Category Archives: Mariology

Aug 15 – Sermon on the Assumption by St John Damascene (675-749 AD), Doctor of the Church & the Assumption


-Assumption of the Virgin, oil on canvas, Height: 237 cm (93.3 in); Width: 169 cm (66.5 in), by Juan Martín Cabezalero, 1660, Prado National Museum, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by St John Damascene

“Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in childbirth, was preserved in its incorruption and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. …Therefore I will not call thy sacred transformation death, but rest or going home, and it is more truly a going home … thou dwellest in a happier state.

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven rejoices thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise saying:

‘Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? [cf Revelation 12, Song of Songs 6:10] How sweet and beautiful thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns [cf Song of Songs 1:16, 2:1,2]; therefore the young maidens loved thee [cf Song of Songs 1:3]. We are drawn after the odor of thy ointments [cf Song of Songs 1:3-4]. The King introduced thee into His chamber [cf Song of Songs 2:4]. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias [Elijah] was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thine own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world…refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful…health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…’

We, too, approach thee today, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor. Lifting up mind, soul, and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty. If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honor shown to servants is honor shown to our…Lord, how can honor shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable?…those who think of Thee should recall the memory of Thy most precious gift as the cause of our lasting joy. How it fills us with gladness! How the mind that dwells on this holy treasury of Thy grace enriches itself.

Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt…Lead us into the calm harbor of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption & Disfigurement of Death


-please click on the image for greater detail

“At Your right hand stands the Queen in gold of Ophir.” – Ps 45:9

The doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, body & soul, implicitly taught in the liturgy since at least the sixth century AD and explicitly taught by the ordinary magisterium of the Church since that time, was solemnly defined as a dogma of faith in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, the ONLY time the doctrine of papal infallibility has been invoked since it was dogmatically defined.


-by Br Simon Teller, OP

“Sooner or later, my body will become a corpse.

A corpse looks alien. It’s both strangely familiar (so clearly my body), yet utterly unrecognizable (so clearly not me), putting on display the jarring indignity of death, the separation of my soul from my body—the fundamental elements that constitute me as a human person. Death dissolves the integration of my human identity, separating (in a sense) me from myself.

The cold truth about being mortal is that, sooner or later, we all suffer the disfigurement of death.

All of us except one, who, “when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966). Death could not defile Mary because she was so closely united, in the core of her identity, to her Son, the very Source of Life.

While she gave her own physical likeness to Jesus, Mary was deeply conformed to Him as one made in the Divine Image. She defined her very identity by this conformity: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38). Through her union with the Divine Word, Mary’s heart and soul magnified the glory of the Lord. She was full of grace, full of Divine Life, which is to say that she was full of Divine Love—the Love that the deep waters of death cannot quench (cf. Song of Songs 8:6-7). Because of this, when she came to the end of her earthly life, she crossed over those waters of death undefiled to the core of her being, with the harmonious union of her body and soul intact.

Mary’s assumption into heaven teaches us what it means to be fully alive, truly ourselves, immune to death’s sting, immortal. The true life is the life of grace, our participation in the Divine Life of God, into which we are initiated and in which we are sustained through the Sacraments. When we lose this Divine Life through sin we become spiritual corpses—alienated from our true selves, unrecognizable, disfigured. The Sacraments incorporate us into the resurrection of Christ, raising our spiritual corpses from the dead and making us participants in the undying life of God.

Mary lives now in heaven to save us from eternal death. She is our Blessed Mother, gaining for us the gift of Divine Life through her prayers, now and at the hour of our death. Which is why today, on the Feast of the Assumption, we entrust ourselves, body and soul, to Mary, Queen of Heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s love

“Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.” -Mt 25:13

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, Mother of fair love, teach me the secret of steady growth in charity.

