Robert B. The 7 words 75
The sixth word spoken by our Lord on the Cross is mentioned by St. John as being in a manner joined with the fifth word. For as soon as our Lord had said, "I thirst," and had tasted the vinegar which was offered Him, St. John adds: "Jesus therefore when He had tasted the vinegar, said: It is consummated." (Jn 19,30). And indeed nothing can be added to the simple words, "It is consummated," except that the work of the Passion was now perfected and completed. God the Father had imposed two duties on His Son: the first to preach the Gospel; the other to suffer for mankind. Of the first Christ had already said, "I have glorified Thee on earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." (Jn 17,4). Our Lord spoke these words after He had concluded the long and farewell address to His disciples at the Last Supper. Then He had accomplished the first work which His Heavenly Father had imposed upon Him. The second task, of drinking the bitter cup of His chalice, remained. He had alluded to this when He asked the two sons of Zebedee, "can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?" (Mt 20,22) and again, "Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me;" (Lc 22,42) and elsewhere, "The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (Jn 18,11). Of this task, Christ at the point of death could now exclaim, "It is consummated, for I have drained the chalice of suffering to the dregs: nothing now remains for Me but to die." And bowing His head He gave up the ghost!" (Jn 19,30).
But as neither our Lord nor St. John, who were both concise in what they said, have explained what was consummated, we have the opportunity of applying the word with great reason and advantage to several mysteries. St. Augustine, in his commentary on this passage, refers the word to the fulfilment of all the prophecies that had reference to our Lord. "Afterwards Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst," and, "when He had taken the vinegar, said, It is consummated," (Jn 19,28-30) which means that what remained to be accomplished has been accomplished, and so we may conclude that our Lord wished to show that everything which had been foretold by the prophets concerning His Life and Death had been brought to pass and fulfilled. Indeed, all the predictions had been verified.
His Conception: "Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son." (Is 7,14). His Nativity at Bethlehem: "And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda; out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be the ruler in Israel." (Mi 5,2). The apparition of a new star: "A star shall rise out of Jacob." (Nb 24,17). The adoration of the Kings: "The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents, the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts." (Ps 71,10). The preaching of the Gospel; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord hath anointed Me; He hath sent Me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up." (Is 61,1). His miracles: "God Himself will come and will save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free." (Is 35,4-6). His sitting upon the ass; "Behold thy King will come to thee, the Just and Saviour: He is poor and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Za 9,9). And the whole Passion had been graphically foretold by David in the Psalms, by Isaias, Jeremias, Zacharias, and others. This is the meaning of what our Lord said when He was about to set out for His Passion: "Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man." (Lc 18,31). Of those things therefore which had to be accomplished, He now says, "It is consummated;" everything is finished, so that what the prophets foretold is now found to be true.
In the second place, St. John Chrysostom says that the word, "It is consummated," shows that the power which had been given to men and devils over the person of Christ has been taken away from them by the Death of Christ. When our Lord said to the Chief Priests and masters of the Temple, "This is your hour and the power of darkness, (Lc 22,53). He alluded to this power. The whole period of time, then during which, by the permission of God, the wicked had power over Christ, was brought to a close when He exclaimed, "It is consummated," for then the peregrination of the Son of God amongst men, which Baruch had foretold, came to an end: "This is our God, and there shall no other be accounted of in comparison of Him. He found out all the way of knowledge, and gave it to Jacob His servant, and to Israel His beloved. Afterwards He was seen upon earth, and conversed with men." (Ba 3,36-38). And together with His pilgrimage that condition of His mortal life was ended, according to which He hungered and thirsted, He slept and was fatigued, was subject to affronts and scourgings, to wounds and to death. And so when Christ on the Cross exclaimed, "It is consummated, and bowing His head He gave up the ghost," He ended the journey of which He had said, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world, again I leave the world and I go to the Father." (Jn 16,28). That laborious pilgrimage was ended of which Jeremias had said, "O expectation of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble: why wilt Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man turning in to lodge." (Jr 14,8). The subjection of His Human Nature to death was ended, the power of His enemies over Himself was ended.
In the third place was ended the greatest of all sacrifices, in comparison to which real and true Sacrifice all the sacrifices of the Old Law were regarded as mere shadows and figures. St. Leo says, "Thou hast drawn all things to Thyself, O Lord, for when the veil of the Temple was rent, the Holy of Holies departed from unworthy priests: figures became truths: prophecies became manifest: the Law became the Gospel."
And a little later, "By the cessation of a variety of sacrifices in which victims were offered, the one oblation of thy Body and Blood makes up for the differences of the victims." For in this one Sacrifice of Christ, the priest is the God-Man, the altar is the Cross, the victim is the Lamb of God, the fire for the holocaust is charity, the fruit of the sacrifice is the redemption of the world. The priest, I say, was the God-Man, than Whom no one is greater: "Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech;" (Ps 109,4) and rightly according to the order of Melchisedech, because we read in Scripture that Melchisedech was without father or mother or genealogy, and Christ was without a father on earth, without a mother in Heaven, and without genealogy, for "who shall declare His generation? (Is 53,8) "from the womb before the day-star I begot Thee;" (Ps 109,3) "and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity." (Mi 5,2). The altar was the Cross. And as previous to the time when Christ suffered upon it, it was the sign of the greatest ignominy, so now has it become dignified and ennobled, and on the Last Day shall appear in the heaven more brilliant than the sun. The Church applies to the Cross the words of the Evangelist: "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven," (Mt 24,30) for she sings: "This sign of the Cross shall appear in Heaven when the Lord shall come to judge."
St. John Chrysostom confirms this opinion, and observes that when "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light," (Mt 24,29) the Cross shall be seen more brilliant than the sun in its mid-day splendour. The victim was the Lamb of God, all innocent and immaculate, of whom Isaias said, "He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before His shearer, and He shall not open His mouth," (Is 53,7), and of Whom His Precursor exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who taketh away the sin of the world," (Jn 1,29) and St. Peter: "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled." (1P 1,18-19). He is called also in the Apocalypse, "The Lamb which was slain from the beginning of the world," (Ap 13,8) because the merit of His Sacrifice was foreseen by God, and was of advantage to those who lived before the coming of Christ. The fire which consumes the holocaust, and completes the Sacrifice, is the immense love which, as in a heated furnace, burnt in the Heart of the Son of God, and which the many waters of His Passion could not extinguish. Lastly, the fruit of the Sacrifice was the atonement for the sins of all the children of Adam, or in other words, the reconciliation of the whole world with God.
St. John in his first Epistle says, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world," (1Jn 2,2) and this is only another way of expressing the idea of St. John Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who taketh away the sin of the world." (Jn 1,29). One difficulty here arises. How could Christ be at one and the same time priest and victim, since it is the duty of the priest to slay the victim? Now, Christ did not slay Himself, nor could He do so, for if He had He would have committed a sacrilege and not have offered a sacrifice. It is true Christ did not slay Himself, still He offered a real sacrifice, because He willingly and cheerfully offered Himself to death for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For neither could the soldiers have apprehended Him, nor the nails have transfixed His hands and feet, nor death, although He was fastened to the Cross, have had any power over Him, unless He Himself had wished it. Consequently, with great truth did Isaias say, "He was offered, because it was His own will;" (Is 53,7) and our Lord: "I lay down My life; no man taketh it away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself;" (Jn 10,17-18) and more clearly still St. Paul: "Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness." (Ep 5,2). In a wonderful manner therefore was it arranged that all the evil, all the sin, all the crime committed in putting Christ to death was committed by Judas and the Jews, by Pilate and the soldiers. These offered no sacrifice, but were guilty of sacrilege, and deserve to be called, not priests, but sacrilegious wretches. And all the virtue, all the holiness, all the dutifulness displayed in the Passion, were the virtue and the holiness and the dutifulness of Christ, Who offered Himself a victim to God by patiently enduring death, even the death of the Cross, in order to appease the anger of His Father, to reconcile mankind to God, to make satisfaction to the Divine justice, and to save the fallen race of Adam. St. Leo beautifully expresses this thought in a few words: "He allowed the impure hands of wretches to be turned against Himself, and they became cooperators with the Redeemer at the time they were committing a heinous sin."
