we also see in her a certain
representative character? Does she not represent us in one way and S.
John represent us in another, in this supreme exchange of love? Do we
not feel that in S. John we have been recommended to the love and care
of Mary who is our mother? Do we not feel that in S. John the mother has
been committed to our love and care? Surely, because we are members of
her Son we have a special relation to S. Mary, and a special claim upon
her, if it be permitted to express it in that way. It is no empty form
of words when we call her mother, no exaltation of sentimentalism. The
title represents a very real relation of love. It brings home to us that
the love of Mary is as near infinite as the love of a creature can be,
and that like the love of her Son it is an unselfish love. She is
necessarily interested in all the members of the Body, and their cares
and joys and sorrows she is glad to make her own. She is very close to
us in her love and sympathy; she is very ready to help us with her
prayers. We never go to her for succour but she hears us. "Behold thy
son," her divine Son said to her on the Cross in His agony, and all who
are members of that Son are her sons too. Her place in heaven above all
creatures, most highly favoured as she is, is a place to which our
prayers penetrate, and never penetrate unheard. For that other Son,
through whose merits she is what she is, whose Face she ever beholds as
the Face alike of her Redeemer and her Child, is ever ready to hear her
intercessions for us because they come to Him with the power and the
insight that perfect purity and perfect sympathy alone can give. So for
us there is intense personal consolation in this word: "Behold
thy mother."

But there is another side to this committal. It is mutual: "Behold thy
son." If we can see ourselves in S. John, committed to the Blessed
Mother, we can also see ourselves in S. John to whom the blessed mother
is committed. "Behold thy mother." There is a sense in which the blessed
mother is committed to us; to-day she is our care. We see the
fulfillment of this trust in the love and reverence wherewith
Christendom from the beginning has surrounded S. Mary. It has accepted
the charge with a passionate devotion. The growth of devotion to her is
recorded in the vast literature of Mariology which comes to us from all
parts and all eras of the Catholic Church. The details of the expression
of this devotion have been wrought out through the centuries with
loving care, and the result is that wherever there is a Catholic
conception of religion, either in East or West, there is a grateful
response to our Lord's trust of His Blessed mother to His Church in the
person of S. John.

We feel, do we not? that it is one of the great privileges of our
spiritual life that we have found a personal part in this trust, that it
is permitted us to preserve and hand on this reverence for Blessed Mary,
and in so doing to gain personal contact with her as a spiritual power
in the Kingdom of God. It means much to us that we can have the love and
sympathy which are blended with her intercession, that we can associate
our prayers with hers in the time of our need. Much as we value the
sympathy and prayers of our friends here, we cannot but feel that in
Mary we have a friend whose helpfulness is stimulated by a great love
and directed by deep spiritual insight into the reality of our needs. We
turn therefore to her with the certainty of her co-operation.

Our Lord on the Cross had now fulfilled His mission in the care of
individual persons, had prayed for His tormentors, had forgiven the
penitent thief, and had commended those who were the special objects of
His love to one another, and could now turn His thoughts away from earth
to the love of the Father. His last words are intimate words to Him.
They express the agony that tears His soul as the Face of the Father is
for a moment hidden, and the peace of an accomplished work as He
surrenders Himself into the hands of the Father that sent Him. He who
had been our example all His life, showing us how to meet life, is our
example in death, showing us how to meet death.

But just wherein does the dying of Christ become an example for us? This
final surrender to the Father of a will that had never been separate
from the Father,--what can we derive from all that? There are many lines
of approach and application. I can only touch on one or two:--

"I have glorified Thee on the earth," our Lord said in the last
wonderful prayer, "I have finished the work that Thou gavest me to do."
And here on the Cross He repeats, "It is finished." When we think of
this we are impressed with the steadiness with which our Lord pursued
His purpose, with the way He concentrated His whole life upon His work.
He declined to be drawn aside by anything irrelevant to it. People came
to Him with all sorts of requests, from the request that He will settle
a disputed inheritance to the request that He will become their king;
and He puts them all aside as having no pertinence to His mission. It is
interesting to go through the Gospel and note just what are the details
of this winnowing process; mark what our Lord accepts as relevant to His
mission and what not. He is never too occupied or tired to attend to
what belongs to His work. An ill old woman or idiot child is important
to Him and He attends to them; but He declines the sort of work that
will involve Him and His mission in controversy and politics. He is not
a reformer of society but a reformer of men. He knows that only by the
reformation of men can society be reformed.

