‘Now the work of the Church is one. Through all the diversities of operations of the Divine Spirit, He is ever tending to the fulfilment of one purpose, the perfecting of the revelation of Christ in His new creation. And that work is in the unseen and spiritual world. The departed are withdrawn entirely from this world of sense, and are in that world only. We are in both worlds. Outwardly in the visible world, by the sacraments of Christ we are brought within the veil, where Christ is, and are called to share in the one life-work of His mystical Body. Those who are wholly within the veil have no sacraments, but the same Holy Spirit energises in them Who works in us through sacraments. And as in the natural body it is during repose that the processes of nutrition are most active, repairing and strengthening the wasted and worn tissues; and as for the fulld development of the human frame there are needed both the periods of outward activity in which there is wear and tear, and trial and strain and fatigue, and the periods of rest in which there is renewing and building up; so may it be in the spiritual life. We have the period of struggle and trial in this life, and of silent working—the secret fashioning and building up by the Spirit of God – in the unseen world. But there is this great difference between the natural and the spiritual life. The former is isolated in each individual bound up in his own personality; the latter is one in all he whole Catholic Church, and it is bound up with the Being of God and with the Person of Christ. “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”. The life, we repeat, is one in the one Body of Christ. No supernatural actions of members of that Body can be isolated, for they are actions of the one Life which is by the one Spirit of God. The souls of the departed are still His temples. His working in them and in us is not two separate things, but one. It is true the method and the condition of His working in us and in them are not the same. We are tempted, they are not. In us He works through sacraments, in them, since they are not in the flesh, without sacraments. But the powers of the spiritual life, which was begun in them through sacraments, are being developed and going on to perfection. And we, in offering the Holy Sacrifice, plead for them. The Church Militant, by drinking of the precious Blood of the Saviour, and thus renewing her strength, causes the pulses of that Life-blood to beat with increased force throughout the whole Mystical Body. We members of the Church on earth, by our prayers, are putting forth the spiritual force which is destined to do its part in accomplishing the eternal purpose of God: the Holy Spirit in us working both to will and to do of His good pleasure, guiding our wills to work in perfect accord with the will of God. For the one real force in the whole universe of God is will. This is the highest product of life. In the natural world we see the will of God creating, directing, upholding; and also the angelic wills co-operating with Him in part of that His work. In the spiritual world He calls us also, His human creatures, to take our part, to use our wills. There are two supreme actions of the spiritual world – worship and prayer, the one directed to God alone, without reference to the creatures; the other directed to God, but also having regard to the creatures. It is the Divine purpose that by prayer – i.e., the action of our wills in accord with the will of God – the purpose of God in the new creation should be accomplished. In this we all have our part: the souls of the Martyrs pleading beneath the heavenly Altar, each little Christian child learning to utter its first prayer, each band of devout worshippers at the Holy Sacrifice – all are putting forth spiritual energy, the power of their wills, for one end – “Thy Kingdom come.” And so each is working for all. When we say “Our Father,” we pray for all, for the faithful living and departed, that he would send His grace upon them to enable them to worship and serve and obey Him; we pray that He would give them all things needful for them, that they may obtain remission of all their sins, and find mercy of the Lord in that day. And the prayers of all are directed and inspired by the one Spirit, “Who helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered… because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”’.
from a sermon preached in 1888 by John Wale Hicks, Vicar of St Mary the Less, Cambridge
Fr Lee Kenyon
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian