Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mary: Model of Confidence

by Valdis Grinstein

Few virtues are as difficult to acquire as confidence. Confidence is a conviction aroused by Faith, it is the virtue which exercises steadfast hope when every other natural reason to hope has died.

Saint Thomas Aquinas says that confidence is “a hope fortified by solid conviction.” Confide, literally means “with faith.”

Man, wounded by Original Sin, finds it especially difficult to admit his dependence upon others and, in particular, his subordination to God. Yet, our loving Creator often heals our souls by allowing situations that render us helpless, unable to act, and therefore making evident to us that we have no way out when depending merely on our own devices.

When we find ourselves stuck in such hopeless situations, our Father Himself shows us the way out, the only way out. We must believe in His omnipotence, His infinite mercy, His justice and remain firm in faith and inflexible in hope. That is, we must confide.

Since divine goodness is inexhaustible, God has supplied history with luminous examples of people who were totally abandoned and, contrary to every natural expectation, were relieved and their hopes fulfilled. Of all the examples recorded in history, the Catholic’s soul is never more moved than by certain episodes in Our Lady’s life.

Mary’s betrothal: confidence amidst perplexities

Tradition tells us that while still quite young Our Lady consecrated herself to the service of the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. In the first years of her earthly life, the Most Holy Virgin offered her virginity to God, and freed herself from anything that might prevent her from dedicating herself entirely to her Creator. It was during her time of service in the Temple that her parents, Saints Joachim and Anna, died leaving her an orphan.

She must certainly have hoped to remain in the Temple serving God. What better place to do so? But God had other designs and chose to submit her to a difficult trial. As an orphan, she was given over to the care of the High Priest. When she turned fourteen, he informed her of his intention to find her a husband. How surprised Our Lady must have been! How could this be? Certainly the Lord knew of her vow of virginity, but it was also certain that God had guided the High Priest in his decision. He was her lawful guardian whom she must obey.

However, if she married, how was she to preserve her vow of virginity? If she refused to marry, how could she avoid being disobedient to the authority God had selected to guide her? At that time, among the Jews, virginity was not understood as it is today. All Israelites contracted marriage in the hope of giving birth to the Messiah.

Since she did not know the designs of the Creator for her, this situation caused the future mother of the Messiah great perplexity. For her, more than anything else, this was the hour for confidence: She had to confide in God. He would sustain her vow of virginity, even in marriage.

When the time came to select her spouse, various candidates presented themselves. In addition to these, one other person was present, but only for a juridical reason. He was present because the law stated that in the case of orphans the nearest relative must be present to consent to the marriage. This other was Saint Joseph. He, too, had made a vow of perpetual virginity, but he was there as a witness to the ceremony of selecting a husband for Our Lady.

The ways of Providence, however, are not those of men. The High Priest, inspired by God, submitted all the candidates for Our Lady’s hand to a test: he whose staff blossomed would become the spouse of Mary.

To his surprise, Saint Joseph’s staff blossomed, even though he did not aspire to the hand of his relative. When confronted by the evidence of the divine will, Saint Joseph consented to wed the Virgin Mary. As he was also chaste, part of the enigma was then made clear to Our Lady: her virginity would not be compromised.

Still, if He intended her to remain a virgin, why did God want her to marry? Would not the contrary be better? Again, Our Lady confided in the wisdom and omnipotence of God, Who made His intentions clear by means of the Archangel Gabriel. She was given the most exalted vocation of being the Mother of the Messiah—the Word Incarnate—Who would be born by the work of the Holy Ghost, and Whose father, in the eyes of men, would be the chaste Saint Joseph.

The death of the Redeemer

The Most Holy Virgin gave us the following example of confidence, among countless others, which she practiced during her mortal life.

Throughout His brief public life, Our Lord proved that He was the Son of God by working the greatest of miracles. However, He was also the Lamb of God, and the Heavenly Father desired that He deliver Himself up as a victim for the redemption of mankind.

This is common knowledge to the faithful today, but it was not so clear then. One can imagine the perplexity of the faithful of those times. After having so often witnessed the Master cure the blind, heal lepers, and even raise the dead, they witnessed Him surrender without resistance to the authorities who plotted His death.

Not only did He surrender Himself, but He forbade Saint Peter to defend Him. When confronted with this seemingly unexplainable behavior and being weak in their faith, the Apostles fled.

Perhaps a few of the faithful hoped the Savior would perform a miracle from the height of the Cross which would definitely confirm His Divinity. But that did not occur. He died and was buried.

The Gospels tell us that even after Our Lord’s death, the Apostles, the disciples, and the holy women still did not believe in the resurrection, even though Our Lord had foretold it on various occasions.

Mary Most Holy, however, believed and confided all the while. Her hope was invincible. Despite the apparently contradictory evidence, She kept the Faith and trusted in the divine promises.

From the moment that Our Lord died on the cross to the moment of the Resurrection, only Our Lady remained unshakable in her faith of Our Lord’s divinity and her hope for the resurrection. Therefore, only she, with heroic perfection, kept alive the virtue of Faith.

As Saint Paul tells us, without belief in the resurrection, our faith would be vain. It was Our Lady alone, then, who during the time Our Lord spent in the sepulcher, kept and personified the Faith of the nascent Church for mankind as a whole.

Mary: the ark of hope of future centuries

In this regard, it is opportune to recall a commentary of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: “Since on that occasion only she represented the Faith, we may also say that if she had not believed, the world would have ended. The world cannot exist without the Faith. The moment that faith ceases to exist, Providence will end the world. Because of her admirable faith, Our Lady sustained the world, and she alone gave continuity to the evangelical promises.

All the promises repeated in the Gospels, all the promises recurring in the Old Testament that the Messiah would reign over the earth and be the King of glory, the center of history, all of these promises would have passed unfulfilled if the Faith, at any moment, had been extinguished. If such were to occur, the world would have to end. Our Lady, however, was the ark of the hope for future centuries.

Within her was enclosed, as in a seed, all the grandeur that the Church would develop throughout the centuries, all the virtues that the Church would sow, all the promises of the Old Testament, and all the actions practiced in the vigor of the New Testament. All of this existed within a single soul, the soul of Our Lady.”

On Easter Sunday, her heroic confidence obtained entire recompense. Various theologians teach that Our Lord, having resurrected, appeared first to Our Lady. One may imagine the happiness of that mother on seeing her Son resplendent with glory after having fulfilled His vocation of redeeming the human race in such a marvelous and heroic way. This was the reward for her confidence: before all others, she beheld the triumph of Our Lord.

In these dark days, wherein so many afflictions trouble the hearts of the faithful, let us do as Our Lady did and confide! The noted French writer Edmond Rostand offers us this celebrated phrase: “It is during the night that it is more beautiful to believe in the light.”

May these considerations of the example of the Mother of God serve to make our confidence unshakable.

1 comment:

  1. In honor of Our Lady, here is a new book about Shrines of Our Lady of Fatima in New England.