Romano Guardini

THE SACRED SIGNS

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THE SACRED SIGNS

by ROMANO GUARDINI

Translated by Grace Branham

Drawings by Wm. V. Cladek

Copyright 1956 by PIO DECIMO PRESS
St. Louis 15, Mo.

IMPRIMATUR
+ JOSEPH E. RITTER
Archbishop of St. Louis

November 14, 1955

CONTENTS

Translator's Preface
Introduction
The Sign of the Cross
The Hands
Kneeling
Standing
Walking
Striking the Breast
Steps
Doors
Candles
Holy Water
Fire
Ashes
Incense
Light and Heat
Bread and Wine
Linen
The Altar
The Chalice
The Paten
Blessing
Space Sanctified
Bells
Time Sanctified
The Name of God

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

THAT this unpretentious little book, written so long ago as the 
first world war, should still be thought worth retranslating and 
republishing is a tribute to its value as an introduction to the 
liturgical life. But that so elementary an introduction should be 
as much needed now as then, at least in America, is a tribute 
also to the slow advance of the liturgical movement, if that is 
to be the name given to the new life now quickening in the 
church. Never movement moved so slowly to remain a movement. Over 
forty years ago St. Pius X reopened the world of the liturgy, and 
with all his authority as Pope and man of God urged clergy and 
people to enter into their inheritance. The Pope has been 
canonized, but has he been obeyed?

In some places, magnificently. One may say that he has been 
obeyed wherever the liturgy was well understood. It was from the 
great Benedictine Monasteries, Solesmes, Beuron, Maria Laach, 
that the influence spread which has worked such wonders in 
France, Germany and Austria. We in America hardly yet know what 
the Pope desired. A priest, pressed by a friend, answered that it 
was hard enough on the people to have to worship in an unfamiliar 
language without forcing on them in addition an unfamiliar music. 
But the people, given a little encouragement, will sing the 
church music with all their heart. Last Easter the Baltimore 
Cathedral was filled with the massive voice of the congregation 
pouring out Creed and Gloria, and responding to the single voice 
of the priest; and while the mass went silently forward at the 
altar, the music of the seminary choir, freed from the double 
load of choir and congregation, reached the worshipping heart in 
all its intricate beauty. In this fulfilment of the Pope's so 
long deferred hope the joy and satisfaction (and relief) of 
clergy and people alike proved how right he was.

But the new life, with its source and centre in the liturgy, goes 
out from there in every direction. It springs up in the work of 
an artist like Roualt, in the pastoral work of men like Parsch, 
and of those French priests who are carrying the word to every 
soul in their geographical parishes, or laboring side by side 
with the workers in factory and mine, in the strong impact on 
Protestantism of Guardini and Karl Adam, in the confident 
Biblical scholarship of the French Dominicans. All are parts, as 
a reviewer in the "Literary Supplement" of the "London Times" put 
it, of "a coherent system that has gone back to the fountain 
head." The book under review called it a Catholic Renaissance, 
and the reviewer added that it was a second Reformation, which 
may have "among its effects the healing of the breaches caused by 
the earlier and less radical one of four centuries ago."

If, so far as we in America have failed to catch fire, our 
failure is owing rather to inability than to a defect of will. 
Behind the liturgy is the Bible; and Catholic education here, 
whatever its merits, has not been such as to make the Bible a 
congenial book. It is a slander to say that Catholics are not 
allowed to read the Bible; it is no slander to say that by and 
large they do not read it. Our religious education addresses 
itself to the intellect and the will,--our "spiritual faculties." 
It has resulted (no mean achievement) in moral firmness and 
mental precision. But the formulas of the Catechism do not enable 
us to read the two great works provided by God for our 
education,--created nature and the Written Word. In these are 
addressed not only our intelligences and our wills, but the 
entire human creature, body and soul, with his imagination, 
passions, appetites, secular experiences, the whole complex in 
which intellect and will are inextricably mingled. Cultivated 
apart, and as it were out of context, our noblest faculties may 
grow dry and superficial. Man being of a piece, if his appetite 
for beauty, joy, freedom, love, is left unnourished, his so 
called spiritual nature contracts and hardens.

The Bible is literature, not science, and as literature it 
engages man's full nature. And external nature, as the Bible 
presupposes it, is not a system of forces intended primarily (if 
at all) for man's scientific and economic mastery. The Bible 
takes the ancient poetic view which rests upon direct insight. 
Nature is a "macrocosm," and it is epitomized in man, the 
"microcosm." Nature is human nature written large. It is a 
miraculous appearance drawn from a primordial chaos back into 
which it would sink were it not sustained in fleeting being by 
the substantial hand of God. Man and nature are inseparable parts 
of one creation, and our being, like our justice, is God's 
momentary gift.

Guardini's "Sacred Signs" was designed to begin our reeducation. 
It assumes that correspondence between man and nature, matter and 
meaning, which is the basis of the Sacramental System and made 
possible the Incarnation. Man, body and soul together, is made in 
the image and likeness of God. His hand, like God's, is an 
instrument of power. In the Bible "hand" means power. Man's feet 
stand for something also he shares with God, as does his every 
limb, feature and organ. The writers of the Bible had an inward 
awareness of what the body means. As the head and the heart 
denote wisdom and love, so do the 'bones,' 'reins,' and 'flesh' 
signify some aspect of God written into our human body. The 
contemplation of the body of Christ should teach us what this 
deeper meaning is.

The next step in our reeducation after the symbolism of the body, 
which once pointed out we instinctively perceive, is for modern 
man something of a leap. He will have to abandon or leave to one 
side the notions instilled into him by modern science. 
Symbolically, if not physically, nature is composed of only four 
elements: earth, air, water and fire. Earth, humble, helpless 
earth, stands for man, and water, air, and fire for the gifts 
from the sky that make him live and fructify. Combined in sun, 
moon, and stars, they represent Christ, the Church and the 
Saints, though perhaps rather by allegory than symbolism. The sea 
signifies untamed and lawless nature, the primordial chaos; the 
mountains signify the faithfulness of God.

Objects, things, are not the only symbols. Their use and 
function, again stretching the term, is a sort of immaterial 
symbol. The positions and movements of human hands and feet may 
symbolize God's action. Direction, dimension, are also symbolic, 
and so are those two philosophical puzzles, time and space, which 
provide the conditions of human action and progress. The course 
of the sun is a sign to us of time; by prayer we eternalize time; 
and the church breaks up the sun's daily course into three or 
seven canonical hours of prayer. Its yearly course, which governs 
the seasons and their agricultural operations, signifies to us, 
as it has to religious man from the beginning, life, death and 
resurrection, and in revealed history God has accommodated the 
great works of our redemption to the appropriate seasons.

The last field of symbolism the sacred signs indicate to us is 
one that causes us no surprise. Art from the beginning has been 
symbolic. The Temple of Solomon like the "heathen" temples was 
built to symbolize the earth, and Christian Churches are (or 
were) built upon the model of the Temple in Jerusalem and of its 
exemplar the Temple in Heaven from which the earth was modeled. 
The axis of a Christian Church, its geometric shape and numerical 
proportions, the objects used in its worship, the disposition of 
its windows, its ornamentation to the last petal or arc, all 
carry our minds to the divine meaning behind the visible form.

For the modern American Catholic, as for the modern American non-
Catholic, these vast symbolic regions of nature, man and art are 
lapsed worlds, unknown, unbelieved-in. "Sacred Signs" furnishes 
us with a clue. If we pick it up and follow it we shall come, as 
it were naturally, to reexercise over them and in them the 
kingship and priesthood conferred on us by God, which also, 
largely, has lapsed. We shall carry, as the saying is, our 
religion into our daily lives, and build our houses, like our 
churches, about a central hearth of God's charity, remember in 
our entrances the double nature of him who called himself the 
door, and in our windows who is signified by light. Every act of 
daily living would again take on meaning, temporal and eternal, 
and we should again become the doer, which man naturally is, 
instead of the passive receptionist he threatens to become.

INTRODUCTION

THIS little book has been in circulation some ten years. It was 
written to help open up the world of the liturgy. That world will 
never be made accessible by accounts of how the certain rites and 
prayers came into existence and under what influences, or by 
explanations of the ideas underlying liturgical practices. Those 
ideas may be true and profound, but they are not apparent in the 
present liturgy, and can be deduced from it only by scholarly 
research. The liturgy is not a matter of ideas, but of actual 
things, and of actual things as they now are, not as they were in 
the past. It is a continuous movement carried on by and through 
us, and its forms and actions issue from our human nature. To 
show how it arose and developed brings us no nearer to it, and no 
more does this or that learned interpretation. What does help is 
to discern in the living liturgy what underlies the visible sign, 
to discover the soul from the body, the hidden and spiritual from 
the external and material. The liturgy has taken its outward 
shape from a divine and hidden series of happenings. It is 
sacramental in its nature.

So the procedure that avails is to study those actions that are 
still in present day use, those visible signs which believers 
have received and made their own and use to express the 
"invisible grace." For this it is not liturgical scholarship that 
is needed,--though the two things are not separable,--but 
liturgical education. We need to be shown how, or by some means 
incited, to see and feel and make the sacred signs ourselves.

