The Visitation


O my Mother, most holy Virgin Mary, be always my model, my support, and my guide.


 

The Visitation by Bradi Barth

The Visitation, art by Bradi Barth

 

“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.” These words are from today’s Gospel (Lk 1, 39-47). Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

If we consider the difficulty of traveling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Cor 13,5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted and act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!

Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbor. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognize your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbor, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognized, as well as the more or less honorable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.

~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

The Visitation2

Art by Bradi Barth


O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?

“When Elizabeth caught sight of you she was astonished and exclaimed: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve… It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth, you the Queen, to the servant, the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor, you who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.

“But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God.

“Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!

“O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith, and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary,  O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!”
(cf. St. Bernard).

 

 

Flos Carmeli

 

Our Lady of Mt Carmel and St Simon

Our Lady of Mt Carmel and St. Simon Stock, unknown artist

 

Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel) is one of the most beautiful prayers ever written to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“The Flos Carmeli is a Carmelite hymn and prayer. Flos Carmeli is Latin for “Flower of Carmel” and was first used as the sequence for the Feast of Saint Simon Stock (May 16). Beginning in 1663 it became the sequence for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16). It is said to have been written by St. Simon Stock himself (c1165-1265). The prayer is taken from the first two stanzas of the sequence.”

“Oral tradition tells of St. Simon Stock praying with a passionate intensity to Our Lady of Mount Carmel during a time of great distress and hardship for the Order. With fervor and faith, he prayed for the first time the Flos Carmeli prayer which he wrote. And Our Lady answered that prayer. Thus, for seven centuries the Flos Carmeli continues to be prayed to the Blessed Mother with the firm faith that she will answer its request with her powerful help and intercession.” *

* Copied from the Website of the Carmelite Sisters, OCD.

The prayer below is from the first two verses of the longer sequence. I love this prayer very much and we also sing it (the hymn version) together with our Lay Carmelite community at our monthly meetings.

Flos Carmeli Prayer

O beautiful Flower of Carmel, most fruitful vine,
Splendor of Heaven, holy and singular,
who brought the Son of God,
still ever remaining a Pure Virgin,
assist me in this necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help and protect me!
Show me that thou art my Mother.

O Mary conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to Thee!

Mother and Beauty of Carmel, Pray for us!
Virgin, Flower of Carmel, Pray for us!
Patroness of all who wear the Scapular, Pray for us!
Hope of all who die wearing the Scapular, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Friend of the Sacred Heart, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Chaste Spouse of Mary, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Our Patron, Pray for us!
O sweet Heart of Mary, Be our salvation!
Amen!

 St. Simon Stock, pray for us!

 


Mother of Mount Carmel, I kiss your Holy Scapular and thank you for this precious gift. Help and guide me always. I place my confidence in your intercession. Never has it been known, dearest Lady and Mother, that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided. Amen!

(Bl Nuno Alvares Pereira, 1360-1411)


 

 

 

Mystical Rose

 

Mary by sieger koder

Mary’s Garden, art by Sieger Köder

How did Mary become the Rosa Mystica, the choice, delicate, perfect flower of God’s spiritual creation? It was by being born, nurtured, and sheltered in the mystical garden or Paradise of God. Scripture makes use of the figure of a garden when it would speak of heaven and its blessed inhabitants. A garden is a spot of ground set apart for trees and plants, all good, all various, for things that are sweet to the taste, or fragrant in scent, or beautiful to look upon, or useful for nourishment. According in its spiritual sense it means the home of blessed spirits and holy souls dwelling there together, souls with both the flowers and the fruits upon them, which by the careful husbandry of God they have come to bear, flowers and fruits of grace, flowers more beautiful an more fragrant than those of any garden, fruits more delicious and exquisite than can be matured by earthly husbandman.

All that God has made speaks of its Maker; the mountains speak of his eternity, the sun of his immensity, and the winds of his almightiness. In like manner flowers and fruits speak of his sanctity, his love, and his providence; and such as are flowers and fruits, they are found in a garden, therefore a garden has also excellences which speak of God, because it is their home. For instance, it would be out of place if we found beautiful flowers on the mountain crag, or rich fruit in the sandy desert. As then by flowers and fruits are meant, in a mystical sense, the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, so by a garden is meant mystically a place of spiritual repose, stillness, peace, refreshment, and delight.

