Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (Gueranger)
Posted on 07/07/2018 9:50:35 PM PDT by CMRosary
THE DOMINICAL CYCLE of the Time after Pentecost completes today its first seven. Previous to the general adoption of the changes introduced into the Sunday Gospels for this portion of the Year, the Gospel of the multiplication of the seven loaves gave its name to the seventh Sunday; and the mystery it contains is still evident in more than one section of today’s liturgy.
As we have already seen, this mystery was that of the consummation of the perfect in the repose or rest of God himself; it was the fruitful peace of the divine union. Nothing, then, could be more fitting, than that Solomon, who is the Peaceful by excellence, the sacred and authorized chanter of the nuptial Canticle, should have been selected to come forward, on this day, to speak the praises of infinite Wisdom, and reveal her ways to the children of men. When Easter is kept as late in April as it is possible, the seventh Sunday after Pentecost is the first of the month of August; and the Church then begins, in her night Office, the lessons from the Sapiential Books. Otherwise, she continues the historic scriptures, and that, some years, for five weeks more;—but, even in that case, Eternal Wisdom maintains her rights to this Sunday, which the number of Seven had already made hers in so special a way. For, when we cannot have the inspired instruction of Proverbs, we have Solomon’s own example preaching to us in the third book of Kings; we find him preferring Wisdom to all other treasures, and, on the throne of his father David, making her sit there with him as his inspirer and most noble Bride.
St. Jerome who has been appointed by the Church herself as the interpreter of today’s scripture lessons, tells us that David, at the close of his life of wars and troubles, knew, as well as Solomon, the loveliness of this incomparable Bride of the Peaceful; the chill of his age was remedied by her caresses, whose very contact is purity.
“O that this Wisdom may be mine,” exclaims the fervent solitary of Bethlehem; “may she embrace me, and abide with me. She never grows old. She is ever the purest of virgins; fruitful, yet ever immaculate. I think the Apostle meant her, when he speaks of a something that can make us fervent in spirit. so again, when our Lord tells us, in the Gospel, that, at the end of the world, the charity of many will grow cold,—I believe it will be, because Wisdom will then grow rare.”
The history of the two blind men, as related in the 9th Chapter of St. Matthew, is the subject of today’s Gospel, in the Greek Church.
MASS.—The Church, leaving the Synagogue in its cities which are to perish, had followed Jesus into the wilderness. While the children of the kingdom are assisting at, without seeing it, this transmigration which is to be so fatal to them,—the Root of Jesse, now become the standard of nations, is rallying the people, and marshals them, by thousands, on towards the Church. From East and West, from North and South, they are pouring in, sitting down to the banquet of the kingdom, in company with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Here is our Introit; let us mingle our voices with these their glad chants.
All the opposition that men are capable of, can never prevent divine Wisdom from compassing her ends. The Jewish people deny their King; but the Gentiles come forward, and proclaim the Son of David. As we were just now singing in the Introit, his kingdom is extended the whole world over. In the Collect, the Church asks that all evils may be removed, and that an abundance of blessings may consolidate in peace the power of the true Solomon.
The other Collects as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
Reckon that ye are dead unto sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord! The Apostle of the Gentiles enters today into the development of this leading formula of the Christian life. The Epistle of last Sunday aimed exclusively at putting it in language that could not be misunderstood; it showed us, that it expresses what is meant by that Baptism which, when we are immersed in the water, unites us to Christ.
There, as in a sepulcher, the death of Jesus becomes ours, and delivers us from sin. Sold under sin by our First Parents even before we had seen the day, and branded with its infamous stigma,—our whole life belonged to the cruel tyrant; he is a master who is never satisfied with our service; he is a merciless exactor; there is scarce an hour, that he does not make us feel his power over the members of our body; he does not allow us to forget that our body is his slave. But, if the life of a slave is under master’s control, death comes at last and sets the soul free; and as to the body, the oppressor can claim nothing, once it is buried. Now, it was on the Cross of the Man-God, on the Cross of that Jesus who, as the Apostle so strongly expresses it, was made sin because of our sins,—it was on that Cross, that guilty human nature was considered, by God’s merciful justice, to have become what its divine and innocent Head was. The old man, that was the issue of Adam the sinner, has been crucified; he has died in Christ; the slave by birth, affranchised by this happy death, has had buried under the waters of Baptism the body of sin, which carried in its flesh the mark of its slavery.
