Project Canterbury Holiness: A Note of the Church
By the Reverend J.G.H. Barry
New York: Gorham, 1915
The ways of the Spirit are many, and many are the modes and manifestations of the holy life of the Body of Christ. The time allotted me permits of the treatment of but one more manifestation of this life, and that shall be the outworking of the life of the Body in that institution known as the Religious Life. It will be felt of course that the Religious Life is not like the universal vocation of Christians to holiness, or that special function of the Body which is priesthood, are inherent and essential manifestation of the life of the Body. That is true. We can conceive of the Church as existing and developing in the world without that special manifestation of its life. It is however true that the life of the Body did, from very early times, begin to manifest itself through the Religious Life, and it can hardly be asserted that the Religious Life is an excresence upon the Body of Christ, a false and mistaken development, turning the tides of the Church's life into undesirable channels. In the providence of God the Religious Life was developed and directed to action of the highest usefulness to the Church. It is indeed impossible to see how the Church could, or can to-day, meet many cf the problems which it is called to solve without the institution of Religious Orders. The fact that there have been periods in the history of the Church during which the Religious Orders showed a certain amount of degeneration, is no more an objection to the legitimacy of their existence than the degeneracy during the same periods of the priesthood itself is a proof of its illegitimacy as an organ of the Body, or the failure of the Christian community at any time to reach the ideal of the Gospel life is a disproof of Christianity itself. The complete acceptance by the entire Church of the Religious Life as a mode of its self-expression, and the work of vital importance to the growth and defense of Christianity done by the Religious Orders, is a sufficient defense of the Religious Life, if such defense be indeed needed. Not that that is all that can be said for the Religious Life as a function of the Body of Christ, only that that by itself would be enough to say; but indeed the Religious Life is one special manifestation of the ascetic ideal of the Christian Life as portrayed in the New Testament. At the heart of the depiction of the Christian Life in the New Testament is of course the human life of the Son of God. That life was an ascetic life; that is to say, a life of severe self-limitation for certain ends. It would no doubt be possible to fill a volume with denials that our Lord was an ascetic, but such denials are perfectly futile in view of the facts, and they all ultimately rest on His saying that whereas St. John the Baptist because of his abstinence was accused of having a devil, the Son of Man because He came eating and drinking incurred the reproach of being a gluttonous man and a wine bibber. I do not suppose we want to rank ourselves with either set of critics, nor do I suppose that because our Lord says that He came eating and drinking, we are to infer that He did not, under certain circumstances, practice self-denial in food and drink. It is evident that He did not lead the same type of ascetic life as St. John the Baptist, but that is not to the point. Certainly He did lead a life of severe self-denial, voluntarily assumed for the ends of His mission. He willingly assumed human poverty and toil. He lived the life of a wandering teacher who had not where to lay His head. He learned obedience through the things which He suffered, and having become obedient to the Cross He tasted death for all men. If ever there was an ascetic life, His was such.
The mistake that is made in the matter of asceticism is to assume that certain extreme types of early and mediaeval asceticism are the normal types, and that the true ascetic is one who inflicts upon himself certain penances, which seem to us to be excessive, and tortures that are misjudged. But such examples of extreme asceticism have in all times been relatively rare and have failed of the approbation of the Church. They have often been but a passing phase in a man's life, a phase which he himself later regarded as mistaken, as is the case, for example, in the life of Blessed Henry Suso. But such types do not rule the ascetic ideal. The ideal is ruled by the life of our Lord, by His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, and by such utterances on the spiritual life as St. Paul's account of the fruits of the Spirit. A life which aims to embody the Beatitudes, and produce the fruits of the Spirit, is what is meant by the ascetic life. A life of patience, long-suffering, meekness, gentleness, self-control. You will say that this is the life that all Christians are called to live. I quite agree with you. All Christians are called to be ascetics.
The difference between the Christian vocation and the vocation to the Religious Life is that, under the impulse of the latter, men and women seek to realize their ideal through a special set of inhibitions. They accept certain limitations as aids to ascetic self-expression which are not necessary to the ascetic life as such, but are felt to be desirable by certain individuals and under certain circumstances; but these limitations are not arbitrarily chosen. They are at least, to express it as gently as possible, indicated in our Lord's teaching. They are of course what are called the Counsels of Perfection, and are embodied in the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. I do not see how any one can read the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and not feel that these vows are well grounded in our Lord's teaching.
