ST BIRGITTA'S LESSONS
were ever in the mind of God,
before his creating brought you to be -
the most perfect of all his creatures.
He knew you as Noe, before the flood,
knew the Ark he was to build,
and the way he was to build it.
The design of the Ark had been made known to him,
and he waited for the time when God would command him to set to work.
The design and perfection, Mary, of your glorious body,
the Ark of God,
was known to God before all time.
And he knew the time when he would bring it into being by his creating.
As Noe rejoiced at the thought of the Ark he was to build,
so God rejoiced, Mary, at the thought of you.
Noe's Ark would withstand the storms;
you, Mary, the Ark of God, would withstand,
in the strength of your holiness,
every attack of the hatred and sin of hell.
that no water could seep in -
a ship whose timbers were carefully protected both inside and out.
You, Mary, the Ark of God, would be so strong in God's grace,
anointed and protected by his Holy Spirit,
that no desire would ever enter your heart,
either for your own glory
or for the possession of earthly things.
Such desires, we know, are as displeasing to God
as the water which seeps into the keel of a ship,
and collecting there becomes state and offensive.
Noe was pleased at the size and capacity of his Ark.
God rejoiced, Mary, in that holiness which would be yours,
in your love which would embrace all creatures,
and in your gentleness which would look with pity on sinners,
and hate only what was hateful to him.
But most of all,
he rejoiced in that ever increasing grace
which would fit you to bear in your womb
that which heaven and earth could not contain,
the Person of God the Son,
to hold him and be truly his Mother.
every captain of a ship takes pride,
in the cleanliness and tidiness and brightness of the Ark.
God rejoiced, Mary, in your virginity,
for in you there would be no sin,
nor slightest stain of sin,
to taint your perfection.
Noe provided for himself and those with him,
all that was needed to survive the days ahead.
God chose you, Mary, for his Son,
that your body should provide for him a perfect human body.
Noe came from the Ark unchanged.
But from you, Mary, the Ark of God,
the Son of God came forth,
clothed with that pure flesh and blood
which he had taken from you.
When Noe left the Ark, its purpose was served -
it was empty and useless.
But when Christ came forth from your womb,
you were filled with every gift of the Holy Spirit,
growing ever in holiness,
not further now from Christ,
but nearer to him,
and dearer even than before,
united to him on earth and in heaven for ever.
and all it contains
took place in the instant of his will's expression;
and with that design and perfection foreseen by him.
Yet there remained still uncreated
another work of creation which would surpass what he had already done.
You, Mary, are, as it were, another world,
a world which God foresaw with greater joy,
a world the Angels were more pleased to contemplate,
a world of more benefit to those of good will
that the whole earth and all it contains.
Mary, we may see in God's act
creation and in all created things
an image of your creating.
We read that it pleased God to
the darkness from the light
when he created the earth.
How much more it pleased him to enlighten you from childhood.
The darkness, the time of your infancy,
was made light by your knowledge of God,
your understanding of God,
and the will to love for God
which day by day led you on
to a love surpassed only by the love of God.
without knowledge of God,
without reasoning power to guide,
is for us a time of defencelessness and danger.
But we know that for you, exempt from sin,
it was a time of purest innocence.
We read that it pleased God to
together with the stars, two lights -
the sun for daytime, the moon for the night.
It pleased God still more, Mary, to set in you
two heavenly lights, brighter and more beautiful than the sun or the moon:
the first - perfect obedience,
a radiant light for Angels and men to admire,
guiding all who saw it to God himself, who is the light of eternal day;
the second - a most complete and trusting faith,
the light to men in the darkness of despair and unbelief
when your Son chose suffering and death,
a light to cast out all shadow of doubt and uncertainty
when he rose from the dead.
We read that it pleased God to
The thoughts of your heart, Mary, were more pleasing to him.
read that it
God to create the birds,
whose flight and song are a delight to men.
All the words which you spoke, Mary,
heard also in heaven to the joy of the Angels,
were more pleasing still.
We read that God created the earth itself,
the dry land and the soul;
and flowering and fruit-bearing trees of many kinds.
Your life, Mary, your occupations and work,
were more pleasing to him,
for you would give nourishment, and life itself, to all,
and your love would make each act of your life
more beautiful to God and the Angels
than the fairest of flowers are to men.
God created the plants, flowers, trees, and fruits,
minerals, metals, and precious stones -
he has made the earth rich with these things.
Yet he saw in you, Mary, even before your creating,
more qualities and virtues than in all earthly things.
