Monday, September 12, 2016

SEXT EXPLAINED




V. O Lady, make speed to befriend me.
R. From the hands of the enemy, mightily defend me.
     Glory be, etc.

                              Hymn.
               
               Hail, virginal Mother!
               Hail, purity's cell!
               Fair shrine where the Trinity
               Loveth to dwell!

If our Lord can say of any devout Christian: 'If any one love Me, he will keep My word. And My Father will love him: and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him' (John xiv, 23) how much more does He say this of His virginal Mother who 'kept all these words in her heart' (Luke ii, 51), and upon whom, in a most special manner, the Holy Ghost came and the power of the Most High overshadowed while the Son of God became incarnate within her (Luke i, 35)?

               Hail, Garden of pleasure,
               Celestial Balm!
               Cedar of Chastity!
               Martyrdom's Palm!

       In the Garden of Pleasure, that is, in Eden, there was no original sin until the unhappy fall of our first parents.  Mary is the second Eve. But whereas the first Eve became maculate (stained) by sin, Mary, from the first instant of her conception, was immaculate and no stain of sin ever defiled the delightful garden of her soul.
       Balm is a medicine applied to relieve violent pain and to heal. So the prophet Jeremias cries out:

               Is there no balm in Galaad?
               Or is there no physician there?
               Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed? (viii, 22).

Again:
               Go up into Galaad and take balm,
               O virgin daughter of Egypt.
               In vain dost thou multiply medicines:
               There shall be no cure for thee (xlvi, II).

Again:
               Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed:
               Howl for her! take balm for her pain,
               If so she may be healed (li, 8).

But Mary is balm from Heaven: for she healed the worst pain of all―the pain of sin. The first Eve brought pain and sorrow; the second Eve brought forth the saviour and Redeemer of the world.

       Cedar of Chastity. Often in the Bible we read of the mighty cedars of Lebanon. Even to-day they grow there. Firmly rooted, tall, majestic, they are the symbol of stateliness and power. Says the Psalmist:

       The just shall flourish like the palm tree:
       He shall grow up like the cedar of Lebanon (xci, 13).

And so mighty are they that they are called 'the cedars of God' (lxxix, ii).
       And the Spouse in the Canticle, describing her Beloved, says:

               His legs as pillars of marble,
               That are set upon bases of gold.
               His form as of Lebanon,
               Excellent as the cedars (v, 15).

       'High up in mountain snows, over six thousand feet above the sea, grow the last cedars of Lebanon. There are about four hundred veterans, some of them eighty feet in height and of enormous girth. Their ancestors provided the timber for Solomon's Temple and their majesty suggested many a splendid metaphor to the writers of the Old Testament, for the cedar was the king of trees.' (H. V. Morton: In the Steps of the Master, p. 256.)
       So firm and strong was the beautiful chastity of the Mother of Christ, that full fitting it is that we take this symbol of holy Writ and speak of her as Cedar of Chastity.

       Martyrdom's Palm. The palm is the token of triumph and victory. The people of our Lord's day had no flags like ours to wave, so they waved palm branches when He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also St. John, in his Apocalypse, sees those who have triumphed over death and won Heaven, 'clothed in white robes and palms in their hands' (Apoc. vii, 9). Mary is the Queen of Martyrs; hence those who enter Heaven by the glorious way of martyrdom have a special claim on her Queenship, won as a palm in token of their magnificent triumph.

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                                 Thou land set apart
                                 From uses profane!
                                 And free from the curse
                                 Which in Adam began!

       In the Book of Numbers (xxxv) we read how Moses set apart a certain district which was to be reserved for the Levites. So was the Blessed Virgin set apart from the other women when our great Hight Priest, the Word made Flesh, dwelt in her most pure womb.
       After the miserable Fall of Adam and Eve God cursed the land that they were to till (Gen. iii, 17). Mary is likened to the land before this curse fell upon it, for by her Immaculate Conception she was free from the curse which in Adam began.

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Thou City of God!

