Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Tota pulchra

Vergine Madre dei SacerdotiThe Radiant Brightness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary
How right it is that in these « cold, and dark, and dreary » December days the sacred liturgy should set before our eyes the radiant brightness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.  Life without Mary is « cold, and dark, and dreary », but for one who opens the door of his heart to the Immaculate Virgin, there is warmth, and light, and gladness.

How I love the antiphon in the Divine Office of the feast: « Thy raiment is white as snow, and thy countenance as the sun ». The Church, in the freedom that comes to her from the Holy Ghost, takes the very imagery the evangelists use to describe Jesus in the glory of the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:2 and Luke 9:29) and applies it to His Virgin Mother, the tota pulchra (all–beautiful), the full of grace.

Our Lady in Advent
Advent is the Church’s Marian season par excellence. While, in popular piety, we associate the beautiful month of May and the month of October, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, with Our Blessed Lady, in the liturgy it is during Advent that we find her most present. Blessed Paul VI wrote eloquently of this in his Apostolic Letter Marialis Cultus, dated 2 February 1974:

The faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son, are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be « vigilant in prayer and joyful in…praise ».

Those of you who are able to pray the Divine Office know that the first week of Advent is rich in Marian texts, all of which serve to bring our hearts into a deeper communication with Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Consider, for example, some of the antiphons that illumine the Divine Office during the first week of Advent; each one contains and communicates a Marian grace for the soul who prays it:

First Sunday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, * O Mary; fear not, thou shalt bear in thy womb the Son of God. Alleluia.

First Sunday of Advent at the Magnificat
Ant. Fear not, Mary, * for thou hast found grace with the Lord; behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son. Alleluia.

First Monday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. The angel of the Lord * announced unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

First Tuesday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. Before they came together, * Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

First Thursday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. Blessed art thou * among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

These antiphons are not mere texts to be recited dutifully. They are living words to be savoured with the palate of the soul and then held in the heart where, under the action of the Holy Ghost, they bear fruit, according to Our Lord’s own promise: « If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples » (John 15:7–8).

Look to the Star
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, kept on December 8th when winter is descending into its longest darkness, heralds the Light and Beauty that, at Christmas, we will contemplate on the Face of the Infant Christ. God never leaves a soul in total obscurity. Even in the darkest night of faith there remains above us in the firmament the glimmer of the mariner’s faithful guiding star, the light of Mary, the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Thus does Saint Bernard write:

O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

Whether you are being tossed about
by the waves of pride or ambition,
or slander or jealousy,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.
When rage or greed or fleshly desires
are battering the skiff of your soul,
gaze up at Mary.

When the immensity of your sins weighs you down
and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience,
when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you
and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair,
think of Mary.
In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt,
think of Mary, call out to Mary.
Keep her in your mouth,
keep her in your heart.
Follow the example of her life,
and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.

Following her, you will never go astray.
Asking her help, you will never despair.
Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.
With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.
With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.
With her leading you, you will never tire.
Her kindness will see you through to the end.
Then you will know by your own experience
how true it is that the Virgin’s name was Mary.

(Saint Bernard, On the Glories of the Virgin Mother, Sermon II)

Other Advent Feasts of Our Lady
The feast of the Immaculate Conception is followed by other feasts of the Mother of God, lesser in liturgical rank, but no less rich in graces for those who enter into them. On December 9th there is the feast of Saint Juan Diego of Guadalupe whom Mary called « the littlest of her sons ». Our Lady’s words to Saint Juan Diego should be inscribed in our memory for, in the lives of all of us, there are seasons and hours in which we need to remember them and repeat them:

Let nothing frighten or grieve you,
let not your heart be disturbed,
do not fear any sickness or anguish.
Am I not here, who am your Mother?

