IN considering the thought of the Tractarians in regard to our Lady and the saints, it is worth while to compare The Christian Year, published in 1827, with the Lyra Innocentium, published in 1846. Among the matters in which Mr. Keble had reached greater definiteness in the Lyra Innocentium Dr. Lock in his biography has included the relation to the saints. It would be far from true to say that devotion to our Lady and the saints is absent from The Christian Year. Such an assertion would be refuted at once by the poems in which the lines occur:
"So on the King of Martyrs wait
Three chosen bands, in royal state,
And all earth owns, of good and great,
Is gathered in that choir." (St. Stephen's Day.)
"His throne, thy bosom blest,
O Mother undefiled--
That throne, if aught beneath the skies,
Beseems the sinless child." (For the Purification.)
"Ave Maria! Mother blest,
To whom, caressing and caressed,
Clings the Eternal Child;
Favoured beyond Archangels' dream,
When first on thee with tenderest gleam
Thy new-born Saviour smiled." (For the Annunciation.)
But in 1846 the language is more explicit and the influence of the thought is greater than in 1827. As Dr. Lock points out, "The saints have grown dearer to him, and he loves to trace in the baptized not only the signs of filial likeness to the Father which is in heaven, but of likeness to its brothers the saints, whether they recall the penitence of St. Peter, the loving smile of the loved disciple, or the purity of Blessed Mary. Especially is reverence towards the Blessed Virgin marked--her
'Whom the awful blessing
Lifted above all Adam's race.'
The orphaned child is taught to feel that not only her own mother is praying for her, but also 'A holier mother rapt in more prevailing prayer.' " [W. Lock, John Keble (third edition, 1893), p. 136.] Most significant of all is the poem entitled Mother out of Sight which had been written in 1844, and which Mr. Keble intended to prefix to the Lyra Innocentium in 1846 until dissuaded from doing so by some of his more nervous friends. At the beginning of the poem a boy is mentioned as going into a room, looking round it quickly, and going out in disappointment because "My mother is not here." This image represents the first thought in the poem that in the Church of England the holy Mother of our Lord is not found. But Mr. Keble speedily corrects it. The daily recital of the Magnificat is a continual commemoration. The observance of her five festivals marks her honour. For those who have eyes to see she is still here.
"Fails He to bless or home or choral throng
Where true hearts breathe His Mother's evensong?
Mother of God! O, not in vain
We learned of old thy lowly strain.
Fain in thy shadow would we rest,
And kneel with thee, and call thee blest;
With thee would 'magnify the Lord,'
And, if thou art not here adored,
Yet seek we, day by day, the love and fear
Which bring thee, with all saints, near and more near.
Thenceforth, whom thousand worlds adore,
He calls thee Mother evermore;
Angel nor Saint His face may see
Apart from what He took of thee.
How may we choose but name thy name
Echoing below their high acclaim
In holy Creeds? Since earthly song and prayer
Must keep faint time to the dread anthem there.
How but in love on thine own days,
Thou blissful one, upon thee gaze? "
And, moreover, those in the Church of England who are using what the Church of England thus provides may supplement it by further devotion.
"Nay every day, each suppliant hour,
Whene'er we kneel in aisle or bower,
Thy glories we may greet unblamed,
Nor shun the lay by seraphs framed,
'Hail, Mary, full of grace!' O, welcome sweet,
Which daily in all lands all saints repeat!
Therefore as kneeling day by day
We to our Father duteous pray,
So unforbidden may we speak
An Ave to Christ's Mother meek:
(As children with 'good morrow' come
To elders in some happy home:)
Inviting so the saintly host above
With our unworthiness to pray in love."
[J. Keble, Miscellaneous Poems (1869), pp. 254-259.]
In regard to this matter, Mr. Keble may have been in advance of other Tractarians, especially in the suggestion that members of the Church of England may rightly join the Hail Mary to the Our Father in their prayers. But there were not wanting those who agreed with him.