We read that God's creation
pleasing to him,
and that he looked with joy on all he had done.
It pleased him still more to create you, Mary,
and he looked with greater joy on you,
even before your creating,
than on this earth and all earthly things.
That world and everything in
all would be destroyed.
Though created before you, Mary, it would not endure.
But you, by God's eternal decree,
were created to be for ever,
and to be for ever united to him in deepest love,
created in fullest grace,
responding to his grace in all things,
and so growing to the perfection of holiness.
see the justice and mercy of God.
Throughout his life he feared to offend God
and was guided in all things by love for God.
This way of life he handed on to those who came after him.
With time they forgot God's justice and mercy.
With time they forgot God himself,
and that he was their Creator.
They believed only what pleased them,
immersing themselves in pleasure and sin.
So came the flood,
when God destroyed all men on earth,
saving only Noe and those with him in the Ark,
through whom he willed to people the earth again.
Once again men multiplied on the earth,
and once again they fell,
tempted away from God,
turning to the worship of false gods and idols.
God's mercy and fatherly love
him to intervene,
and he chose one who was a faithful follower of his law,
Abraham, to make a covenant with him and his descendants.
He fulfilled his desire for a son,
and Isaac was born.
And he promised that from his descendants,
Christ, his son, would come.
It is possible that Abraham,
God's permission, foresaw many things.
We may think of him as having foreseen Mary, the Mother of Christ.
We may think of him rejoicing in her, and loving her more than Isaac his son,
or ambitiion that led Abraham to acquire lands and wealth.
It was not for his own sake that he desired a son.
He was like a gardener of some great lord's estate.
He had planted a vine,
and planned to make cuttings from that vine,
and so in time make for his master a vineyard of great worth.
Like a good gardener,
he knew that each plant needed careful attention,
and proper feeding, if it was to bear good fruit.
One plant in particular he cherished,
watching its growth with great delight.
He knew that it would be the choicest of all the trees in his vineyard.
His master would love to rest in the shade beneath it,
praising its beauty and the sweetness of its fruit.
If Abraham was the gardener,
then the vine which he first planted was Isaac;
the cuttings of that vine his descendants;
the feeding of each plant the goods of this world which Abraham
acquired for the sake of Isaac and his race;
the most cherished tree,
that tree of beauty and sweetness,
was the Virgin Mary;
and the Master for whom Abraham the gardener worked,
the owner of the vineyard,
was God himself,
who waited till the vineyard (the race of Isaac) was established,
and then, coming, saw with content,
the perfect vine in the midst of his vineyard,
the Virgin Mother of God.
The beauty of this tree was the perfect and sinless life of Mary;
the sweetness of the fruit, the acts of her life;
the shade of that tree, her virginal womb, overshadowed by the Spirit of God.
what was to be,
he rejoiced in his many descendants,
but most of all in that one of his descendants who,
as Virgin Mother,
was to bear the Son of God.
This faith and holy desire
Abraham handed on to Isaac, his son:
your oath, he had said to the servant sent for Isaac's wife,
must be sworn on the One who is to come of my race.
Isaac too handed on this same faith and desire,
when he blessed his son Jacob.
And Jacob in blessing his twelve sons,
handed on this same faith and desire in his turn to Judah.
God so loved Mary, the Mother
even before the creation of the world,
and before her creating,
that he gave to those he had specially chosen as his friends
some foreknowledge of her, for their consolation.
First to the Angels,
then to Adam,
and then to the Patriarchs,
the creation of Mary was a thing of wonder and joy.
and at God's chosen moment, life began
as he infused into it a living soul.
We see the bees in summer,
making flowers for honey;
led by instinct to their sweetness,
they seem often to wait for the buds to open.
God foresaw, as he foresees
the birth of Mary, and he waited with joy as she lay
hidden in her mother's womb,
for he knew that none ever of those to be born
would equal her in holiness.
None would so make known to men his infinite love.
The infusing of Mary's soul in the womb of Blessed Anne
was more beautiful than the dawn of the most beautiful day.
As we so often long for the dawn,
so Angels and men longed for her birth.
Where the nights are short in summer,
so that there is little darkness,
people do not notice the dawn;
they wait for the sun itself,
thinking of their crops and their fruits.
Where the nights are quite long, even in summer,
the dawn is watched for and welcomed,
not only for the coming of the sun to the fields,
but because men weary of the night and the darkness.
did not await the coming of Mary
that they might see Christ,
for they were ever in the light of his presence;
they longed for her, so that the love of God might be made known in the world,
so that men who loved God might be strengthened in their love,
and then they, the Angels, could go out to gather them
as an everlasting harvest for God.
