From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
LOVE AND SERVICE
GOD is Love. It is the essence of His nature. He is the eternal Fountain from which it flows. It flows out to us through the channel of Christ's humanity. It enters into us by the communication of His Holy Spirit. He quickens and develops our responsive love. With the love thus given, we love Him who is love. With every fresh inflowing of love we are united by love to Him and love Him more.
Thus we have three manifestations of love, Love's welcome, its progress, its response.
The soul that has turned to God has been welcomed by Him. No words can tell the joy of the Ever Blessed One as He takes His child, by baptism or absolution, into His embrace. For this He made him, for this redeemed him, for this bought him at His passion's cost. For this He besieged him with His providences, for this sent after him the arrows of His love, and at last the dear work was accomplished and His child was won; won from out sin's enticements, and Satan's rule; won from death's dark misery and hell's abode; won from the tyranny of self, its pride and obstinacy and self-deceit. Every so welcomed soul cherishes as an eternal treasure the remembrance of God's unselfish love.
For what are we that He should so love us? We need not contrast ourselves with the angels, nor with so many of His servants. We have not the intellect of great doctors like a S. Augustine or a S. Thomas, not the practical skill of a Vincent, nor the devotion of the martyr, nor the heroism of the religious. We are not upon any reasonable ground needful to Him. His work would go on successfully without us. Neither are we so very estimable that Christ should desire us. In every spiritual grace thousands surpass us. When we look at ourselves, what do we see? What weak sides, what defects, what faults. Our companions and friends, kindly, perhaps, but critically, recognize our failings. Their sharp eyes have seen through all the barriers our conventual life has thrown about us. Our enemies are keener still. The soul, too, knows its own hidden faults. It remembers how it has failed under some trial or temptation. There has come possibly to it, by some shock or divine enlightenment, a great revelation of itself; its weakness, sloth, gluttony, or other fleshly sins; its self-interest, self-seeking, self-deceit, instability, ambition, spiritual pride; its snobby worldliness, veneered piety, moral cowardice, praise-seeking, uncharitable gossiping, spiritual coxcombry and pretence. Is there, then, anything about us to appear comely in God's sight? Have you never felt what a poor character, after all, you are? How little, too, you have accomplished for good? Have you never felt disappointed with yourself? Have you not seen the same old faults returning to assault and baffle you? Possibly you have become weary at times with the perplexing struggle, then thought that if persons knew you as you know yourself they would not esteem you. Thought there was no use of trying any more. "For our life seemed but as an arrow flying in the dark, aimless and unprofitable."
Now the answer to all this is, our Lord knows us. He knows all our faults of mind and heart, all our secret and open sins, all our murmurings, our weakness, our spiritual decadence. He sees how full we are of self and self-love, knows the whole coast of our discontent, not a single declension escapes His scrutiny, and He beholds our soul's weakness and its hideousness, too. To the divine righteousness it is a clotted mass of corruption. Yet--He loves us; loves us with the persevering energy of His divine nature; loves us with a love that only His passion can express.
Well may we say, how unselfish is His love. We are like lepers at His gate. But when we were sinners Christ died for us. None, therefore, need to sit down in brooding despondency over the past. God does not despair of you, you must never despair of yourself. He who knows thee loves thee. You can trust that love. He knows thy weakness but He knows His strength. He who healed the lepers, and cast out devils, and raised the dead, and can blot out the past, can recreate thee in Himself. However long since our first conversion it may have been, yet the Christian soul ever confesses His love to have been long-suffering. He has forgiven when He might have condemned. The fatal shears have not parted the narrow thread of life. We have been unfaithful to Him and He has not put us away. In spite of all our neglectfulness, ingratitude, waywardness, our lukewarmness, slothfulness, if not actual rebellion, the patience of divine love has waited for us. It has stood without our heart's door listening for our slightest response. Yet how dull of hearing have we been, how slow has been our progress. How heedless of calls and warnings and promptings to the higher path. How easily contented with a low attainment. At times how presumptuous and again how careless of grace. If a servant had treated the ornaments in our drawing-rooms as we have the precious jewels committed to our care, the punishment of discharge would have been speedily given.
