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disappeared "under the drums and tramplings of four conquests." The Eastern Empire has succeeded, with the first congeries of Christian states in the West, Mediaevalism has burst like a new day on Europe, to go to its end five centuries later as our own epoch began its astounding career. The Birth of Christ, the years 500, 1,000 1,500 are nodal points when all that had been ceased and new things came into being: before the year 2,000, now but two generations away, modern civilization will have passed and a new era have taken its place. Already the whirlwind of destruction has overtaken it and for more than three years it has suffered the first of the assaults that will in the end make it one with Babylon and with Nineveh.
We are today in the midst of just such a grinding collapse as that which overtook Rome, and the empire of Charlemagne, and the Christian Commonwealths of the Middle Ages, and we shall escape no more than they. Neither scientific accomplishment nor efficiency, neither Parliamentary government nor industrialism, neither wealth nor self-confidence, neither pacifism nor neutrality can save us, for we have reached the crest of folly that crowns achievement, and beyond lies the shuddering fall into the trough of the heaving sea. But the wave, if it falls, rises again, and history, if it shouts its warning, whispers also its hope. If night follows day, day follows night, and since Christ came we have not only the hope but the way. And the way has never changed in essence though it has varied widely in its manifestations. As Rome fell, St. Benedict of Nursia rose above the welter of ruin to save what might be saved and to build society anew. As the first Holy Roman Empire broke down in ruin, St. Odo of Cluny in his turn saved something from the wreck, began the new era of Christian civilization in the North, and gave it to St. Robert of Solesmes who transformed it by Cistercianism into a thing of unexampled nobility, and fixed forever the standard type of Christian society. When at last this also began to decline, its time having arrived, a sudden new life swept through the moribund orders-Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican-making them once more constructive and regenerative agencies, while by means of an entirely novel version of the monastic method, St.
Ignatius Loyola stopped the progress of devouring heresy and concentrated in centres of tremendous dynamic force the shattered and dislocated elements of Catholic Christianity, that they might engender the Counter-reformation and preserve fundamental Christianity until better days.
So in the first years of the VIth century, the last years of the Xth century, and the first years of the XVIth century, at intervals of approximately five hundred years, just at the nodal point where one era was dying in dishonour, another rising in power, came a new outpouring of monastic fervour to save and to recreate. In the year 927 St. Odo promulgated the reformed Rule of the Order of Cluny, and the Dark Ages came to an end within sixty years, to give place to Christian civilization. One thousand years from then will bring us to the year 1927, but we need not wait for then, for the assurance that God has again been merciful and given the world a new hope, for nearly fifty years ago came the first evidences of the new life, and now the death of civilization seals the early assurance, and everywhere may be seen the stirrings of the Holy Spirit leading men once more into this earthly army of God.
For it is the consecrated Religious Life that has been the divine agency for the saving of the world at all its moments of most critical peril, and if you will study the phenomena of periodic degeneration, and the spirit and method of monasticism, you will see that this must inevitably be so. As each era of the World reaches its fulfillment, it suddenly festers into five cancerous sores: wealth and luxury, lust and licentiousness, wilfullness and individualism, leading in the end to anarchy, envy, and egotism, and finally the idleness of the parasite. You will find most of these, in varying measure, in the last years of Rome, of the Carolingian Empire and the Eastern Empire, of the epoch of Mediaevelism; and you will find them all, and without measure, in the last years of the XIXth and the elapsed years of the XXth century.
Now against them the Religious Life has set the three great evangelical councils of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, adding to them two other principles of equal value, viz. brotherhood and
work. Each is the explicit negation and corrective of the sins of success, and together they form the energizing force that brings a new era into being.
There is no other way. As an era dies, it engenders an allembracing mortality in its members, and there is nothing essentially of itself, either in its works or its men, that retains regenerative power. When an age dies, it dies altogether, though such spiritual force as it may have generated continues beyond its own decadence and fall as a slowly dissipating impulse in art. In the end this is dispersed and art ceases for the time, but it never had a truly vital quality in the establishing and determining of spiritual values, finding its function only in an empty aestheticism that ended at last in the various historical predecessors of art nouveau and vers libre. As in all life, the dynamic inpulse towards new things comes from without, a sudden jet of the elan vital, expressing itself through a sudden intensification-exaggeration if you like—of those fundamental principles of all wholesome society that have been lost out of life and must in some way be restored.
