Monday, October 13, 2008

Sanctity Through the Rosary by Edouard Hugon, O.P.

Part I: The Rosary and the Author of Holiness.

Chapter I: The Rosary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

God is infinite perfection and purity, absolute sanctity, beauty ever ancient, ever new. Without diminishing the integrity of His essence, He has made other created beings sharers in a greater or lesser degree of His own divine attributes. To us has been given the power of being able to recognize and admire in creatures these reflections of the perfections of their Maker. Among the beauties of nature we can distinguish two different kinds: beauty which is sublime, and beauty to which we may apply the term gracious. The beauty which we term gracious is seen, for instance, in light, flowers, and in all things which delight and charm us. We recognize beauty which is sublime in the vast ocean, the lofty mountains, the boundless skies. But nowhere is graciousness more truly worthy of our admiration than in the human heart, the heart of a child, of a virgin, the heart of a devoted friend. The poetry which is sweetest, most pleasant, is the poetry of the heart. Again, the depths and sublimity of the ocean have often been compared with the depths and sublimity of the heart. Which is easier to fathom the deep ocean or the human heart? We cannot speak of sublimity without considering the human heart, and in particular the hearts of mothers and saints.

When forming the heart of the first man God had an exemplar, He had before Him an ideal, He thought of the heart of Christ. According to the words of Tertullian: Christus cogitabatur homo futurus: Christ, the Man to come, was present in His mind. Ah! it is truly sweet to remember that on the day of our creation God modelled our heart on the heart of His Son.

Therefore, to know all the marvels of our world we must know the human heart. And to know the most perfect of hearts—the ideal of the human heart—we must enter into the depths of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we wish to admire graciousness with all its charms, we must contemplate the Divine Heart of Our Blessed Lord; we must enter into His Sacred Heart. Of Him it has been written: Speciosa forma prae filiis hominum, diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis. Thou art beautiful above the sons of men, grace is poured abroad in thy lips (Ps. 44:3). If we wish to admire sublimity in all its grandeur we must study the Heart of Jesus. The Rosary will reveal to us the graciousness and the sublimity of the Sacred Heart.

It would be wrong to consider the Sacred Heart in an abstract manner, separated from the person of Christ. This error has been condemned by theologians. The Rosary is the true revelation of the Sacred Heart which it always represents united to the Third Divine Person and from which it can never be separated. In the Rosary we can contemplate that Heart, living and beating in the time, places and circumstances in which it really lived and throbbed; we can contemplate the sentiments of the Adorable Heart of Our Blessed Lord towards His Eternal Father, towards men, towards Himself. In the first Mysteries it is a heart full of love and tenderness; in the Sorrowful Mysteries it is a heart inebriated with love and overwhelmed with bitterness; in the Glorious Mysteries it is a heart still enraptured with love and exalted in its triumph. In the Joyful Mysteries it is a gracious beauty; in the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries it is the beauty of the sublime.

We have said that graciousness is admirable above all in the heart of a child. On the day of our baptism our parents looked lovingly into our cradle and re-echoed those words of joy: Let us rejoice, for a child is born to us, a man is born into the world. Natus est homo in mundum (John 16:21). The heavenly family leant still more lovingly over the same cradle and said: A God is born to us, let us rejoice, a God is born to us. Grace made each of us a son of God, and that tiny heart which had only just begun to throb was already the temple of the Blessed Trinity. The angels, as the poet so beautifully expresses it, contemplate their image in the cradle.

But what are all the attractions of any babe compared with the charms of the Child of Bethlehem and the Heart of the Infant God? For, says St. Paul, the grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). How touching, naive, gracious, were the glorious events of that first Christmas night: the song of the angels, the visit of the shepherds, that cradle which sheltered Him Who came to redeem the world! How wonderful it would be to see depicted in a single tableau all the events which accompanied the birth of Jesus!

Such a tableau does exist. It is the Rosary. The Mystery of the Nativity is the principal tableau, the others are grouped round about it as secondary tableaux. There, truly, does the Heart of the Infant Jesus reveal itself with all its graces: Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri (Titus 2:11). The language of poetry alone is capable of expressing these exquisite charms. Such language flowed from the heart of St. Alphonsus Liguori in one of his Canticles:

Mary sings—the ravish’d heavens
Hush the music of their spheres;
Soft her voice, her beauty fairer
Than the glancing stars appear;
While to Jesus slumbering nigh,
Thus she sings her lullaby.

Sleep my Babe! My God! My Treasure!
Gently sleep: but ah! the sight
With its beauty so transports me,
I am dying of delight:
Thou canst not thy Mother see,
Yet thou breathest flames to me.

If within your lids unfolded.
Slumbering eyes you seem so fair;
When upon my gaze you open.
How shall I your beauty bear?
Ah! I tremble when you wake.
Lest my heart with love should break.

Cheeks than sweetest roses sweeter,
Mouth where lurks a smile divine,
Though the kiss my Babe should waken,
I must press those lips to mine.
Pardon, dearest, if I say
Mother’s love will take no nay.

As she ceased, the gentle Virgin
Clasped the Infant to her breast,
And upon His radiant forehead
Many a loving kiss impress’d:
Jesus woke, and on her face
Fixed a look of heavenly grace.

Ah! that look, those eyes, that beauty,
How they pierce the Mother’s heart;
Shafts of love, from every feature,
Through her gentle bosom dart;
Heart of stone! can I behold
Mary’s love, and still be cold?

If alas, O heavenly beauty!
Now so late those charms I learn,
Now at least, and ever, ever,
With Thy love my heart will burn
For the Mother and the Child,
Rose and Lily undefiled.

Beauty of graciousness reveals itself in the heart of a virgin whose every sigh is for her God. But the immaculate emblem of all that is virginal is, assuredly, the Heart of Jesus. Jesus, the virgin God, Son of a virgin Mother, Spouse of a virgin Church. What beauty! Holy souls have well understood it. Ravished with this pure ideal they long to immolate their hearts on the chaste breast of Jesus and taste, close to Him, the austere delights of charity. By your charms, by your beauty, O Divine Spouse of Virgins, reign in the hearts of all men!

Finally, beauty which is gracious manifests itself in the heart of a friend: Amicus fidelis medicamentum vitae—a faithful friend is the medicine of life (Eccl. 6:16), says the Holy Spirit. He enters into all our joys and sorrows, he solaces us in our grief. But, God is our friend of friends Who remains when all others go away. Friendship can exist only between those who are equals: it is one of the necessary conditions. In the first Mysteries of the Rosary, God makes Himself our equal by taking upon Himself our nature; He makes us His equals by giving us His own. It is truly the loving heart of a friend we feel beating in each Mystery! When Jesus smiled at the shepherds and the Magi, when He instructed the doctors and the unlearned, when He let fall from His lips those consoling words: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you! (Matt. 11:28) then we recognize the tender voice of a friend, the loving and devoted Heart of Him Whose delights are to be with the children of men. We shall dwell no longer on the graciousness of the Sacred Heart. Pious meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary will enable us to taste and delight in its charms.

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