Of a candle

At Mass yesterday, after the singing of Mark’s Gospel, the Paschal Candle was quietly extinguished. Christ has ascended into Heaven, and the flame in the Sanctuary, which through the forty days since Easter had symbolized the presence of the Resurrected Lord upon this earth, itself “ascends.”

We would now be on our own — were it not that Christ remains throughout the Church He gave us, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, until His coming again.

This is the teaching, from the highest source, and it must never be confused or toyed with. The symbolism is precise. Yet there is great liturgical confusion, as great moral, intellectual, and spiritual confusion, today as through half a century or more of lewd ecclesiastical convulsion. In time, however, it will pass.

In the space between now and Whitsun, novenas will be prayed, “for the return of our separated brethren to the Roman unity.” This was a practice inaugurated by Pope Leo XIII. It becomes the more poignant when men are separating even within Holy Church, and Rome is in disarray. But we have witnessed such chaos before; and the faithful have fasted and prayed for resolution.

Over the last three years, as I have heard or read so many threatening to leave in protest (abandoning the Church to the men they think are her worst enemies), or predicting an inevitable schism, I have come to think it the most horrible crime. To cut oneself off from the Body of Christ; to turn “universal” Christians against one another; to split God’s people into rival factions and “make a lio” before the Cross — surely these things should be unthinkable.

Yet there is nowhere to go but back to Christ; the alternative being “forward,” to Hell.

What is the method to change what Christ taught? Which mortal man can we elect as our Reformer? Who, but Christ, can fix the mess that foolish men have made?

We act as if the Church were some purely human institution that needs us; which depends for her existence on our support; that must therefore answer to our demands. This is not the truth. We need the Church.

In the very symbol of that extinguished flame, we have Christ’s word that His Church will always be there. Count on it, and stay resolutely with Him.