In the fourth place, by the Death of Christ the mighty struggle between Himself and the prince of the world was brought to a close. In alluding to this struggle, our Lord made use of these words: "Now this is the judgment of the world. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself." (Jn 12,31-32). This struggle was a judicial, not a military one; it was a struggle between rival suitors, not between rival armies. Satan disputed with Christ the possession of the world, the dominion over mankind. For a long time the devil had unlawfully thrust himself into possession, because he had overcome the first man, and had made him and all his descendants his slaves. For this reason St. Paul calls the devils, "the principalities and powers, the rulers of the world of this darkness." (Ep 6,12).And as we said a little before, even Christ calls the devil "the prince of this world." Now the devil did not wish merely to be the prince, but even the god of this world, and so the Psalmist exclaims: "For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils, but the Lord made the heavens." (Ps 95,5) Satan was adored in the idols of the Gentiles, and was worshipped in their sacrifices of lambs and calves. On the other side, the Son of God, as the true and lawful heir of the universe, demanded the principality of this world for Himself. This was the contest which was decided on the Cross, and judgment was pronounced in favour of our Lord Jesus Christ, because on the Cross He fully atoned for the sins of the first man and of all His children. For the obedience shown to the Eternal Father by His Son was greater than the disobedience of a servant to his master, and the humility with which the Son of God died on the Cross redounded more to the honour of the Father than the pride of a servant tended to His injury. So God by the merits of His Son was reconciled to mankind, and mankind was snatched from the power of the devil, and "translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love." (Col 1,13).
There is another reason which St. Leo adduces, and we will give it in his own words. "If our proud and cruel enemy could have known the plan which the mercy of God had adopted, he would have restrained the passions of the Jews, and not have goaded them on by unjust hatred, in order that he might lose his power over all his captives by fruitlessly attacking the liberty of One Who owed him nothing." This is an exceedingly weighty reason. For it is just that the devil should lose his authority over all those who by sin had become his slaves, because he had dared to lay his hands on Christ, Who was not his slave, Who had never sinned, and Whom he nevertheless persecuted even unto death. Now, if such is the state of the case, if the battle is over, if the Son of God has gained the victory, and if "He will have all men to be saved," (1Tm 2,4) how is it that so many are in the power of the devil in this life, and suffer the torments of hell in the next? I answer in one word: They wish it. Christ came victorious out of the contest, after bestowing two unspeakable favours on the human race, First that of opening to the just the gates of Heaven, which had been closed from the fall of Adam to that day, and on the day of His victory He said to the thief who had been justified by the merits of His Blood, through faith, hope, and charity, "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise," (Lc 23,43) and the Church in her exultation cries out, "Thou having overcome the sting of death, hast opened to believers the kingdom of Heaven." The second, of instituting the Sacraments which have the power of remitting sin and of conferring grace. He sends the preachers of His Word to all parts of the world to proclaim, "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved."(Mc 16,16). And so our victorious Lord has opened a way to all to attain the glorious liberty of the sons of God, and if there are any who are unwilling to enter on this way, they perish by their own fault, and not by the want of power or the want of will of their Redeemer.
