Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

What Are the Instruments of Good Works (IV)

Notre–Dame–de–Bonne–Délivrance (Paris) before whom Saint Francis de Sales was delivered from the temptation to despair of the mercy of God.

21 Jan. 22 May. 21 Sept.
62. Daily to fulfil by one’s deeds the commandments of God.
63. To love chastity.
64. To hate no man.
65. Not to give way to jealousy and envy.
66. Not to love strife.
67. To fly from vainglory.
68. To reverence the Seniors.
69. To love the juniors.
70. To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.
71. To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
72. And never to despair of God’s mercy.

Behold, these are the tools of the spiritual craft, which, if they be constantly employed day and night, and duly given back on the day of judgment, will gain for us from the Lord that reward which He Himself hath promised – “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” And the workshop where we are to labour at all these things is the cloister of the monastery, and stability in the community.

• Chapter IV ends with ten commandments of God for life together in charity and in peace. Saint Benedict would have each of his monks fulfill by his deeds this closing series of commandments. Saint Benedict, who was no stranger to the temptations of the flesh, begins with the love of chastity. The man who loves chastity will, even if he must pass through the crucible of many temptations and humiliating reversals, enter into the joy of chastity. “Love chastity”, says Saint Benedict, knowing full well that the man who loves chastity will be a happy man, and that is good and pleasant to live in community with men who are happy. Vice, be it unchastity or any other vice, has never made a man happy. On the contrary, the signature of vice is unhappiness, sadness, and perpetual dissatisfaction. Saint Benedict enjoins his monks to love chastity because he wants them to be happy men, men capable of singing with the Psalmist: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 132:1).

• Hatred is toxic. Saint Benedict says, “Hate no man”. Satan seeks, by every means at his disposal, to sow the seeds of enmity among brethren. Hatred does not declare itself as such straightaway. It begins as a petty annoyance, as an insuperable antipathy. And it grows. It grows in the dark. And one day, there is hatred in one’s heart. One must react vigorously to the very first movements of antipathy, however subtle they may be, lest they grow into the kind of thing that foments discord, detraction, backbiting, and division.

• Saint Benedict recognises the dangers presented by jealousy and envy. Jealousy rears its ugly head when one feels that who one is, or what one has — one’s special gifts, one’s place in the community, the place one holds in the affection of another — is threatened by another. Envy occurs when one wants what another has: material things, physical or intellectual attributes, talents, and friendships. One in the grip of jealousy or envy begins to look upon one’s brother with a jaundiced eye. Jealousy and envy can so blur one’s vision that one’s entire perception of reality becomes distorted. Thoughts of jealousy and envy must be, as Saint Benedict says, dashed down on the Rock, that is Christ, the instant that they come into the heart, and laid open to one’s spiritual father. This latter point can be difficult and humiliating. Non one likes to admit feelings of jealousy and envy. All the same, exposing them to the light is their undoing.

• Saint Benedict says that his monks are not to love strife. You may have known individuals who love strife: such individuals thrive on conflict. They need to have an enemy at all times. They are not content unless they are discontent, and not at peace unless they are at odds with someone. The lover of strife thinks, “If I cannot get close to the one I hate, I can, at least, hate the one to whom I close”. We see this kind of thing played out in families and in the workplace. In the monastery, where emotions are easily magnified by the observances of silence and enclosure, the love of strife is particularly dangerous and can threaten the peace of the whole community.

• Saint Benedict would have his monks fly from vain–glory. Vain–glory is, some would say, an old–fashioned sort of word; few people today have any notion of what the word means. Vainglory comes from the Greek κενοδοξία, literally empty glory. It is a capital vice; that is, a vice that gives birth to other vices. The man in the grip of vainglory wants to be seen as excellent, superior, surpassing others in virtue, knowledge, ability, or physical attributes. Saint Thomas (Summa II:2, q. 132) says that the end of vainglory is the manifestation of one’s own excellence; he identifies the daughters of vainglory as follows: boasting, love of novelties, hypocrisy, obstinacy, discord, contention, and disobedience.

