Sunday, 6 October 2013

Heliotropium - The Signs of Conformity to the Divine Will - Part II

Taken from Heliotropium by Fr. Drexelius, S.J.


5. The Fifth Sign. To be able to endure all things in noble silence. Consider, I pray you, the most patient JESUS, so nobly keeping silence amidst numberless reproaches and torments. The Jewish priests stood and constantly accused Him, but JESUS held His peace. They laid various crimes to His charge, but JESUS held His peace. They grew vehement against Him with loud cries, and demanded that He should be crucified, but JESUS held his peace. While He was hanging on the Cross they ceased not to revile Him with most bitter reproaches, but JESUS held his peace. And so, too, the mother of our Lord was perfectly silent amidst the greatest difficulties. S. Joseph perceived that she was with child, and therefore determined to put her away; and here the mother acted as her Son did, so that it may be truly said of her-----but Mary held her peace, and committed all this to the Divine Will and Providence. She heard that the Man Who was so inexpressibly dear to her, her own Flesh and Blood, was assailed with innumerable calumnies; but Mary held her peace. She saw her Son, Who was perfect in innocence, fainting beneath the weight of the Cross, she heard Him groaning on it, she saw Him dying in most bitter agony; but Mary held her peace. This Son, and this mother, very many have imitated successfully, for even when accused of the most grievous crimes they held their peace. David, that meekest of kings, understood the wondrous power of this silence when he said,-----"I was dumb and was humbled, and kept silence from good things: and my sorrow was renewed." [Ps. XXXVIII. 3] And again,-----"I was dumb, and opened not my mouth; because Thou hast done it." [Ver. 10] He brings forward no other reason for his silence than this,-----"because Thou hast done it." Therefore I hold my peace because I perceive that it is Thy Will. Thy Will, O my God, has pointed out this silence to me.

It sometimes happens that a master of excitable disposition goes into the servant's room, and disarranges the furniture, and throws everything into confusion, and then goes away lest he should be caught in the act. When the servant comes home and finds all the furniture in disorder he grows very angry; but when he hears that it has been done by his master, he holds his tongue and restrains his rage. And so David says of himself,-----"I held my tongue, and spake nothing." And why? "Because Thou hast done it." And in the same way he who has yielded himself unreservedly to the Divine Will is conscious indeed of adversity, but comforts himself with the thought of Divine Providence; and knowing that he will do no good by idle complaints, he says,-----"I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me. My help is from the Lord, Who made Heaven and earth." [Ps. cxx. 1, 2]

When King Assuerus and Aman sat down to their feast all the Jews were weeping. [Esth. III. 15] But how quickly did this bloody tragedy change, and the evil which he had devised for others recoil upon its author! If a monthly want of light did not obscure the moon, which changes as it waxes and wanes, Philosophers would not know that it borrows its light from the sun; and thus we, too, from the daily want of things, learn that every blessing comes from God. Is anyone sick? For the first time in his life he now knows how to value health, which he never would have prized so highly if he had not lost it. This is human nature, that nothing pleases so much as that which is lost. Does anyone suffer from calumny? He now understands what a serious thing it is to injure the reputation of another, which he may often have done, and yet have thought it a trifling matter. Has anyone been reduced to want? He now begins to recollect how he formerly bore himself towards those who were in need. And so he holds his peace, and, pondering on this, commits himself to the Divine Will.

But perhaps it is with difficulty that you hold your peace. Speak then; but only with your heart, and to God. Let the tongue be silent, and let the mind pray. Meditate upon the silence of Christ before the High Priest, upon the silence of Mary before those wicked citizens, upon the silence of David before his enemies. A person of greater dignity and influence than yourself reproaches you-----hold your peace! An equal reproaches you-----hold your peace! An inferior reproaches you -----and even then hold your peace? This may be harder than the rest, but it is more noble. Leave him alone, and draw near to God. Pray for your enemy, as David did, according to that saying of his-----"Instead of making me a return of love, they detracted me; but I gave myself to prayer." [Ps. CVIII. 3] He was accustomed to conciliate his adversary by silence, and God by prayer. Therefore hold your peace, and commend yourself most absolutely to the Divine Will, constantly keeping before your mind the saying-----"Because Thou hast done it."

