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.
"O lord, for I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid." (Ps. cxv, 5.)
To Reign, such is the ambition of great souls, the stimulus of bold enterprises.
But there are two ways of reigning. The first is that of tyrants, who govern with the sword and prevail by violence and wrong. Such a reign is of short duration and the memory of the tyrant is speedily buried in oblivion: "There memory hath perished with a noise." (Ps. ix, 7.) Others, on the contrary, choose charity for their scepter and humility for their throne. Such a scepter cannot be shattered, and a throne thus founded is never cast down; these are the throne and scepter of Jesus Christ, King of kings, Lord of lords, and Prince over the princes of the earth: "Christ reigns, Christ conquers, Christ commands." The kingdom of Jesus Christ, founded under the shadow of the cross, strengthened by fierce persecutions, is forever extending: it knows neither ruin nor decay: "Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages." (Ps. cxiv, 13.)
Now, what is the basis of a kingdom so permanent, of a throne so unshaken? Strange to say, it is none other than the condition of a servant, freely chosen by Jesus Christ: "He took the form of a servant." (Phil 2. 7.)) Indeed, all that may be procured by ambition and pride is frail and perishable: on the other hand, self-abasement leads to an eternal kingdom, for it is written that "humility goeth before glory." (Prov. 15:38)
Mary reigns with her Son Jesus Christ, and her kingdom, like unto His, is a kingdom of imperishable glory, because hers is a throne of clemency, mercy and pardon: "Hail, holy Queen Mother of Mercy." And what is the secret of this glorious royalty? None other, but the humble condition of servant of the Lord: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)
No sooner had the Blessed Virgin uttered these words, than she commenced her reign, for in that moment she became the Mother of our King: "And the Word was made flesh." Mary's sway over the world never diminishes: it ever goes on extending, until it embraces the entire universe.
Happy the servants of the Mother of God!
Under the protection of a Queen so kind and powerful, they are not lacking in the necessaries of life; and as for the goods of the soul, they have them over and above, for "all her domestics are clothed with double garments." (Prov. 31:21)
A Christian who is covetous of true and lasting regal splendor, should imitate Mary and faithfully serve the Lord, for He will exalt him to the incomparable dignity of priest and king, according to the words of St. Peter: "You are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare His virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) But, in order worthily to serve the Lord, we must also learn how to serve Mary: in serving so great a Queen we shall naturally be led to serve God, wherein our greatest dignity consists. To serve Mary is therefore to reign: Servire Mariae regnare est.
The reign of one who serves Mary is no tyranny, no reign of oppression and cruelty: it is rather a reign of charity and mercy, directed to alleviating the woes of those who are in affliction. It is a reign of peace, which repays injury by benefit: a reign of humility, which subjects the passions to the yoke of Christ: a splendid and glorious reign, worthy of the ambition of magnanimous minds, the foreshadowing of that eternal kingdom of bliss which is held out to us in heaven.
Oh, if only men knew what a happiness it is to serve Mary, they would contentedly lay aside their wish of ambition and earthly grandeur, and would consecrate themselves, with all the ardor of their souls, to the service of so glorious a Queen.
Example - The apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes
As our blessed Lady cooperated with Jesus in our redemption by the martyrdom of her heart, so she does not cease to interpose her powerful intercession before the throne of God, to obtain the salvation of her devoted servants. Among all the shrines of the world from which she bestows her graces, there is none that surpasses Lourdes in splendor and celebrity. It is there especially that Mary shows herself to be truly our heavenly Mediatrix.
On the eleventh of February, 1858, toward noon, a poor but pious girl, of the name of Bernadette Soubirous, went to gather faggots on the banks of the river Gave. She was coming to the foot of the mountain, when suddenly she beheld standing before her a Lady of incomparable beauty. The Lady's hands were devoutly joined and through them were passing the beads of a Rosary, as if she were reciting it. This was the first of those apparitions which continued until Easter Monday, the fifth of April, in presence of a large concourse of people.
Bernardette, on these occasions, would begin by reciting the Rosary and our blessed Lady, as if attracted by this prayer, did not tarry in showing herself to her chosen servant.
Thus the Queen of Heaven deigned to make known to the world the treasures of her maternal goodness by means of this pious maid. She had chosen Bernadette as the instrument of wonderful happenings and as her messenger to the Christian people. On Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of February of that same year, more than twenty thousand people were assembled on the banks of the river Gave, to witness, not the apparition of Our Lady, for to Bernadette alone was the vision granted, but the spectacle of the transfiguration of the face of this simple and pious maid during her ecstasy. Indeed, the multitude could see the reflection of Our Lady in the resplendent face of Bernadette in the same way as we see the reflection of the sun on the mountain top, when the sun itself is hidden behind the rocky heights.
On one occasion Bernadette was commanded by Our Lady to turn up the dry soil with her hands, and at once there gushed forth a small spring which later grew into a limpid stream, and which, from that time, has ever continued to flow abundantly. The water from this spring, carried into different parts of the world, has wrought many marvelous cures.
We see from this how Mary, the Mother of Mercy, has designed, especially in these later times, to come to the aid of her servants. Happy are they who place their whole trust in her, for they will not be deceived.
O Mary, potent Queen of the universe, I consecrate myself this day wholly to thy service. Deign to admit me, though a sinner, among thy servants, and obtain for me of Jesus Christ, thy Son, the grace to serve thee faithfully in this life, and to merit to reign with thee everlastingly in Heaven. Amen.