PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Eulogium Pronounced by the Woman in its Bearing on Our Lord.
It must have required great courage on the part of the woman in the Gospel to brave as she did the displeasure of the powerful Pharisees, and speak openly and loudly in praise of one whom they persecuted and hated so bitterly. Hence it may be assumed that this woman did not speak of her own accord, but was impelled by a higher power, the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. In fact the deep significance of the laudatory words themselves, proves them to have been dictated by a supernatural influence.
1st. Consider that the eulogium pronounced by the woman has reference principally to our Lord’s incarnation, according to the exposition of the Ven. Bede. He says “While the Scribes and Pharisees blasphemed, this woman proclaimed the doctrine of our Lord’s incarnation with assured confidence.” This woman one of the common people magnifies the very mystery which was in comprehensible to the proud Pharisees, the divine origin of Jesus Christ; for it was precisely this doctrine to which the faithful clung with tender love and adoration which was a stone of stumbling to the Pharisees. Their pride rebelled against the idea that the Nazarene, the carpenter’s Son, with the poverty of whose supposed father, the still greater poverty of whose Mother they were well aware, could be invested with such supreme dignity. Now while they, the sages, the great ones of the people, reviled the God made man, from the depth of a simple, humble, gladsome heart there ascends a tribute of praise in honor of our Lord’s incarnation. Thus it has been in all ages. Only the humble of heart can understand this mystery of humility, only childlike souls can take delight in the Child who is the offspring of Mary’s womb. Endeavor yourself to be always a child, in the sense in which this woman was, “for of such is the kingdom of God.” Cherish for the wondrous mystery of the incarnation, which the Angelus bell recalls to your mind three times a day, the same love and veneration which the simple, childlike St. Francis entertained for it. On one occasion, carried away by holy rapture, he exclaimed: “Not only do I think that on the day when the Son of God was born into the world for our salvation, all mankind ought to eat meat, but I could wish that the princes of the earth would send out meat and corn on to the highways, in order that the birds of the air and the beasts of the field might in their fashion participate in the joy of this great festival.” See how this saint rejoiced in this sacred mystery. Why are you not inspired by a like joy?
2d. Consider how the eulogium pronounced by the woman bears directly upon Mary, and indirectly upon Jesus. For it is impossible to glorify Mary without thereby magnifying Jesus. If our Lord Himself said: “As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me” (St. Matt. xxv. 40), can it be that what we do to His Mother, to her than whom no being was dearer to Him upon earth, is not done to Him? St. Bernard, speaking of the false notion of those who imagine that the homage paid to Mary detracts from the honor paid to Christ, expresses himself thus eloquently: “Is this fear reasonable? Is it Christian? Is it natural? Is it in human nature that a son should be jealous of the esteem in which his mother is held? Would a son think himself more honored if his mother were neglected and set aside, in order that honor should be shown exclusively to him? Would you deny to our divine Lord, looking at Him merely as a man, the first and greatest of all attributes, divine charity? How inconceivable this is! They profess to be seeking for Jesus, and as the surest means of finding Him they turn their backs on Mary! In order to love her Son more they withdraw their affection from His Mother, just as if the love of Jesus and the love of Mary were incompatible.” Weigh well this saint’s words, my soul, and you will perceive that not only the woman in the Gospel, but every one else who loves and honors Mary, loves and honors Christ.
3d. Consider how the woman, in praising Mary, extols above all the divine grace so freely bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin. It is not without purpose that in this tribute of praise the word “blessed” comes first; usually the person is named first, and the predicate follows, but in this case the order is reversed, with the intention of demonstrating that what is to be marvelled at, to be admired in Mary above all is divine, sanctifying grace. St. John Damascene remarks on this subject: “All in Mary was sanctified by the grace of God, hence her womb is said to be blessed and her breasts are said to be blessed, because she was sanctified beforehand, in order to render her worthy to conceive the eternal Son of God, and to afford nourishment to His sacred humanity.” To glorify Mary is to glorify the grace of God, which, in the words of the Church, prepared her body and soul to be a fit dwelling for Christ. “For,” as St. Athanasius says, “the Holy Spirit penetrated the womb of the Blessed Virgin with all the powers inseparable from His divine person, and, so to speak, filled her so completely with the fertilizing influence of His grace that she was plena gratia, full of grace.” Thus in this respect likewise the eulogium uttered by the woman in the Gospel, and which you repeat so frequently, nay daily at the close of your breviary, relates to Christ Himself, for whose sake Mary was so highly favored. Wherefore laud and magnify in Mary that divine grace, which, though its effects are visible in all the saints, nowhere shines forth with such beauty, such abundance, such wondrous power as in the Virgin who was “full of grace.”
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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