Ecce ancilla Domini!

Today’s Gospel takes us back nine months to the Annunciation, to Gabriel, the messenger sent from God to a virgin in Nazareth, whose name was Mary.

Mary is humble, docile, and filled with faith in God as she recieves and accepts His message through the angel, Gabriel. Through her acceptance the accomplishment of God’s greatest work – the Incarnation of the Word – is to take place, which will end in His glory. Glory is the end of all of God’s works.

God called us into existence out of nothing giving us a natural life, but He also gave us a supernatural life. He elevated man to divine sonship so that we might share in the intimate life of the Godhead – the Trinity, and enter into that beatitude that is eternal. This was the Divine plan from the beginning. However, even though the first sin of Adam and Eve destroyed this plan and changed everything, God’s love did not change. God through His immense charity towards man willed to redeem him. So through an even greter act of love, God became man and appeared into the world taking on human flesh as a son, as a small child in the womb of Mary. 

To save us He descended from heaven and became incarnate. With what love God has loved us! Divine Love moved God to become one of us.

The Word comes down from heaven to be with us. This is the greatest manifistation of God’s merciful love. From the Incaranation of the Word comes our salvation, sanctification and our beatitude. Without this supreme act of Charity we would be trapped in a purely human life and would be stripped of a supernatural life now and for eternity.

Fiat!

Our Blessed Mother models for us the effects that graces and divine favors should generate in us – an increase in humility and a consciousness of our nothingness.

The higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became because of her humility. “The Angel called her “full of grace” and Mary “was troubled” ”(Lk 1: 28-29) Because of Mary’s humility, she disliked praise. Her desire was that only God should be praised. “The more she understood the grandeur of the mystery, the immensity of the divine gift, the more she humbled herself, submerging herself in her nothingness. Her attitude was the same when Elizabeth greeted her, “Blessed are thou among women”. (Lk 1:42) (cf. Divine Intimacy #176 by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen)

Inspired by this narrative of St. Luke, let us enter into the dispositions of Mary. She is recollected in solitude when the angel approaches and says to her the words repeated in every Hail Mary. Mary’s reaction to this angelic visitor is one of humility. She is ‘troubled’, that is, astonished at such an unusual greeting addressed to her.

fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum

Then Mary gives her ‘fiat’: “Let it be done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). This is the only proper response to God’s will.

Two virtues are displayed in Mary. First of all, humility reveals her peaceful interior and is reflected in the exterior body of her soul. She is astonished but not disturbed. If we really ponder in great honesty all that disturbs us and trace this disturbance to its root, we will find that our pride in some way has been wounded. Some contradiction, some change to our plans, some insecurity in our comforts; all these disturb our constant grasping for “my will to be done”. The second virtue we see in Mary is her simplicity. Simplicity is looking only at God. Mary is pure and has a desire for only one thing. Our passions and attachments keep us from this disposition. Once a soul is purified of every passion and attachment it is then reduced to perfect simplicity. To reach this goal the soul must look to God for help, leaning on God at every moment seeking Him as sole support and strength. The simple soul does not waste time reasoning about the conduct of others. These souls see the hand of God in everything that happens and in every circumstance.

These two virtues, humility and simplicity, so perfectly modeled in the Blessed Virgin Mary, are necessary for a soul to rest peacefully in any given situation knowing and trusting in God.

Mary’s humble dependence on God and His will is reflected beautifully in her reply, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Lk 1: 38) This interior attitude of Mary’s is equal to that of Jesus: “Behold, I come to do your will.” (Heb 10:9) This deep interior disposition was constant throughout the Blessed Virgin’s life. Her life was one of docility which is expressed in this attitude of “handmaiden”. We too can make this our attitude of being easily led by God when we accept all that He permits in our lives. God wills the inconveniences, poverty (spiritual and material), privations, separations, persecutions, insults, and hardships as grace. Let us, like Mary, humbly depend on God for everything.

Awake My Heart!

