September 15, 2019

Hail His Tabernacle

One of the most beautiful Marian prayers, which really touches my heart whenever I pray it, is that of St. Francis of Assisi: A Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In one of his salutations, the Poverello salutes Mary with the following phrase: Hail His Tabernacle.

When one reads prayerfully this passionate prayer dedicated to the Mother of God, one must share what the great Franciscan theologian and Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, says of St. Francis’s belief regarding Mary’s Motherhood:

“‘He loved with an unspeakable affection the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, forasmuch as that She had made the Lord of glory our Brother, and that through Her we have obtained mercy’ (Leg. Mai. IX,3). For who can make the Lord our Brother, if She not also be our Mother?’”

The transformational power of Mary’s Motherhood, as Francis intelligently portrays in his salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, of her being Lady, Queen, Holy Mary Theotokos, Virgin made Church and the One elect by the Most Holy Father of Heaven, whom He consecrated with His Most Holy beloved Son and with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete; in whom was and is all fullness of grace and every good, makes me recall a very powerful spiritual experience I had some days ago in the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady in Malta; precisely in Mosta, commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta or the Mosta Dome.

The occasion was not a very happy one. In fact, it was the funeral mass for the mother of a very well-known Maltese member of parliament whom I have known for quite some time. Hers was a life of utmost simplicity and humility. As a matter of fact, when preaching about her, I felt the peaceful and harmonious symbiosis with the Mother of God herself.

For instance, the more I looked at the congregation, which fully-packed the Church, who were actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration, the more urgently I felt the need to remind myself the joy of being simple and humble, like Mary was. As Jesus said: I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will (Mt 11:25-26). 

Another gospel passage that the Holy Spirit gave me the grace to allude to in this funeral homily, and which strongly resonates with Mary’s life, is that taken from Luke’s gospel. Here, Jesus is talking about the right disposition to have in order to welcome God’s Kingdom. Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:15-17). Did not Mary possess this childlike attitude? Was not her heart completely opened to God like that of a child? Otherwise, how can we explain the fact that she is the first and perfect disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

In this homily, Mary’s simplicity simply continued to shine in front of my eyes as well as in front of those who were receptive to the Spirit’s anointing at that moment. Throughout this exercise of God’s grace, St. Faustina’s Diary proved to be pivotal in this holy direction the Spirit was leading us, as His flock, into. Observe what St. Faustina writes in entry 228: With the trust and simplicity of a small child, I give myself to You today, O Lord Jesus, my Master. I leave You complete freedom in directing my soul. Guide me along the paths You wish. I won’t question them. I will follow You trustingly. Your merciful Heart can do all things!

Furthermore, St. Faustina’s Diary justifies the reason why Mary, in her Magnificat, jubilantly proclaims: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden (Luke 1:46-48). Mary was capable of accepting God’s salvation of her because, in her simplicity and humility, she was attuned to His loving and unfathomable plan of incarnating himself. Hence, Faustina comments: When I started the Holy Hour, I wanted to immerse myself in the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. Then I heard a voice in my soul: Meditate on the mystery of the Incarnatio. And suddenly the Infant Jesus appeared before me, radiant with beauty. He told me how much God is pleased with simplicity in a soul. Although My greatness is beyond understanding, I commune only with those who are little. I demand of you a childlike spirit (Diary, 332).

Only those who harbour a childlike spirit can really grow, persevere and become fruitful in their relationship with the Creator and Saviour. Only those who keep praying for the virtue of humility can, in fact, glorify God and become closer and closer to Him. Mary is certainly the example par excellence of this spiritual growth. Her prayer can be easily detectable in St. Faustina’s very words: Lord, although You often make known to me the thunders of Your anger, Your anger vanishes before lowly souls. Although You are great, Lord, You allow yourself to be overcome by a lowly and deeply humble soul. O humility, the most precious of virtues, how few souls possess you! I see only a semblance of this virtue everywhere, but not the virtue itself. Lord, reduce me to nothingness in my own eyes that I may find grace in Yours (Diary, 1436).

Finally, as I gave a quick glance at the enormity of the Church, which I admirably call it “our little Vatican in Malta”, since it has some of St. Peter’s Basilica’s basic structural characteristics, and fixed my eyes on the titular statue of the Assumption of Mary, originally executed by the Maltese sculptor Salvatore Dimech in 1868 and then completely and marvellously restored by another Maltese great sculptor, Vincent Apap in 1948, came into my heart the words which St. Faustina wrote concerning her departure from this world: O God, how much I desire to be a small child. You are my Father, and You know how little and weak I am. So I beg You, keep me close by Your side all my life and especially at the hour of my death. Jesus, I know that Your goodness surpasses the goodness of a most tender mother (Diary, 242).

And, it is definitely because her life goal was to be with Her God that Mary, at the hour of her death, could freely recount from St. Faustina’s lips: Today, the Lord visited me, pressed me to His Heart and said, Rest, My little child. I am always with you (Diary, 1011). And, that today, once and for, is defined in that famous apostolic constitution by Venerable Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, of 1 November 1950, which says “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (no.44).

Only the most humble and living Tabernacle among all women can contain in her Our Lord not merely physically but also spiritually. Yes! Mary held Her Lord and our Lord in her words, silence, actions, and thoughts; in other words, in her entire being. Only she could conclude her earthly life in such an exemplary manner, by being assumed body and soul into the heavenly glory! Amen!

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

FR MARIO ATTARD OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. Currently, he is one of the six chaplains working at Mater Dei Hospital. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ and hosts radio programmes about the spiritual care of the sick.

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Written by Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
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