A notable instance of growth in regard to the invocation of saints is supplied by John Henry Newman. In 1833 Mr. Newman published in the British Magazine, and in 1836 republished in the Lyra Apostolica, some lovely verses entitled Rest, which contained a protest against invocation:
"They are at rest:
We may not stir the heaven of their repose
By rude invoking voice, or prayer addrest
In waywardness to those
Who in the mountain grots of Eden lie,
And hear the fourfold river as it murmurs by."
[Lyra Apostolica (1836), LII.]
In 1841, three years before Mr. Keble's words:
"So unforbidden may we speak
An Ave to Christ's Mother meek "
were written, Mr. Newman published the ninetieth of the Tracts for the Times. In an argument marked by characteristic restraint he did not express any opinion as to the advisability of invoking the saints; but he maintained that the condemnation of "the Romish doctrine concerning" "invocation of saints" in the twenty-second Article of Religion did not necessarily include rejection of the official Roman Catholic teaching on this subject. In the same year, 1841, Dr. Pusey, though with evident reluctance and with many cautious qualifications, contended that the argument used by Mr. Newman in Tract XC was valid, and that there was "no reason to think that our Article, in condemning 'the Romish doctrine' or 'the doctrine of the Schoolmen' on this point, had any reference to anything found in the early Church"; and in later years he steadily maintained the position that, while prayer to God for the help of the prayers of the saints was preferable to direct address to the saints themselves, the form of direct address to the saints, Ora pro nobis, was in accordance with the practice of the ancient Church and lawful in the Church of England. [The Articles treated on in Tract 90 reconsidered and their interpretation vindicated in a letter to the Rev. R. W. Jelf, D.D. (1841), p. 109. The most important passages on this subject in Dr. Pusey's writings are quoted with references and dates in the present writer's The Invocation of Saints (third edition, 1916), pp. 59-64.] And in 1867 Bishop Alexander Forbes, who, after Mr. Keble and Dr. Pusey, perhaps best represents the Tractarian theology, emphatically declared in regard to the invocation of saints: "In principle, then, there is no question herein between us and any other portion of the Catholic Church." [Bishop A. P. Forbes, An Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles (third edition, 1878), p. 422.]
The principles which the Tractarians accepted have been maintained by Anglo-Catholics. Probably there are few among them who question the lawfulness of invoking the saints, most of them practise invocation as an habitual devotion, and they agree in assigning a prominent position in their thoughts and prayers to the holy Mother of our Lord. The enthusiasm with which the refrain "Hail Mary, full of grace," was sung by vast assemblies at the first Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1920 was to many the most impressive feature in the Congress. [The refrain to the hymn beginning "Ye who own the faith of Jesus " by V. S. S. Coles in The English Hymnal, no. 218.]
In maintaining these principles many Anglo-Catholics have carried the observance of them and the practical issues from them further than was possible for the Tractarians. In teaching, in private and public prayer, in hymns, veneration of our Lady and invocation of her and the other saints have become very prominent. About the doctrine which underlies the practices, and about the main features of the practices themselves, there probably is little disagreement among those who may be grouped together as Anglo-Catholics. But a good deal of difference as to methods and as to emphasis may be observed, and on some important matters there are differences of opinion. It may suffice to give three instances, one of practice and two of belief.
Some Anglo-Catholics hold strongly that in expression as well as in thought all invocations of our Lady and of the saints should be restricted to the request for prayer. They would limit all such devotions to the words "pray for us," "pray for me." They have no difficulty in the complete form of the Ave Maria, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death"; but they think it well that invocation should not exceed the phraseology here used. Others wish to use stronger phrases, as, for instance, the words of the well known hymn Ave maris stella in an unmodified form:
"Virgin all excelling,
Gentle past our telling,
Pardoned sinners render
Gentle, chaste, and tender.
In pure paths direct us,
On our way protect us,
Till, on Jesus gazing,
We shall join thy praising."
