CHAPTER VI — THE DIVINE MEDIATOR
THE contention that the obvious is most easily missed by the human eye or the human mind, while it may be well argued, seems to place a very low estimate indeed on the content of human knowledge. For it is quite certain that it is a strong human trait to stop at the obvious for the very good reason that a little extra labor is demanded to go beyond the obvious to the hidden. The spectator, for example, idly watching archaeologists excavating a buried civilization, say in Egypt or Greece, is usually quite content to spend his wonder on the time, labor, and expense necessary to unearth the traces of that lost culture. Yet a moment’s reflection would impress him with the fact that much more time, much more labor, and incredible expense went into the actual burial of that city, particularly if he were a spectator who had somehow managed to live through the nineteen forties.
In our own lives, there can be no doubt of the effort, the discouraging labor, and the amount of time necessary to unearth truth; the long hours of study, the dogged years of relentless pursuit that is never nearly as successful as we would wish it. Yet all this is even more true of the burial of a truth, particularly of a fundamental truth. In our own short, personal experience with the lives of men, we cannot have missed the difficulty, the time, even the expense that go into the deadening of a man’s conscience, into his burial of the truth of sin. Perhaps the uneasiness, the worry, the torturing remorse of the process cannot be measured accurately in terms of time or money; but if labor is to be measured by what it takes out of a man, no one has worked harder than the man who is finally able to take sin for granted.
Time and truth: The difficulty of truth and error
Such personal experience is well buttressed by the evidence offered, for example, by a contrast of primitive and later civilizations. In the former, for instance, marriage was almost universally monogamous, only later developing into the varied forms in which it is found in history; the mythical state of promiscuity so blithely talked of today is not a landmark in the history of man but a threat upon humanity’s horizon. Among the primitives, worship of God, as far as the evidence allows of a conclusion, was originally monotheistic; it is only much later that those perversions developed that are to be found among the present peoples of the world. In fact, all this can be safely generalized; the field most likely to contain more fundamental truths more deeply buried is precisely the field enclosed by the fences of “higher civilizations.” If, for example, we are in search of the perversions of the truth of sacrifice, it is to the higher civilizations we must go to come upon the ultimate perversion of human sacrifice; if sex perversions are the goal of our research, then we waste time laboring among the records of the primitives.
The field of buried truths
The burial of truth with the same determined eagerness with which a dog buries a bone is not to be considered as an historical peculiarity that has long since died out. The practice was never more common than in our own time. Take, for instance, the essential, the fundamental truth of leadership, a truth which proceeds from the fundamental fact that a man has some place to go. In our own very high civilization, men are enthusiastically, fanatically, following leaders who champion the denial of a goal for men, or who deny all motion to the individual man as such; leaders, in other words, who explicitly surrender all valid claim to leadership and so all solid faith in leadership. Some modern leaders have called forth goals that can have no meaning to the individual, goals of a race, a party, a class which exclude the individual as such; still others insist upon following the people as a mother follows a spoiled child’s aimless wanderings.
Modern burial of fundamental truths: Leadership and its goal
From time immemorial, a leader has been a man who stood out in front, between the people and their goal, so that they could be sure of the direction of their goal by a glance at the leader. Today, a leader is not expected to stand between his people and something else; rather, he represents the blank wall where all hope must end. In the spiritual world, the leader should take up the awful position between God and His people; today, spiritual leaders, though seriously laying claim to leadership, insist that there is no God and, consequently, no purpose in leadership. What has happened to so fundamental a truth as that of leadership if it hasn’t been buried?
Priesthood and sacrifice
Then, too, there are the fundamental truths of sacrifice and of the priesthood. Surely there is no truth more thoroughly buried today than these two; yet there is little more fundamental, if for no other reason, because there is little more fundamental than the recognition of primary truths. And these are primary truths. From the beginning, men have seen that a child cannot effectively deny that he has had parents; on the same basis, they saw that a man cannot deny his Creator, for his very dependence is an acknowledgment of that creator. The recognition of man’s dependence is, at the same time, a recognition of God’s dominion. These are truths that must be recognized if man himself is not to be denied.
