What Figures Are On This Celtic Cross?

A reader writes,

Hi there my name is Mindy and I am trying to figure out the meaning of a particular Celtic Catholic cross that was my father-in-laws throughout his whole life. When he passed away it was handed down to my husband.

I now want my mom to do a portrait of this cross and my husbands father. But I cannot tell what the symbols are on the tips of the cross. I know there is an eagle on the north point and an angel on the south point, but on the west and east parts I cannot tell what they are. My husbands faith is a huge part of not only his life but his whole family’s lives and I feel I need to make sure we depict this cross as it is.

I know this is an odd request but if you can help me discover what these are I would be very thankful.

Sincerely, Mindy

Mindy? You came to the right place! The figures on that particular Celtic Cross are the likenesses of the four cherubim in St. John’s vision from the book of Revelation. Traditionally, they stand for the four authors of the Gospels. The Evangelists are depicted as follows: Matthew (a man), Mark (a lion), Luke (an ox), and John(an eagle).

Here is what John’s vision (Rev 4: 5-7) describes,

From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal. In the center and around the throne, there were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back.

The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

And now, here is a great account from a fantastic book (available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, of course!) entitled Sacred and Legendary Art by Anna Jameson. This is the kind of Church history that I love to share with folks. Prepare to be amazed.

III. THE FOUR EVANGELISTS

“Matthew wrote for the Hebrews ; Mark, for the Italians; Luke, for the Greeks ; for all, the great herald John.” — Gregory Nazianzen.

Since on the Four Evangelists, as the witnesses and interpreters of a revealed religion, the whole Christian Church may be said to rest as upon four majestic pillars, we cannot be surprised that representations of them should abound, and that their effigies should have been introduced into Christian places of worship from very early times. Generally, we find them represented together, grouped, or in a series ; sometimes in their collective character, as the Four Witnesses; sometimes in their individual character, each as an inspired teacher, or beneficent patron.

As no authentic resemblances of these sacred personages have ever been known or even supposed to exist, such representations have always been either symbolical or ideal. In the symbol, the aim was to embody, under some emblematical image, the spiritual mission; in the ideal portrait, the artist, left to his own conception, borrowed from Scripture some leading trait (when Scripture afforded any authority for such), and adding, with what success his skill could attain, all that his imagination could conceive, as expressive of dignity and persuasive eloquence, — the look “commercing with the skies,” the commanding form, the reverend face, the ample draperies, — he put the book or the pen into his hand, and thus the writer and the teacher of the truth was placed before us.

The earliest type under which the Four Evangelists are figured is an emblem of the simplest kind: four scrolls placed in the four angles of a Greek cross, or four books (the Gospels), representing allegorically those who wrote or promulgated them. The second type chosen was more poetical — the four rivers which had their source in Paradise: representations of this kind, in which the Savior, figured as a lamb holding the cross, or in His human form, with a lamb near Him, stands on an eminence, from which gush four rivers or fountains, are to be met with in the catacombs, on ancient sarcophagi preserved among the Christian relics in the Vatican, and in several old churches constructed between the second and the fifth century.

At what period the four mysterious creatures in the vision of Ezekiel (ch. i. 5) were first adopted as significant symbols of the Four Evangelists does not seem clear. The Jewish doctors interpreted them as figuring the four Archangels, — Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel ; and afterwards applied them as emblems of the Four Great Prophets, — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. By the early Oriental Christians, who typified the whole of the Old Testament, the transfer of the emblem to the Four Evangelists seems obvious and easy; we find it alluded to as early as the second century.

The four “Beasts” of corresponding form in the Revelation (chap. iv. 7), which stood round the throne of the Lamb, were likewise thus interpreted; but it was not till the fifth century that we find these symbols assuming a visible form, and introduced into works of Art. In the seventh century they had become almost universal as distinctive attributes.

St. Matthew (Man)

The general application of the Four Creatures to the Four Evangelists is of much earlier date than the separate and individual application of each symbol, which has varied at different times; that propounded by St. Jerome, in his commentary on Ezekiel, has since his time prevailed universally. Thus, then, 1. To St. Matthew was given the Cherub, or human semblance, because he begins his Gospel with the human generation of Christ; or, according to others, because in his Gospel the human nature of the Savior is more insisted on than the divine. In the most ancient mosaics, the type is human, not angelic, for the head is that of a man with a beard.

