YORK, ON LOW SUNDAY, 1896, BEING THE FIRST SUNDAY
AFTER THE BURIAL OF SISTER HARRIET, FOUN-
DRESS OF THE "SISTERHOOD OF ST. MARY,
NEW YORK," AND FOR THIRTY-TWO
YEARS ITS MOTHER
THE THURSDAY IN EASTER WEEK.
JAMES POTT & CO., PUBLISHERS,
Fourth Avenue and 22nd Street.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.
In the sight of the unwise, they seemed to die, and their departure is taken for misery.
but they are in peace.--WISDOM iii. 1-3.
In all the lessons which the Church has provided for our instruction during Easter-tide there is a wonderful mingling of death and life. At first sight it would seem that the Church has erred in this; and indeed with our thoughts attuned to death by the Good Friday services, and to the grave by those of Easter-Even, we come to Easter-tide with the feeling uppermost in our hearts that death hath no more dominion, and we turn eagerly and expectantly to thoughts of life--of life immortal--and banish from our mind, as we would a dream, the remembrance of death. It is for this reason, I suppose, that we feel that a dull Easter Day is an anomaly, and that we associate Easter with brightness, and sunshine, and life. And yet the first note of the services special to that day are of death--the [7/8] joyful strains of the Venite are hushed--and in its place there is sung what is really a death dirge, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," and the three quotations from Corinthians and Romans are really an explanation of our death. And the very first lesson on Easter morning is that of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, which we never can hear read without a shudder, or else it is the narrative of that awful night when the first-born of Egypt were slain, and when the angel of death abode in the courts of the Pharaoh and of his people, and saved only those who had on their doorposts the double sign of death. Double in that the sign had been made through the death of an innocent victim, and in that it pointed forward by its cross-like shape to the death of the Great Victim on the wood of the tree. A sign which further presaged doom to the dumb creation, fore-ordaining the death of countless myriads of innocent victims until the Spotless Lamb Himself had been slain.
The Epistle proclaims that we are dead, and that we cannot rise in glory till Christ, who is our life, shall appear; and the very Gospel itself does not give us an account of our Lord's resurrection, but an account of the trouble of [8/9] the two holy women at the disappearance of the body from the grave, and of how the two disciples entered the empty sepulchre. The Church, had we no teaching beyond Easter Day, would leave us in an utter uncertainty concerning the resurrection of Christ. By force of habit we read so much into our services that I think we give not due consideration to the limitation of the Church's teaching as it is unfolded for us day by day.
There are no violent transitions in the Church's teaching, such as we love to have in our human ordering. The Church takes a whole week to unfold the full teaching concerning the resurrection, and even then does not give us till the Sunday after Easter the full narrative of that event.
One reason for this slowness of teaching is, I think, that we should, in some degree, be made to go through the experiences of the disciples and apostles. That we are to believe first by faith, before the evidences to confirm the truth of the event are given to us. The very opening words of the Easter Day Epistle imply argument, and do not state a positive fact. "If ye then be risen with Christ"--then proceed to seek those things that are above. A [9/10] possibility is thereby implied of our not being risen with Christ. The Gospel is very rarely read to bring out its central lesson. The usual lesson which is derived from the Gospel is the fact that the tomb is empty and that Christ has risen, and that the evidence of S. Peter and S. John proves these facts--the empty tomb and the resurrection. The teaching of most Easter sermons hinges on these two lessons. But most erroneously. Read the Gospel with attention; there is not one word in it asserting the fact of the resurrection. All that the Gospel asserts is the emptiness of the tomb. If, however, you study the Gospel attentively, you will find that the real lesson of it lies hidden just in two words, "he believed," put apparently without much forethought at the end of a sentence. Who was it that believed? S. John. Why should it be said of him alone that "he believed"? Why did S. Peter not believe? Both set out to reach the tomb. S. John reaches it first, but does not enter in first. S. Peter enters in first, and he evidently examines the tomb carefully; he makes a minute survey, takes in all the details; he sees everything, but there the sacred narrative leaves him. To him sense is everything. He rushes in where love and reverence pause. He has no [10/11] hesitation; he is eager to see for himself; he wants to assure himself that what the women reported is true, and that the body is gone. So he reasons and argues according to the evidence of his outward senses. To him the tomb is empty. "Then came in that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed."
