Monday, October 21, 2013

October 31


THIS Vigil is commensurate with the duration of Christendom, for the life of every Christian is this vigil: so ought yours to be, so ought mine.

A vigil is a period wherein to fast, pray, watch; repent of the past, amend the present, prepare and long for the future.

Such is a vigil. Is my life such?

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand."

October 30

WHO is this that cometh up not alone
   From the fiery-flying serpent wilderness,
Leaning upon her own Beloved One,
   Who is this?

Lo, the King of King's daughter, a high princess,
Going home as bride to her Husband's Throne,
   Virgin queen in perfected loveliness.

Her eyes a dove's eyes and her voice a dove's moan,
   She shows like a full moon for heavenliness,
Eager saints and angels ask in heaven's zone:
   Who is this?

October 29

WHO has not rejoiced at the ever familiar, ever marvellous aspect of the stars? Those resplendent orbs remote, abiding.

But now science, endeavoring to account for certain recurrent obscurations of one or more such luminaries, suggests that among them and with them may be revoloving other non-luminous bodies; which interposing periodically between individuals of the bright host and our planet, diminish from time to time the light proceeding from one or other; and again, by advancing along an assigned orbit, reveal their original brightness.

"Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me: I cannot attain unto it."

Yet none the less does the physical hypothesis suggest a spiritual analogy.

If certain stars which present mere dimness and obstruction to our eyes are notwithstanding genuine celestial bodies fulfilling their proper revolution in their legitimate orbit, may not some human fellow-creatures who to us exhibit no sign of grace, yet be numbered among the children of God, and have their lot among the saints?

God grant that so it may be, and grant me fellowship with them.

October 28


TRADITION, but not with unanimous voice, proclaims that St. Simon was martyred in Persia, being sawn asunder: that St. Jude similarly "fell asleep," hanging pierced upon a cross at Edessa.

St. Jude has enriched the Church with the General Epistle which bears his name: of St. Simon no writings remain to us.

The inspired Gospel narrative records little of either Saint beyond his name, except that of course both are included in statements which speak of "the Twelve."

Thus we behold two illustrious Apostles contented scarcely to be mentioned in Holy Scripture: which celestial partial eclipse is followed up by their sharing one Festival between them.

Truly they learnt of Him Who is "meek and lowly in heart;" and now they know by blessed experience that it is enough for the disciple to be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord.

October 27


"THE harvest is past, the summer is ended," writes the Prophet Jeremiah.

Even so this vigil overtakes us in the waning natural year, with harvest past and summer ended.

What has been sown has also been reaped. After the reapers the gleaners have followed: the last ears have been gathered in. It is too late now to sow, whether or not we have sown long ago; or to reap, whether or not we have already reaped.

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved," writes the Prophet Jeremiah.

And wiser than he, and more full of tenderness, Christ wept over Jerusalem, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."

Nevertheless, to-day, while it is called to-day, He still calls us, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel."

October 26

OF all the downfalls in the world,
   The flutter of an Autumn leaf
   Grows grievous by suggesting grief:
Who thought, when Spring was first unfurled,
Of this? The wide world lay empearled;
Who thought of frost that nips the world?
                                             Sigh on, my ditty.

There lurk a hundred subtle stings
   To prick us in our daily walk:
   An apple cankered on its stalk,
A robin snared for all his wings,
A voice that sang but never sings;
Yea, sight or sound or silence stings.
                                            Kind Lord, show pity.

October 25

FEAST OF ST. CRISPIN, MARTYR; accounted Patron of shoemakers. The year 285 is perhaps the date of this saint's martyrdom. His brother St. Crispinian suffered and triumphed with him. But so much of their legendary history fails to carry conviction with it, that every alleged particular may prudently be held under correction.

THESE pious brothers, then, were Roman shoemakers working at Soissons. An alternative account makes them Roman nobles. Whatever they were in this world's social scale, they are portrayed to us as such men as "the King delighteth to honor;" and where they now dwell, earth and earthly rank alike have dwindled to nothing.

And if "to nothing" there, can they be any great thing here?