While, then, bearing with us He has also been most true. Working for our good He has sent checks and disappointments and afflictions. Love sent them all. It was all for one end. There is only one safe resting-place for the heart of man and that is the will of God. Thither would He woo us, thither constrain us. Ofttimes He withdraws His spiritual favors, that, like the bride in the canticles, we may arise and with self-abandonment seek Him. If the soul feels it must have exhausted, by its failures, every claim on His mercy, feels it has so broken every promise as to have no reliance on itself, still He does not abandon us. When the sky was dark, without a ray of hope, when we were in despair because we could not break sin's chains, when we have been as one ready to perish, He has stretched out His hand to save. He would not let us sink beneath the dark waters. When all seemed lost He has delivered us from the lion's mouth. When the avenger's hot breath had overtaken us, He has opened His arms as our city of refuge. When bringing nothing back to our Father's house but the soiled and tattered garment of our sins, He has sent us the kiss of peace.
"The world's crowns and songs are for success. His divine generosity gives them to the beaten, with the dust of flight upon their clothes and the flush of shame upon their brow. He tells them His gentlest tales, and sings them His sweetest songs, and opens to them His greenest meadows, and arches over them His bluest sky. And why? That they may be sure that the Shepherd can find His sheep, and the woman her drachma; sure that the sighing of their shame may be lost, like one discordant ripple in the great deep swelling of the angels' songs."
Our Christian life has been compared to a journey divided into three sections, called the purificative, illuminative, and unitive ways. The illustration has its defects. The spiritual work belonging to each condition may be simultaneously present. Nor do we regularly proceed from one degree to another, leaving the former behind. Our progress is rather like a spiral one which while reverting, relatively, to a former position yet continually ascends. Thus in every new level reached we find an occurrence of these threefold features.
The purification comes first, but the soul finds every advance is preceded by a fresh purificative action. We never can lay it aside. The tree as it the higher ascends strikes its roots wider and deeper in the soil. Unto life's end the soul must ever be accompanied by four faithful knights. So first, abiding Sorrow, in his brown garb of penitence, with a scourge for his weapon, rides by our side. The good God has in His covenanted mercy accepted this pilgrim's soul. Its soul may have been as scarlet, but now is whiter than snow. The great joy of acceptance is ever singing Te Deums in his heart. The more he comes to know of God's paternal pathetic love, the more he loves, the more he sorrows; yet the more he sorrows, the more he loves. His soul reaching heavenward is covered like the mountain tops whose snow-clad summits burn at morn and at eve with hidden glory fires, but ever flowing down the sides are the rivulets of penitence that keep the humble valleys green.
Beside him also ride two other trusty knights, Hate and Fear.
Hate is love with its vizor down and its lance at rest. Hate is a most potential guardsman and a great gift of God. It is a gift bestowed out of the treasury of His own divine nature. God hates sin. The wrath of the Lamb is beyond the terrible, it is a consuming fire. It is equal and commensurate with God's unmeasurable love. It is the love of the holy and good and true turned against the unholy and evil and false. No scenes of Nature displaying in her most awful aspects the terrifying results of geologic catastrophy, no appalling earthquake or whirlwind of deathly sulphuric flames from belching volcanic mountain can adequately give an idea of the wrath of God. Doubtless, He has so ordered Nature that as she expresses, when earth is clothed in summer beauty and the lake reflects the heavens in silvered cadence, His beauty and His love, so she declares in her gigantic upheavals--volcanic eruptions and whirlwind and storm,--His Holy Wrath. The pilgrim needs to gather the forces of his soul together that with a condensed energy he may hate sin. He needs by constant acts of will to develop this power. He must cultivate an aversion and hatred to all that tends to it. He must practise it diligently as men with care and time practise at rifle-shooting. It must become a cherished and vigorously energetic principle of action. He must constantly take the little sins and dash them against the rock. He will pray that God give him of His own wrath, so that with the wrath of God he will loathe, detest, and hate whatever leads from duty and from God.
