16 August 2010

Drawing Mary's Soul and Ours Together

My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up ~ Canticle of Canticles 4:12

To be a contemplative is to be receptive of the divine Word; to possess Him spiritually, and to live a life of union with Him. Our Blessed Lady is in truth the model for all contemplatives. She is the Mother of Truth as she is of Fair Love. Our part is to imitate her as faithful and generous children.

The various symbols that illustrate for us the mystery of Mary’s mission – Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, a Fountain sealed, Mirror of Justice, Ark of the Covenant – are at the same time symbols of the soul that loves and possesses God in an interior solitude. Mary’s virtues, the gifts she reveals and that radiate from her, are the essential virtues, the very conditions and special marks of the contemplative life.

According to the hymn we sing at Vespers on all her feasts, Mary is distinguished by her graciousness among women – among so many virgins and mothers on whom God has also bestowed the grace of gentleness, yet whose very gentleness is at the same time their power and strength. But all that is both Virginal and Maternal Mary, the second and spiritual Eve, possesses to an exceptional degree.

We are told that gentleness is the summing-up of all Christian virtues: it consists, above all, of patience and kindness; of respect and love for souls, indeed for all animate being; since one who is gentle is gentle towards all living things. And this, because in its root it derives from harmony with the will of God under all its forms, a tender acquiescence in all that is. It is also the primary requisite for all who long to clarify and liberate their inward vision. There is no contemplative life without infinite patience; light only penetrates souls at rest. Tranquillity is the first disposition necessary, then, if the depths of the soul are to become translucent. The art of contemplating divine truths is the art of remaining still.

Gentleness is the quality of a forgiving and loving soul, and is inseparable from true intellectual insight. When the mind is purified and sees all beings in their proper light, it cannot but be confident and loving. Saint John of the Cross has remarked with great insistence how essential kindness is for all interior progress. Our vocation is truly virginal and a mirror of Mary’s. She had no need to condemn the world; it was the world that broke its strength against her graciousness. So, too, with the contemplative. Our mission is not to judge men, but to live with God.

Another of Our Lady’s virtues which dazzles us, and which was pre-eminent in her, is her purity. Mary is, as it were, the very incarnation of purity, which in turn is so intimately bound up with the gift of wisdom that one can call it the indispensable virtue of the contemplative. It is not merely a question of avoiding the sins of the flesh, but of a delicacy of spirit which shields and reserves itself for the highest joys. To be pure is to know how to establish and maintain solitude of soul for God alone; to reconstruct our Garden of Eden interiorly. We know how Mary is prefigured in the earthly paradise, a sacred reserve inaccessible to the world; a place of delights without blemish or discord, prepared for the new Adam. Such is the contemplative soul: an enclosed garden where one has the joy of receiving directly the divine life in a stillness comparable to that which doubtless reigned at the dawn of the world. Neither thing nor person must come between the soul and God; nothing but that chaste liberty of the dawn of recreation. Then a new creation takes place, and is renewed throughout time: the generation of the Son of God in us.

What conclusions can we deduce from these brief reflections on the resemblance which draws Mary’s soul and ours together? We shall make the resolution to close our minds to all alien preoccupations, and by our recollection drink deeply of the innermost springs of our being. Like Mary, we shall reserve ourselves for joys not of this world, holding on to those joys through all our sufferings, all our separations, all our fears, till they attain their plenitude and enfold our whole being with their consoling peace, bringing us at last to that eternal felicity which we shall know to be the only true joy, when the shadow of this world shall have passed away.

~ Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion~