During that class the professor emphasized that one could know what the church teaches even if all we did was truly listen to what was being prayed at Mass, especially the prayers being said by the priest. He was ‘unpacking’ the meaning of the saying "lex orandi, lex credendi." (This literally translates as "the law of prayer is the law of belief." Basically it means what I said above: what we pray reflects what we believe.) Therefore I began to listen more attentively at Mass in order to truly pray with the priest rather than to be passive. As our professor said, "You are about to say 'Amen' to it, so don't you want to know what you just said yes to?" Excellent point! As a result of listening more closely, a line from one of the Eucharistic preface prayers for the season of Advent has stayed with me. It goes like this: "And Mary bore Him in her womb with love beyond all telling." In that prayer the Church is indicating the depths of the mysteries of the role of Mary as the mother of Jesus, of the One whom she is bearing, and the mystery of love itself.
This week we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As I reflected on what this feast is about, the line from the Advent liturgy came back to me: Mary bore Jesus in her womb with love beyond all telling. Each year the feast of her Immaculate Heart comes one day after the celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They come in tandem for a reason. We associate these two feasts with each other as a celebration of two loves that are one. Jesus came to love us beyond imagining by dying and rising for us, but without the love of Mary and without her pure heart, Jesus could never have come into the world. God needed someone to be the mother of His Son and to have the love which is the very nature of His Son flow within the mother's own body. So God chose Mary as that mother.
God created Mary with a pure and immaculate soul which is reflected in her pure and immaculate heart. She grew up loving God with a deep love and a total commitment. So when the time came for the angel to greet her and to ask her if she would be willing to be the mother of God's own Son she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Immediately she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and she was impregnated with the Son of God. It is beyond imagining what the moment of that infusion of love was like. And it is beyond all telling what her loving response must have been from that moment ever onward. The gospels describe to us how immediately Mary became Jesus' first disciple. She obeyed God's word, she served her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant, she allowed Joseph to decide how he would respond to her, and she served God throughout her life, spending much time in reflection and prayer as well as learning from Jesus how to be the best disciple she could be.
It is no wonder, then, that after her death Jesus asked Mary to continue to minister to us as Queen of Heaven, the first and greatest of the saints. She has appeared numerous times to help us to hear God’s message more clearly. Often she is warning us of dangers to come if we do not pray and repent. She tells us what we should do to pray for those who need help, to intercede for those on the wrong path, or to pray against evil running rampant in the world. Her messages are delivered with love because she knows God does not want to lose any of His children. She is a sign of the mercy and compassion of Jesus, but she is also filled with that same love and therefore she is more than merely a messenger. That she has an Immaculate Heart means that she is the perfect messenger because she embodies the love with which the messages are sent: in many ways she has become the message. And she listens to our prayers, bringing them to her Son. She loves us as a true mother who wants nothing more than to be with us in Heaven forever. She wants this because her dearest love, Jesus, wants this.
May we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary with gratitude for having so caring a mother! May we ask Mary to intercede for us that we may be more like her in loving and pointing others to Jesus! May we ask Mary to intercede for all those who have been entrusted to our care, all those who have needs, and for peace in our world! May we turn to her as a model of prayer and reparation for the sins of our world! And may we ask her to inflame our hearts with love of God! Let us continue to meet in the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The photo of the two roses is mine.
All of the icons are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. I am partial to his Marian icons so that is why I have used three in this entry. I must note that I have permission to share his work, for which I am very grateful. His icons and images can be found at his website fatherbill.org. Click on any of the links to get the pages desired.
The first icon is Mother of God Mystical Rose and can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/175-mother-of-god-mystical-rose
The second icon is Mother of God Similar to Fire and can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/221-mother-of-god-similar-to-fire
The third icon is called Mother of God Asking for Humility and can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/172-mother-of-god-asking-for-humility
Remember, I get nothing from posting Fr. Bill's work except the joy of promoting beautiful iconography so that others might have joy of viewing them and praying with them also. All of his work is copyrighted material, so if you would like copies of these icons or to obtain some books which contain many of his icons, do go to his website in order to purchase them.