MEDITATION

We must not think that the Blessed Virgin Mary was excused from all personal activity and progress because she had been established from the beginning in a higher degree of sanctity than that which even the greatest saint could ever hope to attain. Quite the contrary! For her, as for us, life on earth was a “way” where progress in charity was always necessary; where personal correspondence with grace was expected. The excellence of our Lady’s merit consisted in her heroic fidelity to the immense gifts she had received. The privileges of her Immaculate Conception, of the state of sanctity in which she was born, and of her divine maternity were, unquestionably, pure gifts from God; still, far from accepting them passively, as a coffer receives the precious things put into it, she received them freely, as one capable of willingly adhering to the divine favors by means of a complete correspondence with grace. St. Thomas teaches that although Mary could not merit the Incarnation of the Word, by the grace she received she did merit that degree of sanctity which made her the worthy Mother of God (cf. Summa Theologica IIIa, q. 2, a. 11, ad. 3), and she merited this precisely because of her correspondence with grace. Hence, even in Mary, we can consider progress in sanctity, a progress which did not depend solely on the new abundance of graces which God gave her at certain special times in her life—at the moment of the Incarnation for example—but also on her personal activity, wholly informed by grace and charity, by means of which she brought to fruition the treasure entrusted to her by God. Mary, in the truest sense of the word, is the “faithful Virgin,” who knew how to increase a hundredfold the talents (Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-28) she received from God. Yes, the greatest amount of grace ever given to a creature was freely bestowed on her by the divine liberality, in view of the sublime mission for which she was destined, but she corresponded to it with the greatest fidelity possible to a creature. Thus, there was plenitude of grace on God’s part, and complete fidelity on Mary’s, so that, as St. Alphonsus says, “Without ever stopping, her beautiful soul soared toward God, continually growing in love of Him.”

COLLOQUY

“O Mary, you understood the gift of God; you never lost a particle of it. You were so pure, so luminous, that you seemed to be light itself: Speculum justitiae, mirror of justice. Your life was so simple, so lost in God, that there is scarcely anything to say about it. Virgo fidelis: the faithful Virgin, ‘who kept all things in her heart’.” (Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat (Heaven in Faith) 10).

O Mary, how marvelous to see your soul continually growing in love, to watch it scale the heights of sanctity without ever halting! Nothing retarded the divine action in you; no obstacle hindered the growth of charity. “Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her Beloved?” (Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs] 8:5). It is you, O Mother, you who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and sustained by Him, ever rose from grace to grace, from virtue to virtue. O Mother of fair love, full of grace, O faithful Virgin, help me to correspond with fidelity to the gifts of God! Do not permit that my misery render sterile the grace within me. Help me, O Mother, to overcome the innumerable resistances of my weak, cowardly nature; draw me by the sweet charm of your example, so that I may follow you with ardor in the way of perfect charity.

“O my Mother, you who were ever on fire with love for God, give me at least a spark of that love. You appealed to your Son on behalf of the bride and bridegroom whose wine gave out, saying: ‘vinum non habent,’ they have no wine; and will you not pray for me, lacking as I am in love for God, and yet owing Him so much? Say to Him: ‘amorem non habet,’ he has no love. And ask this love for me. No other grace do I ask of you but this one. O Mother, by your love for Jesus, hear me. Show me what great favor you have with Him by obtaining for me a divine light and a divine flame so powerful that it will transform me from a sinner into a saint, and, detaching me from every earthly affection, will inflame me wholly with divine love. O Mary, you have the power to do this. Do it for love of the God who made you so great, so powerful, and so merciful” (St. Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s hope


-Madonna of the Magnificat, Sandro Botticelli, 1481, Tempera, 118 cm × 119 cm (46 in × 47 in), Uffizi, Florence, please click on the image for greater detail.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

-Lk 1:46-55

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus, Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae, Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

“Presence of God – O Mary, Mother of Good Hope, teach me the way of complete confidence in God.

MEDITATION

In the Magnificat, the canticle which burst forth from Mary’s heart when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, we find an expression which specially reveals Mary’s interior attitude. “My soul doth magnify the Lord … because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid” (Luke 1:46-48).

