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OF THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST.
[§ 38. The glories and the condescension of our Lord Jesus Christ.] Let Jesus of Nazareth, who, though innocent, was condemned by the Jews and fastened to the cross by the Gentiles, be worshipped by us Christians with the honours due to Him as God. Let us who are Christ’s render to our Saviour’s griefs the homage of trembling adoration, of loving embrace, and of a courageous following; for this is meet, honourable, and available to salvation. For they are the potent instruments wherewith the almighty power and inscrutable wisdom of God wrought out, and even now works out, the restoration of the world. Christ the Lord was made a little less than the angels, that we might be made equal unto the angels; and who would not humble himself for the sake of Christ? Christ the Lord was crucified for our sins, and has sweetened to His lovers all the bitters of the Cross. He died, and dying destroyed death, that we might 102live through Him; and who would not love Christ the Lord? who would not suffer for Christ? Christ through the shame of the Cross has passed into the brightness of supremest glory, and for His reverence (Heb. v. 7) all power in heaven and in earth has been given to Him by God the Father, that all the angels of God may adore Him, and that in His Name every knee may bow of those that are in heaven, and in earth, and in hell (Phil, ii. 10).
Where then, O Christian, is thy boasting, if it be not in the Name of thy crucified Lord, Jesus Christ; in the Name which is above every name, the Name in which He who is blessed on earth shall be blessed in heaven? O boast in His holy Name, ye children of redemption; pay honour to your Saviour, who has done great things in us, and magnify His Name with me, saying, ‘We adore Thee, O Christ, King of Israel, Prince of the kings of the earth, Light of the Gentiles, Lord of hosts, most mighty virtue of the omnipotent God. We adore Thee, O priceless price of our redemption, our peace-offering, who alone, by the wonderful sweetness of Thy odour, hast inclined Thy Father who dwells in heaven to regard our lowliness, and hast Thyself alone propitiated Him. 103 O Christ, we speak abroad Thy mercies, we tell, and tire not in telling, of the memory of Thy sweetness; to Thee, O Christ, we offer the sacrifice of praise for the abundance which Thou hast shown us of Thy goodness, us, wicked seed that we are and ungracious children.’
For when as yet we were Thine enemies, O Lord, and ancient death held sway over all flesh—a sway to which the whole seed of Adam was subject by the necessary law and condition of their primal guilt—Thou wast mindful of Thy all-abounding mercy, and didst look forth from Thy lofty dwelling on this our valley of misery and tears. Thou didst see, O Lord, the affliction of Thy people, and, touched to the heart with charity and sweetness, didst apply Thyself to think thoughts of peace and redemption for us. And although Thou wast the Son of God, true God co-eternal and consubstantial with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, ‘inhabiting the inaccessible light’ (1 Tim. vi. 16), and ‘upholding all things by the word of Thy power’ (Heb. i. 3), Thou didst not disdain to lower Thy majesty to this prison of our mortality, there to taste and swallow up our misery and restore us to glory. It was too little for Thy charity to destine cherubim or seraphim, or any 104one of the angelic choirs, to consummate the work of our salvation. Thou didst condescend to come to us in Thy own Person by the will of the Father, of whose abounding charity we have in Thee made proof. Thou earnest, I say, not by a local change, but by exhibition of Thy Person to us in the flesh. Thou didst stoop from the royal throne of Thy sublime glory into a humble maiden and abject in her own sight, a maiden sealed by the early vow of virginal chastity. In whose sacred womb the unspeakable power of the Holy Ghost caused Thee to be conceived, and thence to be born in the true nature of our humanity, in such wise that the majesty of the Godhead should not be violated in Thyself, nor the virginal integrity of Thy Mother sullied by the occasion of Thy birth.
[§ 39. The Nativity of Christ, and its sanctification of poverty.] O loveable, O admirable condescension! God of boundless glory, Thou didst not disdain to be made a contemptible worm. Lord of all things, Thou didst appear as a slave among slaves. It seemed too little to Thee to be our Father; Thou didst deign, O Lord, to be our Brother also. Nay, more; Thou, Thou the Lord of all things, who hadst need of nothing, didst not 105refuse, even at the very outset of Thy human life, to taste to the full the inconveniences of most abject poverty. For, as the Scripture says, there was no room for Thee in the inn (St. Luke ii. 7) when Thou wast about to be brought forth, nor hadst Thou cradle to receive Thy frail and delicate frame; but Thou, Thou who boldest the earth in the palm of Thy Hand, wast laid, wrapt in rags, in the vile manger of a filthy cattle-shed; and Thy Mother shared with brute beasts a stall for her hospice. Be comforted, be comforted, you that are nurtured in filth and want, for your God is with you in your poverty. He does not lie cradled in splendour and luxury; no, nor is He found in the domains of those whose life is a life of ease. Why, O rich man, do you boast any longer I why do you boast, O thing of clay, as; you lie lolling in your couch of luxury and colour, while He, the King of kings, has preferred to dignify the pauper’s bed of straw by lying on it? Why do you loathe hard beds, while He, the frail Baby-God, in whose Hand all things are, has chosen for His pallet the hard straw where cattle lie, in preference to your cover lets of silk and pillows of down?