6. The Sixth Sign. To attempt for the honour of God things which are difficult, and which are supposed to be scarcely possible. And how courageous was S. Paul in this! "I know," he says, "both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound (everywhere and in all things I am instructed), both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me." [Phil. IV. 12, 13] And with an equally great and exalted mind, David says,-----"Through God I shall go over a wall." [Ps. XVII. 29] So that let Pericles come to life again, and build his walls to the Pirreus, forty cubits high, and so broad that two chariots yoked together would have room enough to pass, and yet I, says David, will leap over them. Let the Carthaginians re-appear, and raise their triple wall, famous in every age, and I will leap over it. Let the architects of Babel come back, and build a tower whose top shall reach to Heaven [Gen. XI. 4], and with the help of my God, I will leap over it; for by Him shall I be delivered from temptation. But David, promising still greater and more difficult things, says,-----"In Thee I will run girded; in my God I will leap over the wall." [2 Kings XXII. 30] It was too little for him to run and toil, but he desires to run even when clad in mail, and armed from head to foot. It was too little for him to pass over a wall, however wide or high, but now he desires to pass over a barrier, even if it reaches as high as Heaven. There can scarcely be a higher and wider wall put in the way as an obstacle: than his own will is to each individual. But this wall he must cross and leap over. Let each one reflect thus:-----"God desires that I should be patient, and chaste, and that I should quickly forgive my enemies; He wills that I should think and speak well of others. And why do I not will the same? Truly my will stands like a wall in the way of my doing this. But that wall need not terrify me. I shall pass over it; I shall leap over it, I can do all things through Him Who strengtheneth me."

He who meditates upon the acts of the Saints will very often give utterance to those words of the royal Psalmist,-----"God is glorified in the assembly of the Saints." [Ps. LXXXVIII. 8] "The Lord will give strength to His people." [Ps. XXVIII. 10] Yea, He has given strength to His Saints! And not to speak of ancient times, how great things did Francis Xavier, the apostle of Japan, dare to do for God! What wonders did he work! What walls did he not pass over! What fortresses did he not scale! You might say that he flew, if he could not approach his object in any other way. A thirsty man is sometimes wont to complain that a whole village seems to be on fire inside him, so fearfully does thirst oppress him; but the world itself might have been thought to be burning in the breast of Xavier, so ardently did he thirst for the salvation of all men. And what a fire did Xavier carry about in his soul, when with separate leaps, as it were, he passed from Italy to Portugal, from Portugal to India, from India to Japan, and from thence penetrated even to the most extreme borders of China, traversing country after country, and crossing sea after sea! Do you place in his way perils of land and sea? But such things, he says, the man does not fear who trusts in God. Or darkness of forests? A flame shines brightly enough in his breast. Or the raging ocean? Many waters cannot quench love. Or the secret attacks of robbers and pirates? But he is not safe, even at home, whom the Divine Will protects not. And so, trusting in God, he leapt over every wall, and in this way added to Christ, as Bozius affirms, three hundred thousand heathen. No one is ignorant, I suppose, that when meditating better things he is usually kept back by a thousand hindrances; but he must break through them by force, and must struggle upwards, even though Satan, with all his furies and appliances, stand in the way. Christ encouraging us to this says,-----"If you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you." [Matt. XVII. 19] Whosoever then has yielded himself absolutely to the Divine Will is confident that he can do all things.

7. In order that what I have said, as well concerning the knowledge of the Divine Will, as concerning the conformity of the human will to it, may be perfectly clear to an understanding however uncultivated, I will now proceed to condense what precedes under this short summary.

Whatever is done in the world (sin excepted), by whomsoever or howsoever it is done, must be said to be done by the Divine Will. All things that are done, God wills to be done; but whatever God does not will most surely is not done. "How could anything endure, if Thou wouldst not?" exclaims Wisdom. [Chap. XI. 25] Sin alone God wills not, but permits. He might, indeed, prevent sin; but, for reasons known to Himself, He does not prevent it. Scotus, that theologian of marvellously subtle intellect, says that all things which are done or exist, which have been done or have existed, which shall be done or shall exist, are known to God by the Decree of His Will. And observe, good reader, that the freedom of man's actions is not hindered because God has foreknown and willed them from eternity; for He willed them on this account, because He foreknew that they would be done. But let us proceed. God not only wills that whatever is done in the world should be done (sin excepted), but in reality He ever brings to pass that which is good, or rather, which is best. S. Basil the Great sets this forth very clearly when he says,-----"This one thing we ought to take for granted, that none of those things which happen to us is evil, or such that we can desire anything better than it." And here S. Augustine is worthy of all attention:-----"It is brought about," he says, "by the justice of the True and Supreme God, not only that all things exist, but also exist in such a way that they cannot at all be better." And what can be clearer? But hear his reason:-----"Whatever," he says, "has befallen you, which really is for your advantage, know that God has caused it, as being the Creator of all good; for you cannot desire anything good in the case of a creature which has escaped the Maker of that creature."

