| All for the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!
Consecration to Mary: PART I
Mary as Model: the Mystery of Human Participation and Self-Donating Receptivity
By Sr. Sara Marie, SCTJM
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The Church neglects one of the duties enjoined upon her when she does not praise Mary…When this happens, in fact, the Church no longer even glorifies God as she ought” (Mary: the Church as the Source, p.62). In the following reflections, we will come to understand more deeply the truth of this statement. We will come to see more deeply the beauty of the Mary. And in knowing, loving, and praising her, we will come to more fully know, love and praise the Lord.
At the foot of the Cross, Jesus gave his beloved disciple the gift of His own Mother. “Woman, behold your son…Son, behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27). John was given this gift of the Blessed Mother as his own Mother as a representative of humanity. In other words, at that moment at the foot of the Cross, Mary become the Mother of the Church and of each one of us individually. This was the last gift of Jesus upon this earth. If we think to our own experience, we will see that if we are giving a series of gifts, we “save the best for last.” This last gift of Christ could also be called His “best.” And we too like John, wish to receive this “best” gift of from the Heart of Christ. As Venerable John Paul II explained, we desire, like John, to take her “into our home” to “bring her into everything that makes up [our] inner life…This filial relationship, this self-entrusting of a child to its mother, not only has its beginning in Christ but can also be said to be definitively directed towards him. Mary can be said to continue to say to each individual the words which she spoke at Cana in Galilee: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’… It is well known that the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’” (Redemptoris Mater 45-46).
The first question that we must first address is, “Why consecrate ourselves?” What is the meaning of this consecration? Before we get into detail, it would be useful to set forth in simple terms what it means to consecrate ourselves to Our Lady. The first thing to understand is that everything, truly everything, in Our Lady brings us to her Son. To consecrate ourselves to Mary is to be brought to Jesus through her hands. The way to salvation, to heaven and union with the Trinity, is a difficult and narrow path. Our Lady, when we place ourselves under her maternal care and guidance, takes our hands and leads us down this path in a surer manner than if we tried to go on our own. In reality, we cannot go on our own. She has traversed they way herself and knows how to get there. Like Noah who placed himself and his family in the Ark in order to survive the flood, we place ourselves in the womb of Our Lady, the New Ark, in order to reach the new Heaven and New Earth.
In the womb of Mary, the human and divine meet and are eternally united. Therefore, we too must enter into the womb of Mary in order to encounter the divine. In the womb of the Virgin Mary divinity meets with humanity and humanity meets perfectly the divinity. It is in her that we can find and go back to God, because she is “full of grace”, full of God. This is why we consecrate ourselves to her, to her womb, to her person – because we need to live mystically in her womb where God and man meet and live in perpetual union. If we desire Jesus, we must find Him the womb and in the Heart of Mary.
Rightly so, therefore, the Saints advocate, and demand as essential, the role of Our Lady and consecration to her. The basic premise for this is the fact that God Himself ordained to be this way. For example, St. Louis de Montfort explains, in union with the Saints and the Fathers of the Church, that if God has made Mary a necessity unto Himself in order to fulfill His plan of Redemption, then Mary is even more necessary to us in order to attain our salvation (cf. St. Louis de Montfort,True Devotion to Mary, no. 39-40). Venerable John Paul II agreed, and he taught that Mary is not a particular element of some spiritualities; Mary is the way through which God made man came to the world and through Her the world has to go to Christ. Not to include the Blessed Virgin Mary in our spiritual life means to deny what God Himself has done in history. We then necessarily ask why the Lord has chosen to do this.
First, let us read what the Second Vatican Council wrote on this subject: “There is but one Mediator, ‘the man Christ Jesus.’ …The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, 60). Jesus won for us our salvation and effects it for us today. However, He chooses to do this through the hands of His beloved Mother. Why?
