| All for the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!
Consecration to Mary: PART II
Mary’s Immaculate Purity and Humble Reign of Service
By Sr. Sara Marie, SCTJM
“So then, beloved, what a great and wonderful thing love it, and how inexpressible its perfection. Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so?” (St. Clement I, Letter to the Corinthians). Who is worthy to possess the fullness of Love Incarnate? The answer is no one – unless God makes her so. And God has chosen to make her so. Throughout 2000 years of history, Christians have extolled the beauty of the purity of Our Lady. For in her lies the perfection of humanity, bestowed with an infinite abundance of gifts and graces from the Holy Trinity. She is “full of grace.” She is beauty beyond compare, the very crown and jewel of the created world. (Judith 15:9) Do we exaggerate the beauty and ineffable greatness of Our Lady when we extol her as the most sublime of all God’s creatures? I do not believe we do.
As St. Clement alluded to in the above quotation, the Lord made Our Lady as she is. She does not possess these qualities due to her own power or initiative. She is Immaculate, pure, and without blemish because of the mission with which she has been entrusted – to be the Mother of God. She possesses Love in her very person, and the Trinity created her as such to make her worthy of this Gift. To look for anything less would be to claim that God deserves something less than the very best. He prepared His Mother “full of grace” in order vest the Immortal with mortal flesh and human form. If Jesus was to redeem humanity from sin, He could not take upon a humanity stained by sin, making it necessary to redeem Himself. It is fitting that there be the highest degree of likeness between the Jesus and His Mother, as high as is possible between a God and His creatures; and this highest likeness is present between Mary and her Son. It is fitting that if Jesus is to receive His humanity from a person, then this humanity should have the greatest likeness to Him as possible. Furthermore, just as in Heaven, which is the dwelling place of God, there is no impurity, blemish or sin, we understand then that Mary, also the dwelling place of God, must also be a “sweet heaven” where we find no lack of perfection.
Mary is considered to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of the New Covenant. The Old Testament Scriptures relate an event in which the Ark is being paraded through the city of Jerusalem amid much singing, dancing, and exultation. At one point, the Ark began to fall and Uzzah – who was not a priest permitted to touch the Ark – reached out to steady it. Because he touched the Ark without being allowed to do so, he was immediately struck dead by the Lord (2 Sam 6:6-7). David was so shaken at the reverence due to the Ark that he sent it away from him for three months, and did not bring it back until he saw it bestowed blessing on those keeping it. We must ask ourselves how much more reverence we owe to the New Ark that carried – not tablets of stone – but the living God.
The greatness of this “New Ark” is manifested in a particular way through the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which is, in a particular way, a celebration of the purity of Our Lady. Her purity is the “force” behind her greatness, behind her victory over sin, behind her beauty and behind her fecundity. When we consecrate ourselves to her, we receive these fruits of her purity as our own. Therefore, we will first examine what purity is and then the fruits that come from it.
What is purity?
Our Lady, due to her immaculate purity, radiates a beauty and a light that we cannot begin to imagine. This beauty radiates forth from a pure heart that is all for Christ and nothing for herself. This is purity – to have a heart that has only Christ as its true treasure, that has only Christ’s desires and will as its own desire and will, that has its whole being dedicated to loving and glorifying God. This is what we are called to be – immaculate and pure. An immaculate heart is a pure heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Mt 5:8). A pure heart who desires nothing but God will be the one who will see Him. Our Lady sees God and knows Him in a perfect manner, as much as it is possible for a creature to see and know Him.
Our Lady is able to be the Mother of God precisely because she is pure of heart. God is able to come fully into her being precisely because she does have anything in her heart but Him, and she offers no resistance to His presence. Therefore, her purity is life-giving. Her purity brings Life into the world. The same is true for us. We are fruitful when our hearts are pure, when all our actions have God as their reason and their end. Our spiritual fruitfulness will be as great as the depth of our purity. Therefore, to be spiritually fruitful, we must be pure of heart.
Beauty and Sinlessness
An immaculate heart is a beautiful heart. We live in a culture that idolizes exterior beauty. But it does not recognize that exterior beauty, true beauty, is a result of interior beauty. We clean the outside of the dish without cleaning the inside (Lk 11:39). Sin is true ugliness. Sin is a lack of beauty. We will be truly beautiful to the extent that we cease sinning, to the extent that we become pure of heart like Our Lady. Whenever Our Lady has appeared, the visionaries always report seeing a “beautiful Lady” – beautiful beyond their description. This beauty is because of her sinless purity. How much we lack purity in our own lives! How much we lack beauty. Our world has lost the sense of beauty because it no longer recognizes it, no longer sees it; because sin has distorted our minds, leading us to believe that the sinful and ugly is beautiful. Therefore, in order to become truly beautiful, we must rid ourselves of sin. In consecrating ourselves to Mary, we participate in her victory over sin, and therefore, we participate in her beauty and sinlessness. We receive part of her heart – her heart that does not allow sin to conquer or reign. We receive her strength and courage to conquer sin in our own lives.
