IV. 1 THREE ADDRESSES For the First Profession of Sister Miriam of Little St. Thérèse July 16, 1940
“Induit nos, Genetrix Domini, vestimento salutis: et indumento justitiae circumdedit nos, alleluia.” “The Mother of the Lord has clothed us in the robe of salvation: and she wraps about us the mantle of justice.”
This is how we pray on the feast of the Queen of Carmel, on the solemn feast of our holy Order. For the Mother of God is the mediatrix of all grace. This is how every person, whom merciful love brings home after being lost, receives at her hand the garment of salvation, of sanctifying grace, and so is consecrated as a child of God. But on us who may call ourselves her children and sisters she confers another particular garment of salvation. As the Mother of the Lord, she chooses the souls she wishes to lead to her beloved Son and to bedeck with the bridal robe for his honor and pleasure. She it is who planted her order on the lovely summit of Carmel as a garden of delight for the heavenly King, and then dispersed it throughout the entire world. As the sign of her special favor and her motherly protection, she has given us the holy scapular. She already gave it to Your Charity(63)a year ago along with the holy habit, but it was then only on loan to you for practice in arming yourself for God during the probationary period. Now you are receiving it anew, since you are allowed to enter into a sacred alliance with the Lord of heaven and earth. That this holy celebration is combined with the feast of the Queen of Heaven is evidence of special maternal love, just as it was a special sign of love that the Mother of God gave you her own name.
Such special proofs of being loved oblige one to show special gratitude. When we receive the holy habit of Carmel, we pledge ourselves not only to extraordinary service to our divine Bridegroom, but also to his holy Mother. The garment of salvation is also called the mantle of justice. We are clothed in it with the instruction that we are to put off the old person and put on the new, who is created in the image of God in holiness and righteousness. By righteousness the Scriptures mean perfection, the condition of the justified person, who is made rightagain as she or he was before the Fall. By taking on the garment of righteousness, we thus oblige ourselves to strive for perfection with all our strength and to preserve the holy garment intact. There is no better way to serve the Queen of Carmel and to show her our gratitude than by contemplating her example and following her on the way of perfection.
Only a few words from the Virgin Mary have come down to us in the Gospels. But these few words are like heavy grains of pure gold. When they melt in the ardor of loving meditation, they more than suffice to bathe our entire lives in a luminous golden glow.
The first word that we hear in the conversation with the angel at the Annunciation to Mary is, “How shall this happen, since I know not man?” It is the simple recognition of her virginal purity.She had consecrated her whole heart and all the strength of her body, soul, and spirit to the service of God in undivided surrender. Thereby she pleased the Almighty. He accepted her surrender and blessed her with wonderful fruitfulness by raising her to be the Mother of God. She looked deeply into the mystery of virginity of which her divine Son later said, “Whoever can accept this, ought to do so.” Her heart exulted in glory as she discovered what God had prepared for those who love him. She can give her beloved ones nothing better than a call to follow this way on which they, too, will attain wonderful fruitfulness and a blessedness beyond all imagining. As the symbol of the radiant beauty encompassing a truly virginal soul, she wraps the white mantle around you. It is to remind us always that we are invited to the marriage of the Lamb, called to sing in the choir of virgins that holy hymn of heavenly love that no one else can sing, and to follow the Lamb constantly without ever being separated from him.
As soon as the angel had heard Mary’s avowal, he immediately dispelled her hesitation. God was not thinking of dispensing her from her vow. No, it is precisely because of her virginity that she is receptive to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that makes her fruitful. She is to become the virgin mother. And now we hear the Virgin’s second word, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” This is the most perfect expression of obedience. Being obedient means to listen to the word of someone else in order to submit one’s own will to that of another. It is a virtue and in fact a discipline of justice when the other is a superiorwho is better able than we are ourselves to guide us to what is right.
Here justice [or righteousness] does not mean full perfection, but rather the cardinal virtue which gives to each his own. Truly perfect obedience is the obedience given to the Almighty, the subordination of one’s own will to that of God. Jesus has given us the example of this perfect obedience, for he came not to do his own will but the will of him who sent him. And the Virgin practiced this perfect obedience when she called herself a handmaid of the Lord and actually was such, prepared to put all her faculties at the service of the Lord.