When Mary spoke these words, they revealed the “great things” which God had done in her; but, considered in the framework of her life, they expressed the continual movement of her heart, which, in the full awareness of her nothingness, would turn always to God with the most absolute hope and trust in His aid. No one had a more concrete, practical knowledge of her nothingness than Mary; she understood well that her whole being, natural as well as supernatural, would be annihilated if God did not sustain her at every moment. She knew that whatever she was and had, in no way belonged to her, but came from God, and was the pure gift of His liberality. Her great mission and the marvelous privileges which she had received from the Most High did not prevent her from seeing and feeling her “lowliness.” But far from disconcerting or discouraging her in any way—as the realization of our nothingness and wretchedness often does to us—her humility served as a starting point from which she darted to God with stronger hope. The greater the knowledge of her nothingness and weakness became, the higher her soul mounted in hope. That is why, being really poor in spirit, she did not trust in her own resources, ability, or merits, but put all her confidence in God alone. And God, who “sends the rich away empty, and fills the hungry with good things” (cf. Luke 1:53), satisfied her “hunger” and fulfilled her hopes, not only by showering His gifts on her, but by giving Himself to her in all His plenitude.

COLLOQUY

“O Mother of holy love, our life, our refuge, and our hope, you well know that your Son Jesus, not satisfied with being our perpetual advocate with the eternal Father, has willed that you also, should implore divine mercy for us. I turn to you, then, hope of the unfortunate, hoping by the merits of Jesus and by your intercession, to obtain eternal salvation. My confidence is so great, that, if I had my salvation in my own hands, I should yet place it in yours, for I trust in your merciful protection more than I do in my own works. O my Mother and my hope, do not abandon me! The pity you have for sinners and your power with God are greater than the number and the malice of my faults. If all should forget me, do not you forget me, Mother of the omnipotent God. Say to God that I am your child and that you protect me, and I shall be saved.

“Do not look for any virtue or merit in me, my Mother; look only at the confidence I place in you and my desire to improve. Look at all that Jesus has done and suffered for me and then abandon me, if you have the heart to do so. I offer you all the sufferings of His life: the cold He endured in the stable, His journey to Egypt, the Blood He shed, His poverty, His sweat, His sadness and the death He endured for love of me in your presence, and do you, for the love of Jesus, pledge yourself to help me. O my Mother, do not refuse your pity to one for whom Jesus did not refuse His Blood!

“O Mary, I put my trust in you; in this hope I live and in this hope I long to die, saying over and over: ‘Unica spes mea Jesus, et post Jesum virgo Maria,’ My only hope is Jesus, and after Jesus, Mary” (-Saint Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s faith

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O my Mother, show me how to have firm faith in God and how to entrust myself entirely to Him.

MEDITATION

Using St. Elizabeth’s words, the Church says in praise of Mary: “Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Great things indeed were to be accomplished in Mary; and she had the great merit of believing in them. On the word of God as announced by the Angel, she believed that she would become a mother without losing her virginity; she, who was so humble, believed that she would be truly the Mother of God, and that the fruit of her womb would really be the Son of the Most High. She adhered with entire faith to all that had been revealed to her, accepting, without the least hesitation, a plan that would upset the whole natural order of things: a virgin mother; a creature, Mother of the Creator. She believed when the Angel spoke to her; she continued to believe even when the Angel left her alone and she found herself in the condition of an ordinary woman who knows that she is about to become a mother. “The Virgin,” St. Bernard says, “so little in her own eyes, was magnanimous in her faith in God’s promise! She, who considered herself nothing but a poor handmaid, never had the least doubt concerning her vocation to this incomprehensible mystery, to this marvelous change, to this inscrutable sacrament; she firmly believed that she would become the true Mother of the God-Man.”

The Blessed Virgin teaches us to believe in our vocation to sanctity, to divine intimacy. We did believe in it when God revealed it to us in the brightness of interior light, and the words of His minister confirmed it; but we should also believe in it when we find ourselves alone, in darkness, amid difficulties that tend to disturb and discourage us. God is faithful, and He does not do things by halves: He will finish His work in us, provided we have complete confidence in Him.

