SOUL FOOD Talk #16 – MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH
1. We have been learning about our Blessed Mother all of our lives, many of us from toddlers at our mother’s knee, but in these “last days,” we need to enter more deeply into contemplation of Mary, understanding that Mary is so much more than the sum of all the titles, dogmas, mysteries, and teachings we have absorbed and loved.
2. Let me begin with Raniero Cantalamessa in his book, Mary, Mirror of the Church: “A full explanation of Mary, her greatness and beauty, is to be found in grace. [She is] …the one who is Mary because she is full of grace…. To say she is full of grace is to say all there is to say of her.” (p. 18) Our understandings of grace, “actual grace,” “sanctifying grace,” leave us with only the driest, weakest notions of what this “full of grace” actually means.
3. Cantalamessa explains, “The same grace of God that filled Mary is also Christ’s grace (gratia Christi) …the grace that was given in Christ Jesus. In Mary we contemplate the newness of grace in the New Testament with respect to the Old Covenant; in her there was a leap of quality. God’s grace no longer consists in some gift or other but in the gift of Himself; it doesn’t consist in some favor of His but in His presence.” (21)
4. To realize this more clearly we need to understand the difference between time and eternity. Eternity is not just an endless continuation of the present moment of time. It is, instead, outside of the realm of time altogether. It is God Himself who is uncreated and eternal; therefore eternity is of God, is uncreated. All of time, which is created, is present to God in His eternity. In eternity, there is really no “before, during, and after.” All is equally present. We learned years ago that Mary was conceived without original sin (the Immaculate Conception). How? Eternity overrides time and time sequence. The Father made available to her ahead of time the saving grace of Christ’s Crucifixion and Redemption at her conception, which happened years before Jesus was crucified. In other words, we could say she was the first redeemed human being, redeemed before the Crucifixion, but even more than “redeemed.” Whereas we are redeemed, cleansed from original sin, Mary is “redeemed + ” –preserved from sin. She was never even touched by original or personal sin. As the Catholic Catechism puts it:
5. “Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.’
6. 492 The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.’ The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.’
7. 493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God ‘the All-Holy’ (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”
8. Now, as you reflect on this, understand that since Christ is the head of His Church, the “first fruits” of those who have fallen asleep (i.e. the first Resurrected), Mary was the first member of His Body, and destined to be “second fruit,” if you will. Given the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption follows logically.
9. In Conchita’s Diary we read: “The Lord explained to Conchita this mystery thus: ‘For you, there exists the present moment; for God all is pre-existent. Mary already existed [in eternity in the mind of God—she was] the joy of the whole Trinity which had formed her in Its Thought. She already constituted Its delights. Mary was already the Queen of Heaven. She was beautiful with the beauty of God. She was…a creature without the least stain and all perfect….Already from this eternity, she was Daughter, Spouse, and Mother, the Three Divine Persons finding Their pleasure in this perfect work which must be marveled at by heaven and earth throughout all ages.…The Trinity loved passionately this incomparable creature.’” (Diary 167)
10. Of all the titles of Mary, one which we have least considered is that she is “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”—it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus became flesh in her womb. Most of us leave the idea at this very point, but Mary’s intimacy with the Holy Spirit is so much more mysterious. First, her relationship with the Holy Spirit is the prototype or model of the Church’s union with the Holy Spirit. Before his arrest and martyrdom by the Nazis, St. Maximillian Kolbe wrote: “The Most Blessed Virgin is the one in whom we venerate the Holy Spirit, for she is his spouse. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity never took flesh; still, our human word ‘spouse’ is far too weak to express the reality of the relationship between the Immaculata and the Holy Spirit. We can affirm that she is, in a certain sense, the ‘incarnation’ of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit we love in her” (The Spirit and the Bride Say ‘Come, p. 46).
11. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at the conception of Jesus, Mary continues to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He never leaves His immaculate spouse. As she gives birth to the Head of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary gives birth to His Body, the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the order of grace, Mary is the Mother of the Church.