In using such phraseology those who think it right understand it in the way explained by the Catechism of the Council of Trent and eminent Roman Catholic divines, namely, that, if Catholics should say to a saint, "Have mercy on me," the meaning is "Have mercy by praying for me so that I may obtain gifts from God." [Cat. conc. Trid. IV, vi, 3, 4: cf. e.g., Cardinal Bellarmine, de sanct. beat., i, 17.] Those who hold the different opinion think that, if such explanation of the phrases is needed, the phrases are better not used.
An instance of doctrine is in regard to the conception of the holy Mother of our Lord. There are some who are prepared to accept the doctrine defined for Roman Catholics by Pope Pius IX that the Blessed Virgin was not only without actual sin but was also preserved free from original sin in the first moment of her conception by the unique grace and privilege of God in view of the merits of our Lord, Others reject this doctrine as being without authority and as having been invented to satisfy a process of reasoning that is dangerous and untrustworthy. To the present writer the grounds for a positive decision on such a matter seem to be lacking. He can understand the fascination which the doctrine as a matter of arbitrary reasoning has for some minds, and he follows the great thinker and historian Dean Church in his view that "the dogma is itself an opinion which any one might hold, if he thinks that there are materials in the world from which to form an opinion about it"; but he agrees also that the dogma rests on "inferences from suppositions about a matter of which we know nothing." (R. W. Church, Occasional Papers (1897), i, 354, 355.)
Another instance in regard to belief concerns the Assumption. Signs are not wanting that a few Anglo-Catholics believe that, after the death of the Blessed Virgin, her body was assumed into heaven so that she, both in body and in soul, is now in glory at the throne of God. Such an opinion, though widely held both in the East and in the West, has never been made to be of faith in any part of the Church; and the vast majority of Anglo-Catholics probably either reject it or regard it as one of those matters for the decision of which there is no sufficient evidence. The practical question of keeping a feast day--the fifteenth of August--as the day of the Falling Asleep or the Repose of the holy Mother is altogether independent of any opinion as to the bodily, or even the spiritual, Assumption. All Anglo-Catholics--and a great many who are not Anglo-Catholics--may well agree that it is natural and right to commemorate the death of the Mother of our Lord, as of other saints; and that, in accordance with the ancient custom which became universal, the fifteenth of August is an appropriate day.
Every Catholic wishes to declare the incommunicable greatness and glory of Almighty God. This is a foundation of Catholic belief, without which the whole edifice of Catholic theology would fall in ruins, and the whole system of Catholic devotion would come to nought.
There are principles which have to be associated with this belief in the incommunicable greatness and glory of Almighty God. In God's dealings with mankind, high privileges have been bestowed on human beings, and gifts are granted by means of others than those who receive them. One man may be of service to other men; and one man may rightly be honoured by other men. Human lives are dependent on one another; and reverence is rightly paid by one to another. We do well to honour those who are good and unselfish and generous. What thus applies in ordinary life applies in a higher degree to the saints; for the saints are those who by the grace of God have been pre-eminent in goodness and unselfishness and generosity. And there is a further consideration in regard to the Mother of our Lord. She is not only the greatest of the saints, but also she has the unique position and privilege that she is the only being in the universe to whom the title Mother of God can be applied; she alone by the decree of the Almighty was chosen to be the human mother of the eternal Son of God when He became Man. She possesses, in Bishop Pearson's famous words, "that special privilege" "which is incommunicable to any other." (Bishop John Pearson (died 1686), An Exposition of the Creed, p. 179 of the folio edition of 1669.)
And, when invoking the saints, the Catholic remembers the truth that the Church is the family of God. In the family of the Church, one member should take interest in others, and have care for others, and pray for others. No sharp line can be drawn between the members of the family who are still on earth and those who have departed this earthly life. As we who are on earth do not cease to pray for those who are departed, so we cannot think that the departed have ceased to pray for those who are still on earth. The idea of all Christians, living and departed, as different members of the one family of God leads on to belief not only in the prayers of the living for the departed but also in the prayers of the departed for the living. And, if " the supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working," (St. James, v, 16.) then the prayers of the saints, and of the saints departed, have their special value. Further, the unique position of the Mother of God, as it makes claims on the honour which we pay to her, has its effect also in the power of her prayers.