MANY devout writers teach us the benefit which we may gain by associating ourselves, as far as may be, to the thoughts and heart of our Blessed Lady in our contemplations of the Sacred Passion. Yet, if it were not for a few words of the fourth Gospel this most precious habit would have no direct sanction in the New Testament. The account of our Lady standing at the foot of the Cross, and of the words spoken by our Lord to His Mother and to St. John on that occasion, was long kept back from the Church, and was among the very latest of the additions made to the canonical Scriptures as time went on in the Apostolic age. We cannot think that, apart from this positive sanction, we should have been fulfilling our Lord's intentions, when He gave us the treasure of the Gospel narratives of His Passion, if we had refrained from following the natural instincts of Christian piety in this respect. Those verses of St. John tell us of the words which actually fell from our Lord's lips on that occasion. But they were not needed to tell us of the Com passion of Mary, nor what a treasure of holy thoughts and affections is enclosed in that Com passion. Nor could the entire silence of the Evangelists, on all that relates to her sufferings and sympathy with her Son at that time, be enough to justify us in neglecting to pay that tribute of love to our Lord which consists in the contemplation of His Passion in the heart of His Blessed Mother.
If this is true concerning one portion of our Lord's history, it is true of all, unless there were ever a time when the heart of Mary did not beat in the most perfect and most intelligent union with His. To ask the devout Christian to contemplate the Public Life of our Lord in the way in which he has already learnt to contemplate the Passion, can be nothing but an extension to one part of the same Sacred History of a most profitable, dutiful, and natural habit with which he is already familiar. We may surely expect here the same great benefits to our own souls, the same more perfect and tender apprehension of the object of our contemplation, which are found in this treatment of the Passion. It is the object of these chapters to help on such a practice of meditation by suggesting such thoughts which belong to it as may be found by keeping in mind our Lady's constant presence or familiar and daily intercourse with our Lord at this time. Her name is now never or seldom mentioned in the narrative, but her silent, prayerful, loving, and adoring presence may be felt throughout.
The method here proposed is in itself nothing new. If we take such a book, for instance, as Father Arias' great work on the Imitation of Christ, with its twofold division of “titles" and "virtues" of our Blessed Lord, or again, a work such as D'Argentan's Grandeurs de Jesus-Christ, or any one of our familiar books of meditation, or again, if we simply recite the " Litany of the Holy Name," or the " Crown of our Lord," we have to pass in review a succession of meditations or suggestions or invocations which are all drawn from the History of the Gospels. They have been culled by their pious writers, in the case of the books just named, from numberless Christian writers, Fathers of the Church, theologians, commentators on Sacred Scripture, ascetic and spiritual authors, and the lives of the Saints. They are the fruit of intelligent study of our Lord's character and attributes as manifested in His works and words, turned to purposes of devotion and instruction. There must be in the first instance sound and deep theology, as the basis of the fabric, an acquaintance with the whole doctrine of the Incarnation, Office, and Person of our Lord. This is indispensable to enable the materials of the Gospel History to be rightly and profitably used. And there must be, in the second instance, a very deep, intimate, and accurate knowledge of the details and order and arrangement of our Lord's Life. With these essential requirements to start with, the Christian writers have compiled these treasures of holy thoughts for the benefit and delight of countless souls, who will render them eternal thanks in the Heavenly Kingdom.
It must be certain, and it must be again repeated, that our Blessed Lady must have had from the very first moment of the Incarnation, a most deep and perfect acquaintance with what we call the theology of the Incarnation. This knowledge must have gone on increasing in lucidity and in compass as she advanced through the successive stages of her life with our Lord. Thus, at the time of which we are now speaking, she must have been altogether alone in the greatness of this knowledge, from the simple fact of the immense lavishness with which it was communicated to her, her unexampled opportunities of knowing her Son more and more, her unequalled intelligence, and her incomparable faithfulness in the use of all graces. St. Joseph had opportunities next to hers in their richness, but St. Joseph was no longer by her side. St. John Baptist must also have had wonderful knowledge of our Lord, but he had not lived with Him as Mary had, nor was he so near to Him as she was. Those who were to be the great saints of the Church were as yet, if we may so speak, in a state of comparative spiritual infancy. For we cannot be sure that the Apostles fully realized that our Lord was God until the time of the Confession of St. Peter. Yet, if they did not perfectly understand our Lord's Divinity, that alone must have made them less capable of understanding His works, His words, His methods, His virtues. The difference between them and our Blessed Lady is incidentally shown, in the plainest way, in the miracle of which we have just had to speak. Our Blessed Lady understood before the miracle took place, and she intervened as she did because she knew, all that the Apostles learnt from the miracle when it had been wrought, and much more also.
