Consider first, that on this day the church sets before the eyes of our souls this principal mystery of the Christian faith, by which we believe one eternal God in three several persons, which we call the mystery of the blessed Trinity, or of three persons in one - three persons in one God. This is the great object of the Christian’s worship. This we ought to adore every day and every hour. Every Sunday in the year might be called Trinity Sunday, because every Sunday is set aside for the worship of this adorable Trinity, our Lord and our God. Yea, all our time belongs to him, and the great sacrifice that is offered daily on millions of altars throughout the world is principally designed to give sovereign adoration, homage, praise, and glory to the most holy Trinity. But then this day is more particularly appointed by the church, (which has now just finished celebrating the other great festivals relating to the mysteries of our redemption and sanctification, wrought by the three divine Persons,) in order to honour in a more particular manner the chief mystery of our religion. Come then, my soul, and come all ye Christian souls with me this day, and let us bow down all our powers to adore this incomprehensible mystery. The more it is above our reach the more worthy it is both of our faith and veneration.
Consider 2ndly, more in particular what our faith teaches us with relation to this mystery. We believe there is but one true and living God, and no more - eternal, incomprehensible, omnipotent, and infinite in all his attributes and perfections. In this one God we believe three distinct persons of the same substance and essence, and perfectly equal in age, in power, in wisdom, and in all perfections - the Father, who has no beginning, and proceeds from no one; the Son, who proceeds from the Father by an eternal and ineffable generation, as his living word and wisdom, the brightness of his glory, and the most perfect image of his person; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, who proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. We believe that these three are one by having all three the same Godhead; that is, the same divine nature. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God, one Lord, one Almighty in three several Persons. This is the true Christian catholic belief of the mystery of the blessed Trinity essentially necessary for our eternal salvation. Let us, then, make frequent acts of faith concerning this sovereign truth - let us cast down every proud thought that offers to rebel against it - for God himself has taught it, who never can deceive nor be deceived.
Consider 3rdly, that it is not our faith alone, but our lives also, that must render proper homage to this adorable mystery of the eternal Trinity. ‘What will it avail thee to discourse profoundly of the Trinity,’ saith the servant of God, ‘if; through want of humility, thou be so disagreeable to the Trinity?' Humility of mind and heart is the most agreeable homage that man can pay to this infinite majesty. 'Heaven's my throne,’ saith he, Isaia. lxvi. 1,2, 'and the earth my footstool - my hand made all these things - but to whom shall I have respect but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembled, at my words?’ Learn also from the epistle of this day, as a part of the homage thou owest to the most sacred Trinity, to adore in silence the depth of the sacred counsels and judgments of God, and the wisdom of his unsearchable ways, and in all events to give glory to him. ‘For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things - to him be glory for ever. Amen.’ Rom. xi. 36.
Conclude to come daily before the throne of the eternal Trinity with thy best homage of faith, love, and humility. Adore the almighty power of the Father, the infinite wisdom of the Son, and the incomprehensible goodness and love of the Holy Ghost. And give up the three powers of thy soul, and thy whole being, without reserve, to be ruled and disposed of for time and eternity by this infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.
Consider first, that the Old Testament was a figure of the New; and that all the most remarkable events that are there recorded by the Spirit of God, have relation, in the way of prophetic figures, to Christ and his church of the New Testament. Thus the redemption or deliverance of the children of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt, was a figure of the redemption of man by Christ from the bondage of Satan and sin; and the means that were then ordered and appointed to be used as a preparation for their deliverance, were a figure of what was to be afterwards done by our redeemer for the deliverance of all mankind from a far worse slavery. Now it was appointed, Exod. xii., ‘That the children of Israel, the night before their going out of Egypt, should in all their families offer up an unspotted lamb in sacrifice, and that they should sprinkle their door-posts with the blood of the victim, as a sign for the destroying angel, who slew that night all the first-born of Egypt, to pass over their houses: and that they should eat the flesh of the lamb that same night, roasted at the fire, with unleavened bread, and wild lettuce; having their loins grit, their shoes on their feet and their staves in their hands, in readiness to take the journey which they were immediately to begin, in consequence of the deliverance of that night.’ See here, my soul, this illustrious figure - but now let us come to the application of it.
