The Benedicite: An Hymn of Praise to the Triune God:
A Sermon, Preached in Zion Church, New York, on the First Friday in Lent, 1864.
By Oliver Sherman Prescott.
New York: J. Pott, 1864.
THE venerable fast of Lent brings with it the use of the song Benedicite. This Canticle has held its place in the morning worship of Christians for more than fifteen hundred years, certainly a very respectable period. It is now said, as it has ever been, on Sundays, by all, in the East and in the West, in the North and in the South, who follow in their devotions the old traditional forma into which, at the first, the Gospels became crystallized. To many really good and devout persons the length of this hymn and its apparent monotony render it wearisome, and it is with something like impatience they give in to its taking the place of the more popular, but less exalted, Te Deum. It has the further disadvantage of being reckoned among the Apocryphal Scriptures, and these it is the fashion nowadays to underrate. But, notwithstanding all drawbacks to its appreciation, if one will enter its inner and hidden meaning, it will be found that purer notes of praise, in fitter words, have never flowed from human lips; and well might this be so, for they poured forth spontaneously from the hearts of the Three Holy Children who were purified so as by fire in the "seven times heated" oven, wherein the world would have consumed them, while with them walked the Angel of God's Presence, and around them swept "a cool moist wind from heaven," so that even "the smell of fire came not upon their garments."
The circumstances under which the Benedicite was composed fit it for times of penitential purification. It is a Song of glory to God out of the midst of the fires. To the idolatrous Babylonians who listened to it, it must have had all the defiant ring of clear-sounding truth. Its character would rather seem to suit it to festal times, for from its first verse to its last, it is pure praise, too high for our appreciation and too exalted for our use. No human element enters into it, no note of penitence, no cry for pardon nor for help. We can imagine the choirs of angels kneeling and singing it, making all heaven vocal with its stately cadences, and we can beat our breasts, and question with ourselves whether, if ever while on earth we shall he able to bear in it any part. The apparently more varied, and really more earthly because more subjective Te Deum, is felt without an effort to match better with our poor fallen state. Its mingling of praise with the devotional use of the Articles of our Creed, and its deep and earnest supplications, touch us and "draw us as with the cords of Adam." Besides, the Te Deum has been wedded to music, and that high art has lavished all its treasures in the interpretation and illustration of its intrinsic preciousness. It may have been ordered in the counsels of Eternity, that in comparison with this the Benedicite should stand by itself in its masculine simplicity and solemn rhythm, a symbol of the Triune God in His Incommunicable Aloneness, above earthly comprehension and expression, so vast and so varied, so high and so deep in its unmixed praises. At any rate, whether so ordered or not, it docs so stand, not from any fault of its own, but because human nature cannot readily be raised into accord with its sublime strain of adoration.
In preparation for its profitable use during this holy season your attention is now drawn to it. Its exposition shall be made with as much simplicity and as much force (where force is weakness) as are in his power, who, by your rector's appointment, now speaks to you. He would not, if he could, adorn what is altogether beautiful He only asks that God may enable him to be your guide in discovering and searching into its hidden treasures.
The Benedicite is composed of thirty-two verses, each ending with the refrain, "Bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever." It divides itself into four parts of varying, but ordered, lengths. The first part comprises five; the second, twelve; the third, nine, and the fourth, six verses. These parts subdivide, the first into a single verse and a series of four verses; the second, into a series of four triplets of verses; the third, into a series of three triplets, and the fourth into two triplets. This structure is thoroughly artistic; the result of design and core wholly inconsistent with the circumstances of its composition, except upon the acknowledgment of their miraculous character. In these outlines and their numerals we catch intimations of a meaning that will come into fuller development as we go on.
Part first opens with a single verse and is followed by a series of four verses. The single verse is a kind of general invitatory, concluding in the aggregate all contained in the following thirty-one verses. In it all created things are invoked or invited to praise the Lord. Its exact words are, “O, all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever." In the series of "four verses which follows in this part are invoked; first, "All Angels"; second, the "Heavens"; third, "the waters that be above, the firmament," and fourth, "all the Powers of the Lord." These four orders of existences, it is conceived, are those Supernal and Invisible Dignities of which the Psalm says, "The Heavens declare"—i.e., speak—proclaim—utter—make known as living things with living voices—"the glory of God." There is a discrepancy in the order of verses on the Bible and Prayer Book, of which the fact only need be remarked. We will follow the latter version.
