Sunday, August 23, 2009

Collaudare, Benedicere et Prædicare

Our Lady's Preface sings unto God that, as we always and everywhere pay thanks unto Him, so we together praise, bless and preach Him in commemorating the Blessed Virgin: for all of Mary's glories redound unto God Who granted them.

St Ildephonsus (Hildefonsus, Ildefonso) of Toledo, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, scion of the converted, Catholicised Visigoths (his original name was Hildefuns; in later Spanish it became Alfonso), was the light of Spain in the seventh century, and a signal devotee of Holy Mary: in defence of her honour, he wrote against three who would impugn her perpetual virginity and thereby outrage her Incarnate Son Who deigned to be born of her, the All-pure Ever-virgin Theotokos. Like a latter St John Evangelist, Ildephonsus is styled the Virgin's chaplain, so concerned for her was he. It is said that so pleased was she with him, at the nod of Heaven she came down from the Empyrean to present Ildephonsus with a heaven-wrought chasuble: the feast of this marvellous occurrence used to be kept in Toledo.

The traditional Martyrology asserts this, when it says of him on his feastday, the 23rd of January: "At Toledo, St Ildefonsus, bishop, who, on account of his great purity of life, and his defence of the virginity of the Mother of God against the heretics who impugned it, received from her a brilliant white garment, and being renowned for sanctity, was called to heaven." His Collect, given in the Masses pro aliquibus locis, alludes to this:

Deus, qui per gloriosissimam Filii tui matrem beatum Ildefonsum confessorem tuum atque pontificem, misso de thesauris cælestibus munere, decorasti: concede propitius; ut, per ejus preces et merita, munera capiamus æterna. Per eumdem...

(God, Who by the most glorious mother of Thy Son didst adorn blessed Ildefonsus Thy confessor and pontiff with a gift sent from the celestial treasuries, graciously grant, that, by his prayers and merits, we may lay ahold of gifts eternal. Through the same...)

Whatever of this wonder, his treatise De virginitate perpetua sanctæ Mariæ deserves notice, and especially for his witness at its beginning to his invocation of her aid, and at its end to his consecration of himself to Our Lady - being therefore one of the earliest precursors of the True Devotion of after years characterised by St Louis de Montfort:

O Domina mea, dominatrix mea, dominans mihi, mater Domini mei, ancilla Filii tui, genitrix factoris mundi, te rogo, te oro, te quæso, habeam spiritum Domini tui, habeam spiritum Filii tui, habeam spiritum Redemptoris mei, ut de te vera et digna sapiam, de te vera et digna loquar, de te vera et digna quæcumque dicenda sunt dicam.

O my Lady, my ruler, ruling me, Mother of my Lord, Handmaid of thy Son, Mother of the world's maker, I pray thee, I beg thee, I beseech thee, that I may have the spirit of thy Lord, that I may have the spirit of thy Son, that I may have the spirit of my Redeemer, that I may truly and worthily know thee, that I may truly and worthily speak about thee, that I may truly and worthily say whatsoever ought be said about thee.

(De virg. perp. s. Mariæ, Cap. I ab init.: PL 96, 58A-58B.)

At nunc venio ad te, sola Virgo mater Dei, procido coram te, sola opus Incarnationis Dei mei; humilior coram te, sola inventa mater Domini mei; rogo te, sola inventa ancilla Filii tui, ut obtineas deleri facta peccati mei, ut jubeas mundari me ab iniquitate operis mei, ut facias me diligere gloriam virtutis tuæ, ut reveles mihi multitudinem dulcedinis Filii tui, ut des mihi loqui et defendere fidei sinceritatem Filii tui; concedas etiam mihi adhærere Deo et tibi, servire Filio tuo et tibi, famulari Domino tuo et tibi; illi sicut factori meo, tibi sicut gentrici factoris mei; illi sicut Domino virtutum, tibi sicut ancillæ Domini omnium; illi sicut Deo, tibi sicut matri Dei; illi sicut redemptori meo, tibi sicut operi redemptionis meæ.