Consider therefore 2ndly, that this unspotted lamb, first offered in sacrifice, and then eaten in a sacred and mysterious sign or sacrament, was a lively figure of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God, offered up in sacrifice for our redemption from sin and hell with the sprinkling of whose blood our souls are rescued from the power of Satan, and from the second death, and whose sacred flesh we are commanded to eat in the divine mysteries, as an earnest of the share we have in him and his sacrifice; as a sovereign means of communicating to our souls the fruit of our redemption, and all the graces purchased by our redeemer; as a pledge of our eternal happiness, and as a preparation and a viaticum for the great journey we are to make out of this Egypt of the world, to the true land of promise, the land of the living. O my soul, let us adore, praise, and give thanks to our Lord for these wonders he has wrought in our favour, in these heavenly mysteries. Let us embrace with all affection this Lamb of God, immolated for our sins; this Christian Pasch; this victim of our redemption this new sacrifice of the new covenant, the covenant of life and love. Let us frequently approach these mysteries, but see it be with due dispositions.
Consider 3rdly, that the paschal lamb was to be eaten with unleavened bread and wild lettuce, to signify the dispositions of soul with which we ought to come to the Christian passover. Christ is now our Paschal Lamb. ‘Therefore,’ says the apostle, 1 Cor. v. 8, ‘let us feast not with the old leaven nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’ So that a purity of intention, uprightness and simplicity of heart, and the sincere dispositions of a soul which desires to give herself up without reserve to her redeemer, are signified by the unleavened bread with which the pasch was to be eaten; as the wholesome bitterness of true repentance and contrition for our sins is signified by the bitter taste of the wild lettuce. And whereas it was also ordered, that in eating the paschal lamb they should have their loins girt up, their shoes on their feet, and their staves in their hands; we are to learn from these ceremonies, that if we would worthily approach the Lamb of God in the sacred mysteries, we must gird up the joins of our soul, by a resolute restraint on our passions and lusts; and have our feet, that is, the affections of the soul, ‘Shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,’ Eph. vi. 15, that is, with a readiness of heart to follow in all things the rules of the gospel, as the only way to true peace; and hold our staves in our hands, as pilgrims and travellers, not having any property or lasting dwelling here, but wholly bent on making the best of our way to our true country.
Conclude to frequent henceforward the great Christian passover of the most blessed Eucharist, with the dispositions of true Israelites leaving Egypt, and marching towards the land of promise. Ever consider it is the sacrifice and sacrament of your deliverance and redemption, and approach it with the devotion which this consideration requires; as the Israelites were commanded to solemnize by the annual devotion of the sacrifice and sacrament of the paschal lamb, the memory of their redemption from the Egyptian bondage.
Consider first, that the manna with which God fed the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, from their going out of Egypt till their entering into the land of promise, was another prophetic emblem of the true bread of heaven which we receive in the blessed Eucharist. 'He commanded the clouds from above and opened the doors of heaven,’ says the Psalmist, lxxviii. 23-25. 'And he rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven; man did eat the bread of angels.’ And yet this miraculous food, formed by angels and sent down from the clouds, and therefore called the bread of heaven and the bread of angels, was but a figure of that bread of life which we receive in the blessed sacrament - an illustrious figure indeed, but nothing in comparison with the truth. 'Moses did not give you bread from heaven,’ says our Lord to the Jews, John vi. (for the manna only came down from the clouds,) 'but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven - I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as fathers did eat manna and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live for ever,’ ver. 32, 51, 57, 58. O my soul, see thou embrace this living and life-giving bread.
Consider 2ndly, that the manna was the food upon which the people of God lived for forty years in the wilderness, but which ceased as soon as they came to eat of the fruits of the land of promise; to give us to understand that the bread of heaven which we here receive, veiled under the sacramental species, in the blessed Eucharist, is to be the food, nourishment, strength, and life of our souls during our mortal pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world till we come to the true land of promise, and there eat of the happy fruits of that blessed land of the living by the beatific vision and contemplation of the Divinity; and that then all the sacramental veils shall be removed, and we shall see and feed upon life and truth itself, face to face, for all eternity. Christians, if you hope to arrive one day at this happy land of promise, see you neglect nor to gather for your journey the manna of heaven by the frequent and worthy approaching the bread of life in the holy sacrament: without this support you will perish in the wilderness, and never reach your journey’s end. But if you would truly relish this heavenly manna you must take care not to let your palate be depraved, like the carnal Jews, by an affection to the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt.
