The Gospel of last Sunday spoke to us of the nuptials of the Son of God with the human race. The realization of those sacred nuptials is the object which God had in view by the creation of the visible world; it is the only one he intends in his government of society. This being the case, we cannot be surprised that the parable of the Gospel, while revealing to us this divine plan, has also brought before us the great fact of the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles, which is not only the most important fact of the world’s history, but is also the one which is the most intimately connected with the consummation of the mystery of the divine Union.
And yet, as we have already said, the exclusion of Juda is, one day, to cease. His obstinate refusal of the grace has been the occasion of us Gentiles having it brought to us by the messengers of God’s loving mercy. But now that the fullness of the Gentiles has heard and followed the heavenly invitation, the time is advancing when the accession of Israel will complete the Church in her members and give the Bride the signal of the final call, which will put an end to the long labor of ages, by making the Bridegroom appear. The holy jealousy, which the Apostle was so desirous to rouse, in the people of his race, by turning towards the Gentiles, will make itself, at last, be felt by the descendants of Jacob. What joy will there not be in heaven when they, repentant and humble, shall unite before God in the song of gladness sung by the Gentiles, in celebration of the entrance of his countless jewish people into the house of the divine banquet! That union of the two people will truly be a prelude to the great day mentioned by St. Paul when, speaking in his patriotic enthusiasm of the Jews, he said: If their offense (if their fall) hath been the riches of the world, and their diminution be the riches of the Gentiles—how much more the fullness of them!
Now, the Mass of this twentieth Sunday after Pentecost gives us a foretaste of that happy day, when the gratitude of the new people is not to be the only one to sing hymns of praise for the divine favors bestowed on our earth. The ancient Liturgists tell us that our Mass consists partly of the words of the Prophets, giving to Jacob an expression of his repentance, whereby he is to merit a return of God’s favors, and partly of inspired formulas, wherein the Gentiles, who are already within the hall of the marriage-feast, are singing their canticles of love. The Gentile-Choir takes the Gradual and Communion-Anthem; the Choir of the Jews, the Introit and Offertory.
The Introit is from the book of Daniel. Exiled to Babylon with his people, the Prophet—in that captivity whose years of bitterness were a figure of the still longer and intenser sufferings of the present dispersion—laments, with Juda, in that strange land, and at the same time instructs his people how they may be readmitted into God’s favor. It is a secret which Israel had lost ever since his commission of the crime on Calvary; though, in the previous ages of his history, he knew the happy secret, and had continually experienced its efficacy. What it was, it still is, and ever will be: it consists in the humble avowal of the sinner’s falls, in the suppliant regret of the culprit, and in the sure confidence that God’s mercy is infinitely above the sins of men, how grievous soever those may have been.
|Omnia, quæ fecisti nobis, Domine, in vero judicio fecisti: quia peccavimus tibi, et mandatis tuis non obedivimus: sed, da gloriam nomini tuo: et fac nobiscum secundum multitudinem misericordiæ tuæ.||All things whatsoever thou hast done unto us, O Lord, thou hast done by a just judgment: for we have sinned, and disobeyed thy commandments: but, glorify thy name: and deal with us according to thy great mercy.|
|Ps. Beati immaculati in via: quia ambulant in lege Domini. Gloria Patri. Omnia.||Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Glory, &c. All things.|
The divine forgiveness, which restores the soul to purity and peace, is the indispensable preparation for the sacred marriage-feast; for the wedding garment of its guests must, under pain of exclusion, be without a stain; their heart too must be without bitterness, lest it should cause the Bridegroom to be offended. Let us implore this precious pardon. Our Lord is all the more ready to grant it us when we ask it through his beloved Bride, the Church, our beloved Mother. Let us unite our voices with hers, and say her Collect.
|Largire, quæsumus Domine, fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus, et pacem: ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis, et secura tibi mente deserviant. Per Dominum.||Being appeased, O Lord, bestow pardon and peace upon thy Faithful; that they being also cleansed from all their offenses (against thee), may serve thee with a secure mind. Through, &c.|
The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Ephesios.||Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul, the Apostle, to the Ephesians.|
|Cap. v.||Ch. v.|
|Fratres, Videte quomodo caute ambuletis: non quasi insipientes, sed ut sapientes: redimentes tempus, quoniam dies mali sunt. Propterea nolite fieri imprudentes, sed intelligentes quae sit voluntas Dei. Et nolite inebriari vino, in quo est luxuria, sed implemini Spiritu Sancto, loquentes vobismetipsis in psalmis, et hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus, cantantes et psallentes in cordibus vestris Domino, gratias agentes semper pro omnibus in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi Deo et Patri, subjecti invicem in timore Christi.||Brethren: See therefore, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the holy Spirit, Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father: Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.|
As the nuptials of the Son of God approach their final completion, there will be also, on the side of hell, a redoubling of rage against the Bride, with a determination to destroy her. The dragon of the Apocalypse, the old serpent who seduced Eve, will vomit his vile foam, as a river, from his mouth—that is, he will urge on all the passions of man, that they may league together for her ruin. But do what he will, he can never weaken the bond of the eternal alliance; and having no power against the Church herself, he will turn his fury against the last children of the new Eve, who will have the perilous honor of those final battles, which are described by the Prophet of Patmos.