The Mystery of Human Participation
The full mystery of this decision will never be fully understood by the human mind, but we can come to understand it at least partially. To begin, Marian participation in the divine plan shows how much the Lord wants to exalt the human race. We are not mere spectators in this great and magnificent plan of salvation, but we actually participate in it. Mary does so to the fullest extent, and she shows us what perfect openness to the Holy Spirit and the Father’s will does in us – makes a perfect channel of grace for others and participants in our own salvation and the salvation of others.
In Our Blessed Mother, the Lord is exalting human participation in the divine plan. He tells us through her that what we do actually matters, actually has consequences. What a beautiful gift and grace. Therefore, when we get to heaven, the Lord may truly say to us, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward of heavenly rest” (cf. Matt 25:21). This reward is real, for real merit will have been earned. It is not like being handed a championship ring for a championship we never worked towards or never won. Instead, it is like receiving a championship ring after many hard years of sweat and toil, of failures and successes to finally arrive at the beloved goal. Is this not precisely what St. Paul means when he writes, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Tim 4:7-8)? The Lord provides the grace, and it is “His power working in us,” but we must cooperate with the grace and “labor and struggle” in order to do so (cf. Col 1:29).
Through Mary, God entered the world, and through Mary, the world returns to God. We are to do the same. God enters the world through the human heart, by our love. When we allow grace to flow in and through us, God becomes enfleshed again in the world. God is Love, and when we choose to love, God enters the world. And what is love? It is doing the will of the Father (Jn 6:38), obeying His commands (Jn 14:15), and loving as He loved – unto the death (cf. Jn 13:1). When we and others allow love to enter us, we again come into union with God. So we act as a channel, a mediatrix, through which the human and divine “touch.” This is the essence of Mary’s necessity. All of God came through her, continues to come through her, and will always come through her, into the world. As St. Louis de Montfort explained, God is eternal and does not change His ways (True Devotion, no. 14).
Love and Responsibility
Furthermore, Our Lady shows us the real and actual consequences of our choices of love and responsibility – or our lack of it. For love constitutes a responsibility: “Love and Responsibility can never be separated, for Love is enfleshed in the responsible choices of the human heart” (Mother Adela Galindo, Foundress SCTJM). As John Paul II wrote in his book Love and Responsibility, “Love is never…something merely ‘given’ to the human person, it is always at the same time a ‘task’…Love divorced from a feeling a responsibility for the other is a negation of itself, is always and necessarily egoism. The greater the feeling of responsibility…the more true love there is” (p. 129, 131). We have a responsibility to love; we are called to it. When we do choose to act in union with the Lord’s will by saying “Fiat, let it be done unto me,” we, like Our Lady, truly do bring Christ into the world. But every time we deny love, deny God, act contrary to His will – when we act according to our selfishness, egoism, fears, distrust – we block the Lord from entering into the world. And this blockage is real. There are real consequences to our actions, to our choices for or against love. It is necessary to understand that if a good act brings about a good consequence, the opposite is also true – all evil acts have evil and bad consequences. Our Lady is exalted and praised as Queen of Heaven and Earth as a consequence for her great and total and eternal choice of love on the behalf of God. We will participate in the good effects and their rewards as much as we cooperate. But we will also participate in evil, in sin and its equally terrible consequences, as much as we do not cooperate. There are consequences to each every one of our actions and choices for or against love. This includes acts that are seemingly hidden from the world. The important thing is that God sees – He sees the measure with which our acts are motivated by love. And this love (or lack of love) behind the act is what gives the act its merit and value. The 30 years of ‘hidden life’ in which Jesus simply lived in worked in the home of Nazareth are a beautiful testament of this truth. Those years, despite being ‘hidden’ from the world were immensely salvific and value. For us, they give us hope that all our actions – from the most mundane tasks of ordinary, daily life, are saving and valuable. Nothing done in the name of love and responsibility is worthless.
