God chastises the world by the deluge; but He is faithful to the promise made to our first parents, that the head of the serpent should be crushed. The human race has to be preserved, therefore, until the time shall come for the fulfillment of this promise. The Ark gives shelter to the just Noah and to his family. The angry waters reach even to the tops of the highest mountains; but the frail yet safe vessel rides peacefully on the waves. When the day fixed by God shall come, they that dwell in this Ark shall once more tread the earth, purified as it then will be; and God will say to them, as heretofore to our first parents: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.”
Mankind, then, owes its safety to the Ark. O saving Ark, that wast planned by God Himself, and didst sail unhurt amidst the universal wreck! But if we can thus bless this contemptible wood, how fervently should we love that other Ark, of which Noah’s was but the figure, and which, for now two thousand years, has been saving and bringing men to their God! How fervently should we bless that Church, the bride of our Jesus, out of which there is no salvation, and in which we find that truth which delivers us from error and doubt, that grace which purifies and heart, and that food which nourishes the soul and fits her for immortality!
O sacred Ark! thou art inhabited, not by one family alone, but by people of every nation under the sun. Ever since that glorious day when our Lord launched thee in the sea of this world, thou hast been tossed by tempests, yet never wrecked. Thou wilt reach the eternal shore, witnessing, by thy unworn vigor and beauty, to the divine guidance of the Pilot who loves thee, both for thine own sake, and for the work thou art doing for His glory. It is by thee that He peoples the world with His elect, and it is for them that He created the world. When He is angry, He remembers mercy because of thee, for it is through thee that He has made His covenant with mankind.
O venerable Ark! be thou our refuge in the deluge. When Rome’s great empire, that was drunk with the blood of the martyrs, sank beneath the invasion of the barbarians, the Christians were safe, because sheltered by thee; the waters slowly subsided, and the race of men that had fled to thee for protection, thou conquered according to the flesh, was victorious by the spirit. Kings, who till then had been haughty despots and barbarians, kissed reverently the hand of the slave who was not their pastor and baptized them. New peoples sprang up and, with the Gospel as their law, began their glorious career in those very countries which the Cæsars had degraded and forfeited.
When the Saracen invasion came sweeping into ruin the eastern world and menacing the whole of Europe, which would have been lost had not the energy of thy sons repelled the infidel horde, was it not within thee, O Ark of salvation! that the few Christians took refuge who had resisted schism and heresy and who, while the rest of their brethren apostatized from the faith, still kept alive the holy flame? Under thy protection they are even now perpetuating, in their unfortunate countries, the traditions of faith, until the divine mercy shall bring happier times, and they be permitted to multiply, as did of old the sons of Sem, in that land once so glorious and holy.
Oh! happy we, dear Church of God! that are sheltered within thee, and protected by thee against that wild sea of anarchy, which the sins of men have let loose on our earth! We beseech our Lord to check the tempest with that word of His omnipotence: “Thus far shalt thou come, and no further, and here shalt thou break thy swelling waves.” But if His divine justice has decreed that it prevail for a time, we know that it cannot reach such as dwell in thee. Of this happy number are we. In thy peaceful bosom, dear mother, we find those true riches, the riches of the soul, of which no violence can deprive us. The life thou givest us is the only real life. Our true fatherland is the kingdom formed by thee. Keep us, O thou Ark of our God! Keep us, and all that are dear to us, and shelter us beneath thy roof, until the deluge of iniquity be passed away. When the earth, purified by its chastisements, shall once more receive the seed of the divine word which produces the children of God, those among us whom thou shalt not have led to our eternal home will then venture forth and preach to the world the principles of authority and law, of family and social rights: those sacred principles which came from heaven, and which thou, O holy Church, art commissioned to maintain and teach, even to the end of time.
We borrow from the Mozarabic missal the following eloquent appeal to divine mercy.
(In Dominica V. post Ephiphaniam.)
Exaudi nos Domine Deus noster, et humanæ iniquitatis oblitus, divinæ solius misericordiæ recordare. Exaudi, quæsumus, dum peccare non pateris, dum emendare nos præcipis, dum rogare permittis: dum patientia reditum quærendæ correctionis exspectat: dum justitia metum futuræ discussinis insinuat: dum misericordia locum evadendæ mortis ostendat. Inveniant ante oculos tuos sacrificia nostra gratiam: peccata veniam: vulnera medicinam: suspira pietatem: flagella consolationem: lamenta temperiem: tempora quietem: officia dignitatem: vota mercedem. Mereatur petitio effectum, contritio solatium, consecration Sacramentum. Oblatio sanctificatione pinguescat, trepidatio securitate discedat, benedictio salubritate proficiat; ut in omnibus multiplici pietatis tuæ gratia redundante, erigas plebem, dum lætificas sacerdotem. Amen.
Graciously hear, O Lord our God, and forgetting man’s iniquity, remember only thine own mercy. Graciously hear us, we beseech thee, O thou that forbiddest us to sin, that commandest us to repent, that permittest us to pray! Thy patience awaits our return to the needed repentance; thy justice inspires us with a fear of the future judgment; thy mercy shows us how we may avoid death. May our sacrifices find favor in thine eyes; our sins, pardon; our wounds, cure; our sighs, pity; our chastisements, consolation; our tears, joy; our days, peace; our duties, honor; our prayers, reward. May our petition produce its effect; our contrition, forgiveness; our consecration, the sacred mystery. May our oblation be rich unto sanctification, our fear be cast out by security, and our blessing be fruitful unto salvation; that thus in all things, by the manifold and overflowing grace of thy mercy, thou mayst bless the people, while thou givest joy to the priest. Amen.