The Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization!
Founder’s Word – August 13, 2019
By Deacon Georges Bonneval
“On the morning of Pentecost she watched over, with her prayer, the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the ever-renewed evangelization, which the Church, docile to her Lord's command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 82)
In this month of August, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary together with all the Church. In our 2018 agenda, we have already presented diverse and important features of this Marian mystery. Our Catholic faith believes in Mary’s presence in heaven, body and soul – that it to say, the fullness of her person. Personally associated with the mystery of the Resurrection and Ascension of her Son, as well as with His Incarnation and His Death, the Blessed Virgin enjoys the fullness of the fruits of salvation before the rest of the human race: the redemption of her own body.
Mary, Ark of the New Covenant
Mary is united so intimately to the Son, whom she welcomed in faith and bore in the flesh, that she also fully shares the glory of heaven with Him. The spiritual maternity of Mary implies the grace of a personal and total communion with the Incarnate Word, as well as collaboration with Him in His work of salvation.
The true Ark of the Covenant is a living and concrete person: The Virgin Mary. God does not reside in a piece of furniture; He resides in the person, in the human heart. Mary is the one who carried the Eternal Word of God made man in her womb, and she remains the ark of God’s presence. God established this in a definitive way with all of humanity, in Christ.
“Today the Church praises God's immense love for his creature: he chose her as a true ‘Ark of the Covenant’, as the One who continues to generate and to give Christ the Saviour to humanity, as the One who in Heaven shares in the fullness of the glory and enjoys the very happiness of God and, at the same time, also invites us to become, in our modest way, an ‘ark’ in which the Word of God is present, transformed and quickened by his presence, a place of the presence of God, so that men and women may find God’s closeness in the other person, and thus live in communion with God and know the reality of Heaven.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of August 15, 2011, given at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Italy)
St. John of Damascus, referring to the mystery of the Assumption of Mary, affirmed in one of his homilies:
“Today the holy Virgin of Virgins is presented in the heavenly temple... Today the sacred and living ark of the living God, who conceived her Creator Himself, takes up her abode in the temple of God, not made by hands... It was meet that she, who had sheltered God the Word in her own womb, should inhabit the tabernacles of her Son... The place of the bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the heavenly courts.” (St. John of Damascus, Second Homily on the Dormition)
The Mother of the Incarnate Word and Redeemer is also the Mother of the Resurrected Christ; with Him, she should enter into glory. In a certain way, she prefigures and anticipates those whom Saint Paul refers to that will, without dying, pass from this present life to the heavenly life. “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thess 4: 17)
Mary intercedes in heaven for the evangelization of our deepest selves
The definition of the Dogma of the Assumption implies faith in the exceptional intercession of Mary. Because Mary is with Christ in His glory, she is equally with Him when He acts in souls and intercedes for us to the Father. Her heavenly mediation rises up as the full realization and crowning of her earthly role. It is a prophecy and the premise of our own heavenly vocation.
Contemplating the Virgin Mary, another grace is given us: to view our life with profundity. Our daily existence, with its problems and expectations, receives light and aid from the Mother of God, from her own spiritual journey and glorious vocation.
Mary’s heavenly intercession for us is understood in the theology of intercession and the communion of saints. Mary’s intercession has not and will not cease, from the moment of the mystery of the Incarnation until the end of the world. She accompanies and sustains every prayer. Above this, we can say that every prayer is united to her prayer. “Lady, thou art so great, and so availest, that who so wishes grace, and has not recourse to thee, wishes his desire to fly without wings.” (Dante Alighieri, Italian poet of the 13th century).
Every grace “passes through the hands – or heart – of Mary”; she is the “treasury of the gifts of God.” Whatever has been attributed to us as pure grace, Mary obtained for us by her maternal intercession.
Jesus’ words on the Cross, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19: 27), are spoken to each one of us and to all humanity. Jesus is fully Man as much as He is fully God, and is even designated as such by Pilate: “Here is the man” (Jn 19: 5). If Mary is the Mother of Man, can she not also be the mother of each one of us, helping us especially with all that is fragile, infirm and immature within us? On the Cross of His redeeming incarnation, Jesus communicates His life and His grace to the entire Church which is His Body. Mary, taking part in the sacrifice of this death, also becomes the Mother of mankind.
