Sunday, July 09, 2006


For the First Profession of Sister Miriam of Little St. Therese July 16, 1940 - fragments from "Hidden life" by St Benedicta of the Cross.

"Induit nos, Genetrix Domini, vestimento salutis: et indumento justitiae circumdedit nos, alleluia." "The Mother of the Lord has clothed us in the robe of salvation: and she wraps about us the mantle of justice."

This is how we pray on the feast of the Queen of Carmel, on the solemn feast of our holy Order. For the Mother of God is the mediatrix of all grace. This is how every person, whom merciful love brings home after being lost, receives at her hand the garment of salvation, of sanctifying grace, and so is consecrated as a child of God. But on us who may call ourselves her children and sisters she confers another particular garment of salvation. As the Mother of the Lord, she chooses the souls she wishes to lead to her beloved Son and to bedeck with the bridal robe for his honor and pleasure. She it is who planted her order on the lovely summit of Carmel as a garden of delight for the heavenly King, and then dispersed it throughout the entire world. As the sign of her special favor and her motherly protection, she has given us the holy scapular. She already gave it to Your Charity a year ago along with the holy habit, but it was then only on loan to you for practice in arming yourself for God during the probationary period. Now you are receiving it anew, since you are allowed to enter into a sacred alliance with the Lord of heaven and earth. That this holy celebration is combined with the feast of the Queen of Heaven is evidence of special maternal love, just as it was a special sign of love that the Mother of God gave you her own name.

Such special proofs of being loved oblige one to show special gratitude. When we receive the holy habit of Carmel, we pledge ourselves not only to extraordinary service to our divine Bridegroom, but also to his holy Mother. The garment of salvation is also called the mantle of justice. We are clothed in it with the instruction that we are to put off the old person and put on the new, who is created in the image of God in holiness and righteousness. By righteousness the Scriptures mean perfection, the condition of the justified person, who is made right again as she or he was before the Fall. By taking on the garment of righteousness, we thus oblige ourselves to strive for perfection with all our strength and to preserve the holy garment intact. There is no better way to serve the Queen of Carmel and to show her our gratitude than by contemplating her example and following her on the way of perfection.

Only a few words from the Virgin Mary have come down to us in the Gospels. But these few words are like heavy grains of pure gold. When they melt in the ardor of loving meditation, they more than suffice to bathe our entire lives in a luminous golden glow.

The first word that we hear in the conversation with the angel at the Annunciation to Mary is, "How shall this happen, since I know not man?" It is the simple recognition of her virginal purity. She had consecrated her whole heart and all the strength of her body, soul, and spirit to the service of God in undivided surrender. Thereby she pleased the Almighty. He accepted her surrender and blessed her with wonderful fruitfulness by raising her to be the Mother of God. She looked deeply into the mystery of virginity of which her divine Son later said, "Whoever can accept this, ought to do so." Her heart exulted in glory as she discovered what God had prepared for those who love him. She can give her beloved ones nothing better than a call to follow this way on which they, too, will attain wonderful fruitfulness and a blessedness beyond all imagining. As the symbol of the radiant beauty encompassing a truly virginal soul, she wraps the white mantle around you. It is to remind us always that we are invited to the marriage of the Lamb, called to sing in the choir of virgins that holy hymn of heavenly love that no one else can sing, and to follow the Lamb constantly without ever being separated from him.

As soon as the angel had heard Mary's avowal, he immediately dispelled her hesitation. God was not thinking of dispensing her from her vow. No, it is precisely because of her virginity that she is receptive to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that makes her fruitful. She is to become the virgin mother. And now we hear the Virgin's second word, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word." This is the most perfect expression of obedience. Being obedient means to listen to the word of someone else in order to submit one's own will to that of another. It is a virtue and in fact a discipline of justice when the other is a superior who is better able than we are ourselves to guide us to what is right.

Here justice [or righteousness] does not mean full perfection, but rather the cardinal virtue which gives to each his own. Truly perfect obedience is the obedience given to the Almighty, the subordination of one's own will to that of God. Jesus has given us the example of this perfect obedience, for he came not to do his own will but the will of him who sent him. And the Virgin practiced this perfect obedience when she called herself a handmaid of the Lord and actually was such, prepared to put all her faculties at the service of the Lord.

To this obedience we, too, oblige ourselves by our holy vow of obedience. We oblige ourselves to subject our own will to that of our superiors in the belief that the Lord himself speaks to us through their mouths and reveals his will to us. And who could know our needs better than he? So the way of obedience is the surest way to our eternal goal. And though full perfection does not lie in it alone, obedience remains the key to it. God, after all, wants our salvation, and when our will is in full unison with his, we can be certain that we will reach perfection. Jesus and Mary are also examples of this subjection of the will to an authority and order given by God: In silent obedience, both of them follow, at the slightest indication, him whom the heavenly Father has given to the Holy Family as a visible superior. They faithfully fulfilled the commands of the law that the Lord had established for his people and observed the regulations of spiritual and civil authorities.

As a sign of such a binding of the will, we receive this cincture, while we are addressed by the words that Christ spoke to St. Peter, "When you were younger, you girded yourself and went where you pleased. When you are older, another will gird you." Whoever allows herself to be led like a child in the harness of holy obedience will reach the kingdom of God which is promised to the little ones.

Obedience led the royal daughter of the house of David to the simple little house of the poor carpenter of Nazareth. Obedience led both of these most holy people away from the secure enclosure of this modest home onto the highway and into the stable at Bethlehem. It laid the Son of God in the manger. In freely chosen poverty the Savior and his mother wandered the streets of Judea and Galilee and lived on the alms of the faithful. Naked and exposed, the Lord hung on the cross and left the care of his mother to the love of his disciple. Therefore, he demands poverty of those who would follow him. The heart must be free of ties to earthly goods, of concern about them, dependence on them, desire for them, if it is to belong to the divine Bridegroom exclusively, if the will intends to follow every suggestion of holy obedience in unreserved readiness.

The three sacred vows supplement one another and require one another. One cannot fulfill any one of them completely without at the same time observing the others. The Mother of God has gone before us on this way and will be our guide on this way. Entrust yourself in childlike surrender to this loving Mother, dear Sister Miriam. Then Your Charity need not be frightened before the exalted immensity of what you have promised. The Lord who has called you and today accepts you as his bride will give you the grace to persevere in your calling and will give it through the hands of his Mother. And there is still another patroness at your side. St. ThÈrËse of the Child Jesus shows you even in the little details of daily life how one can follow him and Mary in Carmel. If you learn from her to depend on God alone and serve him with a wholly pure and detached heart, then you can join with your whole soul in singing the jubilant song of the holy Virgin, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has done great things for me, and holy is his name." And like little St. Therese you will be able to say at the end, "I do not regret that I have given myself to love."

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