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On the Conception of Our Lady, also on Her Birth

How men, when they are advancing, may learn to know their infirmities and secret evil inclinations; how they may die unto them and be freed from them; whether it be from the delights of things pertaining to the senses or the mind, or to the powers of the soul, or whatever else it may be. How the likeness of past habits must be driven out by the Likeness of the Life of Jesus Christ, so that men may come to understand with all the saints, the Height, the Depth, the Breadth and the Length of God.

Transite ad me, omnes qui concupiscitis me.

“Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey and the honeycomb.”

Dear children, in the last sermon on these words, which were spoken (of the Virgin Mary) by the Eternal Wisdom, I told you that these words referred to our Lady, whose dignity and honour can in nowise be expressed by man in words, for they surpass all knowledge in value. I described the works and ways which were necessary to the man who, rising up, desired to enter into the way of truth; then, what was necessary to him during his progress; and then, how the perfect man might arrive at the goal, and what his end would be.

I told you how man must first put away all crying sins, such as pride, impurity, covetousness, anger, and all the evil growths of the world, with all foolish desires; and, above all, everything that pertaineth to the flesh, whether of things animate or inanimate. In short, the man who does not turn bravely to God with all his heart and with all his mind, who does not love God from the bottom of his heart, and intend above all things to serve Him, and to be found at his death in Him, will never come to God; even though, as St Paul says, he were to do so as many good works as all men now living, and were so wise that he spake with the tongue of Angels, and allowed his body to be burned, and gave all his goods to feed the poor. Now, how have they turned to God with all their love and with all their minds, who give their hearts, of their own free will, to created beings, although they know that they are thus occupying the places where God should dwell, and of which they are consciously depriving Him? God careth not for works, when He is deprived of the heart and of love. Of what use is the chaff to Him, if another has the wheat?

Now when these grosses sins are cut off in the growing man with a diligence which is like unto a sharp steel, and of which I have already spoken, he will be sharpened like a sharp knife, and whetted by the great righteousness of God, which lets no word nor deed, however small they may be, pass by unpunished. He must remember the secret and terrible judgments of God; for no one knows how it will be with him; for no one knows whether he is the subject of God’s anger, or of His favour. Now, when this man has begun be cutting off all wicked vices, he must then take heed of that which is left in the bottom of his heart, namely the inclination thereto, which is the result of old habits. For these old habits make excuses for themselves, and strive to appear as though they were virtues; and yet they are only counterfeits; when pride, which a man fondly imagines he had overcome, lies hidden in his heart. For instance, care about dress and such-like matters remains, and it is called cleanliness; or pleasure is found in things pertaining to the senses, such as food or drink; and it is called necessity. Then some men are so angry and wrathful, longing to inform against every man and to judge him; and they are so suspicious and impatient; and then they call it justice; while pure laziness is called illness.

Children, if you insist on any of these things, and glory in your own kindness and in your own judgment, and in your own lofty and wise works and ways—when the end comes, the Devil will come and take away those with him who fondly imagine that all is well with them. This will be the case, especially, with those who conceal their pride beneath the appearance of humility, and who, wise in their own conceit, should of right stand under Lucifer’s banner; for the higher they stand in their own esteem, the deeper will they fall into the abyss.

Children, look to yourselves. This is not a question of small things. If ye were to be kept in a hot room a night and a day, ye would think it very hard; I say nothing of burning heat for many a year, or perhaps for all eternity. Therefore commune with your own selves, for the kingdom of God is within you. See with whom ye associate, with whom ye readily stay; and examine the reasons and the tendency to all evil habits. For if a man gives way to a fault for a year or two, that fault takes such deep root in his heart, that he can scarcely overcome it with all his might. Therefore young men should guard themselves carefully, so that no evil tendencies may take root in them. They must root out all infirmities at the beginning, when it is far more easy to do so than later. Now there are four things, especially, which man must guard against, four powers which are so injurious and evil that they are like jagged teeth.

The first is the love of visible things; and in this lies the strength of desire. It is scarcely possible to imaging or describe the harm men do to themselves thereby. Men who desire to be good, begin with this or that, with one thing or another, and are so occupied with the seed-sowing, that they do not keep to the full truth. They do not look into their own hearts, which are closed up, like some unknown thing a thousand miles off; there outward and visible things are of more importance to them. Thus they go on avoiding themselves, so that they do not know where they are.

The second power is anger. This is used inordinately; for it should never be used outwardly, except in those things which are displeasing to God. In itself it is a noble power; but in many men it produces very evil growths. They suddenly fall with vehemence on anything whatsoever; and in false righteousness desire to censure it, to judge of all works and ways; and thus they deceive themselves and other men with their violence, their unrestrained and bitter anger, and their loud, harsh, unkind and angry words.

The third evil is to be found in the power of the light of reason, to which many men trust to their own hurt. They trust in their own reason and glory in it, and they compare themselves with the all-wise and living and essential Truth; for he, who says he possesses it, possesses it not. Thus many a man deceives himself and imagines he possesses all things, because he sees them in his own imagination, while they are hundreds of miles away; and thus he misses that noble treasure, deep humility; and accepts the counterfeit before him and also before other men.

