Holy Simeon foretells the Sorrows of Mary.
FIRST POINT:The law of God, given by Moses to the Jews, ordained that a woman, after childbirth, should undergo the ceremonies of Purification.For a certain time she was forbidden to appear in public, nor was she allowed to touch anything which was consecrated to the worship of the Most High.
Besides this law of purification, we read in Leviticus of another law, which ordained that every first-born son should be offered to God, and, after his presentation, ransomed for a specified sum of money. Now, observe that Mary was not bound to fulfill either of these laws.
As regards the first, certainly it could not oblige her ; since it supposed defilement in the person to be purified. But in Mary there was no stain ; she was ever a most pure virgin, as even many enemies of our holy Faith admit. Moreover, we know from the second chapter of St. Luke, that Jesus was conceived in her sacred womb by the power of the Holy Ghost. Hence, our Blessed Lady was by no means bound to undergo any ceremony of purification.
Again, one of the offerings made on the day of purification was a pigeon or a dove, to be sacrificed for sin. But what sin was there in Mary ? “Was it original sin No ! Because from her inviolate womb the Son of God Himself took that hallowed flesh with which He clothed his Divine Nature. Hence the holy Fathers declare, and the Church teaches as an article of Faith, that she was immaculate in and from her conception. Nor did she ever contaminate her soul by the slightest defilement of actual sin.
On her lips there was no deceit—in her heart no guile—in her soul no imperfection. Gabriel, the archangel, solemnly declared that she was ” full of grace.” The Blessed Virgin, therefore, was not bound by the Levitical law, enacted for all other mothers in Israel.Nor was she obliged to fulfil the law of presentation :
First, because her Son being truly God, and therefore the very Author of the law, was not subject to His own law. God is bound by no precept which He has given to His creatures ; much less by one which requires His own redemption.
Secondly, Mary was not bound by this law, because her Son, being a Divine Person, was one God with the Eternal Father and the Holy Ghost, and therefore needed no dedication. But, though Mary knew well that these two laws, commanded by Moses, did not regard her, nevertheless she faithfully and exactly fulfilled both. For when the required days of retirement were completed, carrying in her arms the Infant Jesus, she hastened to the Temple, accompanied by St. Joseph, taking with her a pair of turtle doves, which were sanctioned by the law as a sufficient offering for very poor persons.
Behold now the Mother of God on her way to Jerusalem, for the purpose of performing the rites of presentation and purification.
One perfectly immaculate goes to the Temple as though, like other daughters of sinful Eve, she required to be cleansed. What an excellent lesson of humility for us is here ! Mary places herself in the position of a sinner.
She boasts not of the sublime dignity of her Sacred Maternity. She tells not the people that she is the daughter of the Eternal Father —the Virgin Mother of the Omnipotent Son—and the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she on account of these exalted relationships, plead exemption from the humiliating laws.
How different is my conduct ! If by God’s mercy I enjoy any privileges, I take great pains to manifest them ; and often, to the prejudice of others, I lose no opportunity of making known that I possess them.
As for being considered worse than I am, it is the object of all my efforts to avoid it—nay, I even wish to be esteemed better than I am.
I wish to be looked on by all as clean of heart, while the disgusting leprosy of sin defiles my soul. I would have others think me just, while, in the all-seeing Eye of Infinite Sanctity, I am a very great sinner.
0 foul, 0 miserable pride, truly thou art the principal cause of my spiritual ruin ! Therefore, from the Blessed Virgin’s purification let me learn holy humiity : I will devoutly beseech her to obtain for me this foundation of all virtues, without which it is in vain that I aspire to please God, or to be a sharer of that heavenly bliss, promised to the just.
For our Divine Lord has said : ” Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” St. Bernard says of our Blessed Lady, “As no creature ever went down so deep into the abyss of humility…..
My soul, behold thy Mother ! Art thou not yet moved to compassion ? Dost thou not sympathise with her? Ah ! were I, indeed, a loving child of sorrow-stricken Mary, my heart would melt as ice before the flame—”my eyes would send forth springs of water,” and I should “mourn as one mourneth for an only son.” When I see those whom I love in distress, I feel distressed myself ; their sorrow afflicts me as though it were my own, and every sigh which escapes their breasts sinks into mine.
Ah ! then, let me show my love for Mary — let me take to heart her grief—and not only condole with her, but, by my life and conduct, endeavour to alleviate her sorrows.
But what was the act of this Dolorous Virgin when she revived after the first pangs of her anguish ? She gently and meekly took from the arms of holy Simeon her Darling Babe, and, hastening to the Tabernacle, offered Him there, together with her own immaculate soul, to his Eternal Father.