St. Therese of Lisieux is another beautiful example of this. Seemingly, she did nothing great or extraordinary in her life – she entered the cloister at 15 years old and died at 24. However, there she made continual choices for love – small and seemingly ordinary as they appeared. Done, however, with great love, they had great and everlasting consequences.
This same truth is manifested in a powerful way in the Wedding at Cana. After presenting Jesus with her request, “They have no wine,” Mary tells the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). What is often over-looked is the response of the servants. They not only fulfilled Mary’s request by ‘doing whatever he told them,’ but they “filled [the jars] to the brim” (2:7). They held nothing back in their response to Jesus and Mary. And because of this, the miracle was done in its fullness. Here we see the great mystery of human participation. Certainly Jesus performed the miracle, but if they had refused to comply, the miracle would not have been done. If they had simply filled the jugs halfway, the miracle would have been done, but not in the plentitude that God originally desired. The same is true for us today. We are to listen to the voice of Our Blessed Mother: “Do whatever he tells you.” And we are to do it with our whole being, heart, and soul, holding nothing back, leaving nothing undone. The Lord desires to do great miracles of grace and healing through our hands, but the accomplishment of it and the extent of its greatness depends on us, on our participation. The extent to which we responsibly and maturely cooperate with the Lord’s plan is the extent to which He acts in the world. Our choices have consequences – real, eternal, and everlasting consequences. Our choices bring God to souls, or they block God in souls – our own and others. Look at the “admirable and incomprehensible dependence of God” (True Devotion, no.18). He humbled Himself to be completely dependent on the human person to come into the world – for the first time through Mary and each and every time through us. We see that his first miracle of grace – the sanctification of John – came through the hands of through Mary because she chose to respond to the angel, going “in haste” to Elizabeth with God in her womb. And now in Cana, Jesus’ first miracle of nature is accomplished though the intercession of Mary and the obedience of the servants. We this same mystery present in every celebration of the Mass – Jesus depends on the priest to make Himself present to us in the Eucharist. What a great mystery of Love that longs for us to participate in His work and glory!
In Mary, we see the power of a “yes.” One ‘yes’ brought salvation to the world. Our ‘yes’ does the same. Our ‘yes’s’ save the world. God saves the world through the ‘yes’ of the human heart. What a responsibility! What great dignity He has given us!
From the moment of the Annunciation, the Lord chose Mary to be a channel of His whole and entire self – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. She was the mediatrix of God and His grace then and will be for eternity. When we consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, we first consecrate ourselves to the grace that she mediates. We live in her womb where the fullness of God, grace, and Love reside, and “from his fullness we have all received” (Jn 1:16). Second, we consecrate ourselves to her responsible love, which receives all from God and responds fully to it. We consecrate ourselves to a love that does not reject anything from the hands of our Loving Father, that passes on without any selfishness, envy, or egocentrism, a love that obediently and perfectly fulfills His will at every moment. We consecrate ourselves to a love that fulfills its duties, that cherishes the gifts it has receives, and cares for them with utmost love and responsibility. We consecrate ourselves to the power of the human fiat, to human cooperation. We consecrate ourselves to her, whose yes, whose fiat, was so perfect, total and responsible that God was made man and salvation was brought to the world. We consecrate ourselves to this fiat, this cooperation, this obedience by which we too allow God to become flesh through our lives and our choices of love. Enfleshing God means acting on what we have received because true love acts. And by this, souls are saved and God is glorified.
We have seen one of the reasons that the Lord has chosen Mary to be an instrument of salvation, rather than simply doing it Himself. However, the depth of her role, the reason we consecrate ourselves to her, lies beyond this. The power of the consecration to Our Lady lies actually in who she is, rather than what she does for us. This being leads to action, to what she does. Therefore, first, when we consecrate ourselves to her, we consecrate ourselves to who she is; in a sense we receive part of her heart in order to be like her. What makes this fundamentally important? In order to begin to answer this question, we must first understand who she is. Then, we will continue to understand her greatness and our need to consecrate ourselves to her.
