Friday, December 02, 2005

Advent Hymn


The Virgin now comes to Bethlehem to give birth to Christ
Who has become an infant in the flesh.
Christ has voluntarily become poor.
Christ has become visible.
Let heaven and earth rejoice!

The Rich One became poor,
Making poor those who have grown rich in evil.
God is revealed as a mortal man,
Born without change of a Maiden
who has not known a man.
Let us all praise Him in song.
For He has been glorified.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Advent Hymn

Annunciation, artist unknown

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

And with fear and trembling stand;

Ponder nothing earthly minded,

For with blessing in His hand,

Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.


King of kings, yet born of Mary,

As of old on earth He stood,Lord of lords, in human vesture,

In the body and the blood;

He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.


Rank on rank the host of heaven

Spreads its vanguard on the way,

As the Light of light descendeth

From the realms of endless day,

That the powers of hell may vanish

As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six wingèd seraph,

Cherubim with sleepless eye,

Veil their faces to the presence,

As with ceaseless voice they cry:

Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia, Lord Most High!

++++++++
Come, Sun and Savior, to embrace Our gloomy world,its weary race,As groom to bride, as bride to groom:The wedding chamber, Mary's womb.At your great Name, O Jesus, nowAll knees must bend, all hearts must bow;All things on earth with one accord,Like those in heaven, shall call you Lord.Come in your holy might, we pray,Redeem us for eternal day;Defend us while we dwell below,From all assaults of our dread foe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mother God?!