However, asking for heavenly intercession would be in vain if we thought that the prayers of the saints, as well as those of Mary, could “modify” the will of God. The prayers of Mary and of the saints correspond to the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we should pray that we might correspond to this grace as well. Mary cannot contradict her Son, but on the contrary, everything that comes to us from Christ comes to us through her prayer. We can say that Mary’s prayer obtains for us the beginning of the coming of the Spirit. Prayer is the act of the creature, and so it has been entrusted to her who is the Immaculate and who prays for us.
If Scripture declares, through the writings of the Apostle Paul, that Christ is the “one mediator between God and humankind” (1 Tim 2: 5), any other mediation cannot exist without being completely secondary and dependent on Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas (Cf. Summa Theologiae, III, q. 26), makes a clear distinction of the Mediation of Christ (Christ is the only mediator), but states that this mediation does not hinder “secondary mediations”, all of which are at the service of the one mediation of Christ.
The grace of the redeeming Incarnation implies the cooperation of every human being in their own salvation. God, in becoming man, did not seek to oust man, but associated all men with Himself. It is for this reason that, together with Christ the Mediator, there is a place for all those who collaborate with Him in view of our salvation.
Among the secondary mediations that God uses for our healing and salvation, that of Mary is singular and comes in first place, for it is the extension of her divine maternity. We invoke the Holy Virgin Mary; she is the Star that guides our steps, leading us to encounter her Son on the path to heavenly glory and eternal joy. Saint Ambrose writes:
“May the soul of Mary be in us to magnify the Lord; may the spirit of Mary be in us to exult in God.”
May we ask Mary to accompany our prayer. We know that in her, we have a guide and support, and it is with total confidence that we can say to her: “Pray for us, poor sinners.”
“The close connection between Mary, the Church and each member of the faithful, based on the fact that each in his or her own way brings forth Christ, has been beautifully expressed by Blessed Isaac of Stella: ‘In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary... In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful.’” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, No. 285)
How does the Virgin Mary participate in the New Evangelization?
The vast majority of Marian apparition specialists agree that after the first half of the 19th century, cases of Marian apparitions have multiplied in an impressive way when compared with previous centuries. Most specialists generally refer to the vision of an apparition, being defined above all as a "public revelation in its manifestation and its effects.” In these cases of apparitions, the ones who receive the vision – typically children or simple people – act as mediators between the Virgin and the local community to which they belong. Once the apparition is recognized by the Church, an organization of devotions can begin, until the erection of a sanctuary is promoted.
This is how it was in Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, La Salette... each one has become an enormous pole of evangelization on both a national and international scale, welcoming thousands of pilgrims throughout each year. In this way, through her apparitions and all of these resultant places of spirituality and devotion, Mary participates in the New Evangelization of each generation – with a particularly compassionate reception of the sick and those who suffer.
Prayer of Saint Bernard ("Second Sermon on the Glories of the Virgin Mother”):
“‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary’ (Lk 1: 27). Let me say something concerning this name also, which is interpreted to mean ‘Star of the sea’... She is therefore that glorious star, which, according to prophecy, arose out of Jacob, whose ray illumines the entire earth... a star which, enlightening the universe, and communicating warmth rather to souls than to bodies, fosters virtue and extinguishes vice...
Oh, whosoever thou art that perceivest thyself during this mortal existence to be rather floating in the treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking secure on the stable earth, turn not away thine eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wishest to be submerged by the tempest!
When the storms of temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look up at the star, call upon Mary. When buffeted by the billows of pride, or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look up at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger or avarice, or carnal desires violently assail the little vessel of thy soul, look up at the star, call upon Mary.
If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, confounded at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be absorbed in the abyss of despair, oh, then think of Mary.
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from thy lips, never suffer it to leave thy heart. And that thou mayest more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, thou shalt never go astray; whilst invoking her, thou shalt never lose heart; so long as she is in thy mind, thou are safe from deception; whilst she holds thy hand, thou canst not fall; under her protection, thou hast nothing to fear; if she walks before thee, thou shalt not grow weary; if she shows thee favor, thou shalt reach the goal.
And thus thou shalt experience in thyself the truth of what is written, ‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary.’ (Lk 1: 27)”