- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
THE MOTHER OF THE KING - MARY DURING THE LIFE OF OUR LORD BY HENRY JAMES COLERIDGE S.J. pt.24 MARY DURING OUR LORD'S LAST PREACHING.
THE Confession of St. Peter brings us near indeed to the end of the Public Life. It is thought to have taken place seven or eight months before the Passion itself, a period of time such as has more than once occurred in the history of our Lord's Ministry with out being marked by many momentous incidents. In the present case, however, the time was crowded with events on which the historians of our Lord dwell. If we consider the period of which we speak to end with the Day of Palms, which ushers in the great week of the Passion, we find that the earliest of our Lord's historians, St. Matthew and St. Mark, tell us but little about it, except what occurred quite at its beginning, and quite at its -end. But the time left thus by them without chronicle is very largely filled both by St. Luke and by St. John, each of whom makes here large additions to the history, independently of the other. About a third of the whole Gospel of St. Luke is devoted to this time, and nearly as large a portion of the Gospel of St. John. As St. John avoids mentioning what St. Luke has already touched, we have thus a large part of the whole Gospel narrative belonging to this period. But it is easily broken up into a few large divisions, a recapitulation of which will enable us to-grasp easily the chief features of the narrative.
The most remarkable and important point for notice is the great change of method and manner in our Lord after the Confession of St. Peter. It is as if He had been set free from a great weight which had before restrained both His words and His actions. He now begins to speak at once of the approach of His Passion, warning the disciples of it most earnestly, and sternly rebuking St. Peter, whom He had just raised so high by His promise, for speaking to Him words in which He deprecated what our Lord had announced. This warning of the coming Passion, which increases in detail as time goes on, is repeated many times over before the actual time when the prediction was fulfilled. The disciples were scarcely able to understand what our Lord then said. The only heart that could take it in was the heart which was to suffer the most, next to His own. In the next place, our Lord not only spoke of His own Passion, but insisted, now for the first time, on the doctrine of the necessity of the Cross for those who were to follow Him. He had once before mentioned the Cross. 1 Except on that one occasion, it had been kept in His own Heart, like the name of the Church. We do not know whether we have a right to think that the proverbial words about taking up the Cross and following Him, which are so easy of understanding to Christians, would convey to the Jews of that day any idea like that which they convey to us. If it was not so, then on that former occasion our Lord allowed Himself the use of words familiar to His own Heart, but which would not at once interpret themselves to His hearers. And now, again, He used the same words freely. He added, moreover, some cogent reasons why men should not shrink back from the Cross, and He crowned His words by a promise that there were some there present who, before they died, should see the Kingdom of God in power. 2
A week later, the promise was fulfilled by the great marvel of the Transfiguration, in which Moses and Elias were seen with Him in glory, by St. Peter, St. James, and St. John. The whole mystery was a manifestation of the Blessed Trinity, and stands at the beginning of this the last period of our Lord's teaching, as the mystery of the Baptism stands at the outset of the first. The Baptism secured to us the adoption or sonship to God which we receive in our baptism, and the Transfiguration completes that sonship by prefiguring and promising what St. Paul calls the "adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body." 3 After this comes the miracle on the lunatic demoniac, whom the Apostles left behind at the foot of the mountain of the Trans figuration had not been able to deliver, and then our Lord goes to Capharnaum, where He pays the tribute for the Temple by the stater found in the fish's mouth, and delivers some very important instruction to the Apostles about humility, the danger of scandal, the duty of fraternal correction and of mutual forgiveness of debts and injuries.
