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tion sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.'
"And Mary said, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.' And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house "."
When the angel had announced to the Blessed Virgin the secret purpose of God regarding her, he added for the confirmation of her faith that her cousin Elizabeth had "conceived a son in her old age, and that it was then the sixth month with her who was called barren "." Accordingly, as soon as he had departed from her, she hastened to salute Elizabeth, not, as S. Ambrose remarks, because she doubted the truth of what she had heard, but because she desired to share the joy of her cousin. It is also observed by Origen,
St. Luke i. 39-56.
7 Ver. 36.
that " Jesus, who was then conceived in her womb, hastened to sanctify John in the womb of his mother." This opinion is confirmed by S. Ambrose, who alleges it as a reason for supposing that the blessed Virgin was present at the birth of S. John Baptist. "If at her first coming," he says, "such was its effect, that at the salutation of Mary the babe leaped for joy, and his mother was filled with the Holy Ghost, of how great service may we suppose the presence of holy Mary, for so long a time, to have been. For not her relationship only is the cause of her stay, but the advantage of so great a prophet."
The house of Zacharias was probably in Hebron, which was one of the cities of the priests, as we learn from the book of Joshua". Thus, from her own home at Nazareth, S. Mary had to travel nearly the whole length of Judea. When she arrived in the house of her cousin, she was silent regarding the great things which God had done to herself, till they were revealed to S. Elizabeth by the Holy Ghost. And when the mother of the Baptist in the words of inspiration hailed her as the Mother of her Lord, she gave utterance to the joy of her holy soul in the divine hymn which the Church has for many ages sung in her evening office. "Not only in her silence is the humility of Mary commended to us," says S. Bernard, "but it is proclaimed more evidently in her words. She was told that the Holy One should be born of her, and she answered only that she was His handmaiden. Then she came to Elizabeth, to whom the singular glory of the Virgin was immediately revealed
8 xxi. 8-11. compared with S. Luke i. 5.
by the Spirit, and who admired the person of her who visited her, and said, Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? She also commended the voice of her who saluted her, adding, As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And she blessed the faith of her who believed, saying, Blessed is she that believeth, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. These are great praises; but the devout humility of Mary could retain nothing for herself, but rather gave all to Him whose benefits towards her were commended. Thou magnifiest the Mother of the Lord, she said, but my soul doth magnify the Lord. Thou sayest that thy son rejoiced at the sound of my voice, but my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; and he indeed, as the friend of the Bridegroom, greatly rejoiceth at the Bridegroom's voice. Thou sayest, Blessed is she that believed; the cause of her faith and of her blessedness is the regard of the Divine goodness, so that from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed, because He hath regarded the low estate of His hand-maiden.
"Are we then to think, brethren, that the holy Elizabeth erred in what she uttered through the Spirit. Far otherwise. Blessed indeed is she whom God hath regarded, and blessed is she that believed. For this is the great fruit of the Divine regard. By the ineffable operation of the Holy Ghost upon so great humility, such magnanimity grew up in the inner heart of the Virgin, that they became like stars, each the brighter for the presence of the other. For neither did such humility lessen the magnanimity,
nor did this, albeit so great, diminish the humility. The prerogative of Divine grace brings it to pass, in the hearts of the elect, that neither does the humility make them faint-hearted, nor the magnanimity arrogant; but they rather co-operate with each other, so that not only does no pride arise from the magnanimity, but the humility is greatly advanced by it, and they are found so much the more timorous, and the less ungrateful to the Giver of every blessing; and on the other hand no cowardice creeps in with the humility; but the more they have learnt to distrust themselves, even in the least things, so much the more do they confide in the Divine strength even in the greatest'."
To the holy alone it belongs to celebrate the praises of the Blessed Virgin. But, at the infinite distance which separates us from her sinless purity, let us rather imitate her example, and meditate in silence on the wonderful goodness of God towards her. Few of the events of her life are recorded in Holy Scripture; for, as it is written in the book of Psalms, those who fear the Lord "He shall hide privily by His own presence from the provoking of all men, and shall keep them secretly in His tabernacle from the strife of tongues." But enough is known of her history to serve as a pattern of the humility and patient charity which should adorn the servants of the Lord Jesus. For we are taught by S. Paul to be "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." To us also it belongs, as bishop Pearson remarks, "perpetually to preserve an esteem of her person proportionable to so high a dignity. It was
1 Sermo de Beata Virgine.
her own prediction, From henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed; but the obligation is ours to call and esteem her so. If Elizabeth cried out with so loud a voice, 'Blessed art thou among women,' when Christ was but newly conceived in her womb; what expressions of honour and admiration can we think sufficient, now that Christ is in heaven, and that Mother with Him. Far be it from any Christian to derogate from that special privilege granted her, which is incommunicable to any other. We cannot bear too reverend a regard unto the Mother of our Lord, so long as we give her not that worship which is due unto the Lord Himself. Let us keep the language of the primitive Church, 'Let her be honoured and esteemed; let Him be worshipped and adored'.''
To the daughters of the Catholic Church especially, the example of the blessed Mary appeals with an irresistible persuasion, far more eloquent than words. And not in vain; as the grateful remembrance of living eye-witnesses at this hour can attest, no less than the many tender histories of their gentle and sublime devotion in ages past. "Such were the women of the Catholic type," says an eloquent author, "who could soften the hearts of obdurate men, and fill their souls with infinite and truly divine pity; who could suggest to the poet of the twelfth century that exquisite line, "The virtues of the Maiden made other ladies fair;" who could inspire a Gerson and a S. Bonaventura with the thought that there never was such an antidote to the fascination of sin as the beauteous face of the Blessed Virgin, which presented, as S. Ambrose
1 Exposition of the Creed, Art. 3.