It strikes me that the right and fruitful method is to start off 
in the simplest way with the elements out of which the higher 
liturgical forms have been constructed. Whatever in human nature 
responds to these elementary signs should be fanned into life. 
These signs are real symbols; consequently, by making them a 
fresh and vital experience of their own people would get at the 
spirit which informs them, and arrive at the genuine symbol from 
the conventional sign. They might even again be caught up in the 
Christian process that sees and fashions the things of the spirit 
into visible forms, and do so freshly for themselves. After all, 
the person who makes the signs has been baptized, both soul and 
body and therefore able to understand (this was the idea) the 
signs as sacred symbols and constituent parts of sacrament and 
sacramental. Then from the practice of them, which can be gained 
from these little sketches (which make no claim to completeness) 
he could move on to a deeper understanding of their meaning and 
justification.*

It is a real question whether something written under special 
circumstances, and growing out of the needs of a particular 
group, should be republished after so long an interval of time. 
There are other objections to these little essays of mine of 
which I am quite aware. They are not sufficiently objective; they 
meet no classified need. They are subjective, semi-poetic, casual 
and impressionistic, and all this apart from their obvious 
literary deficiencies. Yet it remains that basically they are 
right, and have a claim, consequently, in spite of sound 
objections, to republication. For if they do not attain the end 
for which they were written, at least they indicate it, and no 
other liturgical work comes readily to mind that does even that 
much any better.

One person who could do what they attempt both better and more 
appropriately, would be a mother who had herself been trained in 
the liturgy. She could teach her child the right way to make the 
sign of the cross, make him see what it is in himself the lighted 
candle stands for, show him in his little human person how to 
stand and carry himself in his Father's house, and never at any 
point with the least touch of aestheticism, simply as something 
the child sees, something he does, and not as an idea to hang 
gestures on.
Another competent person would be a teacher who shares the lives 
of his pupils. He could make them capable of experiencing and 
celebrating Sunday as the day it is, and feast days and the 
seasons of the church year. He could make them realize the 
meaning of doors or bells, or the interior arrangement of the 
church, or outdoor processions. These two, mother and teacher, 
could bring the sacred signs to life.

A short article by Maria Montessori, whose work in education is 
so significant, made me feel when I read it, that here was both 
the fulfillment of these ideas and their promise for the future. 
Her method is to teach by actual doing. In one of her schools the 
children take care of a vineyard and a wheatfield. They gather 
the grapes, sow and harvest the grain, and, as far as they can 
technically manage it, make, according to the rules of the 
church, wine and bread, and then carry them as their gifts to the 
altar. This kind of learning, together with the right kind of 
instruction, is liturgical education. For the approach to the 
liturgy is not by being told about it but by taking part in it.

To learn to see, to learn to do, these are the fundamental 
"skills" that make the groundwork for all the rest. The doing 
must of course be enlightened by lucid instruction and rooted in 
Catholic tradition, which they learn from their courses in 
history. And "doing" does not mean "practicing" in order to get a 
thing right. Doing is basic; it includes the whole human person 
with all his creative powers. It is the outcome in action of the 
child's own experience, of his own understanding, of his own 
ability to look and see.

When teachers such as these, out of their own experience, give 
instruction in the sacred signs, this little book may vanish into 
oblivion. Until then it has a claim, even an obligation, to say 
its say as well as it can. 

MOOSHAUSEN in the "Swabian Alligau" 
Spring, 1921

*See my book on Liturgical Education

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

WHEN we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. 
Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its 
meaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead to 
breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it 
includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body 
and soul, every part of us at once. how it consecrates and 
sanctifies us.

It does so because it is the Sign of the universe and the sign of 
our redemption. On the cross Christ redeemed mankind. By the 
cross he sanctifies man to the last shred and fibre of his being. 
We make the sign of the cross before we pray to collect and 
compose ourselves and to fix our minds and hearts and wills upon 
God. We make it when we finish praying in order that we may hold 
fast the gift we have received from God. In temptations we sign 
ourselves to be strengthened; in dangers, to be protected. The 
cross is signed upon us in blessings in order that the fulness of 
God's life may flow into the soul and fructify and sanctify us 
wholly.

Think of these things when you make the sign of the cross. It is 
the holiest of all signs. Make a large cross, taking time, 
thinking what you do. Let it take in your whole being,--body, 
soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and not-doing,--
and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the 
whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God.

THE HANDS

EVERY part of the body is an expressive instrument of the soul. 
The soul does not inhabit the body as a man inhabits a house. It 
lives and works in each member, each fibre, and reveals itself in 
the body's every line, contour and movement. But the soul's chief 
instruments and clearest mirrors are the face and hands.

Of the face this is obviously true. But if you will watch other 
people (or yourself), you will notice how instantly every 
slightest feeling,--pleasure, surprise, suspense,--shows in the 
hand. A quick lifting of the hand or a flicker of the fingers say 
far more than words. By comparison with a language so natural and 
expressive the spoken word is clumsy. Next to the face, the part 
of the body fullest of mind is the hand. It is a hard strong tool 
for work, a ready weapon of attack and defence,--but also, with 
its delicate structure and network of innumerable nerves, it is 
adaptable, flexible, and highly sensitive. It is a skilful 
workmanlike contrivance for the soul to make herself known by. It 
is also an organ of receptivity for matter from outside 
ourselves. For when we clasp the extended hand of a stranger are 
we not receiving from a foreign source the confidence, pleasure, 
sympathy or sorrow that his hand conveys?

So it could not but be that in prayer, where the soul has so much 
to say to, so much to learn from, God, where she gives herself to 
him and receives him to herself, the hand should take on 
expressive forms.

When we enter into ourselves and the soul is alone with God, our 
hands closely interlock, finger clasped in finger, in a gesture 
of compression and control. It is as if we would prevent the 
inner current from escaping by conducting it from hand to hand 
and so back again to God who is within us, holding it there. It 
is as if we were collecting all our forces in order to keep guard 
over the hidden God, so that he who is mine and I who am his 
should be left alone together. Our hands take the same position 
when some dire need or pain weighs heavily on us and threatens to 
break out. Hand then locks in hand and the soul struggles with 
itself until it gets control and grows quiet again.

But when we stand in God's presence in heart-felt reverence and 
humility, the open hands are laid together palm against palm in 
sign of steadfast subjection and obedient homage, as if to say 
that the words we ourselves would speak are in good order, and 
that we are ready and attentive to hear the words of God. Or it 
may be a sign of inner surrender. These hands, our weapons of 
defence, are laid, as it were, tied and bound together between 
the hands of God.

In moments of jubilant thanksgiving when the soul is entirely 
open to God with every reserve done away with and every passage 
of its instrument unstopped, and it flows at the full outwards 
and upwards, then the hands are uplifted and spread apart with 
the palms up to let the river of the spirit stream out unhindered 
and to receive in turn the water for which it thirsts. So too 
when we long for God and cry out to him.

Finally when sacrifice is called for and we gather together all 
we are and all we have and offer ourselves to God with full 
consent, then we lay our arms over our breast and make with them 
the sign of the cross.

There is greatness and beauty in this language of the hands. The 
Church tells us that God has given us our hands in order that we 
may "carry our souls" in them. The Church is fully in earnest in 
the use she makes of the language of gesture. She speaks through 
it her inmost mind, and God gives ear to this mode of speaking.

Our hands may also indicate the goods we lack,--our unchecked 
impulses, our distractions, and other faults. Let us hold them as 
the Church directs and see to it that there is a real 
correspondence between the interior and exterior attitude.

In matters such as this we are on delicate ground. We would 
prefer not to talk about things of this order. Something within 
us objects. Let us then avoid all empty and unreal talk and 
concentrate the more carefully on the actual doing. That is a 
form of speech by which the plain realities of the body say to 
God what its soul means and intends.

KNEELING

WHEN a man feels proud of himself, he stands erect, draws himself 
to his full height, throws back his head and shoulders and says 
with every part of his body, I am bigger and more important than 
you. But when he is humble he feels his littleness, and lowers 
his head and shrinks into himself. He abases himself. And the 
greater the presence in which he stands the more deeply he abases 
himself; the smaller he becomes in his own eyes.

But when does our littleness so come home to us as when we stand 
in God's presence? He is the great God, who is today and 
yesterday, whose years are hundreds and thousands, who fills the 
place where we are, the city, the wide world, the measureless 
space of the starry sky, in whose eyes the universe is less than 
a particle of dust, all-holy, all-pure, all-righteous, infinitely 
high. He is so great, I so small, so small that beside him I seem 
hardly to exist, so wanting am I in worth and substance. One has 
no need to be told that God's presence is not the place in which 
to stand on one's dignity. To appear less presumptuous, to be as 
little and low as we feel, we sink to our knees and thus 
sacrifice half our height; and to satisfy our hearts still 
further we bow down our heads, and our diminished stature speaks 
to God and says, Thou art the great God; I am nothing.

Therefore let not the bending of our knees be a hurried gesture, 
an empty form. Put meaning into it. To kneel, in the soul's 
intention, is to bow down before God in deepest reverence.

On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down 
all the way without haste or hurry, putting your heart into what 
you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. 
It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and everytime you 
kneel it will do your soul good.

STANDING

THE respect we owe to the infinite God requires of us a bearing 
suited to such a presence. The sense that we have of the 
greatness of His being, and, in His eyes, of the slightness of 
our own, is shown outwardly by our kneeling down to make 
ourselves small. But reverence has another way of expressing 
itself. When you are sitting down to rest or chat, and someone to 
whom you owe respect comes in and turns to speak to you, at once 
you stand up and remain standing so long as he is speaking and 
you are answering him. Why do we do this?

In the first place to stand up means that we are in possession of 
ourselves. Instead of sitting relaxed and at ease we take hold of 
ourselves; we stand, as it were, at attention, geared and ready 
for action. A man on his feet can come or go at once. He can take 
an order on the instant, or carry out an assignment the moment he 
is shown what is wanted.

