In the Roman Calendar there are five Saints who bear the title: “the Great”. These illustrious few are composed of first two Bishops: Saint Basil the Great and Saint Albert the Great, and two Popes: Saint Leo the Great and Saint Gregory the Great, and finally but one woman a Benedictine religious of the 13th century name Gertrude.
Basil is one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church of the Eastern Churches and is accounted the Father of Monasticism in the East, and the Monastic Rule and the Liturgy that bears his name is still in use today.
Albert was the teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas and after the death of his pupil his greatest promoter and an utter genius and Doctor of the Church in his own right.
Pope Leo stood literally toe to toe with Attila the Hun and turned him back from Rome, and is one of the most glorious of all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church for his holiness and his teaching which has been enshrined in the Liturgy.
Gregory of all is known as “the Greatest of the Great” and whose name was given to the primary Chant of the Liturgy of the West, who sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury to convert England, who wrote the Life of Saint Benedict and turned Rome into a giant monastery under the Rule of the great Father of Western Monasticism, and whose teaching has like Saint Leo been enshrined in the Sacred Liturgy.
And so among these glorious men why does Saint Gertrude, a humble nun, number with them sharing this most exalted of titles? She is in fact one of the greatest mystics in the history of the Church, and it was to her (and her sister Saint Mechtilde) to whom was related by our Lord the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart more than 350 years before Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was born. When one reads the life and writings of other great mystics one is certainly impressed and amazed at the closeness they share with our Lord and His incredible familiarity with them. When one reads, however, the divine communications of our Lord Jesus to His spouse Saint Gertrude one is stuck with such utter amazement at the incidents one encounters. And there is not merely one or two incredible events, but numerous unparallelled graces and blessings our Lord lavished upon Saint Gertrude.
The two instances that are most impressive are the accounts of the time when our Lord Himself actually came and offered Holy Mass for Saint Gertrude and that when she died He granted her to be received into in the same manner that His Mother was. These two events, recorded in her Life and Revelations, are given in full bellow after the entry from Gueranger’s The Liturgical Year.
One final point is to mention the inscription one will find on most images of Saint Gertude which was something our Lord shared with Saint Mechtilde about the closeness He had with Saint Gertrude which reads:
“Invenies Me in corde Gertudis”
which is translated:
“You shall find Me in the heart of Gertrude.”
The Liturgical Year
Dom Prosper Guranger, O.S.B.
Saint Gertrude the Great
The school which is founded upon the rule of the great Patriarch of the Monks of the West, began with St. Gregory the Great. Such was the independent action of the Holy Spirit who guided it, that in it women have prophesied as well as men. It is enough to mention St. Hildegarde and St. Gertrude, with whom we may fitly associate St. Mechtilde and St. Frances of Rome. Anyone who has tried modern methods will find, on making acquaintance with these ancient writers, that he is breathing another atmosphere, and is urged onward by a gentle authority which is never felt, but which allows no rest. He will not find that subtlety, that keen and learned analysis, he has met with elsewhere, and which rather weary than aid the soul.
The pious and learned Father Faber has brought out, with his characteristic sagacity, the advantages of that form of spirituality which gives the soul breadth and liberty, and so produces in many persons effects which some modern methods fail of producing: “No one,” says he, “can be at all acquainted with the old-fashioned Benedictine school of spiritual writers, without perceiving and admiring the beautiful liberty of spirit which pervades and possesses their whole mind. It is just what we should expect from an order of such matured traditions. St. Gertrude is a fair specimen of them. She is thoroughly Benedictine. A spirit of breadth, a spirit of liberty, that is the Catholic spirit; and it was eminently the badge of the old Benedictine ascetics. Modern writers for the most part have tightened things, and have lost by it instead of gaining. By frightening people, they have lessened devotion in extent; and by overstraining it, they have lowered it in degree.” (All For Jesus)
In any case, there are many ways, and every way is good which brings men back to God by a thorough conversion of heart. But we are sure that those who may be led to commit themselves to the guidance of a saint of the old school will not lose their time; and that if they meet with less philosophy and less psychology on their way, they will be subdued by the simplicity and authority of her language, and be moved and melted as they contrast their own souls with that of their saintly guide. And this blessed revolution will take place in almost every soul that follows St. Gertrude in the week of Exercises she proposes to them, if only they really desire to draw yet more closely the ties which unite them to God, if their intention be fixed aright, and their souls truly recollected in God. We may almost venture to assure such persons that they will come forth from these Exercises transformed in their whole being. They will return to them again and again with ever increasing pleasure; for they will have no discouraging memory of fatigue, nor of the slightest constraint laid upon their liberty of spirit. They will feel confounded, indeed, to be admitted so near the inmost heart of so great a saint; but they will also feel that they have been created for the same end as that saint, and that they must bestir themselves, and quit all easy, dangerous ways, which lead to perdition.