The body of sin was indeed our flesh; not that innocent flesh which originally came all pure from its Creator’s hands,—but the flesh, which, generation after generation, was defiled by the transmission of a disgraceful inheritance. In Baptism, which the Apostle calls the mysterious sepulcher, the sacred stream has not only washed away the defilement of this degraded body, but it has also set it free from those members of sin, which are the evil passions. These passions were powers of iniquity, that is, powers which deformed, and turned into uncleanness, those faculties and organs wherewith God had endowed us, that we might fulfill all justice, unto sanctification. At that moment of our Baptism, the strong-armed tyrant forfeited his possession of us; that Baptism was a death, which set his slave free. Sin being thus destroyed, the head of triple concupiscence has been severed, and the monster may writhe as he can; aided by grace, man thus liberated, may always prevent, if he wishes, the coils of the serpent from again being joined with their head.
Yes, this is the manifold, yet single, work of holy Baptism: in the twinkling of an eye, and by its own power, it extirpates sin, and annihilates all its rights over us; but, once this is achieved, man must cooperate with the grace of the sacrament; that is, he must keep watch over his treacherous inclinations to sin, which comes to life again by the slightest encouragement; he must be ever keeping up the work which his baptism-day began, that is, he must be ever cutting down the vile and noxious weeds which are ever cropping up. First, then, there is the death of sin, which, in its complete and sudden defeat of the old enemy, is the result of God’s divine operation; but all this is to be followed up by a work which belongs to the affranchised slave to do,—the life-long work of mortification of the spirit and the senses. It is the virtue of the first sacrament which is still telling on the Christian in this work of two-fold mortification; in his mortification, the sacrament is still pushing on its ceaseless work of vengeance against sin. Holy Baptism, having, of itself alone, operated in the wretched slave of sin what God alone could empower it to achieve,—summons man, now that his chains have fallen, to join her in the glorious work of maintaining his liberty; she invites him to share with her the honor of the divine victory over Satan and his works.
The keeping down the flesh will be again brought before us, next Sunday, as the true indicator of liberty on this earth, and as the authentication of our being truly children of God. As the Apostle says: Let not sin reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants are ye whom ye obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto justice. But thanks be to God, that ye were the servants of sin; … but being freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice.
And shall we do less for Justice, than is being done everywhere in favor of our enemy, Sin? Surely, justice deserves that we should make greater efforts in her service, than for that odious tyrant who requites his slaves with nothing but shame and death. And yet, O admirable condescension of God to our weakness!—we have St. Paul telling us in today’s Epistle, in the name of the Holy Ghost,—we shall be saints, we shall attain eternal life, if we will but serve justice with as much earnestness as we once served uncleanness and iniquity.
Let us humble ourselves at hearing such words; let us be honest, and we shall feel that they contain a reproach. For many of us, we might ask: What has become of that intense ardor, wherewith we once used to follow after sin? To say, that we have converted our ways, would be no answer; for, a conversion does not paralyze our faculties; it enlists our natural energy in God’s service, it even intensifies it by the very fact of its now being employed as originally intended; at all events, conversion does not lessen the activity which was in us before our conversion; it would be an insult to grace to accuse it of diminishing in us the gifts of God.
What lessons, then, may we not learn, by seeing how eager in the pursuit of honor, interest, or pleasure, are the votaries of the world! What earnestness, what toil, what perseverance, what frequent sufferings, what abnegation at every turn, what misplaced heroism,—and all for the purpose of satisfying the seven heads of the beast, and tasting a few drops of the poisoned cup of Babylon! There are many souls in hell, who have gone through more fatigue and pain to procure their damnation, than even the martyrs endured for Christ; and even with all that, never attaining the object they sought to obtain in this world! so true is it, that the fools who are the most subservient to Satan’s wishes, do not always succeed in enjoying, not even for a single day, the vile rewards he promises his slaves.
Justice treats her followers in a very different way; she does not degrade, she does not deceive them that keep her. She blesses them with peace of mind at every step they take in duty-doing; she is ever enriching their treasure of merit; she leads them safely to the perfection of love. The life of union divine then grows, almost spontaneously, on that high ground of Justice; it rests on Justice, as a flower does on its stem. He that possesseth Justice, says the Scripture, shall lay hold on Wisdom: he shall find delights in that divine Wisdom, which surpasses all that earth could procure.