December 10th is the feast of the Holy House of Loreto. The Proper Mass of this feast supplies us with an abundance of images revealing the mystery of Mary. In the Introit of the Mass, for example we find five titles of the Mother of God:

This is a fearsome place:
it is the house of God, the gate of heaven;
it shall be named the palace of God (Gen 28:17).
V. O Lord of hosts, how I love thy dwelling-place!
For the courts of the Lord’s house, my souls faints with longing (Ps 83:2-3).

The « fearsome place » is the Mother of God herself. She is « fearsome » not because she provokes fright, but because one cannot gaze upon her with being filled with wonder and awe. Mary is the fulfillment of the sign of the burning bush that filled Moses with a terrible awe and fascination.

And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt. And Moses said: I will go and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he went forward to see, he called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moses, Moses. And he answered: Here I am. And he said: Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. And he said: I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face: for he durst not look at God ». (Exodus 3:2–6)

In an antiphon of the Office for January 1st, the Church teaches us how we are to understand this passage, so wonderfully fulfilled in the mystery of Our Lady who, without losing her virginity, becomes a mother:

Ant. O Mother of God, when Moses * saw the bush unconsumed, we own that it was a figure of the preservation of thy most wonderful virginity pray for us.

Similarly, Mary is the House of God; she is the Gate of Heaven. These are titles of Our Lady familiar to all who pray the Litanies of Loreto: Domus Dei, Porta Caeli. Mary is the Palace of God; Mary is the Dwelling Place of the Word. In the verse of the Introit the Church gives free expression to her love for Mary: « O Lord of hosts, how I love thy dwelling-place! For the courts of the Lord’s house, my soul faints with longing » (Psalm 83:2-3). For the soul attuned to the liturgy this translates as: « O Lord of hosts, how I love Mary, thy Mother, thy dwelling–place! For Mary’s presence my soul faints with longing ».

In the Communion Antiphon of the same Mass, it is Our Lady herself who speaks to each one of us. What does she say?

Blessed is he who hears my voice,
who watches daily before my gates,
and waits at the threshold of my doors.
He who shall find me, shall find life,
and draw from the Lord salvation. (Proverbs 8:34-35)

Liturgy and Rosary
Concretely, how do we hear Mary’s voice? How do we watch daily before her gates and wait at the threshold of her doors? Principally by listening « with the ear of the heart » to the words of Holy Mass and of the Divine Office — for all that the Church utters in prayer proceeds from the Immaculate Heart of Mary — and, then, by praying her Rosary daily. The Rosary is, of all prayers, the one by which a soul disposes herself to hear Mary’s voice, to watch daily at her gates, to wait at the threshold of her doors. This hearing, this watching, this waiting while humbly repeating the « Hail Mary » does not go unrewarded. One who prays the Rosary in this way is « storing up treasures in heaven where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal » (Matthew 6:20).

In the same Communion Antiphon, Our Lady makes a mighty promise: « He who shall find me, shall find life and draw from the Lord salvation ». She speaks, of course, of her Divine Son, « the Way, the Truth, and the Life » (John 14:6). « If you find me », says Mary, « I will see to it that you find my Son, and in finding my Son, you will have found everything and lack nothing ».

The splendid sequence of Marian feasts in Advent continues with that of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and, on December 18th, the ancient feast of the Expectation of the Childbearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a kind of immediate preparation for the Nativity of the Lord.

Love Mary
Advent invites us, I think, to open our homes, our hearts, our innermost secret parts to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by consecrating ourselves to her Maternal Heart. I often say to my sons here in the monastery that I have never known a monk devoted to Our Lady who has not persevered in his vocation and, sadly, never have I known a man cold towards Mary who has been able to persevere in following her Son. Love Mary, and all the rest will be given you besides.

Through the Liturgy
One cannot be attuned to the sacred liturgy of the Church without being, by the same token, deeply attuned to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you pray the Divine Office you are, in effect, entering into communion with the Mother of God, the Virgo Orans (the Praying Virgin) in whose Immaculate Heart all the prayer of the Church is contained and, through whose Immaculate Heart, all graces are poured into the heart of the Church. This is the luminous teaching that Pope Benedict XVI gave in Brazil on 11 May 2007: « There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady ».

