Our Lady Saint Mary
J. G. H. Barry

Part 5 out of 6

S. Mary's grief would have been so deep, so overwhelming, that she would
have been unable to think of the future at all save as a dreary waste
of pain. She could only think that her Son who was all to her, was dead.
She had stood by the Cross through all the agony of His dying: she had
heard His last words. That final word to her had sunk very deep into her
heart. She had once more felt His Body in her arms as it was taken down
from the Cross; and she had followed to the place where was a Garden and
a new tomb wherein man had never yet lain, there she had seen the Body
placed and hastily cared for, as much as the shortness of the time on
the Passover Eve would permit. And then she had gone away, not caring at
all where she was taken, with but one thought monotonously beating in
her brain,--He is dead, He is dead.

It would not be possible in such moments calmly to recall what He
Himself had taught about death. Death for the moment would mean what it
had always meant to religious people of her time and circle. What that
was we have very clearly presented to us in the talk with Martha that
our Lord had near the place where Lazarus lay dead. There is a fuller
knowledge than we find explicit in the Old Testament, showing a growth
in the understanding of the Revelation in the years that fall between
the close of the Old Testament canon and the coming of our Lord. There
is a belief in survival to be followed by resurrection at the last day.
That would no doubt be St. Mary's belief about death. That is still the
belief of many Christians to-day. "I know that he shall rise again in
the resurrection at the last day." There are still many who think that
they have accepted the full Revelation of God in Christ who have not
appreciated the vast difference that the triumph of Christ over death
has made for us here and now.

So we have no difficulty in understanding the gloom that fell on the
Apostolic circle, accentuated as it was by the very vivid fear that at
any moment they might hear the approaching feet of the Jewish and Roman
officials and the knock of armed hands upon the door. What to do? How
escape? Had they so utterly misunderstood and misinterpreted Christ that
this is the natural outcome of His movement? Had they been the victims
of foolish hopes and of a baseless ambition when they saw in Him the
Christ, the one who should at this time restore again the Kingdom to
Israel? They had persistently clung to this nationalistic interpretation
of His work although He had never encouraged it; but it was the only
meaning that they were able to see in it. And now all their expectations
had collapsed, and they were left hopeless and leaderless to face the
consequences of a series of acts that had ended in the death of their
Master and would end, they knew not how, for them. Was it at all likely
that the Jewish authorities having disposed of the leader in a dangerous
movement would be content to let the followers go free? Would they not
rather seek to wipe out the last traces of the movement in blood?

So they would have thought, gathered in that Upper Room, while outside
the Jewish authorities were keeping the Passover. What a Passover it was
to them with this nightmare of a rebellion which threatened their whole
place and power passed away. What mutual congratulations were theirs on
the clever way in which the whole matter had been handled. There had
been a moment when they were on the very point of failure, when Pilate
was ready to let Jesus go free. That was their moment of greatest
danger; and they took their courage in both hands and threw the
challenge squarely in the face of the cowardly Governor: "If thou let
this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend!" The chief priests knew their
man, and they carried their plan against him with a determined hand,
declining to accept any compromise, anything less than the death of
Jesus. Great was the rejoicing; hearty were the mutual congratulations
in the official circles of Jerusalem. It had been long since they had
celebrated so wonderful a Passover as that!

So limited, so mistaken, is the human outlook on life. They had but to
await another night's passing and all would be changed. But in the
meantime the position of the disciples was pitiful. They were in that
state of dull, hopeless discouragement that is one of the most painful
of human states. It is a state to which we who are Christians do from
time to time fall victims with much less excuse. We are hopeless, we say
and feel. We look at the future, at the problems with which we are
fronted, and we see no ray of light, no suggestion of a solution. We
have been robbed of what we most valued and life looks wholly blank to
us. For those others there was this of excuse,--they did not know Jesus
risen, they did not know the power of the resurrection life. For us
there is no such excuse because we have a sure basis of hope in our
knowledge of the meaning of the Lord.

Hope is one of the great trilogy of Christian Virtues, the gift to
Christians of God the Holy Ghost. As Christians we have the virtue of
hope, the question is whether we will excercise it or no. It is one of
the many fruits of our being in a state of grace. Many blunder when they
think of hope in that they confound it with an optimistic feeling about
the future. We hear of hopeful persons and we know that by the
description is meant persons who are confident "that everything will be
all right," when there seems no ground at all for thinking so. They have
a "buoyant temperament," by which I suppose is meant a temperament which
soars above facts. That not very intelligent attitude has nothing to do
with the Christian virtue of hope. Hope is born of our relation to God.
It is the conviction: "God is on my side; I will not fear what man can
do unto me." It is the serene and untroubled trust of one who knows that
he is safe in the hands of God, and that his life is really ordered by
the will and Providence of God.

This virtue, had they possessed it, would have carried the disciples
through the crisis of our Lord's death. They had had sufficient
experience of Him to know that they might utterly rely on Him in all the
circumstances of their lives. He had always sustained them and carried
them through all crises. They had often been puzzled by Him, no doubt;
they had felt helpless to fathom much of His teaching, but they had
slowly arrived at certain conclusions about Him which He Himself had
confirmed. On that day at Caesarea Phillipi they had reached the
conclusion of His Messiahship, a slumbering conviction had broken into
flame and light in the great confession of S. Peter. The meaning of
Messiahship was a part of their national religious tradition; and
although in some important respects mistaken, they yet, one would think,
have been led to perfect trust in our Lord when they acknowledged His
Messianic claims. But death? They could not get over the apparent
finality of death. But, again, perhaps we are not very far beyond this
in our understanding of it. To us still death seems very final.

But it was just that sense of its finality--of its constituting a
hopeless break in the continuity of existence--that our Lord was engaged
in removing during these days which to them were days of hopelessness
and despair. When they came to know what in these days was taking place;
and when the Church guided by the Holy Spirit came to meditate upon the
meaning of our Lord's action it would see death in a changed light. The
sense of a cataclysmic disaster in death would pass and be replaced by a
sense of the continuity of life. Hitherto attention had been
concentrated on this world, and death had been a disappearence from this
world, the stopping of worldly loves and interests. Presently death
would be seen to be the translation of the human being to a new sphere
of activities, but involving no cessation of consciousness or failure of
personal activities. Men had thought, naturally enough in their lack of
knowledge, of the effect of death on the survivors, of the break in
their relations with the dead. Now death would be viewed from the point
of view of the interests of the person who is dead; and it would emerge
that he continued under different conditions, and in the end it would
come to be seen that even in the relations of the survivors with the
dead there was no necessary and absolute break, but that the new
conditions of life made possible renewed intercourse under altered

Our Lord, the disciples learned not long after, during these days went
to preach to the spirits in prison, which the thought of the Church has
interpreted to mean that He carried the news of the Redemption He had
wrought through His dying, to the place of the dead, to the region where
the souls of the faithful were patiently waiting the time of their
perfecting. The doors of the heavenly world could not be opened till the
time when He by His Cross and Passion, by His death and resurrection,
opened them. The Heads of the Gates could not be lifted till they were
lifted for the entrance of the King of Glory. But once lifted they were
lifted forever; and when He ascended up on high He led His troop of
captives redeemed from the bondage of death and hell.

It is through these lifted Gates that the companies of the sanctified
have been streaming ever since; and the difference that has been made in
our view of death has been immense. If we have the faith of a Christian
death has been transformed. There remains, of course, the natural grief
which is ours when we part from those whom we love. This grief is
natural and holy as it is in fact an expression of our love. It is not
rebellion against the will of God, but is the expression of a feeling
wherewith God has endowed us. But there is no longer in it the sting of
hopelessness that we find, for instance, in the inscriptions on pagan
tombs, nay, on tombs still, though created by Christians and found in
Christian cemeteries. Rather it is the expression of a love which is
learning to exercise itself under new conditions. We do not find it
possible to reverse all our habits in a moment; and the new relation
with the dead is one to which we have to learn to accustom ourselves. I
remember a case where a mother and a son had never been separated for
more than a day at a time, though he was far on in manhood. There came a
time of indeterminate separation and the mother's grief was intense
notwithstanding that there was no thought of a permanent separation. It
took some time for her to accustom herself to the new mode of
communication by letter. It is not far otherwise in death; it takes some
time for us to accustom ourselves to the new mode of intercourse through
prayer, but we succeed, and the new intercourse is very real and very
precious. In a sense, too, it is a nearer, more intimate intercourse. It
lacks the homely, daily touches, no doubt; but in compensation it
reveals to us the spiritual values in life. We speedily learn, we learn
almost by a spiritual instinct, what are the common grounds on which we
can now meet. By our intercourse with our dead we get a new grasp on the
truth of our common life in Christ: it is in and through Him that all
our converse is now mediated. We have little difficulty in knowing what
are the thoughts and interests which may be shared under the new
conditions in which we find ourselves. Our perception of spiritual
interests and spiritual values grows and deepens, and our communion with
our dead becomes an indication of the extent of our own
spiritual growth.

There come times in the spiritual experience of most of us when we seem
to have got to the end. There is a deepening sense of failure which is
not, when we analyse it, so much a failure in this or that detail, as a
general sense of the futility of the life of the Church as expressed in
our individual lives. It came to those primitive congregations, you
remember, to which S. Peter was writing; "Where is the promise of his
coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they
were from the beginning of creation." It is the weariness of continuous
effort from which we conclude that we are getting quite
insufficient results.

No doubt that is true. The results are never what we expect, possibly
because the effort is never what we imagine it to be. We continually
underestimate the opposing force of evil, the difficulty of dealing with
a humanity which falls so easily under the slightest temptation. It is
not that sinners decline to hear the Word of God, but that those who
profess themselves to be the servants of God, and who in fact intend to
be such, are so lamentably weak and ineffective. We think of the effort
of God in the Incarnation; we have been following that effort in some
detail through the Passion. We are surprised, shocked, disheartened by
the spectacle of the hatred that innocence stirs up, at the lengths men
will go when they see their personal ends threatened. We are horrified
by Caiphas, Pilate, Herod. But is that the really horrifying thing
about the Passion of our Lord? To me the supreme example of human
incomprehension is that all the disciples forsook Him and fled, that He
was left to die almost alone. There we get the most disheartening
failure in the tragedy.

For we expect the antagonism of the world, especially that part of the
world that has seen and rejected Christ. There we find Satanic
activities. One of the outstanding features of the literature of to-day
in the Western world, the world that had known from childhood the story
of Jesus, is its utter hatred of Christianity; its revolt from all that
Christianity stands for. This is markedly true in regard to the
Christian teaching in the matter of purity. The contemporary English
novel is perhaps the vilest thing that has yet appeared on this earth.
There have been plenty of unclean books written in the course of the
world's history--we have only to recall the literature of the
Renaissance--but for the most part they have been written in careless or
boastful disregard of moral sanctions which they still regarded as
existing; but the novel of the present is an immoral propaganda--it is
deliberately and of malice immoral, not out of careless levity, but out
of deliberate intention. You do not feel that the modern author is just
describing immoral actions which grow out of his story, but that he is
constructing his story for the purpose of propagating immoral theory. He
hates the whole teaching of the Christian Religion in the matter of
purity. He has thrown it overboard on the ground that it is an
"unnatural" restraint. To those who have studied the development of
thought since the Renaissance there is nothing surprising in this.

