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.
"Look upon the rainbow, and bless him that made it: it is very beautiful in its brightness. It encompasseth the heaven about with the circle of its glory: the hands of the Most High have displayed it." (Ecclus. xliii, 12.)
AFTER God had cleansed the world of the iniquity in which it had been steeped^ by sending the universal deluge which destroyed the whole human race with the exception of Noe and his family, He promised that patriarch that a similar scourge should never more come upon the earth. In order to seal this promise by a visible sign, He ordained that the rainbow should be for men a reminder of the compact which He had made with them.
It might have been expected that the human race, which soon multiplied, should have lived for a long time in justice and holiness. But men soon began to commit idolatry again, and would have been abandoned by God had He not, in His great mercy, taken pity on them. God, then, determined to save mankind, and to this end made a more solemn compact, in which He decreed that the adorable Heart of His own Son Made Man should become our peace and reconciliation: Cor Jesu, pax et reconeiliatio nostra.
But in order that man might ever have before His eyes the sign of this compact of reconciliation and peace, God displayed in the firmament of His church a second rainbow of incomparable loveliness, that is, the Mother of God, Mary most Holy, who is ever for us a sign that God does not wish to abandon us to sin and death.
There are three obstacles to our perfect reconciliation with God. The first is the slavery of the devil, which is a deadly outcome of original sin, by which the first man yielded to the suggestions of the common foe. The second obstacle is actual sin, which makes us abominable in God's sight. The third is this, that sin closes against us the doors of the heavenly kingdom.
Now, Mary is indeed the unconquered woman who has removed these impediments to our perfect reconciliation and peace with God. For, in the first place, she was conceived without sin, and thus did not fall under the power of the evil one, and so inaugurated that era of liberty which was to be the fruit of the birth of her Son. Next she brought forth her Son Jesus, the Saviour of the world, who by His passion and death, conquered the devil, and opened for us the gates of paradise. Therefore she is truly that happy sign which shines forth in the heavens, joyfully proclaiming that mankind has regained the friendship of God, for "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son"; (Rom. v. 10.) and we have "confidence of entering into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Christ." (Hebr. x. 19.)
The presence of Our Lady in the world is, for us, not only an earnest of our reconciliation and peace with God, but also a sign of peace with our neighbor, and with ourselves.
Peace with our neighbor consists in that unity of thought and affection which dissolves all discord, jealousy and anger, and banishes all strife and dispute. Now this harmony is but the effect of that great charity which Our Lady brought into the world through her Son, and which she herself taught us by her example. Peace with ourselves is to be found in a perfect agreement among the many faculties of our soul, and in the submission of the passions to reason and grace. Thus, again, Mary is not only our model, but also our powerful helper, who obtains for us, from her Son, the graces that we need, to conquer inordinate desires and have them subjected to the law of God.
Example - St. Nicholas of Tolentino
Nicholas was born in the territory of Sant' Angelo in Colle, in the Province of Ancona, in the year 1245. From his earliest years he showed a great love of God and soon entered the Augustinian Order, where he became a model of religious virtues. He especially shone through his piety, mortification and unfeigned charity.
The great devotion which he nourished toward our Blessed Lady cannot easily be described; a devotion which he had imbibed with his mother's milk, and which increased as he grew older. In honor of Mary he fasted every Saturday, and often during the day he saluted her in the words of the Angel. He failed not to meditate on her bitter sorrows, accompanying her in thought through all the different stages of the passion of Jesus, and mourning with her at the loss of her beloved Son.
While he was at Fermo, Our Lady deigned to make known to him the translation of her Holy House into the territory of Recanati. Thus it was, that he was frequently to be seen standing by a large window which looked out on the Adriatic. His Superior wondering at this, asked him if he was praying to the fishes. "No, Father, answered Nicholas, "I am expecting a great treasure to pass," and after a short time he saw the Holy House passing by and thus he was able to add his own testimony to support this truth.
Once, when he was oppressed with fever, Our Lady appeared to him and told him to ask for some bread and to mix it with water, and he would recover his health as soon as he tasted it. And so it happened. But Nicholas, moved with compassion for the sick, implored his heavenly Benefactress that she would obtain from her Son the grace for him to bless other loaves in this way, wherewith he might cure these poor sufferers. Our Lady heard his prayers and from this has originated the bread called after his name, that is, the bread of St. Nicholas.
When he was at the point of death he was consoled by the presence of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin and of his glorious Patriarch St. Augustine. Mary then revealed to him that on the third day after her Nativity he would pass to the kingdom of heaven. One cannot describe the joy of his heart at these heavenly tidings. But as the Saint knew well that the devil would redouble his assaults at the last moments of his life, he prayed that this wicked monster might not attack or disturb him at the hour of death. Our Lady granted his request. He died peacefully on the tenth of September, 1305.
O Mary, most justly proclaimed Queen of Peace, for having given us Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and having inaugurated in thyself that blessed reign of divine peace with God, with thy neighbor and with thyself, obtain for us, we beseech thee, from thy Divine Son, so to correspond to His grace, as to enjoy the full blessing of that threefold peace which He Himself brought to the world, and "which surpasseth all understanding." (Phil. iv, 7.)