THE THIRD SWORD OF SORROW II
After the solemn celebration of the Pasch, Joseph and Mary returned home, each by a different route, and with a different party. But Jesus, alas! Remained behind. When they arrived at the place at which they were to meet, the distance of a day’s journey from the Temple, this holy couple were greatly alarmed to find that Jesus had been left at Jerusalem, for each one expected to see Him in the company of the other. “And when Jesus was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast,” says St. Luke, “and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not.” Judge, then, my soul, how exceedingly great must have been the grief of Mary when she discovered herself for the first time to be deprived of her most beloved Son.
He was her heart’s delight, her peace, her joy, her happiness, her all. His voice was to her ears the sweetest and the most melodious music. His divine kisses like honey to her virgin lips;
his company was heaven here below. Without Him this world was blank; without Him life was wretchedness indeed—yea, death, for she cared for nought else besides Him. Methinks that now I hear this afflicted Mother, when first she meets her husband, address him thus : ” Where is my Jesus ?” To which earnest inquiry St. Joseph replies, ” I do not know ; I thought that He had returned with you.”
“No,no,” cries Mary, ” He has not, He is not here. I have not seen Him ; I expected to find Him with you ; alas! alas ! He is of having offended Him. When a fond mother loses her child she is disconsolate; she sighs, she mourns, she groans, she weeps, nor can she sleep until she finds him. Now, Mary was the fondest of mothers ; all her love, too, was centred upon an only Son, and He was Divine ; He was truly God. Judge, then, my soul, of the severity of her woe. Hence St. Laurence Justinian says, ” there never was a greater grief than Mary’s, because there never was a child more loved than Jesus.” Is it possible for her at night to repose in peace, when she has not yet found her Son ? After enquiring at every house, after going from street to street in search of her lost treasure, Mary returns to her lodgings, and finds herself for the first time a childless Mother. Oh! what a sad and weary night does Mary pass: in vain does she attempt to close her eyes : she cannot sleep. As soon as day breaks and the sun once more appears, this dolorous Mother is seen again in search of Jesus ; but this day also she meets with no success, and sorrowfully returns home for the second time without her Son. Once more, therefore, does she pass the night in bitterness and weeping. Again the morning comes; again she seeks our Lord. The women of Jerusalem compassionate her; but they cannot comfort her, because they have not found her child. Like Rachel, Mary bewailed and sorely lamented, and, like her, she was not to be comforted, because she had lost the fruit of her womb. Wherefore, in the Office of the Seven Dolours, Holy Church place s on her lips the lamentation of the prophet Isaias over Juda, which we find in the 22nd chapter of the Prophecy of Isaias,”Therefore I have said, depart from me, I will weep bitterly : labour not to comfort me.”
For three days and three nights the Blessed Virgin was a childless Mother, and it was not until the third day that she found Him whom she had lost. On this day, after much anxiety and seeking, after labour and fatigue, after praying and weeping, having gone to Jerusalem, to her unspeakable surprise and delight she discovered Jesus in the Temple sitting in the midst of the doctors and elders, disputing with them and instructing them concerning the Messias. ” I found Him whom my soul loveth, I held Him and will not let Him go.”
St. Alphonsus says that this Dolour of Mary should console all who find themselves in desolation and are bereft of that comfort which once they experienced in the presence of the Lord.
God is wont from time to time to chastise those whom He loves. He frequently hides Himself and leaves the soul in spiritual dryness and desolation.
When they are only children in virtue,before they are fully initiated in perfection, He is accustomed to feed them with milk and honey, and from time to time He gives them a foretaste of that celestial nectar promised the blessed; but when they have grown robust and strong, as with the Apostles after the descent of the Holy Ghost, He wisely distributes the wholesome bread of tribulation. Oh ! then, my soul, when thou art thus deprived of the sensible presence of thy Saviour, when thou art in a state of spiritual dryness and affliction of spirit, thou shouldst meditate on what Mary suffered when she had lost her beloved Son ; and thou shouldst learn from her example to control thy alarm when thou art unconscious of sin.
For though, during the three days’ absence of Jesus, each moment seemed an eternity to her most loving heart, still she never lost confidence in God. Be encouraged, therefore, my soul, and do not yield to despondency because now and then Divine Providence wishes to prove and purify thee in the sacred crucible of humiliation.
But what if thou hast lost Jesus through thy own fault ? Then, indeed, there are great reasons why thou shouldst seek Him sorrowing. By losing Jesus thou losest thy sovereign good, and thus deprivest thyself of the everlasting enjoyment of infinite beauty, wisdom, love, power, and felicity, and all the other infinite attributes which spring from the Divine Essence. By losing Jesus, thou dost completely forfeit all claim to the kingdom of Heaven, purchased by his Precious Blood. By losing Jesus, thou dost lose peace of mind and thy bodily health, and oftentimes thou art in danger of losing thy life. And lastly, thou dost also lose all liberty of spirit and dost become a prisoner of the devil—like him, condemned to the “everlasting pains of hell.”
Oh ! then, if thou shouldst ever be so unfortunate, my soul, as to fall into mortal sin and lose God’s grace, seek Jesus sorrowing until thou dost find Him, as Mary did. She could neither eat, drink, nor sleep without her Son. Canst thou, then, close thy eyes at night when separated from thy Saviour ? Canst thou live in peace and find happiness without Him ?
Oh ! ” what will it profit thee if thou shouldst gain the whole world and thereby lose thy immortal soul ?” ” For what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” ” If, 0 Man,” says St. Augustine, “thou hadst two souls, then, indeed, thou couldst afford to lose one, to give one to God and one to the devil, to destine one for Heaven and to condemn the other to hell ; but since thou hast’ only one soul, thou shouldst rather lose all the world can give, than lose thy one precious soul.’ My soul, examine thyself.
Art thou now in the grace of God, or hast thou lost thy God by sin Oh!
if the latter be thy sad condition, make haste, do not delay, begin at once, seek Him, and when once more thou shalt possess Him, never let Him depart from thee again
O Mary, dear Mother of Jesus, thy affectionate heart was broken with grief, when for the space of three days thou didst lose thy beloved Son ; but thou didst not rest until thou hadst found Him. Do, then, I most humbly beseech thee, teach me how to find Jesus, if I am so unfortunate as to lose Him by sin. I, indeed, deserve to be deprived of his blessed company ; thou didst not deserve such an affliction, yet thou didst seek Him sorrowing. Oh !then obtain for me that I, too, may seek my Saviour with tears and lamentation. Thou, 0 Mary, couldst not repose in sleep without first finding Jesus ; may I never, therefore, lie down to rest separated from my God by sin. Hear, oh hear my prayer!
Despise not my humble supplication, and if it so happen that Heaven would try me by desolation and affliction, teach me, 0 Dolorous Virgin, how to deport myself, how to carry my cross with joy and peace ; and be thou thyself my joy and consolation. When thou didst go to the Temple thou didst take Jesus with thee ; teach, therefore, parents how to bring up their children in the love and fear of God ; in respect for Holy Church and sacred worship.
This, dear Mother, is all I ask. Hear and bless me, for I am thy client and thy Son’s adopted child. Amen.
Thou who didst seek thy lost Son for three days, obtain for me by thy cruel sorrow, never to be torn from Him by sin, and by grace soon to find Him if I have lost Him.
Say “three Ave Marias in honour of all the Blessed Virgin suffered in the Deserts of Arabia, for an increase of Divine Love”