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WHY is it so hard to be at peace in life? Why do little things, and such very little things, trouble us? We came forth from God, who is the Father of peace: why then are we so restless? We are but winging our flight over this narrow gulf of time, and the great eternity is already in sight: why are we so full of volatile distractions? Ever in our flight God still holds us in His Hand: why then do we flutter so? It is strange we cannot lie still even in the Hand of God. It is because our minds are at once so active and so wandering. They need continual occupation. They require to be fed incessantly with images, which they consume rapidly, and are insatiable. It is this which makes a contemplative life so difficult. It is this need of images. Our minds are restless if they do not see a thousand varying objects before them in constant motion, with light and color upon them. They are fatigued with stillness. They pine when they are kept to one thought, to one object. They sicken even of one range of thought, one class of objects. The weary sea with its monotonous clash of waves is not more restless or more mobile than our minds. Here is the grand difficulty of prayer, the fixing of our minds on the object of our worship. Most of the things which are hard in the spiritual life, are hard because of the unity, the simplicity, the concentration of mind, which they require or imply. The chief power of the world over us arises from our having given it possession of our minds. It would be a much less difficult task to dislodge it from our hearts, if we could only once expel its images from our minds. Satan's power over the heart comes from his power over the mind. Here then is the universal work of everybody's spiritual life, either the getting rid of images or the changing of them.

Now, the first of these processes is a very difficult one, and belongs to a high region of the spiritual state, with which we have nothing whatever to do just now. The second, the changing of our images, is more within our reach. In fact, we must absolutely reach it, if we are to be devout at all. Our hearts will be what our minds are. If our minds are full of images of the world, we shall never be weaned from the world. If they are full of images of self, we shall never conquer our self-love. If our minds will never rest, unless endless processions are forever winding their way across them, then let us have our processions religious; let our images be of God, of Jesus, of Mary, and of heavenly things. I do not say this is altogether easy to do; but it is comparatively easy; and moreover it must be done. Let me refer to childish things for our example. When sleep was coy and would not visit us, when the pains, or the sorrows, or the excitements of childhood banished slumber from our eyes, they used to tell us, at least among the hills of the north, to make a picture in our minds, and to count the very white sheep as they passed across the very green slope of the mountainside: and so of a truth sleep was often won; and the opiate at least was innocent. In later years, when the sense of pain was keeping the mind awake, sleep has been wooed after a somewhat similar fashion. We filled our minds with images; only, books and travels made them of a more ambitious and complicated sort. We bent our minds on placid objects such as we knew to be somewhere on earth that night. We looked down the golden green vistas of tropical forests, or on the calm shores of very solitary shining seas, or on the perfumed shrubby tangles of islets in the ocean, or on some dusky glen which a cataract fills with silence by deadening all other sounds except its own: and so also sleep has come. It were better to have thought of God, and so have rested. Still we may learn a lesson the world, and make pictures of heavenly things, and watch the Thirty-Three Years of Jesus, or the Mysteries of Mary, or the flights of Angels, or the panoramas of the Four Last Things, or the figurative pageants of the Divine Perfections, pass studiously before our inward sight, then that sweet, facile, rapid, undistracted prayer, which is the soul's sleep, the soul's renewal of its vigor, will soon come to us. An oblivion of the world, less and less disturbed by dreams, will steal over us, and we shall taste the gift of peace.

This is not the highest of spiritual ways; I know it well. Yet is the highest one fittest for you and me? Are we yet in such a state that we should strive to banish all images from our minds, and think only of the indistinct and formless majesty of God? We know not what God may do with us in time. One thing, by his help, we have resolved upon. It is that we will not stand still, neither will we be contented with any grace, with any degree of love. All life long we will advance. Daily will we climb higher. Constantly will we trim the fires of our love, and make them bum more ardently. We know not, therefore, what God may do with us in times to come. But for the present we must endeavor to cast one set of images out of our minds by introducing another set. So shall we fill our minds with God continually, and be delivered from the burden of self and from the thraldom of the world.

