« AnteriorContinuar »
prevented from discovering the holy house. Why may I not piously suppose that it was carried away from them; and if so, and remember, as Mr. Oakely says, “you cannot prove me wrong,”-it must have been miraculously removed to some other place, by some supernatural means. We may suppose that angels were sent to transport it through the air-and then we may suppose that they carried it all the way to Dalmatia, to a mountain near the Gulf of Venice—they must have carried it to some one place—why not to this ? as Mr. Oakely would argue. So we will suppose that they did set it down on this particular mountain-and then the people of the place would take notice of so strange a circumstance-perhaps they saw the angels carrying it; we may suppose that they did, or that some hermit dreamt about it, and told them how it came there; for you cannot prove that there might not be a hermit there, and that he might not have a remarkable dream or vision to explain the history of the house which had so suddenly arrived, nobody knew how or whence; and then we may also suppose the people of the place were rather inclined to be too Protestant to credit the story, and so they did not express a due veneration for the relic—and we may conceive how grieved the hermit was, and what a quantity of ashes and muddy water he ate and drank, and how he repeated the entire Psalter nine times a day, standing up to his neck in an uncommonly cold well for exactly three years and seven months, until at last we may suppose that the angels returned, and carried the house over the Gulf of Venice, to a wood, as the legend piously relates, about three miles from Loretto-as there must have been a noble lady named Loretto there, from whom the place was afterwards called—at least you cannot prove that there was not, or that the place came by its name in any other way. However unfortunately, we are obliged to suppose that there may be wicked people in Italy as well as elsewhere-at least there were formerly ; and so we may conceive that, on account of the wickedness of the natives, the holy house was removed from the place near Loretto, where it had been deposited ; but, unfortunately, it was not yet destined to find a resting place—at least, we may suppose that there were two brothers there who had a quarrel about the ground on which it was placed — when we may piously suppose that it was moved once more, and that it is now to be seen in a very magnificent church, and that the walls are made of a stone which is found only in the neighbourhood of Nazareth, though it is plain they are built of bricks; but then we may piously suppose them to be stone from Nazareth, and also, (as we cannot prove the contrary) that a certain image in the chamber was carved by St. Luke himself. And
also suppose, that at first nobody knew where the house came from, till a vision appeared to a devout man in his sleep-and then we may suppose that sixteen persons were sent to Nazareth to measure the foundations which had been left behind, who found them exactly of the right dimensions, and found also an inscription on a wall adjoining, stating that the house belonging to the foundations had been removed, which may well be taken as a demonstration. Now, why may not the Italians meditate in this fashion ? May not they claim the right of supposing that the house was really transported from Nazareth to Loretto, just as fairly as the monks of Naza. reth suppose they have it still in its original subterranean grotto. And why may not the Greek exercise his right of meditation in his own way, and suppose that the Annunciation could not have taken place in a house at all, but beside a fountain, which the legend Mr. Newman adopts will tell is still to be seen, with a church standing over its source. The Italian has thought proper to meditate as his imagination led the way, and so he has concocted the legend, and he can show to this day the very chamber and the very window through which the angel entered. But then, says Mr. Oakeley, and the defence will hold good for the monks of Nazareth as well as for the canons at Loretto, whatever may be said of the Greek, “ I do no violence to the sacred text.” Yet, surely, one who had any just notion of what revelation is, would feel that it is nothing short of a sinful irreverence to add anything to the arrative which the Holy Spirit has thought fit to dictate, under the notion that something must have happened; and if so, why not one thing as likely as another? It is violence to any text of history to insert events and conversations after one's own taste. It is the sure way to destroy the whole value of historical testimony, and to involve truth in impenetrable obscurity. And when such violence is done to the sacred text, it is not only violence, but profane and irreverent violence, and tends at once and directly to undermine the certainty and stability of the foundations of the Christian faith. But, besides this, such tampering with truth leads people to go further, and to give a colour to the language of scripture, or even to imagine circumstances, such as may help to prop up the peculiar doctrines which they incline to; and from that the step is easy to the last stage of contradicting the statements of the text itself.
