Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

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.

Vere tu es Deus absconditus

One request I have ever made of the Lord, let me claim it still, to dwell in the Lord’s house my whole life long. V. Gazing at the beauty of the Lord, haunting his sanctuary (Ps 26:4, Gradual of the Mass of the Holy House of Loreto)

The feast of the Holy House of Loreto — the liturgical feast of the hidden God — has, for us, Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration and, I should think, for most monks, a profound significance. (See Solitary and Hidden.) In 1654, Jean de Bernières wrote to Mother Mectilde de Bar:

I am persuaded that the greatness of your vocation and of the institution [founding] of your Community are, without doubt, incomparable, since your are called to be victims of the Holy Sacrament, that is, of pure love, and that you must remain hidden and solitary in the enclosure of your little house, following the example of Our Lord who remains hidden and solitary under the species of the Most Holy Sacrament, leading there a life all of love for men.

In his emphasis on hiddenness, Monsieur de Bernières comes very close to what Saint Thérèse, another child of Normandy, would write two centuries later: “Ah, I desired that, like the face of Jesus, my face be truly hidden that no one on earth would know me.” I am also reminded of little Blessed Blessed Francisco of FatimaFrancisco Marto who, at the age of ten, hid himself in a corner of the parish church so as to console there the “hidden Jesus” of the tabernacle. The liturgy of this feast brings into focus three places, three mysteries, three places and three graces. The first is Nazareth: the hiddenness of the Incarnation. “Verily thou art a hidden God, the God of Israel the saviour” (Isaias 45:15)

The second is the tabernacle: the hiddenness of the Sacred Host. “Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

The third is the cloister: the hiddenness of the monk. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues” (Psalm 30:21).

Truly, thou art a hidden God. I adore thee in thy hiddenness, and I beseech thee to hide me in thyself, even as thou art hidden.
– Hidden in the bosom of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Virgin Mother’s womb, I adore thee.
– Hidden in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Passion beneath a veil of sorrow and of blood, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy holy sepulchre beneath the shroud and napkin, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the night of thy holy resurrection, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the glory of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the Sacred Host
and in the tabernacles of Thy churches the world over, I adore thee.
– Thou who art the splendour of the Father’s glory and the very image of His substance, thou hast chosen hiddenness for thyself and thou hast chosen hiddenness for me. Hide thou me in the secret of thy Face. Hide thou me in the deep cavern that is thy sacred side pierced by the soldier’s lance. Hide me with thee in the Sacrament of the thy love. Let me abide alone with thee where thou art most alone. What is man that thou shouldst choose him to share this solitude of thine? Who am I that thou shouldst want to share thy solitude with me?

There are souls to whom Our Lord says, in effect:

I want to draw a veil between your soul and the world. I want to reserve you for myself alone and hide you far from the gaze of demons and of men. I want to cover you with a veil and draw you into the sanctuary of my Heart, there to exercise with me, through me, and in me, a hidden priesthood and a hidden victimhood.

This is the hiddenness into which I drew my most holy Mother, beginning with her Presentation in the temple and perfected in her glorious Assumption. This is the hiddenness into which I drew the friend of the Bridegroom, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint John, the disciple beloved of my Heart.

This is the hiddenness into which I still draw souls who consent to renounce appearances and enter into a state of apparent death, of silence, of uselessness, of nothingness in the eyes of the world. This is the hiddenness of the Host, my true Body, now exposed before your eyes and, then, hidden away in the tabernacle. Looking at the Host, the world sees nothing: no action, no usefulness, no message, no significance. Looking at the same Host with the eyes of faith, what do you see? Do you not see, however faintly and obscurely, what the Father and the angelic hosts see: the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; the very work of redemption unfolding; the glory of my Face filling the universe with the radiance of my divinity; the one Face that all the world desires to see?

Consent to be hidden, even as I am hidden, and you shall want for nothing. Consent to be hidden, and I shall give you all that I created you to receive from me, all that my Father would give you because he loves you even as he loves me: you in me and I in you. (From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest)

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino

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A Meditation on the Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
[Originally posted in 2006]
Look at this extraordinary medieval painting that shows the Tree of Life with Mary on one side and Eve on the other. Eve, completely naked, is giving the bitter fruit of her sin to her own communicants in evil. From her side of the tree a skull looks out, grimacing in death. On the other side of the tree is Mary, crowned and clothed in grace and beauty. She takes pure white hosts from among the branches of the tree and, like a priest distributing Holy Communion, places them in the mouths of her own communicants in eternal life. In the branches of Mary’s side of the tree there is a crucifix. The Face of the Crucified is turned toward those who partake of the fruit of the Cross.

A Song From the Womb
“Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice He has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). A song intoned from the womb! The Church takes the jubilant words of the prophet Isaiah and places them in the mouth of the Immaculate Conception, the Child full of grace just conceived in the womb of Saint Anne.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bride adorned with her jewels.