One difficulty which is felt in this matter no doubt grows out of the assumption that because the teaching of our Lord as to the Counsels of Perfection assumes that only some children of the Kingdom will be found able to adopt them, the adoption of them constitutes a spiritual aristocracy, a superior caste within the Church. This surely is not the meaning of our Lord's teaching, nor is it the meaning of writers on the spiritual life. Much language to be sure has been used which may be thus construed, but that surely cannot be its intention, and for this reason, that all such teaching rests on the assumption that the following of the Counsels is not a matter of self-choice, but is governed by the further fact of vocation.
Now the following of a special vocation does not constitute any one a superior person, or a person superior to one not having that vocation. Vocation is an added responsibility in life. It imposes special responsibility and special obligation. In a way no doubt it is also a special privilege, but not in the way of imparting, ipso facto, special sanctity. We are all bound to follow whatever vocation God sends us, and those who are called to the Religious Life are but following their vocation as any one else in the Kingdom of God follows his. I should, therefore, hesitate to say, as is often said, that the Religious Life is a higher life than the life of the ordinary priest or layman. I should but say that it is a life of different obligation and privilege; and I should further say that those who are called to follow the Counsels of Perfection are not at liberty to decline the call on the ground that they are but counsels and not of universal obligation. The Lord's Counsels are the Counsels of a King, and those He calls to a certain kind of life must follow. Certainly we do not gather that the rich young ruler was quite within his rights when he declined our Lord's call, to sell all and follow Him, or that he went back to the enjoyment of his wealth other than as one who had made the great refusal. This matter of vocation indeed is a matter of fundamental importance. It assumes that the type of life we choose in this world is not, or ought not, to be a matter of mere whim, but that what we are to be is indicated in the providential shaping of life. We are what we are under responsibility and penalty. There is an allotted place for us in God's world which it is our prime business to find. We ought to recognize this in the ordinary affairs of life, as well as in affairs which are specifically religious. We do recognize 'it in relation to the priesthood, and the Bishop requires the affirmation of belief in vocation before he proceeds to ordination, and it is required, under circumstances of added solemnity and self-searching, in those who offer themselves to the Religious Life. Here the novice is not taken upon his own valuation of his vocation, but he is required to undergo a long period of testing with a view to the establishment, or disproof, of the reality of his vocation. He must prove not only his inclination but his capacity and fitness to live the life, which is outlined by the three vows, before he is permitted to take them. He is so tested that both the novice himself, and the Order that receives him, may be assured, as far as may be, that he is indeed called of God to this special relation to our Lord.
The life of the Religious, in response to his vocation, is the entire consecration of his personality to our Lord, under the forms which our Lord Himself has indicated. Such consecration is not the taking up of a new form of service, as one might pass from the position of a parish priest to that of a teacher,--it is the surrender of self for our Lord's and the Gospel's sake. If we think into the subject a little we see how complete and thorough this self-surrender is. It is the consecration of the entire personality as expressed through its three chief functions, the affections, the reason and the will. The vows are directly related to these three elements of our complex personality.
The vow of Chastity is the surrender, the consecration, of the affections. The point is not, of course, that the married life is unchaste, or that the affections are evil. The point is that the center of the affections has changed,--they are to be directed wholly to our Lord. His person is to be the object of our human affections. His demands are very stern,--He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, has special application to the Religious Life. We know human life very superficially, if we do not know how often human affection blocks the path of duty, the path to God. Well, the Religious is not to entangle himself in such affections; especially he is not to create new centers of affection,--new ties which, however holy under certain circumstances, he is called away from. That such ties are ordinarily allowable, and desirable, is primarily the meaning of his being called from them. The fact that in abandoning them he is giving up what, save for his vocation, he might have, is the essence of his sacrifice. It is a great offering, precisely because the instinct of human affection is so holy and so deep. The desire for home and family and children is elemental and it is these deep-rooted desires which must be suppressed, under the impulse of another and higher desire,--the desire to follow our Lord in the way of a naked life. Naked, to follow the naked Christ, is the ideal of the Religious. But the vow of Chastity is not simply a vow of physical purity, which would be but negative after all. The physical chastity is the symbol of a deeper purity which the Religious seeks. It is the symbol of that inner purity, the purity of heart, which is the medium of spiritual vision. The pure in heart shall see God,--that is their beatitude. It is by the abandonment of all centers of affection out of God that the Religious seeks the fellowship of God. This simplification of desire is the way to this vision. I do not say that there is no other way, but this is one way, and the way the Religious is called to walk. He seeks to be separate from all other affections that he may give himself utterly to the love of God.
