Images de page
PDF
ePub

a

[ocr errors]

says : "The Gospel not only teaches the faith, it is the school of morals, the mirror of conversation.' With this St. Bernard is in full agreement : The Gospel is the mirror of truth: it flatters no one : it misleads no one : in it everyone will find himself just what he is, so that he need not fear when there is no fear, nor yet rejoice when he hath done evil.'

In the Gospel we see not only the reflection of the life we should live, but we see also the reflection of the individual actions which combine to produce that life. Of this Father Benedetti gives us a beautiful illustration. He relates a very instructive conversation between young curate and an old parish priest with forty years' experience of the sacred ministry, I will merely give the substance of their conversation. You asked me,' said the old priest, 'to recommend you a good spiritual book. There are many, but there is one worth all the others put together, because it contains them all, if they be written as they ought. That book is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.' Seeing the young priest was surprised, he continued : 'What is most natural and true surprises you. The Gospel is the best spiritual book. For every other spiritual book is either a compendium or development of the Gospel, and the book which is not either begets a false devotion or a cold piety which neither touches the heart nor moves the affections.' “That is all very true,' the young man replied, but where in the Gospel can I find the ordinary pious practices, for example, the preparation for confession and Communion.' Whereupon the old man opened the New Testament, and asked him to read the Gospel appointed for the third Sunday after the Epiphany, which describes the twofold miracle of Christ : the cure of the leper and the cure of the servant of the Centurion.

When he had finished reading, the old priest exclaimed : 'What a practical preparation for confession the cure of the leper suggests. There we have marked for us every step the sinner must take to make a good confession. Remember, in the leper, nearly all the Fathers saw the sinful soul. As the leper's body was a mass of raw ulcers, his limbs paralysed and all intercourse with the chosen people forbidden him, so mortal sin robs the soul of all her beauty, of acquired merits, of sanctifying grace, of her eternal inheritance, of the special protection of the angels and saints, of everything which constitutes her the friend, the

VOL. XIV-33

6

heir and child of God, and brands her with a loathsome stain which can be washed out only by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. So that, in the state of mortal sin, the soul is isolated, lifeless and incapable of meriting. Yet she can be cured, if she imitate the leper.

* The first thing the leper did was to recognize his miserable state. He examined himself : the sinner, too must examine himself and acknowledge his spiritual misery As soon as the leper realized his misery a desire to be healed sprang up. He had heard of Jesus, His power and His goodness, and this strengthened the flame of his desire to be healed. Then with energy and courage he went to where Jesus was, and without fear or shame openly confessed his uncleanness.

'In the presence of Jesus, immaculate purity, the unclean leper was dumbfounded, and prostrating himself exclaimed :

Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean.' These words of lively faith sprang from a soul crushed with sorrow, yet sustained by hope, and Jesus Christ stretched forth His hand, touched and healed him. This leper is an image of man corrupted by sin, and cured, through penance, by the grace of Jesus Christ. His deeds teach sinners with what self-knowledge, humility, faith, hope, sorrow and self-abasement they should appear in the tribunal of penance, and his words show them with what confidence and submission to the divine will they should implore forgiveness, and beg to be freed from temptation.'

The old priest continued to explain this method of expounding the Gospel. He declared that the sentiments of deep humility and lively faith of the Centurion should be imbibed by all who desire to receive Holy Communion with the greatest fullness of benefit. Then he concluded : The Church herself has taken to heart the words of the Centurion, placing them in the mouths of her children before Holy Communion. If every communicant would nourish in his heart the sentiments of the Centurion, and would not rest satisfied with the mechanical repetition of his words, then of him, too, it could be said he was healed in the same hour. In that hour of humble and strong faith the life of Christ became the life of his soul, and He condescended to take up his abode therein.'

The Church, inspired from on high, Sunday after Sunday, during the course of the year, sets before her children some of the most touching scenes and most practical teachings of the Gospel.

The value of the Gospels (writes Gihr, in The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) consists principally in the fact that they give us so perfect, so plain and so living a picture of the person, of the conversation and actions, of the life and Passion of Our Divine Saviour, by the description of chosen eye-witnesses, and, what is infinitely more significant, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in such wise as no oral tradition would be able to do. Grace flowed from the lips of Jesus, and a divine beauty transfigured His countenance; now in the Gospel we continue to hear the 'sweetness of His words, and to look at his face full of heavenly benignity and majesty.

N'The Gospel is Christ's voice,' says St. Augustine, 'He sitteth in heaven, but He does not cease to speak on earth.' By means of the Gospel, Christ is the light of the world.