Prelude to the Magnificat
Gaudens, gaudebo in Domino. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord.” If you would understand the text, you must sing it as the Church sings it on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The exegesis of the text is in its ravishing third mode melody composed by Dom Pothier (1835-1923), monk of Solesmes and later abbot of Saint-Wandrille. It soars pure as crystal in a kind of ecstatic cry of undiluted joy in God. Mary herself intones the first chant of the Mass today: a kind of prelude to her Magnificat. Already — just conceived — the Child Mary begins to sing, and with her the whole Church. On no other feast of the year does the liturgy allow the Virgin Mary to open the Mass by singing in the first person singular. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice” (Is 61:10). Mary’s message, from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception, is one of joy in God.

The Tree
The joy of the Immaculate Conception springs from the mystery of the Cross. The Collect says that Mary was “preserved from all stain” in foresight of the death of Christ on the Cross. Here enters the figure of the tree glimpsed in today’s First Lesson from Genesis. The tree of Eve’s mourning and weeping becomes for Mary the tree of “an unutterable and exalted joy” (1 P 1:8). Mary is the first to taste of the sweet fruit of the Tree of Life; Mary is the first to sing of the joy of the cross.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling-place for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as by the foreseen death of the same Thy Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain, so Thou wouldst grant unto us also, through her intercession, to come unto Thee with clean hearts.

Holy and Immaculate Before the Father
The Collect asks that we, by the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession, may come into the presence of God “with pure hearts.” The Collect points to the Lesson from Ephesians. Saint Paul says that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3) chose us in Christ “that we should be holy and immaculate before Him” (Eph 1:4). This standing before God in holiness contrasts with the fear of Adam and Eve who, upon hearing the sound of God in the garden, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). The naked Christ, exposed to the gaze of the Father on the tree of the Cross, casts out the fear that caused our first parents to make of the trees of the garden a screen between themselves and the Face of God. The first effect of the grace of Christ is that it makes us come into the presence of the Father, “free from fear” (Lk 1:73). “For you have not received the spirit of bondage in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: ‘Abba, Father'” (Rom 8:15).

Blessed the Clean of Heart
The Collect asks specifically that we, being made clean, may draw near to God. The connection with the beatitude of the clean of heart is not to be missed: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the Mother of the pure in heart. By her intercession, she obtains from Christ, again and again, the application of “the blood of his Cross” (Col 1:20) to every heart darkened and defiled by sin. The Collect invites us to pray, specifically through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the poignant petition of King David: “A pure heart create for me, O God” (Ps 50:12).

Receive the saving Victim we offer to Thee, O Lord, on the solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: and grant that, as we confess that by Thy preventing grace she was kept free from every stain of sin; so, by her intercession, we may be delivered from all our offenses.

Immaculate Mother of the Purest of Lambs
The Secret returns to the same petition, asking that “we may be freed from all our faults” by Mary’s intercession. A culpis omnibus liberemur! What a stupendous petition! It leads directly into the Preface. There we praise the Father for His work in Mary, calling her “the purest of Virgins, she who was to bear your Son, the innocent Lamb who takes away our sins.” We seem to hear already something of the sermon of Meliton of Sardis read in Holy Week: “He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe” (Paschal Homily).

Glorious things are told of thee, O Mary, for He who is mighty has done great things unto thee.

O Dayspring
The Communion Antiphon opens on a phrase from Psalm 86, a song in praise of Zion, the city cherished by the Lord. The liturgy takes the verse, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God” (Ps 86:3), and in place of “city of God” says “Mary.” “Glorious things are said of thee, O Mary.” A key image from the prophet Malachi completes the Communion Antiphon: “for from thee has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God” (cf. Mal 4:2). We see here a glimmer of the O Antiphon of December 21st: “O Dayspring, radiance of the light Eternal and sun of justice; come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” In Malachi’s prophecy the “sun of justice” rises “with health in His wings” (Mal 4:2). Mary, the Immaculate Mother of the clean of heart, is also the Mother of all those healed by the rays of Christ, the Sun of Justice.

May the Sacraments which we have received, O Lord, our God, heal in us the wounds of that sin, from which Thou didst alone preserve the Immaculate Conception of Blessed Mary.

Our Wounds Repaired
Today’s Mass is artfully constructed of interlocking parts. It requires the closest attention of those who would benefit from its teachings and, through it, receive the sweet light of today’s mystery. The Communion Antiphon leads directly into the Postcommunion Prayer and interprets it. “Lord our God, may the sacraments that we have received heal (or repair) within us the wounds of that fault from which you preserved the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in so wonderful a way.” In every Holy Mass, “Christ, the Sun of Justice arisen from Mary” shines for each of us with “healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2). Unlike Mary, we were conceived bearing the wounds of Adam’s ancient sin but, by the Eucharistic Face of Christ shining like the sun, we are healed of the wounds from which the Immaculate Conception was preserved.

The First and Last Word Given to Joy
In the end, for those who allow themselves to be illumined by the grace of the sacred liturgy today, there is a return to the song of the beginning. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice he has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). This is the song not only of the beginning of today’s Mass; it is the song of Mary’s beginning in her mother’s womb. It is the song of every new beginning in grace. It is the song of every man and woman once paralyzed by fear, but now set free to stand unafraid in the sight of the Father. It is the song of every heart darkened and stained by sin, but now made bright and clean by grace. It is the song of every life wounded by sin, but healed by the Sun of Justice who, even now, will rise glorious above the altar “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). The last word and the first belong to joy.

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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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