There is no doubt much to be learned from the study of our Lord's method
of the limits of the social and political activity of His Church. It has
constantly fallen a victim to the temptation to undertake the reform of
the world by some other means than the conversion of it. It has shown
itself quite willing to be made "a judge and divider." It has not always
declined the invitation it has received to assume the purple. "Your
business is to reform this miserable world which so sadly and so
obviously needs you," men say to it; "You are not living up to your
principles and you are neglecting your duty by not supporting this great
movement for the betterment of the race," others say. Still others urge,
"You are losing great masses of men through your inexplicable failure to
adopt their cause." And the Church in the whole course of its history
has constantly yielded to this temptation, and has not seen until too
late that in so doing it was making itself the tool or the cat's-paw of
one interest or another whose sole interest in religion was the
possibility of exploiting the influence of the Church. In the stupid
hope of forwarding its spiritual interests the Church has entangled
itself with the responsibilities of temporal power; it has made itself
the backer of "the divine right of kings"; and it has found itself bound
hand and foot in the character of a national or state Church; and with a
curious incapacity to learn anything from experience is now
enthusiastically cheering for democracy! Poor Church, whose leaders are
so constantly misleaders.

It is all due to the hoary temptation to try to get to one's end by some
sort of a short cut: "All these things will I give you if you will fall
down and worship me." Our Lord knew that Satan could not really give Him
the ends He was seeking; but His followers are constantly confident that
he can, and are therefore his constant and ready tools for this or that
party or interest. They sell themselves to monarchy or democracy, to
capital or labour, with the same guileless innocence of what is
happening to them, with the same simple-minded incapacity to learn
anything from the lessons of the past. There are no short cuts to
spiritual ends, and those ends can never be accomplished by secular
means. The interests of the Kingdom of God can never be forwarded by
alliance with the powers of this world; the interests of particular
persons or parties in the Church may be--but that is quite
another thing.

The lesson is one that is not without application to the individual
life. There again the tendency to mind something other than one's own
business is almost ineradicable. We have before us the work of building
our spiritual house, of finishing the work that the Father has given us
to do, of carrying to a successful conclusion the work of our
sanctification. In view of the experience of nearly two thousand years
of Christianity and of our own personal experience, that would seem a
sufficiently difficult and obligatory work to occupy the undivided
energies of a life-time. But we are accustomed to treat this primary
business of life quite as though it were a parergon, a thing to play
with in our unoccupied hours, the fad of a collector rather than the
supreme interest of an immortal being. That spiritual results are no
oftener achieved than they are can occasion no surprise when one
understands the sort of spirit wherewith they are approached. If the
average man adopted toward his business the attitude he adopts toward
his religion he would be bankrupt within a week,--and he knows it. You
know that the attention you are paying to religion and the sort of
energy and sacrifice you are putting into it are insufficient to secure
any sort of a result worth having. Spiritually speaking, your life is an
example of misdirected and dissipated energy. There is no spiritual
result because there is no continuous and energetic effort in a
spiritual direction. You are not like a master-builder planning and
erecting a house. You are like a child playing with a box of blocks who
begins to build a house with them and, when it is half built, is
attracted by something else and runs after that--not even waiting to put
the blocks back into the box!

Life, no doubt, this modern city life into which we are plunged, is
terribly distracting. Concentration upon a single aim is hard to attain.
So we plead in our excuse, but the excuse is a false one and we know it.
We know it because we know many people who have achieved the sort of
concentration and simplicity of aim that we complain of as so difficult.
They to be sure have other ends than those we claim to be ours, but that
would not seem to be important. By far the greater part of the male
population of this city is intensely concentrated in money making. I do
not believe that I have overheard during the last year two men talking
in a car or on the street who were not talking about money. There is a
good enough example of the possibility of concentrating on a single end
under the conditions of our life. There are other people, you know some
of them, whose lives are devoted in the most thorough manner to the
pursuit of pleasure. They find no difficulty in such concentration, and
they afford an even better example of what we are discussing than the
money-makers. The money-maker says, "I have to live and my family has to
live, and we cannot live unless I devote myself to business. It is all
very well to talk about spiritual interests, but those are the plain
common sense facts. A man who spends all his time on religion will find
it pretty difficult to live in New York." Very well, that seems
unanswerable. But go back to the men and women whose sole interest is
amusement--how do they live? In some way they seem to have so succeeded
in subordinating business to pleasure that they get what they want, and
they somehow escape starvation!