We find, upon looking into the Holy Scriptures, that four is a constantly recurring Celestial number, and that with it is associated the idea of foundation. When heaven was opened to the Prophet Ezekiel, he saw "Four living Creatures," and "the likeness of the firmament was above their heads," and upon "the likeness of a throne was the likeness as of the appearance of a man, and this was the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of God." Zechariah was shown, in a vision, "Four Chariots," with horses of divers colors; and when he asked, "What are these?” he was told, "These are the Four Spirits of the Heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth." St John the Divine "looked, and behold a door was opened in Heaven," and "the throne was set, and One sat thereon," and "round about the throne were Four Beasts, and in the midst of the throne and of the Four Beasts stood a Lamb as it had been slain," and that Lamb was He "who hath redeemed us to God by His Blood," of whom St. Paul says, "By Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities, or Powers."
The verses in this part needing particular consideration are those in which are invoked "the Heavens," and the "Waters above the firmament" It has already been suggested that they are Supernal Dignities—"Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities"—which declare, publish, or make known the glory of God in living words, with living voices. The Te Deum bears witness to this, where it asserts, "To Thee all Angels cry aloud, the Heavens" cry aloud, "and all the Powers therein." And then is added, making the number of Celestial Orders four, "To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry."
The titles "Heavens" and "the Waters above the firmament" are obscure. Without doubt, the visions of the prophets and of St John are described exactly; they reveal what was actually seen; still, they furnish hints rather than direct information. We know that in the immediate sphere of God's dwelling there can be no gross matter, so that the very substance of the highest heavens, the frame-work of the throne, and of the altar whereat the eternal Lamb stands and serves, must he composed of Living Spirits of Glory. There can be no death or inanimation where He dwells, who is Life. He is the Centre of that living Temple not made with hands," and for this reason it may be He is elsewhere spoken of as "sitting upon the Cherubim," or "riding upon the wings of angels," or "making the Waters His pavilion round about Him."
We learn from the Mosaic account of the creation that the Spirit of God was first revealed "moving" (literally, brooding) "upon the face of the waters." This record makes known the fact, that in the beginning water was invested with some spiritual power, or consecrated to some spiritual use, fitting it to become, in after ages, "the laver of regeneration" and the bath of life. As the waters above the firmament were divided from the waters under the firmament, so are the waters of Baptism separated from all other waters, being blessed and sanctified "to the mystical washing away of sin." St. John saw, before the throne of God, "A sea of glass, clear as crystal," and he heard the Angel of the Waters say, "Thou art righteous Which art, and wast, and shalt be—the Holy One."
Summing up all that has been said, it seems evident that, as the world has four elements, and the earth "four kinds of flesh," and the Church four Gospels, so Heaven has, under God, four primary Orders of Spiritual Existences, which orders are invoked in the opening portion of our hymn.
PART second is composed of twelve verses, or a series of four triplets of verses, and each of these triplets is complete in itself. the first invokes—first, "sun and moon"; second, "stars of heaven"; third, "showers and dew": the second—first, "winds," or "airs of God"; second, "fire and heat"; third, "winter and summer": the third—first, "dews and frosts"; second, "frost and cold"; third, "ice and snow": the fourth—first, "nights and days"; second, "light and darkness"; third, "lightnings and clouds."
This part brings us to the lower or terrestrial heavens, of which the Psalm says, "The firmament showeth," i.e., manifesteth—representeth to sight—God's "handiwork." There are twelve verses in this part, and the signs of heaven are twelve. God says to Job, "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth," i.e., the twelve signs, "in his season?” The sun, and moon, and stars, we are told, are "set for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and months, and years"; from their influences the showers and dew are distilled. "Out of the north cometh the cold, and by the breath of God frost is given," and the result is, that "the breadth of waters is straightened into ice." "Nights and days," "light and darkness," "lightnings and clouds," complete the catalogue of celestial phenomena, and leave us to marvel at the wisdom "which reveals the way where light dwelleth, and the place of darkness, which has entered into the treasures of the snow, and revealed the treasures of the hail; which can send the lightnings that they may go, and make the darkness as clear as the light; which can bind the sweet influences of Pleiades and loose the bands of Orion, and guide Arcturus with his sons; which knoweth the ordinances of heaven, and setteth the dominion thereof in the earth."