Consider 3rdly, another figure of the heavenly food in that hearth cake of the prophet Elias, with which he was fed by an angel in the wilderness when he was flying from the persecution of Jezebel, 1 Kings xix, 'In the strength of which food he walked forty days and forty nights unto the mount of God at Horeb,’ v. 8, where he was favoured with a vision of the Deity, as far as man is capable of seeing him in this life. 'Arise, eat,’ said the angel to him, v. 7, ‘for thou hast yet a great way to go.’ All which expresses to us that retiring from the dangers and the contagion of a wicked world, as from the impious Jezebel, in order to make our journey to the mountain of God, the mountain of eternity, we must have recourse to this bread of heaven for our support on our way, for we have yet a great way to go, being far off from that perfection which is required before we can come to the vision of God; and this barren wilderness through which we are to travel affords us no proper food for our sustenance on the way but what we must have from heaven.
Conclude, my soul, if thou aspirest after this mountain of God and the happy vision of him, diligently to procure this bread of life, in the strength of which thou mayest walk during the forty days of thy pilgrimage to that blessed mountain. But remember that this bread was only given in the wilderness; that is, in retirement and solitude, and that the manna was not given until the people had left Egypt; and learn from thence that a spirit of recollection, and a purifying of the heart from the affections to the Egypt of this world, are the best dispositions for the bread of heaven.
Consider first, that the sacrifice of Melchisedech, Gen. xiv. 28, in bread and wine, was another figure of the sacrifice and sacrament of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, as Melchisedech himself and his priesthood was an illustrious figure of Christ and his eternal priesthood, as we learn from Psalm cx. 4, and Heb. vii. And so like wise in the law of Moses, all those sacrifices commonly called peace-offerings, in which both the priest and the people were partakers of the victim, were also figures of Christ sacrificed for us and received by us. So many ways was the divine majesty pleased, both before the law and in the law, to show forth to us not only the sacrifice in which his Son should be both our priest and victim, but also the sacrament by which he should communicate his own flesh to us. Learn from hence, my soul, what reverence, what devotion thou owest to these tremendous mysteries, the very figures of which were so sacred and so venerable. It was a great crime if any one that was not clean and pure presumed to approach these ancient sacrifices what purity, then, is the Christian obliged to bring with him when he approaches the truth, of which these were but the shadows.
Consider 2ndly, that God appointed twelve loaves, made of fine flour, to stand always in his temple, before the veil of the Sanctum Sanctorum, or the inward sanctuary, placed there upon a table, made for that purpose of incorruptible wood, and overlaid with gold; and that the clearest frankincense should be put upon them; ‘that the bread might be for a memorial of the oblation of the Lord, by an everlasting covenant,’ Lev. xxiv. 5, 6, 7, 8. These loaves, called the holy bread, and the loaves of proposition or shew-bread, were also a figure of the holy Eucharist. They always stood before the Lord in his temple, as an offering made to him by his people, as a figure of that solemn offering which should be afterwards daily made under the form of bread in the church of Christ; the clearest frankincense was put upon them, to denote the pure prayer and devotion with which this offering was to be made; and they stood before the veil with the golden candlestick and the altar of perfumes, to signify that the sovereign means to bring our souls to God and to introduce us within the veil, into his eternal sanctuary, would be the right use of the bread of life which we have in the blessed Eucharist, joined with devout prayer and the lights and graces of the Spirit of God, signified by the seven branches of the golden candlestick.
Consider 3rdly, that the tree of life planted in the midst of the earthly Paradise, Gen. ii. 9, ‘was also a figure of the blessed sacrament.’ The fruit of this tree had that excellent property that if sin had not banished us from that happy abode we should have been maintained thereby in a constant vigour, strength, and health, and so should have never died. O how well does the blessed Eucharist answer this noble figure! seeing we here feed upon life itself in its very source, and by frequently and worthily approaching it receive a plentiful supply of heavenly grace, for the maintaining of the vigour, strength, and health of the soul; that so we may never incur the second death, but may pass from life to life, from the life of grace to the life of glory; from life concealed under sacramental veils to life seen and enjoyed without shadow or change to all eternity.
Conclude, from all these ancient types and figures, so noble and so expressive of the blessed Eucharist and its fruits, to raise thy thoughts and heart above this earth and all that is earthly in the use of this heavenly sacrament. And assure thyself that this divine mystery, so many ways prefigured both in the law of nature and in the law of Moses, must needs be something far superior to all types and figures.