It seems improbable, to say the least, that a soul so highly enriched with knowledge as to our Lord's Person and designs, should have been left without knowledge as to the details of His actions, interior and exterior, for the purpose of exercising upon them, to His greater glory, the thoughts of her mind and the affections of her heart. This truth is the foundation of all that the contemplatives have told us as to the various modes of intelligence by which these things were communicated to Mary. Her mind and heart had been feeding on our Lord ever since the Incarnation, and now that He was manifesting Himself more variously and splendidly than ever before, it is natural to think that He did not leave Himself without the continual homage which was due to Him, and which she alone could pay to Him. A soul already so greatly enriched and accustomed to live upon Him, so to say, day after day, would find itself bereaved of its habitual occupation if she had not had Him as before to live upon. Moreover, we have spoken of her occupation at this time as two fold, that is, contemplation and intercession. But this latter most holy and profitable exercise, one of the great normal powers in the working of the Kingdom of God, is in great part dependent on the former. One of the simplest reasons why we believe His saints to have a communicated knowledge of our prayers and needs, is that we know they are meant to pray for us and to use their great power with God in our favour.
Certainly, when all has been said on this subject, we cannot imagine that any meditations of ours on the mysteries of our Lord's Life as they pass before us, can be taken as representations of those ineffably beautiful thoughts and considerations and affections which those mysteries awakened in the mind and heart of His Blessed Mother. That would indeed be a book of meditation without rival, which was a comment of Mary on the Life of our Lord. Her soul was a faithful mirror in which, as far as was possible, the Sacred Heart of our Lord was reflected and followed. But as to this, we are as able to enter into the heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart Itself in one part of the history as in another. If we can catch light and love from Mary as our Lord's Companion in the Passion, we can do so also from Mary as our Lord's Companion in His active Life. This seems enough to say here by w r ay of further explanation of the following chapters.
Immediately after the wonderful miracle at Cana we find our Lord going with His Mother, His brethren, and His disciples to Capharnaum, which is now for the first time mentioned in connection with Him. 1 This very short visit was probably made by way of preparation for the future passage to Jerusalem, which was now imminent on account of the approach of the Pasch. We already know that it was our Blessed Lady's custom to go up to Jerusalem on this occasion every year, but we have no record in the Gospels from which we can gather whether she continued this custom to the end. At the last Pasch mentioned in the Gospels, that at which our Lord suffered, we find her there. But perhaps that visit was arranged specially, in order that she might be present at the Passion. As, however, we hear of no reason why she should not have gone up for the previous annual feasts, we may assume that she was present at this, the first which falls within our Lord's Public Ministry.
The incidents of this Pasch are related to us, as far as we know them, by St. John alone. 2 That is, we know that on this His first appearance as a Teacher in the Holy City, He cleansed, for the first time, the Temple of His Father, by driving out the buyers and sellers, and overturning the tables of the money changers. His Father's House was not to be made a place of merchandize. This was a great act of authority, and there was something miraculous about the acquiescence of the people concerned, as well as of the authorities of the Temple. It led to their putting to Him the question as to His authority, which He answered in the mysterious words about destroying the Temple of His Body, which He could rebuild in three days. We also know that He worked a great many miracles at the feast. This is clear from the words of Nicodemus to Him, and also from the fact that, on His return to Galilee, He was welcomed with enthusiasm by the Galilean's, who had seen these miracles. It seems certain, therefore, that our Lord had now taken up a conspicuous position in the eyes of the people, and that it might have seemed likely that He would continue to preach and baptize in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. 3
At the same time there are notes and traces of the prelude to a strong opposition to Him. St. John tells us that many would have come to Him as disciples while He was at Jerusalem, but that our Lord would not trust Himself, or commit Himself to them. The Evangelist points to this as a proof of our Lord's inherent knowledge of men. He had not to learn them by experience, "for He knew what was in man." 4 To some, as to Nicodemus, He did commit Himself, and the Evangelist gives us the summary of the dialogue between them, which He may very probably have had from Nicodemus himself. 5 But in general it seemed likely that the note of opposition which had been struck already by the Chief Priests in the case of St. John, would only be intensified in the case of our Lord. The preaching of the two was identical, but our Lord appeared in the city and Temple itself, instead of living on the outskirts of the country, and, more than that, He supported His claims to be received as from God by the evidence of miracles which had been altogether wanting in St. John. The real grounds for the hostility which was gradually to become more and more intense, lay in the evil lives, the worldliness, the ambitions, the petty personal jealousies, and the statecraft, of the ecclesiastical rulers. It was impossible, as our Lord said to them a year later, for them to believe, who were so fond of worldly honour.