The word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths (Ps. cxviii. 105).

And wheresoever in the world the word of God does not shine and enlighten [quotes Gihr from Reischol, in the work just mentioned], profound dark ness hovers over the ways of man and over man himself. *For then not only security as to how to act aright, but even the whence and the whither--that is, the origin and end of our pilgrimage-all this is, for reason left to itself alone, enveloped in darkness. This darkness is enlightened and becomes marvellously bright through the word of God, by this word the ground on which we stand becomes clear, and the way we have to follow to reach our destiny is made manifest. From the word of God beams a secure light to guide us amid the various directions and helps, as well as amid the various wants, obstacles and dangers we meet on this path so stern and so difficult to be determined.'

MATTHEW KEATING, M.SS.

[ocr errors]

A NOTE ON MEDIAEVAL SANCTUARY

BY CLAUDE C. H. WILLIAMSON

The law of sanctuary contributed largely to associate in the popular imagination the ideas of sanctity and of mercy, and to increase the reverence for human life. Obviously erroneous is the suggestion that places of refuge were established with a view to protecting unintentional offenders from punishment or revenge. It has been suggested that the privilege was to give time for the first heat of resentment to pass over before the injured party could seek redress, but this hardly accounts for its origin. Again, it has been supposed that the right of sanctuary bears testimony to the power of certain places to transmit their virtues to those who entered them. Among nearly all peoples of the world at different stages of civilization are to be found totem centres; from the Aruntas of Australia, the Arckenas of North America to the inhabitants of Hawaii, and to the Mohammedans of Persia and Morocco, while the Balder's Grove in the beautiful Sogne Fiord in Norway was a famous sanctuary to the northern peoples. In the Old Testamant1 the six cities of refuge were set apart to protect people who had committed murder unintentionally. While in these cities the person who wished to avenge the murder was unable to touch the murderer, and after the death of the high-priest was free permanently. In Christian times, however, sanctuary, being a privilege of the Church, did not extend to sacrilege.

The right of sanctuary had been accorded to pagan temples by Imperial decrees of Rome, and in some cases extended not only to altars, but to such things as persons and standards.? Slaves at the time of Seneca were allowed to seek shelter at the statues of the gods. Early Christianity soon introduced the right of asylum to the churches. Eutropius, the minister of Arcadius, says that Christian people who were chased by a crowd were accorded refuge ; Gregory of Nazianzus? tells that the Church harboured noble widows who were exposed to the intrusion of greedy men. St. Basila tells of slaves for their faith doing the same. The legal privilege of affording refuge was conceded to the Church from the first ages of the Emperors becoming Christians. During the holy seasons of Lent and Easter no criminal trials could be held, and no criminal could be tortured or executed. Two laws to this effect were enacted in the East by the liberal piety of Theodosius the Younger in 380, and in the West by Honorius in 414.3 But Theodosius in 392 deprived bankrupts of the privilege

1 Numbers xxxv. 2 Suetonius, Vita Tiberii, c. 37 ; Tacitus, Annal, iii. 60. 3 De Clem. i. 18.

publii debitores. A decree that follows the fifty-sixth Canon of the fourth Synod of Carthage in 399 enacts that the Bishops Epigorius and Vincent should be sent to the Emperor to beg for the churches the jus asylorum. St. Augustine in his De Civitate Dei mentions that after the taking of Rome in 410, Alaric spared all those who had taken refuge in the churches. Papal sanction was first given to it by Leo I about 460, though the first Council of Orange had dealt with the matter in 441. It was then forbidden to cross the threshold of the church with arms, and the number of cases was limited for which the right of asylum was allowed.

Gregory the Great (590–604) enacted that the use of asylum was to be used to further the interests of equity and justice, and not to screen malefactors from punishment. 'Si iustam contra dominos suos querellam habuerint, cum congrua ordinatione de ecclesiis exire necesse est. Si vero venialem culpam commiserint, dominiis suis accepto de venia sacramento sine mora reddantur.' But the immunity from the consequences of crime arising from the extended assertion of the principle led to many abuses, and by the legislature of Justinian those guilty of specified crimes were to find no right of asylum in the churches. This seems to point to a specific concession on the part of the civil power. Legal refuge was in point of fact nothing but the intercession of the clergy for men in distress, and pending the issue of their efforts, the right to protect them

1 Or. 20.

2 Reg. Fus. Trict , inten. ii.

3 Comp. Jus, i. tit. 12.

« PrécédentContinuer »