THE TRUE JOSEPH
"Neither was there a man born like unto Joseph, a governor of his brethren, a stay of the people, whose bones were regarded of the LORD."--ECCLUS. xlix. 15.
AND it is even because there never was man like our True Joseph, like Him into Whose soul the iron indeed entered, like Him Who, until the time came that His cause was known, was so sorely tried, like Him Who is now Governor over all the land, it is even because of Him it is written in another place," Who shall declare His generation?" that you, dear Sisters, are what you are, and pledged to His service as you are pledged. Of Him you hear from every book of the old Testament. Him we delight to see, not only in the plain accounts of His actions and sufferings, of His parables and miracles, but also hi the actions and sufferings of His servants.
This is a life of types and veils which we lead here.
The life which you now lead, you may say it as truly as S. Paul, you lead by the faith of the SON of GOD. We see Him daily in that sacramental veil which hallows all other veils and likenesses, and not as yet can we hope to see Him eye to eye, face to face, as a man speaketh to his Friend. And so I think that we are the more fond of these Old Testament types, because they seem to represent to us that our life also must be a type of His; that if it is not, more or less, we have no part nor lot in Him; that the jewels of which we were speaking yesterday must be marked with the sign of the Cross, or they never will be His in the day when He makes them up.
Therefore, says S. Bernard, let no man tell me that I am to look for the likeness of the King of kings and Chief of chiefs in the annals of the Old Testament only. I look round me, and desire to see living types everywhere, not in history, but in action; resemblances, whose future is as yet unknown to me, whether they will become perfectly and for ever like Him, or whether the image of the King, as yet imperfect, shall one day be utterly marred. And sex can be no obstacle to the likeness of His suffering, any more than it can hinder your going forth with Him to His battles. If John stands near the Cross, Mary Magdalene clings to it; if Joseph and Nicodemus bring the spices from the city, the three Maries enter into the Tomb. And he goes on to tell them what I, dearest Sisters, can certainly not say to you--that, let them have erected never so magnificent a church to His glory, unless they are exhibiting His likeness in themselves, its carvings and paintings and beauty will be only hypocrisy in His eyes. Had he been speaking to you, he would rather have said, as I am never weary of repeating, that, let your work be what it may for Him, let your success be as great as even I could wish it to be, unless you are each of you daily being made more and more like Him, all that work, all that success is only like the wood, hay, and stubble, which the fire of the Last Day shall destroy.
A Governor among his brethren. So He was when they little knew it; so He was when they laughed to scorn His prophecies; so He was when they said," Behold, now, this dreamer cometh." A glorious Dreamer indeed! who even then beheld the whole world bowing down before Him, and supported by Him, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars doing Him reverence. And so that hard bed of the Cross, that dying bed of the Prince of Life, did not that yield Him a dream, yet only accomplished in part, of the power of Satan crushed for ever, of multitudes of loving and faithful souls brought into His fold, of deeds of faith and courage derived from the virtue of the Cross, and returning all their praise to it? Dearest Sisters, think how at that hour when there was darkness over all the earth, He saw, through all that intervening space of years, you, few and weak, and beset with difficulties as you are, yet having the power within you of doing and bearing everything for Him, strengthened daily by His Flesh, then torn, and His Blood, then shed; marked with the Cross, which would stamp you as desiring to know and to serve nothing save the Crucified.
This poor little room, from that Cross, He saw; into those hearts, from that Cross, He looked; saw in them, I know, dear Sisters, as well as you do, much sin, much weakness, much unbelief; but I hope, also, much love. Our Joseph, now exalted to be Governor over all the land, sees them still, desires to have them still for His own; and I well trust could, while He thus sees them, say of each of you, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; her weakness, which is exceeding, is strengthened, for she loved much; her sicknesses, which are sore, are healed, for she loved much."
And now think of that Joseph of old, seated on the throne of the governor, and selling corn to all the nations of the civilised world; of the great crowd which had come from all lands, and now fixed its eyes on him, and him only; of the earnest expectation with which they waited his orders; the eagerness with which they watched the opening of his granaries, and the distribution of their treasures. And then think how, at this very moment, our true Joseph, Lord, not over the land of Egypt only, but over heaven and earth, is about, by the operation of the HOLY GHOST, to supply thousands and thousands of His priests and of His people with the True Bread which cometh down from heaven. The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O LORD, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. They wait upon Him now, when from east to west the Church is about to offer her daily Sacrifice, to claim her daily bread.
