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.
"Hearken, daughter, and see, and incline thy ear, and forget thy people and thy father's house. And the king shall greatly desire thy beauty" (Ps. xliv, 11, 12.)
ACCORDING to a tradition, Mary. when three years of age, was prompted by the Holy Spirit to consecrate herself to God in the Temple of Jerusalem. Mary then made a perfect holocaust of herself, dedicating to God her body, by the vow of chastity, and her will, by the vow of obedience, and renouncing forever the goods of this world, by the vow of poverty.
It were indeed impossible to say with what perfection, with what fervor, she made this offering of herself to the Most High, or how pleasing this holocaust was in the eyes of her Maker. The noble-minded Virgin could in all truth say with the Psalmist: "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; it is thou that will restore my inheritance to me." (Ps. xv, 5.)
On His side, the Almighty could but repay His beloved Spouse with the most precious gifts. We may well believe that, at the moment of her presentation in the Temple, Mary was favored by an invisible mission of the Holy Ghost, in as much as this Divine Spirit imparted to her a fresh increase of extraordinary grace which raised her at once into a higher sphere of sanctity. The same thing happened at other solemn epochs in her life, as for example at the Annunciation and at the death of Jesus upon the cross.
On the day of her presentation in the Temple, Mary laid the foundation of that humble hidden life, in which, by the practice of the sublimest virtues, she was to reach that super-eminent degree of holiness, to which she was predestined as Mother of the Word and inseparable companion of the Redeemer. Attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, she sedulously gathered up all His lessons, preserving them in her soul with a jealous care: "I will lead her into the wilderness," said the Lord, "and I will speak to her heart." (Osee ii, 14.)
All the while that she abode in the Temple, Mary spent her life in the practice of the loftiest virtues. There, in silence $nd solitude, she could ascend the mystical ladder of contemplation, conversing with her Well-Beloved, hearkening to His voice, and saying to Him with accents of fondest love: "Let Thy voice sound in mine ears, for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely." (Cant, ii, 14.)
There also, in the unremitting perusal of the Holy Scriptures, she meditated on the life of the promised Messias, and in the consideration of His future sufferings, she gave vent to sentiments of tenderest compassion. "My heart is turned within me, for I am full of bitterness." (Lament, i, 20.) There she gave herself to works of penance and charity, even so that with her own hands she wrought garments for the poor, or priestly vestments for the service of the Sanctuary, wherein the legal sacrifices took place, typical of the great Sacrifice of the Cross.
Mary's life in the Temple may well serve as a rule of conduct not only for Religious, but also for persons in the world.
The former have only to raise their eyes to that .supreme pattern, in order to feel themselves drawn, after Mary's example, often to renew in their hearts the offering of themselves to God by the reiteration of their religious vows. Let them ponder how jealously the future Mother of God watched over the spotless flower of her chastity, how she shunned worldly pleasures and amusements, with what promptitude and exactness she obeyed the precepts of the Law.
As regards persons in the world, they too may learn from the example of the Mother of God to retire ever and anon into solitude, to muse in. silence upon the eternal truths. Let them bear in mind that earthly things pass away like a breath, and that no time is well employed, that is not somehow expended in the service of God. "They have called the people happy that hath these things: but happy is that people whose God is the Lord." (Ps. cxliii, 15.)
Example - St. Paul of the Cross
St. Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Congregation of Clerks Regular of the Cross, or Passionists, was one of the most ardent lovers of the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the sorrows of Mary. By his continued meditation on the sorrows of Jesus and Mary, and by his spirit of penance and mortification, he merited to attain to a high degree of sanctity. He was wont to say that anyone going to the Crucified Lord will also find our blessed Lady, for where the Son is, there is the Mother also. Indeed, one of the fruits of his great devotion to the passion of Jesus, which from his youth he had acquired at the foot of the cross, was a tender compassion for the sorrows of Mary, so that he could not reflect on the sufferings of Jesus without bewailing those of His Mother.
How pleasing were these sentiments of compassion to our blessed Lady, is manifest from the many occasions on which she deigned to appear to him and from the many revelations she made to her faithful servant with regard to the sufferings which she endured with her Son Jesus. It can scarcely be said how St. Paul was confirmed in fervor by these revelations; what great light he received in meditating on the work of our redemption; and what ardor he infused into his Religious and into all with whom he came in contact, for their advancement along the true path of sanctity.
Striking events are recorded in connection with his devotion to the sorrows of Mary. One year, on Good Friday, he wished to deprive himself of the food allowed by his rule, even though he was lying ill in his cell. When some one insisted that he should at least take a little nourishment, he, remembering the sorrows of Our Lady cried out, "O dear Mother, this day thou didst stand at the foot of the cross oppressed with grief, and there was none to console thee."
Later on, he managed to crawl into the chapel to pour out his love freely before the Blessed Sacrament.
When St. Paul of the Cross was on the point of death, Our Lady deigned to appear to him, in company with the Heavenly Court, inviting him into paradise. He was overcome with joy at the invitation and peacefully breathed forth his saintly soul in the year 1775. And thus the words of the Psalmist were verified in him: "They that sow in tears shall reap with joy." (Ps. cxxv, 5.)
O Mary, whose heart, like a costly vessel, was filled, during thy sojourn in the Temple, with the sweetest perfume of good works, obtain for me, I pray thee, to serve with faithfulness, Jesus Christ thy Son, all the days of my life, and to die in His holy service. Amen.