Model of the Church
“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…Christ…fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Only Christ effects salvation and brings light to man, to his calling and his destiny. He is the source and summit of everything. Without Him, nothing is. However, the nature of Christ is divine – He is both fully God and fully man. In the sense of His divinity, we will be like Him and share in it to the fullest extent possible – but we will never, in our nature, be divine; we are adopted children not natural children.
However, Mary is fully human, fully like us – but without sin, spot or wrinkle. Therefore, in her humanity, she shows us how the human person is called to be in relationship with God – in a perfect way. “In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle…And so [we] turn [our] eyes to Mary” (Lumem Gentium, 65). She is the model of each individual and the Church – in Our Lady we see God’s desire for us and our destiny. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The Church learns concretely what she is and is meant to be by looking at Mary. Mary is her mirror, the pure measure of her being” (Mary: the Church at the Source, p.66). Therefore, we look to her to see how we are supposed to be and act because Mary is humanity’s perfect response to God. She is the model of all we are called to be.
The Apostle St. John writes, “We love God because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). This tells us that we are not the initiators of love; instead our love is a response to a Love already given. This is Our Lady’s first “greatness” – her perfect response. She responded to Love with all her own love. She did this completely and fully, with the totality of her whole person, holding nothing back in her response. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “In our name, Mary said ‘yes’” (Angelus Message, July 19, 2008). We consecrate ourselves to this ‘yes’, this fiat. She has already uttered a ‘yes’ in the name of all humanity, and this fiat was so powerful that God became man and dwelt among us. We need to take a moment to reflect of the power of that fiat. Venerable John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, “This fiat of Mary…was decisive…for the accomplishment of the divine mystery…The mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished when Mary uttered her fiat: ‘Let it be to me according to your word,’ which made possible, as far as it depended upon her in the divine plan, the granting of her Son's desire” (no.13). When we too say ‘yes’ to God we are participating in the fiat that Mary already gave, and our consecration unites us to her and her fiat, with all its efficacy and power. Our Lady always and perfectly responded to the Love of God. Therefore, we look to her in order that we may also perfectly respond with love to Love who first loved us.
Every aspect of the life of Our Lady is a model for us. As Venerable John Paul II explained in his encyclical, Mary “precedes” the pilgrim Church, for she, in her life, already walked the path that the Church as a Body and we as individuals members are called to walk (RM, 28). And she did so in a perfect manner. Therefore, we look to her to understand what our path and response should be, and what our destiny is.
In the Heart of the Trinity
Before we continue further, we want to see how the mystery of Our Lady has its very foundation in the Heart of the Trinity. The Trinity is Love, and Love is an eternal communication of three divine Persons who eternally and fully give and receive love (Catechism Catholic Church, 221). We are created in the “image and likeness” of God who is Love. That is why the Church tells us that “this likeness reveals that man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). The essence of our humanity then is to give ourselves totally as a gift to God in order that we can receive Him. Our fundamental identity is to be God-bearer. Then, with the very life of God within us, we give ourselves as a gift to others. Our giving ourselves as gift is two-fold: first to God so He can fill us with Himself, then to others in order to be the gift and presence of God for them. We are to live our lives in complete self-donation to the other. Mary is the perfect example of this – she gave herself fully to the Lord and was filled with His presence. Then she gave Him to the world. We see this from the very first moment. After the Annunciation, her first act was to bring Christ to Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist in her womb. As well, upon the birth of Christ, the Blessed Mother’s first act was to “lay him in a manger” (Lk 2:7) – totally contrary to the natural inclination of a mother to hold her child to her. Our Blessed Mother fully understood from the very beginning the nature of her instrumentality; she understood that her Son was meant for the world and that she was one to give Him.