And if we be asked whence comes that wonderful influence which our Saint exercises over all who listen to her, out answer would be: from her surpassing holiness. She does not prove the possibility of spiritual movement and advance; she moves and advances. A blessed soul, sent down from heaven to dwell awhile with men, and speaking the language of the heavenly country in this land of exile, would doubtless, utterly transform those who heard its speech. Now St. Gertrude was admitted to such familiar converse with the Son of God, that her words have just the accent of such a soul; and this is why they have been and are like winged arrows, which pierce and wound all within their range. The understanding is enlarged and enlightened by her pure and elevated doctrine, and yet St. Gertrude never lectures or preaches; the heart is touched and melted, and yet St. Gertrude speaks only to God ; the soul judges itself, condemns itself, renews itself by compunction, and yet St. Gertrude has made no effort to move or convict it.
And if we ask what is the source of the special blessing attached to the language of St. Gertrude, the answer is, that it blesses because it is so impregnated with the divine Word, not only with the revelations which St. Gertrude received from her heavenly Spouse, but with the sacred Scriptures and the liturgy of the Church. This holy daughter of the cloister drank in light and life day by day from the sources of all true contemplation, from the very fountain of living waters which gushes forth from the psalms and the inspired words of the Divine Office. Her every sentence shows how exclusively her soul was nourished with this heavenly food. She so lived into the liturgy of the Church that we continually find in her revelations that the Saviour discloses to her the mysteries of heaven, and the Mother of God and the saints hold converse with her on some Antiphon, or Response, or Introit, which the Saint is singing with delight, and of which she is striving to feel all the force and the sweetness.
Hence that unceasing flow of unaffected poetry which seems to have become quite natural to her, and that hallowed enthusiasm which raises the literary beauty of her writings almost to the height of mystical inspiration. This child of the thirteenth century, buried in a monastery of Suabia, preceded Dante in the paths of spiritual poetry. Sometimes her soul breaks forth into tender and touching elegy; sometimes the fire which consumes her bursts forth in transports of fervour; sometimes her feelings clothe themselves quite instinctively in a dramatic form; sometimes she stops short in her sublimest flights, and she who almost rivals the seraphim, descends to earth, but only to prepare herself for a still higher flight. It is as though there had been an unending struggle between the humility which held her prostrate in the dust and the aspirations of her soul, panting after Jesus, who was drawing her, and who had lavished on her such exceeding love.
In our opinion the writings of St. Gertrude lose nothing of their indescribable beauty, even when placed beside those of St. Teresa. Nay, we think that the saint of Germany is not unfrequently superior to her sister of Spain. The latter, full of impetuous ardour, has not, it is true, the tinge of pensive melancholy which colours the writings of the former; but St. Gertrude knew Latin so well, and was so profoundly versed in the letter and the spirit of the holy Scriptures, that we do not hesitate to pronounce her style superior in richness and in force to that of St. Teresa.
Still we pray the reader not to be frightened at the thought of being placed under the guidance of a seraph, when his conscience tells him that he has still so much to do in the purgative way, before he can venture to enter upon paths which may never open to him on earth. Let him simply listen to St. Gertrude, let him fix his eye upon her, and have faith in the end she proposes to him. When the holy Church puts in our mouths the language of the Psalms, she knows full well that that language is often far beyond the feelings of our soul; but if we wish to bring ourselves up to the level of these divine hymns, our best method is certainly to repeat them frequently in faith and humility, and await the transformation they will assuredly effect. St. Gertrude detaches us gently from ourselves, and brings us to Jesus by going before us herself, and by drawing us after her, though at a great distance. She goes straight to the heart of her divine Spouse, and she might well do so; but will it not be an inestimable blessing if she bring us to his feet like Magdalen, penitent and transformed by love?
