Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The greatest sacrifice of the Mother of God

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet:

The Blessed Virgin had three most perfect possessions. She had her high dignity; her wondrous purity of body and soul; and her motherhood of Jesus Christ: she had for her own Son Him in Whom St. Paul says "it hath well pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell". In her, then, we have a creature greatly distinguished beyond her kind; but we find that her deep humility strips her in a sense of all these wonderful privileges.Though raised far above others by her dignity as Mother of God, she lives a life of obscure service as one of the common herd; though separated from all by her immaculate purity, she mixes in the society of sinners, and purifies herself as they do. But she does more than this: from Calvary, she even loses her well-beloved Son. And she does not merely lose Him by seeing Him die a cruel death, but by His ceasing, in a certain sense, to be her Son at all and by His substituting another for Himself: "Woman," He says to her, "behold thy son!"Be sure that Our Saviour did not speak in this way to His Mother without reason. He would not appear not to know her would not call her Woman instead of Mother if there were no deep mystery hidden beneath His action; and the reason of it may be found in the state of abject humiliation in which Our Lord then was, and which He willed that His holy Mother should share with Him by the closest possible imitation. We must remember, here, that Jesus had a God for His Father, and Mary a God for her Son. At the moment we are speaking of, the Saviour had lost His Father, as a father, and called upon Him only as His God. Mary, then, must lose her Son, to correspond with this supreme sacrifice; and hence He addresses her now as "woman," and not as "mother ". Further, which is the deepest humiliation of all, He gives her another son; as though henceforth He would cease to be hers, and meant to break the bond of their sacred union. Saint Paulinus gives as Christ's reason for this act that whereas, so long as He lived His mortal life on earth, He had paid every possible honor and service that a Son could pay to His Mother, and had been her constant consolation and support, now that He was on the eve of entering into His glory He assumed an attitude more suited to the dignity of God; and, therefore, gave up the natural duties of filial love to another. Thus was Mary left with Saint John for her son in the place of Jesus, Who had Himself instituted the exchange. She humbly accepted the humiliating decree, and took the disciple instead of the Master, the son of Zebedee instead of the Son of God (as Saint Bernard says) to her maternal heart; and so she lived for many years on earth, only thinking in her humility that she deserved not to be the Mother of God.
But if Mary was thus perfectly stripped of everything, that her humiliation in this world might bear a close likeness to her Divine Son's, she was to have all back in full, and more than full, measure; her humility was not only to "have nothing," but to "possess all things". Because she made herself the servant of others she is to be raised to a throne; because she purified herself being all pure as though a sinner, she is to be the advocate of sinners, and their refuge next after Christ - Refugium peccatorum -, and, because she gave up her Son and patiently and humbly bore His apparent desertion of her, that beloved Son will now enter once more into His filial rights which He had ceded to John but for a time and will present her before the whole heavenly court as His Mother.