God, His Unity and Perfection: The Holiness of God

This is the last in this series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,10:

1. God is the Holy One of Israel

God particularly delights in the name of holy.  Very often he calls himself the holy one of Israel: he wants that his holiness be his motif, and the principle of ours: be holy because I am holy, says the Lord.  His holiness, which is the consolation of his faithful, is also the terror of his enemies.  Whom do you attack, senseless low life? Whose name have you blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and cast proud looks? Against the holy one of Israel? While you carried yourself like a madman against me, your pride rose up to my ears; and here I put a brake on your mouth and an iron ring in your nose and I led you back on the road where you came. And elsewhere: the vigilant and the holy have come down from heaven (Isaiah 37, Daniel 4), it is an Angel if you wish: whatever he is, his power is in his holiness.  And the sentence leaves from on high: And he cried powerfully: cut down the tree, break off the branches, it is thus ordered in the assembly of those who are always awake, it is the sentence of the saints, their strength is in their holiness. And after: The kingdom is given to the people of the saints of the Most-High (Daniel 7) because he is holy and the all-powerful protector of holiness. The Pagans themselves well understood the power attached to the holiness of the divine name: the Queen said to King Belshazzar: There is a man in thy kingdom that hath the spirit of the holy gods in him: (Daniel 5:11 DRB) that was to say, the spirit of preaching and of divine efficacy.

2. The vision of Isaiah and of Saint John

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: (Isaiah 6:1-4 DRB) and his train filled the temple. Upon it stood the Seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they flew. And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory, And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.  See the holiness of God: see why he is called the holy one of Israel.  He showed himself to the prophet as the very holy one, the three-times holy one in his three persons: and the glory and the majesty which filled all the earth were the outbreak of his holiness. Holiness is his clothing, said David; and saint John, in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4) saw four animals which never stopped crying night and day: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God almighty, who was and is and who is to come.  Note this cry above all: there is nothing which is published with a greater cry and with greater perseverance: nothing which breaks out more highly in all the universe than the holiness of God.

Holiness is the summary and like an abstract of divine perfections.  The Son of God himself in his last prayer, speaking to his Father, as if to encapsulate in one single word his perfections, calls him: my holy Father, my just Father: and we do not find in his Gospel that he gave him another title than these two which make one. Himself he was known under the title of holy and just: the holy thing which will be born in you will be called the Son of God.  The demons spoke like the Angel: I know who you are: the Holy One of God. Daniel had named him in spirit because of his anointing: the Holy One of Holy Ones. Isaiah called him the Just. Saint Peter put together these two qualities in saying: You have denied the Holy and the Just.

3. That Which is Understood by Holiness

Holiness is in God is an essential incompatibility with all sin, with all defect, with all imperfection of understanding and will.

  1. Injustice, iniquity, sin cannot be in him: he is the rule and the good by essence, without which he may have in him some kind of defect. He neither understands nor wants that it is necessary for him to understand and hear: his understanding and will are his nature which is always excellent. His moral perfection and his natural perfection are one: he is equally immune to defect by his being and infallible in his intelligence and will, by consequence incompatible with all sin and defect.
  2. It belongs only to him to purify soiled consciences from sin: he is holy and sanctifier: he is just and justifying the sinner, as Saint Paul says.
  3. He is incompatible with sinners and rejects them in front of him by all his holiness and all his essence. The morning, says the Psalmist, in the time when thoughts are the neatest and when one can offer first fruits to God, Lord, I will present myself in front of you and I will see clearly, in your light, that you are a God and do not want iniquity.  The evil one does not live next to you: and the unjust do not last in front of your eyes.  You hate all those who commit sins: you will lose all those who speak lies: the bloody man and the deceiver are an abomination in front of the Lord.
  4. Sinners uselessly attack by their rebellion: and, his holiness dwells inviolable in the midst of the impious, the blasphemers, the impure ones of which all the universe is filled by the malice of men and demons.
  5. He dwells holy, although to punish sinners he delivers them to their bad desires, because to deliver them is not to produce them. God only removes himself from an ungrateful heart: this removal is holy, because God removes himself justly from those who leave him and punishes their voluntary straying, in striking them with blindness. He makes all in man, except the first sin where his action does not mix. The one who permits this is not soiled, because he alone, he can take away an infinite good and greater than the malice of all sins together, as when he took from the malice of the Jews a sacrifice so holy which expiates all crimes.
  6. He purifies the just by a thousand trials: he places them in the crucible and the fire: in the fire of this life: in the fire of the other and nothing soiled enters into his kingdom.
  7. His holiness is the conviction of all men: Unhappiness to me, wrote Isaiah, after having seen the majesty of the three-times holy: unhappiness to me with my impure lips: in the middle of a soiled people.  I saw with my eyes the King of armies: Go, he says, and say to these people: Hear and not understand. Blind the heart of this people: weigh down their ears: close their eyes. It is the effect of the holiness of God, when it is scorned.

