Gold, Frankincense, & Myrrh

Gold, Frankincense, & Myrrh

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Pages: 88
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The title “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” means simply this: Gold is the pure, imperishable quality of the monastic ideal, Frankincense the supreme act of worship through the Blessed Sacrament, Myrrh the saving quality of a right philosophy of life that yet must be bitter to the taste of many people. Together they are the three gifts that must again be offered by a world once more led, though now by the red and malefic star of war, to worship and fall down before the Incarnate God so long and so lightly denied.

Foreword by Charles A. Coulombe

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As each era of the world reaches its fulfillment, it suddenly festers into five cancerous sores: wealth and luxury, lust and licentiousness, wilfulness and individualism, leading in the end to anarchy, envy and egotism, and finally the idleness

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 monster they themselves had created.

The monk, cloistered, shut away from active contact with the world, living a life of rigid abstinence, praying, praising God and giving himself over to intercession, adoration and worship, is to the world unthinkable, but it is at times like this that the world needs him most.

Our age is dying because it has lost spiritual energy, and therefore no longer knows the difference between the real and the false, the temporal and the eternal, between right and wrong, and this spiritual energy is to be restored, not by action, but by the grace of God, — and by prayer alone is this grace given to men.

In the beginning, in the time of Pachomius and the hermits of the desert, the unit was the individual, wholly withdrawn from the world and isolated in his mountain cave, or on the top of his column if his taste led in that direction. St. Benedict increased this unit through exalting the idea of human fellowship, and thereafter it consisted of groups, either of men or women, forming a centralized community. Then St. Ignatius Loyola increased the size of these groups, giving them the centralized control of an army. Now the time has come for a further extension of the great idea, not to the exclusion of the monastic unit or of the individual unit, but to supplement them. This new unit will be the family, men, women and children, in that most holy unit of all which is the Christian family, gathering together in places withdrawn from the world (as the world is now, and has been for nearly five centuries), where they can build up what I like to call “walled towns,” —no more of the world than is the monastery, but like that constituted on lines of order, simplicity and righteousness.

Frankly, I think there is nothing but a raising of the cry “To your tents, O Israel!” and a retreat to the walled towns, that will be the new sanctuaries of those who are too proud to bend the knee to Baal: to voluntary “concentration camps,” each of which would be a little imperium in imperio, an oasis of self-restraint in a desert of self-indulgence, where once more religion becomes something besides a social amenity and interpenetrates all life until again the bad division between Church and State is altogether lost. It is only in such communities that the human scale can be regained, and until this replaces the imperialism that now dominates all action and all thought, it is useless to talk about civilization as a thing which has any contemporary existence.

It is for this reason that we can take no further interest in an empty conformity; that the “glorious comprehensive­ness” of last-century apologetic leaves us cold, and that at last we are coming to consider whether it is possible for any portion of the Church to remain longer half Protestant and half Catholic, mingled indifferently of those who accept and those who deny the Catholic doctrine of the sacraments. It is here that the line of demarcation exists; not between those who maintain the form of the threefold ministry and those who prefer the congregational polity; not between the adherents of a more or less historical liturgy and those who take unto themselves many inventions of curious and novel ritual; not between the Protestant Episcopalian and the Protestant Congregation­alist whatever his sect and name, but between those who, on the one hand, accept the dogma and philosophy of sacramentalism, with the Seven Sacraments in their entirety, and the supreme sacrament of Holy Mass as the crown and consummation of all; and, on the other hand, those who reject the sacrament of Penance, turn the sacrament of Matrimony into a civil contract, ignore the sacraments of Confirmation and Unction, and recognize in the Sacrament of the Altar neither Sacrifice nor Real Presence, but only a symbolical commemoration of a fait accompli.The division lies here and it is impassible. On the one hand lies Protestantism, on the other, Catholicism, and the two can never mix.

The world is ready for the great return. In four years war has shattered the whole brummagem fabric of modernism. Industrial civilization, imperial nationalism, industry and finance, the intellectual criterion, automatic evolution, the omnipotence of education and environment, the possibility of earthly perfectibility for man, all have gone on the pyre of great burning, and only the penitential ashes remain. At the very moment when the whole world acclaimed triumphant modernism as victor over the slaughtered superstitions of the past, behold a great wonder; the casting down into the dust of the idols of brass and the naked showing of the clumsy feet of clay; yea, the world is ready, and more than ready, and the proclamation of old truth, long forgotten, will not fall on deaf ears.

