"And you shall give testimony, because you are with
me from the beginning." -John xv. 27.
Sermons for the Sundays and Feasts of the Year
By: Cure of Ars Imprimatur 1901
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
The Followers of Christ Should Give Testimony of Him
When two kingdoms are at war with one another it is easy to distinguish the soldiers for either party by their arms, their uniforms, and their flags. A violent struggle has been going on since the beginning of the world between the King of heaven and earth and the prince of darkness as to which of them the human race should belong. Christ, the Redeemer, by His death and resurrection, has won the victory over hell. Before He entered gloriously into heaven as a conqueror, leading with Him the souls of the just of the old law, as the first-born of His victory, He founded His Church upon earth as His kingdom, in which we should continue to combat against hell, and by His power we should and could complete the victory. Therefore He says to His Apostles, the generals of His kingdom, "You will give testimony of me," and Holy Writ says of them, "With great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord." (Acts iv. 33.) The words of Christ apply also to us. We are all obliged to give testimony of Him, not by sermons and miracles, as the Apostles did, but by our lie, by the imitation of Jesus; for as we have all become members of His body, and have received from Christ the name of "Christians," we are obliged to lead a life worthy of this Chief, not to bring disgrace upon His Holy Name, but so to live that in our life the Christian can be distinguished from the non-Christian. This is our testimony of Christ. I will now speak on this subject. In the Canticle of Canticles, the divine Bridegroom says to the soul that loves Him: (Cant. viii. 6): "Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm." We bear this seal of Christ when we imitate Him:
I. In our will.
II. In our words.
III. In our works.
I. I. David expresses that the will of our Redeemer was in these words, which the Holy Ghost permits Him to speak (Ps. xxxix. 8-9): "In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do thy will: O my God, I have desired it
, and thy law in the midst of my heart." But Christ says of Himself (John vi. 38), "Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me," and (John iv. 34) "My food is to do the will of him that sent me"; and the Apostle extols Him, saying (Phil. ii. 8): "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto the death, even the death of the cross." When He descended from the glory of heaven upon earth He sacrificed Himself to the will of His Father. "Thou willest, O my God," He said, as it were, with complete resignation, "that I should be born in a desolated stable; that I should shed my blood at the circumcision; that I should flee before Herod; that I should bear the burdens of the troubles of this earthly life for three and thirty years. Thou willest that I should be betrayed, despised, spit upon, buffeted upon the cheeks and scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, and suffer the most cruel of deaths. My God, I will it also. I am ready to suffer these and still greater afflictions."
2. Now, dear Christian, behold an act according to this model in thy dispositions. When a thousand disappointments beset you, say, too, "My God, I will it!" When poverty afflicts you, when the calumniator's tongue wounds you, when false friends deceive you, vincible patience imitate Christ, and say, "My God, I will it!" You must have these dispositions, this will; then the life of Christ is your model and you give testimony of Him.
3. How have you acted up to the present? Examine yourself and acknowledge how different your dispositions have often been to those of the Lord. Ah, how many ambitious people are there whose whole thoughts and actions are directed toward the acquisition of honor, recognition, offices, and dignities! How many avaricious people who ponder night and day how to increase their mammon! How many worldlings who think continually of their pleasures! How many revengeful souls who will not forget the insults they have endured! Is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathens do likewise, who give testimony of data?
II. I. Of what kind are the words of Christ the Lord? Peter once said (John vi. 69). "Thou hast the words of eternal life," for all His words were directed to the honor of God, the extirpation of sin, the growth of virtue, and the salvation of souls. Consider this in the seven last sacred words which He spoke from the cross in the midst of His death-agony. First He prayed to the heavenly Father, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke xxiii. 34) These are words of mercy and reconciliation. To the penitent their He said, "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke xxiii. 43) - words of blessed promise. He addresses these words to His Blessed Mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" and to His disciple, "Behold thy mother!" (John xix. 26.) What consoling words! In the moment of abandonment He cries out, with entire submission and confidence in God, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. xxxvii. 46) His desire to suffer still more and in the highest degree for the sake of our salvation is proved to us by His cry, "I thirst" (John xix. 28), "It is consummated" (John xix. 30). He says, full of joy, that He has completed our redemption, and He recommends His soul with resignation into the hands of His Father: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke xxiii. 46.) Now, dear Christians, look at this model and act accordingly in thy words. Whatever you speak must be to the honor of God, and to thine own and thy neighbor's salvation. Speech is given to us, as a servant of God says, to praise God, to the edification of our neighbor.
