Men built cities for themselves, because they had instincts of the heavenly city which was above; and Damascus was the first city which they built, the first Jerusalem of the Precious Blood. Then for four thousand years the ever-widening and ever-lengthening Procession wended on. They were four thousand years of those grand vicissitudes which form the traditions and religions of all the nations of the earth. There was a murder and a Martyrdom just outside the gates of paradise. The first brother shed his brother's blood, and the hitherto unpolluted earth cried aloud to God. Yet, rightly considered, that elder brother was not the first to shed fraternal blood; Adam had already shed the Blood of his Elder Brother, who should also be his Son, in Eden itself: and now Abel, like another St. Stephen, was the Martyr of the Precious Blood, and went to dwell, himself the first inhabitant, in the peaceful expectation of the limbus of the Fathers. They were wild scenes, amidst which the Procession had now to move. The glorious science of Adam faded from the minds of men. The patience of God seemed at last worn out, and the deluge came. But the Precious Blood, with its retinue of Angels, was everywhere on the face of the angry waters. It was not only in the ark with the chosen eight. It was cleansing countless souls among the drowning. It was shriving them upon the high hilltops. It was uttering brief but victorious prayers out of their souls, as they sank like stones into the depths. That Flood was a stem mission. Yet the Precious Blood was a marvelous missionary, and a glorious harvest of souls was garnered, with Abel and the primeval Saints, into the limbus of the Fathers. But the new earth grew colossal sins. It was like the time when the steaming soil had grown the gigantic ferns of the coal-beds. The cries of the hunters filled the glens, and the animals fell off from human-kind in terror and alarm. Had God's judgments only quickened the fertility of sin? Truly a singular portentousness of sin answered to a singular immensity of mercy. Multitudes banded together to build a high tower to reach to the low-seeming heavens; but their tongues were confounded, and they could no longer sing the same songs in the Procession. Still everywhere that Procession was reflected; for their religion and their worship were nothing but blood-shedding and prayer.

It would take too long to tell all the travels of the Precious Blood during those wistful ages, while it was at once a pilgrim and a warrior, an explorer and a king, a conqueror going up to take possession and a victim led forth to sacrifice and to be slain. We know of it by the tents of Abraham on the Chaldean plains. It was Isaac's evening meditation in his pastoral fields. Jacob dreamed of it in the dark nights upon the lonely wolds of Mesopotamia. Job sang of it wonderfully amid the ruddy cliffs of the Stony Arabia. Moses shed the glory of it over the gravelly desert and round the haunted sanctuaries of Sinai. It shone like moonlight over Palestine, and it was the dim but sufficient light of all the rest of earth. The time of sunshine was not come. It was a voice of minstrelsy in the heart of David, ravishing the world. It was the sun behind the clouds of prophecy, making them to glow with such a crimson glory. The temple of Jerusalem was its well-head; but its tricklings reached to the newest-peopled island in the far Pacific. It had made the limbus of the Fathers populous with the accumulated generations of the Saints. Angels cannot tire. Yet there was a look of weariness about the long Procession. It went slowly, was often silent, and was manifestly travel-stained. Sighs took the place of songs. Hearts made faces beautiful by the intensity of their desires. Yet on many countenances there was an air of doubt which mingled sadly with their wistfulness. Everywhere there were bands of brave Maccabees, whose hearts could be unmanned by no captivity. But the greater part of men marched on like slaves going toward the land of their foreign bondage, rather than pilgrims to their homes. Nevertheless, in the foresight of the shedding of that Blood, grace took possession of those four thousand years, and delighted itself in incessant victories, victories that were not confined to the chosen race of Israel.

