ST GERTRUDE THE GREAT
One day, as St Gertrude was meditating on the greatness of the love which made the Lord and King of Heaven find His delight in the society of the children of men, our Saviour illustrated what seemed to her so incomprehensible by the following comparison: The son of a king is surely much higher and greater than the children who run about the streets; he has in his father’s palace everything that can delight and gratify him; yet, if you give him the choice either to go out and play with the children in the street or to stay at home amid the splendors of his father’s court, he will certainly prefer the former.
St Gertrude on one occasion asked Our Lord how she ought to prepare for Holy Communion, and He replied: “I ask nothing more than that you should come with an empty heart.”
One day St Gertrude went to receive Holy Communion without being sufficiently prepared. Being greatly afflicted at this, she begged the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints to offer up to God in her behalf all their merits, that they might in some way supply her own deficiency; whereupon, our Saviour appeared to her and said: “Now, before the whole heavenly court, thou appearest adorned for Communion as thou wouldst wish to be.” Comply, then, O Christian, with that which Jesus Christ requires of you. Communicate, but communicate as He desires that you should. Do not be content with keeping yourself free from mortal sin; make war against venial sin also, at least those which are fully deliberate; for though venial sins do not extinguish love, they greatly weaken its force and fervor. Strive also to wean your heart from creatures; endeavor to mortify your attachment to honors, riches and pleasures; spare no trouble for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven; practice little but frequent acts of self-denial; keep yourself always in the fear of God, and strive to adorn your soul with the virtues which Jesus Christ especially loves—humility, meekness, patience, prayer, charity, faith, peace and recollection.
St Gertrude saw our Lord Jesus Christ celebrate Mass in a mystical manner: On Gaudete Sunday [Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete means “Rejoice”)], as Gertrude prepared to communicate at the first Mass—which commences “Rorate”—she complained to Our Lord that she could not hear Mass; but Our Lord, Who compassionates the afflicted, consoled her, saying: “Do you wish, My beloved, that I should say Mass for you?” Then, being suddenly rapt in spirit, she replied: “I do desire it, O Beloved of my soul, and I most ardently beseech Thee to grant me this favor.” Our Lord then intoned the Gaudete in Domino semper [“Rejoice in the Lord always”] with a choir of Saints to incite this soul to praise and rejoice in Him; and as He sat on His royal throne, St Gertrude cast herself at His feet and embraced them. Then He chanted the Kyrie eleison [“Lord, have mercy”] in a clear and loud voice, while two of the princes of the choir of Thrones took her soul and brought it before God the Father, where she remained prostrate.
At the first Kyrie Eleison, He granted her the remission of all the sins which she had contracted through human frailty, after which the Angels raised her up on her knees.
At the second Kyrie Eleison, He pardoned her sins of ignorance, and she was raised up by these princes so that she stood before God.
Then two Angels of the choir of Cherubim led her to the Son of God, Who received her with great tenderness.
At the first Christe Eleison [“Christ, have mercy”], the Saint offered Our Lord all the sweetness of human affection, returning it to Him as to its Source; and there was a wonderful influx of God into her soul and of her soul into God, so that by the descending notes the ineffable delights of the Divine Heart flowed into her, and by the ascending notes, the joy of her soul flowed back to God.
At the second Christe Eleison, she experienced the most ineffable delights, which she offered to Our Lord.
At the third Christe eleison, the Son of God extended His hands and bestowed on her all the fruits of His most holy life and conversation.
Two Angels of the choir of Seraphim then presented her to the Holy Spirit, Who penetrated the three powers of her soul. At the first Kyrie Eleison, He strengthened the irascible part of her soul to resist all the machinations of her enemies and to conquer every evil.
At the last Kyrie Eleison, He inflamed her love, that she might love God with her whole heart, with her whole soul and with her whole strength. It was for this reason that the choir of Seraphim, which is the highest order in the heavenly hosts, presented her to the Holy Ghost, Who is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, and that the Thrones presented her to God the Father, manifesting that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, equal in glory, co-eternal in majesty, living and reigning perfect Trinity through endless ages.
The Son of God then rose from His royal throne and, turning towards God The Father, entoned the Gloria in Excelsis Deo [“Glory be to God in the highest”] in a clear and sonorous voice.