2. Have your conversations been of this description, dear Christian? Ah, how different have they often been from the Lord's! If we go into the houses and palaces of the rich and powerful, what talk, what conversations are there in vogue? What words do we hear in the halls of learning, in the assembly of the leaders of the people? In the streets we meet the indications of sensual pleasures, in the stores it is vanity; at home, in the workshops, too often, unfortunately, it is unbelief and blasphemy. Where is the place in which reputations are not blasted, slanders, blasphemies, oaths, and especially where improper conversations have not found a home, in our days? Even family life is no longer pure, and words are dropped into the ears of innocent children that poison their souls. Dear Christians, is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathen do likewise, who give testimony of satan?
III. I. Let us consider, in conclusion, the works of the Lord. St. Bernard describes them to us thus: "Under the name of Jesus I picture to myself a man humble and meek of heart, kind, temperate, chaste, merciful - in short, distinguished in every virtue and holiness." Our Lord's own teaching is witness that He was perfect in the practice of all the works which He taught. He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," and from His birth in the stable until His death upon the cross He was Himself the poorest, "for He had not where to lay His head." "Blessed are the meek," He says and He forgives not only the wrong done to Him, but he rewards it with the richest benefits. "Blessed are the sorrowful;" He expiated our sins by His whole body, and wept over them tears of blood. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice;" but His food was to do the will of His Father. "Blessed are the merciful;" He heaped good deeds upon His enemies. "Blessed are the peacemakers;" He made peace between God and man. "Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice sake;" He bears hatred and persecution on account of His teaching until His death.
2. But how do we perform our works? Do you not love your body and your comfort inordinately, and adhere so obstinately to the maxims of the world that you are almost ashamed to be a Christian? Or you love sin, allow your vices to become habits, and have even laid aside all feelings of shame therefore, or you only think of that which is earthly, and live on like the unreasoning animal, constantly pursuing pleasures and sensuality. Unhappy Christian, is this the way to give testimony of Christ? do not the heathen do the same, who give testimony of satan? Is it any wonder that heretics and unbelievers are not converted when they see that Catholics and Christians are worse than they are?
3. Therefore, my dear Christians, behold, and behave according to the model that is shown to you. It is your duty to imitate the teaching and the example of the Redeemer and to practice diligently upon His laws; you must crucify your flesh with its wicked desires; you must not be overcome by adversity, nor dazzled by happiness. It is your duty so to practice the Christian virtues that even unbelievers shall admire them, and say that they are not able to reach to such a high perfection. If this could be said of all Christians, surely the whole world would soon be Christian!
Do not delay, dear Christian, to conform you life to the life of Jesus Christ, and thereby to give testimony of Him. Hear how the Apostle exhorts you (II. Cor. iv. 10): "Always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." By mortification you must make your life a copy of His life. Your eye should not be overcurious, nor your mouth without shame, nor your sensual desires ungovernable, as the heathens are; your conduct must not correspond with the life of the rich glutton. On the contrary, all those who see your retirement and your modesty must acknowledge that you are not only in name, but in deed and truth a Christian, a follower of the Crucified One, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
"You seek Jesus who was crucified; he is not here; he is risen." ~Matt. xxviii. 6.
Sermons of the Cure of Ars
Sermons for all Sundays & Feast Days of the Year
By: Ven. Cure of Ars Impimatur 1901
Dearly beloved in the Lord! This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and triumph with Him. The Church meets us to-day with this joyful announcement, adorned as a bride. The dawn of day has brought us a beautiful, a great day of rejoicing. As we came to the sepulcher with the holy women, the angels greeted us with this joyful message: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here." This is the joyful message from heaven which resounds loudly and joyfully from north to south, to the uttermost ends of the earth. How this glad message should resound in songs of triumph and flood the heart with joy unspeakable. The heavens behold Him, the glorious risen One, and the sky covers itself with the loveliest azure; the sun in the firmament beholds Him, and it shines with the brightest, most perfect light, the favored earth and its inhabitants behold the glory of the risen Saviour, and they too rejoice. The whole world to-day joins in that glorious hymn of praise of St. Ambrose, "Almighty God, we praise Thee; O Lord, we praise Thy works; for this is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and triumph with Him." We shall hear to-day:
I. Why this day is such a joyful one.
II. How we ought to give the right expression of our jubilation united to the words of the Gospel of the feast which says: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: He is risen, He is not here."
