The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 22.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Ecce Ancilla Domini!
Mary calls herself ancilla Domini, the handmaid of the Lord. Not to be this for any woman lowers her dignity. Woman's unhappiest moments are when she is unable to give; her most hellish moments are when she refuses to give. Tragedy stalks when woman is forced by economic or social circumstances to busy herself in those materialities which hamper or dam up the outpouring of that specific quality of surrender to Divine Purpose which makes her a woman. Denied an outlet for the bursting need of giving, she feels a deeper sense of emptiness than a man, precisely because of the greater depths of her fountain of love.

For a woman to be the Collaborator with the Divine -whether it be helping the missions, visiting the sick after business hours, freely offering services to hospitals or mothering her children - is to enjoy that equilibrium of spirit which is the essence of sanity. Liturgy speaks of woman as fulfilling mysterium caritatis: the mystery of love. And love does not mean to have, to own, to possess, It means to be had, to be owned, to be possessed. It is the giving of self for another. A woman may love God mediately through creatures, or she may love God immediately, as Mary did, but to be happy she must bring the Divine to the human. The explosive revolt of woman against her alleged inequalities with man is at bottom a protest against the restraints of a bourgeois civilization without faith, one which has chained her God-given talents.

What every woman wants in the "mystery of love" is not the bestial burst, but the soul. Man is driven by love of pleasure; woman by the pleasure of love, by its meaning and the enrichment of soul it grants. In this beautiful moment of the Annunciation, Woman reaches her sublimest fulfillment for God's sake. As the earth submits to the exigency of the seed for the sake of the harvest, as the nurse submits to the exigencies of the wounded for the sake of the healing, as the wife submits to the exigencies of the flesh for the sake of the child, so Mary submits to the exigencies of the Divine Will for the sake of the Redemption of the World.

Closely allied with this submission is sacrifice. For submission is not passivity, but action - the action of self-forgetfulness. Woman is capable of greater sacrifices than man, partly because her love is less intermittent, and also because she is unhappy without total and complete dedication. Woman is made for the sacred. She is heaven's instrument on earth. Mary is the prototype, the pattern-Woman who fulfills in herself the deepest aspirations of the heart of every daughter of Eve.

Virginity and maternity are not so irreconcilable as it would seem. Every virgin yearns to become a mother, either physically or spiritually, for unless she creates, mothers, nurses, and fosters life, her heart is as uneasy and awkward as a giant ship in shallow waters. She has the vocation of generating life, either in the flesh or in the spirit through conversion. There is nothing in professional life which necessarily hardens a woman. If such a woman does become hardened, it is because she is denied those specifically creative God-like functions without which she cannot be happy.

On the other hand, every wife and mother strives for spiritual virginity in that she would like to take back what she has given, that she might offer it all over again, only this time more deeply, more piously, more divinely. There is something incomplete about virginity, something ungiven, unsurrendered, kept back. There is something lost in all motherhood: something given, something taken and something irrecoverable.

But in the Woman there was realized physically and spiritually what every woman desires physically. In Mary, there was nothing unsurrendered, nothing lost; there was a harvest without the loss of the bud; an autumn in an eternal spring; a submission without a spoliation. Virgin and Mother! The only melody that fell from the violin of God's creation without the breaking of a string!

Woman has a mission to give life. The Life which is to be born of Mary comes without the spark of love of a human spouse, but with the Flame of Love of the Holy Spirit. There can be no birth without love; but the meaning of the Virgin Birth is Divine Love acting without benefit of the flesh. As a result, He Whom the Heavens could not contain she now contains within herself. This was the beginning of the Propagation of the Faith in Christ Jesus Our Lord, for in Her Virgin body is celebrated, as in a new Eden, the nuptials of God and man.