Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Assumption Homily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1015multiplierofwheaticon.jpgI preached this homily several years ago. Allow me to share it with you again, this time from Poland where part of my community just completed a pilgrimage to the Mother of God of Czestochowa. Is this not a lovely icon for Marymass or Lady-Day-in-Harvest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Czestochowa

Upon arrival at Jasna Gora, the pilgrim has but one desire: to behold the face of the Mother of God and to pour out his heart before her. “Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely” (Canticle 2:14).

Holy Mass at the altar of Saint Paul the First Hermit. Oblate Brother Athanasius served the Mass. Pilgrims assisted in a reverent silence, devoutly kneeling at the consecration.

Arrival at Jasna Gora

Arrival of the pilgrimage group at about 6:00 on the evening of the 14th. D. Elijah and Br Cassian are visible in the front.

With Mary, into the love of things invisible

I gave the following homily at the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Józefów on Saturday morning 13th August 2016. The Polish text, translated by Natalia Lajszczak was read by the Reverend Father Bartosz Porzeziński. For the English text of the homily, scroll down.

IMG_0020Józefów, 13 sierpnia 2016

Msza na święta Najświętszej Maryi Panny rozpoczyna się słowami bezpośrednio zwróconymi do Matki Bożej. To samo w sobie jest bardzo niezwykłe. Zdecydowana większość antyfon na wejście w rycie rzymskim to słowa zaczerpnięte z psalmów, to wołanie do Boga: wołanie z niepokojem, wołanie z niezachwianą wiarą, wołanie w smutku, w radości, wołanie z uwielbieniem czy z dziękczynieniem. Dziś natomiast Kościół czerpie z twórczości Seduliusza, poety chrześcijańskiego z V wieku.
Dusza Kościoła wznosi się, by pozdrowić Najświętsza Matkę, która wydała na świat Króla. Druga część antyfony pochodzi z psalmu 44, który jest królewską pieśnią weselną. Matka Boża odpowiada w niej na pozdrowienie Kościoła. Jakimi słowami? „Z mego serca płynie piękne słowo; pieśń moją śpiewam dla Króla” (Ps 44,2). Cóż jest tym pięknym słowem wypowiedzianym przez Maryję? Czy to nie to samo słowo, na które czekało całe stworzenie? Czy to nie odpowiedź na zwiastowanie? „Oto ja służebnica Pańska, niechaj mi się stanie według słowa twego” (Łk 1, 38). A jaką pieśń Maryja śpiewa dla Króla? Czy to nie ta sama pieśń, którą ma na ustach w domu świętej Elżbiety? „Uwielbia dusza moja Pana.

I rozradował się duch mój w Bogu, Zbawicielu moim. Iż wejrzał na uniżenie służebnicy swojej. Bo oto błogosławioną zwać mię będą wszystkie
narody” (Łk 1, 46-48).

Dzisiejsza antyfona wyraźnie ma formę dialogu. To rozmowa między Kościołem
na ziemi, a Królową nieba. Po fragmencie z psalmu niebo i ziemia łączą się
we wspólnym wychwalaniu Ojca, Syna i Ducha Świętego. Poprzez tę antyfonę spoglądamy na tajemnicę każdej Mszy Świętej. Jest ona wypełnieniem tego, co zobaczył Jakub: „We śnie ujrzał drabinę opartą na ziemi, sięgającą swym wierzchołkiem nieba, oraz aniołów Bożych, którzy wchodzili w górę i schodzili na dół.”

W czytaniu zaczerpniętym z Mądrości Syracha słyszymy słowa samej Matki Bożej. Maryja przemawia do Kościoła zebranego na Świętej Ofierze. Ta, która jest „pełna łaski” (Łk 1,28) mówi nam o miejscu, które od zawsze miała w sercu Boga, o swoim udziale we Wcieleniu, o swojej roli w życiu Kościoła na ziemi i w niebie. „A przebywanie moje – mówi Maryja – w zgromadzeniu świętych” (Syr 24, 16).

Śpiewając graduał i alleluja, Kościół odpowiada na słowa Maryi. Tu także, podobnie jak w antyfonie, Kościół zwraca się bezpośrednio do Matki Boga, kontemplując ją jakby w uniesieniu. Użyłem słowa „uniesienie” celowo, bowiem kontemplując Niepokalaną zawsze wznosimy się ponad samych siebie ku Bożemu światłu. Spoglądając bowiem na Maryję lub słuchając tego, co mówi, jesteśmy porywani do „umiłowania rzeczy niewidzialnych”, in invisibilium amorem rapiamur, jak śpiewamy w prefacji o Bożym Narodzeniu.

