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.
THE worst evil that can befall us is unquestionably sin. This is of a truth our soul's enemy, which by sullying its purity, renders it an object of abhorrence in the sight of God, who is essential Holiness. Furthermore, sin deprives our soul of all share in the spiritual life, and subjects it, in a certain degree, to the dominion of the spirit of darkness.
At the beginning, Adam, by his transgression, infected the human race with sin. In consequence of this original sin, we are all born children of wrath, and though we are regenerated by holy Baptism, alas! we oftentimes leave the path of justice and truth, and follow our unruly passions or give ear to the promptings of self-love. How often do we rebel against God, our Heavenly Father! Ah, how priceless and beneficial is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shed all this most precious blood to redeem us from sin! "The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin." (John, i, 7.)
God's infinite mercy has not only prepared for us a potent remedy against sin in the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour, but it has also given us, poor sinners, a secure refuge in the assistance of the Blessed Virgin.
We read that there were, in the Old Law, cities of refuge, to which the guilty, whose crimes had rendered them worthy of death, could flee for safety. In the New Law, the mantle of the Mother of God is like a citadel, wherein sinful souls may find refuge. How can the divine wrath strike us, if we are covered by the mantle of Mary, the chosen daughter and the honored Mother of God?
Mary, by taking us under her protection, is not merely a pledge of our safety, but moreover, by her unrivaled sanctity, she is an earnest of pardon to all sinners who have recourse to her intercession. Not only does the Immaculate Virgin, by the fervor of her supplications, disarm God's just anger roused by our sins, but also she obtains for her true clients sincere and heartfelt conversion. It is enough that we should turn toward her with faith, in order that we may obtain, through her, of the Divine Clemency, the means to rise from the mire of sin.
I thank thee, O my God, for having granted me in the protection of Thy Mother, an assured refuge, where I may be sheltered from the severity of Thy justice. May I never neglect to have recourse to a Benefactress so powerful and so full of pity!
To be cleansed from sin and to be admitted once again into friendship with God is a grace beyond compare: but to be kept free from fresh falls is even more important, as our salvation depends entirely upon final perseverance. Mary, by her intercession, obtains for us not only to detest past faults, but also to escape renewed lapses, and herein again her assistance is of the utmost value.
It was the privilege of the Mother of God to be exempt from all sin, original as well as actual; and so the principal grace she accords to her faithful servants is to preserve them from sin. Like a most tender and loving mother, she protects her clients against the fierce onslaughts of the enemy, supporting and guiding them through the thorny pathways of life, and keeping them away from all stumbling-blocks And "Since, through God's permission, we are tempted in all sorts of ways, Mary's watchful assistance helps us to put Satan to flight, while she suggests to us, through our angel guardian, all manner of chaste thoughts and holy aspirations.
But it is more especially at the hour of death, that the Holy Mother shelters her faithful servants, driving the Tempter far from them, and encouraging them to fight valiantly to the last gasp.
Happy he who frequently has recourse to Mary with faith and devotion! Despite his weakness, despite his many failures, he may surely hope for salvation, for Mary "is a tree of life to them that lay hold on her, and he that shall retain her is blessed." (Prov. iii, 18.)
Example - St. Mary of Egypt
The mercy of the Mother of God for poor sinners is shown in a particular manner in the life of St. Mary of Egypt, who under the protection of our blessed Lady withdrew from the path of sin to walk in that of virtue, and finally attained to the highest degree of Christian perfection.
This woman, from her early years was an instrument of ruin to many souls. One day, on hearing that a pious pilgrimage was going to Jerusalem, she wished to join the company.
But the mercy of the Mother of God was awaiting her precisely where she thought of offending God. The party soon reached the Holy City, and, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross repaired to the church where the relic of the Holy Cross was preserved. Mary wished to join the people but, on reaching the threshold, she found herself as it were held back by an invisible force. She tried again and again to enter, but each time the same mysterious force held her back. At last, enlightened from on High, she understood that God had commanded His angels to keep her out of the church in punishment for her sins.
Then, full of compunction, she threw herself on her knees in front of a picture of Our Lady which was in the peristyle of the church and with great fervor and sorrow she cried out; "I am not worthy, O most chaste Virgin, that thou shouldst deign to look upon me, but I have heard that thy Son came into this world to recall sinners to repentance. Come to mine aid therefore, and obtain for me that I may see and adore that precious cross on which my Saviour has shed His blood for my redemption; and I promise on my part to renounce the path of sin."
Hardly had she uttered this humble prayer, than the mysterious force which forbade her entering the church was removed, and she adored the cross with feelings of lively compunction. Then, coming out of the church, she prostrated herself once more before the picture of Our Lady to seek her counsel, and heard in reply that she should retire to the neighborhood of the Jordan, where she would find her place of rest. She at once resolved to obey the inspiration. After a general confession of her sins she retired into the desert, where she abode for forty-seven years, leading a life of the strictest penance, without seeing any living soul.
O Mary, Mother of God, see me prostrate at thy feet, a poor sinner guilty, alas I of many transgressions, and moreover surrounded with daily occasions of sin. I have, therefore, recourse to thee, with all the fervor of my soul, and I pray thee to cast thy mantle over me, to drive away the evil one, and to bring me, through all the dangers of this life, on to the harbor of eternal safety. Amen.