To this obedience we, too, oblige ourselves by our holy vow of obedience. We oblige ourselves to subject our own will to that of our superiors in the belief that the Lord himself speaks to us through their mouths and reveals his will to us. And who could know our needs better than he? So the way of obedience is the surest way to our eternal goal. And though full perfection does not lie in it alone, obedience remains the key to it. God, after all, wants our salvation, and when our will is in full unison with his, we can be certain that we will reach perfection. Jesus and Mary are also examples of this subjection of the will to an authority and order given by God: In silent obedience, both of them follow, at the slightest indication, him whom the heavenly Father has given to the Holy Family as a visible superior. They faithfully fulfilled the commands of the law that the Lord had established for his people and observed the regulations of spiritual and civil authorities.
As a sign of such a binding of the will, we receive this cincture, while we are addressed by the words that Christ spoke to St. Peter, “When you were younger, you girded yourself and went where you pleased. When you are older, another will gird you.” Whoever allows herself to be led like a child in the harness of holy obedience will reach the kingdom of God which is promised to the little ones.
Obedience led the royal daughter of the house of David to the simple little house of the poor carpenter of Nazareth. Obedience led both of these most holy people away from the secure enclosure of this modest home onto the highway and into the stable at Bethlehem. It laid the Son of God in the manger. In freely chosen povertythe Savior and his mother wandered the streets of Judea and Galilee and lived on the alms of the faithful. Naked and exposed, the Lord hung on the cross and left the care of his mother to the love of his disciple. Therefore, he demands poverty of those who would follow him. The heart must be free of ties to earthly goods, of concern about them, dependence on them, desire for them, if it is to belong to the divine Bridegroom exclusively, if the will intends to follow every suggestion of holy obedience in unreserved readiness.
The three sacred vows supplement one another and require one another. One cannot fulfill any one of them completely without at the same time observing the others. The Mother of God has gone before us on this way and will be our guide on this way. Entrust yourself in childlike surrender to this loving Mother, dear Sister Miriam. Then Your Charity need not be frightened before the exalted immensity of what you have promised. The Lord who has called you and today accepts you as his bride will give you the grace to persevere in your calling and will give it through the hands of his Mother. And there is still another patroness at your side. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus shows you even in the little details of daily life how one can follow him and Mary in Carmel. If you learn from her to depend on God alone and serve him with a wholly pure and detached heart, then you can join with your whole soul in singing the jubilant song of the holy Virgin, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” And like little St. Thérèse you will be able to say at the end, “I do not regret that I have given myself to love.”
The Hidden Life and Epiphany
When the gentle light of the advent candles begins to shine in the dark days of December a mysterious light in a mysterious darkness it awakens in us the consoling thought that the divine light, the Holy Spirit, has never ceased to illumine the darkness of the fallen world. He has remained faithful to his creation, regardless of all the infidelity of creatures. And if the darkness would not allow itself to be penetrated by the heavenly light, there were nevertheless some places always predisposed for it to blaze.
A ray from this light fell into the hearts of our original parents even during the judgment to which they were subjected. This was an illuminating ray that awakened in them the knowledge of their guilt, an enkindlingray that made them burn with fiery remorse, purifying and cleansing, and made them sensitive to the gentle light of the star of hope, which shone for them in the words of promise of the “protoevangelium,” the original gospel.
As were the hearts of the first human beings, so down through the ages again and again human hearts have been struck by the divine ray. Hidden from the whole world, it illuminated and irradiated them, let the hard, encrusted, misshapen matter of these hearts soften, and then with the tender hand of an artist formed them anew into the image of God. Seen by no human eye, this is how living building blocks were and are formed and brought together into a Church first of all invisible. However, the visible Church grows out of this invisible one in ever new, divine deeds and revelations which shed their light ever new epiphanies.The silent working of the Holy Spirit in the depths of the soul made the patriarchs into friends of God. However, when they came to the point of allowing themselves to be used as his pliant instruments, he established them in an external visible efficacy as bearers of historical development, and awakened from among them his chosen people. Therefore, Moses, too, was educated quietly and then sent as the leader and lawgiver.
Not everyone whom God uses as an instrument must be prepared in this way. People may also be instruments of God without their knowledge and even against their will, possibly even people who neither externally nor interiorly belong to the church. They would then be used like the hammer or chisel of the artist, or like a knife with which the vine-dresser prunes the vines. For those who belong to the church, outer membership can also temporally precede interior, in fact can be materially significant for it (as when someone without faith is baptized and then comes to faith through the public life in the church). But it finally comes down to the interior life; formation moves from the inner to the outer. The deeper a soul is bound to God, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be its influence on the form of the church. Conversely, the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin and estrangement from God the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a deficiency. The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.
