Friday, September 27, 2013

September 30

Born on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia at an uncertain date, perhaps in the year 331; died about 420.

THE Church owes and pays a debt of lasting gratitude to St. Jerome: whose studies in the Hebrew Bible, revision of the Vulgate translation, scriptural comments and polemical writings, establish him as on the whole a vigorous and effective champion of truth.

Yet not altogether without flaw. Of strong natural passions, and still stronger will, he strained that strong will to the uttermost to overcome the natural man; and the desert cell he sometime inhabited witnessed his life and death struggle with evil, his occasional ecstasy, his hard-won triumph.

No marvel that a strength which sufficed to trample down self occasionally ran, as it did, into ruggedness, asperity, unseemliness, in the field of controversy.

Yet had this formidable athlete a tender, accessible heart, affectionate towards the saints he trained  among Rome's noblest matrons and maids; warm and wide to receive and entertain in his monasteries, in his very cell, fugitives from the once Imperial City when overthrown by an inundation of barbarians.

So this great man wrestled and labored: on the whole, emitting a trumpet voice of no uncertain sound, and a light to lighten all who would come into that holy house which is the Church of God.

As his life, so his death had both a stormy side and a side of enduring peace.  Factious Christians burnt the two monasteries he had partly founded, and chased him thence: yet were his emaciated remains buried in his monastic grotto, and that monastery was at Bethlehem.

Long ago the verdict, whether of friends or of foes, has ceased to affect him. As he himself foresaw when he wrote to the beloved lady Asella: "I know we may arrive at heaven equally with a bad, as a good name."

September 29


ALL Angels, like All Saints, occupy a Festival Day; unlike men, they give no cause for an introductory Vigil. For sin it is which necessitates vigils, death, all else that is sorrowful.

Their perfection hinders not their sympathy with us: the lack of sympathy is on our side, because so also is the imperfection.

For sin is the only essentially grievous thing in the universe. God, Ever Blessed, had never (that we can conceive) known suffering, if He had not borne "our sins in His own Body on the tree."

Wherefore holy Angels, who neither sin nor bear sins, know not sorrow. Even sympathy, one of our noblest sources of sorrow, is not (so far as we can tell) any source of sadness to them.

They love us, yet cease not to rejoice; care for us, yet observe one unbroken jubilee. How unlike must heaven be to earth, and how unlike the sinless to the sinful.

Yet if they be indeed exempt from sorrow, then Christ is so far like us rather than like them, inasmuch as His experience of sorrow surpasses even our own. He Himself seems to challenge heaven and earth in the words of Jeremiah: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger."

Good is angelic bliss, for it makes celestial spirits so far like God, All-Good in His perpetual bliss.

Good is human sorrow, for it makes mortal men so far like Christ, Who learnt sorrow for their sakes.

All is good which bears the stamp of a Divine likeness.

Wherefore, while life and joy cease not to be good, grief, vigils, death have become likewise good; because Christ in His own Person has known them all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 28

Our life is long--Not so wise Angels say,
Who watch us waste it, trembling while they weigh
Against eternity one squandered day.

Our life is long--Not so the Saints protest,
Filled full of consolation and of rest:
"Short ill, long good, one long unending best."

Our life is long--Christ's word sounds different:
"Night cometh: no more work when day is spent."
Repent and work to-day, work and repent.

Lord, make us like Thy Host, who day nor night
Rest not from adoration, their delight,
Crying "Holy, Holy, Holy," in the height.

Lord, make us like thy  Saints who wait and long
Contented: bound in hope and freed from wrong
They speed (may be) their vigil with a song.

Lord, make us like Thyself, for thirty-three
Slow years of toil seemed not too long to Thee
That where Thou art there Thy Beloved might be.

September 27

"DUST shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;" thus saith the Truth at the beginning: and thus again towards the end; "Dust shall be the serpent's meat."

Dust the symbol of death: the residuum of death: as it were, the essence of death.

The serpent brought death into the human family, turning life into death: and dust of death is his dole.

Nought besides dust, nought besides death, as it seems: "His delight was in cursing, and it shall happen unto him."

Nothing, then, that retains true vitality shall be his final prey: nothing but what is dead, utterly, irreversibly lifeless.

O God, Who wouldest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live, convert us,, give us life, revive our life, keep us alive, for Christ's sake, Who broke not the bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax.


September 26

FEAST OF ST. CYPRIAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CARTHAGE. The date of his birth is unknown; he died a Martyr, being beheaded about the year 258.