In the fifth place, the word, "It is consummated," may rightly be applied to the completion of the building, that is, the Church. Christ our Master uses this very word in reference to a building: "Hic homo coepit aedificare et non potuit consummare"--"This man began to build and was not able to finish." (Lc 14,30). The Fathers teach that the foundation of the Church was laid when Christ was baptized, and the building completed when He died. Epiphanius in his third book against heretics, and St. Augustine in the last book of the City of God, show that Eve, who was built from a rib of Adam whilst he was asleep, typifies the Church, which was built from the Side of Christ whilst He slept in Death. And they remark that not without reason does the book of Genesis use the word built, not formed. St. Augustine proves that the building of the Church commenced with the baptism of Christ, from the words of the Psalmist: "And He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." (Ps 71,8). The kingdom of Christ, which is the Church, began with the baptism He received at the hands of St. John, by which He consecrated the waters and instituted that Sacrament which is the gate of the Church, and when the voice of His Father was clearly heard in the heavens: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." (Mt 3,17). From that moment our Lord began to preach and to gather disciples, who were the first children of the Church. And all the Sacraments derive their efficacy from the Passion of Christ, although our Lord's Side was opened after His Death, and Blood and water, which typify the two chief Sacraments of the Church, flowed forth. The flowing of Blood and water from the Side of Christ after Death was a sign of the Sacraments, not their institution. We may conclude then that the building of the Church was completed when Christ said, "It is consummated," because nothing then remained but death, which immediately followed, and consummated the price of our redemption.
CHAPTER XIII: The first fruit to be drawn from the consideration of the sixth Word spoken by Christ upon the Cross.
Whoever attentively ponders on the sixth word must derive many advantages from his reflections, St. Augustine draws a most useful lesson from the fact that the word "It is consummated" shows the fulfilment of all prophecies that had reference to our Lord. For as we are certain from what has happened that the prophecies regarding our Lord were true, so ought we to be equally certain that other things which the same Prophets foretold, and which have not yet come to pass are equally true. The Prophets spoke not of their own will, but were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and because the Holy Ghost is God, Who cannot either deceive or mislead, we should be most confident that everything which they foretold will come to pass, if it has not done so already. "For as heretofore," says St. Augustine, "everything has been accomplished, so what has to be fulfilled will assuredly happen. Let us then stand in awe of the Day of Judgment, for the Lord will come. He Who came as a lowly Babe will come as a mighty God." We have more reasons than the saints of old for never wavering in our faith, or in our belief of what is to come. Those who lived before the coming of Christ were obliged to believe, without proof, many things for which we have abundant testimony, and from what has been fulfilled we may easily deduce that the remaining prophecies will be accomplished. The contemporaries of Noe heard of the universal Deluge, not only from the lips of the prophet of God, but from his conduct in working so diligently at the construction of the Ark; still they were hard to convince, as never before had there been a Deluge, or anything similar to it, and consequently the Divine wrath overtook them unawares. As we know that what Noe foretold came to pass, we should have no difficulty in believing that the world and everything we now esteem so much will one day be destroyed by fire. Still, there are very few who have such a lively faith in this as to detach themselves from perishable things, and fix their hearts on the joys above, which are real and everlasting.
The terrors of the Last Day have been foretold by Christ Himself, so that those are altogether inexcusable w ho cannot be induced to believe that because some prophecies have been fulfilled, therefore others will be. These are the words of Christ: "And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark. And they knew not till the Flood came and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Watch ye, therefore, because you know not at what hour your Lord will come." (Mt 24,4 Mt 24,37-39). And St. Peter says: "The day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth, and the works which are in it shall be burnt up." (2P 3,1).
83But some may argue, all these things are a long way off. Let it be that they are a long way off, and if they are, the day of death is certainly not far off: its hour is very uncertain, and yet it is certain that in the particular judgment which is close at hand, an account will have to be rendered of every idle word. And if of every idle word what of sinful words, of blasphemies which are so common ? And if an account of every word is to be rendered, what of actions, of thefts, adulteries, frauds, murders, injustice, and other mortal sins? Therefore the fulfilment of some prophecies will render us all the more blameworthy if we do not believe that the other prophecies will be accomplished. Nor is it enough merely to believe, unless our faith efficaciously moves our will to do or to avoid what our understanding teaches us should be done or avoided. If an architect were to give it as his opinion that a house was about to fall, and the inhabitants were to acknowledge that they believed the architect's words, but still would not abandon the house, and were buried in its ruins, what would people say of such faith? They would say with the Apostle: "They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him." (Tt 1,16). Or what would be said if a doctor were to order a patient not to drink wine, and the patient were to own that the advice was good, but were to continue to drink wine, and be angry if it was not given him? Should we not say that such a patient was mad and had no confidence in his physician? Would that there were not so many Christians who profess to believe in the judgments of God and other things, and by their conduct give a denial to their words!