Beside the pilgrim also as a loyal helper rides Holy Fear. There is a carnal fear, a physical fear, a human fear, which seems akin. But this fear is Holy Fear. It, too, is a gift of God. Its characteristic is its wisdom. It is far-sighted. It looks ahead. It forecasts trials and temptations. It is keen in seeing through disguises. It reads men through their masks. It quickly discerns the subtleties of Satan. It gives the soul a quick alarm at his approach. It exposes to the soul its spiritual idleness, the sin that hides itself under its murmurings, despondencies, low spirits, complainings, criticisms of others. It bids it beware of the self-righteousness that rests in self or anything save Christ. It is a most watchful, keen-eyed knight, and rides with dart or arrow in its hand.
And, not in front, but modestly behind, comes Fortitude. For Christian Fortitude is not the earth-born virtue painters have loved to portray, refulgent in shining armor, with tower-like shield and lion-like helmet, giving challenge with drawn sword to all comers. There is no boasting about her. S. Paul, who well might boast, does not say I have fought a good fight, but the good fight. Christian Fortitude is a Joan of Arc virtue, she rides in armor clad, a woman still. She it is who stands by the cross when the disciples all have fled. She shrinks not from self-sacrifice, endures the weariness of the way, waits patiently on God's slowness. Fortitude is full of hope and trust. She knows God sits above the water flood, and the final victory is secure. She has no trust in earthly means nor weapons; puts not her trust in princes. Her motto is, "Let come what will come, Thy will is well-come." Defeat by the world is the way the world defeats itself. Her weapon, unlike the others, is not seen. It is hid in her heart. It is the weapon of Faith. This is the victory that overcometh the world. With these four surrounding, protecting aids, the soul makes progress in the purificative way.
But the child of God desires not only to be free from evil, but to be Christ-like. Along with all that belongs to the stage of purification he would enter the illuminative way. He would follow Christ's example and in Him become a new creature, transformed after His likeness.
It helps us to understand this process by remembering the triple character of our nature. Man, so Scripture describes him, is a triple unit. He consists, as S. Paul asserts, of body, soul, and spirit. In each of these portions of our being there is a tendency to predominance; the body seeks ofttimes to rule over the soul, the soul over the spirit. In each of the three departments of our nature there is thus a possibility and tendency to disorder or sin. In the body it is called sensuality, in the soul covetous-ness, in the spirit, pride. From these three roots of sin or lawlessness all sin proceeds. These separate seeds of evil are called in Holy Scripture "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." The fitness of the first definition declares itself. The second applies to the soul. As the soul looks out on the world through its window, the eye, it inordinately desires the possession of what it sees. This sin of covetousness is designated as the "lust of the eye." As the spirit of man rises up in proud rebellion against God, its sin is declared to be the "pride of life."
While there are, then, three root sins in us, there are three attractive external forces which incite and develop them. These are the three powers we renounce at our baptism,--the flesh, the world, and the devil. The flesh excites our carnal appetites, the world displays its enticing attractions, Satan seeks to make us disobedient by appeals to our independence and pride. But over and against these three enemies there are three powerful antagonistic forces,--our Lord's humanity, the kingdom of heaven, the Holy Spirit. In union with our Lord's humanity we find the victory over our flesh. The kingdom of heaven reveals to us the lasting riches. In union with the Holy Spirit man's spirit rises into the Divine Sonship. He becomes a son of God in Christ.
In this illuminative way Christ becomes the model of our new life. He is no mere historical figure. By His grace He repeats His miracles of mercy in us. He opens our eyes, and the verities of the faith are seen in their correlated beauty. He unstops our ears, and what was before distasteful becomes a treasured message to our hearts. He loosens our tongues that we be not ashamed to confess Him before men. He calms the fever of passion, heals the swellings of pride, cures our leprosy, casts out the evil spirits from our hearts. He takes us into His company and, as we follow Him, love makes us graciously like that we love.
