February 2: Feast of the Presentation

  • Presentation of Christ in the Temple by Hans Holbein the Elder, 1465-1524 (public domain)

This will not be a conference, my daughters, time does not allow it.  I want to tell you only some words about the beautiful feasts that we celebrate tomorrow and the next day, and to ask you to unite with us to obtain from the Heart of our divine Master a grace that we ask for, not only for his greater glory and the good of the Society, but also for you in particular.  Increase then, your fervor tonight when we permit adoration, and tomorrow, and so that your prayers may be unfailing, offer them to the Heart of Jesus through that of his Most Holy Mother.

But do not be content with prayer to the praiseworthy Heart.  Strive still to imitate his virtues and particularly those which he gives as an example in the double mystery of the Presentation and the Purification, as well as those of the Most Holy Virgin.  Let us contemplate these virtues for a moment, to encourage us to practice them.  We see Mary enter the Temple, carrying in her arms the praiseworthy offering that she comes to present to the Lord.  No one notices their arrival, and the High Priest himself sees in them nothing more than an ordinary infant and woman.  Only two people, Simeon and Anna, informed by the Holy Spirit, recognize under their simple appearances the Messiah promised to Israel and his admirable Mother.  Ah!  my good Daughters, the number of those who serve God, who allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the unique source of all goodness, has always been small compared to the number of those who forget him and follow only their own passions.  But among this small number, even rarer still are the truly faithful souls.  I do not doubt that you are all of this last number, for God has multiplied miracles to lift the obstacles that impede you from following to the sweet invitation to give your whole self to him; he has the right to require from you this proof of just recognition.

Three victims offer themselves today to the Lord.  We admire with what generosity the holy Infant Jesus from the beginning, in presenting himself to his divine Father, accepts for his glory and for the salvation of the world all the humiliations of his hidden life, all the cruel pain of his Passion, all the indignities of his death on the cross.  Mary hears with resignation the prediction of holy old Simeon, and receiving the sword of pain she begins to drive it herself into her heart.  Finally the holy prophet, happy to have seen the Savior, offers to God the sacrifice of his life.

My good Daughters, our divine Master does not want to sacrifice himself alone, he asks for victims to accompany him in his sacrifice.  Who will be these victims except religious souls, except those who are above all consecrated to the Heart of Jesus, and destined to help in the salvation of souls?

Yet what humility in the offering of Jesus and Mary!  Beginning with this of our divine Master: he enters in the Temple of his Father for the first time.  Will it not be just that there he receives a part of the honors that one renders to this great God, as he is the second Person of the adorable Trinity?  They are also owed to him and he shares with him the adoration and homage the angels offer him in heaven.  But no, he wishes to be unknown and he only appears to the people in the appearance of a poor infant.  And Mary, the most perfect and holiest creature who has ever been, the one whom God was to enrich more with his most precious gifts, appears here as only an ordinary woman, whose offering is that of the poor, two doves; and happy to be pure in the eyes of God, she hides from men’s eyes, in the apparent need of purification, this virginity which is more dear than even the dignity of the Mother of God.

Ah! my good Daughters, what can be said in view of such examples and from where comes the cost that humiliates us, to whom the humiliation is so justly due?  Ah!  It is that we do not meditate enough on the life of our divine Master and his holy Mother, for if we were well filled and penetrated, our conduct would reflect something.

Another lesson that we have in the mystery which occupies us is that of the obedience to the law.  The law of Moses ordained that mothers, forty days after having brought to the world a male child, should come carrying him to the Temple, to offer him to the Lord, and at the same time to purify themselves, and so at the prescribed time Jesus and Mary came to fulfill this law without omitting the least detail.  However she never looked at them as Jesus who was the author of this precept very well could have dispensed himself and Mary from it.  Why then this fidelity that we find in all the life of our divine Master, who himself said, “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it…?” Ah!  it is to teach us to be faithful, yes, particularly us, my good Daughters, who have the happiness of living under a Rule, which is the law of our divine Master.  So let us be religiously faithful to his example, without fault, not only to the most important points, but even to those which seem less useful when we judge them with the spirit of the world, and which are nevertheless great in the eyes of God.  We fear missing a consideration made to us, an established custom.  If we find difficulty there, we look on the Infant Jesus carried to the Temple by his holy Mother in order to obey the Law, and at the same time let us ask them to place in us these virtues which they want us to practice, and which alone can render us worthy to please them and to work for the salvation of souls.

Finally, my good Daughters, this is the third Sunday before Lent, that is to say, the beginning of a time of penance for the Church, and also a time when God is more forgotten and offended than other times; another reason to increase fervor and fidelity in order to console the Heart of Jesus from all the contempt which it receives in the world, and perhaps from such things we may have done in another time.  Time is pressing, my good Daughters, and I end by recommending you pray much, above all for the works and for the poor sinners, so that the Lord enlightens them and draws them back to him.

Madeleine Sophie Barat
29th Conference
First Friday and Vespers for the Eve of the Purification
January 31, 1833
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