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If we should forget it for a day, we should be cut to the heart; we should reproach our unstable affections. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is the world's reproof to heartless friends. How, then, shall we escape rebuke, if we neglect so fervent a desire? Blessed thought, that He is drawing us
? to Himself; that all His will is towards us, and all His heart set upon us, even in the midst of our faults, follies, weakness, inconstancy, and sins. What we are He knows, and yet, such as we are, He desires our fellowship, that, by communion with Him, we may be cleansed and changed; that the altar here may be a preparation and a foretaste of the marriage-supper in heaven, where, with face unveiled, He will sit down, and all His saints and all His beloved ones with Him, at the eternal Feast which shall be eaten ever new in the kingdom of God.
St. Mart. ix. 21.
“ If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.”
THIS miracle sets before us many of the deepest
realities of the life of faith. It shews us, as in a parable, the source and the manner of our spiritual healing
This poor woman had been afflicted with a long infirmity. For twelve years she had tried all human skill; she “had spent,” St. Luke says,
» “all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any." Or, as St. Mark says, she “ had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.” When she heard of Jesus, she thought that He had power to heal ; that even “His garment,” “the border of His 1 St. Luke viii. 43.
2 St. Mark v. 26.
garment,” if she could but touch it, would make her whole. She came “ in the press," as if fearing her own unworthiness, and touched Him, “and was healed of that plague.” And when Jesus knew that virtue had gone out of Him, she, finding that she could not be hid, came, “ fearing and trembling, falling down at His feet, and “ told Him all the truth.”
Now we have here a remarkable example of faith bringing conscious unworthiness into the presence of our Lord. Even after she was healed, she was full of trembling fear. Before, she dared not to meet His eye, or to ask His pity; she ventured only to come “in the press behind,” and to touch “ the border of His garment.” We may see in this a temper not uncommon among devout and lowly minds, a mixture of longing and shrinking, of desire and fear. They dare not think that they may meet the presence of our Lord, and yet they fully believe that He alone can heal them. This applies to every act of faith and devotion ; but, above all, to the Sacrament of His body and blood. What is more common than the desire to communicate, mixed with the fear of communicating unworthily? How many would fain come " in the press," and yet tremble and fear. ”
How often do such Christians ask, with anxious hearts, What is the fitness required for the holy Sacrament? and
how do I know that I am not coming unworthily? By what tests can I try and judge myself, that I be not "judged of the Lord” at that day? Let us see, then, what this miracle will teach us.
We have here, as in a parable, this whole spiritual mystery, and the dispositions necessary to worthy communion.
1. For in the holy Sacrament our blessed Lord is as truly and personally present as He was in the heart of that great throng. As God He is present always; therefore as man He can be never absent: for in His divine person the Godhead and manhood are so united as never more to be divided. The Eternal Word is with us in the person of Jesus Christ. It is not a partial and divided, but a whole and undivided presence. The manner and the manifestation is no longer visible and local, but invisible and transcendent. As in a place, and in the proper dimensions of His personal form, He is visibly manifest in heaven ; but after a divine and invisible manner the Incarnate Word is present in the new creation of God. This is true of the whole Church ; but it is true in an especial way of the holy Sacrament. We are too apt to conceive low and earthly notions of this divine mystery, and to suppose the presence of His body and blood to be something partial and apart from the fulness of His perfect and living
presence. His body and blood can no more be separated from His presence than His Godhead from His manhood. But in that holy Sacrament the object of our faith is the presence of Christ, God and man, in all the reality and substance of His Godhead and His manhood. He is personally with us, under the veils of the consecrated elements, as truly, though in another manner, as He was present in the garment, the hem of which wrought miracles of healing. The holy Sacrament is not the sign of an absent person, nor a mere figure or symbol, suggesting, picturing, commemorating. In the order of nature it is sign and shadow ; but in the order of grace, which is supernatural, it is substance, spirit, and life.
2. And this shews us further, that when we come to the holy Sacrament, we verily and indeed touch Him. It is the form in which He offers Himself to us, thereby prolonging His presence and healing on earth. The mystery of His sacramental presence is the time appointed by Himself for our approach. I say the time rather than the place, for He is not there present as in a place, neither can we use words or thoughts of locality respecting “Him who filleth all in all ;” but the sacrament of His body and blood is the occasion when He suffers us to draw near, as He invited Thomas : “ Reach hither thy finger.” And let us