Standing is the other side of reverence toward God. Kneeling is 
the side of worship in rest and quietness; standing is the side 
of vigilance and action. It is the respect of the servant in 
attendance, of the soldier on duty.

When the good news of the gospel is proclaimed, we stand up. 
Godparents stand when in the child's place they make the solemn 
profession of faith; children when they renew these promises at 
their first communion. Bridegroom and bride stand when they bind 
themselves at the altar to be faithful to their marriage vow. On 
these and the like occasions we stand up.

Even when we are praying alone, to pray standing may more 
forcibly express our inward state. The early Christians stood by 
preference. The "Orante," in the familiar catacomb 
representation, stands in her long flowing robes of a woman of 
rank and prays with outstretched hands, in perfect freedom, 
perfect obedience, quietly attending to the word, and in 
readiness to perform it with joy.

We may feel at times a sort of constraint in kneeling. One feels 
freer standing up, and in that case standing is the right 
position. But stand up straight: not leaning, both feet on the 
ground, the knees firm, not slackly bent, upright, in control. 
Prayer made thus is both free and obedient, both reverent and 
serviceable.

WALKING

WALKING,--how many people know how to walk? It is not hurrying 
along at a kind of run, or shuffling along at a snail's pace, but 
a composed and firm forward movement. There is spring in the 
tread of a good walker. He lifts, not drags, his heels. He is 
straight, not stoop-shouldered, and his steps are sure and even.

There is something uncommonly fine in the right kind of walking. 
It is a combination of freedom and discipline. It is poised, as 
if the walker were carrying a weight, yet proceeds with 
unhampered energy. In a man's walk there is a suggestion of 
bearing arms or burdens; in a woman's an attractive grace that 
reflects an inner world of peace.

And when the occasion is religious, what a beautiful thing 
walking can be! It is a genuine act of divine worship. Merely to 
walk into a church in reverent awareness that we are entering the 
house of the Most High, and in a special manner into his 
presence, may be "to walk before the Lord." Walking in a 
religious procession ought not to be what so often it is, pushing 
along out of step and staring about. To escort the Blessed 
Sacrament through the city streets, or through the fields, "his 
own possession," the men marching like soldiers, the married 
women in the dignity of motherhood, the young girls in the 
innocent charm of youth, the young men in their restrained 
strength, all praying in their hearts, should be a sight of 
festive gladness.

A penitential procession should be supplication in visible form. 
It should embody our guilt, and our desperate need of help, but 
also the Christian assurance that overrules them,--that as in man 
there is a power that is superior to all his other powers, the 
power of his untroubled will, so, above and beyond human guilt 
and distress there is the might of the living God.

Walking is the outward mark of man's essential and peculiar 
nobility. It is the privilege of man alone to walk erect, his 
movement in his own power and choice. The upright carriage 
denotes the human being.

But we are more than human beings. We are, as the Bible calls us, 
the generation of God. We have been born of God into newness of 
life. Profoundly, through the Sacrament of the Altar, Christ 
lives in us; his body has passed into the substance of our 
bodies; his blood flows in our veins. For "he that eats my flesh 
and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." These are his 
words. Christ grows in us, and we grow in him, until being 
thoroughly formed by him, we attain to the full stature of Jesus 
Christ, and everything we do or are, "whether we eat or sleep, or 
whatsoever we do," our work, our recreation, our pleasures and 
our pains, are all taken up into the Christ-life.

The consciousness of this mystery should pass in all its joyous 
strength and beauty into our very manner of walking. The command 
"to walk before the Lord and be perfect" is a profound figure of 
speech. We ought both to fulfil the command and illustrate the 
figure.

But in sober reality. Beauty of this order is not the product of 
mere wishing.

STRIKING THE BREAST

WHEN the priest begins Holy Mass, while he is standing at the 
foot of the altar, the faithful, or the servers in their stead, 
say "I confess to Almighty God...that I have sinned exceedingly 
in thought, word and deed, through my fault, through my fault, 
through my most grievous fault," and each time they confess their 
guilt they strike their breasts. What is the significance of this 
striking the breast?

All its meaning lies in its being rightly done. To brush one's 
clothes with the tips of one's fingers is not to strike the 
breast. We should beat upon our breasts with our closed fists. In 
the old picture of Saint Jerome in the desert he is kneeling on 
the ground and striking his breast with a stone. It is an honest 
blow, not an elegant gesture. To strike the breast is to beat 
against the gates of our inner world in order to shatter them. 
This is its significance.

That world, that inner world, should be full of light, strength, 
and active energy. Is it? We should engage most earnestly in the 
search to find out how it really stands with us within. What has 
our response been to the grave demands made on us by duty? By our 
neighbors, needs? By the decisions we were called on to make? 
Scarcely anything stirs in answer. We have loaded ourselves with 
innumerable offences. Do they trouble us? "In the midst of life 
we are in death." We hardly give it a thought. "Awake, look into 
yourself, bethink yourself, reflect, repent, do penance." It is 
the voice of God. Striking the breast is the visible sign that we 
hear that summons. Let the blow penetrate. Let it rouse up that 
sleeping inner world. Let it wake us up, and make us see, and 
turn to God.

And when we do reflect, what do we see? We see our lives trifled 
away, God's commandments transgressed, duties neglected, "through 
my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." A 
world of guilt lies imprisoned within our breasts. There is but 
one way to get rid of it, by the whole-hearted confession that "I 
have sinned in thought, word and deed against God most holy, 
against the communion of saints." The soul moves over to the side 
of God and takes his part against herself. We think of ourselves 
as God thinks of us. We are stirred to anger against ourselves on 
account of our sins, and we punish ourselves with a blow.

The blow also is to wake us up. It is to shake the soul awake 
into the consciousness that God is calling, so that she may hear, 
and take his part and punish herself. She reflects, repents and 
is contrite. It is for this reason that priest and people strike 
their breasts when they confess their sins at the foot of the 
altar.

Before Communion also we strike our breasts when the priest holds 
up for us to see the Body of the Lord, and we say, "Lord, I am 
not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof, and again, in 
the litany when we confess our guilt and say, "We sinners beseech 
thee to hear us." But in these customs the force of the meaning 
of the rite has been weakened, as it has been also when the Host 
or Chalice is lifted up, or in the Angelus at the words, "The 
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." The gesture in these 
instances has come to mean no more than reverence or humility. 
Its astringency should be restored. It is a summons to repentance 
and to the self-inflicted punishment of a contrite heart.

STEPS

THE more we think about these long-familiar things the clearer 
does their meaning grow. Things we have done thousands of times, 
if we will only look into them more deeply, will disclose to us 
their beauty. If we will listen, they will speak.

After their meaning has been revealed to us, the next step is to 
enter upon our inheritance and make what we have long possessed 
really our own. We must learn how to see, how to hear, how to do 
things the right way. Such a learning-by-looking, growing-by-
learning, is what matters. Regarded any other way these things 
keep their secret. They remain dark and mute. Regarded thus, they 
yield to us their essential nature, that nature which formed them 
to their outward shapes. Make trial for yourself. The most 
commonplace everyday objects and actions hide matters of deepest 
import. Under the simplest exteriors lie the greatest mysteries.

Steps are an instance. Every one of the innumerable times we go 
upstairs a change, though too slight and subtle to be 
perceptible, takes place in us. There is something mysterious in 
the act of ascending. Our intelligence would be puzzled to 
explain it, but instinctively we feel that it is so. We are made 
that way.

When the feet mount the steps, the whole man, including his 
spiritual substance, goes up with them. All ascension, all going 
up, if we will but give it thought, is motion in the direction of 
that high place where everything is great, everything made 
perfect.

For this sense we have that heaven is "up" rather than "down" we 
depend on something in us deeper than our reasoning powers. How 
can God be up or down? The only approach to God is by becoming 
better morally, and what has spiritual improvement to do with a 
material action like going up a pair of stairs? What has pure 
being to do with a rise in the position of our bodies? There is 
no explanation. Yet the natural figure of speech for what is 
morally bad is baseness, and a good and noble action we call a 
high action. In our minds we make a connection, unintelligible 
but real, between rising up and the spiritual approach to God; 
and Him we call the All-Highest.

So the steps that lead from the street to the church remind us 
that in going up into the house of prayer we are coming nearer to 
God; the steps from the nave to the choir, that we are entering 
in before the All-Holy. The steps between the choir and the altar 
say to whoever ascends them the same words that God spoke to 
Moses on Mount Horeb: "Put your shoes from off your feet, for the 
place whereon thou standest is holy ground." The altar is the 
threshold of eternity.

It is a great idea that if we go up even a common stairway with 
our minds on what we are doing, we really do leave below the base 
and trivial, and are in actual fact ascending up on high. Words 
are not very adequate; but the Christian knows that when he 
ascends it is the Lord that ascends. In him the Lord repeats his 
own ascension. That is what steps mean.

DOORS

EVERYTIME we enter a church, if we but notice it, a question is 
put to us. Why has a church doors? It seems a foolish question. 
Naturally, to go in by. Yes, but doors are not necessary--only a 
doorway. An opening with a board partition to close it off would 
be a cheap and practical convenience of letting people out and 
in. But the door serves more than a practical use; it is a 
reminder.