St. Mark (Lion)

2. St. Mark has the Lion, because he has set forth the royal dignity of Christ; or, according to others, because he begins with the mission of the Baptist, — “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”—which is figured by the lion; or, according to a third interpretation, the lion was allotted to St. Mark because there was, in the middle ages, a popular belief that the young of the lion was born dead, and after three days was awakened to vitality by the breath of its sire; some authors, however, represent the lion as vivifying his young not by his breath, but by his roar. In either case the application is the same; the revival of the young lion was considered as symbolical of the resurrection, and Mark was commonly called the “Historian of the Resurrection.”

St. Luke (Ox)

Another commentator observes that Mark begins his Gospel with “roaring ” — ” the voice of one crying in the wilderness;” and ends it fearfully with a curse — “He that believeth not shall be damned;” and that, therefore, his appropriate attribute is the most terrible of beasts, the lion.

3. Luke has the Ox, because he has dwelt on the priesthood of Christ, the ox being the emblem of sacrifice. 4. John has the Eagle, which is the symbol of the highest inspiration, because he soared upwards to the contemplation of the divine nature of the Savior.

St. John (Eagle)

But the order in which, in theological Art, these symbols are placed, is not the same as the order of the Gospels according to the canon. Rupertus considers the Four Beasts as typical of the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension; an idea previously dwelt upon by Durandus, who adds that the man and the lion are placed on the right, because the incarnation and the resurrection are the joy of the whole earth; whilst the ox is on the left, because Christ’s sacrifice was a trouble to the apostles; and the eagle is above the ox, as suggestive of our Lord’s upward flight into heaven.

According to others, the proper order in the ascending scale is thus: at the lowest point on the left, the ox; to the right, the lion; above the ox, the eagle; and above all, the angel. So in Raphael’s Vision of Ezekiel [Pitti, Florence], the angel gazes into the face of the Holy One, the others form His throne.

I have dwelt on these fanciful interpretations and disquisitions, because the symbols of the Evangelists meet us at every turn; in the mosaics of the old Italian churches, in the decorative sculpture of our old cathedrals, in the Gothic stained glass, in the ancient pictures and miniatures, on the carved and chased covers of old books; everywhere, in short, where enters the idea of their divine mission — and where is it not? The profound thought, as well as the vivid imagination, exercised in some of these early works of Art, is beginning to be appreciated; and we should lose the half of what is poetical and significant and venerable in these apparently arbitrary and fanciful symbols, if we merely seized the general intention, and not the relative and appropriate meaning of each.

Peaked your interest? There is more in depth discussion of the symbolic representation of the Four Evangelists in the book. Go see! 

Photo Credit: Hawk Eyes (All sizes of these photographs are available for download under a Creative Commons license)

Remember that Confession Video by “the Kid?”

Great news…Marc Barnes, aka “the Kid,”from BadCatholic was awarded a $1000 scholarship from the i-Confess contest.  The contest was put on by the Diocese of Brooklyn in conjunction with both the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Rockville Centre. Great job Marc! Here are the Top Ten results,

Top 10 Contest Winners:

1. Get Clean, Submitted by Melinda Collins
2. Be Reconciled to God, Submitted by Caleb and Molly Herboth
3. Backpack of Sins, Submitted by Virginia Jacobsen and Douglas Kraeger
4. Break Free, Submitted by Randy Adair
5. Bless Me Father, Submitted by Joseph and Nicholas Torres
6. Go be Forgiven, Submitted by Marc Barnes
7. Humble before God, Submitted by Lucas and Phoebe McNamara
8. Let Your Angel Guide You, Submitted by Katie DeRienzo and Marina Recio
9. God is waiting for you, Submitted by Joseph Finneran
10. A Sacrament of Healing, Submitted by Bryan Salecker

Here is Marc’s video,

Thanks everyone for your help with the views and “likes!” Melinda Collins was awarded a $25,000 scholarship for first place. How neat is that? Go see the rest!

Because Yes, Baseball and Faith Are Compatible

H/T to Our Sunday Visitor for catching this ground ball and throwing it to me on second base. I first learned of Florida Marlins manager Jack MeKeon’s piety while watching  the video Champions of Faith with my children a few years back.


