Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo

presentation_cope_ildefonsus_hi.jpgDoctor of the Virginity of Mary
Today is the feast of Saint Ildephonsus, Archbishop of Toledo (+ 23 January 667). Dom Guéranger calls him the Doctor of the Virginity of Mary. Saint Ildephonsus established the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is still kept in some places on December 18th.

At the Altar
It is recounted that on this feast of the Mother of God, Archbishop Ildephonsus, together with some of his clergy, hastened to church before the hour of Matins to honour Our Blessed Lady with their songs. Arriving close to the church, they found it all ablaze with a heavenly radiance. This so frightened the little band that all fled, except for Archbishop Ildephonsus and his two faithful deacons. Deacons, take note! With wildly beating hearts, these entered the church and made their way to the altar. A great mystery was about to unfold.

A Chasuble from the Treasury of Heaven
There, seated on the Archbishop’s throne, was the august Queen of Heaven surrounded by choirs of angels and holy virgins. The chants of paradise filled the air. Our Blessed Lady beckoned Ildephonsus to approach her. Looking upon him with tenderness and majesty, she said: “Thou art my chaplain and faithful notary. Receive from me this chasuble, which my Son sends you from His treasury.” Having said this, the Immaculate Virgin clothed Ildephonsus in the chasuble, and instructed him to wear it for the Holy Sacrifice on her festivals.

The acel_greco_ildefonso.jpgcount of this apparition, and of the miraculous chasuble, was deemed so certain and utterly beyond doubt, that news of it spread through the Church, even reaching the Ethiopians. The Church of Toledo honoured the event with a special proper Mass and Office. What was the miraculous chasuble like? Artists through the ages have sought to depict it, more often than not in rich brocades of gold and blue.

Gifts from Heaven
Sceptics may smile condescendingly and dismiss the story as a pious fabulation. Serious studies of the various gratiae gratis datae — graces freely given — are not without evidence of the phenomenon of material gifts brought from heaven. One finds examples of it as recently as in the life of Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit (1901-1951). A classic example of the phenomenon would be the cincture of the Angelic Warfare with which angels girded Saint Thomas Aquinas after his victory over a temptation of the flesh.

The Prayer of Saint Ildephonsus
I have used the celebrated prayer of Saint Ildephonsus to renew my total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I am thy slave, because Thy Son is my Master. Therefore thou art my Lady, because thou art the handmaid of my Lord. Therefore I am the slave of the handmaid of my Lord, because thou, my Lady, didst become the Mother of my Lord. Therefore I have become thy slave, because thou didst become the Mother of my Maker.

You will find the full text of the prayer here together with Murillo’s depiction of Our Lady’s bestowal of the chasuble from heaven.

What Are the Instruments of Good Works (IV: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. No 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).

Our Lady of Pontmain

Pontmain

Today, January 17th, the feast of Saint Antony, is also the feast of Our Lady of Pontmain venerated under the title of Our Mother of Hope. The faithful of the Mayenne are very devoted to the Virgin of Pontmain. Pilgrimages are frequent. Pontmain remains a place of conversions and blessings.

30667725The Day the Sky Opened
In Pontmain, on January 17, 1871 it was dark and cold, much like Ireland today, and France was at war. Paris was besieged. The conquering Prussian army was at the gates of Laval. The inhabitants of Pontmain were in anguish for they were without news of their thirty-eight young men who had gone to fight in the war. That evening, Eugène Barbedette was helping his father to crush fodder in the barn. His little brother Joseph was there too. Eugène went out “to see the weather”.

A Beautiful Lady
It was then that Eugène saw above the house opposite a beautiful Lady wearing a dress covered in stars. She was looking at him and smiling. She held her arms stretched out in front of her. Villagers ran towards the barn. Other children saw the vision too. A blue oval with four candles surrounded the beautiful Lady. The Parish Priest and the Sisters from the school began prayers and hymns.

But, Pray, My Children
They said the Rosary followed by the Magnificat. Then a banner unfurled itself between the oval and the roof of the house. Letter by letter, a message was written in the sky. The children read out the words, while the crowd sang the Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Inviolata and the Salve Regina.