He, like Peter, saw what Peter saw, the empty tomb, the linen "clothes in order"; but, unlike Peter, he saw in the empty tomb the accomplished promise of his Lord; to him the empty tomb is but an evidence of things unseen. His love has quickened his faith, and "he believed."
It is true that we are not told definitely in so many words "he believed in the Lord's Resurrection." But the explanation which follows, "For as yet they knew not the Scripture that he must rise again from the dead," points out to us that S. John's belief was that He had risen from the dead, notwithstanding the fact that they had not then studied the Scripture passages bearing on the resurrection of the Christ. It was only afterwards, in after life, that, studying these oracles of God, they saw that to fulfil them Christ must rise from the dead; but on that Easter morning they had not even the comfort of that assurance in their hearts. I take it [11/12] that this explanation is given by S. John to charitably excuse the lack of belief of S. Peter.
How great, then, the belief of S. John, since he believed, though he was not prepared to belief. His belief may be described as akin to that intuition which we all possess in regard to those whom we love. Shall we not take these gradual lessons of the Church to heart this morning? Have they not been brought home to us very closely by the events of the last week? We have gradually passed through the stages of feeling of the disciples themselves. We have hoped against hope. We have, as in bounden duty, made our supplications to God to spare a life so dear to us. And on Easter morning we refused to think of death and tried to force ourselves to think only of the resurrection. We tried to school our hearts to be hopeful and joyous, while our heads told us we had every reason to sing the "De Profundis." Then, like the disciples of old, we spent the morning rent with conflicting emotions. Yet, as I endeavored to point out to you last Sunday, it was our duty to pray, and to pray for a continuance of life. It was not for us to judge whether she for whom we prayed had finished her life work or not. We felt how necessary it seemed, in our [12/13] selfishness, that she should be spared to guide, to counsel, and to teach, by wisdom learnt in experience, and so we prayed. And, again, no one is so holy as to be incapable of amendment, and we reasoned away our selfishness by arguing with our hearts that her life work could not yet be finished, and that her Lord had further work for her to do for Him and for her soul's welfare. Thus with thoughts divided between death and the resurrection, we passed our Easter Day--thoughts which, if you read your Gospel, must have been much akin in their nature to those which divided the minds of the disciples on the first Easter morn. The week has now passed. Beloved, are our affections set on things on the earth? Surely let us not own this to ourselves. Shall we not take example from the faith of S. John? S. John had seen the Lord buried, had not seen the Lord rise, had not seen the risen Lord, had studied the Scriptures inadequately--and yet "he believed"! We have seen her who passed away buried, we have not seen her rise, we have had no manifestations, we have studied the Scriptures most inadequately; but shall we, like S. Peter, halt here? Shall we cry out for tangible evidence of a risen creature? Ah! If we approached the [13/14] mystery of life and death in that spirit, should we not be worthy of the Master's rebuke, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, even though one should rise from the dead, ye would not be persuaded"?
It is not the evidence of our senses which will ever make us believe, any more than it did S. Peter. What we need is the loving heart.
