THE PROGRESS OF THE HOLY CHILD MARY IN VIRTUE
Let us consider how holy and pleasing to God was the life of Mary in the Temple. She progressed without intermission in the perfection of every virtue, as the morning rising (Cant. vi. 9). Who can describe how from day to day all her virtues appeared more beautiful — especially her modesty, silence, mortification, humility, sweetness? St. Anselm says she was accustomed to speak little, was affable, charitable towards every one, and most obliging. In fact, as was revealed to St. Bridget, the virtues she practised most in the Temple were humility, charity, and obedience.
She did not walk, she flew, in the way of the Lord. St. Jerome says that her blessed soul was the abode of every virtue. She spent a certain time as it is related, in doing some work that had been assigned to her. But the greatest part of the day and of the night she consecrated to prayer and to close communion with God in solitude; for this was the most cherished and most desired occupation of her heart that was burning with love; it was her sweetest delight. Oh, how well did Mary in the Temple know how to treat with God of the great work of the Redemption of the world! Seeing clearly the miserable condition of the world, in which so many souls were lost, in which so few knew the true God, and among this number so few who loved Him — ah! how much better than Patriarchs and Prophets did she pray: Come, O Lord, do not delay! Show us Thy mercy, and send us the Lamb that is to rule the world. Ye heavens, let your rain descend and send down the Just, that the earth may bring forth the Saviour.
It was a delight to the Lord to behold this tender Virgin always ascending towards the highest perfection, like a pillar of smoke, rich in the sweet odour of all virtues, as the Holy Ghost Himself clearly describes her in the sacred Canticles: Who is she that goeth up by the desert as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense, and of all the powers of the perfumer? (Cant. iii. 6). “This child,” says St. Sophronius, “was truly God’s garden of delights; for He found in her every kind of flower, and all the sweet odours of virtues.” Hence St. John Chrysostom affirms, that God chose Mary for His Mother in this world, because He did not find on earth a Virgin more holy and more perfect than she was, nor any dwelling more worthy than her most sacred womb. St. Bernard also says, “that there was not on earth a more worthy place than the temple of the Virgin’s womb.” This also agrees with the assertion of St. Antoninus, that the Blessed Virgin, to be chosen for, and destined to the dignity of Mother of God, was necessarily so great and consummate in perfection as to surpass all other creatures: “The last grace of perfection is that which prepared her for the Conception of the Son of God.”
As, then, the holy child Mary presented and offered herself to God in the Temple with promptitude and without reserve, so let us also present ourselves this day to Mary without delay and without reserve; and let us entreat her to offer us to God, Who will not reject us when He sees us presented by the hand of that blessed creature, who was the living Temple of the Holy Ghost, the delight of her Lord, and the chosen Mother of the Eternal Word. Let us also have unbounded confidence in this high and gracious Lady, who rewards with the greatest love the homage she receives from her clients.
O thou most holy Child, mistress of virtue and of love, since it was through thy love that the Eternal Word was drawn from the Bosom of His Father to thy own, be ever blessed and ever thanked! How many beautiful lessons dost thou give by thy example, if we are only attentive in considering the life that thou didst lead in the Temple! Ah, sweet Queen, have compassion on me; thou knowest the bad use I have made of my past life; thou knowest the severe account I am to render to Jesus Christ, thy Son and my Judge. O kindliest teacher, since thou hast been so good to me in helping me when I little thought of imploring thy aid and thy counsel, I do not fear that thou wilt abandon me now that I wish to obey thee, and that I ask thy assistance. Do not banish me from thy school in which thou trainest so many souls to sanctity. Teach me what I should do to belong entirely to God, and thus to repair the time I have lost. Should I fail in my duty, O my Sovereign Lady, be so kind as to correct me and chastise me as thou mayest think fit. The chastisements coming from thy sweet hand, to make me a saint, will always be very dear to me. For pity’s sake, O Mary, do not abandon me till thou seest me become thy perfect disciple in love towards my God: for I know that it is only in order to love Him that the time I have yet to live has been granted to me. My Sovereign Lady, I ask this favour of thee, and it is from thee that I hope to receive it. Amen.