413. Among the types which foreshadowed the most holy Mary in the written Law, none was more expressive than the ark of the covenant, not only on account of the material of which it was constructed, and its contents, but also on account of the purposes for which it served and the effects which the Lord wrought through it and in connection with it in the ancient synagogue. It was all a prototype of this Lady and of what She was to do in the new Church of the Gospel. The incorruptible cedar, of which it was made, not by chance, but by divine disposition (Exod. 25, 10), typified clearly our mystical Ark Mary, free from the corruption of actual sin and from the secret worminess of original guilt with its in separable ferment of disorderly passions. The finest and purest gold (Exod. 25, 11), which covered it on the out side and inside, certainly indicated the most perfect and exalted graces and gifts, which shone forth in her heavenly thoughts, in her works and activities, in her habits and the operations of her faculties ; so that in no exterior or interior part of this mystical Ark could be discerned ought, which at any moment of time was not entirely covered by the gold of the most exquisite and finest carat.
414. The stone tablets of the law, the vase of the manna and the miraculous staff (Heb. 9, 4), which that
ancient ark contained and preserved, cannot be surpassed in expressive significance of the eternal and incarnate Word, enclosed within that living Ark the most holy Mary, for He was her only-begotten Son, the living foundation-rock of the evangelical Church (I Cor. 3, 11). In this virginal ark of Mary was placed the key-stone which was to join the Gentiles and the Jews, and was torn from the mountain of its eternal generation (Ephes. 2, 20) in order that on it might be written by the finger of God the new Law of grace. Thus in the old ark Mary was foreshadowed as the great Queen, who was to be the depositary of all that God provided and operated for his creatures. She also enclosed within Herself the manna of the Divinity and of grace, and the wonder-working staff of miracles and prodigies, so that this heavenly and mystical Ark alone contained the fountain of grace, namely God himself, overflowing into the rest of man kind and forming the nucleus of all the miracles and prodigies of God. In Mary therefore all that the Lord desired to operate and manifest is contained and de posited.
415. Accordingly the ark of the testament (not in it self, but on account of the truth which it foreshadowed) served as the seat and foot-stool of propitiation, where the Lord was seated in the tribunal of his mercies, to listen to his people, to answer them and distribute his gifts and favors ; for the ancient ark typified most holy Mary, the throne of grace and the true mystical propitiatory which He had expressly made for his indwelling. Thus it seems that the tribunal of the divine justice remains set up in God himself, while the propitiatory and the tribunal of his mercy was set up in Mary, in order that to Her, as a throne of grace, we might approach in assured confidence to present our petitions for those benefits, graces and mercies, which outside of the Queen Mary, are unheard of and unattainable by the human race.
416. Such a sacred and mysterious Ark, constructed by the hands of the Lord himself for his habitation and as the propitiatory of his people, could not remain with propriety outside of his temple, where was preserved that other material ark, which was only a figure of this spiritual and true Ark of the new covenant. Therefore its Author ordained that She be placed in his house and temple as soon as the first three years of her infancy should be completed. But I am astonished to find a wonderful difference in regard to that which happened with the primitive and figurative ark and that which came to pass with the second and true ark of the covenant. For, though the ancient ark had no other importance than that of presignifying Mary and the mysteries connected with Her, when the king David transferred it to different places, and when afterwards Solomon his son placed it in the temple, as in its proper place of rest, all was done with great festivities and rejoicings of that ancient people, as is shown by the solemn processions arranged by David from the house of Abinadab to the house of Obededom (II King 6, 10), and thence to the tabernacle of Sion, his own city (Ibid. 12) ; likewise, when Solomon transferred it from Sion to the new temple, which he had built as the house of God and of prayer by command of the Lord.