Even when she writes for her sisters alone, let us not suppose that these exquisite pages are useless to those of us who are living in the midst of the world. The religious life, when expounded by such an interpreter, is a spectacle as instructive as it is striking. Need we say that the practice of the precepts of the Gospel becomes more easy to those who have well- pondered and admired the practice of its counsels? What is the Imitation of Christ but a book written by a monk for the use of monks; and yet who is not familiar with its teaching? How many seculars delight in the writings of St. Teresa; and yet the holy Carmelitess makes the religious life the one theme of her teaching.
We will not now speak of her wonderful style of expression. We are so unused to the decided and elevated language of the ages of faith, that some readers, accustomed to modern books alone, may be startled, and even pained, by St. Gertrude. But what is the remedy for this inconvenience? If we have unlearned the language of that antique piety which fashioned saints, surely our best way is to learn it again as soon as we can; and St. Gertrude will give us wonderful help in doing so.
The list of the devoted admirers of her writings would be long and imposing. But there is an authority far higher still—that of the Church herself. That mother of the faithful, ever guided by the Holy Ghost, has in her holy liturgy set her seal upon St. Gertrude. The Saint herself, and the spirit which animated her, are there forever recommended and glorified in the eyes of all Christians, in virtue of the solemn judgment contained in the Office of her festival. (Dom Gueranger, Exercises of St. Gertrude, 1865)
The life of Gertrude the Great, as she has merited to be distinguished among the Saints of the same name, was humble and obscure. (1256—1302). At five years of age she entered the Abbey of Helfta near Eisleben, and there she remained hidden in the secret of God’s face. (Ps. 30:21) For several centuries, by an error which has also found its way into the Legend of the feast, she was confounded with the Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn, who governed the monastery during our Saint’s life-time, and was herself favoured with divine gifts. It was not until Gertrude’s sublime Revelations, contained in the five books of the Legatus divinae pietatis, or Legate of divine love, had at length been published, that in 1677 her name was inscribed in the Roman Martyrology. In the following century (1738) Clement XII ordered her feast to be celebrated, as a Double, by the whole Church. The West Indies chose her as patroness; and a town in New Mexico bears her name.
In order to furnish the faithful with an expression of their piety towards St. Gertrude, we offer them the following beautiful Hymn, Antiphon and Collect, taken from the Benedictine Breviary.
Gertrudis, area Numinis,
Sponsoque juncta virginum,
Da nuptialis pangere
Castos amores foederis.
Quadrima Christo nubilis
In claustra prompte convolas;
Spretoque nutricis sinu,
Sponsi requiris oscula.
Candentis instar lilii
Odore mulces sidera;
Et virginali coelitum
Regem decore pertrahis.
Qui vivit in sinu Patris
Cinctus perenni gloria,
Amanter, ut sponsus, tua
Recumbit inter ubera.
Amore Christum vulneras;
Hic te vicissim vulnerat,
Tuoque cordi propria
Inurit alte stigmata.
O singularis charitas,
O mira commutatio;
Hic corde respirat tuo:
Tu vivis hujus spiritu.
Te, sponse Jesu, virginum
Beata laudent agmina;
Patri, simul Paraclito,
Par sit per aevum gloria.
O Gertrude, shrine of the Divinity, united to the Spouse of virgins; grant us to celebrate the chaste love of thy espousals.
Scarcely hadst thou completed thy fourth year when thou wast espoused to Christ, and didst flee to the shelter of the cloister. Thou didst put from thee the breast of thy nurse, and seek the divine kiss of thy Spouse.
Like a fair spotless lily thou dost give forth a perfume which gladdens heaven; and the splendour of thy virgin beauty draweth to thee the King of Saints.
He who dwelleth in the bosom of the Father, surrounded with everlasting glory, deigns to take his repose in thy love.
Thou woundest Jesus with love; and he woundeth thee
in return, and deeply graven on thy heart the marks of his sacred Passion.
O peerless love, O wondrous interchange; he it is who breatheth in thy heart, and thy life hangeth on the breath of his mouth.
Let the blessed choirs of virgins sing thy praise, O Jesus, Spouse of virgins; and equal glory be ascribed to Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
O dignissima Christi sponsa, quam lux prophetiae illustravit, zelus apostolicus inflammavit, laurea virginum coronavit, divini amoris incendium consummavit.
O most worthy spouse of Christ, on whom the prophetic light hath shone, whose heart an apostolic zeal inflamed, whose head the wreath of virgins hath crowned, whom the glowing fire of divine love consumed.
