Mystical May

Excerpt from:  The Mystical Rose [John Henry Newman]

May, the Month of Promise and of Joy

Why is May chosen as the month in which we exercise a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin?

The first reason is because it is the time when the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage and its green grass after the stern frost and snow of winter, and the raw atmosphere and the wild wind and rain of the early spring. It is because the blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens. It is because the days have got long, and the sun rises early and sets late. For such gladness and joyousness of external nature is a fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold.

A man may say, “True; but in this climate we have sometimes a bleak, inclement May.” This cannot be denied; but still, so much is true that at least it is the month of promise and of hope. Even though the weather happen to be bad, it is the month that begins and heralds in the summer. We know, for all that may be unpleasant in it, that fine weather is coming sooner or later. “Brightness and beautifulness shall,” in the prophet’s words, “appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make delay, wait for it, for it shall surely come, and shall not be slack.”

May then is the month, if not of fulfillment, at least of promise; and is not this the very aspect in which we most suitably regard the Blessed Virgin, Holy Mary, to whom this month is dedicated?

Well, May has certainly been a cold, blustery, rainy month so far here in these parts. But with even just a few warm, sunny days, the trees and shrubs have buds, and our rhododendron in the corner of the garden is in full, pink bloom and gorgeousness. The wild, flowering thyme has burst out all around our Mary, and in fact has overtaken the little rock garden (you can’t even see the rocks anymore) and I’ll be surprised if any of the other little flowers can come up from underneath it. Yet I can’t bear to cut it back; at least, not yet.

We are taking the weekend (a long-weekend in Canada) away in Quebec City (with hopefully a wee sidetrip out to Ste. Anne de Beaupré). I hope my old digital will not conk out on me, and I can put up a few pictures when we get back.  Before I leave I’ll just turn the comments off here in case of spam.  Wishing you all a beautiful weekend too, a weekend of promise… and perhaps…fulfillment… 

The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother

In the comment section of the post for Day 25, Pia has done much research and left fascinating links regarding the way Catholics over the centuries have expressed their belief that Jesus appeared firstly to His Mother after His Resurrection.

In the space of a few short days, Pia has found this in the revelations of the mystics, the saints, in art and in contemplative reflections on the life of Christ and the Rosary.  I cannot help but think this is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in terms of examples.

The image above is entitled “Resurrection of Christ and Apparition to His Mother”, by Roger van der Weyden (circa 1440). I am thrilled to see this work of art, for in it we see Jesus just stepping out of the sepulchre yet simultaneously appearing to His Mother in her room, just as we read in the revelations of Venerable Mary of Agreda, which I entered in the comment section of Day 25.

On the link that Pia left for us regarding this artwork, I was not able to save the image, but I am grateful to have also found it at this Pauline site, so that I could show it to you here. But what I am even more grateful for is that at that same site, we are guided to ponder a sentence from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, from #23:

Contemplating the Risen One, Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith (cf. 1Cor 15:14) and relive the joy not only of those to whom Christ appeared – the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus – but also the joy of Mary, who must have had an equally intense experience of the new life of her glorified Son.

So while I am excited and avid to learn more about the Blessed Virgin’s mystical encounter with Jesus after His Resurrection, as it has evolved through our Catholic tradition in so many diverse mediums, what is far more important is that Mary will help us to experience what she experienced. Just as Mary helps to birth Jesus in us each day, so too will she help us to experience the intense joy of knowing a new life in the risen Christ, every day. The more we open our hearts, the more Mary can help us approach the level of intensity she experienced; she will lead us to Jesus, her risen and glorified Son.

Our Lady, Queen of Apostles

Queen of the Apostles

The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints” (1423-4), Fra Angelico

Excerpt from: “The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin”, by Ven. Mary of Agreda, pgs. 220-221:

Holy Exercises in the Supper-Room Before Pentecost:

She [Mary] assembled them together twice a day in the Supper-room, and being commanded by St. John or St. Peter to speak, explained to them for one hour the mysteries of faith, as if she were conversing with them, rather than teaching them as their Mistress and Queen. She explained the mysteries of the Hypostatic Union and all those contained in the ineffable and divine Incarnation. After this she bade them entertain themselves for one hour longer on the counsels, promises and doctrines they had learned from their Divine Master; to consecrate another part of the day to the recital of the Pater Noster, with some psalms; and to employ the rest of the time in mental prayer. In the evening they took some slight nourishment of bread, fruits and fish; thus by prayer and fasting they prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit. She incited them to mental prayer, teaching them its excellence and necessity, because the noblest occupation of the reasonable creature is to raise his mind above created things to meditate on the divine, and that nothing should be preferred to this holy exercise.

By these holy lessons, the Mother of Wisdom and the Mistress of Charity enlightened the minds and inflamed the hearts of the Apostles and disciples, filling them with fervor and disposing them to receive the precious gifts of the Paraclete…

Note: The feastday of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, is a moveable feast, because it is connected with the dates of Easter and the Ascension, which are also moveable feasts. The feastday of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, is celebrated on the Saturday after the Ascension, but this can lead to some confusion now. Officially, the Ascension occurred forty days after Easter Sunday, so it always falls on a Thursday, therefore the Saturday immediately afterwards we would celebrate this feastday of Our Lady; but with more and more areas celebrating the Ascension on the Sunday before Pentecost, the description of this feastday as being “the Saturday after the Ascension” might lead many to believe (as it did I) that it fell on the eve of Pentecost. In Canada and most of the United States the Ascension is celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost; there are only six ecclesiastical provinces in the U.S. that continue to celebrate the Ascension on Thursday. So all this to say, perhaps the easiest way for us to remember this feastday of Our Lady is to say it is forty-two days after Easter Sunday!!!