When you step through the doorway of a church you are leaving the 
outer-world behind and entering an inner world. The outside world 
is a fair place abounding in life and activity, but also a place 
with a mingling of the base and ugly. It is a sort of market 
place, crossed and recrossed by all and sundry. Perhaps "unholy" 
is not quite the word for it, yet there is something profane 
about the world. Behind the church doors is an inner place, 
separated from the market place, a silent, consecrated and holy 
spot. It is very certain that the whole world is the work of God 
and his gift to us, that we may meet Him anywhere, that 
everything we receive is from God's hand, and, when received 
religiously, is holy. Nevertheless men have always felt that 
certain precincts were in a special manner set apart and 
dedicated to God.

Between the outer and the inner world are the doors. They are the 
barriers between the market place and the sanctuary, between what 
belongs to the world at large and what has become consecrated to 
God. And the door warns the man who opens it to go inside that he 
must now leave behind the thoughts, wishes and cares which here 
are out of place, his curiosity, his vanity, his worldly 
interests, his secular self. "Make yourself clean. The ground you 
tread is holy ground."

Do not rush through the doors. Let us take time to open our 
hearts to their meaning and pause a moment beforehand so as to 
make our entering-in a fully intended and recollected act.

The doors have yet something else to say. Notice how as you cross 
the threshold you unconsciously lift your head and your eyes, and 
how as you survey the great interior space of the church there 
also takes place in you an inward expansion and enlargement. Its 
great width and height have an analogy to infinity and eternity. 
A church is a similitude of the heavenly dwelling place of God. 
Mountains indeed are higher, the wide blue sky outside stretches 
immeasurably further. But whereas outside space is unconfined and 
formless, the portion of space set aside for the church has been 
formed, fashioned, designed at every point with God in view. The 
long pillared aisles, the width and solidity of the walls, the 
high arched and vaulted roof, bring home to us that this is God's 
house and the seat of his hidden presence.

It is the doors that admit us to this mysterious place. Lay 
aside, they say, all that cramps and narrows, all that sinks the 
mind. Open your heart, lift up your eyes. Let your soul be free, 
for this is God's temple.

It is likewise the representation of you, yourself. For you, your 
soul and your body, are the living temple of God. Open up that 
temple, make it spacious, give it height.

          Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
          and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors,
          and the King of Glory shall come in.

Heed the cry of the doors. Of small use to you is a house of wood 
and stone unless you yourself are God's living dwelling. The high 
arched gates may be lifted up, and the portals parted wide, but 
unless the doors of your heart are open, how can the King of 
Glory enter in?

CANDLES

WE stand in a double and contrary relationship to objects outside 
ourselves. We stand to the world and all its contents as when God 
brought the animals to the first man for him to name. Among them 
all Adam could find no companion. Between man and the rest of 
creation there is a barrier of difference, which neither 
scientific knowledge nor moral depravity can remove or efface. 
Man is of another make from every other earthly creature. To him 
they are foreign. His kinship is with God.

On the other hand he is related to everything that exists in the 
world. Everywhere we feel somehow at home. The shapes, attitudes, 
movements of objects all speak to us, all are a means of 
communication. It is the incessant occupation of the human soul 
to express through them its own interior life, and to make them 
serve as its signs and symbols. Every notable form we come across 
strikes us as expressing something in our own nature, and reminds 
us of ourselves.

This feeling of our connection with things is the source of 
metaphor and simile. We are profoundly estranged from, yet 
mysteriously connected with, outside objects. They are not us, 
and yet all that is or happens is an image to us of ourselves.

One of these image-objects strikes me, and I think most people, 
as having more than ordinary force and beauty. It is that of a 
lighted candle. There it rises, firmly fixed in the metal cup on 
the broad-based, long-shafted candlestick, spare and white, yet 
not wan, distinct against whatever background, consuming in the 
little flame that flickers above it the pure substance of the wax 
in softly-shining light. It seems a symbol of selfless 
generosity. It stands so unwavering in its place, so erect, so 
clear and disinterested, in perfect readiness to be of service. 
It stands, where it is well to stand, before God.

It stands in its appointed place, self-consumed in light and 
warmth.

Yes, of course the candle is unconscious of what it does. It has 
no soul. But we can give it a soul by making it an expression of 
our own attitude.

Stir up in yourself the same generous readiness to be used. 
"Lord, here am I." Let the clean, spare, serviceable candle 
bespeak your own attitude. Let your readiness grow into steadfast 
loyalty. Even as this candle, O Lord, would I stand in your 
presence.

Do not weaken in or try to evade your vocation. Persevere. Do not 
keep asking why and to what purpose. To be consumed in truth and 
love, in light and warmth, for God, is the profoundest purpose of 
human life.

HOLY WATER

WATER is a mysterious thing. It is so clear and frictionless, so 
"modest," as St. Francis called it. It hardly pretends to any 
character of its own. It seems to have no other end or object 
than to be of service, to cleanse what is soiled and to refresh 
what is dry.

But at some time you must have gazed down into the still depths 
of a great body of water, and felt it tugging to draw you in, and 
have got a glimpse of the strange and secret thing water is, and 
of the marvels, terrors and enticements that lurk in its depths. 
Or, at another time when it was whipped to a boiling torrent by a 
storm, you have heard it rushing and roaring, rushing and 
roaring, and watched the sucking vortex of a whirlpool and felt a 
force so grim and dreary that you had to tear your thoughts away.

It is indeed a strange element. On the one hand smooth and 
transparent, as if it hardly existed in its own right, ready at 
hand to wash away dirt and satisfy thirst; and on the other a 
restless, foundationless, enigmatic force that entices us on to 
destruction. It is a proper image for the secret ground-source 
from which life issues and back into which death recalls it. It 
is an apt image for this life of ours that looks so clear and is 
so inexplicable.

It is plain why the church uses water as the sign and the bearer 
of the divine life of grace. We emerge from the waters of baptism 
into a new life, born again of water and the Holy Ghost. In those 
same waters the old man was destroyed and put to death.

With this elemental element, that yields no answer to our 
questioning, with this transparent, frictionless, fecund fluid, 
this symbol and means of the supernatural life of grace, we make 
on ourselves, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, 
the sign of the cross.

By her consecration of it, the Church has freed water from the 
dark powers that sleep in it. This is not a form of language. 
Anyone whose perceptions have not been blunted must be aware of 
the powers of natural magic inherent in water. And are they only 
natural powers? Is there not present also a dark and 
preternatural power? In nature, for all her richness and beauty, 
there is something demonic. City life has so deadened our senses 
that we have lost our perception of it. But the Church knows it 
is there. She "exorcises" out of water those divinities that are 
at enmity with God. She blesses it and asks God to make of it a 
vehicle of his grace. Therefore the Christian when he enters 
church moistens forehead, breast and shoulders, all his person, 
with the clean and cleansing water in order to make clean his 
soul. It is a pleasing custom that brings grace and nature freed 
from sin, and man, who so longs for cleanness, into the unity of 
the sign of the cross.

At evening also we sign ourselves in holy water. Night, as the 
proverb says, is no friend to man. Our human nature is formed and 
fashioned for light. Just before we give ourselves over into the 
power of sleep and darkness, and the light of day and 
consciousness is extinguished, there is a satisfaction in making 
the sign of the cross on ourselves with holy water. Holy water is 
the symbol of nature set free from sin. May God protect us from 
every form of darkness! And at morning, when we emerge again out 
of sleep, darkness and unconsciousness, and life begins afresh, 
we do the same thing. But in the morning it is to remind 
ourselves of that holy water from which we have issued into the 
light of Christ. The soul redeemed and nature redeemed encounter 
one another in the sign of the cross.

FIRE

SOME cold, dull day in late autumn, when darkness is coming on, 
and the wide plain below as far as eye can reach is empty of 
life, and the mountain-path chill underfoot, and we are feeling 
very much alone, a strong natural desire comes over us for human 
contact. Then, suddenly, at a turn of the road, a light beams 
out. It comes like the answer to a summons, like a thing 
expectation called for, like a missing link in a series suddenly 
supplied.

Or, you are sitting at dusk in a dreary room between blank walls 
among uncongenial furniture. A familiar step approaches, a 
practiced hand sets the hearth to rights, the kindling crackles, 
a flame shoots up and the room glows with comfortable warmth. The 
change is as pleasant as when a cold inexpressive face suddenly 
lights up with friendliness.

Fire is closely allied to life. It is the aptest symbol we have 
for the soul within that makes us live. Like fire, life is warm 
and radiant, never still, eager for what is out of reach. When we 
watch the leaping tongues of flame, as they follow every current 
of the draught, soaring up not to be diverted, radiating waves of 
light and heat, we feel how exact the parallel is, how deep the 
kinship. This fire that forces its way through the intractable 
material that impedes it and reaches out to touch with light the 
things around and make for them a center of illumination,--what 
an image it is of that mysterious flame in us that has been set 
alight to penetrate the whole of nature and provide it with a 
hearth!

And if this aspiring, irresistible, life of ours were allowed to 
express itself outwardly, if it were given the least outlet, it 
also would break through and burst into flame.

And with what strength it should burn before the altar where at 
all times it rightfully belongs! We should stand there close to 
the Sacramental Presence where God addresses himself to us and we 
address ourselves to God, concentrating our force and our 
intelligence in prayer and attention. We recognize in the lamp 
before the altar the image and representation of what our life 
should be. Its flame is never allowed to go out.

As material light it has of course nothing to say to God. It is 
for you to make it an expression of your soul, like it burning 
out the force of your life in flame and light close to the Holy 
Presence.

We cannot learn this all at once. It must be striven for. But 
each moment of quiet illumination will bring you nearer to God, 
and will carry you back among men at peace. You leave the 
sanctuary lamp before the tabernacle in your stead, saying to 
God, "Lord, it stands for my soul, which is at all times in thy 
presence."