Our present task, then, is to marshal a Procession of the Precious Blood, with all its various yet kindred images, through our minds.
[Emphasis in bold added.] It shall be to us like the defiling of soldiers over the mountain-passes. The bravery of war shall add to the beauty of the scenery, and the scenery shall set off the bravery of war. Far off we shall see the glittering pomp, and then again so near that the martial music shall strike upon our ears. Here the light shall fall upon it in all its beautiful array, and there the clouds shall obscure its path, and the crags appear to swallow up the pageant. Much we may see which we cannot understand; but much also which we can both understand and love. From first to last it all tells of Jesus. From first to last it is a thing of God. Nay, we must not be strange to it ourselves. We too must fall in with the Procession. We must climb with it, as part of its life, its beauty, and its music, until we are lost to sight among the cloud-covered mountains of eternity. Our soul longs for rest. It would fain seek some peaceful solitude, where the sights and sounds of the world cannot intrude. It yearns to repose itself on God in the vigilant sleep of prayer. How shall it attain its end? We read in the Book of Esther that, when King Assuerus could not sleep, "he commanded the histories and chronicles of former times to be brought him," and they read them before him. So may we have the history and chronicle of the Precious Blood brought to us. It will make music in our ears, like the reading of a famous ancestry to the high-born and the royal. It will be a picture before our eyes, like a procession emerging out of that first dark eternity of God, winding over the picturesque inequalities of time, and re-entering the second illuminated eternity of God, up which we see in a vista of confused gorgeousness, as those who look through the doorway of some vast cathedral, and behold the banners waving, and the masses of gold and color all tinted with the hues of the painted windows, moving slowly in indistinct progress to the distant starry altar. If with this pageant we can fill our minds, for a time at least the hold of the world upon us will be loosened. The things of God will interest our hearts, and many acts of Divine love will flow from us, as from a fountain. Let us then turn aside from the images of earth, and rest a while, and watch this venerable Procession.

To what shall we dare to liken the Mind of God? With what shapes of allegory shall we venture to clothe that infinite eternal object, which is the fountain of all our destinies? To us it looks like some tremendous chain of mountains, whose sublimities are inaccessible, whose heights are hidden always in the darkness, whose shapes are not the shapes of earthly scenery, whose sound and silence are alike terrible, and yet whose sides are always clad in the beautiful repose of radiant light. But it is a chain of mountains which has only one side, one descent. None has ever climbed those heights, nor ever shall. But we know that, if they were surmounted, there would be no descent upon the other side. A vast tableland stretches interminably there into the boundless distance, an unbeginning, uncreated land, of which faith alone, itself a supernatural virtue, can report; and it reports only, together with some few facts, the unchanging peace of awful sanctity which is the life and joy of God. That is the land of the Divine Decrees. There is the cradle of Eternal Purposes, which were never younger than they are today, and needed no cradle, because they had neither beginning, growth, nor change. In the trackless distances of that nameless upland have we ourselves been hidden from all eternity: so that, in some sense, our nothingness is clothed in the robes of God's eternity. In those untraveled, unimaginable plains, the Divine Perfections have been tranquilly occupied with us in unbeginning love, an unbeginning love which does the work of everlasting justice. In those fastnesses, round which a glory of impenetrable darkness hangs, lie the living mysteries of Predestination, of the Divine Permissions, and of that unnamed perfection out of which the gift of Freedom to creatures came. It is a land before whose misty regions we bend our knees in breathless adoration, in prayer which ventures not to clothe itself with words. A sacred horror fills our souls as we think of the irresponsible power which reigns there, of the mightiness and the celerity of that all-absorbing will, of the resistless march of that all-devouring glory, of the unfathomable abysses of that incomprehensible secrecy, of the unswerving exactions of that appalling sanctity, and of that amazing plenitude of life, to which no creations have been able to add, and which no incarnations could intensify. If the mysteries which we know to lie there undivulged are so tremendous, what may we not conceive of other grander mysteries which are simply unimagined? Yet one thing we know of that pathless world of the Mind of God, pathless because neither reason of man nor intelligence of Angel has ever wandered there, pathless because God Himself traverses it not by any process of remembrance or discourse but always possesses it in simple act-one thing we know of it, and cling to: it is, that everywhere its vastest solitudes, its farthest, withdrawn recesses, are all resplendent with the most tender justice, and are all beautified by the omnipotence of love. Nothing is small to a God so great. It is this thought which renders so vast a majesty, not tolerable only, but so sweetly intimate and so intensely dear.

