In the September Bulletin 2017, Frank Duff, the Founder of the Legion of Mary was mentioned. On the 7th September 1921, the eve of Our Lady’s birthday, he founded the first Praesidium entitled “Our Lady of Mercy” at Myra House, Francis St, Dublin. From that date until his death on the 7th November 1980 he guided the world wide extension of the Legion. Legionaries all over the world are now praying for the Cause of his Beatification. During his life he had written books, various writings and reflections, and a Handbook specifically aimed to guide the Legion of Mary Association. The article below is an extract from the Maria Legionis (The voice of the Legion of Mary) Edition 4 of 2018 on “Christmas” by Frank Duff. It was first published in Maria Legionis, December 1959 – February 1960.
CHRISTMAS by Frank Duff.
The time of Christmas and Epiphany is one of unmixed happiness. It is one of the few seasons of the Church year which have that purely blissful note. The sorrowful sequel to the events of this time is still far ahead; we are able to put the thought of it out of our minds and to immerse ourselves in the sheer joy of this period. It is a grace, I think, to be able to feel that joy because it is an indication that, whatever our defects may be, we are attuned to the Church and its life.
The Divine Coming.
The very thought of the coming of Our Lord should have the effect of stirring us to our depths. Of all events it is really the central one – that divine coming among us promised from the very beginning. How many years before was it that those words were uttered which promised the Redeemer: “I will set enmities between Thee and the Woman!” What hopes rested on that prophecy!
Those words spoken by Almighty God to the serpent resounded down the ages and through all peoples. As the races dispersed over the world, they brought with them that promise; north, east, south or west, it went with them, and it became the heart of their religious systems. Every pagan mythology had that idea of a Redeemer who was to be born of a Virgin. In most of them it became much disfigured with the passage of time, but still we are able to trace the outline of it clearly enough.
But the theme was distinct, and remained so, in the Jewish books. In fact, as time went on and each new prophet arose, it was given greater clarity. “A Virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son and they shall call His name Emmanuel, that is, ‘God with us’. Then in the Book of Daniel the very time of the Birth is foretold in terms which are obscure to us but precise to the experts. And the place in which the paramount event is to take place is foretold by the Prophet Micah in these words: “And thou, Bethlehem, are not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come forth the Captain that shall rule my people Israel.”
And now at the time that we are commemorating the long-foretold event is about to take place. We would expect that around such a portentous happening there would be a setting that could be regarded as appropriate, something impressive. Should not that Woman and her Child of intertwined destiny appear in the heavens, clad in light, and astounding, even terrifying spectacle, overpowering the emotions of men? But as we are aware, things worked out in very different fashion. The reality strikes the opposite pole. It is not tremendous, but painfully simple; not divine-looking but abjectly human; not royal or rich, but poor – penniless. No palace, not even a habitation. Truly, God’s ways are not our ways.
Beautiful Thoughts & Memories.
It is not about the doctrine of this wonderful Nativity that I am going to talk, but about its picturesque side, the one that stirs us, that rejoices us at this time of beautiful thoughts and memories.
I am going to pick some little of the symbolism, the legend, the literature, and perhaps even the fable, which love has woven around that eternal event. We must not decry those things just because they do not appear in the inspired narrative. Sometimes one hears people speaking lightly about that picturesque side.
What is in the New Testament is very brief, a skeleton. We have to clothe that skeleton with flesh. Bear in mind that on that skeleton there really was a tissue. We do but piously try to restore it. The Nativity had its retinue of facts and circumstances, just as every items of history is so surrounded. But more than any other, this one was linked to men’s lives. It determined the fate of all generations. Everything about it had a profound meaning. Everything down to the smallest detail had the purpose of fulfilling some prophecy, teaching some lesson, or making some eloquent pointing to the future.
The Scripture tells us that not a sparrow falls without the Father’s will; nor is there a hair of your head that is not numbered. That is the manner in which God descends into detail. The detail is infinite. We see too little of it and not too much. Especially this is the case in regard to anything which bore on the Messiah. Everything in the Old Law was symbolic of Him and of the Woman who was to bear Him. We see but a fraction, and it will be one of the sweet occupations of heaven to see all.
Every flower and stone and living thing, the water and the air, all are for Him and tell of Him and somehow reflect Him. It is not rash but reasonable process to try to fill in what is not told, to attempt to glimpse the divine pattern.
Christmas is drawing nigh. The days of the expectation of the Child have arrived. Our Lady’s preparations are advanced. Her sewing is done. The hearts of Joseph and herself are full of rapture. The long-awaited One, the Hope of Nations, the Salvation of the World, He that is Wonderful, the Counsellor, God the Mighty, Father of the World to come, the Prince of Peace (all these are epithets from the Prophet Isaiah, among others), is shortly to appear to human eyes. (to be continued)
Beatification Prayers – Servant of God Frank Duff.
God our Father, you inspired your servant Frank Duff with a profound insight into the mystery of your Church, the Body of Christ, and of the place of Mary the mother of Jesus in this mystery.
In his immense desire to share this insight with others and in filial dependence on Mary he formed her Legion to be a sign of her maternal love for the world and a means of enlisting all her children in the Church’s evangelising work.
We thank you Father for the graces conferred on him and for the benefits accruing to the Church from his courageous and shining faith.
With confidence we beg you that through his intercession you grant the petition we lay before you…….
We ask too that if it be in accordance with your will, the holiness of his life may be acknowledged by the Church for the glory of your Name, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.