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.
The First Years of the Blessed Virgin’s Life.
“Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising?”—Cant. vi. 9.
This evening, with the help of God, we are going to begin the account of Mary’s holy life. Let us study it with devotion, and let us ask for grace to discover and to love the lessons it contains.
In a certain province of the land of Judea, which had formerly been given by God to His own people, but which was now delivered up to the dominion of foreign masters, in punishment for the sins of the chosen people, at Nazareth, a little town of Galilee, lived in the fear of God a wedded pair named Joachim and Anna. They were of the royal race of David. They had served God faithfully throughout a long life, and now they saw with sadness the approach of old age, for the joy of seeing their lives renewed in their children had not been granted to them. This holy couple bore in humble obedience both the solitude of their home and the shame which the general belief of the Jews cast on the sterility of their union. This grief, borne with patience, prepared them for the greatest grace that God had ever granted to a human creature. It was under this solitary and despised roof that the new shoot from the stem of Jesse was about to blossom, that the Blessed Virgin, so long promised and expected, was to be born. A pious tradition relates that an angel of the Lord appeared, first to Joachim and then to Anna, to announce to them the Child whose coming was to turn their solitude into joy.
Mary, the most pure Virgin, was conceived without sin. No spot came near her whom the angels already hailed as their Queen. Anna, as humble in joy as in sorrow, received her beloved daughter into her arms, gave her the sweet name of Mary, which is said to signify Star of the Sea, and from this moment her whole life was devoted to this child of benediction, whom new graces made daily more beautiful. She nourished her with her milk, day and night she tended her. How must she have loved this child, so long desired and obtained from God by so many prayers and tears! With what love must she have bent her grey hairs and aged countenance over this young and lovely child! How must her heart have beat for joy when she showed those who had so long despised her that God had at length had pity on His servant! But were they merely human feelings of tenderness which the sight of her daughter awakened in the heart of the holy Anna? No; whilst she pressed her to her bosom with all a mother’s love, she felt deep in her soul the reverence she owed to this spotless creature. She knew that God had given her her child, not for herself, but as a sacred trust, for which she would have to answer. She knew that God, in His goodness, had preserved her child from all stain, but she knew also that it was her duty to cultivate and render fruitful the wonderful seeds which He had implanted in this young soul. The first word which Mary heard from her mother’s lips was the holy name of God. The first affections of her heart were directed towards Him. Joachim shared the cares of his holy spouse, and the angels in heaven must have rejoiced at the sight of this blessed family. Let us often think of the cradle of Mary, of this humble dwelling from whence prayer rose as a sweet-smelling incense, towards heaven, and in which the innocence of the holy child shone with such pure radiance.
Anna and Joachim lived for her alone; but their generous love offered her daily to the Lord, and they prepared to accomplish the sacrifice by separating themselves from their beloved daughter. Often, says a pious legend, did Joachim remind Anna of the promise they had made to God of offering their child to Him, that she might be brought up in the temple with the maidens consecrated to the Lord.
When the time came the holy Anna had not a thought of keeping her treasure to herself. On a certain day a beautiful procession was seen outside the dwelling of the holy pair. The young maidens of the tribe, in festal robes, and bearing lighted lamps, came to fetch her who was one day to be called the Queen of Virgins. Joachim and Anna left their home, taking with them their child, and though tears flowed from their eyes, their hearts, raised above earthly regrets, praised God in a canticle of love and gratitude. They reached Jerusalem, and without delay, with their feet still covered with the dust of the journey, they presented themselves at the portico of the temple. It is said that Mary here left her mother’s arms, and mounted the steps of the temple alone, and with unfaltering footsteps, no longer needing the support of the hand which up to this time had guided all her steps. “Joachim and Anna watched her advancing towards the tabernacle of the Lord, and their eyes were wet with tears.”
But they offered their only treasure to God with a good will. Mary was received by the high priest, and led into the midst of the young maidens brought up in the temple. Anna and Joachim offered a sacrifice to God and then departed, returning slowly towards their solitary home, leaving behind them her who had made its joy, but preserving in their hearts that happiness in sacrifice, that peace in the midst of sorrow, which reward and strengthen faithful souls.
Let us pause here. This is the first chapter of our history. Let us kneel by Mary’s cradle, and receive from the child, and from her holy mother, the first lessons which this account should teach us. It has examples for all ages, for every position in life. Has not the interior of this holy house, the sight of which made the angels rejoice, many lessons for us? Have not many of us, like Joachim and Anna, received from God a sacred trust, of which we must one day render account? Have not many of us, like them, little innocent beings to bring up for Him? Our children, doubtless, have not, like the spotless Virgin, been preserved from the stain of original sin; but the Blood of Jesus Christ was shed for them, the holy waters of baptism have flowed on their brow, have washed away that stain, and have replaced it by the eternal sign of salvation. They are children of God; they have an immortal soul; and to us this soul is confided, that our love may cultivate the blessed seeds which God has implanted in it.
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.
August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary
Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things
O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.
An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)
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