The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 64.

Before the Incarnation the sinless Virgin was taught to pray by the Holy Spirit, speaking within the depths of her soul. After the Incarnation God abode with his chosen spouse in even closer intimacy, enlightening her mind, inflaming her heart with love; but now (at least after her Son deigned to open His Lips in human speech) the secret inspirations of Heaven were interpreted to Mary by the voice of Christ. The Apostles were one day to beseech their Lord: " Master, teach us to pray." Who can doubt that He had already taught the great lesson to His Blessed Mother ? Mary and Joseph were the first disciples in the School of Christ.

Of all virtues the practice of prayer is the most necessary, for without it (in some degree) we can never make progress in the way of life. Prayer is the key that alone unlocks the treasury of Heaven's graces, without which we cannot please God and save our souls. It is the appointed means to our last end, of which nothing else can supply the place. In one sense we may say that in proportion to the necessity of prayer is its ease. At every moment of life, in all circumstances, in every need, the Holy Spirit enables us, if we will, to pray. Yet, experience proves that to most of us—I think to the vast majority of mankind— sustained prayer (necessary for the perfection of the soul, as prayer of some kind is necessary for its salvation) is exceedingly difficult. We do not see God, and it is not easy for most of us to speak for any length of time to a Being whom we do not see. Again, we are surrounded by the multitude of things that we do see, whilst our ears are assailed by a multitude of voices haunting and assailing us from the outside world even when we strive to pray. Now, I am far from suggesting that prayer was in every respect easy for Mary—no doubt difficulties and obscurities were allowed to beset her too, as she united her soul to God in contemplation of His Infinite Perfections—but her vocation led her to remove herself from the distractions of the world more completely than any solitary in his cell, and though she did not (at least habitually) see God in His Essence, she lived in the constant company of Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus Christ is God.

We often use the word prayer in its wide sense of beseeching a creature. Sometimes we speak of praying to our friends or to the powerful on earth, as when in a petition we " pray" the Houses of Parliament, or it may be, say, " I pray thee, my father"; sometimes we speak of praying to our Lady and the Saints, as when we ask them to intercede to God for us. But in the restricted sense of the word, prayer is made to God alone. We seek the intercession of our Lady and the Saints that we may obtain the gifts we need for soul and body from the Divine Goodness and Mercy—above all that we may learn to pray, as they prayed, to God, that our souls too may be united to God, on earth by grace, hereafter in open vision. Prayer in its strict sense is simply: " The raising of the soul to God." But —once again let me write it—Jesus Christ is God. When Mary spoke to Jesus Christ her Son, she was in the strictest sense speaking to, uniting her soul to, praying to God.

As we read the Lives of the great Saints, we marvel at the heights of contemplation and ecstasy which they reached—at their union with their Lord. But what was the degree of union reached by any Saint —by Teresa, or John of the Cross, or Francis of Assisi—by the most highly favoured of them all, when measured by that achieved by the soul of Mary in the Temple, at Bethlehem, at Nazareth, on Calvary, afterwards in the house of John ? Human thought cannot compass, even in imagination, the elevation and the intimacy and the wonder of Mary's prayer, for no thought of man can penetrate the mystery of the Incarnation and of Mary's consequent nearness to her Son.

Prayer has been well described as familiar inter course with God. If, then, we are to reach after this holy familiarity to which all Christians are graciously invited, it is of the deepest importance that we should keep before our minds the ineffable communion of soul between the Incarnate God and His Mother to which nothing that has ever passed upon earth can be likened with truth. When we find it hard to pray, God's Mother will aid us, if we lovingly entreat her to help us, to converse with Christ, as she conversed when He dwelt upon the earth. For this is the Will of God even for us. It is His Will that we too should attend to His summons: " Come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy laden." It is His merciful Will to welcome the sinful as well as the sinless. The Magdalen stood beneath the Cross together with the Immaculate.

For both there was room, and each had her appointed place. The poor thief cried to Christ with a confidence unknown to the Pharisee, and because of his confidence was heard in the hour of his distress. If we allow ourselves, with Peter affrighted, to say to Christ: " Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man," great indeed is our danger. Never can there be danger to our souls when, with Peter welcomed, we cast ourselves upon the waters to reach our Lord, or, with Peter repentant, raise our eyes to look upon His Face.