- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
Mary, By Rev. William O'Keefe, C.M. Part 2.
BETHLEHEM AND CALVARY: JOY AND SORROW
Despite its loneliness and isolation, the Stable at Bethlehem was a happy place when Mary brought forth her Firstborn. Angels sang. Shepherds adored. Great Kings offered gifts. “The Virgin Mother who knew not man felt no anguish in the birth of her Firstborn.” (3)
Calvary, on the contrary, spells dreadful sadness and limitless sorrow. Here the angels are silent. The great ones of earth offer nought but blows and insults. This is darkness and blood and tears-And this is the place of our supernatural Birth.
As Christ is the second Adam, atoning for the crime of the first Adam by taking on Himself the sentence of death passed on Adam, so is Mary the second Eve. “Associated with Christ in the salvation of the human race” (Pope Leo XIII), she freely undergoes the punishment of the first woman: “I will multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.” (4)
The eye that despiseth the labour of his mother in bearing him, let the ravens of the brooks pick it out and the young eagles devour it.” (5) We are truly the children of Mary’s Sorrows, and it would, indeed, ill become us to forget the labour in which she brought us forth. Until God readmitted us to the life of grace her voice was heard “mourning and weeping, weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted because they are not.” (6)
Mary’s Motherhood of us is no mere pious sentiment. It is far more than poetic exaggeration or extravagance of devotion. To Mary we truly owe it that we now share in the divine life that we are really adopted children of God.
3 The Roman Breviary. 4 Gen. iii, 16. 5 Prov. xxx, 17. 6 Jer. xxxi, 15.
If Mary’s Motherhood of us is no more than metaphor, then, one might say, so too is God’s Fatherhood: but that cannot be, since Christ has taught us all to call Him “Our Father,” (1) and it is precisely “because we are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father.” (2)
When the hour of her child-bearing is at hand, every mother must be filled with the spirit of sacrifice. She has to journey into the sad land of suffering. She must stand at the foot of the Cross and look on Death face to face. She must be prepared to risk her life in order that the new life within her may come forth and achieve its destiny.
So, too, with Mary. That we might be born to the life of grace she made the grim ascent of Calvary, and endured anguish beyond the power of words to describe. All that Christ suffered in His Flesh, Mary suffered in her soul. “Ah, truly O Blessed Mother, did the sword pierce thy soul, for only by doing so could it penetrate thy Son’s Body “ (Saint Bernard).
That we might live, Mary gave what was dearer to her than her own life. She gave Him Who is LIFE ITSELF, and for that she is a peerless Mother. All may turn to her with most sure and certain confidence, for Mary, our Mother, won for us more than a life that comes to an end: Mary gives Eternal life to her children. “He that shall find me shall find Life.” (3)
MARY MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES
Thus far I have tried to show that “neither in the prophecy, nor in the preparation, nor in the winning of the Redemption has Mary been separated from Her Son.” (4) And in doing so I have concerned myself chiefly with Mary’s relation to mankind in general.
I would now ask you to consider her relation to the individual soul. Does she play a part in the distribution to you and to me of the graces that were won for us during the lifetime of her Son? “Does the past suggest a future for her, and, if so, of what description?” (5)
There can be no doubt that Mary’s Motherhood of our Lord gives her an altogether unique position in the Communion of Saints. It is commonly believed, however, that, over and above her rank as Saint of saints, she enjoys in the sanctification of individual souls the dignity of a mediatorship, secondary to, but inseparable from the Mediatorship of Christ. Because Mary co-operated so intimately in the acquisition of grace, it seems fitting that she should have a like part in its distribution. But there is even a deeper reason than this for saying that she is the Mediatrix of all graces.
According to the Fathers of the Church, the Sacred Humanity of our Saviour represented all humanity, all mankind. Christ as Man is a perfect Model from which each one of us may learn how God loves him and how he is to love God in return. Christ’s life is the pattern of our living and of our sanctification. Every grace that we receive conforms us more and more to Christ, builds up His likeness in us, makes us resemble Him.
Recollect now that the Incarnation depended on Mary’s Fiat. It was at her word that the fullness of grace, the grace of hypostatic union with the Word, was given to Christ’s Sacred Humanity. Surely that is in itself a cogent argument that she is Mediatrix of all graces. If there is any real meaning in the statement that “we make one with Christ in the divine thought.” (6) And if our (progressive) sanctification follows the pattern of the (instantaneous) sanctification of the Sacred Humanity, all our holiness, the fullness of our graces, depends on the Virgin’s Fiat, and is given to us at her word.
Thus we are always the “little children” of Mary, her tiny babes, “of whom she is in labour until Christ is formed in us.” (7) In our spiritual lives we depend unceasingly on her “as the unborn babe on its mother.” (8) No smallest grace, not the least drop of the Blood of Christ, “comes to us of the Mystical Body otherwise than through the Heart of Mary.” What a picture of all-embracing dependence! (9) What motive for being utterly devoted to her!
Mary Mediatrix. Mary Mother of Divine Grace. This is the Virgin’s real destiny. She must be Mother of the full Christ, of the Saviour and His Mystical Body. This is truly the only future that would accord with her sublime past and keep intact her mysterious unity with her Son.
