Tuesday of the Third 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.|
The Church, which our Risen Jesus is organizing during these days, and which is to be spread throughout the whole world, is a true and complete society. It must, consequently, have within it a power to govern, and be able, by the obedience of its subjects, to maintain order and peace. As we have already seen, our Savior supplied this want by establishing a Shepherd of both sheep and lambs, a Vicar of his own divine authority: yet Peter, after all, is but a man; and however sublime his authority, he cannot exercise it directly and personally over each member of the flock. The new society has need therefore of magistrates of a lower rank, who, as Bossuet so well expresses it, “are to be sheep with regard to Peter, and Shepherds with regard to the people.”
Jesus has provided for everything; he has chosen twelve men, whom he calls his Apostles, and to them he is about to entrust the magistracy of his Church. By his having made Peter the head and, as it were, his second self, he does not intend the rest of the Twelve to have no share in the great work he has come from heaven to achieve. Far from this, he destines them to be the pillars of the building, of which he has already made Peter the foundation. They are Twelve in number, as heretofore, were the children of Jacob; for the ancient people was, in everything, a figure of the new. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gives them power to teach in every part of the world, and appoints them Pastors of the Faithful in every place wheresoever they may happen to be. They are all on an equality, save with regard to Peter; and the very fact of these wonderful depositaries of Christ’s power being subject to Peter, is one of the clearest indications of the extraordinary authority committed to him by our Lord.
This unlimited delegation of pastoral power given to all the Twelve, was intended as a means of the solemn promulgation of the Gospel; but it was to cease at their deaths, save in the case of Peter, for his successor was alone to enjoy the apostolic power in its fullest extent. With this one exception, no lawful Pastor has ever been allowed to exercise an unlimited territorial authority. And yet, by creating the College of the Apostles, our Redeemer founded that sacred and venerable dignity which we call the Episcopacy. Although Bishops have not inherited either the universal jurisdiction, or the personal infallibility in teaching, of the Apostles, yet do they really hold, in the Church, the place of the Apostles. Jesus puts into their hands, through the ministry of Peter’s successor, the keys of spiritual power; and these they use, that is, they therewith open and shut, throughout the whole extent of the territory placed under their jurisdiction.
How magnificent is this Episcopal magistracy! See those thrones whereon are seated the Pontiffs of the whole Christian world! Leaning on their pastoral staff—the symbol of their power—they govern their respective flocks. Go where you will, you will find the Church, and a Bishop busily engaged in governing the flock entrusted to his charge. And when you reflect that all these Pastors are Brethren, that they all govern their flocks in the name of the same common Lord, and that all are united in obedience to one head—you will understand how the Church, wherein is exercised such an authority as this, has everything that constitutes a complete society.
Under the Bishops, we find other subordinate magistrates in the Church; the reason of their being appointed is self-evident. Placed over a territory of greater or less extent, the Bishop stands in need of cooperators, who may represent his authority, and exercise it in his name and under his orders, wheresoever he himself cannot personally do so. These are Priests, who have the care of souls. They correspond to the seventy-two Disciples chosen by our Savior, and from whose number he selected the Twelve Apostles. Thus is completed the government of the Church. By means of this Hierarchy, everything works in the most admirable harmony:—authority is derived from one supreme Head; thence it flows to the Bishops; and these delegate it to the lower ranks of the Clergy.
We are now at the very season of the year when the spiritual jurisdiction, which Jesus had promised to communicate to men, emanates from his own divine power. He thus solemnly confers it: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth: going, therefore, teach ye all nation! He communicates a portion of his own power to the Pastors of his Church: it is an emanation of his own authority in heaven and on earth: and that we may have no doubts as to the source whence it flows, he says to them during these his last days on earth: As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.
So that the Father has sent the Son, and the Son sends the Pastors of the Church: nor will this mission ever be interrupted, so long as the world lasts. Peter will ever institute the Bishops; the Bishops will ever delegate a portion of their own authority to the Priests who have the charge of souls. No human power shall ever be able to intercept this transmission, or have power to set up as Pastors them that have not partaken of it. Cæsar (we mean, mere temporal sovereignty) shall govern the State; but he shall not have power to create a single Pastor, for Cæsar has no share in the sacred Hierarchy, out of which the Church recognizes but subjects. He may command, as King or Emperor, in temporal matters; but he must obey, and as submissively as the last and poorest of the Faithful, the Pastor who has to govern him in what regards his soul. There will be times when Cæsar will be jealous of this superhuman power; he will strive to intercept it: but it will elude his grasp, for it is a purely spiritual power. At other times, he will despise and persecute them that are invested with this power; nay, he will occasionally attempt to exercise it himself: but his efforts will be as vain as they will be wicked, for this power, which emanates from Christ, cannot be confiscated nor interrupted; it is the salvation of the world, and, on the last day, the Church will have to restore it intact to Him who deigned to entrust it to her before ascending to his Father.
Once more, to the praise of our dearest King! The great Fulbert of Chartres offers us the following Hymn, which was adopted by the ancient Roman-French Liturgy.
|Chorus novæ Hierusalem
Novam mellis dulcedinem
Promat, colens cum sobriis
Paschale festum gaudiis.
|Let the New Jerusalem choir bring for the new sweetness of its honey; and celebrate, with holy joy, the Paschal feast.|
|Quo Christus, invictus leo,
Dracone surgens obruto,
Dum voce viva personat,
A morte functos excitat.
|Today, Christ, the invincible Lion, crushes the dragon, and rises from the Tomb: he, with a loud voice, commands the dead to live.|
|Quam devorarat impropbus
Prædam refudit tartarus:
Jesum sequuntur agmina.
|Cruel Death gives back its prey; and throngs of ransomed captives follow Jesus.|
|Triumphat ille splendide,
Et dignus amplitudine,
Soli polique patriam
Unam facit rempublicam.
|Gorgeous is his triumph; he is worthy of all power; he makes earth and heaven be one kingdom.|
|Ipsum canendo supplices,
Regem precemur milites,
Ut in suo clarissimo
Nos ordinet palatio.
|We are his soldiers, and he our King: let us humbly sing his praise, and beseech him to admit us into his palace of heaven above.|
|Per sæcla metæ nescia
Patri supremo gloria,
Honorque sit cum Filio
Et spiritu Paraclito. Amen.
|Glory and honor, for endless ages, be to the Eternal Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete. Amen.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)