Jesus came into the darkness, the darkness of sin and death, but the darkness did not receive His light. Oh! If this Advent our darkness would desire and comprehend His light! Even if we don’t, the day will come when His justice will burst upon us in all its brilliance, and He will disperse all the spiritual darkness in man’s heart.

During Advent we can reflect on the state of our world before Christ’s coming. It was a world filled with darkness and sin. Then let us fill our hearts with gratitude towards Jesus who came down from heaven so that He might know our miserable state experiencing all of it, except for sin, and saving us from death.

The prophet Isaiah is read during the Advent liturgies. This Sunday we receive a glimpse of the state of the world before the Incarnation. The Chosen people had ‘wandered’ from the Lord’s ways; their hearts were ‘hardened’. Nevertheless, they were expecting Him to come and the prophet exclaims, “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” However, they are admittedly sinful and ‘unclean people’.

Then let us ponder on His mysterious coming that He desires to accomplish in hearts. Let us open our hearts to receive Him more fully than ever before. He desires to enter there, to dwell there and transform us. Let us consent to receive this Divine guest. He knocks and asks to be let in. He delights to be born in our hearts. Do not refuse Him. Receive Him and let Him in.

This Advent let Him in and preserve Him within you as a great treasure. Let Him rest there where He can shape your thoughts and guide your actions to be like His. Welcome Him with love and care more than before.

In the Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus exhorts his followers to be watchful and alert because they “do not know when the time will come”. We do not know when Christ will come the second time, but He will come and we do not want Him to find us “sleeping”.  

Advent is a time where we await Jesus’ coming. He has already come in the flesh, and this is the reason for this liturgical season – to celebrate anew His coming as Savior and Redeemer. This is also a time to think about His second coming when He will come in Glory. In between these two comings He manifests Himself to us, and it is to these manifestations that we need to be Awake!

This Advent let us invite Him to join us in the interior of our heart: in deep, recollection, in silence, and in solitude. Invite Him in through a deep interior recollection combined with silence that is both interior and exterior and in solitude so that we can hear His voice and prepare for His coming however He may manifest His presence.

This is a season of quiet. A time to set aside useless chatter, self-love, sensitiveness, the prattle of fantasy and imaginings, and the thoughts that flit from here to there. In addition it is a time to get rid of any preoccupation with useless things, so that we can listen and hear the Lord speak. In this way we can be awake and attentive and will not miss “the time of His visitation”. (Luke 19:44)

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May he not come suddenly and find us sleepy.” (Mark 13)

By A Simple and Loving Movement

Shortly before her death, in a letter to her friend, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote: 

“I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.” (Letter 335)

Here we have laid out by the saint herself what her mission in heaven was going to be. Where St. Therese’s said her mission was “to make God loved  [and that she] … will spend [her] heaven doing good on earth”,  St. Elizabeth’s mission will be to draw us out of ourselves so that we can remain devoted to God. She even explains how we will do this – by a “simple and loving movement”. As we will see, her emphasis will be on keeping silent within in order to allow God to communicate Himself. From this Divine communication, a transformation will take place in our souls.

Key to understanding St. Elizabeth’s mission is her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Carmel is Our Lady’s Order, and as a Carmelite St. Elizabeth honored the Blessed Mother with a special devotion to her dignity as the Mother of God and in her sovereignty as Queen of Heaven and Earth. In St. Elizabeth’s devotion to Mary, she finds the perfect realization of her interior ideal. St. Elizabeth sees the Word hidden in Mary’s womb, and in her communion with the Word, a mother and flowing from her loving kindness and humility. But most of all St. Elizabeth was attracted to Mary’s silence and recollection.

As a child St. Elizabeth’s piety towards Mary was typical of a young girl at that time. It has been noted that she asked Mary to guard her purity, and the saint kept a childhood diary filled with the thoughts of Mary. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was given to her as a child, and St. Elizabeth asked her mother for it towards the end of her life so that Our Lady “might watch over her departure”. She received the Carmelite habit on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Later in a letter to Canon Angles near the end of her life, she wrote, “ It is she, the Immaculate Conception, who gave me the habit of Carmel. And I am asking her to clothe me again in that robe of one linen in which the bride is decked to present herself at the marriage feast of the Lamb.” 

