06. Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord
God created Eve the first woman. The word Eve has the meaning of "mother of the living." By the will of the Creator the stream of motherhood emanates from Eve, and flows on timelessly through all generations into the sea of eternity. In every girl we see the prospective mother. The poet envisions the souls of children surrounding the curly head of every maiden.
The endowment and preparation of the soul of a mother are remarkably wonderful, but no less wonderful is the preparation of the body which is to carry the sacred burden of life. When the body of the maid has reached maturity, it then becomes capable, like the earth of receiving the seed, which will permit the child to grow. But this timid germ, this new person is still so helpless that it requires all the warmth of a mother's heart. The mother carries this germ protectingly near her heart, nourishes it with her heart's blood, warms and protects it against the hard knocks of a cold world, which could easily ruin this tiny seed,
The Silent House
Beneath the heart of woman nature has prepared a nestling place, the womb of mother, which is frequently and reverently mentioned in the Scriptures. This is the silent house that God has created, where the little ones are to grow. This house is neat and delicate. The walls that shall contain these tiny creatures are comfortably soft. This home has been prepared by God for the child, from the moment, when the wife is first overwhelmed with unutterable happiness that she is a mother. This is the hour and mystery of life and at the same time the hour and mystery of woman. God shares his power of creation with the parents. From this sacred triad, God, man, and woman, proceeds the mystery of a new life.
Dost hear that whisper in the womb?
It beats and pulses, whispers loud.
But why this whisper nine months' long?
It whispers, God, oh God, oh God.
(Mecs Laszlo: Comic Ballads)
Would you know the power and strength revealed at the commencement of motherhood? It would be necessary to study "The tragedy of man," by our celebrated poet Madach to comprehend it fully. The first man falls into sin. He is like a territory flooded by glowing lava, burning and destroying. Adam called to share the light of God, seeks consolation and help from Lucifer. He deceives Adam by lies and frauds, paints a glorious picture of the splendor of future generations. Once sin has been committed he mocks him and leaves him to his despair. Then the final lights threaten to go out. Adam approaches the yawning abyss. He speaks: "Now that I have lost God, should I continue to be the devil's fool?" But Eve calls: "O Adam, I feel it, I am to be a mother." Adam steps back from the abyss, falls upon his knees before God and is ready to carry on the battle of life. He cries out: "Raise me up to the light, or push me back into the pit of night, I will remain steadfast," What has brought about the miraculous change in Adam if not the miracle of motherhood?
It is an established fact that men do not believe much in the future and do not exert all their energies, except when they know that a baby is on the way.
The news, a child is on the way,
Has power to drive the clouds away.
E'en though the brow be furrowed deep
By daily care, by daily need.
But what shall we say about her who is to be a mother:
O blessed grace a mother to be.
To produce this sacred fruit,
As earth grants its fruits to man;
To clothe these naked souls
With flesh, which come to us
As sacred gifts from God on high.
She is in "other circumstances," her destiny has changed, it is a new condition. It is like walking in the cool of a spring day, a sacred spring, a "ver sacrum." There is a new feeling in the body, the heart, and soul. This germinating life within her forms a new sacred "ego" in the mother. Her sensations are those of the first buds of the year. The sunshine warms, and produces a prideful joy, but in the background there is the fear of a belated snow storm, there is the danger that these buds may never reach fruition.
A wonderful, celestial feeling awakens within her. This is the work of God. Mother is the first habitation of this new creature. Her blood pulses through the heart of this young babe, and from this source, blood of the mother is warmth, food and medicine at one and the same time. As the wheat-grain multiplies itself, so is the mother reborn in her children.
Everything, within, without, above, round about, sings loud or silently; all according to their nature sing the song of mother. Her whole being is a powerful magnificat rising to the realms of heaven. Every noble, pure mother has the privilege to repeat the song of the Mother of God: "He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name." The same words: "Blessed art thou amongst women" may be applied to every mother. For only by God's blessing and grace can a woman proceed. She bears the burden of hope, soon to be the source of life. She opens the door for every immortal soul, to God, to the Church, and the home. The archway of this great gate of motherhood stretches over into eternity.
The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in the creative power of God to bring new saints to heaven. The mother is closer to the Creator than any other creature. God has united Himself with her in performing this creative act, for she cannot of herself produce this miracle. God places this power into her hands and she carries out the divine commission. How glorious this selection to be permitted to be a mother. This song of the angels accompanies the prospective mother's footsteps. The Guardian Angel of the mother has been joined by the Guardian Angel of the child, and the two watch over mother and child, that no harm come to them. With what deep love does the mother embrace that being which she does not as yet know. She gives body and blood to the child. Longingly she awaits that day, when for the first time, her motherly eyes will rest upon her child.
