Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 31

WHY is "the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears" culpable?

Not, surely, because of any involuntary deafness: but because whatever degree of infirmity she may or may not have labored under, she willed to be and to remain deaf.

Honest difficulties in the way of her hearing may have existed: incomparably beyond them in baneful influence appears to have been the circumstance that she stopped her ears.

We may fairly conclude that had her deafness been absolute she would not have felt any impulse to stop her ears: she could not have apprehended enough to set her against apprehending more.

Because she heard somewhat, she stopped her ears; and because hearing somewhat she took measures to hear no more, therefore she abides condemned.

If because we see her stop her ears we judge and condemn her on that very evidence of her having heard, let us judge ourselves no less honestly.

The responsibility we avoid facing, we have already caught a glimpse of: we are at the least so far cognizant of it as to know that we might ascertain more.

July 30

"He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me." -- (ST. JOHN xxiv.21.)

SUCH is our Lord's own authoritative definition of His true lover.

But not seldom it would seem as if this His definition fails to satisfy His disciples. Thus one, a self-deceiver, substitutes an emotion for obedience: while another, a self-tormentor, depreciates the obedience he can and (allowing for human frailty) does render, in comparison with emotions he longs after but cannot experience.

The self-deceiver's remedy is simple strenuous obedience, without reference either to sensibility or insensibility.

The self-tormentor's remedy is cheerful, trustful obedience "as to the Lord, and not unto men:" for whosoever studies himself in his obeidence is--is he not?--obeying as "unto a man" rather than "as to the Lord."

Such an honest scrupulous person may, perhaps, derive comfort from a very homely illustration. When water boils, the bottom of the vessel containing it can be touched with impunity: wherefore? because it lacks heat? on the contrary, because all its heat is carried upward and away from itself.

July 29

THROUGH burden and heat of the day
   How weary the hands and the feet,
That labor with scarcely a stay,
   Through burden and heat!

   Tired toiler whose sleep shall be sweet,
Kneel down, it will rest thee to pray:
   Then forward, for daylight is fleet.

Cool shadows grow lengthening and gray,
   Cool twilight will soon be complete:--
What matters this wearisome way
   Through burden and heat?

July 28


TEMPTATION is Satan's sieve: and a wonderful sieve-maker is Satan.

For he can ply as sieves advantages, gifts, even graces.

More than this: he can turn what we have not into an exceptionally searching sieve.

In one case pride, vanity, self-confidence, contempt of others, are likely to come to the surface. In the other case discontent, envy, rebellion. All alike hideous blotches, eating ulcers.

Nevertheless, it is at his own cost that he sifts, and not necessarily at all at ours; although for the time being it cannot but be at our deadly peril.

For he can never carry his point and destroy us, unless we first make a covenant with death and an agreement with hell: whereas we shall infallibly save our souls alive, if holding fast our profession and our patience, we are careful to maintain good works.

Meanwhile he is doing us an actual service by bringing to the surface what already lurked within. However tormenting and humiliating declared leprosy may be, it is less desperate than suppressed leprosy.

Or rather, nothing is desperate which can and will turn to Christ: --

"There came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His Hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed."

July 27


"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." --ST. LUKE xxii. 31)

THESE words of our Blessed Lord, spoken in the first instance to one Apostle, have ever since warned, and still cease not to warn, each Christian soul.

For though an ordinary Christian is no conspicuous prey, like the College of Apostles, yet Satan deems him well worth a shake of the sieve.

The warning conveyed by our Lord's words is awful: for our "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." A flesh and blood lion is appalling to human flesh and blood: how tenfold appalling is a spiritual roaring, devouring lion to man's spirit.

But the encouragement in those same precious words rings through and above the alarm they sound. "Satan hath desired" to have us: but of whom? Of Him to Whom we are as the apple of the eye.

And wherefore does he desire to have us? That he may sift us as wheat. We are certified as good seed by Satan's desiring permission to sift us: for whoever heard of his desiring to sift tares?

As to tares, Satan is quite satisfied so long as they grow unmolested, ripen, shed seed, propagate, flourish until the harvest.

Wheat only does he reckon worth his sifting: therefore whatever he sifts is wheat.

July 26

FEAST OF ST. ANNE, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

THAT the Lord's Handmaiden had a mother is indubitable; that she was blessed with a holy mother is conjecturable. That this pious mother bore the name of Anne is quite uncertain: but under this name we do well to venerate the memory of her who, bearing whatever name, was privileged to become an ancestress of the Son of God, and so was constituted a link in that providential chain of persons and events which ended in the atoning Cross.

