John McQuirk.

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Irish were then in a manner prepared for the Gos-
pel. They had the culture and, above all, the deep
religious nature which fitted them for its prompt and
willing reception.

The progress of the Apostle was something mar-
velous. The temples were soon abandoned or con-
verted to the worship of the true religion; their sac-


riiicial rites were superseded by the great Christian
Sacrifice ; they ceased to wish to explore the secrets
of the future; the hcentiousness of their manners
gave way to the purity and austerity of Christian
morahty. Patrick breathed into them something of
his own great soul ; he infused into them something
of his own characteristic virtues; they were moulded
on his own character; they inherited his great faith,
assured hope and fervent charity, virtues which
through all the vicissitudes of time they have to this
day retained. In fifty years he converted the whole
island ; he found it universally pagan, he left it uni-
versally Christian. He established seven hundred
religious houses, consecrated three hundred churches,
ordained three thousand priests and a great number
of bishops. Finally, having finished his course, kept
the faith and won his crown, he fell asleep in the
Lord towards the close of the Fifth century, in the
one hundred and twentieth year of his age.

The work of St. Patrick continued to flourish
after his death. The seed of the Gospel bore abun-
dant fruit in every part of the island. The faith was
everywhere diffused, and struck deeper and deeper
roots in the hearts of the people. Churches were
multiplied, religious houses erected, dioceses sprang
up throughout the land, priests ordained, bishops
consecrated, virgins dedicated themselves to God in
evangelical perfection, monasteries for monks
founded capacious of accommodating great numbers ;
these institutions became in the event truly the mis-
sion houses of Europe and the world.

Whatever yet remained undone in Ireland's con-
version at the Saint's death was completed by the


end of the Sixth century. For it were an error to
suppose that it was absokitely finished in his Hfe.
The conversion of a nation, even such as Ireland, is,
from the nature of the case, of gradual growth:
silently, slowly and imperceptibly the Gospel of
Christ has worked its way into the nations that have
received it. Its growth is like nothing more than
one of the great processes of nature ; it is thus alone
that any real moral revolution beomes assured and

The three hundred years that followed Patrick's
death w^ere the glorious period of Ireland's history.
The Roman Empire was in decay and disintegration :
its own pagan vices were the cause of its national
suicide ; while the nations that it had sought to weld
together in one, chafing under its oppression and
tyrannical military despotism, withdrew from its
rule and established governments respectively for
themselves. This, then, w^as a long period of revolu-
tion and civil convulsions, when civilization suffered,
and, but for the Church, would have been over-
whelmed in the gulf that was swallowing up all
things else.

Barbarians from the North poured down, sweep-
ing away all the landmarks of ancient polity and
culture. Ireland, from her isolated position, the
farthest removed from the continent of Europe, was
safeguarded from all these disturbances and moles-
tations. She at once became the refuge of civiliza-
tion and religion and learning: exiled from the un-
holy and uncongenial scenes all around them, men
took up their abode within her peaceful borders:
saints and students and all who sought virtue and


learning flocked to her from all parts to pursue their
objects, undisturbed by the confusion everywhere
prevailing on the Continent. Thus she became the
school of learning, the sanctuary of religion, the
seminary of missionaries, the peaceful asylum of
virgins, the nursery of martyrs. This is the golden
period of Irish history; it was then that the faith
and genius of Ireland reached their maturity and
perfection and glory.

As to the subsequent history of Ireland it belongs
to the historian of the country, rather than to the
panegyrist of the Saint. Yet it would be appropriate
to touch upon it, but that our discourse has already
reached a length that forbids further prolongation.
Those who desire to learn the history of Ireland
will find it in the numerous histories of the country,
which are everywhere to be found ; and particularly,
for what regards the ecclesiastical part, will find it
in the histories of the Church in Ireland and those
of the Church in general.


"And when He had said these things, whilst they
looked on, He was raised up, and a cloud received
Him out of their sight. And as they looked stead-
fastly on Him, as He went up to Heaven, behold
two men stood by them in white apparel, who also
said : Men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up into
Heaven? This Jesus, Who hath been taken up from
you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as
ye have seen Him go into Heaven." — Acts i, 9-11.