At the word Gloria He extolled the immense and incomprehensible omnipotence of God The Father;
at the words in Excelsis He praised His profound wisdom;
at Deo He honored the inestimable and indescribable sweetness of the Holy Ghost.
The whole Celestial Court then continued in a most harmonious voice, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis [“And on earth peace to men of good will”]. Our Lord being again seated on His throne, St Gertrude sat at His feet, meditating on her own abjection, when He inclined towards her lovingly; then she rose and stood before Him, while the Divine splendor illuminated her whole being. The Angels from the choir of Thrones then brought a throne, magnificently adorned, which they placed before Our Lord; two princes from the choir of Seraphim placed Gertrude thereon and supported her on each side, while two of the choir of Cherubim stood before her bearing brilliant torches. And thus she remained before her Beloved, clothed in royal purple. When the heavenly hosts came to the words Domine Deus Rex Caelestis [“O Lord God, Heavenly King”], they paused, and the Son of God continued alone, chanting to the honor and glory of His Father.
At the conclusion of the Gloria in excelsis, the Lord Jesus, Who is our true [and eternal] High Priest and Pontiff, turned to St Gertrude, saying Dominus vobiscum, dilecta—–“The Lord be with you, beloved,” and she replied, Et spiritus meus tecum, praedilecte—“And may my spirit be with Thee, O my Beloved.” After this she inclined towards the Lord to return Him thanks for His love in uniting her spirit to His Divinity, whose delights are with the children of men.
The Lord then read the Collect, Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem …[“God, Who this most holy night …”], which He concluded with the words, Per Jesum Christum filium tuum [“Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son”], as if giving thanks to God the Father for illuminating the soul of Gertrude, whose unworthiness was indicated by the word noctem (“night”), which was called “most holy,” because she had become marvellously ennobled by the knowledge of her own baseness.
St John the Evangelist then rose and stood between God and her soul. He was adorned with a yellow garment which was covered with golden eagles. He commenced the Epistle, Haec est sponsa [“This is the bride”], and the Celestial Court concluded, Ipsi gloria in saecula [“To Him be glory forever”]. Then all chanted the gradual Specie tua, adding the versicle, Audi filia et vide. After this they commenced the Alleluia. St Paul, the great Doctor of the Church, pointed to St Gertrude, saying, Aemulor enim vos [of the second series], He illuminated her reason with the glorious light of Divine knowledge, that she might always know His will perfectly. At the second—”For I am jealous of you …” (2 Cor: 11 :2); and the heavenly choir sang the prose, Filiae Sion exultent. At the words Dum non consentiret, St Gertrude remembered that she had been a little negligent in resisting temptations, and she hid her face in shame; but Our Lord, Who could not bear to behold the confusion of His chaste queen, covered her negligence with a collar of gold, so that she appeared as if she had gained a glorious victory over all her enemies.
Then another Evangelist commenced the Gospel, Exultavit Dominus Jesus, and these words moved the Heart of Jesus so deeply that He arose and, extending His hands, exclaimed aloud, Confiteor tibi, Pater [“I confess to Thee, Father“—cf. Matt. 11:25], manifesting the same thanksgiving and gratitude to His Father as He had done when He said the same words on earth, giving special thanks for the graces bestowed on this soul.
After the Gospel He desired Gertrude to make a public profession of faith by reciting the Creed in the name of the whole Church.
When she had concluded, the choir chanted the Offertory, Domine Deus in simplicitate, adding Sanctificavit Moyses. The Heart of Jesus then appeared as a golden altar, which shone with a marvellous brightness, on which the Angel guardians offered the good works and prayers of those committed to their care. The Saints then approached, and each offered his merits to the eternal praise of God and for the salvation of St Gertrude. The angelic princes, who had charge of the Saint, next approached and offered a chalice of gold, which contained all the trials and afflictions which she had endured, either in body or soul, from her infancy, and the Lord blessed the chalice with the Sign of the Cross as the priest blesses it before Consecration.
He now intoned the words Sursum corda [“Lift up your hearts”]. Then, all the Saints were summoned to come forward, and they applied their hearts in the form of golden pipes to the golden altar of the Divine Heart; and from the overflowings of this chalice, which Our Lord had consecrated by His benediction, they received some drops for the increase of their merit, glory and eternal beatitude.
