At the end of the gospel account of the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary, we hear that “the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38). He simply left. Our Lady’s life was spent in the simplest daily routine, like the life of any other young woman of Nazareth.
Mary, “full of grace,” was not spared the fatigue of living, the weariness of daily work, and the difficulties and problems of every human being. Mary knew the arduous path of faith; she was often plunged into the darkness of the night and “a sword pierced her soul” (Lk 2:35) at the foot of the cross.
Nevertheless, in Mary’s life God’s grace, which had filled her from the first moment of her being, was not “received in vain” (2 Cor 6:1). She was always “full of grace,” the “all beautiful” (tota pulchra) as we acclaim her in hymns and antiphons.
What is the secret of the beauty of Mary’s life? The Virgin Mary was the transparency of God. Mary was accustomed to listening to God; she spent much time in dialogue with Him.
“The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then became flesh in her womb. By dwelling with God, in dialogue with him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful.” (Francis, Angelus 8 December 2017).
It isn’t the outward appearance that makes a person beautiful. What makes a life beautiful is having a heart open to God, that yields to God and is filled with God.
Beauty is like the gleam of harmony. It’s essential to the notion of beauty that what is beautiful should be united with truth and goodness. Beauty is the effulgence of that harmony between truth and goodness. God is the supreme goodness, truth, and beauty, which in Christ has been fully revealed as redeeming love.
The famous Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, said that beauty would save the world. Beauty awakens our spirituality and stimulates the best in us, captivating and making us transcend what is merely material, thus enabling us to enter into the world of gratuitousness and contemplation.
Today let’s ask the Virgin, the sublime icon of God’s love that has conquered sin, to console with her maternal love those who suffer: “Virgin ever fair, Mother, hear our prayer, Look upon us, Maria! Bring to us your treasure, Grace beyond all measure; Ora, ora pro nobis!“1
Silvio José Báez, o.c.d.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (excerpts)
Nicaraguans around the world celebrate the fiesta of La Gritería on 7 December, a joyous celebration on the vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
This year is poignant, however, because Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua was kidnapped in August by the National Police as a political prisoner, with no due process rights. His whereabouts are unknown. Bishop Báez explained in a tweet,
On the eve La Gritería, I can’t forget Rolando, my brother bishop of Matagalpa. I ask the Virgin to take care of him and give him strength, and I demand, together with all the people of Nicaragua, that he be released. Blessed Virgin, take care of Rolando and give him back to us!
1 Bishop Báez quoted from a beloved Nicaraguan hymn for the feast of La Gritería: “Escuchad, ¡Oh tierna Madre!, de tus hijos el clamor. Te pedimos, nos protejas con tu manto salvador” (Listen, O tender Mother, to the cries of your children. We beg you, protect us with your saving mantle).
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: This majestic image was part of a cycle of seven altarpieces commissioned in 1767 for the new royal church of San Pascual Bailón at Aranjuez, founded by Charles III in the same year. The symbols in the altarpiece refer to the virtues and significance of the Virgin. She vindicates the original weakness of Eve by trampling on the serpent. The palm tree symbolizes her victory and exaltation and the mirror symbolizes her freedom from all stain. The crescent moon and twelve stars refer to the Woman of the Apocalypse (Rev 12:1-10), while the crescent itself is an ancient symbol of chastity. At the same time, the moon`s light derives from the sun, just as the special grace of Mary derives from the merits of Christ. The shimmering profile of an obelisk shape in the background is a further reference to traditional symbols associated with the Immaculate Conception—the Tower of David and the Tower of Ivory—with their evocations of impregnability, virginity, and purity.