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.
|Photo by Antonio Strafella on Flickr|
"With me are riches and glory, glorious riches and justice." (Prov. viii, 18.)
JUSTICE consists in rendering to God what belongs to God and to man what belongs to man, according to the words of Jesus Christ: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." (Matt, xxii, 21.)
Our divine Redeemer was a perfect model of justice. He was not content with rendering to His Father the honor which is His due, adoring Him and fulfilling all His commandments: He willed also to promote justice among men, condemning by word and deed whatsoever is contrary to this virtue.
Further, since fallen man could not satisfy the justice of God, on account of the offenses he had committed against the Divine Majesty, Jesus Christ, true Man, offered Himself to His Eternal Father, to appease His just anger. Thus did our divine Saviour pay to the last farthing the debt contracted by our sins, dying for us on the tree of the cross, a true victim of expiation. It is with reason, then, that Jesus Christ is called the Sun of Justice. In the light of this divine Sun, we are now able to distinguish good actions from those contaminated by sin.
Let us examine our lives by this shining light, before it comes to pass that the Sovereign Judge of angels and men, who holds the scales of life and death in His hands, summons, us before His dread tribunal.
As Jesus is the Sun of Justice, so is Mary a spotless mirror, in which the justice of the Godhead is so faithfully reflected, as to lead us to the knowledge of Its infinite perfections. And just as a mirror reproduces exactly our features, so in the same way the Blessed Virgin is for us a sure means whereby we may be led to know the perfections of our Saviour.
Whether we consider Mary in her attitude toward God, or review her relations with her most chaste Spouse St. Joseph, or again regard the manner with which she fulfilled her duties toward her neighbor, we may say truly that justice never failed her.
Mary paid to God, with all her heart, the homage of adoration which is His due, attributing nothing to herself of all those treasures of divine grace and perfection with which she was favored. As for her relations either with her holy Spouse or with her neighbors at large, these always bore the mark of the most perfect justice.
It is with reason, therefore, that we may apply to the Mother of God, the words of the Prophet Isaias: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown and as a bride adorned with her jewels (Isai lxi, 10.)
Not only does the consideration of Mary's justice serve to enlighten us as to the perfections of Jesus Christ, but it may also be advantageous in conveying to us a knowledge of the defects of our own justice, whether toward God or toward men. It behoves us to make this self-examination before the day of the Lord comes, that great day of universal reckoning; otherwise the most painful surprises may await us.
When, by comparing our justice to that of Mary, we come to realize our own imperfections and sins, we may well make a true and lowly confession of our wretchedness, saying with the Prophet Isaias: "We are all become as one unclean." (Isai lxiv, 6.) This candid avowal is in itself the beginning of a sincere conversion calculated to lead us on, under the influence of divine grace, to the possession of the kingdom of heaven, where justice and peace shall meet in an everlasting embrace: Justitia et pax osculatae sunt. (Ps. lxxxiv, 11.)
Happy the soul which often applies itself to the consideration of Mary's perfections, who is a true mirror of justice. It will ascend rapidly from virtue to virtue, realizing in itself our blessed Saviour's words: "Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt v, 48.)
Example - Miraculous Picture of The Santissima Annunziata in Florence
When the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of the Servants of Mary were established in the Oratory of Santa Maria di Cafaggio, they decided to have painted a fresco of Our Lady representing her humbly proclaiming herself the handmaid of the Lord when greeted by the Angel. Being desirous that the painting should be worthy of the most holy Mother of God, they entrusted the work to an able and pious artist, named Bartholomew.
The saintly artist, relying on the aid of Heaven more than on his own skill, had recourse to Our Lady, fervently praying her that she would deign to direct his hand, that he might represent her in the most fitting manner. When he had completed the figure of the Angel and most of that of Our Lady, there yet remained to paint the features of the holy Mother of God. But how was he to depict the expression of this heavenly Mother in the act of pronouncing her admirable fiat, by which she became the Mother of God?
In this perplexity of mind the painter fell into a deep sleep. On awaking, how great was his astonishment to find the picture finished by an invisible hand! The faithful then flocked to witness this miracle and fixing their eyes on the Blessed Virgin, they repeatedly exclaimed: "What an angelical face, what heavenly features, what a celestial expression!" So beautiful indeed was the face of the Mother of God, that Michelangelo himself used to say this could not have been depicted by any human hand, but that it was truly a divine work.
Many were the graces bestowed by Our Lady on those who came to pray before this picture. Before long it was given the title of "Our Lady Saint Mary, full of grace." This was the beginning of many further graces which the mercy of God granted, for more than six centuries, to those who came to invoke the Mother of God at this shrine.
Many people eminent for virtue came and knelt before this heavenly picture to implore Our Lady's aid. It was before this wondrous picture that St. Aloysius Gonzaga made his vow of perpetual virginity. Here, also, both St. Charles Borromeo and in after years, Pope Pius IX, knelt in prayer and shed tears of tender devotion.
PrayerO Mary, when I consider my own justice, I perceive, alas! that it is hardly better than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. (Matt v, 20.) I implore thee, therefore, that thou obtain for me of thy Son the grace ever to grow in this virtue, in order that, like thyself, I may serve the Lord with faithfulness, and thus come at last to eternal bliss. Amen.