The CAPG's Blog
Dedication to the Holy Priests of the Church Triumphant
0 great saints, chosen from all eternity by Jesus Christ, the Saint of saints, to be clothed in an especial manner with His admirable sanctity; glorious priests selected from thousands of men by Jesus, the Supreme High Priest, to be His associates in the Divine Priesthood, prostrate at your feet with all respect and humility I salute you!
I honor you by every means in my power as my masters and spiritual fathers, as shining lights in the firmament of the Church, as true shepherds of the flock of Christ, as oracles of the Eternal Word, as prophets of His holy teaching, as chiefs in the celestial militia, as captains of the army of the Great King, as princes of His realm, as kings of His empire.
I revere you as members of the greatest and most dignified order in heaven and on earth, the Eternal Priesthood, founded and established by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I hail you as the solid pillars supporting Mother Church, as the unshakable foundation of the house of God. I respect you as custodians of the keys of heaven, as cherubim stationed with flaming swords at the gates of paradise to prevent the unworthy and profane from entering its portals. I see in you living and perfect images of the Sovereign Priest, Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God, with whom you are one, being clothed with the very Priesthood conferred upon Him by His Eternal Father, and one with Him as all members are one with their head.
With all my heart I thank God for having elevated you to the highest dignity in his heavenly kingdom and in the family of His Divine Son. I rejoice that you are now crowned with glory and happiness, commensurate with the loftiness of your priestly dignity.
From my innermost soul I thank you for the heroic service you have rendered here on earth to our Divine Master and to His Holy Church, by the faithful discharge of your sacerdotal duties, and for the glory you have rendered God in time and eternity.
Who can tell the ardor of the love for Holy Mother Church which consumed you? Who can ever express in words the vigilance and zeal with which you labored in her interests? You realize now more than ever her great need in our materialistic age for priests who will follow in your footsteps, imitating your virtue and holiness. You understand how true is the saying of the Eternal Truth Himself that the harvest is great but the laborers few.
Permit me to address to you the prayer that Our Lord and Savior recommended to all His children: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest (Matt. 9, 38). But pray that He send workers "approved unto God"(2 Tim. 2, 15), workers seeking not their own interests, but having as their only goal the glory of the Master and the salvation of the souls which He purchased with the shedding of His Precious Blood. Pray that He may send to His Church priests after His own heart, who will walk the same road you trod while you were on earth.
O saintly priests, you know full well the importance and necessity of having holy priests in the Church of Christ. It is the most ardent longing of all true Christians who are animated with the love of God and the zeal for His Church.
Source: St. John Eudes
What the Mass is and for what end it is to be offered
From the beginning of the world the servants of God were always accustomed to offer Sacrifice to Him, by way of acknowledging His sovereignty and paying their homage to Him ; and in all ancient religions, true or false, this worship of Sacrifice was always regarded as a most solemn act of religion, due to the Deity worshiped.
In the law of nature, and in the law of Moses, there was a great variety of Sacrifices : some bloody, in which the victim was slain ; others unbloody. Some were called Holocausts, or whole burnt-offerings, in which the whole host or victim was consumed in fire upon God’s altar, for His honor and glory : others were called Sin-offerings, which were offered for sins ; others were offerings of Thanksgivings ; others were pacific or Peace-offerings, which were offered for obtaining favors of God— the word “ peace ” in the Scripture style signifying all manner of good and prosperity.
All these Sacrifices of the law of nature, and of the law of Moses, were of themselves but weak and needy elements (Gal. IV. 9), and only figures of a Sacrifice to come, viz., that of Jesus Christ; in consideration of which Sacrifice only, and of the faith of the offerers, by which they believed in the Redeemer to come, those ancient Sacrifices were then accepted by the Divine Majesty, when they were accompanied with the inward sacrifice of the heart; but not for any intrinsic worth or dignity of the things offered, for no other blood but the Blood of Christ could wash away sins. Hence, St. Paul says (Heb. x . 5), quoting from the 39th Psalm : Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not have : but Thou hast fitted to Me a Body. This gives us to understand that, by reason of the insufficiency of the Sacrifices of the old law, Christ Himself would come to be our Sacrifice, and would offer up His own Body and Blood for us.
Accordingly, our Savior Jesus Christ, at the time appointed by His Father, having taken flesh for us, was pleased to offer Himself a Sacrifice for us, dying upon the Cross for the sins of the whole world. By this one offering we were completely redeemed, inasmuch as our ransom was paid, and all mercy, grace, and salvation were purchased for us. Neither can there now be any need of His dying any more, or purchasing any other graces for us than those for which He has already paid the price of His Blood.
Nevertheless, for the daily application of this one eternal Redemption to our souls, and that the mercy, grace, and salvation which He has purchased for us may be actually communicated to us, He not only continually appears in our behalf in the Sanctuary of Heaven, there representing and offering to His Father His Passion and Death for us, but He has also instituted the Blessed Eucharist, the night before His Passion, in which He bequeathed us His Body and Blood, under the sacramental veils, not only to be received by us as a Sacrament, for the food and nourishment of our souls, but also (mystically delivered) to be offered and presented by His ministers to His Father as a Sacrifice : not by way of a new death, but by way of a standing Memorial of His death ; a daily celebrating and representing of His death to God, and an applying to our souls of the fruits thereof.
This Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, daily offered under the forms of bread and wine, in remembrance of His Passion, is what we call the Mass. This is the solemn Liturgy of the Catholic Church. This is that pure Offering which is made to God in every place among the Gentiles, according to the prophecy of Malachi (I. 10 , 11). By this, Christ is a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 109), whose Sacrifice was bread and wine (Gen. xv.)
This Sacrifice of the Mass is the same in substance with that which Christ offered for us upon the Cross; because both the Victim offered, and the Priest or principal Offerer, is the same Jesus Christ. The difference is only in the manner of the offering ; because upon the Cross our Savior offered Himself in such a manner as really to shed His Blood and die for us ; whereas now He does not really shed His Blood, or die. And therefore this is called an unbloody Sacrifice; and that of the Cross a bloody Sacrifice.
By virtue of this essential sameness, the Sacrifice of the Mass completely answers all the different ends of Sacrifice, and that in a way infinitely more effective than any of the ancient Sacrifices. Christ is here both Priest and Victim, representing in person and offering up His Passion and Death to His Father.
This Sacrifice of the Mass is offered up to God, in the Catholic Church, first as a daily remembrance of the Passion of Christ: This do for the commemoration of Me (I Cor. XI. 24) ; secondly, as a most solemn worship of the Divine Majesty ; thirdly, as a most acceptable thanksgiving to God, from whence it has the name of Eucharist ; fourthly, as a most powerful means to move God to show mercy to us in the forgiveness of our sins, for which reason we call it propitiatory ; and, lastly, as a most effectual way to obtain of God all that we need, coming to Him, as we here do, with Christ and through Christ.
For these ends both Priest and people ought to offer up the Sacrifice of the Mass — the Priest, as Christ’s minister and in His person ; and the people, by the hands of the Priest ; and both the one and the other by the hands of the Great High-Priest Jesus Christ. And with this offering of Christ, both the one and the other should make a total offering of themselves also by His hands and in union with Him.
