Blessed Virgin Mary: June 2012 Archives

Our Mother of Perpetual Help

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By giving the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help a place of honour in our homes, we accept her also into our hearts and so fulfill what is written concerning Saint John, the Beloved Disciple of the Lord: "And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own" (Jn 19:27).

Respice Stellam
O you, whoever you are who feel that in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land: if you do not want to founder in the tempest do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary.
Whether you are being tossed about by the waves of pride or ambition, or slander or jealousy, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary. When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering the skiff of your soul, gaze up at Mary.
When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by the loathesomeness of your conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary.
In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt, think of Mary, call out to Mary. Keep her in your mouth, keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.
Following her, you will never go astray. Asking her help, you will never despair. Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away. With your hand in hers, you will never stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will never tire.
Her kindness will see you through to the end. Then you will know by your own experience, how true it is that "the Virgin's name was Mary."
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Homily Two in Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Introit
Rejoice we all in the Lord, as we keep festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary: whose solemnity makes angels joyful and sets them praising the Son of God. V. Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart, I shall speak of the works of the King (Ps 44:2).

Gaudeamus is a magnificent festal chant originally composed for the virgin martyr Saint Agatha, and then adapted to other occasions. It is used on a number of other feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it familiar enough to be sung with a certain jubilant ease. The gentle balancing of the first mode melody evokes the ceaseless, sweeping joys of the heavenly liturgy celebrated by "the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands" (Ap 5:11). The verse, drawn from Psalm 44, the exuberant messianic wedding song, is placed in the mouth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, as she declares the wonders wrought through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of Perpetual Help.

Collect
Lord Jesus Christ, by whose gift Mary Thy Mother, that Mary whose glorious image we revere, is our Mother too, and ready at all times to succour us, we pray Thee grant that we, who earnestly beg her maternal help, may be counted worthy to reap through all eternity the fruit of Thy redeeming work. Thou who art God living and reigning with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

As are many liturgical prayers of recent composition, the Collect is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father. Orations addressed to the Son are exceptional in the Roman liturgy; in the East they are the norm. While it is not traditional to direct the Collect to the Son in the classic Roman liturgy, there are moments when it can be quite fitting to do so. The feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help may be one of those moments.

The Collect refers straightaway to the gift of the Virgin Mary's motherhood extended to every disciple of her Son, the very mystery that will be evoked in the Gospel; and to the veneration of her glorious image. It acknowledges that Mary is perpetually ready to help us, and asks that, through her motherly power, we may reap through all eternity the fruit of Christ's redemption. The last phrase is certainly an allusion to the charism of the Redemptorists, custodians of the miraculous icon and, in the tradition of Saint Alphonsus, tireless preachers of Mary's universal mediation and inexhaustible clemency.

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John the Baptist and the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Today was the Vigil of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: eight days after the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. John the Baptist, while yet an infant hidden in Saint Elizabeth's womb, was the first to experience the sweet mediation of the Virgin Mother's Immaculate Heart. It was the God-bearing Virgin's Heart, full of solicitude for her cousin Elizabeth, that moved her to "arise and go with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah" (cf. Lk 1:39). There the Mother of God bearing her Son beneath her Immaculate Heart, "entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth" (Lk 1:40).

The Light of the Real Presence Shining in Her Eyes

This was, in a sense, the first mission of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: to carry the hidden Christ to the "little child" (Lk 1:76) destined to be the Friend of the Bridegroom (Jn 3:29), the Prophet of the Most High (Lk 1:76). With the flame of love burning in her Immaculate Heart and the light of the real presence shining in her eyes, Mary "became in some way a tabernacle -- the first tabernacle in history" (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, art. 55). With the arrival of the Virgin-Tabernacle enclosing within her the "Dayspring from on high" (Lk 1:78), John the Baptist was sanctified, washed clean of original sin, and quickened by the Holy Spirit.

Jubilation

The birth of John the Baptist was an occasion of jubilation. Having already been touched by the Heart of Mary, the Cause of our Joy, the Baptist comes into the world as the Herald of Joy. His prophetic ministry, even as he advances toward a cruel death, is illumined by a supernatural joy. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:29-30).

The Infallible Sign of the Presence of God

For what gift does the Church make us ask in the Collect of tomorrow's solemnity? For "the grace of spiritual joys." Already by his birth, Saint John the Baptist teaches us that the first of these spiritual joys is a living, personal contact with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At every moment, the Mother of God is ready to grace us with her presence. She comes always to reveal the Face of her Son, hidden now in the Eucharist as He was hidden in the tabernacle of her womb when she visited Elizabeth. The fruit of that mysterious encounter between the Infant Christ and the Infant Forerunner had the unmistakable taste of divine joy, the joy that Blessed Abbot Marmion called "the infallible sign of the presence of God."

Blood and Roses

Look at this marvelous painting by Botticelli depicting the Mother of God, the Child Jesus and His little cousin, the Baptist. What I find most striking is that at the very center of the painting is the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Virgin is holding her Child; he appears heavy in her arms. She bows low to allow the little Baptist to give her Jesus a hug and a kiss. The small boys appear to be about two years old. The Baptist has to stretch to reach the Face of Jesus; he is already dressed in his desert garb and carrying his little wooden staff. The top of the staff has the form of the Cross; the Cross thus appears directly over the head of the Infant Christ, a portent of His sacrifice. The Mother of God wears a blood red gown; something about her posture suggests an outpouring of blood, an effusion of the heart. Just behind the Virgin is a rose bush in full bloom: a symbol -- yes, you guessed it -- of spiritual joys.

Let Me Give Thy Son a Kiss

More than my words ever could, Botticelli's painting suggests that the mission of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to introduce all of us, as she did the little Baptist, into a reverent and tender intimacy with her Son. The Mother of God bends over each of us, her garments dyed red in the Blood that flowed on Calvary, the very Blood that won for us every spiritual joy. Where the Mother of God is present, there charity is poured out and there spiritual joys abound. Put yourself today in the position of the child John the Baptist. Ask the Blessed Virgin to let you embrace her Son and offer Him a kiss. Her Immaculate Heart will not refuse you this.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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