The Ark of the Covenant
Rev. Thomas S. Preston
This book is in the public domain.
“In me is all grace of the way and of the truth; in me is all hope of life and virtue” [Eccl. 24:25].
Such is the language of the Holy Spirit concerning the Blessed Mother of God. And among all her glories there is none greater than that of leading sinners in the way of life, and guiding the pilgrim to new heights of virtue. Indeed, as this is her especial glory, so it is her especial office. The human heart is weak, and naturally tends to things of earth, and has no power to seek the more rugged ways of self-discipline and virtue. The human intellect is dark, and with all its endowments it cannot see the true light which shines from God. It requires a divine grace to touch man’s heart with a love that shall turn him from things sensible, and to enlighten his understanding with the truth for the enjoyment of which he was created. The Blessed Virgin is the channel through which God conveys to fallen man this grace of light and truth. Her prayers and intercessions bring down the grace of conversion, become the safeguard of the pilgrim in the perilous journey of life, and at last crown him with glory when the battle is over and Heaven is everlastingly won. She is the Second Eve, the Mother of the living race. Her eyes of grace are ever turned upon us poor exiles, until she has accomplished her work of bringing us home, and until she reveals unto us, in all His surpassing loveliness, the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus. Many a soul receives the light of faith who never could have obtained that precious gift but through her prayers. Many a soul, ready to fall under the pressure of temptation, beneath the dark shadow of the adversary, finds instant relief and strength through the grace which she dispenses.
All good Catholics recognize this office of the Blessed Virgin; and practical devotion to her is the peculiar characteristic of our religion. She has taken root among God’s elect, and her power is in Jerusalem. She has fulfilled in the Church the language of Scripture: “I was established in Zion, and in the holy city, likewise, I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem. And I took root in an honorable people, and in the portion of my God, His inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on Mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm-tree in Cades, and as a rose-plant in Jericho” [Eccles. 24:15-18]. By the infidel and the heretic she is not honored, for they have no real belief in the mystery of her Son’s Incarnation. But by Catholics she is honored and served, and in proportion as they love and imitate her, do they grow in God’s grace and in a true devotion to our Blessed Lord.
To us, then, on this day, does the Mother of Grace make her appeal. A day of life and mercy is dawning upon our souls. Nature and grace are in harmony. The earth is robing herself in the verdure of spring, and fruits and flowers come forth to enjoy the smile of their Creator, as faint emblems of the quickening power of God’s love in the human soul. The resurrection of nature is the image of what the Lord, Who is the resurrection and the life, will do in our barren and wayward hearts. There is no voice speaking to us of the divine justice now, and the sinner may come without fear to the footstool of his offended but forgiving Father.
Whatever, then, be our condition before God, let us improve the graces of the season, and open our hearts to the light and mercy of our Lord. If we are not in a state of grace, now we have power to awake and purify our souls. Great mortal sins may weigh heavily upon us, pressing us down to earth, and making us the easy prey of new temptation. Our past is remorse, and our future is gloomy apprehension. There is no physician in this world who can heal our malady or bring peace to our desolated hearts. Yet the Mother of Mercy calls: “In me is all grace of the way, in me is all hope of life and virtue.” Let us listen to her voice; and putting ourselves under her protection, let us arise and go unto our Lord, and say unto Him: “Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in Thy sight.” The way shall be opened before us, and all obstacles shall, one by one, be removed. This month shall be to us the beginning of a new life, and shall end in our complete recovery and salvation. And even if through God’s mercy we are free from deadly sin, we have all much need of the especial graces which are now offered to us. Are we not suffering in many ways from the effect of just sins? Are we not full of imperfections, which render us unfit to appear before God’s presence? How very few of us live up to our consciences, and can bear the light even of our own self-examination. Yet God’s all-searching eye is to be our judge. If we make up the record of the years that are past, we shall find a history of mercies despised and graces unimproved; and the little that has been done, seems to have been done rather against our will than by our free co-operation. Coldness and tepidity are only preludes to mortal sin, and we have, therefore, good reason to be alarmed by the indifference we feel in the pursuit of virtue. Many of us have received the Sacraments with great frequency, and still have made but little progress in self-discipline. We have always the same sins to confess, and the least close inspection shows us an amazing depth of pride and self-will. What shall we do, when God calls us, and we have to stand before Him, in Whose sight the smallest imperfection cannot abide? This very month may be a crisis in the history of our souls. If it be well spent, its especial graces may avert some threatening temptation and awaken us to more careful lives. If it be neglected, the days of our spiritual life may be numbered. Let us, then, as we seek for salvation, prostrate ourselves before the footstool of the Mother of Mercy, and commit our cause to her hands. If our hearts be ready, she will do her work. She will bring our needs before the throne of her Divine Son, and we shall feel a power in spiritual things which we never have experienced. Let it be our constant prayer during this season of grace, that God would prepare our hearts to hear and obey all His inspirations.