Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meditations on the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (II)

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you…” Perhaps this is one scene that we are reminded of with the steady stream of Hail Mary’s as we meditate on the mysteries of the life of the Lord whenever we pray the Rosary. At the same time we address ourselves to our Mother, who, following the words of the archangel, is full of grace. That she is such presents itself once again as we pray within the Litany: Mother most pure…Mother most chaste…Mother inviolate…Mother undefiled. To be full of God’s means that one basks completely in the light of His love; it is the absence of darkness brought about by sin, of anything that alienates us form the love of God, of anything that would render us impure. Such is Mary who, as the Catholic faith teaches, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin[1]. It wouldn’t be held against us that, were we given the opportunity to choose our own mothers, we would certainly choose her in the most superlative way: the most beautiful, the best, etc. we don’t have that choice, however, God had that, and He chose the most beautiful creature there was. Mary’s perfection also resides in the fact that she is immaculate, pure, without blemish. This is seen in the cleanliness of her soul, which allowed her to see God in all things. This was the purity of mind, soul, and heart (one which was also made manifest outwardly) that made her strong and sturdy to be the woman who stood beneath the Cross as well.

Singing her praises make us think of that important virtue that we all have to live in our life as Christians which is none other than purity, and along with that, chastity. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God![2] One of the holy desert fathers of the 4th Century, St. John Cassian, wrote: “The ultimate end of our journey is the kingdom of God, but our aim, our immediate objective is the purity of heart. Without this it is impossible to attain our ultimate end[3]. We were meant to contemplate God, to see him face to face, but this seeing is made with our hearts, not with our eyes. The same with our eyes, we cannot see God with our hearts if this is polluted and dirty. What defiles the human heart? What makes it blind and incapable of seeing what it is made to see? “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like[4].  These are precisely the things that inhibit us from seeing God; we don’t see him because we are so absorbed in ourselves, in our selfish and carnal desires, in our pursuit of the pleasure of the moment, of that which may gratify us for a moment but not give us the fulfillment that we seek. To be pure means to empty the heart of these things, so that we may have it free for God; and it being free, it may be occupied exclusively by Him. This is possible only if we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us in our weakness, and sanctifies and purifies us.

In connection with this is the virtue of chastity, which is very important for ALL Christians. We are called to live it, each according to his state in life. Married couples are called to be chaste in their vocation; priests have to live celibately in imitation of our Lord, consecrated people need to live their vows, and young people need to be formed in chastity, which is the virtue that allows us to have dominion and mastery over our sexual inclination—which is a gift from God—and orient them to the good of the person, which is expressed in love. It is basically the orientation to love. The one who is not chaste cannot love, but can only think of himself and his hedonistic self-gratification. Seeing that we are called to love, we are made to realize how important it is that we live these virtues of chastity and purity, which are not repressions of love, but its generous expression.

In these times that we live in it is a real struggle to live this vocation to chastity. We have to guard our sight if we want to guard our heart. We have to guard our affections as well. We have to be very prudent in our company, in our friendships, in our conversations. But then in our struggle we can always count on the aid of God’s grace, the aid of the sacraments—especially Confession and the Eucharist—and also the intercession and example of Mary, Mother most pure, most chaste, inviolate and undefiled.

[1] Pope PIUS IX, Ineffabilis Deus, papal bull defining the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1854.
[2] Mt. 5:8
[3] CASSIAN, Conferences, 1, 4.
[4] Gal. 5: 19-21

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