But ever and along with this advancement the soul begins to enter into the unitive way. We may have to wait till besetting sins are mastered and Christian principles have become dominant. We may have to endure the hardness of the wilderness before we come to the Holy Land. But Beulah does not lie only at the end of the Christian pilgrimage. God gives His children from the first, in increasing degrees, peace and joy in believing. In proportion as self dies, Christ reigns within us. The establishment of His reign is a slow and progressive work. Human nature is wont to hurry, God's works are ordinarily slow. But sometimes, by special gift to souls needing peculiar help, more often by patient progress, the Christian soul becomes conscious of its union with God. It ceases to struggle and labor in the same way it did before. It enters more into a passive and receptive state. It becomes more attentive to God's working than its own. It meditates less, contemplates more. It finds a mystical truth in the saying, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." It finds that we may pass even here to a joyful spiritual resurrection. It is "no longer I, but Christ that liveth in me."
As this union is the work of the Holy Spirit, it will be helpful to note His progressive action towards mankind. His great characteristic is the desire for union. He it is who binds together in oneness the Blessed Trinity. Respecting creation He is represented as brooding over and longing to enter into it. He feels its alienation from God and with tenderest love strives with man. But at first He operates upon mankind from without. His sunshine falls upon mankind, but is not a light within them. He cannot enter in and abide with a defiled and sinful nature. Like the dove He may traverse humanity but can find no place of rest. He can indeed bestow gifts on individuals. Gifts of cunning workmanship and skill for the adornment of the Tabernacle. He may inspire seers and prophets. Holy men of old moved by Him may write the sacred scriptures. But within man, as creation's point of contact with Himself, He cannot enter. At last, however, His divine longing is satisfied. God becomes incarnate. Then in that sinless humanity the Holy Spirit can find a home. With this advancement of creation towards its destined perfection, the Being of God is filled with joy. Now at last the Holy Spirit can enter into creation and begin a new union of it with God. And the Spirit was given without measure unto Christ. The Holy Dove finds at last its resting-place. The humanity of Christ received it, the divinity of Christ enabled Him to sustain this transcendent gift.
And what was this to us?
Consider how the Holy Spirit dwelt in Christ. He was with Him in all the stages of His life, from the time He lay enfolded as an infant in His Blessed Mother's arms, through all the labors of His public life and the dark hours of His agony and passion, to His resurrection and ascension. Christ was led by the Spirit. He said nothing, did nothing, but as His humanity was prompted and guided by the Holy Ghost. How wonderfully close and intimate was that connection. He refers to it when He says, "Of myself I can do nothing," "As I hear so I speak." The Holy Spirit never leaves Him. When at last His humanity is elevated to the right hand of power, He baptizes His waiting Church with the Holy Ghost.
It is a popular error to suppose He sends the Comforter as if the Blessed Spirit was external to Himself. The fundamental truth of the pentecostal mystery is that the Holy Spirit, having dwelt in the humanity of Christ, is sent by Christ from Himself to us. Without leaving that most dear dwelling-place He flows from Christ into His mystical body. The Holy Spirit thus enters into the Church. It was a unique and exceptional act. He descended never to ascend. He came to abide in the Church forever. There can no more be a repetition of Pentecost than of the Nativity of Christ. Entering into the embryo Church He quickened it into life, made it effective in all its ministrations, and united it and its members to Christ.
We have thus the foundation of the unitive way. Often the Christian soul may have wished a like privilege with the Apostles and holy women, of seeing Christ in the flesh, of waiting on Him, of kneeling at His feet. It may sometimes have longed to converse with one of His disciples or Apostles and inquire of them concerning His acts, His doctrine. It may have desired to visit the Holy Land and see the very places where He taught and died. But we have a better guide than the Apostles with their limited knowledge before Pentecost could possibly be to us. They up to that time were but imperfectly enlightened. The first three historical Gospels reveal only the state of their pupilage. We can never get at Christ by getting back to the state they were in. But what the collective Church and we, as its members, now possess, is not the mere record of what Christ said and did, but a witness who dwelt within Him. He spoke no parable, wrought no miracle, delivered no discourse, but as moved by the Holy Spirit. All His emotions, fears, hopes, sorrows, joys were Spirit-guided and controlled. The Holy Spirit was with Him as He lay in Mary's arms and as He hung upon the cross. It is this same Spirit who abides in the Church and in us. He not only reveals Christ to us, but unites us to Him. Moreover, He transmits Christ's virtues to us and makes us the extensions of His own perfections.
