Friday, March 09, 2007

Lent with Lacordaire

Another fine post of Lacordare at RORATE CÆLI

the world contradicts the Doctrines, the Spirit, and the Church of Jesus Christ

Dicit illis Iesus: Numquam legistis in Scripturis: Lapidem quem reprobaverunt ædificantes, hic factus est in caput anguli: a Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris? (From the Gospel for the Friday in the Second Week of Lent, Matthew xxi, 42: Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures, "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the cornerstone, by the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes"?)

I ask you, princes of nations, you who command by intelligence, wealth, or power; I ask you to make a man humble and chaste, a penitent, a soul who judges his pride and his senses, who despises himself, who hates himself, who struggles against himself, and either as the proof or as the means of his conversion, humbly avows the errors of his life. I ask but this from you: can you accomplish this? Have you ever done so?

Ah, if a king, radiant in the majesty of the throne, were to call you into his cabinet, and press you to confess your faults at his feet, you would say to him: Sire, I would rather confess them to the man who makes shoes for my feet! If the most famous philosopher of his age were to use all his eloquence to persuade you to kneel and confess your sins to him, you would not even deign to turn away from laughing in his face. Pardon these expressions, ... they would be ill-placed on other occasions; here, they are just and grave.

And, yet, what kings, philosophers, and nations are unable to obtain, a poor priest, a man unknown, the most obscure among men, accomplishes daily in the name of Jesus Christ. He sees souls touched by their misery, coming to seek him who does not know them, and tell Him in all sincerity the degradation of their passions. It is the door by which men enter into Jesus Christ, by which they rest in Him, by which the Church herself enters; for the Church is but the world penitent; and that single word reveals to you the whole miracle of her foundation and perpetuity, as it will also explain to you the force of active and passive contradiction which is in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ contradicts all doctrines, because His doctrine is holy and the world is corrupt; He contradicts every spirit, because His Spirit is holy and the world is corrupt; He contradicts all nations, because His Church is holy and the world is corrupt; and, for the same reason, the world contradicts the doctrines, the Spirit, and the Church of Jesus Christ.

It was then with justice (in a certain sense) that, in the first proceedings directed against Christians, by the orders of Nero, they were convicted, according to Tacitus, of "hatred against the human race". They hated, in fact, all that the world esteemed; they pursued all its ideas and all its affections, in order to destroy them utterly; and although they did this out of love for the world, the world was not bound to understand and thank them for it.

Even charity, so new as it was, clothed itself in hostile colours, and the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross, that masterpiece of love, appeared rather like an insult than devoutness.

All [of this] was contradiction, because all [of it] was God; and in order to prove that nothing of this was of man, Jesus Christ was forever to be recognized by this sign, as it was said of Him at the moment of His first appearing among men: "This Child is set up as a sign of contradiction." And He Himself, recalling the prophecies, said to His enemies: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is wonderful in our eyes." The prophecy is still accomplished daily: princes, nations, savants, sages, the experts, the builders, all reject the stone; they declare it to be unfit or worn out by time; they will accept it no longer; and yet it still is "the cornerstone, and it is wonderful in our eyes."

Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris (1846)

Whole series of Lacordaire posts at RORATE CÆLI is here

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