It is then more than at all previous times that the Faithful will have to remember the injunction given to us by the Apostle in today’s Epistle; that is, they will have to comport themselves with that circumspection which he enjoins, taking every possible care to keep their understanding, no less than their heart, pure in those evil days. Supernatural light will, in those days, not only have to stand the attacks of the children of darkness, who will put forward their false doctrines; it will, moreover, be minimized and falsified by the very children of the light yielding on the question of principles; it will be endangered by the hesitations and trimmings and human prudence of those who are called far-seeing men. Many will practically ignore the master-truth, that the Church never can be overwhelmed by any created power. If they do remember that our Lord has promised himself to uphold his Church even to the end of the world, they will still have the impertinence to believe that they do a great service to the good cause by making certain politically clever concessions, which, if they were tried in the balance of the sanctuary, would be found under weight! Those future worldly-wise people will quite forget that our Lord will have no need for helping him to keep his promise of crooked schemes, however shrewd those may be; they will entirely overlook this most elementary consideration—that the cooperation, which Jesus deigns to accept, at the hands of his servants, in the defense of the rights of his Church, never could consist in the grabling, or in the disguisement, of those grant truths which constitute the power and beauty of the Bride. Is it possible that they will forget the Apostle’s maxim, which he lays down in his Epistle to the Romans—that the conforming oneself to this world—the attempting an impossible adaptation of the Gospel to a world that is un-christianized—is not the means for proving what is the good, and acceptable, and the perfect will of God. So that it will be a thing of great and rare merit, in many an occurrence of those unhappy times, to merely understand what is the will of God, as our Epistle expresses it.
Look to yourselves, would St. John say to those men, that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought; make yourselves sure of the full reward, which is only given to the persevering thoroughness of doctrine and faith! Besides, it will be then, as in all other times, that, according to the saying of the Holy Ghost, the simplicity of the just shall guide them, and far more safely, than any human ingenuity could do; humility will give them Wisdom; and, keeping themselves closely united to this noble companion, they will be made truly wise by her, and will know what is acceptable to God. They will understand that aspiring, like the Church herself, to union with the eternal Word—fidelity to the Spouse, for them, as it is for the Church, is nothing else than fidelity to the truth; for the Word, who is the one same object of love to both of them, is, in God, no other than the splendor of infinite truth. Their one care, therefore, will ever be to approach nearer and nearer to their Beloved by a continually increasing resemblance to him; that is to say, by the completest reproduction, both in their words and works, of the beautiful Truth. By so doing, they will be serving their fellow creatures in the best possible way, for they will be putting in practice the counsel of Jesus, who bids them seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and confide in him for all the rest. Others may have recourse to human and accommodating combinations, fitted to please all parties; they may put forward dubious compromises which (so their suggestors think), will keep back, for some weeks, or some months perhaps, the fierce tide of revolution—but those who have God’s spirit in them will put a very different construction on the admonition given us, by the Apostle, in today’s Epistle, where he tells us to redeem the time.
It was our Lord who bought time, and at a great price; and he bought it for us, that it might be employed, by his faithful servants, in procuring glory for God. By most men, it is squandered away in sin or folly; but those who are united to Christ, as living members to the Spouse of their souls, will redeem it; that is, they will put such an intensity into their faith and their love, that as far as it is possible for human nature, not a moment of their time shall be anything but an earnest undiminished tribute of their service of their Lord. To the insolent and blasphemous things, which are then to be spoken by the Beast, these determined servants of God will give, for their brave answer, the cry of St. Michael, which he uttered against Satan, who was the helper of the Beast: Who is like unto God!
These closing weeks of the year used, in olden times, to be called: Weeks of the holy Angel. We have seen, in one of these Sundays, how there was announced the great Archangel’s coming to the aid of God’s people, as Daniel, the Prophet, had foretold would be at the end of the world. When, therefore, the final tribulations shall commence; when exile shall scatter the Faithful and the sword shall slay them, and the world shall approve all that, prostrate, as it then will be, before the Beast and his image—let us not forget that we have a leader chosen by God, and proclaimed by the Church; a leader who will marshal us during those final combats in which the defeat of the Saints will be more glorious than were the triumphs of the Church, in the days when she ruled the world. For what God will then ask of his servants will not be success of diplomatical arrangements, nor a victory won by arms, but fidelity to his truth, that is, to his Word; a fidelity all the more generous and perfect, as there will be an almost universal falling off around the little army fighting under the Archangel’s banner. Uttered by a single faithful heart, and under such circumstances, and uttered with the bravery of faith and the ardor of love—the cry of St. Michael, which heretofore routed the infernal legions will be a greater honor to God than will be the insult offered to him by the millions of the degraded followers of the Beast.