Long time readers of YIMCatholic know I’m a baseball fan. So I was glad to see this story  highlighting Jack’s faith in the New York Times this morning. Take a look.

Jack McKeon’s baseball days begin in a pew. At 8 on Tuesday morning, the Florida Marlins’ manager attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, less than 12 hours after his team beat the Mets on a 10th-inning grand slam. Such games are testament to his faith in the saint he prays to every game during the national anthem.

“A good night for St. Thérèse,” he said, sitting in the lounge of a Midtown Manhattan hotel.

In each major league city, McKeon has a favorite, or at least a convenient, Roman Catholic church. If he does not know their names, he can describe them or tell you how to get there. In Cincinnati, it’s SS. Peter and Paul. In Chicago, Mass is at Holy Name Cathedral. In Philadelphia, he goes to what he calls “the oldest church in the U.S.” When the Marlins stayed at a hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he followed these directions: “Walk out the door, take a left, walk 30 yards, and take a right, where the homeless hang out.”

For each of the regular churches in his personal directory, he learns the Mass schedule.
“At St. Patrick’s it’s 7, 7:30, 8, noon and 12:30,” he said. “They’re very flexible.”
Mornings at church “give me energy,” he said. “You’re free. You feel good.” His daily ritual is part of a baseball routine that is now in its 62nd year, stretching back to D League ball in Greenville, Ala.

Hey, Jack and I have two things in common now! Go enjoy the rest here.

A Convert’s Lament To Mary (A Few Words for Wednesday)


Our Eastern brethren have been observing the Dormition Fast since the first of August. It continues until August 15th this year and concludes on the Feast of the Dormition, which Western Catholics celebrate as the Feast of the Assumption. In honor of this tradition, I will be sharing some of our Marian posts. This one is from October of last year…

Edward Caswall was another Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism in the mid 1800′s. He also joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, like his friends Blessed John Henry Newman and Frederick William Farber.  And, like them again, he was a prolific poet and hymnist.

Below is one of Caswall’s fine poems included in his book of verse entitled The Masque of Mary. This particular  poem really resonates with me.

As a convert to Catholicism, I pretty much ignored Our Lady my whole life. Lately, I’ve been making it a point to pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray the Rosary regularly with my family. Although I’m not always 100% successful in this effort, I can truthfully say that I’ve been coming around to recognizing the significance of The Blessed Virgin as both the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.

Much like Caswall, though, I wish I would have come around sooner (but better late than never).

A Convert’s Lament to Mary

Among the thoughts that in my heart
Awaken grief sincere,
Causing with sudden pang to start
The unexpected tear,
Is this, that in the days gone by,
Star of the wintry sea!
Blinded by darkest heresy,
I thought so light of thee.

O Mother of my Lord and God,
Whom none invoke in vain;
O Path of life, which all have trod,
Who now in glory reign!

Had I but learnt in earlier years
To seek thine aid above,
To offer thee my infant tears,
Thy loving glance to love,—

How many deeds of sin and shame
Which now my heart appal,
Scar’d at the sound of thy pure name,
Had not been done at all!

How many a desolated space
Of vainly wasted hours,
Had bloom’d beneath thy smile of grace,
With paradisal flowers!

Mother! receive thine erring child;
Look tenderly on me;
From thy dear bosom long beguil’d,
I now return to thee.

More of Edward Caswell’s poems are here in The Masque of Mary, along with other of Caswell’s works on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf.

Because The Earth and It’s Fullness Includes…

Heavy Metal?! That’s right. And it all belongs to the LORD. For you see, a very talented reader writes,

Hey Frank,

I saw your post about Dave Nantais’ book; it has great insights about the intersection of rock music and Christianity. Dave is a close friend of mine (we met after he answered my craigslist ad looking for a drummer)

Anyway, you might enjoy checking out music by my band Theandric. We try to integrate heavy metal/hard rock with aspects of the Church’s tradition, such as Gregorian chants and scripture!

Enjoy!
Paolo Tiseo

You know, Heavy Metal isn’t usually my cup of tea. But these two tracks by Paolo’s band Theandric? I could get used to it. Check them out:

Adoro Te Devote. A few weeks back, I shared the poem with this title by St. Thomas Aquinas. Paolo made a heavy metal version of it. Crank it and see if smoke comes out of your speakers! Help it go viral, because only 100 views is not enough.

