For not only is she the Majesty of God dwelling on earth, she is also His Love; and therefore its limitations, and they only, are hers. That Sun of mercy that shines and that Rain of charity that streams, on just and unjust alike, are the very Sun and Rain that give her life. If I go up to Heaven she is there, enthroned in Christ, on the Right Hand of God;_ if I go down to Hell she is there also_, drawing back souls from the brink from which she alone can rescue them. For she is that very ladder which Jacob saw so long ago, that staircase planted here in the blood and the slime of earth, rising there into the stainless Light of the Lamb. Holiness and unholiness are both alike hers and she is ashamed of neither—the holiness of her own Divinity which is Christ’s and the unholiness of those outcast members of her Humanity to whom she ministers.
By her power, then, which again is Christ’s, the Magdalen becomes the Penitent; the thief the first of the redeemed; and Peter, the yielding sand of humanity, the Rock on which Herself is built.
JOY AND SORROW
Rejoice and be exceeding glad.... Blessed are they that mourn.— MATT. V. 12, 5.
The Catholic Church, as has been seen, is always too “extreme” for the world. She is content with nothing but a Divine Peace, and in its cause is the occasion of bloodier wars than any waged from merely human motives. She is not content with mere goodness, but urges always Sanctity upon her children; yet simultaneously tolerates sinners whom even the world casts out. Let us consider now how, in fulfilling these two apparently mutually contradictory precepts of our Lord, to rejoice and to mourn, once more she appears to the world extravagant in both directions at once.
I. It is a common charge against her that she rejoices too exceedingly; is arrogant, confident, and optimistic where she ought to be quiet, subdued, and tender.
“This world,” exclaims her critic, “is on the whole a very sad and uncertain place. There is no silver lining that has not a cloud before it; there is no hope that may not, after all, be disappointed. Any religion, then, that claims to be adequate to human nature must always have something of sadness and even hesitancy about it. Religion must walk softly all her days if she is to walk hand in hand with experience. Death is certain; is life as certain? The function of religion, then, is certainly to help to lighten this darkness, yet not by too great a blaze of light. She may hope and aspire and guess and hint; in fact, that is her duty. But she must not proclaim and denounce and command. She must be suggestive rather than exhaustive; tender rather than virile; hopeful rather than positive; experimental rather than dogmatic.