I will be sanctified in their midst in punishing them: I will wash my hands in their blood and my just vengeance will break out my holiness.

Holy things are for the holy, it is written another time before communion. There is only one holy: only one Lord: only one Jesus Christ, the people respond. Oh Lord! Sanctify us, so that we sanctify and glorify your name. In truth, in truth I say to you: I do not know you: go away from me, all of you who work iniquity.

Approach, penitent sinners: purify yourselves in the source of purity. If your sins are red like scarlet, I will whiten them like snow. What a marvellous change! The Ethiopian will no longer have black skin: she breaks out in a heavenly whiteness: the holiness of God has done this work. Be thus holy, because I am holy, says the Lord. Be saints, ministers of God and his altars, dispensers of his word and his mysteries, because God has chosen you to sanctify his people. People of God, be holy, because God lives in your midst. Sanctify your souls where he wants to make his dwelling and your bodies which are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Love of God, Despised and Implacable

The next part of Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,9:

Because you have not wanted to serve the Lord your God with pleasure and in the joy of your heart, in the abundance of all of his good things, you will be subjected to an implacable enemy which the Lord will send over you, in hunger and thirst, in nudity and famine, and he will place on your heads a yoke of iron which will overwhelm you. (Deuteronomy 28:47) And as the Lord took pleasure in doing well to you, of multiplying you, to enrich you to full hands, likewise he will take pleasure in losing you, in destroying you, in crushing you. (v. 63) Weigh these words: the measure of torments will be love scorned.  Why do you vainly cry (Jeremiah 30) and what use is it to you to push to the heavens your useless whining under the hand which breaks you? Your breakage is incurable: gangrene is in your wound and there is no cure: there is no longer for you either balm or splint. I have struck you with the blow of an enemy, of a cruel wound: not a father’s punishment to correct you, but a vengeful and pitiless punch to satisfy inexorable justice.  Your sins have become hard by the hardness of your heart, by your inveterate habits, by your inflexibility in evil. And I also, says the Lord, I will harden myself towards you: and I will forget that I am your father. You  will implore in vain my mercy pushed to the limit by your ingratitude: your insensibility will become mine.  I have done to you this cruel and insupportable treatment on account of the multitude of your crimes and your hard sins: on account of the inflexible hardness of your rebellious and self-willed heart.  It is time that judgement begins by the house of God (1 Peter 4:17) Lead to me Jerusalem: lead to me this soul piled up with such graces: I will lose it: I will erase it like one erases writing so as not to leave a trace: I will pass and pass again a sharp knife on his forehead and there will not remain anything sane or whole.

