PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY
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.
AMONG all the privileges of the Blessed Virgin, one of the dearest to the heart of the faithful is her perpetual virginity. It was to preserve to His Mother this prerogative that God set aside the laws of nature, so that Mary became Mother of the Word, without loss of her virginity.
It was, then, by a signal miracle that Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, was conceived of Mary. By another miracle not inferior to the former, He passed from the womb of this Divine Mother to the light of day. Thus the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, far from tarnishing this spotless lily, increased its whiteness and imparted to it the most fragrant perfume. In the same way that a ray of pure light passes through the limpid crystal without hurting it, but rather penetrating it with its own brilliance, thus the Holy Spirit, covering with His shadow the most Holy Virgin, fashioned in her, from her very substance, the sacred body of Christ. God willed to honor in this manner His Mother; and Mary, on her side, corresponding to this excess of love, had but one wish, that of remaining always a Virgin.
Oh, how pleasing to God is holy virginity! By it man freely refrains from the base pleasures of sense, that he may thereby give himself to the contemplation of heavenly things with his whole heart. The virginity of the Mother of God is a most fragrant perfume which pervades the whole Church; hence do we sing of her: "Thou art happy, O Virgin Mary, who hast borne the Creator: thou hast engendered Him who created thee, yet remaining always a Virgin." (Office of the Maternity of the Most Holy Virgin.)
Mary was not merely content to practise the virtue of virginity: she would also consecrate it with a perpetual and absolute vow.
She made this vow when her parents presented her in the Temple. It was then that the Holy Spirit, the Spouse of her soul, inspired her to dedicate to God, by a perpetual promise, the sacred flower of her virginity. At the same time He gave her to understand how this vow super-adds a fresh excellence to the simple virtue, from the fact that it proceeds from a more exalted principle, that is, from religion, which, renders us apt to faithfully perform the works belonging to the service of God.
Many holy persons had embraced the virginal state before Mary, but none had as yet bound themselves to it by vow; the first fruits of so excellent a practice being reserved for her, who was to be the day-spring of the New Law.
It was precisely this vow which, at the moment of the Annunciation, presented itself to Mary's mind as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the designs of Heaven: thus the words of the Angel were directed to enlighten her as to the manner of the mystery to be accomplished in her. By an unique privilege Mary, all the while remaining a Virgin, was to become Mother of the Word, thus coupling the flower of virginity with the glory of motherhood.
* * *
Our nature, when it first was tainted with original sin, contracted thenceforth a strong inclination for the pleasures of sense.
If then we would preserve our soul free from all spot, we must make this perverse inclination the object of daily combats. To this St. Paul alluded, when he cried out: "I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind;" (Rom vii, 28.) and the same Apostle anxiously exclaimed : "Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" (Rom vii, 24.) But he soon regained confidence, adding: "The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom vii, 25.)
Yes, the grace of God is the sole means whereby we may overcome the flesh and escape its seductions. It behoves us, however, to be always on our guard, avoiding whatsoever might bring the smallest taint to holy purity. What is especially necessary for the preservation of this virtue, is to eschew all frivolous and dangerous reading, which is often times taken up under pretext of mental recreation, but which in reality opens the road to all sorts of moral disorders.
St. Alexis Falconieri
In order the better to guard this precious virtue, he fled the allurements offered him by the world, giving himself, while still a young man, to prayer and works of penance. On account of his purity of mind and body he desired to be one of those privileged servants of God whom the Queen of Heaven deigned to summon to her service on the Feast of the Assumption, 1233. Having given himself entirely to the service of our blessed Lady, he endeavored to imitate her in the practice of humility and the mortification of the senses. He was particularly attentive to guard the chastity which he brought unimpaired to the religious life. In this way he strove to give pleasure to his heavenly Queen, whom he did not cease to honor and to compassionate in her bitter sorrows. So profound was his humility that he did not consent to be raised to the order of priesthood, thinking himself unworthy to consecrate and to give to the people the august Sacrament of the Altar.
St. Alexis Falconieri lived one hundred and ten years, a very long life indeed, full of good works and heavenly favors.
When on his death-bed he was honored, by a vision of the Holy Child Jesus, who laid on his head a crown of roses, while white doves, symbols of his stainless purity, were seen flying about the room. After having recited, as was his custom, one hundred Hail Marys, the old man died on February 17th, 1310, and his soul, adorned, as it is believed, with its baptismal innocence, went to receive in heaven the reward of its merits.
O Mary, treasure of chastity, and flower of Virgins, thou wouldst rather have renounced the dignity of Mother of God, than endure the loss of thy virginity. Obtain for me, I beseech thee, so to watch over my senses, that I may be always pleasing to Jesus Christ, thy Son, the^ King of virgins. Amen.