Antiquity of Devotion to the Holy Virgin

I believe in God the Father Almighty . . . and in Jesus Christ , . . . Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary.

To imagine that the honours decreed by the Church to the Mother of God is a devotion of recent date, as heretics assert, would be untrue. If the Gospel speaks but little of Mary, it is that all her praises, all her glory, all her titles to our veneration, are comprised in these words of the Angel - "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;" and in this fiat - "Be it done unto me according to thy word," fiat which raised Mary to the incomparable dignity of Mother of God, remaining still a virgin. It follows as a natural consequence of her dignity as Mother of God that we need not fear to raise her too high, since all have agreed that, with the exception of those titles due to the Divinity alone, nothing is too great when Mary is in question.

If in the primitive ages of Christianity neither altars nor temples were raised to Mary, it was because the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, deemed it expedient to be tender of Pagan minds, at a time when faith in the Incarnation and Redemption was still weak, and when the precepts of the New Law were, so to say, in their infancy. But who would doubt the tender veneration, the respect of the Apostles, of Saint John amongst others, for the Mother of God? And consider the place occupied by Mary in that succinct and decisive exposition of our faith, the Creed. "She is there mentioned with the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, not as a stranger, but as one bound to Them by the strictest and most indissoluble alliance: in quality of Daughter, Spouse, and Mother." And what must not have been the homage and unbounded confidence of the primitive Faithful in Mary during the long years she dwelt among them after the Ascension of her Divine Son, loading them with favours and rendering them maternal services?

Since that time, tradition is unbroken. In the second century, Saint Irenaeus recognizes Mary as our advocate; Origen, in the third, calls her a celestial treasure. In the fourth century, St Basil ordains in his liturgy, that the Deacon who precedes the Bishop should say aloud to the congregation - "Let us be mindful of our sovereign Lady, the most holy and Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God." Saint Augustine, in his book on Virginity, presents her to Christians as their good Mother, and wishes that all entertain those sentiments of veneration, love, and confidence, which children experience towards a mother. Could our most ardent devotion bear any comparison to what we are told of the expectation of the Faithful, and their acclamations when the Council of Ephesus had solemnly anathematized Nestorius, and declared Mary to be Mother of God? This ardour, these cries, a thousand times re-echoed by an entire people - "Blessed be the great, the august, the glorious Mother of God," can they fail to find a response in the hearts of Mary's clients? Saint Basil of Selucia (fifth century) teaches, that since the greatness of God is ineffable and incomprehensible, the excellence of her who bears to Him the most intimate relationship, that of Mother, must be confessed to surpass all that men can say or think. Saint Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna, in the sixth century, says - "Heaven was affrighted at behold- ing the majesty of God; nevertheless, a Virgin receives Him in her womb, with so perfect disposi- tions, that in return for this abode, He willingly suffers her to exact of His clemency, peace for earth, glory for Heaven, life for the dead, and salvation for those that were lost." Saint John Damascene (eighth century) declares that it injures the Son of God not to honour His Mother. He says that he fastens his soul to Mary's feet as to a secure anchor, dedicating and consecrating to her his mind, his soul, his body, his entire being. That luminary of the twelfth century, Saint Bernard, surpasses himself when speaking of Mary; he confesses that when her praises are his theme, he is no longer his own master, and the day he cannot find time to extol her greatness, he retrenches from his sleep, "having nothing dearer, or more sweet after Jesus," he writes, "than to think of His Mother, the worthy object of our most tender affection." Albert the Great, the Angelic Doctor (who lived in the thirteenth century), tread in the steps of the holy Doctors, their predecessors. Saint Bonaventure (thirteenth century) has so excelled in this devotion, that the mere perusal of his works suffices to inflame others with that fire which burned in his own heart. Saint Antoninus (fifteenth century) styles Mary the polar star, ever visible in the horizon, to guide all who travel across the sea of life; he says she enlightens and guides us at all times, night and day, in calm and tempest, in prosperity and adversity. It was to Mary's feet Saint Bernardine came to repose after the fatigue of his apostolic labours. Saint Francis Xavier (sixteenth century) commenced his sermons by the recital of the Salve Regina. The Saints near our own time, Saint Francis Regis, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, were all eminent for devotion to Mary. The honours rendered to her at the present day are, therefore, no innovation. We cannot err in following guides so sure, conforming to what they taught and practised, authorized by the Church herself. Oh! how happy are they who persevere inviolably in Mary's service. Let us say, with Saint Anselm - "To serve her is more glorious than to command the entire world."

Practice

We may find Mary everywhere, everywhere invoke her; nevertheless, there are certain places in which she is pleased at being honoured, and in which she seems more ready to hear our petition; profit with holy eagerness of every opportunity of paying her your homage in these privileged oratories, or churches. For if on one side we must avoid superstitious devotion that some place in pilgrimages and forms of prayer, unaccompanied by any interior reform, on the other side, we ought to respect and fervently embrace those practices which are the more agreeable to God, as they spring from a more simple faith.

Aspiration

O Mary, how dear and delightful are your sanctuaries to your faithful servant! My heart will there invoke you, though it be not given me to be there in reality.

Example

None of the Apostles, not even the well-beloved Saint John, has told us anything of the impressions produced by the presence of this divine Princess, who surpassed all the daughters of Israel in beauty and gentleness. But Saint Denis the Areopagite, having once beheld Mary while she yet sojourned on earth, was so enraptured, that at first he could not believe she was a simple creature. Writing to his master, the great Saint Paul, he says - "I confess before the omnipotence of God, in presence of the clemency of my Saviour, and the glory of the majesty of the most holy Virgin Mother, that having been introduced by John into the godlike presence of the most high Virgin, I saw myself surrounded by a splendour so dazzling, and my soul was penetrated by so pure a light, and inundated by so sweet a perfume of virtue, that, stupefied in mind and body, I was unable to support so lively and profound emotion. My senses abandoned me, and the powers of my soul gave way at sight of majesty so incomparable. God, Who dwelt in the daughter of David, is my witness, that had I not been instructed by the Gospel that there is but one God, I should have taken her for a divinity, and I cannot conceive greater bliss even among the beatified in Heaven, than that which inebriated me during these fortunate moments, all unworthy as I am."

Visit to the Blessed Sacrament

Mystery of Love

Christus dilcxit me - Christ loved me

Christ loved me. O sweet words! Who could weary of hearing them? My God, You created me to love, to love You, and as nothing attracts love so much as love, You have declared, have proved Yours by every means, every sacrifice suitable to gain my heart. 1 therefore believe you love me, and were not all the mysteries of your Incarnation, life, death, here to convince, to attract, to charm me, there is one mystery that in some manner surpasses all, and suffices for me. The Eucharist, God with us, God, immolated incessantly, God, the food of man! Oh! how well you are acquainted with this human heart created by Yourself, how amply You have provided for all its wants! Man, when he loves, desires to behold the object of his affection, to keep it, embrace it, he would wish to incorporate it with himself, and make but one being with him; and behold, You are always present on this altar, man holds You in his hands, embraces you; nay more, consumes You, You pass into his substance, You change him into Yours; man and God make but one, and the words of the royal Prophet are verified, "I have said, You are gods".

What abasement for your Divinity! what elevation to our humanity! O love, love alone could work such a prodigy. My God, what would You have me to do to make me comprehend Your love - this mystery of love?

O Mary! you who have also loved me, because Jesus Christ has loved me, teach me to return Him love for love, not as He merits, this I can never ┬Žattain, but at least as much as I am able.

- taken from The Month of May Consecrated to the Glory of the Mother of God, The Queen of Heaven