Part third has nine verses, a series of three triplets. It opens with the words, "O let the earth bless the Lord," and this is followed by "mountains and hills," and "all green things," i.e., all vegetable existence. By the earth, is evidently meant the dry land, as it is said in the account of the creation, "God called the dry land earth." This part brings us to things beneath the firmament, to the ground, from the dust of which we were made, and on which we are nourished—the world of material existence, which is to be judged and pass away. The second triplet opens with water at its sources: "O ye wells," or springs; second, "seas and floods," or seas and rivers; third, the life proceeding from these "whales, and all that move in the waters." The third triplet ascends to higher forms of being, and invokes in the order of their creation, first "fowls of the air"; "beasts and cattle"; third, "children of men."
Part fourth takes us back towards Him with nearness to whom this divine song begins. It has six verses, which divide into two triplets. The first opens with the words, "O let Israel bless the Lord," and this is followed by the invocation of all "priests of the Lord," and all "servants of the Lord." A slight acquaintance with Holy Scripture reveals the fact, that "Israel," which, being interpreted, is "one who has power," or "who prevails with God," is an inspired expression for the Church or Kingdom of Heaven upon, or in the earth. The terms "priests" and "servants of the Lord," under this head, include all members of the Church, in its militant or preparatory state, and are synonymous with our every-day words, clergy and laity. the second triplet, which is the end and completion of the whole matter, carries us cither under the earth, or away from it altogether, according as the place may be, and invokes those who have entered into their rest within the veil which shrouds the future of the Just, where Abraham waits the gathering in of his spiritual children. It runs as follows: first, "spirits and souls of the righteous"; second, "holy and humble men of heart," and third, "Ananias, Azarias, and Misael," and these compose that great company of the Church, at once Quiescent and Expectant, for members of which we are taught to pray; "that with them we may have our perfect consummation both in body and soul, in God's Eternal and Everlasting Glory"; and this Everlasting Glory is that "excellent Glory" of the Church Triumphant, which at the lost day, when the prayer, "Thy Kingdom come," shall be answered, will be revealed the dwelling-place and the Temple of the Father and His Christ.
It is taken for granted that this lost triplet is the only one about which there can be much questioning on the part of any persons, or which furnishes anything like a provocation to the feeling that a theory of construction involving such doctrinal issues must, of need, and without examination, be set aside or blinked out of sight. In approaching its consideration, then, we must lay aside all partiality or prejudice in favor of or against anything that looks like a determination of doctrine. The fact that the hymn is ranked in the Apocryphal Scriptures, renders it of no force or account in the establishment of any Article of the Faith. It can only be valuable to us in a rule of life and Christian practice. Besides, the Invocation of Saints—for, to speak plainly, the fear of something like this is doubtless potent enough to scare the fanatical and the bigoted from a fair estimation of our interpretation of these words—as it is practised in this hymn, rests for its authority on the sure foundation laid by our Blessed Lord in the Canonical Scriptures. Of course there is no allusion here made to that particular phase of Invocation condemned in our XXXIX. Articles of Religion, but reference is had to the scriptural doctrine, which the original compilers of the Article and the revisers of the Prayer Book prove they received, by limiting their condemnation to what was to them a well-defined form of erroneous teaching upon this subject Invocation, as practised in the Benedicite, is taught and inculcated in the Psalms whenever angels or saints are called upon to praise the Lord. One or two instances will be sufficient to prove this; your own knowledge of the Psalter will furnish others. In the Psalm Benedic, anima mea, occurring in our Order for Daily Evening Prayer, it is said, "O praise the Lord ye angels of His"; and in another Psalm, "Let the saints be joyful with glory, let them rejoice in their beds; let the praises of God be in their mouth." Any doctrine of Invocation, then, that can be drawn from the Benedicite, were we disposed to set up that Canticle as an authority, can with equal certainty, and with a security which no Christian has any right to refuse, be deduced from the Psalter; so that nothing is lost, but a duty is fulfilled, by dismissing at once, and without reservation, any prejudice or favor which may preoccupy and prepossess our minds to the damage of the instruction contained in the verses under consideration.