But even this Thy tender infancy, O Christ, was not safe from persecutors’ swords. Thou wast 106still hanging a sucking-child at Thy Mother’s breast when ‘an angel appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying, Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee; for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child, to destroy him’ (St. Matt. ii. 13). Thus even then, good Jesus, didst Thou begin to suffer. Nay, not only didst Thou endure in Thine own Person that persecution of Thine infancy, but even death in the person of Thy little ones, thousands and thousands of whom were slaughtered by the ruthless Herod at their mothers’ breasts for Thy sake.
[§ 40. The hidden life and ministry of our Lord.] And on finishing Thy course of early boy hood Thou didst bequeath us an example how to learn the truth with humility. For although Thou wast the Lord of all knowledge (1 Kings ii. 3) and the Very Personal Wisdom of God the Father, yet didst Thou sit—not with the council of vanity (Ps. xxv. 4)—but in the midst of the doctors, asking them questions and listening to them. And furthermore, Thou gavest us an instance of obedience in living humbly subject to the rule of pa rents, for all that Thou wast the Master of the world.107
And when Thou didst attain the strength of riper age, and wast ready to lay to Thy hand for mighty deeds, then Thou didst issue forth for the saving of Thy people, like a giant strong to run the race of our sad estate (Ps. xviii. 6); and first of all, to be made in all things like Thy brethren, Thou didst—as though Thou wert indeed a sinner approach—Thy servant who baptized sinners with the baptism of penance, and didst even implore him to baptize Thee, Thee, innocent Lamb of God, whom slightest taint of sin had never stained. Thou wast baptized, not to sanctify Thyself by the waters, but to sanctify the waters by Thyself, that so through them we might be sanctified by Thee. And then Thou wentest forth in the Spirit of power, fresh from the baptismal wave, into the desert, that a pattern of the solitary life also might not be wanting in Thy Person. Loneliness, forty days’ fast, the sharp tooth of hunger, temptations from the deceiver-spirit,—all were borne by Thee with even mind, that thus all might by Thy working be made bearable to us. This done, Thou then earnest to the sheep that had been lost of the house of Israel (St. Matt. x. 6), lifting on high the torch of the Divine word for the illumination of the world; and, preaching the kingdom of God to all 108men, didst become the source of eternal salvation to all that obey, and confirm Thy preaching by signs following, and show forth the power of Thy Godhead to all that were in evil case; freely displaying to all all things that made for their salvation, that so Thou mightest gain all. But their foolish heart, O Lord, was darkened (Rom. i. 21), and they cast Thy words behind them (Ps. xlix. 17), and heeded not all the wonders that Thou didst work among them; except some few great heroic souls, whom Thou didst choose out from the contemptible and base things of the world, that by them Thou mightest gloriously bring to naught the strong and lofty (1 Cor. i. 27, 28). But not alone were men unthankful to Thee for Thy all-gratuitous benefits; they assailed Thee with insults, O Lord of all lords, and did unto Thee what soever they had a mind (St. Matt. xvii. 12). For when Thou didst among them works of God none else did, what said they? ‘This man is not of God’ (St. John ix. 16); ‘He casteth out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils’ (St. Luke xi. 15); ‘He hath a devil’ (St. Matt. xi. 18); ‘He seduces the people;’ ‘He is a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners’ (St. Matt. xi. 19).109
[§ 41. The meekness and humility of Christ.] Why, then, weep, O man of God, why sigh for sorrow when injurious words are heaped upon you? Do you not hear what insults were levelled, and all for your sake, at your Lord and God? ‘If they have called the good man of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household?’ (St. Matt. x. 25.) Ah, good Jesus, they assailed Thee with these and suchlike blasphemies, and sometimes even hurled stones at Thee; yet Thou didst bear all patiently, and wast made before them as a man that heareth not, and that hath no reproofs in his mouth (Ps. xxxvii. 15). At last they bargained with a disciple of Thine, the son of perdition, for Thy just blood, for thirty pieces of silver (St. Matt, xxvii. 9), that they might yield Thy soul to death without a cause. Nor was the villany of Thy all-foredone betrayer unknown to Thee, even when Thou didst deign with Thy all holy Hands to touch, to wash, to wipe those cursed feet, so swift for the shedding of Thy Blood.