1 Matt. vi, 9. 2 Gal. iv, 6. 3 Prov. viii, 35. 4 The de Montfort Way, B.O.W. 1942, p. 16. 5 ib 6 Abbot Marmion: Christ in His Mysteries: Sands & Co., p. 13. 7 Gal. iv, 19. 8 The de Montfort Way, p. 21. 9 ib.
“O my Lady, most holy and graceful Mother of God, boundless Ocean of the unseen riches and treasures of the Divinity, thou who art after the Mediator also a universal Mediatrix, behold my faith.
“Thou hast wiped all tears from the face of the earth. Thou hast filled creatures with all manner of blessings. Thou hast brought joy to Heaven and salvation to earth.
“In thee we have an unfailing guarantee of our resurrection. Through thee we hope to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. From thee, who alone art Immaculate, Apostles, Prophets, all the just and humble of heart, since the first
Adam to the very end of time, have received, still receive and ever will receive all glory and honour and holiness. (St. Ephrem, IV cent.).
“None indeed can attain salvation but through thee, O Most Holy One. None may be saved from evils but through thee, O most Immaculate One. To none may gifts be granted but through thee, O Most Chaste One. On none may the boon of grace be mercifully bestowed but through thee, O Most Honoured One. Who, then, will not proclaim thee blessed?” (Saint Germanus, VII cent.).
“God has placed the fullness of all good in Mary. If, then, we have any hope, any grace, any salvation, we can be certain that it has overflowed into us from her, ‘who has gone up from the desert overflowing with delights.’” Hence with every fibre of our hearts, with every inmost feeling and affection, let us honour Mary. Such is God’s
Will, Who would have us obtain everything through her. Yes, such is His Will, His Will for us.” (St. Bernard, XI cent.).
God is our Father, Mary is our Mother. Christ is our Brother. And with them we are privileged to form one wonderful Family -the Household of the Faith. “You are the domestics of God,” (1) that is to say, members of His Family.
The Blessed Trinity is a sublime Family Circle. Theologically speaking, the Father is Parenthood. The Word is Childhood. The Holy Ghost is Oneness of Will, Mutual love. Thus you have the eternal cycle of Life in the Trinity, the Father always begetting the Son, to Whom He is bound and welded by the Spirit of Love.
Now, it is into this Family Life of God that we are drawn by grace. The Spirit reaches us and encircles us. By His indwelling in us we are brought within the Family Circle of the Trinity, for it is “the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God.” (2) In a word, God’s Fatherhood is achieved in us by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost.
How significant, then, it becomes that in the Gospels we are told that Mary’s Motherhood is also a work of the same Holy Spirit. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,” the angel said to her, “and the Power of the Most High shall overshadow thee, and, therefore, the Holy One that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (3)
Look at it another way. When the angel saluted her, Mary was “full of grace.” But as I have said above, grace brings one into the Family Life of the Godhead. Mary’s unique grace brought to her, therefore, an altogether unique participation in the Life of the Trinity. It made her God’s Mother. “Her fervent love and charity drew the Word to her.” (Saint Albert the Great).
Moreover, because, from that moment onwards, our human notion of the Family Life of God must include His Mother, Mary, our adoption by grace into that Family must give us sonship of Mary as surely as it gives us sonship of God the Father. We cannot be in God’s Family unless we are Mary’s children. If we reject her, we reject Him. Unless we acknowledge her as our Mother, God most certainly will not acknowledge us as His sons.
Hence in our spiritual life let us not forget that in so far as our union with Mary increases, in so far as we really regard her as our Mother and treat her as such, to that extent the Holy Spirit is achieving the likeness of Christ- Sonship of God -in us. We are making progress in genuine holiness and in the grace and favour of our Heavenly Father.
1 Eph. ii, 19. 2 Rom. viii, 16. 3 Luke i, 35.
THE FAMILY LIKENESS
I have said that our adoption by grace into the Family Circle of the Trinity is effected by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. He is the Bond of Divine kinship between the members of the Holy Family of God. “In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.” (1)
Well, now, to borrow again from the theologians; in the Blessed Trinity the Holy Ghost is God’s Will -as the Word is God’s Thought. Consequently, it is no mere coincidence that what I may call the Family Likeness, the external resemblance, between the members of God’s Family, is a “showing forth of the Spirit,” (2) doing the Will of God.
Such was the lesson of Christ’s Life. “In the head of the book it is written of Me: Behold I come to do Thy Will, O God.” (3) Such, too, was His spoken word: “Whosoever shall do the Will of God he is My brother, and My sister and Mother.” (4)
Mary’s life teaches the same truth. Her “behold the Handmaid of the Lord “ (5) is the perfect parallel to Christ’s “not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt.” (6) And it is very significant that no other spoken lesson of hers has been preserved in the Gospels but one brief phrase, that could serve as a motto for would-be saints, a single sentence in which she gives her children the secret of sanctity: “Whatsoever He shall say to you do ye.” (7) This she spoke at Cana, on the eve of Christ’s public life, as He was about to commence His revelation of the hidden mysteries of God. This is how she introduces Him to His audience. Knowing that He is God, she tells us: “Do His Will in all things.”