But now a great and sudden change comes over the aspect of our Procession. It is not so much a change in the retinue of the Precious Blood, as it was in the case of Adam and Eve: this time it is a marvelous change in the Precious Blood itself. It has prepared all things for itself in secret; but its preparations have been hidden mysteries. The souls of Joachim and Anne have been adorned with unusual graces. The yearnings of the Saints in Israel have burned within them, until their hearts have hardly been able to endure the fire. The instincts of all the earth have grown uneasy, as if some unwonted thing were coming upon nature. In secret the Precious Blood has done a work which may vie with the great work on Calvary. It has effected the Immaculate Conception, wherein Heaven was opened, and such abysses of grace poured out upon the earth, that the accumulated graces of the four thousand years of human history, and even the worlds of grace with which the angels were so munificently endowed, were as drops to the ocean compared with the grace of the Immaculate Conception. Beautiful as an unexpected sunrise seen suddenly as we turn out of the dark defiles of a mountain-pass, was the Nativity of Mary, as the Procession of the Precious Blood came all at once into its visible effulgence. Perhaps there is not among the Divine mysteries one of such unblemished gladness, of such unmixed joy, as the Nativity of our Blessed Mother. It was like Bethlehem, without those grave foreshadowings of Calvary which give to Bethlehem such pathetic solemnity. The birth of Mary was like a mystery of the unfallen world. It was the sort of mystery unfallen worlds would have, and its feast the sort of feast unfallen souls would keep. Swiftly the Procession advances. The shapes, the figures, and the symbols of the pageant seem to furl themselves one by one, while the Precious Blood assumes the distinct features of an actual Human Life. It is more heavenly now, because it is more earthly. Its actual creation renders yet more visible those uncreated perfections out of which it sprang. It is more manifestly a glory to be worshipped, now that it can be seen in the Face of the Infant Jesus.

But who can tell the beauty of that Precious Blood, as it moved about the earth with slow human movement during the Three-and-Thirty Years? Saints rapt in ecstasy may see, and haply may in part understand a spiritual loveliness, which they cannot ex- press in words. Like other artists, their conceptions are mostly above the level of language. But to us the Thirty-Three Years are an indistinct wonder, distinct enough to fix us in admiration, and to make our hearts burn with love, but indistinct so far as understanding goes. There is something in our Lord's mysteries, which is akin to the Divine Perfections. They are best seen in indistinctness. An indistinct view seems to teach us more than a distinct one. We see more truthfully, if not more clearly, when our view is less defined. When our view is distinct, it is like a beautiful picture or a beautiful poem. It pleases and soothes; it elevates and chastens; it sobers and refines. It fills us full of sweet thoughts, noble sympathies, and heavenly imaginations. But it is not the repose of prayer. It is not the heat of the mystical life. It is not the swiftness of spiritual growth. It only unites us to God in a distant or a circuitous way. The Saints perhaps may see these mysteries clearly, and yet at the same time with such a view as transforms their souls and unites them to God in the crowning grace of the Divine espousals. To them, a spiritual beauty may be always a spiritual grace. Yet even to contemplatives there is for the most part more of heavenly and supernatural operation in an indistinct view of the Divine Perfections and of the Mysteries of Jesus, than in a distinct one. We only desire to know, in order that we may increase our love. To love is better than to know. Indeed, it is itself a higher knowledge.

