Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ember Saturday

[Station at St. Peter’s.]

In the Seventh Century, due to the postponement of the Ember fast, the station was at St. Stephen on the Cælian Hill; in the Eleventh Century, a return was made to the primitive place, St. Peter.

Of the five scriptural Lessons which precede the Gloria of the Mass, some refer to the feast of Pentecost and some to the “fast of the fourth month,” St. Leo the Great calls it; they represent a kind of compromise or fusion of the two rites. Formerly the vigil lasted throughout the night, and twelve lessons were read, both in Greek and in Latin; but in the time of St. Gregory the Great the vigil was shortened and brought within more reasonable limits, as we now find it in our present Missal.

Ordinations are held on this day, the various Orders being given as on the Ember Saturday in September. Officially, the Paschal Season closes with the Mass.

The Sacrifice of the Mass fittingly brings the holy season of Easter to an end. Our redemption is now accomplished, and the Holy Ghost has come as though to insure its lasting efficacy by means of the sacramental character which He impresses on our souls. This is the special prerogative of the divine Paraclete; His work is always definite, complete, and final, like a conclusion which follows inevitably and irrevocably on its premises. This is the reason why sins against the Holy Ghost can never find pardon; for they are the outcome of the final hardening of the soul in utter hatred of Supreme Love.

The Gift of Wisdom

The second favor destined by the Holy Ghost for the soul that is faithful to him in action is the gift of Wisdom, which is superior to that of Understanding. The two are, however, connected, inasmuch as the object shown by the gift of Understanding is held and relished by the gift of Wisdom. When the Psalmist invites us to draw nigh to God, he bids us relish our sovereign good: Taste, says he, and see that the Lord is sweet! Holy Church prays for us, on the Day of Pentecost, that we may “relish what is right and just,”—recta sapere,—because the union of the soul with God is rather an experience or tasting, than a sight, for such sight would be incompatible with our present state. The light given by the gift of Understanding is not intuitive; it gladdens the soul and gives her an instinctive tendency to the truth, but its own final perfection depends upon its union with Wisdom, which is, as it were, its end.

Understanding, therefore, is light; Wisdom is union. Now, union with the sovereign good is attained by the will, that is, by love, which is in the will. Thus, in the angelic hierarchy, the Cherubim, with their sublime intellect, are below the Seraphim, who are inflamed with love. It is quite true that the Cherubim have ardent love, and the Seraphim profound intelligence, but they differ from each other by their predominating quality, and that choir is the higher of the two which approaches the nearer to the Divinity by its love and relish of the sovereign good.

The seventh gift is called by the beautiful name of Wisdom, which is taken from its uniting the soul, by love, to the Eternal Wisdom. This Eternal Wisdom, who mercifully puts himself within our reach even in this vale of tears, is the Divine Word, whom the Apostle calls the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the figure of his substance. It is he who sent us the Holy Ghost, so that the most sublime of the workings of this Holy Spirit is his procuring our union with Him who, being God, became Flesh, and for our sakes, made himself obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross. By the mysteries wrought in his Humanity, Jesus enabled us to enter within the veil of his Divinity; by faith, enlightened by supernatural Understanding, we see the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father; and just as he made himself a partaker of our lowly human nature, so does he give himself the uncreated Wisdom, to be loved and relished by that created Wisdom, which the Holy Ghost forms within us, and is the noblest of his Gifts.

This precious Wisdom makes the soul relish God and the things that are of God. The sensual man, says the Apostle, perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God; and in order that he may enjoy this Gift, he must become spiritual, and docile to the teachings of the Holy Spirit; and then what happened to thousands of others would happen to him—namely, that after being a slave to a carnal life, he would recover his Christian freedom and dignity. The man who is less depraved than the former, but still imbued with the spirit of this world, is also incapable of receiving or even comprehending the gifts of Understanding and Wisdom. He is always ridiculing those whom he cannot help knowing possess these gifts; he never leaves them in peace, but is always carping about their conduct, setting himself in opposition to them, and at times, even seeks to satiate his jealousy by bitter persecution. Jesus assures us that the World cannot receive the Spirit of Truth, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. They, therefore, who would possess the supreme good, must first divorce themselves from the spirit of the world, which is the personal enemy of the Spirit of God. If they break asunder the chain that now fetters them, they may hope to be gifted with Wisdom.

The special result of this Gift is great vigor in the soul and energy in all her powers. Everything is easy to the soul that is under the influence of the Spirit of Wisdom. Things that are hard to nature are sweet to such a soul, and suffering does not appall her as it once did. To say that God is near to her is an understatement: she is united with him. And yet she must keep herself in an attitude of profound humility, for pride may reach her even in that exalted state.

Let us, with all the earnestness of our hearts, beseech the Holy Ghost to give us this Wisdom, which will lead us to our Jesus, the Infinite Wisdom. One who was wise under the Old Law aspired to this Gift, when he wrote these words, of which we Christians alone can appreciate the full meaning: I wished, and Understanding was given to me; and I called upon God and the Spirit of Wisdom came upon me. In the New Covenant, we have the Apostle St. James thus urging us to pray for it: If any of you want Wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.

The series of the Mysteries is now completed, and the Moveable Cycle of the Liturgy has come to its close. We first passed, during Advent, the four weeks, which represented the four thousand years spent by mankind in entreaties to the Eternal Father that he would send his Son. Our Emmanuel at length came down; we shared in the joys of his Birth, in the dolors of his Passion, in the glory of his Resurrection, in the triumph of his Ascension. And finally we have witnessed the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us, and we know that is to abide with us to the end. Holy Church has assisted us throughout the whole of this sublime drama, which contains the work of our salvation. Her heavenly canticles, her magnificent ceremonies, have instructed us day by day, enabling us to follow and understand each Feast and Season. Blessed be this Mother for the care with which she has placed all these great Mysteries before us, thus giving us light and love! Blessed be the sacred Liturgy, which has brought us so much consolation and encouragement! We now have to pass through the Immovable portion of the Cycle: we will find sublime spiritual episodes worthy of all our attention. So let us prepare to resume our journey; let us take fresh courage in the thought that the Holy Ghost will direct our steps and, by the sacred Liturgy, of which he is the inspirer, will continue to throw open to us treasures of precept and example.


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