12. Father Maximillian Kolbe was a pioneer in the field of modern Mariology, and he has this to say about Mary the Mediatrix: “Because Mary is united to the Holy Spirit in such an ineffable manner, she takes part in this intimate mediation of the …Paraclete….The union between the Immaculata and the Holy Spirit is so inexpressible, yet perfect, that the Holy Spirit acts only by the most Blessed Virgin, his Spouse. This is why she is Mediatrix of all grace given by the Holy Spirit” (44-45). Just as Mary is the spotless Bride of the Holy Spirit, like Mary, the Church is to be the spotless Bride, mediating the redemption and salvation of Christ to all mankind. “As the Second Vatican Council said, the Church is to be the ‘Sacrament of intimate union with God and unity of all mankind. The mystery of the union of the Holy Spirit and the Bride of Christ is at the heart of the mystery of the Incarnation itself. Mary is the perfect prototype of what God wants for his Church, and she is also the mother chosen to bring forth this mystery of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit” (48).
13. However many titles we give her, we cannot name, express, or explain all that she means to God and to the Church. As humble, pure, and sweet as she is, Mary is a mystery, surrounded by mysteries, and full of the power of the Most High. In the total embrace of the Holy Spirit, she continues to involve herself in our redemption and sanctification. As I said earlier, Mary is so much more than the sum of all the titles, dogmas, mysteries and teachings which we find in her name. At the same time, she is completely human with all the feeling, tenderness, and concern of the most devoted mother–we cannot begin to imagine how much she loves us! How far she will press God himself on our behalf!
14. Among all of her titles, probably none is more precious to us than “Mother of God.” This title the Church embraced from the beginning, formally recognized in 431 AD in the Council of Ephesus, the Church’s third council. Cantalamessa writes: “The Fathers of the council adopted [the title which] …expresses the deep unity between God and man realized in Jesus and how God bound himself to man and united man to himself in the most profound unity that exists, that is to say, the unity of the person. The Fathers used to say that Mary’s womb was the ‘bridal chamber’ where the nuptials between God and humankind took place, the ‘loom’ where the robe of the union was woven….It was Mary who anchored God to earth and humanity; it was Mary who, by her divine and very human maternity, made God the Emmanuel, God among us, for all time. She made Christ our brother.” (64)
15. As beautiful as the spiritual and physical maternity of Mary is, we should also realize, that since Mary is the first member of the body of the Church,[the Body of Christ], though exempt from sin, everything was not easy for her. She had to overcome struggles, difficulties, and darkness—the struggles to believe. “If Jesus had to struggle and sweat blood to get his human will to adhere fully to the Father’s Will, is it surprising that his mother had to face agony too?” (Cantalamessa 88)
16. Here is where we gain insight into one of Mary’s titles, Co-Redemptrix. St. Paul counsels us in 2 Cor.12:9: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.” Not that there is anything lacking in Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the Cross! No—but the body, [first Mary, then us], united to the Head, enters the passion. Our redemptive suffering is “part of the package” so to speak. Mary was not exempt from this. Truly the “Mirror of the Church,” truly one body with her Son, is it not fitting that she undergo the passion with Him? In Mary, our model and our comfort, we find the strength and the courage in the Holy Spirit to enter suffering in union with Mary and Jesus, to “fill up what is lacking” to the Body. If she were not Co-Redemptrix, how could we begin to accept this hard teaching?
17. We enter now into the paschal mysteries as they are reflected in the heart of Mary. Remember Soul Food Talk #12 on immolation and divinization? “…spirituality begins with Mary at the foot of the Cross, and if you would enter that spirituality, you must place yourself at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ Mother, consecrate yourself to her…. It is especially the sorrowful heart of Mary which we must emulate as she freely says her Fiat (Let it be done), offering with her breaking heart, her suffering Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit. As the spouse of the Holy Spirit which she became with the Incarnation, Mary is filled with the Spirit and prays and loves always in the Holy Spirit. Immolation begins in union with Mary in the Holy Spirit as we also offer Christ to the Father in reparation for sin.