Our Lord appears to have remained some weeks in Judaea, receiving disciples and baptizing them by the hands of the future Apostles. He was thus in a position of apparent rivalry to St. John Baptist, whose ministry was not yet ended. The Jews seem to have done their best to excite jealousies between them, and we are told of the complaints made to their own master by the disciples of St. John, and of his beautiful reply, which contained also a very clear witness to the Divinity of our Lord. 6 It was now that St. John spoke of our Lord as the Bridegroom, and of Himself as His friend. This state of things was soon brought to an end by the departure-of our Lord from Galilee, which is said by the Evangelist to have been immediately occasioned by His hearing that the Chief Priests had become aware of the great success of His preaching. He determined to return to Galilee, and to make that province the chief scene of His Ministry, at least for a time. Soon after His leaving Judaea, as it appears, St. John too disappeared from the neighbourhood, having been seized and imprisoned by Herod in consequence of his opposition to the incestuous and adulterous connection between the King and Herodias.
If our Blessed Lady had attended at Jerusalem for the feast, she may have witnessed the beginning of our Lord's teaching there, including the first cleansing of the Temple. But it is probable that she left with the ordinary Galilaean pilgrims as soon as the feast itself was over. The incidents of which a brief summary has been given would furnish her with a continued succession of matter for prayer, praise, and intercession. She must often have longed to see the Temple cleansed from the profanations brought within its precincts by the buyers and sellers, although their traffic was to some extent occasioned by the necessities of the many pilgrims from the country and from distant parts of the world, and was no doubt sanctioned, and even encouraged, by the Chief Priests for ends of their own. There was something more royal and masterful about our Lord's action now than had been manifested before. Our Lady's chief interest would lie in the anxious question as to the reception of her Son by the people in general, and the authorities in particular. For none would she pray more earnestly than for the priests. Their influence was paramount among the people, and thus, humanly speaking, they held in their hands the good success or the ill success of our Lord's preaching. Persons in the like position are often exposed to one of the most subtle and dangerous of temptations. Our Lord said once of some of His enemies, that they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven themselves, and that they hindered others who wished to enter it. The power of great initiative in good is in the hands of men in such positions, and they are very strongly tempted to prevent its being exercised by others than them selves. Thus, with no bad intention, with no positive desire of hindering good, their very position makes them hinder it if they will not do it, and they look with jealousy on any one who is ready to work in the direction in which they ought to work them selves. The attitude of such men must always cause anxiety in those who have to discharge our Blessed Lady's office of intercession.
