Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Virtues Needful for Unity

Our Missa Cantata was rather rough-and-ready this morning, with only three of us to sing and no organist either.  "Holy God we praise Thy Name" and "Faith of our Fathers" served for processional and recessional, while at Offertory and Communion we sang Ave maris stella (tomorrow being Our Lady's Birthday) and Pange lingua respectively.  I executed the Rossini psalm-tone settings of the Proper, and for the Ordinary we sang the normal Gregorian Asperges, plus Missa XI, Orbis factor, and Credo III.  Lack of practice meant that the Kyrie and Agnus Dei had some embarrassing glitches: I never sing louder than when I'm wrong...

This Sunday, Fr Rowe preached on the Epistle (Eph. iv, 1-6), it being St Paul's exhortation of the fractious Christians of Ephesus, drawn together out of Jewish and Gentile stock, to unity in Christ. He, a prisoner at Rome, but a prisoner "in the Lord" , reminded them of their most high calling (iv, 1), that they might by the practise of humility, meekness, patience and charity (iv, 2) "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (iv, 3).  He opined that these virtues are most necessary in our families, our community, and indeed in our State at large, given the results of yesterday's general election.

I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.       
(Ephesians iv, 1-6)
Who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen. 

(The liturgical text adds the prefatory Fratres and the doxological conclusion - based on various New Testament phrases, most notably Rom. i, 25 and II Cor. xi, 31 - Qui est benedictus in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. )

One who is humble knows himself, his own lowliness, his own faults (humility derives from humus, "dirt, earth"), and keeps far away from pride, that most detestable root of all evil, whose poisonous fruits are self-will, selfishness, disobedience and all quarrelsomeness: "Among the proud there are always contentions" (Proverbs xiii, 10a).  (Pride, one may recall, was the cause of the fall of the Devil, Lucifer, Light-bringer, no longer but henceforth ὁ Διάβολος, the one who breaks apart.)  The wretched, quarrelsome man can never be admitted to heaven, never save his soul: for if once admitted into heaven, by his quarrelling he would turn heaven into hell!

Meekness is that virtue which has us act with all kindness and forbearance toward others, forgiving our enemies, letting others have the last word, going along with what we would rather not do, as long as not sinful.  Fr instanced St Ubald, who, upon being thrown into a pit by an enemy after rebuking that man for his sinful ways, calmly climbed out and went home uncomplaining!  Moreover, when his attacker was like to be mobbed by the outraged supporters of their saintly pastor, gave him refuge in his very own home, giving such Christian witness that the man, struck to the quick by contrition, purposed to give himself up to the people, only to have St Ubald embrace him publicly to shew his forgiveness and friendship!  So we, by dealing very meekly and patiently with enemies, will heap burning coals on their heads (Rom. xii, 20), that is, move them to repentance by causing their consciences to flame within them, having the most sweet victory over them by converting them.  

Birds fly in a V-formation, the bird at the head enduring the gusty wind that the others may have an easier time of it, and the others in the flock in due course patiently endure the same difficulty when it is their turn to take over; just so, patience enables us to endure what nature shrinks from if indulged and cosseted.  Putting up with the follies and foibles of others is an important part of working for unity: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. vi, 2).  (As the Oratorians say, Vita communis, mortificatio maxima.)

Finally, and most necessarily, charity is required if one is to build up unity: "Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (I Cor. xiii, 4-7)

We must earnestly examine our consciences, and determine if we are not prideful, far from meek, impatient, and lacking in love.  If so, we must accept the grace to change and discipline ourselves to acquire, keep and mature the necessary virtues of humility, meekness, patience, and charity, that we may save our souls.  (On my own part, I must most certainly repent and do this.)

Our Lord Christ came to overthrow the dominion of the Devil, and to unite in one Holy Church, in His own Mystical Body, all those baptized in faith in Him, all those who have God the Father as their Father, united in the sweet bonds of the Holy Spirit, called to the one great hope of heaven (cf. Eph. iv, 4-6). There can be no true unity without love of one for another.  Even now, for those who keep Christ's commandment to love one another (St John xv, 12), His promise is that "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." (St John xiv, 23) This is what is meant by truly having one God the Father, above all (because almighty), but also through and within all (cf. Eph. iv, 6).

We ought establish now the unity for which Christ prayed (cf. St John xvii), that we may enter the endless everlasting unity of heaven: "Where Thy saints united joy without ending".


Mark said...

"given the results of yesterday's general election"

Oh? Who won? (News does not always travel to me, especially when I'm out and about.)

Joshua said...

See the immediately previous post!