As one whom his mother comforts, so I (God) will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
Isaiah 66:13
The phrase "Mother god" is becoming more popular, even among Christians. This language has several sources. In the recent years, paganism and gnosticism, with their male and female deities, have become more popular. Also feminists, who are disturbed with a God who is Father, have attempted to create a god in their own image. While some may overly emphasize the motherly images of God found in the Bible. As an aside, "Mother god" can be confused with Mary's title, Mother of God which is a different topic.
One example that promotes "Mother god" is a book, entitled Heart Talks with Mother God. This book claims to be based on the motherly images of God in the Bible. It is written for children so that they may experience another metaphor for God - "Mother God, who loves them unconditionally." Unfortunately this seems to imply that fathers, including God the Father, cannot love unconditionally. The book reduces Creation to "birthing" where God no longer creates out of nothing but has a womb. Also Jesus appears to have two mothers: Mary and Mother god! This title for God has many strange implications. An important question to ask ourselves is: Do we have the license to change the revealed titles of God to fit our opinions and feelings? Another popular title from well-know author, Sylvia Browne is Mother God. Millions of people have witnessed Sylvia Browne’s incredible psychic powers on TV shows such as Montel, Larry King Live, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Unsolved Mysteries. She has been profiled on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and other national news programs; her on-target psychic readings have helped police solve crimes; and she astounds audiences wherever she appears. Sylvia is the NY Times bestselling author of Sylvia Browne’s Book of Angels, Sylvia Browne’s Book of Dreams, Conversations with the Otherside, Adventures of a Psychic, Contacting Your Spirit Guide, The Other Side and Back, God Creation, and Tools for Life, Soul’s Perfection, and Nature of Good & Evil. Indeed, Ms. Browne may be popular but her subject matter definitely falls outside the bounds of any orthodoxy.
Now we must realize that God is not in our image, but we are made in God's image. We may reject God, but we cannot change or redefine God. Gods of our own making are simply idols. God transcends both sexes, parenthood and even creation. The language of faith being rooted in human experience can never express God completely.
In the Bible the title "Mother" is never used for God. In the Old Testament (OT), God does use the title "Father" for Himself, but only rarely:He (King David) shall cry to Me (God), "Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation." [Psalm 89:26; RSV; cf. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 68:6]
The OT titles for God are mainly political (Lord, King, Master) or military (Fortress, Rock, Shield). It was Christ who first fully developed the title "Abba" for the God of Israel. "Abba" is Aramaic for father and not mother or parent (Mark 14:36). Jesus in the Gospel refers to the God of Israel as "my Father" [Luke 2:49] and "Our Father" as in the Lord's Prayer [Matt. 6:9; 23:9]. In the New Testament (NT) Epistles, the titles "God the Father" [Gal. 1:1; Eph. 5:20] and "God our Father" [Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3] are frequently used. God may at times describe His actions in terms of motherhood, but Moses and St. Paul liken themselves as mothers too (Num. 11:12; Gal. 4:19).
The Divine Nature is pure Spirit (John 4:24), but the second Person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19) also took upon Himself a human nature. This doctrine is called the Incarnation. God the Son came in the flesh as Jesus Christ. As it is written in the Gospel:...the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... [John 1: 1 & 14]
(A few references to the divinity of Christ are: John 5:18; 10:30; 20:28-29; Acts 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13...) Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, was born of Mary as the Son of God:But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman... [Galatians 4:4]
The God of Israel is Jesus' Father (Matt. 11:27), while Mary became Jesus' human mother (Luke 1:43). Since she is the mother of the second divine Person, God the Son. Mary is not a "Mother god" since she is only human - a creature of God. She is not the feminine side of God. Nor is she the mother of the Persons: God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.] Jesus was not ashamed of claiming the God of Israel as His Father. He was accused of blasphemy and eventually died for this claim (John 5:18; 19: 7-8).
Some feminists claim that the Bible is biased since it was copied through the many centuries by male scribes. But this claim does not account for the verses that show God in maternal terms (Isaiah 42:14; 49:14-15; 66:13). Surely male-biased scribes would have been scandalized by these and should have eventually removed them. These metaphors, being so few, could have been easily glossed out of the Bible. At least in the OT, the title "Father" is used only rarely for God. Once again we would expect patriarchal scribes to have used that title more often in the OT. Now if Jesus did not really call the God of Israel as His Father, then later scribes would have had to falsify many of Jesus' words in the Gospels. Since the Gospels come to us through many manuscript traditions along with surviving ancient manuscripts, this radical revision would have been made very early in the first century when Christians, who personally heard Jesus, were still alive. Also the Apostles would have had to lie and later be martyred for that lie! Actually these scribes were more motivated in preserving the Word of God than in promoting male chauvinism. In fact, these scribes were scrupulous about transcribing the Word of God exactly.
The political promoters of "Mother god" understand the power of language. The words that we use in our speech influence how we think and act. For example, if I use impure language, I am more prone to commit sins of impurity. Likewise, if we use language that opposes the teachings of the Church and Bible, then we are more likely to reject those authorities. A good book to read concerning power, authority and the politics of language is The Church and the Culture War by Joyce A. Little (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1995).
On page 148 of her book, Joyce Little discusses God as Father. Now the God of Israel is Holy (Psalm 99). The word "holy" is rooted in the word "separated" (1 Chron. 23:13). God, being pure Spirit, has a certain "separation" or otherness to His material creation. This otherness of God is further revealed when He sent His only Son to the world instead of Himself. Even though we are created in His image, God the Father keeps His distance from matter to a certain extent. For this reason, the title "Mother" is not appropriate for God, since the words: "mother" and "matter", are etymologically related (Latin root: mater-). God is not Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Also mothers during pregnancy are biologically joined to their child, but fathers are physically separated. Even though fathers love their children, there is still a certain degree of distance as compared to mothers. Once again this "separation" of father from child is related to the "separation" (Holiness) of God from creation. The God of Israel is called Father not because He is male, but because He is Holy.
Our human words can never adequately express God, Who is both Holy (Psalm 99:9) and Love (1 John 4:16). Unlike human words, Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word, Who can express God completely (Heb. 1:1-3; Matt. 11:27). Christians can call God "Father" because Jesus gave us permission (Gal. 4:6;). Otherwise we would be committing a sacrilege or even idolatry.
In the Bible, God is described by many metaphors including that of motherhood (Deut. 32:18; Matt. 23:37), but never called "Mother" per se. In describing God, we must recognize the problems of our language. Even though our language is inadequate to describe God, it does influence our behavior and how we think of Him; therefore, it must be as correct and precise as possible. We may never find the exact words, but we must avoid using the wrong words. As Christians, we do not have the right to personally change God's title to fit our whims.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Mary Candle, an Advent tradition

