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One was a prayer-book, the first Catholic prayer-book Fernando had ever handled, with a beautiful, quiet name, the Paradisus Animæ. One was a little work on the public offices of the Church, by Canon Oakley, called "Catholic Worship." One was a life of Saint Bernard, and the fourth was the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
Into the last of these Fernando barely glanced that night; and to a glance the wonders of that wonderful book do not yield themselves. A complete skeleton contains the whole framework of man's body; all that supports, and protects, his flesh, his limbs, his organs; but it would not immediately suggest the picture of a living man to one who never saw a skeleton before, and had mostly only seen the faces and hands of his contemporaries, and had no knowledge whatever of anatomy.
To Fernando's impatient peeping into the book it seemed dry and monotonous. And he was impatient; he wanted to swallow at once all that was set before him. He could hardly read a full page of any one of the books without putting it aside to see what was in one of the others.
As to the saint's life, it was useless trying
to read the whole book that night, and useless to read half a chapter at a time.
A prayer-book lends itself more readily to peeps here and there and the Paradisus Animae had beautiful and fragrant corners, as any old garden must have in which old and sweet things have been set with loving care, and well used and visited for ages.
Fernando then knew nothing of the history of the book; yet it was plain that no one had simply sat down and written it. Many of the prayers, and of the hymns, bore a saint's name, and the saint had not written the prayers, but prayed them. Other saints and martyers had used them afterwards, and the first consecration of origin had been reiterated and re-doubled by secular use.
Practically the only prayer-book Fernando knew then was the book of Common Prayerwhich has, I am certain, brought numbers of converts to the Church. At first he expected to find in the Paradisus Animae something like it, and was partly disappointed by the subtle difference. The Catholic prayer-book in his hands was not for common use; it was not, in general, for public use, but private. And so its familiarity seemed, at first blush, less dignified. Then gradually it became
obvious that the familiarity was sheer intimacy; as though a wonderful collection of tender, private documents were being laid open-a Journal Intime of spiritual intercourse; the overheard outpourings of many lovers to the Loved One.
And, here and there, the monk who had owned the book had marked a prayer or a passage, or had written in (on a tiny scrap of thin paper, in a very small, clear handwriting) a prayer of his own, sometimes reading like the outcry of a tenderness that even the saint's tenderness could not contain within its loving bounds-as a flooded stream bursts the old sweet bank and forces another way for itself.
To Fernando, reading alone in the sleeping house, it seemed like a new link with Heaven to know that he who had written these lovewords to the King was now already-so soon afterwards-face to face with Him, in His Court, with no need any more for pen or paper, but able to speak, as a man does to his friend. The monk then, that moment, was looking on the Trophied wounds-the only wounds Heaven holds, and they are no scars of death but the five great seals to the promise of life.
To Fernando those brief, written cries of the dead and living monk to his Beloved were so sacred and so intimate that it seemed like an eavesdropping to read them, as if one should listen at a chink to a secret: and the King's secret too-Sacramentum Regis. Yet the King's Secret is an open one; that our Beloved is One and there is none other.
One thing is plain: the monk's cloister was his porch of Heaven, where he knelt for the door to open, with all else behind and shrunken to a sheer nothing. The one thing needful to him was the Master's Presence, and he gave all his Saviour could desire-like idle Mary while Martha ran about. The alternate, rather greedy, reading of the prayer-book and of the little treatise on Public Catholic Worship, was not perhaps the proper way of using either, but it did not spoil either to Fernando. It only cast a soul of light on each; especially was it the case that the book of prayers, whose material was gathered from many sources in many ages of the Church's life, seemed like a gloss and a commentary on the treatise ; the whole ground-work on which Catholic worship is built being the doctrine of the Eucharist, and
the keynote of the whole harmony, in many tones, of the prayer-book, being the conviction of Christ's invisible but actual presence among men in the tender humility of His white disguise.
Fernando, as he read, sighed to acknowledge how great indeed was the difference between these two books and the Book of Common Prayer. Here the truth of the Real Presence was the supreme, innate and outspoken conviction, the one thing obvious, certain, and substantial, expressing itself in countless ways, and words, but never in any dubious word: there, in the Book of Common Prayer, the great thing to be said was that it was patient of a Catholic interpretation, that the reality of the Eucharistic Presence and Sacrifice was not denied, but left tenable-as silence gives consent. And, alas, in the Book of Common Prayer were rubrics and articles that could not at best be called condescension to them who believed, and would admit neither the Presence nor the Sacrifice. And for ages it had been used by them who denied the Sacrifice and the Presence as embodying their dissent from the Catholic doctrine, and not that doctrine at all.
It was plain as black and white could make