Let us get thoroughly imbued with these thoughts, which are suggested by the opening lines of our Epistle. Let us also master the other instructions it contains, and which after all, differ but little from the ones we have been developing. On this Sunday, when formerly was read the Gospel of the nuptials of the Son of God, and the invitation to his divine banquet—our holy Mother, the Church, appropriately in the Epistle, bids us observe the immense difference there is between these sacred delights and the joys of the world’s marriage feasts. The calm, the purity, the peace of the just man, who is admitted into intimacy with God, are a continual feast to his soul; the food served up at that feast is Wisdom; Wisdom too is the beloved Guest, who is unfailingly there. The world is quite welcome to its silly and often shameful pleasures; the World and the soul, which, in a mysterious way, he has filled with the Holy Spirit, join together to sing to the eternal Father in admirable unison; they will go on, forever, with their hymns of thanksgiving and praise, for the materials of both are infinite. The hideous sight of the earth’s inhabitants, who will then, by thousands, be paying homage to the harlot who sits on the Beast and offers them the golden cup of her abominaions—no, not even that will interfere in the least with the bliss caused in heaven by the sight of those happy souls on earth. The convulsions of a world in its last agony, the triumphs of the woman drunk with the blood of the martyrs—far from breaking in on the harmony which comes from a soul which is united with the Word, they will but give greater fullness to her notes which sound forth the divine, and greater sweetness to the human music of the human song. The Apostle tells all this in his own magnificent way, where he says: Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? True, it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter;—but in all these things, we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us. For I am sure, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
In the Introit, the Jewish people sang its repentance and humble confidence; and now, in the Gradual, we have the Gentiles proclaiming, in music taught them by the Church, how, in the delights of the nuptila banquet, their hopes have been realized, yea, and surpassed.
|Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine: et tu das illis escam in tempore opportuno.||The eyes of all do hope in thee, O Lord: and thou givest them meat in due season.|
|℣. Aperis tu manum tuam, et imples omne animal benedictione.||℣. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest every living creature with thy blessing.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum, cantabo, et psallam tibi, gloria mea.||℣. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing, and give praise on my glory. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. John.|
|Cap. iv.||Ch. iv.|
|In illo tempore: Erat quidam regulus, cujus filius infirmabatur Capharnaum. Hic cum audisset quia Jesus adveniret a Judæa in Galilaeam, abiit ad eum, et rogabat eum ut descenderet, et sanaret filium ejus: incipiebat enim mori. Dixit ergo Jesus ad eum: Nisi signa et prodigia videritis, non creditis. Dicit ad eum regulus: Domine, descende priusquam moriatur filius meus. Dicit ei Jesus: Vade, filius tuus vivit. Credidit homo sermoni quem dixit ei Jesus, et ibat. Jam autem eo descendente, servi occurrerunt ei, et nuntiaverunt dicentes, quia filius ejus viveret. Interrogabat ergo horam ab eis in qua melius habuerit. Et dixerunt ei: Quia heri hora septima reliquit eum febris. Cognovit ergo pater, quia illa hora erat in qua dixit ei Jesus: Filius tuus vivit; et credidit ipse et domus ejus tota.||At that time: There was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him; and they brought word, saying, that his son lived. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him. The father therefore knew, that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house.|
The Gospel for today is taken from St. John; it is the first and only time, during the whole course of these Sundays after Pentecost. It gives the twentieth Sunday the name of Ruler of Capharnaum. The Church has selected this Gospel on account of its bearing a certain mysterious relation to the state the world will be in, when those last days shall come, which the Liturgy of this close of the Church’s Year is so continually and prophetically bringing before us.
The world is drawing towards its end; like the Ruler’s son, it begins to die. Tormented by the fever of the passions, which have been excited in Capharnaum, the city of business and pleasure—it is too weak to go itself to the Physician who could cure it. It is for its father, for the pastors, who, by baptism, gave it the life of grace, and govern the christian people as rulers of the holy Church—it is for them to go to Jesus and beseech him to restore the sick man to health. St. John begins this account by mentioning the place where they were to find Jesus: it was at Cana, the city of the marriage feast, and where he first manifested his power in the banquet hall; it is in heaven that the Man-God abides, now that he has quitted our earth, where he has left his disciples deprived of the Bridegroom, and having to pass a certain period of time in the field of penance. Capharnaum signifies the field of penance and of consolation, which penance brings with it. Such was this earth intended to be, when Man was driven from Eden; such was the consolation to which, during this life, the sinner was to aspire; and because of his having sought after other consolations—because of his having pretended at turning this field of penance into a new paradise—the world is now to be destroyed. Man has exchanged the life-giving delights of Eden for the pleasures which kill the soul and ruin the body, and drawn down the divine vengeance.
