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ease, if, in consequence of such devotion being illregulated, tie very primary object of the eucharistic dogma, which is Sacrifice,—.-were permitted to lose its place, either in the appreciation, or in the practical religion, of the FaithfuL
In the admirable connexion existing throughout the whole body of Christian revelation, there can be no such thing as one dogma becoming a danger to another. Every new truth, or every truth presented under a new aspect, is a progress in the Church, and an acquisition for her children. But the progress is then only a true one, when, in its application, the new truth, or its new aspect, is not treated with such prominence, as to throw a more important truth into the shade. Surely, no family would ever count that gain of new property to be a boon, which would jeopardise or lessen the rich patrimony which past ages had secured. The principle is a self-evident one; and must be borne in mind, when studying the different phases of the history of any human society, and especially when the History of the Church is in question. If the Holy Spirit, who is ever urging the Church to what is highest, is incessantly adorning her for the eternal nuptials, and is decking her brow with a gradual increase of light,—yet is it but too often the case, that the human element of which she partakes through her members, her children, makes its weight tell upon the Bride of Christ. When that happens, she redoubles her maternal solicitude for these her children; they are too delicate to live on the summits, and bear the bracing atmosphere to which their forefathers were accustomed. She herself continues her aspirations after what is most perfect, and approaches gradually nearer to heaven; but, for the sake of her weakly children she quits the mountain paths she loved to tread in better times, for those paths kept her closer to ner divine Spouse; she comes lower down, she is content to lose something of her external charms, she stoops,—that she may the better reach the children she has to save. This her condescension is admirable; but it certainly gives no right to the children, who live in these less healthy times, to think themselves better than their forefathers. Is a sick man better than the one who is in health, because the food, which is indispensable for keeping up the little strength he has, is given to him under new forms, and such as will suit his debilitated frame?
Because, in these our days, a certain increase of devotion towards the divine Host, who dwells in our tabernacles, has been observed in some souls, and the external demonstration of this devotion is under a new form, it has been asserted, that "no age ever "equalled our own in the cultus of the Most Holy "Sacrament!" And because of this holy enthusiasm, our 19th Century, which, with its restless activity, has opened out so many new methods of devotion, has been called, by a certain writer, "the great age "of the Eucharist!" "Would to God.these assertions were correct! for it is quite true, and history is rich in bearing testimony to the fact, "that an age is "more or less glorious, according to its devotion "towards the adorable Eucharist." But it is no less true, that if the different Centuries be compared with each other for devotion towards the Sacrament of Love,—which, at all times, is the very life of the Church,—there can be no doubt but that that ought to be counted as the golden age, in which our Lord's intentions in instituting the divine Mystery were the best understood and carried out, and not that wherein individual devotion was busiest.
Now, leaving aside, for the present, all principles connected with dogma, and which will find their place more appropriately a few days later,—we have history to bear witness to this fact, that, so long as the western nations kept up their faith and fervour, the Church, who is the faithful and sure interpreter of her Jesus' intentions, maintained the discipline observed in the worship practised towards the Eucharist during the early ages. After her twofold victory over the pagan persecutions and the obstinate dogmatism of the Emperors of Byzantium, the Church, the noble depositarian of the New Testament, was in possession of a freedom greater than she has had at any other period; her children, too, made it their perfection to follow her every wish. Thus free to act as she knew was best, and sure to be obeyed, she kept to the way of eucharistic worship, which her Martyrs had followed, and her Doctors had so enthusiastically developed in their writings: that is, she took the energies of the new children she had received by the conversion of barbarian nations, and centred them in the Sacrifice, that is, in the holy fatigues of solemn Mass, and the Canonical Hours, which are but a natural irradiation of the Sacrifice.
Nothing, in those times, was more catholic,— nothing less individual and private,—than the eucharistic worship thus based on the social character which pertains to the Sacrifice. It was the uppermost idea even in such of the Faithful as, through sickness or other personal reasons, were obliged to communicate, of the universal Victim, separatedly from the rest of the people. It was the one leading thought, which made them turn their hearts and their adorations towards the gilded dove, or the ivory tower, in which were conserved, under the mysterious integrity of the Sacrament, the precious remnants of the Sacrifice.
Faith in the real presence, a faith quite as animated and deep as any that can be witnessed in our own times, was the soul of the whole Liturgy; it was the basis of the entire system of the Church's rites and ceremonies, all of which are unmeaning, if you take away the catholic dogma of the Eucharist. This '"1gma was admitted by all the children of the Church as a principle beyond discussion; it was their dearest treasure; it was a truth, which was both foundationstone and roofing of the House built amongst men by Eternal Wisdom. To a superficial observer it might seem as though the Faithful of those early ages were less intent upon it than we now are: but is it not always the case, that the rock which supports the edifice, and the timber which roofs it, call for less solicitude when 'the building is under no risk, either from the indifference of its inmates, or from the attacks of enemies outside?
The Church herself cannot grow decrepit; but it is a law in history, that, even within her fold, and in spite of the vitality she imparts to nations, no society ever maintains itself long at its highest pitch of perfection. Men are like stars in this, that their apogee marks the period of their decline; they only seem to mount on high, that they may speedily descend: and, after the fullest vigour of age, we gradually approach the impotency of the old man. So was it to be with Christendom itself, with that grand confederation which had been established, by the Church, in the strong unity of unfeigned charity, and of faith unalloyed by error. The Crusades were, for a second time, rousing the world to holy enterprise; the preaching of. St. Bernard was stirring mankind to zeal for the cause of God. The impulse was so immense, that it seemed as though the event marked the culminating point of Christ's reign upon earth, and secured perpetuity to the power of the Church. And yet, that was the very period, when old signs of decay returned, and with fresh intensity. The heroic Pontiff, St. Gregory the Seventh, had stemmed the evil for a considerable time; but, at the period we speak of, a relapse set in, and advanced with its work of ravage, till it brought about the great revolt of the 15th Century, and the general apostacy of nations.
The celebrated prophetess of the Middle Ages, St. Hildegard, was then scanning, with her eagle eye, the miseries of her own day, and the still more sombre threatenings of the future. She that was used to write the messages of God to Pontiffs and Kings, penned these words in a Letter to Werner and his brother Priests of Kircheim,—they had written to Hildegard, and solicited her reply: "It "was whilst lying for a long time on a bed of sickness, in the year of the Lord's Incarnation, one "thousand one hundred and seventy, that I saw, "wakeful both in body and mind, a most beautiful "image, having a woman's appearance: she was all "perfect in her suavity, and most dear in the charms "of her beauty, which was such, as thai; the human "mind could in no wise comprehend it. Her stature "was so great, that it reached from earth even up to "heaven. Her face, too, beamed with exceeding "brightness, and her eye was fixed on heaven. She "was clad in a spotless garment, made of white silk. "The mantle which covered her, was adorned with most "precious stones, of emerald, sapphire, and likewise "of beads and pearls. The shoes on her feet were "of onyx. But her face was covered with dust, and "her garment was rent on the right side, and her "mantle had lost its elegant beauty, and her shoes "were dimmed. And she, with a loud and plaintive "voice, cried out towards the high heavens: 'Hearken, "' O heaven, that my face is defiled! And wail, O "' earth, that my garment is rent! And thou, O "' abyss, tremble, because my shoes are dimmed. '"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air nests;1 but I "' have not helper or comforter, nor staff whereon to "' lean, and whereby to have support.' . . . 'They "' that should have adorned me in every way, have, "'in all these things, abandoned me. For it is they