THE MARY CANDLE of ADVENT
(see below)


Mary before the candle, Georges De La Tour

Having a Mary Candle is an Advent tradition. We often light the candle to signify the Immaculate Conception on December 8. Those other than Roman Catholics may use this pre-Christmas custom custom too.

What you need:

Image or statue of Mary
White candle
Thin blue ribbon
Candle holder
Silky material that is white to cover the candle

On December 8, Catholics celebrate the conception of Mary. Other Christian denominations also honor Mary on this date. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ. It's very important for us to remember and meditate on what she did for humankind.

Here is what you do:


Place the candle in the candleholder, which is covered with a white silk cloth tied together with ribbon. The candle is then placed before an image or statue of Mary. Another option is to fix a picture of Mary or of the Nativity scene to the candle. On Christmas eve (or sooner) the silk veil is removed to reveal the picture "hiding" underneath.

The candle isn't lit until December 8th or Christmas eve, depending upon personal preference. However if it is lit at the earlier date, private or family devotions can be done while meditating on the role of Mary during the incarnation of Jesus. Suitable prayers such as the Magnificat and Alma Redemptoris Mater can be recited at this time.

**PLEASE BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE SILK!!**

Symbols:

The covered candleholder is the rod out of the root of Jesse - Our Lady, from whose womb will come the Savior of the world. The candle is Jesus Christ who is he Light of the World. The silk is purity.

Source: True Christmas Spirit

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Miraculous Medal Commemoration


O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to thee

Background:

Saint Catherine Labouré was born on May 2, 1806. At an early age she entered the community of the Daughters of Charity, in Paris, France. Saint Catherine was greatly blessed to be granted the Blessing of The Most Holy Presence of Our Lady on three occasions in 1830.
On July 18, the first Blessing was given in the Motherhouse of the community. Saint Catherine saw a lady seated on the right side of the sanctuary. When Saint Catherine approached her, the Heavenly visitor told her how to act in time of trial and pointed to the altar as the source of all consolation. Promising to entrust Saint Catherine with a mission which would cause her great suffering, the lady also predicted the anticlerical revolt which occurred at Paris in 1870. On November 27, the lady showed Saint Catherine the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now universally known as the "Miraculous Medal." She commissioned Saint Catherine to have one made, and to spread devotion to this medal. At that time, only her spiritual director, Father Aladel, knew of the blessings. Forty-five years later, Saint Catherine spoke fully of these graces to one of her superiors
Saint Catherine Labouré died on December 31, 1876, and was Canonized on July 27, 1947

Her feast day is November 28


Marian Antiphon for Advent

Alma Redemptoris Mater,
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
surgere qui curat, populo:
tu quae genuisti, natura mirante,
tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius,
Gabrielis ab ore, sumens illud Ave,
peccatorum miserere.

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is one of the four seasonal antiphons prescribed to be sung or recited in the Liturgy of the Hours after night prayer (Compline or Vespers). It is usually sung from the eve of the first Sunday of Advent until the Friday before the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.

The form of the poem, six hexameters with simple rhyme, was long thought to have been the style of the monk, Hermann Contractus (Herman the Lame) from the monastery of Reichenau, Lake Constance. The text also is incorporated into a marian sequence of the 12th century entitled, Alma redemptoris mater, quem de caelis. The sequence originated in the 12th century in southern Germany at about the same time that the manuscripts of the first musical setting of the Alma in plainchant appeared. Some authors relate the antiphon to another entitled, Ave Maris Stella [Hail, Star of the Sea].


