THE FAIREST FLOWER OF PARADISE - CONSIDERATIONS ON THE LITANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, ENRICHED WITH EXAMPLES DRAWN FROM THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS BY Very Rev. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O. S. M.
|Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) - Madonna della Rosa (Detail) (1518 - 1520)|
"Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense?" (Cant, iii, 6.)
WHEN the moment had come, chosen by the Incarnate Word, to celebrate His mystic and solemn nuptials with the Bride of His Heart, He chose to reveal Himself to her in all His beauty, inviting her to come and taste the ineffable delights which the clear vision of the Divine Essence conveys to the soul.
That vision was the reward of the ardent love which Mary, since her conception, had entertained for her God, and which from that time forward, had gone on augmenting in her soul. That love at last touched its summit, and the time had come when it must receive, from the infinite bounty of God, its final grown, in the clear and immediate manifestation of the Divine Essence to her intelligence. But it is impossible to see God face to face in a steady and permanent manner, and to go on living the mortal life of the body. Wherefore, at the disclosure of that ineffable vision, the bond which held the soul of Mary united to her body burst asunder, and she entered at once into the Court of Heaven.
The day on which Mary made her entrance into heaven, was for the glorious host of the angels, a day of exceeding gladness. These blessed spirits welcomed the most pure soul of the Mother of the Word, with tokens of profoundest reverence. Their gaze could not be sated by the contemplation of this creature's beauty, who had ever preserved inviolate the lily of her Immaculate Conception, and they asked one of another in amazement: "Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense?"
The separation of Mary's soul from her hallowed body lasted but an instant. Scarcely was her soul admitted permanently to the vision of the Divine Essence, the source of all delight, than, without turning aside her glance from that inebriating vision, it resumed, rapid as the lightning, its holy body, in order to dwell with it forever in the splendor of Heaven.
Mary, then, glorified in soul and body, ascended to the realms of light, just as her Son had done on the day of the Ascension. She ascended, not by the aid of any external power, even angelic, but by that force of agility which the resurrection imparts to the glorified body. Mary ascended to heaven as a beautiful bird soars into the azure depths of the firmament; she ascended up to the footsteps of God's throne, by whom she was crowned Queen of heaven and earth. "Come from Libanus, my Spouse, come from Libanus, come, thou shalt be crowned." (Cant. iv, 8.)
Admire, O my soul, this ravishing spectacle, and thank God for the wonders He has wrought in this incomparable Virgin, who, despite her greatness, always remains for thee a Mother full of tenderness and pity.
The Assumption of Mary, while it was for her the crowning of a life altogether supernatural and divine, was also for the human race a fresh cause of joy and triumph.
Just as the patriarchs in Limbo had beheld the birth of Mary as the breaking of that dawn which announced to them their near deliverance, so, too, the Assumption of this unrivaled Queen, together with the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, became for mortal man a sure pledge of resurrection and immortality.
Man is in himself but a weak creature, and great are the woes he must bear in this life; nevertheless, so potent are the succors of divine grace, that notwithstanding our misery, we can, through that divine help, come to share with the holy angels the vision of God in heaven. But to attain so lofty an end, the Christian must fight valiantly all his life through. He must use violence with himself, in order to grow continually in the practice of virtue and the love of God, according to the words of the Apostle: "I press toward the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. iii, 14.)
Weary not, O my soul, in the pursuit of perfection wherein thou art now engaged. Mary's portion shall be thine if, like her, thou art faithful in thy correspondence with grace.
Example St. Stanislaus Kostka
The Blessed Virgin, Mother most pure, delights in an especial manner in souls which are pure and chaste, and thus it is that chastity and the love of Mary are always found together. The young Stanislaus Kostka was most devout to our blessed Lady, so much so that from his infancy he had acquired the habit of reciting the Rosary every day in her honor. While still a youth, he loved to speak of Mary, and used to take as the subject of his exercises and scholastic essays, the virtues and prerogatives of this heavenly Queen.
But it was God's will that Stanislaus should not remain long in the world. Having fallen seriously ill the Blessed Virgin appeared to him with the Child Jesus in her arms, and assured him that it was the will of God that he should join the Society of Jesus. As soon as the pious youth recovered, he hastened to carry out the design of Heaven, but was prevented there and then by the opposition of his parents.
At last, he found means to go to Borne on foot, and being received by the General of the Society was admitted into the novitiate. In this new state of life he was found to be adorned with every virtue and possessed of an extraordinary gift of prayer, from which he drew many graces and spiritual consolations. Above all, devotion to Our Lady grew in him more and more; so that he seemed to have no other thought but to please the Queen of Heaven and was ever meditating on her grandeur, lovingly conversing with her. In his speech he always liked to extol her great prerogatives, and used to confer with his companions as to how they might more fittingly honor her.
So great was his love for Mary, that as the Feast of the Assumption drew nigh, he conceived an earnest desire to die on this great solemnity. He knew by revelation that his petition had been heard, and implored the intercession of St. Lawrence, his protector for that month, that he might help him to die a saintly death.
On the feast of this Saint, Stanislaus suddenly became ill and, contrary to medical opinion, the malady was found to be of a serious nature. On the vigil of the Assumption he received the last sacraments, and rejoicing in his approaching death, he fervently prayed to Jesus and Mary. Our blessed Lady appeared to him in his last moments and lovingly consoled him, and she herself received that beautiful soul and took it up with her to heaven.
O glorious Virgin Mary, by whom our sorrow has been changed into joy, obtain for us that we may live in such manner, that we may one day contemplate thy greatness. Intercede also with thy Divine Son to obtain the deliverance of the souls suffering in purgatory that they may be admitted without delay to everlasting bliss. Amen.