The recognition of the dominion of the Creator is made by each creature according to its nature. Man, the intelligent creature naturally in harmony with the rest of creation, sought to acknowledge this truth in a human way; universally, men have hit upon sacrifice, and so upon priesthood, as the means of human acknowledgment of their own position and of the dominion of God. Since sacrifice was, for the most part, an act of a group, of a community, it was to be offered by one who could speak in the name of all the people, by a community official who was called a priest.
The recognition of man’s position and of God’s dominion, over and above the need for-sacrifice, also made clear the necessity of winning to that final position which is the destiny of the human race, to that God Who is the goal of life. It meant going to a goal and making reparation for the endless wanderings and recessions from that goal. In other words, by the recognition of the truth of his position, man recognized that he had a place to go and that he needed spiritual leadership to get him to that spiritual goal. The work of the priest, then, has always been to furnish that spiritual leadership, to stand out before the people in that no man’s land between God and men with the souls of men depending for eternity on the exercise of his office.
Christ came to remove the debris from buried fundamental truths as well as to give us new truths. Of the buried truths, none received greater emphasis in His life than those of priesthood and sacrifice.
Hidden treasure in the Christmas cave
The birth of the babe in Bethlehem has always been a shock and a comfort to the world. It is a simple, homely expression of an unthinkable truth. The ages have rightly stressed the homeliness of that scene: the family group of mother, father, and the Child Who had no father but God. That first Christmas throws us off our guard by putting God at our mercy; its surprise blow strips us of all the protective armor with which we cover our heart from the incursions of the outside world. The helplessness of God has pierced the armor of man. Yet we see the scene no less truly when we see it as the cave where God began to unearth buried truth.
Mary kneeling at the manger, offering her Son to God as every good Jewish mother would, made the first offering of the Perfect Victim; this was, too, the first act of the Perfect Priest, for the infused knowledge of Christ dated from the first moment of His life. Priest and Victim was her Son, and God; she knelt in adoration before Him; He, the High Priest, interceded for her. In that picture alone we have all the material of this chapter.
If the priesthood were subject only to human explanations, then it could be said securely that only one who was very young, very foolish, rashly presumptuous, and absurdly gallant would dare to undertake it. Fortunately the explanations are not limited to the human order. These men are not those who have chosen but rather who have been chosen, and that by God. However, the human side is not neglected or wasted by God; there is still the element of eternal youth, of divine foolishness, of the reckless gallantry of love in the priesthood. When these things die out of it, the priesthood will be only a name. So to our time, as to all times, the celebration of a first Mass or the ordination of a priest is a gala event; even the most casual acquaintances and complete strangers crowd into the church to drink in some of that intoxicating atmosphere that envelops the departure of reckless love down the hard road.
Such presumption as may be present cannot linger long. The saints among the ordinary people to whom the priest ministers, the helplessness of his wisest words, and the divine efficacy of his fumbling efforts keep the priest well aware of his own failings. Indeed, the very consideration of his principal work of spiritual leadership makes his own helplessness and the efficacy of divine help the central truths which furnish the support by which alone it is possible for him to face his work.
Christ’s part in sacrifice: General characteristic of priesthood
For the work of the priest can be summed up in one sentence: he is to stand between God and the people. On the one side there will be the desperate, trusting dependence of these men, women, and children spurring him on; on the other, the unutterable perfection of God shining upon him with a brilliance that throws his every weakness into bold relief. If this were a merely human office, it would be a lonely, terrifying, comfortless thing to strike terror into the heart of any man. Because it is a divine office, it has depths of serene joy that only God can sound.
As the intermediary between God and His people, the life of a priest is an endless series of journeys of heart and mind from God to men and back again; in time, he becomes like an old pack horse who looks naked without a burden. Coming from God, he carries the precious burden of divine gifts — truth, love, the divine life of grace; coming from man, he carries to God the stuttering prayers of the human heart and the petty satisfactions we are able to offer for the sins we have committed.
