On the Mother of God.
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 Mother of God.
To-day represent to yourself Mary, the great and glorious Mother of God, as she appears in one or other of the periods of her wondrous life which you may find touches you most deeply or attracts you most forcibly. Think of her as the Immaculate Virgin, or as the highly-favored Mother of the sweet Infant Jesus, or as the woman of sorrows standing beneath the cross. In each and all of these characters you will regard her with equal veneration, for she is no ordinary woman, she is no ordinary saint, but the Mother of God, surpassing all other saints in grandeur and dignity. Let this title, which no one else but Mary can claim, form the subject of your meditation to-day.
1st. How grand and sublime a thing it is to be the Mother of God, may be gathered from the fact that this title which is given to our blessed Lady contains in brief compass all the rich treasure of the Christian faith. Bourdaloue says that in this one name, Mother of God, the whole mystery of the incarnation is comprised, the chief dogma, consequently, of our religion. This title of itself reminds you of the wondrous work of redemption, decreed from all eternity by the triune God, and of the mystery of the human nature of Jesus Christ, with which dogma all other articles of faith are intimately and inseparably connected. This one title recalls to your memory the vast, the infinite charity, mercy and condescension of the Most High, who chose a lowly maiden to be the Mother of God, that thus her brethren and sisters might become the children of God. Search deeply in meditation into the rich dogmatic value of this title: Mother of God; consider all that it comprises of immense importance to our faith, and you will understand the words St. Cyril addressed to those who dared to gainsay Mary’s right to that title. “When once,” he declared, “the divine maternity of our Lady is denied, all that was done for our salvation becomes worthless. Withdraw this one article of faith and the whole fabric of our belief collapses; the cross, the salvation, the life of the world is dashed to the ground, and all the confidence and faith of mankind are destroyed with it.” A brief consideration will convince you of the truth of this utterance, and make it clearly apparent to you that the veneration paid to the Mother of God is of the greatest consequence not only to the Christian life, but also to the Christian faith.
2d. Consider how exalted is the dignity which Mary possesses as the Mother of God. It is true God calls His saints His children, and the angels are termed His children, His friends, His favorites, His sons, but the name of Mother of God belongs solely to the Blessed Virgin. This one name invests her with a dignity far above that of angels and of archangels, far above that of cherubim and seraphim. They are called the children of God, and Mary is the Mother of that same God. Observe one singular circumstance connected with this dignity, great as it was; as long as she lived upon earth, only a few devout souls honored her in this her exalted capacity. St. Elizabeth, for instance, was the first to address Mary by this name: the Mother of my Lord. Otherwise indeed she met with little honor in fact much opprobrium fell to her lot, as for instance when she stood beneath the cross. Even Jesus Himself made use of no more honorable appellation and we may be sure He acted intentionally in speaking to the exalted Mother of God, than that of “Woman”; both at the marriage at Cana and from the cross on Calvary He simply called her by that name. And Mary herself, conscious though she was of her great dignity, regarded herself as the “handmaid of the Lord.” Oh what abundant food for thought this fact gives you. You too in your character of Priest are invested with a special dignity, nay a surpassingly great dignity, and you have every right to the title of Reverend. Or as a Religious you are regarded with respect in the Church, you stand high in God’s sight, and your state is justly considered to entitle you to the esteem of the faithful. Yet together with, nay in consequence of that dignity you will meet with more contempt than honor here below, none but a few pious individuals will show you the respect due to your office, and you may even find yourself treated by God Himself with a certain apparent coldness. You will be served precisely as Mary was, and well will it be for you if in spite of your dignity, you have as lowly an opinion of yourself as she had of herself; if with every step upward on the ladder of honors you take a step downwards in humility, and with each promotion to a higher post you combine a deeper sense of your own unworthiness. Do this and you will receive greater grace from God as Mary did, of whom St. Augustine wrote: “Because, Queen, thou wast the most humble of women, thou didst compel the uncreated Word to take flesh of thy flesh.” And St. Bernard says: “It was only just that she, from being the last should become the first, because although she was the first she made herself the last.”
3d. Consider how Mary’s title of Mother of God did not unfold itself in its full splendor until after her death. Consider the signal honors and distinctions which were the portion of the Mother of God both in Heaven and on earth subsequently to her death; think of all the hymns and canticles of praise composed in her honor, think of all the churches and chapels dedicated to her, the services and pilgrimages which have contributed and still contribute to enhance the glory of the Mother of God, and you will perceive how true was her prediction concerning herself: “All generations shall call me blessed.” (St. Luke i. 48.) Thus at the close of this mortal life the honors due to her were fully paid by both God and man. The destiny of the children of God is the exact reverse of that of the children of the world. The latter are honored in this life, and after death they are forgotten; whereas the former are despised now and later on they are called blessed, blessed for ever more. Which kind of honor do you prefer? The answer is not far to seek. And yet, my soul, you crave for the pitiful honors of the world, you find it hard to be despised instead of esteemed by the world. Learn this very day, learn of the Mother of God to contemn the honors of earth; prefer the honor which is of God, and with your whole heart pray in the words of the author of the Imitation: “Let the Jews seek glory one man of another; I will seek that which is from God alone. All human glory indeed, all temporal honor, all worldly grandeur, compared with Thy eternal glory, is vanity and foolishness. O my truth and my mercy, my God, Blessed Trinity, to Thee alone be praise, honor, power, glory, for endless ages of ages!” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 41.)
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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