Here, then, at the point of Bethlehem, the Procession of the Precious Blood comes out into a light too strong for us to see the details of its magnificence. It is too near to us to be seen except in detail, and its details are too bright to be distinct. Like all the works of God, it hides itself by coming close up to us. We must speak of it hereafter from a different point of view, rather as of a Life, than as of a Procession. Nevertheless it moved in fairest pomp along those Three-and-Thirty Years of visible, earthly, human life. Now and then it appeared upon the highways of the world and in the streets of cities; but for the most part it haunted sequestered retreats of its own, and it haunted them with mysterious delays. It bore its banners furled. No voice of song, but the low strains of the Mother's Magnificat, were heard in its encampments. A Saint, whose very soul was part of the silence of Heaven, alone guarded it for nearly all its appointed years. For thousands of years the world had looked for its manifestation; and now, behold! that manifestation was a concealment. Before it came, it was a palpable pageant of history. When it came, it melted, as a cloud melts in the sunshine, into the more substantial reality of a Divine mystery. It hid itself in Mary; and we see it for an instant passing in unwonted haste over the uplands of Judea. We hear it in the tones of Mary's voice. We taste it in the sweetness of her chosen words. By the light of Joseph's lantern we catch a glimpse of it at midnight on the floor of a cave at Bethlehem, where shepherds gaze in silence, and Oriental kings are kneeling to adore, while the Angels, who that night could not be so silent as their God, sing high up in heaven as if they feared lest their jubilee should wake the earth and divulge the secret of their King. In the courts of the great temple we see the humble pomp of its dear Candlemas, a sort of childish anticipation of its second triumph on Palm Sunday more than thrice ten years hereafter. It moves along the sandy depressions and stone-sprinkled troughs of the desert, not in a glorious caravan of merchants laden with the gold and jewels of India or with the drugs and gums of Araby, but in a timid pilgrimage with Joseph and with Mary. It hides amidst the bulrushes of the Egyptian river, as the cradle of the Hebrew lawgiver had hidden centuries ago. Once more it wound its way across the desert. Its pilgrimage was one of three now, whereas seven years before it seemed only to be of two, itself being nothing more than the alternate burden of the foster-father and the mother. The Boy can walk now, though the sands weary His Feet with their burning, and the pebbles bruise Him with their hardness. But the thorns of the acacias and the prickles of the salt-plants pierce Him, and His Feet leave a faint line of red behind them, which angels adore and recognize as the veritable Procession of the Precious Blood.

As if impelled by its kingly instincts, it drew near its own lawful palace in Jerusalem; and then, as if glad of an excuse to hide itself afresh, it turned aside through fear of a usurping king, and sank, like a bird whom the hawk has been pursuing, into that hidden bowl of mountain-meadows which men call Nazareth. Here it disappeared, like a river which has gone under ground. There was a long halt of three-and-twenty years. Occasionally. when the crowding of the feasts gave greater facilities for its disguise, it went over the steep paths to its sacred metropolis, and worshipped in the temple amidst the multitude. Once very notably it appeared there, five years after the return from Egypt; and its voice was heard in the Jewish schools; and its beauty looked out of boyish eyes into the hearts of old men and wise scholars and profound interpreters, and puzzled them with its loveliness, which needed a more spiritual interpreting than they could give. This was a moment in the Procession of the Precious Blood, of all moments the most difficult to understand; for it seemed to turn away from that fountain in Mary's heart, round which it had been flowing in rings which seemed to draw nearer at every circuit. But it had this time only fetched a wider circuit, that it might better turn, and flow straight back into its fountain. and live hidden there in indistinguishable distinctness for eighteen years of another childhood, which the strength of size and age only adorned with more tender ministries and only graced with a more beautiful docility. Even the appearances, the looks, the outward shows of divine mysteries are full of significance. In this staying behind at Jerusalem it seems as if the Eternal Father and the mortal Mother were beckoning the Procession of the Precious Blood different ways, and as if in the end the Creator had given way to His chosen creature. This is the look of that secret parting of the Boy of twelve at the gate of Jerusalem.

But now, as through some gateway on which the sun is brightly shining, or some triumphal arch hung round with braided flowers, the Procession of the Precious Blood issues out of the pastoral solitude of Nazareth at Cana of Galilee in the unexpected light of a marriage feast. It was as if the multiplying of the human family was a joy to its love of souls. With how exquisite a fittingness, and with how much disclosure of His Own character, did our Lord make that first of His public mysteries a triumph to His Mother! We know not how to express the glory of that feast to her. The eternal counsels were anticipated at her word. The time, which in our Lord's mind had not come, came at His Mother's will; and the first refulgence of His miracles shone forth on her, and at her bidding. Through her He had entered on the earth: through her He entered on His Ministry, With her He went up Calvary: with her He mounted the Hill of the Ascension. All the mysteries of Jesus are glories of Mary. The Ministry is not less full of her fragrance than the Childhood or the Passion. As the Father's work was deferred for Mary when her Son was twelve, the same work was precipitated for her when He was thirty.

