First Saturday Meditation:The Incarnation
At the bidding of the divine will the holy Gabriel presented himself at the foot of the throne intent
upon the immutable essence of the Most High. His Majesty then expressly charged him with the message,which he was to bring to the most holy Mary and instructed him in the very words with which he was to salute and address Her. Thus the first Author of the message was God himself, who formed the exact words in his divine mind, and revealed them to the holy archangel for transmission to the most pure Mary. At the same time the Lord revealed to the holy prince Gabriel many hidden sacraments concerning the Incarnation. The blessed Trinity commanded him to betake himself to the heavenly Maiden and announce to Her, that the Lord had chosen Her among women to be the Mother of the eternal Word, that She should conceive Him in her virginal womb through operation of the Holy Ghost without injury to her virginity. In this and in all the rest of the message, which he was to declare and manifest to this great Queen and Mistress, the archangel was instructed by the blessed Trinity ITSELF.
Thereupon his Majesty announced to all the other angels that the time of the Redemption had come and that He had commanded it to be brought to the world without delay ; for already, in THIER own presence, the most holy Mary had been prepared and adorned to be his Mother, and had been exalted to the supreme dignity.
The heavenly spirits heard the voice of their Creator, and with incomparable joy and thanksgiving for the fulfillment of his eternal and perfect will, they intoned new canticles of praise, repeating therein that hymn of Sion : “Holy, holy, holy art thou, God and Lord Sabaoth (Is. 6, 3). Just and powerful art Thou, Lord our God, who livest in the highest (Ps. 112, 5) and lookest upon the lowly of the earth. Admirable are all thy works, most high and exalted in thy designs.
The supernal prince Gabriel, obeying with singular delight the divine command and accompanied by many thousands of most beautiful angels in visible forms, descended from the highest heaven. The appearance of the great prince and legate was that of a most handsome youth of rarest beauty; his face emitted resplendent rays of light, his bearing was grave and majestic, his advance measured, his motions composed, his words weighty and powerful, his whole presence displayed a pleasing, kindly gravity and more of godlike qualities than all the other angels until then seen in visible form by the heavenly Mistress.
He wore a diadem of exquisite splendor and his vestments glowed in various colors full of refulgent beauty. Enchased on his breast, he bore a most beautiful cross, disclosing the mystery of the Incarnation, which He had come to announce. All these circumstances were calculated to rivet the affectionate attention of the most prudent Queen.
The whole of this celestial army with their princely leader holy Gabriel directed their flight to Nazareth, a town of the province of Galilee, to the dwelling place of most holy Mary. This was an humble cottage and her chamber was a narrow room, bare of all those furnishings which are wont to be used by the world in order to hide its own meanness and want of all higher goods. The heavenly Mistress was at this time fourteen years, six months and seventeen days of age; for herbirthday anniversary fell on the eighth of September and six months seventeen days had passed since that date,when this greatest of all mysteries ever performed by God in this world, was enacted in Her.
The bodily shape of the heavenly Queen was well proportioned and taller than is usual with other maidens of her age ; yet extremely elegant and perfect in all its parts. Her face was rather more oblong than round, gracious and beautiful, without leanness or grossness; its complexion clear, yet of a slightly brownish hue; her forehead spacious yet symmetrical; her eye brows perfectly arched; her eyes large and serious, of incredible and ineffable beauty and dovelike sweetness, dark in color with a mixture tending toward green; her nose straight and well shaped; her mouth small, with red-colored lips, neither too thin nor too thick. All the gifts of nature in Her were so symmetrical and beautiful, that no other human being ever had the like. To look upon Her caused feelings at the same time of joy and seriousness, love and reverential fear. She attracted the heart and yet restrained it in sweet reverence ; her beauty impelled the tongue to sound her praise, and yet her grandeur and her overwhelming perfections and graces hushed it to silence. In all that approached Her, She caused divine effects not easily explained; She filled the heart with heavenly influences and divine operations, tending toward the Divinity.
Her garments were humble and poor, yet clean, of a dark silvery hue, somewhat like the color of ashes, and they were arranged and worn without pretense, but with the greatest modesty and propriety. At the time when, without her noticing it, the embassy of heaven drew nigh unto Her, She was engaged in the highest contemplation concerning the mysteries which the Lord had renewed in Her by so many favors during the nine preceding days.
And since, as we have said above, the Lord himself had assured Her that his Only begotten would soon descend to assume human form, this great Queen was full of fervent and joyful affection in the expectation of its execution and inflamed with humble love, She spoke in her heart : "Is it possible that the blessed time has arrived, in which the Word of the eternal Father is to be born and to converse with men? (Baruch:10, 38) .
That the world should possess Him ? That men are to see Him in the flesh ? ( Is. 40. 5 ) . That his inaccessible light is to shine forth to illumine those who sit in darkness? (Is. 9, 2). O, who shall be worthy to see and know Him! O,who shall be allowed to kiss the earth touched by his feet!
Rejoice, ye heavens, and console thyself, O earth (Ps. 95, 11) ; let all things bless and extol Him,since already his eternal happiness is nigh ! O children of Adam, afflicted with sin, and yet creatures of my Beloved, now shall you raise your heads and throw off the yoke of your ancient servitude! (Is. 14, 25). O, ye ancient Forefathers and Prophets, and all ye just, that are detained in limbo and are waiting in the bosom of Abraham, now shall you be consoled and your much desired and long promised Redeemer shall tarry no longer ! ( Agg.2, 8). Let us all magnify Him and sing to Him hymns of praise! O who shall be the slave of Her, whom Isaias points out as his Mother (Is. 7, 4) ; O Emmanuel,true God and Man ! O key of David, who art to unlock heaven ! ( Is. 22, 22 ).
O eternal Wisdom ! O Lawgiver of the new Church ! Come, come to us, O Lord, and end the captivity of thy people; let all flesh see thy salvation! (Is. 40, 5).
In these petitions and aspirations, and in many more too deep for my tongue to explain, the most holy Mary was engaged at the hour, when the holy angel Gabriel arrived. She was most pure in soul, most perfect in body, most noble in her sentiments, most exalted in sanctity, full of grace and so deified and pleasing in the sight of God, that She was fit to be his Mother and an instrument adapted for drawing Him from the bosom of the Father to her virginal womb. She was the powerful means of our Redemption and to Her we owe it on many accounts. And therefore it is just, that all generations and nations shall bless and forever extol Her(Luke 1, 48). What happened at the entrance of the heavenly embassy, I will relate in the following chapter.
I wish only to state here a fact worthy of admiration, that for the reception of the message of the archangel and for the execution of the exalted mystery,which was to be wrought in the heavenly Lady by her consent, his Majesty left Her without any other aid than the resources of her common human nature and those furnished Her by the faculties and virtues of her ordinary condition, such as have been described in the first part of this history (Part I, 674-714). The Most High disposed it thus, because this mystery was to be enacted as a sacrament of faith conjointly with hope and charity. And therefore the Lord provided Her with no special aid, leaving Her to her belief and hope in his divine promises. Thus prepared She experienced what I shall try to relate in my inadequate and limited terms. The greatness of these sacraments makes my ability to explain them appear so much the more insufficient.