Regarding the singing of marian hymns and their musical settings, it has been estimated that there are 15,000 hymns directed to Mary. Many written to honor Mary have been based on other poems or hymns, some 4000 are original compositions. The majority of the marian hymns were composed in Latin and sung in various modes of plainchant. It is thought that they originated as hymns of praise of the Incarnation, that is, as Christmas hymns. Alma Redemptoris Mater is one such work.

After the pronouncement regulating the seasonal presentation of the antiphons, composers more frequently grouped the four major marian antiphons together for composition, collections and performance. During the baroque period, the settings of the antiphons gradually shifted from plainchant to more and more elaborate choir pieces. Leonel Power (d. 1445), for instance -- recorded in Germany in 1981 -- recovers an example of the shift from plainchant to pre-baroque setting. Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594) composed an intricate piece for polyphony (six voices), a triumphal piece using brass instruments. Giovanni Palestrina, praised in the post-Trent period as master of religious expression, also set the Alma in his own more reserved polyphonic style.

As a rule, composers retained the character of Advent longing and Christmas adoration in the Alma compositions. The world waits with the Virgin for the wonderment of nature to take its course. God touches earth in her and comes to us in the fulness of time.

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator!

"To the wonderment of nature!" These words of the antiphon express that wonderment of faith which accompanies the mystery of Mary's divine motherhood. In a sense, it does so in the heart of the whole of creation, and, directly, in the heart of the whole People of God, in the heart of the Church. How wonderfully far God has gone, the Creator and Lord of all things, in the "revelation of himself" to human beings! How clearly he has bridged all the spaces of that infinite "distance" which separates the Creator from the creature! If in himself he remains ineffable and unsearchable, still more ineffable and unsearchable is he in the reality of the Incarnation of the Word, who became man through the Virgin of Nazareth. ...

________________________
SOURCE

Advent Reflection on Mary and the Birth of Christ


Advent is a season of waiting with Mary to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a good time to reflect on the pregnancy of Mary as she waited in joyful expectation for the birth of her son.

We reflect during Advent that Jesus was a pre-born child. The moment of the Incarnation took place not on Christmas Day at his birth, but at the Annunciation which we celebrate on March 25 - nine months earlier. Jesus the Eternal Word took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, after she consented to God’s plan announced by the Archangel Gabriel.

Reflecting on Mary’s pregnancy can teach us patience and the attitude of joyful expectation that all of us should have as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and as we wait for his second coming in glory at the end of time. This attitude of joyful expectation should accompany the pregnancy of every woman as we await the birth of her pre-born child. Each child is made in the image and likeness of God no matter what their handicaps or circumstances of conception. Every child deserves a chance to be born and to continue to grow and develop outside the womb. Jesus identifies with the pre-born since he himself was a pre-born child. Jesus went through all the stages of development that we went through. He was a tiny zygote, an embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent and an adult. At no time did he become more human. He simply went through different stages of human development as we all did. When Jesus was developing in the womb he was not a potential person.

Mary also can identify with every pregnant mother in a difficult pregnancy. She did not fully understand God’s plan, yet she trusted. True devotion to Mary means imitating her virtues – her faith, her trust and her willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of her son and others as she stayed with Elizabeth for three moths to help Elizabeth deliver St. John the Baptist. When Mary visited St. Elizabeth John the Baptist leapt for joy within St. Elizabeth’s womb as he recognized Christ’s presence in Mary. Thus we see John who was a fetus recognizing Christ who was a tiny embryo. This should lead us to an even greater respect for the lives of pre-born children and inspire us to work for their protection. Jesus says "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters that you do to me." (Mat. 25, 40)

St. Joseph cared for Mary during her pregnancy. He is an example for all men of the stewardship they are called to exercise. Men are called to respect the wonder of procreation and to care for pregnant women emotionally, materially and spiritually. During their pregnancies women become vulnerable should be able to rely on the support of their husbands and other men in their life who should respect and assist women as the mystery of life unfolds within them.