• Reverence for the seniors and love for the juniors is an expression of charity and the assurance of peace in a community. When seniors are set against juniors and juniors against seniors, as sometimes happens in monasteries, the community falls into sterility, vocations dry up, decadence enters in, and mortal decline accelerates. In our community, as we grow in number, we must do everything to put into practice these two instruments of good works. If each brother reverences the fathers senior to him and loves the brothers junior to him, our monastery will flourish, vocations will abound, observance will be good, and our life will be fruitful in accord with Our Lord’s word, “In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit” (John 15:8).

• To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ and to make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun are two indispensable instruments. Praying for one’s enemies can bring about miracles of grace. The prayer of forgiveness and reparation that we distribute has changed lives and brought peace to hearts long troubled by the refusal to forgive. Making peace with one’s adversary (or with one perceived as an adversary) fosters humility, builds up charity, strengthens unity, and produces gladness. Holding on to enmity causes one to swell up with pride, increases antipathies, foments division, and lodges sadness in the cloister.

• And so we come to the 73rd and last instrument of good works: “And never to despair of God’s mercy”. Be alert to the tactics of the devil. He is forever trying to push souls, or drag them, or get them to throw themselves, into the pit of despair. He does this principally by whispering: “Look at yourself. You are a failure, a bad monk, a vice–ridden wretch and there is no hope for you, no grace, no mercy. Just accept this state of things and get on with your miserable existence. You might as well live a desperate little life because you are, in any case, going to die in despair”. As soon as you begin to hear such despicable diabolical insinuations, run— do not walk — run to the Mother of God and cast yourself at her feet. Blurt out to her all that you are feeling; hold nothing back; tell her the whole sorry tale. (Not for nothing do we have in our monastery a statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance; it was at the feet of this statue that Saint Francis de Sales, in the throes of a crippling temptation to despair, stammered a Memorare, and found himself freed from despair and filled with trust in the love of God.) And, then, go to your spiritual father and ask him to help you send all such despicable diabolical insinuations back to hell whence they came in the first place. Even if a monk has failed to implement the 72 first instruments of good works, he can still lay hold of the 73rd, and by means of it, draw down the great strong arms of the mercy of God, who desires nothing more than to lift him out of his misery and press him against His Heart.

Saint Benedict says that “the workshop where we are to labour at all these things is the cloister of the monastery and stability in the community”. A monastery is, in a very real way, a “sheltered workshop”. We are, all of us, fragile men, souls at risk, travelers wearied and bruised along the way. Saint Aelred says that the “singular and supreme glory” of his abbey, Rievaulx, was that it taught “tolerance of the infirm and compassion with others in their necessities”. Among the most subtle and destructive temptations that can befall a monk are those against enclosure and stability. The monk who entertains the idea of leaving the sheltered workshop of the cloister, should he carry out his design, risks leaving behind him all 73 instruments of good works, including the last one. There are too many tragic stories of monks who, having been deceived by devil and seduced into leaving the monastery, found themselves washed up amidst the flotsam and jetsome of this world’s moral wreckage. It is an old story, as old as the drama of the first pages of Genesis and of the temptations of Our Lord Himself. Saint Benedict unmasks this last temptation and assures us that for the man who perseveres, there will be, at the end, and even in little glimpses and forestastes along the way, “things no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart conceived, the welcome God has prepared for those who love him” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Blessing of Herbs and Flowers

Assumption3.jpgChristians of both East and West have, from very early times, blessed herbs and fruit on the Feast of the Assumption. Thus blessed, these creatures become sacramentals of the Church and portents of divine protection from dangers to soul and body. In some places the herbs were placed on the altar, and even beneath the altar linens, so that from this proximity to the Most Holy Eucharist they might receive a special hallowing, beyond that conferred by the blessing prayers of the Church.

The prayers of the rite suggest that this custom of the Church hearkens back to the ancient customs ordained by God through Moses. According to Christian tradition, when the Apostles accompanied Saint Thomas, who had been absent at the time of the Blessed Virgin’s death, to her tomb, upon opening it they discovered that her body was not there. Instead, they found the tomb filled with fragrant herbs and flowers. Blessed herbs recall the lingering fragrance of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church.

