The divine Leader of God’s people is their salvation and that in all their distress. Did we not last Sunday see him prove himself as such, an din a very telling way—by curing both body and soul of the poor Paralytic, who was a figure of the whole human race? Let us hear his voice, in the Introit, with love and gratitude; let us promise him the fidelity he asks of us; his Law, if we will but observe it, will preserve us from a relapse.
The Anthem which follows is made up of several passages of Holy Writ, without being exactly that of any one of them. The Verse is taken from the 77th Psalm.
Free both in mind and body, by the omnipotent word of the Son of Man, the human race can devote itself, with all activity, to the service of God. Let us obtain from his divine Majesty, by uniting our prayer with that of the Church in her Collect, that the fatal paralysis, which was once so cruel a tyrant over our souls and faculties, may never return.
Omnipotens et misericors Deus, universa nobis adversantia propitiatus exclude: ut mente et corpore pariter expediti, quæ tua sunt, liberis mentibus exequamur. Per Dominum.
O almighty and merciful God, kindly keep away from us all things that are adverse to us: that being also free in mind and body, we may, with unimpeded minds, attend to the things that are thine. Through, etc.
The Epistle to the Ephesians, which was interrupted last Sunday, in the manner we then described, is continued today by the Church. The Apostle has already laid down the dogmatical principles of true holiness; he now deduces the moral consequences of those principles.
Let us call to mind how the holiness, which is in God, is his very Truth—Truth, living and harmonious which is no other than the admirable concert of the Three divine Persons, united in love. We have seen that holiness, as far as it exists i nus men, is also Union, by divine love, with the eternal and living Truth. The Word took a Body unto himself in order to manifest in the Flesh this sanctifying and perfect Truth, of which he is the substantial expression; his Humanity, sanctified directly by the plenitude of the divine life and truth, which dwell within him, became the model, as well as the means, the way, of all holiness to every creature. It was not sin alone, but it was, moreover, the the finite nature of man, that kept him at a distance from the divine life; but he finds, in Christ Jesus, just as they are in God, the two elements of that life: truth and love. In Jesus, as the complement of his Incarnation, Wisdom aspires at uniting with herself all the members, also, of that human race, of which He is the Head, and the First-Born; by Him, the Holy Ghost, whose sacred fount He is, pours himself out upon man, whereby to adapt him to his sublime vocation, and consummate, in infinite love (which is himself), that union of every creature with the divine Word. Thus it is that we verily partake of that life of God, whose existence and holiness are the knowledge and love of his own Word; thus it is that we are sanctified in Truth, by the participation of that very holiness, wherewith God is holy by nature.
But although the Son of Man, being God, participates for us his brethren, in the life of union in the Truth, which constitutes the holiness of the blessed Trinity, he communicates that Life, that Truth, that deifying Union, to none save but to those who are truly become his members, and who, in Him, reproduce between one another, by the operation of the Spirit of Truth and love, that unity, of which that sanctifying Spirit is the almighty bond in the Godhead. May they all be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee, said this Jesus of ours, to his Eternal Father: that they, also, may be one in us. I have given unto them the glory, that is to say, the holiness which thou hast given unto me, that they may be one as we, also, are one; I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be consummated (that is, be made perfect) in unity. Here we have, and forumulized by our Lord himself, the simple but fruitful axiom—the foundation—of christian dogma and morals. By that sublime prayer, he explained what he had previously been saying: I sanctify myself for them—that they, also, may be sanctified in Truth.
Let us now understand the moral doctrine given us by St. Paul in today’s Epistle, and what it is he means by that justice, and that holiness of truth, which is that of Christ, of the new man whom everyone must put on, who aspires to the possession of the riches spoken of in the passages already read to us from this magnificent Epistle. Let us re-read the Epistle for the 17th Sunday, and we shall find that all the rules of christian asceticism, as well as of the mystic life are, to St. Paul’s mind, summed up in those words: Be careful to keep unity! It is the principle he lays down for all, both beginners and the perfect. It is the crowning of the sublimest vocations in the order of grace, as well as the foundation and reason of all God’s commandments; so truly so, indeed, that if we be commanded to abstain from lying, and speak the truth to them that live with us, the motive for it all is because we are members one of another.