God, His Unity and Perfection: Goodness and Love of God Around Penitent Sinners

Again we have Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,8:

It is said by a common proverb (Jeremiah 3) : If a husband leaves his wife and she, going away from him, marries another husband, will the first take her back? This woman, will she not be soiled and abominable? And you, sinning soul, you are freed from all your lovers.  It is not I who has left you, no, I am a faithful spouse and who myself has never divorced: it is you, unfaithful soul, who has abandoned me and given yourself not only to one lover, but to thousands and thousands of corrupters. Come soon to me, says the Lord, and I will receive you. Look on all sides, and such as your sight can stretch itself out, you will only see the scars of your infamies.  In what place have you not prostituted yourself, unclean soul, given up to all the desires of your heart? You were as exposed in public roads, and there was no creature who did not captivate your heart.  I repeated to you your revenges, your envies, your secret hatred, your ambition to which you sacrificed all, your impure and disordered loves? All the earth has been soiled with your prostitutions and your malices.  You have the forehead of an impudent, you have not blushed because of your excesses.  So come back, at least from now on: call me your father, your spouse and the conductor of my virginity.  Why do you always want to grow distant from me like an angry woman, why do you persist in your unjust anger? You have said that you have done bad things, you have puffed your self up, you have done this and you have little. I have abandoned you to your ways. Come back, unfaithful, and I will not turn my eyes away from you: because I am the Holy One, says the Lord, and my anger will not be forever. Only know your iniquity and that you have lied against the Lord. There is no leafy tree in the forest which is not a witness of your shame: there is no vain pleasure which has not misled you and you have not listened to me, says the Lord. Turn yourselves around, rebellious children: turn yourselves around and come back to the father’s house, prodigal children: you will be clothed in the first robe, a party will be celebrated in your honour: the whole house will be joyful and your father, touched with a particular tenderness, will excuse himself to the just ones which never left him by saying: You are always with me: but I must rejoice because your brother was dead and has come back alive: he was lost and has been found again. Rejoice with me, and with all of heaven, which makes a party at the conversion of sinners and conceives a greater joy for the return of one than for the perseverance of ninety-nine just  ones, which have no need for penitence.

Come back now, disobedient children (Ezekiel 18) come back, unfaithful spouses, because I am your spouse. (Jeremiah 3).  Is it my will that the impious perish and not that he will turn back and live? (Ezekiel 18) Come back, do penance and your sin will not turn you to ruin.  Put distance between you and your lies and disobediences, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.  And why do you want to die, children of Israel, while I, I who have offended you, want your life? No, I do not want the death of the sinner, says the Lord God: come back and live.

It is I, I myself, who wipes out your iniquities for the love of myself (Isaiah 43:25) and to satisfy my goodness: and I will not call to mind again your sins.  Only, remember me. Let us enter into judgement one with another: I want to lower myself to that point. Plead your cause: with what do you justify your ingratitudes, after which I have forgiven you so many times? Jacob remember, do not forget. (Isaiah 44) I have wiped away your iniquities like a cloud: I have dissipated your sins, like the sun dissipates fog.  Sinners, return to me, because I have bought you. O Heavens, sing his praises: earth, resound your praises from one end to the other: mountains, carry your songs to the clouds, because the Lord has shown mercy. As the heaven is raised up above the earth, so has he exalted and strengthened his mercies: as the sunrise is far from the sunset, so he has drawn away from us our iniquities. (Psalm 101) Like a father has pity for his children, so also God pities us, because he knew our weakness and what a mass we were burdened down with. We are only mud and dust; our days leave like grass and fall like a flower: and our soul, more fragile than our body, has no consistency.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Goodness of God and His Love Around His Own

Another post from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, I, 7:

