From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
UNITY AND UNION
HAPPY is that day to any devout soul when the bright vision of the Catholic Church, as the eternal and glorious bride of Christ, dawns upon it The soul is lifted up out of the narrow and contracted technicalities of theological disputation, and is bathed in the divine sunlight, and with the blessed saints and angels rejoices in God.
There are three degrees of apprehension of Christianity. First, it is seen to be a spiritual power within men. This is the strictly sectarian view. But Christianity was not only like a grain of mustard seed or leaven within the measures of meal. It came into the world as an organization. The gospel that Christ preached was the "gospel of the kingdom." It was not only a truth or influence. It was these embodied and organized. It was like unto a walled city, a visible temple, a kingdom.
Next, it becomes apparent that this city, temple, kingdom, was divinely founded and established. It was not a mere voluntary association of believers. It did not spring up like a human-made society. It was an organization founded by Christ with its officers and sacraments. This is the aspect that is much dwelt on by Romans, but it is also an imperfect one. For, to confine our vision exclusively to this last view is like a scientist, who, having to describe the earth should fit himself for the task by throwing himself flat on its surface, and then, after applying his eye closely to it, should give us as the result of his investigation concerning the planet a description of the structure and activities of an ant hill. In like manner, those who confine their view of the Church to it as existing only on this world see but a very small part of it. It seems to them a very perfect organization indeed. But it is not the whole Church. In respect to it, the papacy is only an ant hill.
There is a third, a fuller and more complete view. It does not confine its vision to the Church on earth. It takes on a far wider horizon. It begins with Christ. He is not apart from His Church. He is the head of it. He is the sun of this system of light and life. He is reigning now in glory. He is surrounded by His multitudinous cohorts of angels and the innumerable company of His saints. Besides these there is that vast number of souls in the purificative or expectant sphere of advancement. Lastly, there is that small number who are as yet wayfarers, and confined to the earthly state of trial. These three groups, in their triumphant, expectant, militant conditions make up the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This is the Church Christ founded and which is to endure throughout eternity. It is a vast spiritual organism whose centre is Christ, whose life-giving atmosphere is the Holy Ghost.
Now what is the principle of unity which makes and keeps the Church one?
Here we must discriminate between the two ideas of unity and union. "Unity" denotes the oneness of the body. "Union" the co-operation of the members of it. The first requires a principle that makes the body one. The second a law that will regulate co-operation; both need the assisting power of the Holy Ghost.
We must then first solve the question, What is the principle of the Church's unity? The Roman theory makes the unity to depend upon subjection to the Western patriarch or bishop of Rome. The other, and which we deem the Catholic theory, makes the principle of unity our sacramental union with Jesus Christ, the Church's head. Which theory is the correct one?
For the argument's sake, let us put the Church aside and ask in what does the principle of any body consist?
There are three very obvious axioms which we may here apply. First, the principle of unity of any body must be coterminous with the body itself. The principle, so to say, which makes an apple one thing must be a principle which affects every atom of its composition. Likewise the principle which unites and makes the Church one must be a principle which lays hold of and affects every member of the Catholic Church. It must be a principle operating at one and the same time upon the ever Blessed Virgin, the Blessed Mother of God, upon all the saints in glory, upon all the waiting expectant souls, and all the members of the Church militant. Thus tested, the principle of submission to the papacy is seen not to be a principle of unity, because it affects only one portion of the Church, namely, that on the earth, and not the whole of it.
Next it must be admitted that any true principle of unity of a body must be by its own nature as lasting as the body itself. The principle of unity consequently, of a body that is endowed with an eternal existence as the Church is, must be itself eternal. As the papacy finally and before long must pass away with this earth, it is clearly seen that it cannot be in itself the principle of unity of a body, which by its nature is of eternal duration.
