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Taken from The Recusant - Issue 39 January 2016

Archbishop Lefebvre: Sermon on the occasion of Engagements in the Society of St Pius X
Écône, 8th December, 1976

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My dear brethren,

This dogma of the Immaculate Conception, solemnly proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854, was later confirmed by the Blessed Virgin herself in 1858, to Bernadette at Lourdes. Without any doubt, this feast of the Immaculate Conception is much older than its definition. The definition of these dogmas by the Sovereign Pontiffs always happens after the Church, in her Tradition and in her Faith, has manifested in a permanent way that she believes these truths revealed by Our Lord Jesus Christ through His apostles. Thus the truth, which we celebrate today concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, is a truth contained in Revelation and therefore taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

This feast teaches us a great lesson, and particularly to you, my dear friends who, in a few moments, are going to pronounce your engagement for the first time or renew it, I think that I must draw your attention to the fact that this engagement requires you to practice in a particular way, truly and wholeheartedly with full adhesion, the holy virtue of obedience.

And if there is one virtue which stands out in this feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is precisely this virtue of obedience. Why? Because what made us lose sanctifying grace, what made us lose the friendship of God, was the sin of Eve, the mother of mankind. By her sin, by her disobedience, she drew after her all the souls who followed her. Since that sin of our first parents occurred in the history of mankind, all those who are born henceforth are born with original sin, except the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thus it is, therefore, that Our Lord Jesus Christ has willed, God has willed, that in this history of mankind, wounded by the sin of disobedience of the mother of mankind, this sin be repaired by a similar creature - our heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, if it was by disobedience that sin began in mankind, it was by the obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary that this sin was repaired.

Here is an admirable antithesis, willed, or at least permitted, by the Good Lord. Of course, the Good Lord did not will the sin but He permitted this fault of mankind, as the liturgy of Holy Saturday says: “felix culpa - happy fault” in a certain way, because it merited for us so many graces, it obtained for us to have in our midst the Son of God; it obtained for us to have the Blessed Virgin Mary.

All the more ought we to profit from this lesson offered to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary. A lesson of obedience, of sanctifying grace, from she who is called “full of grace.” Why is she full of grace? Because she obeyed, because she submitted to God. And that is precisely what we ought to have as the first desire of our life. The virtue of obedience is at the very heart of our sanctification. It is in the centre of our life, of our natural life, of our supernatural life. There cannot be a real natural life without obedience; there can be no true supernatural life without obedience. 

What, then, is obedience? In what does it consist? It seems to me that we could define it as the virtue of God.Vitrus Dei omnipotentis,” the virtue of Almighty God, infusing itself into our soul, our existence, our will, our intelligence, our body, this virtue of Almighty God. A Virtue which is the power of the Almighty God written into our lives, into our daily life, into our existence, because we are nothing without this power of the Almighty God. This virtue of the Almighty God is written in the Law, in the Commandments of God, in the Commandments of life: Love your God, love your neighbour - this is what we ought to do. And it is on this condition that we shall live both in the natural order and in the supernatural order.

We must therefore firstly have the desire to see this Virtue of God, this natural and supernatural power of God, being infused into our souls and taking over our whole self, all that we are. Not letting anything escape from this supreme power of God in us, to submit ourselves totally to the grace of the Good Lord, to His power, to His life. That is obedience, and that is the fruit of obedience: natural life, supernatural life, and thereby eternal life in the life of the beatific vision. All this is inscribed in the virtue of obedience.

Therefore, my dear friends, this should be the profound disposition of your souls while you pronounce your engagement: I want to be obedient, obedient for my whole life, obedient to God. I submit myself to the Will of God in order that He may communicate to me His Life, by communicating to me His Truth, truth in our intellect by the natural light of reason, but also and above all by the light of faith. Indeed faith is nothing else: it is the obedience of our intelligence to the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us His Truth, who transmits to us His Truth, and this Truth is a source of life. It will be a source of life for you, a source of grace.

Thus, submit your intelligence and your will fully to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ask her to give you this grace, that she give you the humility to submit yourself entirely to the holy Will of Our Lord. She showed you the example in her “fiat” in her humility. “Quia respexit humilitatem meam; quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae,” we sing in the Magnificat. And her cousin Elizabeth says to her “Et Beata quae credidisti”: blessed art thou because thou hast believed! Because you had faith! Faith is nothing less than the obedience of our intelligence, the submission of our intelligence to the Truth revealed by the authority of God. This is what your obedience ought to be like. By this grace of obedience you shall transform your lives, and your lives shall become fully conformed to the Will of God.