It is comfortable to turn from saints whose history is unauthenticated, to saints whose history is assured, from the Worthies of tradition to the Worthies of Holy Scripture. At every turn that which is human fails or eludes us, that which is Divine endures and suffices.

"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."

July 25

Killed with the sword in the year 44.

ST. JAMES, who had craved the Right Hand or the Left Hand seat, and had accepted the cup and baptism proposed to him, was the first of the Apostles to lay down life for his Master's sake.

St. John, who had proffered the same prayer and incurred the same obligation, was the last of them all to die, and that not by martyrdom.

Together they had left nets and boat for Christ. Together they had borne the title of Sons of Thunder. Together they had companied with the Lord Jesus, and afterwards had seen Him ascend into heaven. Together they had received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and had preached the Gospel by words and by lives more eloquent than words.

Till a day came when one was taken, the other left: one "followed," the other "tarried." Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their death they were divided.

Now these twain were princes and great men of the better Israel; true yokefellows, moreover, and fellow-heirs; set side by side in their high places on the battle-field of the world and in the kingdom of the Church.

Yet each had to finish separately and differently the course begun hand in hand and alike.

Only now once more, and for these eighteen hundred years past, they are together.

Whence we feel vividly that as "circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God," so also life or death, so also even martyrdom or a natural death is "nothing," but the doing or suffering the Will of God. Amen.

July 24


VIGILS prepare for Feasts: but Feasts of Saints (mostly) celebrate the Saint's death.

Thus mortal life corresponds with a Vigil, death with a Festival.

We discern this clearly in the case of St. James, and of other such eminent saints; we acquiesce in it cheerfully and are fully persuaded that so it is.

But when ourselves come into question, we seem to see all reversed: our own life, that is, appears as something of a festival, though chequered; our own death as an appalling and beyond experience anxious vigil.

"My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"

July 23

WHO would wish back the Saints upon our rough,
   Wearisome road?
      Wish back a breathless soul
      Just at the goal?
   My soul, praise God
For all dear souls which have enough.

I would not fetch one back to hope with me
   A hope deferred,
      To taste a cup that slips
      From thirsting lips: --
   Hath he not heard
And seen what was to hear and see?

How could I stand to answer the rebuke,
   If one should say:
      "O friend of little faith,
      Good was my death,
  And good my day
Of rest, and good the sleep I took"?

July 22

The date of her death is unknown.

A RECORD of this Saint is a record of love. She ministered to the Lord of her substance, she stood by the Cross, she sat over against the Sepulchre, she sought Christ in the empty grave, and found Him and was found of Him in the contiguous garden.

Yet this is that same Mary Magdalene out of whom aforetime He had cast seven devils.

Nevertheless, the golden cord of love we are contemplating did all along continue unbroken in its chief strand: for before she loved Him, He loved her.

Thus love it was which brought Christ and that soul together, and bound them together first and last. Or rather, first and not last: for time must end in eternity, and eternity must end which never endeth, before the mutual love of Christ and his saints shall end.

To love first is God's prerogative. But blessed be He Who humbles not His least saint by loving last.

July 21

THE sinner's own fault? So it was.
   If every own fault found us out,
   Dogged us and hedged us round about,
What comfort should we take, because
   Not half our due we thus wrung out?

Clearly his own fault. Yet I think
   My fault in part, who did not pray,
   But lagged, and would not lead the way.
I, haply, proved his missing link.
   God help us both to mend and pray.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 20


Her martyrdom took place, perhaps, in the third century.

I READ that no trustworthy authority has come to light for any details regarding this personage. Even her existence does not admit of proof.

Her legendary acts represent her as brought up by a Christian nurse, and as herself a Christian. Wherefore her pagan father disowned her. At length, after various trials, tortures, and triumphs, she died by decapitation.

Nevertheless--and this undermines meditation--we cannot feel assured that she lived at all, or died, or went up to glory. Yet should not her memory, or her phantom as the case may be, do us some good? Let her not engross one day in the year for nothing!

On one supposition we can picture her in accordance with her name of Margaret as a modest daisy, growing where for the present we cannot come: or as a pearl not yet brought up from hidden depths to the sun-lighted surface. Or dwelling on her alternative name of Marina, we can look forward to knowing her when both sea and earth render up the dead.

On the other hand should she not exist, we shall yet have gained and not lost if the Feast Day (though it be not her Festival) have led us to think of things pure and lovely, of virtue, and of praise.