Over then those fertile deserts, fruitful though nothing grows there, unpeopled but where all is life, coming out of the interminable dark distances, we behold the Procession of the Precious Blood emerging. We could not see its starting-point, if it had had one. But it never had. In the Mind of God it was an unbeginning Procession of created things. It went forth from His power, and it returns into His love. The Precious Blood is the crowned king of all His decrees. All other creation sprang from it in prolific, multitudinous diversity, and it is forever fetching creation back to the Creator. We see it only as it were through dazzling mists. Yet it seems to come with banners flying, whereon the names of the Divine Perfections are emblazoned. The Divine Decrees hover above it like glorious clouds, which are dark from their exceeding luminousness. All the Types of created things appear to follow in its train. Onward it comes, so like an uncreated splendor, that it is hard to think it a created thing. We kneel to worship, because faith, like a herald, proclaims it as it comes, as the Created Life of an Uncreated Person. Ages of epochs hang like shapeless mists about the long Procession, as if there were even in eternity some divisions which would seem to us like time, or as if eternity were thus striving to make its length and its endurance visible to mortal eyes. The whole of that illimitable country is somehow covered with the Precious Blood. It is like the spirit of the place, or at least the atmosphere which hinders its being mere darkness to our view. The light is colored by it. The darkness is thickened by it. The silence makes it felt; and, if there be any sound, it is the sound of that Blood lapsing in its channels.

Now it has reached the edge of that boundless upland. Now it stands revealed upon the heights, which face down upon creation. It passes from the region of bright bewildering mists, mists which bewilder the more because they are so bright; and it emerges into light amidst created things. Or rather, to speak more truly, it comes, the Procession of Divine Decrees, the pageant of the Precious Blood, to that invisible, imperceptible point in eternity, when time should fittingly begin. At once a whole universe of fairest light broke forth, as if beneath the tread of those Decrees, as if at the touch of that Precious Blood. It was but an instantaneous flash, the first visibility of the invisible God; and there lay outspread the broad world of Angels, throbbing with light, and teeming with innumerous and yet colossal life. The brightness that silvered them was the reflection of the Precious Blood. From it and because of it they came. Out of it they drew their marvelous diversity of graces. Their sanctities were but mantles made of its royal texture. They beautified their natures in its supernatural streams. It seemed as if here the Procession halted for a moment; or perhaps it was only that the sudden flash of light looked like a momentary halt. The new creatures of God, the first created minds, the primal offspring of the Uncreated Mind, were bidden to fall in, and accompany the great Procession. Oh, it was fearful - that first sight outside the immense serenity of God! Then truly, too truly, there was a halt, as if homage and obedience were refused. There is a gleam as of intolerable battle, and a coruscation of archangelic weapons, and Michael's war-cry, echoing, the first created cry, among the everlasting mountains. A third of that creation of purest light has refused to adore the Human Blood of the Incarnate Word, and is flung speedily into the dread abyss; and the ranks close in, and the unfallen light now beams more resplendently with its thinned array than ever it beamed before the fallen fell; and onward the Procession moves.

To our eyes it has a firmer footing when it comes among material things. It is a material thing itself. It has passed the world of Angels, who are now following in its train. Suddenly, on its advance, or even before it has advanced at all, another universe springs up to life, the immense universe of matter. Perhaps there was hardly any gulf between this creation and that of spirit. But it was a new manifestation of the Divine Perfections. In some respects it was more wonderful than the creation of spirit, because its product was less like any thing in God. It was a wider thing than spirit, and perhaps more various. It carried God further out of Himself. It was a longer reach of His perfections. It was a more unexpected thing than spirit. Yet it was in some way older in the decrees of God. It was the creation in which His predilections lay. It was here that He had selected the created nature which He would assume to Himself. It should be a nature neither wholly material or wholly spiritual, but which should bridge the interval between the two. It was a creation also which should be more under the dominion of time. It should be left to ripen through long epochs for human habitation. Material life should be tried in a gradually ascending scale. The laws of physical nature should be allowed to operate for long successions of periods upon the huge masses of matter. Moreover, God Himself, by a series of secondary creative acts, would set in order and adorn in a sequence of six Divine days the matter, which in one instant, without succession, He had evoked from nothingness. Moreover, alongside the secular mutations of matter, God would move in a series of unresting creative acts. Age after age, every hour of every day, would He call up from nothing beautiful souls to tenant the new bodies perpetually budding forth and growing upon the earth. So that this creation of matter was in all respects a very peculiar and notable creation, not to be thought meanly of because of its manifold imperfections, but to be deeply studied and reverently admired as the locality and material of the Incarnation. It was now to this point that the Precious Blood had come, to a world which was as it were its natural home. The Types of created things, which had surrounded it from the first, now suddenly as if at some Divine command spread themselves out in front. With lightning's speed they flew in showers of golden fire into the vast realms of space created to contain them. It was like a vast swarm of locusts gleaming, now lonely, now in troops, in the distinct blackness of space. Orbs, and pairs of orbs, and brotherhoods of orbs, and hosts of brotherhoods of orbs, sprung off exultingly on their immense careers. It was a scene that looked to be one of wild terrific power, of ruin rather than of creation: only that on closer view there was such unstriving peace, such harmony among the unimpeded crowds of worlds, such a magnificent gentle self-confidence of order, that it was amazing to behold. Minerals and vegetables, solids and fluids, shone in families with hitherto uncovered types, which had come from the exhaustless beauty of the Maker. It was all so ponderous and yet all so light, so multiplied and yet so simple, so profuse yet so economical, so free and yet loving law so strangely, that we could never weary of admiring this spectacle of the material creation. It was created also expressly as the equipage of the Sacred Humanity. It was formed upon its model. It was in intimate relations with it. The Precious Blood was beneath the jurisdiction of its laws, even while it was advancing like a lawful king and like a heavenly conqueror. Verily the Divine Decrees are coming now in sight of their magnificent conclusion.

