WE beg our pious readers to excuse this chapter; though the digression scarcely needs an apology, it is so connected with what we have been treating, the place and humiliation of the Incarnation. A few of the leading facts of the history of the Holy House (for it is justly called by that name), where the Word was made Flesh, and where Jesus and Mary lived for near thirty years, cannot fail to interest the reader.
The judgments of God fell thick and heavy upon the unhappy Judeans, once the chosen people of heaven. Our Divine Redeemer had foretold the subjugation of their country and the destruction of their city and temple. The Roman legions, under the command of Titus, the Emperor's son, fulfilled the predictions in the year 72 AD While the whole country was overrun and devastated by the Roman soldiers, God did not allow a profane finger to touch the "Holy House!" It escaped the general destruction. God waited for his own time to expose it to the veneration of the world. This time arrived in the reign of Constantine the Great. In the year 326, St. Helen, the Emperor's mother, visited the holy places sanctified by the footsteps of the Son of God. The pagan statues of Venus and Jupiter were removed from Mount Calvary, and God rewarded her piety by a miracle in the finding of the True Cross. At Nazareth, St. Helen's soul was filled with holy joy at finding the "Holy House" exactly the same as when Jesus and Mary lived in it. She gave thanks to God, and resolved not to make the least change in it. She ordered the imperial ministers to construct round it a magnificent temple, on the facade of which she got engraven on marble this short but expressive inscription: "Hæc est Ara in qua primo jactum est humanæ salutis fundamentum." "This is the altar on which was first placed the foundations of man's redemption."
The fame of the Holy House rapidly spread through Christendom, and pious pilgrims, from the king to the peasant, from every country, hastened to venerate the holy place.
St. Louis, King of France, after fighting the battles of the Lord under the banner of the Cross, and wearing the chains of the Confessor, made a pious pilgrimage to Nazareth in the year 1252. He arrived there on the 25th of March precisely, the Feast of the Annunciation. In the garb of a true penitent, covered with sackcloth, his eyes streaming with tears and his heart filled with emotion, this great saint entered the holy chamber; there heard mass, and received holy communion from the hands of Odin bishop of Frescati, the Apostolic Legate. To this day, memorials of this visit are to be seen at Loretto.
In the year 1291 all Palestine fell into the hands of the Saracens; the Mussulman conquered the Christian; the holy places, sanctified by the sacred feet, or purpled by the blood of Jesus, were profaned by the Mahometan Turks. But as for twelve hundred years God had guarded one spot against the profanation of Jew or Pagan, so he preserved it now from the insults of the Turk and Mahometan. That sacred spot was where the "Word was made Flesh." God preserved it; and how? By the most unheard of, but wellauthenticated prodigy a prodigy which, put again and again by friends and foes through the crucible of historical criticism, has come out unscathed. God sent his angels, and transported the Holy House from Nazareth to Dalmatia! This wonderful translation took place the 10th of May, 1291, in the Pontificate of Nicholas IV.
Dalmatia was not its final resting place. God had destined another land to possess the precious treasure. Hence, after a stay of three years and seven months, it was seen, on a sudden, to ascend into the air, cross the Adriatic Sea into Italy, and finally rested at Loretto. The people received with joy the precious gift from heaven, and testified their faith and gratitude with the richest offerings to the shrine, Pope Paul II. built round it a vast and magnificent church, which was completed by the great Sixtus V., who ordered the following inscription to be engraven, in letters of gold on black marble, on the facade: "Deiparæ domus in qua Verbum Caro factam est." "The house of the Mother of God, in which the Word was made Flesh." This is fresh to the present day.