Novena for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Most holy Virgin Mary, * whom the Father preserved from all evil / and from the least shadow of sin / from the first instant of thy conception, / whom the Precious Blood of Jesus rendered immaculate and all-beautiful, / even before that same Blood was formed in thy virginal womb / and poured out upon the altar of the Cross, / whom the Holy Ghost filled full with every grace / in view of the glorious motherhood of the Son of God / for which thou wast created, / thou crushest the head of the ancient serpent, / and overcomest the evil that threatens our salvation.

To thee, O Virgin of virgins / thy Son hath entrusted the liberation of souls in bondage to vice, / the healing of wounded souls, / and the sanctification of souls ravaged by sin. / Open thy immaculate hands over us, / and let the rays of thy purity fall upon us. / Through thee, O Immaculate One, light shineth in the darkest places. / Through thee, souls are washed in a torrent of graces. / Through thee, the Holy Ghost giveth succour to the weak and maketh barren souls fruitful.

Thou, O Mother of God, art the only hope of thy children scarred by sin and poisoned by its venom. / To those whom the enemy hath led astray in bitterness and in fear, / thou openest a way of sweetness and of peace. / Therefore, with a boundless filial confidence, / I consecrate myself to thy Immaculate Heart, / together with those for whom I have resolved to pray during this Novena.

[Name in silence those for whom the novena is being made.]

Show thyself the Mother of mercy and our all-powerful Queen, / for no creature resisteth thy supplication in the presence of Christ Jesus our true King. / Mediatrix of all graces, save us from the tentacles of evil. / Heal even those secret and painful wounds / that only thy motherly hand can touch / without adding to their pain.

Do for us, O Immaculate Virgin Mary, whatsoever thy maternal Heart moveth thee to do / so that now, and even unto the ages of ages, / we may live for the praise of the glory / of the Father, and of the Son, / and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the Novena (design by Dom Benedict)

Ad aeterna tabernacula festinare

comunione.jpgThe Cross, the Passion, and the Most Holy Eucharist
Today’s Saint Silvester Guzzolini (1177-1267), founder of the so-called Blue Benedictines (from the colour of their habit) or Silvestrines, exemplifies the monastic spirituality of the thirteenth century. Nourished by the Word of God, Silvester filled the gaze of his soul with the mysteries of the Passion of Our Lord, contemplating His wounds and desiring nothing so much as to follow Him along the way of the Cross. So strong was this desire of his that on one occasion he was mystically transported to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. As one might expect, Silvester’s devotion to the Passion of Jesus found its highest expression in the ardent love he had for the Most Holy Eucharist. This is reflected in the beautiful Secret for his feast:

With all reverence, O Lord, do we offer these gifts to Thy divine Majesty: praying that by the devout preparation of our minds and purity of heart, we may be made imitators of the blessed Silvester, and so deserve to receive in a holy manner the Body and Blood of Thy Son.

The Mother of God
Silvester nurtured a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Mercy, to whom he entrusted himself entirely. Our Lady responded by demonstrating her maternal love for him with singular graces. On one occasion, he fell in the staircase while descending to the Night Office. The Blessed Virgin came to help him and, in the twinkling of an eye, Silvester found himself safe and sound back in his cell. One hears of similar episodes in the lives of modern saints such as Saint Padre Pio, Blessed Maria Pierina, Marthe Robin, and Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit.

