THE single incident by the mention of which the short history of the Hidden Life is broken in the narrative of St. Luke is, as is well known, the tarrying of our Lord in the Temple of Jerusalem, when He was of the age of twelve years, and when He did not let His Mother or St. Joseph know where He was, or the motive of His absence from their side. This mystery has two different aspects, as it is considered with reference to our Lord's work for the glory of the Father on the one hand, or to our Blessed Lady and His treatment of her on the other. We have spoken elsewhere of the first of these two aspects of this incident. It seems that our Lord desired to show, among other things, His immense devotion to the work of instruction, especially to that most important but less conspicuous branch of instruction which is carried on in the catechetical schools of the Church. He wished to set an example, both to teachers and to scholars, in such schools, and to consecrate by His own presence and participation the labour of the one and the docility of the other. He could hardly leave behind Him a more conspicuous proof of the value which the school held in His eyes, than by making this the one occasion on which He departed, in so pointed a manner, from His usual habit of close and obedient clinging to the company of those who were to Him in the place of God, and were intensely dear on all grounds. Other motives may also have had their share in determining His conduct on this occasion, and also in the pro vision which He has made for the preservation of this incident in the history, when so many other most interesting occurrences must have been passed over in silence. But we need not dwell on this part of the subject here. When we turn to consider this action of our Lord, and all that passed in consequence, with reference to our Blessed Lady, we see in the first place that, if our Lord had simply intended us to learn by His example the great importance of the catechetical teaching of which mention has been made, there was no need for all that part of the incident which relates to the ignorance in which our Blessed Lady was left by Him, and the sorrow which she and St. Joseph must have felt in finding that He was absent from them, and in their search for Him. It must be quite certain that if He had expressed to them the slightest wish to remain in Jerusalem for those three days, there could have been no opposition on- their part to His desire. They would willingly have remained with Him, and then their witness to His desire to spend the time as He did spend it would have remained to the Church, without any narrative of the sorrows of our Lady and the tearful search for Him which she had to make. The one most remarkable point in the mystery is not that He spent His time in the Temple or in the school, but that He left our Lady and St. Joseph, without a word of warning, because He was called to some thing which belonged to that work of His Father which He came into the world to do. It is this which seems, more than anything else, to require explanation. The answer to this question will perhaps reveal to us a new truth concerning our Blessed Lady and the position which she occupies in the history of the Incarnation. We have hitherto considered her in the great exaltation which she received, in consequence of the unique privilege conferred upon her of becoming the Mother of God, and in the display of wonderful virtues which we see in her from the first, which reveals to us something of her pre-eminent personal sanctity. She is the one created soul that was to profit to the very full by the graces and blessings of the Incarnation, to correspond fully to the merciful designs of God in that mystery, to be the perfect and faultless copy of the virtues and the character of her Blessed Son. As the time drew near for the manifestation of our Lord to the world, as far as such manifestation was made in the course of His Public Life, another duty fell, as it seems, into the hands of Mary, which involved, on this and perhaps on other occasions, a certain amount of suffering, which was a part of that piercing of her heart by the sword of which holy Simeon had told her. She was our Lord's only earthly parent, although St. Joseph had over him a certain parental authority of its own kind. Mary was therefore the one person in the world towards whom our Lord was to behave uniformly in that manner in which it was necessary that He should behave, in order to supply us with a perfect example of the conduct of a Child to His Parents. This was the object of that long example of subjection and obedience which is conveyed to us by what we know of this very period of the Hidden Life. Of this period it is specially mentioned, and, moreover, of the years which followed this mystery of the twelfth year in particular, that He was then subject to His parents. It follows from this that if there were any sphere of conduct or duty as to which obedience to parents, and even consideration for their wishes and feelings, might be out of place in the life of a perfect follower of our Lord, it might be necessary that there should be some example in His Life as to this, in which deviation from uniformity of obedience might be set before us, as the conduct of our Lord Himself. For it would not be well that Christians should be left to conjecture or reasoning in such a matter. Putting aside for the moment the particular call which our Lord must have followed when He let His parents depart from Jerusalem without warning them that He was to stay behind, this example