Let me here break the confidence of a private conversation I had three days ago with one of equal age with her whom you lost, and who, like her, was a founder of a religious community. Talking of personal holiness, without which none can see the Lord, we both, by a happy coincidence, agreed upon, as a type of such holiness, of saintliness of character, and of the life hid with Christ, one whom I have already mentioned to you--Bishop Horden, of Moosonee. I was very much struck by this mention, and I immediately thought to myself, Here is the unity we dream of--for the speaker and the Bishop were not of the same ecclesiastical temperament nor of the same doctrinal tendencies--here is the communion of saints the Creed speaks of, and the link that binds, the centre of unity that attracts, is the love of Christ. All differences seemed to me, for a moment, to be swept away. It is the loyal heart and true, loving the Lord, [14/15] that makes of the disciple the one whom Jesus loves. Elect from every nation, chosen out of every creed, these are they that shall follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Last Sunday I endeavored, in a few words, to bring home to you the utter nothingness of everything to the individual but faith in Christ; that all forms and ceremonies at the moment of our last illness shrank into that one appeal, "Believest thou this"? To the soul itself at that time there was nothing of any degree of importance, absolutely nothing, in the wide world but Christ Himself. To-day, I want you to remember that before you have the faith in Christ, you must have the love for Christ. When Martha was asked whether she believed that Christ was the Resurrection and the Life, it was faith that prompted her answer--wondrous faith indeed--because Lazarus was still dead before her. "Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that should come into the world." Faith most assuredly. But was it not like the faith of S. John--faith prompted by love? Ah, yes; it was her love for Christ that made her believe in Christ. So, beloved, I ask you to take this very seriously to heart this morning, that your faith will be just in [15/16] proportion to your love; that a faith not begotten by love will be barren. And if your faith falters and wavers, seek not by argument and discussion and much studying, even of the Scriptures, to rekindle that faith, but ask yourself immediately, Wherein has my love grown cold; wherein does my love falter? Rekindle your love, and I warrant you your faith will return.
You sorrow for the loss of one gone before, you weep by the fresh grave. So did Martha; but her love for the dead and for Christ made her pierce beyond the shadows of this world, and believe, with a faith that awes us in its intensity and loyalty, that Christ was the Resurrection and the Life. Will you sorrow as those without hope? Will you not rather rejoice for the good example she has left you? It is true that her mind was clouded for a few brief days, thus warning us all not to delay our repentance till our sick beds, not to say,
"I will believe, I will love Christ by and by." "Poor soul! when thou art sick thou canst do nothing but be sick."
Work your work betimes. Soon the night comes when no man can work, and oftentimes we may not work in the twilight. To the young, to the inconsiderate, to the unrepentant, above [16/17] all to those who are good only outwardly, who are good by profession, and who think that a religious life will of itself make them holy, or that the mere observance of minute rules will make them love the Lord and by some strange process make them "disciples whom Jesus loves," the warning is most strong and urgent not to tarry till the bridegroom comes. The life of her who has passed away does most emphatically teach us that the choice of serving Christ has to be made when we are in the full vigor of our life, and it is the life spent in good works which we firmly believe will bring peace in the next. It is the life led day by day, year in, year out, with a strong personal sense of devotion to our Lord Himself, that makes us see her now with the eye of faith, bathed in the unending light which proceedeth from the Light of the World. "The soul of the righteous is in the hand of the Lord, and there shall no torment touch her." Her preparation for death and the meeting of her Lord was not that hasty preparation left to the last, which distresses the priest and makes such a call on the faith of the mourners, but it was that life-long preparation of duty met day by day, and of work done day by day, which enables the priest to say his [17/18] prayers for her with confidence in the tender mercies of the Redeemer, and those who loved her to sorrow, but not as those whose hope is uncertain.