July 19


PITY the sorrows of a poor old dog,
   Who wags his tail a-begging in his need;
Despise not even the sorrows of a frog,
   God's creature too, and that's enough to plead;
Spare puss, who trusts us, purring on our hearth;  
   Spare bunny, once so frisky and so free;
Spare all the harmless tenants of the earth;
   Spare and be spared, --or who shall plead for thee?

July 18


"HALF-EATEN and good for nothing," said I of the strawberry. I need not have expressed myself with such sweeping contempt.

Some snail may have been glad to finish up that wreck. Some children might not have disdained the final bite.

Yet to confine my reflections to snails and their peers: why should not they have a share in strawberries?

Man is very apt to contemplate himself out of all proportion to his surroundings: true, he is "much better than they," yet have they also their assigned province and their guaranteed dues.

Fruits for man, green herb for other living creatures, including creepers on the earth, is the decree in Genesis. Thus for the Garden of Eden: and why not thus, as regards the spirit of the decree, here and now?

But man, alas! finds it convenient here to snap off a right and there to chip away a due. Greed grudges their morsel to hedgerow birds, and idleness robs the provident hare of his winter haystack, and science pares away at the living creature bodily, "And what will ye do in the end thereof?"

July 17


TO this hour I remember a certain wild strawberry growing on a hedgerow bank, watched day by day while it ripened by a little girl and by my yet younger self.

My elder instructed me not to pluck it prematurely, and I complied.

I do not know which of us was to have had it at last, or whether we were to have halved it. As it was we watched, and as it turned out we watched in vain: for a snail, or some such marauder, must have forestalled us at a happy moment. One fatal day we found it half-eaten, and good for nothing.

Thus then we had watched in vain: or was it altogether in vain? On a very lowly level we had obeyed a counsel of prudence, and had practised self-restraint.

And shall the balked watches of after-life prove in vain? "Let patience have her perfect work."

July 16

HAVE I not striven, my God, and watched and prayed?
   Have I not wrestled in mine agony?
   Wherefore dost Thou still turn Thy Face from me?
Is Thine Arm shortened that Thou canst not aid?
Thy silence breaks my heart: speak though to upbraid,
   For Thy rebuke yet bids us follow Thee.
   I grope and grasp not; gaze, but cannot see.
When out of sight and reach, my bed is made,
And piteous men and women cease to blame,
   Whispering and wistful of my gain or loss;
   Thou Who for my sake once didst feel the Cross,
   Lord, wilt Thou turn and look upon me then,
And in Thy glory bring to nought my shame,
   Confessing me to angels and to men?

July 15


Born presumably towards the commencement of the ninth century: died in the year 862. (Strictly speaking, however, it appears that the 2d of July is St. Swithun's own day, the 15th the day of the Translation of his remains.)

WE read that in his youth St. Swithun was distinguished by humility. "Before honor is humility." In later life he became the associate and counsellor of kings, directing, assisting, reproving them.

Whatever else we may or may not know of this eminent Prelate, we are almost certain to connect an idea of fine or wet weather with the day of his Translation. The story goes how by a downpour of rain he opposed the removal of his body, although at length that removal was effected.

If we connect this alleged opposition with the saint's humility, the legend will serve to illustrate the virtue. And as everything under the sun may be turned to good account, this story must be susceptible of the process: shall it teach us humility?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 14


IN the same collection of glass, but not among the Venetian specimens, stood two antique Greek vases, mended, I believe, though to all intents flawless, portly and oxydized.

What words can describe their beauty? Placed as they were aloft in my friend's drawing-room, one might stand for sunrise, the other for moonrise.

Sunrise was brilliant as the most gorgeous pheasant; moonrise exquisite as the most harmonious pigeon. But, as I said before, words do not describe them: I cannot exaggerate, I can only misrepresent their appearance.

Well, with these unrivalled vases vivid in my memory, I one day rescued from an English roadside ditch a broken bottle: and it was also oxydized! So, at least, I conclude: for in a minor key it too displayed a variety of iridescent tints, a sort of dull rainbow.

Now my treasure-trove was nothing to those others: yet could not their exess of beauty annul its private modicum of beauty.

There are, I presume, many more English ditches than Greek Islands, many more modern broken bottles than antique lustrous vases. If it is well for the few to rejoice in sunrise and moonrise, it is no less well for the many to be thankful for dim rainbows.

July 13


LET none despair of any grace, however remote from their original lot.

I once looked over a fine collection of old Venetian glass vessels.

