Ark of the Covenant – Chapter XXX

Chapter XXX

 

The Patience of the Blessed Virgin

 

“The keepers that go about the city found me; they struck me and wounded me.  The keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” [Cant. 5:7].

 

As humility is the foundation of virtue, so patience is the beautiful crown of a just soul, giving gracefulness and honor to all its works for God.  There are two kinds of patience, one which consists in waiting upon the divine will, and another which leads to the improvement of suffering.  The first is in reality a trial of our obedience, since as God is our Creator He has a sovereign right to dispose of us and of all human things according to His own pleasure.  Man is naturally selfish and unwilling to leave all his desires in the hands of Providence.  Our purposes often ripen faster than the designs of God, and it is hard to rest quietly without any care for the results of our labors.  Yet we can never wholly please Him, unless we are content to act with that end alone in view.  If we seek for an immediate reward, or are anxious to see the fruits of our labors, we shall make little progress in the way of holiness.  Even in the affairs of this world we can never be truly successful without patience, but in the spiritual life we can accomplish absolutely nothing.  For new difficulties present themselves at every step, as temptations multiply and the great weakness of our own hearts manifests itself.  As the husbandman toils carefully in the spring and then awaits the harvest, so we must labor in hope and faith, leaving it for God to give the increase in His own time.  But suffering is also a law of progress in the regenerate soul, and we can get back to the paradise we have lost only by pain.  There is sorrow of heart and agony of body, and both are necessary to our purification.  “He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sins.”  The road of the cross is the royal road of sanctification.  Great patience is required to bear well the afflictions of our probation, and to turn them to the profit of our souls.  The Blessed Virgin is a perfect model of this virtue in all its degrees, and under all its trials.  No creature was ever the subject of such peculiar and strange providences.  She was in the hands of God without a care for herself, and as His purposes developed, she was more and more anxious to renounce her own desires.  She left Him to fulfill His promises in His own time, certain that He would never fail her, and filled with increasing admiration at His wonderful ways.  She was in the midst of mysteries half-opened, where the divine hand was surely operating, but where flesh and sense were forced to be tranquil.  Now her celestial Spouse appeared to her full of grace, and oil was upon His lips.  Now He came up from the desert stained with blood, and clouds and darkness were round about Him.  In every shape she recognized Him, and meekly awaited His will.  Never for one instant did she have recourse to any human means, or seek to accomplish anything by plans of her own devising.  She labored in His garden and at His word, and she had nothing to do when He held her hands.  If He gave no success to her toil, it gave her no pain, for she sought not success, but only His favor.  Hence she was never in haste, nor for a passing moment lost her tranquility.  Quiet, calm and peaceful was the work going on in her soul, and yet her progress was more rapid than the flight of the eagle as he leaves far behind the high mountains of earth.  So has He promised, “They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  In our brief view of Mary’s dolors we have seen how she drank the cup of sorrow, and was baptized in the blood of her Son.  The shadow of the cross was over her whole life, enveloping in its darkness even her brightest hours.  And all her pains were unmerited, and came to her as the precious gift of her Child, and the fruit of her union with Him.  Her different griefs pierced every portion of her maternal heart, and the sword of Simeon was never withdrawn from her bosom.  Patience, sublime and wonderful, sustained her in agonies, which without special grace would have extinguished her life.  In the night of her third sorrow she walked alone in the waste of human woe, without even the rod and staff of her Son.  Disease could not touch her fair form, because the immaculate flesh of the Mother of God was beyond the reach of decay.  But the anguish of her soul in the sufferings of Jesus made her frame to tremble, and drank up the fountains of her innocent life.  Follow her on the journey to Calvary, where the rude rabble made her a mark for their insults.  Behold her embracing the cross in the darkness which had terrified even the inhuman murderers, and waiting six long hours that the cup of sorrow might be drained to the dregs, that God’s love might be satisfied, and man’s malignity satiated.  See her calmly walking to the sepulcher to lay the Beloved of her heart upon His stony bed, and then patiently going to the house of St. John to await the resurrection.  And when He ascended to His Father, she was left alone once more, to bear her exile until the days of her great sanctity were accomplished, and the chariot of fire should bring her to His everlasting embrace.  Perfected by patience, and full of merits by suffering, she passed to the throne of her own Child.  She is an example of that entire submission to God which is the end of the Christian life.  As the angels quietly, peacefully and yet swiftly do His will in Heaven, so did she on earth obey the divine voice, running faster than thought after its every whisper, and yet never anxious, never weary, but tranquil as the infant Jesus when first He lay upon her breast.

We must imitate her in this patience if we desire to attain conformity with God.  The work of our sanctification shall go on, but not as we have imagined, and our road to Heaven shall not be the one which our fancies have pictured.  That path lies through valleys, around the base of high mountains, and up the steep ascent of cragged hills.  Many of our plans shall be frustrated, and our dearest hopes often disappointed.  We shall toil long and see no fruit of our labors.  The bright blossom of spring shall fall to the ground, and wither in the heat of the sun.  Let man be silent when God works, and when the great husbandman walks in His garden, let the creature be patient.  And when the cross brings its sacred weight to our shoulders, let us improve the day of grace.  We suffer because we are sinners, and because past transgression has left its mark upon our souls.  That mark must be burnt out by salutary pain, until every trace of defilement vanishes before the refiner’s fire.  The penitent need not fear in the hour of God’s greatest mercy.  The sinner who goes to Calvary bears in his flesh the proofs of the divine favor.  What though disease should prey upon our bodies, and like a worm eat away the vigor of our physical life?  The chastened flesh will be a more fitting habitation for the purified soul, and the veil of sense will melt before our eyes.  Pride will be laid low before the altar, and self-love will be the victim of the sacrifice.

 

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