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might learn, from His example, how we are to gain victory under temptation.
Satan has had his eye upon Jesus; he is troubled at beholding such matchless virtue. The wonderful circumstances of his Birth,—the Shepherds called by Angels to his Crib, and the Magi guided by the Star; the Infant's escape from Herod's plot; the testimony rendered to this new Prophet by John the Baptist; all these things which seem so out of keeping with the thirty years spent in obscurity at Nazareth, are a mystery to the infernal serpent, and fill him with apprehension. The ineffable mystery of the Incarnation has been accomplished unknown to him; he never once suspects that the humble Virgin, Mary, is she who was foretold by the Prophet Isaias, as having to bring forth the Emmanuel; but he is aware that the time is come, that the last Week spoken of to Daniel has begun its course, and that the very Pagans are looking towards Judea for a Deliverer. He is afraid of this Jesus; he resolves to speak with him, and elicit from him some expression which will show him whether he be or not the Son of God; he will tempt him to some imperfection, or sin, which, should he commit, will prove that the object of so much fear is, after all, but a mortal and sinful Man.
The enemy of God and men was, of course, disappointed. He approached Jesus; but all his efforts only turn to his own confusion. Our Redeemer, with all the self-possession and easy majesty of a God-Man, repels the attacks of Satan; but he reveals not his heavenly origin. The wicked spirit retires, without having made any discovery beyond this,that Jesus is a prophet, faithful to God. Later on, when he sees the Son of God treated with contempt, calumniated, and persecuted; when he finds, that his
1 Is. vii. 14.
own attempts to have him put to death, are so successful;—his pride and his blindness will be at their height: and not till Jesus expires on the Cross, will he learn, that his victim was not merely Man, but Man and God. Then will he discover, how all his plots against Jesus have but served to manifest, in all their beauty, the Mercy and Justice of God;his Mercy, because he saved mankind; and his Justice, because he broke the power of hell for ever.
These were the designs of Divine Providence in permitting the wicked spirit to defile, by his presence, the retreat of Jesus, and speak to him, and lay his hands upon him. But, let us attentively consider the triple temptation in all its cirumstances; for our Redeemer only suffered it, in order that he might instruct and encourage us.
We have three enemies to fight against; our soul has three dangers; for, as the Beloved Disciple says: All that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life! By the concupiscence of the flesh, is meant the love of sensual things, which covets whatever is agreeable to the flesh, and, when not curbed, draws the soul into unlawful pleasures. Concupiscence of the eyes expresses the love of the goods of this world, such as riches, and possessions; these dazzle the eye, and then seduce the heart. Pride of life is that confidence in ourselves, which leads us to be vain and presumptuous, and makes us forget that all we have,-our life and every good gift,we have from God.
Not one of our sins but what comes from one of these three sources; not one of our temptations but what aims at making us accept the concupiscence of the flesh, or the concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life. Our Saviour, then, who would be our model in all things, deigned to subject himself to these three temptations. 1 I. St. John, ii. 16.
First of all, Satan tempts him in what regards the Flesh-he suggests to him to satisfy the cravings of hunger, by working_a_miracle, and changing the stones into bread. If Jesus consent, and show an eagerness in giving this indulgence to his body, the tempter will conclude that he is but a frail mortal, subject to concupiscence like other men. When he tempts us, who have inherited evil concupiscence from Adam, his suggestions go further than this; he endeavours to defile the soul by the body.
the sovereign holiness of the Incarnate Word could never permit Satan to use upon Him the power which he has received of tempting man in his outward senses. The lesson, therefore, which the Son of God here gives us, is one of temperance: but we know, that, for us, temperance is the mother of purity, and that intemperance excites our senses to rebel.
The second temptation is to pride: Cast thyself down; the Angels shall bear thee up in their hands. The enemy is anxious to see if the favours of heaven have produced in Jesus' soul that haughtiness, that ungrateful self-confidence, which makes the creature arrogate God's gifts to itself, and forget its benefactor. Here, also, he is foiled; our Redeemer's humility confounds the pride of the rebel angel.
He then makes a last effort: he hopes to gain over by ambition Him who has given such proofs of temperance and humility. He shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and says to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down, thou wilt adore me. Jesus rejects the wretched offer, and drives from him the seducer, the prince of this world;1 hereby teaching us, that we must despise the riches of this world, as often as our keeping or getting them is to be on the condition of our violating the law of God and paying homage to Satan.
But, let us observe how it is, that our Divine
1 St. John, xiv. 30.
Model, our Redeemer, overcomes the tempter. Does he hearken to his words? Does he allow the temptation time? and give it strength by delay ? We did so, when we were tempted, and we fell. But our Lord immediately meets each temptation with the shield of God's word. He says: It is written: Not on bread alone doth man live.-It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.-It is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve.-This, then, must be our practice for the time to come. Eve brought perdition on herself, and on the whole human race, because she listened to the serpent. He that dallies with temptation, is sure to fall. We are now in a Season of extraordinary grace; our hearts are on the watch, dangerous occasions are removed, everything that savours of worldliness is laid aside; our souls, purified by prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds, are to rise with Christ, to a new life;-but, shall we persevere ? All depends upon how we behave under temptation. Here, at the very opening of Lent, the Church gives us this passage of the Holy Gospel, that we may have, not only precept, but example. If we be attentive and faithful, the lesson she gives us will produce its fruit; and when we come to the Easter Solemnity, we shall have those sure pledges of perseverance,vigilance, self-diffidence, prayer, and the never-failing help of Divine Grace.
The Greek Church, in spite of her principle of never admitting a Feast during Lent, celebrates to-day one of her greatest solemnities. It is called Orthodoxia, and was instituted in memory of the restoration of sacred Images in Constantinople and the Eastern Empire, in the year 842, when the Empress Theodora, aided by the holy Patriarch Methodius, put a stop to the Iconoclast persecution, and restored to the Churches the holy Images, which the fury of the heretics had taken away.
The Station, at Rome, is in the patriarchal Basilica of Saint John Lateran. It was but right, that a Sunday, of such solemnity as this, should be celebrated in the Church which is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, not only of the Holy City itself, but of the whole world. It was here that the public Penitents were reconciled on Maundy Thursday; it was here, also, in the Baptistery of Constantine, that the Catechumens received Baptism on the night preceding Easter Sunday. No other Basilica could have had such a claim for the Station of a day like this; for it was there that the Lenten Fast had been so often proclaimed by Leo and Gregory.
The Introit, as likewise the Gradual, Tract, Offertory, and Communion, are all taken from the 90th Psalm. We have, elsewhere, spoken of the appropriateness of this beautiful Psalm to the spirit of the Church during the Season of Lent. It bids the Christian soul confide in the divine aid. She is now devoting her whole energies to prayer; she is engaged in battle with her own and God's enemies. She has need of support. Let her not be afraid : God tells her, in these words of the Introit, that her confidence in him shall not be in vain.
Invocabit me, et ego exaudiam eum eripiam eum et glorificabo eum: longitudine dierum adimplebo eum.
Ps. Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi: in protectione Dei cœli commorabitur. . Gloria Patri. Invocabit me.
He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him: I will fill him with length of days.
Ps. He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Heaven. . Glory, &c. He shall cry.
In the Collect, the Church prays for her children,