417. On all these occasions the ancient ark of the Tes tament was borne along in public veneration and most solemn celebrations, amid the strains of music, dancing, sacrifices, the rejoicings of the kings and of the whole people of Israel, as is related in the sacred history of the second and third book of the Kings and the first and sec ond of Paralipomenon. But our true and mystical Ark, the most holy Mary, although She was the most precious, the most estimable and worshipful of all the creatures, was not brought to the temple with such solemn show and public ostentation; during the transferring of this mysterious Ark, the sacrifice of animals, the royal pomp, and the royal majesty were wanting. She was carried from the house of her father Joachim in the arms of her humble mother Anne, who, though she was not very poor, wished to bear her beloved Daughter on her arms in order to present Her in the temple without ostentation of riches, alone and unnoticed by the people. The glory and majesty of this procession, according to the wishes of the Most High, was to be divine and invisible. All the sacraments and mysteries of the most holy Mary are so exalted and hidden that according to the inscrutable decrees of the Lord many of them are concealed to this day. He it is that holds in his hands the time and the hour for the revelation of all things, and of each one in particular.
418. Lost in admiration of this wonder, prostrate in the presence of the Most High and in the praise of his high judgments, I was favored by his Majesty with the following explanation: “Understand, my soul, that if I provided that the ark of the old Testament be venerated with so much festivity and outward show, it was because it was an express figure of Her, who was to be the Mother of the incarnate Word. The first ark was material and irrational, and this ostentation and celebrity could be arranged for it without difficulty; but during her life on earth in mortal flesh, I would not permit such celebration in connection with the true and living ark, Mary ; for thou and the rest of the souls are to look upon Her as an example during your pilgrimage. I do not de sire those who are written in my memory for eternal election to expect honors and the inconsiderate praise and applause of men as a part of their reward for working in my honor and service during mortal life. Nor must they be put in danger of dividing the love of their God, who justifies them and makes them saints, with those who merely proclaim them as such. The one and only Creator has made them and sustains them, illumines and defends them ; therefore their love and attention must be single and undivided, and it must not be diverted even by a thankful regard for those who honor them as just. The love of God is most sensitive, the human will is most frail and limited ; if it is divided, it can only be small and very imperfect in its activity, easily coming to nought. Therefore I did not wish Her, who was to be the example of all holiness and who was free from all danger of a fall through my protection, to be renowned, or specially honored during her life, nor was She to be brought to the temple amid the outward show of honor.”
419. “Moreover, I have sent my Only-begotten from heaven and have created Her, who was to be his Mother, for the very purpose of drawing the world from its error and of undeceiving mortals, who have established the un just and sinful law, that the poor are to be despised and the rich esteemed, that the humble are to be humiliated and the proud to be exalted, the virtuous to be maligned and the sinful applauded, that the timorous and modest are to be considered as fools and the arrogant to be held as valiant, that poverty should be considered as shameful and unfortunate, while riches, pomp, ostentation, splen dor, honors, perishable pleasures should be sought and prized by foolish and carnal men. All this the incarnate Word and his Mother, in coming among them, were to reprove and condemn as deceitful and false, so that mortals might perceive the terrible danger of loving and entertaining so blindly the deceitful sensible pleasures, in which they live. Through this insensate love it happens that they so persistently fly from humility, meekness and poverty and evade all that pertains to the true virtue of penance and abnegation of self. And yet these virtues are truly acceptable in my eyes and according to my jus tice; for the holy, the honorable, the just actions, are to be rewarded with eternal glory, whereas the contrary ones are to be visited by everlasting punishment.”