The attitudes of the Virgin greatly attracted St. Elizabeth. She says that Mary’s example during the time from the Annunciation to the Nativity is a “model for interior souls”. Since God had chosen to live within her, Mary was at peace and wholly recollected in “everything she did” and “even the most trivial things were divinized by her!”. In her writing, Heaven in Faith, we see that what attracted St. Elizabeth most was Mary as Our Lady of the Incarnation. Mary was the living tabernacle of the Incarnate Word, a pure temple for God. What must it have been like for Mary to have within her the Incarnate Word? Recollected and in silent adoration, Mary embraced this great mystery within her. The Blessed Mother’s prayer included loving service to Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, as “the servant of the Lord” – humble and always forgetful of self.

In a letter to her sister, St. Elizabeth writes, “I do not need to make any effort to enter into this mystery of the Divine Indwelling in the Blessed Virgin. I seem to find in it the habitual movement of my own soul which was also that of hers: to adore God hidden within me.” St. Elizabeth had as her ideal a life of silent adoration of God hidden within the depths of her soul, in imitation of Mary. 

Then there was Mary’s station at the foot of the cross, which also impressed upon St. Elizabeth’s devotion. Mary associated herself with her Son in the “work of redemption”. The Co-Redemptirx was “full of strength and courage” at the foot of the cross. Of Our Lady of Sorrows, she wrote, “Those last songs of His soul which no one else but she, His Mother, could overhear”. St. Elizabeth attests that the Blessed Virgin teaches her to suffer.

“No one has penetrated the depths of the master of Christ except the Blessed Virgin.”

(Last Retreat, First Day, 2)

It is in the fifteenth day of her Last Retreat that we can find the connection between Mary and St. Elizabeth’s mission. Our saint writes,  “Her soul is so simple. Its movements are so profound”. It is obvious that she sees Mary as one she can imitate. As a Carmelite, she would want to, like the Virgin, to keep “all these things in her heart”. After-all “it was within her heart that she lived… a depth that no human eye can follow her.”

Mary has a unique role in the work of our salvation. She is the Mother of God and of all the redeemed. As a mother, Mary cares for our eternal welfare. Mary’s soul was pure, detached, and transparent. Even though she had this great mystery within her, it did not in any way diminished her charity. Through it all Mary remained humble and adored of the gift of God.

St. Elizabeth wanted to live as Mary did corresponding her life to Mary’s by keeping all these things in her heart. Then bringing all these things into the depth of her soul, in order to lose herself in the Trinity which dwells there, so that her soul will be transformed into the Trinity Itself. During her Last Retreat, and confident in Mary’s intercession, on the first day her entry reads, “This Mother of grace will form my soul so that her little child may be a living, striking image of her first-born, the Son of the Eternal, He who was the perfect, praise of His Father’s glory”.

Throughout St. Elizabeth’s writing she refers to Mary from the many titles found in the Litany of Loretto: Mirror of Justice, Faithful Virgin, Mother of Grace, Gate of Heaven.  Mary is the Faithful Virgin “who kept all these things in her heart”. Mary remained little and so recollected, to “draw down … the Holy Trinity”, and “unaware of her own beauty”, Mary lived in peace and recollection. In all her actions Mary constantly adored God. On the fifteenth day of her Last Retreat, St. Elizabeth wrote, “It is Our Lady, that luminous being, all pure with God’s purity, who will take me by the hand to lead me into heaven, that dazzling heaven.” Having placed her last retreat under the protection of Janua Coeli, Mary the Gate of Heaven, St. Elizabeth entered through this gate on November 9, 1906. 

by a wholly simple and loving movement”

St. Elizabeth’s writings show us how to enter into this simple and loving movement of our soul. Essential to implementing this movement of the soul is exterior and interior silence. Exterior silence means more solitude. Solitude in Carmel is everything and what solitude there was in the soul of Mary. In the solitude of her cell, St. Elizabeth, like Our Lady, was lost in recollection under the influence of the Trinity. For St. Elizabeth the solitude of her cell was a little paradise full of Him. 