There did she freely consent to all that had been foretold ; then, with all the courage of the Queen of Martyrs, suffering in Him whom she loved far more than in herself, she literally fulfilled what was prefigured by the obedience of Abraham, when he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, and gave sentence with heroic firmness on her only child, saying— “Eternal Father, since it is thy will that my Son should suffer and die—since my heart must be completely broken by pangs of grief, I am prepared for all, and numbly submit. Not my will, but thine be done.” “Mary knew how to accept, without complaint and without murmur, all that came from God ; her pale lips were placed upon this chalice of wormwood and gall ; she With all this fervour
of her soul, she sacrificed Jesus.drained it even to the dregs, and then said sweetly, as she dried up her tears, “ 0 Lord, Thy will be done .
She was content that He should die, for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. Together with this sacrifice of her innocent Son, she humbly offered up her heart, praying the Eternal Father to afflict it according to his Divine pleasure. Her sole delight was in the fulfilment of His most Holy Will.
Taulerus says that our Blessed Lady did not regard the sword of agony which was to lacerate her heart—that she did not reflect on the most precious treasure she was to lose—nor did she take into consideration how she was to be completely deprived of all joy, happiness and her most loveable Son; but she resigned herself with her every faculty to the most adorable will of God, prepared to accept every burden, every affliction, and all the most grievous tortures of soul which might come upon her through those afflictions. Ah, heavenly resignation of Mary’s heart ! When shall I begin, in my poor degree, to imitate her patience and submission
“To understand the supernatural victory which Mary achieved in the oblation of this sacrifice’ says the great St. Alphonsus, “it is necessary to know the nature of her love for Jesus. She was His mother. Now, maternal love is in general so strong that when a child is at the point of death, and the mother about to lose him, she forgets his defects and any uneasiness she may have suffered on his account, and feels pain beyond expression at the thought of being separated from him. But the love of mothers for the most part is divided among their children. Not so was it with Mary ; she had but one Son, and He the most beautiful and excellent of all the children of Adam—Loveable, Obedient, Virtuous, and Innocent in his own supereminent degree—yea, more —her God and her all.” How great, then, and how heroic was Marys resignation.
On Jesus she fixed all her affections ; yet He is the Victim whom she sacrificed, giving Him up to the most painful death the world ever witnessed ! Oh, let me gain a lesson from her conformity to the Divine will in anguish and sorrow
All, all of us have crosses to carry all have trials to bear—trials from friends as well as from enemies—trials of body, trials of mind. As with Mary in the Temple, so with us, there are times when nothing is to be seen but blighted prospects and the shadows of some great impending sorrow. Some indeed, like her, have grief and tribulation for their daily portion; and no one can escape suffering at times.
” Dispose of,” says Thomas a Kempis, in his golden book of the Imitation of Christ, ” and order all things as thou wilt and it may seem best to thee,thou wilt still find something to suffer, either willingly or unwillingly, and so thou wilt still find a cross.”
Ah, let me then take courage from the example of my Blessed Mother! I will wipe away my tears and imitate her in holy resignation to the most wise designs of Divine Providence. I will say with her to the Heavenly Father
Heavenly Father! Thou art most wise in thy treatment of the sons of men. It is thy blessed will that this world should be to me a vale of tears.
Here, like the Israelites in the desert, I taste the bitter waters of Mara, and spend my days in affliction and distress. Here, then, will I deny myself even what I might enjoy, and take up my cross after thy dear Son.
Here will I follow my Jesus to Calvary ; be it so. Do with me, 0 God, ” not as I will, but as Thou wilt afflict me as Thou pleasest. But permit me not to offend Thee again by sin. Thus wilt thou, my soul, like a true child of
Mary, give honour and glory to the Most High, comfort the afflicted heart of thy sorrowful mother, and possess that inward peace which she enjoyed in the midst of her imutterable anguish, and which her Son promised “to men of good will.”
Behold me, dearest Mother, at thy feet. I admire thy profound humility in fulfilling the laws of purification and presentation, from both which thou wast exempt in virtue of thy Divine Maternity.
I repent of my pride—I implore of thee humility. Sincerely, with heartfelt grief, I condole with thee in the sorrow which overwhelmed thy pure soul when thou didst hear from the lips of holy Simeon the future sufferings of thy Divine Son : I beseech thee, let me be a sharer in it. I admire and contemplate thy wonderful fortitude, and thy exemplary resignation, in the offering thou didst make of thy Saviour and thy Child. I humbly petition for the like resignation in all my trials and afflictions, and in the fulfilment of God’s adorable will.
Mary, dolorous Mother ! hear my prayers, and bless thy child, kneeling before thee. Amen.
Mother most sorrowful, obtain for me, from thy blessed Son, true humility and perfect resignation.
Say “three Ave Marias, in honour of all the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin in Bethlehem, for an increase of Faith.”