There is no further teaching at Capharnaum recorded at this time. 4
The next event is the presence of our Lord at the feast of Tabernacles in the September of the year before His Passion. This is given at great length by St. John, who makes it his business all through to record what the other Evangelists had left untouched, being chiefly what had happened at or near Jerusalem. This contribution of St. John to the general history extends from the beginning of his seventh chapter to the middle of the tenth. It embraces the accounts of the disputations in the Temple at that feast, the history of the woman taken in adultery and the man born blind, and our Lord's teaching concerning Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep. St. John afterwards gives us an account of the attempt of the Jews to stone our Lord at the feast of the Dedication, and then the history of the raising of Lazarus, the Council against our Lord, at which Caiphas prophesied, and the supper at Bethany. 5
Into the midst of this long portion of St. John's Gospel we must insert the much longer portion of the Gospel of St. Luke which begins in the ninth chapter and ends in the seventeenth. Except in the case of one or two incidents, the scene of all that is here told must be laid in Judaea. We have thus a long narrative of the teaching of our Lord at this period, not in Jerusalem itself, but in the cities, towns, and villages of Judaea, which He now passed through as He had been wont to pass through before the cities, towns, and villages of Galilee. 6 After this, we find St. Luke re-joining the narrative of the first two Gospels in an account of our Lord's teaching in Persia, a part of the country which He had not before visited. 7 The teaching which is recorded as being delivered here is in the main concerned with what we call the counsels of perfection. But we need not suppose that our Lord actually confined Himself to such teaching when in this part of the country. It was the last part of the Holy Land to be visited by Him, and it was therefore natural that He should there put forward, for His disciples, certain doctrines which supposed in them a more advanced state of spiritual cultivation. The Evangelists relate this because it had not been related before. After this, we have little distinctive to mention concerning our Lord's teaching before His arrival at Bethany just before Palm Sunday.
This short sketch of the whole period enables us to see what were its chief characteristics. Our Lord no longer holds back the great truth of His approaching death at the hands of the Jews. He preaches plainly the doctrine of the Cross. He lays down to His disciples the principles of Evangelical perfection, especially on the great subjects of humility, forgiveness, chastity, poverty, and obedience. There were also at this time several most significant parables, bearing on the principles of the Kingdom He was to found. Besides this, He passes out of Galilee, teaches publicly, as He had never before done, as far as we know, in the Temple, and disputes openly and firmly with the Jewish authorities, whom He reproaches with intending to kill Him on account of the miracle He had wrought, at His last visit to Jerusalem, on the impotent man on the Sabbath Day. They send officers to seize Him, but the officers return to tell them that no man ever spoke like He. Among themselves even, there is angry disputing concerning Him. He returns to the Temple once and again, until they have taken up stones to put Him to death. His whole demeanour is one, if not of defiance, at least of the most absolute independence and fearlessness. Who indeed, and what were they, before Him ? All the time He is reasoning with them, and doing many things to win them, though they have excommunicated the man born blind, whom He had healed, for saying that He was a prophet, and determined to excommunicate any who asserted Him to be the Christ.
This period, however, has another aspect, inasmuch as it is the only time of which we have any record when He preached in His usual laborious manner in the country of Judaea, properly so called. That He did so, was a proof that He no longer thought it worth His while to hold Himself back, for fear of irritating the priests and scribes at Jerusalem. His preaching was in some respects more aggressive and public, as He sent the seventy-two disciples before His face, two and two, into all the cities and towns where He was coming. In truth, He had but a short time for this last missionary course, on which, however, He could not have spent the whole of the months embraced in the interval between the feast of Tabernacles and the Passion. It was inevitable that in many respects His teaching now should be identical with that which He had delivered in the earlier years of His Ministry, when He had gone through Galilee in the same way as He now went though Judaea. Not only was the teaching in great measure identical, as must always be the case when the great truths are preached by the same missioners in various places successively, but the reception with which He met was, in an equal degree, identical in the two provinces. That it should be so was involved in the identity of human nature itself in His various audiences.