Because hidden souls do not live in isolation, but are a part of the living nexus and have a position in a great divine order, we speak of an invisible church. Their impact and affinity can remain hidden from themselves and others for their entire earthly lives. But it is also possible for some of this to become visible in the external world. This is how it was with the persons and events intertwined in the mystery of the Incarnation.Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds and the kings, Simeon and Anna all of these had behind them a solitary life with God and were prepared for their special tasks before they found themselves together in those awesome encounters and events and, in retrospect, could understand how the paths left behind led to this climax. Their astounded adoration in the presence of these great deeds of God is expressed in the songs of praise that have come down to us.
In the people who are gathered around the manger, we have a analogy for the church and its development. Representatives of the old royal dynasties to whom the savior of the world was promised and representatives of faithful people constitute the relationship between the Old and the New Covenants. The kings from the far-away East indicate the Gentiles for whom salvation is to come from Judea. So here there is already “the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles.” The kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later the star had to appear to show these wise menthe way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it.
And the kings have a special meaning for us, too. Even though we already belonged to the external church, an interior impulse nevertheless drove us out of the circle of inherited viewpoints and conventions. We knew God, but we felt that he desired to be sought and found by us in a new way. Therefore we wanted to open ourselves and sought for a star to show us the right way. And it arose for us in the grace of vocation. We followed it and found the divine infant. He stretched out his hands for our gifts. He wanted the pure gold of a heart detached from all earthly goods; the myrrh of a renunciation of all the happiness of this world in exchange for participation in the life and suffering of Jesus; the frankincense of a will that surrenders itself and strains upward to lose itself in the divine will. In return for these gifts, the divine Child gave us himself.
But this admirable exchange was not a one-time event. It fills our entire lives. After the solemn hour of bridal surrender, there followed the everyday life of observance in the Order. We had to “return to our own country,” but “taking another way” and escorted by the new light that had blazed up for us at those solemn places. The new light commands us to search anew. “God lets himself be sought,” says St. Augustine, “to let himself be found. He lets himself be found to be sought again.” After each great hour of grace, it is as if we were but beginning now to understand our vocation. Therefore an interior need prompts us to renew our vows repeatedly. That we do so on the feast of the three kings whose pilgrimage and affirmation are for us a symbol for our lives has a deep meaning. To each authentic, heartfelt renewal of vows, the divine Child responds with renewed acceptance and a deeper union. And this means a new, hidden operation of grace in our souls. Perhaps it is revealed in an epiphany, the work of God becoming visible in our external behavior and activity noticed by those around us. But perhaps it also bears fruit that, though observed, conceals from all eyes the mysterious source from which its vital juices pour.
Today we live again in a time that urgently needs to be renewed at the hidden springs of God-fearing souls. Many people, too, place their last hope in these hidden springs of salvation. This is a serious warning cry: Surrender without reservation to the Lord who has called us. This is required of us so that the face of the earth may be renewed. In faithful trust, we must abandon our souls to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. It is not necessary that we experience the epiphany in our lives. We may live in the confident certainty that what the Spirit of God secretly effects in us bears its fruits in the kingdom of God. We will see them in eternity.
So this is how we want to bring our gifts to the Lord: We lay them in the hands of the Mother of God. This first Saturday(64)is particularly dedicated to her honor, and nothing can give her most pure heart greater joy than an ever deeper surrender to the Divine Heart. Furthermore, she will certainly have no more urgent petition for the Child in the manger than the one for holy priests and a richly blessed priestly ministry. And this is the petition today’s Saturday for priests bids us make and which our Holy Mother has enjoined on us so compellingly as an essential constituent of our vocation to Carmel.
For January 6, 1941
Again we kneel with the three kings at the manger. The heartbeat of the Divine Child has guided the star that led us here. Its light, the reflection of the eternal light, is variously distributed in the rays around the heads of the saints whom the Church show us as the court of the new-born King of Kings. They allow something of the mystery of our vocation to flash before us.
Mary and Joseph are not to be separated from their Divine Child in the Christmas liturgy. During this time, they do not have a feast of their own, because all the feasts of the Lord are their feasts, feasts of the Holy Family. They do not cometo the manger, but are there to begin with. Whoever comes to the Child also comes to them. They are completely imbued with his heavenly light.
