There are of course many ways in which the Precious Blood establishes the empire of Jesus. We may illustrate the matter sufficiently for our purpose by selecting three of them, Conversion, Sanctification, and the Building up of the Church. We shall have to speak more at length of Conversion in the next chapter [History of the Precious Blood]. We shall treat therefore very briefly at present of these three things, and chiefly from one point of view, namely, the contrast and comparison between them and the act of Creation.
We have then to remember that it is the office of the Precious Blood to reconquer for God an empire which sin has wrested from Him, and to govern and administer this empire in proportion as it reconquers it. Its royal rights, while they are the gratuitous appointments of God and flow from His eternal choice, are also based on the double relation of the Precious Blood to Creation and the Incarnation. Its relation to Creation makes it the rightful representative of the Dominion of God. Its relation to the Incarnation makes it the natural vicegerent of the Kingdom of the Sacred Humanity.
To us fallen creatures Conversion is the most interesting Divine act of which we are able to take intimate cognizance. It is an act going on in the world at all moments, and which must happen to every one of us, either in the waters of Baptism or out of them, if we are to be saved. Moreover, it is an act which may be repeated several times in each individual soul. It is to our supernatural being what Creation is to our natural being. The one calls us out of nothingness into life; the other out of darkness into light. The one makes us citizens of earth; the other citizens of Heaven. By the one we are entitled to preservation, and all the numerous means, appliances, and consequences of life; by the other we have a right to claim sanctification, and all the numerous means, appliances, and consequences of grace. The creation of our souls was the work of an instant. God willed the existence of our souls, and exactly of such souls as He had foreseen and chosen to be our peculiar selves from all eternity. There was no process. He willed, and it was done. Where there had been nothingness, there was now a human soul, a soul beautiful in its indestructible simplicity, beautiful in its complicated life. The sum of existence had been swelled by one; and that one had now to fulfill a strange, difficult, varied, romantic, destiny which would go on to be eternal. Conversion, on the other hand, is a process, and often a very long one. Sometimes whole years of life go to its preparation. Ten thousand circumstances, sweetly constrained by the paternal tenderness of God, gradually converge upon some predetermined hour and minute. Misfortunes are sent to prepare the ground, to plough it up with rude troubles, to soften it with silent weeping, or to break it to pieces through the kindly action of the frost. Happiness comes from God like an Angel, to exorcise evil spirits from the mind, the temper, or the heart, and to clear the way for more supernatural operations. Accident, or seeming accident, also has its function in this work. Chance books, chance conversations, chance meetings, frequently accelerate the process, and not seldom hurry it at once to its conclusion. If only we could see them, we should discover that the graces which precede Conversion are, for number, variety, strangeness, unexpectedness, and kindliness, among the most wonderful works of God and the most touching ingenuities of His love. Yet, while the process of Conversion contrasts with Creation in that it is a process at all, it also resembles it in being really instantaneous. The actual justification of a sinner is the work of an instant. We see this in the Baptism of infants. But also in grown-up people the transition from the enmity of God to His friendship, from a state of sin to a state of grace, takes place in a moment. One moment, and if the soul left the body it must perish eternally; another moment, and if sudden death came salvation would be secure. The change from the formless abyss of nothingness to the fresh, complete soul, is not more instantaneous than the justification of a sinner. What has gone before has been merely preparatory. It might weigh in judgment as ground for abating the severity of punishment; but it could not avail to alter that state of the soul which death has rendered fixed, certain, and irrevocable.
God condescends to put Himself before us as effecting Creation by a word. He spoke, and it was done. Let light be, and light was. Thus Creation is effected by the most simple of all agencies, namely, by a single means, and that means, not a work, but a mere word. The Precious Blood, on the other hand, effects its creations in Conversion by a multiplicity of means, of means which are often repeated, often varied, often intensified, often newly invented for fresh cases, and often quite peculiar to the individual case. There is nothing in the world which the Precious Blood cannot make a means of grace. Even sin, though it cannot be a means of grace, can be constrained to do the ministries of grace, just as Satan is made the reluctant bondsman of the elect, and is forced to jewel their crowns with the very temptations he has devised for their destruction. Nevertheless in this respect also Conversion is like Creation. It is like it in its choice of means, though not like it in its simplicity. For the Precious Blood also chooses words for its instruments, as if in honor of that Eternal Word Whose human life it is. The Sacraments are its ordinary modes of action, as we shall see later on; and words are the forms of the Sacraments, without which their peculiar miracles of grace cannot be wrought. Divine words are the chosen instruments of production in the supernatural as well as. in the natural world.