The first verse invokes the "spirits and souls of the righteous," i.e., the Righteous Departed. When it can be shown that this expression is anywhere used in Holy Scripture, as applicable only to those living here on earth, then we may well entertain the question whether it is so used in this place. Until this is done, it is lost labor to occupy ourselves in seeking to prove what has never been denied. The second verso invokes "holy and humble men of heart," or, as the margin of our Bible has it, and the margin, it will be recollected, is of equal authority with the text, "O ye saints and humble men of heart." Here we must go to the original Greek, not for the correction of our translation, but for the aid it may afford us in understanding that translation. The authorities, so far as we may consult them, are very much in favor of the marginal reading. Notice has already been token of the fact of a discrepancy in the order of verses in the Bible and the Prayer Book; it may here be said that there are other divergences—if not differences. This is readily accounted for, when one considers that the Bible translation is made directly from the Greek of the Septuagint, while that of the Prayer Book comes to us from the Greek version, juxta Theodotionem, through the Latin of the Vulgate. An Arabic version of the hymn, consulted through the Latin, reads, "O ye Innocents, and ye humble men of heart." A Syriac version, also consulted through the same medium, agrees more nearly with the reading of our Prayer Book. It may be remarked, that in the Greek version, juxta Theodotionem, used by St. Jerome, the hymn occupies its traditional place in the third chapter of the Book of the Prophet Daniel, and is a portion of Canonical Scripture.
Confusion will arise in any attempt to study this subject in the version of King James alone, from the fact that his translators have used the one word "holy" to express in English what, in both Hebrew and Greek, is expressed by two distinct and different words. In those languages these words are so far from being synonymous that they can hardly be said to be akin. They differ as the technical theological word "Saint" which, strictly speaking, is never applied to one living in the flesh, differs from that same word used to express the incomplete and incipient holiness of men and things on earth; or as the word "just," in its ordinary acceptation, differs from the expression "Just made perfect." One of these words occurs frequently in the Scriptures, the other but a few times, and among those few times one is in the passage under consideration. In other places it is applied to Christ, as when He is called "the Holy One." Indeed, it is used directly and definitely of no man but of the Son of St. Mary. It conveys the idea of being holy in the sight of God, in contradistinction to legal or ritual holiness. Thus, the ground near the burning Bush, in which God manifested Himself to Hoses—the vestments of the priests—the vessels of Divine Service, are all said to be "holy." The Prophet Elijah and St John Baptist are called "holy" men, but in all these instances the former of these words is used. So that if we would make Scripture its own interpreter, we cannot, without violence, limit, even if we can at all explain the expression, "O ye holy ones, and ye humble men of heart," as having reference to those now living and acting out their probation in the body. From the study that has been given to this subject, and all that has been said is entirely the result of personal investigation, for in this field, no help could be discovered short of the original authorities, the decision has been reached that this triplet does not differ from the others in its construction, but that it is complete in, and at unity with itself. Indeed, judging of "things spiritual by things spiritual," one may safely say, that in the words "holy and humble men of heart," exactly interpreted, is invoked the whole body of the Just who have "departed this life in God's faith and fear," under the two classes of Innocents and Penitents, "the hundred and forty and four thousand, who following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," have never stained their baptismal robes nor lost "the grace of their regeneration," and the multitude of Penitents who, in humility of heart, have washed and made white their soiled souls, and in Christ recovered their forfeited justice.
The last verse, "O Ananias, Azarias, and Missel," needs no explanation. Whatever it may have meant on the lips of those who first sung this hymn together, it is, on our lips, a direct invocation of those the world calls dead to join with us in praising God. And hero one may, without at all impugning the piety of the American revisers of the Prayer Book, express regret that the beauty and perfection of this song should have been marred by the omission in its public use of its last verse; and one may hope and pray that Bishop Seabury's words to his clergy of Connecticut, when he met them in convocation after the ratification of the Prayer Book as it now stands, may yet be fulfilled, and that "a wiser and better generation may arise, which shall bring back all that he so reluctantly abandoned."
BEFORE proceeding further in our researches, let us recapitulate and sum up what has been already discovered. The Canticle divides itself into four parts, which, altogether, form one grand whole, comprising all God's works, "the things in heaven, and the things in earth, and the things under the earth." Part first invokes the Dignities of that Hidden Sphere, where the Eternal God reveals His Presence, and sits enthroned the Centre and Source of all being and all bliss. Part second invokes the powers of the firmament or lower heavens. Part third descends still further and calls by name upon the earth and all that therein is. Part fourth invokes the new creation of Christ Jesus, the Church He loved and for which He died, the Congregation of all holy souls built up into that Temple of which He is the Light and Life.