She was herself probably at Cana, when our Lord returned from Judaea, perhaps about the time of the feast of Pentecost. She must have followed with immense interest His short journey through Samaria, by the route which was the most convenient for single travellers or for small parties, who did not excite the same hostility as larger bodies, especially of pilgrims. It was then that He held His first dealings with the Samaritans, with one of whose women He conversed at Jacob's well, in a manner which led to His joyful reception on the part of the inhabitants of Sichem. To Him there was no insuperable distinction between Jew and Samaritan and Gentile. He was the Saviour and Teacher of all. It is clear from His words to the Apostles about the fields being white unto harvest, and about the sower and reaper rejoicing together, that He had then in His mind the admission to the Church, by means of those Apostles, not only of the Samaritan rebels, but of the whole Gentile world which lay beyond them. He was only sent person ally to the House of Israel, but the salvation He was to work was not to be confined within any limits more restricted than the human race itself. This may have added a special joy to the Sacred Heart at this time. The poor woman whom He had spoken with by the well was the representative of thousands of poor wandering sheep, whose wanderings had been in great measure caused by the ignorance and corruption in which she had been brought up. And the Samaritans themselves, who had listened to Him so gladly, were to His Heart the scanty first-fruits of an immense harvest of souls like themselves. 7
Here another field was opened to the contemplations and prayers of our Lady, who had parted from Him so lately, and whose Heart kept company with His own as these incidents of His early preaching were communicated to her. Already it could be half seen that there was trouble, opposition, persecution, rejection in store for Him from the Jewish Church, and that, on the other hand, God was to afford Him a compensation that would satisfy His longings, in giving Him the heathen for a heritage, and the utmost parts of the earth for a possession. Our Lady's prayers could feed themselves on these future prospects, as well as on the progress of His work as far as it had as yet gone. They would hang over Nicodemus, to help him on towards a complete victory over the human respects which were yet for some time to hold him back. They would fall on the disciples of St. John in their jealousy for their master, that they might listen more intelligently to his teaching concerning our Lord, and catch his beautiful spirit of self-abnegation and humility. They would follow the Baptist himself in his distant prison, where his days were to close so early in his career of activity, but with his work fully done, his witness faithfully rendered.
During the few days which our Lord seems to have spent at Cana after His return from Judaea, an incident is placed which had probably a greater significance than appears at first sight, and which our Blessed Lady must have understood. This is the miracle which our Lord worked at the prayer of the nobleman of Capharnaum who came to beg Him to heal his son. 8 Our Lord's words to this nobleman, " Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not," appear to have been meant to lead him on from an imperfect to a more perfect faith. He believed that our Lord had the power of miracles, otherwise he would not have made his prayer, and he believed also that He was full of mercy and compassion, otherwise He would not have asked Him to take a journey of so many miles to heal the child. But he had not penetrated the truth that our Lord could heal by word as well as by touch or personal presence, and that it was enough for him to will the cure, at whatever distance, and it would be effected. If we might suppose, for instance, that this man had had the same faith with the centurion his friend afterwards, who would not put our Lord to the trouble of coming even a few steps into his house, but bade Him, "Speak the word only," and the servant would be healed, he would not have acted as he did.
It is not improbable that it may even have been in our Lord's Heart to exercise freely His power of miracles when at a distance, as has been done from time to time by some of the saints. In this case His miracles might have been even more numerous than they were. And perhaps there was in the beginning of our Lord's preaching a great readiness on His part to be very large indeed in the use of such powers, which was afterwards somewhat chilled by the want of faith in the people, and also by their ingratitude. We shall presently find the pride and arrogance of the people of Nazareth, who looked upon Him as a kind of property of their own, not without a secret contempt for one who had lived among them so humbly, preventing Him from exercising His power in their city to any degree at all. On the other hand, we find Him, on the first memorable Sabbath at Capharnaum of which we have record, healing all the sick indiscriminately that were brought to Him with the utmost largeness of compassion. It is very likely that our Lady understood His motives, and saw the careful reverence with which He used His miraculous powers, most largely when there was no hindrance in the people, more sparingly when there was a lack of faith, or the baneful impediment of pride, and that she praised Him and thanked Him, and prayed for those who might have to do with Him, as petitioners for themselves or for others, or as the recipients of His bounties.