To be pure, one must be pure of heart, not desiring anything but God. When we are inordinately attached to things, we seek these things in place of God. We desire pleasure above the good of another and we will use people to satisfy our desires, hurting them and ourselves in the process. We see this often in impure sexual relationships, but also in the everyday scope of human affairs. We smile nicely in order to get something we want. We befriend a person for what they own. We use words that will bring us a benefit. We speak sweetly to some and coarsely to others. Purity requires an un-attachment to all that is not from and for God. If He is not the reason and the end of all that is done, than purity is lacking and selfishness is reigning.
One of the first steps in purifying our hearts from disordered attachments is recognizing the ways in which we fail in purity of heart. In order to change we must know the areas that need changing. Self-knowledge is essential. We must begin to ask ourselves why we do, say and think as we do. Is the glory of God the motivation for everything in us?
Purity of intention then becomes the foundation for our purity of heart; it is the root of our thoughts, words, and actions. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Was it because I desired to give glory to God and love those He put in my path, or was it for some hidden selfish motive? Did I ask a question with double intentions, looking to get on someone’s good side, rather than simply for the uplifting of their soul? Did I manipulate my words to mitigate a consequence or reaction to some situation? Did I exaggerate facts in order to appear funny and witty or draw attention to myself? Did I minimize the facts in order to draw forth pity from others? Did I lie to get something I want? Did I knowingly allow another to be deceived about the truth of a situation? Do I make justifications about myself, my actions and my life? Do I ask questions under the guise of compassion, while in truth, I am simply being curious? I think that if we were to begin to sincerely ask ourselves why we do and say what we do, we would find that the great majority of our actions have our own selves as their motivation.
We must also begin to evaluate our purity of heart. True purity of heart always seeks the common good before our own. How often we seek our own good before the good of others! Instead of seeking the worst task and job, we quickly begin one more desirous task in order to avoid another. We go out with our friends instead of taking part in a family gathering. We do something hastily simply to get it done, knowing that someone else will have to fix our errors later. We dump work on someone that is our obligation to do. We claim we are too busy to help someone out, but we then make room do something we like. We use the affections, hearts and bodies of those we claim to love for our own emotional, physical and sexual gratification. We avoid speaking to people because they bother us. We must begin to ask ourselves if we are truly willing to look to meet the needs of others, to see things from the point of view of others and of the community in which we live, before we look to meet our own needs and see things from our perspective. Very simply, do we, as St. Paul tells us, “humbly regard others as more important than [ourselves]” (Phil 2:3)?
Purity of mind in another great lacking of our lives; we are very disordered in our minds. We are rebellious, stubborn, narrow, egocentric, and selfish. It takes great courage to begin to root out the impurity of our minds and to submit them to a higher authority. The first thing we must come to recognize is our disordered desire to see everything from our point of view. In truth, the only “point of view” that matters is the Lord’s – because this is the only “view” that is reality. Therefore, the purification of our minds means coming to discover God’s point of view – in other words, true reality. True reality is not what we may think it is or what we want it to be. The purification of the mind means “stepping into” God’s truth and reality. This involves a great humility and docility of mind.
The first step in purifying our minds is submitting them to the authority and teachings of the Church – for the teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ Himself. The Church is the Body of Christ. If we are not willing to submit our minds to Christ, to “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5), then we certainly will not submit ourselves to the authority of others. The first and most essential step in the purification of the mind is evaluating whether we are in conformity to the teachings of the Church, which is the voice of Christ on earth. We must seek to become intellectually docile to the Word of God that is manifested through Scripture, the Church, and her Magesterium. After this, we must evaluate the way in which we think and judge. We are very quick to judge people and situations according to our own perspective, knowledge and viewpoint. Purity of mind, however, recognizes our very inadequate way of seeing and judging. How often does God use the small and weak to confound the proud and haughty? Purity of mind reflects, ponders and prays before making decisions and judgments. Purity of mind does not judge things that do not correspond to them. Purity of mind does not create false realities about situations and events based on their own emotions, wants, desires, attachments and will; a pure heart, because it is not inordinately attached to oneself, will be able to “see” reality as it is – not as what one wants it to be or imagines it to be.
