HOW THE MOST HOLY CHILD MARY BEGAN TO SPEAK AT THE AGE OF ONE YEAR AND A HALF; AND HOW SHE WAS OCCUPIED UNTIL THE TIME OF HER DEPARTURE TO THE TEMPLE.
389. The time had arrived, in which the most holy Mary could profitably and with perfect propriety break her blessed silence, in which the voice of that heavenly Turtledove was to be heard on our earth in order that She might be the faithful harbinger of the springtime of grace (Cant 2, 12).
［经文〈雅歌 2：12〉：田间的花卉已露，歌唱的时期已近。在我们的地方已听到斑鸠声； ］
But before She was commissioned by the Lord to speak with men (which was at the age of eighteen months), She was favored with a vision of the Divinity, not intuitive but intellectual, which was a summary of those already received and augmented the previous gifts and graces.
In that vision a colloquy took place between the Child and the highest Lord, which I tremblingly presume to reproduce in words.
390. The Queen spoke to his Majesty: “Most High Lord and incomprehensible God, how canst Thou pursue with so great favors thy most useless and poor creature? How canst Thou unbend thy greatness in such loving condescension toward thy slave, who is incapable of making the least return? The Most High looks down upon the servant.
The Most Powerful stoops to enrich the indigent! The Holy of holiest lowers Himself to the dust! I, O Lord, am the little one among the creatures, and least of all deserve thy favors. What shall I do in thy divine presence? How shall I requite what I owe to Thee? What have I, O Lord, that is not thine, since Thou givest me being, life and activity?
But I rejoice, O my Beloved, that Thou possessest all the good, and without Thee, the creature possesses nothing. I rejoice, that Thou alone canst claim the glory of raising up the little one, of favoring the most useless,giving existence to nothingness; for thus thy magnificence shall become more known and exalted.”
391. The Lord answered Her and said: “My Dove and Beloved One, in my eyes thou hast found favor; thine are the sweetnesses of my delights, my friend and chosen one. I will manifest what in thee shall please Me most.”
These promises of the Lord wounded Her anew and made the most tender heart of the infant Queen pine in throes of love, though it had already grown strong; and the Most High in his pleasure continued and said : “I am the God of mercies and with immense love I am drawn toward mortals; among so many, who have by their faults offended Me, I see some just, who are my friends and who have served Me and do serve Me from their heart.
I have resolved to save them by sending my Onlybegotten, in order that they may not be deprived of my glory, nor I of their eternal praise.
392. To this proposition the most holy child Mary responded: “Most high Lord and powerful King, thine are all creatures and thine the power; Thou alone are the holy One and the supreme Ruler of all creation : let thy own bounty move Thee, O Lord, to hasten the coming of thy Onlybegotten for the Redemption of the sons of Adam.
Let now the desired day of my ancient Forefathers begin to dawn and let mortals see thy eternal salvation. Why, O most beloved Master, since Thou art a most kind Father of all mercies, dost Thou delay so much the day, which thy captive and afflicted children expect with such longing? If my life can be of any service, I offer it gladly as a sacrifice for them.”
393. The Most High urged Her with great benevolence, that from now on She should many times each day pray for the hastening of the Incarnation of the eternal Word and for the Redemption of all the human race, and that She should bewail the sins of men, which impede their salvation and restoration.
Likewise He told Her, that it was now time to exercise all her outward faculties, and that for his own greater glory it was befitting that She should converse with human creatures. Therefore, in order to comply with his wishes, the Child said to his Majesty:
394. “Most high Lord and incomprehensible Majesty, how can mere dust venture to treat of such hidden and exalted mysteries? How can she, who is the least of all the woman born, dare to converse of secrets so precious in thy sight?
How can I win for men thy favor, and what can a creature do, that has served Thee in nothing? But Thou, O my Beloved, wilt be obliged by poverty itself : in Thee the ailing will find health, the thirsty will find the fountains of thy mercy, and the strength to fulfill thy will.
If Thou ordainest, O my Lord, that I open my lips in order to converse and speak with others besides Thyself who art all my good and my desire, I beseech Thee, consider my frailty and ward off the danger. Very hard it is for rational creatures not to fall into excess in conversation.
If it is thy pleasure, I would rather keep silence during all my life in order to avoid all danger of losing Thee; for if this should happen, I shall not be able to outlive it one moment.”