It’s a father, it’s a mother, it’s a nurturer.  A mother, can she forget the child which she carried in her womb? And when she does forget it, I will never forget you, (Isaiah 49,15), says the Lord.  The Lord your God has carried you on his arms like a little child.  (Deuteronomy 1:31)  Like an eagle who carries its little ones, who stretches its wings on them, who flies on them and provokes them to fly: in this way God does not turn away his looks from above the nest and guards it like the pupil of his eye: he carries us to his breasts to give us milk: he puts us on his knee and not content with nourishing us, he joins with nourishing tenderness and caresses: like a mother caresses her child who draws her milk, thus I have consoled you, says the Lord (Isaiah 56). More than all that, he is a passionate lover, a tender spouse.  This is what the Lord says to Jerusalem, to the faithful soul: (Ezekiel 16) When you came into the world, you were in impurity from your father Adam, from whom you have inherited corruption and sin.  The umbilical cord has not been cut: you were not washed in water, neither salted with salt, neither wrapped in linens: no one had compassion on you, neither did they regard you with an eye of pity: exposed and thrown to the earth like an aborted one by an extreme contempt from the day of your birth, you were not except for your loss and no one cared for you.  This is what is by human nature itself, conceived in iniquity and sin.  Then, said the Lord, I saw you in passing, poor and abandoned, and all the while dirty in your own blood and all full of impurity from your birth, you had nothing which was not made of horror and you were delivered inevitably to death, I said to you: I wish that you would live.  See unhappy soul, it is I who says, see all the horror that you were in the impurity of your blood; in the filth of your sin.  It is such that God speaks to the soul which he washes by baptism.  But his cares are not limited here.  You have grown, says the Lord.  Your reason has formed little by little and you have become fit for jewellery which one gives to small girls, virtues for which it is necessary to prepare souls from their youth.  You began to be able to carry fruits: your breasts grew and formed: and you reached the age where you were given lovers.  But out of fear that you avoid taking someone unworthy of you, I presented myself to your desires.  I passed by and saw you at this age: and although you were nude and full of confusion, without self-control and in your first desires, I married you, I called you in my bed and into the embraces which purified the soul: I contracted with you an eternal marriage.  I swore by my truth that I would not abandon you and that you would be mine.  I washed you with holy water.  From the first days of your birth where I made it possible for you to live, you were already cleansed by the waters of baptism; but it was necessary to wash you after that of bad desires which the impure root of your lust did without stop; the impurity of blood which you were born with was again on you: I took you away by holy instructions and I placed on you the holiness of baptism.  And I anointed you with holy oil, by the abundance of my graces.  I gave you clothes of many colours: I decorated you with all virtues: and I hunted with care, the most beautiful furs.  And I enveloped you with clothes of fine linen, which are the righteousness of the saints; and I clothed you again with the finest garments: I took away by my grace your most earthy and carnal desires.  My love went beyond that and not only wanted you to be neat and proper, but rich and opulent, I gave you large ornaments, arm bracelets, a rich necklace around your breast, circles of gold, jewelled earrings and a crown on your head.  You glistened of silver and gold, and all was rich and magnificent in your clothing.  I nourished you in what was better and most exquisite: all the sweets were served at your table.  By these ornaments, by these cares, your beauty received such a burst that everyone was ravished.  I lifted you up to the throne.  All of the universe talked only of your beauty which I alone gave you, says the Lord God: who is the beautiful and good par excellence and the author of all beauty and all good in my creatures.

See, Christian soul, what lover, what spouse you have been given.  He found you ugly, he made you beautiful: he did not stop to embellish you more and more: he has showered on you all his gifts, all his riches: he placed you on his throne: he made you Queen: his Angels admired you as the spouse of the King of Kings, as received in his bed, united to his eternal happiness.  Heaped up with his glory and delights: what have you desired, Christian soul, to know all the good things and all the love of this generous spouse?

God, His Unity and Perfection: The All-Powerful Protection of God

Moving on, this from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,6:

