Thursday, February 09, 2006

On February 9th, 1851...
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., preached a sermon, of which the following notes survive:
On the Descent into Egypt

1. INTROD.—There is one subject not much thought of, the descent into Egypt, though belonging to this season, and it may be accounted one of the Epiphanies of Christ. (1) Magi; (2) purification; (3) idol-breaking in Egypt, for as the Ark levelling the walls of Jericho, and [overthrowing] Dagon, so much more Christ.

2. Circumstances. How one journey to Bethlehem—then they got home to Nazareth—not enough, must set out again. It is remarkable that these first years were spent in a heathen country. There till seven years old.

3. Now why? I will give you a reason. He would undergo every suffering; He would be in a heathen country to share the trials of His apostles and missioners. In Jerusalem was the Temple of God, in the Holy Land His religion; but even there He chose not the Temple, but Nazareth—and the first years of His life Heliopolis, in heathen Egypt.

4. Now it must not be supposed that our Lord was too young to have a trial. (Explain.) Ignorance came from the fall. He was as sensitive [in childhood] as [we] when we are grown. Thus He saw all the evil of the place; and as His body made Him feel in the crucifixion, so His soul was exposed to moral sufferings from the first.

5. And the suffering was greater than we conceive. To live among heathens is a misery, the greater, the purer the mind—Lot in Sodom, St. Paul at Athens—the world is everywhere, and we can understand from a country which is not heathen, such as this, how evil it is, though it would be a great deal worse [among heathens].

6. Even in this country, I say, which is not heathen, the misery of being in the world is great to any holy mind. Take e.g. a city like this, and fancy the thoughts of an apostle in it. Could he go about it freely? A continual service of the devil here. How? By sins of the tongue; not like the seven Catholic Hours coming at intervals, but incessantly; a continual light talk in a thousand places, from morning to night, with scarce breaks. Who is honoured like the devil? Blasphemy and immodesty, so that most men's mouths and all men's ears are polluted from year to year's end. And are not their hearts too? Then imagination. Alas! this is why the devil loves the bad talk; it is the pabulum, the silva of corruption; it sets the heart on fire, as shavings round the wood and coal for a fire. I don't know anything more awful. Other sins men commit from time to time, but this one now. The evil concupiscence boils over and burns without exhaustion, and involves every one, so that religious people are like the Three Children [in the fiery furnace].—and how many, many fall!

7. Well this, bad as it is, is not so bad as Egypt, as heathen Heliopolis, for this country has been Catholic—remains of good, which have soaked in. Grant that a modern city is a furnace of sin—yet it [sin] was deified in Egypt. Vices canonised in animals—heathen idolatry—all vices made gods—the world lieth in wickedness, etc. the god of this world, etc. —the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief . O misery of the infant Jesus walking in the streets! St. Aloysius fainting at the mention of a mortal sin—smell—saints detecting mortal sin [by its smell]. As sick men cannot bear strong scent or sound, so purity here. What a living martyrdom, etc.

8. I have said He did this for our sakes, to taste every trial, to sanctify every state, to sanctify the state of those who live in the world.

9. You who live in the world, resist evil. On confraternities—third order of St. Francis, and so allude to the Oratorium Parvum. Your confessors may, or may not, from not liking to put burdens on you, speak of these.


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