The World's Famous Orations/Volume 7/The Divine Tragedy
THE DIVINE TRAGEDY
Born in 1079, died in 1142; had taught with marked success in Melun and Paris when, on being compelled to burn one of his books, he resumed preaching in an oratory built for him by his students; Abbot of St. Gildas from 1125 until 1134; condemned for heresy in 1140, but afterward reconciled to his accusers; represented the spirit of free inquiry in theology, but remembered now chiefly for his romance with Heloise.
Whether, therefore, Christ is spoken of as about to be crowned or about to be crucified it is said that He "went forth"; to signify that the Jews, who were guilty of so great wickedness against Him, were given over to reprobation, and that His grace would now pass to the vast extent of the Gentiles, where the salvation of the Cross and His own exaltation by the gain of many peoples, in the place of the one nation of the Jews, has extended itself. Whence, also, to-day we rightly go forth to adore the Cross in the open plain, showing mystically that both glory and salvation had departed from the Jews and had spread themselves among the Gentiles. But in that we afterward returned [in procession] to the place whence we had set forth, we signify that in the end of the world the grace of God will return to the Jews; namely, when, by the preaching of Enoch and Elijah, they shall be converted to Him.
Whence the apostle: "I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part has fallen upon Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles shall be come, and so all Israel shall be saved." Whence the place itself of Calvary, where the Lord was crucified, is now, as we know, contained in the city; whereas formerly it was without the walls. "The crown wherewith His Mother crowned Him in the day of His espousals, and in the day of the gladness of His Heart." For thus kings are wont to exhibit their glory when they betroth queens to themselves and celebrate the solemnities of their nuptials. Now the day of the Lord's crucifixion was, as it were, the day of His betrothal; because it was then that He associated the Church to Himself as His bride, and on the same day descended into Hell, and setting free the souls of faithful, accomplished in them that which He had promised to the thief: "Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
"To-day," He says, of the gladness of His heart, because in His body He suffered the torture of pain; but while the flesh inflicted on Him torments through the outward violence of men His soul was filled with joy on account of our salvation, which He thus brought to pass. Whence, also, when He went forth to His crucifixion He stilled the women that were lamenting Him and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and your children." As if He said, "Grieve not for me in these my sufferings, as if by their means I should fall into any real destruction; but rather lament for that heavy vengeance which hangs over you and your children because of that which they have committed against me."
So we, also, brethren, which rather weep for ourselves than for Him; and for the faults which we have committed, not for the punishments which He bore. Let us so rejoice with Him and for Him, as to grieve for our own offenses, and for that the guilty servant committed the transgression, while the innocent Lord bore the punishment. He taught us to weep who is never said to have wept for Himself, tho He wept for Lazarus when about to raise him from the dead.
- From a sermon translated from the Latin by Rev. John Mason Neale.