Ave Maria Meditations
“CHARITY is a much more important virtue, and more agreeable to God, than Austerity.”
“LITURGY is the ritual and language which the Church employs to help us RE-LIVE the Mysteries of Christ.”
“It is not our PERFECTION (i.e. Good Deeds) which DAZZLE God, since He is surrounded by shining Angels. No! It is our MISERY, our POVERTY, our avowed UNWORTHINESS, which draws down his Mercy upon us, and brings us his ATTENTION.”
“MERCY is love in the face of misery; if there were no misery there would be no mercy. The Angels declare God’s holiness; but as for us, we shall be in heaven the lilving witnesses of Divine Mercy; in crowning our works, God crowns the gift of His mercy.”
“No one can say: Holiness is not for me. God wills us to be saints for His glory and our joy. God does not mock us. When God says to us, “Be perfect”, He knows all that He is asking of us, yet at the same time He requires nothing beyond our power, when we rely on His grace”
“When We consider the Mysteries of the life of Jesus, which of His perfections do we we see especially shine out? It is LOVE.
LOVE brought about the Incarnation. LOVE caused Christ to be born in mortal and weak flesh, to accept the obscurity of the hidden life, and nourished the zeal of the public life. If Jesus delivers Himself up to death for us, it is because he yields to the excess of measureless LOVE; He ascends into heaven to prepare a place for us, and sends us the Paraclete so as not to leave us orphans. He institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a memorial of His Love. All the Mysteries of the life of Christ have their source in LOVE.”
“The kingdom of God is built up in SILENCE; it is, before all things, INTERIOR, and hidden in the depths of the soul. Undoubtedly grace possesses a virtue which nearly always overflows in works of charity, but the principle of its power is entirely within. It is in the depts of the heart that the true intensity of the Christian life lies, it is there that God dwells, adored and served by faith, recollection, humility, obedience, simplicity, labour and LOVE.”
The above quotes were provided by Dom Mark Tierney OSB, a biographer of Blessed Columba Marmion. The Feastday is 3 October, the day on which he was blessed as Abbot of Maredsous, Belgium, in 1909
Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923) was a Benedictine monk who wrote several works that are considered spiritual classics. During his lifetime he was a much sought after spiritual director, retreat master and confessor for people in many paths of life including even a Cardinal.
He was born in Dublin, Ireland, to an Irish father and a French mother. Given the name Joseph Aloysius, he entered the Dublin diocesan seminary in 1874 and completed his theological studies at the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was ordained a priest on June 16, 1881. Several years later he entered the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium.
He would eventually author Christ the Life of the Soul (1917), Christ in His Mysteries (1919), Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922), and Union With God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion (c. 1933, posthumously).
Karol Woytyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was an avid reader of Marmion’s writings. Columba Marmion was beatified during the Jubilee Year 2000. In the homily at the beatification, Pope John Paul II stated: “May a widespread rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Blessed Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to him through ardent love of God and generous service of their brothers and sisters.” This recognition by the Church Universal reveals not only Marmion’s personal sanctity, but also the profundity of his writings.
SELECTED EXERPTS FROM THE WRITINGS OF BLESSED COLUMBA:
In the preceding conferences I have tried to show how Our Lord is our All. He has been chosen by His Father to be the one Model of all holiness, in His state of Son of God, and in His virtues. He has merited, by His Life, Passion, and Death, to be for ever the universal dispenser of all grace. It is from Him that all grace proceeds, and all Divine life flows into our souls.
St. Paul tells us that God “hath subjected all things under His feet, and hath made Him head over all the Church, which is His body and the fullness of Him Who is filled all in all”. [Eph. 1:22-23.J By these words, in which he speaks of the Church, the Apostle completes the description of the economy of the mystery of Christ; we shall only understand this mystery well if we follow St. Paul in his exposition.
According to the beautiful words of St. Augustine, we cannot have a full conception of Christ considered apart from the Church. ( No one has exposed this doctrine better than St. Augustine; the holy Doctor has developed it especially). Jesus has the glory of His Father in view, as the foundation of all His life, of all His acts, but the masterpiece by which He is to procure this glory is the Church. Christ comes on earth to create and constitute the Church; it is the work to which all His existence converges, and He confirms it by His Passion and Death. His love for His Father led Jesus Christ to the mountain of Calvary, but it was there to form the Church, and make of her, by purifying her in His Divine Blood, a spotless and immaculate Bride: Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her (Eph.5:25-26) This is what St. Paul tells us. Let us then see what this Church is, of which the name occurs so often under the great Apostle’s pen as to be inseparable from that of Christ.