But what does still surprise those who are as yet capable of being
surprised is the light way in which the mass of Christians take their
religion. Occasionally, in moments of frankness, they admit that they
are not getting anything out of it; but it is harder to get them to
admit that the reason is that they are not putting anything into it. You
do not expect to get returns from a business into which you are putting
no capital, and you have no right to expect returns from a religion into
which you are putting no energy. What is meant by that is that those
Christians who are keeping the minimum routine of Christianity, who are
going to High Mass on Sunday (or perhaps only to low Mass) and then
making the rest of the day a time of self-indulgence and pleasure; who
make their communions but rarely; who do not go to confession, or go
only at Easter; who are giving no active support to the work of the
Gospel as represented in parish and diocese have no right to be
surprised if they find that they do not seem to get any results from
their religion; that it is often rather a bore to do even so much as
they do, and that they see no point in permitting it further to
interfere with their customary amusements and avocations. I do not know
what such persons expect from their religion, but I am sure that they
will be disappointed if they are expecting any spiritual result.
Naturally, they will be disappointed if they look in themselves for any
evidence of the virtue of hope. The most that can be looked for under
the circumstances is that mockery of hope, presumption.

We are not to be discouraged in our estimate of the Christian Religion
by this which seems to be the failure of God. We are not to echo the
cry: "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were
from the beginning of the creation." S. Peter pointed out to those
pessimists that all things do not continue the same, that there are
times of crisis which are the judgments of God. Such a judgment was that
of old which swept the wickedness of the world away, "whereby the world
that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." He goes on to
state that the present order likewise will issue in judgment: "The
heavens and the earth which are now ... are kept in store, reserved unto
fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." What
renders men hopeless is the feeling of God's inactivity; but this
declaration of impending judgment certifies the active interest of God.
God's dealing with the world is a perpetual judgment of which we are apt
to decline the evidence until the cataclysm reveals the final scene. But
every society, every individual life, is being judged through the whole
course of its existence, and there is no need that either society or
individual should be blind to the fact that such a judgment is taking
place. There is no failure of God. There is a failure on our part to
understand the works of God.

We may very well consider the problem an individual one and ask
ourselves what ground of hope we have. On the basis of our present
effort can we, ought we, to have more than we have? The spiritual life
is not an accident that befalls certain people; it is an art that is
acquired by such persons as are interested in it. It is attained through
the careful training and exercise of the faculties wherewith we have
been endowed. The answer to our question is itself a perfectly simple
one, as simple as would be the answer to the question: "Do you speak
French?" We speak French if we have taken the trouble to learn French;
and we have gained results in the way of spiritual development and
culture if we have taken the trouble to do so. I do not know why we
should expect results on any other ground than that.

But certain persons say: "I have tried, and have not attained any
results." Well, I should want to know what the trying means in that
case. It is well for a person who aspires to spiritual culture to think
of his past history. What sort of character-development has so far been
going on? Commonly it happens that there has been no spiritual effort
that is worth thinking about; but that does not mean that nothing
spiritual has been happening. It means on the contrary that there has
been going on a spiritual atrophy, the spiritual powers have been
without exercise and will be difficult to arouse to activity. In such a
case as that spiritual awakening will be followed by a long period of
spiritual struggle against habits of thought and action which we have
already formed, a period in which unused and immature spiritual powers
must be roused to action and disciplined to use. The simplest
illustration of this is the difficulty experienced by the enthusiastic
beginner in holding the attention fixed on spiritual acts such as the
various forms of prayer. In all such attempts at spiritual activity
there will be the constant drag of old habits, the recurrence of states
of mind and imagination that had become habitual. These hindrances can
be overcome, but only by steady and rather tedious labour. They call for
the display of the virtue of patience which is not one of the virtues
characteristic of spiritual immaturity. Hence reaction and the feeling
that one is not getting on, the feeling that we have quite possibly made
a mistake about the whole matter.

This is the place for the exercise of hope; and hope will come if we
look away from our not very encouraging acquirement to the ground that
we have for expecting any acquirement at all. If we ask: "Why hope?" we
shall see that our basis of hope is not in ourselves at all but in God.
We hope because of the promises of God, because of His will for us as
revealed in His Son. "He loved us and gave Himself for us"; and that
giving will not be in vain. "He gave Himself for me," I tell myself,
"and therefore I am justified in my expectation of spiritual success."
So one tries to learn from the present failure as it seems; so one
repents and pushes on; so one learns that it is through tenacity of
purpose that one attains results.

And again: I am sustained by hope because I see that the results that I
covet are not imaginary. They exist. I see them in operation all about
me. I learn of them as I study the lives of other Christians past and
present. They are reality not theory, fact not dream. And what has been
so richly and abundantly the outcome of spiritual living in others must
be within my own reach. The results they attained were not miraculous
gifts, but they were the working of God the Holy Spirit in lives yielded
to Him and co-operating with Him.

Once more: is it not true that after a period of honest labour I do find
results? Perhaps not all that I would like but all that I am justified
in expecting from the energy I have spent? I do not believe that any one
can look back over a year's honest labour and not see that the labour
has born fruit.

In any case the fact that we do not see just what we are looking for
does not mean that no spiritual work is going on. It may seem that our
Lord is silent and that to our cries there is no voice nor any that
answers; but that may mean that we are looking in the wrong place or
listening for the wrong word. The disciples looked that the outcome of
our Lord's life should be that the Kingdom should be restored to Israel;
and when they turned away from the tomb in Joseph's Garden they felt
that what they had looked for and prayed for was hopeless of
accomplishment. But the important point was not their vision of the
Kingdom at all, but that they had yielded themselves to our Lord and
become His disciples and lovers. This is not what they intended to do,
but it is what actually had happened: and when the grave yielded up the
dead Whom they thought that they had lost forever, Jesus came back with
a mission for them that was infinitely wider than their dream: the
mission of founding not the old Kingdom of David, but the Kingdom of
David's Son. All their aspirations and prayers were fulfilled by being
transcended, and they found themselves in a position vastly more
important than had been reached even in their dreams.

Something like that not infrequently happens in our experience. We
conceive a spiritual ambition and work for a spiritual end, and seem
always to miss it; and then the day comes when God reveals to us what He
has been doing, and we find that through the very discipline of our
failure we have been being prepared for a success of which we had not
thought: and when we raise our eyes from the path we thought so toilsome
and uninteresting, it is to find ourselves at the very gate of the City
of God. It will be with us as with the Apostles who in the darkest hour
of their imagined failure, when they were gathered together in hiding
from the Jews were startled by the appearence among them of the risen
Jesus, and were filled with the unutterable joy of His message of peace.

"His body is wrapped all in woe,
Hand and foot He may not go.
Thy Son, Lady, that thou lovest so
Naked is nailed upon a tree.

"The Blessed Body that thou hast born,
To save mankind that was forlorn,
His body, Lady, the Jews have torn,
And hurt His Head, as ye may see."

When John his tale began to tell
Mary would not longer dwell
But hied her fast unto that hill
Where she might her own Son see.

"My sweete Son, Thou art me dear,
Oh why have men hanged thee here?
Thy head is closed with a brier,
O why have men so done to Thee?"

"John, this woman I thee betake;
Keep My Mother for My sake.
On Rood I hang for mannes sake
For sinful men as thou may see.

"This game alone I have to play,
For sinful souls that are to die.
Not one man goeth by the way
That on my pains will look and see.

"Father, my soul I thee betake,
My body dieth for mannes sake;
To hell I go withouten wake,
Mannes soul to maken free."

Pray we all that Blessed Son
That He help us when may no man
And bring to bliss each everyone
Amen, amen, amen for Charity.

Early English Lyrics, p. 146. From an MS. in the Sloane collection.




And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth,
which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here.

S. Mark XVI, 6.

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel
delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the
blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and
grant that we who believe her truly to be the Mother of God,
may be helped by her prayers. Through.

O Almighty and merciful God, who hast wonderfully provided
perpetual succour for the defence of Christian people in the
most blessed Virgin Mary; mercifully grant that, contending
during life under the protection of such patronage, we may be
enabled to gain the victory, over the malignant enemy in
death. Through.


Whatever may be our grief, however life may seem to have been emptied
of all interest for us, nevertheless the routine of life reasserts
itself and forces us back to the daily tasks no matter how savourless
they may now seem. We speedily find that we are not isolated but units
in a social order which claims us and calls on us to fulfil the duties
of our place. Blessed Mary was led away from the tomb of her Son in the
prostration of grief; but her very duty to Him would have forced her
thought away from herself and led her to join in the preparations which
were being made for the proper care of the Sacred Body. And in that sad
duty she would find solace of a kind; there is an expression of love in
the care we give our dead. This body now so helpless and unresponsive,
has been the medium through which the soul expressed itself to us; it
has been the instrument of love and the sacrament of our union. How well
we know it! How well the mother knows every feature of her child, how
she now lingers over the preparations for the burial feeling that the
separation is not quite accomplished so long as her hands can touch and
her eyes see the familiar features. In the pause that the Sabbath forced
on the friends of Jesus we may be sure that they were making what
preparations might be made under the restrictions of their religion, and
that they looked eagerly for the passing of the Sabbath as giving them
one more opportunity of service to the Master. There was the group of
women who had followed Him and "ministered of their substance" who were
faithful still. The Mother had no "substance"; she shared the poverty of
her Son. Her support during the Sabbath would be the expectancy of
looking once more upon His Face.

But when the first day of the week dawned it proved to be a day of
stupendous wonder. They, the Disciples and these faithful women, seemed
to themselves, no doubt, to have passed into a new world where the
presuppositions of the old world were upset and reversed. There were
visions of angels, reported appearances of Jesus, an empty tomb. Through
the incredible reports that came to them from various sources the light
gradually broke for them. It was true then, that saying of Jesus, that
He would rise again from the dead! It was not some mysterious bit of
teaching, the exact bearing of which they did not catch, but a literal
fact! And then while they still hesitated and doubted, while they still
hid behind the closed doors, Jesus Himself came and stood in the midst
with His message of peace. It is often so, is it not? While we are in
perplexity and fear, while we think the next sound will be the knock of
armed hands on the door, it is not the Jews that come, but Jesus with a
message of peace. Our fears are so pathetic, so pitiful; we meet life
and death with so little of the understanding and the courage that our
Lord's promises ought to inspire in us! We stand so shudderingly before
the vision of death, are so much appalled by the thought of the grave!
We shudder and tremble as the hand of death is stretched out toward us
and ours. One is often tempted to ask as one hears people talking of
death: "Are these Christians? Do they believe in immortality? Have they
heard the message of the first Easter morning, the angelic announcement
of the resurrection of Christ? Have they never found the peace of
believing, the utter quiet of the spirit in the confidence of a certain
hope which belongs to those who have grasped the meaning of the
resurrection of the dead?" Here in Jerusalem in a few days the whole
point of view is changed. The frightened group of disciples is
transformed by the resurrection experience into the group of glad and
triumphant missionaries who will be ready when they are endowed with
power from on high to go out and preach Jesus and the resurrection to
the ends of the earth.

What in these first days the resurrection meant to them was no doubt
just the return of Jesus. He was with them once more, and they were
going to take hope again in the old life, to resume the old mission
which had been interrupted by the disaster of Calvary. All other feeling
would have been swallowed up in the mere joy of the recovery. But it
could not be many hours before it would be plain that if Jesus was
restored to them He was restored with a difference. A new element had
entered their intercourse which was due to some subtle change that had
passed upon Him. We get the first note of it in that wonderful scene in
Joseph's Garden when the Lord appears to the Magdalen. There is all the
love and sympathy there had ever been; but when in response to her name
uttered in the familiar voice the Magdalen throws herself at His Feet,
there is a new word that marks a new phase in their relation: "Touch Me
not, for I am not yet ascended."