The chief act by which the priest accomplishes his office of mediator has always been the act of sacrifice; it is that act, indeed, which has called the priest into being. In Christianity, the sacrifice of the New Law is the Mass, the central act of the Christian religion and the principal reason for the existence of the priesthood. It is in sacrifice, then, that the priest is most truly a priest; it is then that he stands most squarely between God and the people. The sacrifice is a vain gesture, the priesthood a useless office, if the victim’s destruction does not attain to the ends of sacrifice.
Work of the victim
The Old Testament distinction of offerings for sin, for peace, and as a holocaust is a succinct statement of the ends or goals of sacrifice. Sacrifice, after all, must do just two things: it must pay man’s debt to God, acknowledging His position; and acknowledging man’s position, it must fulfill his double need of dealing with sin and winning that divine life which is his peace. these are noble ends indeed for a human act: a holocaust to God, remission and satisfaction for sin, the conservation and increase of that share of divine life within us which is grace. It is small wonder that men looked with awe on the simplest act of solemn sacrifice.
Yet, before Christ, only the benign tolerance of God could look with favor on the victims offered by men, could accept a holocaust, a supreme act of worship, from such feeble hands, inevitably weary and soiled from wielding weapons in the war for the priest’s own soul. With Christ came the perfect priest and the perfect victim. Swaddling clothes may seem strange clothes for a high-priest; we hardly expect to see a high-pries: lying in a manger under the watchful eye of a mother or nailed naked to a cross under the glaring eyes of an angry mob. These are garments more fitted to a victim than to a priest; but, then, human nature was a strange cloak for God to take up in His short walk through the world. No doubt it was because He knew it would always be more difficult for us to see Him as a victim than as a priest that He left that indelible record of His victimhood, of the beginning and the end of His human life.
Christ the perfect priest and perfect victim
But priest He was; and the only priest on Calvary. It was He Who offered the sacrifice there, not His executioners. Indeed, He was the perfect priest from the very beginning. His Christmas gifts were the kind of burden we should expect ta tire the back of a worthy priest: for He brought truth, love, grace, even God Himself to us; His gift to God was full satisfaction for all sins and the prayers of all the centuries of fighting Christians who would accept His challenge to set out on the hard road of the cross.
The effects of Christ’s priesthood: In general
He was priest and He was victim. He accomplished, as the victim should, the remission of the sins of men, peace with God, and a union such as only God Himself could have conceived, a union in His own Person and in the lives of each man by grace now, by glory in eternity. The offering for sin, the offering for peace, the holocaust, found their perfection in the life and death of Christ. The sheep and goats, victims in the Old Law, were accepted by God in lieu of better things; the Son of God made man was an adequate victim, perfectly accomplishing the ends of sacrifice and loosing a flood of grace on the souls of men of all ages.
Christ the priest stood between God and man. On Calvary He was raised a little above the earth; for three hours He hung there, far below heaven, a little apart from men, very close to God. The hopeful men of all ages can look over His shoulder, sure of the goal and the direction of the goal; on the other side, there was the white glare of the divine light which could find no fault in Him. All other priests, in the very act of sacrifice, are a part of the multitude for whom they pray, for they are sinful men themselves dependent on divine mercy; Christ, alone of all priests, sinlessly approached divinity and made His plea in His own divine name.
Christ the eternal priest
In a wider sense the whole life of Christ, from beginning to end, was the act of a priest; for the wider sense of sacrifice includes all that is offered to God that the spirit of men might be lifted up to God. Surely, every act of Christ’s life was directly aimed at that end; it is not lightly that we call Him Redeemer and Savior. Indeed, the priesthood of Christ still endures, it is unending. The act of a priest, after all, is not the offering of sacrifice to the exclusion of the consummation of that sacrifice; and that consummation is accomplished only when the people for whom the sacrifice is offered attain the final union with God which is the end of the sacrifice and the eternal holocaust of all who are saved.
