On the Feast of Martyrs
Of the two kinds of suffering; in a dying and spiritual life, in true resignation. How God points out the way to His Friends, and teaches them to be truly resigned, in the highest sense; after the Example set them by Christ the Lord, Who has tasted this cup. Not only the twelve Apostles and Martyrs have, like Him, drunk of this cup, but all truly resigned men, of whom the Church of Christ sings: "They have drunk the cup of the Lord and have become the Friends of God."

Calicem Domini biberunt, et amici Dei facti sunt.

"They have drunk of the Lord's chalice and have become the Friends of God."

We celebrate to-day the Feast of the Holy Martyrs, whom God, the Heavenly Father, has vouchsafed to endow with the especial honour of being formed in the Likeness of His Only begotten Son, by the bitterness and pain of the precious and beautiful cup of which they have drunk, like the Son of God; which means that they have willingly suffered martyrdom for the confession of His Name. It is their peculiar honour that, by grace, they have been able to attain to the dignity to which He was exalted by the Cup of bitter suffering, and by the Death which He suffered for us and for all men. Therefore, we sing of those fearless knights and dearest Friends of God, that they have drunk the cup of the Lord, and have become the Friends of God.

Now mark, dear children, that, when we speak of martyrs there are two kinds of martyrdom. Martyrs outwardly by the sword, and martyrs inwardly by dying love. We read of St Martin, that he was not robbed of the honour of a martyr although he was not taken hence by the sword. Now, ye must notice here that we can experience the Suffering of God, and test it, by worthy contrition in a dying life; and can thus become the Friends of God. He who desires this must submit to suffering -- but suffering takes place in two ways.

The first kind of suffering, in a dying life, is external, when men struggle against their pleasure-loving, sinful life; of whom St Paul says: "They that are Christ's have crucified their flesh; with the vices and concupiscences."

The second kind of suffering consists of spiritual perplexity, barrenness, or the deprivation of visible grace. Here man is often most at a loss, and he is thus sometimes driven to turn all the more to God. Then some men think all is lost, if they do not posses wisdom, understanding and keen insight; if they are not greatly tempted and are not full of fervour. It is true that this is all very necessary for the beginner, but not for those who long for the noblest virtue, love; but it is accounted of little value by the others. It is true, indeed, that it is a good preparation for the next stage; but in itself it is of little value. Very few can be found who truly love. All want to follow Christ in sweetness; and, when they can taste nothing sweet, and are drawn on by wounded love, they will not follow God in any other way. Now, when God sees that by sweetness only, and in no other way, can He lead them, He entices them on by wounded love, and then by imprisoned love, so that they cannot escape Him. After this they come to burning love, and they become so strong that all things comfort them, and they are ready, for the glory of God, to cast themselves into any suffering or sorrow, which God may see fit to inflict on them. Then they offer themselves up in the secret Abyss of the Godhead, and say in full confidence: "O Lord, if Thou wilt preserve or condemn us; Thou art all powerful, Thy Will be done in us." Now, when a man arrives at this, he has gained that which he sought; and it is the same to God, by which road he has arrived at it, and in what way.

God freely pours forth His gifts, that He may draw all souls unto Himself; and supplies us so bountifully with His Grace that we may offer up our souls to Him, in true resignation, without any hesitation or demur. Now when, as we have said before, God gives great grace to a soul, and tempts it with sweetness, He desires to draw it away from self. When this has taken place, and He has then drawn the soul away from sweetness to barrenness, He then places it in a higher grade. For He will take away from it again all that He ever gave it, and allows the man to be poor and distressed, so that he may begin to learn to be resigned, and to rest in nothing save in God only.

There are two ways by which we may attain to the true Love of God: The first is delight in the Grace of God. It is pleasant to man to carry out good practices; and God allows it, so that casual lusts may be all the more speedily extinguished in him. The man is ready to sell himself for love; that is, he feels such keen contempt for all temporal pleasures, which he no longer heeds because of his great love, that all who see him marvel. Thus we read of many Saints, that they so speedily withdrew from the joys of the world and all its delights, and turned their backs on all so bravely, that all men wondered. This is done undoubtedly by the Holy Ghost, in His mighty Love, which is as strong as death.

The second way is by endurance and suffering; and, as we have already said, in this way man is robbed of all spiritual comfort. It is thus that the spiritual strength of martyrs is brought forth in the barrenness and dryness of their meditations and fervour; and, although these spiritual martyrs are filled with many sorrows, yet they love God and long for true virtue as much as the others. Such men are much troubled in this life, so that they do not know which way to turn because of their affliction. They rest, however, on faith, hope and love, alone, in great darkness; for they will not sin whatever befalls them, because at all times they bear about with them a clean and humble heart; while they are much afflicted by seeing the grace enjoyed by other men, always imagining that it is their own fault that they have not the same grace, and that they do not strive enough to gain it. However, when they seek it more diligently, they only become more and more barren and hard within, like stone, and sometimes they lose all patience, and become all the more inconsolable and miserable. Then they fear that they are jealous of the grace given to others, or envy them; and thus they add to their sufferings, so that, with all these troubles or others like them, they weary themselves so much that they do not know what to do. They would not willingly be faithless to God in virtue, while they do not know how to gain it; or they imagine that they will make God angry with their impatience, despair or moroseness; and it cuts them to the heart. They hate all sin, because sin is displeasing and abhorrent to God; and they know his so well that they would not willingly anger God. At last they make up their minds to be patient, although it is hard to them; and they suffer and wait till God sends relief, for they see that they can make no progress. Thus God teaches them to be resigned and to submit, leaving all things in His hands; and thus they become like unto the others, who flourish in more grace; while in one sense they are much nobler; for, in this grade, men are more like Christ, whose Life was full of suffering.