This new thing in our Lord which held them back with a new word that
they had never experienced before must have become plainer each day. S.
Mary feels no less love in her Son restored to her from; the grave, but
she does not find just the same freedom of approach. S. John could no
longer think of leaning on His Heart at supper as before. Jesus was the
same as before. There was the same thoughtful sympathy; the same tender
love; but it is now mediated through a nature that has undergone some
profound change in the days between death and resurrection. The humanity
has acquired new powers, the spirit is obviously more in control of the
body. Our Lord appeared and disappeared abruptly. His control over
matter was absolute. And in His intercourse with the disciples there was
a difference. He did not linger with them but appeared briefly from time
to time as though He were but a passing visitor to the world. There were
no longer the confidential talks in the fading light after the day's
work and teaching was over. There was no longer the common meal with its
intimacy and friendliness. There was, and this was a striking change, no
longer any attempt to approach those outside the apostolic circle, no
demonstration of His resurrection to the world that had, as it thought,
safely disposed of Him. He came for brief times and with brief
messages, short, pregnant instructions, filled with meaning for the
future into which they are soon to enter.

What did it mean, this resurrection of Jesus? It meant the demonstration
of the continuity of our nature in our Lord. The Son of God took upon
Him our nature and lived and died in that nature. Our pressing question
is, what difference has that made to us? How are _we_ affected? Has
humanity been permanently affected by the resumption of it by God in the
resurrection? If the assumption of humanity by our Lord was but a
passing assumption; if He took flesh for a certain purpose, and that
purpose fulfilled, laid it aside, and once more assumed His
pre-incarnate state, we should have difficulty in seeing that our
humanity was deeply affected by the Incarnation. There would have been
exhibited a perfect human life, but what would have been left at the end
of that life would have been just the story of it, a thing wholly of the
past. It is not much better if it is assumed that the meaning of the
resurrection is the revelation of the immortality of the human spirit,
that in fact the resurrection means that the soul of Jesus is now in the
world of the spirit, but that His Body returned to the dust. We are not
very much interested in the bare fact of survival. What interests us is
the mode of survival, the conditions under which we survive. We are
interested, that is to say, in our survival as human beings and not in
our survival as something else--souls.

A soul is not a human being; a human being is a composite of soul and
body. It is interesting to note that people who do not believe in the
resurrection of our Lord, do not believe in our survival as human
beings, consequently do not believe in a heaven that is of any human
interest. But we feel, do we not? a certain lack of interest in a future
in which we shall be something quite different in constitution from what
we are now. We can think of a time between death and the resurrection in
which we shall be incomplete, but that is tolerable because it is
disciplinary and temporary and looks on to our restitution to full
humanity in the resurrection at the Last Day. And we feel that the
promise, the certainty of this is sealed by our Lord's resurrection from
the dead. We are certain that that took place because it is needful to
the completion of His Work.

The Creed is one: and if one denies one article one speedily finds that
there is an effect on others. The denial of the resurrection is part and
parcel of the attempt to reduce Christianity to a history of something
that once took place which is important to us to-day because it affords
us a standard of life, a pattern after which we are to shape ourselves.
Else should we be very much in the dark. We gain from the Christian
Revelation a conception of God as a kindly Father Who desires His
children to follow the example of His Son. That example, no doubt, must
not be pressed too literally, must be adapted to modern conditions; but
we can get some light and guidance from the study of it. Still, if you
do not care to follow it nothing will happen to you. It is merely a
pleasing occupation for those who are interested in such things. The
affirmation of the resurrection, on the other hand, is the affirmation
of the continuity of the work of God Incarnate; it is an assertion that
Christianity is a supernatural action of God going on all the time, the
essence of which is, not that it invites the believer to imitation of
the life of Christ, so far as seems practical under modern conditions,
but that it calls him to union with Christ; it makes it his life's
meaning to recreate the Christ-experience, to be born and live and die
through the experience of Incarnate God. It fixes his attention not on
what Jesus did but on what Jesus is. It insists on a present vital
organic relation to God, mediated by the humanity of Jesus; and if there
be no humanity of Jesus, if at His death He ceased to be completely
human, then there is no possibility of such a relation to God in Christ
as the Catholic Religion has from the beginning postulated; and unless
we are to continue human there seems no continuing basis for such a
relation to one another in the future as would make the future of any
interest to us. For us, as for S. Paul, all our hope hangs on the
resurrection of Christ from the dead; and if Christ be not risen from
the dead then is our faith vain.

For us then, as for the men who wrote the Gospel, and for the men who
planted the Church and watered it with their blood, the resurrection of
Jesus means the return of His Spirit from the place whither it had gone
to preach to the spirits in prison and its reunion with the Body which
had been laid in the tomb in Joseph's Garden, and the issuing of
perfect God and perfect man from that tomb on the first Easter morning.
That humanity had, no doubt, undergone profound changes to fit it to be
the perfect instrument of the spirit of Christ Jesus henceforward. It is
now the resurrection body, the spiritual body of the new man. We
understand that it is now a body fitted for the new conditions of the
resurrection life, and we also understand that it is the exemplar of
what our risen bodies will be. They will be endowed with new powers and
capacities, but they will be human bodies, the medium of the spirit's
expression and a recognisable means of intercourse with our friends. We
lie down in the grave with a certainty of preserving our identity and of
maintaining the capacity of intercourse with those we know and love.
That is what really interests us in the future which would be
uninteresting on other terms; and that is what our Lord's appearances
after the resurrection seem to guarantee. He resumed a human intercourse
with those whom He had gathered about Him. He continued His work of
instruction and preparation for the future. And when at length He left
them they were prepared to understand that His departure was but the
beginning of a new relation. But also they would feel much less that
there was an absolute break with the past than if He had not appeared to
them after the Crucifixion, and they had been left with but a belief in
His immortality. They would, too, now be able to look on to the future
as containing a renewal of the relations now changed, to read a definite
meaning into His promises that where He is there shall His servants be.

It is much to know that we are immortal: it is much more to know that
this immortality is a human immortality. One feels in studying the
pre-Christian beliefs in immortality that they had very little
effectiveness, and that the reason was that there was no real link
connecting life in this world with life in the next. Death was a fearful
catastrophe that man in some sense survived, but in a sense that
separated his two modes of existence by a great gulf. Man survived, but
his interests did not survive, and therefore he looked to the future
with indifference or fear. This life seemed to him much preferable to
the life which was on the other side of the grave. So far as the Old
Testament writings touch on the future world, they touch upon it without
enthusiasm. There is an immense difference between the attitude of the
Old Testament saint toward death and that, for instance, of the early
Christian martyr. And the difference is that the martyr does not feel
that death will put an end to all he knows and loves and set him, alive
it may be, but alive in a strange country. He feels that he is about to
pass into a state of being in which he will find his finer interests not
lost but intensified. At the center of his religious expression is a
personal love of Jesus and a martyr's death would mean immediate
admission to the presence and love of His Master. He would--of this he
had no shadow of doubt--he would see Jesus, not the spirit of Jesus, but
the Jesus Who is God Incarnate, whose earthly life he had gone over so
many times, Whom he felt that he should recognise at once. Death was not
the breaking off of all in which he was interested but was rather the
fulfilment of all that he had dreamed. And this must be true always
where our interests are truly Christian interests. It is no doubt true
that we find in Christian congregations a large number of individuals
whose attitude toward death and the future is purely heathen. They
believe in survival, but they have no vital interest in it. I fancy that
there are a good many people who would experience relief to be persuaded
that death is the end of conscious existence, that they do not have to
look forward to a continuous life under other conditions. And this not
at all, as no doubt it would in some cases be, because it was the
lifting of the weighty burden of responsibility for the sort of life one
leads, because it was relief from the thought of a judgment to be one
day faced, but because the world to come, as they have grasped its
meaning, is a world in which they have no sort of interest. Our Lord in
His Presentation of the future does actually point us to the natural
human interest by which our affection will follow that which we do in
fact value. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." But
the class of whom I am thinking have no treasures. Notwithstanding some
sort of conformity to the Christian Religion, conceived most likely
under the aspect of a compulsory moral code, there is nothing in their
experience that one can call a love of our Lord, no actually felt
personal affection for Him that makes them long to see Him. There were
those with whom they had intimately lived and whom they had loved and
who have passed through the experience of death, but in the years that
have passed they have become used to living without them and there is
no passionate longing to be with them again. There are no interests in
their lives which when they think of them they feel that they can carry
with them to the world beyond. Whatever they have succeeded in
accumulating in life is hardly to be regarded as heavenly treasure!

There then is the vital centre of the Christian doctrine of the world to
come,--that it is a life continuous with this life, not in bare
existence, but in the persistence of relations and interests upon which
we have entered here. At the center of that world as it is revealed to
us, is Jesus Christ, God in our nature, and about Him ever the saints of
His Kingdom, who are still human with human interests, and who look on
to the time when the fulness of humanity will be restored to them by the
resurrection of the body. The interests that are vital here are also the
interests that are vital there, the interests of the Kingdom of God. As
the Christian thinks of the life of the world to come he thinks of it as
the sphere in which his ambitions can be and will be realised, where the
ends of which he has so long and so earnestly striven will be attained.
His life has been a life given to the service of our Lord and to his
Kingdom, and it had, no doubt, often seemed to small purpose; it has
often seemed that the Kingdom was not prospering and the work of God
coming to naught. And then he looks on to the future and sees that the
work that he knows is an insignificant fragment of the whole work; and
he thinks with longing of the time when he shall see revealed all that
has been accomplished. He feels like a colonist who in some outlying
province of an empire is striving to promote the interests of his
Homeland. His work is to build up peace and order and to civilise
barbarous tribes. And there are days when the work seems very long and
very hopeless; and then he comforts himself with the thought that this
is but a corner of the empire and that one day he will be relieved and
called home. There at the centre he will be able to see the whole fact,
will be able to understand what this colony means, and will rejoice in
the slight contribution to its upbuilding that it has been his mission
to make. The heart of the Christian is really in the Homeland and he
feels acutely that here he is on the Pilgrim Way. But he feels too that
his present vocation is here and that he is here contributing the part
that God has appointed him for the upbuilding of the Kingdom, and that
the more he loves our Lord and the more he longs for Him the more
faithfully and exactly will he strive to accomplish his appointed work.

They are right, those who are continually reproaching Christians with
having a centre of interest outside this world; but we do not mind the
reproach because we are quite sure that only those will have an
intelligent interest in this world who feel that it does not stand by
itself as a final and complete fact, but is a single stage of the many
stages of God's working. We no more think it a disgrace to be thinking
of a future world and to have our centre of interest there than we think
it a disgrace for the college lad to be looking forward to the career
that lies beyond the college boundaries and for which his college is
supposed to be preparing him. We do not consider that boy ideal whose
whole time and energy is given to the present interests of a college,
its athletics, its societies, and in the end is found to have paid so
little attention to the intellectual work that he is sent there to
perform that he fails to pass his examinations. Christians are
interested in this world because it is a province of the Kingdom of God
and that they are set here to work out certain problems, and that they
are quite sure that the successful solution of these problems is the
best and highest contribution that they can make to the development of
life in this world. They do not believe that as a social contribution to
the betterment of human life a saint is less valuable than an agnostic
professor of sociology or an atheistic socialistic leader; nor does the
Christian believe that strict attention to the affairs of the Kingdom of
God renders him less valuable as a citizen than strict attention to a
brewery or a bank. A whole-hearted Christian life which has in view all
the relations of the Kingdom of God in this or in any other world, which
loves God and loves its neighbour in God, is quite the best contribution
that a human being can make to the cause of social progress. If it were
possible to put in evidence anywhere a wholly Christian community I am
quite convinced that we should see that our social problems were there
solved. I think then we shall be right to insist that what is needed is
not less otherworldliness but more: that more otherworldliness would
work a social revolution of a beneficent character. The result might be
that we should spend less of our national income on preparations for
war and more in making the conditions of life tolerable for the poor;
that we should begin to pay something of the same sort of care for the
training of children that we now bestow on the nurture of pigs and
calves. We might possibly look on those whom we curiously call the
"inferior races" as less objects of commercial exploitation and more as
objects of moral and spiritual interest.