The fourth evil is the secret delight which is often taken in talent. This holds sway in many men; they are deceived by its good appearance, and pleasure attracts them more than divine love; they take pleasure for God, and that which they imagine God is only pleasure. Thus, if their pleasure were to vanish, so also would their diligence. Look well to yourselves; for many a thing which seems as though it came from divine love, has so many additions, that the enjoyment, the taste and the circumstances excite us more than we imagine. Sometimes this arises from new emotions, from inclination, or from fear of hell, or from the desire to be blessed; and this is man’s natural desire. Know, children, that those who do not seek God from the heart, God will neither be their end nor their reward. All these things of which ye have heard must be diligently cut off, as with a sharp knife, which must be whetted on the severe judgments of God, and on His unchangeable righteousness, which lets nothing escape.

Now, when these outward infirmities have been cut off, there still remains beneath the tendency to sin, the likeness of past habits; and this must be driven out by the Likeness of Jesus Christ. As one nail must be driven out by another, so must man imprint this Likeness devoutly and firmly on the ground of his heart, so that all inequalities in him may be done away and extinguished. Now, as God has given great power to minerals and herbs, to drive out disease, by what power do ye believe that the Son of God will drive out all the diseases of the soul, but by His holy Sufferings, His Death, and His sacred Likeness. Now, because man can do nothing by himself, he must exercise himself in holy suffering by means of prayer; he must cast himself down secretly at the feet of the heavenly Father, and beseech Him for the sake of His well-beloved Son, and by all His sufferings, to help him; for without Him he cannot attempt or succeed in anything. He must train himself never to allow the sacred Sufferings, nor the Likeness of his Lord to forsake his heart; and he must allow no strange likeness to find a place there. In order to do this, he must lift up his heart and mind to the heights of the glory of the Godhead, on which he must gaze with holy fear and longing desire. When he lays his dark and miserable ignorance before God, he will understand what Job said: “A Spirit went before me.” 1313    Job iv. 15. This leading of the Spirit causes a great disturbance in the heart of the man. The clearer, the truer, the plainer this leading is, the stronger, the quicker, the truer and the plainer will be the work, the strength and the conversion of the man; and he will more plainly recognise his place of abode. Then the Lord comes in a quick glance, and lights up the heart of the man, and will be Lord of all his work. When the man becomes conscious of the Lord’s Presence, he must let his work alone and worship Him; all his powers must be still, and there must be calm. Otherwise the works of man would be but a hindrance, and his good works also; for he must do nothing but submit himself to God. But when man is again left to himself, and he is no longer conscious that God is working in him in any way that he can clearly recognize, then he must begin again to work diligently, and to discipline himself in holiness. Thus the man will sometimes work, and sometimes rest, as he is moved of God and entreated; everyone must do as seems best to him, either working or resting, so that he may be drawn to God. But he who cannot rest alone must make use of sacred pictures, and of discipline, so that he may be rooted and grounded in holy love, and may comprehend with all saints the height, the length, the depth and the breath.

To understand all this is impossible; but it is possible to cling to it with love and pure intentions. The mind must lift itself up above all visible things, and above all the lower things of sense, and realise that God, Who can do all things, did not choose to make a creature so noble, that with the help of his natural understanding he could attain to the knowledge of the very essence of the Being of God. For the depth of the divine abyss cannot be fathomed by deep humility. Therefore our Lady, taking no heed of all the great blessings that God had poured out upon her, spake only of her lowliness, for which all generations should call her blessed, because God had regarded her only.

The breadth of God must be understood as the universal love which He manifests in all places, in all lands, and in all the works and ways that are good. There is nothing so broad or so universal as God, nor so near to the inmost heart of man; he who will seek Him there, shall find Him. Thus every day we find Him in the Blessed Sacrament, in all the Friends of God, and in all creatures. This breadth must be sought with an earnest, fervent mind, that is, a mind that is empty and untroubled by all other things, and that has secretly yielded itself up with all its powers in the Presence of God. To that man will be given freedom of spirit and supernatural grace; he will be exalted in mind above all forms and fashions, and will soar above all created things. St Gregory speaks of it thus: “If we would come to the knowledge of invisible things, we must look beyond all things that are visible.”

The length is eternity, where there is no before and no after; but where all is still and unchanging, and in which all things exist, in a steady unchanging vision of Him, in whom all things exist. This length must be sought by man in a steady, unchanging and humble spirit; unchanging in God, and renouncing all love, all sorrow and all creatures, that he man be satisfied in God, may rest in peace, and may leave all things to God. Thus the noble word: Transite, will be accomplished; for man will overcome all things, and will be filled with the divine Birth of this lovely, noble Virgin, to whom all men should pay great honour. However highly they may be exalted, they should give time and trouble to honour and serve her. May we also follow her, that we may also come to that Birth by the help of God. Amen.

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