To live an interior life we must also strive for interior peace even while living among the unrest of the world and our daily occupations. Interior silence, that alone, will make our contact with God continuous. The Blessed Mother is our teacher of the silence necessary for the interior life because “the interior life, which in a very special way, is Mary’s life”. (Divine Intimacy, #378 by Fr. Gabriel Mary) To imitate and resemble Mary’s soul we need to live a life of recollection. Prayer should be foremost in our day, and an uninterrupted giving of ourselves to God should be our activity, like Mary.  Keeping constant contact with God in an intimate union with Him is accomplished by reserving our soul as a sanctuary for God alone.

What disturbs our interior peace? Our passions, sins and attachments -these make noise and interrupt our intimate conversation with God. Silence the memory and imagination when we find ourselves spending our time daydreaming, mulling over past events or feelings, or fantasying about the future. These occupy the soul and prevent our conversation with God.

St. Elizabeth has this to say about interior disturbances, “It includes our feelings, memories, impressions, and so forth. In a word, it is self.” We are to be like Mary detached and in control of our emotions and desires. 

Likewise, we are to seek solitude and silence where God can find his delights or “rest” in us. We can ask Mary for these graces – for she is the Mistress of our interior life. Additionally, the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinty are filled with food for nourishing the spiritual life.

“I shall unite myself to the soul of the Blessed Virgin when the Father overshadowed her with His power, while the Word became incarnate within her, and the Holy Ghost came upon her to work the great mystery It is the whole Trinity in action, God yielding, giving Himself. And ought not the life of a Carmelite be lived under this divine action?” (Letter to Mme. de Sourdon)

J. M. + J. T.

The Extraordinary is Always Silent

Silence is the longest precept in the Rule of St. Albert written for the Carmelites. We are instructed to keep silence and to work in silence because “silence is the way to foster holiness.” For Carmelites this precept of silence is seen as a means for recollection, not as penance. It is a privative, though a happy one because it is what makes possible our union with God. This is also the most difficult precept of the Rule. There is noise everywhere! A constant montage of noise fills every moment. And if by chance one can escape the exterior noise and find some solitude, then there is the barrage of interior noise that goes on within one’s own self!

What happens in silence is an amazing thing. Robert Cardinal Sarah has a new book titled The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.  In it he stated that, “What is extraordinary is always silent.” This phrase really stuck a cord and moved me to contemplate this thought more.

He goes on to explain that, “The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence.” For example a “tree grows in silence.” “Springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground.” “The sun that rises over the earth in its splendor and grandeur warms us in silence.” (Sarah, p. 34) Other extraordinary things also came to mind as I read this: The dew appears on the grass in silence, and clouds form and grow gathering in the sky, all in silence. A new human life grows in its mother’s womb in silence. Snowflakes fall to the earth in great silence.

At prayer an extraordinary thing also happens. The soul encounters God and unites with Him in heart, mind and will. Therefore the need to move away from the noise, to find secluded places to be alone with God Alone.

In The Twelve Degrees of Silence by Marie-Aimee de Jesus OCD, she expresses this beautifully. “Just as a flower unfolds in silence and its scent worships its Creator in silence, the interior soul must do likewise.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 54)

To pray in silence. Silence in the presence of God. This is love in action for a contemplative for “The silence of love is love in silence.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 50)

Continue to contemplate these thoughts as I end with one more image from Marie-Aimee de Jesus. “A silent heart is a pure heart; a melody singing in the heart of God. Like a sacristy lamp flickering noiselessly at the tabernacle, and like incense silently rising at the Savior’s throne, such is love’s silence.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 51)