We may consider the Church in two ways: first as a visible, hierarchical society, founded by Christ to continue His sanctifying mission here below; she appears thus, as a living organism. But this point of view is not the only one; to have a complete idea of the Church, we must regard her as the holy and invisible society of the souls that share by grace in Christ’s Divine Sonship, and form the Kingdom He won by His Blood.
That is what St. Paul calls the body of Christ, not of course, His physical body, but His mystical body. It is on this second point of view we shall principally dwell: we must not, however, pass over the first in silence. It is true that the invisible Church, or the soul of the Church, is more important than the visible Church, but, in the normal economy of Christianity, it is only by union with the visible society that souls have participation in the possessions and privileges of the invisible kingdom of Christ. By her doctrine, which she guards intact and integral in a living and uninterrupted tradition; by her jurisdiction, in virtue of which she has authority to direct us in the name of Christ; by the Sacraments whereby she enables us to draw from the sources of grace which her Divine founder has created; by the worship which she herself organizes so as to render all glory and honor to Jesus Christ, and to His Father. Blessed Columba Marmion OSB (Christ the Life of the Soul)
Detachment and Christian perfection:
It is by successive detachments that God ends by becoming our All, and at times this separation from all human solace is almost like death. I know that poor human weakness could not bear it, were it to last; but little by little God becomes our All, and in Him we find again what we seem to have lost. Great trials are often for souls the point of departure of a very perfect life. God wants to be all for these souls. Deus meus et omnia,(My God and my All) but as long as they could lean on any human aid, how legitimate and holy soever it might be, He could not be their all. This is the perfection of the virtue of poverty, it is perfect hope, to have lost all created joy, and to lean on God alone. Abbot Columba Marmion. A Master of the Spiritual Life, p. 248. Let us try to love Our dear Savior with all our heart, for all is in that. The days, months and years succeed one another, and nothing remains but God and what we do for Him.
Union with God, p. 15
Thoughts on Our Lady from Blessed Columba Marmion : The Virgin Mary, Mother of fear and of holy hope:
No one has understood the greatness of her Son, as Mary did. The Blessed Virgin’s faith was perfect, she is the Virgo fidelis, that is why she had such great reverence for her Divine Son. She saw the divinity through the humanity of Jesus: She gives this reverence to her children.
She communicates to them a tender and filial love towards God, a love filled at the same time with adoration. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit Who knows how to blend these two tendencies in souls. The more God bends down to us the more we ought to recognize His greatness and our unworthiness. No one has known the inner life of Jesus as Mary did; and she obtains this grace of the knowledge of God and of Jesus for those who are devoted to her.
The heart of a mother is a marvel of mercy. When we fear to go to God, when we are overwhelmed by our unworthiness, we can go to Mary, because God has entrusted to her the realm of mercy. The Blessed Virgin in glory Because here below Mary is associated in all the mysteries of our Redemption, Jesus has crowned her not only with glory, but with power. He has placed His Mother at His right hand that she may dispose of the treasures of eternal life by a unique title-that of Mother of God: Adstitit regina a dextris tuis. This is what Christian piety means when it proclaims the Mother of Jesus: Omnipotentia supplex.
Christ the Life of the Soul, p. 385.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST:
The Eucharist is like the synthesis of the marvels of the love of the Incarnate Word towards us. If we now consider the Eucharist as a Sacrament, we shall discover in it wonderful properties which only a God could invent.
I have often said after St. Paul, to whom this idea is dear, that the chief events in the history of the Jewish people under the old Law were symbols, sometimes hidden and ob-scure, sometimes apparent and luminous, of the realities that were to be the light of the New Testament established by Christ. Now, according to Our Lord’s own words, one of the most characteristic figures of the Eucharist was the manna; with a special insistence, our Divine Saviour
established comparisons between this food which came down from heaven to nourish the Hebrews in the desert, and the Eucharistic bread which He was to give to the world. There-fore it is to enter into the intentions of Christ if we study the figure and symbol the better to grasp the reality.
Now see in what terms the sacred writer, the instrument of the Holy Spirit, speaks to us of the manna. “‘Thou didst feed Thy people with the food of angels, and gavest them bread, from heaven prepared without labor, having in it all that is delicious, and the sweetness of every taste. For Thy sustenance shewed Thy sweetness to Thy children, and serving every man’s will, it was turned to what every man liked.