The Church: Woman and Bride
In the Trinity, we are then able to understand the mystery of “the other.” In other words, we cannot love unless we have someone else to whom to give our love. We cannot be in a relationship of love unless there is “another” to receive our love and to give us love in return. “The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’” (Gen 2:18). Therefore, to be created “in the image and likeness of God” is precisely to be created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Man and woman together comprise the image and likeness of God. This is why the spousal bond, marriage, is the most primordial sacrament that images the Trinity itself. Marriage is not a man-made institution, but in fact it was, “from the very beginning,” instituted by God to be a sign of the Trinity. Marriage reveals the very essence of Love, the essence of God.
Not only is the spousal bond between man and woman meant to be the image of God who is Love, but it is also meant to be a sign of our future destiny: we are all called to “marry” God in heaven. Our union with one another here on earth is meant to be a foreshadowing of union with God in heaven. God wants to marry us. He wants to have an intimate spousal union, in which the “two become one,” with each of us. This is our eternal destiny. This is what we were created for from the beginning – perfect spousal union with Love Himself for all eternity. The whole of salvation history shows us this mystery: man and woman as the image and likeness of God; Israel as the faithless bride that the Lord constantly tries to seduce back from her false lovers (Is 54:5, Hos 2:18-19); the Incarnation and the Eucharist in which the “two become one flesh”; the Church as the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:32); heaven as the wedding banquet of the Lamb and His Bride the Church (Rev 21:2), as portrayed in the book of Revelation.
This is why John Paul II can write,
“Christ has entered this history and remains in it as the Bridegroom who ‘has given himself.’ ‘To give’ means ‘to become a sincere gift’ in the most complete and radical way: ‘Greater love has no man than this’ (Jn 15:13). According to this conception, all human beings - both women and men - are called through the Church, to be the ‘Bride’ of Christ, the Redeemer of the world. In this way ‘being the bride,’ and thus the ‘feminine’ element, becomes a symbol of all that is ‘human’…In the Church every human being - male and female - is the ‘Bride’, in that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person. Christ is the Bridegroom. This expresses the truth about the love of God who ‘first loved us’” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 25).
Here again we see Mary rise in the midst of this as the preeminent figure of this spousal mystery. She is the perfect woman, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Bride of the Most High God. She is the perfect representation of the human race and our relationship to God. Therefore, we the Church, must look to Mary in order to respond to He who “first loved us.” We must become a Marian Church that looks to Jesus as the Bridegroom. We are called to live in perfect union with the Trinity. In consecrating ourselves to Mary, we consecrate ourselves to this mystery of spousal love, to being “one flesh” with Jesus – one in mind and heart and soul. We consecrate ourselves to being in union with God.
We will close with a quote of our Holy Father Benedict XVI:
“The connection between the mystery of Christ and the mystery of Mary…is very important in our age of activism…the Western mentality…[where] only the masculine principle counts. And that means doing, achieving results, actively planning and producing…This is why the Church needs the Marian mystery; this is why the Church herself is a Marian mystery. There can be fruitfulness in the Church only when she has this character, what she becomes holy soil for the Word…We must once more become waiting, inwardly recollected people who in the depth of prayer, longing, and faith give the Word room to grow” (Homily as quoted in Mary: The Church at the Source, p.17).
Therefore, we must become a Marian Church, a Marian soul, that waits and longs for the Word of God to come to us. We, like the perfect and fertile soil, must receive the Word and allow it to grow in us. We must, like the soil, allow ourselves to be used, to be used up by the Seed so that this Seed can grow and bear great fruit. This is the measure of our holiness: allowing God to come to us, without setting up any walls or boundaries; and then responding to this Presence by bringing Him to others. Each one of us – male and female – must look to Mary to understand how to receive Love. Therefore, we consecrate ourselves to her who has done this perfectly, in order that we may do the same.
We pray that we, like the Apostle John, have the grace to bring Our Lady into the home of our hearts, so that her heart may reign there as queen. We pray that she teaches and instructs us in our “home” so that we may have a Marian heart that allows Jesus to reign as King.
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