Communion from the Hands of Our Lady
The most famous Marian prodigy in his life took place when, of a night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in a dream and said, “Silvester, dost thou desire to receive the Body of my Son?” With trepidation he answered, “My heart is ready, O Lady; let it be done unto me according to thy word.” What I find most extraordinary is that Saint Silvester, being a monk already steeped in the Word of God through the familiar repetition of it in the Sacred Liturgy, answered Our Blessed Lady in two phrases already held and pondered within her Immaculate Heart.  The first phrase, taken from Psalm 107:2 —Paratum cor meum Deus paratum cor meum— “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready” is the perfect act of preparation for Holy Communion. The second phrase is Our Blessed Lady’s own acquiescence to the mystery of the Incarnation as recorded in Luke 1:30 —Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum— “Be it done to me according to thy word”. Receiving her very own words from the lips of her servant Silvester, the Mother of God gave him Holy Communion. Claudio Ridolfi painted the episode in 1632.

The Collects
There are two Collects for today’s feast. The first alludes to the horrifying experience that caused Silvester to change his way of life and embrace the monastic state. In 1227, as a fifty year old canon of the cathedral of Osimo, he saw the decomposing body of a man who, in life, had been comely and strong. Silvester then said to himself: “What he was thou art, and what he is, thou shalt be.” With that, he decided to withdraw into solitude.

O most clement God, Who, when the holy abbot Silvester, by the side of an open grave, stood meditating on the emptiness of the things of this world, didst vouchsafe to call him into the wilderness and to ennoble him with the merit of a singularly holy life; most humbly we beg of Thee, that like him, we may despise earthly things, and enjoy fellowship with Thee for evermore.

The second prayer, found in the new Antiphonale Monasticum, reflects the two principle graces of his life: solitude and community. The Latin text has this magnificent conclusion: et in humili caritate ad aeterna tabernacula festinare!

O God who bestowed upon Saint Silvester zeal for the sweetness of solitude and for the labours of the cenobitical life, grant us, we beseech Thee, to seek Thee always with a sincere mind and in humble charity hasten toward the eternal tabernacles.

Enter Into the Veiled Places and Learn the Mysteries of God

PrEsentation_Vierge.jpgGo to Be an Offering and a Fragrant Incense
Today’s feast is Eastern in origin, Eastern in sensibility. To taste its mystery one has to hear and meditate the poetry with which the Byzantine tradition celebrates it. In one of the texts prescribed for Great Vespers, the Church sings:

When Anne, which means grace, was graced with the pure and ever-virgin Mary, she presented her into the temple of God. She called maidens to carry candles and walk before her as she said: ‘O child, go to be an offering and a fragrant incense for the One who sent you to me. Enter into the veiled places and learn the mysteries of God. Prepare yourself to be a delightful dwelling-place for Jesus who will give great mercy to the world.

The First Presentation
The presentation of Mary in the Temple prefigures the presentation of Mary in the Temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, the mystery of her Assumption. In the first presentation, the child Mary, fulfilling the psalmist’s prophecy, is “led to the king with her maiden companions” (Psalm 44:15). A sacred legend recounts that the child Mary entered the courtyard of the Temple dancing for joy, continued into the Holy Place, climbed the fifteen steps of the staircase leading to the Holy of Holies and, to the amazement of Zechariah and the other priests, penetrated beyond the veil. No one dared to stop her. All were overcome with a holy fear. Even the Angels looked on with astonishment.

The Second Presentation
In the second presentation, that of her Assumption, Mary enters heaven itself escorted by angels. She penetrates beyond the veil to take her place with Christ “in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:2). Mary’s second presentation in the Temple fulfills what was foreshadowed in the first. Mary is the mother of “the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). She is given us as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters in even within the veil, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedech” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Joys and Sorrows
Between these two presentations Mary grew up; she was betrothed to Joseph, said her “Yes” to the Angel and was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. She conceived her Son and carried Him for ninth months in her womb. She nursed Him at her breast, “brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), carried Him into exile in Egypt, and returned with Him to the silence of Nazareth. She suffered anguish when at the age of twelve Jesus disappeared for three days, only to be found in the Temple. He called it “His Father’s house” (Luke 2:49).

