Consider first, how the soul of our Saviour, immediately after his death, descends into the lower parts of the earth to visit and comfort the spirits of the just, to discharge them from their long confinement, and to change their prison by his presence into a paradise of delights. O how happy, how joyful a day was this to all the patriarchs and prophets when they were first blessed with the sight of him for whom they had longed for so many ages! How glorious was the sight of his triumph over all the powers of darkness - of his breaking down the strongholds of hell, and giving a plenary indulgence to as many souls as were capable of it, by their having died in the true faith and in the state of grace! In the mean time, whilst the soul of our Lord is exercising this charity, the blind malice of his enemies suggests to them to make fast his sepulchre and to guard it with soldiers, under pretence of preventing his disciples from stealing away his body and then publishing that he was risen from the dead. But O how vain are all the projects of men against the decrees of God! All this industry of theirs only serves to put the resurrection of our Lord out of all dispute, by rendering it absolutely impossible for his disciples (had their terrors and troubles allowed them so much as the first thought of such an unheard-of enterprise) to steal him away though they had ever so great a desire of it. So true is that of the wise man, Prov. xxi. 30, 'There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord.’
Consider 2ndly, how early in the morning on Easter Sunday, being the third day, the day appointed for our Lord’s resurrection, his soul returns in triumph from the regions below, and, entering into his sacred body, imparts to it a new and immortal life, and, instead of the winding-sheet in which it had been wrapt up, clothes it now with all the glorious qualities decreed for the bodies of the Saints in a supereminent degree; and so brings it forth without resistance through the monument, (though hewn out of a rock and close covered with a very great stone, fastened down with irons,) unperceived by the guards, who were not worthy to see him in this glorious state. Yet, that they and all the world might know that he was risen indeed, they felt a great earthquake, and an Angel visibly descending from heaven removed the stone that covered the entrance of the monument and sat down upon it. The sight of this bright messenger of heaven carried with it such a terror that the guards became like men dead, and as soon as they were able to recover themselves ran away into the city, publishing the wonders they had seen, till the chief priests and elders stop their mouths with a large sum of money. Rejoice thou, my soul, to see thy Saviour thus victorious over all his enemies, and learn from this great example to bear up with courage under all thou mayest have to suffer from the wickedness of men, trusting in God that he will one day turn all these thy sufferings to thy greater good.
Consider 3rdly, those words of the Psalmist, which are applied by the Church in the office of this day to the resurrection of our Lord ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad, and rejoice therein.’ Ps. cxvii. 24. Yes, Christian souls, if you have taken part in the sufferings of our Redeemer, by the affections of compassion and grief at the sight of all those outrages and torments he endured in the course of his passion, it is just you should rejoice, now the scene is changed, at the sight of his being risen from the dead, victorious over death and hell, and his having entered upon a new and everlasting life, so that he can die now no more nor suffer any more. Rejoice, then, with a holy joy in the Lord, and join with the Church on this day in her repeated Alleluias, because your best friend, your true lover, your dear father, your king, your Lord and God is risen again, and this is the day of his triumph; he is now out of all reach of his enemies, and shall live and reign glorious for evermore. But see, my soul, whether thou art in proper dispositions to celebrate with this holy joy the resurrection of thy Lord. Hast thou endeavoured to die with him in order to rise again with him? Hast thou put off the old man and his deeds? Hast thou crucified the flesh and its lusts? Or does not sin still live and reign in thee? if so, how melancholy a reflection must it be to think that this monster, for the destruction of which Christ died, should still keep thee under slavery, struggling with the worst of deaths, whilst thou art celebrating the festival of thy Saviour’s rising to a new and immortal life.
Conclude, if thou desirest to have a share in the triumphs of thy Redeemer, to imitate his death by dying to thy sins, that so thou mayest also imitate his resurrection, and walk henceforward in the newness of life, after the great model given to thee by Jesus Christ.
Consider first, that according to the doctrine of the Apostle, Rom. iv. 25, 'Christ was delivered up to death for our sins, and rose again for our justification,' inasmuch as his rising again from the dead was designed to be the model of our resurrection from the death of sin to the life of grace. But in what must our resurrection imitate that of Jesus Christ? First, we must imitate him by rising verily and indeed, that is, truly and really, and not in appearance only. Alas! how many at this time of Easter pretend to rise again with Christ by going to confession and communion, according to the custom of Christians at this season, and yet, after all, only deceive themselves and impose upon others with false appearances of life, and never rise in effect? Because they do this great work but by halves their heart is not changed, they do not effectually renounce their sins; their pretended resurrection is but an empty, airy phantom; they are still dead in their sins. See, my soul, that this be never thy case. Ah! what will it avail thee to deceive thyself and thy confessor with these treacherous appearances of a false life, which can only serve to plunge thee deeper into the worst of deaths!