Blessing of Herbs and Flowers in Honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

lavender.JPGAfter the Asperges if it is a Sunday, otherwise immediately before Mass, the priest, standing before the altar and facing the people who hold the sheaves of new grain, garden vegetables, flowers and new herbs and the finest fruits of their orchards in their hands, says in a clear voice:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 64

P: To you we owe our hymn of praise, O God, in Sion; * to you must vows be fulfilled, you who hear prayers.
All: To you all flesh must come* because of wicked deeds.
P: We are overcome by our sins; * it is you who pardon them.
All: Happy the man you choose, * and bring to dwell in your courts.
P: May we be filled with the good things of your house, * the holy things of your temple.
All: With awe-inspiring deeds of justice you answer us, * O God our Savior.
P: The hope of all the ends of the earth * and of the distant seas.
All: You set the mountains in place by your power, * you who are girt with might.
P: You still the roaring of the seas, * the roaring of their waves and the tumult of the peoples.
All: And the dwellers at the earth’s ends are in fear at your marvels; * the farthest east and west you make resound with joy.
P: You have visited the land and watered it; * greatly have you enriched it.
All: God’s watercourses are filled; you have prepared the grain. * Thus have you prepared the land.
P: Drenching its furrows, * breaking up its clods.
All: Softening it with showers, * blessing its yield.
P: You have crowned the year with your bounty, * and your paths overflow with a rich harvest.
All: The untilled meadows overflow with it, * and rejoicing clothes the hills.
P: The fields are garmented with flocks and the valleys blanketed with grain. * They shout and sing for joy.
All: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
P: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

P: The Lord will be gracious.
All: And our land will bring forth its fruit.

P: You water the mountains from the clouds.
All: The earth is replenished from your rains.

P: Giving grass for cattle.
All: And plants for the benefit of man.

P: You bring wheat from the earth.
All: And wine to cheer man’s heart.

P: Oil to make his face lustrous.
All: And bread to strengthen his heart.

P: He utters a command and heals their suffering.
All: And snatches them from distressing want.

P: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto you.

P: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.

Let us pray.
Almighty everlasting God, who by your word alone brought into being the heavens, earth, sea, things seen and things unseen, and garnished the earth with plants and trees for the use of man and beast; who appointed each species to bring forth fruit in its kind, not only for the food of living creatures, but for the healing of sick bodies as well; with mind and word we urgently call on you in your great kindness to bless + these various herbs and fruits, thus increasing their natural powers with the newly given grace of your blessing. May they keep away disease and adversity from men and beasts who use them in your name; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

Let us pray.
God, who through Moses, your servant, directed the children of Israel to carry their sheaves of new grain to the priests for a blessing, to pluck the finest fruits of the orchard, and to make merry before you, the Lord their God; hear our supplications, and shower blessings + in abundance upon us and upon these bundles of new grain, new herbs, and this assortment of produce which we gratefully present to you on this festival, blessing + them in your name. Grant that men, cattle, flocks, and beasts of burden find in them a remedy against sickness, pestilence, sores, injuries, spells, against the fangs of serpents or poisonous creatures. May these blessed objects be a protection against diabolical mockery, cunning, and deception wherever they are kept, carried, or otherwise used. Lastly, through the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary, whose Assumption we are celebrating, may we all, laden with the sheaves of good works, deserve to be taken up to heaven; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

Let us pray. God, who on this day raised up to highest heaven the rod of Jesse, the Mother of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that by her prayers and patronage you might communicate to our mortal nature the fruit of her womb, your very Son; we humbly implore you to help us use these fruits of the soil for our temporal and everlasting welfare, aided by the power of your Son and the prayers of His glorious Mother; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, + and Holy Ghost, come upon these creatures and remain always. All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water and incensed.

An Assumption Homily

dormitio_giotto1.jpgAssumpta Est Maria
Assumpta est Maria in caelum, gaudent angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum! Mary has been taken up into heaven; the angels rejoice and, praising, bless the Lord! The Virgin in whose womb reposed the Author of Life is preserved from the corruption of the tomb. The Mother of God is assumed body and soul into the splendour of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Escorted by myriads of angels in jubilation, the Queen of Heaven advances toward her Son, who sits enthroned amid the stars.

Even Within the Veil
In a sense, the Assumption of the Mother of God is the liturgy of her Great Entrance; the feast of her oblation in the heavenly sanctuary, “the tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man” (Heb 8:2). She is the Mother of Holy Hope. She is given to us to be our strongest comfort, to be the anchor of our souls, “sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil” (Heb 6:18-19).

