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.
"I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope." (Ecclus. xxiv, 24.)
CHARITY, the queen of all virtues, unites us so closely to God, our Supreme Good and our last end, that sin alone is capable of dissolving this union. Sin, therefore, is the sole obstacle to the presence of divine charity in our souls.
The union which charity cements between the soul and God, is far from barren: it manifests itself in acts of love, and on given occasions, it inspires generous sacrifices, in honor of this same God, who loves us with a love beyond all bounds, and who is Himself the principal object of the virtue of charity.
The title "Mystical Rose," which the Church gives to Mary, expresses well the fact of the presence of this precious virtue in the most holy soul of our heavenly Mother. Mary was without spot. Consecrated wholly to the Lord, her soul exhaled without ceasing, an exquisite perfume as of a sweet rose. She therefore pleased the King of kings to such a point that she was dearer to Him than all other creatures put together.
What tongue could recount the shafts of love which the Holy Virgin sent forth toward the God of her heart, the ardent aspirations of her soul, as she repeated with the Spouse of the Canticles : "Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou liest in the midday." (Cant, i, 6.) This love of Mary's was not inactive; it expanded in acts of noblest and sublimest sacrifice. These acts reached their summit upon Calvary, when the Mother of Jesus offered to God the Divine Victim for the salvation of the human race.
Holy charity embraces in its loving clasp not only God, but also our neighbor. To love men with a true love, to desire their well-being, to succor them in their need, to console them in their afflictions, to bear with their defects: such are the secondary effects of the excellent theological virtue of charity.
No one, after Jesus, practiced charity toward men better than Mary. In fact, did not this loving Mother offer to God her own Son for the world's salvation and, in view of our redemption, hold herself ready to share in all the sufferings which He would endure during His mortal life? Did not her charity urge her to accompany to Calvary Him whom she loved above her own self, and to offer Him to the Eternal Father for our sins? And now that Mary has been crowned in heaven Queen of the Universe, she does not cease to shelter us under the mantle of her maternal charity, imploring of God consolation for the afflicted, repentance for the sinful, and final perseverance for the just.
O Mary, how beautiful this charity renders thee in the eyes of God and men! The moon's silver sheen, the golden sunlight, are but a feeble image of the incomparable loveliness which this ardent charity toward God and man imparts to thee. Truly thou art "fair as the moon, bright as the sun." (Cant. vi, 9.)
It was by reason of her immense charity that God loved Mary more than any other creature, for this divine virtue consists precisely in an interchange of the most tender and heartfelt love and good will between the lover and the beloved. The following words spoken formerly of Queen Esther, are therefore perfectly applicable to the Mother of God: "The king loved her more than all the other women; and she had favor and kindness before him above all, and he set the royal crown on her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti." (Esther, ii, 17.)
Endeavor, O my soul, to make return for the love wherewith God loves thee, by loving Him with all thy heart, and seeking to grow daily in conformity to His holy will; for, by this alone, is divine charity made manifest. But above all, see that thou avoidest sin with the utmost care; not merely mortal sin, which is an insurmountable obstacle to the possession of this holy virtue, but venial sin also, which, by diminishing the fervor of charity, leads the soul little by little to the commission of mortal sin.
Sin, ah, this is of a truth the enemy of our souls, the greatest evil which can befall us upon earth.
Example - St. Rose of Lima
St. Rose of Lima was the first flower of signal holiness to blossom in South America. She was named "Rose" because, when but a few months old, her face was miraculously transfigured like that of a most lovely rose, in sign of her angelic purity and ardent charity.
When she reached the age of reason and was already endowed with heavenly blessings, she dreaded to become vain of the name given her, thinking herself unworthy of bearing it. But our blessed Lady appeared to her, assuring her that this name was most dear to her Divine Son; and moreover, in token for her own affection, she bade Rose be called henceforth "Rose of St. Mary."
From contemplation of God, her only Good, Rose conceived such a low esteem for the things of this world and so great a love for suffering, that she began to lead a life of solitude and austerity. Her penance moved all who knew her to admiration. She treated her body so harshly that from the sole of her foot to the crown of her head no soundness was found in her. In the midst of her hardest sufferings she used to exclaim: "O my Lord Jesus Christ, increase my sufferings, but increase, too, the flame of thy divine charity in my heart."
As she was not able to leave her home, she joined the Third or Secular Order of St. Dominic in order to render herself ever more conformed to her Divine Spouse. She made herself a little cell in a corner of her father's garden and there she passed her days in continual prayer, uninterrupted by any distraction.
Such union with God merited signal favors, such as that of hearing from our blessed Lord Himself these words: "Rose, beloved of My Heart, thou shalt be My Spouse." To which she replied: "O Lord, I am but Thy servant. The brands of my servitude will not allow me to be raised to the dignity of Thy Spouse." But the Blessed Virgin appeared to her with her Son, assuring her that truly, because of the charity that reigned in her heart, she was worthy of being called the Spouse of Jesus.
This glorious name was no mere title of honor, for it inspired her with a still stronger desire to suffer, the better to please the Spouse of her soul. Finally, worn away by penance, after having twice repeated "Jesus, be with me," she died a holy death in the year 1617.
O Mary, mystical rose of perfect charity, I rejoice that thou didst possess this inestimable gift to such a degree, as to become the choice Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Grant, I pray thee, that after thy example, I may detest sin above all evils, and may always increase in the possession of so precious a gift, according to the words of St. Peter: "Grow always in grace and in the knowledge of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter, iii, 18.) Amen.