There is a holy anger, of which the Psalmist speaks, and which is the outcome, on certain occasions, of zeal for the divine law and charity; but the movement of irritation, excited in the soul, must even then be speedily calmed down; to foster it would be giving place to the devil; that is, it would be giving him an opportunity for weaking or even destroying within us, by bitterness and hatred, the structure of holy unity.
Before our conversion, our neighbor, as well as God, was grieved by our sins; we cared little or nothing for injustice, provided it was not noticed; egotism was our law, and it was proof enough of the reign of Satan over our souls. Now that the spirit of holiness has expelled the unworthy usurper, the strongest evidence of His being our rightful master is that not only the rights of others are sacred in our estimation, but that our toil and our labors are all full of the idea of how to make them serviceable to our neighbor. In a word, as the Apostle continues a little further on, we walk in love because, as most dear children, we are followers of God.
It is by this means alone, says St. Basil, that the Church manifests to this earth of ours the many and great benefits bestowed on the world by the Incarnation. The Christian family, which heretofore was split up into a thousand separate fragments, is now made one, one in itself and one in God; it is the repetition of what our Lord did, by assuming Flesh and making it one with himself.
Our Jesus has restored to our hands (which once were paralyzed for every supernatural work) the full freedom of their movements; then, let us raise them up spiritually in prayer, giving glory to God by this our homage, which he graciously accepts as a fragrant sacrifice. The Church, in the Gradual, gives us this teaching, and by her own example as well.
The Gospel has given to the present Sunday the name of the Sunday of the invited to the marriage. And yet, from the very opening of the dominical series, which began with the Descent of the Holy Ghost, the Church gave us the Gospel teaching, which she offers to us now, a second time, for our consideration. On the second Sunday after Pentecost, she related to us, from St. Luke, the parable of the great supper, to which many were invited, and which now St. Matthew, entering into fuller details, calls a marriage feast.
Set thus before us, both at the beginning and at the close of the liturgical season, over which the Holy Spirit reigns supreme—this parable is, as it were, the interpreter of the whole portion of the Year, which it thus hems in: it is an additional revelation of the true aim of the Church. But how much has the light not increased, since the first time we had these mystery-telling allegories! The certain man (homo guidam), who made a great supper, and invited many, is become the King, who makes a marriage for his Son, and in this marriage, gives us an image of the Kingdom of heaven. The world’s history, too, has been developing, as we gather from the terms respectively used by the two Evangelists. Those who were the first invited and contented themselves with declining the kindness of the Master of the House, have grown in their impious ingratitude; laying hands on the messengers sent them by the loving kindness of the King (see commentary for the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi), they treat them with contumely, and put them to death! We have seen the merited punishment inflicted on these deicides, by this Man, who was God himself, the father of Israel, now become King of the Gentiles: we have seen how he sent his armies to destroy them, and burn their City. And now at last, in spite of the refusal of the Invited of Juda, in spite of the treacherous opposition put by them against the celebration of the Nuptials of the Son of God, all things are ready for the Marriage, and the banquet hall is filled with guests.
Our heavenly King has confided to the ministers of his love the work of calling, and from every people, the new Guests: but now that his ambassadors, according to his command, have traversed the whole earth, bringing together all nations for this day of the joy of his heart—he himself is coming in person, to see that nothing is wanting to the due preparation for the Feast, and give the signal for the eternal banquet of the divine Nuptials. Now for such a feast, and in such a place, if there be any deficiency, it can only be on the part of the Guests. Let them, then, be careful not to draw down upon themselves, in this general and last examination, the displeasure of the great King, who has called them to an alliance with himself. Though he have condescended to call them, notwithstanding their extreme poverty, from the public streets and highways, he has given them abundant time to lay aside their tatters; and knowing that they could not get ready of themselves, he has placed at their disposal for the marriage feast the richest garments of his grace and virtues. Woe then, to him who on the last day shall be found not having the wedding garment of charity! such a want would admit of no excuse; and the King would justly punish it by excluding the guilty man from the feast, as one that had insulted his Son.