Our Lady’s Pascha
Today heaven and earth keep the summer festival of Marymas, Ladyday-in-the-Harvest, the Pascha of the all-holy Mother of God. She has passed into the great summer that, stretching from the springtime of the Resurrection until the return of the Lord in glory, presages the shining harvest of all the saints. The song of the angels soars, stretching, swelling, and cresting from choir to choir. The soul of the Virgin magnifies the Lord and her God-bearing flesh rejoices (Lk 1:46).

The Temple and the Ark
“And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of His testament was seen in His temple” (Apoc 11:19). In the First Book of Chronicles, we see the Ark of the Covenant solemnly transported to the tent made ready by David to receive it. David is the figure of Christ of whom he sings in the psalm, “He hath set his tabernacle in the sun” (Ps 18:6).

That Where I Am, You Also May Be
The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, carried aloft by heavenly levites into the tent prepared for her by the King of Kings, the glorious Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. As she advances, angels raise sounds of joy on harps and lyres and cymbals and, in accord with the command of David, the appointed singers sing (1 Chr 15:16). Behold the wondrous fulfillment of what the Lord had promised: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be” (Jn 14:2-3).

Arise, Make Haste
But listen! “The voice of my beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills” (Ct 2:8). In speaking to His Mother, Christ speaks to His Bride, the Church, and in speaking to His Bride the Church, He speaks to every soul washed in Baptism, sealed in Chrismation with the kiss of the Holy Ghost, and nourished at the banquet of His Body and Blood. “Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come” (Ct 2:10); for lo, the winter of our separation is past, the rain of so many tears is over and gone.

When I Appear Before His Sight
“I slept,” says the Virgin of the Dormition, “I slept, but my heart kept watch.” Ct 5:2). The heart of the Virgin is quickened and her flesh is suffused with fire. “Oh, how I rejoiced when I heard my Son say to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord'” (cf. Ps 121:1). “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in His Father’s house all the days of my life, that I may see the delight of the Lord” (Ps 26:4), and “when I appear before His sight, I shall be satisfied with the appearing of His glory” (Ps 16:15).

Thy Voice is Sweet and Thy Face Comely
Listen to the words of the Son. “Arise my love, my fair one, and come away (Ct 2:13) for I desire that thou, my mother, first among those whom the Father hath given me, shouldst be with me where I am, to behold my glory, the glory given me by my Father in his love for me before the foundation of the world (cf. Jn 17:24). All of heaven longeth to see thy face, Mother, and the angels yearneth to hear thy voice, “for thy voice is sweet, and thy face is comely” (Ct 2:14).

The Woman Clothed with the Sun
We see the Queen of Heaven “coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (Ct 3:6). The prophet Isaiah sees her coming from afar, recognizes the Virgin of the Sign (Is 7:14), the Mother of Emmanuel, and stands to greet her. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you . . . The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (Is 60:1-2). She is the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc 12:1).

Hidden with Christ in God
The Mother of God has put on the imperishable; she is clothed in immortality (1 Cor 15:54). The Apostle lifts his voice in praise of the God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57). Mary, first of all, knows the fullness of Christ’s glorious triumph in her flesh. Mary is the first-fruits of the harvest sown by Jesus in his blessed Passion and Death. Mary is the first to follow Him into the glory of his Resurrection and Ascension. Her life now is hidden with the life of Christ in God (Col 3:3), and when He who is our life appears, then she also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:4). Mary waits for her children to join her, the small and the great, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has made herself ready (Apoc 19:7).

Mary Hath Chosen the Better Part
And so, led by kings and levites, by angels, prophets and apostles, we make our way to the Gospel of the Assumption so cherished by the ancient liturgical traditions of both East and West for the Dormition of the Virgin, for “Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:42).

The Virgin of Nazareth who surrendered her heart, her soul, and her flesh to the Word and the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost;
the Virgin of Bethlehem, joyful in her poverty;
the Virgin of Egypt, trusting in her exile;
the Virgin of Jerusalem, anguished and amazed by her child;
the Virgin of Cana, strong in her intercession;
the Virgin of Calvary, faithful in her compassion;
the Virgin of Holy Saturday, silent and indomitable in her hope;
the Virgin of the Cenacle, persevering in prayer;
the Virgin of the Mount of Olives, ardent in her desire,
has, at last, come to rest at the feet of her Son.

