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Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament
Preached in the Oratory of S. Margaret's, East Grinstead

by John Mason Neale, D.D.

London: H. R. Allenson, n.d.


"When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee."--Prov. xxiii. i.

[Maundy Thursday, 1864]

A CERTAIN man made a great Feast, and bade many. And was there ever such a time chosen for the institution of so glorious a banquet? With all the agony of that night full in His view, with the Coronation, and Scourging, and Crucifixion clearly in His eyes, still it was, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you. And so, with Hands already prescient of the nails, He Himself consecrated Himself to be man's Food.

Now, if ever, my Sisters, on this most holy night, you are bound to listen to Solomon's advice (and a greater than Solomon is here) in the text. You can hardly, I think, help sometimes feeling almost terrified when you think of the countless times that you have received the daily manna. Look at it in this way. In one month you, most of you, receive it as often as many a humble, patient follower of our LORD may have been able to receive it in the whole course of life; that is, the amount of Sacramental Grace which carries them safely through an evil world, from first to last, is supplied to you in thirty days. These things ought to make you very earnest in finding out to what purpose you receive this Grace, and how you show its effect. As each of you, in her turn, takes her watch in the oratory during the silence and darkness of this night,--while your thoughts go with Him to Gethsemane, while you follow the band of men and officers from the Eastern gate of the city, through the valley of Kedron, and up the slope of the Mount of Olives, try with all your powers of self-examination to judge yourselves, whether the traitor's kiss then given has ever, in any degree, been repeated in this oratory. Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?

Betrayed He still may be, betrayed He still daily is, by those lips which receive him unworthily. If, fresh from that most blessed touch, they allow themselves to utter words of unkindness, or anger, or equivocation, or frivolity,--betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? If those hands in which for one moment the LORD of Life vouchsafes to lie, are engaged in any work, are employed on any act, not becoming a Sister, is not that the embrace of Judas? That kiss, infamous to all eyes, was but given once. But here, where it may be again and again,--shall I not well say that you have need, on this sad night, to search and examine yourselves about this? There is, I know (I should be unthankful not to confess it), much to be thankful for as regards your Communions. This, perhaps, above all; that the frequency of them only seems to make them more dear to you. I know that for any one of you to be purposely deprived but once of That Body, and That Blood, would be a most bitter penance. But still, and I say it with all love, it is impossible, as Maundy Thursday brings another year of Sacraments to its end,--it is impossible not sometimes to fear for the account which all of us in this House must one day give in as regards this very privilege. What do ye more than others? You have promised, my Sisters, to do more, much more; you have assistance given you to do more, much more; and both for promise and for assistance you will one day have to answer.

Well, but then, here is the comfort. This Ruler with Whom you are to sit down, is Ruler of your hearts too. Only ask Him, and He Who invites, will enable: He Who gives the Wedding, will give also the Wedding garment. We come back again to the same thing, prayer. "And therefore it is," as a Doctor of the Church says, "that you may, and ought to, put your trust all the more in this Bridegroom. To be allowed to love Him, you, sinful creature; you, full of infirmities; you, compassed about with guilt; you, poor, weak, trembling one, allowed not only to kiss His feet, but to be taken to His dear Arms here, in a measure,--hereafter, perfectly, eternally, beatifically! Would not that be marvellous, beyond all marvels? Who is a GOD like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity? But what, when this love is not only allowed, no, nor praised only, but commanded? See what comes from Calvary! Hear;"--I am still continuing the passage I have been quoting;--" hear, O Sister, what He must of a necessity expect of thee. Doubly, nay trebly bound art thou to Him,--does He find that love? Tell me;"--and now, my sisters, in quoting these words, I do not want you to tell me, but I do want you to tell yourselves;--"in the last night and day what time you gave to him:--Pass the hours of sleep; pass, if you will, the hours of food and recreation. Those excepted, other hours,--did every one of you think of Him the dearest, Him the loveliest, Him the best, even once?"

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