All this, on which we must not linger, is drawn out fully elsewhere, as well as the other truth which may, nevertheless, be referred to here, of the singular tenderness and compassionateness both of the teaching and the demeanour of our Lord in this latter instance of His exercise of the Evangelical Ministry. It seems as if He allowed Himself to manifest a deeper and more pitying affectionateness as the time of His great Sacrifice drew nigh. He was now pre eminently the Good Shepherd Who was to lay down His life for the sheep, regarding them, therefore, not merely as His sheep, but as the sheep which He loved at so great a cost to Himself. The manifestations of this tenderness begin quite early in this period, as in the case of the woman taken in adultery, and our Lord's gentle words to the man born blind, after his excommunication. We see it in His teaching about the shepherd and the sheep. As we pass to St. Luke from St. John, we find the same all through the long chapters which contain the narrative of the third Evangelist, where it shows itself in His words about the Samaritans who would not receive Him, in the parable about the Good Samaritan, in the defence of Mary against the censure of Martha, and especially in the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Groat, and the Prodigal Son. But this is not the place for a complete treatment of this beautiful subject. This characteristic of this later preaching of our Lord is mentioned here, because it must have been fully understood and appreciated by our Blessed Lady.
The recorded miracles of this time are very few, but it is certain that those which are specially mentioned are so mentioned, in each case, for some reason which applies to them and -not to others, and also that the whole of our Lord's course through Judaea was lighted up by a continual chain of what we may call, for the sake of distinction, His ordinary miracles of healing, countless in number. The miracles on the man born blind, on the dropsical man, on the woman whom our Lord called a daughter of Abraham, on the deaf and dumb demoniac, and on the ten lepers, have each a special cause for mention in the narrative. Still more clearly was this the case with the great miracle of the raising of Lazarus, which was the immediate occasion of the final determination of Caiphas and his associates to put our Lord to death. The miracle on the blind men at Jericho is the last that is recorded at this time.
We are quite unable to say whether, when our Lord changed the scene of His preaching from Galilee to Judaea, our Lady made any corresponding change in her place of abode. It seems likely that in the course of these months He made one visit, if not more, to Galilee, where she may have remained till near their close. All that is important for us is to consider how far the change in His teaching, especially as to the doctrine of the Passion and the Cross, affected the heart of His Blessed Mother. We need not doubt that Mary was perfectly familiar with the pre-ordained issue of our Lord's Ministry. The future Passion had been announced to her very plainly by the holy Simeon as early as the time of her Purification. If that had not been so, it would not have been possible for one so pre-eminent in her intelligence of the prophecies and of the types of the Law and of the history of the holy nation, to be ignorant of what was at hand, though the words of Simeon may have been the first intimation given to her that she was herself to have so large a share in the Cross. As we look back on the history in the light of the Christian revelation, we can see that the Divine plan of the Incarnation, whatever it might have been if the Fall had never taken place, would have been, after the Fall and the consequent necessity of redemption, incomplete and maimed without the Passion. So again, with the whole of our Lord's Life, from the first sufferings in the crib. Those first sufferings presage the Passion. It is therefore hard to think that the declarations of our Lord on this point revealed anything new to our Lady, and it is here that we can see the immense difference between her perfect intelligence and sympathy with our Lord and the comparative dullness and coldness of the disciples. The thought of the Passion, like the thought of the Church, was never out of her heart, while each was a thought which to their minds was not only unfamiliar, but very difficult to grasp.
This would not make it less of a blow or a stab to her tender heart when the Passion was openly predicted and described by our Blessed Lord. His words would only intensify the unchangeable pangs of her heart, in which nothing ever lost its freshness, nothing whether of joy or grief was ever deadened by familiarity. It would be to her as if she had never heard of it before, as it was when she came to witness it on Mount Calvary. Her foreknowledge of it was not given her that she should suffer the less, but that she might sympathize and might pray the more, and that her soul might ever advance in grace by the use of this means also. It is very often the case, in the Providential guidance of our lives, that the sorrows of the future are mercifully veiled from us. But it is also often the case that we are kept a long time in the expectation, and even in the certain anticipation, of coming sorrows, and when God deals with us in this latter way, it is very likely that the mercy may be still more tender than when He hides from us what is to be. For the anticipation of a grief, lovingly and humbly borne by the soul, is a great opportunity for the exercise of many beautiful virtues, in the same way as the hope or the desire of some boon which God may be about to give us makes us more fervent in prayer and raises us immensely above earthly trifles. The declarations of our Lord, then, concerning His Passion, not only showed that it was nigh at hand, but were also calls upon the renewed devotion and intercession of His Mother. And, although to the disciples the ever increasing minuteness of the details of the prediction may have been to a great extent lost by the dullness of those to whom they were made, they might still furnish to a heart like that of Mary great subjects for contemplation, and for the exercise of all the loving affections which the consideration of such details is calculated to produce.