By no means, I suppose, were any two of these precisely similar, not a mould from without but a breath or a blast from within having shaped them.

Some perhaps might be described as quaint, others certainly as elegant, many, if not all, as beautiful.

But the point of beauty which astonished me was that one or more of the specimens had caught, as it were, a momentary grace such as charms us in many flowers. Such a contour, a curve, an attitude if I may so call it, did here or there one of these old glasses exhibit, as a petrified blossom bell might retain, or as flexibility itself or motion might show forth if these could be embodied and arrested.

Inert glass moulded from within caught the semblance of such an alien grace.

Now God's grace moulds us from within.

July 12

A FONDLING Dog and a fondling Donkey: the old fable tells us how differently they fared.

And thus it ever has been, and thus presumably it ever will be; but is it thus right and reasonable?

In a measure it is, in a measure it is not.

If we examine ourselves on the "Dog and Donkey" question, I think many of us may find that not the deed, often not even the manner of doing, but continually the doer, makes all the difference to us. "Dogs" we pet, "Donkeys" we flout.

The Dog may lick us unrebuked: the Donkey must not so much as brush us with his nice hairy long ear.

Or granting that the Donkey is clumsy and coarse: can nothing be condoned to his obviously virtuous intention?

A number of good kind people correspond more or less with the demonstrative Donkey; but why? just because they desire to be agreeably sociable. However clumsy their attempts, nothing can disguise the fact that they mean well.

Perhaps, even, they are misled by the success of some general favorite, who says, proposes, does everything with all ingratiating tact.

Wherefore they also aim at repartee, and take to catching us up; at jocoseness, and jar our nerves. Our pet nerve they grate upon: a hint as broad as a scowl suffices not to suppress them.

Well, dense they may be, but they mean well by all men.

We are highly strung, sensitively refined, our tact amounts to intuition, not one weak point should we exhibit but for super-exquisite delicacy. Only do we, with equal consistency of honest purpose and endeavor, mean well by all men?

July 11

MAN'S life is but a working day
Whose tasks are set aright:
A time to work, a time to pray,
And then a quiet night.

And then, please God, a quiet night
Where palms are green and robes are white,
A long-drawn breath, a balm for sorrow,--
And all things lovely on the morrow.

July 10


THE less symbolizes the greater, the lower the higher.

Our study of a forget-me-not and of a shell will not entail loss of time--that irreparable loss!--if it helps us to realize that all reciprocal human love worthy of the name, exhibits a tinge of heaven as well as a warmth and coloring of earth.

That it is so far selfless as to be only one harmonious part of a better whole.

That it is faithful, fitting into nothing except its own other self.

And that unless it sets Christ before us at least as in a glass darkly, it were good for it not to have been born.

July 9


I HAVE seen too--once indeed I possessed, so I write from memory--a most exquisite shell, composed of two halves, which joined together make up one flawless heart.

Each separate half is beautiful, shaded with darker and lighter rose tints, worked in grooves and curves, and finished with a notched edge. Yet each by itself remains obviously imperfect and purposeless.

Join them together and notch fits into notch; each brings out, proves, achieves, the perfection of the other.

Does such an illustration seem to excel and shame the possibilities of even the highest and purest human love?

Nay, but St. Paul quoted that same mutual human love in illustration of a Love which is not human merely but Divine also: --

"A man . . . shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church."

July 8


AN apter flower for love-lore could scarcely be selected than the forget-me-not.

It expresses a lofty affection, inasmuch as its corolla is heavenly blue; but this is picked out with pink, to stamp it as human and homely. It suggests how good stands not still, but goes on to become better; for its buds are prevalently pink, its expanded blossoms chiefly blue. Its centre is golden, love being a great giver and giving of its best.

While by a crowning touch of appropriateness its blossom stalk has a habit of dividing into a double spike of bloom. Thus showing us two that make up but one.

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 7

CONTEMPTUOUS of his home beyond
The village and the village pond,
A large-souled Frog who spurned each byway,
Hopped along the imperial highway.

Nor grunting pig nor barking dog
Could disconcert so great a frog.
The morning dew was lingering yet
His sides to cool, his tongue to wet;
The night dew when the night should come
A travelled frog would send him home.

Not so, alas! the wayside grass
Sees him no more: -- not so, alas!
A broadwheeled wagon unawares
Ran him down, his joys, his cares.

From dying choke one feeble croak
The Frog's perpetual silence broke:
"Ye bouyant Frogs, ye great and small,
Even I am mortal after all.
My road to Fame turns out a wry way:
I perish on this hideous highway,--
Oh for my old familiar byway!"