Humility, to confound the pride of man, was the great lesson our Divine Lord came to teach. Everything connected with his birth, life, and death, preaches this great virtue. The home of his Incarnation is in keeping. The height of the Holy House is thirteen feet three inches, its length twentynine feet four inches, and width twelve feet eight inches. These are the dimensions of the modest dwelling of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph ! There you see to this day the little fireplace, and the little cups out of which the Blessed Virgin used to feed the infant Jesus in her arms! There is the altar on which the Apostles themselves used to offer the divine sacrifice of the mass. Over the altar is the celebrated statue of the Blessed Virgin, with the Infant Jesus in her arms, of cedar wood. This statue, so well known as "Our Lady of Loretto," is venerated as the oldest, or one of the oldest, in Christendom. Tradition ascribes it to the days of the Apostles. The Son and Mother were crowned with brilliant diadems of gold and diamonds by the venerable Pontiff, Pius VII. The statues and shrine are loaded with votive offerings of Catholic faith. Gold, silver, and precious stones of the richest description, decorate. the sacred objects. The value of the sacred vessels (sacristie du trésor) is estimated at two millions of francs.
It is not our object to describe the basilica in the center of which the Holy House rests. This magnificent church is enriched with privileges and favors of no fewer than twentyone Sovereign Pontiffs from Paul II. down to our own holy and illustrious Pontiff, Pius IX.; thus all bearing testimony to the truth of the great historic fact. This basilica enjoys all the privileges of the seven great ones of Rome. There sit in their confessionals the Apostolic Penitentiaries, speaking most of the living languages of Europe, to confess the clients of Mary from every clime and every land. Who that have seen can ever forget? Those pious Christians may have journeyed some thousands of miles, through frost and snow, or under the scorching heat of the sun. See them the first time they enter: they devoutly kiss the holy ground on which Jesus walked. Witness the warm tears in their eyes, the emotions of their hearts visible in their faces. God alone sees the secret working of supernatural grace in their souls, when they received into their bosoms the Body and Blood of Jesus in the very spot where they were first formed. How tell what passes in the soul of the holy priest, when, upon the very altar on which the Apostles, over eighteen hundred years ago, celebrated the divine mysteries, he calls down from heaven the very same "Word" that on that sacred spot "was made Flesh" in Mary's womb! The thought is overpowering. O Sacred Host! 0 Divine Babe! how sublime the mysteries of our holy faith!
God thus miraculously preserved the place of the Incarnation. With equally zealous care he has guarded the altar where the first host was consecrated, and where the first mass was celebrated by Jesus Christ himself. Both were equally precious in the eyes of heaven. As Loretto possesses the Holy House, St. John of Lateran, Rome, guards the altar of the Last Supper.
How full of admiration the Providence of God! During the last two thousand years, empires and kingdoms rose and fell. Revolution after revolution has swept away thrones and dynasties. The mightiest structures which the genius of man has designed have crumbled and yielded to time "The face of the earth has again and again been renewed." But whatever God watches over, no matter how fragile, no power of man can ever destroy. Hence we may well conclude, that with the other holy relics of the Incarnation and Passion, those touched by the virginal flesh of the Incarnate God, or steeped in the blood of Redemption the Manger, the true Cross, the Nails, the Pillar, the Seamless Garment, the Crown of Thorns, the Lance, the Towel of Veronica, etc. the "Holy House of Loretto" too will escape the fury of men, the wreck of ages, and last to the end of time.
My soul! this and similar miracles are intended by God to enliven thy faith, and make thee ever trust in the watchful care of Divine Providence, and in a special manner to teach thee to reverence God's sanctuary, God's church, which is "holy," for the Eternal Word comes down and dwells there. Alas! how often has God's church been profaned by the wicked! Is it always duly respected even by the good ? Hast thou thyself been ever guilty of any irreverence?
My dearest Jesus ! Thy church, where thou dost ever dwell, is as holy as the Sanctuary at Loretto. Year after year, O Lord, we read, with sighs and tears, of some sanctuary profaned, some altar or tabernacle containing the "Holy of Holies" desecrated. I adore thy patience. To try to make reparation for all, and for my own irreverences, I resolve never to be guilty, either in word, or look, or dress, or gesture, of anything unworthy of the sanctity of thy house, and always "to reverence thy sanctuary." "Thy church, O Lord, is the house of God and gate of heaven." Gen., xxviii. 17.
Divine Host! make me faithful to this resolution.