8. As to the way in which God wills all things that are done, but permits sin, I propose to bring forward the following illustration:-----Pope Julius II ordered that Michelangelo, the most celebrated of painters, should paint the Last Judgment. The painter commenced the work, but, on account of his hostile feeling towards the Princes of the Church, he placed even Bishops and purple-robed Fathers in the flames of Hell. The Pope very often visited the painter, and saw through the daring of the man, which was concealed under the rules of art; and, although he strongly disapproved of it, yet for certain reasons he pretended not to see it, thinking to himself-----Let him only finish his work, and he will soon find out in prison the errors of his pencil, when he dines on nothing but bread and water. The Pope certainly wished that the Tribunal of the Supreme Judge should be painted for the benefit of those who looked upon it, and not for the injury or contempt of anyone; but this injury he knowingly and willingly allowed in order to attain a certain object. And in the same way God wills that we should paint for eternity, and produce immortal works; but we, with hand and affection which wander from His design, place sometimes one person and sometimes another in Hell; that is to say, we are harmful in a variety of ways to those whom we esteem our enemies; and many other faults, too, we are guilty of while performing our task. Nevertheless, a picture is elaborated of things which are most entirely different in their nature; for there is a marvellous connection, dependence, and arrangement in details, so that particular objects, which, taken by themselves, seem to be unsightly, or at all events less beautiful than others, when brought into connection with certain other objects are far more beautiful than they were before. Moreover, God, Who is so boundless in patience, waits till the whole of this picture is finished; and for reasons of perfect Justice He shuts His eyes to our manifold errors, just as if He did not see them. But at the Last Day it will at length be made manifest what each one has painted worthy of eternity, and what faults he has committed in his painting. As, therefore, the Pope, or any King, desires that a certain fixed subject should be painted, and yet does not interfere with the judgment of the painter, but allows even faults to pass unnoticed, for reasons known to himself, so God wills that all things which are done should be done, but permits sin; and yet permits it knowingly and willingly, since He might prevent it. And in this way King David employed Joab as General. He by no means approved of his crimes, but for a long time he dissembled knowledge of them.

Nor can anyone object here, why is man compelled to prevent sin when he can, and God is not compelled, though He always can? For over and above that God is the Lord and Ruler of all things, intent on the common good, but we servants and slaves, this consideration must also be added, that God produces from sin, the foulest of all things, some good which man cannot. S. Augustine [Ench. 10. 11], admiring this work of the Supreme Artificer, exclaims,-----"From all collectively arises the wondrous beauty of the whole, in which even that which is called evil, being well arranged and put in its proper place, commends things which are good in a more remarkable way, making them the more pleasing and more deserving of praise from being contrasted with what is evil."

9. But you may object in the first place,-----"Granted that all things which God wills are good, or even the very best that could happen, yet certainly they are not so to me." But what are you saying, rashest of mortals? "God hath equally care of all." [Wisd. VI. 8] And so in the perfection of His Providence He cares for you, and me, and each individual, as He does for all; and He wills not merely that which is good, but ever that which is best, both for you, and for me, and for each, and for all; and that which He wills He performs most efficaciously. S. Gregory [Moral. XVI. 5] most beautifully says,-----"God bestows His care on all in such a way as to be present with each. He is present with each in such a way as not to be absent at the same time from any. He rules what is highest, so as not to desert what is lowest. He is present with what is lowest in such a way as not to withdraw Himself from what is highest." "God hath equally care of all." Respecting His children, or those who are best beloved by Him, the case is certain and clear; but not even in respect of those who will be damned is it otherwise. God is their Father, their Preserver, their Defender, even to the latest moment of their life; and He will at last be their Judge, their Punisher, and the Avenger of such willful rebellion against Himself.

But you may object, secondly,-----"And how can so many incongruities follow the Providence and Care of God, if they are so great? And, to use a gentle term, how comes it that the most absurd of all absurd things are done? While I should shrink from saying that God sleeps, can I safely venture to affirm that He is aware of every trifling matter?" I reply, that God has an eye for all things, yes, even the most minute; and this S. John Damascene most aptly shows, replying to your dullness,-----"God occasionally allows something which is absurd and preposterous to be done, in order that by means of the action which has the appearance of absurdity something great and wonderful may be effected; just as by the Cross He procured the salvation of men." And will you deny the truth of this? Therefore God does not indeed will sin, but permits it efficaciously; or wills to permit it, and from thence produces the most beneficial results, and those which most redound to His Own glory. S. Augustine [In Ps. VII] lays this down clearly when he says,----- "Wherefore this ordinance also is to be ascribed to Divine Providence, not because it makes sinners, but because it orders them when they have sinned." Wherefore, although for a man, regarded by himself, it would be better not to have sinned, yet, if the whole order of nature and grace is regarded, it is much better that sin was permitted by God. The testimony of the Church is well known,-----Happy is the fault which has merited to have such and so great a Redeemer! This much then must be both known and believed concerning the Divine Will. And would that the human race would cease to be blind, if only in this one thing, and would be ready to embrace the Divine Will with as great promptitude as they can easily recognize it!

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