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HALL I tell you, dear little Marys, why I think your name the sweetest one I know of for a little girl? Because, dear children, it was the name of that blessed Virgin whom God chose to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, now, would it not be very sad to think of a proud, a passionate, a disobedient little Mary? And will not you, to whom a name so saintly was given in holy baptism, ask of your Father in Heaven to make you every day more and more like the pure and lowly, the loving and obedient, the meek and silent, the faithful and blessed Virgin?
And will not you delight to hear all that is told us of her in the Holy Scriptures?
I will tell you what it was that first led me to think so very much about her. Many, many years ago, when I was very young, and full of earnest thoughts, which I could only tell out to God, I met one day for the first time, at the house of a clergyman, who lived about two miles from my father's house, an aged white-haired priest, who, after fixing his eyes upon me very stedfastly for some time, asked me if I would walk with him in the garden, as he had something to say to me. I followed him out of the room, blushing and wondering what the good and saintly-looking old man wanted with me. walked on a little way in silence; then stopping by a hedge of sweet peas, he began to speak to me of the Virgin Mary, her meekness and modesty, her silence and simplicity, and how it might be that she was no older than myself when the angel Gabriel hailed her as "highly favoured," saying, "The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
After talking to me in this way for some time, and reminding me that he spoke as an ordained servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His name, he concluded by laying his hand upon my head, and giving me in a very solemn manner his priestly blessing, bidding me be of good cheer, for that I too should sing with blessed Mary in the gladness of my young heart, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
I remember as well as though it were a scene of yesterday, that sunset sky, the fragrancy of the flowers, the song of the blackbirds, and, above all, the look and tone and every word of that holy man; and, when I think of it, I still seem to feel the gentle pressure of his hand, while the Virgin's song sounds sweeter and sweeter in my ear; and though it is now so many years since I first began to ponder them in my heart, I find that I am only just beginning to understand a little of their blessedness. You know, dear children, they are the first words of that hymn of Mary which in the Latin language is called from them the Magnificat, and which should be chanted in all our churches, evening by evening, at the closing service, which I love to call by its old name, the Even Song.
The good old clergyman, of whom I have been telling you, is now gone to his rest; but his words to me that evening are written in my heart; and glad and thankful should I be if I might lead others by the following pages to think more earnestly about the blessed Virgin, and to ask of God to teach us to sing her hymn of praise not with our lips only, but out of the abundance of the heart.
And so, dear little ones, I will close this chapter by asking you to pray with me that we may, together with holy Mary and with all saints, for ever magnify the Lord, and for ever rejoice in God our Saviour. Amen.
Banks of the Trent, 1845.
THE EXALTATION OF THE HUMBLE AND MEEK.
We hail thee, Mary, Mother
Of Him the Virgin-born,
Of sinful man forlorn.
Since God vouchsafed to choose thee,
Thou highly favoured one,
Oh, why should we refuse thee
We think upon His story,
So closely twined with thine,
Doth all around thee shine;
Yet surely, Christian maiden
Doth well to look on thee,
Lowly as one so laden
With dew of heaven should be.
Far off the proud ones knowing,
Found favour in His eye!
Oh, trustful in thy weakness,
For God, the proud dethroning,