We shall no doubt do this when we have more fully grasped what the
resurrection of Christ has done and made possible. It is no account of
that resurrection to think of it as a demonstration of immortality. It
only touches the fringes of its importance when we think of it as
setting the seal of divine approval upon the teaching of Jesus. We get
to the heart of the matter when we think of the risen humanity of our
Lord as having become for us a source of energy. The truth of our Lord's
life is not that He gave us an example of how we ought to live, but that
He provided the power that enables us to live as He lived. Also He gave
us the point of view from which to estimate life. The writer of the
Epistles to the Hebrews uses a striking phrase when he speaks of "the
power of an endless life." Is not that an illuminating phrase when we
think of our relation to our Lord? His revelation of the meaning of
human life has brought to us the vision of what that life may become and
the power to attain that end. The fact of our endlessness at once puts a
certain order into life. Things, interests, occupations fall into their
right places. There are so many things which seem not worth while
because of the revelation of the importance of our work. Other things
there are which we should not have dared to undertake if we had but this
life in which to accomplish them. But he who understands that he is
building for eternity can build with all the care and all the
deliberation that is needed for so vast a work. There is no haste if we
select those things which have eternal value. We can undertake the
development of the Christian qualities of character with entire
hopefulness. The very conception of the beauty and perfectness of the
fruits of the Spirit might discourage us if our time were limited. But
if we feel that the work we have done on them, however elementary and
fragmentary, as long as it is honest and heartfelt, will not be lost
when death comes, then we can go securely on. We can go on in any
spiritual work we have undertaken without that sense of feverish haste
lest death overtake us and put an end to our labour which so affects men
in purely secular things. To us death is not an interruption. Death does
not destroy our human personality, nor does it destroy our interest in
anything that like us is permanent. We feel perfectly secure when we
have identified ourselves with the business of the Kingdom of God. Then
we almost feel the throb of our immortality; the power of an endless
life is now ours. We have not to wait for death and resurrection to
endue us with that power because it is the gift of God to us here, that
gift of enternal life which our Lord came to bestow upon us. Only the
gift which we realise imperfectly or not at all at its bestowal we come
to understand in something of its real power; and henceforth we live in
the possession and fruition of it, growing up "into Him in all things,
which is the Head, even Christ."

Hail, thou brightest Star of Ocean;
Hail, thou Mother of our God;
Hail, thou Ever-sinless Virgin,
Gateway of the blest abode.
Ave; 'tis an angel's greeting--
Thou didst hear his music sound,
Changing thus the name of Eva--
Shed the gifts of peace around.
Burst the sinner's bonds in sunder;
Pour the day on darkling eyes;
Chase our ills; invoke upon us
All the blessings of the skies.
Show thyself a watchful Mother;
And may He our pleadings hear,
Who for us a helpless Infant
Owned thee for His mother dear.
Maid, above all maids excelling,
Maid, above all maidens mild,
Freed from sin, oh, make our bosoms
Sweetly meek and undefiled.
Keep our lives all pure and stainless,
Guide us on our heavenly way,
'Till we see the face of Jesus,
And exult in endless day.
Glory to the Eternal Father;
Glory to the Eternal Son;
Glory to the Eternal Spirit:
Blest for ever, Three in One.




To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by
many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and
speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Acts I, 3.

Open unto us the door of thy loving kindness, O blessed
Mother of God; we have set our hope on thee, may we not be
disappointed, but through thee may we be delivered from
adversity, for thou art the saving help of all
Christian people.

O Mother of God, thou who art a deep well of infinite mercy,
bestow upon us thy compassion; look upon thy people who have
sinned, and continue to make manifest thy power. For thee do
we trust, and to thee do we cry, Hail! even as of old did
Gabriel, the chief of the angelic hosts.


These Forty Days that intervened between our Lord's resurrection and
ascension must have been utterly bewildering in the experience of the
Apostles. Our Lord was once more with them; He had come back from the
grave; that would have been the central experience. But in His
intercourse with them He was so changed, the same and yet with a vast
difference. We think of the perplexed group of the disciples gathered in
the familiar place, going over the recent facts and trying to adjust
themselves to them. Just what is the difference that death and
resurrection have made, we hear them discussing. Is it that He appears
and disappears so strangely, not coming any longer to be with them in
the old way, with the old familiar intercourse? There is obviously no
failure in Himself, no decline in love; but there is a decline in
intimacy. They themselves feel a strange awe in His presence such as
they had not been accustomed to feel in the past. They feel too that
this restrained intercourse is but temporary, that at any moment it may
end. The instructions He is giving them are so obviously final
instructions, fitting them for a future in which He will not be
with them.

Amid all this perplexity we try to see Our Lady and to get at her mind.
She was no doubt in the small group eagerly waiting our Lord's coming,
dreading each time He left them that He would return no more. One
thinks of her as less bewildered than the others because her interest
was more concentrated. She had no problems to work out, no perplexities
to absorb her; she had simply to love. Life to her was just love--love
of the Son Whom she had brought forth and Whom she had followed so far.
She lived in His appearings; and between them she lived in remembrance
of them. One does not think of her as dwelling very much on what He
says, but as dwelling upon Him. The thought of Him absorbs her. She has
passed into that relation to our Lord that in the years to come many
souls will strive to acquire--the state of absorbed contemplation, the
state in which all things else for the time recede and one is alone with
God. God so fills the soul that there is room there for nothing else.

For the Apostles these were days of immense importance as days in which
they were compelled to reconstruct their whole view of the meeting of
our Lord's mission and of their relation to it. They came to these days
with their settled notion about the renewed Kingdom of Israel and of our
Lord's reign on earth which His teaching hitherto had not been able to
expel; but now they are compelled to see that the Kingdom of God of
which they are to be the missionaries is a Kingdom in another sense than
they had so far conceived it. It differs vastly from their dream of an
Israelite empire. It is no doubt true that this mental revolution is of
slow operation, and that even when certain truths are grasped it will
still take time to grasp them in all their implications. For long their
Judaism will impede their full understanding of the meaning of the
Kingdom of God. It will be years before they can see that it is a
non-Jewish fact and that other nations will stand on an equality with
them. But they will by the end of the Forty Days have grasped the fact
that they are not engaged in a secular revolution and are not entering
on a career of worldly power. They will be ready for their active
ministry after Pentecost, a ministry of spiritual initiation into the
Kingdom of God. When in response to their preaching men asked the
question: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" They were ready with
their answer: "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of
Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of
the Holy Ghost."

So the Forty Days were filled with new meanings emerging from the old
teaching, of suddenly grasped significance in some saying of our Lord
that they had assumed that they understood but in reality had attributed
little meaning to. It is one of the striking things about our relation
to spiritual truth that we can go on for long thinking that we are
attaching a meaning to something which in fact, it turns out, has meant
almost nothing to us. Some day a phrase which we have often read or
repeated suddenly is lighted up with a significance we had never dreamed
of. We have long been looking some truth in the face, but in fact it has
never laid hold of us; we have made no inferences from it, deduced no
necessity of action, till on a day the significance of it emerges and
we are overwhelmed by the revelation of our blunder, of our stupidity.
The fact is that we assume that our conduct is quite right, and we
interpret truth in the light of our conduct rather than interpret
conduct in the light of truth. It is the explanation, I suppose, of the
fact that so many people read their Bible regularly without, so far as
one can see, the reading having any effect upon their conduct. The
conduct is a settled affair and they are finding it reflected in the
pages of the Gospel. Their minds are already definitely made up to the
effect that they know what the Gospel means, and that is the meaning
that they put into the Bible. One does not know otherwise how to account
for the fact that it is precisely those who think themselves "Bible
Christians" who are farthest from accepting the explicit teaching of the
Bible. If there is anything plain in the New Testament it is that the
whole teaching of our Lord is sacramental. If anything is taught there
one would think it was the nature and obligation of baptism, the
Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar, the gift of
Confirmation, the meaning of absolution. Yet it is to "Bible Christians"
that sacraments appear to have no value, are things which can be
dispensed with as mere ornaments of the Christian Religion.

I wonder if we have wholly got beyond that point of view? I wonder if we
have got a religious practice which is settled or one that is
continually expanding? I wonder if we force our meaning on the Bible or
if we are trying to find therein new stimulus to action? That in truth
is the reason for reading the Holy Scriptures at all--to find therein
stimulus, stimulus for life; that we may see how little or how much our
conduct conforms to the ideal set out there. We do not read to learn a
religion, but to learn to practice the religion that we already have.

Now to take just one point in illustration. The commission of our Lord
to His Church in the person of the Apostles was a commission to forgive
sins. "He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy
Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and
whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." As to how in detail,
this commission is to be exercised is a matter for the Church to order
as the circumstances of its life require. As I read my Bible certain
facts emerge: I am a sinner; Christ died for my sins; He left power in
His Church for the forgiveness of sin--of my sin. And then the question
arises: What is the bearing of all that on my personal practice? Have I
settled a practice for myself to which I am subjecting the teaching of
the Bible and the Church? Or am I alert to see a contrast or a
contradiction between my practice and the teaching of the Bible and the
Church, if such exist? Now there are many people in the Church who make
no use of the sacrament of penance, and there are many others who make
use of it very sparingly. It is clear that either they must be right, or
the Bible and the Church must be right. It is clear that such persons,
to press it no farther, are imposing the interpretation of their own
conduct on the teaching of the Christian Religion and asserting by
their constant practice that that interpretation is quite inadequate,
notwithstanding the contrary practice of the entire Catholic world.
That, to put it mildly, is a very peculiar intellectual and
spiritual attitude.

We can most of us, I have no doubt, find by searching somewhere in our
religious practice parallel attitudes toward truth. We have settled many
questions in a sense that is agreeable to us. We cannot tell just how we
got them settled, but settled they are. Take a very familiar matter
which greatly concerns us in this parish dedicated to the Blessed Virgin
Mary, the question of the honour and reverence due to our Blessed
Mother. We had got settled in our practice that certain things were
right and certain wrong. I doubt if a very intelligent account of
this--why they were right or wrong--could, in many cases have been
given. But the settled opinion and practice was there.

