James DeKoven Sermons

Many of of writings by Blessed James DeKoven and a lengthy biography can be found at http://anglicanhistory.org/dekoven/.

The Wisdom of Blessed James DeKoven
Compiled by Sr. Brigit-Carol, SD

How solitary, after all, is the real life of each human being. We are born alone, we must die alone. In our deepest trials, as far as human help goes, we must stand by ourselves…. The life of each individual being is in some sort of hidden life. There are heights and depths in human nature which are hidden and covered from every eye but the All-seeing gaze. Man is made in the image of God, though the image is marred. The baptized man has been recreated in that image; he has been made a member of Christ, a child of God, and his regenerate nature, which can never be fully brought out, until that regeneration is completed by the redemption of the body. Meanwhile the struggle is going on between regenerated man and the world, the flesh and the devil. With whatever helps counsel or advice or prayer may give, he fights his battle alone. He puts on his armor. With sword and shield and helmet he enters the lists. The Eternal Eye is upon him; the loving Master sees him, and strengthens and supports; and human prayers, with agonizing entreaty, intercede for him; but still, so far as his fellowman is concerned, he fights alone. Nor does he merely fight and conquer. He fights and falls, he rises and falls again, and falls and rises. He is covered with wounds, and blood, and soil, and stain, until the day is done and the crown is won or lost.
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The world demands success; God only asks for labor. The world clamors for results; God asks for principles. Whether His servants succeed or fail in the eyes of men, is a thing altogether immaterial in His sight, if only they do their part well, and hand on the witness of the truth from age to age. They are to be the champions of the right, happen what may.

Work for God more enduring, more availing, has been done by loving, personal, individual dealing with particular souls, than by all eloquent sermons and soul-stirring oratory.

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What better words of counsel can I give you than to bid you to hold fast to that Saviour into whom you were grafted in Baptism, who has fed you with Himself in the Blessed Eucharist? Live for Christ; live in Christ; seek Him by penitence; find Him in His Eucharist. Die in Him; die for Him! Count no labor worth the effort which has not His mark upon it; fight His battles, gain His victories. Then in the shadow of death He will support you, and in the Day of Judgment succor you, and make you reign with Him in the new-born earth for which the weary world is waiting.

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Christian faith is to surrender the will, to humble the pride, to become like a little child; to believe in the unseen; to know that there is another world than that about us, to enter it by Baptism, to live in it by the Holy communion; to be guided by the voice and hand of an invisible Master; to be drawn nearer and nearer to that blessed Home of which death is only the portal; to see the solemn pageant of the world’s great activities go marching by as in a spectacle; to be in it, yet far above it; to despise none of its beauty or goodness or excellence, and yet to have the life hid with Christ in God; above its din and noise, to hear celestial harmonies; in the midst of its hurry an bustle, to be at peace; to care neither for its honors nor its persecutions; sober in prosperity, patient and resigned in adversity, at rest in life, at rest in death, one with Christ for ever – this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith!

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Let us learn to bear injustice, and misconception, and want of appreciation with quiet calmness; because soon it will be all right. Let us learn also the great benefit of honest shame that takes away shame, in the acknowledgement of sin; judging ourselves, that we not be judged of the Lord.

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The truest obedience is only learned by suffering. Our Blessed Lord Himself learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and so it is evermore with His children. Tribulation and patience are the parents of obedience, and obedience is at once the mother and the child of love. The bruised soul pours forth the sweetness of charity, just as they say, in the far-off East, from the broken leaves of the spice-plan flows out the sweetest fragrance.

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He who prays most earnestly, is hidden by God’s presence from the provoking of all things. Is not this, after all, the simple explanation of what prayer is? It is the placing of one’s self in the presence of God, and being there, pouring forth the mingled burden of penitence and praise, and the imploring of grace and strength. Prayer is a stay n weariness, a means of counsel in bewilderment, a source of strength in weakness and comfort in sorrow. When friend forsake or trials assault, or temptations surround, it brings us into the presence which is the fullness of joy.

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Doubts are from your own making! Deeds of faith, and mortifying the flesh, will drive them away, and the Sun of Righteousness will appear. Then, when once you really behold the Saviour, you can and will endure. The temptations of passion, the assaults of unbelief, the opinion of the world, the snares of the devil – nay, sorrow, calamity, afflictions, poverty, and death – can be borne and resisted, in a strength and power which is not your own. That light of that countenance will illumine all things, and make you strong in your very weakness. Over these daily temptation, these hourly falls, this prayerlessness and weakness and want of love, will come the victory.