And yet you still walk with outstretched neck, O dust and earth; conceit still lifts you up above your proper self, and impatience of control still urges you immoderately on! See, see thy Teacher of humility and lowliness, see thy Lord Jesus 110Christ, see the Creator of the universal world, see the dread Judge of living and dead kneeling upon His knees at the feet of a man, and that man His betrayer; and learn that He is ‘meek and humble of heart’ (St. Matt. xi. 29), and be confounded for your pride, and blush for shame at your peevishness.
And it was one sign more of Thy gentleness, Lord Jesus, that refusing openly to detect and confound the traitor in presence of his brethren, Thou didst give a kind hint, and bid him hasten what was in preparation. And yet for all this his madness was not diverted from Thee; but he went out, and busied himself about his repeated villany. ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer! who didst rise in the morning’ (Is. xiv. 12) in the delights of paradise; for thou wast glorious to behold, companion of the citizens of heaven, and guest of the Word Divine; thou that wast brought up in scarlet (Lam. iv. 5), hast thou indeed embraced the dung?
Then was Thy household, O Lord, glorified so as to be like the company of the angels; then, then at last was that happy society satisfied with the outpoured draughts of the Divine word that is sued from Thy mouth. For that polluted one had 111been dismissed whom Thou knewest to be unfit for the inpouring of that clear limpid stream.
[§ 42. The agony and the betrayal.] When, however, the maundy of a Saviour’s charity and patience had been given, and the kingdom of Thy Father consigned to Thy brethren, Thou didst retire with them to the place known to the traitor, knowing all the things that were about to come upon Thee, and then and there didst not shrink from pouring into Thy brethren’s ear that sorrow of soul which at the prospect of Thy impending Passion, like all those sufferings themselves when present to Thee, Thou didst undergo with perfect willingness: ‘My soul is sorrowful even unto death’ (St. Matt. xxvi. 38). And kneeling down Thou didst fall on Thy face, praying in an agony, and saying, ‘Abba, Father! My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me’ (ib. 39). And the anguish of Thy sorrowing Heart was betrayed by that sweat of blood which, what time Thou prayedst, rolled down in drops to the ground from Thy all-sacred Flesh. O Lord, and Lord of lords, Christ Jesus, why this so racking grief of soul, why this torture with such a rain of sweat, why this tortured supplication? For didst Thou 112not offer an entirely willing sacrifice to the Father, enduring nothing whatever without Thy will’s consent? Yes, Lord; yes indeed. But we believe that Thou didst take upon Thee this also for the consolation of Thy weak members, lest any of us should despair if the weak flesh murmur while yet his spirit is ready for suffering. And doubtless it was that we might have greater incentives still to love of Thee, and gratitude, that Thou didst set forth the natural weakness of the flesh by such kind of tokens as might make us learn that Thou hast verily borne our sicknesses Thyself, and didst not tread the thorny course of Thy Passion without the sense of physical pain. For that cry was the cry—as it should seem—of the flesh, not of the spirit, inasmuch as Thou didst add, ‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak’ (St. Matt. xxvi. 41). And Thy Spirit’s readiness, good Jesus, for Thy Passion Thou didst evidence clearly enough, in going forth to meet the men of blood as they drew near with the traitor, searching through the night for Thy life, with lanterns, torches, and weapons; and in shewing that it was Thou Thyself by accepting what they had received as the token from their guide in guilt. For as the murderous creature came near 113to Thee for the kiss of Thy Mouth, Thou didst not recoil, but didst sweetly place upon the mouth that ran over with wickedness that Mouth in which no deceit was found (Is. liii. 9).