ASHES

ON the edge of the woods grows a larkspur. Its glorious blue 
blossom rising on its bending stalk from among the dark green 
curiously-shaped leaves fills the air with color. A passerby 
picks the flower, loses interest in it and throws it into the 
fire, and in a short moment all that is left of that splendid 
show is a thin streak of grey ash.

What fire does in an instant, time is always doing to everything 
that lives. The delicate fern, the stout mullein, the rooted oak, 
butterflies, darting swallows, nimble squirrels, heavy oxen, all 
of them, equally, sooner or later, by accident, disease, hunger, 
cold,--all these clear-cut forms, all this flourishing life, 
turns to a little ash, a handful of dry dust, which every breeze 
scatters this way and that. All this brilliant color, all this 
sensitive, breathing life, falls into pale, feeble, dead earth, 
and less than earth, into ashes. It is the same with ourselves. 
We look into an opened grave and shiver: a few bones, a handful 
of ash-grey dust.

          Remember man 
          that dust thou art 
          and unto dost shalt thou return.

Ashes signify man's overthrow by time. Our own swift passage, 
ours and not someone else's, ours, mine. When at the beginning of 
Lent the priest takes the burnt residue of the green branches of 
the last Palm Sunday and inscribes with it on my forehead the 
sign of the cross, it is to remind me of my death.

          Memento homo 
          quia pulvis 
          est et in pulverem reverteris.

Everything turns to ashes, everything whatever. This house I live 
in, these clothes I am wearing, my household stuff, my money, my 
fields, meadows, woods, the dog that follows me, my horse in his 
stall, this hand I am writing with, these eyes that read what I 
write, all the rest of my body, people I have loved, people I 
have hated, or been afraid of, whatever was great in my eyes upon 
earth, whatever small and contemptible, all without exception 
will fall back into dust.

INCENSE

"AND I saw an angel come and stand before the altar, having a 
golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, and the 
smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up 
before God from the hand of the angel." So writes Saint John in 
the mysterious book of the Apocalypse.

The offering of an incense is a generous and beautiful rite. The 
bright grains of incense are laid upon the red-hot charcoal, the 
censer is swung, and the fragrant smoke rises in clouds. In the 
rhythm and the sweetness there is a musical quality; and like 
music also is the entire lack of practical utility: it is a 
prodigal waste of precious material. It is a pouring out of 
unwithholding love.

"When the Lord was at supper Mary brought the spikenard of great 
price and poured it over his feet and wiped them with her hair, 
and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." Narrower 
spirits objected. "Whereto this waste?" But the Son of God has 
spoken, "Let her alone. She hath done it against my burial." 
Mary's anointing was a mystery of death and love and the sweet 
savour of sacrifice.

The offering of incense is like Mary's anointing at Bethany. It 
is as free and objectless as beauty. It burns and is consumed 
like love that lasts through death. And the arid soul still takes 
his stand and asks the same question: What is the good of it?

It is the offering of a sweet savour which Scripture itself tells 
us is the prayers of the Saints. Incense is the symbol of prayer. 
Like pure prayer it has in view no object of its own; it asks 
nothing for itself. It rises like the Gloria at the end of a 
psalm in adoration and thanksgiving to God for his great glory.

It is true that symbolism of this sort may lead to mere 
aestheticism. There are imaginations in which the fragrant clouds 
of incense induce a spurious religiosity; and, in such instances, 
when it does so, the Christian conscience does right to protest 
that prayer should be made in spirit and in truth. But though 
prayer is a plain, straight-forward business, it is not the so-
much-for-so-muchness which the niggardly imagination and 
fleshless heart of the religious Philistine would make of it. The 
same spirit persists that produced the objection of Judas of 
Kerioth. Prayer is not to be measured by its bargaining power; it 
is not a matter of bourgeous common sense.

Minds of this order know nothing of that magnanimous prayer that 
seeks only to give. Prayer is a profound act of worship, that 
asks neither why nor wherefore. It rises like beauty, like 
sweetness, like love. The more there is in it of love, the more 
of sacrifice. And when the fire has wholly consumed the 
sacrifice, a sweet savour ascends.

LIGHT AND HEAT

THE heart's deepest need makes us long for union with God. Two 
paths lead to this union, two separate paths, though they end at 
the same goal. The first is the path of knowledge and love. This 
path our own souls point out to us. The other we know only 
because Christ has shown it to us.

The act of knowing is an act of union. By knowledge we penetrate 
the nature of an object and make the object our own. We mentally 
absorb it, and it becomes part and parcel of ourselves. Love is 
also an act of union, of union, and not merely of the desire of 
union. It is an actual union, for so much of a thing as we love 
that much belongs to us. Since there are more ways than one of 
loving, we call this kind "spiritual" love. But the word is not 
quite right, since it also applies to the other mode of union by 
the second path I spoke of. The difference is that while this 
first instinctive kind of love effects a union, it does not, as 
the other does, join being with being. It is union by conscious 
knowledge and willed intention.

Does any material form exist that provides a likeness for such a 
union? There does; the very wonderful one of light and heat.

Our eyes, without approaching or touching it, see and take in the 
candle flame. Eyes and candle remain where they were, and yet a 
union is effected. It is not a union of mingling and absorption, 
but the chaste and reverent union of the soul with God by 
knowledge. Since, as Scripture says, God is truth, and since 
whoever knows the truth, mentally possesses it, so by right 
knowledge of him our minds possess God. God is present in the 
intellect whose thoughts of him are true. This is what is meant 
by "knowing God," To know God is to be one with him as the eye 
becomes one with the candle flame by looking at it.

But the light of the candle flame cannot be separated from its 
heat. Though again the candle remains where it was, we feel on 
our cheek or the back of our hand a radiating warmth.

This union of heat is a likeness for the union between us and the 
Divine Flame by love. God is good. Whoever loves the good 
possesses it spiritually, for the good becomes ours by our loving 
it. Just so much of goodness as we love, just that much do we 
possess. "God," as Saint John tells us, "is love. And he that 
abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him." To know, to love 
God, is to be one with him; and our eternal beatitude will 
consist in looking upon God and loving him. Looking, loving, does 
not mean that we stand hungering in his presence, but that to our 
innermost depths we are filled and satisfied.

Flame, which is a figure for the soul, is also a figure for the 
living God; for "God is light and in him there is no darkness." 
As the flame radiates light so God radiates truth, and the soul 
by receiving truth is united with God, as our eyes by seeing its 
light are united with the flame. And, as the flame radiates heat, 
so does God radiate the warmth of goodness; and as the hand and 
the cheek by perceiving the warmth become one with the flame, so 
whoever loves God becomes one with him in goodness. But also, 
just as the candle remains free and disengaged in its place, so 
does God abide unmoved "dwelling in unapproachable light."

Flame, emitting light, emitting heat, is an image to us of the 
living God.

All this comes very much home to us on Holy Saturday when the 
Easter candle, which symbolizes Christ; is lighted. Three times, 
each time in a higher tone, the deacon sings "Lumen Christi," and 
then lights the Pascal candle. At once every lamp and candle in 
the church is lighted from it, and the whole building is alight 
and aglow with the radiance and warmth of God's presence.

BREAD AND WINE

BUT there is another path that leads to God. Had not Christ's own 
words made it known to us so plainly, and the liturgy repeated 
them with so assured a confidence, we should not be bold enough 
to speak of it. Seeing God, loving God, by consciously turning 
toward him with our minds and wills, though a real union, is yet 
not a union of being with being. It is not only our minds and our 
wills that strive to possess God. As the psalm says, "My heart 
and my flesh are athirst for the living God." Only then shall we 
be at rest when our whole being is joined to his. Not by any 
mingling or confusion of natures, for creature and creator are 
forever distinct, and to suppose otherwise would be as 
nonsensical as it is presumptuous. Nevertheless, besides the 
union of simple love and knowledge, there is another union, that 
of life and being.

We desire, are compelled to desire, this union, and the Scripture 
and the Liturgy place upon our lips words that give profound 
expression to our longing. As the body desires food and drink, 
just so closely does our individual life desire to be united with 
God. We hunger and thirst after God. It is not enough for us to 
know him and to love him. We would clasp him, draw him to 
ourselves, hold him fast, and, bold as it sounds, we would take 
him into ourselves as we do our necessary food and drink, and 
thereby still and satisfy our hunger to the full.

The liturgy of Corpus Christi repeats to use these words of 
Christ: "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the 
Father, so he that eateth me, the same shall also live by me." 
Those are the words. For us to prefer such a claim as a thing due 
to us of right would border on blasphemy. But since it is God 
that speaks, we inwardly assent and believe.

But let us not presume on them as if in any way they effaced the 
boundary between creature and Creator. In deepest reverence, and 
yet without fear, let us acknowledge the longing which God 
himself has planted in us, and rejoice in this gift of his 
exceeding goodness. "My flesh," Christ says to us, "is food 
indeed, and my blood is drink indeed...He that eateth my flesh 
and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him...As the Father 
hath given me to have life in myself, so he that eateth me, the 
same also shall live by me." To eat his flesh, to drink his 
blood, to eat him, to absorb into ourselves the living God--it is 
beyond any wish me might be capable of forming for ourselves, yet 
it satisfies to the full what we long for,--of necessity long 
for,--from the bottom of our souls.