At Cana Our Lady spoke boldly to Jesus on behalf of a couple in need; then, turning to the servants, she uttered a prophetic word intended by the Holy Spirit for all of us: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). One day when He was teaching, she appeared outside wishing to speak to Him, only to hear that her own motherhood had become the model of another, a mystical motherhood extended to the disciples of her Son, those who do the will of His heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 12:50).

On Calvary the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple was fulfilled: the long-awaited sword of sorrow pierced her soul (cf. Luke 2:35). “Standing at the cross of Jesus” (John 19:25) her unique motherhood was painfully and wondrously enlarged to embrace a multitude of sons and daughters. Saturday’s immense and terrible silence followed and since that time Saturday has been her day. He rose as He said He would—sicut dixit—filling her soul with indescribable jubilation. Then there was the “unutterable and exalted joy” (1 Peter 1:8) of the Ascension. In the upper room she poured herself out in prayer with the others (cf. Acts 1:14). And finally, without a doubt Mary was among those whom Saint Luke, in the last line of his gospel, describes as “continually in the Temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53).

Enter Into the Veiled Places
In some way, today’s feast provides you, dear Brother Mikkel, with a paradigm for your entrance into the noviceship. We all live between two presentations: the consecration of baptism and the hour of our death. Today the Byzantine liturgy puts strange and wonderful words in the mouth of Saint Anne. She is speaking to the Child Mary. In some way, Saint Anne’s words are addressed to you, dear son: “Go to be an offering and a fragrant incense. . . . Enter into the veiled places and learn the mysteries of God. Prepare yourself to be a delightful dwelling-place for Jesus who will give great mercy to the world.”

Presentation of Our Lady,

_44A2565“And she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her”. Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, the all-holy Mother, in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.  The words of Liturgy of Our Lady, which we sing today, are full of images of Divine Wisdom basking, playing, even dancing, in the presence of the eternal God.

The Church, inspired by the Holy Ghost, places Lady Wisdom’s words in the mouth of the Infant Mary as she contemplates the God of Israel in the splendour of his holy Temple: “In the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him … my abode is in the full assembly of saints.” (Ecclus. 24).

Thus, hidden deep within the precincts of the Temple, in which was the secret of creation and of all existence, little Mary could say: “I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times” (Prov. 8).

This feast, coming as it does as we look forward to the Advent season, is a little preview, a foretaste, of the salvation which will be fully given in Christ, the Son of the Virgin.  Thus the Greek Church sings today: “Today is the prelude of the good will of God and the prophecy of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears openly in the Temple of God, foretelling Christ to all. So let us cry to her with loud voices: Rejoice, O thou Fulfillment of the Creator’s Providence!”

Today, the Immaculately Conceived One, who was never, not for one instant of her existence, separated from the will of God by sin, is offered, made over completely, by her holy parents as the purest possible sacrifice to the Thrice Holy God.

Today, she who was to become the Temple of the eternal Word-made-flesh, goes to abide in the House of God, to become intimately familiar with the Temple, its priesthood, its sacrifices, its liturgy, and its sacred furnishings: those mysterious types and shadows which spoke of the Incarnation which would be accomplished in her virginal womb.

Today, she is offered as an infant, who, at the end of her earthly life, will be presented in the heavenly Temple in the presence of the One whom she bore in her own body: she who became herself the spotless Temple, the Tabernacle of the Most High, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant.

The Feast of Our Lady’s Presentation is based on an ancient tradition coming from the Apostolic age.  It has been the firm belief of Orthodox Catholic Christians in all ages that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, in her infancy, dedicated to God alone and that this dedication took place in terms of a formal presentation to God in his Temple.

The earliest historical witness to this event is narrated, not in the canonical Gospels, but in an early Christian document entitled the Protoevangelium of Saint James, which has been dated conservatively to the year 200, and may be as old as the year 130.

As such, it comes only a generation or two after the Apostles themselves, and constitutes a kind of “family tradition” of the early Christian Church — something like, “the Apostle James, Bishop of Jerusalem, brother of the Lord, told my uncle this story, and it goes something like this …”.