COLLOQUY

“O Mary, overshadow me and I shall be calm and confident. Accompany me on my way and lead me by secret paths. I shall not be spared suffering, but you will arouse in me a real hunger for it, as for an indispensable food. Mary! Your name is sweet as honey and balm to my lips. Hail, Mary! who can resist you? Who can be lost if he says, ‘Hail, Mary?’ You are the Mother of the little ones, the health of the sick, the star in storms…. Oh! Mary! If I am helpless, without courage, without consolation, I run to you and cry: Ave Maria! You are the comfort of slaves, the courage of little ones, the strength of the weak, Ave Maria! When I say your name, my whole heart is inflamed, Ave Maria! Joy of angels, food of souls, Ave Maria!” (cf. Bl. Edward Poppe).

Yes, O Mary, lead me by the short route of complete confidence in God. You who are blessed because you have believed, increase my faith; give me a strong, unshakable, invincible faith. We are indebted to your faith for the accomplishment of God’s promises; therefore, help me to share your faith, making me believe in Him, in His words, promises, and invitations, without any shadow of doubt, hesitation, or uncertainty. Doubt delays me, hesitation paralyzes me, uncertainty clips my wings…. O Mary, help me to have complete faith, so that I can give myself wholly to God, adhere to all His plans, accept with my eyes closed every disposition of divine Providence. Make me believe so that I shall be able to face storms with courage, abandon myself entirely to God’s action, and advance with confidence along the road to sanctity. If you are with me, O Mary, I shall have no fear. The strength of your faith will be the support and refuge of mine, so weak and languid.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s humility

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, humblest of all creatures, make me humble of heart.

MEDITATION

St. Bernard says: “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.” The Blessed Virgin was certainly the woman whom God honored most highly, whom He raised above all other creatures; yet no creature was so humble and lowly as she. A holy rivalry seemed to exist between Mary and God; the higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became in her humility. The Angel called her “full of grace,” and Mary “was troubled” (Luke 1:28, 29). According to St. Alphonsus’ explanation, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.” The Angel revealed to her the sublime mission which was to be entrusted to her by the Most High, and Mary declared herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Her thoughts did not linger over the immense honor that would be hers as the woman chosen from all women to be the Mother of the Son of God; but, she contemplated in wonder the great mystery of a God who willed to become incarnate in the womb of a poor creature. If God wished to descend so far as to give Himself to her as a Son, to what depths should not His little handmaid abase herself? The more she understood the grandeur of the mystery, the immensity of the divine gift, the more she humbled herself, submerging herself in her nothingness. Her attitude was the same when Elizabeth greeted her, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:42). Those words did not astonish her, for she was already the Mother of God; yet she remained steadfast in her profound humility. She attributed everything to God whose mercies she sang, acknowledging the condescension with which He had “regarded the humility of His handmaid” (Luke 1:48). That God had performed great works in her she knew and acknowledged, but instead of boasting about them, she directed everything to His glory. With reason St. Bernardine exclaims: “As no other creature, after the Son of God, has been raised in dignity and grace equal to Mary, so neither has anyone descended so deep into the abyss of humility.” Behold the effect that graces and divine favors should produce in us: an increase of humility, a greater awareness of our nothingness.

COLLOQUY

“O Virgin! glorious stem, to what sublime height do you raise your corolla? Straight to Him who is seated on the throne, to the God of Majesty. I do not wonder since you are so deeply rooted in humility. Hail, Mary, full of grace! You are truly full of grace, for you are pleasing to God, to the angels, and to men: to men, by your maternity; to the angels, by your virginity; to God, by your humility. It is by your humility that you attract the glance of God, of Him who regards the humble, but looks at the proud from afar. As Satan’s eyes are fixed on the proud, so God’s eyes are on the lowly” (St. Bernard).