These spiritual martyrs are the poorest in their own esteem, but, in the sight of God, they are the richest; according to their own ideas they are the farthest off from God, and yet they are the nearest. They imagine that of all they are the castaways, and yet they are the very elect. According to their own feelings they are the most unfaithful to God; though they are the most faithful and the most earnest in furthering His glory, and in preventing His dishonour; for it is for this that they suffer. They find that they are attacked by many temptations on account of their poverty, to which they will not consent; but these cause them greater suffering than dying a natural death, and, especially if in any way, as they imagine, they have been overcome. They are anxious to overcome their infirmities, and to practice virtue, and they cannot do it. This and such-like things cause them, at times, great inner suffering and trouble, as though they were suffering pains of hell; but all is the result of the great faithfulness and love that they bear to God in their hearts, though they are not conscious of it themselves. They think themselves of all men the most wicked in all the world, while they are the purest in the sight of God. They often anger God thereby, because they cause themselves so much sorrow, so that God sometimes allows them to fall into impatience, and other infirmities, which are not in accordance with pure love, and to which they would never have given way, had they been truly resigned in all things; for then they would have been at peace and would have advanced more quickly than other men. They thus rob themselves by their despondency and immoderate sadness. This arises from their knowledge of the real fruit which proceeds from thence or from their self-surrender, so that they are not content to suffer; or it seems so long for them to suffer to the end; but they should know that they only prolong their suffering and make it all the harder. Thus they also rob themselves of the real fruit which might be quickly produced, if only they would suffer innocently and willingly, and resign themselves in love. The more simply they do this, the more nobly will they gain it, and the more nobly will they be transformed. For, verily, if man walks uprightly, after the dark night a bright light will arise, which will lighten up all his heart with Eternal Truth. Then in his own heart, and in the sight of God, but not in the sight of the world, he will be sure that he can attain to the highest and purest Love, in which a man loses and forsakes himself, and all that is his, for the sake of God, that none can disturb or destroy his peace. God rests in him with all His elect, and there will and anger are lost. God help us that all this may take place in us.

Further, we must remember this about salvation: "O, my soul, meditate and meditate, again and again, how great and inexpressible the joy, the blessedness, the glory and the honour will be of those who will see clearly, and face to face the joyful and loving Face of God. How they will enjoy the best and highest blessing, even God Himself; for in Him, and in Him alone, are all pleasures, power, joy and all that is most beautiful." They will possess all in God; all that is good and to be desired, in safety and eternal joy, so that they will be transformed into God, never to be separated from Him again. Oh! how surpassingly great the joy will be, with which they will see the Holy Trinity, Mary, the Mother of Christ; our dear Lord, all the hosts of Angels in their orders; all the Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and Virgins, with all the Saints, who are so united, that, were it possible, the foremost and greatest Saint in heaven would willingly share his joy with the least of all Saints, while the least of all the Saints would not grudge him the joy that he shares with his own. Neither can we imagine or describe the overwhelming Love of God, which will be kindled in them: Oh! how foolish those men are, who, for a little carnal delight, and for temporal goods and honour, can so far forget, lose and drive away eternal salvation. Therefore, recollect thyself, O my soul, earnestly and diligently, while thy day of grace is not yet over; do good works, that thou mayest not lose thy eternal salvation. Set to work, lose no time to perfect thyself in virtue; let nothing disconcert thee, but work faithfully in this short life to attain eternal blessings and eternal joy. Nothing in this world should be so dear to thee that for the sake of it thou wouldest be ready to lose eternal glory and joy. Thou must mark diligently how all suffering, sorrow, adversity and misery in this world, are not to be compared with the joy of eternal life. In imagination thou must place before thee, as thine example, all the dear Saints who have entered in, because of their good and righteous lives, that thou mayest follow them, and that with them thou mayest be a partaker of the exceeding great reward. Oh my soul, meditate on the great honour, joy and dignity in the Heavenly City of Jerusalem, on all the dear Saints who are assembled there, and who found a safe path by which they passed over from this transient vale of sorrow to eternal life.

Further, the Lord tells us in the Gospel that there are five things which faithful men must do. First, they must cast out the devil in the Name of Jesus; all men can do this who confess their sins with true penitence and sorrow. Secondly, they must speak with new tongues. All do this who give up sinful useless talk, and who only use good words, such as are to be found in the Word of God, the Holy Gospels and in fervent prayers; who rebuke sinners and teach the foolish. The third is that they tread on serpents without being harmed. This is done by those who resist and diligently root out all evil thoughts. The fourth sign is that they can eat and drink poison without harm. This is done by all who suffer contempt and persecution for righteousness' sake. Those who are sorrowful and despised, and yet are patient, cannot be hurt by the poison of persecution. The fifth and last sign is, that the truly faithful lay their hands on the sick and they recover. All men do this, who from loving-kindness freely forgive their enemies all that they ever wrought against them, and who also give alms to the poor and needy. We may truly say of all men who show these five signs of the Holy Gospel, that they are truly faithful men and will be received by Christ into eternal life. May God help us all thereto. Amen.

sermon xxix on the feast
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