Again, the principle of unity of any body must be as indestructible as the body it proposes to unite in oneness. Now history reveals the fact that there have been at times two or three rival popes excommunicating one another. For about seventy years different nations in Europe were under different popes. For several generations the faithful could not know which was the pope if there was to be but one. Also in consequence of its claimed supremacy the four patriarchates of the East became separated from that of Rome. In Russia alone there are one hundred millions of Catholics to-day. The papacy is thus seen not to have secured unity, but really to have been the source of disunion.
On the other hand, the Catholic principle of unity applies to the whole body of the Church wherever any of its members may be, and it will last as long as the Church lasts, and it is in itself indestructible. It is like the unity that binds a family together. A family is one because the same common life is to be found in all its members. A family may quarrel and become a disunited family, but the blood relation which unites its members is indestructible. Thus it is in the Church of Christ. Christ prayed that His Church should be one as He and the Father are one. Now they are one by unity of nature, and that prayer was answered. For though the members of the Christian family have fallen out, and intercommunion has been interrupted, yet the Church, united in all its parts to Christ by sacramental grace, is one. All the members having Christ's life in them are united to one another. Neither the gates of hell, nor the powers of evil, nor the quarrels of churchmen can prevail against it. The Anglican Church, possessed of sacramental grace, is possessed of the true principle of unity.
The prayer of Christ also was for union as well as unity. He prayed the Father that His followers might "be one in us: that the world might believe that Thou hast sent me."
Now as the principle of organic unity is the common participation in the nature of Christ, so the living bond of the Church's union is not submission to the papacy, but to the rule and guidance of the Holy Ghost; for union no more than unity is preserved by subordination to an earthly head. This indeed is man's way. It is the principle of human organizations. It is, however, the principle condemned by our Lord as applicable to His Apostles. He said, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you." They were indeed to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, but among themselves the only title to greatness was not authority over their brethren, but servitude. "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." The relation between the Apostles and their spiritual children did not prohibit the use of the term "father," but as among themselves our Lord forbade the calling of any one "father" or "master." It is this forbidden spirit of "exercising authority," like a worldly monarch, that has in the papacy rent Christendom and marred the union for which Christ prayed.
The erection of the papacy with its monarchical absolutism has been the great sin of Christendom. It has been the outcome of human wisdom, and is a rebellion against Christ. In this sense the papacy is anti-Christ. Just as Israel sinned by not being content without having a visible head, so the Roman Church has sinned likewise, and with the same result. What Israel thought would be for the protection and greatness of the State led to its disruption. Men endeavored, mistaking Christ's teaching, to make a better Church than Christ had made. What they thought would secure its union led to its divisions.
The true principle or bond of union in the Church is divine love, the love that is effective through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is seen in Christ's prayer for union. Christ prayed that His Apostles might "be one, even as we are one: I in them and Thou in me." The bond which holds the Blessed Trinity in unity is the living bond of the Holy Ghost. He was to be the bond of union in His Church. So held together, the world would witness a supernatural union, one which would bear witness to the love of the Father and the Son. It was to be the sight of this union that was to lead the world to believe "that Thou hast sent Me." In the monarchical principle of the papacy no witness is given to the love of the Father for the Son. The union it enforces is a human-made one of a mechanical order and has nothing of a divine or supernatural character to it. Such a union has no power to lead men to believe in the unseen or the mission of Christ. But union preserved by loving subordination to one another, and where none claims to be the greatest, bears a fruitful witness to the supernatural and the mission of Christ.
Do we ask how the Holy Ghost effects a union in faith and fellowship? The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and expresses His mind in the Ecumenical councils. They define the faith and give the law to the Church. Union between the members of the episcopate and the various portions of Christendom is provided for by subordination to the law of the whole body. And fellowship is cemented by the divine charity that binds them in loving subordination and co-operation together. Thus was the Church united before the popes claimed absolute dominion. The same bond to-day holds the Russian and the Constantinople churches together. It unites in one communion the various branches of the Anglican Church. It could unite all.