What, O innocent Lamb of God, what hadst Thou in common with that wolf? ‘What concord hath Christ with Belial?’ (2 Cor. vi. 15.) But here again was Thy loving-kindness displayed in showing him all instances that could have served to soften the obduracy of a wicked heart; for Thou didst remind him of Thy ancient friendship in the words, ‘Friend, whereto art thou come?’ (St. Matt, xxvi. 50.) And Thou didst wish to strike a horror of his sin into that sacrilegious heart when Thou saidst to him, ‘Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ (St. Luke xxii. 48.) For ‘the Philistines are upon thee, Samson’ (Judges xvi. 14). But they were not frightened from their intent for all that, at the very moment of Thy seizure, Thou didst strike them to the earth with Thy omnipotent arm; not in self-defence, indeed, but that man’s presumption might be taught that it cannot avail aught against Thee, except by Thy allowance. And who can hear without a sigh how in that hour they laid their murderous hands on Thee, and, Thy Hands, Thy innocent Hands, good 114Jesus, being bound with cords, dragged Thee like a thief, Thee the gentlest Lamb, silent and unreproachful, with all insult to the slaughter? Yet even then, O Christ, the honeycomb of Thy sweetness ceased not to distil its mercy even on Thy foes; for Thou didst heal an enemy’s ear, wounded by Thy disciple, and didst restrain Thy defender’s zeal from striking in Thy behalf. O accursed madness, O stubborn hate, which neither the grandeur of the miracle nor the kindness of the cure availed to subdue and crush.
[§ 43. The condemnation and the crucifixion.] Then wast Thou presented before the chief-priest’s council, who were enraged against Thee, and for confessing the truth, as it behoved Thee, wast condemned to death on the charge of blasphemy. Jesus, most loving Lord, what indignities hast Thou not endured from Thine own nation! Thy adorable Face, which the angels long to stare at, and all the whole heavens are filled full with joy in gazing on, and the rich among the people do entreat (Ps. xliv. 13); they stained it with spittings from polluted lips, they struck it with sacrilegious hands, and covered it with a veil in derision; and Thee, the Lord of the universal world, they buffeted 115like a contemptible slave. And as though this were not enough, they gave Thy life over to an uncircumcised dog to be devoured, demanding that Thou who knewest no sin shouldest be done to death by the punishment of the cross, and that a murderer should be given them (Acts iii. 3), preferring thus a wolf to the Lamb, and clay to Gold. O unworthy and O ill-starred compact! And yet the sacrilegious Pilate knew that this had been done to Thee for envy; still he withheld not his presumptuous hands from Thee, but filled Thy soul with bitterness without a cause; sent Thee off to be mocked, took Thee back again when mocked, made Thee stand naked before the eyes of Thy tormentors, and shrank not from tearing and gashing Thy virginal flesh with rods, laying bruises upon bruises with reiterated cruelty.
What, O Chosen Child of my Lord God, hadst Thou done to deserve such bitterness, to deserve such shame? Nothing, nothing. Undone mortal that I am, ’tis I that was the cause of all Thy tribulation and all Thy shame; ’tis I who ate the sour grapes, and Thy teeth were numbed, for Thou hast paid what Thou tookest not away (Ps. lxviii. 5).. But the impiety of the perfidious Jews was even thus unsatisfied; for at last Thou wast 116turned over into the hands of uncircumcised soldiers to be destroyed by a death of all deaths the shamefullest. Nor was it enough for them to crucify Thee, they first filled Thy soul with insults; for what says the Scripture? They ‘gathered together unto Him all the whole band into the prætorium; and stripping Him they put a scar let cloak about Him; and platting a crown of thorns they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand; and, bowing the knee before Him, they mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews;’ and they buffeted Him; ‘and spitting upon Him they took the reed and struck His head. And after they had mocked Him, they took off the cloak from Him, and led Him away to crucify Him,’ bearing His own Cross. And they led Him out to Golgotha, ‘and they gave Him’ myrrhed ‘wine to drink, mingled with gall; and when He had tasted He would not drink’ (St. Matt. xxvii. 27-34). Then ‘they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst’ (St. John xix. 18). ‘And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (St. Luke xxiii. 33, 34). ‘Afterward Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst’ 117(St. John xix. 28). ‘And one running and filling a sponge with vinegar, and putting it upon a reed, gave Him to drink’ (St. Mark xv. 36). ‘Therefore, when He had taken the vinegar, He said, It is consummated’ (St. John xix. 30). ‘And crying with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit’ (St. Luke xxiii. 46). ‘And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost’ (St. John xix. 30). Then ‘one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water’ (Ib. 34).
