Friday, May 9, 2008

Festivals and Vigils – Balance

A little more Newman.

"[T]he age, whatever be its peculiar excellences, has this serious defect, it loves an exclusively cheerful religion. It determined to make religion bright and sunny and joyous, whatever be the form of it which it adopts. And it will handle the Catholic doctrine in the spirit; it will skim over it; it will draw it out in mere buckets-full; it will substitute its human cistern for the well of truth; it will be afraid of the deep well, the abyss of God's judgments and God's mercies.

... Surely we are pretending allegiance to the Church to no purpose, or rather to our own serious injury, if we select her doctrines and precepts at our pleasure; choose this, reject that; take what is beautiful and attractive, shrink from what is is stern and painful ...

Christianity, considered as a moral system, is made up of two elements, beauty and severity; whenever either is indulged to the loss or disparagement of the other, evil ensues ...

... Thus let us proceed in the use of all our privileges, and will be benefits. Let us not keep festivals without keeping vigils; let us not keep Eastertide without observing Lent; let us not approach the Sunday feast without keeping the Friday abstinence; let us not adorn churches without studying personal simplicity and austereness; let us not cultivate the accomplishments of taste and literature without the corrective of personal discomfort; let us not attempt to advance the power of the Church, to enthrone her rulers, to rear her palaces, and to ennoble her name, without recollecting that she must be mortified within while she is in honour in the world ...

... [L]et us beware, on the other hand, of dishonouring and rudely rejecting God's gifts, out of gloominess or sternness; let us beware of fearing without feasting. "Every creature of God is good, and nothing be refused." Let us beware, though it must be a sad perversion of mind which admits of it, - let us beware of afflicting ourselves for sin, without first coming to the Gospel for strength to do so. And let us not so plunge ourselves in the sense of our offenses, as not withal to take delight in the contemplation of our privileges. Let us rejoice while we mourn. Let us look up to our Lord and Saviour the more we shrink from the sight of ourselves; let us have the more faith and love the more we exercise repentance. Let us, in our penitence, not substitute the Law for the Gospel, but add the Law to the Gospel ...

... [A]s they must not defraud themselves of Christian privileges, neither need they give up God's temporal blessings. All the beauty of nature, the kind influences of the seasons, the gifts of the sun and moon, and the fruits of the earth, the advantages of civilized life, and the presence of friends and intimates; all these good things are but one extended and wonderful type of God's benefits in the Gospel. Those who aim at perfection will not reject the gift, but add a corrective; they will add the bitter herbs to the fatted calf and music and dancing; they will not refuse the flowers of the earth, but they will toil in plucking up the weeds. Or if they refrain from one temporal blessing, it will be to reserve another; for this is one great mercy of God, that while He allows us discretionary use of His temporal gifts, He allows discretionary abstinence also..."

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

Taken from:
The Rule of Our Warfare
42. The Defect of "Cheerful" Religion

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