The Second Sword of Sorrow
On The Second Dolour Of Mary
The Flight into Egypt
No sooner was Jesus born than He began to be persecuted by Herod, who then ruled over the Jews. This ambitious prince, hearing that the long expected Messias was come into the world ” to deliver his people, Israel,” was seized with envy and alarm. He feared lest this Saviour should supplant him in his authority and usurp is throne ; therefore he sought to destroy Him whilst he was yet a helpless babe. When the wise men came to Jerusalem from the east, enquiring “Where is He who is born King of the Jews ?
” Herod, thinking the time had arrived to rid himself of his supposed rival, called them privately, and learned diligently of them at what time the star which guided them from the East had first appeared: then, sending them into Bethlehem, he said: ” Go, and diligently enquire after the child ; and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him.” He hoped, by this deceitful stratagem, to obtain possession of our Lord. But, like all God’s enemies, in the long run he deceived himself; for our Lord’s “time was not yet come ” to be betrayed and put to death.
After the wise men had found Jesus, adored him and presented before him their choicest gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they were warned by a token from God that they should not return to Herod. They therefore went back another way into their own country.
When the envious tyrant found that his impious plans were thus brought to nought, like Pharao, King of Egypt, he hardened his heart yet further, and formed the cowardly and savage design of slaying by the sword every male child in that part of the country from two years old and under. For he concluded from what the Magi had told him, that the Messias would surely be among the victims to his cruelty. But it is the extreme of folly for man to oppose the Creator and fight against his God. Here, again, Herod’s wicked purposes are most wonderfully brought to nothing.
He hoped by thus murdering all the male infants in and about Bethlehem, that Jesus would also be slain. But after the Magi had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: “Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee ; for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him.”
And here let me contemplate the cause of Mary’s second Dolour.
St. Joseph, obedient to the command of the Heavenly messenger, at once arose and hastened to the Blessed Virgin, telling her what had been made known to him. Then, indeed, it was that the second sword transfixed the heart of Mary. How bitter, exclaims St. John Chrysostom, must have been the pain which was excited in the heart of Mary when she hearof the exile of herself and Son ! ” And, indeed,” says St. Alphonsus, “what greater tribulation could there be, than that a poor young mother should be forced to fly with her new-born babe far away from home, from friends to strangers, from the hallowed sanctuary of the Lord to the polluted temples of devils.” It was at the dead of night that the Blessed Virgin heard from the lips of St. Joseph the afflicting news;and, to add to her grief and embarrassment, the journey to Egypt was very long and toilsome, nor had she the provisions to sustain them on it. Mary doubtless reflected upon all these difficulties ; great indeed, therefore, must have been her distress. She feared for the safety of her Child—she trembled for her spouse—she trembled for herself; nevertheless, she was perfectly obedient to the voice of Heaven. Nor did she complain of her lot; but seated upon an ass, with Jesus in her arms and Joseph by her side, she departed at once from Bethlehem.
Mary knew perfectly that the fruit of her womb was God. She knew that although his Divine Majesty had humbly clothed Himself with human nature, He had not therefore lost the attributes of the Deity.
Hence she was well aware that He still held in his Omnipotent hand the slender thread of Herod’s life, and that, did Jesus but will it, that impious tyrant would be deprived of throne and power and breath. She was not ignorant that, when “the earth was void and empty and darkness was upon the face of the deep,” then by his Almighty word light was made, and ” all things were created by Him and in Him”—moreover that, as the Apostle goes on to say, “by Him all things consist, and by his frown all would be destroyed.” The same Omnipotence, she knew well, could laugh to scorn the kings of the earth, and that, should the sacred Humanity of her Child demand aid from the Eternal Father, He would give Him presently more than twelve legions of angels to sweep his enemies from the earth.
Therefore, when Joseph announced to her that they were to hasten with the Babe into Egypt in order to save his life, we may imagine her speaking such words as these: Why need we fear Herod’s wildest attempts P Why fly from a power that cannot touch or harm us ? What can man do against my Son? Is He not truly God?
Moreover, has not his enemy been already twice defeated in his ” plans
Why not this time also Let us then remain here in peace and confidence. But does the Blessed Virgin thus excuse herself from the toils and pains which the Heavenly message enjoined?
Far from it! She knew that the Divine will is ever to be obeyed ; she knew also that such was the desire of her Divine Child. Hence, on hearing from Joseph the message of the Archangel, she at once complied, and, without the delay of a moment, the Holy Family set out on their long journey of obedience—certain of the command, uncertain of its duration. This only did they know, that they were to remain in Egypt until the Archangel spoke again.
Let me here contemplate the prompt obedience of the Mother of God—how it puts to shame my past obstinacy and self-will.
Ten great commandments has my Creator given me. Do I fulfil them ?
Do I sincerely worship Him by Faith, Hope and Charity If not, my obedience is most unlike that of Mary. Do I ever take the name of the Lord, my
God, in vain ? If so, I am disobedient. Do I observe devoutly the Sabbath day? If not, I am not like Mary. Am I truly obedient to my parents, to my pastors, and other lawful superiors?
If not, I am far indeed from being like Mary. Do I from time to time foolishly allow anger on my brow ?
Do I ill-treat my neighbour or ever seek revenge ? Am I given to a life of debauchery, or to the. sins of un cleanness? Do I wrong any one in his property by negligence, stealth, or fraud? Have I at any time robbed another person of his good name, or tarnished his character by unnecessary or lying informations ? Have I ever desired my neighbour’s wife, or envied his acquirements or his riches? Oh, if I have not kept the holy precepts which God has given me, surely I can claim no resemblance to her who, in obedience to the will of Heaven — despite the greatest inconvenience of time, of distance and fatigue—forsook her dearest friends, her much-loved home, to live in exile in an unknown land. Pray, then, my soul—pray fervently to this Holy Virgin, and cease not until she grants thy supplication, and obtains for thee from her Son the virtue of heroic obedience. Thus wilt thou be enabled to overcome all thy enemies; for, as Solomon testifies, “The obedient man shall speak of victory.”