Dehonian Spirituality is a weekly e-publication. Mailed most Fridays, it includes prayers and reflections based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). Text from a recent issue of Dehonian Spirituality appears below.
March 20, 2020
Theme: The Annunciation of Our Lord
Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
It was on the same day that our Lord said his Ecce venio [“Here, I come”] and Mary said her Ecce ancilla [“Here is the servant of the Lord”]. The apostle, St. Paul, points out that it is upon entering this world through the Incarnation that our Lord formulated his abandonment to the good pleasure of his Father: “Here I come, my Father, to do your will” [Hebrews 10:5]. He had said through David that this would be the law of his Heart [cf. Psalm 40:8].
He placed this law of abandonment, obedience, and conformity to the will of his Father, deep in his Heart to consult it constantly, to follow it always, to make it the rule of his entire life. And from his Heart it kept rising to his lips, as the Gospel itself says: “Father, may your will be done” [Matthew 6:9-10]. “My Father, let it be so, since you want it” [cf. Matthew 3:15]. “My Father, not my will, but yours” [Luke 22:42]. These indications from the Gospel are enough to show that this was a rule of life for our Lord and the habitual thought of his Heart. What he seeks always is neither self-interest nor pleasure, but the will of his Father. The only question he always asks himself before acting is this: “Father, what do you want me to do?”
Abandonment to God and to the divine will is also Mary’s rule of life and we see it in the trouble and doubt that are quieted by this disposition: “Here is the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you wish” [Luke 1:38]. These words express abandonment, docility to grace, conformity to the divine will, sacrifice, and immolation. By this response and by her consent, Mary accepted the dignity and honor of divine motherhood, but also, at the same time, the sufferings and sacrifices attached to it.
As God’s servant, she declared herself ready to accomplish God’s will in everything. It was like a vow of victimhood and abandonment. This disposition is the most perfect, it is the source of the greatest merits and the best graces. Mary proclaimed it herself in her Magnificat: “My soul praises the Lord because he looked favorably on the humility of his servant.” God is pleased with this disposition of Mary. She added, “All generations will proclaim me blessed.”
Ecce venio; Ecce ancilla Domini. These words set the rule of our lives. In these words, we find the entire vocation of souls who are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with their purpose, their duties, their promises. This sentiment, this disposition, these words spoken and felt, suffice in all situations, in every circumstance, for the present and for the future. “Here I come, oh my God, to do your will. I am here, ready to do or suffer, to undertake or to sacrifice whatever you ask of me.”
God’s will is known at all times; but if at some time darkness and uncertainty fill the heart and mind, let us persevere in this state with patience and confidence, until it pleases the divine wisdom and goodness to let its light shine again. A victim knows that she has nothing left to choose or desire for herself, her choice is made, her fate is fixed. When, how, and under what circumstances her sacrifice will be carried out, this is all the free choice of the one to whom it belongs entirely. The hair on our head is counted. God even watches over the needs of the birds; he will not forget us. He will take care of all our needs at the appropriate time. If we give ourselves to him, he will also give himself to us and then what can we lack?
I give myself and I abandon myself to you, Lord. I want to have no other will than yours, no rule other than your good pleasure. I want to seek your holy will at all times and conform myself to it.
The Year with the Sacred Heart, March 25: “Feast of the Annunciation”
Oblation: The daily practice of offering oneself to God’s will
This image of Mary, with Jesus sitting on her lap, is based on the Byzantine icon prototype, “Container of the Uncontainable.” While the focus is on Jesus, whom his mother is presenting for the believer to behold, Mary echoes the sentiments of her Son. The extended left hand of Jesus and extended right hand of Mary invite Christians to make those sentiments their own as well.
On becoming human for the salvation of the world, Jesus takes as his rule of life abandonment, obedience, and conformity to the will of his Father. This rule of life directs the obscurity of his thirty years of life in Nazareth, the notoriety of his three years of itinerant preaching throughout Palestine, and his gruesome passion and death in Jerusalem.
Similarly, Mary’s rule of life is abandonment to God, docility to grace, and conformity to the divine will. This rule of life guides the acceptance of her role in redemption, the treasured pondering in her heart of what she cannot understand, and the anguish of holding the dead body of her son on her lap.
For Christians, the dispositions of Jesus’ Ecce venio and Mary’s Ecce ancilla form their rule of life and “suffice in all situations, in every circumstance, for the present and for the future. ‘I am here, ready to do or suffer, to undertake or to sacrifice whatever you ask of me’.” Jesus and Mary model the decision to trust in the good pleasure of God. If we follow their example, Fr. Dehon asks, “Then what can we lack?”
Image: “Seat of Wisdom,” in St. John Lateran, Rome
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
For Fr. Dehon, it seems “Ecce venio,” “Ecce ancilla,” “abandonment,” “obedience,” “conformity to God’s will,” “docility to grace,” “sacrifice,” “immolation,” victimhood,” and “whatever you ask of me” are synonyms for describing the decision to trust in God’s good pleasure. How do you describe it?
What helps you discern what God’s will is for you in any situation?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
Wednesday, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who discern God’s will and seek to live it out in their lives. You may find helpful the following Prayer of Oblation for a feast of Mary, taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States Province.
in your care for us,
you called Mary to bear your beloved Son
and to be near him when he gave his life for us.
May we follow her example,
holding fast to your Word
and offering ourselves as your servants.
May we proclaim the greatness of your mercy,
which raises up the lowly
and fills the hungry with good things.
Together with Mary, our mother,
we offer you our prayer
and our service of love.
Accept our spiritual worship
to the glory of your name.