Closest to the new-born Savior we see St. Stephen. What secured the first martyr of the Crucified this place of honor? In youthful enthusiasm he accomplished what the Lord said upon his entrance into the world, “A body you have prepared for me. Behold, I come to fulfill your will.” He practiced complete obedience that is rooted in love and is revealed in love. He followed the Lord in what may be by nature the most difficult for the human heart, and even seems impossible: He fulfilled the command to love one’s enemies as did the Savior himself. The Child in the manger, who has come to fulfill his Father’s will even to death on the cross, sees before him in spirit all who will follow him on this way. His heartbeat goes out to the youth whom he will one day await with a palm as the first to reach the Father’s throne. His little hand points him out to us as an example, as if to say, “See the goldthat I expect of you.”
Not far from the first martyr stand the flores martyrum, the tender buds that were broken before they had ripened to the act of sacrifice. There is a pious belief that the grace of natural maturity came to the innocent children beforehand and gave them the understanding of what was happening to them to enable them to give themselves freely and so be ensured martyrdom. Even so, they do not resemble the valiant confessor who heroically took on the cause of Christ. In their defenseless surrender, they are much more like lambs led to the slaughter. So they are the example of uttermost poverty. They have no other goods than their lives. And now even that is taken from them, and they allow it to happen without resistance. They surround the manger to show us what kind of myrrhwe are to bring to the Divine Child: Those who want to belong entirely to him must deliver themselves to him in complete self-renunciation, surrender to the divine decision like these children.
Neither will the Savior allow him who was particularly dear to him during his life, the disciple whom Jesus loved, to be absent from the manger. He is entrusted to us as the example of virginal purity. Because he was pure, he pleased the Lord. He was allowed to rest on the heart of Jesus to be initiated there into the secrets of the Divine Heart. As the heavenly Father witnessed to his Son when he cried out, “This is My beloved Son, listen to him!”, so the Divine Child also seems to point to the beloved disciple and to say, “No frankincense is more pleasing to me than the loving submission of a pure heart. Listen to him who was permitted to look at God because he was pure of heart.” No one has looked more deeply into the hidden abyss of the divine life than he. Therefore, he proclaims the mystery of the eternal birth of the Divine Word in the liturgy each feast day during the days of Christmas and continues to do so at the end of daily Mass.(65)He participated in the struggles of his Lord as only a soul with bridal love could. He has drawn for us the Good Shepherd who goes after lost sheep. We can learn from John how precious human souls are to the Divine Heart and how we can give him no greater joy than of being willing instruments on his shepherding way. He has carefully preserved and transmitted to us passages in which the Savior witnessed to himself and made known his divinity before friends and foes. He has disclosed to us the shrine of the Divine Heart by recording for us the Lord’s farewell address and his high priestly prayer. Through John we know how we are to participate as our destiny in the life of Christ as a branch of the divine vine and in the life of the triune God. While he was still alive, he was permitted to see the Incarnate God as the judge of the world in order to paint for us the mighty, enigmatic images of the mysterious revelation of the final days. He showed us this in that book which, like none other, can teach us to understand the chaos of this time as a part of the great battle between Christ and the Antichrist, a book of relentless solemnity and consoling promise.
John at the manger of the Lord this says to us: “See what happens to those who give themselves to God with pure hearts. In return, as a royal gift, they may participate in the entire inexhaustible fullness of Jesus’ incarnate life. Come and drink from the springs of living water that the Savior releases to the thirsty and that stream to eternal life. The Word has become flesh and lies before us in the form of a little new-born child. We may come to him and bring him the gifts of our holy vows. And then, in a new year, we should go with him the entire way of his life on earth. Every mystery of this life that we seek to discern in loving contemplation is for us a fount of eternal life. And the same Savior, whom the written word presents to our eyes on all the paths he trod on earth in human form, lives among us disguised in the form of the eucharistic bread. He comes to us every day as the bread of life. In either of these forms he is near to us; in either of these forms he wants to be sought and to be found by us. The one supports the other. When we see that Savior before us with the eyes of faith as the Scriptures portray him, then our desire to receive him in the bread of life increases. The eucharistic bread, on the other hand, awakens our desire to get to know the Lord in the written word more and more deeply and strengthens our spirit to get a better understanding.
A new year at the hand of the Lord we do not know whether we shall experience the end of this year. But if we drink from the fount of the Savior each day, then each day will lead us deeper into eternal life and prepare us to throw off the burdens of this life easily and cheerfully at some time when the call of the Lord sounds. The Divine Child offers us his hand to renew our bridal bond. Let us hurry to clasp this hand. The Lord is my light and my salvation of whom shall I be afraid?
Copyright ICS Publications. Used with permission