The local traditions of Nazareth throw some light on the circumstances of that Sabbath, the last which our Lord spent in that place at this time, when He began by applying to Himself the famous words of Isaias which described the Messias and His mission of mercy, and then refused to work signs and miracles for the satisfaction of the pride and curiosity of His fellow-townsmen. St. Luke describes the scene to us with his usual brevity. It seems to be prefixed to the opening of the Public Ministry of our Lord in Galilee, which was to be accompanied by so much applause and popular favour, as a humiliation which He most gladly welcomed at such a time, and it also served incidentally to make Him fix His residence, as far as He had any residence, in Capharnaum, instead of in His own city. Capharnaum, by its central situation, its near ness to the Lake, and to the great roads intersecting Galilee, was a far more convenient place for Him than the more retired town of Nazareth. The fury of the Nazarenes appears to us inexplicable, but they seem to have been a rude and uncouth population, held in general disrepute. 9 The site is still shown of the chapel, built on the spot whence our Lady witnessed the attempt of the Nazarenes to throw our Lord down from the Mount of Precipitation. Thus her sufferings in this instance are united to His. She must have left Nazareth immediately, and settled with our Lord in Capharnaum. Nazareth could be no place for her after the attempted out rage of the Sabbath Day, when the Nazarenes had attempted His Life. The cousins who are called His sisters in the Gospel, seem to have been married and settled in Nazareth, but His "brothers" are never mentioned after this time as being directly connected with that place. St. Matthew sees in this removal from Capharnaum, and the marvellous preaching which followed, a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaias about the blessings to be showered on Galilee. 10 The first incident which is now mentioned is the call of the four Apostles, Peter and Andrew, James and John, from their nets. 11 We know from St. John that they were already our Lord's disciples, that they had seen His first great miracle, and believed in Him in consequence, that they had also been His companions in His visit to Jerusalem for the feast of the Pasch, in the preaching in Judaea which had followed, and in His journey to Galilee through Samaria. They seem to have separated from Him at Cana, whence He went to Nazareth, and they to their homes in Capharnaum and its neighbour hood. This call, therefore, was not one which invited them to become His disciples in any ordinary way. It must have meant that He was about to start on some great evangelizing expedition, in which they were to accompany Him, Thus it was a call which our Blessed Lady might well understand as presaging this new step in His course of preaching. The same conclusion might naturally occur to her from the incidents which immediately followed.
The Gospels then put before us a scene on the first Sabbath in Capharnaum, which seems to be meant as a direct contrast to that former Sabbath in Nazareth. 12 Our Lord teaches in the synagogue, and all present marvel, in the first place, at the authority of His teaching. That is, He spoke in His own name, and as having a right to interpret and define the law. There is a demoniac in the congregation, and the devil who possessed him cries out to our Lord, calling Him Jesus of Nazareth, "Art Thou come to destroy us ? I know then Who Thou art, the Holy One of God." Our Lord will not allow him to speak, and casts him out at once. Here again the people marvel at His authority, for again He had used no exorcisms or prayers, as was usual with the Jewish exorcists, but had cast the devil forth in His own name. This miracle is followed by the raising of Peter's mother-in-law from her sick-bed, by a word. " He touched her hand, and the fever left her," and then when the sun set to mark the close of the sacred rest of the Sabbath, He seems to have healed all the sick in the city who were brought to the door of the house, where "all the city" was gathered together, to witness the healing " of all that were diseased and that were possessed with devils." It was as when, on the entrance of some great King into His capital after a victory, all the prisons are emptied of their captives, all debts and taxes remitted, all suits stopped, and plenty and rejoicing brought home to every single household by the bounty of the Sovereign.
This was but the beginning of the movement which now passed from city to city, village to village, all over the country. That same night, or early in the morning, our Lord stole out of the city into a desert place, when Peter and the rest followed to search for Him and found Him in prayer. It was natural that they should beseech Him to remain in Capharnaum, but He refused. He had other cities to preach in, to which He was sent. It is natural to think that the scene on the Sabbath at Capharnaum is given us as a specimen from which we may gather w r hat was usual to our Lord at this time, what was the general magnificence of His bounties and the largeness of the exercise of His miraculous powers. " He went about all over Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all diseases and all infirmities among the people " and casting out devils. " And His fame went throughout all Syria, and they brought to Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had the palsy, and He healed them. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond the Jordan." 13 The words of the Evangelist seem expressly chosen to denote the universality of the miracles and the immense popularity of the preaching. Both for the cure of disease and the dispossession of the devils, people were not content to wait till He came into their own neighbourhood, but brought to Him all who required healing or deliverance. And the crowds who followed Him to listen to His teaching came from every part of the Holy Land, Samaria alone excepted.
