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Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1972 Epiphany sermon

Given to the seminarians at St. Pius X International Seminary in Econe, Switzerland on the day of receiving the cassock.

 

My dear friends, my dear brethren,

 

In think that in this ceremony today the very angels of heaven are assisting along with the saints, and along with your parents and friends who have already gone to the eternal dwelling of the Father. Today they are all rejoicing with us, giving thanks at the thought that today, my dear friends, you are going to put on Our Lord Jesus Christ. This means nothing else than this very habit with which you will be girded in a few moments. You have come to this house like the Magi, the Three Kings. Drawn by the star, the star of your vocation, in the midst of a world that is troubled, disoriented, no longer knowing where it can find the solution to its problems. In the midst of priests who are themselves equally disoriented, no longer knowing what the priesthood is, you have received a special grace - whether through the influence of your parents, or through priests friendly to us - you have received this extraordinary grace of a priestly vocation.

 

What drew you to come here? Why have you come and why have you chosen this seminary? Why have you come to these mountains, to this out-of-the-way place in Econe? You have not come here to find any posh resort, in a purely human and material sense. Nor have you come to pursue the human sciences. These you could have found elsewhere, and many of you have already done studies in the universities, where you were called to work, to study.

 

You have come here to seek Our Lord Jesus Christ, He Who is the solution to all problems. And after a few months of reflection, some of you told me in the letters you wrote to apply for this year, you understood that in this house what is given you above all is the knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is your Master. He is the Object of your science, He is the source of your sanctification. That is what we and all your professors desire to give you above all - the knowledge and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore this habit which you will put on will be nothing more or less than the echo of the words of St. Paul: "Induimini Dominum Iesum Christum - Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ!"

 

Therefore from the very beginning when this seminary was founded at Fribourg, already back then it seemed to be wise and necessary to place the Crucifix into the hands of those especially who were beginning the Year of Spirituality, so that during this year of meditation, during this entire year of reflecting on their vocation, they many find in the Crucifix the solution to all their problems, a firm perseverance in their vocation, firmness in the faith, which is the reason for everything we shall ask of them during the course of this year, and the years to follow.

 

To follow Our Lord Jesus Christ, to imitate Him, to "put Him on," is no small thing, especially in our modern world, especially in the present time. My dear friends, the present time cries out for heroes, at a time when everything seems to be vanishing in the structure of society, and even in the structure of the Church. This is no time for tepid souls, for souls who give themselves in the face of the troubles or doubts which are circulating all over the world, even on the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, even throughout the Catholic Church. The time belongs to those who believe - believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ by His Cross has given the solution to all the problems of our life, even personal problems.

 

You have meditated on these things during the good retreat given by Frs. Barrielle and Riviere. You have seen that you must undergo a conversion, you must do penance as Our Lord Jesus Christ give us an example on the Cross, but you have understood that this must be done through love, out of charity, for the love of God, for the love of souls, for the love of your own soul. For the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Cross which breathes love. The Office for Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows says it explicitly in the beautiful liturgy for that day: "Dilectus meus rubicundus, candidus, totus desiderabilis... omnis figura eius amorem spirat - (These words are put on the lips of the Blessed Virgin) - "My beloved is all resplendent in white, but also red, reddened by his own blood," for He is covered with His own blood. Thus does He draw us - He is for us the object of an immense desire, an immense love. "Omnis gifura eius amorem spirat - His whole attitude inspires love," and this evocation of the liturgy continues, "Caput inclinatum... manus extentae... pectus perforatum." Yes, His head bent over, His arms stretched out, His pierced Heart all breathe love.

 

This is what you must come to understand, my dear friends. You will come to understand through meditation, through prayer, through everything which is taught you, that it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Who gives us charity, true charity, the charity of God, the charity which above all attaches us to God. And so you will detest your sins, your own failings, you will always have a spirit of sorrow for your sins, but this spirit of sorrow will be provoked by the love of God, by the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It will not be an inefficacious penance, a somber and sad kind of penance which will depress your heart, but on the contrary, it will dilate your heart through the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is something you must never forget, that in the Christian life there are always two fundamental aspects - the penitential aspect, the detestation of sin and flight from it, and the desire for God, the love of God. And as St. Thomas said so well, there are two aspects of the Christian life in the same act of charity, for if one loves God one will flee whatever separates us from Him. Now sin separates us from God; hence by the act of charity which we have for God and for Our Lord, we must at the same time detest our sins, detest everything that renders our path to God difficult, and always love more He who is the Author of our own being and of the grace we have.