The type of Christ the priest
The priest of the twentieth century, continuing the work of the perfect Priest, is also a spiritual leader standing between God and men. Nor is his office a lonely, burdensome, terrifying one for he stands there, not in his own person, but in the person of Christ. He need make no excuses for the priest who is offering the sacrifice, no apologies are necessary for the victim; for the priest and the victim are still Christ Himself. This poor human instrument standing on the altar is no more than an instrument in the hands of the High Priest. As Mary was on the first Christmas and on Calvary, the humble Catholic of today is present at the perfect sacrifice accomplished by the perfect Victim and the perfect Priest; now, as then, the people need only look over the shoulder of their leader for sure direction to the goal. What there is of imperfection, of unworthiness, is not material for worry for the people, but for the priest. Though he was chosen and did not choose this life for Himself, the standards to which he must measure up, to which he will be held, were set by that High Priest during His life in Palestine; it was Christ Who died on the Cross, not His loved ones, and it is the priest who must run the risks, face the dangers, and assume full responsibility, not the people.
In that same wide sense of sacrifice, of which we have spoken above, it is true that the whole priestly life of a twentieth-century priest is a sacrifice from beginning to end. He is set apart in order that all of his life, all his actions, might focus on the one effect of bringing men to God; it is for this that he exists, that he studies, that he works, that he lives. In a sense, his priesthood, too, is eternal. No priest counts his work done when the Mass is over or the confessional slide shut; it is finished when the gates of eternity swing shut on those who were committed to his care, when the eternal consummation of his sacrifice is begun.
The place of the priest and the victim in the divine plan
Through all the long chant of the priesthood the same melody has rung out clearly: gifts to men, worship and satisfaction to God. And it is through Christ alone that all things have come to all men, that all sins have been satisfied for, that the perfect holocaust was offered to God. The priesthood of the Old Law was a figure and a promise of that which was to come; what efficacy it had was by anticipation of the merits of the perfect Priest for whom the chosen people waited so anxiously. That this might be clear, the priesthood of Christ had early been foreshadowed in the strange figure of a priest, Melchisedech, who comes from nowhere into the pages of Scripture and disappears into the void from which he had come. It was strange, among a people so careful of lineage, that no mention was made of the ancestors of the priest — almost as though he were pictured as unbegotten; it was strange that his sacrifice should have been of bread and wine, as a kind of promise, even a description of the Mass; it was even more strange that all the priests of the Old Law, still in the loins of Abraham, should have made their gesture of subjection to this stranger in the tithes Abraham paid to him.
The priesthood of the New Law is a continuation of the priesthood of Christ, not mercy a memory of it. It is as dependent upon Christ the priest as an echo on the voice that gave it birth; in fact, it is as dependent on the priesthood of Christ as the existence of man is on the existence of God or the miracle of a saint on the efficacy of divine power. For in all the priesthood of the New Law, it is still Christ Who is actually the priest and the victim.
Even aside from the divine guarantee of its endurance, it would probably be extremely difficult to wipe out the memory of Christ’s priesthood from the minds of men. For generosity is one thing to which we pay spontaneous tribute; particularly generosity that goes all the way, with no conditions spoiling its flavor. Of course we distinguish between generosity that reaches its heights by mistake, that, for instance, which leaves a child ruefully regarding the candy bag emptied by a generosity that thought there was more than one piece left; and that which makes no advance reckonings, such as that which enables a mother to send a son off to war with a smile veiling the tears in her heart, or which enables a wife to saunter out of the world she has known arm in arm with a husband who has brought disgrace or poverty upon the family. In our human estimation, this sort of thing makes up for many a defect; even the infamous and unlawful wife of Herod, Herodias, regains something of our respect when she passes out of history with one final, splendid gesture of generous choice, refusing to abandon her exiled and despoiled husband. If the sacrifice of Christ the Priest was no more than an incautious whimsy of God, it would have been a thing of wonder for what it gave away the very life of the Son of God.