Bread is food. It is wholesome, nourishing food for which we 
never lose our appetite. Under the form of bread God becomes for 
us even the food of life. "We break: a bread," writes Saint 
Ignatius of Antioch to the faithful at Ephesus, "we break a bread 
that is the food of immortality." By this food our being is so 
nourished with God himself that we exist in him and he in us.

Wine is drink. To be exact, it is more than drink, more than a 
liquid like water that merely quenches thirst. "Wine that maketh 
glad the heart of man" is the biblical expression. The purpose of 
wine is not only to quench thirst, but also to give pleasure and 
satisfaction and exhilaration. "My cup, how goodly it is, how 
plenteous!" Literally, how intoxicating, though not in the sense 
of drinking to excess. Wine possesses a sparkle, a perfume, a 
vigour, that expands and clears the imagination. Under the form 
of wine Christ gives us his divine blood. It is no plain and 
sober draught. It was bought at a great price, at a divinely 
excessive price. Sanguis Christi, inebria me, prays Saint 
Ignatius, that Knight of the Burning Heart. In one of the 
antiphons for the feast of Saint Agnes, the blood of Christ is 
called a mystery of ineffable beauty. "I have drawn milk and 
honey from his lips, and his blood hath given fair color to my 
cheeks."

For our sakes Christ became bread and wine, food and drink. We 
make bold to eat him and to drink him. This bread gives us solid 
and substantial strength. This wine bestows courage, joy out of 
all earthly measure, sweetness, beauty, limitless enlargement and 
perception. It brings life in intoxicating excess, both to 
possess and to impart.

LINEN

THE altar is covered with a linen cloth. The corporal, which, as 
representing the winding-sheet of Christ's body, is laid under 
Host and Chalice, is made of linen. The priest's alb, which is 
always worn during divine service, is of white linen. When the 
Holy Bread is being distributed a linen cloth covers the Lord's 
table.

Good linen, strong-fibered and close-woven, is a costly material. 
It has the lustre of fresh snow. Once when I came upon a patch of 
new-fallen snow lying among dark spruce trees, I turned aside and 
took my heavy boots another way, out of sheer respect. It is a 
sign of respect that we cover holy things with linen.

When the Holy Sacrifice is offered, the uppermost covering of the 
altar must be of fair linen. The high altar, in the Holy of 
Holies, represents, we said, the altar in man's soul. But it more 
than represents it. The two altars are inseparable. They are 
really, though mysteriously, the same altar. The authentic and 
perfect altar in which Christ's sacrifice is offered is the union 
of them both.

It is for this reason that linen makes its strong appeal. We have 
a sense that it corresponds to something within ourselves. It 
seems to make some claim upon us in the nature of a wish or a 
reproach. Only from a clean heart comes a right sacrifice. In the 
same measure as the heart is pure is the sacrifice pleasing to 
God.

Linen has much to teach us about the nature of purity. Genuine 
linen is an exquisite material. Purity is not the product of rude 
force or found in company with harsh manners. Its strength comes 
of its fineness. Its orderliness is gentle. But linen is also 
extremely strong; it is no gossamer web to flutter in every 
breeze. In real purity there is nothing of that sickly quality 
that flies from life and wraps itself up in unreal dreams and 
ideals out of its reach. It has the red cheeks of the man who is 
glad to be alive and the firm grip of the hard fighter.

And if we look a little further, it has still one thing more to 
say. It was not always so clean and fine as it now is. It was to 
begin with, unsightly stuff. In order to attain its present 
fragrant freshness it had to be washed and rewashed, and then 
bleached. Purity is not come by at the first. It is indeed a 
grace, and there are people who have so carried the gift in their 
souls that their whole nature has the strength and freshness of 
unsullied purity. But they are the exception. What is commonly 
called purity is no more than the doubtful good of not having 
been shaken by the storms of life. Purity, that is really such, 
is attained not at the beginning but at the end of life, and 
achieved only by long and courageous effort.

So the linen on the altar in its fine white durableness stands to 
us both for exquisite cleanness of heart and for fibrous 
strength.

There is a place in Saint John's Apocalypse where mention is made 
of "a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations 
and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne 
clothed in white robes." And a voice asked, "Who are these and 
whence come they?" And the answer is given: "These are they who 
are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes 
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are 
before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night." "Let 
me be clothed, O Lord, in a white garment," is the priest's 
prayer while he is putting on the alb for the Holy Sacrifice.

THE ALTAR

MANY and various are the forces that actuate a human being. Man 
has the power to embrace the whole world of nature, its stars, 
mountains, seas and great rivers, its trees and animals, and the 
human world in which he finds himself, and by love and 
appreciation to draw it all into his own inner world. He has the 
power of love, the power also of hate and repulsion. He can 
oppose and repudiate his surroundings or refashion them after his 
own mind. Impulses of pleasure, desire, trust, love, calmness, 
excitement course through his heart in multitudinous waves.

But of all his powers man possesses none nobler than his ability 
to recognize that there is a being higher than his own, and to 
bind himself to the honor of this Higher Being. Man has the power 
to know God, to worship him, and devote himself to him in order 
"that God may be glorified."

But if the majesty of God is to illuminate him wholly, if he is 
so to adore the Divine Majesty as to free himself from his 
persistent self-seeking,--if he is to slip out of himself and go 
beyond himself and so attain to a worship of God that is for 
God's glory only,--then he must exert a still higher power.

In the still depths of man's being there is a region of calm 
light, and there he exercises the soul's deepest power, and sends 
up sacrifice to God.

The external representation of this region of central calm and 
strength is the altar.

The altar occupies the holiest spot in the church. The church has 
itself been set apart from the world of human work, and the altar 
is elevated above the rest of the church in a spot as remote and 
separate as the sanctuary of the soul. The solid base it is set 
on is like the human will that knows that God has instituted man 
for his worship and is determined to perform that worship 
faithfully. The table of the altar that rests upon this base 
stands open and accessible for the presentation of sacrifice. It 
is not in a dark recess where the actions may be dimly glimpsed, 
but uncurtained, unscreened, a level surface in plain sight, 
placed, as the heart's altar should be placed, open in the sight 
of God without proviso or reservation.

The two altars, the one without and the one within, belong 
inseparably together. The visible altar at the heart of the 
church is but the external representation of the altar at the 
centre of the human breast, which is God's temple, of which the 
church with its walls and arches is but the expression and 
figure.

THE CHALICE

YEARS ago, and only once, I came upon a chalice. The chalice. I 
had of course seen many chalices, but this one was not only 
seeing; it was a meeting, an encounter. It was at Beuron when a 
kindly monk in charge of the sacred vessels was showing me the 
treasures of the sacristy.

The broad base it stood on adhered firmly to the ground. The 
stem, sharp, spare and delicately thin, seemed to lift itself 
with compressed force and carrying power. A little more than half 
way up it expanded in a knob, and then at the top, first 
confining its strength in a narrow ring or band in orderly 
compression, it broke out into a wealth of foliation, finely cut 
but strong, in which lay the cup, the heart of the chalice.

From this chalice I caught a glimpse of the meaning of the 
sacrament. The sure-footed base, the long shaft molded to carry 
weight, the disciplined, ingathered strength blossoming out into 
a cup, open but enclosed, could signify but one thing: to receive 
and retain.

The pure and holy vessel of the mystery receives and guards in 
its dimly shining depths the divine drops of the gracious, 
fruitful blood, which is sheer fire, sheer love.

I had a further thought, an insight or rather, an intuition. The 
chalice represents the created universe. That universe has but 
one purpose and one final meaning: man, the living creature, with 
his soul and body and his restless heart...Saint Augustine has a 
great saying: "That which makes a man to be what he is is his 
capacity to receive God and hold him fast."

THE PATEN

ONE morning I had climbed a high hill and was turning around to 
go back. Below me, in the early light, ringed around with the 
silent hills, lay the lake, crystal clear. Great green trees 
bordered it with their nobly-sweeping boughs. The sky was high 
and spacious. The whole scene was so fresh, so clear, that a 
feeling of joy took possession of me. It was as if invisible 
noiseless fountains were shooting up into the bright, far, 
distance.

Then I came to understand how a man, whose heart is overflowing, 
may stand with uplifted face, and hands outspread like the 
shallow dish of the paten, and offer up to the Infinite Goodness, 
to the Father of lights, to God, who is love, the world around 
him and within him, the silent world brimming over with life and 
light, and how it would seem to him that that world, lifted up on 
the paten of his open hands, would be clean and holy.

Thus did Christ once stand on the spiritual mount and offer up to 
his Father the holocaust of his love and his life's breath. On a 
lower eminence of that same mountain, on the foothill of Mount 
Moriah, Abraham performed his sacrifice. And in the same spot 
before this the King and Priest Melchisidech had made expiation. 
In the self-same place, in the first age of the world, Abel's 
simple offering rose straight up to heaven.

That spiritual mountain still rises, and the hand of God is still 
stretched out above, and the gift mounts up every time a priest--
not in his own person, since he is merely the instrument, of no 
value in itself,--stands at the altar and raises in his outspread 
hands the paten with the white bread on it. "Receive, O Holy 
Father, almighty, everlasting God, this spotless victim, which I, 
thine unworthy servant, offer to thee, O God, living and true, 
for all my countless sins and negligences, and for all those here 
present...that it may avail for my and their salvation into life 
everlasting."

BLESSING

HE alone can bless that has the power. He alone is able to bless 
who is able to create. God alone can bless.

God, when he blesses his creature, looks upon him and calls him 
by his name and brings his all powerful love to bear upon the 
pith and centre of his being and pours out from his hand the 
power of fruitfulness, the power of growth and increase, of 
health and goodness. "I will keep mine eye upon you and make you 
to increase."