Source: A Manual Of Prayers For The Use Of The Catholic Laity: Prepared And Published By Order Of The Third Plenary Council Of Baltimore 1888
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For carrying on Divine worship, ruling the Church, and administering the Sacraments, a Priesthood is required, and it belongs to God alone to institute the Priesthood.
In the Old Law, God chose and raised to the Priesthood Aaron, his children and descendants, and they were to be assisted in their priestly functions by the members of the tribe of Levi; and thus the Priesthood was transmitted to posterity simply by family descent. In the New Law the means instituted by Christ for the transmission of the Priesthood was not by limiting it to one family or tribe, but by having the Sacrament of Holy Order conferred on those Christians whom the Apostles and their Successors should choose among the baptized, and ordain for that dignity and office.
Holy Order, then, is a Sacrament by which Bishops, Priests, and other Ministers of the Church are ordained, and receive power and grace to perform their sacred duties.
The Sacramental character of Holy Order is manifest in Holy Scripture. St. Paul, in his Epistles to St. Timothy, says: "Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the Priesthood." (I Timothy IV. 14.) "I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. (2 Timothy I. 6.)
Here we have all the essentials of a Sacrament - the outward sign - the inward grace annexed - and divine appointment; for, as we have before said, God alone can make outward signs to be means of grace.
Source: Catholic Belief: or A Short and simple exposition of Catholic Doctrine by Very Rev. Joseph Faa Bruno 1878
The Glorious Destiny of the Clergy
I. They Are Not Of The World.
II. They Are Of God.
III. How Few Such Are Found!
"And He said to them: How is it that you sought Me? did you not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them."—St. Luke ii. 49, 50.
1. How is if that you sought Me? These are the first words of our Divine Lord which the Evangelist records. These words, and those which follow them, contain a declaration of the mystery of the Incarnation, and its end; they reveal to us the dedication of Jesus to His Father's glory, and our salvation, and He puts them in the mouth of all those whom He associates with Him in His Priesthood, in order that they may give the same answer to the men of the world, if, at any time, they seek to divert them from their Ministry. So did He answer His Mother, not to blame her three days' search for Him, but, as Venerable Bede tells us, to cause her to raise her eyes to His Heavenly Father, to Whom His whole life was due. Now let us pass from the Head of all Priests to His Members; from Christ to ourselves, who have here a most important lesson given us. If, when the duties of His Priesthood were in question, He answered His Blessed Mother in this manner, shall we be too harsh if we give the like answer to the men of the world? O Minister of God, should the world seek to regain thee, to bind thee anew to itself, and, with manifold solicitations urge thy return, answer it in these words: "How is it that you sought me?" God has chosen thee, and separated thee from this world: "you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world" (St. John xv. 19); and thou hast chosen God for the portion of thine inheritance ; therefore, as St. Isidore warns thee, thou oughtest to serve Him alone. Stand on thy guard, for many blandishments, many promises will the World make use of, to draw thee to itself; it will set its fatal snares in order to involve thee in worldly actions, and to divert thee from the care of the Sanctuary. So St. Peter Damian. But Jesus has put this great answer in thy mouth, and note well this, "how is it 1" for, says St. Augustine, all that the world offers is nothing, is "What?" a trifle which deludes and bewitches: "the bewitching of vanity" (Wisd. iv. 12); and yet this nothing, this trifle, puts thee in peril of losing everything, of losing thine eternal happiness. Whosoever of the Sacred Order, says St. Peter Damian, desires to live innocently, must not often tread in the world's ways, lest he fall into the meshes of its snares.
2. Did you not know that I must be about My Fathers business! The men of the World do not understand the high destiny of the Priesthood, and sometimes even Priests themselves do not realize it; but our Great High Priest has taught it to us in a few words: "I must be about My Father's business." St. Bonaventure observes that these words are explained by those other words of our Savior, " I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent me" (St. John vi. 38); and Metaphrastes says, that Jesus meant to show, that he who goes wandering about among earthly matters will not attain perfection. The Priest should be "a man of God;"that is, God's alone: "but thou, O man of God, fly these things" (1 Tim. vi. n); and St. Chrysostom remarks on this expression, that the Saints were called "Men of God," because they preserved in themselves the image of God, pure and entire. In this sense was this title given to Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 1), to Samuel (1 Kings ix. 6), and to Elias (4 Kings i. n). How can we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ if we are not even giving ourselves to the promotion of God's glory? If a great part of our thoughts, words, and actions are directed to earthly goods, shall we be Saints, "Men of God "? St. Charles impressed upon his priests, that they were not to waste in idle or vain occupations such time as was free from the Divine Offices, Ecclesiastical functions, and other necessary actions, but that he who is called to the work of the Lord, should meditate day and night on His Law. We have a Heavenly Father, Who has given us all that we possess, and He has given it us for Himself; we have a Heavenly Father, Who has incorporated us with His Son, and He would have us followers of this great pattern; we have a Heavenly Father, Who beholds us with an infinite penetration, and Who will amply reward all our merits; why, then, do we occupy ourselves with aught else but His service? Every moment, says St. Bernard, that we have not employed for Him, let us count as lost, and lost for eternity.
3. And they understood not. St. Bonaventure observes that Christ gave His Apostles an example of speaking of the hidden wisdom of God, and of speaking of it in a mystery: "we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, which is hidden" (1 Cor. ii. 7). He spoke of His Divinity, and they understood not what He spoke to them, says Venerable Bede. What a lesson for us! Jesus speaks of His dedication to His Father's glory, and Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, does not understand him. This mysterious circumstance, mentioned by the Evangelist, clearly signifies that the destiny of the Clergy, and our high aim, will frequently be misunderstood; and, therefore, we must not wonder at the many prejudices which exist, rooted not only in the minds of laymen, but even of ecclesiastics also: "and they understood not." They understand not that Holy Orders have consecrated us to God, have made us so many victims to His Eternal Majesty; and that, therefore, freed from all secular affairs, we ought to serve God alone. So St. Peter Damian. They understand not, in short, that, at our Ordination, we bound ourselves to God, to promote His glory; to the Church, to render Her service; to the Faithful, to procure their salvation; to ourselves, to save our souls. They understand not that, though we may be neither parish priests, nor benefited priests, still the intimation given us by the Bishop when he ordained us Priests, exists, and that the same duties are imposed on us. They understand not that the Council of Trent, in admitting to the Priesthood him who has a patrimony instead of
a benefice, does not free him from those obligations, but imposes them even on him. "The senseless man shall not know, nor will the fool understand these things" (Ps. xci. 7). But let us persuade ourselves of their truth; let us endeavor to persuade our brethren, who are in error, of their truth; let us impress those truths on the young whose feet are directed towards the Sanctuary, repeating to them continually those words of the Apostle: "You are not your own" (1 Cor. vi. 19).
"The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me."—Ps. xv. 6.
"The Lord is my portion, said my soul."—Lament, iii. 24.
