Meditations On The Life Of The Blessed Virgin For Every Day Of the Month, Suitable for all seasons and especially the month of May.
THE LIFE OF MARY DURING THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS—THE SILENCE OF THE GOSPEL—JESUS PREACHING- AT NAZARETH—HIS DEPARTURE—THE MISERY OF THOSE WHO LOSE HIS HOLY PRESENCE.
"Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that gave Thee suck. Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." —St. Luke xi. 27.
After the miracle at Cana our holy-Mother returned to the solitude of Nazareth. Her Son did not remain with her. The time was past in which the Eternal Word dwelt hidden under the roof of His mortal Mother, as now in the tabernacles of our poor churches. The Sun of Justice was rising, and shedding His rays of blessing over the fields and villages of Galilee, over the Sea of Tiberias, and over the humble fishermen who peopled its banks. Then it was that the gentle light of Mary, which had shone almost alone during the long obscurity of the Infancy and Youth of Jesus, was (eclipsed by the dazzling brightness of the Sun of Righteousness.
"I arose in the night with David," says Bossuet, "to behold Thy heavens, the works! of Thy fingers | the moon and the stars which Thou hast established. What a wonderful image did I see, O Lord, of the effects of Thine infinite light! The sun advanced and made known his approach by a heavenly glow, which spread all around j the stars had disappeared, and the moon had risen with her crescent of silver, so beautiful and bright that it charmed the sight. She seemed to wish to honour the sun, by appearing bright and illuminated on the side she turned towards him; all the rest was dark and shadowy; a little semicircle alone received a splendid brightness from the rays of the sun, as if from the father of light. She then paid a new homage to the heavenly source of her radiance. As he drew near I saw her disappear; the faint crescent diminished little by little, and when the sun had fully risen, her pale and feeble light Vanished, and was lost in that of the great luminary in which she seemed to be absorbed. She could not have lost her light by the approach of the sun, from Which she derived it; but a small luminary vanished before a greater, the fainter light lost itself in the more brilliant, and the. crescent was no longer to be seen in the heavens, in which it had held so conspicuous a place amongst the stars."
We have often seen that which the great bishop, describes so beautifully, for none are better able than the dwellers in the country to find the image of God at all times in His works. We can easily apply these words to the gentle Virgin Mary, whose beauty is so often compared to that of the moon.
The Gospel only tells us as much of her history as is necessary to make us acquainted with that of Jesus. She seems to wish to honour her Son by only appearing bright and illuminated on the side she turns to Him. All the rest is dark. How beautiful is the brightness which she receives from the Sun of Justice. And yet, as He rises, she humbly fades away; not that the Divine Sun, which causes her to shine can lessen her brightness, but because the dependant luminary loses itself in that which is supreme. Until that day, at once sorrowful and blessed, in which she reappears standing at the foot of the cross, when the light of the world is for a time eclipsed on Calvary, she is but twice mentioned by the Gospel, and then it is only to relate two words of our Saviour, which at first sight appear severe and almost harsh, like those He spoke to her in the Temple at Jerusalem, and at Cana of Galilee. An ordinary mother would turn pale at hearing them spoken by her son.
The first time was when Jesus was at Capharnaum, speaking to the multitude which pressed around Him. His Mother was outside, with those whom the Evangelist calls His brethren, according to the custom of the Hebrew and Syriac languages, which comprise brothers and cousins under the same name, and they sought to speak to Him. (The Gospel calls by this name the four sons of Mary of Cleophas, James, Simon, Jude, and Joseph.) " And one said to Jesus: Behold Thy Mother and Thy brethren stand without seeking for Thee.
But He, answering him that told Him, said: Who is My Mother, and who are My brethren ? And, stretching forth His Hand towards His disciples, He said: Behold My Mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother." (St. Matt. xii. 47.) The second time was as He was speaking to the people. "A certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him : Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and (he breasts that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." (St - Luke xi. 27.)
Was Mary sorrowful at these words, as an ordinary mother would have been? Far from us be such a thought. The heart of Mary was too intimately united to the Heart of Jesus, not to understand all Its sentiments, and see ever the tenderness of her Son united to the sovereign wisdom of her God. Thus, whilst our Saviour seemed to forget the Mother He loved so much, to extend His love over all the creatures whose salvation God had confided to Him; whilst the Teacher of the world, the universal mediator of all creatures, seemed to have taken the place of the Son of Mary, this Mother, to whom none can compare, saw farther than we can into the Heart of her Son, accepted these apparent slights, and heard Jesus say to her, as Solomon said of old to his mother, " My Mother, ask„ for I must not turn away thy face."
