Mectilde de Bar: December 2012 Archives

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Reparation to the Mother of God

As I continue to study and pray over the the writings of Catherine-Mectilde de Bar (1614-1698), I am obliged to seek help from above so as to understand them rightly, translate them faithfully, and transmit their essential message humbly, that is, without allowing my own prejudices or presuppositions to interfere with the process. I could easily pass over certain expressions of devotion, or acquiesce to them, without sufficiently grasping their meaning and their value. One such practice would be that of making reparation to the Mother of God.

In her Constitutions on the Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 20, Mother Mectilde writes:

They shall make their Communions on Saturday in honour of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and of all her mysteries, especially that of her Immaculate Conception, and of her Divine Maternity. The love for the Most Holy Sacrament, which the Holy Spirit imprints in the hearts of those who offer themselves in sacrifice with our Divine Saviour, will also enkindle in them a zeal for the honour of His Most Holy Mother. For this reason, they will also, each one in turn, make honorable amendment at Holy Mass on her feast days and on all the Saturdays of the year, as indicated in the Ceremonial.

The Object of Universal Honour and Grateful Affection

How are we to understand the notion of reparation to the Mother of God? What is the theology behind such a practice? I would say, first of all, that it is fitting that the Immaculate Heart of Mary, overflowing with a most tender charity for the souls redeemed by her Divine Son, should be the object of universal honour and grateful affection. Mary is the New Eve, the Mother of the Living, immaculate and full of every perfection in view of her Divine Motherhood. The maternal solicitude of her most pure Heart, created sinless for the Only-Begotten Son of God, and as a fit dwelling-place for the Holy Ghost, extends to the vast multitude of those redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, the blessed fruit of her womb.

There is no man who has lived, or who is living, or who is yet to be born, who does not owe the Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, and the Mother of the Lamb, the filial honours of a grateful heart. To refuse Mary the unique place given her by God in his Holy Economy (the divine master-plan) is not only to scorn the priceless gift of a Virgin Mother; it is also to offend the munificent Creator and Giver of the gift. There is nothing sadder, nothing more tragic, even in purely human terms, than a mother by her children scorned.

I Want to Love You for All the Others

Consider a mother of many sons, utterly devoted to each one of them, who finds a response to her love only in the heart of her first-born. The last and littlest one of all, observing this, one day allows himself to be brought to the mother, having taken the hand of the eldest son. Inspired by love, and moved by a guileless candour, he says, "Mother, I want to love you for all the others, and I want to make up to you the love that my brothers refuse you or forget to give you."

Communion of Reparation

A matter of pious sentimentality? No -- a matter of the heart, and also of a humble submission to the plan of God, who wills that all generations should magnify the Mother of God, who, without loss to her virginity, gave birth to God the Word. Mother Mectilde understood the rightness of such an impulse of the heart towards the Heart of Mary, and she bequeathed to her spiritual progeny the practice of a communion of reparation, by which we, receiving the adorable mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, present ourselves to His Virgin Mother, enriched with all that His Sacred Heart holds in her regard. Thus united to the First-Born, do we, the littlest of her sons, tell her that we would love her with such tenderness and gratitude as to make up for the indifference and ingratitude of our brothers. Thus would we console her maternal Heart that never stops loving the many who have for her not so much as a word, a glance, or even an affectionate thought.

The heart has its order, the mind its own, which uses principles and demonstrations. The heart has a different one. We do not prove that we ought to be loved by setting out in order the causes of love; that would be absurd. Jesus Christ and St Paul possess the order of charity, not the order of the mind, for they wished to humble, not to teach. (Pascal, Blaise. Pensées. Translated by A. J. Krailsheimer. New York: Penguin Books, 1995. Fragment 298, p. 94)

A Filial Affection, Childlike and Simple

Reparation to the Mother of God belongs to Pascal's order of charity. The little and the poor grasp the rightness of it intuitively, while the sophisticated, and those whose inflated reason blinds them to higher things, bristle at the thought of it. Let us, then, concede -- no, let us embrace the rightness of offering the Mother of God a filial affection so childlike and so simple that it will, in some way -- known ultimately to God alone, and to Mary's Immaculate Heart -- make up for the impiety of those who, in neglecting the Mother, or in dishonouring her privileges, offend Him who wills that all generations should call her blessed and full of grace.

In a World Waiting to Hear the Gospel of Christmas

We monks of Silverstream Priory have no reason to shrink from the 17th century practice of making reparation to the Sacred and Maternal Heart of Mary by receiving the adorable Body and Blood of her Son, and by offering her the filial sentiments of His most loving Heart, united sacramentally to our own. We understand that the practice of offering the Mother of God honourable amendment on Saturday and on her feasts, is authorized by those reasons of the heart, that the heart alone understands. In a world waiting to hear the Gospel of Christmas, there are many who deny the great things that the Almighty has done for the Virgin Mary; there are those who make light of her incomparable privileges and scorn her lowliness. Let there be, also, a few who, like the shepherds, approach the Virgin Mother and, in offering her homage of their simple manly hearts, bring to the grotto that gave shelter to her, to Saint Joseph, and to the Divine Child, the warmth of grateful love and affection .