[§ 44. The humiliations of the Passion.] Now then, my soul, arouse thee; shake thee from the dust, and with fixed and earnest look gaze on this memorable Man, whom thou seest veritably present, as it were, by the mirror of the gospel story. Look, my soul, and tell me who, who is He? He walks in majesty and with all the bearing of a king, and yet laden with contempt like some poor slave, and covered with confusion. He walks in majesty, and His Head is encircled with a crown; but O, that crown of His is torture, and pierces at a thousand points that goodly brow of His. He is clad like a king, in purple, but O, it is all for despite, not for honour. He carries a sceptre in 118His Hand, but only that His sacred Head may be smitten with it. They bend the knee to earth and worship Him, they all proclaim Him King; and, see, forthwith they fly upon Him, spit upon His cheeks, beat His jaws with the palms of their hands, and rain dishonours on His royal neck. Look, look again, and see how this Man of men is hard bested, is spit upon, is spurned. He is bid den to bow His back beneath the burden of a heavy cross, and carry His own instrument of shame. Led out to the place of death He is given myrrh and gall to drink; He is lifted up upon the cross, saying as He rises, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (St. Luke xxiii. 34). Who, who, and what is This that, for all He was so oppressed, opened not His mouth even once to utter word of complaint, of excuse, or threatening, or malediction, against the dogs that encompassed Him, and at last breathed on His enemies a word of benediction such as the world had never heard from its foundation. What hast thou ever seen, O my soul, more gentle, or more kind and tender, than this Man? But look, look still, pay greater heed to Him; for now He appears worthy of boundless wonder as of tenderest pity. See Him, all naked and scarred with stripes, fastened 119with iron nails to the cross between two thieves, and even after death wounded in the side with a lance, and pouring forth bountiful rivers of Blood from the five wounds of Hands, of Feet, of Side. Weep tears, O eyes of mine; melt, melt, my heart, with fires of compassion for that Man of love, so bruised, and crushed, and battered with griefs so dire, for all that His was a tenderness so sweet.
[§ 45. The glories of the Passion.] Hast thou seen Him in His weakness, O my soul, and pitied Him? Turn again, and see His majesty, and thou shalt wonder. For what says the Scripture? ‘It was almost the sixth hour: and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened’ (St. Luke xxiii. 44, 45). ‘And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom: and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent: and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose’ (St. Matt. xxviii. 51, 52). Who, who is this; for heaven and earth share His grief, and dying He brings the dead to life? Own Him, own Him, my soul; it is the Lord Jesus Christ, thy Saviour, the only-begotten Son of God, true 120God, true Man, who alone was found without spot beneath the sun. Yet see how ‘He was reputed with the wicked’ (Is. liii. 12), and ‘we have thought Him as it were a leper’ (ib. 4), ‘despised and the most abject of men’ (ib. 3); and f as a hidden untimely birth’ (Job iii. 16) which is cast forth from the womb, so is He cast forth from the womb of His mother, the unhappy synagogue. He so lovely beyond the sons of men, how unsightly beyond the sons of men has He become! Ay, indeed; ‘He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins’ (Is. liii. 5); and is be come a holocaust of sweetest odour in Thy sight, O Father of eternal glory, to turn away Thine indignation from us, and make us sit along with Himself in heavenly places.
[§ 46. Joseph in Egypt a type of Christ.] Look down, O Lord, holy Father, from Thy sanctuary, and from Thy high and heavenly dwelling, and behold this all-holy Victim, which our great High-priest, Thy holy Child Jesus, offers Thee for the sins of His brethren; and have mercy on the multitude of our iniquities. Lo, the voice of the Blood of Jesus our Brother cries to Thee from the Cross. For what is it, O Lord, that hangs on the Cross? 121Hangs, I say; for past things are as present with Thee. Own It, O Father. It is the coat of Thy Joseph, Thy Son; an evil wild beast hath devoured Him, and hath trampled on His Garment in its fury, spoiling all the beauty of this His remanent Corpse, and lo, five mournful gaping wounds are left in It. This is the Garment which Thy innocent holy Child Jesus, for the sins of His brethren, has left in the hands of the Egyptian harlot, thinking the loss of His robe a better thing than the loss of purity; and choosing rather to be despoiled of His coat of flesh and go down to the prison of death than to yield to the voice of the seductress for all the glory of the world. ‘All these will I give Thee, if, falling down, Thou wilt adore me’ (St. Matt. iv. 9); that is to say, if Thou wilt lie with the adultress. And now, O Lord and Father, we know that ‘Thy Son is living, and He is Ruler in all the land of Egypt’ (Gen. xlv. 26), even in all places of Thy dominion. For, led forth to Thy royal Throne from the prison of death and hell, shorn of mortality and with changed apparel of Flesh, He lives again in the bloom of immortal beauty, and with glory hast Thou welcomed Him. Pharaoh has been stricken down, Pharaoh the deadly foe, and by His own great might He has 122passed in lordly triumph into heaven. And now, behold, He appears at the right hand of Thy majesty for us, crowned with glory and honour, ‘for He is our Brother and our Flesh’ (Gen. xxxvii. 27).