As from the beginning Religion in some form has always existed, consequently at the same time there has also always been a priesthood, that is to say, ministers of sacred things, "ancients," "elders" or priests. Such was Adam; such were Enoch, Noe, Melchizedek, Abraham, and after them under the Mosaic Law the ministers of Religion the High-priest, priests and Levites. (That is: men of the tribe of Levi, from which should be recruited the ministers of the Mosaic Worship. ) However, these were but a figure of and a preparation for the Priesthood of the New Law. In the New Law Jesus Christ is the sole Redeemer, the sole Mediator, the sole Intermediary between Heaven and Earth, and consequently the sole Priest. But according to the general arrangements of His Providence He has willed that certain men should be His earthly and temporary deputies such are the Catholic bishops and priests. Hence the Sacrament of Holy Orders which consecrates them and gives to them the powers and the graces necessary for the exercise of their sacred functions: to offer the Sacrifice of the adorable Body and Blood of our divine Savior; to remit the sins of men; to dispense supernatural life by means of the Sacraments; to teach the truths of religion; to preside at public worship and to render to the faithful from their birth to their death all the services in the spiritual order which they may need for the sanctification and the salvation of their souls.
On our part we have duties towards our priests: to listen to their instructions; to help them in their ministry; to defend them against calumny; and, as far as our means permit us, to provide for their material wants whilst they themselves are consecrating their lives to insure to us all spiritual blessings.
The word Orders (from the Latin Ordo, in the sense of rank, class, social condition) is applied very rightly to the Sacrament by which the hierarchy of the ministers of the Church is created from the minor orders to the sub-deaconship, deaconship, priesthood and episcopate. (We have seen already that the word, priest (presbyter) signifies aged man, ancient, a venerable man; in the primitive Church, the priests were always chosen from amongst the elders.)
Those who receive this Sacrament are the fewer in number. But everywhere God calls whom He wishes without any merit on their part to labor for the salvation of their brethren.
This "call of God" is what we term a location. Those thus called should respond: God will be faithful to them. In the Church the Pope or Sovereign Pontiff is as Bishop of Rome the successor of St. Peter, and the first of the Bishops of the whole Church. The Bishops alone like the Apostles constitute the Priesthood in its complete fullness; it is be cause of this that they alone administer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Once a priest, forever a priest; nothing can take away this stamp of priesthood which will remain for all eternity. But to hear confessions, every priest must be approved of for this office, and must receive jurisdiction from the bishop, as every bishop receives jurisdiction from the Pope. (Jurisdiction, that is the power to judge or to exercise spiritual authority. )
Once consecrated sub-deacon, the priest is bound: 1st to recite daily the devotional exercises called the Divine Office in which he prays in the name of the whole Church; 2nd to observe celibacy and continence; that is, not to marry and to preserve perfect purity of heart. St. Paul tells us: "He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided." (I. Cor. VII. 32.)
The Latin Church thus imposes celibacy on her priests so that they may have no other family than that of the souls confided to their care; that they may be able to devote themselves exclusively to the service of these souls; and that they may be freer to consecrate themselves to every kind of ministry, whether in Christian or Pagan lands.
In such circumstances, therefore, it is only just that their material wants should be supplied by the faithful in accordance with the words of St. Paul. (I. Cor. IX.)
The first Catholic priests were St. Peter, who was Pope, the Apostles, who were bishops and those of the Faithful who were chosen and consecrated as priests and missionaries. Throughout the ages since the beginning of time this priesthood has been continued, and so it will be until the end of the world. When there are no longer priests, there will be no longer a Church, and so the world will come to an end.
Source: Credo: A short exposition of Catholic Belief. 1919 1920
The Holy Mass
The daily celebration of the Mass over the whole Christian world fulfills the prophecy contained in the first chapter of Malachias V.11.
"For from the rising of the sun, even to the going down, My Name is great among the Gentiles" (i.e., among those who were to form the present Christian world); "and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My Name a clean oblation; for My Name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts."
The Mass is this fore-told sacrifice, and clean oblation. It is offered from the rising to the going down of the sun; and it is the self-same sacrifice as that offered once in a bloody manner upon the Cross, but now in an unbloody manner on every Catholic altar. The self-same Christ is at once the High-Priest and the Victim.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is not inconsistent with the truths that, firstly, there is but One Sacrifice; secondly, that the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross are all-sufficient; and, thirdly, that Christ, having once died, can do so no more. The Mass and the Oblation on Calvary are one, because there is the same Divine victim, Jesus Christ, in each case. It is not held to create new merits by adding to those gained on the Cross, but only apply daily those so gained.
Christ does not die on the Altar, yet remains a perfect victim. Death is not essential for a sacrifice, as we learn by the old anti-type of the offering of Mass, when the Scape-Goat, being offered up as a sacrifice to God, was afterwards allowed to go free into the wilderness. (Lev. xvi, 10.)
Sacrifice has always been the one supreme from of Divine worship, and nothing more perfectly shows forth the death of the Lord, till he come (i. Cor. xi, 26), and so well obeys the Divine injunction on this matter, as the offering of the Holy Mass.
The Holy Eucharist is at the same time a sacrifice in itself and also a memorial of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Sacrifice of the Mass does not lose its rightful claim to be a sacrifice because it is at the same time commemorative of another sacrifice. "The action of the Last Supper looked forward to that action on Calvary, as the action of the Holy Mass looks backwards upon it. As the shadow is cast by the rising sun towards the west, and as the shadow is cast by the setting sun towards the east, so the Holy Mass is, I may say, the shadow of Calvary, but it is also the reality: (Cardinal Manning - Glories of the Sacred Heart).
The words of the Mass were not primarily intended to be recited or even followed by the people. The Congregation only assist at the action, priests alone being set apart to sacrifice by the reception of the powers conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Orders; and non-Catholics, if uninformed, are naturally surprised to find a priest celebrating Mass recite much of it in silence. As a proof of the former proposition, there is a portion of the Mass still called the Secret; and in ancient times a screen was drawn between the priest and the laity, so that the latter were not permitted even to see the act, yet were considered as duly participating in all its merits by their mere presence. Today the laity are rather recommended to follow the words, and these are set down in all their prayer-books in English and Latin; yet every one assisting at Mass is free to use any private form of prayer and meditation.
We have strong confirmation of the antiquity of the Mass in the writings of the pagan Romans, whose calumnies show that the Mass was always the one principal service of the early Christians. These writers refer to the slanderous stories of their times, that the Christians killed an infant and ate its flesh at their religious meetings. Such misrepresentations were very common, and prove that the primitive Christians did sacrifice and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in their Holy Communions. Those pagan tales with their half-truths are evidently founded on the celebration of the Holy Mass wherein Christ is sacrificed.
The words of the Mass are almost solely derived from Scripture, and could the Catholic Church more practically and more publicly venerate its Divine inspiration than in this full use of the Bible in its greatest act of worship?
Source: Guide to a Catholic Church: for non-Catholic Visitors, by Fox, WL and O'Gorman, RA. 1904
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Mass is the unbloody Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. Through it God has given us the Blessed Eucharist, His living Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity. Through it He Himself is "with us all days," dwelling in the tabernacles of our altars as truly as he dwells in Heaven.