O Mother most humble, make me humble so that God will deign to turn His eyes toward me. There is nothing in my soul to attract Him, nothing sublime, nothing worthy of His complacency, nothing truly good or virtuous; whatever good there is, is so mixed with wretchedness, so weak and deficient that it is not even worthy to be called good. What, then, can attract Your grace to my poor soul, O Lord? “Where will you look, but on him who is poor and humble, and contrite of heart?” (cf. Isaiah 66,2). O Lord, grant that I may be humble; make me humble, through the merits of Your most humble Mother.

O Mary, had you not been humble, the Holy Spirit would not have come upon you, and you would not have become the Mother of God …” (cf. St. Bernard). Similarly, if I am not humble, God will not give me His grace, the Holy Spirit will not come to me, and my life will be sterile, unfruitful. Grant, then, O Holy Virgin, that your humility, which is so pleasing to God, may obtain pardon for my pride, and a truly humble heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary 3


-Madonna under the fir tree, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1510

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, since you are really my Mother, make me your true and worthy child.

MEDITATION

When she consented to become the Mother of the Son of God, Mary bound herself by very close bonds not only to the person of Jesus, but also to His work. She knew that the Savior was coming into the world to redeem the human race; hence, when she agreed to become His Mother, she also agreed to become the closest collaborator of His mission. In fact, by giving us Jesus, the source of all grace, Mary collaborated most effectively and even directly in the diffusion of grace in our souls. “If Jesus is the Father of our souls,” St. Alphonsus says, “Mary is their Mother, for, in giving us Jesus, she gave us true life; and later, by offering on Calvary the life of her Son for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of divine grace.”

As one woman, Eve, had cooperated in the losing of grace, so by a harmonious disposition of divine Providence, another woman, Mary, would cooperate in the restoration of grace. It is true that all grace comes from Jesus, who is the only source of grace and the one and only Savior; but, inasmuch as Mary gave Him to the world, and was intimately associated with His whole life and work, we can truly say that grace also comes from Mary. If Jesus is its source, Mary, according to St. Bernard, is its channel, the aqueduct which carries it to us. Since Jesus willed to come to us through Mary, so all grace and all supernatural life come to us through her. “This is the will of Him Who decreed that we should have everything through Mary” (St. Bernard). All that Jesus merited for us by strictest right, condignly, Mary has merited for us fittingly, congruously. The Blessed Virgin is then truly our Mother. When she brought forth Jesus, she brought us forth at the same time to the life of grace; we can address her in all truth: “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy; our life, our sweetness, and our hope!”

COLLOQUY

“Oh blessed confidence, O sure refuge, you, the Mother of God, are my Mother! How can I fail to hope, since my salvation and my sanctity are in the hands of Jesus, my Brother, and Mary, my Mother?” (Cf. St. Anselm).

“O Mary, Mary, bearer of the fire of love, and dispenser of mercy! Mary, co-redemptrix of the human race, when you clothed the Word with your flesh, the world was redeemed. Christ paid its ransom with His Passion, and you paid it with the sorrows of your body and soul.” (St. Catherine of Siena).

“O Mary, you are that garden enclosed, which contains the Giver of Life; God Himself is within you, with heaven and all creatures. The whole world is saved by the Blood received from you. Without you, O Mary, there would be no paradise for me; without you, there would be no God for me ….

“O Mary, how countless are the gifts and graces which you wish to bestow on creatures! And who would not want to receive them? It is perseverance in desiring them which is lacking; you, most loving Mother, do not offer gifts to your children when you see that they would not appreciate them and would throw them away; for you know that the guilt thus incurred would have to be punished later. O Mary, you want to grant me your gifts, but I deprive myself of them, because I want to mingle my gifts with yours. I should like to have your graces, but I want my own will at the same time, and so I cannot have them. I should like to have your good will, but also the love and kindness of creatures. I cannot have both. I want your love and my self-love, but this combination is impossible. I want to live under your mantle, but also under the mantle of my own comfort. Yet, it is not fitting to be delicate members of a thorn-crowned head; neither is it fitting for your children to seek their comfort under your mantle, O sweet Mother, when you had so little regard for your own comfort.