It is fitting that there are major feasts of Our Lady during the celebration of Advent – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary appeared as a pregnant woman to Blessed Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. She identified herself to be "the perpetual and perfect Virgin Mary, holy mother of the true God through whom everything lives, the Creator and Master of heaven and earth". She also proclaimed herself as Juan Diego’s "merciful mother, the mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all humankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry out to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me." Mary showed love to a people who had just escaped from the diabolical Aztec Empire in which human sacrifices were offered to false gods. Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the Patroness of the Americas. She is also recognized as the Patroness of the Unborn.

We recognize that Mary’s life began at the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Ann. From the first instant and throughout her life she remained free from sin. Through the Immaculate Conception God gave humankind a new start. The name "Eve" means "mother of all the living", but because of her disobedience Eve brought sin, death and suffering into the world. When Jesus calls Mary "Woman" in the Gospel of John at the Wedding Feast of Cana and at the foot of the cross Jesus was affirmed her mission as the new Eve. Mary is more truly the mother of all the living.

Mary said yes to God and Jesus Christ was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, so Mary is truly the Mother of Our Life. From the cross Jesus our Life gave Mary to us to be our mother. Mary throughout history has come to the aid of her people. As Mary put an end to the culture of death in Mexico we pray today that she will intercede for the United States. In 1846 the Bishops of the United States dedicated our nation to the Immaculate Conception. Ask Mary to intercede for us to put an end to the tragedies of abortion, euthanasia and other attacks on human life that we might lead other nations to respect the dignity and value of each and every human life from conception to natural death.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Advent Begins...

Isaiah 7:14 window, Messiah Lutheran Church, Sterling, IL

This evening's vespers begin the Advent season and a new Church year. The image of the stained glass window above comes from Messiah Lutheran Church in Sterling, Illinois. This is close to where i live, and made for a nice pre-Advent pilgrimage. Perhaps if you can, you too would be able to visit this church during these weeks leading to Christmas? i know they would love to share fellowship and the beauty of their windows.

One authority on Church Symbolism writes: "It is not often that one sees the Christian Year represented in symbolic form. This is surprising because the subject lends itself splendidly to representation, and exhibits the life of our Lord in orderly sequence." Nine windows have been devoted to this subject, the first three describing THE CHRISTMAS CYCLE, The prophecy of Isaiah 7,14 about the Messiah is inscribed on a scroll to represent ADVENT. *


* Tragically, the much-heralded R.S.V. 1952 O. T. translation has eliminated the word "virgin" from this Isaiah text just about the time we installed it permanently in our window. The word "virgin" is the correct translation of the Hebrew original given by inspiration of God. We're happy that we happen to contend publicly for verbal inspiration and the deity of Christ in this way at the very time when modernism denies both.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday: Our Sorrowful Mother: 3 Meditations


I. St. Simeon’s Prophecy:

In this valley of tears every man is born to weep, and all must suffer, by enduring the evils which are of daily occurrence. But how much greater would the misery of life be, did we also know the future evils which await us! "Unfortunate, indeed, would his lot be," says Seneca, "who, knowing the future, would have to suffer all by anticipation."

Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials which await us, that, whatever they may be, we may endure them but once. He did not show Mary this compassion; for she, whom God willed to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like His Son, had to see always before her eyes and continually to suffer all the torments that awaited her; and these were the sufferings of the Passion and death of her beloved Jesus; for in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the Divine Child in his arms, foretold to her that that Son would be a mark for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. Behold, this Child is set . . . for a sign which shall be contradicted. And therefore, that a sword of sorrow should pierce her soul: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.

