Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lent with Lacordaire

Another fine post of Lacordare at RORATE CÆLI

Catholic doctrine cannot speak "to man only of man"

Assumpsit Iesus Petrum, et Iacobum, et Ioannem fratrem eius, et duxit illos in montem excelsum seorsum: et transfiguratus est ante eos. Et resplenduit facies eius sicut sol: vestimenta autem eius facta sunt alba sicut nix. (From the Gospel for Ember Saturday in Lent and for the Second Sunday in Lent, Matthew xvii, 1-2: "Jesus took Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: and He was transfigured before them. And His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.")

It is easy for me... to show that Catholic doctrine enjoys a superhuman moral efficacy, even as a consequence of the interaction which it keeps between man and God. ... Now, in virtue of what does Catholic doctrine operate this superhuman transformation in the soul? Is it directly? Is it simply because it says to us, "Be humble, be chaste, be apostles, be brethren"?

Ah..., but everyone says this to us more or less earnestly: there is not a man steeped in pride who has not invoked the humility of others; not a man drowned in sensuality who was not invoked the purity of his victims; not a man who has not invoked apostleship to propagate his ideas, and fraternity to establish his empire! But the ear of man remains closed to those invitations of selfishness, or to those dreams of reason; it listens to them without hearing; it hears, without obeying.

Catholic doctrine would have succeeded no better, if it had spoken to man only of man; if it had proposed to him, as the spring of its action, only his interest, his duty even, and his dignity. To render man humble, chaste, apostle, brother, it has taken its basis outside of him: it has placed it in God.

It is in the name of God, by the power of the relationship which it has created between God and ourselves, by the efficacy of its dogmas, of its worship, and of its sacraments, that it changes within us that corpse which rebels against virtue; that it reanimates it, resuscitates it, purifies it, transforms it, clothes it with the glory of Tabor, and having thus armed it from head to toe, sends it forth into the distress of the world, as a new man, still feeble by nature, but strengthened by God, towards Whom his unceasing aspiration ascends.

It is thus ... that the miracle of our transfiguration is accomplished in Catholic doctrine: humility, chastity, charity, and all the interior elevations which result from these are but effects of a higher virtue giving the movement to all the rest. Without religion, without the interaction of soul and God, the whole Christian edifice crumbles -- consequently, that interaction, which is the keystone of the arch, is efficacious in a superhuman manner, since it bears man above humanity.

...humility, chastity, the charity of apostleship and of fraternity, obedience, penitence, voluntary poverty...are but branches of a single stream. ... There is ... a stream into which merge all those scattered virtues which I have named: and that stream is sanctity.

Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1844)

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