ST. CYPRIAN began life as a lawyer, nor was he baptized till of ripe age. He was chosen Bishop of Carthage by the general voice in the year 248; and though he shrank out of sight to evade the dignity, was finally constrained to obey that call of God conveyed by the mouth of the people.

Even before his consecration he had embarked on the sea of controversy; and amid those stormy waters he toiled year after year, opposing diverse errors, pronouncing judgment on points of faith or of discipline.

From the persecution under Decius he sought shelter by flight, deeming it his duty so to do, yet from afar shepherding his forlorn flock. A second persecution found him immovable in his See, exhorting, sustaining, comforting the souls committed to his charge.

It was not till for the third time he was summoned to face persecution that he joined the noble army of martyrs; nor even then, before he had endured an eleven months' exile from Carthage. Galerius Maximus, Proconsul under the Emperors Valerian and Gallienus, recalled him from banishment, and on his steadfastness in the faith, pronounced his death doom. "Thanks be to God," then said holy  Cyprian.

He was led to a field, where he prayed and made ready. The bandage he bound over his own eyes, and two of his friends bound his hands. Whereupon the stroke of the headsman set him free, and sent him home at once and for ever.

He has bequeathed many holy writings to the Church Universal: let us treasure two sentences:

"He flies not alone who hath Christ the companion of his flight. He is not alone who beareth about with him everywhere the temple of God, and hath God ever with him."

September 25

Sorrow hath a double voice,
   Sharp to-day but sweet to-morrow:
Wait in patience, hope, rejoice,
   Tried friends of sorrow.

Pleasure hath a double taste,
   Sweet to-day but sharp to-morrow:
Friends of pleasure, rise in haste,
   Make friends with sorrow.

Pleasure set aside to-day
   Comes again to rule to-morrow:
Welcomed sorrow will not stay,
   Farewell to sorrow!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 24

CHRIST, "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God."

For our sakes the cruciform blossom of His mortal life was agony and shame: for our sakes the salutary fruit of His life immortal is glory and grace.

And now He looks down from heaven, from the habitation of His holiness and of His glory, if so be He may in us see of the travail of His Soul and be satisfied.

Once He looked, and there was no man. Once He looked, and one penitent went out and wept bitterly.

Now He looks on you, on me.

September 23


I HAVE read that such plants as produce a cruciform flower are all alike free from poison.

Life has its blossoming season preparatory to its season of fruit.

And many lives by bereavement, disappointment, pain, hope deferred, blossom, so to say, with crosses.

A choice and blessed blossom, if it correspond with nature's emblem and harbor no venom. For one day the cross petals will drop off, and only the good fruit remain.

September 22

LORD, what have I that I may offer thee?
Look, Lord, I pray Thee, and see.

What is it thou hast got?
Nay, child, what is it thou hast not?

Thou hast all gifts that I have given to thee:
Offer them all to Me,
The great ones and the small,
I will accept them one and all.

I have a will, good Lord, but it is marred;
A heart both crushed and hard:
Not such as these the gift
Clean-handed, lovely saints uplift.

Nay, child, but wilt thou judge for Me?
I crave not thine, but thee.

Ah, Lord, Who lovest me!
Such as I have now give I Thee!

September 21


In St. Luke's Gospel we read how our Lord "went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He said unto him, Follow Me. And he left all, rose up, and followed Him."

Spirit outspeeds matter; will, action; love, everything.

St. Matthew, intent on following, first arose: in like manner his heart's desire and choice outstripped physical possibility, so that he had already "left all" when he "rose up."

Having arisen, he forthwith followed; being called, he forthwith arose; yet arising forthwith, had in will already relinquished all. Few are they on whom his mantle has descended.

Reluctantly we hear a conscience-call: we mean to rise, but later on; to start, but at a future moment. Perhaps, when grudgingly and of necessity we have at last accomplished both acts, our heart may slowly and drearily (for habit is second nature) get weaned from its first love--say, a money bag--and mount resignedly to higher interests.

But if this result impend only "after a long time," God in mercy grant that the Lord (though also "after a long time") arrive not first to reckon with His sordid servants.

"From sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us."

September 20


If giants, dwarfs, and persons of standard height make up mankind, surely to the mental eye human vocations exhibit as wide a scale of extremes. And this, whether we measure vocations by dignity and lowliness, or by arduousness and ease.