The Blessed Virgin herself told St. Matilda, that, on this announcement of St. Simeon, "all her joy was changed into sorrow." For, as it was revealed to St. Teresa, though the Blessed Mother already knew that the life of her Son would be sacrificed for the salvation of the world, yet she then learnt more distinctly and in greater detail the sufferings and cruel death that awaited Him. She knew that he would be contradicted, and this in everything: contradicted in His doctrines; for, instead of being believed, He would be esteemed a blasphemer for teaching that He was the Son of God; this He was declared to be by the impious Caiphas, saying, He hath blasphemed, He is guilty of death. Contradicted in his reputation; for He was of noble, even of royal descent, and was despised as a peasant: Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary? He was Wisdom itself, and was treated as ignorant: How doth this man know letters, never having learned? As a false prophet: And they blindfolded Him, and smote His face . . . saying: Prophesy, who is it that struck Thee? He was treated as a madman: He is mad, why hear you Him? As a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners. As a sorcerer: By the prince of devils He casteth out devils. As a heretic, and possessed by the evil spirit: Do we not say well of Thee that Thou an a Samaritan and hast a devil? In a word, Jesus was considered so notoriously wicked that, as the Jews said to Pilate, no trial was necessary to condemn Him. If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee. He was contradicted in His very soul; for even His Eternal Father, to give place to divine justice, contradicted Him, by refusing to hear His prayer, when He said, Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me; and abandoned Him to fear, weariness and sadness; so that our afflicted Lord exclaimed: My soul is sorrowful unto death! and His interior sufferings even caused Him to sweat blood. Contradicted and persecuted, in fine, in all His body and in His life; for He was tortured in all His sacred members, in His hands, His feet, His face, His head, and in His whole body; so that, drained of His blood, and an object of scorn, He died of torments on an ignominious cross.

When David, in the midst of all his pleasures and regal grandeur, heard from the Prophet Nathan, that his son should die,—The child that is born to thee shall surely die,—he could find no peace, but wept, fasted, and slept on the ground. Mary with the greatest calmness received the announcement that her Son should die, and always peacefully submitted to it; but what grief must she continually have suffered, seeing this amiable Son always near her, hearing from Him words of eternal life, and witnessing His holy demeanor!

Abraham suffered much during the three days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after knowing that he was to lose him. O God, not for three days, but for three and thirty years had Mary to endure a like sorrow! But do I say a like sorrow? It was as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham.

IV. The Meeting of Mary with Jesus. When He was Going to Death:

St. Bernadine says that to form an idea of the greatness of Mary's grief in losing her Jesus by death, we must consider the love that this Mother bore to her Son. All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence, when the Canaanite woman entreated Our Savior to deliver her daughter from the devil that tormented her, she asked Him rather to pity her, the mother, than her daughter: Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil. But what mother ever loved her son as Mary loved Jesus? He was her only Son, reared amidst so many troubles; a most amiable Son, and tenderly loving His Mother; a Son who, at the same time that He was her Son, was also her God, who had come on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the fire of divine love as He Himself declared: I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled? Let us only imagine what a flame He must have enkindled in that pure heart of His holy Mother, void as it was of every earthly affection. In fine, the Blessed Virgin herself told St. Bridget, "that love had rendered her heart and that of her Son but one." That blending together of servant and Mother, of Son and God, created in the heart of Mary a fire composed of a thousand flames. But the whole of this flame of love was afterwards, at the time of the Passion, changed into a sea of grief, when St. Bernardine declares, "that if all the sorrows of the world were united, they would not equal that of the glorious Virgin Mary." The greater was her love for Him, the greater was her grief at the sight of His sufferings; and especially when she met her Son, already condemned to death, and bearing His cross to the place of punishment.

The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget, that when the time of the Passion of Our Lord was approaching, her eyes were always filled with tears, as she thought of her beloved Son, whom she was about to lose on earth, and that the prospect of that approaching suffering caused her to be seized with fear, and a cold sweat to cover her whole body.

