Friday of the Fourth Week After Easter
|℣. In resurrectione tua Christe, alleluia.||℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.|
|℟. Cœli et terra lætentur, alleluia.||℟. let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.|
Praise be to our Risen Jesus, for his having said to us: He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved! Thanks to his infinite mercy—we believe and have been baptized; we are, therefore, in the path of salvation. It is true that Faith will not save us without good works; but on the other hand, good works, without Faith, cannot merit eternal salvation. With what transport of joy ought we not to give thanks to God, for his having produced in us, by his grace, this unspeakable gift, this first pledge of our everlasting happiness! How carefully ought we not to strive to keep it pure, yea and increase it by our fidelity! Faith, like other virtues, has its degrees: we should, therefore, frequently use the prayer addressed to Jesus by his Apostles: Lord! increase our faith!
We are living in an age when Faith is weak amongst the majority of even them that believe; and it is one of the greatest dangers that could befall us in this world. When Faith is weak, Charity must needs grow cold. Our Savior one day asked his Disciples, if they thought that he would find Faith upon the earth when he should come to judge mankind? Have we not reason to fear that we are fast approaching that awful time when the want of Faith will paralyze men’s hearts?
Faith proceeds from our will moved by the Holy Ghost. We believe, because we wish to believe; and for this reason, it is a happiness to believe. The blind man, to whom Jesus restored his sight, said to him, when he bade him believe in the Son of God: Who is he, Lord? that I may believe in him. These same dispositions ought to animate us, when there is question of our making an act of faith—we should believe, in order that we may know that which, without faith, we could not know; then will God manifest himself to both our mind and heart.
You will meet with Christians who seem to make it their business to keep down the Faith of their friends as much as possible. They seem to be jealous of Faith getting too much; are ever talking about the rights of Reason; and will have it that they who are so ready to believe, are guilty of underrating the dignity, range, and divine origin of Reason. Let them that are thus accused, answer: “We are far from denying the existence of that natural light within us, which is called Reason. The teaching of the Church is too express on this point to admit of any doubt; but she also teaches us that this light—even had it retained its primal power, and had not been obscured by original sin—is incapable of discovering, by itself alone, the end for which man was created, and the means whereby that end is to be gained. Faith alone can enable man to attain to such sublime knowledge as this.”
Others, again, maintain that as soon as a Christian comes to the full age of Reason, he has a right to suspend the exercise of his Faith, in order that he may examine for himself whether it be reasonable or not to continue believing. Such an opinion is most false, and has made many an apostate. The Church has ever taught from the days of the Apostles down to our own times, and will so teach to the end of the world—that the child who has received holy Baptism, has also, and at that same instant, received the gift of infused Faith; that he thereby became a member of Christ and child of his Church; and that if, when he comes to the age of Reason, he should be tempted with doubts regarding matters of Faith, he receives grace to resist those doubts by Faith, and that he would be risking his salvation were he to suspend his Faith. This does not imply that the Church forbids him to confirm his Faith by study and science; far from it. This is a totally different thing from suspension of one’s faith; it is, according to the admirable saying of the great St. Anselm, “Faith seeking understanding,” and, we may add, finding it, for God gives this recompense to Faith.
You may probably meet with persons who think it right that there should be found among us a class of men called Free-thinking Philosophers, that is to say, men without Faith, who hold, with regard to God and creatures, doctrines which are wholly independent of Revelation, and who teach a morality that entirely ignores the supernatural element. Is it possible that Catholics can not only countenance and praise such men as these, but even defend them, and be partial towards them?
And what must we say of the sad effects resulting from the living with heretics? Most of us could give instances of the dangerous compromises and deplorable concessions made in consequence of much intercourse with those who are not of the Faith. The terrible line of demarcation specified by St. John, in his second Epistle, is being forgotten; the very mention of it is offensive to modern ears. A strong indication of this is to be found in the frequency of Mixed Marriages, and often, though it may be imperceptibly, lead the Catholic party to religious indifference. Let us listen to the energetic language of that illustrious ascetical writer, Father Faber. “The old fashioned hatred of Heresy is becoming scarce. God is not habitually looked at as the sole Truth; and so the existence of Heresies no longer appals the mind. It is assumed that God must do nothing painful, and his dominion must not allow itself to take the shape of an inconvenience or a trammel to the liberty of his creatures. If the world has outgrown the idea of exclusiveness, God must follow our lead, and lay it aside as a principle in his dealings with us. What the many want they must have at last. This is the rule and the experience of a Constitutional country. Thus discord in religion, and untruth in religion, have come to be less odious and less alarming to men, simply because they are accustomed to them. It requires courage, both moral and mental, to believe the whole of a grand nation in the wrong, or to think that an entire country can go astray. But Theology, with a brave simplicity, concludes a whole world under sin, and sees no difficulty in the True Church being able to claim only a moderate share of the population of the earth. The belief in the facility of salvation outside the Church is very agreeable to our domestic loves and to our private friendships. Moreover, if we will hold this, the world will pardon a whole host of other superstitions in us, and will do us the honor of complimenting the religion God gave, as if it were some literary or philosophical production of our own. Is this such a huge gain? Many seem amazingly pleased with it, and pay dear for it quite contentedly. Now it is plain that this belief must lower the value of the Church in our eyes. It must relax our efforts to convert others. It must relax our efforts to convert ourselves. Those who use the system of the Church least, will of course esteem it least, and see least in it; and are therefore least fitted to be judges of it. Yet it is just these men who are the most forward and the most generous in surrendering the prerogatives of the Church to the exigencies of modern smoothness and universalism.”
