On the Nativity of Our Lady
How the strange birth of temporal things, such as delight in the creature, hinders the Divine Birth in man; and how, if God is to be born in us, the clinging to old, evil habits must be broken off.

Transite ad me omnes, qui concupiscitis me.

"Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits."

To-day we celebrate the nuptial day on which the Holy Virgin, spotless, pure and holy, was born of her mother. That which was lost in Paradise was brought back again by her, that noble likeness which the Father had fashioned like unto Himself, and which had been spoiled. Through her the Father regenerated all His members, that they might be brought back again to their original Source; and of His unfathomable mercy God desired to raise us up again, through her, from the eternal death into which we had fallen, in as far as it was possible for us. Now we read these words of her in the Book of Wisdom: "Come over to me, all ye that desire me, that ye may be filled with my fruits." These are the words of the Heavenly Father Who guides and entices us to this birth. These words also were spoken by God, the Eternal Wisdom, of the Virgin; for this birth is also her birth. That which the Heavenly Father brought forth throughout eternity, she also brought forth; and this teaches us that we must and shall be filled to overflowing with this birth. She said: "To all those who desire to be satisfied in me, to all those who, in truth, desire and are satisfied by this birth, to them a glimpse will be given, sometimes, so that their longing may be excited and drawn forth to desire more and more." Say with St Augustine: "Lord, thou hast made us for Thyself, and therefore our hearts are always restless till we find rest in Thee." This restlessness, which should always and unceasingly be ours, is delayed and hindered by the strange births that are born of man. These are temporal, transitory, sensual, harmful things; delight and satisfaction in the creature, whether animate or inanimate; friendship and society; clothes, food, and all the things in which man delights. These things create restlessness in thee; and they beget such births in thee, so that God, as long as these births find place in thee with thy knowledge and consent, can never bring forth His birth in thee, in the joyful possession of thy heart. Some trifle, however small and mean it may be, takes from thee and robs thee of thy greatest good, and of the blissful birth that God desires to bring forth in thee; and it also takes away from thee all desire for it, and the consolation that thou oughtest to have after this birth; all this is kept back by this thing of pleasure.

Now men often complain and say: "I have neither love nor desire;" that is just the hindrance which prevents thee and keeps thee back from love and desire, whatever it may be; no one knows so well as thou. Ask not me, but ask thyself, why thou hast no love or desire. Ye desire to posses both God and the creature; but that is impossible. Delight in God and delight in the creature cannot exist side by side. By this, I do not mean things which are necessary for man, and of which we cannot deprive nature, such as a hungry longing for food, and a thirsty craving for drink, the longing of the weary for rest and quiet, of the sleepy for sleep -- as long as they do not become inordinate desires. But when man gives way to them, not for the needs or uses of nature, but for the pleasure of gratification, this birth is hindered; though less than in the enjoyment of other things; for the needs of nature require that pleasure in these things shall not be separated from them, as long as nature is at work.

But the man who does not wish to hinder the Eternal Birth, but would make an entrance for it by means of the desire, must remember that the pleasures of the senses in nature, and in the creature, are hindrances; for the less of them, the more of the other; for the more cold goes out, the more warmth will come in; neither must man remain in his chamber idle and careless, and in gloomy weakness. Some men go about blindly, and all that they do is done blindly and foolishly in unfruitfulness. Thy confessor has no power over all these infirmities, which possess and deprave thee, if thou art willing to give way to them; though thou wert to confess ten times a day, it would not help thee at all, unless thou wert ready to give up thy sins. Thou must also know that, if thou art found thus wantonly possessed, loving the creature more than thou lovest God, thou wilt never appear before the Face of God. This is said everywhere in Scripture, and in all parts of the Gospel. There is the command in the Old and New Testaments, that man should love God above all things. And again: "He that doth not renounce all that he possesseth" is not worthy of Me. Again, elsewhere; "Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: but he that doeth the Will of my Father Which is in heaven, he shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Do ye imagine that God would give the Kingdom of Heaven to unholy beings, and that He shed His Precious Blood and gave up His Life for them? Look to yourselves; do not imagine that He would allow this to come to pass; and, if ye knew how severely God will judge them, ye would wither away in terror. God has given all things that they may be the way to Him; He only will be the Goal; nothing else can be, neither this nor that.