But this was no divine whimsy. We come closer to an appreciation of the recklessness of divine generosity if we remember that in the mind of God, the intelligent Creator, there is a kind of architect’s blueprint containing the smallest detail and the greatest item of the universe He has made. The small corner of these divine plans which deals with men we call predestination. Among the men whose every breath is detailed there is the man Christ Who was leader, king, legislator, above all, priest. Every detail, then, of the priesthood of Christ, every item of His sacrifice was clearly, serenely, wisely, eternally embraced in the plan of God. This truth has been the comfort of every priest since Christ and the perpetual humiliation of a human generosity which tries to match the divine. Indeed this was no divine whimsy.
The royal family of the priest: Sons by nature and by adoption
From our side, the purpose of Christ’s priesthood was to bring us home. Because so much is so freely given to us, we may easily take too many things for granted, forgetting that the home to which He is bringing us is His home by right; it is ours only through still more generosity on the part of God. He is the natural Son of the family; we are members of the household only by an adoption that stooped the infinite distance between divinity and humanity to take us into the family of God. Nevertheless we are members of the family, brothers of Jesus Christ, and heirs of heaven.
Still we must not let the splendor of the home dull our appreciation of the adoption which is the means of our getting there. Not long ago, the newspapers reported that a couple had just discovered that their adopted baby of one year was feeble- minded. Since this condition could not be the result of environment, at least in so short a time, they demanded the right to return the child as so much damaged goods. The story was hardly any longer than that; yet it silhouetted perfectly the limitations of human adoption. In general, a man adopting a child is being generous, sharing his riches and his home with an unknown child. Of course, the child will not receive the wealth of the father immediately, since that kind of wealth cannot be shared and kept at the same time; it is clear, too, that considerations of his own comfort, his own companionship, and that exquisite joy that comes from caring for one who is as hapless and as grateful — as a child have entered into the adoption. Even so, the adoption was a generous act. The present condition of the child, however, is not due to any generosity on the part of the adopter. He hasn’t made the perfection of the child; he must institute a search for the perfect baby. In this particular case, the shop-lights were rather dim and the foster-parents considered themselves cheated.
Fittingness of adoption: On the part of God
Divine adoption is something else again. We need have no worry about being sent back because we are feeble-minded; God has not been cheated. His creative love does not-search out a good child to adopt; rather, He makes the goodness which He adopts. He shares His riches with His adopted children immediately, as well as giving them a share in the divine heritage; for from the beginning we participate in that by which God is rich — His infinite goodness — a treasure which can be shared and not be diminished, which can be given away with nothing of it being lost. Nor has God filled an empty house with the joyous laughter of children because He was lonely. The house was not empty; nor was He lonely; but He is good. It is His divine goodness which alone explains our right to the house of God.
On the part of men
Once we see something of the goodness of God, His adoption of men is understandable. We are the image and likeness of God. We have an intellect and will, as He has; we are capable of knowing and loving the infinite, though in our own humble way; with divine help, we are capable of knowing and loving God in His own divine way. In fact, there is nothing so much like God’s own natural Son as a man in the state of sanctifying grace. Understand, this similarity is not that of a home to the architect’s idea or of the student’s knowledge to his teacher’s idea. This is a family likeness ; through grace and charity we are one with God as the Son is one with Him by nature.
We are very much at home with the High Priest and Victim. Perhaps we are a little awkward and self-conscious at first; but only for a very short time. We are at home. There may be some of that strangeness and tension on our part that comes to a family whose new priest has just come home for the first time; but after all this is our brother and we are soon ourselves. When at last we reach heaven, we are one of the family who has long been looked for and at last has arrived. On arrival, we receive the rousing welcome given to one who might have strayed a little to reach home somewhat later, a little more the worse for wear, a little more ready for rest.
