« السابقةمتابعة »
The truth that God had become incarnate did not flash upon the soul of man save in conjunction with another truth as little to be imagined, a refinement of divine love, which the angels might well desire to look into, since never from the beginning of creation had such a thought occurred to a created mind. This God, who out of love had made Himself man, would give Himself in that assumed nature to be the food of His creature. That creature, whose soul is full of infirmity, whose flesh is frailty and weakness itself, requires for his soul as well as his body a daily replenishing, a daily instrengthening, a daily union with that essence, presence, and power by which alone it lives. And out of the Incarnation itself flows forth this perennial yet daily fountain; and the nations knew not that God was among them, until they knew that the same God was likewise their food: not only "Se nascens dedit socium," but "convescens in edulium." Is the divine mercy satisfied? Not so; but in these depths there is a farther depth. The God who is incarnate, the God who is the food of man, is seen hanging between heaven and earth in the uttermost torture which the human frame can bear, a victim; a victim for the innumerable sins of men from the first sin of Adam and Eve to the last sin which the last child of Adam shall commit a moment before the final judgment. The life who is the Light of men js their Sacrifice too: the grain of divine wheat which is to be their food must first
be ground in the mortar and baked in the fire of suffering; and out of the whole race of man one specimen of created nature shall voluntarily choose that death which is the supreme mark of divine displeasure, the utmost punishment for sin, the state of an executed criminal, and make it the sinoffering to efface the spot of guilt which was ineffaceable, and to deify the nature which was condemned. We must add to the hymn of the divine benefits, "Se moriens in pretium." Yet we do not end here: and this surpassing sphere of wonders has yet a fitting crown. He who conveys to man the divine Unity, Personality, and Paternity; who is become the Brother, the Food, and the Sacrifice of man, is likewise, and finally, and for ever, not only his Rewarder, but his Reward. Nothing else but Himself, nothing short of God, does He offer to the intellect and the heart of man, misled by a thousand false lights, wasted upon a thousand false goods. Here only He ends where all is endless: "Se regnans dat in premium."
Such was the sevenfold vision of the divine majesty and mercy which burst upon the astonished nations when St. Peter and St. Paul raised the standard of the Cross in Rome, their Queen. For this divine doctrine came all together, not detached and piecemeal, but forming one great whole, accordant and indissoluble, since the harmony ran through all. At one and the same moment the nations had God preached to them as One God, personal, nay the source and root, and marvellous exemplar of all personality, as in the absolute unity of His own divine essence personal distinctions were revealed: the Father, for He had made them after the image and likeness of that Son who now, in the fulness of time, was formed in flesh as that divine man, of whom Adam had been the first sketch; the Saviour, for none other but He who made had now redeemed, by His thirty-three years' labour and suffering on the earth, with the cross embraced in thought each moment, and at last embraced in fact; the Vivifier, Supporter, and Strengthener, for He gave His own Flesh and Blood for their food; and yet the same one God, the ultimate crown of blesse dness to this redeemed race; in whose ocean of being they should one day be plunged, yet not absorbed, for every life should be distinct in that all-penetrating life; every human eye behold for itself the King in His glory; every human heart embrace Him for itself; every human voice swell the accordant notes of that triumphant hymn; every human person share in due degree the glory which the eye and heart of man should be strengthened to contemplate.
The existing civilisation was an utter stranger to this help which came to it from above. There was nothing in the dominant empire, or in the region of barbarous tribes or apostate nations lying beyond it, which gave any such promise. Heathenism had worked itself out, and was not dumb but powerless to satisfy, much less to restore and exalt man. For not only had all sense of human responsibility been weakened by the multiplicity of deities into which men had broken up the one incommunicable Name, but they had not merely divided, they had also degraded to their own level the object of their worship. Man is responsible only to the Infinite One, but Infinity cannot be divided; and the gods of Greece, and Syria, and Egypt, and Rome, and of all the heathen nations, at least at that time of deep moral decline which marks our Lord's advent, were not man's makers, but themselves made by him, who had lost the sense of his own creatureship. They were but reflections of his own mind as it was kindled by sensuous beauty, thrilled by the sight of Nature's calmness, order, and majesty, engrossed in war and agriculture, or before primeval tradition faded away, was yet touched by mystic dreams of another world. All had become emanations of the earth, foul clouds of human passion steaming up from her fertile bosom. This illumination, on the contrary, which burst forth afresh with intense splendour from the Cross, this sevenfold radiance of the Most High, was of another birth, plainly descending from above. In part no doubt it had been disclosed to the ancient world, and the nations at their very beginning, when they shot forth from the trunk of Noah's race, had received a great and precious deposit of truth, wherein the Unity, Personality, and Paternity of God were conspicuous parts, and wherein another great doctrine was foreshadowed in the rite of sacrifice. And it is the great and exceeding guilt of heathenism that having this truth, it corrupted, distorted, and finally lost it. Heathenism has been well called nothing else but "the continuation and carrying out of the Fall;"* and assuredly it affords the most convincing and ever-abiding evidence of that mystery, so hateful to the philosophic mind, that is, the natural pride of man. But this one complex and interwoven idea of the Incarnation, the Blessed Eucharist, the Atonement, and the Beatific Vision and enjoyment of God, associated with the former truths in the preaching of the Cross, is assuredly a gift from heaven to earth which affords as strong evidence of its own divine origin as heathenism affords of the Fall. If, as is beyond doubt, the rational creature ever more and more falling away from its Creator speaks of an earthly influence which, left to itself, draws irresistibly downwards; so likewise, the rational creature, brought back and restored to its Creator, speaks of a power from above tending upwards. And so, as every hea
° "Obglcioh das Heidenthum eigentlich nichts anderes ist als die Fortsetzung des Urfalls, oder die durch den^Einfluss des Satans instigirte weitere Entwickelung des in die Natur-egoitat getretenen Menschen, welche die Menschheit von Gott abzufiihren und in das Verderben zu stiirtzen bemiiht war, so ist dasselbe doch gleichwohl keinesweges als ein volliger Abfall und eine eigentliche Negirung der Religion zu betrachten." Molitor, Philosophic der Geschichte, 4 Th. § 160.