Look, O Lord, on the Face of Thy Christ (Ps. lxxxiii. 10), who became obedient unto death to Thee. Let not the marks of His Wounds depart ever from Thine Eyes, but remember rather what satisfaction Thou hast received for our sins. O Lord, weigh in Thy balance the sins by which we have merited Thine anger, and the grief which Thy sinless Son has borne for us. Surely, O Lord, this grief of His will show more grievous than our sins, and cry louder to Thee to pour forth all Thy mercy on us than they can cry that Thou shouldest shut up Thy mercies in anger. O Lord, holy Father, let every tongue give thanks to Thee for the abundance of Thy mercy, which spared not the only Son of Thy Bosom, but gave Him up to die for us, that we might have so great and so faithful an Advocate before Thee in heaven.
[§ 47. Love our only possible return to Christ for His sufferings.] And as for Thee, O Lord Jesus, Lord of almighty zeal, what due return, what 123worthy thanks, can I ever pay Thee, mortal that I am, dust and ashes, and worthless clay? For what was there that it behoved Thee to do for my salvation, and Thou hast not done it! From the sole of Thy foot to the crown of Thy head Thou didst plunge Thy whole Self in the waters of suffering, that all that is of me might be extricated from them; and so the waters came in even unto Thy soul (Ps. lxviii. 2). For Thou gavest up Thy soul to death to give back my lost soul to me; and so Thou hast bound me in a double debt, in that Thou gavest what Thou didst, and in that Thou didst freely give it up for my sake. Either way I am Thy debtor.
And yet again, since Thou hast twice given me life, once in creating, and once in redeeming; that life, surely, is the very best return that I could ever pay thee. But when I think of Thine own precious Soul so tortured, I know not what due return could be by mortal ever paid to Thee. For could I pay Thee in return for it all heaven, all earth, and all the bravery of heaven and earth, yet even so I should not attain to the measure of my obligation. Nay, the very giving Thee what I have and what I can, is in itself Thy gift. I must love Thee, I must love Thee, Lord, with all my 124heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength, and follow as best I can Thy footsteps, who didst deign to die for me. And how shall all this be done in me, unless Thou do it? O, let my soul cling to Thee; for all its strength comes from Thee.
[§ 48. The likeness of His Death and of His Resurrection.] And now, O Lord Jesus, my Redeemer, I adore Thee as very God; I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, and I sigh after Thee with all possible desires; O, help my imperfection. I bow down my whole self before the glorious insignia of Thy Passion, wherewith Thou didst accomplish my salvation. The royal standard of Thy victorious Cross; in Thy Name, O Christ, do I adore it. The thorny diadem; the nails glistening with Thy Blood; the lance plunged into Thy sacred Side; Thy Wounds; Thy Blood; Thy Death; Thy Burial; Thy triumphant Resurrection, and Thy Glory,—O Christ, I suppliantly adore and glorify them. For the balm of life breathes forth on me from all of them. By their life-giving odour revive and raise my spirit from the death of sin. Shield me by their virtue from the crafts of Satan; and comfort me, O Lord, 125that the yoke of Thy commandments may be sweet to me, and that the burden of the cross which Thou biddest me carry after Thee may be light and portable to the shoulders of my soul. For what courage have I for bearing up according to Thy precepts against the so many and so manifold oppressions of the world? Are my feet like hart’s feet, that I should be able to follow after Thee in Thy fleet passage through the thorns and roughnesses of Thy sufferings? But hear my voice, I pray Thee, and bend over Thy servant that sweet Cross of Thine, which is a tree of life to all that lay hold on it; and then will I run with alacrity, even as I hope to do; then will I carry after Thee without fainting and unweariedly the Cross Thine enemies have given Thee. Lay that divinest Cross, I pray Thee, on my shoulders; whose breadth is charity spreading over all creation; whose length, eternity; whose height, omnipotence; whose depth, unfathomable wisdom. And fasten my hands to it, and my feet; and clothe me from head to foot with the impress and the likeness of Thy Passion. Grant me, I implore Thee, to abstain from deeds of the flesh, which Thou hatest, and to do justice, which Thou lovest; and either way to seek Thy glory. So shall I deem my left hand to have been 126fastened with the nail of temperance, and my right hand with the nail of justice, to that lofty Cross of Thine. Let my mind meditate in Thy law continually, and direct its every thought to Thee continually; and so by the nail of prudence fasten Thou my right foot to the same tree of life. Let not the joyless joy of this fleeting life dissipate the senses, which should only minister to the spirit, nor yet its jocund joylessness waste and diminish the rewards of the life eternal laid up in store for me; and so shall my left foot also be nailed to the Cross by the nail of fortitude.