The adoration of men: Identity of worship given to humanity and divinity of Christ
Yet, for all that homely, lovable familiarity, we do not forget that Christ is God. His priesthood and sacrifice, never separated in our eyes from His life, are reminders and commands of that complete worship we owe to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We serve Him, love Him, live intimately with Him, yet every minute, as Mary did, we adore Him because He is God.
It is to the divine Person, of course, that we pay this tribute, as in the human world it is the person we praise or blame, not his hand, his foot, or his nature. If human nature could be separated from the Person of the Word, and thus from divinity, we would pay it the lesser tribute which we give to Mary, the tribute of supreme excellence among the saints. But it cannot be so separated; we must then, give the humanity of Christ adoration, though not absolute but a relative adoration. Thus, In adoring the Sacred Heart, or the Precious Blood we are really adoring the Word Incarnate.
This may become more clear from an examination of the tribute we pay the images of Christ. The Catholic, kissing the crucifix, does not imagine that that crucifix is alive, that it is God, that it is a mysterious power; certainly he does not consider it a representation of something that does not exist, never did exist, and never will exist. These might be the pagan’s views of his idol. The ordinary Catholic would be astonished, and a little amused, at such notions; as amused as a man accused of falling in love with a piece of paper because he was caught kissing the picture of his young wife. Of course he gives honor and respect to the picture; not because it is a picture, but because it is a picture of his wife. This is a relative respect; by it he means to honor his own wife. So a Catholic, kneeling in prayer before a crucifix, gives the crucifix a relative adoration, an adoration that is referred to the Master who is represented on that crucifix.
The point should not really be so difficult; at least it is a general rule in all our human dealings that we give the same respect to a person absolutely that we give to his image or memory relatively. Our respect for the corpse at a funeral certainly does not flow from our esteem for dead bodies; it is an expression of our esteem for the person to whom this body once belonged. The relative anger of a mob burning a tyrant in effigy is not inspired by a hatred of effigies, nor is the mob under the delusion that it is destroying the tyrant in the destruction of his effigy. When a human mind has wandered so far as to make this kind of mistake, it is lost in the jungle of voodooism.
Other objects of supreme adoration in Christ; veneration of His mother; veneration of the saints
This respect or tribute to excellence varies according to the excellence it honors. The respect we give God, for example, is called adoration. To lesser degrees of excellence we give veneration, a tribute whose real basis is sanctity: for this is the preeminently human excellence; this is the respect we give to Our Lady, to the saints, to the very wise, the old. In Latin, the terms are much more precise. Adoratio is the generic term including all these tributes to excellence; that which is due to God alone (our “adoration” in English) is called latria; that which we give to Mary as the mother of God is called hyperdulia ; finally, the tribute paid to the saints is dulia .
All this may seem too technical a laboring of a perfectly clear truth; but history brings eloquent testimony to the importance of accuracy and clarity in this matter. Undoubtedly the identification of the Latin generic term adoratio with the English “adoration” contributed a great deal to the storm against images that swept Europe with the Reformation. At times this rioting was due to ignorance; at others, to a malicious preying upon ignorance by those who knew better. At any rate, the charge was that these images were being adored with the very same adoration with which we adore God. Notice the contrast: the modern pagans in Russia, Germany, and Spain destroy images in a petty gesture of hatred against God; the Reformers destroyed images in an ignorant gesture to protect the rights of God which, in fact, were not being violated.
The Reformers’ charge was false. But the quarrel was an old, old one. The same error had been condemned in the Councils of the eighth century; and in all its long history, the error had given birth to vandalism, hatred, bloodshed, murder, general destruction. Why was all this argument made about so simple a thing as images? Why was the Church so stubborn about the whole thing; would it not have been much simpler for the Church to renew the Old Law prohibition against images and stop all this violence?
Well, there was first of all the matter of truth. The Church may surrender, in fact has surrendered, territory, wealth, power, but not truth; for the last bit of truth is more important than all the safety, security, peace, and beauty to be found in the world. Then, too, there is the very purpose of images as a more than sufficient reason for the stubbornness of the Church. These are the books of the little ones, the script that can be read by the most unlettered of men; and the souls of these little ones are worth any price that may have to be paid for them.
