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.
|james christensen - annunciation|
"Hail! full of grace, the Lord, is with thee, blessed art thou among women" (Luke i, 28.)
Absorbed in profound contemplation, the humble Virgin of Nazareth, Spouse of Joseph the carpenter, was pondering the ills which afflict humanity, at the same time fostering in her heart the most ardent longing for the advent of the Messias promised by the prophets. Suddenly a heavenly messenger presents himself to her. It is the Archangel Gabriel who, bowing with reverence before her, says: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Many holy persons had, ere this, been saluted with the words contained in the latter half of this sentence: but no one before had heard himself styled "full of grace." Wherefore, the Holy Virgin, in her humility, queries within herself what so extraordinary a salutation may mean. The Angel, in answer to her half-expressed thought, goes on to disclose to her the divine mystery: "Thou hast found grace with God." (Luke. i, 30.) And because Mary is full of grace, therefore is she destined to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word: "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son." (Luke. i, 31.)
The prophets had foretold the coming of the Messias, as of Him who would refresh the earth, parched by sin, with the dew of divine grace. The patriarchs had desired Him, as the dispenser of life-giving grace. Mary herself, in her ecstasies, had foreseen Him, as crowning His elect with grace. It was fitting then, that the King of divine grace, should have for His Mother a Virgin in whom grace should reside in its plenitude.
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But the Incarnation of the Word was a mystic alliance between God and the human nature. It was not sufficient, in order to bring it about, that the Creator should will to unite Himself to His creature: this work could not be perfect, unless man himself freely consented to this union. For this end the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Mary': his mission being to disclose to the Holy Virgin, the heavenly mystery, and to receive from her, in the name of the human race, her acquiescence in the designs of the Most High.
But Mary's will was in entire conformity with the will of God: how then, could she refuse the demand of the Angel? The humble Virgin has not a moment of doubt or hesitation as to her choice. She only inquires, with holy prudence, as to the manner of the mystery's accomplishment. And hardly has she understood the divine will, than she pronounces, with ineffable love and full'submission, those sublime words, which will excite the admiration of the whole world to the end of time: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word,"— fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. (Luke. i, 38.)
In the beginning, the fiat of the Almighty had called into existence from nothingness this vast universe. Now, unutterable prodigy! Mary's acquiescence to the divine will is the starting point of a marvel without precedent: God, without ceasing to be what He is, will take our nature and become true man, as He is eternally true God.
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The human mind will never perfectly understand how much the Incarnation, accomplished in Mary at that moment when she uttered the epoch-making fiat, has ennobled her and rendered her blessed.
Yet, who would think it? At the moment when she was raised high above all angels and men, she abased herself as much as is possible to a creature. Her greatness was equalled only by her humility. Holy humility, how pleasing thou art to the King of glory, since His preference is for those who possess thee!
Christian soul, cultivate, after the example of the Mother of God, the fair flower of humility. It is only by this means that thou canst call down upon thyself the divine blessings.
As the fall of the angels, like that of man, had for its origin rebellion against the law of God, so it is pride which puts the finish on the eternal damnation of the reprobate. On the other hand, it is in the sincere imitation of the humility of Jesus and Mary, that both the basis and apex of our salvation are to be found.
Example - St. Philip Benizi
It is the will of God that the Blessed Virgin should be loved, honored and venerated the whole world over, .as the true Sovereign and Mistress of heaven and earth. Of all the saints who have largely contributed toward propagating this devotion to the Mother of God and in bringing the Christian people to realize the advantages which all may derive from this excellent practice, St. Philip Benizi, fifth General of the Order of Servants of Mary, holds a prominent place.
He was born on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, by whom, when a youth, he was called to join the Order which she had recently founded in a most marvelous manner at Monte Senario. Having been elected Superior of his Order, he devoted himself entirely to promoting the glory of the blessed Mother of God, drawing as many people as he could to submit themselves lovingly to her.
Obeying the command of his heavenly Queen, he went forth from Italy into France, Germany and Poland, preaching everywhere the glories of Mary and founding monasteries, from which the devotion to the great Mother of God could be spread among all the faithful.
Numerous wonders confirmed his preaching. Many times being lost in thick forests, he was led by an angel on to the right path. He converted many notorious sinners, and saw the good effect of his preaching on his hearers. Many young men of noble families knelt at his feet, begging for the habit of the Servants of Mary.
Desirous of propagating the kingdom of Christ, St. Philip sent many bands of Religious among the barbarians in order to bring the welcome tidings of salvation to people who were wholly submerged in darkness and in the shadow of death. Many of these missionaries fell victims to the sword of persecution, while invoking the holy names of Jesus and Mary.
Right up to the end of his life, St. Philip Benizi did not cease preaching the glories of Mary. Death overtook him while on a journey undertaken for the honor of his heavenly Queen. During the visitation of the monasteries of his Order, in which he encouraged the faithful in their devotion to the most holy Mother of God, he breathed forth his soul, holding in his hand the image of his Crucified Lord, which he was wont to call his most cherished book. This took place on the twenty-second of August, 1285, being the octave day of the Assumption of Our Lady.
O glorious Virgin, who hast merited by thy humility to be filled with grace and to become Mother of the Author of all good, obtain for me, I pray thee, of thy Son, that I may never by my pride, put any obstacle to the work of grace in my soul. Amen.