This is the strength and joy of the unitive way. Herein does the Church differ from sectarianism. The latter points to Christ, bids us come to Christ, to believe in Christ, trust ourselves to Christ, follow Christ's example. But the Church more fully helps us by giving us the Holy Spirit in confirmation, and by her sacramental system unites us to Christ. Travellers abroad have often seen in great picture galleries of Europe industrious and skilful copyists, reproducing with more or less art the famous works of great masters. To whatever degree of perfection, after life-long efforts, they may have attained, the connoisseur knows their work is but a copy. In some way the genius and inspiration, the imperceptible touches of the original are wanting. So it is with those who apart from sacramental grace strive to imitate Christ. His life is indeed inimitable. But He has not asked us to strive to copy it, as the copyist of the gallery does the great works of art. He sends to us His Holy Spirit to enter into us and reveal His own life. It is not we who are copying Him, but He who is remoulding us. His meekness comes into us to make us meek, His patience to make us patient, His fortitude to make us enduring, His zeal to make us diligent, His unselfishness to make us care for others, His temperance to make us temperate in all things, His prayerfulness to make us continuous in prayer, His love to make us loving.
The soul learns to rest entirely on Him, on His merits and in His love. We come to the Great Peace. The wings of the dove carry us thither. Earthly sorrow and trial may come, but they only come freighted with love. By great bodily or spiritual afflictions Christ opens to some the inner doors of His passion. The unknown depths of divine love reveal their awful and entrancing loveliness. If He gives them to drink out of His own cup of sorrow, He holds it to their lips. Dying in Christ they live, receiving a death wound in their souls. They live not so much as He now lives in them. Though on their cross, in the darkness, suffering or deserted, misunderstood or betrayed, alone in their enforced solitude, or struggling with life's great burdens, yet His peace takes possession of them. They cling not to Him so much as He enfolds them in Himself. His love so triumphantly asserts itself that they love all, forgive all, bear with all for His sake. They only rejoice and thank Him as every trial or distress makes more real His peace within. They trust themselves wholly to Him, rely solely on His merits, rest in His love. Trusting wholly to His precious blood they desire for His sake a cleansing from all stains. They pray thus that they may be less unworthy of His dear love. But disquietude and uneasiness about self they know not, for they are in Him and He in them. There is but one will and heart between them and that is His. They became as little children to enter into the kingdom, and now they are as babes at the Divine Breast. Their love is a matured love that shares His counsels, for it knows His love. Their will sleeps, but the heart awaketh. The will reposes in sweet content in His Will, and the heart increasingly loves the love that loves it. Thither to this unitive embrace the Divine Master, by secret inspirations, allures devout and courageous souls.
"Resting on the faithfulness of Christ our Lord;
Resting on the fulness of His own sure Word;
Resting on His power, on His love untold;
Resting on His covenant secured of old.
"Resting in the pastures, and beneath the Rock;
Resting by the waters where He leads His flock;
Resting while we listen, at His glorious Feet;
Resting in His very Arms; O rest complete."
If we are His what shall we do for Him?
"The world is very evil,
The times are waxing late."
It is our blest privilege to live somewhere in the later days. The secret of history lies not in the progress of the race, but in the contest between the good and the evil, the Church and the world. As the bride of Christ, the Church must in her history repeat the life of her Spouse. Like Him she was born, where the first Eucharist was celebrated, in her Bethlehem or house of bread. She then entered into her hidden life, as Christ did His. She was hidden from the great world, in the Jewish Church and in the Gentile world. She lay hidden among the poor and lowly, and without popular recognition, as Christ was, as the Carpenter at Nazareth. As we hear the cry of the mothers at the slaughter of their little ones, so in early centuries of the Church's hidden life we hear of the sufferings of the martyrs in the Roman persecutions. Then from out that hidden life the Church went forth to her public mission. We may not pause on it. But there comes a time when the Church is rent, the disciples are divided; when Peter falls away, when the sun and moon, which symbolize Christ and His Church, are darkened, when the sign of the Son of man, the cross of persecution in many lands is seen, when apostasies begin and men's hearts fail them for fear.