But, that some likeness may appear in me even to the thorns on Thy Head, let the compunction of a saving penance be impressed in my mind, and compassion for the miseries of others, and a penetrating zeal urging and pricking me to what is right in Thine eyes; and so shall I in my griefs be conformed to Thee, so shall the threefold wreath of thorn be fastened on me (Ps. xxxi. 4).
I would also have Thee put to my lips the sponge upon the reed, and make me taste the vinegar and its harshness; for I would have Thee, through Thy Scriptures, make my reason taste and see to see how like a sponge is all the hollow glory of the world, and how much more sour than vinegar 127is all the concupiscence of the world. So, Father, may it be brought to pass in me that the golden cup of Babylon that makes all the earth drunk (Jer. li. 7) may not seduce me with its worthless glitter, nor intoxicate me with its treacherous sweetness, as it does those who think darkness light, and light darkness, who think bitter sweet, and sweet bitter (Is. v. 20). And as to the wine mingled with myrrh, I suspect it, for Thou wouldest not drink of it; because, perhaps, it indicated the too great bitterness of Thy crucifiers.
And let Thy servant not only share Thy sufferings, let him also be made conformable to Thy life-giving death, by working this in me, that I may die after the flesh to sin, and live after the spirit to justice.
But that I may glory in bearing the perfect image of the Crucified, I pray Thee to express in me what the insatiable malice of sinners wrought in Thee even after Thou hadst died. Let Thy word wound my heart, Thy word living and effectual, more penetrating than the sharpest lance, and reaching even to the inmost parts of the soul; and let it draw forth from it, as though it were from my right side, in place of blood and water, love of Thee and love of my brethren.128
And last of all, wrap my spirit in the
clean linen of the first robe;44 [‘The clean linen of the
first robe:’ ‘Mundâ sindone primæ stolæ spiritum meum involve.’
The following passage from the first homily of St. Anselm serves to elucidate
the expression: ‘Spiritus enim meus super mel dulcis, et hereditas mea super mel et favum’ (Ecclus. xxiv. 27),
‘For My Spirit is sweet above honey, and My inheritance above honey and the
honeycomb.’ ‘Let us then advance and press onwards to the Divine Wisdom, treading obstacles and difficulties under foot, for
that Spirit of His which He breathes into those who make for Him is sweeter than honey; and the inheritance of eternal bliss
which He has prepared for them transcends in sweetness honey and the honeycomb.
Honey, he says; indicating the souls of the just, which, detached from their bodies, are already standing in the presence of the
glory of their Creator, "and white stoles were given to each one of them" (Apoc. vi. 11): whereas by
honeycomb he indicates the elect, who shall be after the resurrection
beatified in body as well as in soul in the kingdom of God, when at last "they
shall receive double in their land" (Is. lxi. 7). For the honeycomb is honey in
wax, and represents the soul in the body; just as honey without wax represents
the soul without the body.’ The ‘simplex gloria’ of the next paragraph has the like allusion. The idea is by no means peculiar to St. Anselm; as, indeed, might be inferred
from the text, for he writes as though the mystical meaning of the
prima stola were not new to his readers. St. Bernard says:
‘There are three conditions of the holy souls; the first, namely, in a corruptible body; the second, without the body; the
in their body now at last glorified. . . . They have already received each her one robe, but they will not be clothed with
two robes each until we also are
clothed. . . . For the first robe is, as I have said, the happiness and rest of their souls; the second, the immortality and
glory of their bodies’
(Serm. iii. In Festo omnium Sanctorum). So, too, in Serm. de Diversis, xli. 12,
‘For the present one robe has been given to each (Apoc. vi.) . . . pending their
coronation with twofold bliss.’