Your eyes still shine with heaven's beauty
Your hands still strew abroad
All happiness and joy and blessing-
No harm is in their touch.
The earth you tread soils not your footsteps
And holy is your brow
As if enwreathed by crowning angels
In glorious innocence.
What will this tiny being be like? Will it be a boy or a girl? Whom will it resemble, the father or the mother? Or will it have the features of both?
O child, thou portrait masterpiece
What model sat for thee?
Whose are these eyes, these lips, this brow?
Ah yes, I see: 'tis God Himself-
His image, likeness, shines in thee!
And yet another dost thou copy-
Thy earthly father lives in thee!
And still more wonderous-
I am mirrored-I myself-in thee'
(Czike Lovich Ilona)
Sarah grown old, as related in the Bible, smiled when she heard that she was to become a mother. St. Ambrose thinks that this was a sign of future joy. And this smile of Sarah's has been immortalized by Raphael, the renowned artist, in his masterpiece in the Vatican Loggia; and rightly so, because it really belongs to the great events in the history of mankind.
During the time of pregnancy more than any other, the Mother is likely to be enlightened from on high. And is it surprising that heaven should then bow down to her and disclose the future to her? When the saintly Cunegunda was still a child in her mother's womb, it was revealed to her mother that she would give birth to a holy child. John the Baptist was sanctified in his mother's womb. "The infant leaped in her womb."
But let us go back even far before the time of the sacred nine months of pregnancy. The woman of faith knows that the history of her child goes back beyond the world, beyond creation. Even before the hills, the stars, and the myriad worlds came into existence, this small bit of somebody was in the mind and plans of God. Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification were already awaiting it. God formed the eras of history round about this child, guiding its forebears and progenitors, until the hour of its arrival would come.
And then, during the period of expectancy everything in the family revolves about the mother and the child to come. The mother dresses in accordance with her condition. She gives more attention to her condition and health. She keeps her body in the best physical condition and strives to be cheerful at all times.
But her smile soon turns to pain, as her time approaches. She withdraws from association with crowds, for even a momentary glance can be insulting. The window of her soul is closed outwardly, but inwardly she listens carefully for the first movements of the child.
Every reasonable woman knows that she cannot have a direct physical influence upon the future of her child. It would be foolish for her to spend her time looking at the beauty of classic statues, for she cannot impress their beauty upon the child. It will develop in accordance with the natural law.
It is just as foolish and superstitious to believe that the child in the mother's womb can be harmed by the "evil eye," or by witchcraft, or charms. Another common belief, without foundation, is that if a pregnant woman puts her hands over her face when suddenly frightened, it will leave a "birthmark" on the child. Even though people may energetically oppose all such superstitious beliefs, we maintain that the "birthmark" is not altogether a senseless fable. For, during the time of gestation, some impression is certainly made on the child if the mother suffers from some worry or trouble.
A wise understanding mother also knows that her child will not be born as a "blank page." Many corporal and mental characteristics are inherited. So every conscientious father and mother will try to keep the fire of happiness and peace burning in the family hearth. The mother will be circumspect in all things, so that she can pass on the torch of life to future generations with clean hands. In this regard she can accomplish much during this time by watching her words and actions. She should avoid everything that might in any way be harmful or prejudicial to the child. For love of this unborn mite, she should avoid dances, skating, and all violent exercises. Michelangelo was a seven months' child. His mother had gone horseback riding. The horse became frightened and shied, and she was thrown to the ground. On the instant the birth pangs began. Michelangelo was a genius, but as a result of this mishap, had to suffer all through his life.
The mother nourishes her child whenever she partakes of food. Her blood circulates through the child. For this reason she should be careful to avoid spicy food and alcoholic drink. Meat and milk-foods should be taken sparingly. The heroic Samson owed his giant strength to the fasts of his mother while pregnant. We have already mentioned that the expectant mother should wear garments befitting her condition. She should not be concerned about extravagant and stylish dress. A tightly laced dress and high-heeled shoes, even though they be the style, are dangerous and harmful to the unborn child. They should be avoided.
The great world about her is dead to her. The small world soon to come is her one and only concern. But this expected little world will bring happiness, though not without tears.
Even if a woman has great interest in her favorite work, and is ready to work hard, yet in her blessed condition she should refrain from it. She must not overwork or overstrain herself. She must avoid all violent movements and exercises and all heavy lifting. She requires a great deal of rest.