Our first parents were placed in “a garden of pleasure” shaded by trees, “fair to behold and pleasant to eat of,” with the Tree of Life in the midst and a river to water the ground. Thus our Lord, speaking from the cross to the penitent robber, calls the blessed place, the heaven to which he was taking him, “paradise,” or a garden of pleasure. Therefore, St. John, in the Book of Revelation, speaks of heaven, the place of God, as a garden or paradise in which was the Tree of Life giving forth its fruits every month.

Such was the garden in which the Mystical Rose, the Immaculate Mary, was sheltered and nursed to be the mother of the All Holy God, from her birth to her spousal to St. Joseph, a term of thirteen years. For three years of it she was in the arms of her holy mother, St. Anne, and then for ten years she lived in the Temple of God. In those blessed gardens, as they may be called, she lived by herself, continually visited by the dew of God’s grace, and growing up a more and more heavenly flower, till at the end of that period she was suitable for the inhabitation in her of the Most Holy. This was the outcome of the Immaculate Conception. Excepting her, the fairest rose in the paradise of God has had upon it blight and has had the risk of canker-worm and locust. All but Mary; she from the first was perfect in her sweetness and her beautifulness, and at length when the angel Gabriel came to her he found her “full of grace,” which had, from her good use of it, accumulated in her from the first moment of her being.

Mary is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the queen of them. She is the queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.

~ A Meditation by John Henry Newman

 

Virgin Mary with rose

Mystical Rose, art by Bradi Barth

 

Mystical Rose

THERE is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bear Jesu:
Alleluia.

For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space:
Res Miranda.

By that rose we may well see
There be one God in Persons Three:
Pares forma.

The angels sang, the shepherds too:
Gloria in Excelsis Deo:
Gaudeamus.

Leave we all this worldly mirth
And follow we this joyful birth:
Transeamus.

~ A Poem by an unknown Medieval Author

Res Miranda, thing to be marvelled at. Pares forma, equal in nature. Gaudeamus, let us rejoice. Transeamus, let us go hence.


A Prayer
Mystical Rose, Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, I venerate thee that I might honor thy Divine Son and thereby win His mercy. I ask for thy help in the clemency of thy Maternal Heart in all confidence that I will be heard.



Poem and Prayer Source: 
http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/mystical-rose.htm

I Come, O Mother, To Gaze On You

Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette

At Sacred Spring, art by Domenico Tojetti, 1877

Today is the feast of Notre Dame de Lourdes and we are aware of not only her Immaculate Conception, but also the fact that Our Lady has worked many healings at Lourdes. It was between February 11 and July 16, 1858, that Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave near her hometown of Lourdes, France. Now this place has become one of pilgrimage and a place to bring the sick, the disabled, and those who have incurable diseases to the grotto’s spring. It has been and is the place for many cures there in the waters.
I had the immense blessing to travel to Lourdes in the summer of 2017. That experience has left in the grotto of my heart a profound joy and love for Our Lady. Here I would like to share this beautiful poem by Paul Claudel that encompasses all what I feel for this beautiful Lady and Mother of all. Totus Tuus, Maria!

“The first spiritual relationship with The Blessed Virgin is simply a glance: I come solely to gaze on you.
What sustains that glance is not an articulated prayer but the song of the heart, which is given voice by love for Mary.
Praise precedes petition—indeed the latter cannot do without the former.
Is this not the case when people truly love one another?”

I Come, O Mother, To Gaze On You

It is noon.
I see the church open, and I must enter.
Mother of Jesus Christ,
I do not come to pray.
I have nothing to offer and nothing to request.
I come solely to gaze on you, O Mother.
To gaze on you, weep for joy, and know this:
That I am your child and you are there.
I come only for a moment while everything is at a standstill,
at noon!
Just to be with you, O Mary, in this place where you are.
Not to say anything but to gaze at your countenance,
and let the heart sing in its own language;
not to say anything but solely to sing
because my heart is overflowing.
For you are beautiful, because you are immaculate,
the woman fully restored in Grace, the creature in its first honor and its final bloom,
as it issued from God on the morn of its original splendor.
You are ineffably intact, because you are the Mother of Jesus Christ,
Who is the Truth in your arms, and the only hope and the sole fruit.
~ By Paul Claudel

 

Guadalupe

Guadalupe ~ Art by Cecilia Spihlmann

Guadalupe ~ Art by Cecilia Spihlmann

You are the fountain of my life,
Under your shadow and in your protection,
I fear no evil… no pain, no worry.