Images are a memory lesson that continues to be repeated as long as a church stands; they are the seal by which the mystery and example of the lives of Christ, Mary, and the saints are impressed on our minds. The world did not have to wait for modern psychology to discover that vision is an effective means for vivid, serious instruction, for the inflaming of affection, and for indelible memory. Men knew long ago that the horrors of war visible in the streets down which they walked were far more impressive than the most detailed story of a returning soldier. In the ordinary course of human events, some things are going to strike our eyes, impress themselves on our memories, and claim our affections; if among these are not the saints, the Mother of God, and her Son, then we leave the field open to the undesirable things of the world to pay court to our hearts without any rivals.
The priest at His work: the mediation of Christ
Within the easy familiarity of a family circle there is God, Christ His natural Son, and the adopted sons and brothers of the Priest and Victim. On our side, we adore Him, familiar as He may be with us, for He is God; on His side, the High Priest, our Brother, goes about His priestly work in our favor, standing between God and ourselves, bringing us divine gifts, offering our paltry gifts to God. Of course we have other mediators: saints on earth, saints in heaven, Our Lady herself, not infrequently the shamefaced sinner pleading the cause of one who has shown mercy. But no one of these can perfectly effect the work of mediation, no one can unite us perfectly to God but Christ, for only He established the bond of friendship on Calvary and released a flood of grace into our souls. Others can only work to this end. The union itself is God’s work, a work proper to Him Who is one with us in human nature and one with God in divine nature.
The tragedy of buried truths:The tragedy of modern leadership
There is inevitable sorrow in the unearthing of a buried civilization for it is the revelation of a human tragedy. Looking down on the crumbling stone, we are gazing on the final defeat of all the thoughts the works, the hopes and struggles of a people who are gone. There is this mercy about it, however, that the citizens of that culture died with it; they did not have to live on after their world was dead. The burial of a fundamental truth, on the other hand, has all the bitterness of a buried civilization to which is added an ultimate agony; for the human beings to whom it was a pillar of home are forced to live on without it.
The burial of the fundamental truth of leadership was a bitter blow to humanity. It struck directly at the truth of a man, his dignity, his freedom. And men had to live on after the truth had been buried; they had to smile at its funeral, submit to the despoilers of humanity, and even, later, join with the champions of this rule of absolute tyranny.
The tragedy of modern irreligion
What has been true of leadership in general is above all true of the perfection of leadership, the spiritual leadership whose proper act is sacrifice. The burial of the fundamental truth of the priesthood has left the soul of man bewildered, lost. It had already been a little lonely in an entirely material world which gave it no spiritual companionship; but now, that soul has been snatched from home and country to a barren exile, alone. The wandering, exiled victims of our present war, miserable as their plight is, are a very mild likeness of the hidden misery of all men brought on by a more subtle attack that has pulled man out of the harmony of nature and forced him to live a lie.
The treasure cave of Bethlehem
The cave of Bethlehem sheltered more than the mother, her Child, and the foster-father; it contained, too, all the fundamental truths which the world had tried to bury throughout the centuries. These truths are never buried beyond recovery because God Himself was born in a cave; there we find such truths as the immortality of the soul of man, the validity of his intellect, the freedom of his will, his faith and hope, his virtue and merit, courage and high endeavor, the goal to which he goes. Fingering this treasure of truth, we must not overlook the truth of man’s position and God’s position in the universe; nor the absolutely fundamental truth of the priesthood and sacrifice.
The kings and the infant
There was a delicate divine irony in the providence which brought the kings of the East to the humble throne of the Infant with their treasures. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were royal gifts offered by royal hands and a fitting tribute to a poverty-stricken Child Who yet was God. The kings brought the treasures of the world; they took with them the buried treasure of fundamental truths. In reality, it was the Infant who had brought treasures to the kings, not the kings to the Infant.