But she need not be fearful about ordinary house duties. These are necessary for the growth and health of the little one. This story is told about a woman from Zala-Erdod. While she was pregnant she was accustomed to go into the vineyard daily to clean out the weeds and to prune the vines. One evening, returning home with a hoe on her shoulder, her labor pains started. Along the road in the open field she gave birth to a son. She took care of herself as well as she could, then continued on her way, with the hoe over her shoulder and the infant in her apron. Suddenly she remembered the customary cup of wine for the baptismal celebration. So back she went, got the wine, and made her way to the town, with the wine, the hoe and the infant. The entire distance was more than twelve kilometers.
The reading of exciting or adventurous stories should also be avoided during this time. Something far more exciting is happening within her, below her heart, than any romance ever could be. Even her joy should be moderate.
The time has come, the time is near!
Heaven, earth, and field and house,
Thanks ye poet's songs, and dance
O fare ye well, the child is here.
During this time, while awaiting the advent of the child, the expectant mother should give herself to dreaming about fairy tales, angels, dolls and children's games.
This must there be and much more yet,
Softer than moss the tiny bed,
The pillow snow-like clearly gleams,
To welcome angel smiles and dreams.
The shift so tiny, dress so white,
Whiter than snow in sunshine bright.
Hoodlet made of silk so fine
Adorned with lace and gems divine.
Yes, sew with care, young mother, sew
'Tis what your babe expects, you know.
Take linen fine and silk and lace
Upon them flowers and fairies trace.
Life's coarser stuff let other hands
Weave for your child with time's sad strands.
(Kiss Toth Lenke)
The labor spent in preparing the infant's wear, the small shift, swaddling clothes, and dresses help to raise the spirits of the mother, to make her happy. But working at silly, foolish things will not have this effect.
The Mass Begins
The exterior preparations are all very necessary, but the inner preparation is of even greater importance. The expectant mother should prepare her soul. Her thoughts and dreams encompass the life within her. Too great joy or sadness, unexpected surprise, worry, fear, fright and excitement can all harm the child. This is quite reasonable. The body, reposing under her heart is being formed, and the circulation of the blood is the same for both mother and child. Everything that influences the mother has an effect upon the child. Her emotions of grief, sadness, fear, and so on, causing her heart to beat too rapidly have influence upon her child because their two hearts beat in unison and rhythm. The thoughts of the mother pass not only into the soul but also into the nervous system of the child, like a fine electric current. The nervous system of both is therefore affected. During this time the best helps are a sensible disposition, a serene mind, a reasonable balance of joy and seriousness.
The better the condition of the mother, the finer the child. What others give to the child can only be given after its birth; the mother, however, is continually influencing and developing the child.
Let Us Pray
Your greatest help is prayer. This is the time to offer prayers of petition and thanksgiving. A young expectant mother once asked me to pray for her, that her every heart beat might be only for her child. I began to go over in my mind the many things such a mother had to pray for-for herself, for the welfare of her child, for blessings in the realm of life and of grace. Why, the whole world is included in mother's prayer. After the battle of White Mountain in which her husband had been victorious, Donna Musica, then pregnant, kneeling in St. Nicholas Church, silently prayed: "Lord, I bring my blessed body before You, before You I humbly kneel. You alone know what it means to give life. You alone share with me the mystery of motherhood, the mystery of how one soul develops another, how one body nourishes another. The child lives in me, and both of us are united with You. We united pray for this poor, frightened, bleeding people round about us, waiting for some one to tend its wounds. O God, from You I have obtained this wonderful power to awaken in every responsive soul, a resonance, a song, as if I had mysteriously and magically established the rhythm of music in their souls." (Paul Claudel.)
The great offering should begin in the womb. This was done by the mother of the prophet Samuel, of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Andrew of Fiesole.
During the time of expectancy, St. Monica placed her infant in the hands of God, every day, every moment. The mother of St. Bernard received Holy Communion frequently during this time. It is related that the mother of St. Francis de Sales communicated almost daily during her time of waiting. At home the expectant mother should raise her eyes frequently in the day to the image of the divine Mother, who can understand her condition better than any one else. She will there find wonderful strength, for she will see that Our Lady too is carrying an infant in her arms.
During this time the face of a mother has an expression peculiar to her. Her face seems to be transparent. This is for her the holy season of Advent. Those about her are touched, and look upon her with reverence and awe. They act as if in church, or as if it were Christmas Eve and the Christ Child were expected.
Thou branch in blossom,
Thou invisible, swelling fruit
Coming from the open hand of God
Thou art urgent to rest upon my bosom
Thou art a joy upon earth.
How I would embrace and caress thee,
Cradle thee in my arms.
I would know how beautiful
How sweet thou art.
Thy beauty must come from God
It could never come from me.
O child, my very own,
When wilt thou come from out the darkness
When wilt thou hold out thy arms to me
When may I nestle thee upon my breast.
The days hurry along;
The nights pass away I lie awake, awaiting thy coming.