We must also seek to purify our affections. This means choosing to love without looking for attention, praise, thanks or recompense. It means choosing to love even when no one notices, when we are ridiculed, or when it hurts. In the wedding at Cana, neither Mary nor Jesus received any thanks for the miracle. However, His glory was revealed, and many began to believe in Him (John 2:11). This needs to be the only motivation of our own actions – the glory of God and the increase of faith in the hearts of others. As soon as we seek our own praise, affection or attention, the fruitfulness of our act diminishes or disappears. We have “already received our reward” (cf. Mt 6:16).
Purity of heart also includes purity of action. This consists of doing all things with perfection, and not lazily. It means doing things with the common good in mind instead of simply our own good. This means that we should not leave something half done or poorly done knowing someone else will finish it or improve on it. We should do all things as we were doing it for Jesus Himself. This was the heart of Mary – every one of her actions was done for Jesus, and was done, therefore, with absolute perfection. We cannot measure our effort by the recipient of it – in other words, we cannot consider some things less important because they are done for certain people or done even for someone we do not like. All of our acts should be motivated by love of God and done as if they were being done for God Himself.
As well, we must have purity in our words. We must tell the truth at all times, without exaggeration or minimization. All we say should be edifying to those listening to us (Eph 4:29). We will have to render an account of every careless word we speak (Mt 12:36). Do we use sarcasm or humor to subtly put others down or criticize? Are we building or destroying others by our words? We must learn to practice a virtuous silence that does not speak simply to speak, that refrains from speaking when it would bring harm and that does not reveal more than what is prudent.
Finally, to be pure of heart includes purity of body. This includes the way we stand, the way we dress, the way we move, the way we laugh. Do I look and move the way I do to attract attention? Am I modest? Do I lead others to holiness by the way I carry myself? As well, this includes our facial expressions and gestures. Do we say one thing with our words and another with our facial expressions? It is often said that the eyes and the face are windows to the soul. What does my face reveal about my soul? If our hearts are pure, our face should reveal this by manifesting peace, sweetness, and gentleness at all times.
How do we go about acquiring this purity that seeks the will of the Lord above all else? Interiorly, it requires a great filial trust in God and His love. This trust confidently believes that nothing is more beneficial, perfect, loving or fruitful than the Lord’s will. However, fear often robs of this disposition and hence, robs us of purity. Purity is based in love, and there is no fear in true love (1 Jn 4:18). Fear causes us to believe that we are not loved; therefore, we seek to find love, attention and affection in other places. It causes us to grab on to whatever we can to make us feel safe and secure. This need for love and security is so deep that when we feel it is not being met, we are willing to use other people for our own benefit – through lies, manipulations, sexual pleasure, emotional gratification, and many other things. The foundation of purity, therefore, is a humble confidence in God’s love for us; this Love fills us so much that we do not look to use or abuse others in order to satisfy our emptiness. Since Our Lady is full of God, she is the perfect model of a heart fully satisfied with God. For her, God is enough. Therefore, she is able to love others without seeking anything for herself.
Sacramentally, we seek purity of heart through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament, we find purity multiple ways. First, through our self-evaluation and examination of conscience, we come to recognize the areas in which we lack purity. Second, we are objectively cleansed and purified by the forgiveness and absolution of our sins that we receive through the sacrament. Through the ministry of the priest, Jesus cleanses and purifies our hearts of all impurity. As well, we receive graces to remain pure and refrain from sinning in the future. The more we bring ourselves to this sacrament with a sincere desire for change, the more we will obtain a purity of heart like Our Lady.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation for good reason – it is a celebration of humanity’s victory over sin and death. In Mary, we celebrate what each one of is called to be, what we are destined for – to be the pure and spotless bride of the Lamb. When we consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, we consecrate ourselves to her immaculate-ness and her purity. We become participants in it and are given a share of her own pure and immaculate heart. Mary, through her immaculate and sinless heart, has crushed the head of the serpent; with the power of Christ fully living in her, she has been given total victory over the power of sin and death. When we consecrate ourselves to her, we consecrate ourselves to this already-won victory, and we too are given the grace to overcome sin in our own hearts and lives.
Furthermore, we consecrate ourselves to her spiritual fecundity that is a result of her purity. As we become more pure, we become more fruitful. By consecrating ourselves to Our Lady, we are given a share of our purity and her spiritual fecundity that is a consequence of it.
Queen of Heaven and Earth
Many people, even Catholics, are often uncomfortable with the exalted place of Mary in the Church. We believe that Our Lady has been assumed body and soul into heaven and reigns there over all creation – in heaven and on earth – as the Queen of Heaven. Is this too high of a place for her? The foundation for this discomfort is founded in a lack of understanding of the mystery of Mary, and her relation to the mystery of Christ and humanity. Fundamentally, as we have already mentioned, in Mary, Christ shows what He desires for the Church and for each one of us.
