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.
"She adored Him whom she brought forth" (Office of the Purification.)THE human mind can never fully comprehend all that is contained in the title "Mother of God." It is the title by which the faithful love to address Mary, and the Church has sanctioned it by her infallible authority. All the beauties of nature, all the riches of grace, all the splendors of glory pale before the majestic grandeur of such a title as this. For, by the very fact of having conceived the Word Made Flesh, Mary has been united to God by the same ties which unite a mother to her true son.
Just as, therefore, the dignity of the human nature in Jesus Christ is immeasurably raised above all things created, by reason of the hypostatic union with the Divine Word, so also the dignity of Mary belongs to a superior order, on account of her position as Mother of God. This title is precisely the source and the measure of all those gifts of nature, grace and glory, wherewith the Lord was pleased to enrich her. "The Holy Mother of God has been elevated above the choirs of angels in the heavenly kingdom." 1
Admire, O my soul, so great a miracle of the power of the Most High; and since He has deigned to call thee to the service of so great a Queen, render Him thanks and promise to thy Sovereign an eternal fidelity.
The title of Mother of God, with which the Catholic Church honors Mary, is not only the source of incomparable greatness in her, it is also a potent means to ground us firmly in the possession of true faith, and to bring us to a more perfect knowledge of the divine attributes.
In fact, the first step toward a recognition of Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world, is belief in the Divine Maternity: on the other hand, whosoever refuses to acknowledge Mary as true Mother of God, has by the very fact made shipwreck of the faith.
Further, Divine Wisdom shines forth the more clearly by the fact that God deigned to choose Mary for Mother of His Son. Of all God's works, the Incarnation is worthiest of the right hand of the Most High; but how can I sufficiently admire the counsels of Thy wisdom, O my God, since Thou hast willed to oppose to the work of destruction and death, begun in the sin of Eve and completed in that of Adam, a work of reparation, begun in the obedience of Mary, and consummated in the sacrifice of Jesus?
What glory accrues to the goodness of God from the Divine Maternity! For, in predestinating Mary to be the Mother of the Word, God also decreed to give her to us as our Mother also. He willed that she should accomplish in union with her Son the work of our redemption, and that by regenerating us to the life of grace, she should become our Mother in the spiritual order.
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!" (Rom. xi, 88.)
* * *The Divine Maternity is "indeed the starting-point of the work of our salvation. It is therefore the duty of every Christian fearlessly to proclaim this truth. In believing Mary to be the Mother of God, we believe also that the Word was made Flesh. But in order that this faith be not barren, it must be accompanied by a sincere worship both internal and external; a worship consisting in acts of homage, of veneration and of love for this peerless creature bound to us by so many titles.
The faithful soul cannot, then, do better than follow the example given us by the Church, which never tires of proclaiming this truth to the universe at large, whether by the erection of temples in Mary's honor, by the establishment of sodalities consecrated to her, by the approval of religious Orders devoted to her service, or by the institution of practices of piety in her honor.
Yes, Mary is indeed worthy to be saluted with the words addressed of old by Ozias, the Jewish leader, to Judith: "Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the Most High God, above all women upon the earth." (Judith, xiii, 23.)
St. Cyril of Alexandria
The devotion to our blessed Lady is so intimately bound up with the whole deposit of Divine Revelation, that it is not possible to deny the prerogatives of this glorious Virgin, without off ending against some truth of the Catholic Faith.
St. Cyril the great Bishop of Alexandria was the glorious champion of the Divine Maternity and as a consequence, of the sacred deposit of Christian Revelation. His exalted virtues are proclaimed not only by private testimony, but by the solemn Acts of the two General Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Anxious to promote devotion to our blessed Lady and moved by zeal for the salvation of souls, St. Cyril had nothing more at heart than to preserve his flock from the lamentable heresies concerning the Divine Maternity of our blessed Lady, which at that time pervaded some of the eastern churches.
Cyril, being not less versed in sacred learning than exercised in every virtue, was sent by Pope St. Celestine to preside over the Council of Ephesus. In this great assembly the heresy of Nestorius was condemned and the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Our Lady was proclaimed. On this occasion St. Cyril poured forth his heart in a fervent prayer in honor of the Mother of God in the presence of all the bishops gathered for the occasion. This prayer is one of the most beautiful hymns of praise that has ever been composed in honor of the glorious Queen of Heaven.
But it was not long before the holy Bishop had to suffer for this deed, which drew down on him the implacable hatred of the heretics, from whom he had much to suffer. They ended by driving him out of his diocese. However, this did not prevent him from continuing to defend the august dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary by word and writing. He was only too happy to suffer for this truth; but Our Lady was not slow to recompense her faithful servant with an abundance of heavenly graces. At last, through her intercession, he was allowed to return to his See, where he was received with great joy by his people. He died a saintly death on the twenty-eighth of January, 444, his soul passing from earth to heaven to praise for all eternity the glorious Mother of God whom he had so honored during his lifetime.
O Mary, I believe with all my soul that thou art the true Mother of God, through whom the work of our salvation has been accomplished. Grant, I pray thee, that with this faith deeply rooted in my heart, and with the good works springing therefrom, I may surrender my soul to my Lord: do thou thyself present it before the throne of thy Divine Son, for "my life is in thy hand." (Gen, xlvii, 25.) Amen.
1 Versicle of the Magnificat on the Feast of the Assumption.