And we children of Mary, let us not be hurt at this seeming neglect, let us rather see in it the evident sign of the sanctity of our Mother, " Jesus coming as Saviour, as Physician, and as Shepherd, gave a greater share of His time and of His cares to lost sheep, to the sick, and to sinners'' than to the just. "He neglected Mary because He had prevented in her the evil He came to cure in us." It was because Mary was the holiest of creatures that God gave her a share in the desolations, contradictions, humiliations, and trials, which are so often the portion of the just in this world, because God has an eternity with which to reward them in heaven, whilst consolations and encouragements are for sinners, who require to be led back from afar, and nourished with milk before they can bear stronger food.
Besides, when our Lord in His goodness calls His brethren, His sisters, and His Mother, whosoever shall do the will of His Father that is in heaven; when, in answer to that woman of Israel who called blessed the Mother who had borne and nourished Him, He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it," He in no degree excludes Mary from the number of those whom He thus exalts. On the contrary, He shows what would be the merit and sanctity of Mary independently of what was only her glory.
Because Mary, preserved from all sin from her conception, had since been the holiest and the most faithful of creatures, therefore had God chosen her to be the Mother of His Son. Her merit is in her sanctity, as her honour is in her Divine Maternity. As no creature ever equalled Mary in holiness, so none was ever more worthy to be of the number of those whom our Saviour honoured with His tenderness and declared blessed; and as she surpassed all creatures in holiness, it is certain that she held the first place among those of whom Jesus said: "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven, he is my Brother, and sister, and mother."
The absence of Jesus was the greatest of sacrifices to Mary, But she accepted it willingly for our salvation J the apparent severity of His words never grieved her heart, which knew so well the Heart of her Son. The true cause of her sufferings was the ingratitude and hatred which followed the steps of, Him, Who was born for the salvation of the good, and tor the scandal and fall of the wicked; Whilst miracles were being multiplied in Galilee, whilst the blind saw and the lame walked at the word of Jesus; Whilst at His command the devils left the bodies of those they had possessed; confessing with rage that He was the Son of God; whilst all Sicknesses and infirmities were healed, and simple souls were enlightened by His doctrines, the Pharisees were scandalized, and began to lay snares for Him; and even at Nazareth, His own country, many of the kinsfolk of Jesus did not believe in Him. ("Neque enim fratres ejus credebant in eum" St. John vii. 5.) The Gospel tells us that Jesus returned to " Nazareth, where He had been brought up; He went, according to His custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day; and He rose up to read, and the Book of Isaias the Prophet was delivered unto Him. And as He unfolded the book He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, wherefore He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal the contrite of heart, to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward. And when He had folded the book, He restored it to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him." (St. Luke iv. 17-20.) And applying to Himself the words He had just read, He said, "This day is fulfilled this Scripture in your ears." As He went on to explain these words, they were all in wonder, and said one to another: "What is this wisdom which is given to Him ? and how does He work so many miracles? How has He learnt, having never been taught ? Is He not the carpenter, the son of Joseph ? Is it not He whose Mother is called Mary ?" And they were scandalised at Jesus. Some said: "Physician, heal Thyself." Others cried; "Do here in Thy own country as great miracles as we have heard Thou hast done at Capharnaum." Jesus answered them; "Anion, I say to you that no prophet is accepted in his own country... In Israel itself there were many widows in the days of Elias, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, and when there was a great famine throughout all the earth, and to none of them, was Elias sent, but to Sarepta of Sidon, to a widow woman. And in Israel there were many lepers, in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian."
" And all they in the synagogue, hearing these things, were filled with anger. And they rose up and cast Him out of the city; and they brought Him to the brow of the hill whereon their city Nazareth was built that they might cast Him down headlong." (Harmony of M. Foisset)
Who can describe the terror of our holy Mother! She heard the tumult in the synagogue; she heard the cries of death, and saw the furious multitude dragging out her son; she called upon her friends and kinsfolk for help. But Jesus was now on the edge of the precipice, and it seemed that the Jews were already about to murder their God ! ("Between the steep mountain from which the Jews intended to cast down Jesus Christ, and the city of Nazareth, may be seen half way," says Father Geramb, "the ruins of a monastery, formerly inhabited by monks, and those of a church built by St. Helena, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Under the name of 'Our Lady del Tremore', 'Our Lady of fear.' According to some authors, Mary was already at this place while the Jews were dragging her Son towards the preceipice, to cast Him down. According to others, at the news of the murderous intentions of these madmen, she had run in haste, but had arrived too late. Seized with terror she was not able to go farther."
