Saturday, February 21, 2015

Embracing Poverty

The Carthusian, Dom Louis Rouvier places this conversation with the contemplative soul on the lips of our beloved Mother.

“My dear son,” she says, “I voluntarily embraced a life of poverty with all my heart, and I observed it faithfully during the whole of my life. I came into the world a child of poor parents. During the eleven years I spent in the Temple, I lived in the greatest poverty. Being obliged to take a husband to veil the mystery of the Incarnation, I made choice of a man who was virtuous but poor. We lived by the work of our hands, and when I brought my divine Son into the world, I experienced all the rigors of dire need. Rejected in the town because we had no means, we took refuge in an abandoned stable, which we shared with the beasts of the field. It was in this poor abode that I gave birth to the Son of the eternal God. To cover Him I had only poor swaddling bands. It was this that caused Saint Cyprian to say: ‘The dwelling-place is a stable, the Mother has a little hay for her bed, the Child a manger for a cradle.’” 

“Dear Mother,” the monk replied, “I am deeply moved at the consideration of what you had to suffer from a poverty so extreme. It is some consolation to know that your need must have been relieved by the presents offered by the Magi to your divine Son.”

“Why feel this compassion,” continued the Mother of God, “for my poverty, which was a joy to me? Do you not know that my Son has said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3) and ‘Woe to you that are rich?’ (Luke 6:24). Besides, you are mistaken in thinking that I used the rich offerings of the Magi to relieve my poverty. No, no! My poverty was voluntary, and I would not have exchanged it for all the riches in the world. Listen to what my devout servant Saint Bonaventure has to say about it: ‘And what do you think Mary did with all the gold that the Magi brought? Did she buy houses, lands or vineyards? Indeed, no! One who loves poverty has no attachment to such things. Mary gave all these treasures to Saint Joseph to distribute to the poor. Thus when came to the Temple for her Purification, she had not the wherewithal to buy a lamb, but only a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’ (cf. Luke 2:24). This, indeed, was so, and that is the use I made of these rich presents. I remained in my poverty and went on living as the poor do, in the company with my divine Son, Who continued the practice of this virtue so perfectly that He had nowhere to lay His head (cf. Matthew 8:20).

What an example for us! Rich in the possession of her divine Son, Mary deprived herself of the goods of this world, in order to preserve her unique treasure. We, too, therefore, should remain detached from the vanities of this world, if we would possess Him Who in truth only gives Himself to those who can repeat with the poor man of Assisi: "My God, and my All!"