John McQuirk.

Sermons and discourses (Volume 3) online

. (page 38 of 43)
Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 38 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

has the Creator shed with a profuser hand the
wealth of His vast intelligence and more unstinted
display of His power than on man, "crowned with
glory and honor and made but little less than the
angels?" And what could have been the purpose of
the Creator in thus making him? Was it that he
should last but a few days and then sink into the
earth to be as if he had never been? Or, was it not
rather that he should endure and become an ever-
lasting monument of His wisdom and omnipotence ?
The work proclaims the design : its elaborateness
bespeaks its permanency: duration enters into the



very conception of a being endowed with such gifts,
''so fearfully and wonderfully made." The wisdom
of God is not inferior to that of man. Wisdom in
God and man, while at an immeasurable distance, is
essentially the same; they flow from the same Di-
vine source. Human wisdom sublimated to the Di-
vine, is infinite. Divine wisdom and human wis-
dom, therefore, work in the same channels and are
guided by the same principles. As man seeks noth-
ing more than the survival for all time of his works ;
so, likewise, God the Creator desires nothing more
than the undying permanency of His creations. It
enters into the very conception of their essence; and
upon it is built all the works of His hands.

Look into the world of man; contemplate the
noblest works which his mind has conceived or his
hand has executed. Consider the material objects
which he has placed in the physical world, or the
productions with which he has adorned the minds
of men, and illuminated the moral world.

Call to mind the buildings and temples which he
has executed, the glory of men, and lasting for cen-
turies till warfare or human wantonness has laid
them in the dust : the temple of Solomon, the
basilica of St. Sophia, gleaming in the sky, the dome
on the Pantheon lifted in the air and perpetuated in
St. Peter's, the Cathedral of Rheims, the despair of
human genius, the church of St. Paul at London,
second only to St. Peter's, or any other of the wond-
ers of the world in ancient or modern times; not to
speak of other national monuments of the genius of
man. And what think you was the motive in the
innermost heart of the designer, but that these crea-


tions should last forever, and carry the glory of his
age and country and his God to the remotest pos-
terity; that if possible they should last forever, and
perhaps perpetuate his name and genius to "ages
yet unborn and accents yet unknown" ? What was
the motive of the great poets and orators and his-
torians of the world who, feeling their heaven-born
genius sought to enshrine or encase it in their im-
mortal productions as amber in a diamond or pre-
cious stones. What was the hope and aspiration up-
permost and deepest in their souls than that their
writings should last forever, and transmit jtheir
names for all time unto all the children of men?
Would they have been content with any duration,
short of immortality? How ill would they have
taken it, if assured that like themselves, their w^orks
were destined to a speedy dissolution, and a per-
j>etual silence and forgetfulness after a few years
when the gulf of time would swallow up all things?
Did they not deprecate the chilling prospect, and
long that their genius should last forever? Similar
was the desire and purpose of the Eternal God when
He made man, endowing him with wondrous gifts,
and pouring upon him Angelic intelligence, and a
will to practice virtue, and immortal duration, and
all the transcendent graces with which on his crea-
tion he was endowed.

As, then, we see that man does not make his works,
whether in the material order, or in the moral, to
destroy them after a few years ; but rather that he
longs to preserve them for all time, we must believe
a similar wisdom and purpose in the works of the
Most High — that He ordains them not to last for a


little while, and then sink into nothing, but rather
that He destines all that He has made to last for-
ever, for its own beatitude and His own immortal