Behold, the appointed days at last came, and Jesus, in tears, went to take leave of His Mother, before going to death. St. Bonaventure, contemplating Mary on that night, says: "Thou didst spend it without sleep, and whilst others slept thou didst remain watching." In the morning the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted Mother, the one to bring her one account, the other another; but all were tidings of sorrow, verifying in her the prophecy of Jeremias: Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; there is none to comfort her of all them that were dear to her. Some then came to relate to her the cruel treatment of her Son in the house of Caiphas; and others, the insults He had received of Herod. Finally—to come to our point, I omit all the rest—St. John came, and announced to Mary that the most unjust Pilate had already condemned Him to die on the cross. I say the most unjust Pilate; for, as St. Leo remarks, "This unjust judge condemned him to death with the same lips with which he had declared Him innocent." "Ah, afflicted Mother," said St. John, "thy Son is already condemned to death; He is already gone forth, bearing Himself His cross, on His way to Calvary," as the saint afterwards related in his Gospels: and bearing His own cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary. "Come, if thou desirest to see Him, and bid Him a last farewell, in some street through which He must pass."

Mary goes with St. John, and by the blood with which the way is sprinkled, she perceives that her Son has already passed. This she revealed to St. Bridget: "By the footsteps of my Son, I knew where He had passed: for along the way the ground was marked with blood." St. Bonaventure represents the afflicted Mother taking a shorter way, and placing herself at the corner of a street, to meet her afflicted Son as He was passing by. "The most sorrowful Mother," says St. Bernard, "met her most sorrowful Son."

When Margaret, the daughter of St. Thomas More, met her father on his way to death, she could only exclaim, "O, father! O, father!" and fell fainting at his feet. Mary, at the sight of her Son, on His way to Calvary, did not faint; no, for it was not becoming, as Father Suarez remarks, that this Mother should lose the use of her reason; nor did she die, for God reserved her for greater grief; but though she did not die, her sorrow was enough to have caused her a thousand deaths.

The Mother would have embraced Him, as St. Anselm says, but the guards thrust her aside with insults, and urged forward the suffering Lord; and Mary followed Him. Ah, holy Virgin, whither goest thou? To Calvary. And canst thou trust thyself to behold Him who is thy life, hanging on a cross? And thy life shall be, as it were, hanging before thee.

"Ah, stop, my mother" (says St. Laurence Justinian, in the name of the Son), "where goest thou? Where wouldst thou come? If thou comest whither I go, thou wilt be tortured with my sufferings, and I with thine." But although the sight of her dying Jesus was to cost her so bitter sorrow, the loving Mary will not leave Him; the Son advanced, and the Mother followed, to be also crucified with her Son, as the Abbot William says: "The Mother also took up her cross and followed, to be crucified with Him."

"We even pity wild beasts," as St. John Chrysostom writes; and did we see a lioness following her cub to death, the sight would move us to compassion. Shall we not also be moved to compassion on seeing Mary follow her Immaculate Lamb to death? Let us, then, pity her, and let us also accompany her Son and herself, by bearing with patience the cross that Our Lord imposes on us. St. John Chrysostom asks why Jesus Christ, in His other sufferings, was pleased to endure them alone, but in carrying His cross was assisted by the Cyrenean? He replies, that it was "that thou mayest understand that the cross of Christ is not sufficient without thine."

VII. The Burial of Jesus:

When a Mother is by the side of her suffering and dying child, she undoubtedly feels and suffers all his pains; but after he is actually dead, when, before the body is carried to the grave, the afflicted mother must bid her child a last farewell; then, indeed, the thought that she is to see him no more is a grief that exceeds all other griefs. Behold the last sword of Mary's sorrow; for after witnessing the death of her Son on the cross, and embracing for a last time His lifeless body, this Blessed Mother had to leave Him in the sepulcher, never more to enjoy His beloved presence on earth.
That we may better understand this last dolor, we will return to Calvary and consider the afflicted Mother, who still holds the lifeless body of her Son clasped in her arms. O my Son, she seemed to say in the words of Job, my Son, Thou art changed to be cruel towards me. Thus does St. Bernard speak in her name: "O truly-begotten of God, Thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse: Thou wast my very soul! Now I am deprived of my father, widowed of my spouse, a desolate, childless Mother; having lost my only Son, I have lost all!"

