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So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.—2 Thessalonians 2:15

Friday, May 1, 2015

Clothed in the Sun

'Tis Mary's month!
Et signum magnum paruit in caelo mulier amicta sole et luna sub pedibus eius et in capite eius corona stellarum duodecim.—Apocalypsis 12:1 
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.—Apoc. 12:1
WP

It was from the Child in her womb that Mary received all her glory. He clothed her with the sun, rolled the moon beneath her feet, and set upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The Virgin Mother of God had this glory not from herself, but from God, the Creator of heaven, Who had made the sun, the moon, and the stars, She had her glory from Christ, her Son, through Whom all things, even Mary herself, have been made. Christ was not only a son to Mary, but also a father who had created her, and adorned her with every virtue and blessing. He was her Lord, her true and supreme God.—Sermon 6 from the Mariale by St. Lawrence Brindisi, Doctor of the Church.
Have you ever wondered why it is that Mary, assumed body and soul into heaven, appears dressed when she visits those chosen to be heralds of her messages from God?

If we recall the Genesis story for a moment, Adam and Eve fell from grace and hid their nakedness. The first Eve and Adam the first man clothed themselves in shame over their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). Shouldn't the new Eve who is full of grace (kecharitomene), and therefore without shame, be unclothed as a sign of her purity and innocence, her fullness of grace (St. Luke 1:28)?
Q. Was any one ever preserved from original sin? 
A. The Blessed Virgin Mary, through the merit of her Divine Son, was preserved free from the guilt of original sin, and this privilege is called her Immaculate Conception.—Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 4, #50.
Consider the following thoughts as to perhaps why the Virgin Mary appears clothed.
  1. Mary is, indeed, the Immaculate Conception, spared by God from Original Sin through a singular or unique grace, innocent like our first parents before the fall of man and possessing no shame over her body. We, however, are not born sinless. Our Blessed Mother knows that we, this side of heaven, are still prone to temptation. Even though it is entirely possible to appreciate the human form rendered in art, for example, minds can go all too quickly to very dark places when confronted with the unclothed human form. Would a mother want to be the cause of her children falling into sin? No, of course she wouldn't.
  2. Mary is clothed not because she needs to be but because she clothes herself for our sake. Her clothing reminds us we, too, should imitate her modesty lest we become for others a source of temptation to lust.
  3. All holy things are veiled, e.g., the tabernacle wherein resides the Body of Christ; the chalice; women who wear the chapel veil as a sign of reverence for the Eucharistic Lord and of their sacredness. Mary's clothing is her veil. She is veiled head to toe. She is the ark of the New Covenant, the tabernacle of the Lord. God the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity dwelt in her womb. Mary is full of grace (gratia plena), i.e., immaculate, spared from Original Sin. She is the holy Virgin. She is clothed because she is Mary most holy, the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God.
Mary's clothing may be intended to remind us of purity, holiness, humility, modesty, hope and sacrificial love.
Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1
Living Colour

If we take note that Mary is also clothed in certain colours when she appears to her select visionaries, we may learn something about her person and her role in the salvation of man.
Numbers 4:5
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron... (5) When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen, and cover the ark of the testimony (covenant) with it; then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin, and spread over that a cloth all of blue(.)
As mentioned above, Mary is the ark of the New Covenant. She is Theotokos—God bearer. Her being draped in blue is a fitting reminder that she is most holy in the eyes of God. Her holiness merits the veneration due to her: hyper-dulia. Dulia is the honouring of the saints. Hyper-dulia is reserved to Mary. Latria or adoration is, of course, worship that is offered or due to God alone.

Blue

Blue symbolizes heavenly grace and the Kingdom of God. The Virgin Mary is often depicted wearing blue clothing. Blue also represents hope.

Raw Lapis/Menadue

The blue used in works of art in the Middle Ages was derived from lapis lazuli, a deep blue semi-precious stone that has been valued for millennia for its rich color. Lapis was introduced by export to Europe in the late Middle Ages.
[Lapis] was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive of all medium blue pigments. It was used by the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer, and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figure of the painting, especially the Virgin Mary.—Wikipedia.
Wikipedia/Palladian

Patrons of the arts were expected to purchase the gold or lapis lazuli to be used in a commissioned painting. The gift of these valuable substances was an expression of love and devotion.

Red

Red (for blood) symbolizes human nature. Red is often associated with martyrdom:
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him (Jesus). Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”—St. Luke 2:33-35.
In the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Blessed Virgin is wearing a red tunic, the color worn by virgins at the time of Christ, and a dark blue mantle, the color worn by mothers in Palestine.


Wikipedia

Culture & Language

We may also reflect on the fact that when Mary has appeared at various times and in diverse places she has done so in a way that connects a contemporary culture with the culture and time during which she walked the earth. Thus, we have Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima, three distinct examples of Mary's ability to speak within a culture and to a culture. Mary was not only heard in a particular language by each visionary, she took on aspects of dress and physical form that may have been reasons why the Fatima children and Bernadette, for example, did not immediately recognize her. Perhaps the children had a different conception of how Mary, a woman of the Middle East, looked.

Speaking of Mary... .

Mary's "gift of tongues", whether an audible language or some form of direct communication to the soul of a visionary, is confirmed by reports that visionaries have heard Mary's voice in his or her own language. Have we forgotten that, gathered with the Apostles, Mary was present there as their mother (St. John 19:26-27) when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost and those gathered began speaking in diverse tongues?
And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.—Acts 2: 8-12.
Hope amidst suffering.

Mary's appearances are signs of hope. Mary, herald of God's justice and mercy, re-introduces us to the truth about ourselves. Her messages have often contained undeniably strong calls to repentance in order to spare us from unimaginable suffering that mankind deserves because of the unspeakable acts of evil committed by men and women.
God is not the cause of sin and suffering. Fallen human beings manage quite well on their own to mess things up. God, merciful and compassionate, desires our good. When we drift so far away from God that we imperil civilization, God sends Mary as a herald of His mercy. God provides through Mary the information we need in order to protect ourselves and spare us from serious self inflicted harm on what very well be the eve of our self designed destruction.
The language or vocabulary Mary has used when she has visited specific people to share her message is language intended to shake us loose from the moorings of sin that tie us to death and suffering. We are called by God through Mary to change our lives, to choose life and avoid spiritual death. Mary's love is a mother's love for her children she does not want to see suffering an unending death. Her consolation in troubling times affirms she is the messenger of hope.

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O Blessed Virgin Mary our Mother, our life, our sweetness and our hope, please pray for your suffering children, especially our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and Africa where they witness daily with their blood to our Lord Jesus Christ. I entrust them and all who suffer for Christ to your maternal care.

Almighty Father, grant relief to all who suffer persecution and death for the sake of the name of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Have mercy, loving Father, on those who trust in You and on those who persecute Your own. In the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Source for St. Lawrence quote:
The Woman Clothed with the Sun' according to St. Lawrence of Brindisi. An article by Stanley Gahan, O.F.M. Cap.

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We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.