How then can we believe that He meant that
man should live but for a little w^hile, and then
perish forever from the world and from the records
of life, and become as if he had never been sum-
moned into existence ? Perish the monstrous thought
and iniquitous assumption, li men were to live
even for the respectable period of one hundred or
two hundred years, it w^ould still be unworthy of
God and inconsistent with His Divine wisdom and
purpose to create him for so short a span of exist-
ence. Still less, if He were to ordain him to a
shorter length of life. If man desires nothing more
than to perpetuate his works, and to make them last-
ing, if possible, for all time, who can believe that
God would ordain man, the noblest work of His
power and wisdom, to such a beggarly existence as
is allotted to the meanest animal that crawls the
earth, and is incapable of looking up from the earth
in w^hich he finally sinks to be as if he had never
been? Could the Omnipotent have destined His
masterpiece to so vile a destiny, after a precarious
existence of a few years ; no matter how many, they
would still be few, and after a life in which he would
have endured and suffered hardships and trials not
experienced by the lowest and irrational beings? Can
we conceive that man, of little short of angelic in-
telligence, potential of the loftiest speculation, and
alone among creatures capable of knowing God and
worshipping Him, could have come into this life.


and fret his busy days upon it, for no other end
than that, having played his silly part, he should be
forever swept into the unknown abyss from whose
ashes and slime he was made, and whose destiny
would be in such a case as noble or as ignoble as his
own? Are the souls of the martyrs w^ho lived for
virtue's cause, and w^ho died shedding their blood
for this belief, to be annihilated before they have
received their reward due their godliness and un-
utterable self sacrifice? Shall the bloody arm of
the executioners who drove them to death on the
gibbet, or the cross, or at the stake amidst the hoot-
ing and blood seeking mob have the same reward as
that to which alone virtue has a claim? Shall the
uncounted martyrs who, in imitation of the meek
Jesus, their Master, sink into the arms of His
Father; while the Jews and those who stood about
in horrid execration called upon Him to come down
from the cross, thus dying under the basest calumny ;
shall they receive no other eternal recognition than
those who thus filled Him with contumely, and in-
voked their blood upon their souls? Will the only
reward be the tardy praise that may come after ages,
and when the slaughtered can have no knowledge of
it ? Ye holy souls who have lived in virtue, in purity,
in patience, in long suffering, is it all to end in the lot
of the vicious, the rich, the luxurious, the arrogant,
the proud, the revelling in gratification of passion?
And w^hy should the Lord have summoned into be-
ing, the uncounted multitudes of infants, one-half
the human race, who die, or who are slaughtered
before they reach the threshold of life, or are de-
stroyed before they leave the w^omb that bore them ;


or, those who perish before reason has opened their
minds? Thus the shortness of Hfe, viewed in its
longest or shortest span, proclaims in trumpet tones
to all men, except the deaf, and who cannot or will
not hear, a future life where the work begun in this
may be finished — where all may receive the reward
or punishments according as they shall have done in
the deeds of the flesh.


And the Word was made flesh. — Jo. 1.

The Word, which is a Person of the Divine Na-
ture, that one and the same is the Person or Hypos-
tasis of the Divine and human nature : by which it
is effected that this admirable conjunction preserves
the actions and proprieties of each nature, so that
in the words of St. Leo, glorification does not con-
sume the inferior, nor the assumption does not
lessen the superior.

When we say that the Son of God was conceived
by the power of the Holy Ghost, this one Person did
not make the mystery of the Incarnation. For
though the Son only took the human nature upon
Him; yet all the Persons of the Holy Trinity, the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were Authors of this
mystery ; for we must hold to this rule in our Chris-
tian Faith : that all things God does externally, out-
side of Himself in creatures, are common to all the
Three Persons ; nor does one act more than another,
or one without another. Christ is said to be con-
ceived by the Holy Ghost because the Incarnation
manifests the infinite goodness of God.

In this mystery many things are done beyond the
order of nature, and some by the power of nature.
The body of Christ is made of the most pure blood



of His Virgin mother: it is common to all men's
bodies to be formed of their mother's blood. But
that which surpasses both the order of nature, and
the reach of the human understanding, is this : that
as soon as the Blessed Virgin, consenting to the
words of the Angel, had said, "Behold the hand
maid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to
thy word" ; at once the most holy body of Christ
was conceived, and a human soul joined with it, and
s© in that very moment of time. He became perfect
God and perfect man. This was the wonderful
work of the Holy Ghost, since by the order of na-
ture, no body can be informed by, or receive a hu-
man soul, but at the limited term of time.