A career of beneficence and popularity such as this must have been, necessarily involves personal contact with successive multitudes of men, mixture with large crowds, incessant occupation, constant change of place, calls of attention to a number of cases at once, and other continual distractions and disturbances. It implies the moving amid continual applause, homage, importunities, and interruptions. While others who came across our Lord thus incidentally could see only the particular actions and listen to the particular sayings and teachings of the time being, a heart that always followed Him would see, much more, what was Divine and interior, the calm tranquil aim throughout at the glory of His Father and the good of souls, the unruffled peace amid so many changes, the unity of purpose which made change after change no distraction, the intense love which winged every word and animated every action, the continual self-abasement with which everything was offered with the utmost purity of intention as the service of the Son to the Father, of the creature to His Lord and His God. It would be the office of such a heart to note the invariable sweetness, patience, and dignity, the unwearied toil, the unchanging readiness and tenderness with which every call was answered, while all the time the Sacred Heart knew what was in man, and could read the numberless shades and changes of intentions, the various degrees of sincerity, the lightness or fickleness or instability, the seriousness and the simplicity, which made the multitudes of the souls who drew nigh to our Lord so motley a collection in His sight. It needed a mind like that to appreciate and acknowledge in praise and gratitude the Divine versatility as well as uniformity of our Lord's method of dealing with souls, His infinite compassions and forbearances and long-suffering's, His heavenly patience, His condescension in accepting homage which was not to endure, service which was not to persevere, as well as His keen hopeful welcome of so much that was promising only to an eye like His, which could discern the future Magdalene in the gay frivolous child of fashion, and the glorious Apostle and Evangelist in the open-handed publican.
It is easy to see how large a field was thus spread, to the mind of our Blessed Lady, as our Lord's work for souls and for the foundation of His Kingdom advanced day after day. She had been in the enjoyment of the most intimate converse with Him all His life, and it is only natural that her mind must have been enlarged wonderfully by her continual study of His ways and words and example. We have already said more than enough to show that it cannot be considered as any derogation to the exalted sanctity of the Apostles to think that at this time they could not have had the capacity of understanding Him as they afterwards understood Him. And indeed, if they had advanced ever so rapidly in the course of the few weeks of their intercourse with Him, they would be themselves too actively engaged in dealing with the people to whom He preached, in leading individuals to Him, in arranging the crowds who came to be healed, and other such offices, to have the leisure requisite for the calm consideration and contemplation of all that was going on before them. It was to be the office of the Holy Ghost in after years to bring to their remembrance the sayings and doings of their Master, that they might thus profit by them to the full. But our Lady was already illuminated to an unparalleled extent, and it was therefore her natural office to let none of the beautiful and wonderful things wrought and said by our Lord pass without recognition. The Catholic Church strains herself in her yearly course of festivals, holy seasons, and liturgical and devotional observances, to commemorate one by one the footsteps of our Lord. But all that can be accomplished in this way, even by the Church in Heaven, must have passed first through the mind and heart of the Blessed Mother as she watched all these wonders and mercies.
In the same way it may be said concerning that marvellous treasury of teaching which is stored up for us by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, that all that is there contained of wisdom and holy love has not even yet, perhaps, been exhausted in the contemplations of the Church and her children. This Divine teaching is the great outpouring of the Sacred Heart, acting as the legislator for the Kingdom which He was to found. It is now that He fulfils the type of Moses, the lawgiver of Sinai, but with an immense difference. The personal character of our Lord breathes in every word, His love for everything humble, lowly, poor, His zeal for justice, His love of peace and purity, His love for the Cross of which He could not yet speak openly. It was His way ever to look to the interior spirit and motive, to love the prayer of the heart, the humiliation of the heart, the hiddenness of charity and all good works. And again, it is His character that pictures itself to us in the warnings against judgment of others, and against the slightest unforgivingness, and again in the encouragement to perfect reliance on the Providence of His Father, and consequent indifference to worldly and temporal cares. We see Him in the loving references to His Father's method in feeding the ravens, clothing the lilies of the field with beauty, and making His sun to shine and His rain to fall on the just and unjust alike. And towards the end of the Sermon, we find our Lord passing on to the familiar and proverbial language of which He was so fond, and almost formally beginning the great cycle of His parables. But to a heart like that of our Lady these teachings would not only be doubly precious as revealing His character, but still more as imparting that character to the whole system which He was founding, and which is so completely a reflection of Him for no reason more clearly than because it is so essentially founded on the precepts and counsels of this Sermon. Thus the Sermon would reflect to her mind the long conversations at Nazareth in which we believe Him to have unfolded to her the principles and lineaments of the Christian Kingdom. 14
The Sermon on the Mount, as we gather from the doctrine which it sets forth, cannot have been delivered very early in this first Galilean Ministry of our Lord. Indeed, it is introduced by St. Matthew in words which seem to show that He had already a large multitude following Him from place to place, a circumstance which must be distinguished from that of the numbers who welcomed Him with glad ness and enthusiasm as He passed through the country from town to town. These multitudes who followed Him must have done so for the sake of more continuous and advanced teaching than that which is contained in the exhortation to penance and belief in the Kingdom of Heaven. And the Sermon must be considered as a summary of such doctrine, intended for those who had already made their peace with God by repentance and accepted the simple articles of faith which were set before them.