Only God can bless. Blessing is the disposition to be made of 
what a thing is or effects. It is the word of power of the Master 
of Creation. It is the promise and assurance of the Lord of 
Providence. Blessing bestows a happy destiny. Nietzsche's remark, 
that instead of asking favours we should confer blessings, is the 
saying of a rebel. He well understood his own meaning. God only 
can bless since God only is the master of life. By our nature we 
are petitioners. The contrary of blessing is cursing. A curse is 
a sentence and a seal of mischief. It is, like blessing, a 
judgment imprinted upon the forehead and the heart. It shuts off 
the sources of life.

God has imparted a portion of his power to bless and to curse to 
those whose vocation it is to create life. Parents possess this 
power: "The blessing of the father establisheth the houses of the 
children." Priests possess it. As parents engender natural life, 
so the priest begets the supernatural life of grace. To give life 
is the nature and office of both.

And he also may attain to the power of blessing who no longer 
seeks himself but in perfect simplicity of heart wills to be the 
servant of him Who has life in himself.

But the power to bless is always and only from God. It fails 
wholly if we assume it of ourselves. By nature we are 
petitioners, blessers only by God's grace,--just as we have the 
virtue of authority, of effectual command, only by God's grace.

What applies to blessing applies also to cursing. "The mother's 
curse rooteth up the foundations of the children's houses," that 
is to say of their life and their well-being.

All the forms of nature are prefigurements of grace. The power of 
effectual blessing, the power which the blessing actually 
conveys, the real, the essential power, of which our natural life 
is but a figure, is God's own life. It is with himself that God 
blesses. The divine life is begotten by God's blessing. By it we 
are made sharers in the divine nature by a pure gift, a grace, 
bestowed on us by Christ. So also the sign of the cross is a 
blessing in which God bestows upon us himself.

This power of divine blessings is merely lent to those who stand 
in God's stead. Fathers and mothers have it by the sacrament of 
Christian marriage. The priest has it by the sacrament of 
ordination. By virtue of the sacrament of baptism and the 
sacrament of confirmation,--which makes us kings and priests to 
God,--there is given to those "who love God with all their heart 
and all their mind and all their strength and their neighbors as 
themselves', the power to bless with God's own life. To each of 
these the power of blessing is given with such difference as the 
nature of his apostleship determines.

The visible representation of blessing is the hand. By its 
position and action it indicates the purpose of the blessing. In 
Confirmation it is laid on the head so that the Spirit which has 
its source in God may flow through it. When the hand signs the 
cross on forehead or breast it is in order that the divine 
plenitude may be poured out unstintedly. The hand, as it is the 
instrument of making and shaping, is also the instrument of 
spending and giving.

Finally there is the blessing given not by the hand but by the 
All Holy himself with the sacramental body of Christ. Let it be 
bestowed in profound reverence and subjection to the mystery.

SPACE SANCTIFIED

OF natural space we commonly predicate three directions,--up, 
down, and beside. They indicate that in space there ;s order, and 
that it is not a chaos. They enable us to conduct a mode of life 
and move about from place to place, erect buildings and live in 
them.

In divine and supernatural space there is also this order of 
direction. It is grounded in a mystery.

Churches are built along the east to west direction of the sun's 
course. They face the east and the rising sun. The chord of the 
sun's arc runs through them. They are built to receive his first 
and his last rays. The sun of the supernatural world is Christ. 
Consequently the course of the natural sun, his symbol, governs 
all sacred architecture and determines all its forms and 
arrangements. At every line and point eternal life is kept in 
view.

At the reading of the Gospel the missal is moved over to the 
left, that is, since the altar always faces east, it is moved 
toward the north. As a matter of history the divine message 
proceeded northward from the Mediterranean region, and the memory 
of this fact is present. But the more profound symbolism is that 
the south is the region of light, and signifies the divine 
illumination, as the north signifies darkness and cold. The Word 
of God, who is the Light of the World, rises out of the light and 
shines upon the darkness and presses hard upon it in order to 
make itself "comprehended."

East to west, south to north. The third direction is from above 
down, from below up. When he is preparing the Holy Sacrifice, the 
priest lifts up first the paten, then the chalice. God is above; 
he is the All-Highest. "Out of the depths" the suppliant lifts up 
hands and eyes toward the holy hills. The bishop, when he gives 
his blessing, lowers his hand upon the head of the person 
kneeling before him; the priest, when he consecrates, upon the 
objects to be blessed. Creation is a downward act, blessing comes 
down from above, from the Holy One on High. This third direction 
of supernatural space is proper to the soul and to God. Desire, 
prayer, sacrifice ascend upward from below; grace, the granting 
of prayer, the sacraments, descend downward from above.

In accordance with these directions the worshipper faces the 
rising sun, and turns his gaze upon Christ, whom it symbolizes. 
The divine light streams westward into the believer's heart. West 
to east is the soul's orientation; east to west the rise and 
progress of God.

From the north the darkness looks toward the light of the divine 
word; and from the fiery heart of the south the divine word 
streams out upon the darkness in light and warmth.

From beneath upward, out of the depths toward the throne of God 
on high, the soul sends up her yearnings, prayers and sacrifices; 
and God's response in grace, blessing, sacrament, comes downward 
from above.

BELLS

SPACE enclosed within the walls of a church reminds us of God. It 
has been made over to him as his own possession and is filled 
with his presence. Walled round, vaulted over, shut off from the 
world, it is turned inward toward the God who hides himself in 
mystery.

But what of space unenclosed, that vast expanse that stretches 
over the level earth on all sides, boundless, high above the 
highest hills, filling the deepest valleys which those hills 
encircle? Has it no connection with things holy?

It has indeed, and the symbol of this connection is the steeple 
with its bells.

The steeple is an integral part of God's house, and rises out of 
it up into the free air, and takes possession of all wide space 
in God's name. And the heavy bronze bells in the belfrey tower, 
so beautifully molded, swing about their shaft and send out peal 
on peal in waves of good loud sound. High and quick, or full-
toned and measured, or roaring deep and slow, they pour out a 
flood of sound that fills the air with news of the Kingdom.

News from afar, news of the infinitely limitless God, news of 
mall's bottomless desire, and of its inexhaustible fulfilment.

The bells are a summons to those "men of desire" whose hearts are 
open to far-off things.

The sound of bells stirs in us the feeling of distance. When they 
clang out from a steeple rising above a wide plain and their 
sound is carried to every point of the compass, and on and on to 
the hazy blue horizon, our wishes follow them as long as they are 
audible, until it comes home to us that there is no satisfaction 
of desire in far distant hopes, or indeed in anything outside 
ourselves.

Or, when the pealing bells of a mountain-built church flood the 
valley with their clamor or send the sound straight up to the 
zenith, the listener, straining to follow, feels his heart expand 
beyond its usual narrow limits.

Or again, the bell tones in some green glimmering forest may 
reach us faintly, as from a great distance, too far off to tell 
from where, and old memories stir, and we strive to catch the 
sounds and to remember what it is they remind us of.

At such moments we have a perception of the meaning of space. We 
feel the pull of height, and stretch our wings and try to respond 
to infinitude.

The bells remind us of the world's immensity and man's still more 
immeasurable desires, and that only in the infinite God we can 
find our peace.

O Lord, this my soul is wider than the world, its longing from 
depths deeper than any valley, the pain of desire is more 
troubling than the faint lost bell notes. Only thyself canst fill 
so vast an emptiness.

TIME SANCTIFIED

THOUGH each hour of the day has its own character, three hours 
stand out from the rest--morning, evening, and, half way between 
them, noonday, and have an aspect distinctively their own. These 
three hours the church has consecrated.

Of them all the morning hour wears the most shining face. It 
possesses the energy and brightness of a beginning. Mysteriously, 
each morning we are born again. We emerge out of sleep refreshed, 
renewed, with an invigorating sense of being alive. This newly 
infused feeling of our existence turns to a prayer of 
thanksgiving for life to him who gave it. With an impulse to 
action born of fresh energy we think of the day ahead and of the 
work to be done in it, and this impulse also becomes a prayer. We 
begin the day in God's name and strength and ask him to make our 
work a work for him.

This morning hour when life reawakens and we are more keenly 
aware of our existence, when we begin the day with gratitude for 
our creation and turn to our work with fresh creative power, is a 
holy hour.

It is plain how much depends on this first hour. It is the day's 
beginning. The day may be started without a beginning. The day 
may be slipped into without thought or intention. But such a day, 
without purpose or character, hardly deserves the name. It is no 
more than a torn-off scrap of time. A day is a journey. One must 
decide which way one is going. It is also a work, and as such 
requires to be willed. A single day is the whole of life. The 
whole of life is like a day. Each day should have its own 
distinct character.

The morning hour exercises the will, directs the intention, and 
sets our gaze wholly upon God.

EVENING

Evening also has its mystery. The mystery of evening is death. 
The day draws to a close and we make ready to enter the silence 
of sleep. The vigour which came with the morning has by evening 
run down, and what we seek then is rest. The secret note of death 
is sounded; and though our imaginations may be too crowded with 
the day's doings or too intent on tomorrow's plans for us to hear 
it distinctly, some perception of it, however remote, does reach 
us. And there are evenings when we have very much the feeling 
that life is drawing on to the long night "wherein no man can 
work."