It is not necessary to maintain that the monastic life is an universal ideal: the claim is not even made. It is rather a highly special form of life, normally fitted for comparatively few men and women, but at abnormal times, such as the closing years of an epoch, it becomes not a refuge but a duty and a call to sacrifice. The army is not the normal life for all, but at critical moments when honour and justice and eternal truths are imperilled, it sends its clear call to all men for holy service in warfare. Nothing can take its place, none of the agencies of peace and order may serve, and if men do not arise, and at any cost, even of life itself, range themselves in the front of battle, nothing follows but humiliation, disaster, and the death of more than men and women and children.
The Religious Life is a life of continual sacrifice, but nothing of enduring value in the world has been attained except through sacrifice. Wealth and ease, peace and plenty, material success and serene content, never won anything, either for the individual, the community, or the state, while they lead inevitably to de
cadence and downfall. Adversity and suffering, sorrow and labour and sacrifice, are the builders of character, the foundation stones of righteous civilization. Out of these sacrifices that Monasticism demands has come for myriads of men and women, more than adequate personal compensation, as this comes to the soldier in the trenches of France, dying a clean death in a holy cause. This, however, is only a by-product, the great thing is the unique and splendid opportunity for service, for the doing of what no one else can do, and this the noblest service that man can render to man. For more than two years millions of men and boys have sacrificed all that life could give to save something from the wreck of a world, and their sacrifice will not be in vain so far as the first victory at arms is concerned. It will, in the end, have been in vain if there are not now the few thousands of their brothers to make their smaller sacrifice in order that the victory they have bought with their blood may be sealed by that spiritual regeneration which always has been, and always will be, the work of those whom God has called to the Religious life. As we look back through history we can see how terrible was the fall, how gross the enveloping darkness of the end of Antiquity, of the close of the Dark Ages, of the break-up of Mediaevalism. We cannot imagine what fearful fate must have overtaken the world if it had not been for the followers of the consecrated Religious life, from St. Benedict to St. Ignatius Loyola. Today the fall and the darkness are more profound than ever before, except possibly at the end of the Roman Empire. Therefore the old call is more insistent as the need is correspondingly greater. Everything with which and by which our modern era has lived, shatters before us, and no visible foundation remains. Protestantism and free thought, parliamentary government and democracy, natural science, industrial civilization and material efficiency, evolutionary philosophy, pragmatism, determinism, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and compulsory public education-all these and their myriad concomitants, crumble, totter, and melt away before the Frankenstein they themselves had created.
I do not mean that all these proud products of modernism now show themselves as entirely empty delusions, for the greater part of them express some element of truth or usefulness. In every case, however, they have either been exaggerated out of all reason, falsified by removal from contact with some other, opposed principle which alone could have acted as a corrective, or finally their original idea has been lost sight of under some mechanistic incubus we have invented as a means to an end, and then have accepted as the end in itself, to the utter forgetfulness of the object of our labour, which has consequently disappeared. An example of what I mean is Democracy, which is a splendid ideal in itself, and worth fighting for, but for a century we have been so ridiculously busy in inventing new engines for creating it, discovering new panaceas for correcting our interminable failures, that at last we have not the remotest idea in what Democracy consists, and actually, in the midst of an insane phantasmagoria of political devices, have seen not only the humiliating failure of these patented nostrums but the almost complete disappearance of the Democratic idea as a moving cause or even as a dim and mythical tradition.
So it is with the other things I have named, and as they break down visibly before us, we realize that the very foundations of life are overturned, that our light has become darkness, and we have no guide for our steps. We have made our world over to suit ourselves, and at the very moment on which we look on it and see that it is good, it crumples into mere debris; hollow, unsubstantial, insincere, it can not endure the touch of real life, and breaks in pieces of its own unwieldiness.
In all this there is no ground for final discouragement. All depends on how we meet the crisis, how we bear the test, with what standards we measure the new, hard, and even appalling things that are put before us. At last Calvinism is no longer upon us, to weigh us down under a base fatalism: We know our choice is free, and we may will a new Dark Ages or a new Renaissance-better still a new Mediaevalism. All depends on how we, ourselves, meet the issue.