May the risen Saviour bless our meditation.
I. 1.) Beloved bretheren, if you wish to know the true reason of our Easter joy, let us look back to the last days of Holy Week and represent to ourselves in a vivid manner what happened to Jesus of Nazareth in those days at Jerusalem. All these events are fresh in our memory; we were, during Lent, led by the words of the preacher to follow our Saviour in His passion. We beheld Him trodden upon like a worm; we saw Him drag His rack to the place of execution; we heard the dull strokes of the hammer which fastened His hands and feet to the cross; we saw the cross lifted up with its precious burden; briefly, we were witnesses in spirit of the awful agonizing death of our Saviour, of whom even Pilate said: "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the just man?" "To her just and deep sorrow the Church wishes to give expression by exterior signs of mourning; therefore the house of God, and the sanctuary within it, the Altar, were surrounded with a deathlike stillness, the tones of the organ and the sound of the bell were silenced, the bare cross along attracted to itself every eye, and filled our hearts with sadness. But, dear bretheren, our mourning is now turned into joy. The seal of the grave is broken; He who reposed therein is living; He whom we saw die upon the wood of the cross, as the outcast of mankind, He has proclaimed His divine dignity; neither seal, nor grave, no stone, no lock could withstand Him; He is risen! Just as the newly awakened life in the Spring unfolds itself in a thousand buds and blossoms, touching our hearts powerfully, in like manner does every Christian soul feel itself strangely moved and touched when on Easter morning we heart the Easter bells ringing out to the cottage as to the palace the glad tidings which the angel brought from heaven: "He is risen, He is not here! Alleluia, Jesus lives!"
2.) Jesus lives! At this announcement the earth rejoices, and it opens the grave of Him whose death upon Golgotha caused it to shiver and tremble at its base: Jesus lives! At this message heaven is joyfully agitated, and sends one of its angels to break the seal which the hatred of his enemies had placed upon their victim even after His death, to roll away the heavy stone and announce to the holy women: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here." Resurrexit sicut dixit. What joy for the poor disciples, who had fled in all directions when He was made a prisoner! Jesus lives! What glad tidings for us, beloved brethren; what joy and delight for us who are baptized in the name of Jesus, who believed in the teaching of Jesus; for us, who may live in the blessed hope that we too may one day rise again to a better life! When the Man of Sorrows, His struggle and His sufferings ended, cried out to the world with a loud voice those mighty words, "It is consummated," when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, the sun was obscured; it did not want to behold that dreadful spectacle; the earth was shaken mightily, its graves opened, and the dead arose. To-day, however, one grave is opened, and from it has arisen a sun which will never be obscured, which will never set, a sun which, like unto the sun of springtime, creates new life. This new sun is the Crucified One, the Son of God, God Himself, blessed for all eternity. He it is in whom the words of the Apostle are fulfilled: "Because he humbled himself and was obedient even unto death upon the cross, therefore has God exalted him, and given him a name which is above all other names."
3. When the star of Jacob arose, when the Word was made flesh, the kingdom of falsehood and darkness was doomed to defeat. Already the cradle song, which the angels sang to the incarnate Saviour, "Glory to God in the highest!" was a solemn hymn of praise which announced in advance the glory of this day. The Gloria in Excelsis of that most beloved night is supplemented in glorious manner by the glad tidings of the heavenly messenger on Easter morn, who said: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here." But the truth which the Son og God brought from heaven, His divine teaching, was not to be proclaimed without a struggle; the light illuminated the darkness, but the darkness could not comprehend. The only begotten Son of the Father was calumniated as the poor Son of the carpenter, the Messiah went from heaven was mocked as the Galilean, His words of Charity were branded as the work of hell. When He said that He had come to found a kingdom which was not of this world, He was denounced as a seducer of the work of hell. When He said that He had come to found a kingdom which was not of this world, He was denounced as a seducer of the people, and an enemy of Caesar. Thus, my brethren falsehood struggled against truth, and it seemed as if His enemies were really triumphant in victory when Jesus hung bleeding upon the cross. Thou didst in derision, "If thou art Christ, descend from the cross. Thou didst help others, now help thyself," and He made no reply to these words, but bowed His head and died. And still more, He was laid in a grave like an ordinary mortal, the grave itself being guarded and sealed.