These general heads, as has been seen, are all carried out and invoked in detail. Looking at the whole as our study has led us to look at some of the parts, there may have flitted and flashed across your minds, "as through a glass darkly," vague glimpses and glimmering intimations of deeper spiritual meaning and fuller life than one could retain long enough to make tangible. Such shadows come and go, eluding the grasp and baffling all efforts to hold them, but suggesting ideas which witness of an heavenly counterpart to all earthly things that "are pure and lovely and of good report," and making one feel that in some mysterious way the whole Canticle is instinct with life, and that living and breathing Principalities and Powers are called upon, even when we use words which, in our gross dictionaries and imperfect tongues, seem to tell only of material things. But it is not so much with these faint and far-off perceptions that we have to do, as with things fixed, and recognized. There is enough of reality "in the large room wherein our feet are set" to enamor us, without our entering the more straitened precinct of human speculation.
Having run thus hurriedly through the substance of the Canticle, we may now proceed to the examination of its numerals. And, first, let it be said that numbers in Holy Scripture have a meaning of their own, and form a language only partly known to us. A single illustration will prove this. Let anyone consider the scriptural use of the number "eight," the circumstances, and, as men would say, the accidents of its occurrence, and it cannot be doubted that it is the number of our Lord and of His Resurrection.
In the Canticle, as a whole, there are fifty persons, classes of persons, objects, and beings invoked, and fifty is the number of release and of jubilee, the numeral of Beatitude, because of rest from labor. There are thirty-two verses, the eight of salvation, four times repeated, telling of heavenly and earthly perfectness and bliss. There are four parts, and the "City of God is builded four square." The first part has the one of unity and the four again of fundamental completeness. The second part has twelve verses, comprehending the things of the firmament, and twelve ore the signs of the lower or terrestrial heavens. And these heavens are a shadow of the Church, wherein they who are dead to the world "fly as on the wings of eagles," and are "wet with the dews" and quickened by the airs of grace. And that Church has "twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb." Part third has nine verses, comprising all the things of earth, and nine tells of judgment; and the only thing we know positively of the earth in the future is, that it will be judged. Part fourth has six verses, and invokes the whole Church Militant and Expectant, and six is the number of temporary completion. "In six days, God finished the work" of making the old world. In six weeks—from the Friday of His Sacrifice upon the Cross without the city to the Thursday of His Ascension into the heavens as the Great High Priest, by whom all men should have access to the Father—He made complete and perfect all His other works of re-creation, and launched upon the sea of time a better Ark than that of Noah, wherein were to be gathered all who were dispersed abroad, that there might be one place of safety and of pence, and where He should reign the King of angels and of men.
All these parts, except the first, which tells of heaven, and therefore may not be divided, subdivide into series of three, and Three is the Number of the Eternal God, in whose praise the whole hymn was composed.
If news should come to us that there had been discovered, in some hitherto unexplored part of our land, a stately temple, reared on four foundations, into the superstructure of which three varieties of material were wrought in all conceivable ways: if its first story were laid in courses of four times three, its second in courses of three times three, and its third in courses of twice three, and if through all of these, with strange diversities and ramifications, there ran other threes, we should at once take for granted that in this number might be found a key to the object and purpose of the edifice. We should never for a moment imagine that such an arrangement could be the work of chance.
We may apply the same reasoning to the Benedicite. It is an hymn in praise of God, moulded and fashioned artistically and symmetrically. The number of three runs through and in praise of the Triune God, which "saved them from the grave," and delivered them wonderfully "from the hand of death." The Holy Trinity is the Object which inspired it, and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is at one and the same time the solution of its difficulties and the revelation of its beauties. It is faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost—taking form and manifesting itself—straitened into words—crystallized into music Its triple refrain, "bless, praise, and magnify," its verses running into triplets, and these triplets being in number three times three; its authors, the Three Holy Children; its three parts built upon another part as on a foundation, partly hidden within the veil—the Four Dignities of Heaven: its object the exaltation of the Triune God—all tell of design and art only less miraculous and less wonderful than would be this arrangement, if we were to consider it the work of chance, and the result of a blind dance of disjointed and discordant ideas.
But this is not all; as numerals in Holy Scripture have significance, so have names, and they ought not to be overlooked. According to the table of signification of proper names, appended to many editions of the English version of the Bible, "Ananias" means "the cloud of the Lord"; "Azarias," "one who hears the Lord, and "Misael," "one asked for or lent of the Lord." Here we have not only the Three of the Trinity, but a shadowing out of the different offices of the Three Persons in that Divine Unity. In "the cloud of the Lord" we see "the hiding of the Power of the Father"; and who ever so heard the Lord as Ho "whose meat and drink it was to do His will," God the Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; and who is 'lent of God," and for whom do we pray, but for God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter? Another, and I am authorized in saying, a better derivation of the words, interprets Misael to mean, "He that is the one, real, strong or self-existent God," the very title of the Supreme Father; Azarias, "the help of God," the very title of the Son, who is a "present help in time of trouble," and Ananias, "the Grace or Mercy of God," the most familiar title of the Holy Ghost So that either way the result is the some, and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost stand revealed.
