Tota pulchra es, Maria. Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Thou art all beautiful, Mary. And the original stain is not in Thee.
Mary is beautiful because God loves her. In love, God her Father created her. In love, God her Son redeemed her. In love, God her Spouse dwelt in her always. The Blessed Trinity delights in Mary and so granted her first the fullness of grace on earth and then in heaven the highest glory.
Mary is also beautiful because she loves God. In childlike hope she trusted the Father and clung to the promises he made to Israel. In motherly openness she conceived and brought forth the Son, the Savior of the world. And in bridal ardor she united herself to the Holy Spirit. By grace, Mary is the true burning bush and tabernacle, the creature in which God becomes present and that burns with God’s love but is not consumed.
In all this, Mary never knew sin. In view of the merits of Jesus, God preserved his Mother totally pure. But why did God choose to make the all-beautiful, the Immaculate? He did so for love of us, to prepare for himself a beautiful and worthy Temple in which to dwell among his people. Mary Immaculate was the way God chose to come to us. As such, she is also the way for us to go to him. If we contemplate and love Mary, we will ever more deeply contemplate and love her Son, Jesus Christ.
Down through the ages, Catholic hearts have loved to contemplate the beauty of Mary as a way to approach her Son. This love moved the Church from early on to celebrate her mysteries in the liturgy. It also led Christian artists to create countless works of beauty. Poets and musicians sang her praises. Painters and sculptors imagined and portrayed her gracious countenance. Love of Mary encouraged saints and theologians to meditate and understand her place in our salvation. As a result, the Catholic patrimony boasts of many rich visual, verbal, and musical meditations on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In our own day this great inheritance of Marian piety is preserved, promoted, and developed in an exemplary way by the popular prayer aid Magnificat. This month Magnificat celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary since its foundation. To mark the occasion and to thank the Blessed Virgin for her assistance in their apostolate, the publishers have issued a lovely book of art and prayer.
In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary moves through the mysteries of Mary’s life. It presents forty beautiful, full-page reproductions of icons or paintings of the Madonna that have through these years graced the covers of the magazine. Reflections by Pierre-Marie Dumont, the founder of Magnificat, accompany each image. These provide insight into the images and take their inspiration from them to meditate on the divine realities they represent. In addition the book gives each “mystery” a voice through a traditional hymn from the Church’s liturgy and a brief thought or prayer from various saints and Christian authors.
The book, just like the issues of Magnificat, is attractively laid out and printed. It would make for a lovely coffee table book. More significantly, reading and looking at this book would be an excellent way to gaze on Mary and contemplate her, to get to know her and love her more. Through word and image this work could move those hearts who take it up to share the deep delight that God enjoys in beholding the Immaculate. And in drawing nearer to her, these souls would grow more desirous of that infinitely beautiful Love and Light, the Triune God, from whom she comes to us and to whom she wishes to lead us.
Image: Murillo, Immaculate Conception