October 24

A WORLDLY Christian resembles a chameleon which possesses two independent eyes addicted to looking in opposite directions.
One eye, let us say, peers frankly downwards fly seeking.

The twin eye peers skywards.

A chameleon used to enjoy the credit of living on air: surely an all but angelic reptile!

Such was the verdict of ignorance. The verdict of knowledge, nowadays, is that the chameleon simply lives on insects.

His downward eye contemplating earth hunts a walking fly. His upward eye scouring heaven presumably hunts a floating fly, but still a fly.

There remains no difference worth speaking of between his upward eye and his downward eye.

October 23.


PERHAPS we may gather a hint of the "why" from that same elephant's platform: smooth, and of ivory.

He rose superior to the snare. But we, I think, are often hampered by what may be termed the ivory smoothness of our surroundings and circumstances.

Beautiful things and comfortable things tempt one to loiter, if not absolutely to stand stock still.

Meanwhile the Bible bids us go on unto perfection, and press toward the mark.

To loiter cannot be to press forward: to stand still cannot be to go on.

Which will we forego: smoothness without, or perfection within? a house of ivory here, or the City of Gold hereafter?

October 22


ONE of the prettiest Japanese carvings I ever saw represented an elephant.

Quite a little elephant done in ivory, yet as elephantine as Jumbo himself. Altogether an exquisite work of art.

Still, its finishing touch of excellence resided (to my thinking) neither in trunk nor in knowing eye; but rather in the subtle artistic instinct which had placed that elephant well back on his ivory stand, so as to leave him room to walk on.

The position spoke for itself. There stood the elephant able and willing to take his walk, and to all intents and purposes about to start.

Thus the unique charm of that immovable elephant lay in his expression of progress.

I fear many of our movable selves so reverse the marvel that the last idea conveyed by our expression is any promise of progress.

But if so, why so?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 21


THAT combination of swallows with telegraph wire sets in vivid contrast before our mental eye the sort of evidence we put confidence in and the sort of evidence we mistrust.

The telegraph conveys messages from man to man.

The swallows by dint of analogy, of suggestion, of parallel experience, if I may call it so, convey messages from the Creator to the human creature.

We act eagerly, instantly, on telegrams. Who would dream of stopping to question their genuineness?

While often we act reluctantly, often we act not at all, on the other sort of messages. We dwell anxiously on the thousand contingencies of life, tremblingly on the inevitable contingency of death. We call everything in question, except the bitter certainty of suffering, the most bitter certainty of death.

Who, watching us, could suppose that the senders of telegrams are fallible; and that the Only Sender of Providential messages is infallible?

October 20


AS I am nothing of an ornithologist, any small outdoor bird with forked tail and black and white plumage may pass with me as a swallow or as a martin. When mud nests are not in sight, then it becomes a swallow.

Once at the seaside I recollect noticing for some time a row of swallows perched side by side along a telegraph wire. There they sat steadily. After a while, when some one looked again, they were gone.

This happened so late in the year as to suggest that the birds had mustered for migration and then had started.

The sight was quaint, comfortable looking, pretty. The small creatures seemed so fit and so ready to launch out on their pathless journey: contented to wait, contented to start, at peace and fearless.

Altogether they formed an apt emblem of souls willing to stay, willing to depart.

Only I fear there are not so many "willing" souls as "willing" swallows.

October 19

HOW can one man, how can all men,
   How can we be like St. Paul,
Like St. John, or like St. Peter,
   Like the least of all
   Blessed Saints? for we are small.

Love can make us like St. Peter,
   Love can make us like St. Paul,
Love can make us like the blessed
   Bosom friend of all,
   Great St. John,--though we are small.

Love which clings and trusts and worships,
   Love which rises from a fall,
Love which teaching glad obedience
   Labors most of all,
   Love makes great the great and small.

October 18


IT is not certain that St. Luke died a martyr; but we cannot doubt that he lived a saint.

