THE HEAVENLY MANNA
AND it is because those blessed ones with GOD, whom we this day keep in memory, are no longer fed with the Manna that was their support through the wilderness of this world, but are feasting on the True Corn and Wine of the Heavenly Canaan, that the text suits the festival. It suits them, and it suits us also; it suits the wayfarers in the desert, it suits the dwellers by the River of the Water of Life; it tells us of the blessedness, but it speaks also of our safety; it points out their country, but it also comforts us as concerning our way.
It is true comfort indeed. For this is the first thing, my dearest Sisters, that is here written for our consolation: that they never had any other kind of support and strength than that which you have. The same Manna that fed them, feeds you. And yet is there more comfort in that, or more danger? In the first place, that most Blessed Manna which every morning comes down for us here from Heaven, that Meat in the strength of which all those Saints walked through the wilderness of this world, till they came to Horeb, the Mount of GOD: that little Cake which never fails nor wastes, which being received is not consumed, which being eaten is not destroyed. That most chiefly and principally; but that is not all.
The manna of GOD'S pardon which you also so frequently are blessed with, that great and wonderful power which binds heaven and earth so closely together, which opens that blessed kingdom to all sinners who truly repent and turn to their dear LORD. Is there not strength and courage in this also? And joined together with this, your consciences, dearest Sisters, bear me record--I am sure that they do--that you are not allowed to fall into any temptation without being told of it, without being warned against it; no, nor yet without suffering for it. Then there is the manna of our daily Psalms and Prayers; the same they had; the selfsame words that they took, each morning and night on their lips, we take on ours; the self-same prayers that went up from them like incense, ascend also from our little Oratory.
Think of them now, the great multitude which no man can number, out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; think of them, how they came out of great tribulation, how their robes, like yours, needed cleansing, how, like you, they fell seven times a day, and then rose again; think of the wilderness wherein they walked, the same through which you are walking, and then ask yourselves--it is a question that must be asked with all your heart and strength--why you should be satisfied with anything less than their strength; why, as the ladder set upon the earth, the top whereof reaches to Heaven, you should not be as near the Throne of GOD as they.
The manna ceased. And if the Scripture ended there, we should be of all men most miserable. Yet cease it will. Sacraments, faith, hope--yes, and in its first and most proper sense, prayer itself--will cease. The manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land. A most wonderful expression: so admirably true of those that have gone before us, if GOD will but grant that in us also it may be fulfilled! What was the old corn, on which the whole human race was at first fed? Why, surely the state of innocence in Paradise, and the Vision of GOD Himself. Then, but not till then,--then, but not till after the manna of sacraments, and prayers, and psalms ceased, those happy and glorious ones were restored to that state of innocence, and to that Beatific Vision--a restoration, I know, far more glorious than the original condition. The earthly Paradise, with its four rivers that were parted from the one head,--what was it but the faintest type of the Heavenly Garden of Eden? It disappears from us, that dear word Paradise, very, very soon; it re-appears in a moment of such distress and misery as the world had never seen before; no, nor ever shall again. LORD, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise. In misery and agony, our Head and Chief pointed it out to us; hanging on the Cross, He first spake to us of the old corn of the land: through misery and distress we must go forward towards it, He going with us as our companion, Who was the first, from the watch-tower of the Cross, to behold the goodly land for us.
And into that land, from that time to this, they have entered; the manna, from that time to this, has for them been ceasing; they have eaten of the old corn, the countless host of the Saints whom we this day keep in mind. It ceased then: but, mark you, it never ceased before. As long as they needed it, it gave them strength; as long as they needed it, it wrought them deliverance: it fell about them every morning: it never failed them nor forsook them. Bear witness all those mighty acts which they did for GOD: they who said, with the Three Holy Children, "If it be so, our GOD Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
They who, if they laid not down their lives for CHRIST, spent them in His service; who had trial of cruel mockings, and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy.
They who, for His love, forsook all the haunts and society of men, and tabernacled in the dens and caves of the earth; the hermits who forsook all and followed Him. Then a great multitude of Bishops and Priests, who in their days were valiant for the truth, and came to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty. Then the company of righteous kings, who have changed the crown of earthly glory for the diadem of eternal blessedness; and righteous warriors, who, falling in a good cause, though not for the Faith, have obtained their lot and their portion with the martyrs.
And then those in whom you are more especially interested, the spotless Brides of the Immaculate Lamb, the flowers of their King, the lilies among Whom He feedeth, Who, as they followed Him more closely here, so now follow Him whithersoever He goeth: whether, to the glory of having fixed all their affections and desires on Him, renouncing all earthly love for His sake, they added that of dying for Him, and thus doubly served Him,--or whether they trod but in that road in which you desire to tread,--your dear elder Sisters in a common faith and a common reward, spectators now of that cause in which they themselves once contended. Very dear they ought to be to you: very dear--doubt it not, but believe it earnestly--you are to them.
For this we must remember, there is but one merciful and faithful High Priest Who can perfectly sympathise with all of us. His blessed servants, that kept His law here, and have now sat down with Him at His Marriage Supper, must of necessity sympathise each best with those whose earthly course was most like their own. But this we know, that they all ate the same spiritual meat; that they all drank the same spiritual drink; that they were fed with manna all through the desert, and do now eat of the old corn of the good land, the land that floweth with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands.
My Sisters, what a blessed warfare ought this of ours to be, notwithstanding all its hardships--what a happy journey this ought to be, notwithstanding all its difficulties, when we think of those whom this day sets before us! There is not one of us who has not a special interest in this festival; there is not one of us who has not some dear one in the green pastures of Paradise: none of us are so unhappy as not, among the great multitude which no man can number, to have some blessed one more especially interested in us! This festival is as the hill of Pisgah, whence we may get a glance, beyond the Jordan of Death, of all that goodly land, as Moses had. And notice this, that he saw but one city in it, the City of Palm-trees. And this New Jerusalem at which we are thus to look is the true City of Palm-trees--they are clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
It may be that when this Festival returns again, the rest of us may have to remember some one among ourselves. GOD give us all grace--GOD especially give grace to whomever He shall call first--to be able to say, I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith: that in the day that the manna ceases for him here, he may eat the old corn of the land there, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake: to Whom, etc.