The Prophecy of St. Simeon – Day of Fear
“I arose up to open to my Beloved; my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers were full of the choicest myrrh” [Cant. 5:5].
Heretofore we have seen the Blessed Virgin in some of the joys which overflowed her soul. We are now to contemplate some of the sorrows which pierced her heart, and like great mountains cast their shadow over her sinless life. With the one exception of our Lord, no one ever suffered so much, and if her joys are far above our comprehension, her sorrows still more tower to the skies and are full of the mystery of divine providence. Of herself she merited no pain, for her sinless body and illuminated soul were ever pleasing to God. All her woes were on account of her maternal relations to the Eternal Word, and because she was so taken into the counsels of God that she participated in the great agonies of her Son. This consideration gives all her griefs an additional value in the sight of Heaven, and constitutes a moving claim to our gratitude and love. She came so near to her Redeemer that He was her Child and all His sufferings were hers. He could not suffer without her, nor could she be in grief without adding a new pang to His sacred heart. Her first great sorrow took place at a moment of great joy and exultation. St. Simeon had adored the Child Jesus as the hope of Israel, and she had offered Him to His eternal Father in the spirit of self-sacrifice. The Holy Ghost chose this fitting opportunity to publicly reveal the consequences of this great oblation. “The Light had shone in darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The aged prophet saw in the distance the cross of Calvary, and gazed a moment into Mary’s great depth of woe. He gave back his God into the arms of His Mother, His fit resting place, and full of grief at man’s rejection if his Deliverer, he prophesied, “Behold this Child is set for the ruin, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign, which shall be contradicted. And thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed” [Lk. 2:3-5]. Here, then, before the eyes of the Holy Mother, came a clear view of the sufferings her Child was to undergo. The prophecy seems to gather up all her woes in one, and as anticipation often gives greater pain than the reality, a flood of grief overwhelmed her soul. She trembled as she gazed into the yawning gulf, but lost not for an instant her tranquil trust in God. There can be no doubt that she had long foreseen the clouds that hung over her wonderful life, and knew from the prophets that Emmanuel was to be “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity.” The Holy Ghost now placed the whole picture before her. She saw, step by step, His way of the cross, the ruin and rejection of her own guilty nation, and her own sad bereavement. She heard the voice of her Beloved; she arose up quickly to open to Him, and the mantle of His sorrows covered her. “Her hands dropped with myrrh and her fingers were full of the choicest myrrh.” She touched His inconceivable woe, and flesh and heart would have failed, but the everlasting arms were under her, and God, Who was so near, upheld her. Her Infant, so dear to her, was to be the object of man’s most cruel rage and persecution. As He began His life in a stable, so was He to end it upon a cross. She took her treasure home and gathered Him safe to her bosom, but there around His godlike brow were the prints of His thorny crown. On His hands and feet she ever saw the print of the nails, and when His heart was beating against her own, she was startled by the thought of the centurion’s spear. Gladly would she have saved Him from all these ignominies by ten thousand sacrifices of her life, if that were possible. But she had made her great oblation, and she could not recede from it. Every day, which made Him more lovely in her sight, brought Him nearer to His work of pain, and she could never dwell upon present joy without the fearful foreboding of coming grief. Thus early in the life of our Lord did His Mother drink of His cup of agony. Her first dolor began with His infancy, and lasted all His life. But it was not only the view of the nail, and the spear, and the cross, which overwhelmed her; she had ever before her the thought of His rejection and its consequences. She entered into the desolation of His soul at the ingratitude of mankind. So much condescension, so much love, so much suffering, was to be wasted upon an ungrateful world. The chosen nation, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were to reject the Messiah and to crucify their God. His blood was to be upon them and their children forever, and they were to be outcasts from the promises of their fathers. So many souls were to be redeemed, and few to be finally saved!
It is impossible for us to know all the sorrow which this prophecy of St. Simeon poured upon the pure soul of the Blessed Virgin. For she had long enjoyed the vision of God, and hence could endure a grief which would have been too great for an ordinary human life. Yet two considerations force themselves upon us – the share we have had in her suffering, and the contrast between her sorrow and our own. The exalted dignity of Mother of God brought the Blessed Virgin into the direct counsels of God, and gave her an especial place in the economy of redemption. As suffering was the great means by which the Son was to expiate the sins of the world, so the Mother was forced to take her share in the sacrifice. As, then, our sins have caused the passion and death of our Lord, so have they caused the sorrow of His Mother. Our sinful thoughts, our transgressions of word and action, were the arrows which pierced the Mother’s soul while they wounded the heart of her Son. We sinners have had our share in the passion on the sinless Virgin. If then, we receive grace to compassionate her woes, we ought to lament the work of our own hands, and seek through her prayers a perfect purification from the sins by which we made ourselves instruments of her agonies. Mother of sorrows as she is, her heart is ever open to the penitent, and her hands are always stretched out to the afflicted.
And no one, who has lived even a short time in this world, has been without his experience of sorrow. We are born exiles from Paradise our true home, and the victims of the penalties of original and actual sin. When we suffer, we reap the harvest our own hands have sown. And, no matter to what afflictions the providence of God calls us, we know we can never endure what our sins deserve. We too, have before us a foreboding of evil, and a fear of the divine judgments. But it is conscience that plants this thorn in our hearts. The Blessed Virgin suffered sinless, and on account of her intimate union with our Lord. We suffer full of sins, and on account of our estrangement from our merciful Redeemer. There is this one consolation to the sufferer. If he accept joyfully his cross and endure with patience, he is following in the steps of Jesus and Mary. Sorrow will efface the debt he owes to the divine justice. It will wash away the defilement of past sin. It will bid the world and sense retire, and will open the soul to the operations of the Holy Spirit. The passion of the Blessed Virgin was an integral part in the work of her great sanctification. It brought her under the cross, and daily nearer and nearer to God. So may our afflictions be the means of detaching us from things sensible, and fastening our affections to Him Who alone is good and beautiful and true. Days of wholesome fear are, for us sinners, days of God’s most merciful visitation.