Dzisiejsza Ewangelia jest bardzo krótka. Główną rolę odgrywa w niej anonimowa kobieta znajdująca się w tłumie zebranym wokół Jezusa, by słuchać Jego słów.
To niezwykłe. Tłum ten jest obrazem Kościoła wsłuchanego w Ewangelię świętą. Kobieta jest tak poruszona  słowami Jezusa, że nie potrafi milczeć. W Ewangelii czytamy, że odezwała się donośnym głosem, extollens vocem. Chce chwalić Jezusa, ale najlepszym sposobem na wychwalanie Syna wydaje jej się wysławianie Jego Matki. Jezus zwraca się do niej bezpośrednio: „Raczej ci są błogosławieni, którzy słuchają słowa Bożego i strzegą go” (Łk 11, 28). Słowa te mają znaczyć: „Ty także możesz być uczestnikiem świętości mojej dziewiczej Matki, jeśli tak jak ona będziesz słuchać moich słów i zachowasz je w sercu.”

W antyfonie na ofiarowanie Kościół w duchu radości powtarza słowa archanioła Gabriela  i łączy je ze słowami świętej Elżbiety. Znaczące jest to, że mamy tu do czynienia ze słowami pochodzącymi z nieba, przyniesionymi na ziemię przez anioła oraz ze słowami wypowiedzianymi na ziemi, w górzystej Judei, w okrzyku podziwu wydanym przez Elżbietę, żonę Zachariasza. Gdy zatem pozdrawiamy pełną łaski Maryję słowami tej modlitwy, szczególnie powtarzając ją pokornie w różańcu, niebo przybliża się do ziemi, a ziemia do nieba.

Antyfona na komunię, którą w dawniejszych czasach powtarzano kilkakrotnie podczas  podchodzenia wiernych do Komunii, potwierdza, że Najświętsza Eucharystia jest prawdziwie Ciałem Chrystusa utworzonym w łonie Maryi przez Ducha Świętego, noszonym przez Nią pod sercem przez dziewięć miesięcy, narodzonym w Betlejem i wykarmionym przez Najświętszą Matkę. Przyjmując Komunię Świętą, łączymy się w jedno Ciało, którego głową jest Chrystus. Podobnie każda Komunia Święta zacieśnia naszą więź z Maryją, jako matką całego Chrystusa, matką głowy Kościoła i matką ciała Kościoła. Ta, która urodziła tu na ziemi Syna Przedwiecznego Ojca, opiekuje się dalej jak matka wszystkimi członkami Ciała Chrystusa, czyli Kościoła. Wszyscy, którzy przyjmują Ciało Jej Syna są bliscy Jej matczynemu sercu, bowiem w każdym z nich rozpoznaje Ona Jego samego, kocha Go i stale ofiarowuje Ojcu.

To tylko kilka drobnych rozważań na temat dzisiejszej liturgii. Oby w jakiś sposób pozwoliły wam one otworzyć się na skarby doktryny i pobożności, i na życie zawarte w liturgii Kościoła. Liturgia bowiem nigdy się nie starzeje, nigdy nie jest nudna i nigdy nie traci smaku. Liturgia Kościoła, wszystko to, co znajduje się w Mszale, jest niewyczerpanym źródłem. Zawsze świeża, zawsze nowa, zawsze pełna czystej słodyczy Boga. Gustate et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus. „Skosztujcie i zobaczcie, jak dobry jest Pan” (Ps 33,9).

The Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday opens with an Introit addressed directly to the Mother of God. This, in itself, is most unusual. The vast number of introits of the Roman Rite, taken from the Psalms, are a cry going up to God: a cry of distress, of confidence, of hope, of sorrow, of jubilation, of praise, or of thanksgiving. Today, however, the Church draws upon the artistry of Sedulius, a Christian poet of the fifth century. The soul of the Church rises to greet the Holy Mother who brought forth the King. The verse is taken from Psalm 44, a royal wedding song. In it the Mother of God responds to the greeting of the Church. And what does she say? «My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King» (Psalm 44:1). What is the good word that Mary has uttered? Is it not the word for which the whole creation waited? Is it not her response to the message of the Angel? «Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word» (Luke 1:38). And what are the works that Mary speaks to the King? Are they not the verses of praise that came to flower on her lips in the Magnificat? « 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» (Luke 1: 46–48).