Of her personal characteristics it would ill become me to speak. Praise without discrimination is flattery, and praise without knowledge is falsehood, and my scanty knowledge of the Mother would be soon rebuked by those who have been almost her life-long companions, or who have certainly spent years in constant companionship and in the intimacy of affection. I may, however, be allowed to say a few words of my impressions. To me she seemed as one who had added to the courtliness of a gentle-woman the Christian desire to be of service to those with whom she was brought into contact. A natural shrewdness of perception was chastened by the Christian fear of wrongful judgment. A ready and quick thinker, she yet hesitated to give her judgment till she had heard as far as possible both sides of the case. Serious in her perception of the realities of life, she yet remembered that a cheerful countenance lightens the burdens of the heart. Quick in realizing the gravity of a situation, she was as quick to realize its humorous side. Strong in her hold on the [18/19] sacramental verities of the Christian faith, she was nevertheless--ought I not rather to say, for that very reason?--equally strong in her perception that science is also a revelation of God's dealings with the human soul through the material world. Loyal in her affections to all that was noblest and best in the history of the Church and of her religious orders in the past, she was yet alive to the necessity of not binding the living present in the swaddling bands of bygone times. Her last conversation with me on the future of the Community was on her hopes that the Church in this land might soon adopt the provincial system, so that the Sisterhood might also be subdivided into provinces, and that thus each province might expand in a direction suitable to its environments, and that the East might not vex the West, nor the South envy the North. Her constant interest in the past fulfilment of prophecy and of its future fulfilment was carried into that mysterious borderland where prophecy is the dimmest, and where the humblest babe in Christ that has passed into its rest knows more than the wisest of living sages. Quick in planning, yet patient in execution, and never giving up the hope of fulfilment, she was ever a witness to us of those who are [19/20] commended for possessing their souls in patience. As an evidence of this was her allusion on several occasions to her constant hope that she might live to see the establishment of a school in Washington, even after the foundation of the present Hearst schools. A vigorous thinker, yet wonderfully humble in believing that she might be wrong and others right. To me this humility seemed to be deepening and growing during my short residence here. Not hesitating to rule, but remembering that she ruled over those as being committed to her in the Lord.
But my deepest and lasting impression of her--may I be allowed to say it--? was that beneath the habit of a religious and behind the faith of the vigorous mind there was the strong, womanly heart of a mother, the heart, even after the decision was given, or the line of action decided on, or the course commended, that yet went over the whole matter at issue in its own privacy, uneasy always till the heart had approved of the verdict of the head, and, if not, courageous enough to set aside the verdict.
May we not hope, may we not believe, that with that loving heart she intuitively grasped the mysteries of the Faith, and that, her heart [20/21] prompting her faith, like Martha and S. John of old, she was reckoned among "those disciples whom Jesus loved."
Of the state of those who have gone before, little has been revealed as certain; yet did not the poet say true when he sang,
All that we know of those above
Is, that they live and that they love?
That you should mourn is natural; it is the tribute of affection. Yet it is but right that you should consider how little occasion you have to mourn. Though past the limit set by the Psalmist, "her eye was not dim, nor her natural force abated," before her last sickness came upon her. For this surely you have just cause of thankfulness. Many, not her equal in years, lose vigor of body, and, what is worse, so it seems to me, vigor of mind. You were spared this sorrow. It is true that of late, feeling the need of rest, which we all feel as we grow old, she longed that she might be enabled to lay down her overseership, so that she might take her rest. She felt the increasing burden of having to decide, and she feared lest she might, if continued in office, become a hindrance in matters requiring prompt and vigorous decision, [21/22] and so longed that another might be set in her place.
But does it not seem more fitting that no other should take her office, but that she should lay it down herself at the feet of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls? Her departure by some may be taken for misery, but she is in peace; surely your Heavenly Father knoweth best. Now that the sorrow of parting is over, look back. Would you pray that Father to have ordered her end any differently?
Is not this one of those occasions when we realize the truth of that hard saying, "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"?
[The preacher here interrupted his sermon by referring to the first lesson for the day, which he had read but a few minutes previously:
["Beloved, I am sure you must have been struck by the wonderful appropriateness of the opening verses of the lesson from Isaiah. They must have gone home to many of your hearts. Let me read them again:
["'But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
["'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
["'For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
["'Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: . . .
["' Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the East and gather thee from the West;
["'I will say to the North, Give up; and to the South, Keep not back: bring . . . my daughters from the ends of the earth.'"]
 Of the funeral there are only two circumstances which impressed me, so that I do not think the impression will wear off, but rather stand out more clearly as time rolls on. No doubt you all of you had your own individual impressions; we all do at such moments.