Nor was the idea of medieval origin; for St. Gregory the Great speaks as follows on Job xlii. 11: ‘And every man gave him one ewe and one earring of gold.’ ‘For as we said long ago, the saints receive one robe apiece before the resurrection, for they only enjoy bliss of soul; but at the end of the world they will receive two robes each, for they will have not only bliss of mind but also a glorified body.’ The passage to which he refers is this: ‘Prior to the resurrection they are said to have received one robe each, for as yet they only enjoy mental bliss; they will have received their twofold investiture when, together with perfect joy of soul, they are also decked with incorruptible flesh.’ And, indeed, the following passage from the seventeenth Meditation gives all that is necessary by way of explanation: ‘Expectant fideles donec impleatur numerus fratrum suorum ut in die resurrectionis duplici stolâ, scilicet corporis et animæ perpetuâ felicitate fruantur.’] and in it let me rest, going 129in to Thee into the place of Thy wonderful tabernacle (Ps. xli. 5), and there hide me until Thy indignation pass away (Is. xxvi. 20).
But on the third day, the day of toil and the day of single glory overpast, on the first early morning of the week that shall see no end, do Thou revive me and raise me up, unworthy though I be, that in my flesh I may see Thy beauty, and be filled to the full with the joy of Thy countenance (Ps. xv. 11), O my Saviour and my God. Come, come the day, O my Saviour and my God; speed, speed the time; that what now I believe in I may 130then behold at last with unveiled eye; that what now I hope for and salute from afar, I may apprehend; that what now I desire with all my powers, I may clasp in my soul’s embrace and rapturously greet; and be all swallowed up in Thy love’s abyss, O my Saviour and my God! But now meanwhile, O thou my soul, bless thou thy Saviour; and magnify His Name, for it is holy and full of holiest delights.
[§ 49. Aspiration and prayer.] O how good and sweet Thou art, Lord Jesus, to the soul that seeks Thee, Jesus, Redeemer of the captives; Saviour of the lost; Hope of the exiles; Strength of those that labour; Repose of the anxious spirit; dear Solace and sweet Refreshment of the tearful soul that runs toiling after Thee; Crown of them that conquer; sole Reward and only Joy of the citizens above; full Fountain overflowing with all graces; glorious Offspring of great God; Thyself great God. Great God, let all things that are in heaven above and in earth beneath bless Thee, for Thou art great and great is Thy Name. O unfading Beauty of the most high God, and purest Brightness of Eternal Light; O Life enlivening all life, O Light enlightening all light, and sustaining 131in eternal splendour the thousand thousand thousands of lights that blaze before the Throne of Thy Divine Majesty, on from the distant dawn of their first early shining. O Thou welling Fountain, hidden from mortal sight in the eternal and exhaustless outgushing of Thy fresh limpid floods, Whose springs have no beginning, Whose deeps are deep and infinitely deep, Whose height attains no limit, Whose breadth broadens onwards marginless for ever, Whose purity is unruffled through eternity! The Bosom of unfathomable God pours thee forth from the unsearchable abyss of His own profound, Life begetting Life, Light begetting Light, God begetting God, eternal God begetting eternal God, infinite God, God infinite and in all things coequal with Himself. And, Of Thy fulness we have all received (St. John i. 16).
Thee too, all-plentiful Spring of every good, priceless Light of sevenfold grace, Thee, O most merciful Spirit, I implore to vouchsafe to illuminate me by Thy visitation, whereinsoever, by reason of my frailty, I have too feebly grasped the truth of Thy majesty and grandeur, and whatsoever of all that I have understood of Thy Divine precepts I have by carnal wantonness disesteemed; 132so may I correct what is amiss, and, helped by Thee, whom, voyaging over this life’s sea of perils, I have invoked to my assistance, may I be guided without shipwreck to the harbour of eternal peace.
Thee, too, I entreat, all-pitiful Father, that, as Thou didst first make me and then re-make by the Passion of Thy only-begotten Son, so Thou wouldst give me to think and love whatsoever tends to Thy glory. I am frail and unequal to my undertaking, but do Thou grant me by diligent confession to attain the grace of redemption and salvation. And whatever work I undertake henceforth, make it tend altogether, by Thy grace, through Thy grace, and in Thy grace, to Thine only praise. Keep me henceforth from sin, teach me to be more constant and courageous in good works; and so long as I live in this body, let me show myself some way Thy servant. And so grant me, after my soul’s exit from the flesh, to obtain pardon of all my sins and reap life ever lasting. Through Him who with Thee liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.133
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