The choking Frog sobbed and was gone:
The wagoner strode whistling on.

Unconscious of the carnage done,
Whistling that wagoner strode on,--
Whistling (it may have happened so)
"A Froggy would a-wooing go:"
A hypothetic frog trolled he
Obtuse to a reality.

O rich and poor, O great and small,
Such oversights beset us all:
The mangled frog abides incog,
The uninteresting actual frog;
The hypothetic frog alone
Is the one frog we dwell upon.

July 6

TWO frogs I met in early childhood have lingered in my memory: I frightened one frog, and the other frog frightened me.
   The frightened frog evinced fear by placing its two hands on its head: at least, I have since understood that a frog assumes this attitude when in danger, and my frog assumed it.
   The alarming frog startled me, "gave me quite a turn," as people say, by jumping when I did not know it was near me.
   My fright was altogether without justifying cause. Not so the first frog's: for presumably my warm finger made the cool creature uncomfortable. Besides, how could it tell what was coming next? although in truth I meant it no harm.
   I wish that as regards their intention as much could nowadays be certified for some of the wiset of this world, and that every scared frog were like my scared self, unreasonable.
   But seeing that matters are as they are--because frogs and such like cannot in reason frighten  us now,--is it quite certain that no day will ever come when even the smallest, weakest, most grotesque, wronged creature will not in some fashion rise up in the Judgment with us to condemn us, and so frighten us effectually once for all?

July 5

Innocent eyes not ours,
Are made to look on flowers,
Eyes of small birds and insects small:
   Morn after summer morn,
   The sweet rose on her thorn
Opens her bosom to them all.
   The least and last of things
   That soar on quivering wings,
Or crawl among the grass-blades out of sight,
Have just as clear a right
To their appointed portion of delight,
   As Queens or Kings.

July 4

(This saint we shall meet with again, and in person, on November 11.)

As a general proposition, it surely is most pious and most reverential to leave the dead at rest in their graves.
   Often, moreover, as in the case of this St. Martin, holy men have loved and observed an ascetic retirement which seems doubly indisposed towards posthumous translation.
   Had this well-meant rite been more charily practised, such reticence might at least in some measure have checked that scandalous multiplicity of relics, which has assigned duplicate heads and an overplus of members to the same Saint in the face of abashed Christendom.
   Not but what some exhumations for honorable enshrinement may have been praiseworthy: among which let us hope this of St. Martin ranks. Indeed, as a case more or less in point and "written for our learning," we read in Genesis how "Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence:" which oath being observed, the Patriarch's remains were transported out of Egypt into the Holy Land of Promise. But as bearing on ourselves and on our own practice, surely all Christendom is "holy ground."
   Now if I have betrayed prejudice, I beg my reader's pardon. Meanwhile I well remember how one no longer present with us, but to whom I cease not to look up, shrank from entering the Mummy Room at the British Museam under a vivid realization of how the general resurrection might occur even as one stood among those solemn corpses turned into a sight for sight-seers.
   And at the great and awful day, what will be thought of supposititious heads and members?

July 3

LOVE doth so grace and dignify,
   That beggars treat as king with king
Before the Throne of God most High:
Love recognizes love's own cry
   And stoops to take love's offering,

A loving heart though soiled and bruised,
   A kindling heart though cold before: --
Whoever came and was refused
By Love? Do, Lord, as Thou art used
   To do, and make me love Thee more.

July 2


THIS Visitation of St. Mary to her cousin "righteous" Elisabeth, was the occasion on which the unborn Baptist did homage to the coming Christ, and the Virgin Mother spake the Magnificat.
   Long ago a lover of "things lovely" suggested to me as an appropriate text for the Salutation: "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
   The dear speaker herself was humble and righteous, and has since then entered (I trust) into peace. Yet not for works of righteousness of man's doing, but according to His mercy God saveth all, both first and last, who are or who shall be saved.
   Even the Blessed Virgin said and said truly: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden."

July 1

LORD God of Hosts most Holy and most High,
    What made Thee tell Thy Name of Love to me?
What made Thee live our life? what made Thee die?
        "My love of thee."

I pitched so low, Thou so exceeding high,
    What was it made Thee stoop to look at me
While flawless sons of God stood wondering by?
        "My love of thee."

O Lord, what is that best thing in the sky
    Which makes heaven heaven as Thou hast promised me,
Yea, makes it Christ to live and gain to die?
        "My love of thee."