Thus was Mary, with her Son locked in her arms, absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor Mother might die of grief, approached her to take the body of her Son from her arms to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and respectable violence, and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in a linen cloth which was already prepared.

Finally, the disciples raised the stone and closed up the holy sepulcher, and in it the body of Jesus, that great treasure—a treasure so great that neither earth nor heaven had a greater. Here I may be permitted to make a short digression, and remark that Mary's heart was buried with Jesus, because Jesus was her whole treasure: Where your treasure is, there will you heart be also. And where, may we ask, are our hearts buried? In creatures—perchance in mire. And why not in Jesus, Who, although He has ascended to heaven, is still pleased to remain on earth, not dead indeed, but living in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, precisely that our hearts may be with Him, and that He may possess them?

But let us return to Mary. Before leaving the sepulcher, according to St. Bonaventure, she blessed the sacred stone which closed it, saying: "O happy stone, that doth now enclose that sacred body, which for nine months was contained in my womb; I bless thee and envy thee; I leave thee the guardian of my Son, of that Son who is my whole treasure and all my love." Then, raising her heart to the Eternal Father, she said: "O Father, to Thee do I recommend Him—Him who is Thy Son at the same time that He is mine." Thus bidding her last farewell to her beloved Jesus and to the sepulcher, she left it, and returned to her own house. "This Mother," says St. Bernard, "went away so afflicted and sad, that she moved many to tears in spite of themselves; and wherever she passed, all who met her wept," and could not restrain their tears. And he adds that the holy disciples and women who accompanied her "mourned even more for her than for their Lord."

St. Bonaventure says that her sisters covered her with a mourning cloak: "The sisters of Our Lady veiled her as a widow, almost covering her whole face." He also says that, passing, on her return before the cross still wet with the blood of Jesus, she was the first to adore it. "O holy cross," she then said, "I kiss thee, I adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous gibbet, but a throne of love and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the blood of the Divine Lamb, which on thee has been sacrificed for the salvation of the world."

She then left the cross, and returned home. When there, the afflicted Mother cast her eyes around, and no longer saw Jesus; but, instead of the sweet presence of her dear Son, the remembrance of His beautiful life and cruel death presented itself before her eyes. She remembered how she had pressed that Son to her bosom in the crib of Bethlehem; the conversation she had held with Him during the many years they had dwelt in the house of Nazareth; she remembered their mutual affection, the words of eternal life which fell from those divine lips; and then the sad scene which he had that day witnessed again presented itself before her. The nails, the thorns, the lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those dimmed eyes, all presented themselves before her. Ah, what a night of sorrow was that night for Mary! The afflicted Mother, turning to St. John, mournfully asked, "Ah, John, tell me where is thy Master?" She then asked the Magdalene: "Daughter, tell me, where is thy beloved? O God, who has taken Him from us?" Mary wept, and all who were present wept with her.
And thou, my soul, weepest not? Ah, turn to Mary, and address her with St. Bonaventure, saying: "O my own sweet Lady, let me weep; thou art innocent, I am guilty." Entreat her at least to let thee weep with her: "Grant that with thee I may weep." She weeps for love; do thou weep through sorrow for thy sins.
-From the writings of St. Alphonsus Ligouri
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Oremus:
My afflicted Mother, I will not leave thee alone to weep; no, I will accompany thee with my tears. This grace I now ask of thee: obtain that I may always bear in mind and always have a tender devotion towards the Passion of Jesus and thy sorrows, that the remainder of my days may thus be spent in weeping over thy sufferings, and those of my Redeemer. These sorrows, I trust, will give me the confidence and strength that I shall require at the hour of death, that I may not despair at the sight of the many sins by which I have offended my Lord. They must obtain me pardon, perseverance, and heaven, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and to sing the infinite mercies of my God for all eternity. Thus do I hope; thus may it be. Amen.