As well, we see that in making His Mother queen, Christ subjects Himself to her. However, this is consistent with His unchangeable ways, for just as on earth He was “obedient to them” (Lk 2:51) so He is in heaven. By His own choice of predilection, Christ has raised His Mother to reign as Queen over all. We must ask ourselves, “What is the basis of this queenship?” For the basis of Mary’s queenship is also the reason God has chosen to make her Queen.
To Serve is to Reign
The queenship of Mary lies on same foundation as the kingship of Christ – “to serve is to reign” (Lumen gentium 36). Jesus came to serve, and this humble emptying of self is the basis of His kingship in the Kingdom ruled by Love. His Mother followed His example of humble service: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). She is able to be exalted precisely because it is God who exalts her; she does not exalt herself. Instead, she chose to become the servant of servants. She placed herself before God as a servant, totally disposed to do His will, recognizing that nothing she had was hers, and that she had no other true purpose in life than to “do the will of her heavenly Father” (cf. Mt 7:21). This is the greatness of the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) in which Mary exclaims that “her soul magnifies the Lord.” Nothing in her is directed to herself, but everything in her gives glory to God. “All generations will call her blessed” precisely because the Lord “exalts the humble” and looks with favor on the “lowliness of his handmaid.” The foundation of her queenship is humility and service.
We must ask ourselves how we choose to “reign.” Do we try to reign like Lucifer, by trying to exalt ourselves, by seeking our own glory instead of the Lord’s, by attributing our God-given goodness and beauty to ourselves and our own doing? Or do we reign like Our Lady – through our humility that attributes all goodness in us to God, that places ourselves before Him as humble servants seeking only to do His will, and that places ourselves in front of others as humble servants, regarding them as “more important than ourselves” (cf. Phil 2:3)?
Humility – the Root of all Virtue
The virtue that allows us to serve, and hence, to reign in the kingdom of heaven, is humility. Without true humility, we will never progress in the spiritual life, nor find heavenly merit or reward. What is humility? Humility is truth. It is knowing who we are – simply creatures that have received all goodness from God who desires to give us everything – His full Self – simply because of His gratuitous love, but not by any merit of our own. No one demonstrates more profound humility that our Blessed Mother. So we look to her to learn how to serve so as to reign.
We must begin with a profound examination of our own humility and willingness to serve. Humility – which is true God-knowledge and self-knowledge – is a fruit of prayer. In prayer we come to know God and, as a result, ourselves. We must begin to begin to ask ourselves if we are willing to be despised or overlooked – or are we always seeking praise and attention? Are we willing to place ourselves last? Are we willing to serve without recompense or gratitude? Humble, quiet, and non-self-seeking service is on the greatest manifestations of true love.
In Our Lady, we are able to see the fulfillment of all those “lowly” Old Testament women who the Lord chose to lift up and use to help accomplish His plans – Sarah, Rachel, Esther, Hannah and Judith. We see that the pattern of the Lord throughout salvation history is to manifest His power through those whom the world sees as weak and useless. He chooses these precisely because they give Him glory. They manifest that the power of Love, Salvation and Goodness is only from God and not from men. This is why our misery, our emptiness, is actually the greatest gift that we can offer to the Lord. When we present ourselves before the Lord, with all our emptiness and misery, He can then fill us with His very self. This is precisely the “power” of Mary: she was empty of everything and therefore, God was able to fill her with Everything. She is the greatest creature precisely because she is the most humble. She is exalted because God reigns in her fully. All she is comes from and is directed toward God. This is why we can say that Jesus obeys her – because everything in her does His will. Their perfect union of wills means that nothing Mary asks will be outside His will.
Therefore, when we consecrate ourselves to Mary and her queenship, we consecrate ourselves to two things. First, we consecrate ourselves to her powerful intercession. Knowing that Jesus never says no to his Mother, we place ourselves under her intercession. We place all our intentions, the desires of our hearts into the hands of our dear Mother, trusting that she will present them to the Lord.
Second, we consecrate ourselves to her humble service. We receive from her the graces to live humble, abnegated and sacrificial lives that always look to God and others first. Through her, we receive the grace to truly reign – by being a servant. We receive the grace place ourselves at the service of others; like St. Therese, we begin to see ourselves only as a “cat dish” that is filled up with grace so that the “kittens” can drink out of it (My Sister St. Therese, p.203). We see that we are at the service of the “kittens” not ourselves. When we share in her humble service, we will share in her glory and triumph.
In summary, we desire to consecrate ourselves to Our Mother so that we may receive her pure, humble and immaculate heart so that we too can become pure, humble and immaculate. We place ourselves before her, giving her our hearts, so that she can mold them and remake them, to present them perfect and holy to her Son.
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