Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

With Mary, into the love of things invisible

gress-CZESTOCHOWA-650x340
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).

IMG_0069
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).

gress-CZESTOCHOWA-650x340
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.

The Marian Way of Carmel

madonna-del-carmine-restaurato

Father Prior is in Northern Ireland today, having been invited to address the Carmelite Tertiaries of Belfast for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Made of a Woman

«But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law» (Galatians 4:4). The Son of God is born of woman like the great drenching rain born of the little cloud rising over the Mediterranean. The woman of Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a woman complete in every way, a woman in whose flesh the fullest feminine potential has been realized. Mary, the God–bearing woman, through whom Christ is given to the world, is the sign and promise of the God–bearing Church, through whom Christ is given to the world, and of the God–bearing disciple, through whom Christ is given and made present in situations as numerous as they are unique and unrepeatable.

In Our Lady, Saint Mary, in the Church, and in the individual disciple, Christ is conceived, brought forth, and given, «not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13) acting powerfully in the mission of the Word and the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost.  The fullest feminine potential of the Mother of God, of the Church, and of the soul is realized in a joyful, sorrowful, and glorious growth from one stage of relationship to another: from virginal readiness to bridal self–gift; from bridal self–gift to spousal fidelity; and from spousal fidelity to life–giving motherhood.

Virgin, Bride, Spouse, and Mother
In Mary Most Holy we contemplate a woman who is virgin, bride, spouse, and mother.  The Church, too, is a woman who, down through the ages, knows again and again the experience of being virgin, bride, spouse, and mother «for the life of the world» (John 6:51). Each of you, embracing unreservedly your Carmelite vocation, will find yourself confronted with the fearful and wonderful possibility of becoming, like Mary, and like the Church, virgin, bride, spouse, and mother. «God sent his Son, made of a woman» (Galatians 4:4).  The pattern of salvation is given, the matrix is cast, once and for all, in the Virgin of Nazareth. It finds completion in the feminine mystery of the Church, and is brought to a unique realization in each disciple’s conscious acceptance of the specifically feminine mode of relating to God and to the world. Isaac of Stella, a 12th century Cistercian, expresses this simply and clearly in one of his sermons:

In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary, and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification.

In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. (Sermo 51: PL 194, 1862-1865)

Draw Us After Thee
This is why the sacred liturgy teaches us to pray: «Draw us after thee, O Virgin Mary; we shall follow in thy footsteps». All too often, men, if they consider the feminine pattern of holiness at all, are tempted to dismiss it as belonging exclusively to women. We men do this at our own peril. Women, for their part, enflesh the four stages of virginal readiness, bridal self–gift, spousal fidelity, and life–giving motherhood in what might be termed an iconic and exemplary fashion.  Men, and even priests and prelates, learn this particular pattern of holiness precisely by standing in chaste relationship to women, a relationship characterized by reverence, humility, and collaboration, literally «in labour side by side». The Carmelite woman, be she in the cloister or in the world, be she unmarried, married, or widowed, is called to be virgin, bride, spouse, and mother. By contemplating Mary, she comes to participate, over time and almost imperceptibly, in the grace of the holy Theotokos, the God–bearer, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Into the Mystery of Mary
By seeking the face of the Virgin Mary, by approaching her heart, by living in her presence, men and women alike are drawn into her mystery. It is Mary Most Holy who reveals to souls the grandeur of their baptismal consecration and chrismation. It is Mary Most Holy, who, by a discrete and efficacious influence, prepares souls to hear the Word of God. It is Mary Most Holy, who attracts souls after her into the via dolorosa and, then, to the altar of the Cross, to the sealed tomb, the Cenacle, and the mount of the Ascension.

The Church

Similarly, it is in the contemplation of the Virgin Mary that the mystery of the Church is disclosed and enfleshed. A Carmelite is a soul compelled by the Holy Spirit persevere in the night, that is, in the heart of the Church’s faith, waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom with her lamp filled, trimmed, and ready. A Carmelite, be she (or he) in the cloister or in the world, waits for the cry in the night, Ecce sponsus venit, «Behold the bridegroom cometh» (Matthew 25:6). A Carmelite has no ambition apart from the unconditional gift of herself as a bridal soul, strong and unwavering with the Church in her vigil of compassion and contemplation at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25). A Carmelite, hidden in the heart of the Church, carries within herself the weight of new life, and brings forth life, amidst pain and tears, for the salvation and joy of the world.

Virgin

The Church, like Mary, is virgin by reason of the integrity of her faith and by that state of readiness for nuptial love to which she is brought, and in which she is held, by the Holy Spirit. It is the catholicity (or completeness) of the Church’s faith, held intact, that renders her, in every generation, ready for the new experience of the unchanging love of Christ. The individual soul, formed, enlightened, and healed in the virginal faith of the Church, is made ready for a personal nuptial experience of the new and unchanging love of Christ. This is what it means to be virgin. Too often we define virginity in a limited and negative way, referring principally to a state of physical integrity, or to the absence of the experience of sexual union. Such a narrow and negative definition of virginity disqualifies many and discourages most from pursuing the specifically Marian path of holiness.

The challenge of virginity addressed to every disciple has to do with coming to that human, and therefore spiritual, maturity by which one holds oneself in readiness for a divine love that is, at once, unitive and fecund. The process is not without pain, but it is the pain of growth. The soul is made ready for love by a costly adhesion to truth, and by a personal appropriation of the faith of the Church, integral and intact

Bride

The Church, like Mary, is bride because she subsists in the dynamic tension of the beloved chosen by her Lover and chooses, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, to respond with the unconditional gift of herself sealed in an irrevocable covenant of love. The bridal Church is characterized by the beauty conferred upon her by the Holy Ghost who clothes her in a raiment worthy of the wedding feast of the Lamb. The Church rejoices in the passionate declaration of the Bridegroom, «Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy neck» (Canticle 4:9). The bridal stage of Marian holiness is not static, but dynamic; not fleeting, but abiding. Even in her eschatological perfection, the Church remains the eternal bride (Canticle 21:2).

To the Carmelite virgin called, with all Christians, to heavenly glory, and to every bridal soul, the liturgy of the Church sings, «Come, thou bride of Christ, receive the crown prepared for thee by the Lord».

Spouse

The Church, like Mary, is spouse: «steadfast in her faith, relentless in her hope, unswerving in her devotion».  Growth in the Carmelite vocation entails a passage from the virginal and bridal realities into the crucible of spousal love. Saint John gives us a feminine icon of the Church as spouse. «Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.» (John 19:25). We contemplate the Church as spouse when we look at the Mother of God standing by the foot of the cross. The voice of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is an impassioned call to spousal fidelity, to the companionship of the Crucified. «If you decide for Christ», she writes, «you can even be asked to sacrifice your life. If you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God» (Second Lesson, Proper Office of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). The spousal way is one of faithful companionship marked by blood, and by tears. It is the way of the Cross and, by that very fact, it is the way of life and of joy, ineffable joy.

Mother

Finally, the Church, like Mary, is mother.  The Church is fruitful.  The fecundity of the Church in every age is the crowning glory of her virginal, bridal, and spousal realities.  Mary, the Virgin, the Bride, the Spouse standing in the shadow of the Cross, enters into the fullness of the motherhood to which she consented when, at Nazareth, she was visited by an angel sent by God (Luke 1:26). Under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, we see the motherhood of the Godbearer become increasingly inclusive, beginning with the adoption of the beloved disciple John (John 19:26); enfolding the disciples at prayer in the upper room (Acts 1:14); and extending to the least of Jesus’ brethren, with a predilection for the poor, the wounded, and the weak.  «When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son.» (John 19:26).

One comes to Carmel to assume the responsibility and joy of spiritual motherhood: the Christ–life carried, the Christ–life brought forth, the Christ–life nurtured, sustained, and sent into the world for its healing and redemption. It is no accident that the monastic tradition confers upon the woman mature in the virginal, bridal, and spousal realities of her consecrated life, the title of Amma or Mother.

Men — sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, monks, abbots, deacons, priests, and bishops —should not shrink from this mystery, for while they are called to embody it in a distinctly masculine way, in a manner proper and unique to men, they are called nonetheless to bring Christ to birth, and to give Him to the world. Maternity of the spirit is in no way limited by the specificity of gender.  «And looking round about on them who sat about him, he saith: Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, he is my brother, and my sister, and mother.» (Mark 3:34–35).

The Marian Way
The way of holiness revealed in Our Lady Saint Mary, and in the Church, virgin, bride, spouse, and mother, is the very life of any soul called to Carmel. «God sent his Son, made of a woman» (Galatians 4:4), and God continues to send Him forth, sacramentally, through the Church, and mystically, through the hearts of those who, hearing the Word, hold themselves in readiness for the torrent of love, «abiding in their cells, pondering the Law of the Lord day and night, keeping watch in prayer» (Rule of Saint Albert).

The abiding and familiar presence of the Virgin Mary in the sacred liturgy is the promise and safeguard of our growth from virginal readiness to bridal self–gift, from bridal self–gift to spousal fidelity, and from spousal fidelity to life–giving motherhood.  Intimacy with the Mother of God is the gift of Christ to each disciple held in the gaze of Crucified Love.  «After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.» (John 19:27).  An ancient Carmelite text expresses the extent to which intimacy with the Mother of God was treasured by the sons of Elijah on the holy mountain:

O blessed Mother, all of us who dwell on this mountain, water our hearts by drinking from thy fountains. We know that we are guided by thy hand, helped by thy assistance, illuminated by thy light. Mary, Our Lady, abide with us; in thee do we seek refuge. It is needful that the Mother remain with her children, the Mistress with her disciples, the Abbess with her monks. (The Book of the First Monks, Chapter 32)

The Beauty of Carmel, Mary, «Virgin, Bride, Spouse, and Mother» abides with all who, praying like Elias, prostrate on the holy mountain (3 Kings 18:42), look to the little cloud, and expose themselves to the driving rain of the Holy Ghost.  The Mother of God accompanies us now to altar of the Sacrifice, bringing her own incomparable joy to Supper of the Lamb. Her word to us echoes that of the angel to Saint Elias» «Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go.» (3 Kings 19:7).

The Magnificat in a Eucharistic key

Saint John Paul II
“Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 55)

The Hidden Face of Christ
The Face of Christ was hidden in Our Lady Saint Mary’s virginal womb: hidden, yet wonderfully radiant. Jesus was hidden in Mary as He is hidden in the tabernacle. (The traditional use of the tabernacle veil suggests this very connection.) The Virgin of the Visitation bears within herself the Human Face of God. She holds it beneath her heart. The joy that shines on the Virgin’s face as she intones her Magnificat is the very joy that shines eternally on the Face of the Word in the presence of the Father. The Virgin Mother’s womb enclosed, for all generations to come, “the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Virgin of the Sign
This is the significance of the ancient icon of the Mother of God called «of the Sign». The icon shows her as the Virgin of the Magnificat and the Woman of the Eucharist. The Divine Child in the tabernacle of her womb is displayed to the eyes of faith. The Face of the Infant–God shone from Our Lady’s womb as now it shines from the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Elizabeth was inwardly illumined by the radiance of the Face of the hidden Christ, and the infant John, hidden in her womb, leapt for joy. The same light that shone from the Face of the Infant Christ in the tabernacle of Our Lady’s womb shines for us from his Eucharistic Face.

The Eucharistic Face of Christ
The Eucharistic Face of Christ concealed in the tabernacle, or displayed to our eyes at Holy Mass, or exposed to our gaze in the monstrance, streams with light for every darkness, healing for every brokenness, joy for every sorrow, and pardon for every sin. So often as Christ is “brought forth” in the Most Holy Eucharist, as He was from Mary’s virginal womb on the first Christmas, the Church can sing what she sings every year at First Vespers of Christmas: Rex pacificus magnificatus est, cuius vultum desiderat universa terra — «The King of peace is magnified, the One whose face the whole earth desireth to see».

Visited by Joy
Today’s festival of the Visitation invites to imitate the faith of Elizabeth who, without seeing it, was illumined by the Human Face of God tabernacled in Mary’s womb. For us the same Human Face of God is hidden beneath the sacramental veils, the appearances of bread and wine. The Most Holy Eucharist is the Visitation of the Hidden Christ. He come always with His Virgin Mother that from her we might learn, as Saint John Paul II said, «to sing the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key» (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 58) Thus does the Hidden Face of Christ become for us, as it was for Our Lady Saint Mary and for Saint Elizabeth, the inexhaustible wellspring of joy in God.

Mass of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour

300px-Our_Mother_of_Perpetual_Help.jpg

Introit
Rejoice we all in the Lord, as we keep festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary: whose solemnity makes angels joyful and sets them praising the Son of God. V. Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart, I shall speak of the works of the King (Ps 44:2).

Gaudeamus is a magnificent festal chant originally composed for the virgin martyr Saint Agatha, and then adapted to other occasions. It is used on a number of other feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it familiar enough to be sung with a certain jubilant ease. The gentle balancing of the first mode melody evokes the ceaseless, sweeping joys of the heavenly liturgy celebrated by “the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (Ap 5:11). The verse, drawn from Psalm 44, the exuberant messianic wedding song, is placed in the mouth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, as she declares the wonders wrought through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of Perpetual Help.

Collect
Lord Jesus Christ, by whose gift Mary Thy Mother, whose glorious image we revere, is our Mother too, and ready at all times to succour us, we pray Thee grant, that we who earnestly beg her maternal help, may be counted worthy to reap through all eternity the fruit of Thy redeeming work. Thou who art God living and reigning with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

As are many liturgical prayers of recent composition, the Collect is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father. Orations addressed to the Son are exceptional in the Roman liturgy; in the East they are the norm. While it is not traditional to direct the Collect to the Son in the classic Roman liturgy, there are moments when it can be quite fitting to do so. The feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help may be one of those moments.

The Collect refers straightaway to the gift of the Virgin Mary’s motherhood extended to every disciple of her Son, the very mystery that will be evoked in the Gospel; and to the veneration of her glorious image. It acknowledges that Mary is perpetually ready to help us, and asks that, through her motherly power, we may reap through all eternity the fruit of Christ’s redemption. The last phrase is certainly an allusion to the charism of the Redemptorists, custodians of the miraculous icon and, in the tradition of Saint Alphonsus, tireless preachers of Mary’s universal mediation and inexhaustible clemency.

Lesson (Ecclesiasticus 24:23-31)
As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.

I so regret that the modern reformed liturgy uses this text so sparingly in the context of Marian feasts. It is quoted by all the great Marian doctors and mystics. It articulates the ineffable experience of those who, having consecrated themselves to Mary, found themselves inwardly changed. The very last line is a promise to those who promote the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and explain its significance.

Gradual
All lovely and gentle art thou, daughter of Sion; beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army drawn up for battle (Ct 6:3,9). V. What blessing the power of the Lord hath granted thee, making use of thee to bring our enemies to nothing (Jud 13:22).

The Gradual artfully juxtaposes two traditional Marian texts. In the Canticle of Canticles the Church sees her as lovely, gentle, beautiful, radiant and . . . terrible as an army drawn up for battle. The imagery is related to that of the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apocalypse 12:1). The verse from the book of Judith says that it has pleased God to grant Mary a singular blessing, that of bringing our enemies to nothing. Again, this reflects the experiece of the Church through the ages, as well as the intimate experience of the saints who, in the thick of spiritual combat, had recourse to Mary and prevailed over the powers of darkness.

Alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women (Lk 1:28). Alleluia.

The Alleluia Verse repeats the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation at Nazareth; but here the words of the Angel serve to introduce another annunciation, the words of Jesus from the Cross on Calvary.

Gospel (John 19:25-27)
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.

The words of Our Lord to His beloved disciple, “Behold thy mother,” are an invitation to contemplate Mary. In the context of today’s feast of the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Perpetual Help, the words of the Crucified invite us to behold our Mother as she is depicted in her miraculous image. “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own” (Jn 19:27). Wheresoever the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is given a place of honour, Mary herself is welcomed and received there. It has been said that there is scarcely a family in Ireland without an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have heard similar reports coming from the Philippines and from Haiti. When families, communities, and individuals welcome an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in their homes, they are, in effect, imitating the Apostle Saint John. The presence of the icon expresses a spiritual desire to abide with Mary and to remain beneath her gaze in an attitude of total consecration to her.

Offertory
Remember, O Virgin Mother, where thou standest before the face of God, to plead on our behalf, and to avert His anger from us (Jer 18:20).

The Church lifts this text directly from the prophet Jeremias and, in the liberty that comes from the Holy Ghost, addresses it to the Virgin Mother. The antiphon acknowledges that Mary stands before the face of God to plead on our behalf: a clear allusion to her role as Mediatrix and Advocate. As Mediatrix, Mary participates in the work of her risen and ascended Son; as Advocate, she participates in the work of the Holy Spirit. We ask her to plead on our behalf that, in spite of our sins, the anger of God may be turned away from us.

Secret
By thy gracious mercy, O Lord, and at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, let this offering bring us prosperity and peace, now and forevermore. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who is God, living and reigning with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

Here the gracious mercy of God and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin meet. The Most Holy Eucharist is the fulfillment of what God, in His mercy, seeks to give us, and of what Mary, in her maternal solicitide, seeks to obtain for us: prosperity and peace.

Communion
Most worthy Queen of the world, O Mary ever-virgin, who didst bear Christ, the Lord and Saviour of us all, intercede for our peace and salvation.

It is unusual that a Communion Antiphon should be addressed to the Mother of God. Here the Church calls her “most worthy Queen of the world” and “Mary ever-virgin who didst bear Christ, the Lord and Saviour of us all.” All who partake of the Sacred Mysteries become, with Mary, bearers of Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all. The peace and salvation for which we ask Mary’s intercession, are given us sacramentally in Holy Communion.

Postcommunion
May the august intercession of Thy immaculate and ever-virgin Mother Mary help us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that through her lovingkindness, we, upon whom she has heaped lasting benefits, may be freed from every peril and made one in heart and mind. Thou who art God, living and reigning with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

This prayer alludes to the countless favours attributed to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. She has, in fact, “heaped lasting benefits” on those devoted to her. She continues to do so. We ask that we may be freed from the perils that threaten our souls and bodies, and we pray that the full effect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be given us, that is: oneness in heart and mind.

Support the monks of Silverstream Priory:

Silverstream Priory Logo

Situated amidst pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath, Silverstream Priory was founded in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and canonically erected as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right on 25 February 2017. The property belonged, from the early 15th century, to the Preston family, premier Viscounts of Ireland and Lords of Gormanston. In 1843 Thomas Preston (1817-1903), son of Jenico Preston, the 12th Viscount (1775-1860), built what today is Silverstream Priory.

Silverstream Priory is a providential realisation of the cherished project of Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874–1935), who, following the impetus given by Catherine–Mectilde de Bar in the 17th century, sought to establish a house of Benedictine monks committed to ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. The community of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the Divine Office in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” of the Roman Rite. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream keep at heart the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably the development of the land and gardens, hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, scholarly work, and publishing.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

Categories

Archives