For example: in the chapter already quoted from the Life of Christ which Mr. Oakeley has translated from Bonaventure for the use of members of the Church of England, the meditation is so constructed as to favour the peculiar notions of the advocates of monasticism. And so a statement is made regarding the angelic salutation, and an explanation given of the words of Mary, to which the text gives not the slightest countenance.
“Not till she had heard the Angel twice deliver his wondrous message, could she prevail on herself to make any answer; so odious a thing in a virgin is talkativeness. Then the Angel, understanding the reason of her trouble, said, ' Fear not Mary, be not abashed by the praises I utter; they are but truth : for thou art not only full of grace thyself, but art to be the means of restoring all mankind to the grace of God, which they have lost. For behold thou shalt conceive, and bring forth the Son of the Highest. He, who has chosen thee to be His Mother, shall save all who put their trust in Him.' Then the blessed Virgin, waiving the subject of her praises, was dosirous of knowing how all this could come to pass, without the loss of her virgin purity. She, therefore, inquired of the Angel the manner of the Conception. How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? I have dedicated myself to my Lord by a vow of perpetual virginity."- Bonaventura's Life of Christ, p. 11.
Of course, the statement that the angel spoke twice, and that Mary used the words here ascribed to her, are pure fiction and falsehood; and at this rate of proceeding, it is perfectly plain, anything whatever may be made out of the holy Scriptures. In the account of the
language of Christ at the marriage at Cana of Galilee, Mr. Newman, in his Sermons on Subjects of the Day, finds an argument for the “ PRESENT INFLUENCE AND POWER OF THE MOTHER OF GOD."
“Observe, He said to His Mother, · What have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.' Perhaps this implies that when His hour was come, then He would have to do with her again as before ; and such really seems to be the meaning of the passage. •What have I to do with thee now?' I have had, I shall have; but what have I to do with thee now as before? what as yet? what till my hour is come ?”— pp. 39, 40.
What grounds Mr. Newman has for saying that this really seems to be the meaning of the passage,' the writer cannot pretend to conjecture. But the use Mr. Newman makes of it will be obvious from the following, which occurs shortly after:
“As to St. Mary, He had said, “Mine hour is not yet come;' so He said to St. Peter, in the passage just cited, 'Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.' And as at his first feast, He had refused to listen to His Mother's prayer, because of the time, so to His Apostles He foretold, at His second feast, what the power of their prayers should be, by way of cheering them on His departure. • Ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. In that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you. And again, • Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever Í command you. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth ; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.' In the gifts promised to the Apostles after the Resurrection, we may learn THE PRESENT INFLUENCE AND POWER OF THE MOTHER or God.”—Pp. 42, 43.
By such modes of commentating, the Bible may be made to support any superstition whatever, as the taste of the commentator pleases. But, observe how Mr. Oakeley, who, it seems, would wish to recommend monasticism to the members of the church of England, has adopted quite a different turn to the story: the extract is long, but it is too curious a specimen of this system of meditation to admit of its being abridged :
“Though it is uncertain whose marriage it was that was celebrated at Cana of Galilee, let us, for meditation's sake, suppose it to have been that of St. John the Evangelist, which St. Jerome seems to affirm in his preface to St. John. Our Lady was present at it, not as a stranger invited to it, but as the elder sister, and as the person of the highest dignity; for it was her sister's house, and she was as it were at home, as the principal lady and manager of the feast. And this we may gather from three things. First, from the sacred text, which tells us that the Mother of Jesus was there, but, says of Jesus and his disciples, that they were invited; which we are to understand likewise of the rest of the persons present. When her sister, then, Mary Salome, the wife of Zebedee, came to her to Nazareth, which is about four leagues distant from Cana, and told her that she designed to celebrate the marriage of her son John, she went back with her to Cana, some days before the appointed time of the feast, to make preparation for it, so that, when the others were invited, she was already there. Secondly, we may gather it from her taking notice herself of the want of wine, which would seem to show that she was not there