(Isaiah 40, 41:14 and onward) Climb up to the top of a high mountain, you who evangelise, you who announce to Zion the good news of her salvation: raise up a powerful voice, you who announce to Jerusalem her happiness: raise your voice, do not fear.  Say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God who comes to your rescue: it is your God who comes with strength and with a dominant arm: he comes and with him his payback, and his work will not be lacking.  Like a shepherd feeds his flock, and who himself carries the lambs who cannot hold themselves up: the Lord carries in this way. Who is he who has measured the immensity of the waters by his hand and who has weighed the heavens with his wrist, and with his hand all the mass of the earth? Who is he who has placed the mountains and the hills in a balance and with little effort that all the earth is used as a counterweight, hanging in equilibrium in the middle of the air?  Who has helped the spirit of the Lord or who has served as his advisor and has shown him such great things which he must do? if it is necessary to offer sacrifices on account of his grandeur, neither Lebanon nor the earth will have enough wood for the burnt offerings: that is to say that the heart of man, although greater than all the universe and physical nature, does not have enough love, enough desire to sacrifice. The heart of man is lost when it wants to worship God. Do you know well the beginning of all things? Have you neither understood the foundations of the earth nor how God rests on his large tower and made it his seat or like his footstool?  Raise your eyes and look who has created all these luminaries: who have made them march in order of battle, and calls each one by their name without missing one, in his power.  Jacob, who defying you in this power, said in himself: my ways are hidden from the Lord, he doesn’t know where I am and my God does not pass judgement on me, to punish me or save me.  Do you not know that the Lord is eternal, that he has marked out and created the limits of the earth? Without weakness, without work, without laziness, he acts without stop and his wisdom is impenetrable. He exercises his strength to him who is given out, his courage and virtue to him who is no more.  The most robust youth will fall in weakness in spite of its vigour, but those who hope in the Lord will see their strength renewed day by day.  When they think they are at their end, and can do no more, all at once they will take flight like an eagle: they will run and not tire: they will walk and be unable to tire.  Thus walk, pious souls, walk: and when you believe you cannot do any more, redouble your ardour and your courage.  I will pull you, says the Lord, from the ends of the earth. I will take you by the hand and I will make you come back from the end of the world. I have said to you: you are my servant, I chose you and have not rejected you. Do you fear anything, because I am with you: do not let yourselves grow weak, as I am your God. I have strengthened you, I have rescued you and the right hand of my just one, of my Christ, has been your support.  All your enemies will be confused and will be as they are not: you will ask where they are will see them disappeared: your rebels to whom you delivered yourselves to continuous assaults will be like they never were: all their efforts will be in vain and like nothing: because I who am the Lord, I have taken you by the hand and I told you in the depths of your heart: do not fear, I have helped you. Jacob who was little and weak like a little worm, who could hardly drag himself: Israelites who are listless, beaten and ridiculed to the level of death, I have brought you back to life, I the Lord, by my all-powerful help and I am your redeemer, I the holy one of Israel.  You will put your enemies to flight, you will be on top of them like a new chariot, armed with blades of iron: you will destroy their armies and fortresses: they will be lifted up like the mountains, you will reduce them to powder. You will push in front of your enemies like a dust storm does dust and you will rejoice in the Lord, and your heart, carried away from comfort, will triumph in the holy one of Israel.

It is not necessary to say that these things are miracles, extraordinary effects of the power of God. God only shows these tangible effects of this open power to convince us of what he has always done in secret.    His arm is not less strong that he hides it, as when he declares: he is always and above all the all-powerful, the triumphant in Israel, as he calls himself, the invincible protector and always present to his friends.

Hear thus, Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says: I who have formed you, who have created you and who have pulled you from nothing each moment, who is your help from your mother’s womb: from the beginning of your life, in your greatest weakness and among the most impenetrable darkness. My servant whom I love: upright man whom I have chosen, I will send you from heaven my consolations: I will pour out abundant waters on he who is thirsty, I will overturn torrents on this dried ground: I will pour out my spirit on you, I will make you fertile in good works and I will bless these productions.  Hear these words, desolate souls whom God seems to have left abandoned in his anger, but to whom his love is put to the test.  You will live, it is I who promises, I who am the true and holy one, the faithful and all-powerful: I do all I want. The Lord has sworn and he has said: if this which I have thought does not arrive, if this which I resolve is not accomplished, I am not God: but I am God: I am the God of armies, the God which makes all which pleases him in the heaven and the earth.  The Lord has pronounced and who can annul his judgement? The Lord has extended his hand and who can dodge the blows or deflect the impact?