But obviously in the circumstances in which we live, in the confusion in which the Church finds herself today, we can wonder: “But where is this obedience today? How is obedience practiced in holy Church today?”

Well, we must not forget that our first obedience, our obedience which is fundamental and radical, the foundation and root, must be to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to God! For it is He who demands our obedience; it is He who demands our submission. And the Good Lord has done everything for us to be enlightened in our obedience. For two thousand years of the existence of the Church, the light was given by Revelation, by the Apostles, by the successors of the Apostles, by Peter and by the successors of Peter. And if ever it happened that an error was made or that the transmission of the truth was incorrect, the Church corrected it. The Church took care to transmit to us the truth conformed to the will of God.

And now, by an unfathomable mystery of Divine Providence, Providence is allowing our time to be perhaps a unique time in the history of the Church, in that these truths are no longer being transmitted with the fidelity with which the Church has transmitted them for two thousand years. Even without looking into the cause, in one sense, or who is responsible for these facts, these facts are still there, in front of us. The truth which was taught to the children, to the poor - “pauperes evangelizantur: the poor have the Gospel preached unto them,” said Our Lord to the envoys of St. John the Baptist - well, now, the poor are no longer evangelized. They are no longer given the bread, the true bread which children want, the true Bread, the Bread of Life.

They have transformed our sacrifices, our sacraments, our catechisms and so we are dumbfounded; we are painfully surprised. What are we to do when confronted with this agonising, tearing, crushing reality? Keep the Faith. Obey Our Lord Jesus Christ. Obey what Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us for two thousand years.

In a moment of terror, in a moment of confusion, in a moment of destruction of the Church, what should we do but hold fast to what Jesus has taught us and what His Church has taught us as being Truth forever, defined forever? One cannot change what has been defined once and for all by the Sovereign Pontiffs with their infallibility. It is not changeable. We cannot change the truth written forever in our holy books. Because this immutability of Truth corresponds to the Immutability of God. It is a communication of the Immutability of God to the immutability of our truths. To change our truths would be tantamount to changing the Immutability of God. We say it every day in the Office of None: “Immotus in Se permanens - God remaining immutable in Himself” forever. So we must attach ourselves to this truth, which has been taught in a permanent way, and not let ourselves be troubled by the disorder we witness today.

Consequently we must know, at some point, not to obey, in order to obey. This is it. Indeed, this Virtue of Almighty God of which I was speaking not long ago, the Good Lord has willed that it be transmitted to us somehow by men who participate in His authority. But to the extent that these creatures are not faithful to the transmission of this life, to this virtue of God, to that extent also we can no longer accept their orders and the obligations they impose on us. Because to obey men, unfaithful in transmitting the message given to them, would be to disobey God, it would be to disobey the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, when we have to choose either to obey the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ or to obey the message of men, transmitted to us by men; insofar as the message transmitted by men corresponds to the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have no right not to obey them to the last iota. But insofar as these orders, these obligations given to us, do not correspond to those which  Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us, we must obey God rather than men. In such cases, these men are not fulfilling the function for which they received the authority that God gave them. 

That is why St. Paul himself says: “If an angel from heaven or I myself" - remember it is the great St. Paul himself who is speaking – “If an angel from heaven or I myself were to teach you a truth contrary to what has been taught to you originally, do not listen to us!” That is it. Today we are faced with this reality. I tell you myself, very willingly, my dear friends, I repeat these words very willingly: If it were to happen that I teach you something contrary to what the whole Tradition of the Church has taught, do not listen to me! At that moment you have the right not to obey me, and you have the duty not to obey me! Because I would not be faithful to the mission given to me by the Good Lord.

This is what our obedience ought to be: to obey God before all else. That is the only way for us to reach Eternal Life. For it is this obedience which commands the way to Eternal Life. And in this, we follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was obedience itself. She is the most perfect, the most beautiful, the most sublime example of obedience, contrary to the disobedience of the mother of mankind.

And so let us ask her today, my dear friends, to teach us this obedience, to make us keep it until our death. And to make these promises you are going to make in a few moments truly the expression of what you have in the depth of your soul. And in these prayers, I thought it good to put the beautiful prayer taught to us by the Roman Missal shortly before the consecration of the Holy Eucharist: “Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae - receive, O my God, the oblation of our obedience, of our slavery! - hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae!” This is what you are going to say. If the Good Lord gives you the grace to become priests, every day when you say this prayer, and already now when you recite it with the
priest, renew your profession of obedience and of slavery towards God and towards the Blessed Virgin Mary. May this be the grace the Good Lord grants you today.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.