Immaculate Heart of Mary

On this the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer a meditation from Fr. Arthur Ryan, 1877. Remember to pray and offer sacrifices in reparation for the sacrileges and outrages committed against the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin, as She most urgently asked of us at Fatima:

“The Church, dear brethren, places before us to-day, as the object of our devotion on this feast, the Heart of Mary in what may be called its characteristic virtue–its purity. Purity has been called “Mary’s virtue,” not because she had it in fuller measure or in greater brightness than the other virtues contained in the absolute fulness of her grace, but because it best suits our view of the Virgin Mother, and because it has been ever held the special grace and charm of womanhood. But this is not the feast of Mary’s Purity (that is kept on another day), but of Mary’s most pure heart: that is, it is the feast of that wondrous union and interdependence, in the character of our Holy and Immaculate Mother, of purity and love. It will instruct us to-day, and also help us to honour our Lady in the spirit of her feast, if we reflect for a few moments on this union. We shall find that Mary’s purity of heart came from the love of her heart, and the sorrow perfecting that love; and we shall learn that in love and in sorrow are to be found the surest foundation and the lasting protection of our own purity of heart.

We say anything is pure or clean when there is nothing of a lower or coarser nature mixed with it or resting on it. In this way we speak of a pure spirit as one not made for union with a material body; pure water, again, that is not mixed with any foreign matter that will dull its brightness. Remark that purity does not mean coldness or stiffness. If snow is the emblem of purity, it is because of its heaven-born whiteness and stainlessness–not because of its coldness. Once let the clay and soilure of earth be mixed with the drift, and though it has not ceased to be cold it has ceased to be pure. The icicle which the poet has made the emblem of chastity is no fitting emblem either in its coldness or sharpness–but (if it be a fit emblem at all) in its transparent clearness. To-day, however, we see the true emblem of purity, better than snow or ice, however spotless; for we see a human heart, warm with the warmest human love, throbbing and yearning as with the love of all hearts in one, and yet, nay by very reason of its vehement love, the home and emblem of purity–the most loving of the loving, and the purest of the pure.

For think, brethren, how could it be otherwise. Loving Jesus as Mary did, how could her love know that mixture of other love which alone could make her love impure? What drop of tainted earthly love could find room in the crystal vessel of her heart, full to the very brim of the heavenly love of Jesus? Her warm, womanly heart, so gentle and tender, so fitted and attuned to the finest pulsations of love–made by the Eternal God to be, next to the Heart of Jesus, the most perfect instrument of love, that heart had found complete and perfect rest in the love of God–in the love of its Jesus, and what more could it hold? Love filled that inner house, occupied every chamber and stood at the door, so that no other love could enter. Thus was Mary’s love the cause and the guard of Mary’s purity–enough of itself to be the full account of Mary’s stainlessness.

But yet another cause we seem to see. I say “seem,” brethren, for in a perfect work, such as Mary’s heart is, we find that the virtues are not separable in themselves or in their causes, as they are in works less perfect. In fact, the unity of God’s holiness, in Whom all perfections are as one, seems thus reflected in His most perfect creatures. It is, then, only as of another phase of Mary’s love that I would speak of Mary’s sorrow. She sorrowed because she loved, and for her love; and the purity that was founded in that love takes, in our eyes, its lustre and refinement from that sorrow. The Holy Scriptures speak, as men have in every land and literature spoken, of sorrow typified by fire. Prophet and poet are one in telling of the fire of affliction, the furnace of pain; and when the passing woes of earth shall find their awful and eternal home in Hell, they shall dwell there as in a pool of fire. But it is in the purifying qualities of sorrow that has been found the fitness of its comparison with fire. Not to mention many passages in the Old Testament, St. Peter speaks of the soul made sorrowful in divers temptations like the precious gold which is tried by the fire: and St. John commends gold fire-tried, and in the next verse explains this by the words: “Such as I love I rebuke and chastise.” You know that gold, though so precious, is seldom (if ever) found pure. It has to be made pure by the process of fire: the dross is thus taken from it, and nothing but the bright ore remains.

So is it with the human heart. Precious as is that heart and dear to God, it is yet mixed up with much that is of earth–with sin and the effects of sin. Jesus Christ Himself has told us of the defilements of the heart of man. “From the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man.” Such an admixture of what is impure makes the purifying of the heart a necessity: and the fire that loosens this dross, and makes the heart an offering acceptable to God, is the fire of sorrow–sorrow as it is sent us by our loving Father in the chastisement of His love–sorrow as it meets us at the hands of our fellow-men–sorrow as we embrace it ourselves and choose it freely as our lot in the generosity of Penance. The example of this sorrow, if not the example of its work, we behold in the pure and sorrowing heart of Mary. She needed not that fire for herself. No smallest atom of earthly defilement was on that pure heart for the furnace of pain to burn away. Love had done all, and left sorrow nothing to do. But, brethren, for your sakes and mine Mary plunged her heart down into that fire, deeper than any heart has ever gone, save only the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Man of Sorrows.

And shall we refuse to enter our fiery furnace? Shall we refuse to purchase our purity at the price of our pain? Ah no! Our love will make that pain bearable, and will make its work less.

To love and to suffer–be this our lot with the loving, suffering hearts of Jesus and Mary–if only by that love and by that sorrow we may come to something of that purity!

“Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? For in all these things we overcome because of Him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


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