When Title IX Backfires: Cutting the Men’s Track and Field Program

A week ago the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga decided to cut the men’s track and field program:

The men’s indoor and outdoor track & field teams will no longer be programs, according to Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics David Blackburn.

The Mocs are concluding their five-year Title IX process, which is aimed at bringing the program in compliance with the Federal Law.

The men’s indoor and outdoor track & field programs will still compete this semester and finish out the season.

As for men’s cross country, participation will be limited following the 2014-15 season.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Blackburn said in a press release.  “You never want to cut a program, but based on our current Title IX situation and the current financial climate, it was a decision that had to be made.”

It’s tempting to think that, with “political correctness” ruling on our campuses, the students would just let this roll.  But you’d be wrong.  In the 3 February 2015 print issue of The Echo, we have the following:

Patrick O’Brien, Chattanooga senior, started a petition to bring back the men’s indoor and outdoor track programs.

The petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/chancellor-steve-angle-save-utc-men-s-track-and-field.

So far, 928 people have participated in the petition to save the program.

As of now it’s up to 1500 signatories, well above 10% of the student body.

I hope that UTC finds a way to follow the good sense of the students and not the bureaucratic enshrinement of past ideology.  After all, this is the university system of Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols, who did so much to change people’s perception of women’s athletics.  (This is also the university system where Chattanooga’s Lady Mocs beat the Lady Vols early in the season, too).  It’s time to see things as they are.

My other piece on Title IX is here.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Foreknowledge and Providence of God

A new instalment in our series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1.5:

Who hath wrought and done these things, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, I am the first and the last, (Isaiah 41:4 DRB) who in the centre of my eternity see all begin and all end. Babylon, assemble your divines: what do I say, your divines? Assemble your Gods. Let them come, and tell us all things that are to come: tell us the former things what they were (and that they make a bond one with another): and we will set our heart upon them Tell us the things that are to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, announce them to us and we shall know that ye are gods. Do ye also good or evil, if you can: for if you can do them at your whim, you can foresee and divine them: Behold, you are of nothing, since you are false gods, Your work of that which hath no being: he that hath chosen you is an abomination. (Isaiah 41:22-24) It is so that the prophet Isaiah and with him all the saints convict to nothing the gods of the Pagans.

But I, says the Lord by the mouth of this holy Prophet, as I do everything, I predict what I want. Who will be the one who makes them come from the East: who calls them from afar, so that they will follow? Who will dissipate the nations like dust in front of his sword and armies like straw in the wind in front of his bow? I will make come from the North and the East he whom I know and which I see from all eternity. It is Cyrus whom I have named to be liberator of my people. He will know my name: all the princes will be in front of him like people who gather from the mud. Who is he who has proclaimed this from the beginning? It is I the Lord: my name is there; I will neither give my glory to another nor my praise to idols. That which I have announced at the beginning and which appeared first in my oracles, look, he arrives. I will then uncover new things: before they appear, I will make you hear of them. Israel, you are a dissipated people. Who gave you as prey to your enemies, if not the Lord himself, because we have sinned; and he has spread on us the breath of his anger? And now, says the Lord, I will create you anew, Jacob: and I form you, Israel. I am. There is no God ahead of me and there will be none afterwards. I am. I am the Lord and only I save. From the beginning I am: I am the Lord your Holy, the King and creator of Israel. Do not dream of things past: I will make you new ones. I formed these people for me and I wish that they tell my praises. I am the first and the last at the same time and there is no God but me alone. I am the Lord who makes all: who makes useless all the predictions of the diviners: I change their spirit and I change their wisdom into folly. But to the contrary, after several centuries I will carry out, and I will make the word of my Prophet whom I have inspired come alive: and I will carry out the predictions of my messengers. I say to Jerusalem ruined and made alone: you will be filled with inhabitants. I say to the cities of Judah: be rebuilt: I will rebuild your ruins and I will fill your lonely and abandoned streets. I said to Cyrus: you are the prince I have chosen: you have carried out my will. I say to Jerusalem: you will be built, and to the temple reduced to ashes, you will be founded anew. I named Cyrus to make this happen. I said to Cyrus, my anointed, whom I take by the hand to throw down the nations and make the Kings in front of him flee. I will deliver hidden treasures: that which is stored away in the most hidden places will be open to you, so that you will know that I am the Lord, I the God of Israel who calls you by name. I am not doing this for love of you, but for the love of Israel my servant and of Jacob whom I have chosen. It is for him that I called you by name. I set forth to you: I appeared to you such as you are. You did not know me: and I, I invested you with power, so that from getting up to going to bed one would know that there is no other God but me, and that I, and no other, I am the Lord. It is I who created the light and who scattered the darkness: I pardon and I punish: I distribute good and evil, peace and war, by the merit of each one. I am the Lord who does these things. Such spoke Isaiah, the two hundred fifty years later, Cyrus, conqueror by this oracle, saw the prophet and published this edict: Here is what Cyrus King of the Persians says: the God of heaven, the Lord, has delivered to me all the kingdoms of the earth and has commanded me to rebuild his house in Jerusalem.