As the vow of Chastity is the expression of the consecration of the affections, the abandonment of them, that they may be found entire in Christ, so the vow of Poverty is the expression of the consecration of the reason. It is far deeper, therefore, than the mere giving up of personal possessions. That is a comparatively light thing. Ordinarily the Religious gains more than he loses, in the assured use of the necessities of life. The poverty of the reason is a thing harder to achieve than any poverty of physical things. The function of the reason is to order, to choose, to select, and the Religious seeks to gain the humility of the reason that he may avoid the dangers of egotistic self-assertion, self-guiding, self-pleasing. The lust of the eye is the danger he fights. He submits himself to the mind of the Order, as greater and truer than the mind of the individual. The mind and purpose of the community become his mind and purpose.
It is perhaps needless to say that this consecration of the reason is not to its impoverishment but to its enrichment. We cannot cease to exercise the reasoning faculty, but the Religious seeks to exercise it under certain checks and limitations which purify it from egotism and selfishness. He becomes a member of a community which seeks certain ends, under certain conditions, and under those conditions he contributes his due share to the life of the Order, but always in a humble consciousness of the higher reason which is that of the Order. He is in the way, therefore, of gaining through his sacrifice that gift of humility, which is one of the great gifts of the Spirit to human life. His ideal is no longer the gain of anything for self, but that poverty of spirit which is a beatitude, the due meed of which is the possession of the Kingdom. The humility of the reason is indeed the gateway to great riches, because it places its possessor in the position of a learner. He becomes as a little child who can be instructed in the things of the Kingdom of God. Proud, self-assertive reason closes the gate to a learner, because it assumes adequate possession and is unrecep-tive of new truth and impatient of guidance. But the Religious needs the humility of the child, that he may be led to ascend higher in the path of the Spirit, and dive deeper into the mysteries of the spiritual life. To learn requires a spiritual capacity that teaching never does, and the good Religious is ever a scholar in the school of the Spirit, which leads the willing mind to the knowledge of the deep things of God; and on the basis of this consecrated and sacrificed reason, of this spiritual poverty, have been built those amazing structures of spiritual guidance which are the writings of the Saints. When one runs over the great books of guidance, which form one chief branch of the riches of the Church, one is astonished at how large a proportion of them come from the sanctified reason of the Religious.
The third vow of the Religious is that which consecrates the will,--the vow of Obedience. It is here, perhaps, that human nature struggles most and grace wins its greatest triumphs. The pride of life dies hard. To surrender one's self to the will of an Order, to have one's life directed in the minutest particulars, to have the very moments of one's day ruled and assigned to various tasks, to go or stay in this place or that, as authority may assign, that is a supreme test of vocation. Yet that is the full expression of the Christ-attitude toward life. / came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. Thy zvill be done. We can only reach this attitude toward life by self-surrender,--by willing subjection. The will of God, you may say, is what we are subject to, but there is room for abundant self-will in that form of self-subjection. We interpret the will of God for ours. The Religious finds the expression of the will of God in the will of his superiors. As his reason is merged in a larger reason, so his will is merged in a larger will, the will of the Order. So he seeks to lose self in another way. His blessing is now the blessing of the meek, whose chief characteristic is their willing submission to the providence of God. They are those who desire nothing for themselves, who are contented under all circumstances, who know how to be poor and how to abound, who accept life as it is ordered for them. Such are not will-less; but the consecrated will,--all the more to be depended upon because it is consecrated,--directs itself under the guiding purpose of which it is a part. Weak they are not. They are strong with the strength of those who can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth them.
