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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

August 21, 1960

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


The Blessed Virgin Mary



…She is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of His goodness  (Wisdom 7, 26)


Have you ever seen a mirror?  If you stop to think a few minutes before answering, you will have to admit that you never have.  We never look ‘at’ a mirror; we look ‘into’ it.  There we see the reflection of some other thing, not the mirror itself.  Yet we cannot help being aware of a mirror.  It stands out (to speak loosely) so clearly from its surroundings.  How amazing that something so obvious is something that is never seen.  The most we can ever see of a mirror is its flaws.  But then, the flaws are not the mirror:  they are defects that shouldn’t be there.


All creatures reflect the attributes of God in some degree, however little.  Even something as commonplace as a stone has a permanence about it that reminds us of the permanence and changelessness of God.  When we get up into the higher echelons of creation we are able to see marvelous reproductions (in so far as nothingness can receive them) of the virtues and perfections of God.  The loving solicitude of parents for their children mirrors the tender affection God nourishes for His rational creatures.  And so it is with all the attributes of God.  Philosophers tell us that there are two ways of getting to know what God is like from the observation of creatures.  First, whenever we see a fault in a creature, we must tell ourselves that there is no such defect in God.  Second, when we do see a perfection we must tell ourselves that, that perfection is in God (at least analogously) in an infinite (unlimited) degree.  The words of Wisdom quoted above are applied to Our Lady.  We can look at her and see in her, as in a mirror, the perfections of God most perfectly reproduced in a mere creature.


Mary does by deliberate choice what a mirror does by its very nature.  What graces she receives from God (including her Son) she bestows upon us.  What praise we render her she reflects back to God her Creator.  When we are far away from a mirror we can’t distinguish anything clearly defined in it.  We see only a kind of brightness.  We have to be quite close to make out things clearly.  When we are far from Mary we see only a kind of brightness; when we are close to her, we see Jesus.  It is fitting that she who mirrors the virtues of God most perfectly should become the Mother of His Son, who is the image and likeness of His Father.  It was Saint Augustine, I think, who said that Mary had conceived Jesus in her mind long before she conceived Him in her womb.  If we think of Mary as being analogous to a mirror, we can understand how someone occupying such a prominent place in Christian Catholic spirituality can remain the Hidden Virgin, the Garden Enclosed, and the Sealed Fountain, whose beauties and delights are known to the Most High alone.


Helpful as the concept of Mary as the Mirror of Justice (as the litany has it) or as the Mirror of the Power of God is, it is still far from reality.  There is a world of difference between the mirror and the object reflected in it.  But there is a very, very close resemblance between Jesus and Mary.  So much so that, excluding the Divinity of Jesus, whatever we predicate of one we way predicate of the other.  Another great Marian saint (Bernard, I believe) could say:  If you would understand the Mother, contemplate the Son; if you would understand the Son, contemplate the Mother.


We may apply this principle in regard to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, giving us a deeper appreciation of its doctrinal content.  One of the obvious meanings is that Mary’s heart was absolutely free of the slightest stain of disorderly affection.  Another is that her intentions were always pure; she sought (and seeks) not her own glory, but the glory of her Son.  But also, since she reflects (because she resembles) Jesus, her heart, like His, is overflowing with merciful love for mankind.  Like His, it is broken with grief at seeing so many of her children abandon her and throw themselves into perdition.  Like His, it is grievously wounded at the conscious neglect and ingratitude of many of her chosen souls.  It is, in truth, the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  They beat as one.  We have in Mary a Mother worthy of Jesus our Father.

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