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Symbols of the Church and of the Kingdom

Liber Graduum : ON THE HIDDEN AND THE VISIBLE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH

Robert Murray

lundi 14 septembre 2015

Brethren : since we believe that there is a hidden stripping of the heart as it abandons the earth and is raised to heaven, we ought to be stripped physically even of our possessions and our inheritance, and then we shall be observing the commandments of him who gives life to all, and we shall know that the man who is united to our Lord and meditates on him constantly enjoys a secret prayer of the heart. Let us pray also with our body as well as our heart, just as Jesus blessed and prayed in both body and spirit ; the apostles and prophets also prayed thus. We must not be fools who refuse to be persuaded by their parents. We must not do away with our fathers in the spirit and get ourselves fathers ’of the flesh’ who are not true, who will make us forget the truth of our Lord and his heralds. (Again,) we know that there is a hidden fasting of the heart, from evil thoughts ; let us also fast openly, as our Lord and his heralds did, both the former and the latter. (Again,) we know that the body is a hidden temple and the heart is a hidden altar for ministry in the Spirit ; let us also devote ourselves to that visible altar and (come) before that visible temple, so that labouring duly in these, we may live for ever and ever in that (which is) free and mighty, the Church in heaven, and by that altar which is adorned and set up in the spirit ; before which the angels minister, and all the saints, and Jesus acts as priest and effects the consecration before them and above them and on every side of them. (Finally,) we know that the ’perfect’ are baptized into Jesus Christ and are secretly purified ; let us believe in and be sure of this visible baptism, that the Spirit is (there) and that it effects atonement and remission of sins for him who believes in it, undergoes it and does good works.

It was not for nothing that our Lord and his heralds, the former and the latter, established this Church, this altar and baptism, which can be seen by the eyes of the body. It was so that from these which can be seen we should (come to) be among those heavenly ones which are not visible to the eyes of flesh, when our bodies become temples and our hearts altars, and we go on pilgrimage and enter in, being in this visible Church with its priesthood and its ministry, so that good examples may be (given) to all men to imitate the watching, fasting and suffering of our Lord, and that we may practise (what we) teach. And then, when we have attained to great humility and to reverence for all men, great and small, there will be revealed to us that Church which is in heaven and that altar which is in the Spirit, on which we shall offer thanksgiving by the prayer of our hearts and the yearning of our bodies, believing in this visible altar and holding to be true this priesthood which ministers on it, since everything which is in this Church is established in the likeness of that hidden Church. But if we doubt and despise this visible Church, this visible altar, this visible priesthood and this baptism which effects atonement, our body will not be a temple, nor our heart an altar and a wellspring of praise ; nor will we have revealed to us that Church on high, its altar, its light and its priesthood, where are gathered all the saints, those whose hearts are pure, who dwell in its glory and rejoice in its light, because they did not despise this blessed nurse, which every day bears and brings up fair wards and sends them to that great Church on high. This visible Church is manifest to all ; our Lord established its altar, its baptism and its priesthood, for our Lord and his apostles prayed in it, baptized in it, sacrificed his body and blood in it and truly acted as priests in it. It is the Church in truth, the blessed mother which brings up all children, and the body and the heart in which our Lord dwells ; and because of the Spirit which abides in it, it is in truth a temple and altar, because our Lord dwells there. As it is written, your bodies are temples of the Lord and Christ dwells in your inward man.

As for that Church in heaven, from it all that is fair takes its beginning ; from it light dawns on us in all directions ; in its likeness the Church on earth has come to exist, with its priests and altar, and according to the pattern of its ministry the body ministers outwardly and the heart acts as priest inwardly, and those who devote themselves to this visible Church become like to it (i.e. the heavenly Church) and follow it. Because of this, this Church (i.e. the visible) is greater than all things, and she is the mother of all the baptized ; but especially because the face of our Lord dawns on her and illuminates her.

Now this Church, with its altar and baptism,’ bears mankind like children ; they suck (her) milk, till they are weaned. Then, they come to growth and knowledge of the body and the heart, and make their bodies temples and their hearts altars ; they eat firm food, better than milk, until they become perfect and eat the Lord himself in truth, as he said, whoever eats me, even he shall be living because of me. And when they have eaten solid food (as the Apostle says, to the perfect belongs solid food, to those who are powerfully trained to know what is the height and depth and length and breadth), then they come to that Church on high, which makes them perfect, and they enter that city of Jesus our king, and worship there in that great and better palace, the mother of all the living and the perfect. Therefore let us not despise the visible Church, for she it is who brings up all children ; nor let us despise that of the heart, for it is she who gives strength to all the infirm : but let us long for that on high, which perfects all the saints.

