23 May 2009

The Antichristian Revolt

The Sacrament of the Altar is the manifestation of the Divine Presence; it is the incorporation of the Divine love, sanctity, and power; and against these things the Antichristian revolt hurls itself as the chief object of its hatred.

There is yet another object of this animosity. What I said last leads on immediately to the priesthood. What is the priesthood? The priesthood is a body of men, instituted by our Savior. It is open to all; it has no secrets but the sins of those that repent. The priesthood is in noonday, standing at the altar; and yet we hear of “sacerdotalism” as if it were the Black Death or a plague of Egypt, or a pestilence which walks in darkness.

Here is the priesthood: a body of men chosen first by our Lord, illuminated, trained, and conformed to Himself, to be the guardians and the transmitters of the truths He revealed. This, then, is the priesthood. There is no doubt that it must be an object of special animosity: “If the world hate you, know ye that it had hated Me before you” (John 15:18). This was said to the first priests. “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

They are witnesses of the truth, and they have power to deliver it; and they have power to deliver it because they have a Divine certainty of the truth they deliver; and they have a Divine certainty of that truth because they are the disciples of the Church which is divinely guided, before they become the teachers of the faithful. To them is committed the power of applying that truth to men – that is, of guiding their thoughts and consciences, and distinguishing truth from falsehood in matters of faith, of judging the actions of men, of distinguishing between right and wrong in questions of the Divine law, and of pronouncing upon them censure, if need be; giving or withholding absolution by their sentence before God.

I do not wonder, therefore, that there should be an animosity in those that do not love the Master, from Whose Side the priesthood springs; and I do not wonder that a bad priest is the hero and the saint of the world.

Lastly, there is one person upon whom this Antichristian spirit concentrates itself, as the lightning on the conductor. There is one person upon earth who is the pinnacle of the temple, which is always the first to be struck. It is the Vicar of Jesus Christ. There is no man on earth so near to Jesus Christ as His own Vicar. No man brings us so near to the Person of the Son of God as His Vicar upon earth, and no man is to be made so like to Him in suffering for His sake.

To Peter were given the two great prerogatives which constituted the plentitude of his Master’s office. To him first, and to him alone, before all others, though in the presence of the others, was given the power of the keys. To him, and to him alone, and in the presence of the others was given also the charge of the universal flock: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). To him, and to him alone, exclusively, were spoken the words, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

Therefore the plentitude of jurisdiction, and the plenitude of truth, with the promise of Divine assistance to preserve him in that truth, was given to Peter, and in Peter to his successors.

~ Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster from 1865 to 1892