in the character of a guest, but as one who had the management of the entertainment, and observed therefore the want of wine. For, had she been sitting there as a guest, would the modest Virgin have sat, think you, by her Son, amongst the men ? And, had she been sitting amongst the women, would she have discovered the want of wine, rather than any other ? and, had she noticed it, would she have risen from the table to acquaint her Son ? There appears an unseemliness in this; and therefore it is probable that she was not there at the time as a guest, but that she was engaged in arranging the entertainment ; for we are told of her, that she was ever attentive in helping others. Thirdly, we inay gather it from her giving the directions to the servants to go to her Son, and do
whatever He should command them ; for from this it appears that she had an authority over them, and that she had the control of the feast, and was then anxious that there should be no want of anything. According to this view of the circumstances, then, regard our Lord Jesus eating amongst the rest, like any one of the company, and sitting not amongst the chief guests, but in one of the lowest places, as we may gather from His own words. For he would not imitate the manner of the proud, who chose out the chief rooms at feasts, whom He designed afterwards to teach ; When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, go and sit
down in the lowest room. But He began first to do, and then to teach. Regard our Lady also, how considerate and cheerfully alert she is, and diligently attentive in seeing that everything is rightly done, and how she gives the servants what they require, and shows them how and with what things, to serve the several guests. And upon their returning to her, towards the end of the feast, and saying ; We have no more wine to set before them ;' she replied; “I will procure you more; wait awhile.' And going out to her Son, who was humbly sitting, as I have said, at the end of the table, near the door of the room, she said to Him, “My Son, there is no wine, and our sister is poor, and I know not how we shall get any." But he answered, Woman, what have I to do with thee? This answer appears indeed severe, but it was for our instruction, according to St. Bernard, who says upon this passage, What hast Thou to do with her, O Lord ? Art not Thou her Son, and she thy Mother ? Dost Thou ask her, what have I to do with thee, Thou who art the Blessed Fruit of her pure womb? Is she not the same who conceived Thee, without injury to her modesty, and brought Thee forth, remaining still a Virgin ? Is she not the same, in whose womb Thou sojournedst for nine months, at whose virgin breasts Thou wast fed, with whom, when twelve years of age, Thou wentest down from Jerusalem, and wast subject unto her? Why then, O Lord, is it that Thou dost now treat her thus severely, saying, What have I to do with Thee? Much bast Thou every way. But, ah! now I plainly see, that not as in anger, or as wishing to abash the tender modesty of Thy Virgin Mother, Thou saidst, What have I to do with thee? For on the servants coming to Thee, as she bade them, Thou doest without delay what she suggested. Why then, brethren, why had He thus answered her before? truly on our account, and on account of all who have been converted the Lord, that we should no longer be disturbed by our regard for our earthly parents, or entangled by such ties in the exercises of a spiritual life. For, so long as we are of the world, we are plainly under duty to our parents; but having forsaken all things, even ourselves, much more are we free from anxiety as regards them. [That is, those who have taken monastic vows are freed from the fifth commandment-making void the law of God, by their tradition.] Thus we read of a hermit, who, upon his brother's coming to him to beg his advice, desired him to apply to another of their brothers, who had died some time before. Upon the other's replying with surprise that he was dead, "So am I also,' answered the hermit. Admirably, therefore, has our Lord taught us not to be careful about our earthly relations farther than religion requires of us, in the answer which he made himself to His Mother, and what a Mother! Woman, what have I to do with thee? Thus, too, upon another occasion, when some one told Him that His Mother and brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him, He answered, Who is my Mother, and who are my brethren ? Where then are those who cherish such a carnal and vain concern for their earthly relations, as if they still lived in the midst of them ?' Thus far St. Bernard. His Mother then, in no way cast down by this reply, but, relying upon His goodness, returned to the servants, and said ; 'Go to my Son, and whatever He shall