Again, the preaching of the Cross must have been a great occasion of joy to our Lady, as it was to our Lord. He said of His Passion, how was He straitened till it was accomplished! and one of the main elements in the fire which He came on earth to kindle by His Sacrifice, must have been the working of the love of the Cross in hearts that would catch that love from Him. This was a part of what He may have meant when He said, that when He was lifted up from the earth He would draw all things to Himself. 8 And it is most certainly true that it is the doctrine of the Cross which has wrought in the world all the great achievements of Christian heroism. Its appearance, therefore, in its proper place in the teaching of our Lord, which now became possible, must have been a cause of immense exultation to the heart of His Mother, while, at the same time, it would bring Him more clearly before her mind in the special characters of Redeemer, Saviour, Sacrifice, and it would impose on her a great enterprise of prayer, on account of the immense glories which depended on the correspondence of men to this great doctrine, and of the enormous difficulties and hindrances which stood in the way of that correspondence. And our Lady would rejoice over all the truths with which our Lord urged and fortified this doctrine, and especially by the promise which He held out that some should see the Kingdom of Heaven in power, and which He fulfilled so much sooner than might have been expected in the vision of the Transfiguration. This promise of itself would represent to her nothing vague or indistinct, for she must have understood from our Lord long before this what were to be the gifts and glories of His Body in His Kingdom, and, derived from that, what were to be the gifts and glories of the bodies of His saints.
Some contemplatives think that our Lady may have been enabled, in some marvellous manner, to witness the Transfiguration. This must be left uncertain. This would in any case be a circumstance which would not be inserted in any of the Gospel narratives, which are silent as to all such special privileges of the Blessed Mother. She was to witness and, indeed, to share the Passion in a manner more perfect than any of the three Apostles, and there could not be in her any of the dullness of faith which may have been a reason why the vision was not extended to the other nine. The revelations of the Transfiguration would have been understood and appreciated by her better than any one else, and so would have been greater profit to her soul. On the other hand, it is certain that her faith did not want the confirmation which was conveyed to that of the Apostles by that wonderful vision, and that this may have been an occasion on which these words of our Lord were true of her, that they were blessed who had not seen and yet had believed. If the vision were not vouchsafed to her, it would have been so for some reason of this kind, not because our Lord's love could deny to her anything that He allowed to any of the saints.