at least, and in the first place, teaches us that there are some duties which over-ride the duty which we owe to our parents, and that this is the case with all calls and obligations as to which it can be truly said that they constitute or consist in the affairs or the work of the Father. That is, as the ground for our obedience to parents consists in the fact that they are to us in His place, by His will, so there may be special occasions and whole ranges of duties as to which we may have to put aside the duty to the subordinate authority of the parent, in order to obey the supreme and original authority which resides in God alone. The occasions for such conduct are numberless in life, and they are parallel to those other cases in which the law or command of a legitimate ruler, who has his authority from God, must be set aside in order that we may obey the decrees of God Himself, and of these we may use the words of the Apostles to the rulers of the holy nation, that we must obey God rather than man. 2 The parent may conceivably desire the child to commit some sin or do some injustice to a third party, and in such cases the command of parents is to be disobeyed. Another large range of cases is more like this in which our Lord has set us the example, not indeed of disobedience, but of omission to consult the wishes of parents, namely, where there is a case of the child being called by God to serve Him in some state of life which is not what the fond ambition of the parent has marked out for him, and so there is resistance-or hindrance on the part of the parent to what we commonly speak of as a clerical or a religious vocation. There have been thousands and thousands of instances in the history of the Church, in which the guidance which has supported the call of God in its rights on the obedience of the child at all costs, even of pain and grief to the parent, has been found in this beautiful mystery of the twelfth year, in which our Lord acted as if it was best to omit all regard to His parents for the sake of obeying a higher and more direct call on His obedience. It may well seem that some such lesson as this was needed to qualify and explain the doctrine of implicit obedience, which might be founded on the most perfect example of our Lord in the practice of that virtue. His example, to be quite perfect and applicable to all possible contingencies, needed the supplement and crown which is supplied to it in this mystery. If we ask ourselves why our Lord did not content Himself with informing His parents of the call of God which required Him to spend these particular days in this particular way, certain as it was that no opposition could have been raised either by our Blessed Lady or by St. Joseph, the answer seems to be that that example might not have been enough to meet the case of which we are speaking. For the duty of following Divine calls represents them to us as paramount and supreme, the exercise on the part of God of that supreme dominion of His by virtue of which He may dispose of His creatures as He will, for life or for death. For our Lord to have informed our Lady and St. Joseph, would have so far qualified the force of this example, that it might have been said, when appeal was made to this incident in His Life, that He had shown consideration to their rights by asking them or at least informing them of His intention, and it is quite certain they could not have refused their joyful consent. Thus it might have been said that they were consenting. But there were to be many cases in which earthly parents might not act or feel as our Lady and St. Joseph might have felt in this matter, and the true doctrine concerning obedience to such calls is, not only that parents ought to consent to them, but that they are not even of right to be consulted about them except as persons, like any others, who may have a great interest in their children and may be able to give valuable counsel in cases where the call of God has not been perfectly ascertained. The example of our Lord on this occasion was to cover even what may be extreme cases, in which parents may be violently opposed to the execution of the Divine call, in which they do not recognize it as such, but consider it a call to something which is actually contrary to God. This is the case constantly with many good Protestant parents, when their children are convinced of the duty of submitting to the Catholic Church. It is very frequently indeed the case, that such parents are tempted to treat their children as undutiful, and thus to claim an authority in a matter which is entirely foreign to their position in the Providence of God. And as the children who are likely to find the claims of the Church para mount, are also likely to be dutiful and modest, there may arise much perplexity and disturbance of conscience for them, which may issue in their letting themselves be persuaded that, the nearest authority to them being that of their parents, they are safe in obeying them in such a matter. In these cases the example of our Lord in this mystery is of the greatest use, and it furnishes the incident in His own Life in which He has practically taught in His own conduct what He afterwards insisted on when He said, He that loveth father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. We may pass on now to the direct example of our Blessed Lady in this mystery of her life, as to which she seems to have been purposely left in a kind of darkness as to our Lord's meaning which was not fully cleared up at once. If we consider her virtues in the whole