CHAPTER XIV. The second fruit to be drawn from the consideration of the sixth Word spoken by Christ upon the Cross.
Another advantage may be derived from the second interpretation which we gave of the word "It is consummated." With St. John Chrysostom, we said that by His Death Christ finished His laborious sojourn amongst us. No one can deny but that His mortal life was beyond measure bitter, but its very bitterness was compensated for by its shortness, by its fruit, by its glory, and its honour. It lasted thirty-three years. What is a labour of thirty-three years compared to an eternity of rest? Our Lord laboured in hunger and thirst, in the midst of many griefs, of insults without number, of blows, of wounds, of death itself. But now He drinks from the fount of joys, and His joy shall last for ever. Again, He was humbled, and for a short time was "the reproach of men and the outcast of the people;" (Ps 21,7) but "God hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a Name which is above all names, that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." (Ph 2,9-10). On the other hand, the perfidious Jews for an hour exulted over Christ in His sufferings; Judas for an hour enjoyed the price of his avarice, a few pieces of silver; Pilate for an hour gloried because he had not lost the friendship of Tiberius, and had regained that of Herod. But for nearly two thousand years they have all been suffering the torments of hell and their cries of despair will be heard for ever and for ever.
From their misery all the servants of the Cross may learn how good and profitable a thing it is to be humble, to be meek, to be patient, to carry their cross in this present life, to follow Christ as their guide, and by no means to envy those who appear to be happy in this world. The lives of Christ and of His Apostles and Martyrs are a true commentary on the words of the Master of masters. "Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are they that mourn; blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5,3-10). And on the other hand, "Wo to you who are rich, for you have your consolation. Wo to you that are filled, for you shall hunger. Wo to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep." (Lc 6,24-25).
Although neither the words nor the life and death of Christ are understood or followed by the world, still whoever wishes to leave the bustle of life and enter into his heart and seriously meditate and say to himself, "I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me," (Ps 84,9) and importunes His Divine Master with humble prayer and groaning of spirit, will without difficulty understand all truth, and the truth shall free him from all errors, and what before appeared impossible will become easy.
CHAPTER XV: The third fruit to be drawn from the consideration of the sixth Word spoken by Christ upon the Cross.
The third fruit to be gathered from the consideration of the sixth word is, that we should learn to become spiritual priests, "to offer up to God spiritual sacrifices," (1P 2,5) as St. Peter tells us, or as St. Paul advises us, "to present" our "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God," our "reasonable service." (Rm 12,1). For if this word "It is consummated" shows us that the Sacrifice of our High Priest has been accomplished on the Cross, it is just and proper that the disciples of a crucified God, who are desirous, as far as they can, of imitating their Master, should offer themselves as a sacrifice to God according to their weakness and their poverty. Indeed, St. Peter says that all Christians are priests, not strictly so indeed as those who are ordained by bishops in the Holy Roman Church for offering the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, but spiritual priests for offering spiritual victims, not such victims as we read of in the Old Testament, sheep and oxen, turtles and doves, or the Victim of the New Testament, the Body of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist, but mystical victims which can be offered by all, as prayer and praise and good works and fasts and almsdeeds, as St. Paul says, "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to His Name." (He 13,15). In his Epistle to the Romans, the same Apostle most distinctly tells us to offer to God the mystical sacrifice of our bodies after the sacrifices of the Old Law, which were regulated by four decrees. The first was, that the victim should be something consecrated to God, which it would be unlawful to turn to any profane use. The second, that the victim should be a living creature, as a sheep, a goat, or a calf. The third, that it should be holy, that is, clean; for the Jews considered some animals clean, others unclean. Sheep, oxen, goats, turtles, sparrows, and doves were clean; whereas the horse, the lion, the fox, the hawk, the raven, and others were unclean. The fourth, that the victim should be burnt, and should send forth an odour of sweetness. All these things the Apostle enumerates. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service." (Rm 12,1). As I understand the Apostle he does not exhort us to offer a sacrifice strictly speaking, as though he wished our bodies to be killed and burnt, like the bodies of sheep When offered in sacrifice, but to offer a mystical and reason able sacrifice, a sacrifice that is similar but not the same, a spiritual and not a corporal one. The Apostle therefore exhorts us to the imitation of Christ inasmuch as He offered on the Cross for our advantage the Sacrifice of His Body by a true and real Death, so we, for His honour, should offer our bodies as a living, a holy and perfect victim, a victim which is pleasing to God, and which in a spiritual manner is slain and burnt.