And now I come unto thee, sole Virgin Mother of God; I prostrate before thee, sole masterwork of the Incarnation of my God; I humble myself before thee, alone found to be the Mother of my Lord; I beg thee, alone found to be the Handmaid of thy Son, that thou mayst obtain the removal of my sins, that thou mayst command me to be cleansed from the iniquity of my works, that thou mayst make me to love the glory of thy power, that thou mayst show unto me the manifold sweetness of thy Son, that thou mayst give unto me to speak and defend the truthfulness of faith in thy Son; grant unto me even to cling to God and to thee, to serve unto thy Son and unto thee, to wait upon thy Lord and upon thee; unto Him as my maker, unto thee as the mother of my maker; unto Him as the Lord of might, unto thee as the handmaid of the Lord of all; unto Him as God, unto thee as the Mother of God; unto Him as my Redeemer, unto thee as the work of my redemption.

(ibid., Cap. 12 ab init.: PL 96, 105B-105C)

Ideo ego servus tuus, quia tuus filius Dominus meus. Ideo tu domina mea, quia tu ancilla Domini mei. Ideo ego servus ancillæ Domini mei, quia tu domina mea facta es mater Domini tui. Ideo ego factus servus tuus, quia tu facta es mater factoris mei. Oro te, oro te, sancta Virgo, ut de illo Spiritu habeam Jesum, de quo tu genuisti Jesum. Per illum Spiritum accipiat anima mea Jesum, per quem concepit caro tua eumdem Jesum. Ab illo Spiritu sit mihi nosse Jesum, a quo tibi adfuit nosse habere et parturire Jesum. In illo Spiritu humilis excelsa loquar de Jesu, in quo confiteris esse te ancillam Domini, optans fieri tibi secundum verbum angeli. In illo spiritu diligam Jesum, in quo tu hunc adoras ut dominum, intueris ut filium. Tam vere timeam hunc Jesum quam vere idem cum esset Deus, erat subditus parentibus suis.

Therefore I am thy servant, for thy Son is my Lord. Therefore thou art my mistress, for thou art the handmaid of my Lord. Therefore I am the servant of the handmaid of my Lord, for thou art, my lady, made the mother of thy Lord. Therefore I am made thy servant, for thou art made the mother of my maker. I pray thee, I pray thee, holy Virgin, that I may possess Jesus by that Spirit by Whom thou didst bear Jesus. By that Spirit may may soul accept Jesus, by Whom thou didst conceive of thy flesh the same Jesus. From that Spirit may I know Jesus, from Whom it was possible for thee to know to have and to give birth to Jesus. In that Spirit may I so humble speak high things of Jesus, in Whom thou didst confess thyself to be the handmaid of the Lord, desiring that it be done to thee according to the angel's word. In that spirit may I love Jesus, in which thou dost adore Him as Lord, and know him as (thy) Son. So may I truly fear this Jesus just as the Same, while he was God, was subject to His parents.

(ibid., Cap. XII: PL 96, 106A-106B)

All this of course has a sound Scripture basis; if St Paul can say, repeat and insist, Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ (I Cor. iv, 16 & xi, 1), how much more properly can the Blessed Virgin herself give us the counsel to do whatsoever her Son commands (St John ii, 5), and, as her spiritual children given her by our dying Saviour (St John xix, 26f), to always follow in her motherly footsteps by being obedient servants of the Lord, making His will our own by an unswerving Fiat after her peerless example (St Luke i, 38). This is as the Psalmist sings (Ps 122), foretelling Christ as our King and Lord and Master, with His sweet Mother as our Queen, our Lady and our Mistress:

To Thee have I lifted up my eyes, * Who dwellest in heaven.
Behold as the eyes of the servants * are on the hands of their masters,
As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress: * so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until He have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us: * for we are greatly filled with contempt.
For our soul is greatly filled: * we are a reproach to the rich, and contempt to the proud.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: * and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: * world without end. Amen.

Our consecration to the Lord is through the hands of His Mother, giving all glory to the Trinity.

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