395. This was the answer of the most holy child Mary, for She was full of apprehension on account of the new and dangerous duty of conversing with men which was now enjoined on Her. As far as her inclinations were concerned, if God had allowed it, She desired to observe inviolate silence and be mute during all her life.
O great confusion and shining example for the insipidity of mortals, that She, who could not sin in speech, should tremble at its dangers! And we, who cannot open our mouths without sinning in our words, are consumed with mortal longings after the dissipation of speech! But, O my most sweet Child and Queen of all creation, how canst Thou desire to remain silent?
Dost Thou forget, my Mistress, that thy silence would be the ruin of the world, the sorrow of heaven, and also, according to our ignorant way of understanding it, a dreary void for the most blessed Trinity ? Dost Thou not know, that even in a single one of thy words namely in thy answer to the holy archangel :
“Fiat nihi secundum verbum tuum” “Let it be done to me according to thy word”(Luc. 1, 38) Thou wilt give the plenitude of perfection to all that exists? To the eternal Father Thou givest a Daughter, to the eternal Son, a Mother ; to the Holy Ghost, a Spouse ; to the angels, reparation; to men, redemption; to the heavens, glory; peace to the earth; an advocate to the world; health to the sick, life to the dead.
In this answer Thou givest existence and reality to that, which must be considered greater than anything else outside of his own essence, and greater than all the other works that God could decree and ordain.
Since thus the greatest work of divine Omnipotence and the welfare of all creation depends entirely on thy word how canst Thou desire to be speechless, O my Lady and Mistress? Speak then, O Child, who canst speak so well, and let thy voice be heard through all the vast circles of the heavens!
396. With the most prudent answer of this Spouse the Most High was much pleased and his heart was again wounded by the loving fear of our great Child. Therefore, as if fully requited by their beloved, and as if conferring among Themselves in regard to her petition, the three divine Persons spoke those words of the Canticles:
396.对这个净配的最谨慎的回答，至高者非常喜悦，祂的心再次因我们伟大的 “孩子” 的敬爱而深受感动。因此，仿佛是完全报答祂们的挚爱，并好像就她的请求在祂们之间商议，天主圣三说出了雅歌中的那些话：
“Our sister is little and hath no breasts. What shall we do to our sister in the day when she is to be spoken to? If she be a wall, let us build up on it bulwarks of silver” (Cant 8, 8).
Little thou art, beloved sister, in thy eyes, but great art thou and great wilt thou be in our eyes. In this humility thou hast wounded our heart with one of thy hairs (Cant. 4, 9).
Thou art little in thy own judgment and estimation, and this is what moves Us with love for thee. Thou hast not as yet the breasts of nourishing words ; but thou also art not a woman according to the law of sin, for in regard to thee, this law does not hold, nor do We wish that it should extend over thee.
Thou humblest thyself, though thou art great beyond all creatures: thou fearest, though thou art secure: thou guardest against a danger, which cannot approach thee. What shall We do for this our sister on the day, in which she shall open her lips according to our wish in order to bless Us while the mortals do it in order to blaspheme against our holy name?
What shall We do in order to celebrate so festive a day as that, in which she begins to speak? How shall We reward such humble modesty of her, who was always the delight of our eyes? Sweet was her silence, and most sweet will be her voice in our ears.
If she is a fortress founded on the abundance of our graces and made invincible by the power of our right hand, We will build upon such strong walls turrets of silver, We will heap new gifts upon the former ones, and let these our turrets be of silver so as to make them more rich and precious.
Let her words, when she begins to speak, be most pure, candid, strong and full of meaning to our ears; let our grace overflow from her lips, and let our powerful arm of protection rest upon her.”
397. While, according to our way of thinking, this conference took place between the three Persons of the Divinity, our infant Queen was strengthened and consoled in her humble solicitude concerning the first exercise of her speech.
The Lord promised Her, that He would govern her words and assist Her to direct them all toward his service and pleasure. Then She petitioned his Majesty anew for his permission and blessing to open her lips so full of grace, and, being prudent and considerate in all things, She spoke her first words to her parents, saint Joachim and Anne, asking of them their blessing and thus acknowledging that from them after God She had her life and being.
The happy parents heard Her and at the same time they saw that She was able to walk by herself. The happy Anne in great joy of her spirit took Her into her arms and said: “My Daughter and Beloved of my heart, blessed and glorious to the Lord be the hour, in which we hear thy words and in which Thou beginnest to walk in his holy service.