One must burn with love

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Image of Mother Mectilde: detail of a painting attributed to Philippe de Champaigne, Monastery of Mas-Grenier.

I am continuing my translation of Mother Mectilde's conference for the Vigil of Christmas 1694. She emphasizes that the Incarnation is God's gratuitous expression of love for each and every human being. Christus natus est pro nobis. The pro nobis (for us) that the liturgy sings must be brought to bear upon each one. One who hasn't grasped that the Word became flesh for me cannot rightly understand what the Church means when she sings that Christ is born for us.

God Did for Me Alone What He Did for All

As I have told you, God, having within Himself everything that could make Him happy, had no need of His creatures, and these can add nothing to His felicity. He could not have given us a greater sign of His love, as Saint John says, "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." (John 3:16) And it can be said that in giving us His Son, He gave us all that what dearest and most precious to Him.

Let us, then, immerse ourselves in profound sentiments of gratitude towards the Eternal Father for the grand gift He offers us today. But, so as to penetrate better into the grace of the mystery and enter into a true gratitude, it is necessary, dear sisters, that each one of you make it your own and strive, with all her capacity, to think of the goodness of a God who, by His birth, comes to give Himself to us. Say then to yourselves: -- God did for me alone what He did for all. Be persuaded of this, because it is really true. In making the mystery your own in this way, it will make much more of an impression on your spirit and will dilate your heart to love God, inflaming it with love of Him. Is it, in effect, ever possible to believe without being set all ablaze with love for a God who is so good, who has done all these things for us? How? God loves me, and shall I not love Him? It is impossible. One must burn with love.

When One Feels Nothing

Somebody may say to me: -- But one does not always have so much ardour, nor a love that is felt --. This is true, but we must not fall into sadness if we are not feeling a sensible love. just as we must not refuse it when God grants it. Believe me, go to God with naturalness, in all simplicity, just as little children go to their papa, without scruple; don't be so fearful. Take what is given to you: if there are sensible feelings of love for Our Lord, so much the better: you shall be set all aflame by the desire to love Him. Receive everything and refuse nothing, not to satisfy your self-love or permit it to claim such sentiments by living them too sentimentally, but only to receive them from Our Lord so that they may produce in us the effect that He wants.

Desiring Nothing but the Reign of His Good Pleasure Within You

At the same time, when He makes you suffer a more painful disposition, darkness, dryness, incapacity, etc., receive it all equally and be indifferent to whatever state [you find yourself in], content with what God gives you, refusing nothing, and desiring nothing but the reign of His good pleasure within you, which reign will not be established except by your own destruction.

Things So Prodigious and Incomprehensible to the Human Mind

De Condren, noting that on the loveliest feasts and in the celebration of great mysteries, one often finds oneself in darkness and in interior dryness, asks why this is so. He responds, observing that our human reason wants to penetrate into the mystery in order to understand it, but because the mystery surpasses the capacities of reason, it does not succeed in going there. This is what produces our darknesses. We never, therefore, enter into the mysteries except by pure faith. Let us leave aside our reasoning and our own mind: they are not worthy, they are too material to conceive what is above the sensible; let us not even heed them. Follow with simplicity the spirit of faith that illumines and makes us believe things so prodigious and incomprehensible to the human mind.

Tacere et adorare

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This beautiful text of Mother Mectilde de Bar is the first part of a conference she gave on the Vigil of Christmas 1694. She insists that silence alone is a worthy homage of the adorable mystery of the Incarnation, which mystery is, in the end, prolonged in the Most Holy Eucharist.

One would have to be a seraph to speak of this mystery; it is so deep, and so surpasses every thought of ours, that not even a seraph would be capable of it. How can this be? That a God supremely happy in Himself, infinite in all His divine perfections -- He alone being capable of knowing Himself with that knowledge that is the only spring of His felicity -- as well as that of all the blessed -- this infinite God, I say, of whom we cannot grasp the grandeurs, comes to earth and makes Himself a little child so as to dwell among us; He empties Himself so as to make us pass into Him. What an abyss! Who could ever understand it?

Let all creatures fall silent. In fact, all that they should be able to say will never come near even to the minimal part of the reality. We can honour this mystery in no better way than by keeping a respectful silence, filled with awe and with admiration. The Eternal Word who keeps this silence gives us the example.

All the mysteries, but in particular this one, enclose things so prodigious and incomprehensible for the human spirit, that everything one can find in books and everything that one say will always fall short of the reality. Let human reason, then, fall silent: it is not capable of laying hold of the mystery we celebrate today. This only faith can do.

Mother Mectilde de Bar
Conference for the Vigil of Christmas 1694

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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