And then came the demand for a review; that we look our practice
squarely in the face and ask, "What is the ground of this? Does it
correspond with the teaching of Scripture and of the Catholic Church?
And if it does not, what am I going to do about it? Have I only a
collection of prejudices there where I supposed that I had a collection
of settled truths? Do I see that it is quite possible that I may be
wholly wrong, and that I am hindered by pride from reversing my
attitude?" For there is a certain pride which operates in these matters
of belief and practice as well as elsewhere. We are quite apt to pride
ourselves on our consistency and think it an unworthy thing to change
our minds. That is rather a foolish attitude; changing one's mind is
commonly not a mark of fickleness but of intellectual advance. It means
oftentimes the abandonment of prejudice or the giving up of an opinion
which we have discovered to have no foundation. This is rather a large
universe in which we live, and it is improbable that any man's thought
of it at any time should be adequate. Intellectual progress means the
assimilation of new truths. The Christian Religion is a large and
complex phenomenon, and any individual's thought of it at any time must
be, in the nature of things, an inadequate thought. Progress in religion
means the constant assimilation of new truths--new, that is, to us.
Surely it is a very peculiar attitude to be proud of never learning
anything, making it a virtue to have precisely the same opinions this
year as last! I should be very much ashamed of myself if a year were to
pass in which I had learned nothing, had changed my mind about nothing.
In religion, one knows that the articles of the Faith are expressed in
the dogmatic definitions of the Church; but one will never know, seek as
one will, all that these mean in detail, all that they demand in
practice. And our only tolerable attitude is that of learners constantly
seeking to fill up the _lacunae_ in our beliefs and practice.

In fact, any living Christian experience is always in process of
adjustment. Those who conceive a dogmatic religion as an immovable
religion, as a collection of cut and dried formulae which each
generation is expected to learn and repeat and to which it has no other
relation, are quite right in condemning that conception, only that is
not, in fact, what the Christian Religion is. The content of the
Christian dogmas is so full and so complex that there is never any
danger of intellectual sterility in those who are called to deal with
them; and their application to life is so rich and so manifold that
there is not the least danger that those who set out to apply them to
the problems of daily existence will become mere formalists. The attempt
to live a truly Christian life is a never-ending, inexhaustible
adventure. Only those can miss this fact who have utterly misconceived
Christianity as a barren set of prohibitions, warning its devotees off
the field of great sections of human experience. There are those who
appear to imagine that the primary business of Christianity is to deal
with sin, and that in order to keep itself occupied it has to invent a
large number of unreal sins. Unfortunately sin, as the deliberate
rejection of the known will of God, exists; and, fortunately, the grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ Who came into the world to save sinners also
exists. We can be unendingly thankful for that. But it is also true that
the action of Christianity is not exhausted in the negative work of
dealing with sin. Christianity is primarily a positive action for the
bringing about and development of the relation of the soul with God in
the state of union. We may say that Christianity has to turn aside from
this its proper business of developing the spiritual life to the
preliminary work of dealing with sin which kills spirituality and
hinders its development. But it is not necessary to make the blunder of
assuming that this dealing with sin is the essential work of
Christianity because it has so continually to be at it, any more than
it is necessary to assume that the essential work of a farmer is the
digging up of weeds. Surely it would be no adequate treatise on
agriculture which would confine itself to description of the nature of
weeds and of methods of dealing with them. There is a branch of theology
which deals with sin, the methods of its treatment and its cure; but
there are also other branches of theology: and the direction of the Holy
Scripture is not to get rid of sin and stop; but having done that, to go
on to perfection.

Christian experience is a constant process of adjustment, a constantly
growing experience. By the study of the Christian revelation it is
always finding new meanings in old truths, new modes of application of
familiar practices. This simply means that the Christian is alive and
not a fossil. It means that his relation to our Lord is such that it
opens to him inexhaustible depths of experience. It is easy to see this
in the concrete by taking up the life of almost any saint. It is easy to
trace the growth of S. John from the young fisherman, fiery, impatient,
who wished to call down fire from heaven upon his adversaries as Elijah
did, and gained the rebuke: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are
of," to the mature and supremely calm and simple experience which is
reflected in the Gospel and Epistles. It is easy to trace the
development of the impulsive, zealous Pharisee that Paul of Tarsus was,
through all the stages of spiritual growth that are reflected in his
Letters, till he is Paul the aged waiting to depart and be with Christ
"which is far better." You can study it in the confessions of S.
Augustine in its first stage and follow it through its later stages in
his letters and other writings, and in many another saint beside. If you
have any spiritual experience at all you can trace it in your own case:
you have grown, not through dealing with sin, but through the pursuit of
ideal perfection, that perfection which is set before you by the
Christian Religion. You may not feel that you have gone very far: that
is not the point at present; you know that you have found a method by
which you may go on indefinitely; that there is no need that you should
stop anywhere short of the Beatific Vision. You do know that your
religion is not the deadening repetition of dogmas which the unbeliever
conceives it to be, but is the never ceasing attempt to master the
inexhaustible truth that is contained in your relation to our Lord. You
do know that however far you have gone you feel that you are still but
on the threshold and that the path before your feet runs out into
infinity. Let us go back again to our examination of the experience of
the Apostles. When we examine their training we find there, I think, two
quite distinct elements both of which must have had a formative
influence upon their ministry. In the first place there was the element
of dogmatic teaching. There is a class of persons who are accustomed to
tell us that there is no dogma in the New Testament, by which they
appear to mean that the particular dogmatic affirmations of the Creed
are not formulated in the pages of the New Testament, but are of later
production. That, no doubt, is true; but nevertheless it would be
difficult to find a more dogmatic book than the New Testament, or a
more dogmatic teacher than was our Lord. And our Lord taught the
Apostles in a most definite way the expected acceptance of His teaching
because He taught it. "He taught as one having authority, and not as the
scribes," it was noted. The point about the teaching of the scribes was
that it was traditional, wholly an interpretation of the meaning of the
Old Testament. It made no claim to originality but rather based its
claim on the fact it was not original. Our Lord, it was noticed, did not
base His claim on tradition. In fact He often noticed the Jewish
tradition for the purpose of marking the contrast between it and His own
teaching. "Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time ... but I
say unto you." He commonly refused to give an explanation of what He had
said, but demanded acceptance on His authority. He brought discipleship
to the test of hard sayings, and permitted the departure of those who
could not accept them. He cut across popular prejudices and took small
account of the "modern mind" as expressed by the Sadducees. He expected
the same unhesitating submission from the Apostles whom He was training,
though it was also a part of their training to be the future heralds of
the Kingdom that they should have the "mysteries of the Kingdom"
explained to them. But from the time when Jesus began to preach, saying
"the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," He preached and taught with the same
unhesitating note of certainty, and with the same demand for
intellectual submission on the part of those who heard Him.

And that continues to the end. During the Forty Days, the few sayings
that have come to us have the same ring of authority, of dogmatic
certainty. The result was that when the Apostles went out to teach they
were equipped with a body of truth which they presented to the world in
the same unhesitating way. Indeed, that is the only way in which the
central truths of the Christian Faith can be presented. They are not the
conclusions of argument, which may be taken up and argued over again to
the end of the world,--they are the dicta of revelation. We either know
them to be true because they have been revealed, or we do not know them
to be true at all. They are mysteries, that is, truths beyond the
possibility of human finding which have been made known to man by God
Himself. They are the appropriate data of religion and what
distinguishes it from philosophy. The presence of mystery in philosophy
is annoying, and the aim is to get rid of it, but a religion without
mystery is absurd. Religion deals with the fundamental relations between
God and man and the light it brings us must be a supernatural light.
Such a religion in its presentation naturally cut across the
preconceptions of the traditionalists in Jerusalem to whom nothing new
could be true, as across the preconceptions of the sophists of Athens,
to whom nothing that was not new was interesting.

This dogmatic equipment was but one side, however, of the Apostolic
training for their future work, a training to which the finishing
touches, so to say, were put during the Forty Days. The other side of
the training was the impression upon them of the Personality of our
Lord, the effect of their close association with Him. This has an
importance that dwarfs all other influences of the time; and we feel all
through the Gospel that it was what our Lord himself counted upon in
forming them for their mission. In the beginning "He chose twelve to be
with Him," and their day by day association with Him was constantly
changing their point of view and reforming their character. It was not
the teaching, the explanation of parables, or the sight of the miracles;
it was the silent effect of a personality that was in contact with them
constantly and was constantly presenting to them an ideal of life, an
ideal of absolute submission to the will of the Father and of utter
consecration to the, mission that had been committed to Him.

We all know this silent pressure of life upon life. We have most of us,
I suppose, experienced it either from our parents or from friends in
later life; and we can through that experience of ours attempt the
explanation of our Lord's influence on the Apostles. There were not only
the hours of formal teaching--they, in a way, were perhaps the less
important from our present point of view. We have more in mind the
informal talks that would go on as they went from village to village in
Galilee, or as they gathered about the door of some cottage in the
evening or sat in the shelter of some grove during the noon-day heat. It
was just talk arising naturally out of the incidents of the day, but it
was always talk guided by Jesus--talk in which Jesus was constantly
revealing Himself to them, impressing upon them His point of view,
making plain his own judgment upon life. And when we turn to His formal
teaching we realise how revolutionary was His point of view in regard to
life, how He swept aside the customary conventions by which they were
accustomed to guide life, and substituted the radical principles that
they have left on record in the Sermon on the Mount for the perplexity
of a world yet far from understanding them. Evidently the Apostles would
find their accustomed values tossed aside and a wholly new set of values
presented to them.

I suppose we find it difficult to appreciate how utterly revolutionary
the Gospel teaching continually is, not because we have become
accustomed to follow it, but because we have got used to hearing it and
evacuating it of most of its meaning by clever glossing. It was thus
that the teaching classes in Jerusalem avoided the pressure of Old
Testament ideals by a facile system of interpretation which made "void
the Word of God by their traditions." Human nature has not altered; and
we succeed by the same method in making the Gospel of none effect. We
are so well accustomed to do this that we lose the point and pungency of
much of our Lord's teaching. But we know that the apostles did not. We
know that they presented that teaching in all its sharpness to would-be
disciples. It could not be otherwise with those who for three years had
been in day by day intimacy with our Lord and had assimilated His point
of view and his judgment on life.

One effect of their contact with our Lord in the days following the
resurrection would be that whatever changes the passage to a new level
of existence had wrought in Him, it had not changed either the tone of
His teaching or the beauty and attractiveness of His Personality. The
concluding charges that were given them, the great commission of
proclaiming the Kingdom with which they were now definitely endued, the
powers which were committed to them in the great words: "All power is
given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all
nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have
commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world," would but confirm and strengthen all that had gone before in
their experience of Him. The Jesus of the resurrection was no pale ghost
returned from the grave, intermittently to appear to them to assure them
of the fact of immortality. He was "the same Jesus" Whom they had known
for three years, and whose return from the dead triumphant over the
powers that had opposed Him, set quite plainly and definitely the seal
of indisputable authority upon all the teaching and the example that had
gone before. The period of their probation was over: The commission was
theirs: It remained that they should abide in Jerusalem until they
should be "endued with power from on high."

Proclaimed Queen and Mother of a God,
The Light of earth, the Sovereign of saints,
With pilgrim foot up tiring hills she trod,
And heavenly stile with handmaids' toil acquaints;
Her youth to age, her health to sick she lends;
Her heart to God, to neighbor hand she bends.

A Prince she is, and mightier Prince doth bear,
Yet pomp of princely train she would not have;
But doubtless, heavenly choirs attendant were,
Her Child from harm, herself from fall to save:
Word to the voice, song to the tune she brings,
The voice her word, the tune her ditty sings.

Eternal lights enclosed in her breast
Shot out such piercing beams of burning love,
That when her voice her cousin's ears possessed
The force thereof did force her babe to move:
With secret signs the children greet each other;
But, open praise each leaveth to his mother.

