13 March 2010

Mother of the Redeemed

Here's another writing from the Carthusian treasure chest.

The reverence shown by a subject for his queen and the loving and eager devotion which the members of her household bring to their service, is nothing compared to the devotion and tenderness of a child for its mother. The memory of a mother is the sweetest and strongest of human sentiments; it returns in even greater strength, and is the last to fade. Even when it is hidden, and seems completely suppressed in the depths of the most unmindful and perverse of hearts, it is often the only force which has power to soften and to bring peace.

As the eternal Father sought among all human qualities those which could lead back to Him His own handiwork, could He pass over the one quality – motherhood – which moves the child so powerfully towards her to whom he owes his very existence? Would it be possible for so sacred a tie not to find a place in a religion so clearly founded on human nature and human affection? In the Christian religion the whole of humanity forms in Jesus Christ one united family. We all have a Father Who is in heaven; we surely need, therefore, a Mother, if our heart is not a thing made by chance, and if the religion which so draws our affections comes from our Maker.

This Mother God has given to us: it is our Blessed Lady. The Mother of God’s only-begotten Son has become the Mother of the children of His adoption. When Jesus was about to die and so repair the outrage done to His father and to pay our ransom, He said, speaking to Mary and turning to the beloved disciple: Woman, behold thy Son. Then, addressing Saint John, He said: Behold thy Mother. In these words we have the express declaration of Mary’s spiritual maternity, uttered at the very moment of the birth pangs of the Christian family. From Mary’s sword-pierced heart, we were brought forth to a life of grace, and Mary’s consent to the Passion of our Saviour became, freely given as it was, the cause of our birth to grace through the death of the crucified Christ.

But long before this, our Lady had already begun her work as a Mother. Before giving birth to us, so to speak, she had conceived us and had carried us in her heart. When, through the ministry of an angelic envoy, the Word had solicited her consent to the Incarnation, He did so as the Redeemer of men. As a consequence of the fatal fall of our first parents, all members of the human race, with the one exception of our Lady, came into this world deprived of supernatural life. By coming amongst us the Word of God wished to graft upon His own Person all the souls of men, and in this way to infuse into them the grace of which they had been deprived and which He possessed in all its fullness. But in the designs of the Father, this mysterious engrafting could only be effected by the Blood-stained Flesh of the God-Man. Hence, the Divine Son came down to earth to climb Calvary’s hill, and it was as the Victim of sin that He asked Mary to receive Him.

In response to the angelic salutation, the Maid of Nazareth gave an unconditional Fiat and it was at this solemn moment that she conceived us in her heart. Mother, according to His human nature, of our Divine Saviour, she became the true spiritual Mother of all Christ’s members. And in the Blessed among women whom He destined to be our Mother, God united all the gifts capable of calling forth and holding our filial love. Her beauty will ravish for eternity the souls of the blessed in heaven; while her goodness, second only to that of her Divine Son, will be beyond anything we can conceive here below. She has said so herself. Between the love of the most ardent of her servants and the love she gives in return to the least of her children, there will ever be a vast difference, as vast as that between earth and heaven.

O incomprehensible condescension of divine mercy to give us such a Mother! O tremendous desire for our salvation! The least we can do is to respond with a sincere and practical love. ‘If I love Mary’, Saint John Berchmans used to say, ‘I am certain of my salvation’. And Saint Aloysius, summing up the tradition of the early Fathers, formulated the well-known saying: ‘Servus Mariæ nunquam peribit – the servant of Mary will never be lost’. Now ‘the true servant of Mary’, as one of our founder’s own companions used to say, ‘is the Christian who has recourse to that beloved Mother as often as he should, whether it be to persevere in the grace and friendship of God, or to recover those blessings by a sincere repentance’.