O Maria, O most merciful Mother,
Gentle Virgin with the name Guadalupe.
On a mountain we find roses in winter,
All the world has been touched by your love.

Here in the crossing of your arms,
Could there be anything else that I need?
Nothing discourage… nothing depress me.

You are the star of the ocean,
My boat is small and the waves are so high.
But with you to guide me,
I’ll reach my homeland.

You are the dawn of a new day,
For you give birth to the Son of the Father.
All of my lifetime,
I’ll walk beside you.

~ Hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe, author unknown

 

Saying “Yes” to God

Maria Immaculata ~ Art by Franz Ittenbach, 1879

Maria Immaculata ~ Art by Franz Ittenbach, 1879

When John writes about the wedding in Cana, he very briefly points out that “the mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1). Where Jesus is, there is Mary as well. She is always there. When Jesus dies, Mary is still there. She is under the cross. Why is Mary always there? Not directly to help Jesus, but to help us.

“Do whatever he tells you,” she says to the waiters in Cana and to all of us. She exhorts us to listen to her Son and to do what he asks. She not only says it: She is, in all of her life, a model of listening and obedience.

The fact that Mary wholeheartedly followed God’s will made it possible for him to save humankind. In and through Mary, the whole creation says “yes” to God and receives his gift. Through Mary, God’s request receives a perfect answer. Without her “yes,” the dialogue between God and humankind wouldn’t have progressed.

At the same time as her “yes” gives God opportunity to save you, it also gives you occasion to follow her. She teaches you to say the same “yes” to God as she did, so that the salvation of the world can be your personal salvation as well.

~ A meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D

Wishing you all a very blessed feast day of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary! 

Mary, the eternal spring of hope

 

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Art by Maria Ellenrieder (1824)

Desperately we seek happiness. The majority of us understand that happiness is found in love. But today the way we use the word “love” often misses its very essence. As humanity is losing its sense of its own identity, it is losing its understanding of love as well, and the pursuit of what many think of as love doesn’t bring the fulfilment that they expect. Perhaps it is because love has been equated with lust, with encounters that barely touch the hearts of those who casually have met and as casually parted.

Yes, we seek happiness and dimly know that love is happiness, but we have lost the true meaning of love. We are going around seeking it or seeking someone who can tell us where it is to be found.

One person who can direct us to love is Mary, the Mother of God. She became pregnant with the Son of God, the Incarnation of Love and gave him birth! She bore him, brought him up, watched him grow to manhood. She lived with him, followed him at a distance, and stood under his cross as he made his supreme sacrifice out of love for the whole human race.

Mary knows the way of Love intimately, deeply, and profoundly. Of all the people who have ever lived, Mary is the one through whom Love was born.
To go to Mary, as you would got to a beloved neighbor’s house, to sit down in her kitchen, and to ask her to tell you about Love and the way to it, is the simplest thing in the world! For to a Christian with faith in the communion of saints, relationships span time and extend into eternity.
Those who have died are with us, and we are with them, united in the immense bond of Love that is the Lord. And so talking to Mary should be very simple. Many have found the way easily. More should try.

She will tell you about her Son who took upon himself your pain and my pain, your sin and mine. She will tell you about the deep, strange, fantastic obedience he had to his Father, and we will know what obedience truly is, and how to pave the way to Love. She will explain that to be fulfilled and find our identity, we have to drop the pronoun “I” and live by a total attention, by constant listening to him, to her…to the other.

She will explain that no one should really do “their thing’ selfishly, but should open their heart and embrace “all good things” that the other does.

Lastly, she will speak in a low voice about her own fiat, her simple “yes” to God. And if we listen carefully to the gentle voice of the mother of Jesus, we will know what that “yes” means in our life. We will know what Love is and, having found it, we will never let it go. So let us turn to this woman who can truly liberate us.

~ By Catherine de Hueck Doherty, ‘Bogoroditza’

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!