To-day we celebrate the return of our Lord to
the bosom of His eternal Father, after the accom-
plishment of His mission on earth. For, as you are
aware. He did not ascend to Heaven immediately
after His resurrection from the dead. He remained
on earth forty days, conversing with His apostles,
teaching them the mysteries of the Kingdom of God,
the doctrines they were to announce, the Sacraments
they were to dispense; exposing to them the organi-
zation and ordinances of His Church ; in a word,
qualifying them to carry on in His absence, and
after the descent of the Holy Ghost, the work which
He had begun.

At lengtli, in the presence of His Apostles, from
a mount near Jerusalem He ascended into heaven.
A cloud received Him out of their sight ; and at once,



before they had separated, while they were yet on
the spot where His marvelous disappearance had
taken place, while they were yet, I may say, looking"
upon Him ascending gloriously into heaven, and
filled with amazement they gazed at each other in
silent awe, two Angels clothed in white stood by and
said to them : "Men of Galilee, why stand ye look-
ing up into Heaven? This Jesus, Who hath been
taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like
manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven."

The power and glory of Christ's Ascension is in
marked contrast to His manner of coming into the
world. He came in the most abject misery and
poverty, in humiliation so deep and so strange to our
notions, that He would seem to forget that He was
God. He returns to Heaven in such surpassing
glory and show of power as befitted a God Who had
stooped to the form of man and undergone an ig-
nominious death for man's salvation should return
to His throne on high. There was but one resem-
blance between His advent and departure : Angels
announced His birth and sang glory to God ; Angels
are present at His ascension and announce His
future glorious advent. If men marvel at His lowly
birth, they are compensated for its unutterable low-
liness by the majesty of His ascension, rising to
heaven visibly by His own power and leading cap-
tivity captive.

The Ascension of Christ is the last of the miracles
which He wrought to manifest His Divine charac-
ter and mission. His resurrection from' the dead
receives its crown and complement in His glorious


In His Ascension Christ receives the reward to
which, as man, because of His sufferings He was
entitled. He had humbled Himself even to death,
yea, even to the death of the cross: He had become
even the outcast of men : it was meet that He should
draw to Himself the admiration and homage of the
world which had contemned Him. ''For He had
come unto His own, and His own received Him
not." He had been covered with contumely and
scorn : He should receive veneration and be crowned
with glory. He had been nailed to the accursed
W'Ood of the cross: that cross should be transfigured
into a throne of glory and He exalted with royal
pomp and magnificence even to Heaven ; yea, even
to the right hand of the Father Whose Son He is
by nature, not by mere adoption.

This is the rule of God's providence. Reward
follows suffering; happiness is the wages of misery
well endured; pleasure is purchased by pain; glory
is the triumph of humiliation and self-abasement.
This is the substance of the Gospel, the essence of
all piety. Contentment is found only in self-denial
and in restraint of passion.

The world seeks happiness in unrestrained gratifi-
cation, in the contempt of sacred obligations, in giv-
ing a loose rein to every inclination of the heart.

Religion proclaims that happiness can be found in
the primitive innocence in which man was at first
made. But, as that original bliss was exiled from
earth on the fall, and is no longer possible in this
life, we can only come by all the happiness which is
still possible, by returning to that state in so far as
we can. The nearer we approach it, the greater


will be our happiness. It must ever constitute the
highest human bliss. It can only be drawn near to
by subjecting our passions to the law of the mind,
and rendering the law of the mind one with the will
of God. AVe should be ready to do this, and even to
suffer misery and contempt, in the assurance of one
day finding recompense in the enjoyment of God.
Suffering is the path to glory, even among men and
for worldly objects. How much worthier for eter-
nal ends? "Did it not behoove the Son of Man to
suffer, and so enter His glory?" He suffered and
'Svas obedient even unto death, even unto the death
of the cross. Therefore did God exalt Him and give
Him a name that is above every other name; and that
at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those
that are in Heaven, or on the earth, or under the

The more we contemn the world, the more the
world will honor us. The greater our indifference
to the opinion of men, the more exalted will be their
esteem of us.

