Rorate Caeli

The new accomplishment of the Lord

Ecce ascendimus Ierosolymam, et consummabuntur omnia quæ scripta sunt per prophetas de Filio hominis. (From the Gospel for Quinquagesima Sunday, Luke xviii, 31: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man.)

Christianity is as old as the world; for it consists, essentially, in the idea of a God -- Creator, Legislator, and Savior -- and in a life conformable to that idea. Now, God manifested himself to the human race from the beginning under the threefold relation of Creator, Legislator, and Savior, and from the beginning, from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Jesus Christ, there have been men who lived conformably with this idea of God.

Three times before Jesus Christ, God manifested himself to men in this threefold character: by Adam, the first father of the human race; by Noah, the second father of the human race; and by Moses, the lawgiver of a People whose influence and existence have mixed them up with all the destinies of mankind.

There exists, however, a fact not less remarkable, namely, that Christianity only started its reign in the world eighteen hundred years ago, with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ appears to have been the first who brought light into the world. Before him, as Saint John said, "it shined in darkness". But what is the cause of this? How is it that Christianity, vanquished in the world before Jesus Christ, has been victorious in it since his coming? How is it that Christianity, before Jesus Christ, "did not hinder the nations from following their ways", and that Jesus Christ, on the contrary, was able to pronounce that sentence of eternal victory, "In mundo pressuram habebitits, sed confidite, ego vici mundum"?

What new thing is it then that Jesus Christ has accomplished? Is it the sacrifice on Calvary? The Lamb of God that takes aways the sins of the world "was slain from the beginning of the world". ... Is it the Gospel? The Gospel, after all, is but the Word of God, and that word, after many trials, did not change the world. Is it the sacraments? The sacraments are only the channels of grace, and the grace of God, although less abundant, without doubt had not ceased continually to flow to men before Jesus Christ. What new thing, then, did Jesus Christ accomplish? By what means did he secure the eternal duration of the victory obtained on Calvary? Listen to his own words, he will say them to you: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her". This is the work which was to subjugate forever hell and the world, which would everyday renew the Sacrifice of the Savior, maintain and diffuse his doctrines, distribute his grace! ... this Church, "the pillar and ground of the truth"...[is] destined to the universal and perpetual instruction of the human race.

Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Conférences à Notre-Dame de Paris (1835)

A very appropriate text as the readings of the Season of Septuagesima end, in a year in which the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter falls on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. We shall return to the words of Lacordaire and other great orators and apologists throughout the Holy Season of Lent.