Mine were these two:
First, The presence throughout the service of that humble servant of God, equal in age to your mother, and equal with her in the privilege of founding a religious order; to him belongs the peculiar distinction of founding the first live English order for men since the Reformation; to her belonged the equal distinction of founding the first American order. His presence there was a wonderful ordering of Providence. All the circumstance, ceremonial and ritual of the funeral will rapidly fade from my mind, but his presence will grow clearer and clearer to me. In future days, when the history of these two orders will be written, of one thing I feel assured--the [23/24] historian will dwell with lingering fondness on that ordering of time, place and events which resulted in that humble man of heart being there.
The other impression which stands out clear and vivid to me is the branch of palm and its flowers, both faded, and yet by their very fadedness speaking more eloquently of a life that has been lived and blessed, than did the abundance of fresh flowers. [Owing to her illness the Mother had not been present in church on Palm Sunday, and her branch of palm, to which, according to invariable custom, was added a small nosegay of flowers, was, after being blessed, set aside, and later on taken to her in her room.]
The aged servant of the Lord laid to rest in the bright Easter sunshine, symbol of the perpetual light of the Blessed Presence of Christ. By her side the humble man of heart. Over her, her branch of palm and flowers, which, unable to bear in this house of the Lord, yet ready, let us hope, to bear in the greater house of the Lord, amid the great congregation in that great day when He shall gather His redeemed around Him, that day that is to know no end, for the brightness of it shall be the Light of Life--the Christ--the Son of God, which came into this world to be both its Resurrection and its Life.
FELL ASLEEP, EASTER DAY.
LAID TO REST THURSDAY IN EASTER WEER,
IN THE YEAR OF OUR SALVATION
ONE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED
On the afternoon of Easter Day there passed into the rest of Paradise one who, when the history of the revival of Religious Orders is written, will occupy a most prominent position, Sister Harriet, for thirty-two years Mother Superior of "The Sisterhood of St. Mary, New York." The Mother fell asleep shortly after the bell for Nones had rung.
Before long, we hope, a memoir of her life from the pen of Dr. Dix, the counsellor, friend, helper and chaplain during the early days of the Sisterhood, will be published. In the meantime, and in view of the unauthorized accounts that have been published, it has been thought that the friends of the Community would welcome having preserved in a permanent form, a short and accurate account of the Funeral Services and the only one which has been authorized by the Sisterhood.
The body was removed from the convent to the mortuary chapel in the crypt of the new convent chapel on Tuesday afternoon. Covered with the pall, and with three lighted candles on either side, the coffin rested before the altar till its removal to the chapel above, on Thursday morning. Faithful watch and prayer was held by the body night and day by some Sister from the moment of the departure of the spirit till the moment of burial.
On Wednesday night the Office for the Dead was said by the Sisters.
 On Thursday morning, April 9th, at seven o'clock the Holy Communion for the repose of the soul of the faithful servant of God was celebrated in the mortuary chapel by the Rev. George H. Houghton, D.D., Chaplain to the community, the Rev. Arthur Lowndes, Resident-Chaplain, acting as server and administering the chalice. Ever since Easter-Even the Sisters from far and near had been arriving from Peekskill, and all the Sisters from the immediate vicinity as well as some from Memphis, Chicago, and "Kemper Hall," Kenosha, were enabled to be present and make their communion at the first celebration. At half past eight the body was removed from the mortuary chapel and placed in the centre of the choir, with its six lights alongside. At a quarter past nine the Sisters went in procession from the convent to the chapel, taking their places in their stalls. The funeral service was fixed for half past nine, but owing to the late arrival of the train from New York it was not before half past ten that the service could be begun. At that hour the chapel was crowded with clergy, friends, relatives and associates of the Sisterhood, who had come to pay this tribute of respect and affection.
