« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
through her yearly circle of fast and festival; from the cradle to the tomb, she watches Him in breathless love; never for a single instant is her eye turned away from Him; like His Vir . gin Mother, she receives Him in her arms at His birth, she stands by His cross, she weeps over His tomb, she rejoices in His resurrection, and watches Him as He ascends into heaven. And our enemies know this of us; they know that we love and venerate every person and every thing connected with Him in exact proportion to the closeness of that connection. Thus we love the cradle in which He lay, the pillar to which He was bound, the nails, the cross, -all the instruments of His passion; we love still more dearly His Saints, because they are still more closely linked with Him, as having been His living, breathing images on earth; and, most dearly of all, we love His blessed Mother, because of her alone it could truly be said, that He was bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh. Nay, the very worship which our enemies most revile, our worship of the Blessed Sacrament, what is it but the worship of Jesus? We do not kneel before bread and wine-none can suppose that we do ;-—it is only because we believe that Christ is hidden beneath that sem
blance, that we bow our heads and hearts in adoration. Protestants may say that our belief is false, that He is not there, but they cannot deny that it is to Him and Him alone that our will directs its worship. Is this credible of Antichrist?
This train of thought is suggested by the festival of Christmas, now close at hand; for at this season most especially, any one who has ever had the good fortune of spending it in a Catholic land, or among Catholics anywhere, must have seen, if he would but be candid enough to allow it, that, whatever may be his own peculiar taste as to the mode of keeping Christmas, the idea of the real object of the festival, and of Him whose birth it commemorates, is impressed by the Catholic Church on the heart and imagination of her children with a vividness of which Protestantism has no idea.
It is true, indeed, that Christmas is a festival of such universal gladness as to thaw for a moment even the icy heart of Protestantism; sending a ray of joyousness down into the cold depths of the population of this country, where all is so smooth and smiling on the surface, all so chill and joyless underneath. At Christmas I really believe a thrill of gladness darts through
the heart of the great majority of this people; churches and chapels are made gay with shin . ing leaves and scarlet berries; carols are sung in the streets; the words, "A merry Christmas to you!” pass from mouth to mouth; and beef and pudding, the outward form which joy is wont to put on in this cold, hungry climate, smoke on many a board to which, alas, for every other day in the year they are utter strangers; nay, it is to be hoped, that even in Union workhouses there is an intermission of gruel for Christmas-day. Now it is not on account of this peculiar association of feasting with Christmas, which to some may seem coarse and unspiritual, that we are disposed to draw unfavorable comparisons between the mode of keeping the festival here and in Catholic lands, for the tendency to feasting on all joyous occasions is not Protestant, but national; it was probably just the same when England was Catholic; nay, we know it was the same when our Saxon forefathers were yet Pagans in their German forests. We are told of them at that time, that even all their business of state was discussed at their banquets, and that in the midst of these their soul "warmed to great thoughts." We find also that, when we first
became Christian, good Pope Gregory commanded that the people might be allowed to kill their sheep and oxen, and feast upon them on the Church festivals, just as they had been used to do on the feasts of their idols. If Pope Gregory, then, did not quarrel with the smoking Christmas board, we certainly have no right and no inclination to do so. Abundant food is a necessity of our climate, and a condition of our physical well-being, to a degree that the people of the south cannot understand: we are told of our Saxon forefathers, whom I have before mentioned, that their frames, though so tall and well formed, were neither so patient of labor nor of hunger as might be expected from their apparent strength. Alas for the necessity which grinds down our poor to the endurance of both to such a hurtful degree!
But to return to Christmas. The difference between Catholic and Protestant Christmas is this, that both love Christmas, but that Catholics love it far more distinctly and consciously for Christ's sake. The very name of the festival is theirs, Christ's Mass : to Protestants, one part of the word has confessedly lost its meaning, and the other is but a dim vision.
Look at the professedly religious part of the
observance of this feast, and see what it amounts to. In the churches of the English Establishment, except the holly boughs, what is there to tell of the Lord's birth? Of course, the lesson from Scripture recounting that event is read; so also are certain psalms which prophetically relate to it; and a sermon on the Nativity is (sometimes).preached. But, otherwise, the or. dinary routine of the service goes on the same as usual. “Dearly beloved brethren," holds on the even tenor of its way with dulness scarcely mitigated; and there is really nothing either peculiarly to draw out the devotion of those assisting at it towards their Infant Lord, nor, which is more to our present purpose, any special outpouring of such devotion on the part of the Church herself. Something of the same kind must be said of the dissenting chapels; except that there every thing being more left to individuals, and more spontaneous, it becomes more a matter of chance how the fes. tival is celebrated. It may be more Christian and Christmas-like than in the churches of the Establishment; but it may also be less so. In both cases the sermon is the main thing to be depended on for marking the occasion of the festival; and that necessarily is the voice of an