We look with disgust on the hedonistic revels of a dying Roman Imperialism; we turn in offense from the sordid corruption of the last years of the Dark Ages; we hold up to scorn and derision the gross licentiousness of Church and State in the Italy of the fifteenth century; but no one of these epochs, base as it is, records a lower fall than the manners and methods and morals of our own modernism when at last the severance had been accom­plished and matter, unregenerated and unredeemed, had become Lord of the World, materialism its sacrosanct religion and its law of life.

There was hardly a man in the spring of 1914 who would have denied that modern­ism had gloriously triumphed, and only a scattered few who doubted its eternity. Then came the epic catastrophe when in an hour the card-castle had crumbled about our ears. The efficiency of material imperialism swept back the inefficiency of an imperialized democracy, and so it has continued for four years. The boasted barriers against war or dissolution, erected one behind the other by finance, capitalism, a socialistic and organized proletariat, universal education, popular government, intellectual and spiritual emancipation, broke, toppled and dissolved, forming only vanishing and impotent ramparts against a triumphant Force released from all bondage to moral standards and spiritual laws.

The Incarnation and the Redemption are not accom­plished facts, completed nineteen centuries ago, they are processes that still continue, and their term is fixed only by the total regeneration and perfecting of matter, and the Seven Sacraments are the chiefest among an infinity of sacramental processses which are the agencies of this eternal transfiguration.

Water, chrism, oil, the spoken word, the touch of the hands, the sign of the cross, and finally and supremely the bread and wine of Holy Mass, each a material thing but each representing, signifying and containing some gift of the Holy Spirit, real, absolute and potent. So matter and spirit are linked together in every operation of Holy Church from the cradle to the grave, and man has ever before him the eternal revelation of this linked union of matter and spirit in his life, the eternal teaching of the honor of the material thing through its agency and through its existence as the subject for redemption, while through the material association and the Divine condescension to his earthly and fallible estate (limited by the association with matter to only inadequate presentation) he makes the spirit of God his own, to dwell therewith after the fashion of man.


Of the three addresses that make up this volume, the first was delivered in 1917 before the students of the General Theological Seminary in New York, the second at the fiftieth anniversary of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York, in 1918, while the third was read at a meeting of the Clerical Brotherhood of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, in 1919. All three have been published in The American Church Monthly, and permission to reprint has been given by the editor, the Reverend Selden Peabody Delany, D.D. The third of the addresses, “The Philosophical Necessity,” has also been republished by the Reverend Thomas Edward Shields, D.D., in The Catholic Educational Review.

For the doctrines, statements and inferences that are to be found in the three addresses, no responsibility can in any degree be attached to the governing body of the General Theological Seminary or to the officers of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament or to the Bishop of Pennsylvania. The various papers were read without having been first given a nihil obstat by any one in authority, and I desire to take entirely on my own shoulders the responsibility for what I have said. As the third essay is in a sense an extension and amplification of the second, and as it was given before a different audience, certain repetitions occur, but it has seemed best to leave the papers in their original estate, except that from the second has been omitted the philosophical argument for the doctrine of Transubstantia­tion (this also was left out in The American Church Monthly) which was later amplified into the Philadelphia address.

The title “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” means simply this: Gold is the pure, imperishable quality of the monastic ideal, Frankincense the supreme act of worship through the Blessed Sacrament, Myrrh the saving quality of a right philosophy of life that yet must be bitter to the taste of many people. Together they are the three gifts that must again be offered by a world once more led, though now by the red and malefic star of war, to worship and fall down before the Incarnate God so long and so lightly denied.



23rd June, 1919.

Ralph Adams Cram:
Ralph Adams Cram

Ralph Adams Cram (December 16, 1863 – September 22, 1942) was a prolific and influential American architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings, often in the Gothic Revival style. Cram & Ferguson and Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson are partnerships in which he worked. Together with an architect and artist, he is honored on December 16 as a feast day in the Episcopal Church of the United States. Cram was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

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The antidote to our modern society

This is an incredibly important work, because in it lies the antidote for the poison pill that our modern society has swallowed. Indeed, this is an incredibly prophetic work, because I'm sure these flaws were not half as identifiable during the author's time as they are now in our time. Sacramentalism is so important, and it is something we are so deficient in as a philosophy. Our current materialistic worldview is remedied by sacramentalism. Our go-along-to-get-along American culture often leads us to turn native --- to adopt the beliefs of the people around us, abandoning our faith. The monastic ideal that Cram presents is a remedy for that phenomenon. Lastly, Cram emphasizes the need for a good philosophy. Indeed, America's current philosophy of materialism is something that people naturally gravitate too in absence of any other prevalent philosophy. Don't sleep on this classic work!

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