Consider first, how our Lord, having finished the course of his mortal life, 'when his hour was now come that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having his own who metre in the world,’ says the beloved disciple, John xiii. 1, ‘he loved them unto the end,’ and gave them in the last stage of his life the most evident tokens of his boundless love, as well in what he endured out of pure love for us in his passion and death as in the institution of the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament at his last supper, as an admirable legacy of love; in which, and by which, he might not only always be with us to the end of the world, but might also unite himself to us in such a manner as that we should abide in him and he in us, John vi. 56. O how wonderful are the ways of his divine love! How incomprehensible the riches of his bounty and goodness to us! What could he give us more than when he gives us himself? What could he do more to testify his affection for us? Is it possible, my soul, we should ever forget or be ungrateful to such a lover.
Consider 2ndly, the infinite treasures which our Lord has bequeathed to us in the institution of these divine mysteries, which contain an inexhaustible source of divine grace: the living bread, the food, the nourishment, the strength, and the life of our souls; the manna of heaven, the tree of life, spirit, truth, and life itself; the remedy of all our evils, the most powerful medicine for all our diseases; the sovereign antidote against the poison of the infernal serpent, the comfort of our banishment, the support of our pilgrimage, the price of our ransom, the earnest of our eternal salvation, the great sacrifice and victim of the New Testament, by means of which we are enabled to give worthy praise, adoration, and homage to God; to return him acceptable thanks; and to apply daily to our souls all the fruits of the death and passion of the Son of God - as well for the remission of all our sins as for the obtaining of all good through him, both for time and eternity. In a word, he has bequeathed to us in these heavenly mysteries his own sacred body and blood, together with his soul and divinity - so rich a present that heaven can give nothing greater.
Consider 3rdly, what could be the motive that induced our Lord to communicate himself and all his treasures to us in this wonderful manner by the institution of the blessed Eucharist? O my soul, it was no other but his own pure goodness and love. It was that by this means he might always be with us, 'for his delight is to be with the children of men.’ Prov. viii. 31. It was that he might unite us to himself, that he might abide in us and we in him. O, who ever heard of such love as this! But what didst thou see in me, dearest Lord, that could claim thy love, and such a love - in me, a poor worm of the earth, and what is infinitely worse, a most ungrateful, wicked sinner, a traitor to thee and to thy Father, who has so often crucified thee by my repeated crimes? O ye heavens, be astonished at this prodigy of my Saviour’s bounty and love for me, and of my wickedness and ingratitude in not making him a better return! O, my soul, let us begin now at least to be wholly his; let nothing henceforward be capable of separating us any more from this divine Lover.
Conclude to be ever thankful for this unspeakable benefit of the institution of the blessed sacrament and sacrifice of the altar. Join now with the church in celebrating this octave with an extraordinary devotion, in acknowledgment of thy Saviour’s goodness and love, which he has shown to us in these mysteries, and make the best amends thou art able, by thy diligence in this devotion, for the many affronts, abuses, and sacrileges to which thy Saviour has here exposed himself for the love of thee.
Consider first, that all the sacraments are sacred and mysterious signs of divine graces and of heavenly truths, which are concealed under these outward appearances, and through them are conveyed to our souls; but that the blessed Eucharist in particular, as it is the greatest of all the sacraments, contains more and greater mysteries than any of the rest. Here our Lord gives himself to us in quality of our food; that as sin and death, and all our miseries, came to us originally by eating of the forbidden fruit, so grace and life, and all our good, should come to us by eating here of the fruit of the tree of life, which he has left us under the form of bread, a form as being the most expressive to us both of his real and his mystical body. ‘He is the living bread that came down from heaven for the life of the world,’ John vi. 51,52. And his body has all the qualities of bread in regard to our souls, inasmuch as it is the true food and nourishment of our souls unto life everlasting. Therefore this form of bread is the most proper to express to us the true living bread which it contains, namely, the true and real body of Christ, and its qualities and effects in being the food, nourishment, strength, and life of our souls; and at the same time is also most proper to express to us the mystical body of Christ, which is his church; and the union of concord and charity by which all its members, like so many grains of corn, are so closely united, as if it were one bread, by means of the holy Communion, according to that of St. Paul, i Cor. x. 17, ‘We being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.’
Consider 2ndly, that in this most holy sacrament and sacrifice, the death and passion of the Son of God is also in a lively manner represented to us, and all the mysteries of our redemption are solemnly celebrated; inasmuch as, by the separate consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, presents himself to his Father upon our altars, under the figure of death, that is under the sacramental veils, which represent his body as delivered up, broken, and slain for us, and his blood as shed for us. So that here the whole passion and death of Christ is solemnly acted as a most sacred tragedy, by himself in person; here that death which is the fountain of all our good, is shown forth in such a manner as not only to be kept up in our remembrance, but also to live in us, and bring forth always in us the fruit of life; here the blood of Christ most powerfully pleads and intercedes for us. Here, in fine, not only the passion and death but also the victorious resurrection and triumphant ascension of our crucified King are solemnly commemorated. O my soul, admire and adore these divine mysteries.