We live in times when, according to the great prophecy, the Roman empire having passed away, another beast, even modern civilization, cometh up out of the earth. It has all the power of the first beast, by its world-wide alliances of treaty and commerce. It, with its pretentious philanthropy and socialism, has horns like a lamb and the deceiving subtlety of the speech of the serpent. It works, by its scientific discoveries, mighty miracles for man's comfort. It causes fire to come down from heaven and, utilizing this wonder of electricity, transforms the business of the world. It deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of these miracles, and so, deserting the worship of God, men worship the image of the beast. And all that would succeed must bear the mark of the beast on their hand or in their foreheads. They cannot buy or sell or do anything successfully unless they are branded with the world's mark, and think as the world thinks, and do what it bids them do. The world and the Church are becoming thus more and more antagonistic. According to our Lord's foretelling, the world will finally treat the Church as it treated Him. Unbelief in Christ is the most fatal of all sins, and at last the world will reject Him. As once it cried out for Barabbas, so it will prefer a counterfeit Christ, the product of modern criticism and philanthropy. It will go on in its opportunism or delude itself with the dreams of arriving at an earthly Utopia. It will not know that as the law was given that, by the impossibility of keeping it, man might learn his own weakness, so by his failures in the way of government he might learn that all government results in failure that is not under God. The glorious vision of a time of an "all hail" hereafter when these mammon days are done, is to find its fulfilment when the king Himself shall appear on the battle-field. Then time and its contests and sin shall be no more. Then those who are His shall be gathered up in the Eternal Life, and follow the Lamb in all the further developments of creation, wheresoever He goeth.
But as there was a special outpouring of divine grace to welcome our Lord's first coming, so it will be at His second advent. We know not how near that may be, but the wheels of His chariot are speeding on. It is our high privilege to be living when the contest thickens. We live in times when if civilized America and Europe are more and more rejecting Christ, heathen lands are being opened to Christianity. We are living also in a portion of the Catholic Church wherein a great struggle is going on, between those who uphold the faith once delivered to the saints, and those who believe in a faith developed by the clash of modern opinion. We need not fear the final result, for we know that when the number required for the mystical body of Christ is completed the Lord will appear and the new era of creation's progress be ushered in. But it is ours, with enthusiastic patience, indomitable faith, increasing self-sacrifice, to hasten that His joy. The Anglican Church is not to be saved by the State, or by compromises of the faith with it. State and Church are separating everywhere. The Church can only recover her Catholic heritage by a revival of the spirit of the martyrs, the confessors, the religious. Christ and the Spirit are working, the blessepl angels are with intense interest co-operating, the blessed saints and England's confessors are pleading for it. The appreciation of it should rouse and thrill every Catholic heart. A few thousand lives of men and women consecrated to God would ensure the Anglican Church's defence of it. If men by thousands are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country, why should there not be the like devotion to give their lives for the cause of Christ and His kingdom? What is it holds souls back? Cannot you give up the passing enjoyment of the passing life for the eternal rewards? Do you suppose God can ask you to give Him more than He can in return give you? And Peter said, "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come to Thee on the water." And the Divine Master said, "Come." Must we who preach the cross, not preach from the cross? If we cannot give ourselves shall we not give of our substance, aid by our labors, strengthen Christ's work by our prayers? In that day when we shall meet Him in His glory shall we regret any sacrifice we have made? Life is the one opportunity of serving Him, when it costs us something. Let us, churchmen, rouse ourselves with the old battle-cry of the saints, "Our all for Jesus and Jesus our all," and take up Christ's trailing banner and carry it on to victory!