course of these eventful days, she is in the first place an example to us of devotion to the sanctuary, and of love for the sacred festivals and seasons of the Church. It does not appear that the women among the Jews were obliged by the precept, like the men, to attend at the festivals. But to her every such occasion would be the greatest of privileges, which she would never miss if she could possibly be present. It is probable also that her immense recollection and absorption in the worship of God in the Temple may have been in part the cause of her ignorance of the fact that our Lord had left her. The next point in the history is the sudden and most piercing blow which fell on her when the discovery was made, while at the same time we may be sure that it was now as it was afterwards on many occasions in the Public Life, and most of all at the Passion, that she bore with perfect tranquillity and without losing her internal peace and union with God and His will, the severe trial of the time of separation. In her readiness to fear that she might be in some measure in fault herself for the losing of our Lord, in her diligence in searching for Him without any delay, in her patience under repeated disappointments, in the care with which she comforted her afflicted spouse, and her calm wondering consideration of the ways of Providence, she becomes a perfect model for souls who have in any way or measure lost that habitual presence of, and familiarity with, our Lord, in which many of His servants continually live. There is much also to be learnt from her demeanour when her Child was at last found, for she does not seem to have interrupted the lesson that was going on or to have shown publicly any exaggeration of feeling. Again, there is perfect simplicity in her question to our Lord. She mentions her sorrows without fear, and put her question without hesitation. There is no complaint, but there is a clear and simple petition for light as to the reason of His conduct. And we may be sure from all these intimations of consummate virtue, that there must have been the same perfection in those parts of the Mystery of which we have no direct account given in the Gospel, and that her resignation and submission to the will of God, and her confidence in His love, even under so sudden a cloud of grief, must have been infinitely pleasing in His eyes. The Evangelist tells us that when our Lord answered that His parents need not have sought Him, because they must have known that He must be occupied with the affairs of His Father, they did not understand what He said. This must mean, not that they did not understand that it was His duty above all things to be at the work set Him for the time by the command or the interests of His Father, for that could not be doubtful to any who knew Him, but that they did not see the connection between His leaving them so abruptly and His faithfulness to His Father's work. What they did not understand was that His devotion to the work of His Father, implied the necessity of leaving them without warning, or the superfluousness of their anxious search after Him when they missed Him from their side. That is, they did not see that the paramount rights of God over His time and labour might have been taken for granted by them as the sufficient reason for all that He had done. The connection in this case was a truth which was not yet necessary or ripe for promulgation, though the time was to come when it would be most important for the Church that it should be fully understood. When the account of this incident was committed to writing by St. Luke, probably from the reminiscences of our Blessed Lady, the time had indeed come when this principle had to be acted upon continually by the children of the Church and continually enforced by her rulers. Then all things must have seemed clear enough, and many grateful souls must have owed their salvation or their peace to the doctrine founded on this example of our Lord. This mystery, then, shows us our Blessed Lady in a new aspect, for she has to suffer something in her tenderest affections, something the sharpness of which no one but herself could know, for the sake of the witness which our Lord had to bear to a great principle of Christian life and perfection. It may be considered as a part of her office as the Mother of the redeemed as well as of the Redeemer, that she should have to bear this trial, which was to be so fruitful in light arid strength to thousands of souls who were to belong to the Kingdom of her Son. For the sake of securing this witness to the principle of which we speak, we see that our Lord did not hesitate to plunge in grief, for as much as three days, the heart of the Mother whom He so tenderly loved. These sufferings of Mary were the birthpangs of a thousand times a thousand holy vocations, and we may rate the value of such callings and of faithfulness to them, when we see them purchased by the price at which they were paid for in the tears of this Blessed Mother. Thus she becomes in an especial sense the Mother of such vocations, not only as having had to suffer for their security, but as having won from God by her sufferings the right to protect and watch over them after they have been entered upon. The graces which she may have added to her treasures during these days of suffering must have been immense and splendid, for our Lord was certain to remunerate most largely any cross which a soul so near to Him bore so perfectly. This mystery therefore must mark another great advance in the consummate sanctity of Mary.
2 Acts iv. 19