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flower, and if the flowers be ready to bring forth fruit,' and give promise of those fragrant clusters which are so much sought after by her Lord.2 Then, finally, let her repair with him into her mother's house, the holy Church, and there, in the Sacrifice, receive from Jesus the precious lessons of how to love God,3 and, like a new Esther, give, in her turn, to her Assuerus, that generous wine, which induces the King to lend her his own power, grant her requests, and destroy her enemies.4 The Psalmist tells us, in his bold language of inspiration, that there is an inebriation on God's part, and that he is then terrible to the powers of hell;6 but there is mention made also, in the sacred volume, of a cup of choice wine presented by the Bride, in her mother's house, to the Spouse,6 —it is the wine he himself has left to his Church, that mother of ours! For this purpose, wishing to proffer to her Spouse the wine which gladdens, and the bread which pleases his heart,7 the Bride takes him and leads him to that house of her mother,8 yea, into that blessed spot where she first receivpd the life of grace and truth.9
There, in that sanctuary of love, Rebecca, the mother of the two people that are hostile one to the other,10 prepares for her Spouse Isaac the food he loves so much,11 and is to induce him to impart his blessing upon his favourite child. Esau is a type of the stiff-necked and carnal Jew, who despises the Church, and heeds not the spirit of the promises; he dwells at a distance from home; he is in pursuit of wild beasts, and they are an image of his own fierce instincts. Jacob, on the contrary, is a peaceful man, and keeps with his mother at home, 12 and gives a helping hand to the valiant woman, who, with faith, carries out the designs of heaven. Rebecca robes him in Esau's garments, the precious garments of the firstborn, which are in the mother's keeping; they are the insignia of priesthood; and when Jacob is vested in them, he takes two kids from the flock, and immolates them. These, as the Fathers tell us, are an image, both of the meekness of Christ,1 and of the two peoples, Jew and Gentile, which, by being made one in his Blood,4 are become the food of God.3 But it is Rebecca who guides Jacob in all he does; she receives from him the victim he has slain, and of it makes the food so loved by her Spouse: in this, she represents the Church, who, in the holy Sacrifice, directs the Priest and unites the people, and so prepares for her Lord the food she knows is so dear to him.4
1 Cant.vii. 12. 7 Ps. ciii. 14.
2 Ibid. vii. 7, 8. 8 Cant. viii. 2. "Ibid. viii. 2. 9 Ibid. iii. 4.
* Esth. v. 4-8 ; vii. 1-10. 10 Gen. xxv. 23.
5 Ps. Ixxvii. 66, 66. "Ibid, xxvii. 14.
« Cant. viii. 2. » Ibid. xxv. 27.
The same great teaching had been given even earlier than this, and with as much clearness. It was under the oak of Mambre, and in the days of tent-life. Abraham, the father of believers, there received three guests; they represented the mystery of the holy Trinity. In the name of his countless children, he offers to the three mysterious guests a repast, which is so full of symbolism, as it is described to us in the sacred volume.6 Penetrating into the mystery of Three in One, Abraham thus speaks to his three guests as though they were one: Lord! if I have thus found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant. He then presses them to take food ; and they readily consent. Then, Abraham made haste into the tent to Sara, and said unto her: Make haste! temper together three measures of flour, and make cakes upon the hearth! He is full of considerateness, says St. Ambrose; lie cannot think of depriving his wife of a share in the work of religion he has in hand; he would have her join him in all things; she is a type of the Church. Let man then hasten and kill the fatted calf, in figure of the Lord's Passion ; • the woman's part is to prepare man himself, and make him the food of God; for the three measures of flour, taken by Sara, signify the threefold posterity of Noe, which forms the three races of the human family.2 They are again mentioned, and with the same import in the Gospel;3 and the woman, the Church, again appears, making the bread of heavenly wheat out of them ;4 it is the Bread which is the Body of Christ; it is eaten by man in the Eucharistic banquet; and thus Christ and man become the food of God and the joy of the holy Trinity.
1 S. Ambr. De Jacsb et vit. beat., lib. ii. c. 2.
* Eph. ii. 14-16.
* Comm. in Gen., lib. ii. ap. Euch.