420. “This truth earthly and carnal eyes do not see, nor do they care to attend to the light which teaches them. But thou, soul, observe it and write it in thy heart, taking an example from the incarnate Word and from his Mother, and imitating Them closely therein. She was holy and, in my estimation, most acceptable to Christ; to Her was due all the veneration and worship of men, and even more than they could give ; yet I provided and ordained in her regard that She receive no honor or recognition at that time, so that She, as the Mistress of truth, might be the most shining example of all that is holy, perfect, estimable and safest for the instruction and guidance of my elect. She was to be the shining example of humility, of retirement, of contempt and horror for the dreadful vanity of the world, of love for sufferings, tribulations, insults, afflictions and dishonors inflicted by creatures. All holiness is adverse and contrary to the applause, honors and estimation of the world, and I decreed that the most pure Mary should not be burdened by them, nor do I desire that my friends should enjoy or be pleased with them. If for my glory it sometimes happens that they become known to the world, it is not because they have desired it or looked for it; but because they, always remaining in the humility and in the sentiment proper to their state, resign them selves to my Providence. For themselves and as far as they are concerned, they seek and love that which the world despises and which the incarnate Word and his most holy Mother strove after and have taught.” This was the answer which the Lord gave to my wondering inquiry and thus did He instruct me in regard to what I should seek and strive after.
421. The three years time decreed by the Lord having been completed, Joachim and Anne set out from Nazareth, accompanied by a few of their kindred and bringing with them the true living Ark of the covenant, the most holy Mary, borne on the arms of her mother in order to be deposited in the holy temple of Jerusalem. The beautiful Child, by her fervent and loving aspirations, hastened after the ointments of her Beloved, seeking in the temple Him, whom She bore in her heart. This humble procession was scarcely noticed by earthly creatures, but it was invisibly accompanied by the angelic spirits, who, in order to celebrate this event, had hastened from heaven in greater numbers than ordinary as her bodyguard, and were singing in heavenly strains the glory and praise of the Most High. The Princess of heaven heard and saw them as She hastened her beautiful steps along in the sight of the highest and the true Solomon. Thus they pursued their journey from Nazareth to the holy city of Jerusalem, and also the parents of the holy child Mary felt in their hearts great joy and consolation of spirit.
422. They arrived at the holy temple, and the blessed Anne on entering took her Daughter and Mistress by the hand, accompanied and assisted by saint Joachim. All three offered a devout and fervent prayer to the Lord; the parents offering to God their Daughter, and the most holy Child, in profound humility, adoration and worship, offering up Herself. She alone perceived that the Most High received and accepted Her, and, amid divine splendor which filled the temple, She heard a voice saying to Her : “Come, my Beloved, my Spouse, come to my temple, where I wish to hear thy voice of praise and worship.” Having offered their prayers, they rose and betook them selves to the priest. The parents consigned their Child into his hands and he gave them his blessing. Together they conducted Her to the portion of the temple buildings, where many young girls lived to be brought up in retirement and in virtuous habits, until old enough to assume the state of matrimony. It was a place of retirement especially selected for the first-born daughters of the royal tribe of Juda and the sacerdotal tribe of Levi.
423. Fifteen stairs led up to the entrance of these apartments. Other priests came down these stairs in order to welcome the blessed child Mary. The one that had received them, being according to the law one of a minor order, placed Her on the first step. Mary, with his permission, turned and kneeling down before Joachim and Anne, asked their blessing and kissed their hands, recommending herself to their prayers before God. The holy parents in tenderest tears gave Her their blessing; whereupon She ascended the fifteen stairs without any assistance. She hastened upward with incomparable fervor and joy, neither turning back, nor shedding tears, nor showing any childish regret at parting from her parents. To see Her, in so tender an age, so full of strange majesty and firmness of mind, excited the admiration of all those present. The priests received Her among the rest of the maidens, and saint Simeon con signed Her to the teachers, one of whom was the prophetess Anne. This holy matron had been prepared by the Lord by especial grace and enlightenment, so that She joyfully took charge of this Child of Joachim and Anne. She considered the charge a special favor of divine Providence and merited by her holiness and virtue to have Her as a disciple, who was to be the Mother of God and Mistress of all the creatures.