To one man is allotted a domestic life of satisfied affection and multiplied blessings, unaccompanied by crushing trials or difficulties. "God answereth him in the joy of his heart:" moderation and thankfulness rank among his chief duties, and "a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful."

Another man is called to hardship, disappointment, a life and death struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil.

Or if we glance back to the primitive Church for our specimens. Then all Christians had distinctly and decisively to choose their side in the battle of life, Confessors were common, Martyrs not rare.

Yet among this elect congregation a few were set foremost as Apostles; and out of these, two were inspired to become Evangelists.

Of these two, St. Matthew is one.

It is vain to meditate ambitiously on his glory: it is unworthy to meditate thereon in a craven spirit of sloth.

Yet inasmuch as his Vigil and Festival bid us have him in remembrance, let us at least in one point emulate his luminous example, for in one point we can.

Christ called him: he forthwith obeyed the call, followed Him, clave to Him, lived for Him, died for Him.

And every one of us by asking aright can obtain grace to do the same.

September 19


WE read in the Apocalypse:--

"And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, Who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer."

Thus St. John describes what he saw and heard.

Whence it seems that time is not lightly thought of by a holy angel whose eternity nevertheless depends not on time. With a great oath and an awful solemnity he announces the ending of that time which is man's period of probation.

And man thinks lightly of time!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 18


HEAVEN and earth alike are chronometers.

Heaven marks time in light, by the motion of luminaries.

Earth marks time in darkness, by the variation of shadows.

To these chronometers of nature art adds clocks with faces easily decipherable and voices insistently audible.

Nature and art combine to keep time for us: and yet we wander out of time!

We misappropriate time, we lose time, we waste time, we kill time.

We do anything and everything with time, except redeem the time.

Yet time is short and swift and never returns. Time flies.

September 17

FEAST OF ST. LAMBERT, BISHOP OF MAESTRICHT. Born about the year 637; was murdered early in the eighth century.

HE is described as "a wise youth, of amiable aspect, affable speech, and right conversation; of stately form, strong and swift, agile and stout in war, clear headed, handsome, loving, pure and humble, and fond of reading." Thus he had in him the making either of a soldier or an ecclesiastic. He chose the higher vocation, obeyed sedulously while under rule, and when himself in authority labored as sedulously.

He has been styled a martyr; yet I question whether accurately, at least in the fullest sense of the word. Two men, trespassing on the temporalities of Maestricht, were slain by members of the Bishop's family: this occasioned a blood feud in which St. Lambert, among others, lost his life. He died with exemplary resignation and piety.

Being told of the approaching foe,"Lambert rose, and grasping his sword, his martial fire suddenly blazing up in him, he stood forth without even slipping on his shoes. But almost immediately he remembered himself, laid aside his sword, and prepared for the worst." To one of his nephews he said: "Remember you are guilty of the murder . . . and God will judge sinners. What you did unjustly, now in justice you must expiate . . . . " He retired into his chamber, and having put all forth, he cast himself on the ground, with his arms extended, and wept abundantly. Directly after armed men burst in, killing every one in the house. Lambert's door was fastened from within, wherefore one man mounted the roof and ran him through with a spear, which he flung at him from above.

"But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. . . . For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality."

September 16

Once as we descended a mountain side by side with the mountain torrent, my companion saw, while I missed seeing, a foambow.

In all my life I do not recollect to have seen one, except perhaps in artificial fountains; but such general omission seems a matter of course, and therefore simply a matter of indifference. That single natural foambow which I might have beheld and espied not, is the one to which  may attach a tinge of regret; because, in a certain sense, it depended upon myself to look at it, yet I did not look.

I might have done so, and I did not: such is the sting to-day in petty matters.

And what else will be the sting in matters all important at the last day?

September 15

IN weariness and painfulness St. Paul
   Served God and pleased Him: after-saints no less
Can wait on and can please Him, one and all
   In weariness and painfulness,

   By faith and hope triumphant through distress:
Not with the rankling service of a thrall;
   But even as loving children trust and bless,

Weep and rejoice, answering their Father's call,
   Work with tired hands, and forward, upward press
On sore tired feet, still rising when they fall,
   In weariness and painfulness.

September 14


I FIND the name of this Festival given in full as the Exaltation of The Holy Cross, and to it is dedicated one of the passion flowers.

The Cross was in truth exalted fully and finally when our Lord Jesus Christ hung thereupon on Mount Calvary. But this Feast Day has a later origin, some persons tracing it to a commemoration of that celestial cross which (as is related) led the Emperor Constantine to victory; others, to a recovery of the captive material cross from Chosroes the Persian by the Emperor Haraclius.

