" And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld,
He was taken up ; and a cloud received Him out of their
sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven
as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white
apparel" ACTS i. 9, 10.
It is a remarkable point in our Community,
my Sisters, that we should have our two chief
festivals so close together;! the one, of the Bride
of the LORD : the other, of the Bridegroom of
the Virgins : how the one shows the love to the
ame above all names ; the other, the help of
the ame above all names : how the Pearl, in
one is the Sought, in the other the Seeker.
There it is : the help on earth : because the
journey to heaven. There it is : the assistance
here, because the heart there. The Victor, even
before He had been received into His Glory, (for
they were looking as He went up,) remembers,
* Preached on the Festival of the Holy ame, 1863. (?)
f He refers to the proximity of the Festival of S. Margaret
(July 20) to that of the Holy ame (Aug. 7).
His dear Promise, and sends, if not as yet the
Paraclete, yet still two Angels, to comfort His
orphans, to make them feel that they are not
alone, to give the earnest of the Great Promise
which in ten days shall be accomplished fully.
And, my Sisters, notice this. The first Adam
had no sooner lost Paradise than there came
the promise of the Seed of the Woman that
should bruise the serpent s head. The second
Adam had scarcely or rather, had not re
gained Paradise for Himself, when He takes
care that His followers should know how, not
for Himself only, but for them, He had won it.
Ah, dear Sisters, is not the lesson clear ? You,
no sooner in battle than He with you. He, no
sooner in glory than you with Him. This is
the kind of participation between the glorious
King and the poor subjects ; between the faith
ful Bridegroom and the too often faithless Bride.
He takes your weakness, that He may invest
you with His strength ; your poverty, that He
may endow you with His riches ; He becomes
the Man of Sorrows, Who hath neither form nor
comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there
is no beauty that we should desire Him, to the
end that you may be perfect in His Beauty
which He desires to put on you.
But it is not every look after Him that will
178 THE AME OF HELP. [Si*.
serve the turn. Let me tell you a way in which
a mediaeval Priest speaks of that text to his
Sisters: "You say that you do look up. You
say that you dearly and truly look up. I believe
you. But then, O dear ones in CHRIST, it is
fitfully. This festival, that fast, you do keep
somewhat in the way that the Brides of the
King ought to do. But then you relax then
the watch, for the time, is over : then the lamp,
for the season, is extinguished : then the de
voted Bride is, if not on the other side, at
least not on her LORD S." And then He goes
on very strikingly : " You have heard over and
over again " (because it was in the Lessons for
the second octurn of their Patron, S. Agnes,)
" that passage of S. Ambrose where he, telling
how that Saint was led into the foullest and
vilest of abodes, proceeds : * Close your eyes,
Christian maidens ; a Christian maiden is
dragged into the place of shame. ay, open
them again, Christian maidens : CHRIST S own
ones may suffer, but can never be put to shame.
But to be found negligent ; to be found gazing
up to Heaven, but not stedfastly ; to be found
calling on that LORD S ame, but not earnestly;
to be found allowing the Cistercian dress to
enfold every limb, but not really ; to be found
with a bandlet on the forehead which cared more
for the knowledge of this world than of JESUS
CHRIST, and Him Crucified ; of such an one
S. Ambrose would indeed say, Close your eyes,
Christian maidens. She attempts with a half
heart that which needs the most entire love of
a most entire soul ; she, oh miserable failure !
thinks that she may give herself partly to Him
Who gave Himself, Soul and Body, every power
of that Human Soul, every member of that,
then mortal, now immortal Body, for her ! "
"Why stand ye gazing up into Heaven?"
My Sisters : a question indeed for all His fol
lowers ; the question of questions for you. ot
for this reason ; not that you should allow
yourselves in meaningless, helpless, senti
mental expressions of an earthly love to Him
Who shall come to judge the quick and the
dead. I do not think that this is a besetting
fault here. But it is impossible to look at books
of devotions intended for Sisters, without see
ing how apt, how likely, their users are to run
into this error. But the " Why stand ye gazing
up into Heaven ?" has a very different answer.
Any of you who have, for your portion now,
work which you would not have chosen as a
Sister, while there is work which you would
choose if you might have it, who might think,
" I could serve our dear LORD better, if I only
had that especial task, and as to my own happi
ness, it would be tenfold : " such an one should
look up stedfastly to see, with the eye of faith,
that there her work and her wish will be one ;
and both, her best : that there, He Who sets
her work cannot be mistaken, and that His will
will be, in very truth, hers also : and she must
look stedfastly, and then she may see a certain
reflection of that future task in her present one.
The thought indeed arises : " I wish to serve my
LORD with all my heart and strength. Weariness,
pain, trouble, I long since made up my mind to.
But there is this or that task that I know I could
throw myself better into. I feel sure I could be of
more use ; His Service would gain, (for it comes
to that,) and my happiness would be complete."
Well ; and what have some of His chief
servants thought and said, ay, and left for us
on record in the same way? They were on
fire, S. Paul and his companions, to preach the
Gospel in Asia Minor. What follows ? " ow,
when they had gone throughout Phrygia and
the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of
the HOLY GHOST to preach the word in Asia,"
(there was disappointment the first) " after they
were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into
Bithynia, but the SPIRIT suffered them not."
(Disappointment the second.)
And so much for that class of troubles. Of
others, that kind which, doubtless in themselves,
are harder to bear, and which those who know
little about the matter, would think beyond all
comparison so much the more difficult to endure,
so much the more glorious if endured well : of
them, I need say nothing. But the longer I live,
the more I know of myself, and the more I know
of you, this I see : that it is a much greater
thing in little, trifling, every-day worries, in
such disappointments as must occur over and
over again in every week of our lives, in the
teasing annoyances which we all know, but
which it would be very difficult for any of us to
describe, that it is far harder in them to do as
the Apostles did than in those great matters
when we must either have that help or know
that we can have none. As there is nothing in
nature but may teach us something in grace, a
story that I read the other day in a book of
travels in Brazil, seems to me exactly to the
point. The writer, with two companions, was
collecting insects in one of those wonderful
South American forests. In the middle of the
day, they sat down to their meal. At one and
the same time, the one was bitten by a snake,
whose poison, unless the bite be treated at
once, is mortal ; the other happened to have
l82 THE AME OF HELP. [Szs.
taken his seat on an ant s nest, and in a
moment hundreds of the fighting ants swarmed
over him. The man bitten by the serpent, sub
mitted to treatment at once, and in a day or
two was well ; the other laughed off the idea of
any medical care, and in the fever that ensued,
very nearly lost his life. I thought when I read
that story, if the material dangers were trans
lated into a spiritual meaning, how much there
was to be learnt from that account. It is the
old story about the little foxes ; which, on the
whole, do so much more harm to the vineyards
than the wild boar or the singular beast.
" While they looked up stedfastly toward Hea
ven." And I think that scarcely could there be a
truer question than that of S. Bernard s, with
respect to this very verse. Of how many epochs
in our lives, greater or less, of how many actions
of our lives, more or less important j nay, of how
many of the most common-place events that
daily occur, could we have this answer to this
question ? When did it happen ? It happened
while he, or while they, were looking up sted
fastly towards Heaven. The exact words I can
not give you, but the sense is this. What he
believed of those to whom he was then speak
ing, that any sudden event occurring in the
course of their lives, would find them in a
certain way looking up towards Heaven, that
most surely I believe of all of you. He goes
on ; that the looking up stedfastly was more
than he dared to hope for the greater number
of those to whom he was then speaking; and
now, joining myself with you and those to whom
the question was asked, let us think how, in
all likelihood, it would have to be answered.


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