“O Mary, what can I offer and give you that will please you? If I offer you my will, I fear that you will not accept it, because it is not conformed to God’s will. If I offer you my intellect, it is not enlightened; if I give you my affection, it is not pure. I offer you the Heart of your only Son! and a greater gift I cannot offer.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

Love,
Matthew

Mary 2

Dolci600_2Madonna2p1070185-Madonna in Glory, Carlo Dolci, circa 1670

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Under your protection I take refuge, O Mary; be the guide and model of my interior life.

MEDITATION

The heart of every Christian turns spontaneously toward his heavenly Mother, with a desire to live in closer intimacy with her and to strengthen the sweet ties which bind him to her. It is a great comfort on our spiritual way, which is often fatiguing and bristling with difficulties, to meet the gentle presence of a mother. One is so at ease near one’s mother. With her, everything becomes easier; the weary, discouraged heart, disturbed by storms, finds new hope and strength, and continues the journey with fresh courage.

“If the winds of temptation arise,” sings St. Bernard“if you run into the reefs of trials, look to the star, call upon Mary. In danger, sorrow, or perplexity, think of Mary, call upon Mary.” There are times when the hard road of the “nothing” frightens us, miserable as we are; and then, more than ever, we need her help, the help of our Mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary has, before us, trodden the straight and narrow path which leads to sanctity; before us she has carried the cross, before us she has known the ascents of the spirit through suffering. Sometimes, perhaps, we do not dare to look at Jesus the God-Man, Who because of His divinity seems too far above us; but near Him is Mary, His Mother and our Mother, a privileged creature surely, yet a creature like ourselves, and therefore a model more accessible for our weakness.

Mary comes to meet us, to take us by the hand, to initiate us into the secret of her interior life, which must become the model and norm of our own.

COLLOQUY

“O my soul, do you fear to approach God? He has given you Jesus as Mediator. Is there anything that such a Son could not obtain from His Father? The Father Who loves Him will answer Him, because of the love He bears Him. But do you yet hesitate to approach Him? He made Himself your brother, your companion, and in everything, sin excepted, He willed to undergo all the humiliations of human nature, just to compassionate your miseries. Mary has given you this brother. But His divine Majesty still awes you, perhaps; for, although He is man, He does not cease to be God. Do you want an advocate with Him? Have recourse to Mary. Mary is a pure creature, pure not only because she is free from sin, but also because of her unique human nature. I am sure, O Mary, that your prayers will be heard because of the respect you deserve; your Son will certainly hear you because you are His Mother, and the Father will hear His Son. This is why my confidence is unshakable; this is the reason for all my hope! O Blessed Virgin, the Angel declared that ‘you have found grace before God.’ You will always find grace, and I need only grace; I ask for nothing else.” (cf. St. Bernard).

“Draw me after you, O Virgin Mary, that I may run in the odor of your ointments. Draw me, for I am held back by the weight of my sins and the malice of your enemies. Since no one comes to your Son unless he is drawn by the Father, I dare to say that no one, so to speak, comes to Him if you do not draw him by your prayers. You teach true wisdom, you beg grace for sinners, you are their advocate, you promise glory to those who honor you, because you are the treasury of grace. You have found grace with God, O most sweet Virgin, you who have been preserved from original sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have conceived the Son of God. You have been given all these graces, O most humble Mary, not only for yourself, but also for us, so that you may be able to help us in all our necessities.” (cf. Ven. Raymond Jourdain).

Love,
Matthew

Sep 8 – Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


-“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy (circa 1305 AD)

I was privileged in my volunteer work with hospice to sit vigil this morning with Frederick “Fred” J. from 4am to 8am, my preferred shift. My new friend Fred is 89, an orphan, no family, and one female friend. I said my Lauds/Morning Office for him and with him this morning. I am blessed. This was the hymn for Morning Office today.

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!
Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!
Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.
Both ever blest while endless ages run.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, my Mother, teach me to live hidden with you in the shadow of God.