Would it, then, be fair to hesitate about going through those toils which procure heaven for us, and are a preparation made here on earth for the glories which are to be revealed in us in our eternal home? The present life, how long soever it may be, seems but momentary to a faithful soul; she is glad to give this proof of the love she bears to Him she longs for. “Jacob,” says St. Augustine, “gave his twice seven years of service for the sake of Rachel, whose name, they tell us, signifies, vision of the Beginning, that is, of the Word, that is, of the Wisdom which shows us God. Every virtuous man on earth loves this Wisdom; it is for her he works and suffers, by serving Justice. What he, like Jacob, aims at by his labors, is, not the fatigue for its own sake, but the possession of that which the fatigue is to bring him, namely, the fair Rachel, that is to say, rest in the Word, in whom we have the vision of the Beginning. Is there any true servant of God who can have any other thought, when he is under the influence of grace? Once converted, what is it that man wishes for? What are his thoughts on? What has he in his heart? What is it that he thus passionately loves and desires? It is the knowledge of Wisdom. Of course, man would, if he could, avoid all fatigue and suffering, and come straight to the delights which he knows are in the exquisitely beautiful and perfect Wisdom; but that cannot be in the land of the dying. If thou desire Wisdom, keep justice; and God will give her unto thee. Justice here, means the commandments; and the commandments prescribe works of Justice, of that Justice which comes of Faith; and Faith lives amidst the uncertainty of temptations; that by piously believing what it does not as yet understand, it may merit the happiness of understanding.
“We are not, therefore, to find fault with the ardor of those, who are possessed by the desire to possess Truth in its unveiled loveliness; what we must do, is to put order in their love, by telling them to begin with faith, and strive, by the exercise of good deeds, to arrive at the bliss they long for. Do thou love and desire, at the very onset, and above all things, this object which is so worthy of thy possession; but, let the ardor which burns within thee show itself, first of all, by its leading thee to cheerfully endure the fatigues of the road which leads to the prize, towards which thy love is all directed. Yea, and when thou hast got up to it, remember, thou wilt never enjoy beautiful Truth in this life, without having, all the same happy while, to be still cultivating laborious Justice. How comprehensive and pure soever, may be the sight granted to mortal men of the Unchangeable Good; the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things. One, then, is that to which we must tend; but many are the things we are to bear for that one’s sake.”
In the Gradual, the Church keeps up the thought which pervades this seventh Sunday; she invites her sons to come and receive from her the knowledge of the Fear of the Lord; for the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. The Alleluia-Verse again calls upon the Gentiles, the heirs of Jacob, to celebrate in gladness, the gift of God.
By rejecting the Gospel, the Jewish people have refused the light. Whilst the Sun of Justice, hailed with delight by the Gentiles, is lighting up, in all splendor, the land, that was once in the shadow of death,—a black night is covering the heretofore blessed country of the Patriarchs, and darkness is every hour thickening in Jerusalem. By the blindness which is leading her to destruction, the synagogue is verifying our Lord’s words: He that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth.
False Prophets and false christs abound in Israel, ever since the true Messiah, whom the Prophets foretold, has been ignored, and treated by his own people as the Prophets themselves had been. Hit witnesses, the Apostles, have vainly tried to induce Juda to retract the fatal denial made in the pretorium. And yet, Juda knows better than all the world beside, that the times are accomplished; for, has not the scepter fallen from his hands? And Juda, who disdainfully disowns the spiritual royalty of the Savior of men, is going on with his ceaseless expectation and search of the christ of his own imagining,—a messiah who will restore to him the power he has lost. The Jewish doctors have not as yet invented the sentence of Talmud, whereby they hoped to stifle the unpleasant prophecies which give them the lie: “Cursed be he, that calculates the times of the coming of Messiah!” What, then, must be the feelings of a people, which has for ages been living in the expectation of an event the most important that could be,—now that it sees the time specified by prophecy to be fast expiring! so that they are compelled, either to disavow the past, or acknowledge, at the foot of the Cross which it has set up, its most sinful error.
A strange anxiety has seized on the nation of deicides. The spirit of madness governs her determinations. In the scare of her feverish excitement, which is the very opposite of the calm and resigned expectation of her ancient Patriarchs,—she takes every rebel for a Christ. She, that would not have the Son of David, hails every upstart as her Messiah, and follows every adventurer that sets up the cry of war against Rome, or that cheats her with the promise of making her country independent. with such materials, Judea is soon turned into a kingdom of anarchy and confusion. The very sanctuary of the Temple is made the scene of party-quarrels and bloodshed. The Daughter of Sion follows her false-christs into the desert; there organizes riot; and returns to the holy City, filling it with highway-men, or with assassins imported from the wilderness. Long before these events, Ezechiel had thus spoken: Wo to the foolish prophets that see nothing! Thy prophets, O Israel, were like foxes in the deserts! And Isaias thus prophesied: Therefore, the Lord shall have no joy in their young men; neither shall he have mercy on their ftherless and widows; for every one is a hypocrite and wicked, and every mouth hath spoken folly.