Now these three Churches and their ministries possess life ; yet one glory is greater than another. He who departs (by death) from the ministry of this Church without attaining to that of the heart and that on high, goes out without sin from this world ; he is virtuous, and his good works go with him. But he who departs from that of the heart is better ; and he who attains in his heart to that heavenly Church, and thus departs, blessed is his spirit ! He is perfect, and he goes and sees our Lord face to face. According as anyone devotes himself to this visible church, he will be in that of the heart and that on high ; and according as anyone is baptized with this visible water, thereby he will be baptized with that fire and Spirit which are not seen ; and according as anyone having believed comes to love, and having come to love is made perfect, and being made perfect becomes a king, without this visible baptism no one is baptized with fire and Spirit, and without this visible Church no one will be in that of the heart and that on high. If anyone separates himself from her and ’ministers at the mountain’ he becomes guilty or goes wrong. But wherever he is, he is sure that life is in her, and let him not break his covenant.

For as a nurse who brings up a child teaches him to eat bread, as better than milk, so this visible Church teaches her own children to eat something better and far greater, whereby they may grow. It is not that she who brings up a child has no food, but that the child is too weak for food and milk is necessary for him. Nor is the spirit which ministers in the visible Church weaker than that of the heart and that on high (for one and the same Spirit ministers to all three) ; but the sons of men are very weak, and unless she brings them up like children, they cannot take solid food. But what nursing mother who has many children, some thirty years old and some thirty days old, can set the same food before them ? If she set only solid food before them, the thirty-days’ child would die and the thirty-year-old would grow, while if she set milk only, the thirty-days’ child would live and grow fat, but the thirty-year-old would suffer agonies and die. Therefore also our Lord and his heralds, the guides of all men, enjoin the thirty-days-old ’Do not eat with adulterers or mix with fornicators, intemperate men or blasphemers or with all evil-doers’, while to the thirty-year-old they say : ’Take on (yourselves) the weakness of the weak’ and ’be all things to all men’ and ’do not call anyone "pagan" or "unclean" or "evil", even though he is these things, but count everyone better than yourself, and thus you will mature’.

They gave every man commands to suit him. For a child of thirty days, if he goes into the house of wicked people, will be corrupted ; but one of thirty years, if he goes into the house of wicked people, will convert them ; and if they are not persuaded, he himself will not perish, because he is a spiritual man. Likewise they command anyone who has a youthful and inexperienced nature to work and then to eat till he is strengthened ; for the Apostle did not want to save bread, but to prevent anyone on ceasing from visible work (and not knowing how to do hidden work,) from learning foolishness, lying and slander and from falling into old wives’ tales, joking, laughter and disgraceful story-telling, forgetting he was a Christian. But to him whose mind is mature and who is experienced in his heart, and knows how to work the hidden work, to him say our Lord and his heralds : Do not take care for your body, what to put on, nor for your life, what to eat ; but you, seek what is above and think on what is above, for one that is like this is able to correct, pacify, exhort and instruct men so as to become pleasing to him who gives life to all : (such a Christian can) turn men from disgraceful story-telling, unprofitable chatter, uncalled-for joking and laughter, hateful words and evil deeds.’ Because of this way of life and this usefulness, our Lord does not allow one who is the helper of every man to labour on earth, for he says to him as to Simon, If you love me, feed my flock and my sheep and my ewes and my lambs He who shepherds Christ’s sheep cannot follow the plough nor labour on the visible land, but he gathers, shepherds and pacifies the sheep entrusted to him, and he will stand with unabashed countenance on the day (of judgement) before him who commanded him : Feed for me my flock and my ewes and my lambs.

Blessed is he who enters into that Church in heaven, on which our Lord has dawned openly, as this visible sun dawns on this visible Church and on these bodily temples ! However often this sun sets on these, from that which is above there never departs the light of the face of our Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ. For even though our Lord is in every place, he is seen openly in that heavenly Church ; but only by those who have humbled themselves and become peaceful and gentle to all men, who have struggled and joined lonely combat with evil spirits and have purified their hearts from their evil thoughts (as the Apostle says, Tour struggle is not with men of flesh and blood, but with rulers and powers and evil spirits and with Satan the destroyer) : and those who have struggled with Satan and have overcome him. (Only) these are worthy of that Church on which our Lord has dawned openly, which is above all, and they perceive the glorious light of his face. For our Lord has said : Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God. For even if there are other blessed and other places, for each according to his works, (only) those who have purified themselves of evils and of defiled thoughts are taken up to that great place and see it, and are glorified with our Lord Jesus and receive blessings from his priesthood. ’ Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord and who shall abide on his holy mountain ?’’ (which is the church in heaven) : ’He whose hands are pure and who is chosen in his heart.’ ’He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from God our saviour,’3 who is our Lord Jesus Christ. Glory to him for ever and ever, Amen.


Voir en ligne : Robert Murray