"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Guéranger: The History of the Holy Sepulchre

Ars orandi: the Art and Beauty of Traditional Catholicism


Posted by David Werling

St. Bonaventure Receives the Banner of St. Sepluchre 
by Francesco Solimena, 1710

From The Liturgical Year by Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.

The sight of this sepulchre is insufferable to Satan's pride, for it is the trophy of the defeat of death, the offspring of sin. He flatters himself on having succeeded, when Jerusalem is destroyed by the Roman legions, and on her ruins there rises up a new pagan city, called Ælia. But no! neither the name of Jerusalem, nor the glory of the holy sepulchre, shall perish. The pagans cover it with a mound of earth, on which they build a temple to Jupiter; it is the same spirit that dictated their raising an altar to Venus on Calvary, and another to Adonis over the cave of Bethlehem. But all these sacrilegious efforts only serve to tell the Christians the exact site of these several sacred places. The pagans think by this artifice to turn the respect and homage of the Christians from Jesus to their false gods; here again they fail. The Christians abstain from visiting the holy places, as long as they are desecrated by the presence of the these idols; but they keep their eye fixed on what their Redeemer has endeared to them, and wait in patience for the time when it shall please the eternal Father again to glorify his Son.

The Vision of St. Helen by Paulo Veronese, circa 1580

The time comes. God sends to Jerusalem a Christian empress, mother of a Christian emperor: she is to restore the holy places, the scenes of our Redeemer's love. Like Magdalen and her companions, Helen hastens to the sepulchre. God would have it so--woman's privilege in all that happens on the great morning of the Resurrection is to be continued now. Magdalen and her companions sought Jesus; Helen, who adores him as her risen Lord, only seeks his sepulchre; but their love is one and the same. The pious empress orders the temple of Jupiter to be pulled down, and the mound of earth to be removed; which done, the trophy of Jesus' defeat of death is again proclaimed by this resurrection of the glorious sepulchre. A magnificent temple is built at the expense of the imperial treasury, and is called the basilica of the Resurrection. The whole world is excited by the news of such a triumph; the already tottering structure of paganism receives a shock which hastens its destruction; and pilgrimages to the holy sepulchre are begun by Christian people throughout the world, forming a procession of universal homage which is to continue to the end of time.

Godfrey de Bouillon

During the three centuries following, Jerusalem was the holy and free city, and the sepulchre Jesus reflected its glory upon her; but the East became a very hot-bed of heresies, and God, in his justice, sent her the chastisement of slavery. The Saracen hordes inundated the land of prodigy. If the torrent of invasion was checked, it was for a brief period, and the waters returned with redoubled power. Meanwhile, what becomes of the holy sepulchre? Let us not fear: it is safe. The Saracens themselves look upon it with awe, for it is, they say, the tomb of a great Prophet. True, a tax is imposed on the Christians who visit it; but the sepulchre is safe. One of the caliphs presented the keys of the venerable sanctuary to the emperor Charlemagne, hereby evincing, not only the respect he had for this greatest of Christian monarchs, but, moreover, the veneration wherein he held the sacred grotto. Thus did our Lord's sepulchre continue to be glorified even in the midst of dangers which, humanly, would have wrought its utter destruction.

Its glory shone out still more brightly, when, at the call of the Father of Christendom, the western nations rose up in arms, and marched, under the banner of the Cross, to the deliverance of Jerusalem. The love of the holy sepulchre was in every heart, its name on every tongue. The first engagement drove back the Saracen, and left the city in possession of the crusaders. A sublime spectacle was then witnessed in the church of the holy sepulchre; the pious Godfrey of Bouillon was consecrated king of Jerusalem, and the holy mysteries were celebrated, for the first time in the language and ritual of Rome, under the oriental dome of St. Helen's basilica. But the reign of Japheth in the tents of Sem was of short duration, owing partly to the short-sighted policy of the western sovereigns, which kept them from appreciating the importance of such a conquest; and partly to the treachery of the Greek Empire, which betrayed the defenceless Jerusalem once more into the hands of the Sarcens. Still, the period of the Latin kingdom in the holy city was one of the glories of the Jesus' sepulchre, foretold by Isaias.

Greek and Armenian Schismatics fight with each other at the Holy Sepulchre.

What are to be its future glories? At present, it is profaned by the sacrifices which are offered, in its basilica, by schismatical and heretical priests; it is entrusted, for a few hours each year, to the Catholics of Jerusalem, and during that brief interval it receives the fervent homage of the true spouse of Jesus. When will the holy sepulchre be reinstated in its honour? Will the nations of the West return to the fervour of faith, the emulate the holy chivalry of the crusaders of old? Or will the East renounce the schism, which has cost her her liberty; stretch out her hand to the mother and mistress of all churches; and, on the rock of the Resurrection, sign the covenant of a union, which would be the death-warrant of Islamism? Only God knows: but this much he has revealed to us in sacred Scripture, that before the end of the world, Israel will return to the Messias he despised and crucified, and that the glory of Jerusalem is to be restored by the Jews who shall be converted.

Then will the sepulchre of the Son of Jesse be at the height of its glory, and soon will this Son of Jesse himself appear. Our bodies will then be on the eve of the general resurrection; and thus the final result of the Pasch will be simultaneous with the last and greatest glory of the holy sepulchre. As we rise from our graves, we shall fix our eyes upon our Jesus' tomb, and love it as the origin and source of the immortality we shall then have. Until the time of our death comes, when our bodies must be laid in the temporary prison of the grave, let us love the sepulchre of our dear Saviour; let us be zealous for its honour; and, imitating our forefathers in that earnest faith which made them its defenders and soldiers, let us get well into us that portion of the Easter spirit, which consists in understanding and loving the glories of Jesus' sepulchre.

The Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

No comments:

Post a Comment