As soon as ever the soul of Christ was joined
with His body. His very God-head was also knit
together with His soul and body: wherefore His
body was at once formed and quickened, and His
divinity joined to His soul and body.

In the same moment of time. He became perfect
God and perfect man ; and the Holy Virgin truly
became the Mother of God. This was signified by
the Angel : "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy
womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and shalt call
His name Jesus; He shall be great, and shall be
called the Son of the Most High." — Luke 1 ; 31. By
the event it was well proved what Isaiah had fore-
told: "Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bring
forth a Son." Elizabeth also perceived this to be
the conception of the Son of God; she being filled
with the Holy Ghost, exclaimed : "Whence comes
this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should
come to me?"


Now as the body of Christ was formed of the
purest blood of the purest Virgin, without the help
of man, but only by the power of the Holy Ghost ; so
also, as soon as He was conceived, His soul received
an overflowing plenty, and an abundance of the
chrisms, or anointings of the Holy Ghost. For God
gave not His spirit to Him' by measure, as to other
men adorned with grace and holiness, as St. John
testifies ; but He poured plentifully into His soul all
grace, that of His fullness we might all receive.
Thus the Roman Catechism. Although Christ had
the spirit whereby holy men obtain the adoption of
the sons of God, yet He may not be called the ad-
opted son of God ; for being the Son of God by na-
ture we may not think that the grace or name of
adoption can at all be proper, or, by any means, be
suitable to Him.

This great mystery of the Incarnation is to be
pondered by the mind and heart that it may be so
realized that we may draw salutary fruit and profit
to our souls. This can be only done by frequently
and seriously meditating in our hearts, that it is God
Who took human flesh upon Himself. Yet in such
a way did He become man that we cannot compre-
hend nor much less express in human language.
Wherefore, it is to be believed and adored with
humble hearts and docile minds; and not to be
curiously searched nor narrowly pried into. Be-
cause such investigation, the result of pride and the
fruit of incredulity, cannot but end without the
greatest peril to faith. And in this same believing
spirit are to be received all the other articles of the
Creed. We should ever remember that we are not


to explore the mysteries of God by unaided reason.
Divine, indeed, is the Hght which it affords for such
a purpose. It was not that we should discourse
learnedly or philosophize profoundly that these
truths have been proposed to our souls ; but "that
we might be born again, and become the children of

"Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wandering travelers,
Is reason to the soul ; and as on high,
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,
Not light as here ; so reason's glimmering ray
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way.
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear
When day's bright lord ascends our hemisphere ;
So pale grows reason at religion's sight ;
So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light."

— Dryden.

Besides the restoration of the race, which was the
primary object of the eternal Word humbling Him-
self to the birth in a cradle, He assumed our nature
to give an example of all virtue, and to undo the
ruin of the fall by pointing out to us how we might
extirpate the vices which had been its cause, and to
which in a larger scale and universal development,
it had led as the race was multiplied and filled the

By His birth Christ had reconciled sinful man to
his Creator. He taught the paternity of God over
all men : He proclaims the brotherhood of men, and


their mutual duties to one another; and their first
destiny in God as they had come from Him as a
common origin. The Jew and the Gentile are made
one : the bound and the free are but one in Him : all
peoples are but one people, and this emphatically
and in the loftiest sense His people : the nations are
his inheritance, and the uttermost bounds of the
earth are as near to Him as the city of God, Jeru-

He came to give the world peace. After the
glory to God sung by the Angels, they sang "and
on earth peace to men of good will." Peace to men
who would have it ; peace to men who would will it,
and seek it where it truly could be found ; peace to
men who would bring passion into obedience of the
law of order where alone true peace can be found.
St. Paul tells us that in the passion of Christ "God
was in Him reconciling the world to Himself" : no
less was God in the conciliation of man with man
which Christ inaugurated in His birth : He would in-
deed have them dwell together in unity. He would
give them peace not such as the world can give, but
that which alone the God of peace could confer. A
peace not the result of any external circumstances,
but a peace of soul which cannot be disturbed by any
calamities or trials of this world. He would animate
us all with His own Divine Spirit, and make us
sharers of the divine bliss which He enjoys with
His Father.