The word Mass is from the Latin missa, derived from the verb mittere, to send, and signifies a sending away, a dismissal. In the ancient liturgy of the Church there were two dismissals at the Holy Sacrifice:
1. That of the catechumens, those partly instructed and not yet baptized after the Gospel and sermon, and 2. that of the faithful at the end of the Mass - still preserved in our Masses by the announcement "Ite Missa Est" ("Go, it is the dismissal") gradually came to denote the service itself. The French from, "Messe," was modified in England into "Maesse," " Masse, and finally "Mass".
In the early centuries of the Church the Mass was known as the Breaking of Bread, the Lord's Supper, the Solemnity of the Lord, the Sacrifice, the Holy Liturgy and the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving.
A priest who offers the Mass is called its celebrant.
Source: The Visible Church, Her government, ceremonies, sacramentals, festivals and devotions; a compendium of the "Externals of the Catholic Church". Fr. John F. Sullivan 1920
Incense, which ever mounts in clouds of perfume up to heaven, is symbolical of prayer: "Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in Thy sight." The fire, without which incense cannot be used, is the symbol of the Holy Ghost, of Jesus Christ, without whom we cannot pray and gain access to God. The altar is incensed because it represents the divinity of Jesus Christ; and the priest, the ecclesiastics, and the congregation are incensed to honor Jesus Christ, who dwells within the members of His Church in order to render them participants in His eternal life; and the priests are incensed a second time to honor also the Divine Priesthood of Our Lord, in which they share by their sacred character. During this time all should recollect themselves, and renew their resolutions to be ever worthy of their holy vocation.
Prayer for heretics, perverts, etc.
Look down also with compassion on those deluded souls, who under the name of Christians, have gone astray from the One True Fold, of the One Head and Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
O bring them back to Thy Church and to Thee! Dispel their darkness; let them see how passion, and the wiles of the enemy, have blinded and misled them; remove their prejudices; take from them all pride, obstinacy, human respect, and self-conceit. Give them humility, a love of truth, and a strong grace to embrace it, in spite of all the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
The Magi were a figure of Christian Priests
"There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him."—St. Matt. ii. I, 2.I. Because They Were The First To Receive The Faith.
II. Because They Were Most Courageous In Propagating It.
III. Because They Were Most Docile In Following It.
1. There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem. The Magi were the first-fruits of the nations, because they were the first from among them to recognize the Messiah. Rabanus says that, according to the common opinion, they were at once sages and princes; and so we may regard them as a figure of Priests, who are not only better instructed in matters of religion than the laity, but are also Princes of the Christian people. They should therefore be the first in the Faith, not by priority of time, for all receive the habit of Faith in Holy Baptism, but by their fuller possession and better use of it. St. Ambrose writes that the Priest should have nothing in common with the multitude, and therefore his Faith should excel theirs; and indeed it is precisely in Faith that he ought to be a pattern to the Faithful: "Be thou an example to the Faithful ... in faith" (i Tim. iv. 12). Let us therefore strive ever to increase in this virtue, and to be preeminent in it above the people. Without the increase of Faith we can never attain the perfection proper to our state; it is, says St . Chrysostom, the "origin of justice, the crown of sanctity, the beginning of devotion, the foundation of religion." Wouldst thou have the spirit of prayer? Remember, says St. Augustine, that Faith is the source of prayer. Wouldst thou become truly rich, truly honorable? Thou canst nowhere find greater riches, treasures, honors, or seek them better, than through Faith. Let us then consider in what manner we exercise this virtue, and what efforts we are making to increase and perfect it .
2. Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? Let us admire the courage of the Magi, who, as Cornelius a Lapide says, without fearing the wrath of Herod and his courtiers, sought in the royal city for another king, asking where the new King of the Jews was born. Moreover, on returning to their own country they gave themselves to the preaching of the true religion, and by their preaching merited the crown of martyrdom. It belongs to Priests to preach the true Faith, because, as St. Cyril says, they are the masters of Faith, the guardians of the true Faith. 'The true Priest is one who, as St. Ambrose describes him, does not waver like a child, nor allow himself to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, but stands perfect in Christ, rooted in the Faith. Moreover, John of Antioch tells us, that to excel in Faith, and to teach it to the people, should be the chief office and primary aim of the Priesthood. In fact, this is, as St. Chrysostom shows, the greatest and most salutary remedy that we can apply to the wounds of those souls whose salvation we seek.
3. For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him. Many in the East saw this star, and remembered the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers xxiv. 17), and knew this phenomenon to be extraordinary and mysterious; but few followed the star. All Jerusalem was moved at hearing of its appearance, and at sight of the Magi who had followed it; but none of the Jews stirred. The Priests themselves pointed out the place, proclaimed God's word, and manifested the mystery; but they did not profit by all this. As St. Augustine remarks, the Doctors spoke and remained where they were, whilst the Magi, after they had heard them, went to seek the Child. If Priests would follow that Faith which they preach to others, and from which others derive so great profit, they would not live as many, alas! do live; they would live as pilgrims in this world, without attaching themselves to earthly goods, without losing sight of the good things of heaven. Let us then reflect on the obligation we are under to make our life conformable to the Faith, and not to have a faith without works, which is but a dead faith; but endeavor, as St. Ambrose exhorts us, to be patterns to the people both in faith and in works. O Priest, man of God, strive to be among the first to "pursue justice, godliness, faith" (i Tim. vi. n).
"I have believed, therefore have I spoken."—Ps. cxv. 1.
"Increase our faith."— St. Luke xvii. 5.
The Holy Name of Jesus
St. Luke, ii. 21.
“ His name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
It is not uncommon, nor I think unwise, my brethren, for those who undertake what seems beyond their strength, to shelter themselves under the protection of some great name, by the authority of which they may ensure success. It was thus that, a few centuries ago, in times of turbulence and oppression, the feeble would put on the cognizance of some powerful lord, as whose vassal they would not fear to repel the attempts of an unjust and stronger aggressor. It is thus that, even at the present day, the obscure scholar hopes to win some more partial favor, if he can prefix to his labors the name of any one, whose reputation and acknowledged merit may give consideration to his humble efforts. Now, by the blessing of God, as I think, it has this day befallen me to open our annual course of instructions, in the full consciousness of inability and unworthiness, but under the sanction of that Name, besides which there is none other on earth given to men whereby they may be saved. For you are not ignorant, brethren, that on this day the Holy Catholic Church commemorates the blessed and adorable Name of Jesus. Amidst the joyful festivals of our Lord’s Nativity, the mysteries of this holy Name could not be forgotten. But so many and so various have been our motives for joy, that we scarcely have had time, during their celebration, to pause upon this. Even on the first day of the year, on occasion of our Lord’s Circumcision, there were too many other mysteries of faith and love, to allow the mind’s dwelling as it should upon the tender glories of the Name then given. Worthily, then, has there been allotted to it its own proper festival ; for it is a Name to us full of delightful suggestions, — one that will amply repay the devout meditations of our hearts.