Through this portal, then, of Cana in Galilee, this Gate of Mary, as we may call it, the Precious Blood issued forth from its concealment. The low white houses gleamed with their flat roofs among the pomegranate-trees, and the broad-leaved figs, and the shrubby undergrowths, while the plain below was all waving with the billowy com. The corn below, even if it bore a thousandfold, was but a poor figure of the harvest that Blood should gather now, that Blood which shone more ruby-like than the ripest pomegranate in Cana. A little water from the village well was turned into generous wine; but that Blood, which men will spill like water, shall be the wine of immortality to all the world. Now for three years the Procession of the Precious Blood moved to and fro within the precincts of the Holy Land. One while it was upon the hill-tops, which look down upon the lake, the lake of the Great Vocations, as we may fitly name it. Another while it was winding along the paths which clove the tall com in the fields. The day saw it in the temple-courts; the moonlight disclosed it in the gray hollows of the stony mountains. It went to carry blessing to the houses of the poor; and it crossed the inland sea in the boats of fishermen. Yet it did not move at random. Its very journeys were a ritual. It was like the procession in the consecration of a church. Its movements have a meaning, and make up a whole. Whether it goes round the walls with the bunch of hyssop, or writes alphabets on the ash-strewn floor, or clusters in seeming confusion round the yet unconsecrated altar, there is a symbol and a law in every posture. So was it with the sinuous wanderings of the Precious Blood in Palestine. Like the course of the Israelites in the desert, it had a pattern to the eye of God, and betokened some hidden wisdom, which we are unable to decipher. It was beautiful beyond words, beautiful beyond our comprehension. It had no ornaments. Its figurative pageantry was gone. The words of life were its only music. It was now neither like a pilgrimage nor a march. There was nothing to which it could be compared. It was a Countenance which moved to and fro, intensely human because it was more than human, smiling, weeping, looking downcast, adoring, speaking, clad in wonderful anger, bound in placid sleep, pale, weary, meek, submissive, yet unspeakably command- ing. All human expressions gathered there, save one; and that was the expression of surprise. Sometimes in His words there was what sounded like a tone of surprise, escaping plaintively from some wounded love within His Heart. But on the vastness of His mind nothing like surprise could dawn, nor any perplexity pass upon the serenity of His Face. To see that Face was a Heaven to the pure and good; and when the heart came to fear too much, because the beauty of the Face was so reverend, its likeness to the Mother's face confused it sweetly with earthly things, and enabled the heart to respose on its divinity. Thus the Procession came to Olivet and Calvary.

Who can gaze steadily on the intolerable brightness of that Procession now, all flashing with a crimson light which blinds the eye of the beholder? As, when we gaze upon the sun, we seem to see it double, and the two orbs quiver in our wounded eyes with a vermilion haze, so is it with the Precious Blood amid the mysteries of the Passion. It appears double. There are two Processions instead of one. One is all shame, and suffering, and defeat. We might almost have said disorder; but there is something so venerable in its disgrace, something so imposing in the tranquility of that Countenance, that there is order and self-mastery in its abasement. The other Procession is all triumph and exultation. Eager mercy hurries to and fro. Hidden counsels of the Eternal open their banners for the first time, and wave them joyously; and the jubilant silence of the angels is so intense that we might almost dream we heard it, as some strain of music in which the complainings of blameless envy mingled with the impassioned notes of self-forgetting victory. How dark the stains looked in the moonlight that silvered the olive-tops of lone Gethsemane! How the red rain spotted the pavements of Jerusalem, like those portentous showers of blood which pagan history records with fright! How red the streams looked upon the white Body, and then how black! and how the eclipse, which came on and hid it all, made the spectre of it burn with a fiery reality in our eyes, because we knew so certainly and so exactly what the darkness contained! At the foot of the Cross also the Blood itself looks double; for, if the Face of Jesus was like the face of Mary, now the tears of Mary are like the Blood of Jesus. They were tears of blood, and of the very blood which had been the fountain of the Precious Blood.


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