18. As we live in the Holy Spirit and He lives in us, as He formed Christ in the womb of Mary in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit progressively forms Christ in us and we become Christ, His body and His blood. [Jesus says] I want you, transformed in Me by suffering, by love and by the practice of all the virtues, to raise heavenward this cry of your soul in union with Me: ‘This is My Body, This is My Blood.’ Thus by making yourself but one with the Incarnate Word out of love and suffering, with the same intentions of love, you will obtain graces for the whole world. You will offer Me Myself and yourself also, with the Holy Spirit and through Mary, to the eternal Father.”
19. At the foot of the Cross, indeed throughout her life, Mary suffers an interior, hidden martyrdom of the heart. In Christ, we unite ourselves with Mary in her suffering solitude, accepting whatever God sends us, desolation or consolation, all for souls, for priests, for the Church.
20. In 1935, Jesus tells Conchita: “The Word took flesh from Mary; He clothed Himself in humanity out of love for the Father and humankind in order to realize one will of love on earth” (Under the Gaze of the Father, 18).
21. As the darling of the Blessed Trinity, with her fiat Mary entered completely into the will of God, this “one will of love” modeling for all time for us and for the Church how to please God. In our own fiat, we too become the darlings of the Blessed Trinity! To the extent that Christ is formed in us through our own fiat, by the Holy Spirit [sanctifying Grace] through Mary, we too are under the Father’s gaze, as He pours out his Heart. Jesus is the outpouring of the Heart of the Father. To the extent that we are transformed into Christ, the gaze and outpouring love of the Father’s Heart is also in us, beloved in the Beloved. Thus do we enter into the Divine Will, into the Passion, into the Glory and into eternal Love—one Heart, one Will, one Love. Though stained by sin, original and personal, we can be fully transformed by (sanctifying) Grace. Only Mary from the beginning is “full of Grace,” unstained and splendid with the beauty and purity of God Himself.
22. Because this Immaculate one, our Mother and Queen, has preceded us into Glory, she intercedes for us, her children and the Body of her Jesus, with a glorified body and soul. Nothing is kept from her, no secrets, no knowledge, no power. Her dominion is virtually without end. God loves her so much that He refuses her nothing. [ These are the thoughts of many saints; see the following sites: http://www.ecatholic2000.com/liguori/glories20.shtml http://www.opusangelorum.org/English/Marymother.html ]
23. In these last days, and I say this with no reservations—though we know not the day nor the hour—what is so striking is the sheer number of apparitions of Jesus and especially of Mother Mary, the warnings, the pleadings for reparation and conversion, the tears, the tears of blood, the loving encouragement. We would have to be deaf and blind to ignore what Mary and Jesus are trying to tell us. The Storm is upon us, but we have been prepared. We have a refuge. We have weapons.
24. No refuge compares to the loving Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As humans with ordinary anxiety, even anxiety about the unbelievable events which are upon us, if we cling to our faith, to our Mother who will never desert or lead us astray, we will find a deep peace and assurance in our hearts. We know our weapons: we have the Holy Mass, the Sacraments, the Rosary, and other private devotions which we have been given and encouraged to use over the last 2000 years, especially in the last century or so.
25. Especially since it seems to be the weapon of choice, the Rosary is critical for our times. I want you to think about the increasing persecution of the Church. In 1994 in Rwanda, while Immaculee Ilibagiza and a few other Tutsis crouched in a tiny bathroom to escape the bloodbath occurring outside, she did not have access to the Mass or to the sacraments, but she had seized her father’s rosary, and that she prayed incessantly. As the Christians flee ISIS in Iraq, running with only the clothing on their backs, they have access to no priests, Masses, sacraments, or bibles. Clutching their rosaries, they clutch the hand of their Mother. Whether in life or in death, she is there to sustain, comfort, and strengthen us. We have no idea what the future holds. Will we or our families be called to be martyrs for the faith? We very well could be. If so, God will give us the grace when the time comes. But we would do well to cling to our “battle beads” which Satan fears and despises. Consider this, to pray the Rosary or the Jesus Prayer, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, you need no priest, no church, no light or electricity, no computer or telephone or television. If pressed, you don’t even need the beads—God gave each of us ten fingers.
