THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY IN THE TEMPLE
St. Anselm speaks of the life of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, and says that “Mary was docile, spoke little, was always composed, did not laugh,” and that her mind was never disturbed. She also persevered in prayer, in the study of the Sacred Scriptures, in fastings, and all virtuous works.
St. Jerome and St. Bonaventure enter more into detail. They say that Mary thus regulated her life: In the morning until the third hour she remained in prayer; from the third hour until the ninth she employed herself with work; and from the ninth hour she again prayed until the Angel brought her food, as he was wont to do. She was always the first in watchings, the most exact in the observance of the Divine law, the most profoundly humble, and the most perfect in every virtue. No one ever saw her angry: her every word carried such sweetness with it that it was a witness to all that God was with her.
We read in St. Bonaventure’s Life of Christ, that the Divine Mother herself revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary that “when her father and mother left her in the Temple she determined to have God alone for her Father, and often thought how she could please Him best.” Moreover, as we learn from the Revelations of St. Bridget, “she determined to consecrate her virginity to God, to possess nothing in the world, and to give God her entire will.” Besides this, she told St. Elizabeth that of all the Commandments to be observed she especially kept this one before her eyes: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; and that at midnight she went before the Altar of the Temple to beg that God would grant her the grace to observe them all, and that she might live to see the birth of the Mother of the Redeemer, entreating God at the same time to preserve her eyes to behold her, her tongue to praise her, her hands and feet to serve her, and her knees to adore her Divine Son in her womb. St. Elizabeth, on hearing this, said: “But, Lady, wast thou not full of grace and virtue?” Mary replied: “Know that I considered myself most vile and unworthy of Divine grace, and therefore thus earnestly prayed for grace and virtue.” And finally, that we might be convinced of the absolute necessity under which we all are of asking the graces that we require from God, she added: “Dost thou think that I possessed grace and virtue without effort? Know that I obtained no grace from God without great effort, constant prayer, ardent desire, and many tears and mortifications.”
But above all we should consider the Revelation made to St. Bridget of the virtues and practices of the Blessed Virgin in her childhood, in the following words: “From her childhood Mary was full of the Holy Ghost, and as she advanced in age she advanced also in grace. Thenceforward she determined to love God with her whole heart, so that she might never offend Him, either by her words or actions; and therefore she despised all earthly goods. She gave all she could to the poor. In her food she was so temperate, that she took only as much as was barely necessary to sustain the life of her body. Afterwards, on discovering in the Sacred Scriptures that God was to be born of a Virgin, that He might redeem the world, her soul was to such a degree inflamed with divine love, that she could desire and think of nothing but God; and finding pleasure in Him alone, she avoided all company, even that of her parents, lest their presence might deprive her of His remembrance. She desired, with the greatest ardour, to live until the time of the coming of the Messias, that she might be the servant of that happy Virgin, who merited to be His Mother.” Thus far the Revelations of St. Bridget.
Ah, yes, for the love of this exalted child the Redeemer did indeed hasten His coming into the world; for whilst she, in her humility, looked upon herself as unworthy to be the servant of the Divine Mother, she was herself chosen to be this Mother; and by the sweet odour of her virtues and her powerful prayers she drew the Divine Son into her virginal womb. For this reason Mary was called a turtle-dove by her Divine Spouse: The voice of the turtle is heard in our land (Cant. ii. 12). Not only because as a turtle-dove she always loved solitude, living in this world as in a desert, but also because, like a turtle-dove, which always sighs for its companions, Mary always sighed in the temple, compassionating the miseries of the lost world, and seeking from God the redemption of all. O, with how much greater feeling and fervour than the Prophets did she repeat their prayers and sighs, that God would send the promised Redeemer! Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth (Is. xvi. 1).Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just (Ib. xlv. 8). O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down (Ib. lxiv. 1).