Those objects of human ambition which men seek
with greatest greed and anxiety were despised by
the Saints, and yet the Saints possess them in a
larger measure than their votaries. Men seek fame
and glory; the Saints abhorred human fame, and
had no thought for the praise of men ; and yet they
have reached the highest pitch of human glory and
become the admiration of the world. Warriors,
statesmen, orators, and all others who lived but for
human glory, where are they now? Where is the
glory for which they lived? How small a place do
they or their deeds fill upon the page of history!


Who thinks of them ? Who even remembers them ?
But the Saints and heroes of Christianity, who de-
spised the world and were content to pass their hves
in self-denial and in the exercise of the most en-
larged benevolence, the deepest and broadest charity
toward their fellow men, occupy to-day the highest
places in the temple of fame ; their names have be-
come engraven in the hearts of men, as the very
synonymes and types of love and goodness; their
memories are cherished and held in holy veneration.

The more Jesus Christ sought to conceal His
glory, the more luminously did it shine forth; the
more He sought to hide the mighty works which He
performed, the more they were noised abroad, and
the stronger evidence did they become of His divine
mission. For, in contemning the opinions of men
and showing Himself so little mindful of their praise
or censure. He manifested a superiority to the ways
and maxims and wisdom of men.

And having thus humbled Himself and become
of no repute among men. He comes to be exalted
to-day with every circumstance of pomp and splen-
dor. "Be Thou exalted," exclaims St. Augustine,
"Who wast hidden for nine long months in a Vir-
gin's womb; Who didst subject Thyself to all the
pains and privations of helpless infancy; Who didst
conceal for thirty years the glorious attributes of
Thy Divinity ; to Whose mind were ever present the
agony in Gethsemane, the abandonment on the cross ;
Thou that died, was buried, and rose again trium-
phant from the dead, — be Thou to-day exalted even
to the right hand of the Father, and to Thy name be
eternal praise, honor, and glory."


Christ ascended into heaven by His own power.
Not as Elias ascended did Qirist ascend. Elias was
carried up into heaven. Christ ascended by the
power of His Divinity, with the loud hosannas, not
with the aid, of the heavenly Spirits. The power
which His blessed soul possessed over His gloried
humanity, together wath His Divinity, enabled Him
to reascend to Heaven. It is the gift of a glorified
body to follow the will of the soul by which it is
inhabited. In His Ascension Christ triumphs over
the elements and the law^s of nature; as He did in
walking on the sea, in calming the storm, in chang-
ing water into wine, in coming forth triumphant
from the dead.

He sits at the right hand of God, which means
that He possesses an equality of power with the
Eternal Father. As in human language we under-
stand the right hand to be the place of honor and
dignity, so, speaking of heavenly things, we imply
by it the supreme glory which Jesus, even as man, has
obtained above all principalities and powders, above
angels and archangels. "To wdiich of them has it been
said, sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy
enemies Thy footstool?" ''Then was given to Him
all powder in heaven and on earth" ; "That at the
name of Jesus every knee should bend of those that
are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth ; "and
every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus
Christ is in the glory of God the Father." The right
hand signifies supreme and ineffable bliss and ever-
lasting felicity, whence at the last day the just will
be placed at the right. "I saw the Son of Man sit-
ting at the right hand of God." "Raising Him from


the dead and placing Him at His right hand in
Heavenly places above all principality and power and
virtues and dominations and every name that is
named not only in this world but in the future. And
He hath put all things under His feet and He hath
made Him the head over the Church, which is His

The Ascension of Christ was necessary that His
glorified body should obtain the state of being which
it required. Once He rose from the dead He no
longer belonged to this world ; was, so to speak, out
of His place. He had passed the portal of the
grave; He had fulfilled the inexorable "it is ap-
pointed for all men once to die." From the moment
of His resurrection He belonged to another world.
Already He began to enjoy the bliss which belongs
to a glorified body. So long as He remained in this
sensible material world, His now incorruptible, spir-
itual body did not possess full felicity; its proper
sphere was wanting.

