Saturday, August 2, 2014

Memoria Sanctæ Mariæ in Sabbato

Perhaps no one honors our Blessed Lady liturgically like Saint Bruno's Carthusian Order. In addition to the Divine Office, the Carthusians pray daily the entire Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

These words appear in a Carthusian Order vocational booklet: "Mary plays a primary role in the solitary life of a monk. As far as human frailty allows, his soul continually strives to draw close to God and remain faithful to this spousal covenant of love.  This effort unites the Carthusian in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we are accustomed to call Mater Singularis Carthusiensium (the Mother in particular of all Carthusians). We honor her with a special affection by daily reciting her Little Office and by consecrating our church and community to her Immaculate Heart."

Over the centuries many words of wisdom concerning our Blessed Mother have come from the Carthusian Order. One of the most prolific writers of the Carthusian Order was Denys van Leeuwen or more familiarly, Denys the Carthusian, or even as it appears in his Latin name, Dionysius. He wrote this about the Virgin Mother of God: “You are the consolation and the hope of the guiltiest of men.  He who has recourse to you can never complain of your severity and harshness. To your sons, even to the most ungrateful, you are kindness and tenderness itself; for all, you have the heart of a compassionate and indulgent Mother.  Despite your high estate and exalted privileges which you enjoy in heaven, if the most wretched, the most impure, the most despised of sinners appeals to you for help with a truly contrite and humbled heart, far from disdaining him you welcome him with a Mother’s love. You take him into your arms and, holding him close to your heart, you communicate to him a new warmth and then make his peace with the Judge he fears.  How many are the afflicted, the sinners, the utterly abandoned, who rejoice that they have found you, O Mary most merciful. . . !” (De Prœconio).

Also from the annals of the Carthusian Order are these words: “Mary has not chosen us to be her servants, but to be her sons and daughters. Sons and daughters whom she is not satisfied with protecting and defending, but whom she wishes to cherish in her heart, to nourish with exquisite tenderness.  For our part, do not let us attach ourselves to her service as servants but as her most loving children; she herself has set no bounds to her maternal solicitude for us. Let us honor her and love her with truly filial affection, by meditating constantly on her life and her virtues” (Ioannes Lanspergius, Opera Omnia, vol. IV).
Our human frailty, however, may at times render opacity on that straight and narrow path we strive to remain on.  Commitment to prayer is the key and daresay, mandatory: “Ad te levavi oculos meos, qui habitas in cælis – To you have I lifted my eyes, who dwells in heaven” (Sext of Our Lady, Psalm 122 [123]).
Every Carthusian monastery or what they call a "Charterhouse" offers a daily Mass in honor of our Lady. On Saturdays this is a community Mass; on all other days this Mass is said privately by the Fathers.

At the end of Vespers every day, in the Canonical Divine Office, the monks sing the Salve Regina. The Angelus is recited four times a day, one more than the traditional three.  The monks also pray an Ave Maria each time they enter their individual cell.

It is the custom to recite each hour of Our Lady's Office before the corresponding hour of the Divine Office.  The only exception is at Compline where the Night Prayer of our Lady follows Compline of the Canonical Divine Office. Thus the day begins with Matins of Our Lady and concludes with Compline of Our Lady; and so, the entire day of prayer is in the embrace of our Blessed Mother, trusting in her maternal love.

Every evening in hallowed halls of Carthusian Charterhouses throughout the world is sung the hymn Ave Maris Stella during Vespers of Our Lady.  In that hymn our Lady is addressed as Felix Cæli Porta – Happy Gate of Heaven.  Those words implicitly speak of the power of her intercession, the loving Mother that Jesus cannot refuse, the gate which leads to the eternal beatific vision; and the gate through which God Himself entered the world.   

In the final prayer of the day, Compline of Our Lady, our holy Mother comforts her children with these words which the Church places on her lips, and is read every night, except during Advent.  These words translate from the Latin Vulgate as: “I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope” (Ecclesiasticus 24:24) Such a consolatory sentiment yields the confidence to pray the Nunc Dimittis which follows: “Nunc dimittis servum Tuum, Domine, secundum verbum Tuum in pace. . .  – Now dismiss Your servant, O Lord, in peace, according to Your word. . .” (Luke 2:29).  The combination of those two passages from Sacred Scripture and Our Lady’s Office renders a beautiful serenity as one reposes for the night.

When Dom Louis Rouvier became the Prior of the Carthusian Charterhouse of Bosserville, which is in the city of Nancy, he thought of himself as Our Lady's Vicar. In the church and refectory, above the Prior's seat he placed a statue of the Blessed Mother which contained the words: Reign over us, O Blessed Virgin, together with your Son.  Also, over each door of the monks' cells was a picture of our Immaculate Lady. Dom Louis Rouvier wrote: "How profitable it is for us to invoke the great Queen frequently, in order to triumph over the temptations of the devil."

As the Carthusians pray in Our Lady's Office, let us also pray:
"Maria, Mater gratiæ, Mater misericordæ, tu nos ab hoste protege, et hora mortis suscipe" - "Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, protect us from the enemy, and receive our souls at the hour of death."

As mentioned earlier, the Carthusians sing the  Salve Regina after Canonical Vespers. Here's a video which contains an audio of them chanting it. A blessed and joyful weekend to you!