by Fr. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem., Prior
It can happen that when we desire something good with all our heart, and pray for it longer than we can remember, yet without attaining it, we can then enter a kind of malaise, a detachment so thorough that it enters natural despair. Sure, God could do it, but He obviously won’t. And then He does—so wonderfully, so amazingly, so unbelievably that our only reaction is to hide away. How can we tell people about this almost preternatural gift, that singular grace so close to our heart? Such was the reaction of Elizabeth to the totally unexpected child in her aged, sterile womb. Earlier in the Gospel of Luke we read, “Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, ‘So has the Lord done for me at a time when He has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.’”
Enter the Mother of God. Now there is no more hiding for us, no more trembling that what God has given He might take away, no more extreme caution that the fragile gift will be lost. There is only due thanks and praise. We just heard, “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” She who had hidden herself away from her neighbors out of embarrassed respect for the gift now draws their attention by her shout of joy echoing through the hills because she realizes that all good things come to her through her cousin, the daughter of Joachim and Ann.
And she wasn’t the first. Angels are by nature hidden from view and yet enriched with every gift of nature we don’t have. For the most part they keep silence, and yet even they broke out into praise through the mouth of Gabriel, saying, “Blessed art thou amongst women,” since even their salvation was in some mysterious way dependent upon her. And so, Venerable Bede points out that she is blessed by Gabriel and Elizabeth with the same words to show that she is venerated by both angels and men.
Tobit said, “A king’s secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be made known with due honor.” All throughout the day we join the angelic chorus saluting the Virgin Mother of God. We join Abraham, we join David, and all the other patriarchs, her ancestors, who once waited in the shadow of death for liberation by her fiat. All with one accord hail her as blessed among women, a praise that echoes down throughout the centuries. And in so doing, although we may preserve in secrecy the nature of the gift, we acknowledge with honor and praise, gratitude and humility that all God’s gifts to us come through the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Those who trust in him, the faithful shall abide with him in love because grace and mercy are with his holy ones and his care is with his elect.’ Words from the first reading from the book of wisdom on this day the 2nd of November, the commemoration of all the faithful departed, all souls day.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13). My whole life has in one way or another revolved around the desires that make up the very core of this single verse. Sometimes intentionally, but most times unknowingly, I found that the direction of my life was set by the principles which form the bold application of this verse.
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