Almighty God fashioned two orders of creatures at the beginning of the world, angels and men; the angels in heaven, men on earth. Both of them were so ungrateful that they revolted against their Creator, the angel through pride and man through disobedience to the commandment of God. The sin of the angel, being a sin of pride, was found to be so enormous in the eyes of God that divine Justice obliged Him to drive the angelic sinner out of paradise and cast him into hell. But His Mercy, seeing that man had fallen into sin through the temptation and seduction of Satan, took pity on him and resolved to withdraw him from the miserable state to which he had been reduced, even making a pledge to that effect. And even the countless and enormous sins committed by the Jews, the Gentiles and all men since that promise were not capable of preventing its fulfillment, but they did delay it for many centuries, during which time the whole race of Adam, condemned and cast out by God, was plunged into an abyss of darkness and a whirlpool of inexplicable evils from which it was impossible for it to emerge unaided. The more humanity went forward, the more deeply mired it became in this gulf, the more it wallowed in the mud and filth for its sins. (1)
God was known only in Judea, (2) and even there He was known very imperfectly and by very few persons. All the others were enshrouded in the darkness of hell, the whole earth was covered with idols and idolaters, and the tyranny of Satan oppressed the whole world. The law of Moses revealed sin but it did not cure it. Thus it seemed that God, by an eminently just judgment, had entirely forgotten mankind abandoned in this deplorable state as a punishment for its crimes. His mercy did not manifest itself; there was evidence only of the terrible signs of His wrath which had cast one third of the angels into hell, had engulfed the whole army to be swallowed up in the waters of the Red Sea, had rained torrents of fire and flames from heaven to reduce great cities to ashes, had delivered His people on several occasions to the fury of their enemies, and had allowed men to suffer many other fearful punishments.
But finally the Son of God, mindful of His mercy which He seemed to have forgotten for more than four thousand years, Recordatus misericordiae suae, and of the promise He had made to Adam, Abraham, David and a number of other prophets, to draw the human race from the pit of evils, Himself descended from heaven into the virgin bosom of the handmaid, Mary, where to His divine person He united the wretched human nature which He had abandoned, becoming man in order to save all men who long to be numbered among the true Israelites; that is, who seek to believe in Him and love Him.
That is what the Blessed Virgin announces to us through these words: “He has received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy,” for several holy Doctors explain them as the mystery of the Incarnation. This verse forms the conclusion of her inspired canticle; it is a recapitulation of its ineffable mysteries; it is the end of the Law and the prophets, the dispersal of the shadows, the consummation of the symbols. It is as if Our Lady were saying, “Here is the fulfillment of the predictions of the prophets; this is the fruition of the truth of the promises of God; this is what impels me to sing from the depths of my heart, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’ This is the great cause of my joy and delight, ‘And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’ This is what will make me proclaimed blessed by all nations. These are the great things that the Almighty has done to me. This is the origin and inexhaustible source of the unfathomable graces and mercies that God will shed on generation after generation of all who fear Him. These are the greatest miracles of His infinite might and immense bounty. This is what will exalt the humble and bring ruin to the proud: ‘He has received Israel his servant.”
But what is this Israel? Several saints affirm that these words must be applied first of all to the people of Israel, the Son of God having willed to be made man and take birth from the Israelites notwithstanding their past ingratitude and the outrages that He was to receive at their hands. I say “first of all,” for the divine Word also united Himself with all human nature and not only with the people of Israel.
But why does the Blessed Virgin say, “He has received Israel his servant?” It is the Holy Spirit speaking through her and imparting two meanings by the word puerum. In the first place, He gives us to understand that the Son of God became not only man in order to make us God-like, but He also became an infant to make us children of God: Puer natus est nobis.
Secondly, the Incarnate Word is placed before us not only as man and child, but also as servant. It is the same thing that the Holy Spirit declares to us through the mouth of St. Paul in these terms: “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). And do we not hear the voice of Our Savior telling us Himself that He came not to be served, but to serve? (Mt. 20:28). O superabundance of incomparable love! The sovereign Monarch of the universe takes the form of a servant in order to deliver us from the bondage of Satan and make us children of God! O my Savior, we are unworthy to be Your slaves; yet You, not content to call us friends and brethren, have made us children of the same adorable Father whose beloved Son You are, and consequently His heirs and Your coheirs.