Let thy words and sayings be few, well measured and considered, and let thy footsteps be directed aright toward the service and honor of our Creator.”
398. The most holy Child heard these and other exhortations of her holy mother Anne, and She engraved them in her tender heart to preserve them in profound humility and obedience. During the year and a half, which remained of the three before her departure into the temple, She spoke but few words beside those addressed to her mother;
for holy Anne, in order to hear Her speak, was wont to call Her and request Her to speak of God and his mysteries. The heavenly Child fulfilled her wish listening to and asking questions of her mother ; She that excelled in wisdom all the woman born, desired to learn and be instructed. Thus the Daughter and the mother passed their time in sweetest colloquies concerning the Lord.
399. It would not be easy, nor even possible, to describe the doings of the heavenly child Mary during these eighteen months of companionship with her mother. The latter shed copious and sweet tears of love and gratitude when at times she looked upon her Child, more venerable than the symbolic ark of the covenant.
Yet never did Anne reveal the secret of her heart that her Daughter was chosen to be the Mother of the Messias, although they often spoke of this ineffable mystery. At such times the Child was inflamed with the most ardent love and She spoke of it in the most exalted terms, innocently extolling her own dignity without being aware thereof, while her most blessed mother, holy Anne, was filled more and more with joy, love and solicitude for her Daughter and her heart's Treasure.
400. The strength of the tender Child was by far in adequate for the fulfillment of the exercises and practices of humility to which her humble love urged Her on; for this Mistress of all creatures esteemed Herself the lowest of them all and was anxious to exhibit these humble sentiments in her actions, by taking upon Herself the most abject and servile occupations of the household.
She feared that if She did not serve all that were with Her, She could not satisfy her obligations and would fall short of her duty in the sight of the Lord.
While the real cause of her not performing all that She wished was none other than the insufficiency of her bodily forces, and while the highest seraphim would have kissed the place, where her sacred feet had touched; yet She was often full of holy fear lest She be deprived of doing the most humble services, such as cleaning and scrubbing the house.
As She was not always permitted to engage in such things when others were present, She tried to do it when alone, being on such occasions assisted by the holy angels and thus in a measure reaping the fruit of her humility through their help.
401. The family of Joachim was not rich, though at the same time he could not have been called poor. Conformable to the honored standing of her family, saint Anne desired to dress her most holy Daughter as best she could afford within the bounds of decency and modesty.
The most humble Child yielded to this maternal solicitude during the time of her voluntary silence without protest; but when She began to speak, She humbly asked her mother not to clothe Her in costly and showy garments, but to procure for Her garments of coarse and poor material, if possible, such as had already been worn by others and of an ash-grey color, similar to that which in our day is worn by the nuns of saint Clare.
The holy Mother, who looked upon and respected her Daughter as her Mistress, answered: “My Daughter, I will conform to thy desire in regard to the form and color of thy dress; but thy strength will not permit the coarseness which thou desirest, and in this regard I wish that thou obey me.”
402. The Child obedient to the will of her mother and never objecting in anything, acquiesced and allowed Herself to be clothed in the garments which were provided. They were of the color and form desired by Her, and similar to the dress worn by children dedicated to a devout life.
Although She desired them to be coarser and poorer, She supplied this want by obedience, deeming obedience more precious than sacrifice (I Kings 15, 22).
Thus the most holy child Mary had the merit of obedience to her mother and of humility in her aspirations, deeming Herself unworthy of the use of even that which is necessary to preserve natural life.
In the virtue of obedience toward her parents She was most distinguished and exact during the three years of her stay with them; by her divinely infused science She knew their interior wishes and thus She was beforehand in fulfilling them to the minutest point.
She asked the permission and blessing of her mother for whatever She undertook to do Herself, kissing her hand with great humility and reverence. The mother outwardly permitted this, while inwardly She venerated the grace and exalted dignity of her Daughter.
403. At times She would retire to enjoy, by Herself and with greater liberty, the company and intercourse of her holy angels and to give outward tokens of the burning love of her Spouse.
In some of her exercises She prostrated Herself, tearfully afflicting that most perfect and tender little body of hers for the sins of mortals, supplicating the mercy and blessings of God for them, and striving to gain these favors by the exercise of heroic virtues.