It is one of the glories of the act of Creation, that there is no semblance of effort about it. It is the free act of God, but it is hardly an act in the sense in which we commonly use the word. It is an act in a much higher sense, a simpler and yet a more efficacious sense. It is an act without effort, without succession, without processes. It is an act such as befits the perfections of the Most High. His power did not rise up, as it were, to do it, nor His wisdom deliberate about it, nor His love grow to it. Nothing went out of Him to the act, nor was the tranquility of His life quickened by it. Conversion, on the contrary, has all the look of effort about it. Nay, effort is not the word: I should rather have said agony. The Precious Blood working its way out of our Blessed Lord's Body in the sweat of Gethsemane, the slow, painful oozings from the Crown of thorns, the rude violence of the sprinkling at the Scourging, the distillation of the Blood along the streets of Jerusalem and up the slope of Calvary, the soaking of His clinging raiment, the four wells dug by the cruel nails ebbing and flowing with the pulses of His feeble life, the violation of the silent sanctuary of His Dead Heart, to seek for the few drops of that precious treasure that might be left - all these are parts of the effort of Conversion. Neither is there less look of effort in the Conversion of each single soul: more with some, and less with others. In most instances the Precious Blood seems to return to the charge again and again. Here it fails, there it succeeds. Now its success is hardly perceptible, now it is manifest, striking and decisive. The Precious Blood tries to convert every one, just as it was shed for everyone. Multitudes remain unconverted, and are never won back to the kingdom of God. With them the battle has gone against grace. Even in defeat the Precious Blood triumphs. It gains glory for God; but it is in ways which in this life we cannot even put ourselves into a position to understand. It can boast also of decisive victories, of great strokes of grace, of hearts carried by storm, of Saints made at once out of one heroic deed. But these are not the common cases. With most hearts it strives, and pleads, and toils; then it seems to intermit its labors, as if it were fatigued; it retires from the heart as if in despair. Once more it returns to its task, and occupies itself with incredible patience in minutest details, often working under ground and in circuitous ways. Not seldom it retires again, as if now completely baffled; and finally, when least expected, it leaps upon its prey from afar, and triumphs as much by the suddenness, as by the impetuosity, of the onslaught.
Look at that soul, almost the richest booty it ever won in war, the soul of St. Paul. What long years there were of religious antecedents, what a blind generosity of misdirected zeal, what a fidelity to unhelpful ordinances, what a preparation for humility in the cruel persecution of the faithful, what a prelude to apostolic fervor in that furious partisanship of the conscientious Pharisee, what an insensible drawing nigh to the Gospel through the very perfection of his Judaism! Then follow St. Stephen's prayers, and things are coming to the best with Saul when they are at their very worst. Yet Stephen's prayers are not so much attacking him as circumventing him. Then the heavens open at noonday, and the glorified Redeemer overwhelms him with sudden light, and blinds him, and flings him to the ground; and the blood of Stephen, which had cried aloud to the Blood of Jesus, is sweetly avenged by the heart of Paul being cleansed by that atoning Blood, and sent out unto all nations to be the especial preacher of that Blood which had so glorified Itself in his Conversion. Yet, while there is such a seeming contrast between Creation and Conversion in this matter of effort, there is also a close comparison between them. There is in reality no effort in the operation of the Precious Blood. It only needed to let itself be shed. It only needs now to let itself be outpoured. Its touch is health, life, resurrection, immortality, and glory. Its sole touch is its sole work. It never touches but it changes. It needs but to touch once in order to make its spiritual change complete. If it seems to add, to repeat, to re-touch, to deepen, to broaden, to improve on itself, all that comes from, another part of its character. It is no sign of want of power, no necessary expenditure of artistic labor, no demand of experience, no consequence of more mature reflection.