The One Thing Necessary
“And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching” (Lk 10:39). Behold our sister, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, seated at the feet of our Lord! Behold our Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, in repose at the feet of her Son! She is seated at His feet in glory, higher than the seraphim and cherubim, exalted above all the angelic choirs, for to her is given the One Thing Necessary (Lk 10:42) in heaven and on earth. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee” (Ps 73:25).

A Mother Close to Her Children
Think not for a moment that the Assumption places a distance between us and the all-holy Mother of God. Quite the contrary. Her exaltation has made her closer to us than we can dream or imagine. The all-holy Virgin is mother, completely mother, and the desire of every mother is to be close to her children.

From her place of glory in heaven, she stoops down to us, attentive to our sufferings. Her compassion illumines this valley of tears. Her Assumption has not separated her from us. The Assumption is not a mystery of distance and separation but a mystery of nearness and of communion. Now set free from the limitations of space and of time, the holy Mother of God is capable of being present to all her children, to the little ones especially, to the broken-hearted, the weak, and the poor.

Mother of Mercy
Glorious in her Assumption, the Virgin Mother has but one desire: to do for each one of us what a loving mother would do for her child. Her weakness is for the poorest among us. Her predilection goes to those who stumble and fall rather than to those who walk straight and tall, to those who, bearing within themselves deep and secret wounds, are most in need of her attentions and care.

Let us lift up our eyes to the All-Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin Mary, praising and confessing the wonderful mystery of her Assumption. Today, dear brothers, she will hear all your requests, answering them according to the wisdom and love of her Immaculate Heart.

The Joys of Heaven
Today, she pierces all our darknesses with a ray of heavenly light. Her desire is to share with us the joys of heaven, the very joys that flood her body and her soul in the glory of her Son. And for all of that, we need not wait. Already, here and now, we are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc 19:9). Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory (Apoc 19:7) who with the Father lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Ghost, and who will come again, as he promised, to take us to Himself (Jn 14:3). “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Apoc 22:20).

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1015multiplierofwheaticon.jpgI preached this homily several years ago. Allow me to share it with you again. Last year at this time, three of our number had just completed a pilgrimage to the Mother of God of Czestochowa, praying for vocations. This year, at the same date, we count six novices. The icon is wonderfully suitable  for Marymass or Lady-Day-in-Harvest?

The Pascha of Summer
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pascha of summer, signals the beginning of the final phase of the liturgical year. The Church enters into the splendours of her harvest time. With the feasts of late summer and autumn, the Church turns the shimmering pages of the book of the Apocalypse and draws us into their mystery. “Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, writes the Apostle, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near” (Ap 1:3).

The Transfiguration and the Cross
On August 6th, precisely forty days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we celebrated the Transfiguration of the Lord, a mystery of heavenly glory, a foretaste of the apocalyptic brightness of the Kingdom. “I saw one like a son of man, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength (Ap 1:16). Having contemplated the glory of the Father shining on the face of the transfigured Christ (2 Cor 4:6), in another month we will celebrate His Glorious Cross, the Tree of Life with leaves “for the healing of the nations” (Ap 22:2).

All Saints
On November 1st, the immense mosaic of all the saints will be unveiled before our wondering eyes in a liturgy scintillating with images from the book of the Apocalypse and echoing with “the voice of a great multitude like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Alleluia'” (Ap 19:6).

Saint John Lateran
On November 9th, the liturgy of the feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran will point to “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband” (Ap 21:2). As Mother Church approaches holy Advent, the end of her yearly cycle, the sacred liturgy seems to increase its momentum. Soon the last cry of the book of the Apocalypse will be ceaselessly in our hearts and on our lips, “‘Surely. I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Ap 22:20).

Those Who Belong to Christ
Today, on this solemnity of the Assumption of the All-Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin Mary, we enter into the phase described by Saint Paul in the second reading, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:22).

Into the Holy Place
Today, she who “belongs to Christ” by a unique, abiding, and unrepeatable privilege, the most holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, follows where he has gone, “through the greater and more perfect tent not made by human hands, that is, not of this creation . . . into the Holy Place” (Heb 9:11).

The Fragrance of Her Holiness
An antiphon of today’s Office makes us sing: “Draw us in your footsteps, O Mary, hidden with Christ in God! Your paths are sown with delights; exquisite the fragrance of your perfumes.” True devotion to the Mother of God consists in allowing oneself to be drawn after her. He who walks in the footprints of Mary inhales the mysterious fragrance of her holiness, a fragrance known to all the saints.