Deus, qui in purissimo corde beatse Gertrudis virginis tuse j ucundam tibi habitationem prseparasti; ejus meritis et intercession cordis noatri maculas clementer absterge; ut digna divinse majestatis tuse habitatio effici mereatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who hast prepared for thyself a dwelling-place of delights in the most pure heart of the blessed virgin Gertrude; design, we beseech thee, through her merits and intercession, to wipe away all stains from our hearts, that they may become meet abodes of thy divine majesty. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O revealer of the Sacred Heart, what better prayer could we offer in thine honour than to say with thee to the Son of the Blessed Virgin:
O thou my soul’s calm untroubled Light! 0 dawn of morning, soft-gleaming with thy beauteous light, become in me the perfect day. 0 my Love, who dost not only enlighten but deify, come unto me in all thy might; come and gently melt my whole being. May all that is of me be destroyed utterly; may I wholly pass into thee, so that I may no more find myself in time, but may be already and most intimately united to thee for all eternity.
Thou hast first loved me; it is thou who hast chosen me, and not I who have first chosen thee. Thou art he who of his own accord runneth towards his thirsting creature; and on thy kingly brow gleams the fair splendour of the everlasting light. Show me thy countenance, and let me gaze upon thy beauty. How mild and full of charms is that face, all radiant with the rosy light of the dawn of the divine Sun! How can the spark live and glow far from the fire that gave it being? Or how can the drop of water abide far from the spring from whence it was taken? O compassionate Love, why hast thou loved a creature so defiled and so covered with shame, but that thou hast willed to render it all fair in thee? O thou delicate flower of the Virgin Mary, thy goodness and thy tender mercy have won and ravished my heart. O Love, my glorious noontide, to take my rest in thee, gladly would I die a thousand deaths.
O Charity, O Love, at the hour of my death thou wilt sustain me with thy words, more gladdening far than choicest wine. Thou wilt then be my way, my unobstructed way, that I may wander no more nor stray. Thou wilt aid me then, O love, thou queen of heaven; thou wilt clear my way before me to those fair and fertile pastures hidden in the divine wilderness, and my soul shall be inebriate with bliss; for there shall I see the face of the Lamb, my
Spouse and my God. O Love, who art God, thou art my best beloved possession. Without thee neither earth nor heaven could excite in me one hope, nor draw forth one desire: vouchsafe to effect and perfect within me that union which thou thyself desirest: may it be the end, the crown, and consummation of my being. In the countenance of my God thy light beameth soft and fair as the evening star. O thou fair and solemn Evening, let me see thy ray when my eye shall close in death.
O Love, thou much-loved Evening-tide, at that dread moment let the sacred flame, which burneth evermore in thy divine essence, consume all the stains of my mortal life. O thou my calm and peaceful Evening, when the evening-tide of my life shall come, give me to sleep in thee in tranquil sleep, and to taste that blissful rest which thou hast prepared in thyself for them that love thee. With thy serene, enchanting look vouchsafe to order all things and prepare all things for my everlasting espousal. O Love, be thou unto me an eventide so bright and calm, that my ravished soul may bid a loving farewell to its body, and return to God who gave it, and rest in peace beneath thy beloved shadow! (From the 6th Exercise. To enkindle in the soul the love of God.)
The Revelations of Saint Gertrude – Chapter LXI
Of a marvelous vision, in which the Saint beheld our Lord celebrating Mass.
On Gaudete Sunday, as St. 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 favour.” Our Lord then intoned the Gaudete in Domino semper, 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, 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, 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, the Saint offered our Lord all the sweetness of human affection, returning it to Him as to its Source; and thus 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 fruit 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 illuminated her reason with the glorious light of Divine knowledge, that she might always know His will perfectly. At the second 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, intoned the Gloria in excelsis 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 honoured the inestimable and indescribable sweetness of the Holy Ghost. The whole celestial court then continued in a most harmonious voice, Et in terra pax bonce voluntatis. 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 splendour illuminated her whole being. Two 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 celestis, they paused, and the Son of God continued alone chanting to the honour and glory of His Father.
At the conclusion of the Gloria in excelsis, the Lord Jesus, who is our true 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, prædilecta —” 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, which He concluded with the words, Per Jesum Christum filium tuum, 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 marvelously 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, Hæc est sponsa, and the celestial court concluded, Ipsi gloria in sæcula. Then all chanted the Gradual Specia 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, Æmulor enim vos —”For I am jealous of you” (II Cor. 11:2) ; and the heavenly choir sang the prose, Filiæ 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 Patre (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 marvelous 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. 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 Gratius agimus, to the glory and honour 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 honour and glory, praise and exaltation, power and dominion, from and over all creatures. At the words Laudant angeli, all the angelic spirits ran hither and thither, exciting the heavenly inhabitants to sing the Divine praises. At the words Adorant Dominationes, 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 Potestatis, the Powers prostrated before Him to declare that He alone should be adored; and at the Cæli cœlorumque, they praised God with all the angel choirs.
