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, wisdom, dwell in counsel, and am present in learned thoughts" (Prov. viii, 12.)
WISDOM is the most precious gift of the Holy Spirit, for it is properly the fruit of charity, the most excellent treasure that one may ever possess in this life.
This holy gift consists in a disposition of our mind to regard and regulate all things by the light of the divine law. Many there are who spend much time to perfect themselves in human science, or the liberal arts. They will toil day and night, in order to succeed in their artistic or scientific undertakings. Others, given over to wickedness, employ all their industry in finding occasion to sin with impunity. But to know Thee, O my God, to discern wisely between Thy paths that lead on to life, and the dangerous ways of the world, there is no need that one should employ so much study nor such toilsome labor: an upright heart, animated by Thy grace, is all that is required, for "the unction of Thy Spirit teacheth him all things." (1 John, ii, 27.)
The man who is taught by the Holy Spirit becomes spiritual, that is to say, his understanding is enlightened and his emotions are regulated in such manner, that he "judges all things," (1 Cor. ii, 15.) not only discerning good from evil and truth from falsehood, but also ordering every one of his actions by reference to his last end, which is the attainment of eternal life.
Just as Mary possessed in a surpassing degree the! virtue of charity, in like manner was she adorned with the precious gift of wisdom. She could discern as if by instinct the things of heaven from the things of the world, and directed all her actions toward God with that purity of intention proper to souls inebriated with divine love. This wisdom filled her soul with a sweetness beyond compare, and communicated to all her exterior actions a heavenly gentleness, for of this virtue it is written that "its conversation hath no bitterness, nor its company any tediousness, but joy and gladness." (Wisd. viii, 16.)
True wisdom bears the impress of seven supernatural qualities, which are, as it were, so many pillars, on which it rests. St James thus describes these seven qualities. 'The wisdom that is from above," says he, "first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation." (James, iii, 17.)
Such were the supports whereon the precious gift of wisdom reposed in Mary. Like a majestic tower which rears itself heavenward, firm and strong, this peerless Virgin, filled with divine wisdom, kept her spirit constantly raised toward the supernatural regions, where she contemplated with grateful wonder, the words of the Most High. Her thoughts were continually in heaven, (Phil, iii, 20.) where, together with the blessed spirits, she adored the ways of the Lord in her regard, conforming herself in all things to His good pleasure. "Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars!" (Prov. xi, 1.)
As much as heavenly wisdom is beauteous and resplendent, by so much is earthly wisdom, which St. James does not hesitate to call "sensual, devilish," (James, iii, 15.) dark and unsightly. This worldly wisdom is full of zeal, but a poisonous zeal, spreading everywhere dissension and trouble. It goes in search of the seductions of sense: it is haughty and arrogant, inclined to judge and to weigh in the scales of malevolence the neighbour's actions: it is full of hypocrisy and deceit: its end is to light on all sides the brand of discord: it leads irreparably to eternal ruin.
As day differs from night and life from death, even so does heavenly wisdom differ from the wisdom of this world. To the latter may be applied the words of the book of Proverbs: "There is a way that seemeth just to a man: but the ends thereof lead to death." (Prov. xiv, 12.)
Let us ask of God that He keep us from so great an evil. Let us beseech Him to fill our hearts with the precious gift of heavenly wisdom.
Example - St. Bernard
St. Bernard, the great Doctor of the Church, and, as he is called, the last of the Fathers, was famous for the holiness of his life and the splendor of his doctrine. In an especial way he excels all sacred writers by the sweetness and unction with which he treats of the grandeur and prerogatives of the glorious Mother of God. He was born at Fontaine, in Burgundy, in 1091, of pious and noble parents, who gave him a good Christian education. Thus, even from his youth, he led a virtuous life full of charitable works.
One year, on Christmas night, he was favored with a heavenly vision. The Divine Child appeared to him 'and deigned to instruct him in the glorious mystery of the Incarnation, which the Church celebrates at that time. From this vision there arose in him that tender devotion and ardent love for the Mother of God, which the Saint afterward transfused into the hearts of many, through the sermons he wrote in her honor. Our Lady failed not to correspond to this love of Bernard for her by showing a special predilection for her faithful servant. She granted him extraordinary favors. And so this devotion to the Queen of Heaven, which is the source of great fruit to souls, produced in the heart of St. Bernard this result: it made him realize that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. So, at the age of twenty-two, he left his father's home and asked to be admitted into the Cistercian Order.
So great was his fervor in consecrating himself to God, that he persuaded many of his kinsmen and acquaintances to follow him in the religious life, which they did, although they had previously opposed his decision. In religion he showed himself a perfect example of every virtue. Being placed at the head of his monastery, he restored discipline and founded many abbeys in which the regular observance was kept up for a long time.
As St. Bernard was much given to the study of Holy Scripture and to meditating on the eternal truths, he acquired such treasure of knowledge, that he merited to be numbered among the most shining lights of the Church. The Roman Pontiffs many times entrusted him with important and delicate missions, such as pacifying cities and repressing vice and disorder, all of which the Saint carried out successfully with the help of Mary.
Finally, worn out with fatigue and excessive penances, he peacefully breathed forth his soul to God, on the twentieth of August, 1174, in the sixty-third year of his age.
O Mary, obtain for us of thy Son, we pray thee, a large share of the gift of divine wisdom, a gift so precious, that all the treasures of earth are nothing in comparison. In virtue of this heavenly gift, we shall easily come to the possession of that peace which the Saviour brought upon earth. That peace, which is the tranquillity of order, will make us merit the glorious title of "sons of God," (Matt, v, 9.) and will bring us to the blessed country. Amen.