Though this belief is not Catholic dogma, nevertheless, it is not something to be cast aside lightly, as some have done.  The Liturgy of both East and West, which is the primary and privileged source for our Catholic Tradition, witnesses to the truth of this very ancient historical tradition.  Lex orandi, lex credendi: what we pray is what we believe; is this not the true Catholic way?

And so, while this is not an infallible dogma of the Church, nevertheless it would be wrong and injurious to the Catholic Faith to rashly deny or cast doubt on the fittingness of this pious and laudable belief, well established in the Church’s Tradition as evidenced by the earliest records and cemented in the Church’s Liturgy, her Lex Orandi.

I would like to read to you the pertinent passages from the Protoevangelium of James, which speak very beautifully of the Presentation of the little girl Mary in the Temple.  The account, found beginning in the middle of the fifth chapter, begins with Anne, the wife of Joachim, preparing to give birth to their first and only Child, after enduring for many years the stigma of barrenness.

… And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anne brought forth. And she said to the midwife: “What have I brought forth?” and she said: “A girl.” And Anne said: “My soul has been magnified this day.” And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anne was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.

And the child grew strong day by day; and when she was six months old, her mother set her on the ground to try whether she could stand, and she walked seven steps and came into her bosom; and she snatched her up, saying: “As the Lord my God lives, you shall not walk on this earth until I bring you into the temple of the Lord.”  And she made a sanctuary in her bed-chamber, and allowed nothing common or unclean to pass through to her.  And she called the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews, and they carried her here and there.

And when she was a year old, Joachim made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.  And Joachim brought the child to the priests; and they blessed her, saying: “O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations.”  And all the people said: “So be it, so be it, amen!”  And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: “O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.”

And her mother snatched her up, and took her into the sanctuary of her bed-chamber, and gave her the breast.  And Anne made a song to the Lord God, saying: “I will sing a song to the Lord my God, for He has looked upon me, and has taken away the reproach of my enemies; and the Lord has given the the fruit of His righteousness, singular in its kind, and richly endowed before Him. Who will declare to the sons of Reuben that a child feeds from Anne’s breast? Hear, hear, you twelve tribes of Israel, that a child feeds from Anne’s breast!”  And she laid her to rest in the bed-chamber of her sanctuary, and went out and ministered unto them.  And when the supper was ended, they went down rejoicing, and glorifying the God of Israel.

And months were added to the child. And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering become unacceptable. And Anne said: “Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not long after her father or mother.”  And Joachim said: “So let us wait.”

And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: “Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord.”  And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord.

And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: “The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.”  And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.  And her parents went down marvelling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back.

The account ends by saying: “And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel.”  The all-pure Mother of God was nourished with a mystical bread coming from above.  What is this food, this heavenly mAnne, if not a prefiguration of that true Bread coming down from heaven, the Corpus verum, true Body, born of her pure and virginal body?

Is not Mary, in the mystery of her Presentation, in her the type and symbol of the Christian soul: called to be pure, called to be offered wholly and completely to the Lord, invited to the daily banquet of the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation?

“And her parents went down marvelling, and praising the Lord God, because the Child had not turned back.”  She refused to turn back to her parents, as Jesus refused not his Father’s will and gave himself up for the salvation of the world.

She offered herself without reserve, holding back nothing, from the will of God: so shall we, by the grace of God, following her example, keep nothing back from her Son who gave himself up, wholly and entirely, to his Father for us.

Therefore, let us not go back, or shrink from offering ourselves, like Mary, making ourselves over daily, souls and body, as pure victims, holy victims, spotless victims.  And in doing so, we will become God-bearers, and conceive mystically within the sanctuary of our souls the divine Word, the Son of Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne, presented this day in the Temple.

This sermon was preached in 2015 at Holy Mass by Dom Benedict.

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