 

Hence the Crucifix will be your model, the source of your Faith, to which your glance shall be directed, but it will also be for you the source of your apostolate. Hence you are not afraid to put on the cassock, you are not afraid to put on Our Lord Jesus Christ, to loudly proclaim Him, to demonstrate and manifest Him to the world. The world needs this manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ more than ever. The more the world sinks into this dung-heap of vice and disorder, doubting and abandoning the Truth, the more do the noble-hearted need light, charity, and order. And this cassock which you will wear will signify these things in the eyes of the world.

 

Therefore you will surely be a sign of contradiction - signum cui contradicetur - yes, certainly you will be, like Our Lord, a sign which shall be contradicted. You will be loved - or hated, you will be persecuted. You will have well-wishers. The noble-minded will wish you well, but those who are possessed by the spirit of Satan will persecute you - as Our Lord was persecuted.

 

Be proud, then, of wearing your cassock, your habit which manifests Our Lord Jesus Christ to the world, and fear nothing, for God is with you, the holy angels are with you, all the saints of heaven are with you, as well as all those who have worn this habit, who sanctified themselves by this habit, and who sanctified others.

 

Know, that just as Our Lord Jesus Christ is the solution to all problems, the priest also, who is another Christ - sacerdos alter Christus - must also be the solution to all problems. I make no exception, even for economic problems, even social problems; all problems must be resolved by Our Lord Jesus Christ. And if today these economic and social problems seem insoluble, it is because they have lost the true solution which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Crucifix has been suppressed everywhere, it has been driven from the public places, from schools, from courts, from public buildings, from the hearts of children, from houses. The Crucifix is no longer present and that is why they are no longer able to solve these problems.

 

I will give you a single example: the economic and social problems would be resolved if the virtue of temperance - perhaps even more so than the virtue of justice - would be practiced by everybody. Now does not Our Lord Jesus Christ on His Cross preach to us the virtue of temperance, contempt for the things of the world? Temperance is simply moderation in all things, in everything which must be used here below. Thus if everybody practiced temperance, the problems concerning questions of justice would be quickly resolved. But because they no longer want to practice the virtue of temperance, because everybody is looking for more goods, always for more enjoyment at whatever price, they no longer think of the spirit of penance, of moderation in using the goods of this world; hence jealousy and envy arise in the hearts of men, and fighting spreads all over the world. Just as those who possess these goods could understand that they too must use the goods of this world with moderation, they could be more generous with the "have-nots" - here is an example to show you how Our Lord Jesus Christ by the example of His Cross, by the example of His Blood which was shed - can and must be the solution to all problems.

 

Well, you will be the ones to preach Our Lord Jesus Christ. You will bring with you the true solution to all the problems of this world. But to do that, stay priests, abandon not that which makes you a priest. Of course you are not yet priests, but you have made a first step which manifests your desire to become one. I wish with all my heart that you finally do become priests, and already the world will judge you as such - when you wear the cassock, from now on the world will judge you as though you were already priests. So be sure to conduct yourselves as if you were already such. By your example, by your deportment, by your attitude, by your charity, by your goodness and wisdom - already you must act like men who bring with them the solutions to problems.

 

Thus the honor of God will be saved. The glory of God will spread throughout the world, and thus souls will be converted to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Behold, my dear friends, the meaning of this ceremony we will perform in a few moments with you. I hope you will understand it, that you will keep its signification in your heart, and that you will be always more and more convinced of it. Then you will truly be "the light of the world."

 

We will ask this especially today on this feast of the Epiphany, like the Magi, the Kings who came to seek the Light of the Child Jesus. They found Him, in the company of Mary and Joseph - we will ask Mary and Joseph to give you conviction in these sentiments which I have tried to evoke these morning, so that they remain in you. And I am convinced that at your prayers, and the prayers of your parents and all those present here, and the prayers of all who love you and follow your progress with so much affection, that the grace of Our Lord will be abundant in you.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 
 
 

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