) No; in the Simple words of the Gospel, we are told, "But He, passing through the midst of thefti* went His way."
The wicked can do evil only as long as God suffers it; and when they have filled up the measure of their iniquity, He punishes them by withdrawing Himself from them. At Nazareth the Child Jesus had grown up; there the Saviour had given His first instructions; there Mary had lived, and had spread around the perfume of her virtues and example : hut Nazareth Rejected its Lord; the whole of this ungrateful people rose against a single unarmed Man. They were already on the hill; it seemed that nothing could stop them; Mary stretched out her hands in vain then Jesus, "passing through the midst of them, went His way." And the people of Nazareth returned in confusion from the mountain, asking each other what had become of Jesus.
Depart, you wretches, you shall see Him no more. He came to announce to you the kingdom of God, and the end of your sufferings, to shelter you as the hen shelters her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Jesus will weep over you as over Jerusalem, but you will see Him no more. You will see Mary no more; the sweet Virgin who has lived thirty years among you doing good. Her consoling voice will no longer be heard at the bedside of your sick; the alms of her poverty will no more relieve your poor; the peace of her soul will no longer calm your sufferings. The Son has left you, you shall no longer have the Mother. Mary was only at Nazareth to attend upon Jesus, Where her Son is, there is her country. She said farewell once again and for ever to the house in which she was. born. The holy women her friends and Sisters, Mary of Cleophas, Salome wife of Zebedee, Suzanna and Joannah wife of Chusa, went with her. They followed from afar the steps of Jesus, humbly hidden in the crowd which listened to Him, preparing the poor shelter in which the Son of Man was to repose each night with His disciples, sometimes begging their poor food. Many was ever retiring and humble, not obtruding even her tenderness upon Jesus, and loving and serving each one of the apostles for love of her Son. Surrounded by her holy companions, she shared the exile and journeys of Jesus. The dove no longer found a nest in the rock where her parents were sheltered.
"Woe to the country, city a or village, which rejects Jesus and Mary, which turns a deaf ear to the holy word of God, which shuts its eyes to the continual miracles of divine mercy. The graces which we abuse or reject will become terrible accusations against us in the day of judgment; and in that day of retribution, the state of the poor savage upon whom the light of faith has never shone, will be better far than that of the Christian who has never lived as one. " Woe to thee, Corozain," said our dear Saviour with a sigh, as He was leaving one of the villages of Galilee, "Wo to thee, Bethsaida, for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up into heaven? Thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee." Let us beware lest our Saviour, when He has become our Judge, put us to shame for our own lives, so devoid of good works, so overflowing with God's graces, by setting before us the life of one of our brethren, born far from God, in a land in which Christianity is hardly known, in a family in which God is not loved, but who has deserved, by the purity of his soul, the light given to him as a reward, and withdrawn from us for our punishment. Let us not compare our lives with those of great sinners, and say we are better than they; if they had received our graces, perhaps they would have become saints, whilst we are but sinners. No doubt they have lost grace through their own fault, and God has withdrawn Himself from them as from the inhabitants of Nazareth, because they refused His presence. But have we never deserved that He should leave us ? Should we be filled with pride because His mercy has not yet abandoned us ? Let us fear, above all things, lest Jesus should leave our souls. Let us call upon Him, and prepare for Him a perpetual dwelling within us. Let us furnish it the best we can, and as everything is dark where He is not, let us say to Him, as the disciples said to Him at Emmaus, " Lord, stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is far spent."
Blessed art thou, O holy Virgin Mary, because from thy virginal womb has risen the sun of justice.("Beata es, Sanota Virgo Maria, quia ex te ortus est Sol Justitiæ.") O holy and bright dawn of that light which enlightens the just in this world, shed thy pure radiance into my soul, that there may remain in it none of that voluntary darkness which rejects the light of God when it deigns to come down upon it. ("Et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.") O holy Mother of God, who didst suffer so much from the absence of thy Son, who didst follow Him in His painful journeys, whose holy presence was so sweet to Him, and whom He only left to go and seek from afar the lost sheep of Israel, teach us to love the presence of Jesus, to seek it as that of a friend instead of fearing it as that of a Judge. Obtain for us, by thy holy prayers, the grace to remain with thee and thy Divine Son all the days of our mortal life, that we may dwell with Him and thee for all eternity.
To place ourselves often in the presence of Jesus and Mary : to remember that sin drives them away, and that repentance recalls them, but that the abuse of grace may cause them to leave us for ever.