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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
By Jean-Baptiste Massillon (1663–1742)
Translation of Joel Foote Bingham
  In his painting of manners to be reproved, while always abiding in the perfection of elegance, he sometimes descended with a frank and bold simplicity to startling details. An example of this stripping luxury naked for chastisement appears in the following exposure of the ways by which it seeks to elude the rigor of the precept, from the opening sermon of the ‘Grand Carême.’
  Text: “Cum jejunatis, nolite fieri sicut hypocritæ, tristes.”—VULGATE. [When thou fastest, be not like the hypocrites, sad.—FRENCH TRANSLATION.]

MY brethren, there is more than one kind of sadness. There is a sadness of penitence which works salvation, and the joy of the Holy Spirit is always its sweetest fruit; a sadness of hypocrisy, which observes the letter of the law, wearing an affected exterior, pale and disfigured, in order not to lose before men the merit of its penitence,—and this is rare; finally, there is a sadness of corruption, which opposes to this holy law a depth of corruption and of sensuality: and one may safely say that this is the most universal impression which is made on us by the precept of the fast and of abstinence….  1
  I ask you whether, if it mortified the body and the passions of the flesh, this ought to be by the length of the abstinence, or by the simplicity of the food one makes use of, or in the frugality which one observes in his repasts. Pardon me this detail: it is here indispensable, and I will make no abuse of it.  2
  Is it the length of the abstinence? But if, for gathering the fruit and merit of the fast, the body must languish and faint in the restriction of its nourishment, in order that the soul, while expiating her profane voluptuousness, may learn in this natural desire what ought to be her hunger and her thirst for the everlasting righteousness, and for that blessed estate in which, established again in the truth, we shall be delivered from all these humiliating necessities,—oh, what of the useless and unfruitful fasts in the Church!  3
  Alas! the first believers, who did not break it till after the sun was set; they whom a thousand holy and laborious exercises had prepared for the hour of the repast: they who during the night which preceded their fasting, had often watched in our temples, and chanted hymns and canticles on the tombs of the martyrs,—these pious believers might safely have referred the whole merit of their fasting to the length of their abstinence, and yet only then could their flesh and their criminal passions be enfeebled. But for us, my brethren, it is no longer there that the merit of our fastings must be sought; for besides that the Church, by consenting that the hour of the repast should be advanced, has spared this rigor to the faithful, what unworthy easements have not been added to her indulgence? It seems that all one’s attention is limited to doing in a way that will bring one to the hour of the repast, without one’s really perceiving the length and the rigor of the fasting.  4
  And beyond this (since you oblige us to say it here, and to put these indecent details in the place of the great verities of religion), one prolongs the hours of his sleep in order to shorten those of his abstinence; one dreads to feel for a single instant the rigor of the precept, one stifles in the softness of repose the prick of hunger, from which even the fasting of Jesus was not exempt; in the sloth of a bed one nurses a flesh which the Church had purposed to emaciate and afflict by punishment; and far from taking nourishment as a necessary relief accorded at last to the length of one’s abstinence, one brings to it a body still all full of the fumes of the night, and does not find in it even the relish which pleasure alone would have desired for its own satisfaction.  5

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