MEDITATION

The liturgy enthusiastically celebrates Mary’s Nativity and makes it one of the most appealing feasts of Marian devotion. We sing in today’s Office: “Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, brings joy to the whole world, because from you came forth the Sun of Justice, Christ, our God.” Mary’s birth is a prelude to the birth of Jesus because it is the initial point of the realization of the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind. How could the birthday of the Mother of the Redeemer pass unnoticed in the hearts of the redeemed? The Mother proclaims the Son, making it known that He is about to come, that the divine promises, made centuries before, are to be fulfilled. The birth of Mary is the dawn of our redemption; her appearance projects a new light over all the human race: a light of innocence, of purity, of grace, a resplendent presage of the great light which will inundate the world when Christ, “lux mundi,” the Light of the World, appears. Mary, preserved from sin in anticipation of Christ’s merits, not only announces that the Redemption is at hand, but she bears the firstfruits of it within herself; she is the first one redeemed by her divine Son. Through her, all-pure and full of grace, the Blessed Trinity at last fixes on earth a look of complacency, finding in her alone a creature in whom the infinite beauty of the Godhead can be reflected.

The birth of Jesus excepted, no other was so important in God’s eyes or so fruitful for the good of humanity, as was the birth of Mary. Yet it has remained in complete obscurity. There is no mention of it in Sacred Scriptures and when we look for the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel, we find only what refers to Joseph; we find nothing explicit about Mary’s ancestry except the allusion to her descent from David. Our Lady’s origin is wrapped in silence, as was her whole life. Thus, her birth speaks to us of humility. The more we desire to grow in God’s eyes, the more we should hide ourselves from the eyes of creatures. The more we wish to do great things for God, the more we should labor in silence and obscurity.

COLLOQUY

“When I feel myself tossed about in the sea of this world amidst storms and tempests, I keep my eyes fixed on you, O Mary, shining star, lest I be swallowed up by the waves.

“When the winds of temptation arise, when I dash against the reefs of tribulations, I raise my eyes to you and call upon you, O Mary. When I am agitated by the billows of pride, ambition, slander or jealousy, I look to you and I invoke you, O Mary; when anger or avarice or the seductions of the flesh rock the fragile little barque of my soul, I always look to you, O Mary. And if I am troubled by the enormity of my sins, troubled in conscience, frightened at the severity of judgment, and if I should feel myself engulfed in sadness or drawn into the abyss of despair, again I raise my eyes to you, always calling on you, O Mary.

“In dangers, in difficulties, in doubts, I will always think of you, O Mary, I will always call on you. May your name, O Virgin Mary, be always on my lips and never leave my heart; in order that I may obtain the help of your prayers, grant that I may never lose sight of the example of your life. Following you, O Mary, I shall not go astray, thinking of you I shall not err, if you support me I shall not fall, if you protect me I shall have nothing to fear, if you accompany me I shall not grow weary, if you look upon me with favor, I shall reach the port” (cf. St. Bernard).

Love,
Matthew

Mary?

“A few months before I was received into the Catholic Church, my family experienced a crisis. I was in high school when my mother told me she had been diagnosed with a large tumor in her abdomen. She didn’t know how much longer she had to live, and my dad wasn’t in the best position to take care of me and my siblings.

I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, so I told my mom, “I need to just go to Church to process all of this.” She had the left the Church a long time before, but understood it was important to me, so she nodded in approval. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and started walking to the church.

As I knelt in that dark, empty church, my hands were clasped tight and my eyes watched the candles by the altar flicker. I just kept asking God for everything to be okay. Then I saw a statue of Mary. I took a deep breath and prayed:

“Hail Mary Full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Devotion to Mary was the last hurdle I faced coming into the Catholic Church. At first, I feared that Catholics went overboard when it came to Mary and turned her into a rival goddess who took away glory from Christ. But the more I read Scripture the more I saw that Mary didn’t take people away from Christ, she led people to him.

