Wednesday, 20 February 2013
I am amazed that this is the thirty-ninth posting on the Doctors of the Church and Perfection. Looking at Bede is such a joy, as he not is only is a personal example for us of one who pursued perfection, but his great contribution to civilization is tremendous. Did you know that he was the first person to us Anno Domini for dates? Sadly, in the past thirty years, secularists have moved away from this. However, we know better, those who read and write on this blog!
Now, a sermon of Bede's on the saints for a further look at perfection. My commentary is in red. This is found here.
TO-DAY, 1 beloved, we celebrate in the joy of one solemnity, the festival of All Saints, in whose companionship the heaven exults; in whose guardianship the earth rejoices; by whom triumphs the Holy Church is crowned; whose confession, as braver in its passion, is also brighter in its honor—because while the battle increased, the glory of them that fought in it was also augmented. And the triumph of martyrdom is adorned with the manifold kind of its torments, because the more severe the pangs, the more illustrious also were the rewards; while our Mother, the Catholic Church, was taught by her Head, Jesus Christ, not to fear contumely, affliction, death, and more and more strengthened—not by resistance, but by endurance—inspired all of that illustrious number who suffered imprisonment or torture, with one and equal ardor to fight the battle for triumphal glory.
O truly blessed Mother Church! so illuminated by the honor of divine condescension, so adorned by the glorious blood of triumphant martyrs, so decked with the inviolate confession of snow white virginity! Among its flowers neither roses nor lilies are wanting.
Endeavor now, beloved, each for yourselves, in each kind of honor, to obtain your own dignity—crowns, snow white for chastity, or purple for passion. In those heavenly camps, both peace and war have their own flowers wherewith the soldiers of Christ are crowned.
Bede is showing us that each person has a way to perfection within the larger stages all experience. Virginity is a white martyrdom, a real suffering perhaps for Bede.
For the ineffable and unbounded goodness of God has provided this also, that the time for labor and for agony should not be extended—not long, not enduring, but short, and, so to speak, momentary; that in this short and little life should be the pain and the labors, that in the life which is eternal should be the crown and the reward of merits; that the labors should quickly come to an end, but the reward of endurance should remain without end; that after the darkness of this world they should behold that most beautiful light, and should receive a blessedness greater than the bitterness of all passions; as the apostle beareth witness, when he saith, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”
Again, the sufferings are purgation of the soul, the mind, and the body. The endurance is not merely "offering up crosses" as so many modern people state, but immersing one's self in the suffering, cooperating with it for the greater glory of unity with the Beloved.
With how joyous a breast the heavenly city receives those that return from flight! How happily she meets them that bear the trophies of the conquered enemy! And with triumphant men, women also come, who rose superior both to this world, and to their sex, doubling the glory of their welfare; virgins with youths, who surpassed their tender years by their virtues. Yet not they alone, but the rest of the multitude of the faithful shall also enter the palace of that eternal court, who in peaceful union have observed the heavenly commandments, and have maintained the purity of the faith.
The final union with God in heaven depends on this purity of faith, which might seem like a strange phrase. But, what Bede means by this is the complete trust of the will which has been conformed to the Mind of Christ.
Purity comes only after suffering.
But above all these things is the being associated with the companies of angels and archangels, thrones and dominations, principalities and powers, and the enjoyment of the watches of all the celestial virtues—to behold the squadron of the saints, adorned with stars; the patriarchs, glittering with faith; the prophets, rejoicing in hope; the apostles, who in the twelve tribes of Israel, shall judge the whole world; the martyrs, decked with the purple diadems of victory; the virgins, also, with their wreaths of beauty. But of the King, who is in the midst, no words are able to speak. That beauty, that virtue, that glory, that magnificence, that majesty, surpasses every expression, every sense of the human mind. For it is greater than the glory of all saints; but to attain to that ineffable sight, and to be made radiant with the splendor of His countenance, it were worth while to suffer torment every day—it were worth while to endure hell itself for a season, so that we might behold Christ coming in glory, and be joined to the number of the saints; so is it not then well worth while to endure earthly sorrows, that we may be partakers of such good, and of such glory?
These are the passionate words of a man who has seen God. Bede reveals here the same intensity as seen in St. Paul when he describes his moment of union with God in 2 Corinthians 12.
What, beloved brethren, will be the glory of the righteous; what that great gladness of the saints, when every face shall shine as the sun; when the Lord shall begin to count over in distinct orders His people, and to receive them into the kingdom of His Father, and to render to each the rewards promised to their merits and to their works—things heavenly for things earthly, things eternal for things temporal, a great reward for a little labor; to introduce the saints to the vision of His Father’s glory; and “to make them sit down in heavenly places,” to the end that God may be all in all; and to bestow on them that love Him that eternity which He has promised to them—that immortality for which He has redeemed them by the quickening of His own blood; lastly, to restore them to Paradise, and to open the kingdom of heaven by the faith and verity of His promise?
I like the phrase "all in all" and the idea that God in His Love is all to the saints. This is what one must desire to be a saint--to want the all of God, to the capacity which God has called one.
Let us consider that Paradise is our country, as well as theirs; and so we shall begin to reckon the patriarchs as our fathers. Why do we not, then, hasten and run, that we may behold our country and salute our parents? A great multitude of dear ones is there expecting us; a vast and mighty crowd of parents, brothers, and children, secure now of their own safety, anxious yet for our salvation, long that we may come to their right and embrace them, to that joy which will be common to us and to them, to that pleasure expected by our fellow servants as well as ourselves, to that full and perpetual felicity…. If it be a pleasure to go to them, let us eagerly and covetously hasten on our way, that we may soon be with them, and soon be with Christ; that we may have Him as our Guide in this journey, who is the Author of Salvation, the Prince of Life, the Giver of Gladness, and who liveth and reigneth with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Ghost.
Do not forget that on this journey to perfection, one has help from those who have gone before--the Church Triumphant. Christ takes us by the hand and guides us, giving us Life and Grace.
We only need to desire this way and to cooperate.
And, so, goodbye to Bede, and on to the next Doctor of the Church...
Note 1. Translated by the Rev. John M. Neale. Abridged. More than thirty editions of Bede’s writings have been published. The one which appeared in 1843, edited by Dr. J. A. Giles, and giving in complete form the original Latin, with translations of the historical work into English, comprises twelve volumes.