The absence of contrivance is another splendor of the Divine act of Creation. No plan was laid. No gradual train of thought reached the grand conclusion. No provisions were made, no preparations finished, no materials collected. There were no preliminaries. There was no change in the Ever-blessed Agent. Without any prelude, and yet with a tranquillity which admitted not of suddenness, God created. There was no model for Him to go by. There was no law to constrain Him. He had never done a free act before. This was His first. Yet it affected not His immutability. From all eternity the Son was being born of the Father; from all eternity the Holy Ghost was proceeding from the Father and the Son. But these were necessary actions. They were the inward life of God. Creation was a free act, an act which He was free to do, or to leave undone, without altering His perfections. He acted. He created. The consequences are stupendous. They are endless. They are beyond the comprehension of the highest Angels. With all these consequences God Himself is most mysteriously mixed up. There is His concurrence with all created actions and movements, the intricacies of His never-halting providence, the Incarnation, the Divine Mother, the Fall, the Precious Blood, the Church, the Sacraments, the Economy of grace, the Doom, the Wail of Hell, the Jubilee of Heaven. Yet He acted out of His adorable simplicity. He put himself in no attitude to create. He made no movement. He contrived nothing. He spoke, but his utterance broke not the everlasting silence; and at His voiceless word all was done. There is no calm in the universe like the calmness of the act by which the whole universe was created. There was not a stir in the life of God when a million times ten million Angels sprang into beautiful existence, and a million times ten million material worlds leaped up like fires out of a void abyss, where a moment before neither abyss nor void had been. Thus there was no history in the act of Creation, whereas in each Conversion there is a marvelous, orderly, yet entangled history. There is a look of contrivance about the Precious Blood. It was to be got from Mary's heart. Her heart was to be hindered, by a strange miracle of anticipation, through the very virtue of the unformed Precious Blood itself, from coming under the law of sin. It had to pass into the life of Jesus, and to multiply in His veins to the full supply of manhood. The methods by which it was to be shed were all to be contrived, with times, places, quantities, and circumstances befitting them. It had to be looked after during the triduo of the Passion, and its restoration to the Body of our dearest Lord contrived. After all this, further contrivance was needed concerning the methods of applying it to the souls of men. Its impetuosity had to be in order. Its prodigality had to submit to law. What an immensity of Divine contrivance went to all this machinery! Yet in itself the Precious Blood operates with as little contrivance as effort. In the matter of contrivance, as in the matter of effort, Conversion emulates the simplicity of Creation. The. brief word of a Sacrament is enough to work its huge miracle upon the unresisting soul of the infant at the Font. Nay, with the most obdurate sinner it can by its first grace accomplish the entire work of sanctity, and raise him into a Saint at once without any of the sweet insidious contrivances with which the gentleness of redeeming love so often surrounds the operation of the Precious Blood. Conversion can be masterful as well as tender.
He that is eternal grows not weary. Eternity itself is endless, unbeginning rest. Eternity before Creation is but the name of the life of God. But the Eternal rested after Creation. He had an unimaginable sabbath, in which He rested from the works that He had made. There is no sabbath yet for the Precious Blood. Its creative work upon the earth is incessant, increasing as the multitudes of the tribes of men increase. There is no end to its activity, day and night. It starts each epoch and each century with renewed ardor and redoubled vigor. It becomes more abundant and more energetic in the Church on earth, in proportion as the Church becomes more populous in Heaven. Yet it has a sabbath too, even while it toils. It rests in the glorified Heart of Jesus in Heaven. It rests upon that mediatorial throne whereon the Sacred Humanity has been exalted. The souls of the righteous worship it on high with everlasting lauds; and the Angels, prostrate in adoration, sing canticles in its honor all through the nightless day of that radiant land above. It rests. in Jesus. It is His life, His love, His jubilee, and His repose. This is its sabbath-life in Heaven, while its industry is so divinely vigorous and fertile upon earth. But the sabbath of Creation is also a time of working, while it is a time of rest. Not only is the continuous preservation of all things and the fulfilling of all created things with the Divine concurrence an almost illimitable extension and on-going of Creation, but new souls of men are literally created out of nothing every moment of time. Yet still, in some mysterious sense, God's sabbath is unbroken. Thus Conversion, like Creation, has its sabbath, even while it works. When the Grand Doom has come and gone, who can tell into what a sabbath the rest of our dearest Lord shall deepen?
HOME--------------CHRIST THE KING