Had it not been for the papacy the Church would have remained united. But what our Lord and the Apostles warned us against has come to pass. The gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church, but she has been wounded. That which depended on Christ's own making, i. e., unity, came to pass; that which depended on us, i. e., union, has been injured. Unity has not been broken, but union has been suspended. The inner garment of Christ has not been rent, but the outer one has. The net that secures the saved is not broken, but the one in earthly service has been rent. Not a bone of His mystical body is broken, but all the bones are out of joint. The earthly visible organization of the Church has, according to the type in the final chapter of the Acts, suffered shipwreck, though each soul by the saving wood of the cross comes safe to land. An enemy hath sown tares in Christ's field and the tares and wheat must grow together till He come. It is observable that the gospel prophecy of the earthly future of Christianity is hardly what we should have expected it beforehand to be; there is a great absence of brightness in it; the sky is overcast with clouds, and birds of evil omen fly to and fro. Prophecy would fain presage auspiciously, but as soon as she casts her eye forward her note saddens, and the chords issue in melancholy and sinister cadences. Christ Himself prophesied that at the end there would be false Christs and false prophets, false signs and wonders, the moon would not give its light and the stars would fall and the powers of heaven be shaken. The Church also as the bride of Christ must pass through a life like her Lord's, and at last the world will treat her as it did Him. Be it ours not to desert our posts,
but to abide with the ever Blessed Mother and S. John, faithful to Jesus and His cross, one in Him by grace, united to one another by love.
Anglican Catholics have three duties to perform to the Church: one to the Church militant, another to the Church expectant, and another to the Church in glory.
A duty incumbent upon every member of the Catholic Church militant is to work for its extension. A missionary zeal should burn like fire in every Christian's heart. The time is short and the second coming of Christ draweth nigh. In all ways in our power, by our alms and prayers and personal service, we must labor to " press on the kingdom." Knowing too that the Church's spiritual power lies in the cooperation of all her members, valiant effort should be made for the restoration of intercommunion and Christian fellowship, especially between the Eastern and the Anglican communions.
One of the most important steps in the attainment of these ends is the deepening of the spiritual life in our own Church, the re-establishment of our religious orders and the recovery for her of her Catholic heritage of faith, practice, and worship. What nobler work can man or woman do than to give themselves up to this service? By it the most effective victory for Christ can be won. The fire of self-sacrifice should kindle in every heart. To live and die for Jesus is the watchword of Catholic saints. Let it be ours.
The intellectual quagmire into which some honest and good Anglican clergy fall, is to assume that, the Anglican Church has a mind of her own apart from the whole Catholic body. While this is right and true in a measure, it is not true in respect of matters of faith or practice determined by Ecumenical authority.
Again, it may be very interesting to study the history of the Reformation period, but the private opinions or wishes of the reformers are absolutely worthless in determining what morally or legally is the teaching of our Church. Legally, for any law enacted by a body of men cannot be interpreted by the private intentions or opinions of its framers, but by its words alone. Morally, for two reasons: those who compiled our formularies were, unlike an ordinary body of legislators, an ecclesiastical one, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who used them to express His mind and not their own. Again, morally, for if the Church is Catholic as she claims to be (and to doubt it would prove us disloyal), we are bound in honor to her to interpret her prayer-book and formularies in correspondence with the teaching of the whole body of Christ.
Hence it is the duty of the bishops to voice the teaching of the solidarity of the episcopate, as heard from the beginning, and not to give out as authoritative their own private opinions based on their own interpretations of Holy Scripture or the book of common prayer. Hence it is the duty of the laity to listen to their bishops so speaking to them, and obey their godly admonitions; and for the different schools to try the better to understand one another, and to draw closer together in mutual forbearance, and so to "press on the kingdom." Not seeking to make it large by making it popular, for orthodoxy and sanctity are more important than numbers, and the restoration of the Church's catholicity is more important than the preservation of any church's national character. The Church is in the world not to save the world, but to save men out of the world and make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Our duty to the Church expectant is to pray for the faithful departed. After death, we know, comes the judgment. There will be, indeed, a final judgment when every man will receive according as his work hath been. This final judgment is for the glory of Christ and the reward of the faithful. The particular judgment at the time of death determines our safety or our eternal loss. It turns on the condition whether we die in a state of grace or not. But though dying in grace most souls are unfitted for immediate entrance into glory; for without holiness no man can see the Lord. The soul that after death happily finds itself among the saved is secured from falling away by its deliverance from temptations. But as it cannot, as when here, resist temptation and thereby grow in grace, it must be purified by God's disciplinary and loving remedial processes. In this it is aided by the offering of the holy sacrifice and the suffrages of the faithful. The decline of prayers for the dead, which our Lord we may say Himself practised, and which has ever been a custom of Catholic Christendom, largely led in the last century to unbelief in a future state. It is a defect that our liturgy so little recognizes this duty. But parents should teach their children to pray for those of their family departed. Priests should likewise teach the people to remember them, for in the liturgy we pray not only for ourselves, "but for the whole Church," which includes the dead as well as the living.