Robert Southwell, S.J. 1560-1595.




And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted
from them, and carried up into heaven.

S. Luke XXIV, 51.

O Mother of God, since we have obtained confidence in thee,
we shall not be put to shame, but we shall be saved.

And since we have obtained thy help and thy meditation, O,
thou holy, pure, and perfect one!

We fear not but that we shall put our enemies to flight and
scatter them.

We have taken unto us the shelter of thy mighty help in all
things like a shield.

And we pray, and beseech thee that we may call upon thee, O
Mother of God, so that thou deliver us through thy prayers.

And that thou mayest raise us up again from the sleep of
darkness, to offer praise through the might of God Who took
flesh in thee.


There would be no doubt of the finality of our Lord's physical
withdrawal this time. As the group of disciples stood on the hilltop in
Galilee and watched the clouds close about Him, they would feel that
this was the end of the kind of intercourse to which they had been
accustomed. The past Forty Days would have done much to prepare them for
the separation. Their conception of our Lord's work as issuing in the
establishment of an earthly Kingdom had been swept away; the changed
terms of their intercourse with Him in the resurrection state had
emphasised the change that had taken place; His teaching during these
weeks which was centered on the work of the future in which they were to
carry on the mission He had initiated; all these elements prepared them
for the definite withdrawal of the ascension. Nevertheless we can
understand the wrench that must have been involved in His actual
withdrawal. We face the dying of some one we love. We know that it is a
matter of weeks; the weeks shorten to days, and we are "prepared" for
the death; but what we mean is that the death will not take us by
surprise. However prepared we may be, the pain of parting will be a
quite definite pain; there is no way of avoiding that.

We know that there was no way for the disciples to avoid the pain of the
going of Jesus. It was not the same sort of pain that they felt now, as
they gazed up from the hill top to the cloud drifting into the
distance, as the pain that had been theirs as they hurried trembling and
affrighted through the streets of Jerusalem on the afternoon of the
Crucifixion. This pain had no sting of remorse for a duty undone, or of
fear for a danger to be met. It was the calm pain of love in the
realisation that the parting is final.

We know that among the group that watched the receding cloud the eyes
that would linger longest and would find it hardest to turn away would
be those of the Blessed Mother. Her mission about our Lord during all
these past years had been a very characteristically womanly mission, a
mission of silence and help and sympathy. She was with the women who
ministered to Him, never obtrusive, never self-assertive; but always
ready when need was. It was the silent service of a great love. That is
the perfection of service. There are types of service which claim reward
or recognition. We are not unfamiliar in the work of the Kingdom with
people who have to be cajoled and petted and made much of because of
what they do. Verily, they have their reward. But the type we are
considering, of which the Blessed Mother is the highest expression, is
without thought of self, being wholly lost in the wonder of being
permitted to serve God at all. To be permitted to give one's time and
personal ministry to our Lord in His Kingdom and in His members is so
splendid a grace of God that all thought of self is lost in the joy of
it. We know that S. Mary could have had no other thought than the
offering of her love in whatever way it was permitted to express
itself; and we know that the quality of that love was such that the
moment of the ascension would have left her desolate, watching the cloud
that veiled Him from her eyes.

All of which does not mean that we are wrong when we speak of the
ascension as one of the "Glorious Mysteries" of S. Mary. There we are
viewing it in its wide bearing as S. Mary would come to view it in a
short while. When the meaning of the ascension became plain, when under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit, S. Mary was able to view her Son as
"the One Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," when she
was able to think of the human nature that God had taken from her as
permanently enthroned in heaven,--then would all this be to her creative
of intense joy. We, seeing so clearly what the ascension essentially
meant, can think of it as a mystery of intense joy, but as our Lord
passed away from sight the passing would for the moment be one last stab
of the sword through this so-often wounded heart.

There would be no lingering upon the hill top. The angel messengers
press the lesson that the life before them is a life of eager contest,
of energetic action. Jesus had indeed gone in the clouds of heaven, but
they were reminded that there would be a reappearance, a coming-again in
the clouds of heaven, and in the meantime there was much to do, work
that would require their self-expenditure even unto death. Back must
they go to Jerusalem and there await the opening of the next act of the
drama of the Kingdom of God.

As we turn to the Epistles of the New Testament and to the slowly
shaping theology of the early Church, we find set out for us the nature
of our Lord's heavenly activity; we see the full meaning of His
Incarnation. The human nature which the Son of God assumed from a pure
Virgin, He assumed permanently. He took it from the tomb on the
resurrection morning, he bore it with Him from the Galilean hill to the
very presence of uncreated God. When the Gates lift and admit the
Conqueror to heaven, what enters heaven is our nature, what is enthroned
at the Right Hand of God is man, forever united to God. And when we ask,
"What is the purpose of this?" The answer is that it is the continual
purpose of the incarnation, the purpose of mediatorship between the
created and the uncreated, between God and man. The constant purpose of
the incarnation is mediation--of the need of mediation there is no end.
Our Lord's work was not finished, though there are those who appear to
believe that it was finished, when, as a Galilean Preacher He had taught
men of the Father: nor was it finished when He bought redemption for us
on the Cross, and triumphing over death in the resurrection, returned to
heaven at the ascension. There is a very real sense in which we can say
that all those acts were the preliminaries of His work, were what made
the work possible. We then mean by His work the age-long work of
building the Kingdom of Heaven, and through it bringing souls to the
Father. To insist perhaps over-much: We are not saved by the memory of
what our Lord did, we are saved by what He now does. We are saved by the
present application to us of the work that was wrought in the years of
His earthly life.

We need to grasp this living and present character of our Lord's work if
we will understand the meaning of His mediation. There is a gulf between
the divine, the purely spiritual, and the human, which needs some bridge
to enable the human to cross it. That bridge was thrown across in the
incarnation when God and man became united in the Person of the second
Person of the ever blessed Trinity. When God the Son became incarnate,
God and man were forever united and the door of heaven was about to
swing open. Henceforth from the demonstrated triumph of our Lord in the
Ascension the Kingdom of Heaven is open to all believers, and there is
an ever-ready way of approach to God the Blessed Trinity by the
Incarnate Person of the Son Who is the One Mediator between God and man.
Whoever approaches God, whoever would reach to the Divine, must approach
by that path, the path of Jesus Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

He is the Way to God: and that Way is one that we follow by
participation in His nature, by being taken up into Him. We do not reach
God by thinking about our Lord, or by believing about our Lord: thinking
and believing are the preliminaries of action. There are wonderful
riches in the King's Treasury, but you do not get them because you think
of them or because you believe that they are there. You get them when
you go after them. And you get the ends of the Christian Religion not
because you believe them to exist, but because you go after them in the
way in which Christ directed. Inasmuch as He is the Way to the Father,
we reach the Father by being made one with the Son, by being made a
member of Him, by being taken into Him in the life of union. "No man
cometh unto the Father but by me," He says. And the process of coming is
by believing all that He said and acting upon His Word to the uttermost.
Those who by partaking of the Sacraments are in Christ have passed by
His mediation to the knowledge of the Father.

For a road can be travelled in either direction. Christ is the road by
which we come to the Father, to participation in the life of the Blessed
Trinity; but also we can think of Him as the road by which the Father
comes to us. We can think of ourselves as drawing near to God in His
Beloved Son: I love to think the other way of the road, of God drawing
near to me, of God pouring of His riches into human life and elevating
that life to His very Self. I like to think of the Christian life as a
life to which God continually communicates Himself, till we are filled
"with all the fulness of God." Can we imagine any more wonderful
expression of the life of holiness to which we are called than that? We
"grow up into Him in all things." That is the true account of the
Christian life, not some thin and dull routine of moral duty, but the
spiritual adventure of the road that travels out into the infinite
pursuit of spiritual accomplishment till it is lost in the very heart
of God.

This was the starting point of Blessed Mary. She was filled with all
the fulness of God from the moment of her conception, and was never
separated from the joy of the great possession. We are born in sin and
have to travel the road to the very end. Yet we, too, begin in union,
because we are born of our baptism into Christ soon after our natural
birth, and our problem is to achieve in experience the content of our
birthright. In other words: our feet are set in the Way from the
beginning, and our part is to keep to the Way and not wander to the
right hand or to the left; that this may be possible for us Christ lived
and died and to-day is at the Right Hand of the Father where He ever
liveth to make intercession for us. We need never walk without Christ.
The weariness of the journey is sustained by His constant and ready
help. The way is lighted by the Truth which is Himself, and the life
that we live is His communicated life. "I live, yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me." There are those who find the road godward, the road of
the Christ-life, wearisome because they keep their eyes fixed on the
difficulties of the way and treat each step as though it were a separate
thing and not one step in a wonderful journey. The way to avoid the
weariness of the day's travel is to keep one's eye fixed on the end, to
raise the eyes to the heavens where Jesus sitteth enthroned at the Right
Hand of the Father. The day's song is the Sursum Corda,--"Lift up your
hearts unto the Lord!"

The mediatorial office of our Lord is exercised chiefly through His
Sacrifice. He ever liveth to make intercession for us; and this
intercession is the presentation of the Sacrifice that He Himself
offered once for all in Blood upon the Cross, and forever presents to
the Father in heaven "one unending sacrifice." This heavenly oblation of
our Lord which is the means wherethrough we approach pure Divinity, is
also the Sacrifice of the Church here on earth. The heavenly Altar and
the earthly Altar are but one in that there is but one Priest and one
Victim here and there. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the Church's
presentation of her Head as her means of approach to God, as the ground
of all her prayers. These prayers make their appeal through Jesus Who
died and rose again for us and is on the Right Hand of Power. We know of
no other way of approach, we plead no other merit as the hope of our
acceptance. Let us be very clear about this centrality of our Lord's
mediation because I shall presently have certain things to say which are
often assumed to be in conflict with his Mediatorial Office, but which
in reality do not so conflict, but exist at all because of the Office.

We approach Divinity, then, through our Lord's humanity; and we at once
see how that teaching, so common to-day, which denies the Resurrection
of our Lord's Body, and believes simply in the survival of His human
soul strikes at the very heart of the Catholic Religion. If Revelation
be true, our approach to God is rendered possible because there is a
Mediator between God and man, the MAN Christ Jesus. All our prayers
have explicitly, or implicitly, this fact in view. All our Masses are a
pleading of this fact.

How great is our joy and confidence when we realise this! We come
together, let us say, on Sunday morning at the High Mass. We are coming
to offer the Blessed Sacrifice of our Lord's Body and Blood. But who,
precisely, is to make the offering? When we ask what this congregation
is, what is the answer? The congregation is the congregation of Christ's
Flock: it is the Body of Christ gathered together for the worship of
Almighty God. The act that is to be performed is the act of a Body, not
primarily of individuals. Our participation in the act of worship in the
full sense of participation is conditioned upon our being members of the
Body. If we are not members of the Body we have no recognised status as
worshippers. No doubt we each one have our individual aspirations and
needs which we bring with us, but they are the needs and aspirations of
a member of the Body of Christ, and our ability to unite them with the
act that is to be performed grows out of our status as members of the
Body; as such, we join our own intention to the sacrificial act and make
our petitions through it. But we are here as offerers of the Sacrifice,
and may not neglect our official significance, and attempt to turn the
Mass into a private act of worship.

