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Let us also salute Mary, the Mother of this Di vine Infant, in the words of this beautiful Prose, taken from the ancient Missals of Germany.
Glorious, powerful, and sovereign Empress! Noble Mother and Daughter of Jesus! Fair Root of Jesse, Branch lovely in thy bloom and leaf, watered by the plentiful grace of God.
The soft south zephyr breathed upon thee, and breathing gave thee Fruit, and by his power put the rough northwind to flight. Thou, therefore, believing the Angel Gabriel's word, didst conceive a Flower, one day to bring Him forth—thy Fruit.
Joseph, the Just Man, saw his lovely Branch in Flower: none else could know like him and tremble at the Mystery. But the secret was sacred and well did he keep it, revealing it to no mortal ear. Mary was his Spouse, and he extolled her: she was his Lady, and he honoured her.
The heavens had truly dropped down their dew, and the clouds, laden with a mystic rain, rained the Holy One; He dwelt in the Virgin's womb. O wondrous thing! O thing most strange! A Star brings forth the Sun! A Maid, a Virgin most pure, brings forth the King of Heaven.
Then, by thy loving prayers, commend us to thy Son, O Mother sweet and kind, and
Auster levis te perflavit,
Joseph, justus vir, expavit, Ista dum consideravit, Sciens quod non irrigavit Florescentem virgulam: Bene tamen conservavit Arcanum, nec divulgavit; Sponsam sed magnificavit, Honorans ut Dominam.
Cash quoniam roraverunt, Nubes ex quo concreverunt, Concretaeque stillaverunt Virginis in utero. Res miranda! res novella! Nam procedit sol de stella, Regem dum parit puella, Viri tori nescia.
Ergo clemens et benigna, Cunctorumque laudum digna,
Tuo nato nos consigna
worthy of this and every praise! Pray for us, that loosened from the shackle of mortality that weighs us down, we may take wing to the heavenly courts. Amen.
ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR.
Another Martyr comes in to-day, to take his place round the Crib of our Jesus. He does not belong to the first ages of the Church :—his name is not written in the Books of the New Testament, like those of Stephen, John, and the Innocents of Bethlehem. Yet does he stand most prominent in the ranks of that Martyr-Host, which has been receiving fresh recruits in every age, and is one of those visible abiding proofs of the vitality of the Church, and of the undecaying energy infused into her by her divine Founder. This glorious Martyr did not shed his blood for the faith; he was not dragged before the tribunals of Pagans or Heretics, there to confess the Truths revealed by Christ and taught by the Church. He was slain by Christian hands; it was a Catholic King, that condemned him to death; it was by the majority of his own Brethren, and they his countrymen, that he was abandoned and blamed. How, then, could he be a Martyr? How did he gain a Palm like Stephen's? He was the Martyr for the Liberty of the Church.
Every Christian is obliged to lay down his life rather than deny any of the Articles of our holy Faith: it was the debt we contracted with Jesus Christ, when he adopted us, in Baptism, as his Brethren. All are not called to the honour of Martyrdom, that is, all are not required to bear that testimony to the Truth, which consists in shedding one's blood for it: but all must so love their Faith, as to be ready to die rather than deny it, under pain of incurring the eternal death, from which the grace of our Redeemer has already delivered us. The same obligation lies still more heavily on the Pastors of the Church. It is the pledge of the truth of their teachings. Hence, we find, in almost every page of the History of the Church, the glorious names of saintly Bishops, who laid down their lives for the Faith they had delivered to their people. It was the last and dearest pledge they could give of their devotedness to the Vineyard entrusted to them, and in which they had spent years of care and toil. The blood of their Martyrdom was more than a fertilising element—it was a guarantee, the highest that man can give, that the seed they had sown in the hearts of men was, in very truth, the revealed Word of God.
But beyond the debt, which every Christian has, of shedding his blood rather than deny his Faith, that is, of allowing no threats or dangers to make him disown the sacred ties which unite him to the Church and, through her, to Jesus Christ—beyond this, Pastors have another debt to pay, which is that of defending the Liberty of the Church. To Kings, and Rulers, and, in general, to all Diplomatists and Politicians, there are few expressions so unwelcome as this of the Liberty of the Church; with them, it means a sort of conspiracy. The world talks of it as being an unfortunate scandal, originating in priestly ambition. Timid temporising Catholics regret that it can elicit any one's zeal, and will endeavour to persuade us, that we have no need to fear any thing, so long as our Faith is not attacked. Notwithstanding all this, the Church has put upon her altars and associated with St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents, this our Archbishop, who was slain in his
Cathedral of Canterbury, in the 12th century, because he resisted a King's infringements on the extrinsic Rights of the Church. She sanctions the noble maxim of St. Anselm, one of St. Thomas' predecessors in the See of Canterbury: Nothing does God love so much in this world, as the Liberty of his Church; and the Apostolic See declares by the mouth of Pius the 8th, in the 19th century, the very same doctrine she would have taught by St. Gregory the 7th, in the 11th century: The Church, the spotless Spouse of Jesus Christ the immaculate Lamb, is, by God's appointment, Free, and subject to no earthly power.1 But in what does this sacred Liberty consist? It consists in the Church's absolute independence of every secular power in the ministry of the Word of God, which she is bound to preach in season and out of season, as St. Paul says, to all mankind, without distinction of nation, or race, or age, or sex :—in the administration of the Sacraments, to which she must invite all men, without exception, in order to the world's salvation :—in the practice, free from all human control, of the Counsels, as well as of the Precepts, of the Gospel:—in the unobstructed intercommunication of the several degrees of her sacred hierarchy :—in the publication and application of her decrees and ordinances in matters of discipline :—in the maintenance and development of the Institutions she has founded:—in the holding and governing her temporal patrimony:—and lastly, in the defence of those privileges, which have been adjudged to her by the civil authority itself, in order that her ministry of peace and charity might be unembarrassed and respected.
Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the
1 Libera est institutione divina, nullique obnoxia terrenae pr testati Ecclesia intemerata sponsa immaoulati Agni Christi Jesu. Litteroe ApostolicoB ad Episcopos Provincial Bhenarue. 30 Junii, 1830.