Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent: The Return of the King

 
These revealing and in many ways prophetic extracts from Fr James Henry Coleridge's homilies for Advent, given in the period from 1868 to 1881, should make us sit up and keep very much awake for our personal spiritual survival. The "Return of the King" is much closer at hand than hitherto thought.
............"Some old Christian writers tell us on the subject of the future restoration of heathenism. There is a mysterious vision in the Apocalypse, of a beast that was wounded, and, it seemed, slain, but which is brought to life again by the power of the false prophet, and adored by all on earth whose names are not written in the Book of Life. This vision is interpreted, by these writers, to be heathenism, which has been, as it were, put to death by the Christian religion, but which will hereafter revive and reign for a short time...............
 
 
 
This revival [or more likely modern heathenism] of which the prophecies speak is around us on every side. Mankind are in many senses far mightier, and the resources and enjoyments at their command are far ampler, than in the days of old. We are in possession of the glorious but intoxicating fruits of that advanced civilisation and extended knowledge which has sprung up from the seeds which the Church of God has, as it were, dropped on her way through the world. Society has been elevated and refined, but on that very account it has become capable of a more penetrating degradation, of a more elegant and a more poisonous corruption. Knowledge has been increased, but on the increase of knowledge has followed the increase of pride. Science has unravelled the laws of nature and the hidden treasures of the material universe, and they place fresh combinations of power and new revelations of enjoyment in the hands of men who have not seen in the discovery increased reasons for self-restraint or for reverence for the Giver of all good gifts.
 
 
 
The world, the home of the human race, has been opened to civilised man in all its distant recesses, and he has taken, or is taking, possession of his full inheritance; but his onward path is the path of avarice and greed, of lust and cruelty, and he seizes on each new land as he reaches it in the spirit of the merchant or the conqueror, not in that of the harbinger of peace, the bearer of the good tidings of God.
At home, in Christendom itself, we hear, as our Lord said, of wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. In the Apostles' time, it was an unheard of thing that the majestic peace and unity of the Roman Empire should not absorb and keep in harmony a hundred rival nationalities. In our time it is not to be thought of that the supernatural bond of the Christian Church should be able to keep nations which are brethren in the faith from devouring one another.
 
 
 
Let us turn from public to private life. Look at social life, look at domestic manners; consider the men and women of the present day in their amusements, their clothes, the amount of restraint they put upon the impulses of nature; compare them at their theatres [or social media] and their recreations, compare them as to their treatment of the poor and the afflicted classes; compare them, again, as to the style of art which they affect, or the literature in which they delight, with the old heathen of the days of St. Paul.
 
 
 
I do not say, God forbid! that there is not a wide and impassable gulf between the two, [unfortunately this gulf no longer exists in many parts of the world today] for that would be to say that so many centuries of Christendom had been utterly wasted [sadly again this waste has happened], and that the Gospel law has not penetrated to the foundations of society [it has but now heavily diluted by secularism], so that it is not true that our Lord rules, as the Psalmist says, in the midst of His enemies, even over the world, which would fain emancipate itself from His sway [unfortunately in many countries this is now true].
If a Christian of the first ages were to rise from the dead, and examine our society, point by point, on the heads which I have intimated, and compare it, on the one hand, with the polished refined heathen whom he may have known at the courts of Nero or Domitian, with the pure strict holiness of his own brethren in the faith, who worshipped with him in the catacombs, he might find it difficult [not so today] indeed to say that what he would see around him in London or Paris was derived by legitimate inheritance rather from the traditions of the martyr Church than from the customs of the persecuting heathen [unfortunately the latter now prevail]. He would [a century or so has passed to make these words ring hollow] miss the violence, the cruelty, the riotous and ruffianly lust, the extraordinary disrespect for humanity and human life which distinguished the later Roman civilisation [not so today] but He would find much of its corruption, much of its licentiousness, much of its hardness of heart [indeed he would]..............

 
 
 
[We have exchanged the ten Commandments and eight Beatitudes for a virtual world of freedom imprisoned within a legal tower of Babel: an illusion and delusion]
The unregenerate instincts of human nature are surging up like a great sea all around us, society is fast losing all respect for those checks upon the innate heathenism of man which have been thrown over the surface of the world by the Church. It is becoming an acknowledged law that whatever is natural is right, and by nature is meant nature corrupted by sin, nature un-illuminated by faith and unassisted by grace that is, the lower appetites of man in revolt against conscience, looking for no home but earth and no satisfaction but in the present, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world.............
 
 
What can resist it? One force alone, the force of God, Who sets bounds to the sea, and can check the raging passions of a whole race. We hear little in the very last days of heresies and schisms, of isolated communities and partial forms of Christianity. These things will have had their day and have done much evil in it, but they are too frail and miserable in themselves to live on the surges of that last tempest of humanity the Church alone can ride out the storm.


 
 
How does the Church deal with such assaults as those we are contemplating? She works by the sacraments and the other means of grace, by the word of God preached and taught in the sanctuary, and the like. But the strongholds of the Church are in the family and the school. Her battlefields are those on which such questions as that of the sanctity of marriage and that of the purity of Christian education are fought out. Give her the forming of her children, and she will train up the Christian youth and maiden, she will join them in a holy bond to form the family, of Christian families she will compose Christian communities, Christian nations, and out of Christian nations she will build up Christendom, a Christian world. She can cure nature, and nothing else can. [These are the very areas that Satan and all his forces are attacking today]
Give the true Church free scope, and you will hear little of that long list of heathen vices, little of men being covetous, contentious, slaves of avarice and licentiousness, there will be no complaints of the decay of mercy, or of natural affection, of human kindness, honesty, faithfulness. [Unfortunately because of the abuses within the Church, its scope has been restricted and civilisation is suffering the consequences of impoverished families, schools, clergy and lay people]


 
 
So then, in these our days [late 1800s], can we too often remind ourselves of the points of attack chosen by the enemies of faith and of society?
 
 
 
Can we forget with what a wearisome sameness of policy the war is waged year after year, first in one place and then in another; how certain it is that as soon as we hear that some nation hitherto guided by Catholic instincts has become a convert to the enlightened ideas of our times, the next day will bring the further tidings that in that nation marriage is no longer to be treated as a sacrament,
 
 
 
and that education is to be withdrawn from the care of the Church and her ministers? And, indeed, my brethren, we know not how soon we ourselves may be engaged in a deadly conflict, on one at least, of these points. Up to this time we, at least in England, have been able to train our children for ourselves. And, to give honour where honour is due, we have owed our liberty in great measure to the high value which certain communities outside the Church set upon distinctively Christian and doctrinal instruction.


 


 
But we know not how soon the tide of war may come to our homes. We hear a cry in the air: it says that the child belongs to the State, and that it is the duty of the State to take his education to itself. The cry is false; the child belongs to the parent, belongs to the Church, belongs to God. In that cry speaks the reviving paganism of our day.
 
 
 
 
Surely it should teach us, if nothing else can, the paramount importance of Christian education. If we give in to that cry we are lost [we have allowed this to be diluted away] Train up your children, my brethren, in the holy discipline and pure doctrine of the Church, and they are formed thereby to be soldiers of Jesus Christ [when did these words ring out at Confirmation] in the coming conflict against the powers of evil.
Train them up in indifference to religion and Christian doctrine, and if they are not at once renegades from their faith, at least they are far too weak and faint-hearted in their devotion to the Church, to range themselves courageously among her champions in her terrible battle against the last apostasy. [This has all come to pass and the terrible battle to come is clearly visible in the signs of the times]
 
 
 
Another sign is the Great Apostasy which is defined by Fr Coleridge through his interpretation of St Paul and others as: "the apostasy of the latter days will be a return to heathenism, understanding by this word that godless system of life and manners which is the fruit of the unrestrained development and reign of the lower instincts of human nature. ................"
 
 
 
Then there is the abomination of desolation: "whenever political power and the secular State invades the sanctuary, whenever the State takes upon it to claim obedience in matters of faith and religion, to lay down laws as to sacred things or sacred persons in relation to sacred and spiritual functions, then we have some kind of repetition of the Jewish Temple abomination of desolation, some kind of anticipation of the dreadful reign of Antichrist, whom our Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming....... Whenever the supremacy of the State is acknowledged, there is no longer any safeguard for faith or religion, and the logical issue of such a condition of the world would be the State enthroned in the sanctuary, the civil ruler drawing to himself the homage and obedience which is due to the Spouse of Jesus Christ."
 
You should draw your own conclusions about the present day, keep awake and study the Signs of the Times as the hour glass is fast flowing out of time.

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