Monday, September 15, 2014

Terrible as an army set in battle array (On the Birth of the Virgin)


Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?

This verse coming from the canticles is recited everyday by the members of the Legion of Mary as part of what they call the “Catena Legionis”. It speaks of the coming forth of the Blessed Virgin as compared to the dawn which breaks the darkness of the night. The birth of the Blessed Virgin is like the dawn of a new creation. New because the old creation was destroyed by sin and death on account of the disobedience of our first parents: by the disobedience of one man, sin entered into the world and together with sin entered death. What was supposed to be an imperishable creation was destroyed by the envy of the devil. But “behold, I make all things new,” says the Lord. He, who is about to create a new heaven and a new earth, created this wonderful child, like a new garden which the serpent was not allowed to enter. “Truly a better paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavor to enter thee; thy Cherubim may leave the gates and return to heaven. What are thy beautiful fruits to us, since we cannot touch these without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us.” (Abb. Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Sept. 8.) Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating the death-giving fruit of the garden of Eden. But you and I are told to eat the fruit of the womb of Mary so that we may have life: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you cannot have life in you.”

The saints were not lacking in words in praising this day of the birth of the Virgin Mary. “St. Andrew of Crete calls this day a solemnity of entrance, a feast of beginning, whose end is the union of the Word with our flesh; a virginal feast full of joy and confident for all…’It is the beginning of salvation, the origin of every feast,’ says St. Peter Damian, ‘for behold! The Mother of the Bridegroom is born. With good reason does the whole world rejoice today; and the Church, beside herself, bids her choirs sing wedding songs.’” (Gueranger) Indeed, what a beautiful child is born for us today! “Mother of God, Queen of heaven, Sovereign of the world, all generations call you blessed, for you have brought forth life and glory for all. In you, the angels ever find their joy, the just find grace, sinners pardon; in you, and by you, and from you, the merciful hand of the Almighty has reformed the first creation!” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux) But while we admire the beauty of this little child, let us not forget that she is like an army arrayed for battle. St. Louie de Montfort said: “It is by Mary that the salvation of the world has begun, and it is by Mary that it must be consummated. Being the way by which Jesus Christ came to us the first time, she will also be the way by which He will come the second time, though not in the same manner. Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might, and in grace in these latter times: in mercy, to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews, and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God, to seduce all those who shall be contrary to them, and make them fall by promises and threats; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who shall do battle for his interests. Mary must be terrible as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times. It is principally of these last and cruel persecutions of the devil, which shall go on increasing daily till the reign of the Antichrist, that we ought to understand that first and celebrated prediction and curse of God, pronounced in the terrestrial paradise against the serpent; ‘I will put enmities between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed.’

“God has never made or formed but one enmity; but it is an irreconcilable one: it is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil; between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and the instruments of Lucifer. Satan fears Mary not only more than all the angels and men, but in some sense, more than God himself. It is not that the anger, the hatred, and the power of God are not infinitely greater than those of the blessed Virgin, for the perfections of Mary are limited; but it is because Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the Divine power. The devils fear one of her sighs for a soul more than all the prayers of all the saints, and one of her menaces against them more than all other torments.” (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin)

As we find ourselves in the middle of this raging battle between the Woman and the serpent, as the violence against the Christians in the Middle East escalates, as the threat of the Islamic Caliphate becomes more disturbing everyday, let us run to Mary and beg her to crush the head of the Serpent. “Together with the Church, let us ask, as the fruit of this feast, for that peace which seems to flee ever farther and farther from our unhappy times.” (Gueranger) “(May) the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin…bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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