This great Sermon has in every age always been a part of our Lord's teaching on which the saints have fed their souls with the most intense delight and the largest profit. It has never been exhausted by any, although the whole garden of the Church is full of the fruits which have sprung from its contemplation. It is certain that with regard to such portions of our Lord's gifts to the Church it is especially true, as it was said by Him, that to him that hath it shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly. That is, the precepts herein contained are more and more fruitful in spiritual richness and beauty, in proportion to the growth and height in perfection which those who devote themselves to them have already attained. But at the time when that Sermon was delivered, there were not, perhaps, very many souls that were able to penetrate its beauties with the depth and fullness of perception which was afterwards attained by the Apostles and other chosen followers of our Lord. But He had a heart ever near Him, which could take in all that wonderful and most rich treasury of spiritual doctrine, and that heart was the heart of His Blessed Mother. We may almost say, that her character is drawn in the Beatitudes and in the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, as is the case with the character of our Lord Himself.
The narrative of the Evangelists places for us, directly after the Sermon on the Mount, a small number of miracles specially recorded, which seem to have a character of their own in keeping with the place in the unfolding of the Divine order of our Lord's manifestations in which they occur. 15 There is probably some special purpose about every miracle that is related by the Evangelists, apart from the general intention of evidences of His Mission and exhibitions of His mercy which belongs alike to all the miracles. The loving study of this unfolding of the Divine plan must have been one for which our Lady was pre-eminently fitted, as well by her characteristic grace of consideration, as by the constant use she had made of that grace for so many years, and her altogether unrivalled opportunities. In the case we have before us, we find that the miracles which may be fixed with some certainty at this time are three. The first is the miraculous fishing in the Lake of Tiberias, when St. Peter, after labouring with his companions to no purpose for the whole previous night, let down his nets at the word of our Lord, and was rewarded with the capture of an immense number of fishes. The second miracle is that of the cleansing of the leper whom our Lord touched, and whom He sent to show himself to the High Priest. The third is that of the cure of the paralytic, who was let down by his four bearers through the tiles of the roof into the court of the house where our Lord was teaching in the presence of a great number of scribes and elders, who had assembled from various parts of the country for the purpose of hearing Him. This miracle our Lord made the occasion of the exercise of a new power, beyond that of healing, namely, the forgiveness of sins, and He made the miracle itself the proof that He possessed that power.
To the ordinary eye these may have been miracles like any others, acts of mercy and power showing generally that God was with Him Who worked them. In the case of more thoughtful minds, they would turn the attention to other things beside themselves, as, in the case of the draught of fishes, to the promise that the Apostles were to be made by our Lord fishers of men, in the case of the leper, to the significance of the legal precepts of which our Lord enjoined on the leper the strict observance, and in the case of the paralytic, to the claim advanced and proved by our Lord that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins. But it would require an intelligence more enlightened than that even of the close followers of our Lord to read in these sayings and circumstances the full meaning which they had in His Sacred Heart, as, in the case of the first, the glories of the Apostolical ministry for the conversion of souls, when it is enjoined by our Lord and prospered by His grace, or, in the case of the second, the principle of the submission of sin, even w r hen cleansed away and cancelled by Divine grace, to the judgment of the ministers of the Church for absolution, and, in the case of the third, the kindred truth of the commission of the power of absolving sins, not to angels, but to men like our selves. But these miracles must have been to our Lady the unfolding of these portions of the Divine counsel to an extent of which no other soul was capable, and thus she was enabled to give back at once to our Lord the homage of a perfect intelligence, a praise that could embrace all the riches of His bounty, and a most loving and adoring gratitude. Nor would she fail to rejoice most lovingly over the incidents which seem to have followed closely on the last-named miracle, namely, the call of St. Matthew to the Apostolate, and the characteristic and generous simplicity of the disciple thus called in the banquet which he gave to his own friends, as well to our Lord, as if to celebrate the grace which was to enable him to leave the world behind him. 16
We may pause here for the moment, as the next onward step in our Lord's course opens to us a new phase of the conditions under which His Ministry had now to be carried on. What has been said about this the earliest period of His Galilean preaching may be enough to show that we have good reason for concluding that, as His course advanced from stage to stage, it displayed ever new beauties of beneficence and of wisdom. We have only to think of our Lady as watching all that passed, with the same careful consideration as the early mysteries of the Holy Infancy, but with an intelligence ripened and enlarged with new powers of penetration and grasp by the very diligence with which it had been exercised, as time went on, and then we come to see how her life must have been a succession of magnificent revelations of the greatness and the wisdom and the condescension of her Son. As each phase of His mortal course succeeded in its turn, there was ever a new display of Divine powers and attributes, of the boundless humility and tender ness of His Sacred Heart, of His love for His Father, His love for men, His zeal for souls, His delicate and patient contrivances for winning them, and of the exertion of.His power for helping them and saving them.
The contemplations of our Lady on these scenes were always the same and yet always fresh, because He was the centre of them all, and in each succeeding portion of His Life He was working under new conditions and in the midst of a new world. The surroundings of the Infancy were different indeed from those of the Hidden Life, and the circumstances of the Public Life, again, were altogether different from those of the period which had gone before. Even in the features of the Public Life itself there was continual change, for the bright successes of its opening were not repeated invariably unto its close, the attitude of the people and of the rulers changed, and these changes produced corresponding variations in His own demeanour and conduct towards them. The scenes of His labours changed also, for every town, and part of a large popular district like Galilee has always characteristics of its own, and Galilee was not Jerusalem, nor was Judaea like Persia. In truth, every few weeks or months of the Public Life had their own character, both in our Lord's conduct and in the places and populations among which it was spent, and His bearing and conduct under all these successive phases involved on His part ever new manifestations of Himself.
There was but one soul capable of drinking in all the showers of light and instruction which were thus falling from our Lord, and that soul was His Mother's, whose office it had been from the first to devote herself to such contemplations. We may also feel certain of one further truth, which is directly connected with the subject which we have taken in hand. It is impossible that our Lady's mind and thoughts could have been so continually occupied on these manifestations of our Lord without the consequence in her of an immense increase of intelligence concerning Him. It is well known that St. Luke speaks of His increasing in wisdom and grace, meaning that His external manifestation of wisdom and grace, which was always increasing, made Him seem to grow ever more and more wise and full of grace because of that manifestation. He could grow in the eyes of His Mother, day after day, in this sense, she must have watched His growth from the very beginning. But in no period of His Life was this ever fresh manifestation more rapid than at that at which we have now arrived. This shows us how great must have been the increase of Mary's knowledge of Him at this time, when He was, as it were, flashing light and truth, grace and mercy, on every side of Him, every single soul of all the multitudes with whom He had to deal striking some spark of light from His gracious presence. But we must remember, in the second place, that the heart of Mary was not one in which there could ever be an increase of knowledge of our Lord with out an increase of love, of imitation, and so of grace. She knew Him only to love Him, she knew Him more and more, only to love Him more and more. Thus the crowded busy months of His first Galilean circuit were to her a time of immense advance, the measure of which would not have yielded even to the quiet uneventful years spent in the Holy House at Nazareth.
1 St. John ii. 12 ; Story of the Gospels, § 22.
2 Story of the Gospels, §§ 23, 24.
3 Ibid. § 23.
4 St. John ii. 25.
5 Story of the Gospels, § 24.
6 Ibid. § 25.
7 Story of the Gospels, § 26
8 Story of the Gospels, § 27.
9 Story of the Gospels, § 28.
10 St. Matt. iv. 14.
11 Story of the Gospels, § 29.
12 Story of the Gospels, § 30.
13 St. Matt. iv. 24, 25.
14 Story of the Gospels, §§ 31—36.
15 Story of the Gospels, §§ 37—39.
16 Story of the Gospels, § 30.