Another sign of the decay of the spirit of Faith, even among many of those who do not neglect their Religion is the disregard for, one might almost say the ignorance of, holy practices recommended by the Church. How many Catholic houses are there not, where there is never to be seen either a drop of Holy Water, or a blessed Candle, or a Palm? These sacred objects, given to us to be a protection, deserve from us that same reverence and love which our forefathers had when they defended them, even at the risk of their lives, against the Protestants of the 16th Century. What a jeering look of incredulity is evinced by many amongst us, when mention is made of any Miracle that is not found in the Bible! With what an air of contemptuous disbelief they hear or read of anything in connection with the Mystic Life, such as ecstasies, raptures, or revelations! How uneasy they seem, when the subject of the heroic acts of penance done by the Saints, or of the simplest practices of bodily mortification, happens to come across them! How loudly and pathetically do they not protest against the noble sacrifices which some favored souls are inspired to make, whereby they break asunder the dearest ties, and shut themselves out of the world, behind the grille of a Monastery or Convent! The spirit of Faith makes a true Catholic appreciate the beauty, the reasonableness, and the sublimity of all these practices and acts; while the want of this spirit makes them be condemned as extravagant, unmeaning, and folly.
Faith longs to believe; for believing is its life. It limits not itself to the strict Creed promulgated by the Church. It knows that this Spouse of Christ possesses all truths, though she does not solemnly declare them all, nor under the pain of anathema. Faith forestalls the declaration of a dogma; it believes piously, before believing under obligation. A secret instinct draws it towards this as yet veiled truth; and when the dogma is published by a Definition of the Supreme Pontiff, then does this same Faith rejoice in the triumph of the truth which was revealed from the very commencement of the Church; and its joy is great in proportion to the fidelity wherewith it honored the truth, when only generous and loyal hearts embraced it.
Glory, then, be to our Risen Jesus, who requited his Mother’s faith, who strengthened that of the Disciples and the holy women, and who, as we humbly pray, will mercifully reward ours. Let us offer him our homage, in the words of a Sequence from the ancient Missals of Saint Gall’s.
Atque Redemptoris gloriam.
|Let us proclaim the glory of our Creator and Redeemer!|
|Qui bene creatos,
Astutia callidi serpentis,
Sua refecit gratia.
|By his grace, he gave a new existence to them whom he had created aright, yet who were seduced by the cunning of the crafty serpent.|
Futurum ut germen
Sancta proferret fœmina;
|He foretold, that a holy Woman would, one day, bring forth a Fruit,|
|Quod hostis antiqui
Nociva exsuperaret capita.
|That should crush the baneful head of the old enemy.|
|Quod primitus perdita,
|Our times have seen fulfilled these promises that were long lost sight of.|
|Quum splendida flosculo virgula
Novo pollet Maria.
|Mary, the lovely Branch, put forth a new Flower.|
Mire edidit miracula.
|His birth was a prodigy, and miracles marked his life.|
|Nec juvenis tantum,
Sed statim inter suæ nativitatis primordia.
|Not only when he had grown up, but immediately after his birth.|
|Per sideris lumen,
Per Simeonis verba
Judaica ad se vel corda,
Attrahens nutu gentilia.
|By the light of the star, and by Simeon’s words, he drew to himself the heart of the Jew or the gift of the Gentile.|
|Quem Pater in voce,
Atque Spiritua Sanctus specie,
|He was glorified by the Father’s words, and by the visible form under which the Holy Ghost appeared.|
|Visentes doctorem, vel archiatrum,
Docent auctoritate sua.
|They that saw this Teacher, this Physician of men, were appointed to teach others in his name.|
|Qui postquam salutis
Dona dedit multa,
Doctrinæque perplura verba
Ore suo promulgavit saluberrima;
|After bestowing on men abundant gifts of salvation, and promulgating, with his own lips, the doctrine of eternal life,|
|Ad probra, sputa,
Colahos, et flagella,
Vestem quoque ludo quæsitam,
Et spineum venit sertum
Ad crucia brachia.
|He came to his Passion, in which he was insulted, spit upon, buffeted, scourged, vested as a mock-king, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a Cross.|
|Qui hodie triumphali
A mortuis resurgens,
Sprevit victoris, ducens secum primitiva
Ad cœlos membra,
Et nuper dispersa
|But today, by a glorious victory, he rises triumphant from the grave; he takes them that belonged to the generations of old, and leads them, with himself, to heaven; he forms into one fold the then living, but scattered, sheep.|
|Quæ et nobis in fine speranda,
Licet ultima membra simus,
|Yes, and to us, though the last of his children, he promises future gifts, and bids us hope. Amen.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)