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“women !” Never, surely, since the world began was such a reverent salutation from one of God's highest Archangels coming directly from the presence of God, bestowed on any daughter of Adam. Well might the lowly maid be overpowered by such a greeting. The dazzling majesty of the celestial visitant, and the deep sense of her own unworthiness terrify her. “ When she saw him, • she was troubled at his presence,” and began to “cast in her mind,” what the salutation might mean. With re-assuring accents the Angel addresses her, “Fear not, Mary, for thou “hast found favour with God; and, behold, thou "shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring “forth a Son, and shalt call His Name JESUS. “He shall be great. And He shall be called the “Son of the Highest. And the Lord God shall “give unto Him the Throne of His father David, “ And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for “ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no " end."

And now, mark the strong faith of this wondrous maiden— the invariable accompaniment of genuine humility, humility which, distrusting self, clings and trusts implicitly to God. She

staggers not” at this amazing “ Promise of

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“God, through unbelief;" but abides " strong "in faith,” “ fully persuaded that what God «hath promised He is able also to perform." She meekly, therefore, enquires of the Angel how this Mystery is to be brought about, seeing that she is yet unmarried, and that something whispers to her inmost spirit that such a Birth can result from no mere earthly and natural generation. The Angel finding her thus prepared to accept the whole truth, proceeds with his astounding revelation :

“ The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and " the Power of the Highest shalt overshadow “thee. Therefore also that Holy Thing which “shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of “God.” Yes, awful, inscrutable truth—the Son of God, and yet “born of thee: issuing from thy virginal bosom, and yet, not the less “very “God of very God."

To strengthen a faith which might well have given way under the crushing weight of an announcement so glorious and inconceivable, and also as a sign for the fulfilment in its time of the Mystery of “God made flesh," the Angel encouragingly refers her to the state of her « cousin Elizabeth,” who in her old age had by

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the power of God received strength to conceive;-adding, “ for with God nothing shall be “impossible.”

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the « Lord: be it unto me according to thy word.

O moment of supreme interest in the history of man's Redemption! For a brief space, the

, Salvation of the world was hanging upon the will of a poor country girl. This may sound strange: but it is true. There must be the willing surrender of the human instrument, before God can employ it. The hands of the Omnipotent are tied, when the creature mistrusts, or hesitates to respond to, His Word. He “can do no mighty work,when there is “ unbelief” in those through whom, or upon whom, He wills to work. But here, in this “humble and meek” one, there was just that strong, self-forgetting, unquestioning faith which He needed; that entire trust in His Power, that complete repose in His goodness, that absolute acceptance of His word, that perfect linking and clasping of her will with His Will, which He looked and longed for-so that every bar to the consummation of the Mystery was removed. 66 The Angel departed from her.” And already the Celestial Overshadowing had taken place : already was Incarnate God being secretly formed within her : already had man's Redemption and the Salvation of the world begun to be realised.

But whenever God greatly graces, there He greatly tries. And Blessed Mary had to discover that, although she was to be the honoured instrument of bringing Life and Joy into the world, and so of counteracting the mischief wrought by her forerunner Eve, who had brought in Death and sorrow, yet was she to have no personal immunity from the woes entailed upon the race by the natural “ Mother of all living."

Her humility and meekness, her patience and faith, have to be subjected to the severest tests. GOD will gradually perfect His work in her: He will purge her as gold, and make her thoroughly worthy of Himself.

She is to bring forth a Son. The Angel tells her that her Child is to occupy the Royal Throne of David, that He is to be “Great,” to be “ called the Son of the Highest,” to reign for ever, to be the Founder of an Everlasting Kingdom. Then what will her position be? Surely, she must have been more than human, if such a question never arose in her mind. As a presage of what was to come, while paying the visit to her cousin Elizabeth, she hears her old friend and relation reverently designate her as

the Mother of my Lord.Yea, she learns that the very

babe in Elizabeth's womb has “leaped ” in sacred joy and lowly obeisance before the Eternal King Who, in the secret place of His Tabernacle, was yet being “fearfully and won“ derfully made.”

Well, the time of the Nativity draws near; and with it, a first great trial of faith. Surely some fitting mansion will be prepared by God, or Angels, or men, in which to receive this “King of all the earth.” But, no.

He comes homeless into the world. She brings Him forth in a stable. A manger is His cradle. The ox and the ass His attendants. But brighter times, perchance, will come. Nay: very soon she, her husband, and her Babe have to fly for their lives. On their return, they continue to live on in an obscure village. Year passes year: still no prospect of Royalty. Like other Jewish boys, the Son of Mary pursues his father's trade. They are too poor to obtain for Him any higher post or dignity. For thirty long years this state

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