The time is close at hand: the hour is come, when they that are in Judea must flee to the mountains, as our Lord had said. The Christians of Jerusalem will, as history records, soon be leaving the doomed City, under the guidance of Simeon, their Bishop. With them, departs Sion’s last hope; God is about to avenge his Christ. Already has the signal of destruction been heard,—the whistle, as the Prophet Isaias had foretold, has been heard from beyond the seas; and, as Balaam had seen it in vision, they are coming in galleys from Italy, to lay waste to the Hebrews. The Leader, announced by Daniel, is approaching towards the once Land of Promise; the appointed desolation and ruin shall remain there even after the end of the war.
Let us leave the Jews to hurry on their own ruin; let us return to the Church, which, at the same time, is rising up, so grand and so beautiful, on the cornerstone that had been rejected by the synagogue. Because of the absence of this Stone, which the builders of Sion had not the wisdom to recognize as the basis indispensably necessary to their City,—Jerusalem falls in Judea, but reappears, more than ever beauteous, on the hills, whether Cephas, Prince of the Apostles, has carried her everlasting Foundation. Set firmly on the divine Rock, she shall no longer fear the violence of the billows and winds, when they storm against her walls. False prophets, and all the workers of lies, who had so successfully sapped the walls of the ancient, will not leave the new Jerusalem in peace; for our Lord had plainly said, it is necessary that scandals should come; and the Apostle, speaking of heresy (that greatest of all scandals), said: There must be heresies in order that they who are approved, may be made manifest.
Indeed, for each individual Christian, as for the Church at large, the security of the spiritual building depends primarily on the firmness of the foundation, which is Faith. The Holy Ghost will not build on a foundation that is unsound or unsafe. When, especially, he is to lead a soul to the higher degrees of divine union, he exacts from her, as the first condition, that her Faith, too, be above the average,—a Faith, that is, with heroism enough to fight successfully those battles, which brace the soul, and so render her worthy of light and love. In every stage of the Christian life, however, it is Faith that provides love with its enduring and substantial nourishment; it is Faith that gives to the virtues their supernatural motives, and makes them fit to form a worthy court for their queen, Charity. A soul’s development never goes beyond the measure of her Faith. The capaciousness of Faith, an dits ever growing plenitude, and its certified conformity with truth,—these are the guarantee of the progress which will be made by a just man; whereas all such holiness as affects to be guided by a Faith which is cramped or false, is holiness of a very dubious kind, and one that is exposed to most fearful illusions.
It was, therefore, a good and a wholesome thing that Faith should be put to the test, for it grows brighter and stronger under trial. St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, is enthusiastic in his praise of the triumphs won by the Faith of our forefathers. Could there be denied to the new Covenant those glorious combats, which constituted the eternal merit and honor of the Saints who lived in the period of expectation and figures? It is by their victorious Faith in the word of the promise, that all those worthy ancestors of the Christian people merited to have God himself as their praise-giver. For us, who joyously have possession of that Messias, who, to them was but the object of their heroic hope, our trial cannot be like theirs,—the trial of expectation. This is quite true; and yet, heresy, which is the offspring of man’s pride and hell’s malice,—heresy and its manifold outcomings, which are ever producing the diminution of truth in this world of ours,—yes, it is through these, that we shall win merit by our possession of what they beheld and saluted only afar off. Man is ever trying to intrude his foolish ideas into the truths of divine revelation; and, as to the prince of this world, he will do all in his power to encourage these audacious attempts at corrupting the purity of the Word. But Wisdom, who is never overcome, will turn all these impious efforts into an occasion of glorious victories for her children. Here we have the reason why God permitted, fro the very commencement of the Church’s existence, and still permits, that sects should be continually springing up. It is in the battiefield against error, that the Church brings forth the armor of God, and shows herself all brilliant with that absolute truth, which is the brightness of the Word, her Spouse, it is by the personal triumph over the spirit of lying, and by the spontaneous adhesion to the teachings of Christ and his Church, that the Christian shows himself to be a true child of light, and becomes himself a light to the world.