The Son of God then chanted the Gratias agamus [“Let us give thanks”] to the glory and honor of His Eternal Father.
At the Preface, He remained silent for an hour after the words Per Jesum Christum, while the heavenly hosts chanted the Dominum nostrum with ineffable jubilation, declaring that He was their Creator, Redeemer and the liberal Rewarder of all their good works and that He alone was worthy of honor and glory, praise and exaltation, power and dominion from and over all creatures. At the words laudant angeli [“the Angels praise”], all the angelic spirits ran hither and thither, exciting the heavenly inhabitants to sing the Divine praises. At the words Adorant Dominationes [“the Dominions worship”], the Choir of Dominations knelt to adore Our Lord, declaring that to Him alone every knee should bow, whether in Heaven, on earth or under the earth. At the Tremunt Potestates [“the Powers are in awe”], the Powers prostrated before Him to declare that He alone should be adored; and at the Caeli caelorumque [“the heavens and the heavenly hosts”], they praised God with all the Angel choirs.
Then all the heavenly hosts sang together in harmonious concert the Cum quibus et nostras [“with whose (voices) and ours”], and the Virgin Mary, the effulgent Rose of Heaven, who is blessed above all creatures, chanted the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus [Holy, holy, holy], extolling with the highest gratitude by these three words the incomprehensible omnipotence, the inscrutable wisdom and the ineffable goodness of the Ever Blessed Trinity, inciting all the celestial choirs to praise God for having made her most powerful after the Father, most wise after the Son and most benign after the Holy GhoSt The Saints then continued the Dominus Deus Sabaoth [“Lord God of hosts”]. When this was ended, Gertrude saw Our Lord rise from His royal throne and present His blessed Heart to His Father, elevating it with His Own hands and immolating it in an ineffable manner for the whole Church. At this moment, the bell rang for the Elevation of the Host in the church, so that it appeared as if Our Lord does in Heaven what the priests do on earth; but the Saint was entirely ignorant of what was passing in the church or what the time was.
As she continued in amazement at so many marvels, Our Lord told her to recite the Pater Noster [“Our Father”]. When she had finished, He accepted it from her and granted to all the Saints and Angels for her sake that by this Pater Noster they should accomplish everything which had ever been accomplished for the salvation of the Church and for the Souls in Purgatory. Then He suggested her to pray for the Church, which she did, for all in general and for each in particular, with the greatest fervor; and the Lord united her prayer to those which He had offered Himself when in the flesh, to be applied to the Universal Church.
Then she exclaimed: “But, Lord, when shall I communicate?” And Our Lord communicated Himself to her with a love and tenderness which no human tongue could describe, so that she received the perfect fruit of His most precious Body and Blood. After this, He sang a canticle of love for her and declared to her that had this union of Himself with her been the sole fruit of His labors, sorrows and Passion, He would have been fully satisfied. Oh, inestimable sweetness of the Divine condescension, Who so delights in human hearts that He considers His union with them a sufficient return for all the bitterness of His Passion! And yet, what should we not owe Him had He only shed one drop of His Precious Blood for us!
Our Lord then chanted Gaudete justi [“Rejoice, ye just”], and all the Saints rejoiced with Gertrude. Then Our Lord said in the name of the Church Militant, Rejecti sibo, etc … He then saluted all the Saints lovingly, saying, Dominus vobiscum, and thereby increased the glory and joy of all the Blessed. The Saints and Angels then sang for the Ite Missa est [“Go, it is finished”], Te decet laus et honor, Domine [“To Thee belongs praise and honor, O Lord”], to the glory and praise of the effulgent and ever peaceful Trinity.
The Son of God extended His royal hand and blessed the Saint, saying: “I bless thee, O daughter of eternal light, with this special blessing, granting you this favor, that whenever you desire to do good to anyone from particular affection, they will be as much benefited above others as Jacob was above Esau when he received his father’s blessing.”
Excerpts taken from THE BLESSED EUCHARIST by Fr Michael Müller CSSR,
priest of the Congregation of The Most Holy Redeemer
First Published in 1868. TAN Books and Publishers, Imprimatur, 1867
Acknowledgements to the website Catholic Tradition