A hundred other similar examples justify the foreknowledge and providence of God: but this one understands all and leaves nothing to be desired.

A Royal Visit to Our Home, Fifty Years Out

I mentioned a short time ago that the “fives” were well equipped with anniversaries.  I just realised that I have missed one: the 20 January 1965 visit of Belgian Prince Alexandre de Rethy to our business and home in Palm Beach, complete with a reception at the Colony.  You can view the account of that visit here.

The reception at the Colony. Prince Alexandre is in the foreground, to the left of the “gap” in the table. clockwise from the Prince is my mother Mrs. Vernell Warrington, Mr. Willy Nilens, Mrs. Wiggs, Mr. Georges van de Velde, Mrs. Rolande Nilens, my father Mr. Henry Warrington, Mrs. Marguerite van de Velde, Mr. Earle Evans (my father’s sales manager,) Mrs. Lee Evans, and Mr. Ken Wiggs, whose construction company built our offices and plant in Florida. Standing in the back is “Van,” the Colony’s maitre d’ and a Belgian himself. (Photo by Mort Kaye Studios, Palm Beach)

Prince Alexandre sadly passed away in 2009.

“Man Clothed in the Omnipotence of God”: Bossuet on Faith and Prayer

I’m briefly interrupting my posts from Bossuet’s Elevations to deal with a subject that Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm takes up: the meaning of Mark 11:23-24.  I honestly think that Bossuet, “the Eagle”, (who was very Augustinian) has a much more accurate and inspiring treatment of the passage.

The following comes from Bossuet’s Meditations on the Gospel, from the part entitled “The Last Week of the Saviour”, XXI.  This work was written about 1694-5. He is meditating on Matthew 21:21-22 and Mark 11:22:24, which (for my readers’ convenience) I will reproduce:

“I tell you,” replied Jesus, “if you have faith, without ever a doubt, you will do what not only what has been done to the fig tree, but, even if you should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’ it would be done. And whatever you ask for in your prayers will, if you have faith, be granted you.” (Matthew 21:21-22 TCNT)

“Have faith in God!” replied Jesus. “I tell you that if any one should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’, without ever a doubt in his mind, but in the faith that what he says will be done, he would find that it would be. And therefore I say to you ‘Have faith that whatever you ask for in prayer is already granted you, and you will find that it will be.’  (Mark 11:22-24 TCNT)

The apostles were astonished by the sudden effect of Our Lord’s words to the fig tree.  They were much more so when He told them that they could do as much, and even more, provided they had faith.  If you have faith, He said to them, and stagger not, not only this of the fig tree will you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done. (Matthew 21:21)

Behold the wonder of wonders: man clothed in the omnipotence of God.

Go, said the Saviour, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, case out devils: freely have you received, freely give.  (Matthew 10:8) Who ever gave such a command?