What matters is to have a right understanding of what death 
means. Dying is more than the end of life. Death is the last 
summons that life serves on us. Dying is the final, the all-
decisive act. With individuals as with nations the events that 
precede extinction in themselves conclude and settle nothing. 
After the thing has happened, it remains to be determined, by 
nations as by individuals, what is to be made of it, how it is to 
be regarded. The past event is neither good nor evil; in itself 
it i; nothing. It is the face we put upon it, our way of viewing 
it, that makes it what it is. A great calamity, let us say, has 
overtaken a nation. The event has happened, but it is not over 
with. The nation may give way to despair. It may also think the 
matter through again, rejudge it; and make a fresh start. Not 
until we have decided how to take it is the event, long past 
though it may be, completed. The deep significance of death is 
that it is the final sentence a man passes on his whole life. It 
is the definite character he stamps upon it. When he comes to die 
a man must decide whether he will or will not once more take his 
whole life in hand, be sorry for all he has done amiss, and 
plunge and recast it in the burning heat of repentence, give God 
humble thanks for what was well done, (to him be the honor!) and 
cast the whole upon God in entire abandonment. Or he may give way 
to despondency and weakly and ignobly let life slip from him. In 
this case life comes to no conclusion; it merely, without shape 
or character, ceases to be.

The high "art of dying" is to accept the life that is leaving us, 
and by a single act of affirmation put it into God's hands.

Each evening we should practice this high art of giving life an 
effectual conclusion by reshaping the past and impressing it with 
a final validity and an eternal character. The evening hour is 
the hour of completion. We stand then before God with a 
premonition of the day on which we shall stand before him face to 
face and give in our final reckoning. We have a sense of the past 
being past, with its good and evil, its losses and waste. We 
place ourselves before God to whom all time, past or future, is 
the living present, before God who is able to restore to the 
penitent even what is lost. We think back over the day gone by. 
What was not well done contrition seizes upon and thinks anew. 
For what was well done we give God humble thanks, sincerely 
taking no credit to ourselves. What we are uncertain about, or 
failed to accomplish, the whole sorry remnant, we sink in entire 
abandonment into God's all powerful love.

MIDDAY

In the morning we have a lively and agreeable sense that life is 
starting and is on the increase; then obstacles arise and we are 
slowed up. By noon for a short while we seem to stand quite 
still. A little later our sense of life declines; we grow weary, 
recover a little, and then subside into the quiescence of night.

Half way between the rising and the setting sun, when the day is 
at its height, comes a breathing space, a brief and wonderful 
moment. The future is not pressing and we do not look ahead; the 
day is not yet declining and we do not look back. It is a pause, 
but not of weariness; our strength and energy are still at the 
full.

For noonday is the pure present. It looks beyond itself, hut not 
into space or time. It looks upon eternity.

Noon is a profound moment. In the stir and extroversion of a city 
it passes unperceived. But in the country, among cornfields and 
quiet pastures, when the horizon is glowing with heat, we 
perceive what a deep moment it is. We stand still and time falls 
away. Eternity confronts us. Every hour reminds us of eternity; 
but noon is its close neighbor. Time waits and holds its peace. 
The day is at the full and time is the pure present.

The day being at its height and eternity close by, let us attend 
to it and give it entrance. In the distance the Angelus, breaking 
the noontide silence, reminds us of our redemption. "In the 
beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.... The angel of 
the Lord brought the message to Mary, and she conceived of the 
Holy Ghost. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me 
according to thy will...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among 
us."

At the noon hour of man's day, in the fulness of time, a member 
of the human race, on whom this fulness had come, stood and 
waited. Mary did not hurry to meet it. She looked neither before 
or after. The fulness of time, the simple present, the moment 
that gives entrance to eternity, was upon her. She waited. 
Eternity leaned over; the angel spoke, and the Eternal Word took 
flesh in her pure bosom.

Now in our day the Angelus proclaims the mystery. Each noonday, 
for each Christian soul, the noonday of mankind is again present. 
At every moment of time the fulness of time is audible. At all 
times our life is close neighbor to eternity. We should always 
hold ourselves in that quietude that attends upon and is open to 
eternity. But since the noise of living is so loud, let us pause 
at least at noon, at the hour the church has sanctified, and set 
aside the business we are engaged in, and stand in silence and 
listen to the angel of the Lord proclaiming that "while the earth 
lay in deepest silence the Eternal Lord leapt down from his royal 
throne"--then into the course of history for that once only, but 
since then at every moment into the human soul.

THE NAME OF GOD

HUMAN perception has been dulled. We have lost our awareness of 
some deep and subtle things. Among them the zest for words. Words 
have for us now only a surface existence. They have lost their 
power to shock and startle. They have been reduced to a fleeting 
image, to a thin tinkle of sound.

Actually a word is the subtle body of a spirit. Two things meet 
and find expression in a word: the substance of the object that 
makes the impact, and that portion of our spirit that responds to 
that particular object. At least these two ought to go to the 
making of words, and did when the first man made them.

In one of the early chapters of the Bible we are told that "God 
brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them..." 
Man, who has an ability to see and a mind open to impressions, 
looked through the outward form into the inner essence and spoke 
the name. The name was the response made by the human soul to the 
soul of the creature. Something in man, that particular part of 
himself that corresponded to the nature of that particular 
creature, stirred in answer, since man is the epitome and point 
of union of creation. These two things, (or rather this double 
thing) the nature of things outside and man's interior 
correspondence with them, being brought into lively contact, 
found utterance in the name.

In a name a particle of the universe is locked with a particle of 
human consciousness. So when the man spoke the name, the image of 
the actual object appeared in his mind together with the sound he 
had made in response to it. The name was the secret sign which 
opened to him the world without and the world within himself.

Words are names. Speech is the noble art of giving things the 
names that fit them. The thing as it is in its nature and the 
soul as it is in its nature were divinely intended to sound in 
unison.

But this inward connection between man and the rest of creation 
was interrupted. Man sinned, and the bond was torn apart. Things 
became alien, even hostile, to him. His eyes lost the clearness 
of their vision. He looked at nature with greed, with the desire 
to master her and with the shifty glance of the guilty. Things 
shut their real natures from him. He asserted himself so 
successfully that his own nature eluded him. When he lost his 
child-like vision, his soul fell away from him, and with it his 
wisdom and his strength.

With the loss of the true name, was broken that vital union 
between the two parts of creation, the human and the non-human, 
which in God's intention were to be indissolubly joined in the 
bonds of peace. Only some fragmentary image, some obscure, 
confused echo, still reaches us; and if on occasion we do hear a 
word that is really a name, we stop short and try but cannot 
quite catch its import, and are left puzzled and troubled with 
the painful sensation that paradise is lost.

But in our day even the sense that paradise is lost is lost. We 
are too superficial to be distressed by the loss of meaning, 
though we are more and more glib about the surface sense. We pass 
words from mouth to mouth as we do money from hand to hand and 
with no more attention to what they were meant to convey than to 
the inscription on the coins. The value-mark is all we notice. 
They signify something, but reveal nothing. So far from promoting 
the intercourse between man and nature they clatter out of us 
like coins from a cash register and with much the same 
consciousness as the machine has of their value.

Once in a great while we are shocked into attention. A word, 
perhaps in a book, may strike us with all its original force. The 
black and white signs grow luminous. We hear the voice of the 
thing named. There is the same astonished impact, the same 
intellectual insight, as in the primitive encounter. We are 
carried out of ourselves into the far depths of time when God 
summoned man to his first work of word-making. But too soon we 
are back where we were and the cash register goes clicking on.

It may have been the name of God that we thus met face to face. 
Remembering how words came to be, it is plain enough to us why 
the faithful under the Old Law never uttered the word, and 
substituted for it the word Lord. What made the Jews the peculiar 
and elect nation is that they with more immediacy than any other 
people perceived the reality and nearness of God, and had a 
stronger sense of his greatness, his transcendence and his 
fecundity. His name had been revealed to them by Moses. He that 
is, that is my name. He that is being in itself, needing nothing, 
self-subsistent, the essence of being and of power.

To the Jews the name of God was the image of his being. God's 
nature shone in his name. They trembled before it as they had 
trembled before the Lord himself in Sinai. God speaks of his name 
as of himself. When he says of the Temple, "My name shall be 
there," he means by his name, himself. In the mysterious book of 
the Apocalyse he promises that those that come through 
tribulation shall be as pillars in the temple of God, and that he 
will write his name upon them; that is, that he will sanctify 
them and give them himself.

This is the sense in which we are to understand the commandment, 
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain. This is 
how we are to understand the word in the prayer our Savior taught 
us, "Hallowed be thy name," and in the precept to begin whatever 
we undertake in God's name.

God's name is full of hidden power. It shadows forth the nature 
of infinitude, and nature of him who is measureless plenitude and 
limitless sublimity.

In that name is present also what is deepest in man. There is a 
correspondence between God and man's inmost being, for to God man 
inseparably belongs. Created by God, for God, man is restless 
until he is wholly one with God. Our personalities have no other 
meaning or purpose than union with God in mutual love. Whatever 
of nobility man possesses, his soul's soul, is contained in the 
word God. He is my God, my source, my goal, the beginning and the 
end of my being, him I worship, him I long for, him to whom with 
sorrow I confess my sins.

Strictly, all that exists is the name of God. Let us therefore 
beseech him not to let us take it in vain, but to hallow it. Let 
us ask him to make his name our light in glory. Let us not bandy 
it about meaninglessly. It is beyond price, thrice holy.

Let us honor God's name as we honor God himself. In reverencing 
God's name we reverence also the holiness of our own souls.

Written by Juan Gabriel Ravasi

octubre 20, 2012 a 9:02 pm

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