Thursday, November 24, 2022

“Shortly Before Advent” – An Idea Inspired by St. Gertrude the Great

Saint Gertrude, by Miguel Cabrera, 1763

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, (General Audience, Oct. 6, 2010) St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) “was an exceptional woman, endowed with special natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace.” A master first of the liberal arts and then of theology, she became famous for her devotion to the poor souls in Purgatory and her mystical visions.

Many of these visions took place in relationship to the liturgical year: the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter cycles for Gertrude were particularly important seasons of mystical revelations and communion with God. One year, “shortly before Advent,” Gertrude was prompted by God to ask a certain person to pray the following prayer for her every day before a crucifix:
O most Loving Lord, by Thy pierced Heart, pierce her heart with an arrow of Thy love, so that nothing earthly may remain therein, and that it may be entirely filled with the strength of Thy Divinity. 
Her prayer began to be answered on Gaudete Sunday. After receiving Holy Communion, she went to pray before a crucifix and had the following experience:
I saw a ray of light like an arrow coming forth from the Wound of the right side of the crucifix, which was in an elevated place, and it continued, as it were, to advance and retire for some time, sweetly attracting my cold affections.
The Crucifixion, by Juan Sánchez Cotán, ca. 1603
Gertrude’s encounter with the arrow of love, however, was not complete. On Ember Wednesday of Advent, which celebrates the Annunciation and the Incarnation, she meditated after Mass when:
Behold, Thou camest suddenly before me, and didst imprint a wound in my heart, saying these words: 'May the full tide of your affections flow hither, so that all your pleasure, your hope, your joy, your grief, your fear, and every other feeling may be sustained by My love!'
Gertrude thought further: a wound from her Beloved is indeed a gift, but should it not, like all wounds, be bathed, anointed, and bandaged? Our Lord then instructed her by means of a wise friend, who advised her to reflect on the love of Our Lord's Sacred Heart as He hung on the cross and:
to draw from this fountain the waters of true devotion, to wash away all my offenses;
to take from the unction of mercy the oil of gratitude, which the sweetness of this inestimable love has produced as a remedy for all adversities;
and to use this efficacious charity and the strength of this consummate love as a ligament of justification to unite all my thoughts, words and works, indissolubly and powerfully to Thee.
I would like to invite all readers and their loved ones to follow St. Gertrude’s example. Right now, “shortly before Advent,” ask someone to pray that your heart be pierced by an arrow of God’s love. In turn, you can say the same prayer for someone else, either with them knowing about it or not. Then, keep your heart open this Advent season to an arrow of divine love.
I extend this invitation without in any way implying that it will bear the same mystical fruits that St. Gertrude enjoyed. This is not a cleverly-disguised chain letter or a magical charm; it is a call of Oremus pro invicem (Let us pray for each other). With all of the wounds that we bear both as individuals and as a Church, a wound that heals would be most welcome. And those who worship according to the usus antiquior have the added privilege of following the same liturgical year and propers as St. Gertrude, despite the 700 years that divides them. What a beautiful and tangible testimony to the Communion of Saints.
May St. Gertrude the Great pray for us during the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons, and always.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: