Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Marc.7 v. 31. Sunday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (detail)
Sunday MeditationGOSPEL Mark 7:31-37At that time, Jesus went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude privately, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And his ears were opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it. And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, "He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."
Something hath been said of the Ceremonies of the Church, in the Saturday's meditation immediately before; upon occasion of the Publicans standing a far off from the Altar in the Temple, bending down his eyes as unworthy to look up towards heaven, knocking his breast: Here the like occasion is offered, in that Christ used divers ceremonies in curing this deaf and dumb man; wherefore in this meditation immediately following that, we will add somewhat more of that subject.
Now if there were no other reason in the world for the lawfulness & laudablness of Ceremonies, but the example of Christ in the new law of the Christians, after the Ceremonies of the old law of the Jews were abolished,it were a sufficient & evident argument, that though the Ceremonies in the new law to succeed:but besides that argument, supposing there be three degrees of means to elevate our minds to the honor and worship of God, one by plain words and sentences, moving our minds thereunto, another by parables and metaphors, which Christ did much use to the people, more moving & forcible then the other, & another of representation of the mysteries of Religion in things present,which we call Ceremonies, more moving and forcible then both the other; & that man consisting of body & soul ought to worship God with both, & is natural for us to ascend from visible and corporal representations unto invisible and spiritual, and is more moved with corporal then spiritual, & with things present then absent (such as Ceremonies are:) This I say, being supposed, there can be no doubt but Ceremonies in the new law, are not only lawful & laudable, but necessary, & that Christ did not so abolish the Ceremonies of the old law, that there should be none in the new, but that the Ceremonies of the new law should be kept by authority of the old law, but of the new, by some fresh commandment, or custom of the Catholic Church, which if it be done, the Ceremony is lawful though it were the same that was used in the old law, resumed again in the new, as appeartheth by the Ceremonies of Imposition of hands, in the Consecration of priests, used in the old law, which St.Paul did use upon his disciple Timothy, and the Catholic Church hath used ever since without controllement of any.
Having shewed the lawfulness and necessity of Ceremonies, we will also show the original and virtue thereof: & first concerning the virtue, we are to understand that though Ceremonies do not give grace as Sacraments do of their own virtue; yet do they by way of disposing us thereunto, as those things which we call Sacramentals do, and therefore our holy Mother the Church doth oftentimes hallow them, to stir up our devotion the more, as Candles at Candlemas, Ashes on Ash Wednesday, boughs on Palm Sunday by reason whereof we being the better disposed to devotion towards those mysteries which they signify, do honor God the more,and consequently receive increase of Gods grace in our souls.
Concerning the Original of them, the Pagans had a goddess called Ceres,the Goddess forsooth of Corn,unto whom they did attribute the benefit thereof,and did honor her accordingly: & every year as soon as their Corn was ripe, they offered unto her a sheaf or bundle of new corn as the first fruits, in token of the honor and thankfulness they bare unto her for such a benefit.
The like they did to their other Gods which they made to themselves for every several kind of benefit almost they received,as to Bacchus for their wine & the like, so religious were they unto their Gods.
This which they did, was good and very religious if it had been done aright, that is to say, to the true God, the author and giver of all good things.
Wherefore Almighty God, when he chose to himself a peculiar people to serve him, commanded them to do abundance of such things unto him, to his honor and worship for all the benefits they received at his bountiful hands: and because those things the pagans did unto their goddess Ceres were called in Latin Cereris munia, in English, the gifts and services of Ceres, and were like those which God commanded unto the Jews; therefore the Jews called them by the same name, contracting the word Cereris munia, Cerimonia in Latin, in English, Ceremony, for the more brevity and smoothness of sound, as in all languages they use to do in many words.
This Name God used unto the people of the old law, by the mouth of his servant Moses, saying to the people in the person of God:These,and these my laws & Ceremonies yee shall keep, and the same Name the Catholic Church retaineth still; and although the name be borrowed of the Pagans,it is never the worse,neither are they superstitious and vain, as some vainly pretend, but religious and good, being external signs and protestations of our internal faith, love, honor, service, and duty to God,as words are, but of a higher degree,and much more expressive, and moving then words are.