Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
30th Saturday in Ordinary Time
“Christ will be magnified in my body”, says St Paul in the first reading. “My soul magnifies the Lord”, says Mary in the Magnificat. “Christ is being proclaimed, in that I rejoice”, says St Paul. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior”, says Mary. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled”, says Jesus in the Gospel, “but the one who humbles himself will be exalted”. “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts”, says Mary, “and has exalted the humble and meek”.
Mary’s Magnificat is the song of someone who “kept all these things in her heart”, an immaculate heart, which is to say, a place where she could hear the word of God, and keep it. A Cistercian monastery is also a place where monks can return to the immaculateness, the purity of the Rule of St Benedict, and be a community of those who hear the word of God, and keep it.
As we honor her immaculate heart on this first Saturday of the month, Mary shows us that the word is not something merely external to us. It is the deepest mystery stored up in our own being, that in which we live, and move, and have our being. Mary lived entirely for the fruit of her womb. Even after she gave him birth, she continued to carry him within her by faith. She had only to look into her immaculate heart, in order to find him, for to her, as with St Paul, “life was Christ, and death was gain”.
Yet she also continued to turn her gaze on her Son in his public ministry. She did not always understand what he meant, as when he remained behind in the temple without telling her, and when, as she stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus told her that someone else, John, was to be her son. But she always obeyed this word that she recognized as divine, because, by a kind of solemn profession, she had already accepted it in advance.
“Let it be done to me according to your word”, she had said. “Receive me, O Lord, according to your promise, and I shall live”, says the monk. Mary let herself be led to areas which she did not understand, and the monk who live his vows can expect to encounter areas of the monastic life which he will not understand. Yet Mary always lived in accordance with the word that had been implanted in her immaculate heart.
Our hearts too, if we go forward in the monastic life and in faith, will overflow with the inexpressible delight of love. May we faithfully obey this word in the monastery until death, so that we too, with Mary and all the saints, may receive the reward which is given to those who are pure of heart.