Again, some of the triplets very plainly manifest the same idea; take, in addition to those already noticed, that one beginning, "O ye winds of God." It has been said that in the original this reads, "O ye winds," or "airs of God." In the air is begotten "fire and heat," and from these proceed "winter and summer." Or, take another, "O ye wells," or springs, "and seas and floods," or "seas and rivers," begotten of springs, as the Lord Christ of the Father, by an Eternal Generation, and the life proceeding from them, as the Holy Ghost from both the Father and the Son. Others might be instanced, but these are enough. If the first and last pages of a book be written in a strange or a familiar language, we should infer that the intermediate ones would be so likewise. So with the Canticle; if the triplets, of whose subjects we know something, shadow out in their construction a mystery, we may well take for granted, until the contrary is established, that the same mystery might be traced in the other triplets, if we only knew enough of their subjects to do it.
A FEW words on the circumstances under which the Song was composed, and we will bring our discourse to its close. It was sung by the Three Holy Children after they had been sentenced and committed to death in "the fiery furnace." The flames "had consumed those" who approached to consign them to destruction, and those "who stood near without," while upon their bodies the fire forgot its power, and "there was not an hair of their heads singed." They were dead to the world, and had entered into "the rest that remaineth for the people of God," of which Lent is the earthly earnest and foretaste. The fire of God had tried their works, and purified their souls of all defilements contracted in this miserable and naughty world, and while they walked unbound within their prison bars, they doubtless experienced all the unveiling and the peace which are the portion of the "just made perfect." To them, lively images as they were of those departed in the faith and fear of God, were fulfilled the words, "Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." They saw the Angel of God's Presence face to face, and in and through Him, we may well believe, were manifested the orders and operations of earth and heaven, of nature and of Grace. There may have been revealed the Powers of God, "the four Living Creatures" which stand nearest to the throne, "the Angel of the Sun," and "the Angel of the Waters," of whom St John speaks, and the Principalities and Powers of the air, and the "Angels which God maketh winds," and the "Ministers which He maketh flames of fire"; and they cried aloud to them in the excess of their burning love and joy, to join the praises in which, by right of consecration through suffering, they took the leading part Babylon and its captivity faded from view and was forgotten; earth receded from their sight; they were "free among the dead," with "the liberty of the Sons of Glory"; Seraphic love consumed their hearts, Cherubic wisdom distilled from their lips, and with one voice they outspake this grandest of all Trisagions, and made real the words of the Psalmist, by letting "everything that hath breath praise the Lord."
And how shall we ever attain unto the understanding of their words, unless we imitate their deeds, ruling ourselves by their law of abstinence, purifying ourselves from all earthly longings, and bonds, and beguilements, and making ourselves whole burnt sacrifices unto our God? And when can their promises be made ours with so much fitness as in this solemn season of the Angelic feast (for "fasting, it is angels' food"), when in penitence we retire for forty days "into the wilderness," that we may be allured to dwell with God, and to hear His still Voice speaking comfortably to our souls?
Beloved, the consideration of the Song of the Three Holy Children in praise of Him who is Thrice Holy, is ended. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost There is wonderful beauty in its structure and infinite meaning in its substance. If our study of it has revealed anything of its high character which you knew not before, join in it during these solemn days with thanks to God for it. It is studded without and within with the priceless jewels of the Heavenly City. In it "Wisdom that sitteth by the throne, and that mightily and sweetly ordereth all things," has builded an house on four foundations for the manifestation of all Divine Loveliness. Learn we then, if we have not already done so, according to the teaching of St. Athanasius, "to say it in our closets," and upon our knees; strive we to make it a part of our interior life, lift we up our hearts into accord with its sublime spirit of adoration, and then the work begun on earth in fear and diffidence, in weakness and in much trembling, will be continued, till our whole being is hid with Him who is the Author of all being, and ravished with His nearness, who is the Source of all bliss—the Thrice Glorious God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who inhabiteth Eternity, and who alone is worthy to be blessed, and to be praised, and to be magnified, because, of Him only can it be added, "his mercy endureth forever." Amen.
PRAISED BE GOD DAILY.