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Veni Creator Spritus The awesomeness of this track cannot be denied. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, follow the lyrics below.

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In the beginning the earth was a formless void
And darkness covered the face of the deep
The Spirit of God hovered over the waters
(before the serpent’s crawl and creep)

Veni Sancte Spiritus
fill the hearts of thy faithful
Veni Sancte Spiritus
inside of them thy holy flame ignite

As the prophets foretold, in the fullness of time
An angel of God descended to earth
“Be not afraid, Highly Favored One!
This is no accident of birth”

Veni Sancte Spiritus
and they shall be created
Veni Sancte Spiritus
thou shalt renew the face of the earth

VENI, CREATOR SPIRITUS
MENTES TUORUM VISITA
IMPLE SUPERNA GRATIA
QUAE TU CREASTI PECTORA

A voice crying out in the wilderness
“Prepare the way of the Chosen One”
Spirit descending – a heavenly advice
“This is My Beloved Son”

When the hour had come
for Jesus to pass from this world
The right hand of God would be His throne
He said to the Twelve in the upper room
“I will not leave you alone”

“I will send another Advocate
Who will lead you to all Truth.
If you doubt His boundless Mercy
My Cross shall be the greatest proof”

DEO PATRI SIT GLORIA
ET FILIO, QUI A MORTUIS
SURREXIT, AC PARACLITO
IN SAECULORUM SAECULA
AMEN

I told you rock music and theology were compatible. Go check out Theadric’s website and buy an EP, or two. And then feel free to “like” them on Facebook too. Thanks Paolo!

From the Treasure Chest: A Primer on Natural Law

My friend John C.H. Wu was a highly regarded jurist and professor of law. He had a close friendship with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court. It turns out that one of the reasons he converted to the Catholic Faith was that the Church embraces what is know as the Natural Law. The same goes for his friend Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang.

So in the interest of learning what exactly this means for regular folks, without enduring a semester of law school, I scouted Google Books and found another gem of a book by another long dead Jesuit. Entitled The Relations of the Church to Society, and authored by Edmund J. O’Reilly, SJ, the very first chapter is an essay on the Natural Law.

There will not be a pop quiz on this, but it will be on the mid-term as well as on the final exam. Fr. Ed has the floor,

CHAPTER I.
REVELATION AND THE NATURAL LAW. [Read more...]

A Gifted Guitarist You Might Have Missed (Music for Mondays)

Goes by the name of Prince. Oh you’ve heard of him, you just forgot how good a guitarist he is. This guy is a genius. Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Do you think he is still a pretender prancing around in frilly outfits? Let me tell you, and this is just my humble opinion, Michael Jackson is the pretender next to this guy. Have a look at these four selections for the proof.

[Read more...]

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof For These Courageous Thoughts

Floored. And pleasantly surprised. That what I was when I read the latest editorial by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times. His Tweet was as follows,

Many evangelicals do great work, and it’s reverse intolerance to mock their faith.

Have a look at the article:

Centuries ago, serious religious study was extraordinarily demanding and rigorous; in contrast, anyone could declare himself a scientist and go in the business of, say, alchemy. These days, it’s the reverse. A Ph.D. in chemistry is a rigorous degree, while a preacher can explain the Bible on television without mastering Hebrew or Greek — or even showing interest in the nuances of the original texts.

Those self-appointed evangelical leaders come across as hypocrites, monetizing Jesus rather than emulating him. Some seem homophobic, and many who claim to be “pro-life” seem little concerned with human life post-uterus. Those are the preachers who won headlines and disdain.

But in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I’ve seen so many others. Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

Bravo Zulu and Amen. Go read the rest.

To Visit Provence Again, As A Catholic

It’s the Feast of St. Martha, you know, “the Dragonslayer” today. Yes, you read that right. Father Steve of Word on Fire has a few words about that and they prompted me to dust this off and bring it to the top today. Enjoy!

I ate at a McDonald’s in Avignon once. I like to see how Mickey D’s adapts to local tastes abroad. My wife and I also walked around the streets briefly too, before we had to get back on the tour bus that was taking us from Nice to the Burgundy country. See, we rewarded ourselves with a European trip after we graduated from college. It was the Summer of 1993.