Now, according to human calculations, everything was over and at an end; the world seemed to conquer. Whence, dear brethren, should that mustard seed which this incarnate God now lying in the grave had thus planted obtain its strength to grow and expand into a great tree whose fruit should bless all the races of the earth? Whence should the timid disciples have obtained the courage to proclaim to the world that this Crucified One is the true God, and to preach His Gospel to every creature? Tremble not, little band of disciples, for the miracle has already taken place! The earth is jubilant with joy, heaven sends forth its messengers, the grave is empty, the hero is awakened, the Saviour is risen! Because He arose from the grave through His own almighty power, because He has proven the glory of His divinity and placed the seal of completeness upon the work of redemption. If Christ had not risen again, says the Apostle, our faith would be vain! On Good Friday, when the earth trembled and the rocks were split open, we struck our breasts with the centurion and said, "Verily, He was the Son of God," we may therefore all the more cry out joyfully beside the empty grave on Easter morning, "He that is risen is the Son of God, He is the Messiah, He is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world." Is this not the day the Lord has made? Should we not rejoice in Him and be glad? Let the chords of the organ peal forth in sweetest harmony, let the bells ring out in thrilling tones, let the song of triumph resound, The Saviour is risen! Alleluia, Jesus lives. Neither seal nor grave, stone nor rock, could withstand Him. "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here."
II. 1. We have heard that we have every reason to rejoice from the bottom of our hearts on this ever memorable day, and to approach our risen Redeemer with joyous Alleluias. But this is not all, we must be active also, and make a practical use of to-day's celebration. Christ died for us, and He has given us an example that we should tread in His footsteps. As Christ is risen, so shall we arise and enter upon a new life. I call upon you, therefore, we arise and enter upon a new life. I call upon you, therefore, Christian parents, in the words of the Apostle: "Arise, and walk in the way in which thou shouldst go." You promised one another before God's holy altar mutual fidelity and help, that you would bear one another's burdens in peace, and that you would bring up your children in the fear of the Lord. How have you kept this promise? Is the throne of harmony erected in your home, and dispensing blessings upon you? Are you a good father and mother to your children, do you feed the flock confided to you in green pastures, and do you lead them, as a good shepherd should, to the source of living waters? Or are you, fathers, bad examples to your sons and you, mothers, unnatural mothers to your daughters? Arise and from your spiritual death, fortify anew the throne of peace, approach the Altar of God and renew your conjugal vows. Bring up your children as good Catholic parents should do, assist the teachers and those who have charge of their spiritual welfare in this difficult task, then, and then only, will you have a happy Easter; then Easter joys and Easter blessings will gladden you and your family.
2. Christian sons, Christian daughters, arise from the grave! We grown-up people, who have no longer the good fortune of seeing father and mother with us; we who can now only kneel at their graves and speak to them in spirit, how we envy you, dear, happy children, especially on this day, when it is such a joy to celebrate Easter in the family circle. And now, I ask you, beloved sons and daughters, whether you know how to appreciate this great happiness of possessing your father and mother, or whether you, O frivolous son, grieve your good father by your sinful ways, and by your extravagance; and you, proud daughter, do you cause your mother to shed tears as your behaviour, and at your disobedience? Well, then, to-day arise from the grave of sin and give your good parents and Easter joy by making the firm resolution of walking in the path which will bring you blessings in this life and in the life to come. The risen Saviour is the friend of children, He will extend His hands in blessing over you to-day, you will live long, and everything will be well with you upon earth.
3. Well may we apply to ourselves the words of the Apostle: "Man who is of the earth, is earthly." Now, if we have been in the past slaves of the flesh, and if our thoughts and actions were earthly, this is Easter; let us throw out the old leaven so that we may become a new dough. Then the words of the Apostle will come true: "If thou art risen with Christ, seek ye therefore the things that are above, not that which is upon earth." But in reality, to seek and to find that which is above, we must not only arise from the grave of sin, cleanse our hearts from every sin, but we must purify them from the old leaven. When Christ arose from the grave He left the burying sheets behind; so should we at our spiritual resurrection leave in the graves the fetters of our old habits; we must break with the old life and walk in a new one; we must put off the old man and put on the new man, which is created in holiness and justice. And so it must be with thee, O sensual man; let me say also of you, he is risen, he is not here, no longer there where he has so often sinned. We must be able to say: "He is risen, the miser, he lingers no more with his treasures, which the rust and moth will eat the father of the poor." He is risen, must be said of the drunkard, the gambler, he is not here, behold the place is empty where formerly he sat till far into the night playing and drinking, whilst his poor wife and hungry children suffered want at home. And this is what ought and must be said of all sinners: they are risen, they are not here, the grave of sin is empty, they are leading a new life. O then indeed we shall all spend a blessed and happy Easter, a day of gladness, a day which the Lord has made.
