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.
|Giovanni Merliano (Nola/Naples 1488 - Naples 1558): Virgin Mary and Child with Angels (after 1542, marble, Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, Naples)|
THE life of a Christian is a life of sacrifices, of contradictions and of sufferings. It is not sufficient for him, if he would be worthy of his name and vocation, to resist the perverse inclinations of sense; he must endure a terrible and ceaseless war from the devil and the world. He cannot promise himself lasting peace in this life; on the contrary, he must always be ready to suffer and to fight.
In such circumstances, it is evident that we need a special virtue to animate us to resistance, to uphold us in the contest, and to comfort us in our afflictions: a virtue which shall keep before our eyes the reward awaiting us and put us in mind of the succors promised by God. The virtue is called hope: it is a bright star which guides man upon the troubled waters of this world, and brings him safely, by a straight course, to the harbor of salvation. Happy the Christian, who is buoyed up and encouraged by hope! Rising above the trials of the present life and looking forward to the imperishable goods of eternity, he will one day enter into his heavenly home.
What we know about Mary's sorrows and the woes she had to endure during the span of her mortal existence, suffices to make us understand, to what an exalted degree this Divine Mother possessed the supernatural virtue of hope.
Jesus was scarcely born, when already the ungodly Herod sought His life, and Mary and Joseph were forced to flee into Egypt, to save the Messias from the edge of the sword. After long years of exile spent in toilsome labor and severe privations, the Holy Family returned to Nazareth, where they continued their life of poverty and privation. During the public life of Jesus, Mary shared all the fatigue, the anguish, and the opprobrium of her Son. She was always with Him, even when Jesus was condemned to undergo a criminal's death upon the cross. Through all this cruel ordeal, Mary was ever by His side, sharing the contempt and insults heaped upon her crucified Son.
And now, what was that hidden power, which upheld the Blessed Virgin in the midst of such great trials? It was trust in the divine promises and the certainty that her Son would restore, by His humiliations and sufferings, the kingdom of God upon earth, and that He would obtain for mankind forgiveness of their transgressions and for angels a new source of joy. Yes, hope was that supernatural virtue, which consoled and upheld the Mother of God in the midst of her torments; wherefore we may well say of her that "against hope she believed in hope." (Rom. 5, 18.)
The virtue of hope, deeply rooted in Mary's soul, made this holy Virgin to be like unto a tower built of whitest ivory and firmly based upon the rock. Neither the sharpest contradictions, nor the bitterest tribulations could disturb in her that celestial calm with which her confidence in the succor of the All-powerful inspired her soul. Such were her interior dispositions, that she delighted to repeat with holy Job: "Although He should kill me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job, xiii, 15.) It is no wonder, then, that Mary, sustained by such high hope, should have made to God, with the greatest generosity, the offering of her Son's life together with her own.
Happy the soul animated and upheld by holy hope; it will surely weather every storm and come to the harbor of eternal safety. More than that, it will even "glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience trial, and trial hope, and hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us." (Rom. v, 3-5.)
On the other hand, how woeful and piteous is the lot of him who, deprived of hope and despising heavenly things, only cares for the goods of this world! These goods often flee from those that pursue them, and when obtained, cause nothing but weariness and disgust in the soul. Just as the goods of heaven fill the soul with peace and contentment, those of earth only leave it joyless and ill at ease.
Example - The Liberation of Vienna from the Turks
The most holy and sweet Name of Mary, the hope and comfort of all Christian souls, is honored by the Church with marked solemnity during the Octave of her Nativity. This honor originated in an event which shows how constant toward her clients is the assistance of the Queen of heaven.
In the year 1683, a formidable army of the Turks invaded Austria and laid siege to Vienna. The town was on the point of surrendering to the enemy and great indeed was the anxiety and fear of all Christians, because, should it have happened that this stronghold were captured, the Turks could easily invade the rest of Europe and fill it with blood and strife.
From all parts of the Christian world prayers were offered to the Queen of heaven, that she would deign to avert this imminent disaster. Our Lady, the consoler of the afflicted, failed not to hear the prayers of her devoted children. The pious and valiant King of Poland, John Sobieski, after having levied a powerful army, though inadequate for the purpose, marched against the enemy, trusting in the aid of Heaven. When he came in sight of the Turkish camp, before beginning battle, he ordered Holy Mass to be celebrated, at which he himself desired to serve, after which he begged the celebrant to bless the whole army. He then, full of confidence in the help of Mary, threw his forces into the conflict. Marvelous to relate, the enemy, though more numerous, turned and fled, while the King's army, making great havoc of the Turks, remained masters of the field. Great was the joy of all Christians at these tidings, and from all parts fervent prayers were offered to the Blessed Virgin in thanksgiving for the danger which she had averted.
At this time the Chair of Peter was occupied by Innocent XI, who placed all his trust in Mary. He had vowed to institute a solemn feast in her honor, if she would liberate the Church from this terrible danger. Attributing therefore this wonderful victory to her intercession, he ordered great celebrations to be held everywhere in her honor. In fulfillment of this vow, he extended to the whole Catholic world the solemnity of the Most Holy Name of Mary, which feast, up to that time, had only been observed in some particular churches.
O Mary, our life and our sweetness, thou art, after Jesus Our Lord, our only hope. Graciously intercede for us before the throne of the God of hope, that, "filled with all joy and peace in believing, we may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost." (Rom. xv, 13.) Amen.