Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 229.



We are never more taken with the sight of trees, than when they are in their flourishing condition, and their fruit is ripe. The day of betrothing and the wedding-day are always devoted to mirth and festivity. Almighty God, on the return of a soul to him, betroths her to himself; and when he marries her, he is at all the charges of the wedding feast, which he makes according to his estate and ability, not according to the deserts and quality of his spouse; and, to that purpose he says, " Our sister is little, and hath no breasts" (Cant. viii. 8), and, therefore, she must live on another's milk. The bride, speaking to her bridegroom, tells him, " The young maidens have loved thee;" Cant. i. 2. She does not say the maidens which are those souls that have made a considerable progress in virtue, but those who are not of so ripe an age, that is, such as have but just opened their eyes to this new light. These, says she, have an ardent love for thee. For young lovers do usually express their passion with the greatest force and heat.

This is what St. Thomas tells us, when, among several other reasons, he alleges this, that the newness of the state, of the love, of the light, and of the knowledge of divine things, discovers those beauties to them, which they never perceived before; filling them with admiration, giving them at the same time a particular delight, and teaching them what returns they are to make him who has so kindly restored them their sight, after they had been so long blindfolded and in the dark. When a man first comes into any great town or noble place, he walks up and down for some time, and is pleased with what he sees; but having satisfied his curiosity with the frequent sight, he is less taken with it than he was before, nor does he admire it so much. Thus stands the case with those who first came into this new country of grace, for they are surprised to find such wonderful things. So that it is not to be admired, that beginners in devotion should feel more fervor in their souls, than old practitioners; for the newness of the light and of their understanding divine mysteries, causes greater sensations in them. This, as St. Bernard remarks (Serm. 14, in Cant.) is the reason why the prodigal son's elder brother was not in the wrong, when he complained to his father, and told him, that for his so many years' service, without ever disobeying the least of his commands, he had never shown him so much favor, as he had done this extravagant, lewd son at his return home. This new love, like new wine, ferments at first, and as water over a fire, boils up as soon as it feels the heat it never felt before; the flame, after these first sallies, grows more strong and equal, though in the beginning it is more violent and impetuous.

God entertains those, who enter anew into his house, with a deal of kindness and love; he bears all their charges at first, and makes everything seem light and easy; he deals with them as traders do with their customers, who give samples of their wares gratis, but will have their full price for what they sell. The affection we show little children is usually more tender, though perhaps not greater, than what we show those who are of riper years. We carry those up and down in our arms, but let these go by themselves; and whilst these are laboring and toiling, we lay those to sleep, and let them take their rest; without giving them the trouble of asking for their meat, we feed them ourselves, and put their victuals into their mouths.

It is this kind reception new beginners find with God, and the manifest favors he shows them, which occasions that spiritual joy and comfort the royal prophet speaks of: " The young plant shall flourish with thy drops; " Ps. lxiv. 11. Now, what is this plant, and what these drops, but the dew of the divine grace with which God waters these spiritual young plants, which he has lately dug up from amongst the wild brambles of the world, and set in his own garden? These are the plants which the prophet means, when he says, " They shall rejoice in drops; " Ibid. This shows how great the joy of such persons is at their first receiving this new visit. Nor are you to think that, because these favors are called but drops, they have no more in them than their name seems to promise: "For (as St. Augustine says) he that drinks of the river of paradise, one drop of which is more than all the ocean, is sure, though he drink but one single drop, it will quench his thirst forever."

If, when you think of God. you are sensible of these comforts, it is no argument against what has been said. For if the palate, when it is out of taste by any bad humor, cannot distinguish what is bitter from what is sweet, but judges what is sweet to be bitter; what wonder is it if your soul, corrupted with so many vices and irregular affections, and which longs so earnestly after the flesh-pots and onions of Egypt, should not relish the manna of heaven and the bread of angels? Wash your mouth first clean with tears of penance, and then you will be able "to taste and see how sweet the Lord is;" Ps. xxxiii. 9.