III. 1. Christ is raised from the dead to die no more. He is exalted high above principalities and powers and majesties, and He sits at the right hand of the Father. His words, spoken to the disciples of Emmaus, are true: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?" If then, dear brethren, crosses and sufferings come upon us, let us, too, kneel in the garden of lives; let us drain the chalice of suffering to the dregs on Golgotha, let us look up with courage and holy zeal. Good Friday was followed by a joyful Easter morn for the incarnate God, and we, too, shall enjoy a day of rejoicing, for if we suffer with Christ we shall also also be glorified with Him. Our cross will be for us Jacob's ladder, upon which we shall ascend from earth to heaven, where there shall be no more weeping, no more pain, but where eternal joy, eternal peace, and eternal rejoicing will reign.
2. The glorified risen Saviour bears in His hand, instead of the reed, a flag of victory, upon which is written, "I am the resurrection and the life; whosoever believes in me shall live, through he were already dead." My bretheren, what a consoling word! We can exclaim with jubilation: Death, where is thy sting? Death is defeated; now we may face death with confidence and say with Job: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he will raise me up at the last day." Dry thy tears, then, poor wife, thou who art weeping at the heavy loss of thy children's provider; weep not, poor husband, at the early death of they wife; children, mourn not the loss of your parents, who have left you orphans. My brethren, let us not weep and mourn for our beloved dead, like those who have no hope. We have a hope in the risen Saviour, that He will one day send His Angels to call us from our graves; we shall see one another again; we shall rejoice, and our joy no man shall take from us.
3. And if in our days we look sorrowfully into the future, and if the enemy presses hard upon our mother, the Church, she, too, our Church, will arise from the grave of oppression. That this will be the case every century testifies; the deeper they dig her grave, the tighter they seal and close it, the more gloriously has she ever arisen from the grave, and the more victoriously does she unfurl her flag. Her founder, who rose from the grave to-day, has said: "The gates of hell shall never prevail against her." And this founder proclaims joyfully to the redeemed world to-day: "All hail, Conqueror of Golgotha, Conqueror like unto none other! Alelluia!"
Let us, therefore, dear brethren, celebrate this Easter festival with glad, jubilant hearts; let us, at the empty grave of the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, extend to one another the hand of pardon. He calls to us indeed: peace be unto you! Let us break the bonds of sin, let us live in God, let us swear fidelity anew to-day to the victorious flag of Jesus Christ, let us stand fast in the faith! Then, yes then, we shall one day arise gloriously; we shall be transformed, and we shall possess the kingdom which has been prepared for us from the beginning. God grant it! Amen.
Sermons of the Cure of Ars
Sermons for all Sundays and
Feast Days of the Year Impr. 1901
"Of whom was born Jesus." - Matt. i. 16.
Here, my dear brethren, expressed in a few words, is the most complete praise which could be given to Mary, by saying that of her was born Jesus, the Son of God. Yes, Mary is the most beautiful creature that ever came forth from the hands of fthe Creator. God Himself elected her to be the star from which His most precious and richest blessings should shine upon all those who place their confidence in her. God presents her to us as a beautiful mirror, in which He is reflected, a perfect model of all virtues. Consequently the Church looks upon her as her Mother, her protectress,, and her powerful helper against her enemies, and she celebrates to0day the happy day on which this lovley start first illumined the earth. Let us, my dear friends, abandon ourselves to a holy joy with the whole church, and contemplate why we admire in this holy Virgin
I.- The model of perfect virtue, and
II.- The mediator between God and mankind.
Give me your earnest attention, for to speak of Mary must touch your hearts, because we are talking of the object of your confidence and love.