I am filling the valleys Leveling the hills,
Making straight and new the path
Along which God sends thee to me.
Purest blossom of my better life
Thou, my child, my own.
(Czike Lovich Ilona)
Again and again she asks herself: "Do I deserve to be a mother? An entirely new life takes its source within me. It lives in me; I may nourish it. I breathe for both of us, and its soul rests in me." My God, how the scientists have struggled and erred, from the ancient Gnostics to the modern Rosmini. The Church has clearly taught that our first parents were created body and soul by God. So we receive our bodies immediately from our parents, but our souls come directly from the hands of the Creator. The soul, however, does not have existence before the body. The soul is created at the moment when new life begins within the womb of the mother. This is our faith. From the moment when the child begins to exist, the mother becomes the mysterious workshop of God, about which the most learned men have no clear understanding, in spite of their best efforts. When the mother ponders deeply upon this great mystery, will not the blessed fruit of her womb begin to move and leap for joy, even as John in the bosom of his mother Elizabeth?
These months may not all be days of sunshine; rather, there may also be times of tempest and snowstorms. The mother may suffer from headaches, stomach trouble, depression, lassitude, and nervousness. This is the will of God, and the treasure you have is worth it. These things can be borne; our mothers went through them, and they survived. There are thousands and thousands of births taking place every day. All these mothers are helped in their hour of pain. Remember, all your pains and sufferings will be forgotten when you hold your newborn babe in your arms. Jesus tells us this in the Gospel. "A woman, when she is in labor, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world." Her joy is so great that in comparison her sufferings now seem infinitesimally small.
Naturally it is wise to have the ministrations of a good doctor. It is well to depend upon the knowledge and skill of the physician, but it is best to put your trust in the Divine Providence of God. Your confidence in God and your Guardian Angel should be absolute, for your angel has been keeping watch over your child from the first instant of its existence.
The education of the child should not begin only when the mother holds it in her arms, but from the moment when she knows that she has been blessed by God. The fundamental fact is that education begins with the mother's efforts at self-control and self-sanctification. Her peace of soul will also affect the child. She must avoid sin, govern her passions, and enrich her soul by seeking to comprehend fully the wonders and mysteries of our holy faith.
She should spend these months of waiting in inner purity of heart. She should cleanse her soul by the sacrament of penance and strengthen it with the Food of the strong. She should place her whole being in the hands of God, Who watches over mother and child. St. Monica did this. We read that she led an interior life, reading pious books and the Scriptures in order to sanctify the fruit within her womb. She tried doubly hard to preserve a clean and pious heart, to impress and influence the infant growing within her. Her son St. Augustine tells us that he felt the sweetness of the word of God while yet in the womb of his mother. He traced his every wholesome impulse back to its source in his mother's bosom. Mothers should pray that their child's soul be granted to give forth magic music such as will affect others with joy and a spirit of harmonious peace.
During this time she deserves consideration and reverence. There should be quiet in the house and they should tread on silent footsteps as on moss in the woods, for it is "the good God Who walks through the forest." This considerateness shown the mother, really concerns her budding child. Unfortunately there are thousands of mothers who receive no such consideration. This lack of peace falls back on the child. The unfortunate poet Lenau received his gloomy impressions, which later influenced his unhappiness in life, in his mother's womb.
The husband, who takes his paternal duties seriously, will certainly be of great help to his wife during this critical time. Even though the wife has the greater burden, yet he can share her worries and cares. If there is anything or anybody deserving respect and consideration it is certainly the expectant mother. Even the wildest tiger becomes tame in the presence of a woman about to become a mother. Only coarse and ignorant people mock and laugh cynically at a woman in such circumstances. No sensible human being can find pleasure therein except the devil "the enemy of life and a murderer from the beginning."
Many women are unfortunately forced to do hard work during this time. It should always be one of the first considerations in the Christian social program to relieve expectant mothers of heavy manual labor. This is in accord with God's plan of creation. To battle for this right in every possible way would in truth be a modern knightly service to women. The Virgin Mary is a prototype of this helpful service. After the greeting of the angel, she left Nazareth in Galilee to go in haste across the hill country to Judea, to visit her cousin Elizabeth, to share with her the joy and sorrow of motherhood.
The road of motherhood has started. Her joy over the happiness of her child will be lifelong, yet her heart will continue to bleed more and more as the child grows away from her. Though love may bridge this chasm, the child as it grows will never be so intimately united to her as in the days of expectant happiness.
May we never forget the womb that bore us, in which our body was so skillfully formed, in which we spent nine long months, and where we were warmed by the love of her motherly heart. The Holy Bible itself, which frequently and reverently speaks of the mother's womb, can be our inspiration in this regard.
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