But on this occasion it presents itself in connection with the circumstances under which you are addressed. It is impossible to overlook the consideration that we are here assembled in the Name of this our Lord : and that for a purpose which can have no virtue if performed not in His Name. In this Name I summon you to hear the word of God ; under this I mean to seek protection and virtue for my feeble efforts. Of old, when this city (Rome) was the abode of every evil passion, they who called themselves clients of patrons, wicked as themselves, would, under the sanction of their name, run into every excess of violence and injustice, and foul the name, which they affected to honor, with reproach and public infamy. But we, blessed be God, have chosen for the name to be invoked upon us, one which can only be the symbol of peace, and charity, and joy. They who reverence that Name must reverence His laws who bore it ; they who love it, must love the boundless treasures of benevolence, mercy, and charity, which it records.
Let us, then, prepare our hearts this day for the receiving of His law when declared to us, and for the practice of His commandments ; by considering the force they must derive from the holy Name that sanctions them, — a name of mighty power with Him who proclaims it, a name of boundless sweetness to those that learn it. When God had decreed to achieve the wonderful deliverance of His people from the Egyptian yoke, the first step which He chose towards its accomplishment, was revealing to them a name, whereby they should know Him, and worship Him as their deliverer. Moses, in fact, asked Him by what name he should declare Him to the people of Israel, when he communicated to them his commission. Then, “ God said to Moses, I am who am. . . . This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Exod. iii. 14.) And afterwards He reappeared to the holy law-giver, and said to him, “ I am the Lord, that appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name of God Almighty ; and my name Adonai” (or Jehovah) “ I did not show them.” (vi. 3.)
God then began His first work of deliverance by the assumption of a new name, unknown to those who had not witnessed His salvation. And that Name was a name of power. It is a name of terrible power. Not by it were the blind made to see, but darkness such as might be felt with the hand, was brought over the entire land of Egypt. Not by it were the lepers cleansed, but foul ulcers and sores were brought to defile and disfigure the bodies of its inhabitants. Not by it were the sons of widows and the friends of the poor restored to life, but all the first- born of Egypt, from the heir of Pharaoh who sat with his father on his throne, to the eldest son of his meanest subject, were struck in one night with death. Such was the power of this delivering Name, — a power to make the proud and obstinate quail, to scourge kingdoms, and to destroy their princes, — a power of angry might and avenging sway.
And such it ever continued, even to those in whose favor its power was exerted. It resembled, in fact, the protection of the cloud that guided them through the desert, which, whether by day with its overhanging shadow, or by night with the red glare of its fiery pillar, must have excited feelings of awe and terror, rather than of love. So great, in fact, was the fearful reverence paid this dread Name of God, that it ceased to be ever uttered until its true pronunciation was completely lost. And, moreover, such is the measure of power attributed by the Jewish teachers to this now ineffable Name of God, that they scruple not to assert, that whosoever should discover its true sound, and according to this utter it, would thereby perform any work however wonderful, and find no miracle too great.
But leaving aside these opinions, which, as of later growth, deserve not as much notice, it is sufficiently obvious how through the sacred Scriptures the Name of God becomes the symbol of Himself, so that to it all power is attributed which to Him belongs. It is the Name of the Lord which men are invited to bless ; it is by calling on His Name that we shall be saved from our enemies ; it is in His Name that we put our trust, when others confide in chariots and in horses; His Name is holy and terrible, or glorious and pleasant. In the Name of God victories are gained, and prophecies spoken, and the evil threatened, and the perverse punished, and the good encouraged, and the perfect rewarded. It receives the homage due to God, for it is the representative of God : it is as God Himself ; spoken by the lips, it is to our hearing what were to the eye the angels that appeared to Lot or Abraham, or the burning bush of Horeb to Moses, or the dove to John, — a sensible image of Him, whose invisible nature can only be manifested through such imperfect symbols.
When the covenant of new and perfect redemption was made, a new name was requisite to inaugurate it ; and it needed to be, even more than the former, a name of power. For it was not any longer a bondage under man that was to be destroyed, but slavery to the powers of darkness and of wicked might. They were not chains of iron or bolts of brass which were to be broken in sunder, but the snare of death and the bonds of hell, which had encompassed and straitened us on every side. We were not merely condemned by an earthly tyrant, to make bricks without straw, but we were deeply fixed in “ the mire of dregs,” as the Psalmist expresses it (xxxix. 3, and Ixviii. 15) ; that is, in the filthy corruption of vicious desires ; or, as Ezekiel describes the foolish devices of the wicked, we were as “ a people that buildeth up a wall, and daubs it with clay in which there is no straw.” (xiii. 10.) So much as spiritual wretchedness is deep beyond the bodily, so much stronger was the power required to drag us from the abyss.
Now, to do this was the great work of our salvation, and He who came to accomplish it was to bear, as in the former deliverance, a name of power. And that name, as brought down from heaven by an archangel to Mary, as communicated by an angel to Joseph, and as solemnly given eight days after His birth, by a priest, was the Name of Jesus. If, during His life, He concealed the glorious might of His Name ; if He bore it meekly as another might have done, and as though it but formed a name to distinguish Him among the children of His people, who shall thereat wonder, seeing how He shrouded from the eyes of men the fullness of the Godhead that resided in Him, and reserved, for a later period, the completer manifestation of His true character ? For no sooner had His prerogatives as the Savior of man been finally asserted, by His triumph over death, and His return to the right hand of His Father, than the “ Name which is above all names ” became, in the hands of His apostles, the great instrument of all their power.
There are few incidents in the apostolic annals more beautiful and interesting to a loving Christian, than the first public miracle after the Paraclete’s descent. It was wrought, as you well know, upon the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the Temple, by Peter and John, when they entered it to pray. I know not whether, humanly speaking, we can fully realize their feelings, I mean apart from the consciousness of power which they had just received. During their divine Master’s life, they had occasionally failed in their attempts to work miracles. Now they are alone, the entire cause is in their hands; any ill success on their parts will be ruinous to it, for they cannot now fall back upon the certain might of Him who sent them. We might have supposed some slight fluttering of the heart, some creeping anxiety coming over the mind, as they decided upon putting the power of their Savior’s Name to a great public test. But no; mark the calm decision, the unwavering confidence with which they proceed. The cripple asked them, as he did every passer-by, for an alms. “ But Peter, with John, fastening his eyes upon him, said : Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said : Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give thee. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood and walked.” (Acts, iii. 4-8.) It was in virtue of no personal power, that the holy apostles expected or claimed this dominion over Nature, as spoilt by the fall of man ; it was the virtue of His Name who had conquered sin, and plucked out the sting of death, that wrought through their hands.
So necessary did some such sanction appear to the very priests, that when they had apprehended the two apostles and placed them in the midst of them, they asked them “ by what power, or by what name , have you done this ?” Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, replies, that “ by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” whom they had crucified, even by Him that man stood there before them whole. Then they “ charged them not to speak at all, nor to teach in the Name of Jesus.” But when they had been let go, and returned to the assembly of the faithful, they lifted up their voices in one unanimous magnificent prayer, concluding with these words — “ And now, Lord, behold their threatening, and grant unto Thy servants that, with all confidence, they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thy hand to cures, and signs, and wonders, to be done by the Name of Thy holy Son Jesus.” (Acts, iv.)
