Зображення сторінки

its coming would flower forth the spirit which calls it wicked to save one's self at the cost of another, which lays upon the best and noblest as a supreme duty the obligation to throw away life for the sake of the meanest and weakest of his brethren; the spirit, so essentially Christian, which has kept pace with the progress of Christianity, grown with its growth, and strengthened with its strength, and made the final measure of a nation's advance from barbarism, its loyalty to the law which dictates that women and children must be looked after first in the fire or the shipwreck, and placed in safety before the great ones, most valuable to humanity, dare even think of saving themselves.

We may not say that the study of the spirit of Christ will at once render us able to pursue all these ideals faithfully and successfully, nor may we say that any one of us alone can do much toward making them prevail; but this is true, that only in proportion as men aim at and earnestly strive after these ideals can they hope to be fashioned into the image of God and recognized by Christ as the children of his inspiration.

But all this will interfere with our comfort, says some one. Why of course it will interfere—undoubtedly and most decidedly. And therefore Christ gave us not only an example of service, but a lesson in renunciation. He taught us that the Christian ideal can be attempted only by those who are willing to deny themselves; he made us understand that Christianity can easily be shaken out of souls which have not been made firm by pain, and tempered like fine steel in the furnace of renunciation. To do all Christ bids us do, we must be as children, indeed, but we must have more than the strength of children; for to be a Christian is a great life. work, no mere child's play. It is a crown we must win by effort, a pearl for which we must pay a great price. Much physical comfort must be surrendered by him who is striving for an ideal which is divine. Renunciation is foremost in the scheme of salvation proposed by Christ and shown in his life for our imitation. We should never forget the disappointment and failure of the materialistic Jews, brought face to face with our Lord, but having nothing in their selfish souls wherewith to lay hold of the treasure he proffered them. The same opportunity, the same danger, the same issue, is always ours. We can have Mammon if we wish that is many of us can, and

for a time at least—but we cannot have God and Mammon. The bread of angels will not be savory to him who has been feeding on the husks of swine.

Every great institution, every nation, has its symbol: England, its Lion and Unicorn; Russia, its Great Bear; France, its Fair Lilies; the United States, its Soaring Bird of Freedom. The symbol of Christianity has ever been the Cross. Oh! it is no longer a sign of shame to be hidden and concealed. In the life of every day it meets us again and again; it jingles at the wrist of fashion; it dangles from the golden watch-chain of wealth; it hangs upon the bosom of lighthearted beauty ; it stands clear-cut against the sky as it crowns the spire under which people meet to kneel and pray. But unless it be branded into the mind and seared into the individual heart, then has the soul not yet begun to be Christian.

We must remember this as we seek to prepare ourselves for growth in the knowledge of Christ, and increase in the love of him; as we pray for the grace to assimilate his spirit and to imitate his conduct. The true symbol of Christianity is the Cross. And the figure that hangs upon it, naked and suffering for the sins of others, is the Son of Man, God's Ideal of a man.



indicat tatenon T is a solemn moment when the soul awakens to

a sense of its spiritual possibilities. Something of awe, of course, attends all beginnings—whether

the launching of a ship, about to venture forth A

into seas unknown and brave the measureless furies of the tempest; or the first shot of a war, ringing round the world, and warning men of mighty interests and precious lives destined for sacrifice; or the faint little cry of a new-born infant, setting out on that most perilous of all careers called life. And whatever suggestion of sublimity there is in any of these beginnings, recurs—in an intense degrec- at the solemn hour of a soul's moral awakening, in the moments


"Sure though seldom,
When the spirit's true endowments
Stand out plainly from its false ones,
And apprise it, if pursuing
Or the right way or the wrong way,
To its triumph or undoing."

These, indeed, are the awful moments of life; they are fraught with terrible dangers and immense responsibilities; they determine whether God's image in a man shall be made or marred.

