Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

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.

Maria Bambina

20060908%20Maria%20Bambina.jpgMaria Bambina
Unto us a little girl is born; unto us a daughter is given. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon her, and the power of the most High shall overshadow her” (Cf. Lk 1:35). The Word will take flesh in her virginal womb and suckle at her breast. And her name shall be called Full of Grace, Glory of Jerusalem, Joy of Israel, and Mother of God. In Italy she has another name, one that the people love to give her; she is their Maria Bambina, the little Infant Mary.

The Story of an Image
It was in Rome, forty years ago, that I encountered the image of Maria Bambina for the first time. All sorts of people, and especially children, came to pray before her. I saw that that Maria Bambina had stolen their hearts. She attracted the most extraordinary outpouring of tender devotion, and does to this day.

A Child for Children
The learned and the clever, the theologically sophisticated and those who think that holiness has no need of warmth and no time for tenderness, are baffled by Maria Bambina. But children understand her. Raïssa Maritain understood the Child Mary perfectly; “The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity”, she wrote. “She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth. The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight. She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself”.

God With Us
The birth to Joachim and Anna of a little girl “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) set in motion great rolling waves of grace that reach even to us, for she was born to be the Mother of Christ. “And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace”. (Jn 1:16). All the joy of today’s festival is summed up in the last three words of the Gospel: “God with us” (Mt 1:23). In the birth of the Child Mary, “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79) see the first glimmers of the long-awaited Dayspring from on high (cf. Lk 1:78). Joachim and Anna rejoice! Abraham and Sarah rejoice! The ancestors of Jesus Christ rejoice!

Rejoicing Ahead of Time
Today, with good reason, we hear the Genealogy of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew. The long list of patriarchs and of prophets, of kings and of warriors, of saints and of sinners is transformed by the birth of Mary. We see all the ancestors of Christ standing on tiptoe to see the joy that comes to them from afar. With the birth of Mary they begin to rejoice ahead of time.

A Virgin Shall Conceive
This is the little girl who will give her consent to the Angel — “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38) —“And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). The Mother of the Messiah has arrived. Isaiah’s prophecy is about to be fulfilled: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is 7:14).

Her Voice and Her Face
The cries of little Mary announce the arrival of the Bridegroom in the night of history. “The voice of my beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills” (Ct 2:8). In the daughter of Joachim and Anna we can already see the human features of the Word made flesh. Her face announces His. Speaking at the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello on September 1, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI called her, “Our Lady in whose face—more than in any other creature —we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” The face of Maria Bambina already reveals the Human Face of God.

The Voice of the Word
The sound of little Mary’s voice is jubilation to our ears because it means that the voice of the Word is very close! Soon the Beloved will lift up His voice: at Bethlehem in the cries of an infant; at Nazareth as a little boy learning His Hebrew alphabet and beginning to read the Scriptures in the synagogue; at Jerusalem in dialogue with the elders in the Temple; on the Mount of the Beatitudes; in Galilee and in Judea; in the Cenacle and in Gethsemane; on the Cross, saying: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27); “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); “Father forgive them” (Lk 23:34); “Father, into thy hands” (Lk 23:46); “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). In the splendour of His resurrection, He will call another Mary by name, and He will ask Peter, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” (Jn 21:17).

The inarticulate cries of the newborn daughter of Joachim and of Anna announce all of this. And so we bend over the cradle of Maria Bambina, the Mother of God, and say to her in the words of the Canticle: “Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely” (Ct 2:14).

The Heart of the Mother and the Heart of the Son
In thy face, O little Mary, we already see that of Jesus; in thy voice, we already hear His. Thy voice, O little Mary, is sweet to our ears; thy face is lovely to our eyes, for He whom the whole universe cannot contain will be enclosed in thy womb. He will grow for nine months beneath thy Immaculate Heart. Out of thy flesh and blood the Holy Ghost will form a human Heart for the Son of God, the very Heart that, together with thine, will be pierced on Calvary.

Cause of Our Joy
Thou, O little Mary, Maria Bambina, art the Cause of our Joy! Thy appearance in the arms of thy mother announces that the Word of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, will soon appear in thy arms. And thou hast but one desire, one joy: to give us thy Son, to draw us to Him, that thy joy may be ours and that our joy may be fulfilled.

Today we ask Maria Bambina, the little Child Mary, to chase all sadness, all coldness, and all fear from our hearts, that we, like little children, may worthily welcome, love, and adore her Son, her very Flesh and Blood in the holy and life-giving Mystery of the Altar. Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine.