Our Lady must have felt about the transfer of the scene of our Lord's teaching to Judaea, as she felt about the prediction of the Passion itself. For it was a step onwards towards the accomplishment of the Passion. It was presenting Himself to His enemies in all their power, in the seat of their authority, and provoking them thereby. For if their hostility to Him was caused by their evil lives, their jealousy of His influence, their political fears, and the like, all the motives of this sort which had before animated them, would only be stirred up and stimulated to activity by the steps which He was now taking. But she would understand His desire for the accomplishment of His work, she would share His courage, His zeal for souls, and for the glory of the Father, even His longing for the Passion, and, at the same time, His tender com passion for all that the name of Jerusalem represented to His Heart, as well as the burning love of the Shepherd of souls, which made Him unable to restrain Himself from the missionary labours in the hills and plains of Judaea, which He had put off till now. She would enter most tenderly into the spirit of the teaching of this period. To His disciples He was now full of the most delicate care for the dangers which might hinder their perfection, such as ambition, party spirit, love of pre-eminence, neglect of occasions of scandal, indulgence in an unforgiving and censorious temper, blindness to the value of fraternal correction, whether in the giving or in the receiving, or, again, ignorance of the great Evangelical principles and their immense value, in the matters of chastity, poverty, humility, and obedience. The importance of all this part of our Lord's teaching would be more readily understood by her than by all others, and she would see in it the laying of the foundation of most wonderful perfection to be achieved hereafter by His grace, in the Church, Indeed, it is at this period that He especially manifested Himself as the Legislator of the New Kingdom in a way somewhat different from that which we discern in the Sermon on the Mount, the doctrine of which, as in the case of divorce, is frequently carried on and made complete at the time. And, again, in all this teaching she would read the reflection of His own most perfectly beautiful character, the delight of Heaven and earth, and pray for the production in human souls of some thing that might correspond to that beauty. And every word and action of this time in which, as has been said, that increase of tenderness and compassion which belonged to it was revealed, would not be lost on the heart of Mary.
The great miracle of the raising of Lazarus would be another feature of this period which would speak to her more than to others. When our Lord heard of the illness of His friend from the messengers of Martha and Mary, He was in retirement near the desert, soon after the attempt had been made to stone Him in Jerusalem. When He proposed to go again to the neighbourhood of that city, for the purpose of helping Lazarus, it was opposed by the Apostles, and the loving Thomas cried out to his brethren, "Let us also go, that we also may die with Him!" 9 Thomas probably thought that his Master would be immediately seized and put to death. But his fears would perhaps have vanished after the great miracle itself, which, he might have supposed, would either convert or intimidate the Chief Priests, and would at all events prove that our Lord possessed any power that might be required to shield Him from their machinations. Our Blessed Lady, more familiar with our Lord's Heart than any of the Apostles, might see in the same miracle, not only a manifestation of Divine power even greater than any which He had already shown, but also the final blow which would drive the malignity of His enemies to the most extreme measures, and thus hasten on the catastrophe. As a matter of history, it was the raising of Lazarus which was the determining cause of the policy adopted by Caiphas. His course had all the extreme folly of human pride and passion, but it had also all the malignity of Satan to prompt it. But human passion and diabolical fury were in this instance to be used by God to bring about His own most beneficent purpose for the redemption of the human race and the destruction of the power of Satan. All this marvellous counsel of God would be known to our Blessed Lady, and the thoughts and affections which it moved in her would be of the utmost admiration and gratitude, as well as of the deepest sorrow for the sin into which the whole of the holy nation was being dragged by its rulers.
The only remaining feature of this period of which we need speak with regard to our Blessed Lady, is the teaching in Peraea, which seems to have occupied a part, at least, of the time between the resuscitation of Lazarus and the arrival of our Lord at Bethany before Palm Sunday. As has been said, the teaching, as it is preserved to us by the three earlier Evangelists, must in the main have been addressed to the disciples, although the incidents which suggested it were independent of them. It was in consequence of a question put to Him by the Pharisees about divorce, that our Lord promulgated, not only the Christian law of marriage in its full perfection, but also the counsel of chastity. It was the attempt of some to hinder the little children being brought freely to Him, that made Him speak then of the need of humility. The rich young man who came to ask Him what he must do to inherit eternal life, and who then pressed still further for something beyond the observance of the Commandments, gave our Lord the opportunity of laying down the counsel of Evangelical poverty. The question of St. Peter about the reward of those who had left all things and followed Him, furnished the text for His great promise of the hundred-fold in this life, and of the judicial authority in the next, and this again led on to the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, so full of deep instruction for all who are called to perfection. The petition of the sons of Zebedee may also be mentioned, as having drawn from our Lord His great counsel of humility and subjection. In all this teaching we can see how much there would be which would not be fully understood, even by the Apostles, at the time, and we can see also how faithfully our Lady's Heart would have followed it, and how completely she would have understood it and rendered to Him thanks and praise for it.