These three vows, then, are the expression of the complete consecration of the individual life--of its attempt to reproduce the ideal life of the Gospels in terms of the Counsels of Perfection. And the Religious Life must be defended, if it need defense, on the ground of the compulsion of this ideal. Those who prefer the ideal of. classic heathenism to the ideal of the Gospel will naturally find the Religious Life an intolerably stupid and wicked thing, impertinently opposing itself to the blithe joy in all natural impulses which is assumed to be the right of human beings. Knowing Mr. Lecky's point of view, one is not surprised at the following: "There is, perhaps, no phase in the moral history of mankind of a deeper or more painful interest than this ascetic epidemic. A hideous, sordid, and emaciated maniac, without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection, passing his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain, had become the ideal of the nations which had known the writings of Plato and Cicero and the lives of Socrates and Cato." This tirade is, of course, negligible as criticism; and merely expresses, with a coarseness we need not imitate, a preference for the heathen ideal of life. But at its best the ideal of heathenism, or as it is the present fashion to call it, humanism, is an ideal of self-development which is the enrichment of self for the sake of self, and at its worst is mere animalism. Both at its best and at its worst it is ever with us, in the life of colleges and in the life of slums; and it is essentially against that theory of life that asceticism utters its protest; and if it protest carries it occasionally to strange actions, that is but what we might expect from the circumstances under which it is uttered. Mr. Lecky's "without knowledge, without patriotism, without natural affection," only means that at a time when men thought that the intellect was the sole test of truth or falsehood, right or wrong, some ascetics were carried by the intensity of their protest that truth and right are otherwise discoverable, to an abandonment of intellectual ideals: it means that when, not the populace, but the very class that magnified the intellect, were putting that intellect at the disposal of an irresponsible despotism, and rendering worship to the genius of Rome incarnated in a human brute, there were men who took refuge in the deserts and caves because of an ideal of heavenly citizenship vastly more noble than the narrow and selfish notion of patriotism: it means that there were those who were willing to sacrifice the comforts of human affection, in the pursuits of a higher relationship, the realization of their new-found sonship of the Eternal Father. That men who were overwhelmed by the splendor of the Heavenly Vision should for the moment find earth uninteresting is not wonderful. The wonderful thing is that, having the Vision, they ever readjusted themselves to earth at all!
But they did; and unfortunately, in many cases, only too completely: and most of the defenses of the religious life which we read to-day are based upon an appreciation of the extent in which it has succeeded in making itself useful to the world. Of course, we Westerns are thoroughly utilitarian and materialistic in our appreciation of life. Even our religion has to justify itself by an exhibition of the good it does. We seem unable to grasp the conception of worship as the offering of self to the love of God. We still construe the fruits of religion to mean useful work. And where we can find those who follow the Religious Life occupied in "doing something useful" we give a qualified approval. Religious Orders are therefore praised because they made copies of ancient manuscripts, and preserved "the intellectual tradition"; the monk in the scriptorium becomes an admirable person. Religious are praised for their leadership in education during the Middle Ages; for the fact that they taught the rudiments of civilization to the barbarians who overwhelmed the Roman Empire. Among us, it would seem that the Religious Life is tolerated because it produces a cheap type of church worker.
But all these and the like things which are the ground of our modern tolerance--it is hardly more than that--of the Religious Life, are not of the essence of the Life at all. They are quite beside the mark. Most of the failure of what seems to be religious vocation, I take it, is not failure of vocation at all. It is the revelation of the fact that the aspirant was seeking some field of church work, and had supposed that the Religious Life was such a field. But the Religious Life is what it claims to be, a kind of life, not a kind of work; and if the life itself is not justified it ought not to gain tolerance on the ground that at any rate it is useful. The works which are undertaken by Religious, at least those which attract the praise of men, are for the most part in the nature of par-erga, undertaken for the sake of self-support. In the choice of works for that end they have usually chosen works such as are purely for self-support, as the early communities busied themselves with basket-making and agriculture and so on; or more generally in later times such works as are at the same time useful for the advancement of the Kingdom of God of which they are citizens. But it cannot be too strongly insisted that the Religious Life does not exist for the sake of work, but that work is a by-product of the Life.
So understood, the Religious Life--to touch one other criticism of it--is held to be a selfish life. I understand that to mean that it is a life which avoids social obligations (Mr. Lecky's patriotism) and material productivity. A man who enters a Religious Order is regarded as selfish; one who sells groceries or milk is an unselfish member of society, doing his duty by the community, taking his due place in the social order. The Religious, on the contrary, has left the world to get on as it may, depriving it of the help which it has a right to count on from him. This is especially emphasized in the matter of the continuance of the race. It is Mr. Lecky again who criticizes the celibacy of the Religious Life because it withdraws from the duty of propagating the species many of those whose qualities it is highly desirable should be transmitted. This is, of course, a very inconsidered piece of criticism, inasmuch as the qualities desiderated are largely developed and preserved by the Religious Life itself, and without its sustaining power would have been swamped in the struggle for existence. They are, moreover, the spiritual qualities which are the product of culture rather than of heredity. The effect, therefore, of a spiritual personality in developing spiritual qualities in the circle of his influence is far greater than it could possibly be in the training of a family, even on the unlikely supposition that the qualities would have been developed in any fulness in the life of the world. But what may be expected to be the effect of the Religious Life on society will appear as we go on.