424. Sorrowfully her parents Joachim and Anne re traced their journey to Nazareth, now poor as deprived of the rich Treasure of their house. But the Most High consoled and comforted them in their affliction. The holy priest Simeon, although he did not at this time know of the mystery enshrined in the child Mary, obtained great light as to her sanctity and her special selection by the Lord; also the other priests looked upon Her with great reverence and esteem. In ascending the fifteen stairs the Child brought to fulfillment, that, which Jacob saw happening in sleep ; for here too were angels ascending and descending: the ones accompanying, the others meeting their Queen as She hastened up ; whereas at the top God was waiting in order to welcome Her as his Daughter and Spouse. She also felt by the effects of the overflowing love, that this truly was the house of God and the portal of heaven.
425. The child Mary, when brought to her teacher, knelt in profound humility before her and asked her blessing. She begged to be admitted among those under her direction, obedience and counsel, and asked her kind forbearance in the labor and trouble, which She would occasion. The prophetess Anne, her teacher, received Her with pleasure, and said to Her: “My Daughter, Thou shalt find in me a helpful mother and I will take care of Thee and of thy education with all possible solicitude.” Then the holy Child proceeded to address Her self with the same humility to all the maidens which were then present; each one She greeted and embraced, offering Herself as their servant and requesting them, as older and more advanced than She in the duties of their position, to instruct and command Her. She also gave them thanks, that without her merit they admitted Her to their company.
Instruction given me by the Most Holy Virgin Mary.
426. My daughter, the greatest happiness, which can befall any soul in this mortal life, is that the Almighty call her to his house consecrated to his service. For by this benefit He rescues the soul from a dangerous slavery and relieves her of the vile servitude of the world, where, deprived of true liberty, she eats her bread in the sweat of her brow. Who is so dull and insipid as not to know the dangers of the worldly life, which is hampered by all the abominable and most wicked laws and customs introduced by the astuteness of the devil and the perversity of men? The better part is religious life and retirement; in it is found security, outside is a torment and a stormy sea, full of sorrow and unhappiness.
Through the hardness of their heart and the total forgetfulness of themselves men do not know this truth and are not attracted by its blessings. But thou, O soul, be not deaf to the voice of the Most High, attend and cor respond to it in thy actions: I wish to remind thee, that one of the greatest snares of the demon is to counteract the call of the Lord, whenever he seeks to attract and incline the soul to a life of perfection in his service.
427. Even by itself, the public and sacred act of receiving the habit and entering religion, although it is not always performed with proper fervor and purity of intention, is enough to rouse the wrath and fury of the infernal dragon and his demons ; for they know that this act tends not only to the glory of the Lord and the joy of the holy angels, but that religious life will bring the soul to holiness and perfection. It very often happens, that they who have received the habit with earthly and human motives, are afterwards visited by divine grace, which perfects them and sets all things aright. If this is possible even when the beginning was without a good intention, how much more powerful and efficacious will be the light and influence of grace and the discipline of religious life, when the soul enters under the influence of divine love and with a sincere and earnest desire of find ing God, and of serving and loving Him?
428. Before the Most High reforms or advances those, who for any reason enter the religious state, it is no more than right, that in turning away from the world they avert also their eyes from it and blot out from their memory all its images, forgetting all that they have in so praiseworthy a manner left behind. Those that neglect this requirement and are ungrateful and disloyal to ward God, will doubtlessly fall under the punishment of the wife of Lot (Gen. 19, 26), and if on account of the goodness of God they do not suffer this punishment in an equally open and visible manner, they nevertheless undergo it interiorly, remaining congealed and full of dryness, without fervor or advance in virtue. Forsaken by grace they thus do not attain the end of their vocation, make no progress in religion, nor find any spiritual consolation in it, and do not merit to be visited by the Lord as children, but to be left to their own resources like unfaithful and fugitive slaves. Remember, Mary, that for thee all the world must be crucified and dead; that thou must have for it no memory, retain none of its images, pay it no attention, nor have any inclination toward any of its creatures. If sometimes it is necessary to exercise charity with thy neighbors, see that thou ordain it well and that thou safeguard beforehand the good of thy soul, its security and quiet, its interior tranquillity and peace. In these points, as far as is possible without sin, I admonish and command thee to go to the greatest extremes, if thou wishest to remain in my school.