Not one exceptional day, however, but every day, from Baptism onwards is the good Christian's "Holy Cross Day." Even as our Lord proclaims to us all: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

In the Eastern Church there exists an austere Religious Rule, according to which, "When the last offices are closed, a representation of Christ on His Cross is attached to the foot of the bed, so that the eyes of the dying person may rest upon it, and then all go out, and leave the soul to make its departure in complete solitude, in the presence of none save the symbol of the Redeemer."

"Hold Thou Thy Cross before my dying eyes."

September 13

EXHAUST this world and its resources: this done, if spiritual life survives the soul will learn patience.

Sit aloof and look down on the world; viewed from aloof and aloft the world's hollowness becomes apparent: this realized, the living soul strikes root in patience.

The Book of Ecclesiastes discloses to us the mind of one who learned patience by the first method.

The Epistle of St. James manifests the spirit of one who learned it by the second method.

In a certain sense, the result is the same from either process: patience cannot but be patience. Nevertheless, the patience of a worn-out penitent is far different from that of a lifelong saint.

"Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," reiterates the Preacher.

"Behold, we count them happy which endure," writes the Apostle.

For most of us it is too late to aim at that patience which crowns lifelong holiness. For none of us (thank God!) is it too late to acquire that patience which dignifies penitence. Whatsoever we be, the precept is for us: "Let patience have her perfect work." Amen.

September 12

TREASURE plies a feather,
   Pleasure spreadeth wings,
Taking flight together,--
   Ah! my cherished things.

Fly away, poor pleasure
   That art so brief a thing:
Fly away, poor treasure
   That hast so swift a wing.

Pleasure, to be pleasure,
   Must come without a wing:
Treasure, to be treasure,
   Must be a stable thing.

Treasure without feather,
   Pleasure without wings,
Elsewhere dwell together
   And are heavenly things.

September 11


MEANWHILE there appears a heroic and exemplary side, as well as a warning side to our elephant.

He stands as a figure of one who prefers his work to himself, his duty to his life.

A somewhat comical figure of a hero, yet none the less pathetic.

Not to be laughed at, but looked up to by such persons as have ever postponed work to self, duty to life.

I, for one, must not laugh at him.

September 10


I HAVE read of an elephant who was set to move an enormous weight, which it behooved him to do by sheer force of his mighty head.

But not even his mighty head could stir it.

This his overseer perceived, whereupon other elephants were summoned to assist.

Then the first elephant seeing them approach, and being bent on carrying his point by himself, put forth so desperate an exertion of strength as fractured his skull.

As an elephant I greatly admire him.

Yet a man moulded on his model would, I fear, turn out a failure. He would be too independent to accept help, or to be set right, and he would sacrifice his cause rather than his pride.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September 9

"An alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious." --(ST. MARK xiv. 3.)

I HAVE read that both the precious spikenard and an inferior quality of perfume are yielded by the same plant.

The commoner sort is extracted by art. The choicer kind consists of such balsam as exudes from the untouched plant.

One resembles a tax, the other a gift.

Thus, by a figure, even a vegetable demonstrates how much nobler is voluntary than compelled service. For love alone genuinely gives: love turns a levied tax into a free gift, whereas a servile gift dwindles in essence to a mere tax.

Nor least so, in things spiritual.  Love transmutes bounden duty into free-will oblation: constraint other than love transmutes even unprescribed offerings into taxes.

September 8


"WITHOUT controversy, great is the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh."

Since it pleased God to regard "the lowliness of His handmaiden," well may we regard her with loving reverence.

Whereto shall we liken this Blessed Mary Virgin, Fruitful shoot from Jesse's root graciously emerging?

Lily we might call her, but Christ alone is white; Rose delicious, but that Jesus is the one delight; Flower of women, but her Firstborn is mankind's one flower;

He the Sun lights up all moons through their radiant hour.

"Blessed among women, highly favored," thus Glorious Gabriel hailed her, teaching words to us:

Whom devoutly copying we too cry "All hail!"

Echoing on the music of glorious Gabriel.

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 7


ST. ENURCHUS, a Subdeacon in Roman Orders, went into Gaul as a missionary and was consecrated Bishop of Orleans, or (as I read elsewhere) of Arles: perhaps he was translated from one See to the other. He labored among his pagan flock for more than twenty years, converting "nearly the whole city" to the Christian Faith: and having borne the burden and heat of his day, entered into his rest.

"Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them."

September 6

IF I should say "my heart is in my home,"
I turn away from that high halidom
   Where Jesu sits: for nowhere else
   But with its treasure, dwells
   The heart: this Truth and this experience tells.

If I should say "my heart is in a grave,"
I turn away from Jesu risen to save,
   I slight that death He died for me;
   I, too, deny to see
   His beauty and desirability.

O Lord, Whose Heart is deeper than my heart,
Draw mine to Thine to worship where Thou art:
   for Thine own glory join the twain
   never to part again,
   Nor to have lived nor to have died in vain.

September 5


NOT that human affection, excellent as it is, suffices: only it illustrates and certifies to us beyond a doubt the corresponding Divine Affection.

This it does, even if we receive not its testimony. It is like the celestial luminaries which discourse without speech: its sound is gone out into all lands, and its words unto the ends of the world, declaring the Glory of God.

Neverthless, as sun, moon and stars have had their worshippers, so human love has engrossed its idolatrous votaries.

It, indeed, is ready to "bless with the spirit," but those others are not edified.

Christ keep us or deliver us from worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator, Who is Blessed for ever. Amen.

September 4


INDEED, I think we may proceed a step further, and reflect that any who like us like us as we are and not as we are not.

The person with the blemishes which are ours, and the weak points which are ours, is the person that those who love us love.

And conversely we may surely admit that (sin excluded) we also love our own beloved without on the whole wanting them to be different.

They are themselves, and this suffices.

We are quite ready to like something superior, but it contents our hearts to love them.

And when once death has stepped in, dividing as it were soul from spirit, the friend that is as one's own soul from one's self, then half those vanished peculiarities put on pathos. We remain actually fond of the blameless oddities, the plain face abides as the one face we prefer.

Now if persons as imperfect as ourselves can secure a permanent place in the affection of their fellows (of which everywhere and always we behold proofs), our "vale of misery" turns to a perennial well of very sweet and refreshing water, and it becomes us to be thankful.

September 3


I SAID "I do not know" how birds dwelling near wasps' nests escape stinging. Second thoughts show me that I do know.

God's Providence keeps them safe.

In the same sense as young ravens cry to God, we may think of all other feeble instinctive creatures as trusting in Him:--"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee."

Even so the rose dwells amidst a guard of thorns, and stands alone in her loveliness.

Surely the rose, our own cherished rose, would lose a fine finishing touch of grace and beauty if divorced from her thorns.

And cannot we, who are so much better than bird or flower, take courage to trust our Heavenly Father implicitly? saying and feeling that if only we are such as love Him, our "wasps" and "thorns" alike are ordained for good; inasmuch as "all things work together for good to them that love God."

September 2


I AM told of certain birds which for protection take up their abode beneath wasps' nests. How it happens that they (as I assume) escape being stung, I do not know; but one sees at once that outside enemies might thus be kept at bay.

A wasps' nest for a canopy; wasps for neighbors: clearly in itself no attractive neighborhood. Yet better than the alternative, death, or deadly bereavement. So those birds are wise which, preferring of two evils the less, contrive of stings a shelter.

Similarly those persons are wise who among evils choose the less rather than the greater.

Why not accept all our trials as beneficial wasps and wasps' nests?

What is most irritating teaches patience, if we will be taught: what is most overbearing teaches humilty, if we will learn.

Patience and humility predispose to faith, hope, charity: and where these are, there is safety.

September 1

According to various discrepant dates, he appears to have been born in the seventh, and to have died in the eighth century.

TWO pretty legends are told regarding him.

In his youth, going to Church, he bestowed his coat on a diseased mendicant. The poor man was cured, and our Saint is accounted Patron of Beggars.

Later in life he dwelt as a hermit in a forest cave beside the Rhone, nourished there by milk from a doe. This friendly creature, flying one day for her life, took refuge in his cave, where the hunters overtaking her, found that an arrow shot after the doe had wounded not herself but her associate the venerable hermit. Whereupon the king (for it was a royal hunt) cared for the saint's wound, cultivated his friendship, and caused a monastery to be reared on the site of the woodland cell: of which monastery, famous in aftertimes, St. Giles was chosen Abbot.

Finally:-- "Many witness that they heard the company of angels bearing the soul of him into heaven." [I quote at second hand from "The Golden Legend."]