Soul and body each possesses a certain adapta-
tion, a certain sympathy for each other; there is a
mutual dependence of one on the other; hence apart
they could be never happy. And each must possess
the supreme happiness proper to itself, in order that
man, who results from both, may be perfectly happy.
This, true of man's nature while in its present state,
is equally true of it when in a glorified state. He
cannot enjoy the full felicity that belongs to that
state so long as soul and body do not each possess
what of right belongs to that state. Now, before
His Ascension something was wanting to His glori-
fied body ; accordingly. His soul was not in complete


bliss. Christ's body was a glorified one; Heaven is
the only place for such a body; it is only there that
it possesses what of right belongs to it. This world
is material; one of change and corruption, incom-
patible with the exigencies of a body, impassible,
immortal, spiritualized — with the glorious endow-
ments and privileges of such a body. Christ's As-
cension into Heaven, therefore, conferring upon His
body what was wanting to it, completes the bliss of
His soul.

He had finished the work for which He had come
among men. He had died for their redemption ; He
had sown the seed of the Gospel and fertilized it
with His blood; He had established a Church to
carrv on to the end of time the work which He had
begun and to apply to the souls of men the fruit of
His all-saving death. It was natural that He should
return to the bosom of His eternal Father.

We may imagine that if He had remained on
earth His continued residence with us would have
made our love more intense, our faith more vivid.
But far otherwise it would have been. We would
have been strangers to the love we have for Him,
languid though it be in the hearts of men. Love is
not greatest when in possession of its object; it is
far greater in its absence. The undutiful son never
knows the strength of domestic ties till he wanders
abroad. Then alone he feels the mystic power of a
mother's love.

Christ's departure was calculated to increase our
faith, our hope, our love. There would have been
no faith in receiving the truth from Him surrounded
with such circumstances and exhibiting such tokens


of Divinity that human reason would be coerced.
And if He abode with us without thus manifesting
His power, human increduhty would make it a pre-
text for not believing. Would we expect the un-
ceasing working of miracles to claim our faith? The
whole face of human society would be changed and
the providence on which all things have been or-
dained, subverted. He willed that His Gospel should
make its way among men by its own inherent force
and the divine virtue with which He had endued it :
by the grace which He would copiously supply, and
under His watchful care it should work its effects
unto salvation. This economy w^ould have been
frustrated by His continued abidance on earth.

We may imagine the gladness and joy of the
blessed Spirits when Christ returned to Heaven.
With what suspense and longing love they had re-
garded their Divine Master during His sojourn on
earth. With what amazement must they not have
beheld the conflict between Him and the prince of
this world, — between His designs to save the souls of
men and the stratagems of Satan to frustrate them.
With what interest must they not have followed
their Lord in every circumstance of His mortal
career. We may be assured that though invisible
they were never absent from His presence. They
had announced His advent into the world. They
surrounded the stable in which He was born. They
made known to Joseph the danger hanging over
Him. They comforted Him in His agony. They
announced the glad tidings of His resurrection. They
stood amidst the disciples who saw Him ascending
into Heaven. With what unutterable sympathy and


loving solicitude they beheld His sufferings, His
abasements, His tornients and death. How they
must have yearned for the termination of His mis-
sion and the glorious triumph of His cause. And
now, on this day of His Ascension, what must have
been their joy and jubilation when He returned to
the right hand of the Father. How heaven must
have resounded with anthems of exultation and
thanksgiving when the adorable Son of God returns
in triumph, — the Conqueror of sin and Satan, the
Destroyer of death, the Redeemer of immortal souls,
the Asserter of Divine justice and mercy, and is
again received into the bosom of His eternal Father.

