Saints: July 2011 Archives

The Woman Robed in Red

| | Comments (1)

resurrection13.jpg

Saint Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles, is one of the patron saints of this blog. The Responsory at Lauds is "Tibi dixit cor meum: Quaesivi vultum tuum": "My heart has said to Thee: I have sought Thy Face" (Psalm 26, 8). Here is something I wrote six years ago on this feast:

Woman of fire,
woman of desire,
woman of great passions
woman of the lavish gesture,
Mary of Magdala!

The icons show you robed in red,
covered in the blood of the Lamb,
a living flame, a soul set afire.
You are there at the foot of the Cross:
kneeling, bending low, crushed by sorrow,
your face in the dust.

You love,
but in that hour of darkness,
dare not look on the disfigured Face of Love.
It is enough that you are there,
brought low with Him,
Enough for you
the Blood dripping from His wounded feet,
Blood seeping into the earth
to mingle with your tears.

You seek Him on your bed at night,
Him whom your heart loves.
David's song is on your lips:
"Of You my heart has spoken: Seek his face.
It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Your face from me" (Ps 26:8-9).

His silence speaks.
His absence is a presence.
And so you rise to go about the city,
drawn out, drawn on by Love's lingering fragrance.
"Draw me, we will run after you, in the odour of your ointments" (Ct 1:3).

You seek Him by night
in the streets and broadways;
you seek Him whom your soul loves;
with nought but your heart's desire for compass.
You seek Him but do not find Him.

In this, Mary, you are friend to every seeker.
In this you are a sister to every lover.
In this you are close to us who walk in darkness
and wait in the shadows,
and ask of every watchman,
"Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?"

Guide us, Mary, to the garden of new beginnings.
Let us follow you in the night.
Wake our souls before the rising of the sun.
Weep that we may weep
and in weeping become penetrable to joy.

The Gardener waits,
the earth beneath His feet watered by your tears.
Turn, Mary, that with you we may turn
and, being converted,
behold His Face
and hear His voice
and, like you, be sent to say only this:
"I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:18).

MagdaleneCrucifixion.jpg

This may be something that happens somewhere between late middle and old age but, increasingly, I find myself recalling things read when I was in my teens. Thinking about Saint Mary Magdalene today, I remembered how much this passage impressed me when I came upon it in William T. Walsh's Life of Saint Teresa of Avila.

"I had a very great devotion to the glorious Magdalene, and very frequently used to think of her conversion--especially when I went to Communion. As I knew for certain that our Lord was then within me, I used to place myself at His feet, thinking that my tears would not be despised. I did not know what I was saying; only He did great things for me, in that He was pleased I should shed those tears, seeing that I so soon forgot that impression. I used to recommend myself to that glorious Saint, that she might obtain my pardon." (Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Chapter IX)

My friend from long ago, Trappist Father Bernard Bonowitz, may not remember this, but back in the 1960s we both delighted in this passage. In some way it kindled a fire in our hearts.

StHenryII12-7.jpg

Through the intercession of Saint Henry, blessings upon all our brother Oblates and friends of the monastery today: Jon, Vincent, Tracy, Greg, Neal, Dan, Erik, and Alex. Have I forgotten anyone, brothers? Blessings too upon Henry Casey.

While Keeping Vigil

Benedictine Oblates living and working in the world have two holy patrons: Saint Francesca of Rome whom we celebrated in March, and today’s Saint Henry. One of the things related about Saint Henry is that, on arriving in any town, he would spend his entire first night there in a vigil of prayer in a church dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. When he arrived in Rome in 1014, he spent the night in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome’s Bethlehem. While keeping vigil, he saw the “Sovereign and Eternal Priest-Child Jesus” enter to celebrate the Holy Mysteries. Saints Lawrence and Vincent assisted Our Lord as deacons. A throng of saints filled the basilica; Angels chanted in choir. It is noteworthy that in Henry’s vision Christ the Priest is a Child. One wonders if he was not keeping vigil before the altar of the Crib of the Infant Jesus in Saint Mary Major, a place of grace for countess souls through the ages.

Touched by the Book of the Gospels

Henry’s vision is very much like those of Saint Gertrude the Great: a pulling back of the veil, a glimpse of “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor 2:9). After the Gospel, an Angel bearing the book of the Gospels was sent to Henry by the Mother of God. Normally, one kisses the book of the Gospels. Instead the Angel touched Saint Henry’s thigh with it, saying, “Accept this sign of God’s love for your chastity and justice.” From that moment on, Henry limped like Jacob after his night vigil spent wrestling with the angel (cf. Gn 32:24-25). How fascinating -- and how consistent with God’s dealings with men -- that a mark of weakness should be the sign of a special grace!

The Oblate Emperor

Henry was crowned Emperor in Saint Peter’s Basilica by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014. Henry cherished Benedictine life, spending time in monasteries whenever he could. His greatest joy was to occupy a stall in choir and join the monks in singing the Divine Office. Henry founded monasteries throughout the Empire and endowed them liberally. He became an oblate of the Abbey of Cluny and then asked to make profession as monk at the Abbey of Saint-Vanne. The abbot received him as a monk, and then ordered him, in the name of obedience, to take his place again on the imperial throne.

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

Categories

Archives