We, then, the Body of Christ in this place, offer the Sacrifice of
Christ. What is the status of the priest? He is a differentiated organ
of the Body, not created by the Body, but created by God in the creation
of the Body. He is not separate from the Body, an official imposed upon
it from the outside, nor is he a creation of the Body set apart to act
upon its behalf. He is one mode of the expression of the Body's
life--the Body could not perfectly perform its functions without him
any more than a physical body can perfectly function without a hand or
an eye. But neither has the priest any existence apart from the Body of
which he is a function. The Sacrifice that he offers is not his on
behalf of the Body, but the Body's own Sacrifice which is made through
his agency.

But a complete body has a head; and of the Body which is the Church the
Head is Christ. We, the members, have our life from Him, the Head; we
are able at all to act spiritually because of our union with Him. He is
our life; and the acts of the Body are ultimately the acts of the Head.
The Sacrifice which the Body offers as the means of its approach to
Divinity is One Sacrifice of the Head: and the priestly function of the
Body has any vitality because it is Christ Who is its life, Who
functions through the priest, Who is, in fact, the true Priest. He
Himself is both Sacrifice and Priest; and that which is offered here is
indentical with that which is offered there.

Our life flows from our Head, is the life of Christ in us. So closely
are we associated with Him that we are called His members, the
instrument through which His life expresses itself, through which He
acts. By virtue of the life of Christ of which all we are partakers, we
are not only members of Christ, but members one of another. Our
spiritual life is not our own affair, but we have duties one to another,
and all the members of the Body are concerned in our exercise of our
gifts, have, in fact, claims on the exercise of them.

This mutual inherence of the members of the Body and these obligations
to one another are in strict subordination to the Head; but they are
very real duties and privileges which are ours to exercise. What we are
concerned with at present is that from, this view of them that I have
been presenting there results the possibility and obligation of
intercession; the love and care of the members for one another is
exercised in their prayers for one another. This privilege of
intercession is one of the privileges most widely valued and most
constantly exercised throughout the Church. Days of intercession,
litanies, the offering of the Blessed Sacrifice with special intention,
the constant requests for prayers for objects in which people are
interested, all testify to the value we place on the privilege. Here is
one action in regard to which there is no doubting voice in Christendom.

But curiously, and for some reason to me wholly unintelligible, there
are a great many who think of this right and duty of intercession
between the members of the One Body as exclusively the right and duty of
those who are living here on earth; or at least if it pertain to the
"dead" it is in a way in which we can have no part. One would think--and
so the Catholic Church has always thought--that those whom we call dead,
but who are really "alive unto God" with a life more intense, a life
more spiritually clear-visioned, than our own, would have a special
power and earnestness in prayer, and that a share in their intercessions
is a spiritual privilege much to be valued. They are members with us of
the same Body; death has not cut them off from their membership,
rather, if possible, it has intensified it, or at least their perception
of what is involved in it. They remain under all the obligations of the
life of the Body and consequently under the obligation to care for other
members of the Body. The intercession of the saints for us is a fact
that the Church has never doubted and cannot doubt except under penalty
of denying at the same time the existence of the Body. That certain
members of the Church have of late years doubted our right to invoke the
saints, to call upon them for the aid of their prayers, is true; but
there seems no ground for rejecting the tradition of invocation except
the rather odd ground that we do not know the mode by which our requests
reach them! As there are a good many other spiritual facts of which we
do not know the mode, I do not think that we need be deterred from the
practice of invocation on that ground: certainly the Church has never
been so deterred.

It is strange how little people attempt to think out their religion, and
especially their obligation to religious practice. I have so often heard
people say, when the practice of invocation of saints was urged: Why ask
the saints? Why not go directly to God? And these same people are
constantly asking the prayers of their fellow Christians here on earth!
Suppose when some pious soul comes to me and asks me if I will not pray
for a sick child, or a friend at sea, I were to reply: "Why come to me?
Why not go directly to God?" I should be rightly thought unfeeling and
unchristian. But that is precisely what the same person says when I
suggest that the saints or the Blessed Mother of God be invoked for some
cause that we have in hand! A person comes to me and asks my prayers,
and I go to a saint and ask his prayers on precisely the same basis and
for precisely the same reason, namely, that we are both members of the
Body of Christ and of one another. We have the right to expect the
interest and to count on the love of our fellow-members in Christ. We go
to the saints with the same directness and the same simplicity with
which we go to the living members of the Body, living, I mean in the
Church on earth. If it be not possible to do that, then death has made a
very disastrous break in the unity of the Body of Christ.

And if we can count so without hesitation upon the love and sympathy and
interest of the saints, surely we can count upon finding the same or
greater love and sympathy in the greatest of all the saints, our blessed
Mother, who is also the Mother of God. She in her spotless purity is the
highest of creatures. She by her special privilege has boundless power
of intercession; not power as I have explained before, because of any
sort of favouritism, but power because her spiritual perfection gives
her unique insight into the mind of God. Power in prayer really means
that, through spiritual insight we are enabled to ask according to His
will "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask
anything according to his will, he heareth us." That is why
righteousness is the ground of prevailing intercession, because
righteousness means sympathetic understanding of the mind of God.

And in none is there such sympathetic understanding because in none is
there such nearness to God, as in Blessed Mary. To go to her in our
prayers and to beg her to intercede for us is, of course, no more a
trenching upon the unique mediatorship of our Lord than it is to ask my
human friend to pray for me. We tend, do we not? to select from among
the circle of our acquaintance those whom for some reason we feel to
have what we call a special power in prayer when we seek for some one to
pray for us in our need. Is it not wholly natural then that we should go
to our Blessed Mother on whose sympathy we can unfailingly count and in
whose spiritual understanding we can implicitly trust, when we want to
interest those who are dear to our Lord in our special needs? We have
every claim upon their sympathy because they are fellow-members of the
same Body; and we know, too, that He Who has made us one in His Body
wills that we should receive His graces through our mutual

Mary, Maiden, mild and free,
Chamber of the Trinity,
A little while now list to me,
As greeting I thee give;
What though my heart unclean may be,
My offering yet receive.

Thou art the Queen of Paradise,
Of heaven, of earth, of all that is;
Thou bore in thee the King of Bliss
Without or spot or stain;
Thou didst put right what was amiss,
What man had lost, re-gain.

The gentle Dove of Noe thou art
The Branch of Olive-tree that brought,
In token that a peace was wrought,
And man to God was dear:
Sweet Ladye, be my Fort,
When the last fight draws near.

Thou art the Sling, thy Son the Stone
That David at Goliath flung;
Eke Aaron's rod, whence blossom sprung
Though bare it was, and dry:
'Tis known to all, who've looked upon
Thy childbirth wondrous high.

In thee has God become a Child,
The wretched foe in thee is foiled;
That Unicorn that was so wild
Is thrown by woman chaste;
Him hast thou tamed, and forced to yield,
With milk from Virgin breast.

Like as the sun full clear doth pass,
Without a break, through shining glass,
Thy Maidenhood unblemished was
For bearing of the Lord:
Now, sweetest Comfort of our race,
To sinners be thou good.

Take, Ladye dear, this little Song
That out of sinful heart has come;
Against the fiend now make me strong,
Guide well my wandering soul:
And though I once have done thee wrong,
Forgive, and make me whole.
Wm. De Shoreham's translation
from the Latin, or French of
Robt. Grosseteste; C. 1325.




And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,
and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with
the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the
Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts II, 3.

Holy Mother of God, Virgin ever blessed, glorious and noble,
chaste and inviolate, O Mary Immaculate, chosen and beloved
of God, endowed win singular sanctity, worthy of all praise,
thou who art the Advocate for the sins of the whole world; O
listen, listen, listen to us, O holy Mary, Pray for us.
Intercede for us. Disdain not to help us. For we are
confident and know for certain that thou canst obtain all
that thou wiliest from thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, God
Almighty, the King of ages, Who liveth with the Father and
the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever.

MS. Book of Cerne, belonging to Ethelwald, BP. of Sherbourne, 760.

"When the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one
accord in one place"--I suppose the "all" will be not merely the
"twelve," but the "all" that were mentioned by S. Luke a few verses
before. He mentions the Apostles by name and then adds, "These all
continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women,
and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."

We think of our Lady as sharing in the Pentecostal gift. This was the
first act of her ascended Son, this sending forth of the Holy Spirit
whom He had promised. It was the fulfilment of the prophecy: "I will
pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men
shall dream dreams." I do not know of anything in the teaching of the
Church to lead us to suppose that this gift was to the Apostles alone:
rather the thought of the Church is that to all Christians is there a
gift of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is imparted to the Church as such,
and within the organisation He functions through appropriate organs.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." Whatever the
operations of God through the Body of Christ, the same divine energy is
making them possible. "All these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will."

That the Holy Spirit should manifest Himself in her life was, of
course, no new experience for S. Mary. Her conscious vocation to be the
Mother of God had begun when the Holy Ghost had come upon her, and she
had conceived that "Holy Thing" which was called the Son of God. And we
cannot think that the Spirit Who is the Spirit of sanctity had ever been
absent from her from the moment of her wonderful conception when by the
creative act of the Spirit she was conceived without sin, that is, in
union with God. But as there are diversities of gifts, so the coming of
the Spirit on Pentecost would have meant to her some new or increased
gift of God.

For the Church as such this coming of the Spirit meant the entrance of
the work of the Incarnation upon a new phase of its action. We may, I
suppose, think of the work of our Lord during the years of His Ministry
as intensive. It was the work of preparing the men to whom was to be
committed the commission to preach the Kingdom of God. They had been
chosen to be with Him, and their training had been essentially an
experience of Him, an experience which was to be the essence of their
Gospel and which their mission was to interpret to the world. "Who is
this Jesus of Nazareth Whom ye preach? What does He mean?" was to be the
question that they would have to answer in the coming years; and they
would have to answer it to all sorts of men; to Jews who would find this
conception of a suffering and rejected Messiah "a stumbling-block"; to
the Greeks who would find "Jesus and the resurrection" "foolishness"; to
all races of men who would have to be persuaded to leave their
ancestral religions and revolutionise their lives, and before they would
do so would wish to know what was the true meaning of Christ in whose
name their whole past was challenged. As we watch the perplexity, the
bewilderment, of these Apostles in the face of the collapse of all their
hopes on the first Good Friday, as we see them struggling with the fact
of the Resurrection, and attempting to adjust their lives to that; and
then listen to their preaching and follow their action in the days
succeeding Pentecost, we have brought home to us the nature of the
action of the Holy Spirit when He came to them as the Spirit of Jesus to
enable them to carry on the work that Jesus had committed to them.

We understand that the work of the Spirit was first of all the work of
interpreting the experience of the last three years. During these years
they had been with Jesus, and the result was an experience which,
however wonderful, or rather, just because it was wonderful, was in
their consciousness at present little more than a chaotic mass of
impressions and memories. It was the work of the Spirit to enkindle and
illuminate their understanding so that they could put the experiences of
the last three years in order, if one may put it in that way. He enabled
them to draw out the meaning of what they had gone through. We are at
once impressed with the reality of the work of the Spirit when we listen
to the sermon of S. Peter to those who have witnessed the miracle of
Pentecost. Here is another miracle of which we have, perhaps, missed
something of the wonder. This man who in answer to the mockeries of the
crowd--"these men are full of new wine"--stands forth to deliver this
exposition of Jesus is the same man who but a few days before had denied
his Lord through fear; he is the same man who even after the
Resurrection was filled with such discouragement that he could think of
nothing to do but to return to the old life of a fisherman, who had said
on a day, "I go a-fishing." If we wish to understand the meaning of the
coming of the Spirit, let us forget for the moment the tongues of fire,
which are the symbol, and read over the words of S. Peter which are the
true miracle of Pentecost.