There is joy in heaven for one sinner doing pen-
ance. There is immeasurably more joy upon pen-
ance being made possible to all men through the
abundant grace purchased for them by Christ's all-
precious and all-saving blood. What joy was theirs
when they saw this grace freely offered to all ! that
all who had been lost to God could be restored, that
God's design in making man would not be frustrated,
that Satan and his followers could now be replaced
in heaven by the sons of men.

The return of Jesus was an additional glory to
the Angels and the consummation of their happi-
ness. It is true that they were always happy. They
were in possession of God ; they beheld His glory and
were ravished in the contemplation of His boundless
perfection and unutterable attributes. This is the
supreme felicity possible to a created being. Yet
theologians tell us that there was one consolation yet
wanting to them, — the consolation of beholding the
glorified humanity of the Eternal Word ; scarred in-


deed with the wounds received for our redemption,
yet all radiant with light and glory. With unutter-
able transport they adored this Sacred Humanity
now in possession of its glory, after its Incarnation,
Life, Sufferings and Death in behalf of fallen man.

All true beauty has its source in the soul ; it is but
the reflection of the beauty of the soul. God is the
original source of all beauty ; the beauty of all things
is but an emanation of His uncreated beauty. Hence
beauty is in proportion to its resemblance to God.
Wherefore it is only in the soul that beauty can
reside; for it is the soul alone that is made in His
image and likeness. According, then, as the soul
resembles God, and partakes in profusion of His
grace, it is beautiful. There may be what is called
beauty ; but it deserves not the name : it is external,
it is earthly, it is sensual ; it is provocative of sin and
the fuel of concupiscence.

Now, apply this to the beauty of Jesus Christ.
His was the most perfect soul ever conferred upon
a son of man. His was a body most perfect in all
its parts, most exquisite in its organization, most
responsive to the emotions of the soul, that the hand
of God had ever fashioned. Add to this that Jesus
was God, — the God head dwelt personally within
Him; and Its glory must have radiated His body
with a Divine beauty. Not always, nor often, did
our Lord reveal this uncreated beauty. Yet there
were occasions when the Apostles were permitted
to look upon it, and yet live. On Thabor He was
transfigured, and they were transported out of them-
selves with the glory which His Divinity shed upon
them. But it is onlv in heaven that Christ manifests


fully the glory of His Divinity and the ineffable
fascination of His soul, and the perfection of His
body. Here there was a new joy and felicity for the
angels, an additional glory to their own.

The Ascension of Jesus Christ is the completion
of our religion, the perfecting of His mission into
the world. He, ascending into Heaven, becomes the
invisible Head of the Church. He presides over it,
rules It. directs it. He sends the Holy Ghost to per-
fect its organization, to become its animating prin-
ciple. He himself will be present with it all days,
even to the end of the world.

In every mystery of the Incarnate Word we are
taught some great truth: in His birth, humility; in
His passion, patience, resignation and long suffer-
ing; in His resurrection He establishes and forever
confirms our faith ; in His Ascension He teaches us
to hope, to lift our minds and hearts beyond the
things and bounds of time to those of eternity. By
His death He taught us to die to sin ; by His resur-
rection, to live to justice and grace; so by His As-
cension He reminds us that, although in body we
are on earth, in mind and desire w^e ought always
to be in heaven; we ought always to anticipate the
glory that hereafter awaits us. He admonishes that
His kingdom is not of this world, — not the earthly
one which the Jews looked for, relying upon human
strength and human resources ; but that ''His power
is eternal and His kingdom one that w^ill not be ex-
tinguished" ; that our happiness is not here below ;
that we are not to be overcome by the sufferings and
trials and disappointments and miseries and desola-
tion of this life ; to account all human things as noth-


ing if our manner of life gives us an abiding confi-
dence of possessing Him in the Kingdom whither
He has gone to prepare a place for us. "I go to
prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a
place for you, again I come and I will receive you
unto myself, that where I am you also may be." He
has gone to be our perpetual Intercessor and Advo-
cate before the Throne of God. "For Jesus hath not
entered into the holies made with hands, the pat-

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 26 of 43)