And in this context I cannot refrain from mentioning the person whose love for Mary brought him to Jesus, the one who learned from her this wisdom of ready obedience to the Will of God. I refer, of course, to Saint Joseph, who as Mary’s earthly spouse typified her Heavenly Spouse, the Holy Spirit, the Will of God, in a very special way. With Saint Joseph there was no bartering, no bargaining with God about what he would or wouldn’t do. Once his duty was clear he straight away went and did it. “Joseph, rising up, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” (8)
This simple, unostentatious piety appeals to me, partly because it is so much in the spirit of Christ, so simple and Mary-like, so much more certain and safe, than emotionalism and mere sentiment, and partly also because it has everything in common with the unquestioning, simple faith of our Irish ancestors who were prepared to leave all things, to sacrifice home and friends and their beloved fatherland, for the sake of Christ and His Blessed Mother.
We often refer glibly and most thoughtlessly to the Fiat of Mary, by which the “Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Let us not forget that we, her children, must say Amen to our Mother’s prayer. We must echo her Fiat. Christ also taught us to say Fiat to God: Fiat voluntas tua, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (9) Like Mary, our Mother, and like Christ, our Brother, we ought to translate this prayer into living words, into our actions. If we do so the Holy Ghost will come upon us, and the Might of the Most High will overshadow us, and cause to be reproduced in us the likeness of the Son of God Himself.
The Mother of God belongs to Heaven. Her place is in the bosom of the Divine Family. Hence it was most fitting that, when her work on earth was accomplished, God should take her to Himself. Her most Pure Body had been the instrument by which the Holy Spirit had fashioned Flesh for God made Man and surely that Divine Lover would not leave the virginal beauty of his Spouse to suffer the inglorious corruption of the grave. God is more generous than that to those who have served Him. Hence in her death God bestowed the singular favour of the Assumption on the Maiden who had rendered Him such ready obedience in her life.
And for us who are her children it is comforting to know that Mary is in Heaven. There she is nearer to each one of us than if she had remained in some particular place on earth. There she can foster the cause of our salvation more effectively than here below. If Christ brought His glorified Humanity into Heaven in order that by the presentation of His Sacred Wounds He might intercede for us with the Father, so was it granted to Mary to come before God in the anticipated glory of bodily resurrection, that the Father might be moved still more at the sight of the Immaculate and Virginal Purity of His Son’s Mother.
Mary’s Assumption is the perfect complement of all her other privileges and graces. Grace always gives us some familiarity with God, increases our union with Him, tends to bring us deeper into the Life of the Trinity. Therefore, the incomparable fullness of Mary’s grace was fittingly shown forth in the unique intimacy with God to which she was admitted in her Assumption. “If Christ, Who is the Life and the Truth, could say: “Where I am, there also shall My servant be,” how much more certainly will not His Mother be there with Him?” (St. John Damascene).
1 I Cor. xii, 13. 2 ib. ii, 4. 3 Ps. xxxix, 8. 4 Mk iii, 35. 5 Luke i, 38. 6 Mt. xxvi, 39. 7 Jo. ii, 5. 8 Matt. 1, 24 ; 11, 14, 21. 9 ib. vi, 10.
MARY: OUR LIFE, OUR HOPE
Mary’s Assumption, like Christ’s Ascension, lifts our thoughts to Heaven, the ultimate goal of our existence, makes life worth living, and is an inspiration and stimulus to us in all joys and sorrows. To those especially, who are unhappy and fearful because of past sins, and to those who are uneasy or over anxious about their salvation, I say: Remember Mary. Turn to your Mother, God has welcomed her into His inmost Heaven. There she thinks of you and prays for you. God cannot refuse her anything, because she is His Mother, and because this is the hour of her triumph. He has committed to her the distribution of all His graces. Among these is the grace of your salvation. Pray, therefore; Pray to Mary, and then put aside your anxiety and fearfulness. For Mary, who is a revelation of the gentle sweetness of God, does not like to see her children in unnecessary and harmful unhappiness.
“Our great Queen has gone before us. God has welcomed her with such honour that we, her poor servants, may follow after her with confidence. . . . Our exiled nation has sent home an advocate, who, being the Mother of the judge and also the Mother of Mercy, will undoubtedly further the cause of our salvation. . . .
“With thirsting souls, therefore, let us hasten to this fountain of mercy. With most eager desire let our misery turn to this treasure of compassion.
“O Most Blessed One, I beseech thee, that, in thy loving kindness thou wouldst strive to let the world see what grace thou hast found with God. By thy holy prayers obtain pardon for sinners, health for the sick, courage for the fearful, comfort for the afflicted, help and relief for all who are sore pressed.
“And may we, O Most Gracious Queen, may we, who praise thee and call on thy most sweet name of Mary, merit to receive by thy intercession an abundance of heavenly grace from Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Saint Bernard).
JOSEPH P. Newth, C.C., Censor Theol. Deput.
Dublini, die 22° Junii anno 1961.