say to you, do.' They went then, and filled the water-pots with water, as the Lord commanded them. When they had done this, He said to them; · Draw now, and bear to the governor of the feast.' And here observe, first, our Lord's discretion, for He sent first to the most honourable person at the feast. And secondly, that He sat at a distance from him, for His words are ; Bear it to him, as though he were some way from Him. For, as he sat in one of the chief places, we may gather that our Lord would not sit there near him, nay, that He chose for Himself the lowest place. The servants then gave the wine to him, and to the rest, speaking openly at the same time of the miracle, for they knew how it had been wrought, and His disciples believed on Him. When the feast was over, our Lord
Jesus called John apart, and said to him, Put Away this your wife, and follow Me, for I will lead you to a higher marriage. Whereupon he followed Him. By His presence, then, at this marriage feast, our Lord sanctified earthly marriage as an ordinance of God. But by His calling John from it, He gave us clearly to understand
that the spiritual marriage of the soul with Him in a single life is far more perfect. [ And it is of that Lord who hath said, " that He hateth putting away,” that this impious falsehood, worthy only of the heresy of the Manichees, is told for the benefit of members of the Church of England.] Our Lord Jesus retired then from thence, intending from henceforth to apply Himself publicly and openly to the work of our salvation. But He would first conduct his Mother back to her home; for it was meet that none but He should be the companion of our Lady on her journey. He therefore takes her, and John, and His other disciples ; and they come to Capernaum, near Nazareth, and a few days after to Nazareth. Contemplate them, then, on their way, how they walk together, Mother and Son; how humbly they journey, and on foot, but most lovingly. O what a pair are they! never was such another pair seen on earth! Contemplate also His disciples reverently following, and listening to the words of our Lord. For He was never idle, but was always either doing or saying something good. They could never, surely, be tired travelling in such company! -pp. 103-108.
So, " for meditation sake," we may go on supposing until the spirit of falsehood and delusion who presides over such arts of Meditation has brought us to contradict the commandments of God, and to represent the Lord as commanding an act which he has expressly forbidden, and of which he has solemnly declared his abhorrence.
Bonaventure was a Franciscan friar. And so he endeavours to recommend the voluntary mendicancy of his order, by representing the Lord himself as receiving alms. The passage is in the account of the return from Egypt :
“ The next morning, when they are ready to set out on their journey, you will see some of the most venerable matrons of the city, and the wiser part of the men, come to accompany them out of the gates, in acknowledgment of their peaceful and pious manner of life, while among them. For they had given notice, throughout the neighbourhood, some days before, of their intention to depart, that they might not seem to steal away in a clandestine manner, which might have looked suspicious; the very reverse of their proceeding when they fled into Egypt, at which time their fear for the Infant obliged them to secresy. And now they set out on their journey ; holy Joseph, accompanied by the men, going before, and our Lady following at some distance, with the matrons. Do you take the blessed Infant in your arms, and devoutly carry Him before her, for she will not suffer Him out of her sight.
“When they were out of the gates, the holy Joseph dismissed the company, whereupon one of them, who happened to be rich, called the Child Jesus to him, and compassionating the poverty of His parents, bestowed a few pence upon Him; and many others of the number followed the example of the first, and did the same. The Holy Child is not a little abashed by the offer, yet, out of love to poverty, He holds out His little hands, and blushing, takes the money, for which He returns thanks. The matrons then call Him, and do the same. Nor is the Mother less abashed than her Son; however, she makes them her humble acknowledgments. Do you share His confusion and that of His holy parents, and meditate on the great lesson here set you, when you see Him whose is the earth and the fulness thereof, making choice of so rigorous a poverty, and so necessitous a life, for Himself, His blessed Mother, and holy fosterfather. What lustre does not the virtue of poverty receive from their practice ! and how can we behold it in them, without being moved to the love and imitation of their examples ?”—Life of Christ, pp. 58, 59.
Did Mr. Oakeley understand Bonaventure's motive for representing Christ as receiving alms in this manner? And, if so, is religious mendicancy one of the virtues which it is the object of this movement to recommend ? But these are matters of secondary moment. The point is, to observe the way the Scripture narrative is turned and twisted, and circumstances invented, to give colour to a particular doctrine. In a similar spirit, the writer of the Life of St. Gilbert has