At present it is time to return to the positive side of our statement. What the Religious Life is primarily aiming at is the presentation of the Christ-life. But all Christians have the like aim, as has already been said. What then is the peculiarity of the Religious Life? It would seem to be this: that its acceptance of the limitations of the Counsels of Perfection has concentrated its energies and rendered it more dynamic. The energies of a life lived in the world are of necessity dispersed, and consequently less effective along any given line. To take but a single illustration: the prayer-life of a man or woman living under the pressure of business or social obligation is much more restricted than that of the Religious. It is restricted in amount--in the measure of time: it is probably restricted in energy through the greater prevalence of distraction. In all directions of spiritual activity the Religious Life is more energetic.
Here is one great meaning of the Religious Life: that it raises the life of holiness, which is the universal vocation of Christians, to a higher power and renders it more dynamic. If we will recall what has already been said of the Spiritual Life, that it is the outflow of the Incarnate Life of the Redeemer, we shall see the importance of this. The Incarnate Life is a creative life--creative of holiness, that is, Godlikeness, in those whom it effectively influences. And those so influenced become in their turn centers of spiritual energy influencing other lives. The influence of a spiritual personality will be proportionate to the intensity of its spiritual power. The presence of Religious Communities in any society tends to raise the spiritual level of that society as a whole, in that spiritual power is concentrated in them and is released through them. This is not a matter of theory: any one who has had experience will testify to the truth of what I say--that a Religious Community produces a distinct rise in the spiritual life, not only of its own members, but within the circle of those who are in contact with it. And it does this not simply because the members of the religious community are engaged in teaching religion to others; it does it where there is no direct teaching, through the forces set in motion by its own spiritual activities.
It is, therefore, an extraordinary mistake to speak of Religious as having isolated themselves from the life of the community, as having withdrawn from the world to which they have obligations which they have no right to abandon, as having put themselves apart from the interests of their fellows, as having declined their duty to their neighbor, and so on. It would be impossible for Religious to do these things even if they wanted to: and they, least of all men, want to. The most isolated hermit living in a cave in the desert is still a member of the human group, acting upon it and reacting from it. The House of a Religious Order is by no means a thing apart from human life--the abode of an unproductive selfishness. Indeed, the central thought of the Religious Life is not isolation but contact. The contact which it seeks is, to be sure, a contact on other lines than those of business or social interest. It is a contact of the spiritual order ; it is an attempt at purely spiritual influence on the life of the community. So far from being indifferent to the interests of other human beings, the Religious is bending his energies to awaken in other human beings a perception of the true value of life, to lead them to the understanding of life as a spiritual thing.
The most obvious way in which the Religious attempts this is by his life of prayer. I do not in this place need to insist upon the power of prayer; and especially upon the power of the united prayer of intercession. I may perhaps be permitted to recall to your minds in this connection the ceaseless tides of prayer that flow through the Body of Christ. It is involved in our belief in the communion of saints that ceaseless and prevailing intercession goes up to Him that sitteth upon the throne from all the members of His Body, whether from those who are here in exile, or those who are admitted to the nearer Presence. It is through prayer that the world's best work is done. And we must needs be utter materialists to undervalue the influence of a community a great part of whose time is given to the work of intercession. When men say that the life of the Religious is a useless and a selfish life, they must either be speaking as those who do not believe in prayer, or in mere thoughtlessness. When, indeed, we consider the power of prayer, we shall find it difficult to overestimate the value of even one life whose principal work it is.
But I have not yet stated what seems to me a deeper and still more important aspect of the Religious Life. I recall the truth that that life is one which aims to present the Christian life with an intensity impossible under ordinary social conditions--it aims, that is, at the reproduction of the Christ-experience in a high degree of intensity and completeness. Now, a chief phase of the Christ-experience is the phase of sacrifice. Our Lord's Incarnate work centers in the offering of Himself as an atonement for our sins. That sacrifice and atonement are constant parts of His Incarnate activity. He ever liveth to make intercession for us; and the intercession which He makes is the intercession of His sacrifice which He ceaselessly presents, the one abiding sacrifice for the sins of all the world, a sacrifice which needs no repetition because it is incapable of cessation. Into this atoning work the extended Body of His Incarnation enters, and in it each member of that Body is privileged to share. Sin is not dealt with through the memory of an act, but through the application of a living reality. And it is our voluntary assumption of the Cross which brings us into union and participation in the atoning work of our Lord: it is our sacrifice of ourselves for Him, and through Him for the brethren. Every pain willingly endured, every self-denial or self-limitation which is directed Christ-wards is assumed to Him and merged in His sacrificial life. Our prayers, we know, avail for others--otherwise we should hardly say them--and sacrifice is an acted prayer, the highest form of prayer, inasmuch as the essence of sacrifice is self-sacrifice.