The combat is not without its dangers for the Christian who would hold, in all its integrity, the Faith of his mother the Church. The tricks of the enemy, his studied and obstinate hypocrisy, the crafty skill wherewith he tries to stir up in the soul, almost without her knowing it, a score of little weaknesses of hers which more or less favor error,—all this frequently ends in injuring the light, not perhaps in extinguishing it altogether, but in robbing it of some of its brilliancy. And yet, they who live on the teachings given us in our today’s Gospel, are sure to come off with the victory. Let us meditate upon them with gratitude and love; for it is by such teachings, that eternal Wisdom grants us what we so ardently ask of him, when, in Advent, we thus beseech him: Come, and teach us the way of prudence! Prudence, the friend of a wise man, guardian of his treasures, and his surest defense, has no greater peril from which to keep him, than shipwreck concerning the Faith; if Faith be lost, all is lost. No price is too great to give for that Prudence of the serpent, which, in a disciple of Christ, goes so admirably with the simplicity of the dove. If we are happy enough to possess Prudence, we shall readily distinguish between those false teachers whom we must shun, and those we must hearken to,—between the falsifiers of the Word, and his faithful interpreters.
By their fruits shall ye know them, says our Gospel, and history confirms the words of our Redeemer. Under the sheep’s clothing, which they wear that they may deceive simple souls, the apostles of falsehood ever betray a stench of death. The artful language they use, and the flatteries they utter for gain’s sake, cannot hide the hollowness of their works. They separate themselves from the flock of Christ, and flee from the light; for, as the Apostle says, all things that are reproved, or deserve to be so, are made manifest by the light; and as to the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of them. Therefore, be ye not partakers with them. The useless or rotten fruits of darkness, and the trees of Autumn, twice dead, which bear such fruits on their withered branches,—both of them shall be cast into the fire. If you yourselves were heretofore darkness, now that you have become light in the Lord by Baptism, or by a sincere conversion, show yourselves to be so, and produce the fruits of light, in all goodness, and justice, and truth. On this condition alone, can you hope to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and call yourselves disciples of that Wisdom of the Father, who, on this seventh Sunday, asks us to give him our love.
St. James the Apostle almost seems to be giving a commentary on the Gospel of this seventh Sunday, where he says: Can the fig-tree, my Brethren, bear grapes? or the vine, figs? So neither can the salt water yield sweet. Who is a wise man and endued with wisdom among you? let him, by a good conversation (that is, by his good conduct), shew his work in the meeknes of Wisdom … For there is a wisdom which is bitter, and misleads others; it descendeth not from above, but is erthly, sensual, devilish … But the Wisdom, which is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good (and always sides with them), full of mercy and good fruits, without judging (the conduct of others) without dissimulation. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace to them that make peace.
The Offertory Anthem has been selected, according to Honorius of Autun (iv. 57), in allusion to the sacrifice of the thousand victims which were offered at Gabaon by Solomon, in the early days of his reign; when the sacrifice was ended, he was bid ask, what he would have God give to him: he desired and obtained Wisdom, with the addition of riches and glory, for which he had not asked. It depends upon us, that the Sacrifice which is here ready to be offered up, should be equally, and even more, accepted of God, for it is Incarnate Wisdom that is being offered to the Most High God; he desires to obtain for us all the gifts of his Eternal Father,—and give Himself also to us.
Another circumstance which confirms what we have said regarding the mysterious character of this seventh Sunday, as to its being especially sacred to eternal Wisdom,—is the fact, that the Verse of Scripture, which formerly used to be joined to the present Offertory-anthem, is the same as that which in the Roman Pontifical, opens the magnificent ceremony of the Consecration of Virgins: And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face; put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies! After being a third time called by the Bishop, the affianced of the divine Spouse advance (singing these words), to the Altar, where they are to be espoused to Him.
The Secret speaks to God of how the multiplied variety of the ancient sacrifices, such as those mentioned in the Offertory, were all made one in the oblation of our Christian Sacrifice.
The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
The Communion, says Honorius of Autun, gives us the prayer of Solomon, who asks Wisdom of God, and obtains it. If any of you, says St. James, want Wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him.
Original Sin has vitiated man to such a degree,—he is so far from divine union, at his first coming into this life,—that, of himself, he can neither cleanse the defilement that is on him, nor enter on the path which leads to God. It is requisite that our God, as a generous and patient physician, take our cure in his own hand; and, even when the cure is effected, should support and guide us. Let us then, in the Postcommunion, say with the Church:
The other Poscommunions, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
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