Consider 3rdly, that the participation of the body and blood of Christ, under the sacramental veils, is no less mysterious in the mass - benefits it ensures to us with relation to our redemption and salvation. For here we receive an assurance of the share we have in our Redeemer, and in the sacrifice of his cross. Here we are mystically incorporated in him, and are made partakers of his spirit. Here we are admitted to that blood which is the seal of the new covenant; importing the remission of our sins, and our reconciliation with God, through the death of his Son together with an admittance to all graces and blessings through him. Here, in fine, we have a most certain pledge of a happy resurrection and everlasting life, and of an eternal enjoyment in our blessed country of him who thus lovingly gives himself to us in this place of banishment.
Conclude ever to approach with all reverence and love these mysteries so full of majesty and love. The high priest, in the Old Testament, was but once a year to enter into the inner sanctuary, called the Holy of Holies, and then not without divers purifications and sacrifices, and a solemn fast of all Israel. See then how pure, how holy, thou oughtest to be, who art so often admitted, by the means of this heavenly sacrament, into the sanctuary of the New Testament, that is, to these divine mysteries sanctified by the presence of Jesus Christ himself, the true Holy of Holies, of which that Jewish sanctuary was but a shadow.
Consider first, that what, above all things, renders these divine mysteries venerable to a Christian, and that which principally calls for his faith and devotion, is the real presence of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and of all that he contains both as God and as man, in the blessed Eucharist. This real presence we learn from the express words of truth itself so often repeated in the Holy Scripture, and from the express declaration of the church of God, against which the gates of hell can never prevail. Upon these two pillars of truth, the word of God, and the church of God, the humble and faithful Christian securely rests. Bow thyself down then, my soul, to adore this sacred truth. Let no proud thought of opposition arise in thee against this great mystery. Captivate thy understanding to the obedience of faith. Remember that the glory and merit of faith is to believe what thou canst not see; that the Almighty can do infinitely more than thou canst comprehend; and that no effort of mercy, bounty, and love can be too great for him who died for love.
Consider 2ndly, how many ways this Lord of ours, who is both our creator and our redeemer, communicates himself to us. He came down from heaven, and took our flesh and blood, in order to make us partakers of his divinity, and to carry us up to heaven. He offered up that flesh and blood upon the cross, as a sacrifice for us, to deliver us from sin and hell, and to purchase mercy, grace, and salvation for us. And he gives us here verily and indeed the same flesh and blood, to be our food, comfort, and support in our pilgrimage, till he brings us, by virtue of that food, to our true country, where he will give himself to us for all eternity. Thus in his incarnation and birth, he made himself our companion; in his passion and death, the price of our ransom; in the banquet of his last supper, our food amid nourishment; and in his heavenly kingdom, our eternal reward. O my soul, what return shall we be able to make him for giving himself so many ways to us? Alas! dear Lord, we have nothing to give but what is thine already - we have nothing to give that is worthy of thee. But be pleased to accept of all that our poverty can afford; and let this whole being of ours be for ever dedicated to thy love as a whole burnt offering, to lie always upon thy altar, there burning and consuming with that divine fire which thou camest to cast upon the earth, and which thou so much desirest should be enkindled.
Consider 3rdly, what ought to be our sentiments in coming to these divine mysteries, in consequence of our faith of the real presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, in this blessed sacrament. O! what reverential awe ought we to bring with us, when we draw near so tremendous a majesty; in whose sight the whole creation is a mere nothing? What fear and dread when we enter into his sanctuary, who is infinitely pure and holy, who sees all our guilt, and cannot endure iniquity? What sentiments of humility, when we reflect what he is, and what we are? What sorrow and contrition for all our past treasons and offences against this infinite goodness? What sentiments of gratitude for his giving us here his own self; in this wonderful manner? What desires of returning him love for love? O! how would a Christian be affected, if he visibly and evidently saw his God before him in his approaching to this blessed sacrament! A lively faith, which apprehends things invisible, as if they were visible, would produce the like affections. O! give us, sweet Jesus, this lively faith.
Conclude ever to admire and adore the incomprehensible ways by which God is pleased to communicate himself to us. Resolve to correspond in the best manner you are able with the riches of his bounty and goodness, by approaching to these divine mysteries with faith, with fear, and with love.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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