26. Through the Rosary, God has worked some of his most powerful miracles. For example: On August 6, 1945 during World War II, an atomic bomb was dropped on the town of Hiroshima, Japan. 140,000 people were killed or injured. There was a home eight blocks (about 1 kilometer) from where the A-Bomb went off . This home had a church attached to it which was completely destroyed, but the home survived, and so did the eight German Jesuit missionaries who prayed the Rosary in that house faithfully every day. These men were missionaries to the Japanese people, they were non-military, but because Germany and Japan were allies during WWII they were permitted to live and minister within Japan during the war.
27. Not only did they all survive with (at most) relatively minor injuries, but they all lived well past that awful day with no radiation sickness, no loss of hearing, or any other visible long term defects or maladies. Naturally, they were interviewed and examined numerous times (Fr. Schiffer, a survivor, said over 200 times) by scientists and health care people about their remarkable experience and they say “we believe that we survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home.”
28. Our Lady of Akita is one of the apparitions of this century recognized by the Catholic Church. Appearing in 1973 to Sister Agnes, a stigmatist, Mary told her: “Profane souls who are ungrateful and outrageous against God’s goodness bring chastisement upon the entire human race. Consequently, a great tribulation shall befall all humanity. My Son unites His sufferings along with mine and those souls who entrust their sufferings to us, as a love offering to Divine Justice…Prayer and courageous sacrifice mitigate the consequences of evil behavior…Dear children of the world, seek holiness above all else. Offer yourselves entirely to the Lord….
29. “Listen carefully to what I say to you. “As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one has never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.
30. “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord….“Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.” (EWTN —http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/akita.htm)
31. Finally, these are some of the most powerful words I have ever read about the Rosary:
The following text of Father Gabriel Amorth, chief exorcist of the Vatican, is taken from the March-April, 2003 issue of “Echo of Mary, Queen of Peace”: The recent Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” (released last October 16) encourages all Christians to turn back to the prayer strongly recommended both by the latest Pontiffs and recent Marian apparitions. Paul VI called the Rosary a compendium of the Gospel. To make it more complete, John Paul II added the ‘mysteries of light’ to cover Jesus’ public life. Padre Pio called the Rosary beads a weapon of extraordinary power against Satan.
32. One day a colleague of mine heard the devil say during an exorcism: “Every Hail Mary is like a blow on my head. If Christians knew how powerful the Rosary was, it would be my end.” The secret that makes this prayer so effective is that the Rosary is both prayer and meditation. It is addressed to the Father, to the Blessed Virgin, and to the Holy Trinity, and is a meditation centered on Christ. [http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2491139/posts]
33. We have all read and heard equally disturbing prophetic voices, which are today almost too numerous to count, including many historical Catholic saints and seers such as Padre Pio. Confronted by such a serious, disturbing scenario, we may feel overwhelmed, and rightly so. Charlie Johnston, a public figure and faithful Catholic visited by the angels since his childhood, and who has been vetted by several priests over the years, has this to say to us: “Trust in God. Take the next right step. Be a beacon of hope to those around you.” [See his blog here: https://charliej373.wordpress.com/]
34. What does this mean to us? As Our Lady counseled us, “Be holy.” If we are faithful to prayer and cling in faith to God, we must also trust Him. We should pray this unceasingly, “Jesus, I trust in You.” And believe me, the more time you spend with Him in serious prayer, before the Blessed Sacrament when possible, at Mass when possible, the easier trust will become for you. Our prayer time should include a committed time for contemplation, the Rosary, the Jesus Prayer if you like, serious reading and reflection, etc.