       In three of the hymns of the Psalter we read of the City of God (Ps. xlv, 5, 6):

       There is a river whose streams gladden God's city: 
       The Most High doth sanctify his tabernacle.
       God is in her midst; she shall not be shaken:
       God shall help her at the approach of dawn.

These lines refer to Messianic blessings (see my Commentary). No human tabernacle was so sanctified as was Mary, full of grace. The power of the Most High overshadowed her: God took up His abode within her: she was bidden by the angel 'Fear not, Mary'; for God helped her marvelously at the approach of the Dawn, that is at the coming of the Messiah. 

       Again, Psalm xlvii:
       Great is Yahwè, and exceedingly to be praised,
       In the City of our God, in his holy mount.
       A beautiful height is Mount Sion; the joy of all the earth!
       The northern slopes! The City of a great King!

               .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

       As we have heard, so we have seen
       In the City of Yahwè of hosts, in the City of our God:
       God will establish it for ever!

       And Ps. lxxxvi:

       His foundations are on holy mountains.
       Yahwè loveth the gates of Sion
       More than all the tabernacles of Jacob.
       Glorious things are said of thee, O City of God!

       'The true mother of the children of God on earth is "the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Apoc. xxi, 2), that is, "the Jerusalem that is above, the mother of us all" (Gal. iv, 26), and "the bride of Christ" (John iii, 29; Ephes, v)―in other words, the Church of Christ. All nations belong to her, because she is Catholic. She alone, in contrast with Protestant and Eastern sects, has fostered "large-hearted universalism" and set her face against the preposterous idea of "national churches" ' (Com. on Psalms ii, 104). But the Mother of the Church is Mary; for the Church is the extension of Christ; and as she was the Mother of His physical body so she is the Mother of His mystical body. For this reason Psalm lxxxvi is appointed to be read in the Divine Office on Feasts of our Lady. She is the beautiful height of the New Testament; she is (or should be) the joy of all the earth, for all generations are to all her blessed. She is beloved by God above all the daughters of Jacob; and indeed, 'glorious things are said of her' in whose womb the Word made Flesh first dwelt among us as in a city of delight, the city of God.

Thou Gate of the East

       The Prophet Ezechiel had a vision of the Cherubim over the East Gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of God was over them. Later the prophet was taken by the Spirit to the East Gate 'which looketh towards the rising of the sun' (Ezec. x, 19; xi, i). Mary, as we know, is the Queen of the Angels; and we can well imagine her enthroned in Heaven with the Cherubim doing homage to her. But the East Gate admits the rays of the rising sun. And in the beautiful Benedictus which the father of John the Baptist sang at the birth of his son, our Lord is called the 'Daybreak' (or 'Daylight') coming from on high to shine upon them that sit in darkness. But our Lord came into the world through Mary. She is then fittingly called the Gate of the East through which the Daybreak first appeared on earth.

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                                  In thee is all grace,
                                  O Joy of the blest!

       We know that our Lady was full of grace, for we are told so by one who could not be mistaken. The Angel Gabriel saluted her: 'Hail, full of grace.' Thereby she is also the joy of both angels and men. It is well for the child of Mary to remember also that although so holy Mary was never a kill-joy. She who hurried off at once to help her cousin Elizabeth, with a spirit rejoicing in God her Saviour, she who was distressed because there was not enough wine to satisfy the guests at the marriage feast at Cana, was evidently one who sought every occasion to make other people happy. Everybody wants happiness, and a child of Mary should make it one of the greatest objects in her life to make as many people as possible happy. 

       V. As the lily among the thorns,
       R. So is my beloved among the daughters of Adam.

        Our blessed Lord loved the wild lilies of the field; and He told us that not even King Solomon with all his fine robes was so beautifully arrayed as one of these lilies. Mary, the most beautiful and blessed maiden that ever lived is, by her lily-white purity, so exalted above all other maidens that they are like thorns in comparison with her.

       V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
       R. And let my cry come unto thee.

―Again, the authentic text tells us to add the Prayer: 'Holy Mary, Queen of heaven,' etc.


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