“But, do pray, my children. God will answer you very soon. My Son lets His Heart be touched.”
The children’s joy was contagious. “Oh! How beautiful she is!” They sang Mother of Hope, a familiar canticle. Then, all of a sudden, the children became sad. The face of the beautiful Lady was overcome by a look of deep distress. Had she not already wept tears of motherly sorrow at Lasalette twenty–five years earlier?

Mary Shows Jesus Crucified
Before the beautiful Lady appeared a blood red crucifix. At the top of the cross, on a white crosspiece, the Name of Jesus Christ was written in red letters. At Lasalette, a quarter of a century before, the weeping Virgin displayed, on her breast, a shining crucifix. Here, at Pontmain,  the beautiful Lady grasped the crucifix in both hands and showed it to the children while a small star lit the four candles in the blue oval. Everyone prayed in silence. They sang the Ave Maris Stella. The red crucifix disappeared. The beautiful Lady extended her hands in a gesture of welcome. A small white cross appeared on each shoulder. Everyone knelt down in the snow. A white veil, like a great sheet, covered the beautiful Lady from foot to head. “It’s finished,” said the children. Eleven days later the armistice was signed. The Prussians never entered Laval.

Pilgrimages and Ecclesiastical Approval
Pilgrims to Pontmain began receiving abundant graces and favours. After suitable research and a canonical investigation, the Bishop of Laval, Monseigneur Wicart, gave his decision: “We judge that the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, truly appeared on the 17th of January 1871, to Eugène and Joseph Barbedette, Françoise Richer and Jeanne-Marie Lebossé in the hamlet of Pontmain.”

The Marian Liturgical Patrimony of Ordinary People
One of the most remarkable things about the account of the apparition at Pontmain was the ability of the simple faithful not only to pray the Holy Rosary, but also to pray the Litanies of Our Lady, and to sing the Magnificat; the lovely prose in honour of the Immaculate Conception, the Inviolata; the Salve Regina; and the Ave Maris Stella. All of these chants belong to the rich Marian liturgical patrimony of the West. How many of them would be known to the faithful today? At Pontmain, on that cold January night in 1871, the faithful sang from the heart what their forebears had always sung. It is chants such as those intoned at Pontmain over one hundred years ago that form the Catholic faithful in a devotion to the Mother of God that is, at once, tender, reverent, and doctrinally sound.

Into the Silence of the Mother of God

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The Seven Utterances of the Mother of God

It is rarely noted that the Seven Utterances of the Mother of God are given us in the arc of time that stretches from the First Sunday of Advent to today, the Second Sunday after Epiphany. It is as if the Church, by entering yearly into the utterances of the Mother of God, would have us enter into her Immaculate Heart. Does not Our Lord say, «A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good . . . . For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh» (Luke 6:45).

The First Four Utterances
Our Lady speaks but seven times in the Gospels. Today’s Holy Mass and Divine Office enshrine the last of these seven utterances. The first four utterances of the Mother of God are given us in the liturgy of the Ember Days of Advent:

1. “And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?” (Luke 1:34)

2. “And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

3.”And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:40).

4. “And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.”] (Luke 1:46–55)

The Fifth Utterance
On the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany, the fifth utterance is given us:

5. “And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” (Luke 2:48)

The Sixth and Seventh Utterances
Finally, on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, we hear the sixth and seventh utterances of the Mother of God. It is these that will carry us through the whole liturgical year until, the mystic circle made complete once again, we enter upon a new Advent.

6. “And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

7. “His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.” (John 2:5)

Into a Great Silence
After today, the Mother of God retreats into a great silence: the silence of listening to her Son’s words; the silence of contemplaring his deeds; the silence of the Via Crucis; the silence of Calvary pierced only by the words from the Cross; the silence of her Child’s lifeless body and of the tomb; the silence of Holy Saturday; the silence of the Resurrection; the silence of her wonder at the Ascension; the silence of her incandescent prayer in the Cenacle; the silence of Pentecost borne aloft on a mighty wind; and, finally, the heavenly silence of her Assumption. The Blessed Virgin Mary is, as the poet John Lynch aptly called her, «the Woman wrapped in silence». It was in silence that the Immaculate Mother of God came to Knock in 1879. It is silence — with very few exceptions and in few words — that the Queen of Heaven continues to manifest her presence in the Church.