Everything we have had on the preceding Sundays has shown us how solicitous the Church ever is in preparing mankind for that wonderful Marriage whose realization is the one object aimed at by the divine Word, in his coming upon our earth. During her long exile, the Bride of the Son of God has been a living model to her children; and by her instruction, she has been unceasingly preparing them for the understanding of the great mystery of divine Union. Three weeks ago, treating more directly than she had hitherto done, on the great subject of her ambition as Mother and Bride, she reminded them of the great call. Eight days later on, she gave them another lesson, and it was that the Bridegroom of the nuptials, to which they were invited, revealed himself to them in that Man-God who was the object of the two-fold concept of love, which embodies the whole Law. Today, we have the teaching in all its perfection. It is consensed in the Night Office, where we have St. Gregory explaining her whole teaching. The great Doctor and the great Pope thus, in the name of the Church, explains our Gospel:
“The kingdom of heaven is the assembly of the just; for, the Lord says by a Prophet: Heaven is my throne; and Solomon says: The soul of the just man is the throne of wisdom, and Paul calls Christ the Wisdom of God. If, therefore, heaven be the throne of God, we must evidently conclude that, as Wisdom is God, and the soul of the just man is the throne of Wisdom, this soul is a heaven … The kingdom of heaven, then, is the assembly of the just … If this Kingdom is said to be like to a King, who made a marriage for his Son, your charity at once understands who is this King, who is the father of a son, King like himself. It is he of whom the Psalmist says: Give to the King thy judgment, O God, and to the King’s Son, thy justice! God the Father made the marriage of God his Son, when he wished, that he who had been God before all ages should become Man towards the end of ages. But we must not on that account suppose that there are two persons in Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior … It is for that reason that it is, perhaps, clearer and safer to say that the King made a marriage for his Son, in that by the mystery of the Incarnation, he united the Church to him. The womb of the Virgin Mother was the nuptial chamber of that Bridegroom, of whom the Psalmist says: He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he, as a Bridegroom, cometh out of his bride-chamber!”
Notwithstanding her dignity of beloved Bride of the Son of God, the Church is nonetheless subject to tribulations here below. The enemies of the Spouse, having no longer any direct power to injure our Lord, they turn all their rage against her. In these trials, endured as they are by the Church with love, Jesus sees a fresh trait of that resemblance which he wishes her to have to himself; he, therefore, leaves her to suffer in this world, contenting himself with ever upholding and saving her, as the Offertory says, in the midst of the evils which go on thickening around her.
The august Sacrifice which is about to be offered, always obtains its effect, as far as the glory of the divine Majesty is concerned; but its virtue is applied to man in a greater or lesser degree, according to the dispositions of the creature, and the divine mercy. Let us, in the Secret, beseech our heavenly Father, that he vouchsafe to give us to experience abundantly the effects of the divine Mysteries, which are so soon to be produced on our Altar.
Hæc munera, quæsumus Domine, quæ oculis tuæ majestatis offerimus, salutaria nobis esse concede. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the offerings we bring before thy divine Majesty, may avail unto our salvation. Through, etc.
The Man-God, by his divine contact in the sacred banquet, has spiritually given vigor to our members; let us recall to mind in the Communion-Antiphon that we must henceforward consecrate them to his service and that our feet, now made sure, must run in the way of the divine commandments.
The Postcommunion, again, seems to be an allusion to the Gospel of the Paralytic, which used formerly to be read on this Sunday. In it, we implore the assistance of the heavenly Physician, who sets man free from the palsy which held him a prisoner; he also gives him the strength needed for fulfilling the law of God bravely and perseveringly.
Tua nos, Domine, medicinalis operatio et a nostris perversitatibus clementer expediat, et tuis semper faciat inhærere mandatis. Per Dominum.
May the healing efficacy of these thy mysteries, O Lord, mercifully free us from our perverseness, and make us always obedient to thy commandments. Through, etc.