Setting aside a question easily raised and not easily answered, whether the "Luke" or "Lucas" named three times by St. Paul is or is not this Evangelist, and assuming such identity, we notice how very tenderly he is mentioned as "Luke, the beloved physician:" and again, with a brevity more expressive than a multitude of words, "Only Luke is with me."

But in St, Luke's Gospel, and in his Book of Acts, his own name occurs not so much as once. In the Gospel it seems impossible to trace him, except perhaps by help of tradition: in the Acts we infer his presence on certain occasions only from his use of the word "we" and its derivatives.

Thus St. Luke illustrates for our edification one of King Solomon's noble Proverbs: "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."

October 17

FEAST OF ST. ETHELDREDA, VIRGIN QUEEN AND ABBESS. Her death took place in the year 679, on the 23rd of June; the day appointed as her Festival in the Anglican Calendar being the anniversary of the (first) translation of her remains in 695.

THIS Princess, daughter of Anna King of East Anglia, was twice given in marriage. Her first husband, Prince Tombert, appears either to have shared her spirit of self-devotion or to have loved her better than himself, for, in compliance with her will, he forbore to enforce his marital rights during their three years' union. Left a widow she hoped for freedom: yet was constrained by family influence to marry Prince Egfrid, heir of the kingdom of Northumbria. Still, however, she adhered to her former resolution; and, after twelve years of successful contest, ended strife by separating from her enamoured husband; yet not wirhout first obtaining his reluctant consent.

Thus she fought the battle of life: thus she triumphed. Egfrid, indeed, not enduring her absence pursued her ere long to the monastery of Coldingham: whence however she fled and escaped him.

Finally, she built a monastery for men and women in the Island of Ely, which island she inherited from her first husband. She ruled her Community piously, performed many good deeds, and died (we are informed) still young:--

"At the last moment, surrounded by the brothers and sisters of the numerous community in tears, she spoke to them at length, imploring them never to let their hearts rest on the earth, but to taste beforehand, by their earnest desires, that joy in the love of Christ which it would not be given to them to know perfectly here below."

October 16


WHATSO it be, howso it be, Amen.
   Blessed it is, believing, not to see.
Now God knows all that is; and we shall, then,
   Whatso it be.

   God's Will is best for man whose will is free:
God's Will is better to us, yea, than ten
   Desires whereof He holds and weighs the key.

Amid her household cares He guides the wren,
   He guards the shifty mouse from poverty,
He knows all wants, allots each where and when,
   Whatso it be.

October 15


TOGETHER once, but never more
   While Time and Death run out their runs:
Though sundered now as shore from shore,
   Together once.

   Nor rising suns, nor setting suns,
Nor life renewed which Springtide bore,
   Make one again Death's sundered ones.

Eternity holds rest in store,
   Holds hope of long reunions.
But holds it what they hungered for
   Together once?

October 14

A SENSUAL Christian resembles a sea anemone.

In the nobler element, air, it exists as a sluggish, unbeautiful excrescence.

In the lower element, water, it grows, blows and thrives.

The food it assimilates is derived not from the height, but from the depth.

It possesses neither eyes nor ears, but a multiude of feelers.

It squats on a tenacious base, gulps all acquisitions into a capacious chasm, and harmonizes with the weeks it dwells among.

But what will become of it in a world where there shall be no more sea?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 13

FEAST OF THE TRANSLATION OF ST. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND. Born about the year 1002; anointed and crowned on Easter Day, 1042; died on the Eve of the Epiphany, 1066.

"HE was a mild, pious, but feeble prince: his heart, weaned from the world, sought comfort in religion, and the cares of government were a painful distraction to a mind musing on heavenly things. From his infancy he had been addicted to prayer. . . . He was modest in his comportment and sparing in his words."

Such is the character I read of him.

His reign was chequered by troubles, yet these not of such magnitude as to undermine his throne. His family affections seem to have been thwarted if not naturally tepid. His gratitude to the Normans, who entertained him at a period of his depressed fortune, worked prosperously for them, but at the cost apparently of his own native subjects. He gave away his crown by promise, contrary, as is alleged, to an established law of the realm: and, although his own career closed in peace, days of bloodshed and years of civil heartburning and animosity overtook England after him.

