Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sanctity Through the Rosary by Edouard Hugon, O.P.

Part II: Models of Holiness: Mary and Joseph.

Chapter I: The Rosary and Mary.

Having considered the Heart, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in the Rosary and tasted at their source these supernatural delights, it is fitting and desirable that we should consider the Queen of the Holy Rosary herself. Jesus Christ before He died left us a double testament: The Eucharist and His mother. The very mention of these two names fills every heart with joy. They sum up all the interior peace and happiness of the priest; they are the source of all the austere delights of virginity; they are the consolation and the hope of the dying; they promise pardon to the sinner. For us also they have a meaning because Mary and the Eucharist were the last parting gifts of Jesus to us. On the eve of His death He instituted the Eucharist; He gave us His mother shortly before He breathed forth His last sigh. The gift of a dying person, even the smallest object, is treasured beyond measure by those he leaves behind: but when He who is dying is a God? Ah! Yes! Men have made no mistake here; they have always realized the inestimable value of the last parting gifts of Jesus to us. They have always entertained a passionate love for Mary and the Eucharist. Mary will ever be loved while hearts beat upon this earth.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, then, is one of the fundamental principles of Christianity. But the Rosary is the true expression of that devotion. In the first place, it is the most powerful prayer we can send to Mary. As a child by its repeated cries obliges its mother to come to its aid, so also do we compel Mary to answer our petition. We say one Hail Mary. This is in itself a wonderful prayer. We repeat it ten times to increase its efficacy and when the decade is finished we begin all over again, until this song of love ascends to heaven one hundred and fifty times, and it becomes a powerful cry which penetrates the skies.

Secondly, in the Rosary we assign to Mary her true place in the divine plan. For in this prayer we go to God through Mary, we do all through Mary, we expect all from Mary, as if salvation came to us through her. Such indeed, is the role of Mary in the Incarnation; she is in very truth a cause of our salvation. To appreciate rightly the part Mary plays in the Rosary, we must understand the part she played in the great work of the Redemption of Christians.

With regard to salvation there are three essential points to be borne in mind: predestination, grace, death. First of all there is that divine choice which God makes of a soul from all eternity by which he separates it from the mass of the reprobate. Then there is the grace which He bestows on it, by which He sanctifies it in time. Lastly comes a happy death which puts the seal on predestination and is the crowning point of grace. Mary has an important role in these three phases of salvation. She is the model of our predestination; she is the channel by which all grace comes to us; she is the patroness of a happy death. When we have developed these three thoughts we shall know enough to be able rightly to appreciate the part of Mary in the Rosary and in the economy of salvation.

Predestination, in its proper sense, is a certain divine preordination from eternity of those things which are to be done in time by the grace of God. To be predestinated is to be directed towards salvation. Predestination, says St. Augustine, is the preparation for God’s benefits. It is that merciful act by which God from all eternity loves us gratuitously, chooses us freely and guides us surely and infallibly towards glory and happiness.

Predestination presupposes election in the order of intention and election presupposes love. The reason of this is that predestination is a part of providence. Providence is the plan existing in the intellect directing and ordering of some things toward an end. But nothing is directed towards an end unless that end is already desired or intended. Whence the predestination of some to eternal salvation presupposes, in order of intention, that God wills their salvation; and to this belong both election and love: it presupposes love, inasmuch as He wills them this particular good of eternal salvation, since to love is to wish well to anyone; it presupposes election inasmuch as He wills this good to some in preference to others Whom He does not select to receive this gift. Whence all the predestinate are objects of election and love. But in choosing His loved souls God has in mind a model, He contemplates an ideal, His Well-Beloved par excellence—Christ Jesus. For that reason Christ has been called the mold of all the predestined. The teaching of St. Thomas concerning this matter is very profound (III S.T. Q.3 a.8.). When a masterpiece of any kind is broken, the craftsman, in order to repair and restore it to its first perfection, casts it a second time into the mold from which it came forth. Thus, the same mold serves both to fashion and repair the handiwork. Man, the masterpiece of the divinity, was crushed by the demon. God, in order to restore him to his pristine perfection, cast him once again into the mold in which He fashioned him. The exemplar, this divine model, is the Word of God, by Whom we were created, by Whom we were redeemed. The Word of God, His eternal concept, is the exemplary likeness of all creatures. God, by predestinating us from eternity, so decreed our salvation that it should be achieved through Jesus Christ; for that reason the Word was made flesh so that He might be the cause of our salvation in the manner decreed by His Heavenly Father. Hence it is not possible for us to obtain salvation except through Jesus Christ. To gain entrance into heaven we must bear resemblance to Him, our eternal exemplar, for we are predestinated to the adoption of sons which is a participated likeness of His natural sonship. We are predestinated to be made conformable to the image of the Son of God. Whence it is written Praedestinavit conformes fieri imaginis Filii sui (Rom. 8:29). All the predestined are molded in Jesus.

