« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
all in all,” we seem most of us to feel ourselves safer, when we are practising the preludes of this life, than when we would try to “sing the Lord's song in a strange land,” the land of our pilgrimage, where our home is not. We are fitter, most of us, to walk with measured steps, held in with bit and bridle, more or less tight, as our strength will bear it, than to go freely in a large space. We are glad to have a rule from without, such as we are, laid upon us by the very season itself, because we are as yet too little "a law unto ourselves.” A first Lent sometimes has weariness; they who have tasted it perhaps most often say, “ Would it were Lent all the year round !” There is a danger in relaxing In the luxurious Church of Antioch, which we many ways so sadly resemble, St. Chrysostome had to warn against excess of a very gross and miserable sort, which is expressed in the startling title of a homily, “ De Resurrectione et contra ebriosos.” And St. Bernard had at Easter' to preach as to those "lovers of the world, enemies of the Cross of Christ, who in vain had received the name of Christians, who through the whole Lenten season, long for the coming days of the Resurrection, alas ! that they may indulge in pleasure more freely. Othe grief! The time for sinning, the term for falling back, is the Resurrection of the Saviour! For then do revellings and drunkenness return; chamberings and wantonness are renewed;
· Serm. I de temp. Pasch.
and the reins are given to concupiscences; as though for this had Christ risen, not rather for our justification.' “Do ye thus," he says, “unhappy ones, honour CHRIST Whom ye have received ? When He is to come, ye prepare Him a lodging with groans, confessing your sins, chastening your bodies, giving alms; and when ye have received Him, ye betray Him to His enemies; yea rather, ye compel Him to go forth from you, by admitting your former wickednesses. For how can light dwell together with darkness, CHRIST with pride, avarice, ambition, brotherly hatred, fornication? Is less owed to Him when Present, than when expected ? Doth the season of the Resurrection call for less reverence than that of the Passion? But ye (as is plain) honour neither. For if ye suffered with Him, ye would also reign with Him.”
But such persons, who in St. Bernard's time made fasting and humiliation an unwilling form (for which cause, he adds, were many invisible chastenings) would in our time and Church not fast at all. St. Bernard comes nearer to us, or rather he speaks of those who are as much above us, as any of us may hope, by the Grace of God, to have been removed from those overt sinners. " What have we to do,', he adds at the close of the same sermon, those who are without ?' Save that we mourn that we were once in the same snare, and joy that we have, through the sole operation of Divine Mercy, been delivered from it, in which out of brotherly
666 to judge
charity we grieve that these are miserably held. But would that even we may be found now sanctified, and wholly alien from this miserable and sacrilegious habit, and that in us, when the holy season of the Resurrection cometh, nothing may be lost or minished of our spiritual exercise, that we may rather give diligence to pass on and to grow.”
And yet it would be mere self-deceit to think that there are not subtler, yet deadly sins of the flesh, to which the sudden transition from sharp fasting to repletion exposes. Our own Bp. Taylor warns against this transition ; and sad as it is, yet it is a fact, that to some who keep Lent sincerely, the period of their Lord's Rising again is the most dangerous season in the whole year; lest they, after a reprieve, fall back again, to crucify Him again by their sins, with Whose Crucifixion and bitter Death for them, they hoped that they had lately sympathized. Not that they did not, for the time, gain by Lent, or that their case is not more hopeful than if they made no efforts; but that much or most of their gains in that holy season seem to be, for the time,
Yet not these only, but many besides have found the relaxation of Easter weaken and unspiritualize their whole selves, so that their Easter joys were soon darkened, and the season of life seemed to them to have become one of decay and death. At best, when they hoped to have been going on, they have found themselves going back.
. Probably, what in most of such cases has been the root of the evil, has been the want of some definite aim and strong purpose, to which to apply the strength which they gained in a period of humiliation and strictness. In part, probably, it has also been that the relaxation at Easter has been too corporeal, and that the body having been, in whatever degree, weakened through the severities of Lent, its recruiting has been made too much an object for its own sake, in partial forgetfulness of that teaching, “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the Mouth of God.!!In part, perhaps, it has been owing to unskilfulness in using the helps which we have, to enter into the religious character of our Easter Festival by meditation and prayer.
With regard to the first of these needs, it is, of: course, plain to every thoughtful person, that so marked a period as Lent (short as it indeed is), should not end in itself. It plainly cannot be intended, that soul and body should for forty-six' days go through a course of discipline and strictness, and come forth the same as they entered it. And this the more, when at its close we have day by day commemorated the Passion of our LORD, sought reverently to enter into It, to sympathise with it, to feel decided bodily discomfort (if our strength permitted) bris
2 Sundays in Lent, although left wholly free to individuals, as to bodily nourishment, are plainly not the same festivals as other LORD'S Days. Who could use Palm Sunday as such
at the time of His bitter Sufferings. And
now, the awful Day of His Crucifixion for us, we have perhaps counted the minutes by His Sufferings, when, to speak only of such Sufferings as we can conceive, all was crowded into those dread hours, in an intensity overwhelming to think of, and beyond the powers of our soul to take in, besides those mysterious Sufferings which none but Himself could know, since none but Himself could endure, Who, being Man, was also God and Man. And then, at last, the Church teaches us, in the solemn stillness of this day of pause and expectation, all the Sufferings which we have watched, ended, to enter into His Tomb, as we were in Baptism laid in it with Him, “baptized into His Death," "buried with Him by Baptism into Death," there, “ by continual mortifying our corrupt affections,” to remain enveloped in His Life-giving Death, guarded from the world and from ourselves. This, she teaches us, is the gate of the Resurrection.
Plainly, then, we are not to rise again the same as we entered there ; not without some of the fragrance of the precious spices of mortification, to which we have been brought into such solemn nearness, nor without receiving in ourselves some Virtue from that Precious Death, which is, through death, our Life. Easter must be no abrupt transition, no mere reversal of Lent. Our Lenten self must not be laid aside, as a garb which, in obedience to the Church, we had cast around us for a while; nor its