Men sought peace where it was not to be found,
in the gratification of passion, in the acquisition of
riches, in the aspirations of ambition, in the pride
and pomp of glory of human achievements, in the


pride of life, glory, power, — empty names: in all
that we see with our eyes, in this sensible world.
But they forgot the spiritual world which truly
exists within us, and in which alone true peace and
contentment can be found. Those very things in
which men seek to satisfy their hearts are the very
means by which their misery is created, and which
destroy all true felicity. The votaries of this
world must be forever strangers to the bliss of those
who, living a supernatural" life, have learned to con-
temn all this world craves and lives for. What is
all history, when viewed in the world or in the in-
dividual hearts of men, but the record of the horrid
consequence of those sins and passions in which
men, forsooth, would seek their happiness, — the lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
The heart of the man given up to these passions
was in miniature; but the heart of humanity at
large, rent with passion, as the world was rent, and
devastated with crime and pollution, with bloodshed
and massacre, ungovernable ambition and insatiable
impurity, with towering ambition, and universal
corruption and immorality. All these are the legiti-
mate outcome of the pride, lust and avarice which
St. John tells us constitute the world of man. In
such sources how could man hope for peace of heart,
or mind, or soul? Hence Jesus came among men
proclaiming in His birth and subsequent preaching
those lessons of self-denial, purity, virginal and
matrimonial, detachment from sense and contempt
for human wisdom, which alone could confer upon
men true happiness, sovereign contentment. The
Gospel everywhere teaches the lessons which Christ


inculcates at His birth : self denial, repression of pas-
sion, poverty, material and spiritual ; in a word, the
close following of Christ; for he that comes after
Him must take up His cross, and follow Him. Un-
less he does this he will surely walk in darkness and
incur eternal ruin.

To say that man's happiness can be found in the
things of this world, or in the lustings of the flesh,
or any other sinful inclination, would be to ignore
his fall; for if he had not fallen, he would never
have placed his happiness in them. He would have
sought what belonged to His supernatural destiny;
but because of his fall he no longer seeks the things
that are above, celestial and eternal, but those that
are below ; because of the fall he lies supine and
grovelling upon the earth, with now and then a
longing of and aspiration to the state whence he
fell upon his primal sin and subsequent sins.

Christ then comes into the world proclaiming
through His angels : "Peace on earth to men of
good will."

O ! blessed Jesus, not only the Redeemer, but the
Divine Teacher of men, come into the world to
rectify these disorders, and to correct the wayward-
ness of men; when shall they learn to subject them-
selves to Thy wisdom, and to embrace Thy gracious
dispensation of love and mercy, and sovereign


"This is a great Mystery; but I speak in Christ
and His Church, St. Paul." Cor.

Matrimony is one of the Sacraments instituted by
Christ. As such it is in the custody of the Church,
which has the right to prescribe the condition of its
celebration and everything necessary to its Sacred-
ness, and to the dispositions of those contracting it
and its essence and integrity. Acting under this
authority the Council of Trent ordained, for reasons
which it deemed sufficient, that no marriage should
be valid unless contracted before the parish priest
of the parties and two witnesses. At the same time
it reserved to itself the right to publish or not pub-
lish this law when and where it saw fit. Thus it
happened that the law was not published in this part
of the world, and that marriage continued to be
performed here as it had been performed every-
where before the law in question had been made.

However, now it seems good to the Church that
this law should be extended to and embrace this
region, and even the whole world. Hence what was
till now lawful and valid is no longer such : that a
marriage truly such till now, is now but a state of
adultery. Hence the extreme necessity of those en-
tering marriage to comply with this new legislation



of the Church, or, rather the appHcation of the
ordinary law to these parts of the world.