The Church in the office of the Blessed Sacrament applies these magnificent words to the Eucharist. We are about to see with what truth and fullness they express the properties of the Eucharistic Bread; we shall see with how much more reason we can sing of the Sacred Host what the inspired author sings of the manna. Like to manna, the Eucharist is a food, but a spiritual food. It is in the midst of a repast, under the form of food, that Our Lord chose to institute it. Christ Jesus gives Himself to us as the nourishment of our souls: “My Flesh is meat indeed: and My Blood is drink indeed”. (John 6, 56)
Again like the manna, the Eucharist is bread come down from heaven. But the manna was only an imperfect figure; that is why Our Lord said to the Jews who recalled to Him the miracle of the desert: “Moses gave you bread from heaven, but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world. “This bread is given not only to one particular people – but to all mankind.
And as the Jews murmured at hearing Jesus call Himself “the Bread come down from heaven,” He added:”I am the Bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, “- for it places in our very bodies the germ of the resurrection – “And the bread that I will give, is My Flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6, 32 – 33; 48 – 52) In these words our Savior Himself shows us how the Divine Eucharistic reality surpasses in plenitude, in its substance and fruits, the nourishment given of old to the Jewish people.
This bread from heaven gives us life by nourishing grace within us. It has in it all that is delicious and sweet. Nothing is so joyous as a feast; Holy Communion is the feast of the soul, that is to say, a source of deepest joys. Why should not Christ Jesus, Truth and Life, principle of all being and of all beatitude, fill our hearts with joy? Why, in making us drink from the chalice of His Divine Blood, should He not pour into our souls that spiritual gladness which excites charity and sustains fervor? See Him in the supper room, after He has instituted this Divine Sacrament. He speaks to His Apostles of His joy; He desires that this joy, His own joy, altogether divine, should become ours, and that our hearts should be filled with it: Ut gaudium MEUM in vobis sit (John 15, 11). It is one of the effects of the Eucharist when received with devotion to fill the soul with super-natural sweetness that renders it prompt and devoted in God’s service.
Let us not forget, however, that this joy is above all spiritual. The Eucharist being eminently the “mystery of faith,” it may happen that God permits that this altogether inward joy should not react upon the sensible part of our being. It may happen that very fervent souls remain in a state of great dryness and aridity after having received the Bread of life. Do not let them be astonished at this: above all never let them be discouraged; if they have brought all the good dispositions possible for receiving Christ, and still suffer from their powerlessness, let them be reassured and remain in peace. Christ, ever living, acts in silence, but soveregionally in the innermost depths of the soul in order to trans-form it into Himself; that is the most precious effect of this heavenly food: “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him (John 6, 57).”
What more is there to be said? This living Bread which gives life, this delicious food that brings joy is granted to us “without labor”: sine labore. That was one of the properties of the manna. How much more is this verified in the Eucharistic food!
“What indeed is required of us in order that we may sit down at the great King” and eat with profit the heavenly Bread? That we come to it clad in the “wedding garment,” (Matt. 22, 11) that is to say that we should be in a state of grace, and have a right intention.
Nothing more is required on our side. But for Jesus? Certainly it was not without labor that He prepared this feast for us. It needed the self abasements of the Incarnation, the humility and obscure labors of the hidden life, the fatigue of the apostolate, the conflicts with the Pharisees, the combats against the prince of darkness, finally, that which contains and crowns all, the sufferings of the Passion. It was only at the cost of His bloodstained immolation and untold sufferings that Christ Jesus merited for us this wonderful grace of being united so closely to Himself in that He nourishes us with His Sacred Body, and gives us His Precious Blood to drink.
Therefore it was that He instituted this Sacrament on the eve of His Passion as if to give us the most touching proof of the excess of His love for us. It is because it is communicated to us at such a price that this gift is full of the sweetness of the infinite love of Jesus Christ. These are some of the marvels figured by the manna and brought about, for the life and joy of our souls, by the wisdom and bounty of our God.
Of all the properties that Holy Scripture attributes to the manna, there is one which is particularly remarkable. The manna was a food which accommodated itself to the taste and wishes of the one who partook of it. In the heavenly Bread, the Eucharist, we can also find, if I may thus express myself, the savor of all the mysteries of Christ, and the virtue of all His states. We are not here considering the Eucharist any longer as a memorial, but as source of grace, and this is a fruitful aspect of the Eucharistic mystery on which I wish to dwell with you for a few moments. If we allow it to penetrate our souls, we shall feel the love and desire for this Divine Food increase within us.
As we know, Our Lord gives Himself as food to preserve within us the divine life of grace; moreover, by means of the union that this Sacrament establishes between our souls and the Person of Jesus (John 6, 57)…by the charity that this union nourishes, Christ works this transformation that caused St. Paul to say: “I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me”. (Gal. 11, 20) Such is the virtue proper to this Sacrament.