With the Eyes of the Soul and Loving Attentiveness

How can one remain in the presence of God? For St. Teresa the Lord can and is to be seen, one just needs to attend to his presence. She would see him “with the eyes of the soul” (Life, Chap 7: 6) So should we since he really is present to us and sees everything and he “never takes his eyes off” of us. He truly is with us. Here is more of what St. Teresa has to say:

“I’m not asking you now that you think about Him, or that you draw out a lot of concepts or make long and subtle reflections with your intellect. I’m not asking you to do anything more than to look at Him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can’t do more? You can look at very ugly things; won’t you be able to look at the most beautiful thing imaginable? Well now, daughters, Your Spouse never takes His eyes off you. He has suffered your committing a thousand ugly offensives and abominations against Him, and this suffering wasn’t enough for Him to cease looking at you. Is it too much to ask you to turn your eyes from these exterior things in order to look at Him sometimes? Behold, He is not waiting for anything else, as He says to the bride, than that we look at Him. In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him. He so esteems our turning to look at Him that no diligence will be lacking on His part’” (Way of Perfection 26: 3)

During any time of prayer we often let that time pass or be lost instead of recollecting them on God, so ask Him to not abandon you during your time of prayer.

Additionally even while occupied physically with others and other occupations one can make brief pauses and interiorly keep recollected with the heart centered and attentive on God. When employed with things like our daily duties, not all our faculties and senses have to be taken up with the task at hand, so let the others be occupied with God. (The Sayings of Light and Love, #117) We can do our daily duties and tasks in such a way that we keep loving attentiveness towards God and His presence. For St. John of the Cross counsels us to “endeavor to remain always in the presence of God, either real, imaginative, or unitive insofar as is permitted by your works.” (Degrees of Perfection)

Beautiful Silence

Silence is the longest precept in the Rule of St. Albert. For Carmelites this precept of silence is seen as a means for recollection, not as penance. While it is a privative, it is a happy one because it is what makes possible union with God.

Prayer, silence, and solitude -these three things go together and complement each other.

By being silent one is able to stay away the evils that come about in the abuse of words. What do we have to talk about? What is it that we communicate when we speak? Ideas?

No. Actually, most of what we communicate are images and impressions – mostly foolishness and nonsense. But God gave us the gift of speech to communicate ideas. In reality the more we speak the more our interior recollection is clouded. Words which do not express ideas will only manifest matter. Matter just makes dust! While on the contrary, silence makes for recollection. Silence is difficult and poorly observed. This we can all agree. It costs.

For St. John of the Cross to be silent is to be seen in terms of contemplation.

“The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul,” (Sayings of Light and Love #100)

Today try to observe silence. During the day let’s wrap ourselves in silence:

speak little         think little

Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary

rosary

From “Divine Intimacy” by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

For the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary

October Seventh

Presence of God – O most holy Virgin, may the Rosary be my spiritual armor and my school of virtue.

Meditation

1. Today’s Feast is a manifestation of gratitude for the great victories won by the Christian people through the power of Mary’s

Rosary; it is also the most beautiful and authoritative testimony of the value of this prayer. The liturgy of the day is not only a

commentary on the Rosary, but an amplification of it : the three hymns of the Office as well as the antiphons of Matins and

Lauds, review its different mysteries; the lessons chant its glories, and the continual references to the Virgin, who “blossomed as

it were, among the flowers, surrounded by roses and lilies of the valley,” are a clear allusion to the mystical crowns of roses

which Mary’s devoted children weave at her feet when they recite the Rosary. This Feast tells us that to honor the Rosary is to

honor Mary, for the Rosary is simply a meditation on Our Lady’s life, accompanied by the devout recitation of the Hail Mary. It is

for this reason that the Church praises this practice and recommends it so insistently to the faithful. “O God,” she prays in today’s

Collect, “grant that meditating on the mysteries of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what

they contain and obtain what they promise.” The Rosary, if recited well, is both prayer and instruction; its mysteries tell us that in

Mary’s life everything is judged in relation to God ; her sorrows are, so to speak, the very sorrows of God, who being made man,

willed to suffer for the sins of mankind. Mary’s only joy is Jesus : to be His Mother, to clasp Him in her arms, to offer Him for the

adoration of the world, to contemplate Him in the glory of His Resurrection, to be united to Him in Heaven. Mary’s unique sorrow

is the Passion of Jesus : to see Him betrayed, scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified by our sins. This, then, is the first fruit

which we must gather from the recitation of the Rosary : to judge all the events of our life according to their relation to God, to

rejoice in what gives Him pleasure, in what unites us to Him, to suffer for sin which separates us from Him and is the cause of the

Passion and death of Jesus.