But men, living in this world of sorrow and hardship,
desired the coming of Mary that they might see Christ their Saviour.
They longed for her coming, that they might learn from her perfect life
how man should live.
The Virgin Mary is foretold as the branch which would grow
from the root of the father of David,
to bear a flower on which the Spirit of God would rest.
In her mother's womb - how light Anne's burden! -
Mary was the tender branch which would soon come forth.
The flower that branch would bear was Christ.
the moment of her assent to God's message,
was a richer and infinitely sweeter nourishment
than blessed Anne had given to her.
Though Mary was to him the food of life,
giving her own flesh and blood to be his,
that he might appear in true humanity,
he was to Mary her heavenly food,
that she might bear him as her child,
though he was truly the Son of God.
They were Mother and Son, Son
yet this Son was truly the Son of God,
the only-begotten Son of the Father,
eternally with him,
eternally united with him and the Holy Spirit,
eternally the Person of the Son of God,
who with the Father and the Spirit lives in glory,
it is hard for us to appreciate that moment
when Mary first knew God
and gave herself to him.
His will became her one desire and her joy.
She saw how she owed everything to his creating;
but she knew that according to his plan,
her will was free,
to choose or refuse his will and his way.
She saw the blessings which
had already bestowed,
and for these alone she chose to love him in return,
and to love him for ever.
Soon she was to understand how much more he would do,
She learnt that he who created all would not rest content,
but would himself come to his creation
as redeemer of his creatures.
And this out of love alone.
She learnt that man's will,
free to choose good or evil,
could make satisfaction to God for sin,
or incur his anger by sin.
In that moment of
she chose once for all her course through life.
ship knows what dangers lie ahead,
and he charts his voyage to avoid the storms.
He watches the ship's course,
and works out the distance sailed,
and the distance still to sail before arriving in port.
Every rope, every piece of equipment is in place and ready for use.
The cargo he carries must reach port as quickly as possible.
Every detail of the voyage must be worked out ahead.
Mary was like the captain of a
As soon as she had understood God's will,
she set her course according to his commandments.
She was watchful at all times
that her attention should never be distracted from God.
She took care, when those around her spoke of their ambitions,
their successes or failures,
not to let herself become less devout in her service of God.
Anything contrary to God's law she knew at once as a danger
to be avoided at all cost.
With this self-training and discipline,
all that she did was good.
All that she said,
all that she listened to,
all that she gave her attention to,
was sensible and wise.
to herself and to others,
and each journey she made had some good reason.
The trials of life she accepted with patience and joy.
Her one thought was God.
Her one desire was to be for ever with him,
to offer to him in return for all he had done for her
all her love and her praise.
So perfect a life won her from
who is the giver of all good things,
the highest holiness and glory.
It is no wonder that God lover her
more than all other creatures.
She alone of all men and women
was ever sinless
and immune from sin.
How near she was to heaven
at that moment when the Angel Gabriel greeted her -
Hail, full of grace!
How pure, how holy she was,
at that moment when the Father entrusted to her his only Son,
at her assenting -
Be it done unto me, according to thy word!
At that moment of time,
Divinity was united with humanity,
humanity with Divinity;
the Son of God was made man;
the Son of the Father become the Son of Mary.
many things about Christ.
They spoke of the death of the Innocent One
and the pains he would suffer
to win for men on earth an eternal life with him in heaven.
They foretold and set in writing
that the Son of God, to save all men,
would be bound, scourged, mocked,
led out to be crucified,
and reviled as he hung on the Cross.
They knew that the immortal God would take man's mortal form.
They knew that he willed to suffer as man for man.
If the Prophets foresaw these
would not Mary foresee them, even more clearly?
She was the Mother predestined for the Son of God.
How could she not have foressen his sufferings
when he took flesh in her womb for this very purpose?
The presence of the Holy Spirit would enlighten her,
so that she knew better than the Prophets
that things which they, through the Holy Spirit, foretold.
as she held him for the first time in her arms,
Mary foresaw the fulfilment of prophecy.
As she wrapped him in swaddling-clothes,
she foresaw the scourging of his flesh
which would make him a leper in the eyes of men.
The hands and feet of her Child brought the thought
of the nails which would pierce them.
The face of her Son, beautiful beyond the beauty of men,
was the face men would spit on.
His cheeks would feel the blows of their hatred.
His ears would hear the curses of their defiance.