The Hidden Life of our Lord Jesus Christ during His Thirtythree Years on Earth in the Flesh, and "for all Days" in the
IF we knew Jesus better, we would love him more. Every mystery of his divine life in the flesh, or Blessed Sacrament, contains new motives of love. Jesus is God made man, and every moment of his sacred life gives infinite glory to his, Eternal Father, and advances the salvation of souls. What holy thoughts, what pious meditation, what strong motives to serve God, the present chapter suggests the hidden life of Jesus in the Flesh and Blessed Sacrament! Well might the inspired writer say: "Verily thou art a hidden God." Is., xlv. 15.
The Son of God took flesh in Mary's chaste womb, and there remained, like any other child, for nine months. Mary alone on earth knew of his presence. She alone adored him. All heaven, the adorable Trinity, the choirs of angels, smiled on earth; earth returned no thanks. "He was in the world, and the world knew him not." John, i. 10. The sighs and tears of the prophets are heard: "The heavens have rained down the just." "The Lord," "the Lamb," "the Ruler," "the Messiah," expected for four thousand years, is come.
St. Joseph at length hears the secret from an angel. He, next after Mary, adores "the Lord," "the Lamb." St. John "leaped for joy in his mother's womb," at the presence of the Savior. St. Elizabeth pronounced Mary and the fruit of her womb "blessed." The shepherds paid homage to the Babe in the manger, and the three wise men bowed down and adored him. Of the many millions that then peopled the world, how few knew of the birth of the Redeemer of mankind! "Verily in thy birth thou art a hidden God."
The greater part of the life of Jesus, as well as his birth, was hidden and concealed. Whilst yet an infant, Herod, far from adoring him, sought "to destroy him." An angel whispered to St. Joseph, "who arose and took the Child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod." Matt., xi. 14. How long they remained in Egypt we know not for certain, as the Gospel is silent. One thing is certain his life there was hidden and unknown.
After the death of Herod, God's holy angel again whispered to Joseph, "to arise and take the Child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel." Matt., xi. 20. "He retired into the quarters of Galilee, and coming, he dwelt in a city called Nazareth." Here he dwelt; here "the Child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him." Luke, xi. 40. We next hear of our Divine Lord at the age of twelve. He remained in Jerusalem after his parents, who, after three days' sorrow and search, at length "found him in the temple in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions." Luke, xi. 46. And the Gospel adds: "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them." Now, from the age of twelve to thirty, there is not as much as one word about our Divine Lord: so during those eighteen years, his life was hidden and unknown to the world. "He was in the world, and the world knew him not."
What a subject of useful meditation for the pious soul the life of Jesus, hidden and unknown to the world for thirty years! During those long years Heaven was on earth, and still earth was not on fire with Divine love. The "New Jerusalem hath no need of sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof." John, Ap., xxi. 23. This glory of God was on earth, but the lamp of the Lamb was hidden in Nazareth, and the world remained enveloped in the darkness of sin and error. The "Way," the "Truth," the "Life," "the true Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world," was among men; but darkness did not comprehend the Light, and men sat still in the shades of death, sin, and error. During these thirty years, proud doctors and cheating philosophers perverted mankind by their false systems and doctrines. Eternal truth was silent, for "his hour was not yet come." In his hidden life, our Divine Lord practiced the lessons which he afterwards taught to the world, viz., "Not to do your justice before men to be seen by them. When you give alms, let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doth. When you pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret," etc. Matt., vi. This teaching and this practice of Jesus Christ have been the model and support of the anchorite in his cave, the nun in her cell, the missioner in the desert, and the pious Christian in the world. "You are dead," says St. Paul, "and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Col. iii, 3. May we all love to imitate the hidden life of Jesus in the Flesh, and find our delight in true piety, unknown to and concealed from the eyes of men.
But let us return to the Blessed Sacrament. And here we can say with truth, "Verily thou art a hidden God." "The Divinity," says St. Bernard, "is hidden, the Humanity is hidden, the bowels of charity only appear." If we adore with amazement the thirty years of the hidden life of Jesus in the Flesh, how count the hidden years of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament ?