It was one of those whirlwind tours. You know the type, right? Eleven countries in 21 days. At the time, I thought we spent way too much time in Rome. It’s amazing I wasn’t arrested there. But that is another story. After Italy, the tour moved on to France. We both loved France ( she still enjoyed Italy, whereas I only approved of Florence). To me, arriving in France was like arriving in Heaven after leaving Hell. I didn’t believe in Purgatory at the time, you see.

Two McDonalds in Avignon!

Provence was especially lovely as I recall. And I hope to go back someday, now that I am a Catholic. Why? Because of this little piece of history/ folklore that I stumbled across this morning. I saw on a Christianity timeline that St. Martha, in the year 48-49 AD arrived in Avignon, France. Where I had pommes frites at the Golden Arches? And she brought Lazarus and the gang with her too. Who knew?

I didn’t at the time. So I did a little digging over at Google Books and found about 100 more reasons to head back to Provence. First, I ran across this story in an old magazine named The Century, long since out of print. Why do I want to go back to Provence? Take a look at Exhibit A,

from “The Churches of Provence”, by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer (November 1894)

“Everything here is on a smaller scale than in Italy — historical facts, as well as those of nature and of art; but thus we are offered a more intimate quality of charm, while we are not saddened by the tragedy of a world-possessing empire gone to wreck.”History meeting legend with a kiss,” we feel ourselves happily enchanted as in a land of pure romance; and the beauty and the gaiety of its living people do but complete the illusion.

The cities

“Every foot of this country, every name on its map, is romantically suggestive of Greeks or Romans, Saracens, Visigoths or Franks, Aquitanians or Spaniards, hermits, crusaders, heretics, inquisitors, exiled popes, famous poets, or earliest Christian martyrs. With Petrarch you may go to Avignon and Vaucluse, with Dante to the ancient cemetery called Les Aliscamps in Arles, with Dumas to the islands of the coast, and to Aix with René of Anjou —king, poet, painter, and historian of tournaments. The first monasteries of Gaul were founded upon Provençal islands, and one of them, St. Honorat, long played the prominent civilizing part that was played in Britain by the island of Iona.

“And Christian legend, calling to you at every step, carries you as far back as it could to Palestine itself.

“There is a real town in Provence with the impossibly poetic name of Les Saintes Maries. By the time you reach it on its ultimate point of sea-coast, you should be in the right Provençal mood; and this is the mood of him who saith, “Surely these things are true, else they had not been told.”

The countryside…Lavender!

“Just here, we are told, there landed a little company of the friends of Christ, set adrift by their persecutors from the shores of the Holy Land. They were Mary Jacobi, the sister of the Blessed Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the apostles James and John; their servant Sarah; Maximin, to whom Christ had restored his sight; Lazarus with his sister Martha; and Mary Magdalene.

“Where and why they had left behind them Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, or whether Provençal belief confounds her with the erring and repentant Mary — this I could not get explained. But I know that Mary Jacobi and Mary Salome remained at their landing-place, for the beautiful name they bequeathed it is a witness. St. Louis caused their bones to be fittingly honored: you may see their tombs today in an ancient church tower, as, in the crypt beneath, the tomb of their servant Sarah; and the medieval pilgrimages still continue, in crowding streams, on an anniversary day in May.

Bad dragon!

“I likewise know that Martha journeyed to Tarascon, between Avignon and Arles, for there she slew the tarasque, a terrific dragon that was devouring the land: the name of the town is again a proof, and the name of the old church of St. Martha, the effigy of the tarasque, which you may behold, and the festival which year by year is celebrated yet in honor of the prowess of the good housewifely saint. Then at Arles you will learn that Christ himself consecrated for Christian burial the famous pagan Aliscamps (its name is a corruption of Efysii Campi), and at Vienne you will be informed that St. Paul brought thither the first Christian tidings when on his way toward Spain, and will be shown a Roman tomb under which the body of Pontius Pilate was laid.

“And you might just as well have stayed in America as to doubt that such things, told in such ways for nearly two thousand years, must be veritably true.”

