On the Blessed Virgin Mary As She Is Depicted by the Evangelists.
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 Blessed Virgin Mary As She Is Depicted by the Evangelists.
On this day, which is specially dedicated to our Blessed Lady, place before your mental vision that most holy, most pure, most lowly of virgins. One may well imagine the sight of her to have been beautiful indeed, filling one with rapture, inspiring one with holy thoughts, if the mere mention of her name, the mere thought of her sublime and exalted personality is so touching and impressive, so attractive, encouraging and delightful. Let us now contemplate this heavenly being as she is depicted in the holy Gospels.
1st. Consider that at the earliest mention of Mary, when the Evangelist St. Luke first sets her before us, we find her employed in the most sacred and exalted occupation in which a human being can engage, that is in prayer. “In the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (St. Luke i. 26, 27.) Tradition says that the messenger of the Most High found Mary in a lonely chamber praying, for angels visit men at the time of prayer. And no sooner has the Evangelist shown us the Blessed Virgin holding sacred intercourse with the angel, than he proceeds to give an account of her visit to Elizabeth; and again you behold the Blessed Virgin in holy rapture, inspired by the spirit of devotion and prayer; you hear her exclaim in the words of that canticle of praise, ever to be admired for its beauty and sublimity: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” Then later on, when her divine Infant was born, and the shepherds and wise men came to worship Him, hear what the Evangelist says of Mary: “But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (ch. ii. 19), that is to say in tranquil contemplation she meditated upon them, meditated upon the wondrous mysteries that were accomplished in her. Impress deeply upon your mind the grand image here presented to you of the Blessed Virgin; you behold her engaged in prayer, magnifying God, meditating on the mysteries of religion. As she is here depicted make her your model; see that you are before all else given to prayer, to praise, to contemplation. That is the chief requisite of the Christian, pre-eminently of the Priest and Religious. Listen to what St. Ignatius says on this point. “What we value most in a Religious is not his vast erudition, his talents as a preacher, nor any other of the natural gifts and abilities which distinguish him as a man, but his humility, his obedience, his spirit of recollection and of prayer.” Good works, blessed Brother Giles was wont to say, are an ornament to the soul, but nothing enlightens it and beautifies it like the spirit of prayer. Ask yourself to what extent do you imitate the most holy Virgin in her love of prayer? At any rate make a resolution to-day to perform your accustomed orisons with a devotion resembling hers.
2d. Consider how the Blessed Virgin Mary is also depicted to us by the Evangelist as the lowly, obedient handmaid of the Lord, perfectly resigned to the will of God. The angel of the Most High promises her a dignity in which as much prospective suffering as honor is involved, and Mary, no less humble than submissive to the divine decree, makes no other response than the memorable words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” Again, when Elizabeth salutes her as “blessed among women” in her humility she immediately gives this praise to Him to whom alone all glory is due, and exclaims joyously: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” And subsequently to the birth of the Redeemer, see how unflinchingly, with what exemplary resignation she accepts the dolors Simeon predicts are in store for her, and afterwards, how unresistingly, how uncomplainingly she acquiesces in that most painful behest of the angel: “Take the Child and His Mother and fly into Egypt.” (St. Matt. ii. 13.) If, my soul, you follow the wondrous life of Mary step by step, you will everywhere and always observe in her the same characteristics. Whether sorrowingly she searches for the Child Jesus lost in Jerusalem, or whether our Lord, on being told: “Behold Thy Mother stands without” (St. Matt. xii. 47), from higher, supernatural motives pays no heed to her, she is ever the same, the handmaid of the Lord, submissive to the divine will, accepting everything in silence and patience, until finally she stands beneath the cross, the model for all Christians of pious submission to the will of God. Learn then of Mary to practise this second virtue, which so well becomes the Christian and especially Priests and Religious: resignation to the will of God and lowly obedience. Since it is your chief, your life-long task, to reflect in your life the life of Jesus, and since His life was nothing else than the fulfilment of His heavenly Father’s will, learn of Mary this art! “Learn,” as Thomas a Kempis bids you, “learn to obey, dust; learn to humble thyself, earth and clay, learn to break thy own will,” for as St. Bonaventure declares, the perfection of a good Religious consists in the entire renunciation of his own will in order to follow the will of another.
3d. Consider Mary’s conduct in connection with an incident to which your attention has not yet been directed, narrated by St. John in his gospel. “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the Mother of Jesus was there. . . . And the wine failing, the Mother of Jesus said to Him: They have no wine.” (St. John ii. 1, 3.) Here behold and admire another virtue which stands forth brightly in Mary: charity to her neighbor, her attribute as intercessor for the afflicted. This third virtue, so grand in itself, so rich in blessings for man, which surrounds the name of Mary with a halo of greatness, which makes it sweet to the ear, a source of infinite graces to man, was first made conspicuous at this nuptial feast; and since then Mary has never ceased to be the loving Mother of the afflicted, the Help of Christians, the Refuge of sinners, the Health of the sick. In the first point you saw and admired Mary at her own devotions; now admire her in her character of intercessor for others; in the second point you beheld with amazement the wondrous resignation of the handmaid of the Lord; now contemplate her with joy showing herself ready for God’s sake to serve and help all mankind in their necessities. Learn of Mary not merely to pray for yourself but to intercede for others, not merely to endure your own sufferings with resignation but lovingly to help others to bear their afflictions; thus your prayers, your submission to the will of God, will be more profitable to yourself, more fruitful for others. By being constant in prayer, given to holy contemplation after Mary’s example; by resigning as she did your own will in all things, and by active exertion such as hers was in the service of your neighbor, you will attain the ideal of a Priest and of a Religions, and by this means you will practise better than in any other way the devotion to our Blessed Lady which the Seraphic St. Francis so emphatically enjoined on all his sons and daughters.
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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