And what was this first public triumph of that glorious Name, but only the first of a long series of victories over earth and hell ? Tet, terrible as it was to those leagued powers of evil, it was ever wielded for the benefit of men. It was as a healing balm for the sick and the halt ; they were anointed in this Name, and were raised up from their infirmity. “ The Lord Jesus Christ healeth thee,” said Peter to Eneas; “ and immediately he arose ” from his eight years’ illness. (Acts, ix. 34.) It was a savior of life to the dead in Christ, whom it raised, when expedient for them, from the grave. It was, moreover, a bright and burning light to them that sat in darkness. It overthrew the dominion of Satan ; it destroyed the empire of sin ; it brought forth fruits of holiness, and diffused over earth the blessings of heaven. Soon did it become “ great among the Gentiles, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.” (Mai. i. 11.) As the first discoverers of unknown lands, as the conquerors of hostile countries solemnly pronounce that they take possession thereof in the name of the sovereign who commissioned them ; so did the twelve, whether explorers of the distant seats of barbarism, beyond the flight of the Roman eagles, or as valiant warriors against the active resistance of worldly principalities, register their discoveries and settle their conquests in no other name than that of the Lord Jesus.
Often was the world distracted by the rival claims of pretenders to the empire ; often was province in arms against province, through the wide extent of Roman domination ; often was the empire itself engaged in cruel war with the nations without its pale : still there was one empire, vast, interminable, and indivisible, ruled in peace over all the world, Greek and barbarian. The dominion of Jesus was undisturbed by rivalry and undistracted by conflict. It could allow no competition, it could fear no jealousy among its subjects. One Name was called upon by them all ; and it was a name that drew from all an undivided homage. So secure were the early Christians of its power, that they hesitated not to attribute to it an efficacy, so to speak, sacramental — that is, a virtue independent of all peculiar privilege in the individual who employed it. They were not afraid of incurring the guilt of superstition, by believing its very sound to possess a resistless influence over the powers of darkness. Saint Justin, in his Apology, only fifty years after the death of Christ, appeals for a testimony of the truth of His religion to the acknowledged fact, that any Christian, by pronouncing the Name of Jesus, could expel the evil spirit from any one possessed by him. And Tertullian goes even as far as to challenge the heathens to the experiment, with the condition that if any Christian failed in it, they might instantly put him to death.
But now, alas ! my brethren, the first fervor of faith has long waxed cold, and with it have been withdrawn the wonderful prerogatives it had obtained and secured. We, the servants of Christ, may speak His word with all confidence in His Name, but the cures, and signs, and wonders, which may ensue by the stretching forth of His hand, will be in the inward soul, not upon the outward flesh. And in whose name else can I, or any other that shall fill this place, address you ? In what other name were we admitted into His ministry, in what other name have we received commission to the flock of Christ, if not in His, the shepherd's ? In His Name alone are the sacraments of life administered to you ; in His Name alone is the adorable Sacrifice of His Body and Blood offered by us ; in His Name alone we can admonish you and threaten you, upbraid and encourage you, forgive you or retain you in your bonds. When the prophets spoke of old, they contented themselves with the simple preface, “thus saith the Lord of Hosts.” Seldom was it a prologue to words of peace or comfort, but rather to menaces and warnings, and woes. And yet they that heard them looked not on the meanness of the speakers, but considered the majesty of the God who sent them, and they rent their garments before them, and humbled their souls with fasting, and covered their bodies with sackcloth and ashes, and did penance.
And when the minister of the New Law stands before you saying : “ Thus saith the Lord Jesus,” shall there be less heed taken of his words, because he speaketh in the name of One who is gracious and full of mercy, and comes to communicate “ thoughts of peace and not of affliction”? No. Did we come before you in our own names, and speak to you “of justice and chastity, and of the judgment to come,” you might, like Felix, send us back and say, “ For this time go thy way.” (Acts, xxiv. 24.) Did we, as of ourselves, preach to you the resurrection of the dead, ye might, as they of Athens, mock us to scorn, (xvii. 32.) If, in fine, we presumed to command you to be continent and chaste, meek and forgiving, penitent and humble, to distribute your goods to the poor, or to afflict your bodies by fasting, you might, perhaps, resent our interference with the concerns of your lives, and chide us, not unreasonably, for exacting duties hard and disagreeable. But when we speak unto you these things by the power and in the Name of Him who is King of your souls and Master of your being, — when we claim from you docility and obedience for Him whose livery we bear and whose heralds we are, refuse ye at your peril to receive our words, and honor our commission. But, good God, what do I say ? Shall I misdoubt me of the power and virtue of the Name of Thy beloved Son, — of that Name, at the sound whereof “ every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth ” ? Shall I fear that the neck of man redeemed, will be more inflexible than the knees of Thy vanquished enemies, and refuse to take up Thy gentle yoke? Shall I apprehend that the soul of the captive, who hath been ransomed by the power of this Name, will adore and love it less than the angels, to whom it brought no tidings of salvation ?
No, my brethren, from you we hope for better things. For know you not that we are engaged together in a holy warfare, for which we have no other strength than that of this holy Name ? In “ a wrestling, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places ” ? (Ephes. vi. 12.) And if you fight not under the Name of the God of Jacob, how shall you prevail ? Anciently when armies rushed to battle, a name was put into the mouth of each, as a watchword and cheering symbol of the cause in which they struggled. Glad was the heart of the commander, and flushed with confidence of victory, when one unanimous shout of the name of their king or their patron rung clear and joyous from his men, as they rushed to the onslaught, and drowned the feeble response of the rival host. And so, in the Name of Jesus, will we strike boldly at our spiritual foes ; and bravely will we sound it forth together, to the terror and discomfiture of hell, and the overthrow of its might.
It is the Name of ten thousand battles, and of countless victories. It echoed of old through the vaulted prisons of this city, and filled the heart of the confessor with courageous joy. It broke from the martyr’s lips, when Nature could no longer brook silence, and was as “oil poured out” upon his wounds. It was the music of the anchorite, when in the depths of the desert the powers of darkness broke loose upon him : and it dissipated his temptation. And so it shall be the signal of our combat, the watchword of our ranks. See, it is written in broad letters upon the standard we have followed, “ Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Shame and confusion to the dastard who deserts his banner, or refuses to follow where that Name leads ! Victory and glory to the chosen ones, who shall confide in its power, and combat in its cause ! “ Out of the strong,” said Samson, in proposing his riddle to the Philistines, “out of the strong came forth sweetness.” “ What,” they replied, in solving it, “ is stronger than the lion, and what is sweeter than honey ?” (Jud. xiv. 14, 18.) Surely, we may reply, “ His Name, who, as the lion of the tribe of Judah, hath prevailed over death and hell, and hath been found worthy to open the book and loosen its seals : and who yet in proposing to us its precepts, makes them to us sweeter than honey and the honey-comb.”