There is a remedy for all this, and only one—it is the zeal of the pastors, and the prayers of that portion of Christ’s flock, which has withstood the torrent of universal corruption. But it is of the utmost important that, on this point, the Faithful and their Pastors should lay aside all personal considerations and thoroughly enter into the spirit which animates the Church herself. Though treated with the most revolting ingratitude and injustice and calumny and treachery of every sort, this Mother of mankind forgets all these her own wrongs, and thinks only of the true prosperity and salvation of the very countries which despise her. She is well aware that the time is at hand when God will make justice triumphant; and yet she goes on struggling, as Jacob did, with God, until there come the dawn of that terrible day, foretold by David and the sibyl. At the thought of the pool of fire, whose hellish vapors are already seeming to infest our atmosphere, and into which are to be plunged her rebellious children, she looks almost as though she forgot the approach of the eternal nuptials, and had lost her vehement longings as a Bride. One would say that she thinks of nothing but of her being a Mother; and as such, she keeps on praying as she has always been doing, only more fervently than ever—that the end may be deferred—pro mora finis.
That we may fulfill her wishes, let us, as Tertullian says, “assemble together in one body, that we may, so to speak, offer armed force to God by our prayers. God loves such violence as that.” But that our prayer may have power of that kind, it must be inspired by a faith which is thorough, and proof against every difficulty. As it is our faith which overcometh the world, so it is likewise our faith which triumphs over God, even in cases which seem beyond all human hope. Let us do as our Mother does, and think of the danger incurred by those countless men who madly play on the brink of the precipice, into which, when they fall, they fall forever. It is quite true they are inexcusable; it was only last Sunday that they were reminded of the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the exterior darkness which they will undergo who despise the call to the King’s marriage feast: but they are our brethren, and we should not be so quietly resigned at seeing them lose their souls. Let us hope against all hope. Our Lord, who knew with certainty that obstinate sinners would be lost, did he, on that account, hesitate to shed all his Blood for them?
It is our ambition to unite ourselves to him, by the closest possible resemblance; let us then be resolved to imitate in that also, were occasion to serve us; at all events, let us pray, and without ceasing, for the Church’s and our enemies, so long as we are not assured of their being lost. It is here that nothing is useless, nothing is thrown away; for come what may, God is greatly honored by our faith, and by the earnestness of our charity.
Only, let us be careful not to merit the reproach uttered by our Redeemer against the limping faith of the fellow townsmen of the Ruler of Capharnaum. We know that our Jesus has no need to come down from heaven to earth in order to give efficiency to the commands of his gracious will. If he deign to multiply signs and wonders around us, we will rejoice at them, because of our brethren who are weak of faith, we will make them an occasion for exalting his holy name—but we will lovingly assure him that our soul had no need of new proofs of his power, in order to believe in him!
The Jewish people, while enduring its well-merited captivity, and straying along the river banks of Babylon, has grown repentant, and in our Offertory, joins our Mother the Church in singing the admirable hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm; there never was such a song of exile.
|Super flumina Babylonis illis sedimus, et flevimus, dum recordaremur tui, Sion.||Upon the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion!|
The whole power of the God, who, with a word, cures both soul and body, resides in the Mysteries which are about to be celebrated on our Altar here. Let us, in the Secret, beseech him, that their effects may tell on our hearts.
|Cœlestem nobis præbeant hæc mysteria, quæsumus Domine, medicinam: et vitia nostri cordis expurgent. Per Dominum.||May these mysteries, O Lord, we beseech thee, procure us a heavenly remedy, and cleanse away the vices of our hearts. Through, &c.|
The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
The word spoken of in the Communion-Anthem as having raised man up from the abyss of his misery is that of the Gospel, which calls mankind, saying, Come to the marriage! But although deified by his participation, here below, in the Mystery of faith, man aspires to the perfect and eternal Union which is to be in the mid-day of glory.
A preserving fidelity in observing God’s commandments is the best preparation a Christian can make for approaching to the holy Table, as the Postcommunion tells us.
|Memento verbi tui servo tuo, Domine, in quo mihi spem dedisti: hæc me consolata est in humilitate mea.||Remember, O Lord, thy word to thy servant, and by which thou gavest me hope: this hath comforted me in my distress.|
|Ut sacris, Domine, reddamur digni muneribus: fac nos, quæsumus, tuis semper obedire mandatis. Per Dominum.||That we may be worthy of thy sacred gifts, O Lord, grant, we beseech thee, that we may always obey thy commandments. Through, etc.|