His eyes would be blinded by the blood from the wounds in his head.
His mouth would taste the bitterness of gall.
His arms would be bound,
then stretched in agony on the Cross;
and his heart, empty at last of blood, would shrink in death.
No part of that sacred body would escape the bitterness
of that most bitter death.
And when all breathing ceased,
there would still be the soldier's sharp spear
to pierce his lifeless heart.
Mary rejoiced as no mother
when her Son, the Son of God, was born,
true God, true man,
mortal in his humanity,
immortal in his Divinity.
But Mary knew sorrow deeper than the sorrows of all mothers,
foreseeing the Passion of her Son.
Her joy was beyond words,
but her joy brought with it a sorrow deeper
than all the sorrows of this world.
complete when her child is born
and she sees it healthy and perfectly formed.
Her pain and anxiety are over.
Mary rejoiced at Christ's birth,
but she knew that no moment of her life would be free of sorrow.
The Prophets foretold,
long before the coming of Christ,
his sufferings and death.
in the presence of Mary and her Child,
the piercing of her heart by a sword of sorrow.
We know that the mind is more
to pain even than the body.
We know that the soul of Mary, even before the death of her Son,
would feel that sword of sorrow more sharply
than all women on earth would feel the suffering of childbearing.
Each day brought nearer the sufferings of Christ.
Each day brought nearer the piercing of Mary's heart.
It was the compassion of
which enabled her,
by his presence and his words,
to bear day by day
such piercing sorrow.
read in the
these words of Christ -
the measure you give
shall be the measure you receive.
No one on earth can know the glory of Mary, the Mother of God.
She who on earth gave so much
receives now in heaven
a measure of glory beyond the whole of creation.
When it pleased Christ to call
from this earth,
there awaited her
all whom her holiness had helped.
whose love had been made known only through her,
awaited her coming to adorn her with a glory surpassed only by his own.
She was raised to the highest place in heaven,
to be Queen,
not only of his earthly creation,
but Queen over the Angels for ever.
The Angels rejoiced in this Queen,
made for ever obedient to her by their love for her.
Those Angels too who had fallen from God
were made subject to her;
not temptation of theirs could withstand her;
no one calling with love for her help
would be left unprotected;
the tempters would choose rather an increase of their misery
than the opposing of her power.
Of all creatures the most
Mary is now the most glorious,
the most perfect in beauty,
and nearest to God himself.
As gold surpassed all other metals,
Angels and men surpass all the creatures of God.
Gold needs the fire and the work of the goldsmith
before it can be fashioned into a work of beauty.
Angels and men,
was fashioned by her own will,
in the fire of the Holy Spirit,
into a thing of the highest beauty.
A work of art wrought in gold needs the light to be seen;
in the light of the sun, it will be seen in all its perfection.
All that the Virgin Mary
and the beauty of her soul,
could not be seen while she was living on earth.
Lit by the light of God himself in heaven,
she appeared in the fulness of beauty.
All heaven gave praise to her,
and to that beauty of soul with which her will had adorned her,
a beauty beyond the beauty of all creation,
near even to God's own perfection.
Mary is enthroned for ever,
on that throne placed near to the throne of God.
No one is nearer than she to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Father is in the Son,
the Son is in the Father,
the Holy Spirit is in the Father and the Son.
when he became man in the Virgin's womb,
was not thereby divided from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He took our humanity,
not losing his Divinity,
as Mary acquired Motherhood
without loss to her Virginity.
God gave to Mary, therefore, a place near to himself,
so that she is ever with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
and ever associated with this Blessed Trinity in all things.
the joy in heaven
when God raised Mary from this earth?
Who will measure our joy
when, seeing God face to face,
we see too the glory of Mary?
The Angels rejoicing in Mary glorify God.
The death of Christ has filled again the places made vacant in heaven.
The raising of Mary to heaven has increased even the blessedness of heaven.
To Adam and Eve,
to the Patriarchs and Prophets,
to all who died before Christ and were released by his death,
to all who have died since Christ's death and been taken to heaven,
Mary's entry into heaven is an everlasting joy and delight.
They praise God for her glory,
for the honour he has bestowed on her
as the one who bore in holiness
Christ, their Redeemer and Lord.
We may picture the Apostles
many holy ones
around Mary as her last hour approached.
We know the reverence and honour they paid to her
at the moment of her death.
We believe that she died,
as all others die.
We believe that her Son,
the Son of God,
took her to himself,
and raised her, body and soul,
to live for ever in heaven.
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