Whatever the occasion may be, therefore—the turning of an unbeliever toward the God he has denied, or the entrance of a convert into the Church he has ignored, or the first long, deep breath of new resolve in the heart of a Catholic on whom the true ideals of life are at last commencing to dawn, whatever the occasion be, it is a solemn crisis when we heed the trumpetcall, gird ourselves, and step forth to the making of a godlike man.

It would truly be a hard fate, had we to carve out the pathway of progress alone, and guess unaided at God's ideal ; or had we only the men and women chance throws in our way to reveal to us the high possibilities of human nature. Every creature we meet falls short of that perfection which the least of us is justified in striving for; from no man do we get the full measure of inspiration that we need. But God has given us a model about whom all agree-One who is perfect, flawless, without defect. Every noble life is a needle pointing to him ; every pure soul an image of his; every good deed a gem that gleams and sparkles in the shining of his light. Our homes are radiant with the glow of a beauty he created; his peace is in our hearts; his holiness is beaming from our innocent children's eyes. He is God; he is perfect as God; and still behind his forehead throbs a human brain, and a human heart is beating in his bosom. He can recognize each emotion of ours in some feeling of his own; in the longings of his heart echoes a response to every noble aspiration of mankind. Yes; if it be possible to receive what we looked and hoped for, if it be, indeed, the plan of Providence that one from heaven should come and lead us Godward, our hearts assure us that Jesus Christ is he-the Son of Man, God's ideal of a man.

Very striking in the life of Christ is the vivid contrast between the Jewish anticipations of him and the reality. The chosen people had learned to cherish a vision of physical majesty as the picture of the Messiah; he was to ride forth to battle at the head of an army of kings and conquer all the earth,—to beat down the nations under his iron hoofs and blind them with the glory of his brightness; he would reign from sea to sea, so that the dwellers of the wilderness would bow down before him and all peoples serve him ; he would rule over the nations with his iron sceptre, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel; he would restore Israel's greatness and give heavenly splendor to a new Jerusalem, the mistress of the world. Purple and cloth of gold and jewels and fine linen would adorn his person; and neither for him nor for his people would there be weakness or tribulation any more.

With all this expectation contrast the fact. Christ brought no material comforts and no adornments; he steadily refused to secure them. Though faint with fasting, he would not turn stones, into bread. He had not whereon to lay his head. Austere himself, he wished none but austere followers; and to those drawn by his teaching he said: “Give what you have to the poor.” He won no mind by the display of external magnificence; he regarded the cities of all the world as an offer to be spurned. He wore no crown; he held no sceptre; the only cause he was ever heard to plead was the Kingdom of God within the soul. Those who watched him saw no miraculous crushing of the enemies of God and Israel, but patient submission to buffeting and scourging and death. For homage he had insults; and thorns for a diadem. The spittle cast upon his brow signified in what esteem men held him; his triumphal procession consisted of a weary march under the cross up the hill of Calvary; and the angelic legions of Michael were replaced by the ruffian soldiers of brutal Rome.

The contrast was intensified by the evidence that Christ possessed the power to reverse all this. He himself said that he had but to ask his father and all he desired would be granted him. Already, as was clear, all the resources of nature lay at his command. From a few loaves he created food for five thousand; with a word he stilled the tempest; he burst the bars of death and called forth the buried from the tomb.

So striking, indeed, was the contrast of expectation and reality in Christ's life, that did we not know John the Baptist well, we would almost be led to fancy we could detect an echo of the popular disappointment in the blunt question his messengers put to Jesus: Art thou he that art to come; or look we for another ?" But while that question did not express the disappointment of John, it did furnish the providential opportunity for an answer which was a key to the enigma of Christ's life, and a solution of the problem already beginning to puzzle the earnest minds among the Jews : Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them."

When men heard this, they could understand the mission of the Savior as never before: he had come in human form that they might have a visible image of the gracious God to study and love and fashion themselves upon. He revealed the divine perfection in an aspect and with a clearness which rendered mistake impossible; which made it plain that to be like God man must love his fellow-man-the neighbor, the poor,

« НазадПродовжити »