Truth, Faith, and Charity with Dom Prosper Guéranger

     Last Sunday was the feast of Christ the King, so the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost was not celebrated on that day. However, as Monday was an open liturgical day, our parish priest celebrated the propers for the Twenty-second Sunday on Monday. In The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., there is a beautiful meditation for this Mass on the vital role of truth, faith, and charity. It is incredibly timely for these dark and confusing days in the world and in the Church.

     The one ambition which rules and absorbs him [Saint Paul] is that God, who has begun in them the work which is good by excellence, the work of Christian perfection such as we know had been wrought in the apostle himself, may continue and perfect it in them all, by the day, when Christ is to appear in His glory. This is what he prays for, that charity, the wedding-garment of those whom he has betrothed to the one Spouse, may beautify them with all its splendour for the grand day of the eternal nuptials.

     Now, how is charity to be perfected in them? It must abound, more and more, in knowledge and in all understanding of salvation, that is, in faith. It is faith that constitutes the basis of all supernatural virtue. A restricted, a diminished, faith could never support a large and high-minded charity. Those men, therefore, are deceiving themselves whose love for revealed truth does not keep pace with their charity! Such Christianity as that believes as little as it may; it has a nervous dread of new definitions; and out of respect for error, it cleverly and continually narrows the supernatural horizon. Charity, they say, is the queen of virtues; it makes them take everything easily, even lies against truth; to give the same rights to error as to truth is, in their estimation, the highest point of Christian civilization grounded on love! They quite forget that the first object of charity, God who is substantial Truth, has no greater enemy than a lie; they cannot understand how it is that a Christian does not do a work of love by putting on the same footing the Object beloved and His mortal enemy!
     The apostles had very different ideas; in order to make charity grow in the world, they gave it a rich sowing of truth. Every new ray of light they put into their disciples’ hearts was an intensifying of their love; and these disciples, having by Baptism become themselves light, were most determined to have nothing to do with darkness. In those days, to deny the truth was the greatest of crimes; to expose themselves, by a want of vigilance, to infringe on the rights of truth, even in the slightest degree, was the height of imprudence. When Christianity first shown upon mankind, it found error supreme mistress of the world. Having, then, to deal with a universe that was rooted in death, Christianity adopted no other plan for giving it salvation than that of making the light as bright as could be; its only policy was to proclaim the power which truth alone has of saving man, and to assert its exclusive right to reign over this world. The triumph of the Gospel was the result. It came after three centuries of struggle — a struggle intense and violent on the side of darkness, which declared itself to be supreme, and was resolved to keep so; but a struggle most patient and glorious on the side of the Christians, the torrents of whose blood did but add fresh joy to the brave army, for it became the strongest possible foundation of the united kingdom of love and truth.
     But now, with the connivance of those whose Baptism made them, too, children of light, error has regained its pretended rights. As a natural consequence, the charity of an immense number has grown cold in proportion; darkness is again thickening over the world, as though it were in the chill of its last agony. The children of light, who would live up to their dignity, must behave exactly as did the early Christians. They must not fear nor be troubled: but, like their forefathers and the apostles, they must be proud to suffer for Jesus’ sake, and prize the word of life as the dearest thing they possess; for they are convinced that, so long as truth is kept up in the world, so long is there hope for it. As their only care is, to make their manner of life worthy of the Gospel of Christ, they go on, with all the simplicity of children of God, faithfully fulfilling the duties of their state of life, in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, as the stars of the firmament shine in the night. ‘The stars shine in the night,’ says St. John Chrusostom, ‘they glitter in the dark; so far from growing dim amidst the gloom that surrounds them, they seem all the more brilliant. So will it be with thee, if thou art virtuous amidst the wicked; thy light will shine so much the more clearly.’ ‘As the stars,’ says St. Augustine, ‘keep on their course in the track marked out for them by God, and grow not tired of sending forth their light in the midst of darkness, neither heed they the calamities which may be happening on earth; so should do those holy ones whose conversation is truly in heaven; they should pay no more attention to what is said or done against them, than the stars do.’….
     The diminution of truth is evidently to be a leading peril of the latter times; for, during these weeks which represent the last days of the world, the Church is continually urging us to sound and solid understanding of truth, as though she considered that to be the great preservative for her children. Last Sunday she gave them, as defensive armour, the shield of faith, and, as offensive weapon, the word of God. On the previous Sunday, it was circumspection of mind and intelligence that she recommended to them, with a view to preserving, during the approaching evil days, the holiness which is founded on truth; for, as she told them the previous week, their riches in all knowledge are of paramount necessity. Today, in the Epistle, she implored of them to be ever progressing in knowledge and all understanding, as being the essential means for abounding in charity, and for having the work of their sanctification perfected for the day of Christ Jesus.