December 11, 2013
Throughout the liturgical year we celebrate many different feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All relate to a particular event in her life, such as her birthday, the Annunciation, or presentation in the temple; or an attribute, such as Our Lady of Sorrows, or the Immaculate Conception; or her status, such as Queen of Heaven; or a particular apparition when Jesus sent His mother to us for a specific purpose, such as Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Akita, or Our Lady of Guadalupe. When we start counting all these particular feasts we see that not one month of the year passes without celebrating a greater or lesser feast of the Mother of God, and sometimes two or three. Each one reminds us of something about her that we can dig into deeper and profit from spiritually. But is that enough to advance in holiness?
We can know a great deal about the Blessed Mother from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, but is she a real person to us, someone who looks after us individually as a mother, someone with whom we have a personal relationship, someone we can count on in a time of need? Do we really understand the maternal ties she has with each of us, and how much she desires that we individually profit from her Son’s redemption of us and all creation? Do we see ourselves as true children of Mary?
If we accept Mary as our Mother, the gift that Jesus gave us at the foot of the cross, we agree to let her shape us according to the will of God. We agree to treat her as our Mother, turning to her when we feel vulnerable. Jesus willed this. He wanted to share her with us all. He is not the selfish son of privilege who keeps the best for himself while handing His castoffs to His entourage and shrugging off their troubles and misery. Instead, He wants us to live with Him sharing all that He has, and the one thing more precious than all that He created and has is His Mother.
We love the Mother of Jesus because He loves her, and because she, more than anyone else in creation, is worthy of our love and can teach us how to love Him the way He desires to be loved. She is the best teacher of how to follow in His footsteps because she alone has done it perfectly, and in her perfection of charity desires that we all become as much like Him as we possibly can; He who is one with the Father and the Spirit and who wants not one person to be lost forever in darkness and misery.
We are intended for an eternity of divine union with God and each other. Because of our human frailty and limited intellect we cannot imagine except in a limited way, how much God desires that union with us, nor how much the Blessed Mother and all the saints in heaven desire it for us. Various writers describe this desire as “burning”. St. Paul describes it in Heb. 12:29 as “Our God is a consuming fire.” Let us just accept the fact that our Mother wants what God wants for us, and she is determined to help us get it. She has already set the example, and if we reach out to her, she will lead us to her Son.
In Meditation #6 of Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene writes:
The two essential conditions for achieving divine union are found in the fullness in Mary. The first condition, which is a negative one, is that there be nothing in the soul’s will which is contrary to the divine will; that is, no attachment which would cause it to be subject to a creature, so that this creature would rule in its heart in any way, or impel it to act for love of this same creature; all such attachments must be eliminated.
The second condition, which is positive and constructive, and is the consequence of the first, is that the human will be moved in all and through all, only by the will of God. This was realized so perfectly in the most pure soul of Mary Immaculate that she never had even the faintest shadow of an attachment to a creature; in her soul there was never any impression of a creature which could move her to act; she was so completely seized by divine love that she could act only under the inspiration and motion of the Holy Spirit.
Thus we see Mary as the most pure spouse of the Holy Spirit, not only in relation to her divine maternity, but also in relation to her whole life in which she was moved only by His impulse.
Lest we think Our Lady had it easy because she didn’t suffer from concupiscence and the powerful draw of the world, let’s consider that she was still a human being subject to our physical aches, pains, exhaustions, and annoyances. Mary had to sweep out the house every day, take Jesus to the market to buy their food, and then cook it in the courtyard. No doubt she had to kill a few bugs that had made their way into the Holy Family’s house.
She had to draw water from the town well and tote it back to the house. Some days she had to do the laundry and schlep it up the outside steps of her house to hang it on the roof where probably a bird or two left droppings occasionally on her clean clothes which she then had to clean again. She had to change stinky diapers, weave cloth for the family’s clothes and sew them.
Mary had to deal with her neighbors who shared the courtyard with her and no doubt there were occasions when she wanted some quiet instead of hearing about the kind of petty annoyances we all face every day. There must have been times when she looked after Jesus and His noisy, rambunctious playmates so other mothers could get some things done without having to worry about their children.
The Holy Family didn’t have heating or air-conditioning so were hot in summer and cold in winter. There was no electricity or gadgets that make life so easy for us today. When they traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the temple she had to get everybody ready for the three day trip over the mountains. And let’s not forget that they were devout Jews who prayed the psalms throughout the day and night at specified times.
Through all the daily grind she lived an ordinary life on the outside and a life of recollection on the inside. At the foot of the cross she resembled the mother of every criminal publicly shamed and executed, while on the inside, full of grief and agony, she again gave God the biggest “Fiat” of a lifetime in full surrender to His will. Years later, after nurturing the apostles in their fulfillment of Christ’s command to “go forth and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19), Mary had the joy of seeing her Son once again when He came to escort her to heaven.
When we reach out to seize Mary’s hands and ask her to teach us how to follow Jesus, we are not grasping for some syrupy sweet porcelain doll-like creature who minced her way across the streets and roads of Galilee and Judea where the dust and filth of the earth never soiled her garment. We are grasping for the hands of the greatest Mama Grizzly ever, who means to protect us under her mantle from the snares of the devil and of whom Satan is rightly terrified in the sight of the pure glory and power of God shining through her being. She is the most beautiful Mother because she is the great mulier fortis clothed in the sun, who by the grace of Jesus Christ belongs to us and we to her, in the perfection of charity. Is this real enough? It is for me.
HT to Christian at Smaller Manhattans who posted on the Schutzmantel Madonna. Those images and the meditation in Divine Intimacy for December 8 inspired this post.
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