Then all the heavenly hosts sang together in harmonious concert the Cum quibus et nostras; and the Virgin Mary, the effulgent Rose of heaven, who is blessed above all creatures, chanted the Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, 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 Domine Deus Sabaoth. 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 did in heaven what the priest did 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. 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 to her to pray for the Church, which she did, for all in general and for each in particular, with the greatest fervour; 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 labours, sorrows, and Passion, He would have been fully satisfied. O inestimable sweetness of the Divine condescension, who so delights Himself 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, and all the saints rejoiced with Gertrude. Then our Lord said, in the name of the Church Militant, Refecti cibo, &c.; 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 Missa est, Te decet laus et honor Domine, to the glory and praise of the effulgent and ever-peaceful Trinity. The Son of God ex tended His royal Hand, and blessed the Saint, saying:
“I bless thee, O daughter of eternal light, with this special blessing, granting you this favour, that whenever you de sire to do good to any one from particular affection, they will be as much benefited above others as Isaac was above Esau when he received his father’s blessing.”
Then the Saint recovered from her rapture, and remained more closely united than ever to her Beloved.
The Death of Saint Gertrude the Great
The Life of Saint Gertrude the Great – Chapter VI-VII
When the happy day of release came, which the Saint had so long and so ardently desired, our Lord appeared to her with His Divine countenance radiant with joy. On His right hand stood His ever-blessed Mother, and on His left the beloved disciple John. An immense multitude of Saints attended the King of Saints, and amongst their glorious ranks were seen a band of virgins, who appeared to the religious of the monastery and joined themselves with them. Our Divine Lord approached the bed of the dying Saint, showing such marks of tenderness and affec tion as were more than sufficient to sweeten the bitterness of death. When the Passion was read, at the words, “Et inclinato capite emisit spiritum” (John 19) our Lord inclined towards His faithful spouse, and opened wide His adorable Heart, as if transported with love, pouring forth all its tenderness on her. It might have seemed enough ; but even on earth there was yet more consolation reserved for her who had been faithful usque ad mortem— even until death.
As the sisters prayed and wept around her bed, the religious so favoured by our Lord ventured to address Him thus : “O most sweet Jesus ! we beseech Thee, by the goodness which prompted Thee to give us so dear a mother, that, as Thou art about to take her from this world, Thou wouldst condescend to our prayers, and receive her with the same affection as Thou didst Thy Blessed Mother, when she went forth from the body. ” Then our Lord, with exceeding clemency, turned to His blessed Mother, and said to her: ” Tell Me, My Mother, what I did most pleasing to you when you were leaving the world; for they ask Me to bestow a similar favour on their mother.” “My Son,” re plied the Holy Virgin sweetly, “my greatest joy was the grace which You showed me of receiving me in the secure asylum of Your holy arms. “Our Lord replied: ” I granted this because My Mother, when on earth, ever remembered My Passion with such intense anguish. ” Then He added: “I granted this favour to My chosen one in recompense for the care which you had, while yet on earth, to meditate often in your mind, and to revere by your grief and your tears, the mystery of My Passion. Gertrude must therefore render herself in some sort worthy of this favour, by the pain and difficulty which she will suffer to-day in breathing. The patience which she will thus be called to exercise will place her in a state somewhat similar to that to which you were often reduced by the recollection of My Sufferings.”
St. Gertrude accordingly continued in her agony the entire day; but our Lord did not leave her to suffer alone. His Heart had already been opened to her, and from thence she drew the help and consolation she needed. Celestial spirits also surrounded her bed, and she beheld them inviting her to paradise, and heard their celestial harmony as they sung continually: “Come, come, come, O lady! The joys of heaven await thee! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
The moment of release came at last, and Gertrude passed to the eternal embraces of her Spouse. The religious, whose revelations seemed scarcely less wonderful than those of her saintly Superior, heard our Divine Lord address her thus:
“Behold, now, you are to be united to Me, and to become My own forever, by the sweet embrace which I will give to your soul, and in which I will present you to My eternal Father by the close embrace of My Heart.”