No period of our Lord's teaching is more instructive than this as to the manifestation of His character and office, for the reason that we find Him speaking and acting more plainly and with less reserve, and also because there are as many as three or four different strains of His doctrine, as it were, crossing each other at this time. He was not the same in His teaching to the Apostles and disciples in private, as at Capharnaum before the feast of Tabernacles, and as in Peraea at the very end of these months of ministry, arid in His discussions with the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem, of which we have so considerable a record in several chapters of St. John, which relate what passed at that feast, and also, much later, at the feast of the Dedication. Again, there is a difference between the teaching at Capharnaum and that in Peraea, where He is more distinctly setting forth great principles on which Evangelical perfection was to be built up. And in the more ordinary teaching to the people in the country parts of Judaea, He is different again, although we have here so many repetitions of what had been before taught in the Galilean Ministry. The warnings against hypocrisy, against covetousness and worldliness, the strict in junctions on watchfulness, and the whole series of
parables like that of the Good Samaritan and the Lost Sheep, give to this time a character of its own. There had been very few occasions on which He had even spoken as He did in the disputation in the Temple with the priests which St. John has recorded. He reveals Himself as God, as Judge, as Rewarder, as Light and Life, as the Hearer of prayer, and the Redeemer by laying down His life for the sheep, as well as in the merciful character of the Good Samaritan, or in that of the Teacher of Perfection. Our Lady's office by His side in her discernment of His relations to us, or of the features and outlines of the new Kingdom, must have given full occupation to her heart, while at every step she must have found fresh opportunities of prayer and intercession. He was evidently hastening on His course, yearning for its consummation and for the kindling of the fire which He came to send on earth, and at the same time giving the reins to His love, His tenderness, His compassion, His grief for the loss of souls.
It is difficult to imagine a more beautiful summing up of this whole time than that which is to be found in the scene with which it closes. At the supper at Bethany we have our Lord full of the thought of His own death. The loving sisters, Martha and Mary, are there, full of devotion and gratitude for the great miracle which he had wrought for them in giving them back their brother from the grave on the fourth day after his death. Whether Mary Magdalene divined anything of the coming Passion is not easy for us to guess. She must have been an attentive gatherer up of the words of her beloved Master, and so may perhaps have seen more clearly than others into His meaning when He had so often repeated the warning about the Cross. She was familiar, too, with the character of the men who were leagued against Him, and besides all this, she must by this time have become a constant companion and intimate disciple of the Blessed Mother. So it may not be quite certain that when our Lord, in His defence of her, spoke of her having done what she had done in lavishing her ointment on Him, in consideration of His approaching death, intended by that that she had some presentiment of its near ness. Lazarus is there, marked out by the hatred of the Jews for death, because our Lord had restored him to life. The whole scene is full of the unexpressed anticipation of something great which is about to happen, something mournful and solemn. The croak of envy and censoriousness is heard in the criticism of Judas, veiling his selfishness and covetousness and rancour under the pretext of piety, moderation, and zeal for good. If, as is probable, our Blessed Lady was herself present, or, at least, in the house, she must have heard or seen in the whole a great revelation of our Lord, and a great invitation to prayer. The character <?f triumph and joy, mixed with the presage of sorrow, belongs to this scene in the house at Bethany, as well as to that which followed on the next day, on the Pro cession of Palms and the royal entrance into Jerusalem.
1 St. Matt. x. 38.
2 Story of the Gospels, § 82.
3 Romans viii. 23.
4 Story of the Gospels, §§ 83—88.
5 Story of the Gospels, §§ 89—96, and 119—121.
6 Story of the Gospels, §§ 97—118.
7 Story of the Gospels, §§ 122—131
8 St. John xii. 32.
9 St. John xi. 16. V