Do ye imagine that I say this in derision? No, indeed! Thy Order can neither make thee holy nor blessed. My cowl, my tonsure, my cloister, my holy community -- none of these things can make me holy. If I am to become holy, it must be in a holy, poor, uninhabited place. If I often cry: "Lord! Lord!" if I pray often, read much, say many beautiful things, understand much, and appear good? -- no, no, it is something quite different that is needed. If thou deceivest thyself, it will hurt thee, not me.

Your worldly hearts and minds, your vanity in the appearance of spirituality -- all these things in thee will be tested, just as when a bud is set in a stock, all the fruit which the stock will bear will be like the bud and not after its own kind. Therefore all these strange external births with which ye are possessed, and all your fruit, will be tested by the bud. Also all your good works which ought to be divine, will be of the creature and nothing worth, because of the evil ground out of which they spring; for this birth takes place in all your powers, both within and without. Job said of this: "In the horror of a vision by night ...fear seized upon me and trembling, and all my bones were affrighted; and when a spirit passed before me, the hair of my flesh stood up." The horror of the vision in the night was the dark possession, which followed the incomprehensible horror and fearful trembling, so that all his bones were affrighted. The Spirit passing before him was God passing before him.

Now the Gospel speaks here of two processions. One procession is that of the Spirit, that is of God to us; and the other procession is of ourselves to God; this must have an exit, as ye have heard, and as the Schoolmen say: "Two forms cannot exist together; if fire is kindled, the wood will be consumed; if the tree grows, the germ will disappear." If God is to enter into us, by the fulfillment of His Birth, then the creature will cease to exist. St Gregory says of this, that the hair of his head stood up when the Spirit passed before him, -- these are the Levites whose hair must be cut off. They grow in the flesh like hair; and so also the tendency to old habits clings to the highest and lowest powers; they must be cut off with the sharp shears of holy diligence, which must be whetted and sharpened on the mighty and terrible judgments of God, and on the speedy justice of God, who will not leave the least thought unjudged. Even the least imagination, willingly received, must be cast off in the unsufferable fires of purgatory, before man can appear before God. Now, when these evil, unclean hairs have been cut off with sharp shears, then the hair grows again, and man must show renewed diligence. Some men are so diligent that, as soon as they are conscious of a thought, they cut it off at once with stern decision. At first it is rather hard to be always examining oneself; but afterwards, when man has accustomed himself thereto, it becomes quite easy; and he can blow away that for which at first he needed stern determination.

Man must also be filled with active love, which must be universal; for he must not think particularly of this or that person, but of all men; not only of the good, but also of the common poor. Our Lady's father and mother, Joachim and Anne, were such good people. They divided all their goods into three parts. One part was for the service of God and for the Temple; another was for the common poor; and they lives on the third part themselves. Wherever parsimony exists, an unclean spot will be found which is very evil; man should be generous with these contemptible, transitory things. To him who gives will be given, and he who forgives will also be forgiven. As thou measurest, so will it be measured to thee again.

Now, some men cleave to things within, on which also there is an evil growth which they do not perceive; and thus it might even come to pass that they might never come before God; and yet these men may have lived sincerely before God, and have given themselves up to severe discipline. But this is usually hidden in the lowest depths of their hearts; and they have not known it themselves, because they were wanting in self-control. Therefore it would be as well for such men, who wish to live to the truth, to have a Friend of God, to whom they could submit themselves, and who would direct them according to the Spirit of God; for, without some personal intercourse, it is not possible to prove the men who have these inner tendencies. Such men ought to seek an experienced Friend of God, even twenty miles round, who would know the right way and guide them aright. And, if no especially suitable man were to be found, then an ordinary confessor would do; for the Holy Spirit often speaks through such an one, on account of his office; though he be ever so rough, and is neither conscious of it, nor understands it himself; still men should submit themselves to him, and be in subjection, and not be their own guides.

We have a perfect picture of this in the Blessed Virgin Mary. When she was a child, she was obedient to her father and mother; later she was under the care of the priest in the Temple; later she was under the care of St Joseph, later under that of our Lord Jesus Christ; later under that of St John, to whose care she was committed by our Lord, and who was to take His place. Now we pray earnestly that she will take us under her own care; and, as she was born on this day, so also she will bear us again in the true Source. Amen.

sermon xviii on the feast
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