We are but one of a great company that no man can number, who, like Stephen, are steadfastly looking up to heaven, and by faith beholding the glory of Him Whom with the eyes of our sense we shall soon behold, under that humble form of bread and wine, on earth. In how many a little parish church, known only to Him, at this very moment that I am speaking, the single priest and the two or three worshippers are expecting the Bread of children! In how many a religious house are they who are vowed to the same service with yourselves about to feed on Him Who will hereafter reward them, Who now loves them as His brides!
There is no fear lest the granaries of this Joseph should be exhausted: even the hired servants of our Father have bread enough and to spare; much more shall you, His true and dear children, though in the land of exile. The famine is sore in the land, but we know there is corn in that heavenly Egypt. Joseph sold it to the inhabitants of all countries; our Joseph proclaims, "Come ye, buy and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." We must follow Jacob's advice. We must take of the best fruits of the land in our vessels, and carry to this Man, the Man Who has exalted our human nature to the right hand of God, a present--the one only present that He desires--namely, love. His compassions, as the Prophet says, are renewed every morning, as we see them to be this day, in that He still satisfies the multitude of His servants here in the wilderness: in that He will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way to the Heavenly City.
Yes, the wise man may well go on: A stay of His people--a stay in their way, and a support to His Church, as she looks to Him for the food of another day. But a stay indeed in every kind of sorrow, or difficulty, or trial. Dear Sisters, you have daily to learn what is the strength of that stay; you have daily to learn to lean more wholly upon it, to trust nothing to your own strength, but confide everything to that. Then, how could you have any feeling of weakness, if the Everlasting Arms were underneath? Then, how could I ever hear of any falls when you kneel by me here, if that Hand were holding you up? Can you wish to love Him so much, and yet trust so little to the love He bears to you? Can you not trust Him if, as Joseph tried his brethren and made himself strange for a while to them, so He should seem to act to you? In His own good time He seeks to make Himself known to you most perfectly and eternally in that Beatific Vision, which we can name indeed, but beyond naming can do no more. In the meanwhile, again and again He makes Himself known to you in the breaking of bread. A stay indeed He is.
"Neither you nor I," as S. Bernard, in a certain place, says, "could know what that support is--the Everlasting Arm--unless we could unite in ourselves all the suffering of all the Martyrs, all the endurance of all the Confessors, all the purity of all the Virgins, all the learning of all the Doctors; unless we could experience, not only what they were enabled to do, but also what they were strengthened to resist--all by that one Arm, all by the virtue of that one touch, which even to this day can cure all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Oh, most wise and happy soul, that can so rest upon that! For its strength cannot be overthrown, its tenderness cannot be surpassed. It was stretched forth in benediction on the Cross; it lays hold, for our sake, on shield and buckler in the valley of exiles.
This is the Hand which writes the names of the victors in the Book of Life, and which will trace the new name on the forehead of each dear child returning to its home."
It goes on: Whose bones were regarded of the LORD. So it was that in that Paschal Sacrifice of the world He kept all His Bones: not one of them was broken. Thus far, but no farther! the Divine Wisdom said to the murderers. Let that blessed and spotless Form be crowned with thorns, torn with the scourge, be smitten and buffeted, fall under the Cross, and be nailed to it, be pierced with the spear, be given to drink of vinegar and gall; but a bone of Him shall not be broken. As the Bride says, His legs are pillars of marble, set upon sockets of pure gold. His companions in death shall have their legs broken: that pure and spotless marble shall remain uninjured. Even to Him, dearest Sisters, in the agony of the Cross, one thing was spared; even from Him Who accomplished all suffering one thing was withheld. How much more, in your little crosses, will His loving care be upon you! how much more will He never give you one needless pain, one stroke too much, one trial beyond the exact measure that must be accomplished if you would work out your own salvation.
And now, then, in common with all the congregation of His brethren through the world, let us draw near to Him for our daily Bread. The scoffing lord on whose arm the king leaned, said, "Behold, if the LORD would open the windows of heaven, might such a thing be?" Behold, GOD does open the windows of Heaven, and the manna is about to descend around the tents of His people. I said: let us draw near in common with the others. But you, dearest Sisters, have more especial need than others; yes, and have more especial claim upon Him than others. You need more strength, not for yourselves, but for Him; you need more love, because you would more set forth His glory. Fear not but that He also will allow these claims. Fear not but that, miserably unworthy as you are, nevertheless His love is yearning over you, as it was with Benjamin of old. Fear not but that, miserably weak though you are, this Bread of GOD can strengthen you to more than victory. Fear not but that, as those then trembling, afterwards happy brethren of Joseph, were privileged at last to fall on his neck and to kiss him, and after that to talk with him, so for you also that most loving petition of the Bride will be fulfilled in you: Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Thy love is better than wine!
And now, etc.