The Annunciation

Excerpt from, The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin, by Venerable Mary of Agreda, pages 52-53:

…Mary was troubled, because, through her profound humility,she believed herself the least of all creatures, and again she could not understand how she was to become a mother, yet, at the same time, preserve her vow of chastity.  The Archangel having explained the difficulties and dissipated her doubts, the Blessed Virgin humbly bowed her head and gave her consent to the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.  Absorbed in the thought that God wished her to become His Mother, she offered ardent acts of love and conformity to the Divine Will.  Her chaste heart, generally compressed by the ardor of its motions and of her affection, distilled three drops of blood, which fell into her virginal womb.  Of these the Holy Ghost formed the little body of our Saviour, so that, by the force of divine love, the most pure heart of Mary alone furnished that from which was formed the divine body of the Son of God.  The Incarnation was really effected at the moment in which Mary, bowing her head, pronounced the words:  Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum – “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”  At the same instant the most holy soul of our Saviour was created and infused into His body, and His Divinity was united to His humanity by the Hypostatic Union.  This was operated on Friday, the 25th of March, at dawn of day, the same hour in which Adam had been created.

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

On this feastday, we continue with the theme of the last few posts – the nativity, the divine child, and the birth of Jesus within us.  Why, you may ask.  What connection is there between the Holy Name of Jesus and ourselves giving birth to Christ daily?

Well, the name of Jesus was given by an angel to Mary and Joseph before the birth of the Baby.  Must we not also receive His Holy Name into our hearts before we can birth Him? 

I’ve posted some reflections from Servant of God Catherine Doherty over at Contemplative Haven today, which help to explain the connection between the Holy Name of Jesus and His presence within us.  But here I’d like to share some thoughts from Father George A. Maloney, S.J., from his book entitled, Invaded by God.  Mysticism and the Indwelling Trinity” .

In his section on “The Jesus Prayer”, Father Maloney writes:

The name of Jesus Christ for us modern Christians is also more than a mere recall of our Lord who once lived on this earth and performed healings and miracles and died for love of us.  Allowing His name to be present not only on our lips but in our heart (pushing ourselves to be consciously present to Him), we can experience by the Spirit’s gifts of deeper infusion of faith, hope and love the presence of Jesus Christ.  (pg. 140)

Strikingly similar to the thoughts of Meister Eckhart posted recently, Father Maloney continues:

Jesus becomes more and more present to us, leading us into the presence of the Father through His Spirit of love.  We experience with Mary the growth of Jesus within our hearts.  We experience also the Heavenly Father begetting Him and us together in a new birth of His only begotten Son.  We experience the Holy Spirit pouring out His gifts that allow us to build up the body of Christ through contemplation and action.  (pgs. 140-141)

In the video I posted just recently where Father Schineller, S.J. tells us that the U.S. Catholic bishops took Meister Eckhart’s thoughts one step further, i.e., into the world, so too Father Maloney makes this point, and does so beautifully in the section entitled, “A Transfiguring Light”:

Above all, as we are bathed in the transfiguring power of the indwelling Jesus, we are able to release the same transfiguring presence of Jesus in the world in which we are present….  What a power a Christian contemplative has to call forth the transforming power of Jesus Christ into his modern world, one that groans so loudly in agony until the full Christ has been born….  “Come, Lord Jesus, Marana tha!”  (pg. 141)

The Divine Child


In “The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin”, taken from “The Mystical City of God”, Venerable Mary of Agreda devotes Chapter 11 to the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.  In this excerpt we pick up the story, as revealed to Venerable Mary of Agreda, after Joseph and Mary have found shelter in the grotto where animals were lodged:

As the night was cold, St. Joseph kindled a fire, after which they took some slight nourishment, and with great interior devotion passed some time in holy conversation.  Then the Blessed Virgin begged St. Joseph to take a little respose, while he, on his part, asked her to do the same.  He prepared and arranged a place for her by covering with some clothes the manger which was in the grotto; then he retired into an obscure corner and began to pray.  Almost immediately he was rapt in sublime ecstasy, during which he beheld all the wonderful events which happened on this night.

In the meantime the Holy Virgin was raised to a state of high contemplation, in which she intuitively beheld the Divinity in a manner so ineffable that human tongue cannot express it.  This ecstasy continued during the hour immediately preceding the birth of Our Lord.  Coming to herself, she felt that the Divine Child began to move in her womb; this motion caused her no pain, but, on the contrary, such inexpressible joy, with effects so supernatural and sublime that the human understanding is incapable of comprehending them.  Her body became so beautiful and her face so resplendent that she seemed no longer like a creature of earth.  She was on her knees, her eyes raised towards Heaven, and her hands crossed upon her breast.

In this humble and pious posture, returning to herself out of her ecstasy, she gave birth to the only Son of the Eternal Father, who was also her own Son – Jesus Christ, our Saviour, both God and Man.  This glorious event happened at midnight, and on Sunday, according to the teaching of the Roman Church.

The Divine Child came into the world most beautiful and resplendent, without detriment to the holy virginity of Mary, for He passed through her virginal womb like a ray of the sun.

His body was glorious and transfigured, for the glory of His soul was reflected on it.  Immediately after His birth, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel [in corporeal form], taking Him in their arms, showed Him to the Holy Mother in the same manner as the priest exposes the Sacred Host to the adoration of the faithful… 

The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin, pgs. 80-81

Speaking with Mary

What a joy to open my email this morning and find this from friend Carol:


How could anyone see this baby’s body-language and not know that grace was at work, and a very real dialogue was taking place.  Anna Maria shows us clearly that Mary’s call for our own fiat requires only the trust, the openness, the wonder of a child – that our Mother is truly with us, waiting to instruct us, to offer us her guidance, and engage in heart-to-heart talks.