No one can draw near to the Mother of God, the Ark of the Covenant, without entering into the silence of the heavenly sanctuary. «And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour» (Apocalypse 8:1). What is this measure of silence? A half–hour in heaven can, in no way, be compared to the fleeting half–hours of earthly timepieces. Is this silence in heaven not brought to earth in the space of a single rosary? What is the rosary but a progressive entrance — mystery by mystery, and Ave by Ave — in the silence of heaven, into the silence of Mary?

The Maternal Heart of Mary
What does the last recorded utterance of the Blessed Virgin Mary tell us about her? It tells us, first of all, that Our Lady is attentive. No one spoke to the Mother of Jesus of the lack of wine that would have brought humiliation upon the bridegroom and troubled the joy of the feast. Mary observed quietly. She saw what would have escaped the attention of another. Her maternal Heart compelled her to intervene, and so she spoke to her Son” “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

There is no detail of our days and nights that escapes Our Lady’s notice. The maternal Heart of Mary is, at every moment, attentive to the circumstances of our lives. Mary’s silence is not the silence of one removed from those around her and absorbed in herself. It is the silence of a maternal Heart intent on observing everything that impinges upon the life of her children. There is no sorrow of ours, no need, no anguish, no temptation, and even no sin, that Our Lady does not see and take to heart.

“Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). Mary received her Son’s mysterious response not as a rebuff but as an invitation to trust or, as the Irish say, to “leave it with Him”. Our Lady had learned, from the time she laid her Jesus in the manger, to gaze into His Face and to read the light shining in His eyes. This is, I think, what happened at Cana. Our Lady looked into the eyes of her Divine Son and saw there the promise of the revelation of His glory. Turning to the waiters, she said, “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye” (John 2:5). This is the last recorded word of the Mother of God in the Gospels.

Listening to the Mother of God
“Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye” (John 2:5). There is in the Christian life a moment in which one realises that a childlike obedience to the Mother of God is the beginning of obedience to the commandments of her Son. Mary is the gateway to newness of life. “Come to me,” she says, “that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience” (Prologue, Rule of Saint Benedict). The quiet presence of Mary in one’s life and the intercession of her maternal Heart make easy the things that at first appear difficult and altogether beyond one’s strength. It is Mary who accompanies her sons along “the hard and rugged paths by which we walk towards God ” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter LVIII); at every step she offers encouragement and consolation.  The sacred liturgy places these words on her lips:

Listen to me, then, you that are my sons, that follow, to your happiness, in the paths I shew you; listen to the teaching that will make you wise, instead of turning away from it. Blessed are they who listen to me, keep vigil, day by day, at my threshold, watching till I open my doors. (Proverbs 8:32–34)

Jesus completes the words of His Mother, saying:

If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father’ s commandments, and do abide in his love. (John 15:10).

The sign of water changed into wine at the behest of the Mother of Jesus — and in so lavish a quantity — reveals the glory of His divinity, and causes His disciples to believe in Him, that is, to stake their lives on Him and on the efficacy of His priestly prayer:

Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24)

The Hour of the Mother

The prayer of the Mother effectively opens hearts to the prayer of the Son. The hour of the Mother hastens the hour of the Son “whom having not seen, you love: in whom also now, though you see Him not, you believe: and believing shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified” (1 Peter 1:8). Mary’s hour is whatever hour in which her children, members of her Son’s Mystical Body, are in need of her presence. Mary’s hour is whatever hour in which her children find themselves in sore need of her intervention. Mary’s hour is the hour in which any soul turns to her in confidence, saying, “Show thyself a Mother” (Vespers Hymn, Ave Maris Stella).

Today, as at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary is present in the Church, observing all things and attentive to every need. Today, even as at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary intervenes quietly and effectively, even without being asked. Today, even as at the wedding feast of Cana, she speaks to her Son on our behalf — “They have no wine” — and, then, speaks to us on His behalf — “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye”.

Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces; she is the almoner of the Divine Munificence; she is the Mother of the Mystical Body, bending over the little ones, comforting those who weep, and lifting up the fallen. So attuned is her maternal Heart to the Heart of God that she, like Him, “fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53) and causes wine to flow in abundance “lest anyone be troubled or grieved in the house of God” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter XXXI).

