Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Visitation of the Virgin and the Hidden Jesus

"Thy Blood, the price of our redemption, O Lord Jesus, is indeed most precious and deserving of our special veneration because of its immaculate origin in Mary, thy spotless Mother, on account of its surpassing innocence and its union with Thy divinity."

---From a prayer to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, in which the Church remembers the Virgin's unsurpassed charity and humility as she made haste to visit her older and expectant cousin, Elizabeth. Hidden behind this mystery of the Virgin's visit to St. Elizabeth are many rich teachings and examples. One such mystery is the sanctification of St. John Baptist in the womb at the very moment the Virgin Mary spoke to his mother.

Let's see what the Gospel of Luke (Ch. 1: 26-57) records of these wondrous events, beginning with the Incarnation of Christ, which the Church celebrates on March 25, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin:

[26] And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, [27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin' s name was Mary. [28] And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

[31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

[36] And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: [37] Because no word shall be impossible with God. [38] And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. [39] And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. [40] And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. 

[41] And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: [42] And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

[51] He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. [52] He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. [54] He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: [55] As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

[56] And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. [57] Now Elizabeth' s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son.

First, the Annunciation, when Jesus incarnated in the womb of the Virgin, is the greatest mystery of the universe. There is much that could be said of this portion of St. Luke's Gospel, but let it suffice for now to say that the Virgin was greeted by the angel (sent by God) with the name by which God Himself considers her:  "Hail, full of grace." This Virgin was the one chosen by God to be the Mother of God, the Word, and hence, she is the grace-filled Mother of God.

Second, St. Ambrose remarks that when Our Lady visited Elizabeth, it was she who first greeted her older cousin. There is no snobbery on the chosen Virgin's part, even though she knows that she is the chosen Mother of the Messiah. It is she who hastens to visit her older cousin who is six months with child; it is the Virgin who enters the house and immediately offers the first sincere "hello." It could have gone quite differently; she could have gone to help her cousin but upon the way, reflecting upon her own prerogatives, pride might have slipped in. She could have treated Elizabeth in a manner that made clear what a great favor she was bestowing on her older cousin simply by visiting her. But that is not what happened.

God had prepared Mary to become the Mother of the Son. She was conceived without sin so that Christ could assume from her His human nature - Body and Blood. Her soul had to be immaculate, because God is holy.  Like Her Son, she never committed any sin but grew in wisdom and grace. She was the first Tabernacle of Jesus Christ.

And so Mary's visit to Elizabeth "brought with it an accumulation of graces," as writes St. Alphonsus de Liguori. "The moment she entered that dwelling, on her first salutation, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and St. John was cleansed from Original Sin, and sanctified; and therefore gave this mark of joy by leaping in his mother's womb, wishing thereby to manifest the grace that he had received by the means of the Blessed Virgin, as St. Elizabeth herself declared: As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy."

Third, while there are many more doctrinal depths to these passages of St. Luke's, may it suffice to say that there are many reasons why we call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the title of "Our" Lady, for the one hailed by an angel as "full of grace" is truly a "channel of grace" to lead others to her Divine Son.

Last but not least, since this is the month of July, the month of the Precious Blood of Jesus, which he assumed from His Virgin Mother, it would not be remiss, when contemplating the mystery of the Visitation, to also consider the following  prayers:

O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! O Jesus! O Mary! All ye blessed angels of God and saints of Paradise, obtain for me these graces which I ask through the Most Precious Blood of Jesus:

1. Ever to do the holy will of God.
2. Ever to live in union with God.
3. Not to think of anything but God.
4. To love God alone.
5. To do all for God.
6. To seek only the glory of God
7. To sanctify myself solely for God.
8. To know well my own utter nothingness.
9. Ever to know more and more the will of my God.
10. (Here ask for any special grace)

O Mary most holy, offer to the Eternal Father the Most Precious Blood of Jesus for my soul, for the poor souls in Purgatory, for the needs of the Holy Church, for the conversion of sinners, and for the entire world. Amen.


Monday, July 1, 2013

The Precious Blood of Jesus and the Great Secret of Fatima

 Below is an excerpt from my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle readers). Numbers in brackets indicate the soft-cover paperback's footnote numbers.

“God’s goodness is at once the most public of all His attributes and, at the same time, the most secret.”Fr. Frederick Faber

“Devotion to the Precious Blood is as old as the world, and the devotion to this redemptive and Eucharistic Blood of Jesus is as old as the Church.” [741] At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady chose the month of July to give the Great Secret, in its three distinct parts, in the same month in which the Church commemorates the Precious Blood of Jesus.  Is there a connection between the each of the three parts of the Great Secret of Fatima and July, the month of the Precious Blood?

The First Secret, which provides the means to save poor sinners of this era from hell, offers a spiritual remedy – i.e., worldwide devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Second Secret tells the Pope and the rest of the Church how to administer the remedy. It includes two specific requests, conditional prophecies, and gives an infallible promise of robust spiritual health and vitality for the Church and the world when the remedy is given. The Third Secret, insofar as only the Vision is known but not Our Lady’s words explaining it, describes what seems to be a particular historic era that will culminate in the Church’s Way of the Cross. Where in all this is the Precious Blood of Jesus?

First, let us look to the initial supernatural manifestations at Fatima, which began with the appearance of an angel. Three times through the spring and late summer of 1916, the angel appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos (now Servant of God) and her two younger cousins, Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto.  On his first visit, he identified himself as the Angel of Peace, commanded the children to pray with him, and taught them a brief prayer, to be prayed thrice (once each time to each Person of the Holy Trinity): "O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee. I beg pardon of those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee."

On his second visit, the angel appeared suddenly, during the children’s afternoon rest on an unbearably hot summer day, admonishing them, “What are you doing? Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High!” [742] Telling them that they could make everything they do as a sacrifice offered to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners, the angel also revealed himself as the Angel Guardian of Portugal. He did not give his name but we can say with moral certainty that he was the great St. Michael the archangel, the Prince of the heavenly host who for 1,000 years has been invoked as Portugal’s guardian. The wondrous St. Michael concluded his visit by saying “Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.”[743]

Years later as a Discalced Carmelite, Sr. Lucia later wrote in her memoirs that on his third and last visit (which took place about a year before the Great Miracle of Sun), the angel appeared “holding a chalice in his hands, with a host above it, from which some drops of blood were falling into the sacred vessel. Leaving the chalice and the host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated on the ground and repeated this prayer three times:

‘O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and those of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.’

“Then, rising, he once more took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the host to me, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice to drink, saying as he did so:  “Take and eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” [744]

Our Lady and the Precious Blood

From the beginning of the Fatima apparitions, focus began with the Holy Trinity, the True Presence of Jesus under the mere appearance of bread and wine, and reparatory prayer and sacrifice. The children were being prepared for increasing sacrifices, first with those made of their own accord and later with those which God sent them. This latter part is what so many shy away from, forgetting that “there is an apostolate of suffering, as well as an apostolate of prayer and labor,” [745] as St. Paul reminds Christians: For whom He foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son. [746]

The Holy Trinity prayer (offered three times in succession) is one that we, too, are meant to pray. It is the perfect prayer to offer when in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, before or after receiving absolution, when the Host is elevated as Mass, or when at Benediction, before or after our Rosary prayers, and most certainly in thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion.

---Continued in "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).