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Nazareth as one from which the Virgin was wont to draw water, and under the pleasant shadow of the lofty palm-trees, so often found beside the wells in eastern countries, that the angel first accosted Mary; or in the grotto, which is shewn at Nazareth as the scene of the Annunciation; or whether, as would seem most likely, it was in the quiet solitude of her own chamber, that "the angel came in unto her," is not told us; nor is it of any consequence that we should be able to fancy the scene exactly as it was. We are all too fond of drawing pictures to look at, when we should rather be laying up in our hearts the many saintly lessons to be learned from all that is recorded in Holy Scripture of the saints of God, and taking fast hold of instruction, which is our life. Some have imagined, from the narrative of St. Luke, that it was no strange thing to Mary to be visited in her solitude by an angel; for we do not read that fear fell upon her, as upon Zacharias, and afterwards upon the shepherds; nor did the angel announce himself unto her as unto Zacharias, saying, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God." It might be that Mary knew him at once to be an angel of God; and yet, though in her purity and peace she might have looked upon the bright messenger of the Lord without dismay, in her meekness, and modesty, and deep humility, she might well be troubled at his saying, when he addressed her with the salutation common to a superior; for so the word "hail" was used in those days, and so Judas used it to our Blessed Lord, saying," Hail, Master;"


and the Jews also, when they saluted him in mockery, bowed the knee, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews." It might be also that the lowly Virgin was troubled at being called "highly favoured" and "blessed among women;" for such humble ones are ever more mistrustful of praise than of reproof; but they were no flattering words that the holy angel spake unto her; and when he saw her thus troubled and perplexed at the manner of his salutation, he said unto her at once, "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God." Her praise was not of men, but of God-the only praise which is of any value; and how had she found such favour with God? you think it was by shutting herself up in her chamber to read and pray, when she might have been ministering to the help and comfort of those with whom she lived? Oh, no, dear children; they knew better than this who have handed down to us that touching legend about the fountain. It was by her diligent fulfilment of the daily duties of a lowly maiden, and by her cheerful readiness to do the will of the Lord, that Mary found favour with Him who giveth grace to the humble; and great indeed was the grace that the angel came to announce unto her, for it was that she should be the mother of our Lord-the long-promised, longexpected Saviour of the world: and in answer to Mary's question how this wonderful event should be brought to pass, the angel said unto her that the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and that the power of the Highest should overshadow her, and that the child given unto her should be called

the Son of God: and still more to encourage and gladden her, he told her how her cousin Elisabeth, an aged woman who had never yet been blessed with children, was about to have a son also; adding, "for with God nothing shall be impossible." And now, dear little ones, observe the lowly answer of Mary: she did not doubt the angel's word, as did Zacharias-she did not refuse the grace of God, as judging herself unworthy of such honour-neither yet did she shrink from the trouble and the sorrow which it might bring upon her; but in the stedfastness of a meek and quiet spirit she made answer, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And will not you learn of her to offer up yourselves unto God, that with you, and in you, and by you also His holy will may be done? And will you not in like manner bend the knee, and bow the head, and fold your hands upon your bosom, and say unto God day by day, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." It is this spirit of lowly, ready obedience which the Lord seeketh in all His handmaidens; and thus, as we learn to tread in the steps of blessed Mary, the words of her hymn shall at length be fitted in our lips.


Was it nigh the fount at even,
'Neath the palm-trees' lofty shade,
That the messenger of heaven
Met the highly-favour'd maid?
Was she to her tasks attending,
Mindful of each household care?
Or in grot or chamber bending,
Pouring out her heart in prayer?
Wherefore ask? In service lowly,
As in prayer, the virgin mind,
To the Lord devoted wholly,
Doth alike His presence find.

Joy and peace shall never fail her,
Walking in the light of heaven;
Marvel not if angels hail her,

Unto whom such grace is given.

Maiden, though thou know'st the story
How the Blessed Babe was born,
And the Virgin's crown of glory
May no other brow adorn;

Still the Lord His handmaids seeketh,
And of such thou too may'st be,
Taught to answer when He speaketh,
"Let Thy word be done in me!"


The Visitation of the Virgin Mary.


AND Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda: and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

And it came to pass, that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she spake out with a loud voice, and said,

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

And Mary said,

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden : for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name.

He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;

As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed

for ever.

And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

St. Luke i. 39th to 56th ver.

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