The grief of her heart on account of the sins made known to Her, and the pangs of love with which it was accompanied, caused in the heavenly Child intensest sorrow and pain, nevertheless, in order to be in all things the Mother of mercy and the Mediatrix of grace, She taxed also her bodily strength during that tender age in works of penance and mortification, sparing no exertion that time and opportunity permitted in order to gain grace for Herself and for us men.
404. When She reached the age of two years She began to exercise her special pity and charity toward the poor. She solicited alms for them of saint Anne, and the kind-hearted mother readily granted her petitions, both for the sake of the poor and to satisfy the tender charity of her most holy Daughter, at the same time encouraging Her who was the Mistress of mercy and charity, to love and esteem the poor.
Besides giving what She obtained expressly for distribution among the poor, She reserved part of her meals for the same purpose, in order that from her infancy it might be said of Her more truly than of Job: from my infancy compassion grew with me (Job 31, 18).
She gave to the poor not as if conferring a benefit upon them, but as paying a debt due in justice, saying in her heart: this my brother and master deserves what he needs and what I possess without desert.
In giving alms She kissed the hands of the poor, and whenever She was alone, She kissed their feet, or, if this was impossible, She would kiss the ground over which they had passed. Never did She give an alms to the poor without conferring still greater favors on their souls by interceding for them and thus dismissing them relieved in body and soul.
405. Not less admirable were the humility and obedience of the most holy Child in permitting Herself to be taught to read and to do other things as other children in that time of life. She was instructed in reading and other arts by her parents and She submitted, though She had infused knowledge of all things created.
The angels were filled with admiration at the unparalleled wisdom of this Child, who willingly listened to the teaching of all. Her holy mother Anne, as far as her intuition and love permitted, observed with rapture the heavenly Princess and blessed the Most High in Her.
But with her love, as the time for presenting Her in the temple approached, grew also the dread of the approaching end of the three years set by the Almighty and the consciousness, that the terms of her vow must punctually be fulfilled.
Therefore the child Mary began to prepare and dispose her mother, manifesting to her, six months before, her ardent desire of living in the temple. She recounted the benefits, which they had received at the hands of the Lord, how much they were obliged to seek his greater pleasure, and how, when She should be dedicated to God in the temple, She would be more her Daughter than in their own house.
406. The holy Anne heard the discreet arguments of her child Mary; but, though She was resigned to the divine will and wished to fulfill her promise of offering up her beloved Daughter, yet the natural force of her love toward such an unequalled and beloved Treasure, joined with the full understanding of its inestimable value, caused a mortal strife in her most faithful heart at the mere thought of her departure, which was closely at hand.
There is no doubt, that she would have lost her life in this fierce and vivid sorrow, if the hand of the Almighty had not comforted her: for the grace and dignity of her heavenly Daughter was fully known to her and had entirely ravished her heart, making the presence of Mary more dear to her than life.
Full of this grief she said to the Child : “My beloved Daughter, for many years I have longed for Thee and only for a few years do I merit to have thy company; but thus let the will of God be fulfilled ; I do not wish to be unfaithful to my promise of sending Thee to the temple, but there is yet time left for fulfilling it : have patience until the day arrives for the accomplishment of thy wishes.”
407. A few days before most holy Mary reached the age of three years, She was favored with an abstract vision of the Divinity, in which it was made known to Her that the time of her departure for the temple ordained by God, had arrived, and that there She was to live dedicated and consecrated to his service.
Her most pure soul was filled with new joy and gratitude at this prospect and speaking with the Lord, She gave Him thanks saying: “Most high God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, my eternal and highest Good, since I cannot praise Thee worthily, let it be done in the name of this humble slave by the angelic spirits; since Thou, immense Lord, who hast need of none, dost look upon this lowly wormlet of the earth in thy unbounded mercy.
Whence this great benefit to me, that Thou shouldst receive me into thy house and service, since I do not even merit the most abject spot of the earth for my place of habitation? But as
Thou art urged thereto by thy own greatness, I beseech Thee to inspire the hearts of my parents to fulfill thy holy will.”
408. At the same time saint Anne had a vision, in which the Lord enjoined her to fulfill her promise by presenting her Daughter in the temple on the very day, on which the third year of her age should be complete. There is no doubt that this command caused more grief in saint Anne, than that given to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.