Consider 2ndly, that when Christ rose again from the dead he presently quitted his monument; he left his winding-sheet behind him, and retained nothing at all of death, and from that time he had little conversation with mortals, but only with his heavenly Father - to teach us that if we would rise with him to the purpose we must also quit our winding-sheets and monuments, and all the appurtenances of death, by renouncing bad company and the dangerous occasions of sin: by keeping our passions under, and by breaking the force of all former bad habits, till no symptoms of death remain in us. But then, in order to walk in this newness of life, we must aim as much as we can to walk with God, by an inward solitude and a recollection of spirit, and to have our conversation in heaven by frequent and fervent prayer. Give ear to the Apostle, Colos. iii., ‘If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then shall you also appear with him in glory.’ O that we were always possessed with these sentiments! O that we could die to all things else that we might truly live in God, with Christ, and through Christ!
Consider 3rdly, that ‘Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more: death shall have no more dominion over him.’ - Rom vi. 9. So that if we imitate his Resurrection, we must also rise in such a manner from the death of sin as to die no more by returning again any more to our sins; but to 'reckon ourselves henceforward to be dead to sin, but alive to God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ - v. 11. This, then, is the great lesson we must learn from the resurrection of Christ - we must rise with him so as to continue for ever to live with him, and to return no more to the dominion of death.
Ah! Christians, if you be now risen indeed from the death of sin to the life of grace, dread a second death by relapsing into mortal sin above all other evils that can possibly befall you. O! remember that if the devil who has now been cast out of your soul, should take possession of you once more by a relapse, he would 'bring with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and your last state would be worse than the first,’ Matt. xii. 45.
Conclude with a hearty resolution of imitating in all these particulars the resurrection of our Lord. But especially take your precautions against returning any more to the death of sin after rising with Christ to a new life. To prevent so great an evil, be diligent in all your religious duties, be constant and fervent in prayer, fly all dangerous occasions, and keep up in your soul a perpetual horror of that hellish monster, sin. O! beg of God daily and hourly that you may rather die a thousand deaths, than once consent to deadly sin.
Consider first, the haste that our Lord made to comfort his blessed mother and his afflicted disciples by manifesting himself to them immediately after his resurrection. As to his blessed mother, though the gospel is silent, we cannot doubt but she was favoured with an early visit; that as she loved him most, and partook more than any other in the sorrows of his passion, so she might also in the joy of his resurrection. Learn, my soul, from hence that the way for thee also to experience something of the visits and comforts of heaven is to suffer and to love. The good women that went early in the morning to the monument with their sweet spices and ointments, to perfume the body of our Lord, were likewise favoured first with a vision of angels, and then with a sight of Christ himself, to teach us that the true way to find Christ is to rise early to seek him; to go in quest of him with the aromatical perfumes of ardent desires and devout affections; and to persevere in the search without being discouraged with apprehensions of difficulties and oppositions. These holy women are concerned who should roll away the stone for them from the monument, that they might come at the body of our Lord, for it was exceeding great; but lo, when they came to the place they found the stone was rolled away to their hands: to teach us that if we continue constant in our good resolutions, God will remove those difficulties we apprehend, or enable us by his grace to overcome them.
Consider 2ndly, the favour our Lord was pleased to show to penitent sinners at his resurrection, by honouring Magdalene amongst women, and Peter amongst men, with his first visits. Magdalene, from the time of her conversion, had constantly adhered to the Lord; she followed him even to the cross; she attended on him there till he gave up the ghost; she saw his body laid in the monument, and after the repose of the Sabbath day, she was up before light, and was the first at the monument with her perfumes. When she found him not, she ran to the apostles to tell them the body was taken away. Peter and John ran to the monument, and finding there the linen cloths without the body, went their way home again: but Magdalene stayed and continued her search, weeping and lamenting that she could not find him whom her soul loved, - till at length she saw his heavenly messenger, and shortly after himself in person, and was sent by him as an apostle to carry themselves the joyful tidings of his resurrection. O happy tears of love! O happy perseverance! O see, my soul, thou seek thy Lord in the like manner, and thou wilt infallibly find him.
