« FöregåendeFortsätt »
had been a gradual outward growth of wisdom and of grace before the eyes of men, corresponding with the growth of years. The Boy of Nazareth was outwardly more full of wisdom and of grace for the world's salvation than the Child, whom Mary and Joseph carried into Egypt, and before Whose face the idols of an old world's civilization fell to the ground. The words of the Man Christ Jesus, Who spake as never man spake, as He went about preaching the Gospel to the poor, and discoursing on the mysteries of the kingdom of God, were deeper words, more pregnant of divine truth, so far at least as they touched upon the events of the world and the needs of men, than those which He had uttered among the village boys of Nazareth, or even perhaps in the midst of the doctors in the Temple, when as yet He was Himself a Boy. His very teaching grew, during the three years of his public ministry, not only assuming, as outward circumstances changed, and as the opposition of those who sat in Moses' seat developed itself more fully, a different form, but bringing before the minds of men a new matter for their instruction, now clothing itself only from time to time in parables, then beginning to break forth more emphatically into parables, and without parables coming not before them ;* now laying stress upon His Father's name, then veiling it under similitudes; at first addressing itself even to His disciples in proverbs, at tho last making use no more of proverbs, but showing them plainly of the Father, and of the coming of the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, Who was to lead them into all truth; and yet all the while growing in unity, and clearness, and strength, and depth, and majesty, until in the end, on the night on which He was betrayed, it poured itself forth in His magnificent prayer for the unity and perfection of His Body Mystical, that their roots might lie deep down in the unity, and love, and glory, in which the Father and the Son are one, and that the world might believe that God had sent Him.
So, too, has it been with the Church, which is Christ's Body. The Church in the upper chamber at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost knew the whole Faith, and the Church of the latter day, when our Lord will come again to tako her to Himself, will know no more; and yet from the hour of her first baptism of fire to that of the avenging fires of the great day of the Lord, there has been, and still is, and will be, a gradual unfolding of wisdom and grace as she grows in age unto the measure of the fulness of Christ, The Faith was once delivered to the Saints, and the Church knew all truth from the be
* See F. Coleridge's “ Theology of the Parables," pp. 5, 6, 10,
ginning; and yet, century after century, and even year by year, the Holy Ghost inspires the Church to take of the things of Jesus, and to show them unto men, in order that, according to Christ's promise, He may bring back to their remembrance whatsoever Christ has said, and enable them to share in that fulness of truth, which has been the Church's divine possession from the first. Thus also this outward growth of the Church in wisdom and grace, and in the manifestation of the things of Jesus hidden in her heart, corresponds with the outward growth of our Lord's teaching upon earth. As the circumstances of the world change, and as the opposition of the wisdom of the world develops itself, so it changes and develops. At one time it manifests itself in dogmatic definitions of the faith, at another in condemnations of false doctrine ; at one time, in obedience to the Divine economy, it veils some prominent doctrine from too public obse on, and then the Church, like her Master, speaks as it were in parables; at another it sets fearlessly before the gaze of men the very doctrine which formerly it had sought to veil, and then the Church speaks no more either in parables or in proverbs, but shows us plainly of the deep things of God. Heresies and false systems of philosophy cross her path, or lie in wait for her, and the Church arms herself with new weapons of thought. Her Bishops assemble in council, under the headship and guidance of him who holds Christ's place on earth, and as it seems good to the Holy Ghost and to them to decide, so gradually the faith stands out in sharper and clearer outline, which, when looked at closely, is found to be the outline of Christ Himself, God and Man, Who is ever growing in the Church's doctrine, as He grew in His human life unto the stature of the perfect Man. Doctors rise up to defend the Church, who draw from her armoury the keen steel of argument, although each of them fashions it according to the temper of his own mind. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Chrysostom, in the East; Jerome, Augustine, Leo, Gregory the Great, in the West—all do battle for her cause, but each at the same time in his own way helps forward her doctrine's outward growth. Schism adds itself on to heresy, and strives to rend the Body of Christ in twain, or, as at a later period, to tear it limb from limb; but the headship of Christ only stands out more clearly than before, while the members of His Body are knit together into closer and stronger unity. The young vigorous intellect of Christendom has to be trained and disciplined, as it begins to be conscious of the promise of its glorious strength; and in the midst of the Church there rises up the Angelical, who seizes in one
grasp all the wisdom that had gone before him--the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the traditions and learning of the Fathers, the inspired teaching of Holy Scripture,—and moulds them into a science worthy of Him from Whom all science flows; whilst, to borrow an expression from a recent writer, he forces the old Stagyrite to become literally a hewer of wood and a drawer of water for the Faith of Christ.* How mar. vellous in its vigour is this outward growth of the Church of the thirteenth century, and yet how changed in its outward aspect from the Church of the Fathers ! At a later period, when the old pagan learning lifts itself up again in the very heart of Christendom, with a lie upon its lips, proclaiming that by its means men can be born anew to light and knowledge, and offering for their acceptance the deification of nature, and the idolatrous worship of form and sensual beauty, the Church, who recognizes no second birth for those who have been born again in Christ, and who is ever striving to develop the Christian intellect within its own proper mould of the image of Christ, seeks to draw off the waters of pagan influence into channels which she herself has cut for them, in order that, reduced within just limits, they may fertilize and not destroy the culture of her own hand. Nor let it be objected by any Catholic that since then these waters have often broken their barriers, even within the Church, while outside her boundaries they have ever carried with them desolation and destruction ; for although this, alas! is the case, as indeed we shall shortly see, yet, looking back upon the past, no Catholic can fail to observe that, if the Church in her consummate wisdom had not known how to utilize whatever was good in the Renaissance, one of the most critical turning points of her history would have been for the world and for her own children still more full of loss and of danger. Much, no doubt, has been lost in consequence, and the perfect development of Christian civilization has been interrupted, but the loss has been for the world, not for the Church, whose outward growth in wisdom and grace has never for an instant ceased.