"O, pray for us," our dear departed ones may be presumed to say; "Oh, pray for us who loved and labored and who prayed for you." Let us never forget them before God. Let us pray that their souls, accepted for the merits of Christ, may rest in peace. May their stains and wounds made by sin be all removed; may they be perfected in Christ, and continually advance in joy and felicity till they reach in heaven the sight of God and are filled with His bliss.
What is our duty to the Church triumphant and the saints in glory?
The answer is to be found in the principle that binds the whole Church together in its united action, and that principle is love. As it is of the essence of love that it must manifest itself by external action, love expresses itself in the Church by the mutual prayers of all the members for one another. There can be no such thing as common prayer between Christians without mutual prayer. No Christian can say the Lord's Prayer for himself alone, for that prayer embraces in its petition, "Thy kingdom come," not only himself and his brethren on earth, but even the Mother of God and all the saints. So the saints in their desire for the increase of Christ's kingdom pray for us, and we, desirous of their increase in bliss, pray for them.
As the Church's worship is the worship of the whole body, it is engaged in one united act of praise and prayer. In its magnificent development the choirs of angels and the saints call upon one another to unite in magnifying God and exalting and praising Him forever. So the Church on earth calls on all creatures animate and inanimate, all the holy and humble-hearted, and all the spirits and souls of the righteous to bless the Lord. It is in realization of this united worship that we both pray for the saints and call on them, collectively and individually, to pray for us.
From exaggerations developed in the Latin Church whereby the Blessed Virgin was declared the neck of the mystical body through whom all graces pass, and saints were appealed to as sources of spiritual gifts, the Anglican Church revolted. Here, as in some other ways, the Reformation was a return towards eastern orthodoxy. For the East recognizing the oneness of all the members in Christ, prays for all the saints, even the Blessed Mother of God, as well as invokes their prayers. In her high conception of prayer she regards all the prayers of the Church, past, present, and future, as rising up before God as one united intercession, in response to which, the God-bestowed grace came to the Blessed Mother and to all the saints. The neglect of this pious devotion on our part may help to explain our feebler grasp of the supernatural and the oneness of Christ's mystical body.
Under the light of modern science the old objection as to how the saints can hear us is now but little urged. It is recognized that the spiritual world is controlled by laws of its own. And if man can send messages by wireless telegraphy across an ocean, what cannot be accomplished by angels in their sphere? In any event God hears our prayers and can reveal them directly to His saints. But partly from our Anglican insulation, partly from a reverent fear, some of our theologians have discouraged the practice as being a dangerous one.
Against this, however, it is to be replied that the custom is not more dangerous than many others which the Catholic Church approves, as, for instance, prayers for the dead. There has never been anything in the practice of invoking the saints to equal the shameful traffic in masses which grew out of prayers for the departed. If we are to reject practices because of their developed harmful results, prayers for the dead have been the occasion of greater harm than invocation of the saints. Yet there are those who oppose the invocation of saints who are most anxious to have prayers for the dead restored. If one practice can be safeguarded and rightly used, so can the other.
No book, as Liddon pointed out, has been more abused and made the source of more error or the cover of more wickedness than the Bible. Shall we therefore dissolve our Bible societies and cease to urge the reading of the Scriptures?