St. Augustine says that Mary is the mold of Jesus. There is a truly ineffable resemblance between the body of Jesus and the body of Mary, the soul of Jesus and the soul of Mary, the predestination of Jesus and the predestination of Mary. The same act which decreed the Incarnation decreed also the existence of the Blessed Virgin; the image of Christ and the image of Mary were eternally united in the mind of God. It is true to say that Mary was made to the likeness of Jesus and Jesus made to the likeness of Mary. St. Augustine therefore rightly called Mary Forma Dei. Mary is the mold of Christ and thus the mold of God. It was in the designs of the Eternal Father that the first of His elect, the head of all the predestined, should be formed by the co-operation of the Blessed Virgin. He also wills that the rest of the elect should be cast into that same virginal mold. Coming forth from it they are other Christs, His well beloved ones, His chosen ones. As God has predestined us all to be made conformable to the image of His Son, He likewise has predestined us to be made conformable to the image of Mary. How wonderful to think that God in creating us makes us to the likeness of Mary! He models us on her so that we have something in us of the characteristics, the beauty of Mary.

Therefore, no matter what station in life we may occupy, we are all fashioned in the mold of our Mother. God contemplates Mary in the predestination of Christian spouses, Christian mothers, virgins, religious, priests.

When God creates the heart of a Christian spouse, He models it on the heart of Mary. He wishes family life to be sanctified by a little of that chaste love which Mary cherished for St. Joseph. Again, the heart of Mary is the ideal according to which God conceives that masterpiece the maternal heart. Were we to contemplate the heroism of every mother that ever existed, we should have a treasure of heroism; yet all this love, all this heroism, would not equal the love and heroism of the Mother of God. May mothers endeavor to live up to their lofty calling. The more heroic they are, the nearer they approach to their heavenly ideal, for they are predestined to become conformable to the image of Mary.

In predestinating a virgin God contemplates Mary! The examplar of all virgins is the Adorable Trinity, so in predestinating Mary, the Trinity contemplated itself; but in predestinating all other virgins it wills to take Mary for its model. The Church entertains the greatest respect for her virgins. As if virtue alone did not suffice to set them apart from the rest of men, she prescribes a solemn ceremony for the consecration of a spouse of Christ. She has for a virgin, by reason of her state, the same respect and reverence which she has for the chalice of the altar. She consecrates a religious just as she consecrates a chalice.

But God treats His virgins with even still more respect. He puts into their souls something angelic and beautiful which makes them mirror forth here below in a special way the image and likeness of Mary; in short, they go through the world under the protection of the purity of the Mother of God. They are innumerable, this chaste and immaculate generation. We find them in every nation and among every people. They are ready to alleviate all distress, both spiritual and temporal. They instruct the ignorant; they comfort the sick; they sweeten the bitterness of unfilled desires. How wonderful indeed is their vocation! They are destined to reflect in themselves the image of Mary during time and eternity.

Finally, in predestinating a priest, God contemplates Mary. There exists between Mary and the priest a striking analogy. Both are mediators between God and man. Mary is co-redemptrix, the priest is co-redemptor. By virtue of his sacred ministry he redeems souls, for he raises them from the dead by restoring or bestowing grace through the Sacraments. Mary is a virgin, so is the priest, yet both are able to say to Jesus, though in a different sense, Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee (Ps. 2:7). By the words of consecration which the priest pronounces Jesus is born again in that sacramental and mysterious life which He leads on our altars.

Again Mary and the priest beget Jesus in souls. Mary helps the priest to give life to the sinner; the priest has need of the mediation of Mary if his labor among souls is to be efficacious. Such, then, is the role of Mary in the mystery of predestination. The spouse, the virgin and the priest are cast into this immaculate mold. But, eternal predestination is fulfilled in time only with the free cooperation of man. The divine ideal must be realized in us with the cooperation of Mary. But, in order faithfully to reproduce a model, we must have that model ever before our eyes. In the Rosary Mary poses, as it were, before us. Each one of the Mysteries reveals one of her traits. And now all that we have said about the Heart and Soul of Jesus applies equally with regard to Mary. The heart and soul of Mary are manifested to us in the Mysteries, with all their treasures and inexpressible beauties. Thus it is easy for us to imitate this perfect model of our predestination by practicing the virtue pointed out in each Mystery. We may find it helpful to devote one week to cultivating the virtue of humility, another week to charity . . . and so on. If a week does not suffice, let us devote a month or a year. It does not matter how long if eventually we reproduce these virtues in our souls. May we ever be able to contemplate in ourselves the loved image of our Mother.

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