There, I fancy, is the explanation--they get what they want. In a broad
way we all get what we want. We accomplish in some degree at least the
ends which we make the supreme ends of life. We are back therefore where
we started: What are our supreme ends? Are they in fact spiritual? Have
we mastered the technique of the Christian life sufficiently to be
single-eyed and pure-hearted in our pursuit of life's ends? Are we
devoted to the aim of manifesting the glory of God and finishing the
work that He has given us to do?

This, once more, was the secret of our Lord's life, and it is the secret
of all those who have at all succeeded in imitating Him. They have
followed Him with singleness of purpose. They have felt life to be
before all else a vocation to manifest the will of God and to finish a
given work. That was the attitude of our Blessed Mother; she began on
that note: "Behold the hand-maid of the Lord; be it unto me according to
thy word." It was the Gospel that she preached: "Whatsoever he saith
unto you, do it." Her whole life was a response--the response of love
to love.

That no doubt, goes to the heart of the spiritual problem. If we are to
accomplish anything at all in the way of spiritual development, if we
are to conduct life in simplicity toward spiritual ends, it will only be
when the source of life's energy is found in love. He who does not love
has no compelling motive toward God and no abiding principle to control
life. If we conceive the Christian life as a task that is forced upon
us, and which in some way we are bound to fulfil, we may be sure that
the way in which we shall fulfil it will be weak and halting. We may be
as conscientious as you please, but we shall not be able to concentrate
on a work which is merely a work of duty and not the embodiment of a
great love. Our primary activity should be devout meditation and study
of our Lord's life, with prayer for guidance and help, till something
of the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, till we feel our hearts
burn within us and our spirits glow and we become able to offer
ourselves, soul and body, a living sacrifice unto Him.

MARY: I cried: "Maudeleyn, help now!
My Son hath loved full well thee;
Pray Him that I may die,
That I not forgotten be!
Seest thou, Maudeleyn, now
My Son is hanged on a tree,
Yet alive am I and thou,--
And thou, thou prayest not for me!"

MAUDELEYN said: "I know no red,
Care hath smitten my heart sore.
I stand, I see my Lord nigh dead;
And thy weeping grieveth me more.
Come with me; I will thee lead
Into the Temple here before
For thou hast now i-wept full yore."

MARY: "I ask thee, Maudeleyn, where is that place,--
In plain or valley or in hill?
Where I may hide in any case
That no sorrow come me till.
For He that all my joy was,
Now death with Him will do its will;
For me no better solace is
Than just to weep, to weep my fill."
The Maudeleyn comforted me tho.
To lead me hence, she said, was best:
But care had smitten my heart so
That I might never have no rest.

"Sister, wherever that I go
The woe of Him is in my breast,
While my Sone hangeth so
His pains are in mine own heart fast.
Should I let Him hangen there
Let my Son alone then be?
Maudeleyn, think, unkind I were
If He should hang and I should flee."

* * * * *

I bade them go where was their will,
This Maudeleyn and everyone,
And by myself remain I will
For I will flee for no man.

From St. Bernard's "Lamentation On Christ's Passion."

Engl. version, 13th Cent., by Richard Maydestone.




And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean
linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had
hewn out in the rock.

S. Matt. XXVII, 59, 60.

It is meet in very truth to bless thee the Theotokos, the
ever-blessed and all-immaculate and Mother of our God.
Honoured above the Cherubim, incomparably more glorious than
the Seraphim, thou who without stain gavest birth to God the
Word, and art truly Mother of God, we magnify thee.


The end had come--so it must have seemed to those who had loved and
followed our Lord. As they came back from the burial, those of them who
had remained true to the end, as they came out of their hiding places,
those others who forsook Him and fled, they met in that "Upper Room"
which was already consecrated by so many experiences. They came back
from Joseph's Garden, S. John leading the blessed Mother, the Magdalen
and the other Mary following, S. Peter came from whatever obscure corner
he had found safety in. The other Apostles came one by one, a
frightened, disheartened group, shame-faced and doubtful as to what
might next befall them. The thing that to us seems strangest of all is
that no one seems to have taken in the meaning of our Lord's words about
His resurrection. Not even S. Mary herself appears to have seen any
light through the surrounding darkness. I suppose that so much of what
our Lord taught them was unintelligible until after the coming of the
Holy Spirit that they rarely felt sure that they understood His meaning;
and when the meaning was so unprecedented as that involved in His
sayings about the resurrection we can understand that they should have
been so little influenced by them.


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