But You go even further, for, by another excess of unequalled goodness, You will to bear the title and to be in reality the Spouse of our souls, our souls to be Your true spouses as well, and consequently to be but one with You and to share all things with You.
That is still not sufficient to satisfy the ardor of Your love for us. You will to be our head, and us to be your members, and therefore to be but one with You, as members are but one with their head. You will us to be animated by the same spirit, to live the same life, to have but one heart and soul, and finally to be consummated in unity with You and the Heavenly Father, just as You are one with Him. Is not this, my dearest Jesus, what You asked of Him for us on the eve of Your death in pronouncing this prayer: “That they all may be one, as you Father, in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us” (Jn. 17:21). “I in them and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent me, and that you have loved them even as me” (Jn. 17:23). O miracle of love! O prodigy of charity! O abyss of goodness!
O my Savior, I am not amazed by the assurance that You will grant us possession of the same kingdom that the Almighty Father have given You, that You will invite us to feast at the same table with You, and that You will seat us on Your throne, in throno meo, even as You are seated upon the throne of Your Royal Father. If we are but one with You, we should possess the same kingdom, eat at the same table, share the same throne, be animated by the same spirit, live the same life and have but one heart and soul with You. Can we conceive of more admirable bounty? Has there ever been, and is it possible to imagine comparable magnificence. O human heart, how hard, how unfeeling, how unnatural you are, if such goodness is incapable of softening you! O monster of ingratitude, what will you love if not Him who holds such a love for you; indeed, who is all tenderness and love toward you!
Such are the wonders contained in these words of the Mother of Jesus: “He has received Israel his servant,” since they teach us the mystery of the Incarnation, the source of all these miracles of charity.
But what is the primary cause of this ineffable mystery? and consequently, of all the infinite blessings which proceed from it? Do you not hear the most pure Virgin affirming in these words, Recordatus misericordiae suae? Yes, Mother of grace, it is indeed divine mercy that is the origin of the Incarnation of your Son, and of all the immense treasures proceeding therefrom; and for all these things, next to the incomparable mercy, we are indebted to your maternal Heart? For by what other means did you bring the eternal Word from the adorable bosom of His Father into your own virginal bosom and sacred womb? Do we not hear the Holy Spirit who, speaking through you, declares that while the eternal King was dwelling in the bosom and Heart of His Father, the most profound humility of your lovable Heart gave forth such a pleasing and powerful odor that, rising up to Him, it pleased God to the extent of attracting Him to descend to you, where He became incarnate for the redemption of the world? Is it not what is meant by these divine words: “While the king was at his repose, my spikenard sent forth the odor thereof” (Cant. 1:11)? It is the explanation offered by the saints, who say that the spikenard is a tiny but extremely fragrant herb which represents your sweet humility.
But, aside from the merit and strength of this holy virtue, how many ardent sighs you sent heavenward! How many tears you shed! How many fasts and mortifications you practiced! How many earnest and ardent prayers you offered to obtain from the Father of mercy the fulfillment of His promises regarding the Incarnation of His Son, and to draw the attention to this same Son to the prayers and cries of all the holy patriarchs, prophets and just persons who preceded His coming on earth! Veni Domine, veni et noli tardare, veni et libera nos, “O Lord, come without further delay, come to deliver us from all the evils which cover the earth.”
After divine mercy, then, O holy Virgin, it is to the humility, love, charity and zeal of your admirable Heart that we are indebted for His adorable Incarnation, as indicated in these holy words of your divine canticle: “He has received Israel his servant.” Oh, may all the angels and saints forever sing to you a canticle of gratitude, praise, blessing and immortal thanksgiving, in the name of the whole human race, for the inexpressible debt it owes to you for all eternity!
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Ten, Chapter XIII, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy.
(1) Jacebat in malis, vel etiam volutabatur, et de malis in mala precipitabatur totius humani generis massa damnata. St. Augustine, Lib. Enchiridii, cap. 26 et 27.
(2) Psalm 75:2, “In Judea God is known.”