Of ends and of beginnings

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CHAPTER LXXIII. That the whole observance of Perfection is not set down in this Rule
1 May. 31 Aug. 31 Dec.

We have written this Rule, in order that, by observing it in Monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness. But for him who would hasten to the perfection of religion, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the following whereof bringeth a man to the height of perfection. For what page or what word is there in the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments, that is not a most unerring rule for human life? Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers doth not loudly proclaim how we may by a straight course reach our Creator? Moreover, the Conferences of the Fathers, their Institutes and their Lives, and the Rule of our holy Father Basil – what are these but the instruments whereby well-living and obedient monks attain to virtue? But to us, who are slothful and negligent and of evil lives, they are cause for shame and confusion. Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God’s protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above.

And so, once again, we come to the last chapter of the Holy Rule. In some way, I think, alongside of the liturgical cycles of feasts and seasons, our life is measured by the reading of the Holy Rule three times yearly.

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2)

How many times will a monk have heard the reading of the Holy Rule over a lifetime? Saint Benedict tells us why we read and re–read the Rule, and why, spontaneously, we make it our first reference: “In order that, by observing it in monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness”. Saint Benedict speaks here with the profound modesty and discretion that characterise him: “some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness”. Here there is no feverish exaggeration, no inflated idealism, no spectacular feats of ascetism; there is rather the humble and patient realism of the Gospel:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth, And should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring, and grow up whilst he knoweth not. For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. (Mark 4:26–28)

Saint Benedict would have us complete the reading of the Holy Rule with an assiduous recourse to Sacred Scripture and to his own “holy Catholic” fathers in God: Cassian, Saint Basil, and the other monastic fathers. We fulfil this injunction of Saint Benedict by a faithful application to lectio divina, and by reading Saint John Cassian each evening in community. The Rule of Saint Benedict cannot be understood apart from Cassian.

Saint Benedict seems, at first glance, to take a rather dim view of our monastic struggle such as it is: “To us”, he says, “who are slothful and negligent and of evil lives”, the writings of the Fathers “are cause for shame and confusion”. Immediately upon saying this, however, he corrects it, lest we be “overwhelmed by excess of sorrow” (Rule, Chapter XXVII), or utterly “despair of the mercy of God” (Rule, Chapter IV). To the very end of the Rule, Saint Benedict shows himself consistent with his own teaching in Chapter XXVII: “The Abbot is bound to use the greatest care, and to strive with all possible prudence and zeal, not to lose any one of the sheep committed to him. He must know that he hath undertaken the charge of weakly souls, and not a tyranny over the strong”. And so, calling his Holy Rule “the least of Rules”, and addressing us as little ones, as “beginners”, he adds:

Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God’s protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above. (Rule Chapter, LXXIII)

The two key phrases in this passage are, without any doubt, “by the help of Christ” and “under God’s protection”. Christ Jesus is ever present to those whom Saint Benedict calls “beginners”. Like Saint Peter, walking on the waves, the monk keeps eyes fixed on the face of Jesus, confident in His help and in the protection of God.

But seeing the wind strong, he was afraid: and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying: Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretching forth his hand took hold of him, and said to him: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt? (Matthew 13:30–31)

At every stage of the monastic journey, the monk needs to receive from the mouth of Christ the words given through the prophet Isaias:

Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee, and have not cast thee away. Fear not, for I am with thee: turn not aside, for I am thy God: I have strengthened thee, and have helped thee, and the right hand of my just one hath upheld thee. Behold all that fight against thee shall be confounded and ashamed, they shall be as nothing, and the men shall perish that strive against thee. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find the men that resist thee: they shall be as nothing: and as a thing consumed the men that war against thee. For I am the Lord thy God, who take thee by the hand, and say to thee: Fear not, I have helped thee. (Isaias 41:9–10)

We conclude our reading of the Holy Rule on the first day of the novena in preparation for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the dawn of salvation, the entrance of joy into the world. She whom we ask to pray for us “at the hour of our death” is also Our Lady of New Beginnings. She will speak to us tomorrow morning in the lesson at Holy Mass:

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. (Proverbs 8:22)

It is not too soon to entrust to the Mother of God the fresh, new reading of the Holy Rule that we shall begin tomorrow. The monk who gives to Mary all his beginnings will not be deprived of her consoling presence in the end.

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