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John Keble on judgment before Lent

This is another entry exploring the readings provided in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. Given all the talk about pre-Lent going around this year (both on this blog and elsewhere), it seemed especially fitting. This reading is assigned for Quinquagesima Sunday. It is from Keble’s “Sermon XXI. Preparation for Holy Communion, Preparation for Death and for Judgment,” in Sermons for Septuagesima to Ash-Wednesday, with Sermons for Confirmation and on the Litany, by the Rev. John Keble (Parker, 1879), pp. 209-10, 215-16. There are some small formatting changes.

Lent is at hand, and the trumpet will soon sound gain, the great and holy trumpet, of which it is written, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain” (Joel 2:1). The sound of it will be heard next Wednesday, by all who have ears to hear. The true and dutiful children of the Church, the loyal soldiers of Christ Jesus will next Wednesday hear the call of their Leader’s trumpet, rousing them up, as on all Ash-Wednesdays, to set about his work, to fight his battle, in earnest. It will be the old note, but you will not therefore scorn it, if you are true men and brave soldiers. You know it would never do for a soldier, when the trumpet or bugle sounds in the morning, to say, “It is only the old call over again, what I have been used to so very often; I am not going to disturb myself for that,” and so to stay quietly in his quarters. No more will it do for you, Christian warriors, to make light of your Lord’s summons, now that he is calling upon you at the opening of another Lent; another holy season of penitent self-denial and prayers. He calls you morning by morning, and morning by morning, you must answer his call.

And what is the note, the keen and ringing note, by which he would call you and scatter your deadly sleep? The awakening note, the clear word of warning is, as you know, “Turn unto the Lord”: that is, “Prepare.” “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel;” so he cries aloud to the whole Church, and to every separate member of it: “Prepare, get ready to meet him,” as you soon must, face to face. Ready or not, you must and will meet him, he must and will come upon you. […]

Christ our Lord asks a question of you, my brethren. He asks it of every one of you. Christ as you a question: had you not better think how to answer it? He says, “I am coming, I am at hand, I shall presently be here: are you ready for me? How is he coming? And how are we to prepare to meet him? […]

Yes, dear brethren, you know it in your hearts, howver some of you may be accustomed to make light of the thought: nevertheless you know in your hearts, that you have indeed but one thing to do in the world, and that is, to prepare to meet your God first in death, and afterwards in judgment. If you ask, How am I to do this? Give me some short rule, which I may carry away with me, and remember and practice, for I am not learned, I must have something simple and plain. 

If you ask me this, I will give you such a rule as you ask: but, my brethren, will you practice it? You will, if you desire to deal honestly and justly and truly with your loving Saviour who bought you with his own Blood. But the rule is the same, whether you will mind it or not, for it is in God’s own message, and when once ti is delivered, upon you must be the burden of rejecting it, if you choose to do so.

Well, the rule which will prepare you to meet your God in death and judgment is simply this: you must prepare to meet him, and really and regularly meet him, in his own great Sacrament; you must become a worthy communicant. If your own death is to find you ready for him, you must live in remembrance of his Death; and his Sacrament, you know, is his appointed Remembrance. And if judgment is to find you ready, you must judge yourself in time in self-examination before the sacrament.

Consider a moment, and you will see that it stands to reason that the Holy Communion should be the true way of preparing to meet him. For it is in fact using yourself to meet him. He has promised to be there, as often as we “do this in remembrance of” him. For he is “that Bread of life” (John 6:48). He is there, that eating him, we may live by him. He is “the true Vine” (John 15:1). He is there, that we may all of us drink of his Blood, his Blood of the New Testament, shed for us and for many for the remission of sins.


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