Consider 3rdly, that Peter, who from the time of his fall had been continually weeping and bitterly bewailing his sins, was the first of the apostles that was favoured with the sight of our Lord, 1 Cor. xv. 5, and Luke xxiv. 34. At the first news brought by Magdalene of our Saviour’s body being missing, he took the alarm and ran to the monument, and not finding the body there went home, believing it had been taken away. But our Lord was pleased to remove this error by manifesting himself to him, and showing him that body alive which he sought among the dead. O what sentiments of confusion and repentance for his having denied the Lord of glory, mixed with a holy joy at the sight of his being now risen from the dead, filled the soul of the apostle upon this occasion! O how did he cast himself at the feet of his Lord, and there confess his crime, and how lovingly was he received to mercy, and favoured upon the spot with a plenary indulgence and absolution! And not only that, but to show the unspeakable bounty of our Lord to repenting sinners, a little while after, when our Lord manifested himself to him again, John xxi., he was pleased to advance him to the supreme pastoral charge over all his flock, by committing to him all his lambs and all his sheep, and to promise him the glory of following him, even to the dying upon a cross, for him: all in consequence of that most ardent love of which he three times required a profession of him, 'Lovest thou me more than these?' as it were in opposition to his three denials.
Conclude, whatever thy case may be, and however thou mayest have denied thy Saviour by word or deed, to return now to him by repentance and love, and 'if thy sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow,’ Isaias i. 18. Love is the shortest way to the remission of sins, and to all other good.
Consider first, how two of the disciples going from Jerusalem to a neighbouring town called Emmaus, on the very day of our Lord’s resurrection, while they were discoursing together on the way and making him the subject of their conversation, were also favoured with his presence, yet in such a manner as not to know him. He overtook them on the way and joined their company, and after upbraiding them with their slowness of belief, explained to them the Scriptures that related to his passion and resurrection, and enkindled in their hearts the fire of devotion. See, Christians, the great advantage of pious conversation, such especially as has Christ for its subject - it even draws him down from heaven into our company. We may in some measure apply to it what our Lord says, Matt. xviii. 20, 'When there are two or three gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.’ Luke vi. 45. What a pity then there should be generally so little of God in the conversation of Christians! Alas, how can this forgetfulness of God be reconciled with our loving him? We naturally delight to speak of what we love - 'for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh:’ how then can we flatter ourselves that the love of God is the master of our hearts, when we seldom care to speak of him? Surely this is not the way to engage Christ to be in our company.
Consider 2ndly, that our Lord was not known at first by these disciples, because their faith in him was weak and imperfect. See, my soul, if the weakness of thy faith be not also the reason why he does not manifest himself to thee, so as to let thee know him indeed, as the Saints have done. St. Gregory takes notice that these disciples were not enlightened so as to know Christ whilst they only heard his words, but were quickly enlightened in the fulfilling of his commandments, by the exercise of hospitality and charity, to teach us that the way to come at the knowledge of God and of those truths which as yet we are ignorant of is to practise, to the best of our power, what we know already of his heavenly will. These disciples ‘knew our Lord in the breaking of bread:’ to teach us that there is no better way to come at the perfection of the knowledge and love of God, than a worthy participation of the bread of life in the blessed Eucharist.
Consider 3rdly, how these disciples took notice that their hearts were burning within them whilst they were in the company of our Lord and enjoyed his heavenly conversation, Luke xxiv. 32. My soul, dost thou desire to experience something of these sacred flames? Seek them in the company and conversation of Christ. Alas! the reason why thou art so lukewarm, or rather downright cold in thy devotions, is the continual dissipation of thy thoughts at other times, and a habit of indulging vain amusements, which fill thy inward house with such disagreeable company as keep Christ away from thee and rob thee of his sweet conversation. O how happy mightest thou be if by banishing all these impertinences by a spirit of recollection, thou wouldst endeavour to keep thyself always close to thy Saviour, and like the ancient Saints to walk with him! A diligence in this would make thee begin to enjoy a heaven upon earth.
Conclude to study well these lessons, which our Lord desires we should learn from his manifestations of himself after his resurrection. But especially learn to seek always the happiness of his company and conversation, in thy own interior: there is the school of divine love.
Consider first, how on the evening of the same day of our Lord’s resurrection, when the doors were shut where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, our Saviour came in, and stood in the midst of them, and said to them: ‘Peace be to you!’ and then showed them the wounds of his hands, of his feet, and of his side. Admire the qualities of his glorious body now risen from the dead, which like a spirit passes through the doors, and is seen on a sudden in the midst of his disciples, and yet shows itself to be true and palpable flesh, by exhibiting those sacred wounds, to be felt by their hands. See how on this occasion, he at once both confirms their faith, and inflames their love, by bearing about him those marks of his passion, the most convincing testimonies of his love. My soul, thou hast this same glorious body, with all its endowments, in the blessed sacrament; and though thou neither seest it, nor feelest his wounds with thy bodily senses, thy faith assures thee that he is there, and discovers to the inward eye, both his whole passion endured for the love of thee, and the glory of his resurrection. Let this suffice to enkindle the fire of his love in thy heart: do not desire to see or to feel his wounds, like Thomas; nor lodge thy hand in his side, but thy heart: ‘Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed,’ John xx. 29.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord said again to his disciples, ‘Peace be to you; as the Father hath sent me, I also send you.’ Then breathing upon them, he said: 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ See how ample this authority is which he here imparts to his apostles and to their lawful successors, that is, to the pastors of his true church, descending from the apostles; as his heavenly Father sent him, even so he sends them, furnished as he was with all spiritual power and jurisdiction for the rule of his Church, and the dispensation of his word, and of his sacraments; and commissioned by him, as he was by his Father. Give thanks, my soul, to thy Saviour, for having left, for thy benefit, this ample power and commission with the pastors of his church, and furnished thee by this means with guides divinely commissioned, and divinely assisted, and for having given to them the keys, that they might open heaven to thee. See thou despise not the ordinance of God, nor proudly resist his commissioners, to thy own condemnation.
Consider 3rdly, more in particular, the power of forgiving or retaining sins, here imparted by our Lord to the lawful pastors of his Catholic church. ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost, (said he); whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ In these words our Lord was pleased to communicate his divine Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to his disciples and their successors, in order to make them his delegates in the court of conscience, to sit as judges there, to take cognizance of all spiritual causes, and to pass sentence, either in favour of (penitent) sinners, to loose them from their sins by absolutions, or to bind them, as the case should require, by censures, penances, or delay of absolution. Give thanks for this sacred institution, sovereignly wholesome to Christian souls, in which poor sinners who desire to return to their God, may, by applying to the delegates of Christ, have the sentence of eternal damnation that stood against them reversed, and their absolution, pronounced on earth, ratified in heaven, upon the easy condition of an humble and secret confession, joined with a hearty repentance; and in consequence of such absolution, may be again received and admitted to the participation of all those goods from which their sins had excluded them.
Conclude to adore, praise, and give thanks to our Lord for all these blessings he brought with him at his resurrection, and not only imparted to his disciples then living, but entailed upon his church for ever. Particularly acknowledge and embrace that last legacy of his perpetual presence with his church, which he bequeathed on the same occasion, in the three last verses of the gospel of St. Matthew, when he said: 'All power is given to me, in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, &c., and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.’
Consider first, that as our Saviour, the night before his passion, bequeathed his peace to his disciples, saying, John xiv. 27, ‘Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you’ so also after his resurrection he three times wished them his peace, saying, ‘peace be to you,’ John xx. But what kind of peace is this that he so much inculcates, and so earnestly desires to impart to us? Not the peace which the world pretends to give, which is false and deceitful like itself - they say ‘peace, peace, and there is no peace,’ Ezek. xiii. 10. to - but ‘the peace of God which surpasseth all understanding,’ Philip. iv. 7. A threefold peace; viz., a peace of the soul with God, a peace with every neighbour, and a peace with herself. It is both the duty and happiness of a Christian to maintain this triple peace. And first, whosoever desires any degree of happiness, either here or hereafter, must take care to keep an inviolable peace with God, by ever flying wilful sin, which is at enmity with God. For how can there be any good for them that are at war with God? 'Who hath ever resisted him, and hath had peace?’ Job ix. 4. ‘The wicked are like the raging sea, which cannot rest, and the waves thereof cast up dirt and mire: there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord God,’ Isaias lvii. 20,21.
Consider 2ndly, that the Christian cannot maintain his peace with God if he does not also 'follow peace with all men,’ Heb. xii. 14; ‘and as much as lies in him, keep peace with all men,’ Rom. xii. 18. ‘For as no man can love God, that does not love his neighbour,’ 1 John iv., so no man can be at peace with God that breaks peace with his neighbour. ‘Tis then another branch both of the duty and of the happiness of a Christian to be at peace with every man, at least as far as lies in his power and in the unfeigned disposition of his soul; to renounce all animosity and rancour, all discord and contention, all malice and envy, and whatsoever else is opposite to fraternal charity, and to learn to bear, and to forbear, which are the two great means of keeping peace with our neighbours: when on our parts we forbear giving them any offence or provocation, either by word or deed, and at the same time bear with Christian meekness and charity all the offences or provocations we receive at their hands, and strive to overcome them by rendering good for evil. O how amiable is this character of the peaceable Christian! O how much happier is such a soul than one that is always at war with one neighbour or another, and always in a storm at home in his own interior!
