Personal Musings: December 2012 Archives

Massacre of the Innocents

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A Hellish Crime

The massacre of innocent children and of others ten days before Christmas, in my own home state of Connecticut, is evidence enough of the implacable hatred of the Evil One, the incorporeal Herod, who everywhere seeks and finds breaches in the souls of men, in families, and in society, into which he sends his infernal troops, full of contempt for human life, to plunder, ravage, and destroy. The devil, mocking the liturgical calendar of the Church, follows his own calendar of feasts of death and seasons of destruction.

With the Mother of Sorrows

And so do we find ourselves, in these last days of Advent, faced with the most bitter irony of praying the Stabat Mater Dolorosa. The Mother of God, and hundreds of thousands of mothers with her, never leave their station at the Cross, where the blood of an incalculable number of lambs is mingled with the tears of their hearts and with the Blood of the One Lamb that, alone, can wrest the world from the powers of darkness.

Plunged in grief the mother stood,
Weeping where the crimsoned wood
Held on high her dying son.

Through her soul, whose mourning low,
Told how grievous was her woe,
Sorrow like a sword had gone.

Oh! how sad, how sorrow laden,
Stood the meek and blessed maiden,
God's true mother undefiled.

Trembling, weeping, whelmed in woes,
Witnessing the dying throes
Of her own immortal child.

Who is he who would not weep,
Could he know what anguish deep,
Pierced the mother of the Lord?

Who from sorrow could refrain,
Gazing on that mother's pain,
Weeping with her son adored?

She beheld the torments sore,
He for his own people bore,
Bowed beneath that scourging dread.

She beheld her only-born,
Death struck, utterly forlorn,
When his parting spirit fled.

Come, O mother, love's sweet spring,
Let me share thy sorrowing,
Let my tears unite with thine.

Let my heart be all on fire,
Still to seek with fond desire
Christ, my God, my love divine.

Holy mother, this impart,
Deeply print upon my heart,
All the wounds my saviour bore.

Let me share his pains with thee,
Who so tenderly for me
Deigned his sacred blood to pour.

Let our tears in mingling tide
Flow for Jesus crucified,
Till life cease within my breast.

By the cross to take my station,
Sharing thy sweet lamentation,
This is my most fond request.

Holiest of the virgin train,
Do not thou my prayer disdain;
Come and share thy griefs with me.

Let me trace his sufferings o'er;
Bear the very death he bore,
When they nailed him to the tree:

Tell his wounds within my heart,
In his chalice take my part,
All for love of thy dear Son.

Wrapt in flames of love divine,
Keep me still, O mother mine,
When the judgement day draws on.

Lord, when these my days are done,
Let thy mother lead me on
To the palm of victory.

When this mortal body dies,
May my soul to heaven uprise,
Glorified and blest for thee. Amen.

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The New Adam

Caravaggio's Madonna dei Palafrenieri, first exhibited in Saint Peter's Basilica in 1606, is wonderfully disturbing. While Grandmother Saint Anne looks on, the Virgin Mother Mary allows the Child Jesus to place His little foot on top of hers; together the Mother and the Child crush the head of the serpent under their feet. The nakedness of the Child Jesus suggests that He is indeed the New Adam who, by His innocence, inaugurates a new creation: the Kingdom of God where only little children are allowed to enter.

Sexual Abuse: The Dark Sin

The darkness of this painting, so typical of Caravaggio, and the sinister writhing of the serpent combine with the purity of the Infant Christ to speak poignantly to the tragic drama of the sexual abuse of children. Adults who were sexually abused as children never really recover from the serpent's venomous bite. The poison has a delayed release. Its effects are experienced over time, triggering emotional chaos, spiritual distress, and even chronic physical illness. The serpent, moreover, hides in the darkness, biding its time in anticipation of new attacks.

Therapy

While therapy or some form of counseling is certainly helpful in dealing with the long-term effects of the serpent's bite, it is not sufficient. Rarely is a complete healing possible through therapy alone. In my experience, most persons struggling with the effects of sexual abuse will suffer recurrent crises, although with time these may become less frequent and less debilitating. The benefit of therapy is in helping the individual to identify what things trigger crises, what things feed into the chaos, and what strategies are effective in countering recurrent difficulties.

Supernatural Means

Ultimately, one is obliged to confront the evil, in its origin and in its effects, on spiritual ground and with supernatural means. This is where the adult living with the effects of sexual abuse as a child finds it necessary to identify with the Infant Christ in entrusting himself entirely to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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The Lord God said unto the serpent, I will put enmity between Thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and her Seed, which same shall bruise thy head, alleluia. (Antiphon at the Benedictus on December 8th, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception)

Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary leads one to place one's own foot on hers in total confidence. So long as the serpent's head remains under the foot of the Immaculate Virgin and one's own foot rests on hers, the effects of the abuse are held in check. The serpent may writhe and hiss, but ultimately the All-Holy Mother of God and her Seed, that is the Infant Christ and those who belong to Him, will crush its head.

The Immaculate Conception

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is of all days the most favourable to make or to renew a personal consecration to the Immaculate Mother of God, especially if one struggles with the long-term effects of sexual abuse. The renewal of one's consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary opens again and again the floodgates of the graces given her by God for distribution to the weakest and most wounded of her children.

The Rosary: Where Hope Flowers

One will also find in the humble prayer of the Rosary an indispensable protection and a source of inner healing. The mysteries of the infancy and childhood of Christ are supremely effective in countering the effects of a childhood marred by abuse. In the presence of the Immaculate Virgin and her Child there flowers the hope of a serene and fruitful life. "Give glory to the Lord for thy good things, and bless the God eternal, that He may rebuild His tabernacle in thee" (Tobias 13:12).

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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