For a long while the road of our Procession has lain over lonely worlds, now in lifeless chaos, in heaps of mineral ruin or in fantastic crystal shapes, now clamorous with life which, to our eyes used to other types, seems portentous and uncouth, now through periods of glacial cold when life died out, and then again through epochs of streaming heat when life was almost strangled in the green density of colossal verdure. Order grows beneath the feet of the Procession, as if the earth were beautified by its advance: when, all at once, in a mountain-girdled garden of this uncentral planet there are seen amid the shades two startling shapes, shadows to the Angels they would seem, shadows of Jesus and Mary whom those blessed spirits had been allowed to gaze upon in the Divine Decrees. Now from out eternity that beautiful patient pomp has reached so near to us, has reached the father and the mother from whom we ourselves are sprung. But why does it linger on the banks of Eden's fourfold river? Why does it not rather come on with quickened step, quickened by love to meet us, the children of centuries still far on, who are so yearning for its coming? Alas! there are mists covering the mountains. There are rude winds waving the boughs of Eden. and displacing its quiet foliage. The powers of evil, through mysterious permission, are breaking up out of their dark imprisonment. There is a stir among the Angels. The faces of the Divine Decrees are clouded. The Procession has halted, not in confusion, yet abruptly. Man also has sought himself, and has used his liberty against the divine dominion. The beautiful paradise is overcast with shades. The rivers brawl more hoarsely in their beds. There are sounds of tempests among the mountains. The quiet beasts are seized with a panic which they do not comprehend. Yet there is no suddenness of God's glorious anger now, as with the Angels. It is as if there were heavenly deliberations, as if mercy were pleading against justice, and staying the uplifted arm. Those two human faces, the likenesses of Jesus and of Mary, are sweet to the eye of God even in their fall. That look of human sorrow and of human penitence, why should it be so availing? Why should He pause to look at it, and as if to let it work upon Him, when He dashed in pieces with so summary a wrath the surpassing beauty of those countless Angels? It is the Precious Blood itself which seems to interfere. It glows with unusual light. The splendor of it appears to clothe the justice, and the mercy, and the sanctity of God with a glory which to our eyes makes those perfections softer, while it also makes them more resplendent. A kind of glorified sadness, yet also of well-pleased love, comes over all countenances in that Procession; and it looks even more Divine. Now Angels join the ranks, bearing new banners in their hands, emblazoned with mysterious symbols. They are the emblems of the Passion. The vision of the blissful Mother passes into the Queen of dolors; and the Incarnation forsakes the white brightness of Thabor for the unutterable gloom of Calvary. Yet the human sadness beautifies it all. That Precious Blood was human from the first; and now that those two human faces of Adam and of Eve have joined it, and have not only joined it but called forth new possibilities in its nature, there seem, if we may dare to say it, a more congruous loveliness, a more harmonious unity, in the wonderful Procession. But it turns away from the mountainous frontiers of Eden, and advances slowly over the expanses of the untilled earth.



--------------CHRIST THE KING