****

Dragon slaying? Sign me up! As if that wasn’t enough, her article goes on to describe the church buildings throughout the region with photographs and drawings that magazines of today just don’t take the time to do anymore. I love this story about the early Christians coming to France though and wanted to know more. Here is another taste of Catholic Provence,

from Cathedrals and Cloisters of the South of France by Elise Whitlock Rose (published in 1906)

“Few of the Cathedral-churches of the Midi are without holy relics, but none is more famous, more revered, and more authentic a place of pilgrimage than the Basilica of Apt. It came about in this way, says local history. When Martha, Lazarus, and the Holy Marys of the Gospels landed in France, they brought with them the venerated body of Saint Anne, the Virgin’s Mother; and Lazarus, being a Bishop, kept the holy relic at his episcopal seat of Marseilles.

“Persecutions arose, and dangers innumerable; and for safety’s sake the Bishop removed Saint Anne’s body to Apt and sealed it secretly in the wall. For centuries, Christians met and prayed in the little church, unconscious of the wonder-working relic hidden so near them; and it was only through a miracle, in Charlemagne’s time and some say in his presence, that the holy body was discovered. This is the history which a sacristan recites to curious pilgrims as he leads them to the sub-crypt…

“To the faithful Catholic, the interest of Sainte-Anne of Apt lies in its wonderful and glorious relics. Here are the bodies of Saint Eleazer and Sainte Delphine his wife, a couple so pious that every morning they dressed a Statue of the Infant Jesus, and every night they undressed it and laid it to rest in a cradle. There is also the rosary of Sainte Delphine whose every bead contained a relic; and before the Revolution there were other treasures innumerable. During many years Apt has been the pilgrim-shrine of the Faithful, and great and small offerings of many centuries have been laid before the miracleworking body of the Virgin’s sainted Mother.”

****

Do you see what I mean? Tidbits like this “Lazarus, being a Bishop…” just give me a thousand more leads to follow up on, and more reasons to go broke heading to Provence. I want to know all about that tradition! As I’ve said before, it will take an eternity of lifetimes to ponder what God has wrought by the Incarnation as well as with the founding of His Church. Unfortunately, it would take a bottomless bank account too. Sigh.

Obviously, Elise’s book is available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, though, for unlimited access to all at no charge. I could get lost in this particular book for hours…

Cathédrale de Notre Dame des Doms,
Avignon

For Thoughts Like These On Confession

What follows are thoughts on the Sacrament of Reconciliation written by Kenhelm Henry Digby in his classic, Mores Catholici.

Thoughts on Sin, the Church, and Forgiveness

Now the Church had far more mysterious relations than could exist in any mere domestic society, so that by persons who viewed it from without, a right understanding respecting it could only be formed by an act, in the first instance, of confidence in the truth of God who has founded the Church. They must at first have been satisfied with the evidence that it was a divinely constituted household, and then after being received into it as members, they would assuredly in due time have discovered how it was holy in all its doctrines, and just in all its ways. As the Athenian says to the blind wanderer who interrogates him respecting the laurel groves to which he has come—”These things, O stranger, are to be venerated, not from the words of men, but rather from long custom and experience.”

Cicero, indeed, says, that “the medicine of the soul is not only not desired before discovered, but that it is not even valued after it is known;” but such a complaint applies only to philosophy, for it was ungrounded in relation to the remedies which the Church administers, insomuch that a man accustomed to confession, when asked for arguments to prove its divine origin as an integral part of religion, must have felt as if he had been called upon to prove the reality of his own existence.

Its proofs were in the deepest roots of his spiritual life. His own amendment, the recovery of long lost joy, the renovation of his heart, this was the evidence that must have convinced him so feelingly that each argument beside would seem blunt and forceless in comparison. It is dangerous to follow men into the deepest recesses of their heart and behold what passes there: I will not, therefore, invite “the moderns” to search into the grounds of their hatred for confession. To persons obstinate in the conclusions of prejudice, reader, I would turn not, when viewing historically the supernatural features in the morality of the Catholic Church. On confession and indulgence I will speak not as if to an ignorant multitude, nor to judges, nor to senators, more accustomed to action than to the contemplation of things, but as to a man interiorly philosophic who understands and loves philosophy.

Respecting the hatred of truth and the love of deceiving and of being deceived observable in many men, (Blaise) Pascal says,

Mark a proof of this which fills me with horror. The Catholic religion does not oblige one to discover his sins indifferently to all the world; it permits him to remain concealed from all other men excepting one only, to whom it commands him to disclose the bottom of his heart, and to show himself such as he really is. 