My beloved brethren, if it were necessary, so as to inspire you with a loving devotion to Mary, to show you how great is the happiness of those who confide in her, how powerful is her aid, and how numerous the graces and the favors which she can obtain for us- if it were necessary, I say, to prove to you the blindness, and the misery of those who are indifferent, and disregard so good, so tender, so powerful a Mother, I need only refer to the Prophets and the Patriarchs, and all the great things, which the Holy Ghost inspired them to say to her, should be a source of reproach for the little esteem in which we often hold this good Mother. Furthermore, if I were to relate to you how her example was followed by the Saints, we should be moved to lament our blindness, and to revive our confidence in her. In the first place nothing is more capable of inspiring in us a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin as the first passage which we read of her in Holy Scripture, where we behold God Himself the first One to announce Mary's coming.
When our first parents had the great misfortune of falling into sin, God, moved by their condition, promised that a day would come when a Virgin should be born, and she would bear a Son, by whom the misery caused by their sin would be redressed. In consequence of this, the Prophets have never ceased, time and again, to proclaim for the consolation of the human race, sighing under the tyranny of the evil spirit, that a Virgin would bear a Son, who would be the Son of the Most High, and be sent by His Father to redeem the world, lost by Adam's sin. All the Prophets foretold that she would be the most beautiful creature that had ever appeared upon the earth. They called her the Morning Star, which would eclipse all others by it's radiancy and beauty, and would guide the traveler upon the sea - a perfect model of every virtue.
With justice, therefore, the church in holy joy, says to the Blessed Virgin: "Thy birth, O blessed Virgin Mary fills the whole world with a sweet consolation and a holy joy, because of thee was born this sun of justice, our Jesus, our God, who has taken away from us the curse in which we were plunged by the sin of our first parents, and filled us with all kinds of blessings." In fact, although the Blessed Virgin wandered in the common path of life, yet the Holy Ghost willed that her soul should be the most beautiful, and the richest in grace. He also willed that her body should be the most beautiful body which had ever appeared upon earth. Scripture compares her to the dawn of morning, to the moon at its full, to the sun at middday. From the time of Adam's fall, the world was covered with terrible darkness. Mary appeared, and, as a beautiful sun, dispersed the darkness, and revived hope. Must not God, dear breathern, have said to Mary, as He did to Moses: "Deliver my people who are groaning under the tyranny of Pharaoh; announce to them that their deliverance is at hand, and that I have heard their prayers, their sighs, and their tears."
O what treasures Mary's birth brings for heaven and earth! The evil spirit trembles with fury and despair, because he beholds in Mary she who is to crush his head. whereas the angels and the blessed make the vault of heaven ring with songs of joy at the birth of a queen who will add new glory to their splendor.
But because God wished to show us that heaven can only be gained by humility, self-denial, poverty, and suffering, He decreed that the birth of Mary should be accompanied by ordinary circumstances. She was born in a state of weakness, her cradle was moistened with tears like that of other children who, when they are born, seem to foresee the misery to which they will be subjected through life. As the Holy Ghost tells us through the mouth of the prophets: "The day of death is preferable to that of birth." Mary was born in a state of obscurity. Although she was of the race of David, and numbered among her ancestors Patriarchs, Prophets, and Kings - all these honorable ancestors, so much sought after by the people of the world, had passed into oblivion, she had nothing more splendid than virtue, which, in the eyes of men, does not call for much esteem. God had permitted this, so that this birth might be in accordance with that of His divine Son, of whom the Prophets declared that He would have no place of rest to lay His head. If, however, she came into this world so poor of earthly riches, still she is rich in the gifts of Him whos Mother she was predestined to be from all eternity. Do we, said one of her great servants, a saintly Bishop of Geneva, wish to know who this crowned Virgin in the cradle is? Let us ask the angels. They will tell us that Mary infinitely surpasses them in grace, merits, dignity, and in all other perfections. St. Basil tells us that the eternal Father, from the creation of the world until Mary's arrival, had not found a creature who was pur and holy enough to be the Mother of His Son. How often have not the Patriarchs and the Prophets cried out, amid sighs and tears: "When will the happy moment arrive, when the Blessed Virgin shall appear in the world? Blessed the eyes that shall behold this creature who is to be the Mother of the Redeemer of the world!"