And he sent them to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2) Who ever sent his ministers with such commands? Go, He said, into this house and heal those whom you will find there.  All were filled with wonder at such commands. And yet, he proceeded even further: All that you ask in my name, you shall receive. (John 14:14) You will be able to do all that I am able to do. You will do all of the greatest things that you have seen me do, and you will do even greater things. In fact, if one was cured on touching the edge of the robe of Jesus Christ while He was wearing it, weren’t even greater miracles being performed by St. Paul, when there were even brought from his body, to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them? (Acts 19:12) And not only the linens which had touched the apostles had that power, but their very shadow: when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities. (Acts 5:15)

Here, therefore, is the greatest miracle of Jesus Christ. Not only is He all-powerful, but here He renders man all-powerful and, if possible, more powerful than He Himself is, performing constantly greater miracles, and all through faith and through prayer: and all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. (Matthew 21:22)  Faith, therefore, and prayer are all-powerful, and they clothe man with the omnipotence of God. If you can believe, said the Saviour, all is possible to him who believes. (Mark 9:22)

The performance of miracles, therefore, is not the difficulty.  Rather, the difficulty is to believe.  If you can believe.  This is the miracle of miracles; to believe absolutely and without hesitation. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:23), said the man to whom Jesus said: If you can believe.

Lord, augment our faith within us, said the apostles. (Luke 17:5) We need only faith, for with it we can do all things. Oh! if you had faith, said the Lord, like a grain of mustard seed, you would say to the mulberry tree: Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6) And it would find a bottom in the waves to spread there its roots.

Thus the great miracle of Jesus Christ is not to make us all-powerful men.  Rather, it is to make us courageous and faithful believers who dare to hope all from God, when it is a question of his glory.

We must understand, therefore, that this faith which can do all, is inspired. In order to dare to make this act of faith which can do all, it is necessary that God give us effective motion, the power to act. And the fruit of these precepts of the Gospel, which we read today, is to abandon ourselves to this divine motion which makes us feel that God wishes something from us. No matter how great it might be, one must dare, and not hesitate an instant.

When it is a question of asking God for the things necessary to salvation, we do not need any of this particular motion from God, who tells us what He wishes that we do in order to obtain his power. We know very definitely through the Gospel that God wishes that we ask Him for our salvation and conversion. Let us ask then without hesitating, assured that if we do it with the necessary perseverance, all will be possible.

Let us dare all things, and no matter how slight our faith will be, let us fear nothing. A small grain of faith, the size of a mustard seed, enables us to undertake anything. Grandeur has no part in it, said the Saviour. I ask only for truth and sincerity; if it becomes necessary that this small grain grow, God Who has given it, will make it grow.  Act then with the little you posses, and much will be given you: And this grain of mustard seed and this budding faith, will become a great tree, and the birds of the air will dwell in the branches thereof. (Matthew 13:31,32) The must sublime virtues will not only come there, but will make their abode therein.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Unity of God

Continuing in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,4:

Hear, Israel: the Lord your God is one God, because he is who is, he who is indivisible.  All which is not perfect, degenerates from perfection.  Thus the Lord your God being the perfect one is alone and there is no other God but him.  All that is not him who is by his essence and nature, is not and will not be eternal, if he who is along does not give him being.

If there is more than one God, there will be an infinity of them: if there is an infinity, there are none: because each is not what he is, and are finite, and there will be no point where the infinite is not lacking, or it would be necessary to hear one who has all and who from that will be alone.  Hear Israel: hear at your deepest, do not hear from the place where fantasies are forged.  Hear from the place where the truth is heard, where one puts together pure and simple ideas.  Hear there, Israel, and there, in the secret of your heart where truth is heard, keep this word without noise: The Lord your God is one God alone: before him the heavens are not: all is before him as it were not: all is counted for nothing, like a void, like a pure inanity, because he is who is, who sees all, who knows all, who does all, who orders all and calls that which is not as if it were.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal