I came not to do mine own will (VII: The Second Degree)

30 Jan. 31 May. 30 Sept.
The second degree of humility is, that a man love not his own will, nor delight in fulfilling his own desires; but carry out in his deeds that saying of the Lord: “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him Who sent me” (John 6:38). And again Scripture saith: “Self-will hath punishment, but necessity wins the crown.”

The liturgical providence of God most fittingly makes this Feast of Corpus Domini coincide with Second Degree of Humility. The heart of the Second Degree of Humility is the saying of Our Lord from the discourse on the Bread of Life in the 6th Chapter of Saint John: “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him Who sent me” (John 6:38). Our Lord’s words in the context of the discourse on the Bread of Life correspond to the words that issued from His Heart at the very moment of His Incarnation in the womb of His Virgin Mother:

When He cometh into the world, He saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to Me: holocausts for sin did not please Thee. Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of Me: that I should do Thy will, O God. (Hebrews 10:5–7)

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the sacred tabernacle prepared by God Himself for God Himself. Her womb is the sanctuary in which the Word made flesh begins to exercise His priesthood by offering to His Father the body fitted to Him by the Holy Ghost. From the first moment of the conception of the Son of God in Our Lady’s virginal womb, her maternal and immaculate Heart was united to the Heart of her Son,”the Lamb slain in sacrifice ever since the world was made” (Apocalypse 13:8). The offering Priest and the Victim offered from Mary’s womb are the same offering Priest and the same Victim offered from the altar of the Cross, the same offering Priest and the same Victim shown forth in the sacrificial liturgy of the Church “from the rising of the sun even to the going down” (Malachias 1:11). The Virgin Mother of God is intimately associated, in an altogether unique manner, with the offering hidden within the sanctuary of her womb, just as she will be intimately associated, in an altogether unique manner, with the offering made from the Cross on Calvary, and with the offering made from the altars of the Church in every place, and this until the end of time. This is why the priest prays in the Canon of the Mass: Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosæ semper Virginis Mariæ, Genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi. [United in one communion, we venerate the memory, first of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.]

What is the monastic life except a humble participation in the sacrificial immolation of the Lamb? It is this not only because a monk is privileged to receive daily the adorable Body of Christ in Holy Communion, but also because a monk vows to immolate himself with Christ by a life of obedience. The Suscipe me, Domine [Take Thou me unto Thyself, O Lord] that a monk sings with uplifted hands on the day of his profession corresponds to the words of Jesus from the altar of the Cross: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). With the passing of the months and years, a man begins to realise that he who still loves his own will, and still delights in fulfilling his own desires, is not yet a monk. The perfect monk is crucified: wounded in his hands, his feet, and his heart. He says with the Apostle:

With Christ I hang upon the cross, and yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me. True, I am living, here and now, this mortal life; but my real life is the faith I have in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19–20)

The perfect monk is crucified and always dying. Daily and hourly he lives the dying described by Saint Paul:

We carry about continually in our bodies the dying state of Jesus, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies too. Always we, alive as we are, are being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in this mortal nature of ours. (2 Corinthians 4:10–11)

Whensoever, wheresover, and howsoever this is happening in a monk’s life, the Mother of Jesus is present. Mary stands close by the Cross in the life of a monk. This is an immense consolation. When obedience becomes costly; when all one’s strength seems to be draining away; when one feels utterly abandoned, a failure, and a fool, Mary is close at hand. She is silent even as she was silent on Calvary but her maternal Heart is open to accommodate all the suffering that one crucified cannot bear alone.

Jesus willed that His Mother should be present at the altar of the Cross. Mary’s role there was indispensable, willed by God, and divinely fruitful. The Mother of Jesus is present in the life of a monk because his obedience is a living memorial of the obedience of her Son, and because she sees that such a monk is filling up in his own flesh those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, for His Body, which is the Church (cf. Colossians 1:24). We monks, no matter our age, our infirmities, and our inconsistencies, must avail ourselves nonetheless of the nearness of the Mother of God, and never desist from asking her intercession. A personal consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whatever form one chooses to express it, is that by which a monk says to her:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, I open to thee the door of my heart and welcome thee into every part of my life. Enter in, shine thy immaculate brightness into every dark corner; let the fragrance of thy purity dispel the fetid vapours of my sins; change into pools of sweetness the pools of bitterness that have for so long poisoned the deep places of my heart. Too long have I tried to live without thy virginal beauty to fill my eyes, without thy maternal solicitude to wipe away my tears, and without thy good counsel to guide me in the way of peace. Abide with me, O Immaculate Conception, O Queen assumed into heaven, O Joy–of–All–Who–Sorrow, that I may begin, at last, to prefer nothing whatsoever to the love of Christ, to spend myself in adoration of His true Body, and to find in all that obedience asks of me the will of Him Who, in His inscrutable wisdom and inexhaustible mercy, has called me to this life, in this place that belongs to thee, with these other sons of thine, the fathers and brothers whom thou hast chosen for me. To all of us, show thyself a Mother and, at the hour of our death, be to us life’s final consolation and heaven’s open gate. Amen.