As to promises or betrothals which frequently
precede marriage, only those are to be accounted
true and binding and producing canonical effects,
which have been made in writing signed by both
parties and by the parish priest or the bishop, or at
least by two witnesses. Yet promises of marriage
made orally, as imparting an agreement or contract
in a grave matter, should not be easily entered into :
and if entered into, assume a grave obligation, short,
however, of the ecclesiastical ^'Sponsalia" or Es-
pousals, which alone induces the ecclesiastical prohi-
bitions and impediments.

Only those marriages are valid which are con-
tracted before the parish priest, or the bishop of the
place, or a priest authorized by either of them, and
at least two witnesses. Marriages otherwise con-
tracted are as if they were not ; and the parties there-
to may be and should be parted until a true marriage
has been effected.

As to various special circumstances that may arise,
some of which may be more or less complicated, and
certain other contingencies inseparable from a gen-
eral law in its application, information is to be
sought privately from those competent to give it,
rather than from a public instruction such as this.
Many other duties relative tO' the invocation of this
new law, devolve upon the parish priest and those
otherwise concerned in its administration ; these
have no interest for the parties receiving the Sacra-

It should be observed that unless there be some


good reason to the contrary, marriage should be
performed in every case before the parish priest of
the bride.

Parties to be married should present to him who
is to officiate their baptismal certificates.

These laws are binding on all baptized in the
Catholic Church and on all who have been con-
verted to it from heresy or schism wherever es-
pousals or marriage is to be contracted ; also, when
about to enter either Sponsalia or marriag'e with
non-Catholics baptized or not, even when the neces-
sary dispensation has been granted.

It is scarcely necessary to remark that non-Cath-
olics, as not being subject to the Church, contract-
ing marriage between themselves are in no wise
bound to this recent legislation of the Church.

According to the present civil laws, parties about
to unite' in marriage are bound to obtain a license
from the civil authority.

Because pastors ought to propose to their people
a blessed and perfect life, it were much to be de-
sired for them also, what the Apostle wrote to the
Corinthians — that he himself sought in these words :
"I will that all men be even as I myself: viz: that
all should desire and cultivate the virtue of holy
continence. For there can be no greater happiness
in this life for the faithful, than that the mind being
freed from and removed above the cares of the
world, and rising superior to the lusts of the flesh,
may find rest and peace and bliss in the pursuit of
piety and the contemplation of heavenly objects.

But, inasmuch as the same Apostle says, every one
has his own proper gift from God: one after one


sort and another after another, and matrimony is
adorned with its own and Divine blessings : so that
it is truly reckoned among the other Sacraments of
the Catholic Church ; and the Lord Himself honored
its celebration w^ith His presence, it clearly appears
that its doctrine is to be taught; and this all the
more, as both St. Paul and St. Peter have in many
places in their writings, exact instructions relating
not only to the dignity but as well to the duties of
matrimony. For being inspired with the spirit of
God, they well knew how many and how great ad-
vantages would redound to Christian society, if the
holiness of Marriage were rightly understood by
the faithful, and kept inviolable by them. And, on
the contrary, that not being well understood or even
neglected, many and great calamities and injuries
would result to the Church. First and chiefly the
nature and virtue of matrimony is to be cleared for
the people. Since vice often bears the face of good-
ness, the faithful are not to be deceived with a false
conception or view of Matrimony ; and thus pollute
their souls with nefarious impurity and injurious
lusts. For opening up which we may begin with
the signification of Matrimony.

The Sacrament is called by different names, each
of which has its origin in some quality or aspect of
the nature of the matrimonial contract. Thus, be-
cause it is the duty or office of the woman to be a
mother, or because to conceive and bring forth and
tO' rear up is the part of a mother, it is called Matri-
mony. It is also called Wedlock, from a locking or
joining together; because bound together as it were
in one yoke.


Besides, it is called marriage, because for modesty

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 38 of 43)