There is only this one man in the world that it orders us to undeceive, and he is obliged to an inviolable secrecy, so that this knowledge is in him as if it was not in him. Can one imagine any thing more charitable and more gentle? Nevertheless, the corruption of man is such that he finds this a hard law, and it is one of the principal reasons which have made a great part of Europe revolt against the Church. (Thoughts, #100)

You have heard the great thinker of modern times; let us now attend to the philosophy of the middle ages. “Silence respecting sin,” says the Master of the Sentences,

arises from pride of heart. For a man wishes not to confess his sin in order that he may not be reputed externally such as he exhibits himself in the sight of God, which desire springs from the fountain of pride. For it is pride in a sinner to wish to be esteemed just, and it is hypocrisy to palliate or deny our sin like our first parents, or like Cain to bury it in silence. Now where there is pride and hypocrisy there can be no humility, and without humility there is no forgiveness. 


Therefore, where there is silence respecting sin there can be no hope of pardon. Here then, we see how detestable is the silence of sin, and how necessary is confession, which is the evidence of a conscience fearing God; for he who fears the judgment of God does not blush to confess. Perfect fear dissolves all shame. The confession of sin has shame, and that shame is a heavy punishment : and for this reason we are commanded to confess, that we may suffer shame, for this is part of the divine judgment.

Thus the words of St. John, beginning with “if we confess our sins,” were not understood as implying merely, “If we say that we are sinners generally with all the world,” but as teaching the necessity of suffering the shame and humiliation of confessing one’s personal particular sins; nor was there found any one formerly to maintain that this could be an immoral shame which would injure rather than repair the soul’s purity.

That extreme horror on finding that one has been suspected of crime, which Tieck’s hero evinces in his conversation with Balthasar, only proved in fact an unillumiuated heart: moreover, this overstrained and false honor reveals its own weakness, for by its very indignation it evinces its conviction that the fall was possible.

It is worthy of remark, that while the Church inflicted penance on all who ever made mention of expiated sins,— for among the penitential canons of the rule of St. Columban, we read, ‘”He who relates a sin already expiated shall fast on bread and water for a day,”—the very men who denounced the act of humility that she imposed as injurious, made no scruple not only as we before observed, in resting in self-contemplation, but also in confessing the sins of their past life; or rather exulted in being able to recall the rememberance of them, disclosing them in detail with effrontery: their own retrospective narration differing £rom the confession which they renounced and stigmatized, only in the circumstance that theirs was made in defiance of the law of God, in hardened impenitence insensible to shame.

“O fearful thought!” cries St. John Climacus, “there are moments of delirium in the career of sin, when man fears not God, esteems as nothing the memory of eternal punishment, execrates prayer, looks at the relics of the dead as if they were senseless stones.” True, indeed ; but what is it to reflect that in consequence of a new instruction, widely imparted and legally established in some places, this is the case with men now, not during moments of delirum, for which they might repent and make amends, but throughout their whole lives, which pass in an uninterrupted career of self-esteem and congratulation? To the fundamental objection of the moderns, the best mode of reply would be simply to relate in the clear and precise language of the middle ages, what was the Catholic doctrine.

Taking, then, Hugo of St. Victor for their representative, let us hear what he says respecting sacerdotal absolution.

Solus Deus peccata dimittit (Only God forgives sins) ; yet authorities have that power by which priests forgive sins, and that by which God forgives them. But priests are said to forgive sins, because they administer the sacraments in which, and by which, sins are by the divine authority, forgiven.

When it was said that the form of absolution which had been in use thirty years before was deprecatory, and that William of Auxerre, William of Paris, and cardinal Hugo thought that this was the only ancient form, St. Thomas Aquinas replied, that ”he did not know whether this were true or not; but in any case no authority of antiquity could do prejudice to the words of our Lord, ‘Whatever you shall bind on earth.’”

Thus instead of being tempted to enter with them upon subtle, antiquarian investigations, he embraced the spirit of antiquity. It is clear, however, from the Roman council under pope Zacharia, that the form of the sacrament of confession was then similar to what it is at present. Strictly judicial is the sacerdotal office so that with accurate precision has the church retained the name of Basilica, which signified that upper part of the forum, where justice was administered to the people.

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