It is clear that today’s Introit is a dialogue: a conversation between the Church on earth and the Queen of Heaven. After the psalm verse, earth and heaven join together in praise of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In this one introit, we are given a window into the mystery of every Holy Mass. The liturgy is the fulfilment, daily, in our churches of what Jacob saw at Bethel in a dream: «And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it».

IMG_0073In the lesson of the Mass, taken from the book of Ecclesiasticus, it is the Mother of God who speaks. She opens her mouth in the assembly, that is in the Church gathered for the Holy Sacrifice. She who is «full of grace» (Luke 1:28) speaks to us of her place from all eternity in the heart of God, of her place in the economy of the Incarnation, of her place in the life of the Church on earth and in heaven. «And my abode», says Mary, «is in the full assembly of the saints» (Ecclesiasticus 24:16).

In the chant of the Gradual and the Alleluia, the Church responds to Mary’s discourse. Here again, as in the Introit, the Church addresses the Mother of God directly in a kind of ecstatic contemplation. I say «ecstatic» designedly, because the contemplation of the Immaculate always draws us out of ourselves and upwards into the light of God. One cannot gaze upon Mary, nor can one listen to her utterances, without being caught up, as we sing in the Preface of the Mass of Christmas, «to the love of things unseen», in invisibilium amorem rapiamur.

The Gospel given us in this Mass is very brief. It is unique in that, in it, the central place is occupied by an anonymous woman in the multitude of those who are gathered about Jesus to listen to Him. The multitude listening to Jesus is already an image of the Church, here present, listening to the Holy Gospel. A woman in the multitude is so touched by the words of Jesus that she cannot contain herself. The Gospel says that she lifted up her voice, extollens vocem. She wants to praise Jesus, but can think of no better way of praising the Son than by glorifying the Mother. Jesus then addresses the woman directly: «Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it» (Luke 11:28). He is, in effect, saying to the woman: «You also can participate in my Virgin Mother’s blessedness, if you, like her, hear my word and hold it in your heart».

In the Offertory Antiphon, the Church, in a spirit of jubilation, repeats the words of the Angel Gabriel and joins them to the words of Saint Elizabeth. This is significant: there is phrase originating in heaven, and brought to earth by an Angel, and a phrase originating on earth, in the hill country of Judea, and uttered in a cry of admiration by Elisabeth, the wife of Zachary. The «Ave Maria» antiphon of the Offertory suggests that, whenever we address Mary full of grace, in these words, especially in the humble repetition of the rosary, heaven is brought closer to earth, and earth brought closer to heaven.

The Communion Antiphon, which, in ancient times, would have been repeated throughout the procession of communicants, confesses that the Most Holy Eucharist is the very Body of Christ, formed by the Holy Ghost, carried for nine months in Mary’s virginal womb, born of her at Bethlehem, and nourished at her breast. The reception of Holy Communion unites us as one Body to Christ our Head, and as members of that same Body joined to each other. At the same time, every Holy Communion intensifies and deepens our relationship with Mary, for she is Mother of the whole Christ, Head and members. She who bore the Son of the Eternal Father, giving Him birth once in time, continues to mother His members. She holds close to her maternal Heart all who receive the Body of her Son, for in each one of His members she recognises Him, loves Him, and offers Him again and again to the Father.

These are but a few little thoughts on this Mass of Our Lady on Saturday. May they serve, in some way, to awaken each of you to the treasures of doctrine, of piety, and life contained in the liturgy of the Church. The liturgy of the Church never grows old, it is never dull, and never without savour. The liturgy of the Church — all that you find in the Missal — is an inexhaustible source. It is always fresh, always new, always full of the very sweetness of God. Gustate et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus. «O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet» (Psalm 33:9).

Going to Our Lady

Saint_Pierre_de_MontmartreAbbey Church of  St–Pierre de Montmartre and Statue of Our Lady of Beauty There Venerated

Pilgrimage and Enclosure
When one thinks of the Benedictine ideal, one imagines monks behind their enclosure walls, buried deep in a kind of unshakeable stability. In spite of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one does not usually associate pilgrimages with monks and nuns. Pilgrimages remain exceptional for monks and nuns, but they are not unknown. Many a monastic vocation has been consolidated and restored by sending a man on pilgrimage, and many a monk has obtained special graces while praying in a place sanctified by a sacred image or apparition of the Mother of God, or marked by the miracles wrought by a saints. There are two significant pilgrimages in the life of Catherine–Mectilde de Bar. The first was to a humble Marian sanctuary, and the second was to the famous Mont Saint–Michel. So much for a narrowly legalistic conception of monastic enclosure! The saints are wonderfully free with the sublime freedom of the children of God. They are free within the constraints of the law, and free when obliged to press through its constraints, always acting in obedience to the Church and under the sway of the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts.

Homeless Benedictines
In 1639 Mother Mectilde and her Benedictines, like so many refugees of the Thirty–Years War, took to the road in search of a safe home. One of Saint Vincent de Paul’s priests, a certain Julien Guérin, sought to arrange hospitality for them at the Abbey of Montmartre in Paris. The abbess of Montmartre refused to receive the homeless Benedictines professed to the same Rule as herself and the nuns of her great abbey; the abbess argued that the admission of strangers into religious houses caused disorder, and that it was better to refuse the nuns hospitality than to have to turn them out later for unsuitable conduct. nd-benoite2.jpg

Pilgrimage to Benoîte-Vaux
Mother Mectilde was saddened but undaunted. Five leagues away from Saint-Mihiel, towards the city of Verdun, a little to the left of the course of the Meuse, there was valley made famous by the miraculous revelation of a statue of the Blessed Virgin to a group of lumberjacks, and by the manifestation of Angels singing Ave Maria. (Interesting detail: Had Mother Mectilde followed the Meuse north, she would have arrived in Tegelen in The Netherlands where her daughters have a monastery to this day.) The sanctuary built on the spot was a place of pilgrimage. Mother Mectilde, together with two other nuns, set out on foot for the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Benoîte-Vaux on 1 August 1641. Upon arrival there, they entrusted their written petition to a Premonstratensian in attendance, who placed it on the altar. Prostrate at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mectilde and her companions spent the whole night imploring her protection and assistance. They heard Holy Mass and received Holy Communion at 4:00 in the morning on the second day of August; it was the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. With all possible fervour they recommended their sorry plight again to the Mother of God. The fervent pilgrims begged, above all, for the grace of knowing the will of God; they further asked to be spared the outrages perpetrated by soldiers, and to find some Benedictine houses willing to take them in, so that they might persevere in their monastic consecration.

Our Lady’s Answer
When the little band of pilgrims returned to Saint-Mihiel, it was obvious to all who saw Mother Mectilde and her two companions that they had received extraordinary graces; they seemed transfigured. Much later, Mother Mectilde let slip a few words intimating that, in the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, Our Lady revealed to her God’s designs on her life. A few days after the pilgrimage, a commissary of Monsieur Vincent (Saint Vincent de Paul), named Mathieu Renard, asked to see the prioress and, with no preliminaries, said, “I have come, Mother, to take two of your religious to Montmartre, I have orders to do this, and Madame the Duchess of Aiguillon has provided me with money for the journey”.

An Abbess Changes Her Mind
What happened that caused the abbess of Montmartre to have so complete a change of heart? On the very night that Mother Mectilde and her companions were praying at the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, the abbess of Montmartre woke up all of a sudden and summoned the two attendants who slept in her bedchamber. The abbess was in a dreadful state of fright. It seemed to her, she said, that she saw the Most Holy Virgin and her Divine Son reproaching her for her lack of hospitality; they threatened her with a rigourous judgment should the poor homeless Benedictines, through her fault, perish in their misery and need. The next day the Abbess convened her senior religious; all agreed that they had to execute the manifest will of God.

Paris, Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Vincent de Paul
Mother Mectilde and Mother Louise were chosen to go to Montmartre. They began their journey on 21st August and arrived in Paris on 28th August, 1642. Matthieu Renard led them to the home of Mademoiselle Legras (Saint Louise de Marillac) in the Faubourg Saint Martin. Saint Louise de Marillac received the homeless Benedictines with an exquisite charity. The next morning, Mother Mectilde and her companions were presented to Saint Vincent de Paul. The very same day the doors of the Abbey of Montmartre opened to welcome them. Once the Lady Abbess had met Mother Mectilde, she wanted nothing more than to keep her at Montmartre.

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Founded in 2012 in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland, and canonically erected in 2017, Silverstream Priory is a house of monks living under the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastery is under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle. The monks of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the “Opus Dei” (Work of God, the sacred Liturgy) in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” (Extraordinary Form) of the Roman Rite. As Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, they aspire to assure ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream offer their life for the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, and a publishing house, the Cenacle Press.

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