I accept him on trust as Saint and confessor: for, by studying the brief summary I write from, I discern him not as such by aid of my own faculties. Indeed, I do not perceive that "confessorship" was at all in question: for who challenged his faith?

Nevertheless, charity and obedience alike bid me question my own questionings and mistrust my doubts: and so I do.

"We know in part. . . . But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

October 12

A GOOD unobstrusive Christian of my own intimate circle told me that in her worried life--and a worried life it has been--she has derived comfort from the reflection that no day lasts longer than twenty-four hours.

To a good worried Christian this certainty affords legitimate comfort. But, as it cannot certify comfort to all classes of worried persons, it seems safe for most of us not to wish time shortened.

If time is short, many tempers are yet shorter.

Even a Psalmist prays: "O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength: before I go hence, and be no more seen."

And most of us have very much besides strength to recover.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 11


That which I chose, I choose;
   That which I willed, I will;
That which I once refused, I still refuse:
   O hope deferred, be still.

That which I chose and choose
   And will is Jesu's Will:
He hath not lost his life who seems to lose:
   O hope deferred, hope still.

October 10


ALL heaven is blazing yet
   With the meridian sun:
Make haste, O sun, make haste to set;
   O lifeless life, have done.

I choose what once I chose;
   What once I willed, I will:
Only the heart its own bereavement knows,
   O clamorous heart, lie still.

October 9

FEAST OF ST. DENYS, BISHOP, accounted Patron Saint of France. Assigned to the third century.

SO much has to be set aside as incredible, or at the least as untrustworthy in the history (?) of this personage, that we shall not, I think, memorialize him amiss by reflecting thankfully that one who presumably bore his name was undoubtedly constituted God's instrument in converting to Christianity certain first-fruits of the great and noble French nation.

St. Denys of Paris--for Paris is assigned as the field of his labors, and Montmartre as the scene of his martyrdom--has, erroneously as it appears, been identified with St. Paul's adherent, "Dionysius the Areopagite:" while both together have become confused with the author of certain works belonging to a later century, and popularly and perhaps correctly ascribed to (a third) Dionysius.

Tradition represents St. Denys as beheaded: and then as arising and carrying his head a considerable distance.

Now, without pretending to pronounce on this particular legend, let us lay to heart St. Paul's injunction: "Refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness."

October 8


LET us seek to extract one more lesson from St. Faith.

As I was yesterday, so I remain to-day, in doubt as to the existence of this Saint. Wherefore, so far as my exposition of her claims is concerned, we cannot but admit that our ignorance outstrips our knowledge.

Ignorance, then, rather than knowledge, must (it would seem) feed our souls on certain occasions. What nourishment can we derive from ignorance?

Thus much, at least:--

We find that for practical purposes we do after all know enough of St. Faith: inasmuch as we know enough to enable us to follow the suggestion of our Mother church, by honoring her (contingent) memory.

And if in the same spirit of faith and obedience we betake ourselves devoutly to search the Scriptures, we shall surely find that, despite our manifold ignorances, we yet do know enough of the Divine Revelation to understand and keep God's commandments.

And "blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October 7


Lying a-dying,--
Have done with vain sighing:
Life not lost but treasured,
God Almighty pleasured,
God's daughter fetched and carried,
Christ's bride betrothed and married.
Our tender little dove,
Meek-eyed and simple,
Our love goes home to Love:
There shall she walk in white,
Where God shall be the Light,
And God the Temple.

October 6



WHILE Dacian governed Spain on behalf of the Emperor of this visible world, and persecuted the Church on behalf of the arch-emperor of the fallen invisible world, Faith, a noble maiden of Aquitain,"fought a good fight, kept the faith," and from a bed of fire went home to that rest, which the wicked cannot trouble.

Yet some have surmised that this "St. Faith" is no real flesh and blood person, but an embodiment of that indomitable Virtue of the same name which in a hst of martyrs has laughed to scorn the impotent power of the enemy.