Ave, gratia plena

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Super Missus Est
It is an ancient monastic custom, as evidenced by Saint Bernard’s incomparable sermon Super Missus Est (On the Gospel of the Annunciation), to read this same Gospel in Chapter and to listen to the abbot’s sermon on it. So it was that we, at Silverstream, did this morning what monks have done through the ages: we assembled in Chapter to hear the Missus Est and, in the first faint glimmers of the dawning day, pondered both the mystery of the Annunciation and the grace it contains.

From the Bosom of the Father to the Womb of the Virgin
Consider the infinite distance bridged by the mystery of the Incarnation; the Word descends from the bosom of the Father wherein He is eternally begotten — “God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God” — into the womb of the humble Virgin of Nazareth, into a real, physical womb of flesh. From the bosom of the Father to the womb of the Virgin! Only God can span the infinite distance separating His creature from Himself and this he does by making Himself the bridge. Non horruisti Virginis uterum! Thou, Eternal Word, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb. This indeed is the sign surpassing the abyssal depths below and the vastness of the firmament above (cf. Isaias 7:11). This is the sign defying all human imagining. This is, at once, the sign and the design of God, “the mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints” (Colossians 1:26) and manifested, first of all, to the Virgin Mary by the word of the Angel:

Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:31–33)

The Word Waiting
How astonishing it is that the Word was kept waiting. The Word who was in the beginning; the Word who was with God; the Word who was God; the same Word who was in the beginning with God; the very Word by whom all things were made, and without whom was made nothing that was made (cf. John 1:1–3), this is the all–powerful Word who, before leaping down from his royal throne “as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction”, waited humbly and “in quiet silence” for the consent of the humble maid of Nazareth.

For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction. (Wisdom 18:15)

Such is the humility of the Word who waits in silence for the Virgin to give her consent: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Such is the humility of the Word who, even now, waits in silence for souls to give Him but a token of their acceptance, of their willingness to open themselves to Him. “Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices” (Canticle 2:9).  “Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Apocalypse 3:20).

True Mother of God
In opening her virginal womb to the Word, Mary becomes not merely the “Mother of Jesus” but true Mother of God. That God should descend from God to lodge Himself in a creature’s womb, that the Son eternally begotten of the Father should hide Himself for nine months beneath the Virgin’s Immaculate Heart, this a wonder that leaves angels and men in astonishment, infuriating and shocking the powers of darkness who, in their damning pride, cannot bear to hear a creature acclaimed as Mother of God.

It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

God for Whom No Utterance Is Impossible
The Archangel Gabriel amazes the Virgin by revealing to her that Elizabeth her kinswoman, well known to be sterile and who, it was assumed, would die childless, is already heavy with child and in her sixth month. Quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum — For no human utterance shall be impossible for God (Luke 1:37). Man utters with his lips what he conceives in his mind. Nothing that the human mind can conceive, nothing that human lips can utter, is impossible to God. The Virgin Mary, having consented to the omnipotence of God becomes, by grace, omnipotent in her supplication.

As it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. But to us God hath revealed them, by this Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10)

The Virgin Mother’s All–Powerful Intercession
Thus is the Mother of God rightly called Omnipotens supplex, the all–powerful suppliant, the intercessor  to whom nothing is impossible, the Mediatrix through whose hands God freely dispenses even things that men judge beyond God’s giving. This was Elizabeth’s wonderful intuition upon welcoming the Mother of God: “Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord” (Luke 1:45). She who believed that God would, according to His promise, accomplish impossible things, has become the Advocate through whose intercession impossible things are granted still, the Queen of Mercy into whose power the King has entrusted all giving. One who believes this will never fall into despair.

