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.
"Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." (Judith, xv, 10.)
AFTER the hypostatic union, that is to say, the personal union of the Word with our nature, there is nothing in the world which so gives glory to God as the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
It was for the outward manifestation of His greatness and glory that God, in the beginning, drew from nothingness creatures endowed with intelligence. But sinful man, by revolting against his Creator, defaced the image of the Divinity impressed on his soul: he became God's enemy, so far as to appear an object of aversion in the sight of the Creator. But shall no one be found to escape the universal ruin, and in whom the original plan of the Creator will remain unimpaired? Are all reasonable creatures to be infected by the envenomed bite of the infernal serpent?
No, God's work cannot be entirely destroyed. Mary in virtue of the foreseen merits of her Son, the future Redeemer, shall be conceived without stain, all fair and wholly pure, the equal of Adam and Eve in their first formation. She shall even receive at the moment of her conception more abundant grace than that granted to our first parents: "Thou art all fair, O Mary, and the original stain is not in Thee." (Antiphon at Lauds in the Office of the Immaculate Conception.)
How can we voice Mary's beauty, at the moment her God - created soul was infused into her virginal body? A sight indeed worthy of the angels' admiration! O Virgin Immaculate, object of delight to the Holy Trinity, thou art of a truth "the glory of Jerusalem."
Not only was the Immaculate Conception of Mary calculated to procure fresh honor to God by giving to the world the spectacle of an unblemished sanctity, but furthermore, this mystery was destined to be, for the human race, a source of endless joy: "Thou art the joy of Israel."
In fact, Mary Immaculate is of a truth that peerless woman, whom the Seer of Patmos beheld "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." (Apoc. xii, 1.) Her beauty and purity are for fallen humanity a source of glory and consolation. If the human race was defiled by the sin of the first man in its origin, it may now boast of haying produced this spotless flower, which confers upon the stem, whence it has sprung, greater honor than original transgression has caused it damage and shame.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, like a radiant dawn, heralded the coming of the Sun of Justice, which would dissipate the darkness of error and bring to the world the light of grace, of truth and of glory. The Immaculate Conception was, then, the prelude of that new joy, which the Gospel of Jesus Christ would restore upon the earth. Wherefore the Church sings: "Thy Conception, O Virgin Mother of God, has been a presage of joy for the whole universe." (Antiphon of the Magnificat in the Second Vespers of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.)
Mary's Immaculate Conception is not only a cause of spiritual joy for the human race, it is also for the faithful, that is to say, for the people of Jesus Christ, predestined to the reward of everlasting life, a potent help in their earthly conflicts and an assured pledge of victory: "Thou art the honor of our people."
By hurling our first parents into the pitfall of sin and misery, the devil thought to have triumphed over their posterity: but he was completely routed by Mary, in whom he found nothing of his, as she was conceived without taint of sin: and thus the Immaculate Conception brought to nought the projects of the great deceiver.
Moreover, since Mary's exemption from the original stain was ordained by God in view of her divine maternity, which is the beginning of our redemption, the privilege of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin proved to be the sovereign means which reduced to nought the snare laid by the demon against our eternal salvation. "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed, she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." (Gen. iii. 15.)
Example - The Devotion Of Emperor Ferdinand III
In the year 1629, the Emperor of Austria,, Ferdinand III, finding his kingdom menaced by the Swedes, who were elated at their recent victories and conquests, had recourse to the protection of Our Lady. He caused a magnificent column to be erected in the great square of Vienna and this was adorned with many emblems, which all referred to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. At the four corners of the pedestal were placed angels in armor, each treading the dragon under foot, symbolizing the victory of our blessed Lady over original sin, and on the top of the column stood the statue of the Mother of God treading on the head of the wicked serpent. At the base of the column was engraved the inscription: "To the most good and most high God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, from whom kings hold their thrones: To the Virgin Mother of God, conceived without stain of original sin, by whom princes command, who has this day been chosen by particular devotion as Patroness of Austria, the Emperor Ferdinand III entrusts and consecrates all his possessions, his person, his children, his people, his armies, his domains; and in perpetual memory of this his devotion he has erected this statue."
There was never witnessed a more solemn feast than the celebration of inaugurating this splendid monument; it was indeed a triumph of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
The pious Emperor, accompanied by his son Ferdinand IV, King of Bohemia and Hungary, by his daughter Marianna of Austria, Queen of Spain, by many ambassadors and all his nobles, by all the religious communities and secular clergy, and followed by an immense crowd, went in procession and closed the ceremony by pronouncing his vow aloud, thus edifying the court and the people by his tender piety.
This pious and splendid act of devotion in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was so pleasing to her, that effects of her maternal protection were seen without delay. Indeed, when a few days afterwards the Emperor went to Eger, a city close to the enemy's camp, he was able to stop the rapid advance of the Swedes at one blow and obliged them to retire, forcing them to agree to a treaty of peace that was a glorious and lasting one for all his Empire.
O Virgin most holy, conceived without shadow of sin, thou didst remain, during thy whole life, purer and more brilliant than the light of day. We beseech thee to drive far from us the hellish serpent, who geeks to drag us into the abyss of sin: help us to win a complete victory over the enemies of our salvation, that we may be able to praise thee eternally in heaven. Amen.