Whichever she was, let us profit by her.

If she was a weak maid, which of us cannot by Divine Grace become as strong as a weak maid?

If she was a Christian Virtue, which of us is not vowed to have and to hold fast in life and in death that same Christian virtue?

October 5


WHILE all creation sang its hymn anew,
   What could I do but sing a stave in tune?
   Spectral on high hung pale the vanishing moon,
Where a last hint of stars hung paling too.
Lark's lay--a cockcrow--with a scattered few
   Soft early chirpings,--with a tender croon
   Of doves,--a hundred thousand calls, and soon
A hundred thousand answers, sweet and true.
These set me singing too at unawares:
   One note for all delights and charities,
      One note for hope reviving with the light,
Till while I sang my heart cast off its cares,
      And revelled in the land of no more night.

October 4


NO thing is great on this side of the grave,
   Nor any thing of any stable worth:
  Whatso is born from earth returns to earth:
No thing we grasp proves half the thing we crave:
The tidal wave becomes the ebbing wave:
   Laughter is folly, madness lurks in mirth:
   Mankind sets off a-dying from the birth:
Life is a losing game,--with what to save?
Thus I sat mourning like a mournful owl,
   And like a doleful dragon made ado,
      Companion of all monsters of the dark:
When lo! the light shook off its nightly cowl,
      And up to heaven flashed carolling a lark,
   And all creation sang its hymn anew.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 3

I HAVE noticed in cold weather how many days a rose will linger in the bud, quarter blown, half blown. When at length, if ever, it expands fully, it will probably not be the most beautiful of roses: still, if far below the finest blossoms at their best moment, it has, on the other hand, lasted longer than they.

Superiority in one point may fairly be set against inferiority in another: duration against quality.

And if this is equitable in estimating flowers, it is no less equitable in estimating people.

Many lives pass in chills and in shadows which preclude certain fine finishing touches of loveliness: their resource will be to excel in endurance.

And in the long run surely the livers of such lives will be ready to sing with David: "The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground:" for "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

October 2

DARKNESS and light are both alike to Thee:
   Therefore to Thee I lift my darkened face;
Upward I look with eyes that fail to see,
   Athirst for future light and present grace.
   I trust the Hand of Love I scarcely trace.
With breath that fails I cry, Remember me:
   Add breath to breath, so I may run my race
That where Thou art there may Thy servant be.
For Thou art gulf and fountain of my love,
   I unreturning torrent to Thy sea,
      Yea, Thou the measureless ocean for my rill:
      Seeking I find, and finding, seek Thee still:
And oh! that I had wings as hath a dove,
Then would I flee away to rest with Thee.

October 1

Born about the year 435; died about 532.

SEVEN feet high and of handsome countenance, as transpires in his after-life, St. Remigius, being then a young man, was sitting in the Church of Rheims, where clergy and people were convened to choose a Bishop, when a ray of light penetrating through the clerestory, illumined his face amid the surrounding comparative darkness, and he was elected by acclamation to the vacant See. Whereupon, he being at the time no more than twenty-two years old, the canonical impediment of youth was waived: he received Holy Orders, and assumed his allotted dignity.

To him appertains the glory of having instructed and baptized Clovis, King of the Franks, whom at the Font he exhorted in the novel words: "Adore what thou hast burned: burn what thou hast adored."

Various miraculous incidents are narrated in connection with him. The following forms so striking a parable of the hazard in matters spiritual of ever, under any pretext, reopening a channel once closed against temptation, that either as history or as allegory I transcribe it:--

"A tremendous conflagration broke out at Rheims. St. Remigius came to the rescue when more than half the city was in flames. He went before the raging fire and made the sign of the cross; the flames retreated; he advanced, and continued making the sign, and the fire backed before him step by step, till he drove it through a gate. Then he ordered the gate to be walled up, and forbade any one ever opening it again. Many years after the owner of the adjoining house, wanting an ash-pit, knocked a hole in the wall that he might shoot his rubbish through it. Instantly out burst the demon of the conflagration and killed the man, his wife, children, and servants."