Mater Dei:  The Mother of God

The most important title the Church gives to Mary is also the one that explains why Mary matters so much to Catholics—theotokos. This Greek word means “God-bearer,” but it is usually translated into English as “the Mother of God.” Mary is praised above all of God’s other creatures because she has the most intimate relationship with God. She gave birth to God, nursed God, taught him about life, followed him throughout his ministry, and was at the foot of the cross when Jesus, the God-man, died.

At this point some people might say, “Mary didn’t give birth to God, she gave birth to Jesus.” Yes, but is Jesus God? Calling Mary the Mother of God doesn’t mean that she created the Trinity or that Mary existed before God existed. Being a mother means conceiving and giving birth to a person. God is a Trinity of three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One of those persons, the Son, became man and had a mother (Gal. 4:4). It logically follows that this woman, or Mary, is the Mother of God.

Mothers don’t give birth to “natures” or “humanity,” they give birth to persons. The person Mary gave birth to was the divine second person of the Trinity, God the Son, Whom she and Joseph named Jesus. Even Protestants understand that Mary should be praised in this way. Timothy George says, “Evangelicals can and should join the church catholic in celebrating the Virgin Mary as the mother of God, the God-bearer.” Martin Luther eloquently said, “Men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.”

Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus’ miraculous virginal conception in Mary’s womb.

Instead, the term means that Mary herself was conceived without the stain of original sin.

The normal means to be freed from original sin is through baptism, but God is free to give His grace to whomever He chooses. He knew from all eternity that Mary would say yes to being the mother of His Son, so when she was conceived, God gave Mary an abundant gift of grace. In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel says to Mary “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” The Greek word that is translated “full of grace” refers to having grace as an enduring, complete quality of a person.

But doesn’t the Bible say all people have sinned (Rom 3:10)? If that’s true, then how could Mary have been immaculately conceived?

First, that passage refers to the truth that both Jews and non-Jews are sinners and need Christ. In Romans 9:11, Paul says that before Isaac and Esau were born they had done neither good nor bad. Millions of human beings die in infancy, long before they reach the age of moral accountability, and thus have never committed a personal sin.

But aren’t all humans born with original sin? No, because Jesus was human and he was born without original sin. If we say that Jesus is the exception because He is God, or the new Adam Whose obedience undid the crime of the first Adam, then we have room for another exception: Mary, the Mother of God and the “new Eve,” whose obedience to God undid the curse brought about by the old Eve. In the second century, St. Irenaeus said, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith”

Finally, God demonstrated His surpassing love for His mother by taking her body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. In the Old Testament, God assumed, or took, the prophet Elijah’s body and soul into heaven before he died (2 Kings 2:11). The Church teaches that Mary was also assumed into heaven, and Revelation 12:1 describes a woman in heaven clothed with the sun who gives birth to the Messiah. She appears right after a vision of the Ark of the Covenant, which carried God’s word written on stone tablets. It would be fitting if this woman were Mary, for she is the Ark of the New Covenant, who carried within her body the word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

“All Generations Will Call Me Blessed”

As I knelt in that darkened church and prayed the Hail Mary over and over again, I more clearly saw that Catholics weren’t turning Mary into a God. The reason Mary is “full of grace,” “blessed,” “Holy,” and the “Mother of God” is because her son is Jesus Christ. (It’s amazing that, for the rest of time, God the Son will not only have a human face and body, but will bear a physical resemblance to a human woman who lived around 2,000 years ago.) The only thing Catholics were “guilty of” was recognizing the awesome role Mary played in the history of humanity. In Luke 1:48, Mary herself says “all generations will call me blessed; for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”

Speaking of awesome mothers, a few weeks after my mom told me about her diagnosis she was released from the hospital. I was nervous until she gave me the news: the tumor was benign. It ended up being the size of a basketball, but it was benign. I prayed to God, “Thank you for letting me have my mom for a little longer,” and to His mother I prayed, “Please lead me and my whole family closer to your son, Jesus Christ.””

Love,
Matthew