It would seem to have been a special privilege of patriarchal foresight, to understand when a child was born what character it should bear through life, and to name it accordingly. Thus was Noah so named by Lamech, because he said : “ This same shall comfort us from the works and labors of our hands, on the earth which God hath cursed.” (Gen. v. 29.) When the Savior of man-kind received from God himself a name, it could not fail to be one descriptive of His high and gracious office; and the Name of Jesus doth, in truth, signify a savior. In this its meaning is treasured up its sweetness. It is a name as pregnant with merciful recollections, with motives of gratitude, with assurances of hope, with heavenly comfort, and with causes of joy, as to be the abridgment, as it were, and essence of whatever religion has brought of blessing down from heaven. Who does not know what choicest delicacies of feeling may be condensed within the small compass of a little name ? How the name of home will bring to the exile’s heart more ideas than a volume of eloquent description ? How the title of child or parent, wife or sister, will stir the affections of a bereaved survivor? And in this Name of Jesus, we shall find it to be so, if we duly meditate upon it. It is the name more especially of His infancy, and the name of His passion. During the important, but to us less dear, interval of His life, while engaged in the task of preaching His doctrines, men addressed Him as Rabbi, or Master; He was saluted with titles of well- deserved respect.
But while yet a child, and when abandoned by human favor to the ignominy of the cross, we know Him by no name, we read of Him in the Gospel by no name, but that of Jesus. And those surely are the two portions of His life wherein principally he proposes Himself as the object of our love. No ; think of Him by that Name, and you cannot present Him to your imagination as an object of awe or dread, as just or terrible. He smiles upon you as an infant in the arms of His maiden mother; He seems to stretch forth to you His little hands from the manger of Bethlehem ; you see Him reposing, on the way to Egypt, amidst His blessed family ; or you think of Him lost to His parents, and found again by them in the Temple. Through all these scenes, what can you do less than love Him, — the God-like child that bears the grievances of unnecessary infancy for love of you. During all this time He answered to no other name than that of Jesus, — a Name rendered to us doubly sweet by the lips of her who first addressed it to Him.
As you will think on His Name in hours of deeper meditation and repentance ; and straightways you shall see Him transformed into the man of sorrows, the bearer of our griefs. You shall see Him cast upon the ground in the prayer of agony, swallowed up in mortal anguish; you shall follow Him through steps too painful to be here rehearsed, to the great sacrifice of Calvary. When you behold Him there stretched upon His cross, and expiring in cruel torment, you will ask of any who stand gazing upon Him, by what name they know Him, and all will answer, “ by the Name written above His head, ‘ Jesus of Nazareth.’ ” No other name will suit Him in these passages of His life but this. We cannot bring ourselves to call Him here our Lord, our Messiah, the Christ, our Teacher. They are but cold and formal titles of honor, when given to Him at Bethlehem or on Calvary. One name alone, the adorable Name of Jesus, satisfies the desires of our heart, and utters in a breath its accumulated feelings. Hence, the Seraph of Assisium, as St. Francis has been called, than whom no other on earth ever more closely imitated or resembled, as far as man may, the Son of God, ever cherished with peculiar devotion the early infancy and the passion of Jesus, and by a natural consequence, never, as St. Bonaventure tells us, heard that sacred Name pronounced, but a bright glow of gratitude and delight diffused itself over his countenance.
St. Bernard, too, the warmth of whose devout outbreaks the coldness of our age would almost deem extravagant, overflows with the most affectionate enthusiasm when he comments on this blessed Name. It was, as he says, to him, “ honey in the mouth, music to the ear, and jubilee in the heart.” “ If thou writest, I find no relish in it unless I read there Jesus. If thou discoursest, it hath no savor for me unless the Name of Jesus be heard.” (Serm. xv. in Cant.) Yet even we, with all our lukewarmness, will not occasionally help feeling some small portion of this holy ardor. Never will our secret prayer warm into fervent and loving supplication, without this Name frequently escaping from our lips. We shall dwell upon it with a tenderer emotion than on any other whereby we address God, our salvation. It will, when often pronounced, unlock the more recondite stores of our affections, too seldom opened in the presence of God; it will be as wings, to the soul, of aspiration and love soaring towards the possession of our true country.
And now, applying this quality of His ever-blessed Name to this preaching of His word, — what more can we require to recommend it, than its being proclaimed in that His Name ? Who shall be able to resist a summons addressed to him under this most winning sanction? Who will refuse his heart, when claimed by One who bears such a title to his love ? When we shall address the sinner, immersed in his vices or enslaved to his passions, what shall we need to say, beyond the eloquent appeal of this most blessed Name? We will place before him all that his Savior has done to raise him from sin, and gain his love. On His behalf, and in His Name, we will conjure him to answer with a generous heart the call upon his affections. We will paint as best we can the dark ingratitude and enormous guilt of making this Name, as far as he can, an empty sound, without character or meaning as regards him. Or we will show him how that Jesus who ascended to heaven, will one day return bearing the same Name, but as an outraged title that pleads for vengeance, to punish his unfeeling conduct.
When we shall see the slothful, faint-hearted Christian, whose desires are good, while his efforts are weak, staggering along the right path, but scarce standing upright thereon, how better can we address him, to arouse and strengthen him, than by recounting to him the earnestness of purpose which the very Name of Jesus imports in Him that bore it, to save and win his soul. It described an office of painful and arduous discharge, through suffering and death ; He who undertook it, would fain keep the thought of it ever before His eyes, by bearing, even in the apparent thoughtlessness of infancy, the name which must ever have recalled it. And at the sight of such steadiness in love, such earnestness of perseverance in care of him, will he refuse an earnestness of gratitude and a steadiness of requital ? Will he refuse anything which in that Name is required ? If ever it be necessary to offer consolation to the virtuous, in affliction and distress of mind, in temptation or desolation of spirit, what will be required but to repeat to him this dear Name, so often a source of refreshment to his soul, so often his shield in time of conflict, so often his reward in heavenly contemplation. It will be to him as manna in the desert, or as dew to Hermon — a quickening food, a fertilizing influence, by whose vigor he shall be restored to comfort and inward joy.
Such shall be, with God’s blessing, “ our speech and our teaching, not in the persuasive words of human wisdom,” but in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor. ii. 4.) Nothing else shall we judge ourselves to know. But if we address ourselves to you in His Name, in this Name do ye also hear. Remember, that this Name was given Him for you, that is, for each amongst us. It was one which without us He could not have borne ; for it expresses His relation to us. To each of us ought it to be dear, by each of us ought it to be cherished, and lovingly pronounced. Speak it in trouble, and it shall bring you comfort ; speak it in temptation, and it shall give you victory ; speak it in times of relaxing fervor, and it shall throw fire into your hearts ; speak it in devotion, and it shall perfect you. There is no time, no place, where it is out of season, if to the lips at least to the thought; there is no action so lessed which it will not improve; there is no forgetfulness so deep from which it will not arouse you.
But, my brethren, there are two periods when its sweetness seems doubly sweet. For as we have seen that this is peculiarly the name of Our blessed Savior in His infancy and in His passion, so are they two corresponding periods of our lives, when it best appears to become us. It is a sweet Name when lisped by babes and sucklings, joined, through early suggestion, with those first names dear to parental affection, which form so firm a root for filial love. It is good to teach your little ones to utter it as they do your own, that He who became an infant for their sake may grow up in their hearts as the first companion of their dawning attachment, and have His love implanted as deeply at least as any earthly affection. But oh ! it is sweeter still to the tongue of the dying who in life have loved it and Him who chose it. Insipid to the ears of such a one will be the catalogue of his titles, his honors, or his possessions. Without power to help will their names be, whom the bonds of the flesh have knit to him, to be separated from them at that hour. He will search his soul for some affection which can stretch across the grave, for some link between the heart of flesh and the disembodied spirit. He will earnestly desire some token to show that he was fore-chosen here below, some pass-word which angels shall recognize, some charm which evil spirits shall dread. He will want some name written upon his garment and upon his forehead, which at first glance may establish his claim to the mansions of bliss. And all this he will find in this holy Name of Jesus, the God of his salvation. If through life he have received it and loved it, as the summary of what under it was wrought for his salvation ; if he have often fed his heart upon its sweet nourishment, he will find in it an object of his affections, imperishable and unchangeable, enduring beyond his dissolution, and even more powerful in the next world than in this. It shall seem written in letters of light over the gate of eternity; it shall seem graven with a pencil of fire on his heart ; and even from very habit and strengthened practice, his lips will struggle to arrest his last parting breath, and form it into that sacred Name, inaudible save to angels, whispered now only to Him that bore it.
Oh, be this Holy Name called down upon us all ! be it our protection through this our earthly pilgrimage; be it the assistance of this our ministry and of your patience and profit. Be it our comfort in death, and our joy in
In His Circumcision Jesus Christ Exhibits three testimonies of His Priesthood
*' That the Child should be circumcised. "St. Luke it 21.
I. As a Master Of Truth.
II. As the Expiator of our Sins.
III. As the Sanctifier of Souls.
1. Jesus Christ was born, and appeared in the world, as He said of Himself, to "give testimony to the truth" (St. John xviii. 37); and in causing Himself to be circumcised, He began to give this testimony in the clearest manner, by manifesting Himself as the Supreme Truth. He showed that He had true human flesh, in order to confound the heretics of future ages, particularly the Manichean, who attributed to Him a spectral body; the Apollinarians, who imagined His Body to be con-substantial with His Divinity; and the Valentinians, who believed it to be a body brought down from heaven. Moreover, it certified Him to be a true son of Abraham, who received the precept of circumcision as a sign of his faith in the future Messiah. Thus, as St. Thomas says, did He confirm the promises made to the Holy Fathers. Finally He declared another most important truth, to wit, that we must observe the law, for this is the one way of salvation; therefore, as Venerable Bede observes, He would be circumcised precisely on the eighth day, as the law prescribed. In this manner did it become our High Priest to appear as a Master of truth, and it becomes us, His Ministers, to be likewise masters of truth. For this end He has given us in our ordination the Paraclete, who is "the Spirit of Truth," and who " teaches all truth" (St. John xvi. 13). Let us then guard against lying, for lies in a priest's mouth would be shameful. How well did the Apostle fulfill his ministry, from whose lips issued the words: "I say the truth, I lie not" (1 Tim. ii. 7). Moreover, let us teach the truth to the faithful, for it will deliver them from all evil: "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (St. John viii. 32). Let us endeavor to make them walk in the way of truth, that is, in the way of justice, for with St. John, we can "have no greater grace than this," to hear that our " children walk in truth" (3 St. John v. 4), and so shall we and they behold and enjoy the Eternal Truth in Heaven.
2. Jesus Christ was to save His people by the remission of their sins: "For He shall save His people from their sins" (St. Matt. i. 21); but there could never have been such remission without shedding of blood: "without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. ix. 22). Therefore in His Circumcision Jesus Christ shed His first blood, which was as it were the prelude and earnest of the rest, which was shed even to the last drop in His Passion. A holy writer calls it "the Prelude of His future Passion and Death," and St. Bernard says He showed therein His great haste to take our sorrows; He showed Himself ready to shed His Blood for us. This first blood-shedding was exceedingly painful, humiliating, and grievous to Him. It was exceedingly painful, because, unlike other children, He had the full use of reason, and He did not distract Himself from feeling the pain, but, on the contrary, engrossed Himself with it, in order to suffer all its bitterness. Moreover, as St . Thomas says, His Body, being the perfect work of the Holy Ghost, was especially sensitive and delicate. Then, again, it was exceedingly humiliating because, as St. Thomas again says, circumcision was the remedy for original sin, and therefore it was a mark of shame, indicating the appearance of sinful flesh in the Holy of Holies. Finally, it was most grievous to Him, because it bound Him to the observance of the whole Law of Moses, which was a heavy yoke: "I testify again to every man circumcising himself, that he is a debtor to do the whole law" (Gal. v. 3). He observed this Law exactly, and bore its yoke even to His Last Supper, in order to relieve His followers from it: "made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law" (Gal. iv. 5). Thus has He taught His Ministers to shrink from no sufferings, humiliations, or burdens whatsoever when the welfare, of the Church is in question. Many, on this account, have offered themselves to God as victims for the people, and "in the time of wrath have made themselves means of reconciliation" (Eccles. xliv. 17). They have been severe to themselves, but to their people full of that charity which is "patient, is kind," which "beareth all things . . . endureth all things" (1 Cor. xiii. 4, 7). Are we ^like these? Do we desire to imitate Jesus Christ? Let us love the little Child of Bethlehem circumcised for us, and so shall we feel ourselves moved to imitate Him.
3. The Holy Child was circumcised in order to operate in us a spiritual circumcision; that is, as St . Thomas says, He took upon Himself the figure in order to accomplish the reality in us. Further, Origen observes, that Christ being our Head, even as we died in His Death, and rose again in His Resurrection, so were we spiritually circumcised when the flesh of our Head was circumcised. Therefore the Apostle tells us: "In Him you are circumcised, with circumcision not made with hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh," but, by the mystery of the Circumcision operating spiritually in you, "in the Circumcision of Christ" (Col. ii. 11). A sign in the flesh was given to the Jews, who were a carnal people, but they often remained " uncircumcised in heart and ears" (Acts vii. 51). Christians, on the contrary, ought to experience a circumcision in the heart, in the putting off of the old generation, of the old man and his deeds, that is to say, of all that belongs to our sinful origin; and in this putting off, as St. Thomas says, sanctity consists. Let us then meditate how Jesus Christ by that painful wound, by the Blood which He then shed, wrought the salvation of souls. Let us carefully examine our hearts that we may see whether they are circumcised, or whether passions are still alive in them impelling us to evil. Let us remember that the priests of Christ are the ministers of spiritual circumcision, as the priests of the line of Aaron were the ministers of carnal circumcision. Christ was circumcised by one of them, or by some Levite in the stable. Let us therefore endeavor to minister it to others, not only by word but by example, and let us pray to our Divine Lord, that, by the virtue of this His Most Precious Blood He would despoil us of the desires of the flesh, and make us live according to the Spirit.
"Turn away my reproach which I have apprehended, for Thy judgments are delightful."—Ps. cxviii. 39.
"Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thy Blood."—Apoc. v. 9.