And this action of the Spirit is not sporadic or temporary. We follow
the annals of the Church and we find the constant evidence of the
Spirit's power and action in the Christian propaganda. The courage with
which the Christians meet the opposition of Jews and Romans, in their
resourcefulness in dealing with the utterly unprecedented problems they
are called on to face, in the intellectual grip of the Apologists who
have to meet the criticism of very diverse sets of opponents, in their
rapidly growing comprehension of what the Incarnation means, and of all
in the way of action that our Lord's directions involve,--all these,
when we recall the antecedents of these men, lead us to a clearer
apprehension of the nature of the Spirit's work in the Church. As our
Lord had promised, He is bringing "all things to their remembrance" and
"leading them into all the truth." If we need proof of the constant
supernatural action of God in the Church, we get all we can ask in the
preaching of Jesus by His followers in these opening years of
their ministry.

I said that our Lord's work in the time of His ministry was intensive,
the preparing of instruments for the founding of the Kingdom. With
Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit it passes into a new stage; it
becomes _extensive_ in that it now reaches out to gather all men into
the Kingdom. To this end there is now a vast development of the
machinery (so to call it) of the Gospel, a calling into existence of the
means whereby Christ is to continue His action in men's souls. For there
must continue a direct action of Christ or the Gospel will sink to the
condition of a twice-told tale: it will be the constant repetition of
the story of Jesus of Nazareth Who went about doing good: and it will
have less and less power to be of any help to men as it receeds into the
past. Without the means which are called into existence to produce
continual contact between the Redeemer and the Redeemed we cannot
conceive of the Gospel continuing to exist as power.

This is not a matter of pure theory: it is a thing that we have seen
happen. We have seen the growth of a theory of Christianity which
dispenses wholly or nearly wholly with the means of grace, and reduces
the presentation of the Gospel to the presentation of the ideal of a
good life as an object of imitation. When one asks: "Why should I
imitate this life which, however good in an abstract way, is not very
harmonious with the ideals of society at present?" one is told that it
is the best life ever lived, the life that best interprets God, our
heavenly Father to us. If one asks: "What is likely to happen if one
does not imitate this life, but prefers some more modern type of
usefulness?" the answer seems to be: "Nothing in particular will
happen." In other words, the preaching of the Gospel divorced from the
means of grace tends more and more to decline to the presentation of a
humanitarian ideal of life which has little, and constantly less,
driving power.

We see then as we study the history of the early days of the Church the
constant presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the mode and means by
which the Gospel is presented. We see it particularly in the development
of the ministry and the growth of the sacramental system. It seems to me
not very important to find a detailed justification of all the things
that were done or established in explicit words or acts in the New
Testament. If we are dealing, as we believe that we are, with an
organism of which the life is God the Holy Ghost Who is the Vicar of
Christ in the building and administration of His Kingdom, I do not see
why we should not find in the action of the Kingdom as much of
inspiration as we find in its writings. I do not see why we should
accept certain things on the authority of the action of the early
Christian community, as the baptism of infants and the communion of
women, and reject others, as the reservation of the Blessed Sacraments
and prayers for the dead. Nor do I see why we should draw some sort of
an artificial line through the history of the Church and declare all the
things on one side of it primitive and desirable, and all on the other
late and suspect! Especially as no one seems to be able to explain why
the line should be drawn in one place rather than in another.

If the Holy Spirit was sent by our Lord as His Vicar to preside in the
Church, as I suppose we all believe, it was in fulfilment of our Lord's
promise to be with it till the end of the world and that the gates of
hell should not prevail against it. There is nothing anywhere in Holy
Scripture indicating that the Holy Spirit was to be sent to the
"primitive Church," even if any one could tell what the primitive Church
is, or rather when the Church ceased to be primitive. The Holy Spirit is
present as a guide to the Church to-day quite as fully as He was in the
first century. His presence then was not a guarantee that all men should
believe the truth or do the right, nor is it now. The state of
Christendom is a sufficient evidence of the ability of men to defy the
will of God, the Holy Spirit; but that does not mean that the Holy
Spirit has withdrawn any more than the state of things at Corinth which
called out S. Paul's two Epistles to that Church is a proof that God the
Holy Ghost never came or did not stay with that primitive Christian
community. The power of the Spirit is not an irresistible power, but a
spiritual influence which will guide those who are willing to be guided,
who will to be submissive to His will. But the will of God can always be
resisted--and always is. Nevertheless the Holy Spirit is in the Church.
He shaped and is shaping its beliefs and institutions: and to-day we
trust that He is leading us back to His obedience that we may at length
realize the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the individual Christian is a
constructive work; it has in view the growth of the child of God in
holiness. He makes the soul of the baptised His dwelling-place and
wishes to remain there as in His Temple, carrying on the work of its
sanctification. The state of guiltlessness that follows absolution is
not the equivalent of sanctity. Guiltlessness is a negative, sanctity is
a positive state, and is acquired as the result of active correspondence
with the will of God. In order that there may be this correspondence the
will of God must be known, not merely as we know the things that we have
learned by rote, but known in the sense of understood and appreciated.
The will of God is knowable: that is, it has been revealed to man; but
it needs to be effectively made known to the individual man. He must be
convinced of the importance of divine truth to him. We know that just
there is the supremely vital point in the teaching of the truth. Men
assent to truth as true; but they are not thereby necessarily moved to
act upon it: it may remain unassimilated. The vast majority of the
people of this country, if they were questioned, would assert a belief
in God; but a surprising number of them are unmoved by that belief, are
led by it to no action. Or take the membership of any parish; they would
all profess a belief in the efficacy of the sacraments: yet there is a
surprisingly large number who do not frequent the sacraments. How many
of you, for example, make your confessions and communions with the
frequency and regularity that your theory about the sacraments implies?

Now it is the work of the Holy Spirit to effect the passage in life
from theory to practice, from profession to action. He illuminates the
mind that we may understand; He stirs the will that we may act. He aids
us to overcome the intellectual and physical sloth which is the
arch-enemy of Christian practice. He intercedes for us, and He pleads
with us that we may act as the children of God that we believe ourselves
to be. But all He can do is to entice the will; if we remain unwilling,
unmoved, He is ultimately grieved and leaves us. We may hope that that
despair of the Holy Spirit of a soul rarely happens because it is a
spiritual disaster awful to contemplate. In most men and women we can
see enough impulse toward God, enough struggle with evil, to encourage
us to think that the Holy Spirit has not utterly abandoned them. And it
is never safe for us to judge definitely of another's spiritual case;
but we do see lives that are so given over to malignancy that our hope
for them is an optimism which has small basis on which to rest.

In most we may be certain that there is going on a very active pleading
of the Holy Spirit. He is interpreting the meaning of the truth we
accept. He is present in a careful reading of the Bible, in meditation,
in devotional study. He receives of Christ and shows it unto us. I am
sure we ought to think more of this interpretative assistance of the
Holy Spirit in the work of understanding the Christian Religion,
especially in its application to the daily life. I am quite certain, and
I have no doubt that the experience of some of you, at least, will bear
me out, that it makes a vast difference in the results of our reading
and study if we undertake it under the direct invocation of the Holy
Spirit and with the conscious giving ourselves up to His guidance. We
have to make a meditation, for example, and we begin with prayer to God
the Holy Ghost for guidance and enlightenment. It is often well to let
that prayer run on as long as it will. It may be in the end that instead
of making the meditation we had planned we shall have spent the time in
a prayer of union with the Holy Spirit and will find ourselves refreshed
and enlightened as the result. There is need of that sort of yielding of
self to the promptings of the Spirit. I think that it not infrequently
happens that our rules get in the way of His action by destroying or
checking in us a certain flexibility which is necessary if we are to
respond quickly to the voice of the Spirit. As in the case just
mentioned where the Spirit is leading us to communion with Him we are
apt to think: "I must get on with my meditation or the time will be up
and I shall not have made it," and we turn from the Spirit and stop the
work that He was accomplishing.

He has so much to do for us, so many things to show us, so many grounds
to urge for our more earnest seeking of sanctity. The true point of our
Bible reading is that it is the opportunity of the Holy Spirit to
exhibit truth to us so that in us it will become energetic. We already
are familiar with the incidents of our Lord's Passion. If it be a matter
of knowledge there is no need to-night to take up the Gospel and read
the chapters which tell of the Crucifixion. There is not much point in
reading through a chapter as a matter of pious habit. It is
extraordinary how many there are who speak with contempt of "mediaeval
prayers" such as the recitation of the Rosary, who yet "read a chapter"
once a day in the shortest possible time and with the minimum of
attention. We can think of all religious practices as opportunities that
we offer to God the Holy Ghost. The few verses of Holy Scripture we read
may well be the medium of His action upon us. He may give us new insight
into their meaning, He may stir our wills to correspondence with their
teaching, He may kindle our hearts by the evidence of the divine love
that He presses home. Who does not remember moments when new meaning
seemed to flash from the familiar pages, when we felt ourselves
convicted of inadequate response to the knowledge we have, or when we
felt our heart stir and send us to our knees in an act of
thanksgiving and love?

Our constant need is the clear knowledge of ourselves. We may, we often
do, see clearly God's will, and then we deceive ourselves as to the
nature of our response. We think we are seeking for God when in reality
we are seeking our own ends. We make our own plans and then seek to
impose them on the will of God. Self-seeking, which we mistake for
something else, is at the root of much spiritual failure. We try to
believe that God's will is our will, and we succeed in a measure. We
need therefore to be constantly examining ourselves by the revealed
standard of God's will, to let in the light of the Spirit on our
judgments and acts. For the struggle of the Spirit for control is a
struggle with a resisting and sluggish will. We see, but we do not
move; we know, but we do not act. The horrible inertia of spiritual
sloth paralyses us, and the call of the Spirit is heard in vain. Like
the man in our Lord's parable we plead the lateness of the hour, and our
unwillingness to disturb others as our excuse for not rising at the
Spirit's summons. But the Spirit, like the Friend at midnight, still
knocks at the door, and the sound of the summons penetrates the
quietness of the house and breaks in upon our slumbers. Well is it for
us if in the end we rise and open to Him.

It is only as we thus become energetic by the yielding to God of our
wills that He can go on to His desired work. The aim of God in dealing
with our lives is creative. He wills that we bring forth fruit, and the
fruit that He wills that we bring forth is the Fruit of the Spirit. The
general notion of holiness analyses into these qualities which are the
evidence of God's indwelling, of His actual possession of the soul. When
the soul yields at last to the divine will and begins to follow the
divinely indicated course of action, then it loses self and finds God,
then the results begin to show in the growth of the character-qualities
that we call fruits or virtues. The presence or the absence of these is
infallible evidence of the Spirit's success or failure in His work in
us. If we abide in Christ, then the natural results of such abiding must
be forthcoming. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in
me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye
can do nothing."

A vine bears fruit because it assimilates the natural elements which
are furnished it by the Providence of God through earth and air and
water, and works them into the fruit which is the end, the meaning of
its existence. Our Lord through the constant operation within us of the
Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual power to work over the endowments of
nature and the opportunities of life into the spiritual product which is
holiness. We can just as well, and perhaps easier, work up the same
natural elements into a quite different product. The result of our
life's action may be that we can show the works of the flesh. But what
is the will of the Spirit, S. Paul sets before us in these words: "For
when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What
fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the


Back to Full Books