The Blessing of Herbs and Flowers
An old custom would have us bless fragrant herbs and flowers on the festival of the Assumption; according to legend the tomb of the Mother of God was found to be full of fragrant herbs and flowers after her body had been taken up into glory. Assumed body and soul into heaven, Mary leaves behind a lingering fragrance. It is subtle, not overpowering, but unmistakable. It is the fragrance of purity, of humility, and of adoration. Inhale it, and you will be drawn in her footsteps, even to the feet of the risen and ascended Christ, hidden in glory.

The Best Part
The ancient gospel for the Assumption, Luke 10:38-42 is that of another Mary — Mary of Bethany — seated in sweet repose at the feet of Jesus, listening to his word (Lk 10:39). “Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken from her” (Lk 10:42). With eyes illumined by the Holy Spirit, the Church discerned in the familiar figure of Mary of Bethany an icon of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, assumed into heaven. There, in the presence of her Son, she enjoys the rest promised by God, the Sabbath that will have no end (cf. Heb 4:1-10).

The Chambers of the King
“Draw me after you, let us make haste” (Ct 1:4), was the longing and desire of her heart. Now, to us, she says, “The king has brought me into his chambers” (Ct 1:4). The Assumption of the Mother of God is a signal to the entire cosmos that the divine economy is indeed entering into its final and glorious phase. “Then, says Saint Paul, comes the end, when He (Christ) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all his enemies beneath his feet” (1 Cor 15:24-25).

A Woman Clothed with the Sun
In the lesson from the Apocalypse, “God’s temple in heaven was opened” (Ap 11:19). The Church, like Saint Stephen her proto-martyr, “full of the Holy Spirit, gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God” (Ac 7:55). The whole array of theophanic signs seen once on Sinai’s heights is deployed again: “flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder” (Ap 11:19). And then, in the heavens appears the great portent: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Ap 12:1).

The Woman is the bride of the Lamb adorned for her spouse (Ap 21:2); the Woman is the Church presented “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27); the Woman is the Virgin Mother of Nazareth, Bethlehem, Cana, Calvary, and the Mount of Olives. “Mary is assumed into heaven; the angels rejoice, and praising, bless the Lord” (Antiphon of Vespers). Behold the Woman of the psalm, the queen whose beauty the king desires, standing at his right, arrayed in gold (Ps 45: 9b-15).

Magnificat
The liturgy is not content with exalting the great apocalyptic icon before our eyes; the liturgy would have us hear the woman’s song for her heart overflows with a goodly theme (Ps 45:1). This, of course, is the reason for today’s jubilant gospel. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46). This is the song of the Bride of the Lamb; this is the song of the Church in every age; this is the song of the Holy Mother of God in the midst of the angels.

Praise and Adoration
If the apocalyptic phase of the liturgical year teaches us anything, it is that, in the end, the praise of God, and adoration, will have the final word. The glorious Assumption of the Mother of God points to the immense and ceaseless liturgy of heaven, to the fullness of that doxological and eucharistic life that begins for us here and now. Those who go in search of the Lamb will find Him in the company of Mary His Mother. “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him” (Mt 2:2).

Mary Is That Star
For us, Mary is that star. “Look to the star,” says Saint Bernard, “and call upon Mary.” Already, the “voice of the great multitude, like the sound of many waters” (Ap 19:6) begins to swell. It is the voice of those who look to the star, and follow her to the marriage supper of the Lamb. A new song rises in the heart of a Church that is alive and young: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come'” (Ap 22:17). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The Knowledge of the Glory of God

St.%20James%20.jpgTreasure in Earthen Vessels
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). Another translation puts it this way: “We have a treasure, then, in our keeping, but its shell is of perishable earthenware; it must be God, and not anything in ourselves, that gives it its sovereign power.” The contrast is striking: treasure held in earthen vessels. But what is the treasure? In verse 6, Saint Paul says, “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The treasure, then, is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the Face of Christ.

An Eye-Witness of the Transfiguration
While James looked on, together with Peter and with his brother John, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light” (Mt 17:2). The splendour of Jesus’ Face burned itself indelibly into the heart of James. Contemplating the Face of the transfigured Jesus, James was filled with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). This is the treasure that Saint James carried in a shell of fragile earthenware: his own human weakness.

