Continuing the Lenten Sermon of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, Part VI
THE SIXTH WORD
“It is consummated.”
He has finished His “Father’s business,” He has dealt with sinners and saints, and has finally disclosed to us the secrets of the Soul and the Body of His that are the hope of both sinners and saints alike. And there is no more for Him to do.
An entirely new Beginning, then, is at hand, now that the Last Sabbath is come — the Last Sabbath, so much greater than the First as Redemption is greater than Creation. For Creation is a mere introduction to the Book of Life; it is the arrangement of materials that are to be thrown instantly into confusion again by man, who should be its crown and master. The Old Testament is one medley of mistakes and fragments and broken promises and violated treaties, to reach its climax in the capital Mistake of Calvary, when men indeed “knew not what they did.” And even God Himself in the New Testament, as man in the Old, has gone down in the catastrophe and hangs here mutilated and broken. Real life, then, is now to begin.
Yet, strangely enough, He calls it an End rather than a Beginning. “Consummatum est!”
I. The one and only thing in human life that God desires to end is Sin. There is not a pure joy or a sweet human relationship or a selfless ambition or a divine hope which He does not desire to continue and to be crowned and transfigured beyond all ambition and all hope. On the contrary, He desires only to end that one single thing which ruins relationships and spoils joy and poisons aspirations. For up to the present there is not one page of history which has not this blot upon it.
God has had to tolerate, for lack of better, such miserable specimens of humanity! “Jacob have I loved!” … “David a man after my heart”; the one a poor, mean, calculating man, who had, however, that single glimmer of the supernatural which Esau, for all his genial sturdiness, was without; the other an adulterous murderer, who yet had grace enough for real contrition. Hitherto He has been content with so little. He has accepted vinegar for want of wine.
Next, God has had to tolerate, and indeed to sanction — such an unworthy worship of Himself — all the blood of the temple and the spilled entrails and the nameless horrors.
And yet this was all to which men could rise; for without it, they never could have learned the more nameless horror of sin.
Last, for His worshippers He has had to content Himself with but one People instead of “all peoples and nations and languages.” And what a People, — whom even Moses could not bear for their treachery and instability! And all this wretched record ends in the Crime of Calvary, at which the very earth revolts and the sun grows dark with shame. Is it any wonder that Christ cried, Thank God that is all done with at last!
II. Instead of this miserable past, then, what is to come? What is that “New Wine” He would drink with us in His Father’s Kingdom?_ First; real and complete saints of God are to take the place of the fragmentary saints of the Old Dispensation, saints with heads of gold and feet of clay. Souls are to be born again in Baptism, not merely sealed by circumcision, and to be purified before they can contract any actual guilt of their own. And, of these, many shall keep their baptismal innocence and shall go, wearing that white robe, before God Who gave it them. Others again shall lose it, but regain it once more, and, through the power of the Precious Blood, shall rise to heights of which Jacob and David never even dreamed. To awake in His likeness was the highest ambition of the man after God’s Heart; but to be not merely like Christ, but one with Him, is the hope of the Christian. “I live”, the new saints shall say with truth, “yet now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Next, instead of the old worship of blood and pain there shall be an Unbloody Sacrifice and a “Pure Offering” in which shall be all the power and propitiation of Calvary without its pain, all the glory without the degradation. And last, in place of the old enclosed Race of Israel shall be a Church of all nations and tongues, one vast Society, with all walls thrown down and all divisions done away, one Jerusalem from above, that shall be the Mother of us all.
III. That, then, is what Christ intended as He cried, “It is consummated.” Behold, the old things are passed away! Behold, I make all things new!
And now let us see how far that is fulfilled. Where is there, in me, the New Wine of the Gospel?
I have all that God can give me from His Throne on Calvary. I have the truth that He proclaimed and “the grace that He released. Yet is there in me, up to the present, even one glimmer of what is meant by Sanctity? Am I even within an appreciable distance of the saints who knew not Christ? Have I ever wrestled like Jacob or wept like David? Has my religion, that is to say, ever inspired me beyond the low elevation of joy into the august altitudes of pain? Is it possible that with me the old is not put away, the old man is not yet dead, and the new man not yet put on? Is that New Sacrifice the light of my daily life? Have I done anything except hinder the growth of Christ’s Church, anything except drag down her standards, so far as I am able, to my own low level? Is there a single soul now in the world who owes, under God, her conversion to my efforts?
Why, as I watch my life and review it in His Presence it would seem as if I had done nothing but disappoint Him all my days! He cried, like the deacon of His own Sacrifice, Go! it is done! Ite; missa est! The Sacrifice is finished here; go out in its strength to live the life which it makes possible!
Let me at least begin to-day, have done with my old compromises and shifts and evasions. Ite; missa est!
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!