And the self-limitation of the Religious is, as we know, a sacrificial self-limitation. The Religious does not limit himself for self-gain, not even the spiritual gain of his salvation; but he limits himself as a form of sacrifice; he gives himself in the Body of Christ on behalf of his brethren. Think, then, of the power of Christ's atonement as it is released through the Religious Life. Think of that power which seeks utterance in every soul finding ever new channels through the voluntary self-sacrifice of the multitudes of the Religious, to lead it into the lives of the redeemed children of God. The Religious Life has ever been one of the chief instruments of God in the conversion and sanctification of souls. Think of it as entering into Christ's sacrifice and pleading it on behalf of the sins of the world.
The Religious Life, then, is what its name expresses, a Life. Those who are called to it are called to live in a certain relation to our Lord, to become means of His self-expression in this world. All life is energy, and as such expresses itself in results which, when they are external, we call works. But the works are the result of the action of the life and are not to be confounded with it. The life itself is imparted for spiritual ends, and finds its significance in them. Those who rightly enter the Religious Life, enter it for the Life's sake, not that they may do good works of this or that kind.
But there is one other aspect of the Religious Life as a manifestation of the Holy Life of the Body of Christ, of which I wish to say a word in conclusion; and that is its aspect of protest. It presents a standing protest against, not the worldliness of the world, but the worldliness of the Church. The Religious Life seems strange to us today, if it does so seem, seems to involve so much of strain and separation, because it has departed less far from the ideals of the Gospel than the Church as a whole has done,--meaning by the Church, the Christian community. The Religious Life was a much less striking thing in its origin than it is now, because those who followed that vocation went but little beyond what was understood to be the ordinary vocation of the Christian. Christians took seriously what the New Testament said about the world--they were understood to have renounced it and fled from it. But the time c^me when Christians assumed that they had converted the world, and when they, therefore, felt at liberty to go back to it as a changed thing. What of course had happened was that they were changed and not the world. To-day we are back in the thick of the world--so back that we are unable any more to understand what the world is. The line of demarcation between the Church and the world has vanished, and it is for the most part impossible to distinguish the Christian from the worldling. One indication of this is that there is an increasing difficulty in getting spiritual religion so much as understood. People do not so much as understand the veriest common-places of the spiritual life. They look upon the Sermon on the Mount as a thing impossible to live by. The working maxims of the lives of Christian men and women are the maxims of a purely worldly morality. One consequence is that the Religious Life is no longer a life a little beyond the life of the average man or woman, which they may easily pass into as multitudes did pass in the early ages, but a life of strange obligations and impossible sacrifices.
But just because of this mingling of the Church and the world we need the continual protest of the Religious Life. We need its protest that the life is more than meat and the Body than raiment. We need its protest that sacrifice is of the very essence of the Christian life. We need its protest against an ever growing materialism. We who live on terms of friendship with the world, every luxury of which we claim as our due and right; we who have created a religious establishment so luxurious that we are reduced to the constant need of wealth to support us--we need to be told that religion is ill-served by these things, and that we have meshed ourselves in a net which is strangling us. The existence of the Religious Life tells us this; it sets before us those who are able to live in the detachment which befits those who are the followers of a crucified Master. Surely we need to be told these things.
I am extremely conscious of the crudity and incompleteness of these lectures. But they are a faithful attempt to analyze, not the abstract notion of Holiness, but the fact of Holiness as an existing note of the Body of Christ. I have dwelt upon the fact that that Body is Holy by its very nature and by virtue of the Source from which its life flows forth. I have tried to put before you Holiness as the universal vocation of Christians, as the quality that, before all others, they should seek as the normal result of their union with their Risen and Ascended Head. I have attempted to describe the outflow of the Holy Life of the Body in two special cases. First, in the case of Priesthood, wherein I have ventured to dwell somewhat on the dangers of the priestly vocation, as it seemed right to do in this place, as well as upon the holy nature of the gift itself. And, secondly, I have attempted an analysis of the Religious Life, as one of the legitimate developments of the Life of the Body. For whatsoever I have said in accord with the mind of our Blessed Lord, I humbly thank Him: if I have said anything contrary to His mind, I ask His mercy.