In the preceding article we taught how to examine oneself as to whether one has the fear of God in one’s soul. In the present article we are going to teach how to examine oneself as to faith and love.
Faith in God, which is our duty to have in our soul when we come to communion at the mystery of the Eucharist, consists in the following two things:
- In believing that the blessed bread is in reality the very body of Christ, and the blessed cup the very blood;
- In believing that by virtue of the mystery we receive remission of sins, and everlasting life.
This belief is called “faith in God,” because it enters our souls not through perception and sensation but through the word of God, which is truth, as is written, “The word is truth.” Do you believe this by virtue of your eyesight or by virtue of your sense of taste? By no means. Both our eyesight and our sense of taste inform us that we see bread and are eating bread. Why, then, do we believe, contrary to the testimony of our blood? Because, as we know, Christ said: “Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Drink ye of it all. For this is my blood of the new Testament, which is shed for you and for many others for the remission of sins.” You believe, therefore, on the testimony of God, and reject the testimony of your senses. For this reason, this kind of belief is called “faith in God”, because it is due to God, that is, God is the cause of it; and it would have been impossible without the testimony of God to believe that the apparent bread is really the body of Christ, and the apparent wine is really the blood of Christ. By accepting and taking in our souls the faith in God, and rejecting the belief due to the testimony of our senses, we seal the fact that God is true, and thus recognize Him as the standard and principle of cognition and of behavior. We believe in God, and we disbelieve in our senses, because God is an infallible and unerring witness to the truth, and not our own senses, which often deceive us by indicating that things are otherwise than they really are. The first Christian virtue is called self-abnegation, and consists in denying or renouncing one’s own will and belief in favor of God’s will and sentiment. The first anti-Christian vice, on the other hand, is called selfishness and egoism, and consists in rejecting God’s will and sentiment because of the love we have of our own. By coming with faith in God to the communion of the mystery of the Eucharist, we show the virtue of self-abnegation in practice, because we deny the belief of our own senses, and accept that of God, because we honor and glorify God, and dishonor ourselves, humbling and depreciating ourselves before God. Indeed, that we deny our own belief, and accept that of God, is self-evident; but that, by means of this act, we honor and glorify God, and dishonor ourselves, is evident from the fact that by so doing we recognize God as the principle of cognition and behavior, submit to Him, and have no confidence whatever in our own selves. We say to God: We admit Thy testimony, and reject the testimony of our senses, because Thou are true; we execute Thy command, because, by obeying Thee, we have everlasting life, whereas, if we stand aloof from Thee, we become the same as nothing at all. From Thee, O God, we have our birth, through Thee we exist, and in Thee we are happy. But God is dishonored and ignored through disbelief as much as He is honored and glorified through belief.
Those who, like the Protestants, believe in the testimony of the senses, and disbelieve in the testimony of God, dishonor and ignore God, taking Him to be a liar; such men consider the testimony of their senses superior to that of God, or, rather to say, they deify their own senses, taking them to be the standard and principle of facts and questions of fact, instead of God. Such men are wholly unacquainted with the virtue of self-abnegation, and have in their souls the beginning and root of all vice and wickedness, that is, selfishness and egoism. Such men cannot please God, because, as Paul says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Such men, however many good deeds they man do, cannot possibly be justified before God, for no man can be justified from works of the law except through faith in Jesus Christ. The works that are consonant with the divine law and appear to be good, when they have as their motive selfishness and egoism, and not self-abnegation, lose all their apparent value before God; for, as Christ bears Witness, men that do their alms in front of men to be seen by them have no reward with our Father who is in heaven. In sum, a selfish person and an egoist are enemies of God, just as is the Devil himself, and just as the Devil cannot do any good, so those who lack faith in God have nothing in common with true virtue and truly good works. If, therefore, you would examine yourself whether you have faith in God in your soul, you may judge of this as follows. If you believe, not as your senses tell you, but as the word of God tells you; if in the face of the testimony of the word of God no other testimony whatsoever is able to shake your faith or cause your belief to waver or hesitate between God and your senses, then you have faith in God in our soul. But if, on the contrary, you do not sacrifice and forego your carnal and human sentiment and opinion in the face of the testimony of the divine word; if you do not cherish the sentiments and mind of God, but those of men, then you have no faith in God, and can have no communion with God. By believing in the reality and truth of the mystery of the Eucharist, by believing that you thereby receive remission of sins and everlasting life, you are entitled to come forward whenever you hear the words “Come up”. But if you do not so believe, you have no right to partake of the communion. In that case, keep away from it. The duty of faith dictates the duty of coming forward and communing as a Christian; for by failing or refusing to do so, we show either that we do not believe or that we have committed sins and still remain unrepentant.