So again, when, by a further corruption of error, reason rebels against the authority of God and of the Church, and sciences and arts are divorced from religion, in the great apostasy of the sixteenth century, the Church withdraws, as it were, into herself, and busies herself with the cultivation of greater interior wisdom and spiritual grace in the hearts of her own children, without however forgetting to influence,
* “Life of S. Thomas Aquinas," by the Rev. F. Roger Vaughan vol. i. “S. Thomas and Aristotle."
whenever she can, the civilization with which she alone had invigorated and enriched the world. Great political convul. sions and social changes, such as the fall of the Pagan empire of Rome; the irruption of the Barbarians; the rise of the false prophet, Mahomet, and the conquests of his followers; the inauguration of the Holy Roman Empire; the fatal consequences of the Pseudo-Reformation, such as the divorce of the temporal from the spiritual, and the rejection of the authority of the Vicar of Christ in matters of supreme moment for Christendom: or, again, the Anti-Christian Democratic Revolution at the close of the last century, and in our own days, and the Abomination of Desolation which is yet to be, all these pass over the Church, and from them all she emerges, or will emerge, in some new character: at one time as conqueror and queen ; at another, as the former and teacher of nations, and the moulder of civilization; at another, as the sole bulwark of civilization and of humanity; at another, as supreme ruler of the kingdoms of this world, seeking to transform them into the kingdoms of God and of His Christ; at another, as the one witness left in the world to Christ's kingship over the earth. Nay, although we have not yet seen the end of her present struggle, and although it may never come to pass, that she, who in the full, golden dawn of her victory, set the cross on the Cæsars' crown, and in the mid-day sunshine of her triumph held her own jewelled sceptre over the heads of kings, may also, amid the purple and crimson and golden clouds of her sunset, yet bow down beneath her feet the uncrowned heads of the peoples of the earth, and form them into one holy Roman people, who shall own no master but Christ; no king but Christ's Vicar; still, we know what the end of all will be, for the abomination of desolation itself will only serve to ós
prepare her as a bride, adorned for her husband,” and the Church militant will pass into the Church triumphant. No earthly change, however great, can check her growth ; no persecution, however deadly, can stay her progress; no hand of man, however powerful, can mar her beauty; and the last day of the Church on earth, in the midst of the cries of the world's agony, will be for her but the dawn of an everlasting morrow of triumph and of glory.
Further, the outward growth of the Church in wisdom and grace may be seen both in the development of her schools of theological thought, whether positive, scholastic, or polemical, mystical, dogmatic, or moral, and in the leading features of the spiritual life of her children from age to age; in the life of the Fathers of the Desert; in the Monasticism of the West; in the Anchorets and recluses of the Middle Ages; in the spirit of the great Mendicant Orders of the same period; and in that of the Congregations of modern times, as well as in the influence of these several kinds of life, through the spiritual direction and example of those who led them upon Christians living in the world. Thus each school of theological thought helps to bring out some particular shade of Christian dogma, while all together help forward the outward growth of the whole body of Catholic doctrine, until its outline, first drawn by the definitions of the Church, is gradually filled up with the flesh and bones, and nerve and muscle of theological science. Thus also, each phase of the spiritual life is founded, and lives upon and represents some particular phase of the interior life of the Son of God, while all together-for the influence of each phase is not limited to the period in which it is manifested, but extends throughout all time—reproduce in the history of the Church the whole of that “life which was the light of men.” For this reason no system of theology, no school of theological thought within the Church can be spared, or ought to be undervalued ; and hence more especially the blindness and shallowness of those who speak against or make light of the scholastic theology, in which the doctrine of Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers are thrown into scientific shape, and in which the mind of the Church is reproduced. Hence also the Thomists, Scotists, Augustinians, theologians of the Society of Jesus, all alike have contributed their share to the outward growth of the Church's wisdom. For the same reason, it will be impossible rightly to understand the various phases of modern spirituality if we cut them off from, or fail to observe them in connection with those earlier phases of the spiritual life enumerated above, as well as with those mystical and ascetical writings to which those earlier phases have given birth; for here again the Church has grown outwardly in wisdom and in grace, and to forget, or not to take into account one period of her growth, is to destroy the unity of the whole. Lastly, the Church's outward growth in wisdom and grace is seen in the devotions of the Christian people, which, as we have already pointed out in the pages of this REVIEW, when speaking of devotion to S. Joseph, are closely interwoven with the development of the Church's dogmatic teaching, and which, although varying from age to age, according to the wants of men, are all inspired by that one Spirit, Who takes not of His own, but of what is Christ's, and shows it unto us. In all these different ways, then, in her doctrinal teaching, in her dealings with heresy and schism, in her education of Christendom, in her development of the Christian intellect, in her attitude at various critical