Gethsemani
The Transfiguration reveals the treasure; the agony in the garden of Gethsemani reveals to us the fragility of the earthen vessels. To Peter, James, and John, Jesus said, “Remain here and watch with me” (Mt 26:38), but after His prayer to the Father, he found them sleeping. Again, a second time, He asked these, his intimate companions, to watch and pray, warning them of the weakness of the flesh, and again He came and “found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy” (Mt 26:43). And so it happened a third time but, by then, the hour of Jesus’ betrayal was already at hand (Mt 26:45). The radiant memory of Jesus transfigured, “the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6), was held in earthen vessels: in the hearts of men who could not watch even one hour with their Master in his agony.

Discouraged and Weary
Tradition recounts that after Pentecost Saint James went to preach the Gospel in far off Spain. There his work met with little response. In fact, the Apostle found hostility and active resistance to his preaching. James grew discouraged and, in his weariness, began to question his mission. In this, there is not a priest alive who, at certain moments, cannot identify with Saint James.

Our Lady of the Pillar
The Apostle was painfully aware of his own weakness; he knew himself to be an earthen vessel and, for a time, the bright memory of the Transfiguration seemed to have been eclipsed in his heart. It was at that moment that the Mother of Jesus — still alive at the time and living with his brother, Saint John — appeared to Saint James to comfort him in his mission. He saw the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a pillar. This tradition is at the origin of the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, a place of pilgrimage even to the present day.

Prayer for Priests
Today’s feast invites us to pray for all priests who, in their mission, encounter indifference, resistance, criticism, hostility, and even persecution. So many priests suffer dejection. Some are called to share in the loneliness of Jesus in Gethsemani; their particular vocation is to repeat the words of their Master, brokenhearted in His solitude: “Insults have broken my heart so that I am in despair. I looked for pity but there was none; and for comforters but I found none” (Ps 68:20).

Mary, Comforter of Priests
All priests are in need of the encouraging presence of the Mother of God. She appeared to Saint James on a pillar of stone to give him something to lean on in his weakness and dejection. Strengthened by the Blessed Virgin, Saint James pursued his preaching in Spain, and then returned to Jerusalem to face his final sufferings.

The Science of the Cross: Mary and the Eucharist
Jesus said to the sons of Zebedee, “My chalice indeed you shall drink” (Mt 20: 23). For Saint James, the highest degree of the knowledge of the glory of God was found in Jerusalem: in drinking of the chalice of suffering and of a violent death. Suffering — what Saint Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross calls “the science of the Cross”– fills the soul with a dark brightness that, for all its obscurity, is nonetheless “knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). It is nonetheless foolhardy and presumptuous to seek “the science of the Cross” without two things: consecration of oneself to the all-holy Mother of God, and the sustenance of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Never at a Loss
Saint Paul describes the disciple’s participation in the Cross. “We are being hampered everywhere, yet still have room to breathe, are hard put to it, but never at a loss; persecution does not leave us unbefriended, nor crushing blows destroy us; we carry about continually in our bodies the dying state of Jesus, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies too” (2 Cor 4:8-11).

The Chalice of the Knowledge of the Glory of God
The Precious Blood of Christ, that flows eucharistically through the Church, is the communication to each one of us of the life of “the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). The knowledge of the glory of God is found in the face of the transfigured Christ; it is just as truly found in the chalice of the Blood that soaked the earth in Gethsemani and flowed on Calvary. And we, like Saint James, comforted by the Mother of Jesus, carry that treasure in earthen vessels.

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Situated amidst pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath, Silverstream Priory was founded in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and canonically erected as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right on 25 February 2017. The property belonged, from the early 15th century, to the Preston family, premier Viscounts of Ireland and Lords of Gormanston. In 1843 Thomas Preston (1817-1903), son of Jenico Preston, the 12th Viscount (1775-1860), built what today is Silverstream Priory.

Silverstream Priory is a providential realisation of the cherished project of Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874–1935), who, following the impetus given by Catherine–Mectilde de Bar in the 17th century, sought to establish a house of Benedictine monks committed to ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. The community of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the Divine Office in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” of the Roman Rite. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream keep at heart the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably the development of the land and gardens, hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, scholarly work, and publishing.

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