Begin with the last supper. Travel in spirit over Christendom. Count, if you can, the churches, the tabernacles, the ciboriums, and the pixes of the first century; double the number for the second century; and so on down to the nineteenth. Conceive, if you can, altogether, the countless churches, altars, tabernacles, ciboriums, pixes, etc., of nineteen centuries past, and of centuries yet to come, in every clime and every land, from the rising to the setting sun, where the "clean oblation" has been, is, and will be offered to the "Lord of Hosts," and you begin to form some faint idea of the hidden life of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! During the day how few adore and keep, so to speak, company with their Divine Lord; during the night none at all. The churches are closed; silence reigns around the tabernacle. There is no human voice, no accent of love, no look of praise, no sigh of reparation; the angels' song alone ascends before the Lord.
During the thirty years at Nazareth, Jesus had at least Mary and Joseph to adore him; but in countless tabernacles, day and night during long ages, the Lamb has no adorers. "How lovely [we may add, how lonely] are thy tabernacles,. O Lord of Hosts!" "The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself. Thy altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God." Ps., lxxxiii. 3. But if in these our days the love of God is chilled in many breasts; and if ingratitude, indifference, heresy, and infidelity, stalk abroad to insult Jesus in the Sacrament of his love, in these our days, too, thanks to God, the Almighty has raised up in his Church, religious orders of both sexes of the "Perpetual Adoration," who spend the day and the night before the tabernacle of their Savior.
These are the consecrated spouses of the Lord; these the incarnate angels of God, who not only during the day but during the night, when fatigued nature is reposing in silence, watch before the monstrance, offering their heart's love as holocausts of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Holy doves of the tabernacle! singing with the spirits above, singing with virginal lips the chaste hymn round the Lamb, "Holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts; the earth is full of thy glory." "The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and benediction." Thou hast redeemed us to God in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation." Apoc., v.
If, then, in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus has some faithful souls, like Mary and Joseph, to love him, still, for the most part, all over the world, his love is slighted, his churches neglected, his altars lonely! With good reason did our Divine Lord make the following touching complaint to his servant, Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, as she was kneeling before the tabernacle. Our Lord, disclosing to her his Sacred Heart, said "Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and consuming itself, to testify its love; and yet in return, I receive from the greater number but contempt, coldness, ingratitude, irreverence, and sacrilege, in the Sacrament of my love." Blessed Lord! the best of us are cold, ungrateful, and irreverent! Accept, O Lord, the reparation of thy devoted servants. Let us often travel in spirit round Christendom; and in spirit let us kneel before every pyx and tabernacle where Jesus is least honored and most abandoned; let us first offer to him the love and homage of our poor hearts; next let us in desire make an act of faith in and love to the Blessed Sacrament for every soul that God ever created, and that for every moment of their existence poor pagans who have never heard of the name of Jesus, though redeemed by the Blood of the Heart of Jesus; for infidels and heretics, who insult Jesus; and for ourselves, perhaps the most ungrateful of all! Then let us offer to the forgotten Jesus the united love of all holy souls on earth; lastly, let us ascend to heaven above, let us invite heaven to supply for earth, let us offer to Jesus, in the blessed Sacrament, the love of all his saints, the love of all his spirits, from the lowest angel to the highest seraph, and beyond all, the love of the Immaculate soul of Mary! One desire more that every moment of our lives be an offering of this love of earth and heaven to Jesus hidden in the sacrament of his love.
My soul! The hidden life of Jesus in the Flesh and Blessed Sacrament is to teach thee to love true piety, which seeks to be hidden and unknown; to despise human respect, vain glory, and the esteem of men; to regard nothing valuable but what is precious in the sight of God; and finally, to sanctify all thy thoughts, words, and actions, by the supernatural and highest of all motives, the greater glory of God. "It is no longer I who live it is Jesus Christ who liveth in me." Gal. xi. 20.
My hidden Lord Jesus, for thy sake, I resolve never to do any act for vain glory or the esteem of men, and to hide from the world, as far I can, all my acts of piety and devotion, and to offer every morning, to the greater glory of God, in union with Jesus, all the thoughts, words, and actions of the day.
Jesus, my God, keep for me, by your grace, this holy resolution.
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