We will now give a few words of explanation concerning the four decrees which regulated the Jewish sacrifices. In the first place, our bodies should be victims consecrated to God, which we should use for the honour of God. For we must not look upon our bodies as our own property, but as the property of God, to Whom we were consecrated in Baptism, and Who has bought us at a great price, as the Apostle tells the Corinthians. Nor ought we to be merely victims, but victims living by the life of grace and of the Holy Spirit. For those who are dead by sin are not victims of God, but of the devil, who kills our souls and rejoices in their destruction. Our God, who always was and is the fountain of life, will not have offered to Him fetid carcases which are fit for nothing but to be thrown to the beasts. In the second place, we must take great care to preserve this life of our souls so that we may offer our "reasonable service." Nor is it enough for the victim to be living. It must also be holy. "A living" and "holy sacrifice," says St. Paul. The oblation of clean victims was a holy sacrifice. As we have said before, some quadrupeds were clean, as sheep, goats, and oxen, and some birds were clean, as turtles, sparrows, and doves. The former class of animals typify the active life, the latter the contemplative. Consequently, if those who lead an active life amongst the faithful desire to offer themselves as holy victims to God, they must imitate the simplicity and meekness of a sheep, which knows not revenge; the labours and seriousness of the ox, which seeks not repose, does not vainly run hither and thither, but bears its burden and drags its plough and works assiduously in the cultivation of the earth; and finally, the speed of the goat in climbing mountains and its quickness in detecting objects from afar. They must not rest satisfied with meekness only, or with undertaking certain duties. They must lift up their hearts by frequent prayer and contemplate the things which are above. For how can they perform their actions for the glory of God and make them ascend like the incense of sacrifice before Him, if they seldom or never think of God, seek Him not, and are not by means of meditation burning with His love? The active life of a Christian should not be entirely separated from the contemplative, just as the contemplative should not be entirely separated from the active. Those who do not follow the example of oxen and sheep and goats in continually and usefully labouring for their Master, but seek and pursue their own temporal commodities, cannot offer to God a holy victim. They resemble rather such ferocious and carnivorous beasts as wolves, dogs, bears, kites, and ravens, which make a god of their belly, and follow in the tracks of "that roaring lion" which "goeth about seeking whom he may devour." (1P 5,8). Those Christians who lead a contemplative life and desire to offer themselves as living and holy victims to God must imitate the solitude of the turtle, the purity of the dove, and the prudence of the sparrow. The solitude of the turtle is chiefly applicable to monks and hermits, who have no communication with the world and are wholly intent on the contemplation of God and singing His praises. The purity and fecundity of the dove is necessary for bishops and priests, who have intercourse with men and ought to bring forth and nourish spiritual children, and it will be difficult for them to imitate such purity and fruitfulness unless they frequently fly up to their heavenly country by contemplation, and by charity condescend to succour the necessities of men. There is a danger of their wholly abandoning themselves to contemplation and being unproductive of spiritual children, or of becoming so engrossed in external work as to be contaminated with earthly desires, and whilst they are all anxiety to save the souls of others, may themselves--which God avert--become castaways.
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