But the Lord consoled and comforted Her, promising his grace and assistance in her loneliness during the absence of her beloved Daughter. The holy matron showed Herself prepared and ready to execute the command of the Almighty, and she answered full of submission by the following prayer :
“Lord God, Master of all my being, I have pledged to thy service and to the temple my Daughter, whom Thou, in thy ineffable mercy, hast given me : She is thine, and I return Her to Thee with thanks for the time in which I have enjoyed Her, for having been chosen to conceive Her and assist in her formation.
But remember, God and Lord, that in the keeping of thy inestimable Treasure I was rich; I enjoyed her company in this desert valley of tears, She was the joy of my sorrow, the alleviation of my labors, the mirror for the regulation of my life, the example of a supernal perfection, which stimulated my remissness and enkindled my affections.
Through that Creature alone have I hoped for mercy and grace, and I fear, that in being deprived of Her, I will fall away from all thy grace. Heal, O Lord, the wound of my heart, and deal with me not as I have deserved, but look upon me as a kind Father of mercies, while I bring my Daughter to the temple according to thy command.”
409. Saint Joachim also had a visitation or vision of the Lord at this time, receiving the same command as Anne. Having conferred with each other and taking account of the will of the Lord, they resolved to fulfill it with humble submission and appointed the day on which the Child was to be brought to the temple.
Great was also the grief of this holy old man, though not quite so great as that of saint Anne, for the high mystery of her being the future Mother of God was yet concealed from him.
410. My dearest daughter, keep in mind, that all the living are born destined for death, but ignorant of the time allowed them; this they know for certain however, that the term of life is short, that eternity is without end, and that in this life only they can harvest what will yield life or death eternal.
In this dangerous pilgrimage of life God has ordained, that no one shall know for certain, whether he is worthy (Eccles. 9, 1) of his love or hate; for if he uses his reason rightly, this uncertainty will urge him to seek with all his powers the friendship of that same Lord.
God justifies his cause as soon as the soul acquires the use of reason; for from that time
onward He enlightens and urges and guides man toward virtue and draws him away from sin, teaching him to distinguish between water and fire, to approve of the good and reject evil, to choose virtue and repel vice.
Moreover, God calls and rouses the soul by his holy inspirations and continual promptings, provides the help of the Sacraments, doctrines and commandments, urges man onward through his angels, preachers, confessors, ministers and teachers, by special tribulations and favors, by the example of strangers, by trials, deaths and other happenings and dispositions of his Providence;
He disposes the things of life so as to draw toward Him all men, for He wishes all to be saved. Thus He places at the disposal of the creature a vast field of benevolent help and assistance, which it can and should use for its own advancement.
Opposing all this are the tendencies of the inferior and sensitive nature, infected with the
fomes peccati, the foment of sin, tending toward sensible objects and by the lower appetites and repugnances, disturbing the reason and enthralling the will in the false liberty of ungoverned desires.
The demon also, by his fascinations and his deceitful and iniquitous suggestions obscures the interior light, and hides the deathly poison beneath the pleasant exterior. But the Most High does not immediately forsake his creatures; He renews his mercy and his assistance, recalling them again and again, and if they respond to his first call, He adds others according to his equity, increasing and multiplying them in proportion as the soul corresponds.
As a reward of the victory, which the soul wins over itself, the force of his passions and concupiscences is diminished, the spirit is made free to soar higher and rise above its own inclinations and above the demons.
412. But if man neglects to rise above his low desires and his forgetfulness, he yields to the enemy of God and man. The more he alienates himself from the goodness of God, so much the more unworthy does he become of the secret callings of the Most High, and so much the less does he appreciate his assistance, though it be great.
For the demon and the passions have obtained a greater dominion and power over his intellect and have made him more unfit and more incapable of the grace of the Almighty. Thereon, my dear daughter, rests the whole salvation or condemnation of souls, that is, in commencing to admit or resist the advances of the Lord.
I desire thee not to forget this doctrine, so that thou mayest respond to the many calls which thou receivest of the Most High. See thou be strong in resisting his enemies and punctually solicitous in fulfilling the pleasure of thy Lord, for thereby thou wilt gratify Him and at tend to the commands made known to thee by divine light.
I loved my parents dearly, and the tender words of my mother wounded my heart ; but as I knew it to be the will of the Lord to leave them, I forgot her house and my people in order to follow my Spouse.
The proper education and instruction of children will do much toward making them more free and habituated to the practice of virtue, since thus they will be accustomed to follow the sure and safe guiding star of reason from its first dawn.