It would be impossible, my dear brethren, not to love Mary, if we reflected for a moment upon her affection for us, and the benefits which she never ceases to lavish upon us. "Alas," exclaims St. Bernard, that great servant of Mary, "how blind and miserable are we that do not love so kind and good a Mother! The world, without Mary's prayers, would long ago have ceased to be, and on account of our sins, have fallen back into chaos." The same Saint tells us that all the graces which we obtain from heaven, pass through Mary's hands. Another Father of the Church tells us: "Mary is like a good parent who is not content with caring for her children in general, but watches over each one of them in particular." If God had treated us as we deserved after many of our sins, we should long ago have been burning in hell. O how many are in those flames who would not be there if they had had recourse to Mary! She would have implored her Son to prolong their lives, to give them time to do penance. If this misfortune has not happened to us, dear brethren, we may thank Mary for it; it is she to whom we really owe it. She throws herself at the feet of her divine Son, and says to Him: "My Son, a little more time for this sinner; perhaps he will amend, perhaps he will act differently than he formerly did" What does she do to avert the wrath of the Father? She points out to Him all that His Son did and suffered, to repair the honor of which He has been deprived by sin. She hastens to remind her Son of everything that she suffered during her life for His sake. "My son," she says to Him every moment, "just a few days longer, perhaps he will amend." O how great is the affection of a mother! And yet there are some who despise her; others not only despise her, they despise by their mockeries all those who have confidence in her! Now, dear brethren, although they have only shown contempt for her, she has, nevertheless, not forsaken them, for were this the case, these mockers would already be in hell.
When we love some one, we are happy to possess his or her picture. It is the same if we love the Blessed Virgin, my dear friends. We consider it an honor and duty to have her picture in our house, to remind us frequently of this good Mother. Furthermore, those parents who are truly Christians should never omit to inspire their children with a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. This is the best means to call down the blessings of heaven, and the protection of Mary upon your families.
The Blessed Virgin is not only a dispenser of graces, but also a rampart against the assaults of the evil spirit! Once, when St. Dominic, her great servant, was about to drive the evil spirit out of one possessed, the evil spirit declared, with a loud voice, that the Blessed Virgin was his bitterest enemy, for she brought all his intentions to naught; that without her the world would be without religion, as he would have been able to destroy the Church by schism and heresy. Thus you see, dear brethren what valuable hep Mary is to all who call upon her in the battle with the archfiend.
It is safe to say that all Christians have a great devotion to Mary, with the exception of those hardened sinners who have long lost their faith, and who wallow in the mire of their passions. The evil spirit strives to hold them in the blindness until the moment of death opens their eyes. Ah, if they had taken refuge in Mary, they would not have fallen into hell as they did!
But, again, my dear friends, it is not enough to honor Mary only with our lips in order to deserve her protection. We must also endeavor to acquire those virtues of which she was such a shining example. We must strive to acquire her great humility. Although she wll knew that God had exalted her to the highest of all dignities, to be the Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, she despised no one. She looked upon herself as the least of creatures. We must also aspire to her extraordinary purity, which made her so pleasing to God. Her modesty was so great that God regarded her with delight. We must, my dear friends, detach ourselves from the things of this world, and think only of heaven, our true country. After the ascension of her divine Son, she only languished upon earth. She endured life, indeed, with patience, but she ardently awaited death, which would reunite her with her divine Son, the sole object of her love. How often did she not cry out with the Prophet: "My God, how much longer wilt thou permit my banishment to last? O when will that happy moment come when I shall be united to Thee forevermore? O if you see my beloved, tell Him that I languish with love!" God took her out of this world where she had suffered so much during her long pilgrimage. She died, but it was neither old age nor the feebleness of nature that caused her death, but it was her love for her divine Son. Her first breath had been an aspiration of life; it was proper that her last should be a sigh of love. She knew no fear, because she had never offended God by sin; she had no sorrow, because she was never attached to the things of the world; she signed only for Jesus, and death procured this happiness for her. She beheld Him coming to meet her, with the whole court of heaven, to honr her triumphant entry into heaven. Thus did this holy Virgin fall asleep in the embrace of the Lord; thus did this beautiful star vanish, which had illumined the world for seventy-two years. Thus triumphed over death she who gave birth to the author of all life!
What should we conclude from all this, dear brethren? This, that like Mary we are striving for the same happiness, and that it should be our sole purpose so to strive that we may merit it. This is what I wish you all! Amen.