4 Gen. xxvii. 6 Ibid, xviii. 1-9
Oh! exclaims St. Ambrose, how happy that man who thus becomes sweet food to divine "Wisdom!6 But this holy zeal, this earnestness of faith, this fervour of devotion, which, as the same saint says, should transform us spiritually into a nourishment which will give pleasure to God6,—where are we to get them, if not from the Church, whose special work it is to provide us with all this in the sacred mysteries? And this preparation, both for the Head and his members, being the Sacrifice,—could the Christian do better than let himself be led, in all simplicity, by this Mother of the living? She will lead him to God by her sacred Liturgy. Surely, he may unreservedly commit his spiritual direction to this holy Mother Church, seeing that our Lord himself has left everything to her, in what regards the administration of this Sacrament of his love; she is to regulate the ceremonies, the solemnity, the preparations, everything, in a word, which is to accompany the great
1 Ambr. De Abr. lib. i., c. 6. 5 In Psalm, cxviii. Serm. 18.
2 Ap. Euch. Comm. in Gen. lib. ii. * Ibid.
3 Matth. xiii. 33.
,. * Johan. xii., 24, Ap. Ambr. Serm. 13.
Sacrifice, of which Communion is to be the completion and the issue.
The whole of this Feast, which we hare been celebrating during these eight days, tells us very eloquently, that Communion is not a work of private devotion. Private devotion is not an adequate preparation for man's receiving this visit from his Lord,— a visit, whose scope is to bring us closer and closer into union with Christ our Head, and all his members, who, in the immolation of the one universal Sacrifice, are all made one grand offering to the glory of the Father. For a soul that longs to be united to her Lord, and gain that full Catholic point of view, which is the one intended by God,—the by far surest means is, to have a clear understanding of what the sacred function is, and to follow, attentively, the holy ceremonies and formulas, as far as they come within the reach of the Faithful. Let not that soul be afraid of having her recollection interfered with, or her love cooled, by taking the way of the Church for her own. She is quite right in being desirous to approach the holy table in the right dispositions; then, let her do as the Church does. She will be all the more pleasing to that Jesus who is coming to her, she will be all the better prepared for the union with him, as a member of his mystical Body the Church, the more she is a faithful child of that Church; and if she be that, if she be a disciple of that great school, if she live under the mighty influence of the divine Liturgy, she will never think of making it a preparation for holy Communion that she should shut her eyes and ears to what the Church does during the great Sacrifice; no, all that is but unconscious egotism and narrow individualism, the ordinary result of private methods.
The Apostles and their immediate disciples, the authorised founders of the Liturgies of the first Age of the Church, had no fears about their lessening the devotion of the early Christian, by the magnificent and gorgeous ceremonial, which they made inseparable from a participation in the sacred Mysteries. So was it, also, with our ancestors, the Martyrs; when obliged, by persecution, to shelter in the catacombs, they had the Mass celebrated there, with a solemnity such. as we, now-a-days, never witness. Thus was it in the case of St. Xystus the Second, the Pope of St. Laurence; when he was martyred, he was seated on his throne in one of those glorious hiding-places; the Sacrifice of the Mass was being offered up, and the Pontiff, in apostolic majesty, was surrounded by the numerous ministers officiating in the holy function ; they feared not to brave imperial edicts and persecutions, provided they could but keep up the solemnity of the Christian rites,. for these gave the Faithful to partake, in one same banquet, of the Bread of the strong, which united them all together, and gave each partaker courage. So, too, when the Church gained freedom by her triumph; she continued these solemn rites of her Sacrifice, she added to their solemnity : the gold and blaze of her basilicas were faithful and joyous perpetuators of what had been so loved from the very commencement, and so bravely practised in the crypts of her cemeteries. The Fathers and holy Doctors of the Church, the Saints of the great times of her independence, all made this the habitual preparation for their receiving the blessed Sacrament,—the magnificence of the Liturgy, and the solemnity of the holy Sacrifice, at which all the people assisted, and all took that active participation in it, which we have already described.1 And yet, we never hear that this obligatory crowded assistance, this exterior pomp, this sustained attention to the sacred ceremonies, ever impeded their fervour, or kept our Lord from having Saints among his people. We never find anything to indicate that their appreciation of divine things was thereby dulled, or that their saintliness got impaired by it, or that