35. God’s Will should be paramount for us. Remember that whatever happens is in the Will of God; commit yourselves to it with your fiat; consecrate yourself to it as to a beloved spouse. Live one moment at a time in God’s will, and He will teach your heart what is the “next right step.”
36. What probably frightens us most is our concern for our family and loved ones. Not a one of us is fortunate enough to have every family member, loved friend, co-worker, etc. a lover of God, full of faith. What will happen to them? Again, all is in the will of God, but when St. Monica prayed for years for her adulterous, pagan husband, who had a violent temper and dissolute habits, and for her unruly son, Augustine, who was living in sin, who had a baby out of wedlock, etc., a bishop friend of hers told her, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Not only was her husband saved; but of course, her famous son, St. Augustine of Hippo, became the famed doctor and father of the Church.
37. Trust God. Be practical as well. It does little good to preach at the godless. Set a loving, humble example of virtue for them. If they are amenable to it, urge them to pray, to turn to God; but don’t harp on it! Be what you want them to be. Have rosaries set aside for them. If they dislike the Rosary, present them with the Jesus Prayer when the time is right. Give what they will tolerate, pray, and trust God for the rest.
38. The Storm is upon us. We must be the beacon of hope, we who pray and live in the refuge of the heart of Mary. As the times grow more disturbing, when your loved ones begin to show signs of fear, be a beacon of hope. Show them in whom is your hope, where you stand; encourage them to trust God with you, in His faithful mercy and love, and in the comfort of our Mother. In The Secrets of Mary, by Janice T. Connell, Mary tells us: “Be my voice and my heart and my hands in these times of my Son’s manifestations throughout the world. Be living peace.” [By the way, Connell’s extraordinary book contains detailed descriptions of all the Church approved apparitions, and so much more.]
39. God’s plan for us is not about fear, but about hope and love. Over and over again, Mary counsels us to turn to Jesus who is all love and compassion. Trust. Trust. Trust. Nothing can happen to us that is not in the will of God. In Mary, Mirror of the Church, Cantalamessa tells us: “Even when in vain we have done our utmost to change a difficult situation, we still have something that will keep us occupied and keep desperation far from us, and that is to patiently endure to the end. That was the great thing that Mary did as she hoped beneath the cross, and she is now ready to help us do the same.”
40. MARIAN DOGMAS:
1. Mother of God – Council of Ephesus 431, AD
2. Perpetual Virginity of Mary – Council of the Lateran, 649
3. Immaculate Conception – Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” (December 8, 1854)
4. Assumption – Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950
5. There is growing support within the Catholic Church now for a fifth and final Marian dogma to be proclaimed, that Mary is Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate. The movement Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici is at the forefront of the growing enthusiasm for this fifth dogma. Since 1993 this movement has collected more than five million signatures in 157 countries in support of the proclamation of this dogma. Co-Redemptrix: refers to Our Lady’s co-operation in our redemption. She co-operated with God at the Annunciation to give a body to Jesus. She suffered with Jesus at the foot of the cross. This title of Our Lady shows that suffering has supernatural value, that there is a value in accepting the cross. Mediatrix of all Graces: This means that all the graces from the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit flow to us through Mary. Advocate: In her role as Advocate, our petitions flow back to the Trinity through Mary. She is our human connection to the Trinity.
41. PADRE PIO ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AND THE ROSARY:
42. MARY THE DAWN [Medieval hymn used in the Office of the Virgin Mary]
1. Mary the dawn,
Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate,
Christ the Heavenly Way!
2. Mary the root,
Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape,
Christ the Sacred Wine!
3. Mary the wheat,
Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem,
Christ the Rose blood-red!
4. Mary the font,
Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup,
Christ the Saving Blood!
5. Mary the temple,
Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the shrine,
Christ the God adored!
6. Mary the beacon,
Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the mirror,
Christ the Vision Blest!
7. Mary the mother,
Christ the mother’s Son;
By all things blest
while endless ages run. Amen.
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