Among the clergy present in the congregation there were the Ven. Frederick B. Van Kleeck, D.D., Archdeacon of Westchester; the Rev. Alfred William Griffin, Curate of Trinity Church, New York; the Rev. Charles M. Selleck, of Lewisboro', N. Y. and the Rev. Isaac Van Winkle. Brother Gilbert, Superior of the Order of Brothers of Nazareth, was also present. "The Sisterhood of All Saints of the Poor," Baltimore; "the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion," New York, and the "Sisters of the Order of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary" were represented by members of their several Orders. The two nearest relatives of Mother Harriet, Colonel Cannon, of New York, and Mrs. George Gunn, of Milford, Conn., occupied seats in the [27/28] front row of the nave. Among the many personal intimate friends of the late Mother Superior were Dr. W. H. Carmalt, of New Haven, Conn., and Mrs. E. N. Dickerson, Mrs. Demarest, Mrs. Thomas McKee Brown, Miss C. Von Riper, and Miss Sarah Connor, all of New York.
Just before the beginning of the service a special letter was received from the Bishop of New York, expressing his sympathy with the Sisters in their great loss, and his deep regret that a prior engagement, which he found it impossible to cancel, alone prevented him from being present.
The procession of priests from the sacristy was headed by the Rev. William Fisher Lewis, Rector of Peekskill, bearing the processional cross. Following him, vested in a black cope, came the Rev. George H. Houghton, D.D., who said the Burial Service proper; The Rev. Thomas McKee Brown, Rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York; the Rev. Robert Hitchcock Paine, Rector of Mt. Calvary Church, Baltimore; the Rev. George W. Dumbell, D.D.; the Rev. Alfred G. Mortimer, D.D., Rector of St. Mark's Church, Philadelphia; the Rev. Oliver S. Prescott, Rector of St. Luke's Church, New Haven, Conn.; the Rev. Henry Mottet, D.D., Rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, New York; the Rev. Theodore Myers Riley, D.D., Professor in the General Theological Seminary, New York, formerly for thirteen years Sister's Chaplain, "Kemper Hall"; the Rev. Fr. Duncan Convers, of the Order of St. John the Evangelist; the Rev. Fr. Henry Rufus Sargent, Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross; the Rev. Morgan Dix, D.D., Chaplain of the Sisters from 1866 to 1873, and the Rev. Fr. Richard Meux Benson, founder of the Order of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley. Then came the celebrant, the Rev. Arthur Lowndes, the Resident Chaplain, with the Rev. William O. Embury, Chaplain to the House of Mercy, Inwood, as server. At the conclusion of the lesson, Psalm xlii., "Like as the hart [28/29] desireth the water-brooks," was sung as an introit. The celebration, at which a few received, then followed. After the ablutions the celebrant, headed by the cross-bearer, returned to the sacristy, pausing on passing the bier to say the versicles, "Let perpetual light shine on her," etc. Dr. Houghton, who, during the introit had put off his cope, then resumed it, and said some special collects by the bier. The hymn, of which the following is the first verse, was sung:
"Safe home, safe home in port!
Rent cordage, shatter'd deck,
Torn sails, provision short,
And only not a wreck:
But oh! the joy upon the shore
To tell our voyage--perils o'er!"
While this verse was being sung the priests who were to act as bearers took their places by the bier, and bore it to the quiet God's acre of the sisters, in a secluded dell within the Convent grounds. The priests who rendered this honor were the Rev. Alfred G. Mortimer, D.D., the Rev. George W. Dumbell, D.D., the Rev. Robert Hitchcock Paine, the Rev. Father Convers, and the Rev. Thomas McKee Brown. The opening sentences of the Burial Service were said at the entrance of the churchyard. While the coffin was lowered and the grave being filled several hymns were sung.
The melodeon which had been borne to the cemetery to accompany these hymns was the instrument which had been used by the reverend Mother in the early days of her ministry at St. Luke's Hospital.
At the conclusion the procession was re-formed in the order in which it had come--Clergy, Sisters, relatives, associates and friends, and there in the bright sunshine, symbol of the Blessed Presence of Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life, the mortal remains of her who had lived a long life of devotion to the Master and of loving service to her neighbor, were laid to sleep.