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Christ is present in every man who He regenerates. We are made one with Him, in holy Baptism, and this union is strengthened, refreshed, and renewed in the Holy Eucharist. We are made one with Christ, and Christ with us; Christ swells in us and we in Christ. There is a grafting of our nature into His in some marvelous way whereby He becomes our second Adam, and we become His own dear children. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Jesus Christ is in us, except we be reprobate.

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The life of the baptized Christian is a struggle, and was meant to be. He was to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts; the life of the Christian was to be a life of warfare, if he would win the crown. But it was to be a life of conquest as well. By prayer, by the Bible, by confirmation, by the offered Eucharist, by the feeding of the soul with Christ’s Body and Blood, by the perpetual worship of Christ’s invisible presence, the Christian was to be more than conqueror. Nay, by humiliation, and repentance, and confession, and absolution, his very sins and falls were to be made the stepping-stones to higher values.

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In the Church Christ’s presence is revealed. In His Word, in His poor, in His ministrations of His priests, in the hidden but real glory which transports the soul in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the true believer knows and sees by faith the Lord who bought him….to him, the Church is the house of God, the gate of heaven.

The Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ; to do His work upon earth; to be in His stead a messenger of love, mercy, and pardon to mankind; by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost; to make Christ present, though hidden from mortal gaze—this is the work of the Church of God.

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Brethren, let us seek to believe and to dare; let us cast away dependence on riches and fashion and worldly opinion’ let us preach the Gospel to the poor; let us surrender all things to Christ; let us organize our work after the fashion of catholic order and primitive precedent, and leave the res. Christ is our refuge and strength; Christ is our leader and guide; Christ is our bishop and pastor; and if the ship of the Church be tossed on stormy waves by rudest blasts, then will He come walking upon the waters and say, “Peace, be still!”

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Better than all other union, mightier than all other victories, will be that glorious uniting, that bloodless conquest, when the Church of God shall be at one again. Then will the knowledge of the Lord cover the world, as the waters cover the sea; then, mightier will be the triumphs regenerated man will make over sin and sorrow, disease an death; then, more and more, will he assert his true Lordship over nature, then will the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of the Lord…. Then, indeed, will the “tabernacle of God be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”

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Let us consider what is meant by the presence of God. God is present everywhere, upholding all things by the word of His power. Nor yet present merely as they who hold to pantheistic views would say—as a subtle essence pervading all things, but present in the entirety of His person in every place at the same time. And because God is everywhere He has His influence in all things. All things partake of Him. They are His 0offspring; He supports, sustains, preserves. The planets move in their coursed, the sun pours forth its mysterious power, the vast frame of the world is uplifted by His will; the mountains lifting their heads to heaven, the rivers rolling their waters to the sea, the ceaseless beating of the waves of the oceans, the lions roaring after their prey, the eagle soaring to the sun, the sparrow falling to the ground, the tiniest things that crawls, and man, the noblest of His creatures—in Him they live and move and have their being.

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There are three senses in which Christ’s human nature may be said to be everywhere: (1) Because it is nowhere, nor at any time, separate from God, who is everywhere present. It is united to the Person of the Son of God and that Divine Person is in all things, because He is infinite, and upholds all things by the word of His power. (2) It is everywhere present, because it everywhere cooperated with Him is is everywhere present. The two great powers of the soul are the will and the understanding. In the human soul of Christ, His human will ever corresponds, ever assents unto, ever submits to the divine will. The human understanding of Christ ever basks in the light of divine knowledge, and is ever illumined by the omniscience of the Eternal God. Thus, He who as man descended into the lower parts of the each, now is ascended up far above the heavens, and fills all things. (3) His human nature, though present locally in heaven alone, has also a spiritual presence in the Eucharist, and though both the sacraments unites our natures unto Christ, and makes Him dwell in us and we in Him.

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The awful Word of God made man mean something more than a shallow theology has reduced it to. He is still the Incarnate God. He has sent down His Holy Spirit to make himself an ever-present Incarnate Saviour. He is in the midst of the adoring angels, He is at the right hand of God. The cherubim bow before Him, the Seraphim veil their faces; but He speaks by His present, He teaches in His word, He saves as the Son of Man, He pleads in His poor, His is hidden behind the sacramental veils, He stands beside the dying bed, He leads through the valley of the shadow of death! And, Because of all this, because He is in it, because He is its head, its souse, and it is His Body and His Bride, a deeper faith in Him Involves a deeper faith and love for His Holy Catholic Church.

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There exists around us an invisible world of angelic beings, who come and go as the ministers of them who are to be the heirs of salvation. There is a mystical fellowship between the living and the dead in the Communion of the Saints. And yet we speak of both with bated breath, and scarcely dare to think of them, lest we be accused of superstition.

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