Her Maternal Heart
The Father sent His Word to lodge enfleshed in Mary’s virginal womb and, to this end, the Father endowed Mary with a maternal Heart, an immaculate Heart of surpassing perfection, a Heart capable of loving, nurturing, and comforting not only His Only–Begotten Son, but also all those “whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Though the hearts of our natural mothers may be kind, gentle, merciful, and generous, they are not, for all of that, immaculate. Even the best of mothers remains a daughter of Eve, tainted by sin and beset with infirmity. Is this not one of a developing child’s great disillusionments, the discovery that his mother is imperfect? There is, in this valley of tears, no mother whose heart is not crossed by shadows, embittered by suffering and, to some degree, hardened by sin. There is but one woman whose maternal Heart is immaculate and to this woman God has entrusted the Church, the Mystical Body of His Son, and each of His members. From the Cross, Jesus spoke as the Father commanded Him when He said:

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. (John 19:26–27)

To the utterance of this testament from the Cross we can apply in a singular and most compelling way the very words of the Word, “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49) and again, “The things therefore that I speak, even as the Father said unto me, so do I speak” (John 12:50). It was by the Father’s will and design, and by the operation of the Holy Ghost, that the Virgin Mary was given an immaculate maternal Heart with which to love all the children of the Church, “sons in the Son” both to the Father and to her.

Living in Mary’s Presence
One who, in faith, takes to heart the role of the Virgin Mary in the Father’s great design of salvation, will want, like Saint John, to live in her presence. “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own” (John 19:27). The Mother of God is present to all who call upon her. The invocation of the Mother can be as simple as the repetition of the Angelic Salutation (the Ave Maria) in moments throughout the day. Such a repetition can, over time, become so habitual as to become ceaseless. Mary ceaselessly invoked is Mary ceaselessly present. The Holy Rosary is the most condensed form of this ceaseless invocation of the Mother of God. Accompanied by meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, and Glory, the Rosary is a fragrant offering, always pleasing to Our Lady’s maternal Heart.

There are, however, seasons and hours in life, notably those marked by infirmity, when it is difficult to string together the Hail Marys that constitute the Rosary without falling into mental fatigue, distractions, or even sleep. In such circumstances it is enough to say as many Hail Marys as one can in whatever moments are available by day or by night. Our Lady, being the best of mothers, gathers them up like so many roses and herself arranges them in a bouquet that delights her Heart.

The humble repetition of the Hail Mary, like the repetition of the Jesus Prayer so cherished by monks of the Eastern Churches, becomes, over time, a prayer that irrigates the “garden enclosed” of the heart; it disposes one to a continuous influx of grace and causes the fruits of the Holy Ghost to abound where formerly grew nought but the briars of sin.  One who has experienced this can say, in all truth that, through Mary full of grace, “where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Romans 5:20). The prophet Isaias gives an apt description of the soul irrigated by the Angelic Salutation:

The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God. Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees. Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not. (Isaias 35:1–4)

Never to Despair of the Mercy of God
Rightly does the sacred liturgy place these consoling words on the lips of the Mother of God:

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. (Ecclesiasticus 24:24–26)

One who confesses the Virgin Mary “true Mother of God”; one who relies on her all–powerful supplication; one consecrated to her maternal Heart; one who lives in her presence by means of ceaseless prayer will never despair of the mercy of God. Jeremias laments: “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?” Mary knows the perversity of the human heart as no other mother can. She stood at the Cross of her Son on Golgotha; there iniquity was unmasked before her eyes in all its horror. Iniquity holds no secrets for the Immaculate Virgin and, indomitable and terrible in the face of iniquity, she remains the Mother of Holy Hope. There is no sinner so entrenched in vice that Mary cannot deliver him out of it. There is no soul so plunged into darkness that Mary cannot shine in it. There is no heart so perverse that the Mother of God cannot restore it to innocence.

The Mother of God is the immaculate and safe place wherein God the Father hid His Word; she is the mother who nurtured the Word with the milk of her breast; she is the New Eve whose virginal foot crushes the head of the ancient serpent; she is the woman clothed with the sun and crowned with twelve stars. She remains, for all who call upon her maternal Heart, the safest refuge, the most powerful advocate, the most glorious Mediatrix. And all of this because, one day in Nazareth, she pronounced words long awaited in the “quiet silence” of heaven: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

Deus qui de beatae Mariae Virginis utero Verbum Tuum, Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: praesta supplicibus tuis; ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus: per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

O God, who didst will that Thy Word should take flesh, at the message of an Angel, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant to Thy suppliant people, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with Thee. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who is God, living and reigning with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

Support the monks of Silverstream Priory:

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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