The truth is that there is no doctrine or practice of the Catholic Church which the evil mind of man has not at some time corrupted, and if we were to give up all such doctrines and practices we should lapse into Theism. Therefore, we conclude a practice is not necessarily to be given up because it is dangerous, but the abuse being cut away it is to be restored to what it was when it obtained the sanction of the Church.
It has also been urged that a National Church has a right to alter practices which have been found dangerous.
Now it is observed that practices are either good, bad, or indifferent. A good practice is that which is founded upon some orthodox doctrine, a bad practice is that which is founded on some heterodox doctrine, an indifferent practice is one which is either founded upon some pious opinion, or which has been introduced from mere motives of reverence.
Of this latter sort it is to be observed, that a National Church may remove them at pleasure. She can "change and abolish ceremonies and rites ordained only by man's authority." Of the second kind, while a National Church might fall into the error of a practice based on false doctrine, yet it is impossible for the whole Church to do so. Otherwise Christ's promise concerning her would fail. When, however, an error in practice or by neglect is discovered, it is the duty of the National Church to correct its judgment by that of the whole Church. Concerning those practices which are good and have had the indorsement of the whole Church, a national one has no power to abolish them. To do so would be an assertion of its own independence of the body of Christ and involve rejection of the Spirit's authority and guidance.
Now it is a doctrine of faith and the tradition of the Catholic Church that the saints pray for us, and secondly, the invocation of saints is founded on this doctrine. The Fathers of the fourth century found the practice well established in their day, a practice which, so far as we know, antedated the direct invocation of the third person of the most Holy Trinity. It extended throughout the whole Church East and West. It was universal throughout Christendom till the Reformation. It is the custom now of some three hundred and seventy out of the estimated four hundred millions of Christians. Since, then, this is not founded upon man's authority alone and so practice may be changed, but is founded upon a Catholic doctrine, and is one approved by the Holy Spirit acting through the Christian consciousness, it is a good practice; and as such no National Church is competent to abolish it without falling into the initial error of Romanism, namely, rebellion against the whole Church and the Holy Spirit of God.
While a church may not condemn or abolish a good practice, it can rightly do away with any abuses that may have grown up about it, and this is what our reformers did. They rejected the Romish doctrine of invocation of saints, but not the Catholic doctrine. And if under the stress of the times or unfortunate continental influences they omitted invocations from the public offices, this practice was not forbidden, and in her religious houses and among an increasing number of the faithful it still survives.
Let us carefully teach the true and full doctrine of the communion of saints. Let us avoid the error of Rome that there are two distinct classes of the departed, one of which is to be prayed to and the other prayed for. Let us with the holy Eastern Churches realize the union in worship with all members of Christ's body, and that any soul that can be prayed for, the prayers of that soul may be asked. Let us, give as a reason why certain saints are invoked in public worship is not because they belong to a different class from the rest of the holy souls, but only because their eminent sanctity has given them a wider reputation and a greater nearness to God. Let us, while we invoke their prayers, also pray, "Almighty God, increase, we beseech Thee, the bliss and glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all saints." So will our devotions be like those of the Church in early times, and as it is now in those orthodox Churches of the East in whom the faith has been so wonderfully preserved, unharmed by the evils of ultramontane or Protestant error. The revival of the recitation of the Angelus would tend to strengthen the faith of the Anglican Church in the glorious mystery of the Incarnation, and make more real to her children the vision of the saints in glory. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They look down upon us in our struggle from their thrones in glory. The departed worthies and saints of the Anglican Church are sending up their ardent intercessions in our behalf. They see more clearly now than ever that the success of Christendom depends on the catholization of the Anglican Church. Let us be willing to live and suffer and die for the Catholic cause. And as we pray for them who are at rest, let us also energetically follow their examples and ask their prayers.
"Made coheirs with Christ in glory,
His celestial bliss they share;
May they now before Him bending,
Help us onward by their prayer."