Page images
PDF
EPUB

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

433

thus; if they had really persuaded themselves that a deceased friend had departed to a better state, they would not thus mourn. These things, and more than these, the unbelievers say when they hear those lamentations. Let us then be ashamed, and be no more moderate, and not occasion so much harm to ourselves and to those who are looking on us.

For on what account, tell me, do you thus weep for one departed ? Because he was a bad man ? You ought on that very account to be thankful, since the occasions of wickedness are now cut off. Because he was good and kind ? If so, you ought to rejoice; since he has been soon removed, before wickedness had corrupted him: and he has gone away to a world where he stands ever secure, and there is no room even to mistrust a change. Because he was a youth? For that, too, praise Him who has taken him, because He has speedily called him to a better lot. Because he was an aged man ? On this account, also, give thanks and glorify Him that has taken him.

Be ashamed of your manner of burial. The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the (spiritual) fathers and brethren—all this is not that you may weep and lament and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office, multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honor, those of the pious who have departed. Death is rest, a deliverance from the exhausting labors and cares of this world. When, then, thou seest a relative departing, yield not to despondency; give thyself to reflection ; examine thy conscience ; cherish the thought that after a little while this end awaits thee also. Be more considerate ; let another's death excite thee to salutary fear; shake off all indolence; examine your past deeds ; quit your sins, and commence a happy change.

We differ from unbelievers in our estimate of things. The unbeliever surveys the heavens and worships it, because he thinks it a divinity ; he looks to the earth and makes himself a servant to it, and longs for the things of sense. But not so with us. We survey the heaven, and admire Him that made it; for we believe it not to be a god, but a work of God. I look on the whole creation, and am led by it to the Creator. He looks on wealth, and longs for it with earnest desire ; I look on wealth and contemp it. He sees poverty, and laments; I see poverty, and rejoice. I see things in one light; he in another. Just so in regard to death. He sees a corpse, and thinks it is a corpse; I see a corpse, and behold sleep rather than death.

SAINT BERNARD (1091-1153)

THE FAMOUS ABBOT OF CLAIRVAUX

N

O man of his period had a greater influence through his elo

quence than the famous Saint Bernard, whose persuasiveness

was such that he could almost move the world. When he, in his early years, entered the Cistercian monastery of Citeaux, his five brothers—two of whom were in the army-and a number of others were drawn by his eloquence from their occupations to embrace the monastic life. It is said that “Mothers hid their sons, wives their husbands, and companions their friends,” lest they should be drawn to follow this wonderful persuader. As Abbot of Clairvaux he exercised a powerful influence upon the ecclesiastical affairs of Europe. He made Innocent II. pope, inducing the emperor to take up arms in his support; and was greatly instrumental in the condemnation of Abelard's writings, causing the pope to silence the heretical author. While thus influential he lived a very simple and ascetic life. In 1146 he preached earnestly in advocacy of the second crusade, which was largely due to his efforts. As an orator Saint Bernard ranks high, his eloquence being of that type the force of which holds good through the centuries,—simple, comprehensible; inspiring, and effective.

THE DELIVERANCE OF THE HOLY LAND [Bernard was perhaps at his best in his plea for the deliverance of the Holy Land from the bands of the infidel. At the council of Vezelai he spoke before the king and nobles of France like one inspired, and with his own hand gave them their crosses. He also by his oratory persuaded the German Emperor Conrad to join the crusade. We give a brief example of his arguments. They were of a kind likely to be very effective in that age.]

You cannot but know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin ; the enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly

[blocks in formation]

over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. The laws of men or the laws of religion have no longer sufficient power to check depravity of manners and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth his malediction upon his sanctuary. Oye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven, but no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints ; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers ; the din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters, and profaned your temples, which among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people? Remember that their triumph will be the subject for grief to all ages, and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against his enemies. Fly then to arms; let a holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, “ Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood !" If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage, think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve legions of angels, or breathe one word, and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety, by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name. Christian warriors, He who gave His life for you, to-day demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the cross, remember the example of your fathers who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven ; abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a kingdom which has no end.

ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1200-1280)

ALBERT THE GREAT, SCHOLASTIC LECTURER

A

LBERTUS MAGNUS (or “Albert the Great”), a celebrated pro

fessor of Scholasticism—the theological philosophy of the

Middle Ages—was born in Bavaria about 1200, the exact year of his birth being in doubt. Becoming a Dominican friar, he lectured on theology for three years at Paris, and for a long period at Cologne. For a few years he was Bishop of Ratisbon, but resigned that office, which he had never desired. Among the theologians and philosophers of his period he stood in the first rank, and was distinguished alike for an ardent love of knowledge, for modesty, and for an earnest and disinterested spirit. His works, which are numerous, treat of logic, theology, physics, and metaphysics, as these were understood in mediæval times.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION [From one of the theological discourses of Albertus we make the following selection, which possesses a living interest to-day, in the lessons which are drawn from the incidents of the suffering of the Saviour.]

It was surrounded by the thick wreath of thorns even to the tender brain. Whence in the Prophet,—"the people hath surrounded me with the thorns of sin.” And why was this, save that mine own head might not suffer, thine own conscience might not be wounded ?

His eyes grew dark in death ; and those lights, which give light to the world, were for a time extinguished. And when they were clouded, there was darkness over all the earth, and with them the two great lights of the firmament were moved ; to the end that thine eyes might be turned away, lest they should behold vanity; or, if they chance to behold it, might for His sake condemn it. Those ears, which in heaven unceasingly hear “Holy, Holy, Holy," vouchsafed on earth to be filled with : “Thou hast a devil,

[blocks in formation]

Crucify Him ! Crucify Him!"to the intent that thine ears might not be deaf to the cry of the poor, nor, open to idle tales, should readily receive the poison of distraction or of adulation. That fair face of Him that was fairer than the children of men, yea, than thousands of angels, was bedaubed with spitting, afflicted with blows, given up to mockery, to the end that thy face might be enlightened, and, being enlightened, might be strengthened, so that it might be said of thee, “ His countenance is no more changed.” That mouth, which teaches angels and instructs men, “which spake and it was done,'' was fed with gall and vinegar, that thy mouth might speak the truth, and might be opened to the praise of the Lord; and it was silent, lest thou shouldst lightly lend thy tongue to the expression of anger.

Those hands, which stretched abroad the heavens, were stretched out on the cross and pierced with most bitter nails; as saith Isaiah, “I have stretched forth my hands all the day to an unbelieving people." And David, “They pierced my hands and my feet ; I may tell all my bones.” And St. Jerome says, “We may, in the stretching forth of His hands, understand the liberality of the giver, who denieth nothing to them that ask lovingly ; who restored health to the leper that requested it of Him; enlightened him that was blind from his birth; fed the hungry multitude in the wilderness.” And again he says, “The stretched-out hands denote the kindness of the parent, who desires to receive his children to his breast." And thus let thy hands be so stretched out to the poor that thou mayest be able to say, “My soul is always in my hand.” For that which is held in the hand is not easily forgotten. So he may be said to call his soul to memory, who carries it, as it were, in his hands through the good opinion that men conceive of it. His hands were fixed, that they may instruct thee to hold back thy hands, with the nails of fear, from unlawful or harmful works.

That glorious breast, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, is pierced with the lance of a soldier, to the end that thy heart might be cleansed from evil thoughts, and being cleansed might be sanctified, and being sanctified might be preserved. The feet, whose footstool the prophets commanded to be sanctified, were bitterly nailed to the cross, lest thy feet should sustain evil, or be swift to shed blood; but, running in the way of the Lord, stable in his path, and fixed in his road, might not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left. What could have been done more?

« PreviousContinue »