Consider 3rdly, that another necessary branch of the Christian’s peace is, to be at peace within himself, by striving to banish from his own interior whatsoever may disturb the tranquillity of his soul. This inward peace, when it is perfect, is a certain foretaste of heaven; it is a kind of heaven upon earth. In such souls God is pleased to dwell, of whom the royal prophet sings, Ps. lxxv. 3, that ‘His place is in peace, and his abode in Sion.’ To come at this happy peace (besides taking care to keep peace with God, by a clean conscience, and with every neighbour, by concord and charity), we must have our passions mortified, our affections well ordered and regulated, and our desires restrained; we must banish all hurry and over eagerness; all sadness and melancholy; all scrupulous fears, anxious cares, and uneasiness about the things of this world; and, above all things, and in all things, we must conform ourselves to the holy will of God. Practise these lessons, my soul, and thou wilt be at peace, at least as far as the condition of thy mortal pilgrimage will allow of.
Conclude ever to aim at this threefold peace, with thy God, with thy neighbour, and with thyself; pray daily for it; and whatsoever fear, affection, or desire, or any other thing whatsoever offers to disturb thy heart, shut the door against it as an enemy, as a messenger of Satan, who comes to rob thee of thy treasure, the peace of thy soul.
Consider first, that every Christian ought at this time, pursuant to the precept of the church of God, to have made his peace with God, and to have signed and sealed it with a worthy communion. So that it is the business of every Christian now at least, to begin a new life, and to walk henceforward in the newness of life, even to the end. 'Be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee the crown of life,’ saith our Lord, Apoc. ii. 10. Alas! what will it avail us to have made a good beginning at this time, if after having been 'enlightened, and having tasted the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost' &c., Heb. vi. 4, we should quickly fall away, and return to our former darkness, and to the husks of swine, under the slavery of Satan? Would not our latter condition become worse than the former? That this may never be our case, we must consider upon the means that may effectually preserve us from relapsing into mortal sin, and that may maintain us in the happy state of the grace and love of God. In particular we must labour to establish in our souls a horror of the dreadful evil of sin, and of all the dangerous occasions of it; to keep up in ourselves a penitential spirit for what is past, joined with a lively sense of that infinite mercy that kept us so long out of hell, and so graciously received his prodigal children, when they offered to return to him; and with a firm resolution (which should be renewed every day and every hour) for no consideration whatever to turn our backs upon him any more by wilful sin. O how happy is that Christian who is ever ready to lay down his life rather than to return any more to sin!
Consider 2ndly, that another great means to persevere in good is to live by rule and order, to renounce an idle life, as the mother of all evil, and to regulate our time and all our daily exercises; to be constant in the performance of our devotions, and in frequenting the sacraments; and to take care to do well all that we do. Sanctity and perfection do not so much depend upon doing extraordinary actions, as upon doing our ordinary actions extraordinarily well; now, we shall do them extraordinarily well if we do them with a pure intention, for the love of God; and if we take care to season them with frequent and fervent aspirations to God. Thus, like the ancient Saints, shall we walk with God, and be perfect. This is the surest way to perseverance.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to perseverance in grace, it will be also necessary to set out and to continue in a full persuasion and conviction that we have not a more dangerous enemy to our souls than our own self-love, with all its branches and passions; that the gratifying our own humours is gratifying a mortal enemy; that we must deny ourselves, renounce ourselves, and hate ourselves in this life, if we would save ourselves for eternity. In a word, the mortification of our passions, and the total victory over ourselves, is the sovereign means of perseverance. In order to this, every Christian ought to study well to know himself and the true state of his own interior, that he may discover what passions are predominant there, and may turn all the forces of his soul against them, till he has quite subdued them. This warfare is one of the most essential duties of every disciple of Jesus Christ: no one shall be crowned by him, that has not fought and conquered himself. 'To him that overcometh he will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Apoc. ii. 7.
Conclude, in order to perseverance in good, to practise well all these lessons, and particularly to be earnest with God in prayer, that he may be thy keeper, to keep thee from sin. O beg of God every day that thou mayest rather die a thousand deaths than once commit a mortal sin!
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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