2. The second fruit that we should derive from the daily recitation of the Rosary is a penetration into Christ’s mysteries; by Mary

and with Mary, who opens the door to them for us, the Rosary helps us penetrate the ineffable grandeurs of the Incarnation,

Passion, and glory of Jesus. Who is there who has understood and lived these mysteries as Our Lady did? And who better than

she can make us understand them? If, during the recitation of the Rosary, we really know how to put ourselves in spiritual contact

with Mary and to accompany her in the various stages of her life, we shall be able to perceive something of the sentiments of

her heart concerning these great mysteries which she witnessed, and in which she played such an important part; this, in turn,

will serve wonderfully to nourish our souls. Thus, our Rosary will be transformed into a quarter of an hour’s meditation–we might

almost say contemplation–under Mary’s guidance. This is what Mary desires, rather than many Rosaries recited with the lips,

while the mind wanders in a thousand directions! The Hail Mary, continuously repeated, should express the attitude of a soul who

is striving to approach the Blessed Virgin, hastening toward her in order to be captivated by her and given insight into the divine

mysteries. “Ave Maria!” the lips say, and heart murmurs : “Teach me, O Mary, to know and love Jesus as you knew and loved

Him.” Saying the Rosary in this way requires recollection. St. Teresa of Jesus says that “before beginning to recite the Rosary, let

the soul think of whom it is going to address, and who it is that is speaking, that it may speak to Him with due respect” (cf. Way,

22). The Saint, with her keen wit, laughs at those people “who are so fond of repeating a large number of vocal prayers in a great

hurry, as though they were anxious to finish their task of repeating them daily” (ibid., 31). Rosaries recited in this way cannot

really nourish our interior life; they will bring little fruit to the soul and little glory to Mary. On the other hand, if recited with a

real spirit of devotion, the Rosary becomes an effective means of cultivating devotion to Mary and of bringing us into intimacy

with Our Lady and her Divine Son.

Awaken my Heart

Advent is a time where we await Jesus’ coming. He has already come in the flesh, and this is the reason for this liturgical season – to celebrate anew His coming as Savior and Redeemer. This is also a time to think about His second coming when He will come in Glory. In between these two comings He manifests Himself to us, and it is to these manifestations that we need to be Awake!

This Advent let us invite Him to join us in the interior of our heart: in deep recollection, in silence and in solitude. Invite Him in through a deep interior recollection combined with silence that is both interior and exterior and in solitude so that we can hear His voice and prepare for His coming however He may manifest His presence.

This is a season of quiet. A time to set aside useless chatter, self-love, sensitiveness, the prattle of fantasy and imaginings, and the thoughts that flit from here to there. In addition it is a time to get rid of any preoccupation with useless things, so that we can listen and hear the Lord speak. In this way we can be awake and attentive and will not miss “the time of His visitation”. (Luke 19:44)

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May he not come suddenly and find us sleepy.” (Mark 13)

IMG_4873

Presence of God

“It is only natural to think of someone you love.” ~ St. Therese

 If I don’t have time for devotions and prayers I can take up the practice of the Presence of God. Motivated by love and a desire to please Him, I can develop the habit of being attentive and aware of God at all times. After all, He is always near me residing in the depths of my heart.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, defines this “Practice of the Presence of God” this way:

“to take delight in and to become accustomed to his divine company speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him at all times, every moment without rule or measure.”

 Read more here over at Suscipio.