The Prayer of the Blessed Virgin
“Thy lips, my spouse, are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments as the smell of frankincense” [Cant. 4:11].
Prayer is the simple act by which the creature realizes his dependence upon the Creator, and supplicates His favor. It is the appointed way of obtaining graces, since God, however disposed to shower His benefits upon us, requires some disposition on the part of the receiver. There is, then, no spiritual life without prayer, and he who neglects this means of salvation can have no hope of divine mercy. The very first impulse of the Holy Ghost is to turn the heart to Him from Whom all life proceeds, and every breath of the good Christian ought to be a supplication for that assistance, without which there is no good word or work.
We are in the daily need of temporal blessings, and can accomplish absolutely nothing in the supernatural order without spiritual aid. The sense of our own weakness naturally turns the soul to the infinite fountain of all life and strength, and hence the more we understand our won necessity the better we are able to pray. For prayer no art is required. Any expression of our wants to God is acceptable prayer, whether the tongue reverently speaks to Him, or the eyes look to Him, or any of our senses signify the desire of the heart. Vocal prayer is the lowest degree, and from this we ascend to meditation, to contemplation, and even to union with the Maker of our spirits. In meditation the soul separates itself from all sensible things to apply itself to eternal truths, and to discover the divine will. God’s revelation is thus brought home to the individual, and the unchanging verities of faith are made real and practical to our minds. Contemplation carries us a step higher, lifting the understanding to a certain fruition of the object and author of truth, and fastening all the powers of the soul in a firm gaze upon Him, Who always reveals Himself in every light He gives. And they who really aim after perfection may attain to that prayer of union of which the saints have written, and which no human language can describe. It is the mutual embrace of God and the soul that seeks Him, where the creature who receives everything, finds himself in the arms of Him Whose bounty gives everything, and even gives Himself. There is no limit to the desire of the sanctified soul, even as there is no end to the prodigality with which God lavishes His favors. In the blessed Mother of our Lord we find an example of the highest degrees of prayer, and an instructor in this most important lesson of the spiritual life. Her communion with her Maker began before her birth, when the strong hand of her Redeemer drove the adversary away, and chased every shadow of the fall from her understanding. Then ascended to Heaven the acceptable incense of her pure spirit, passing beyond the golden censors of the angels to the immediate presence of her Beloved. The stages of perfection were passed, and when she opened her eyes upon this world of sin, she was bound to God by a union which no power could disturb. The all-merciful Creator took the soul of Mary into His own hands, and filled her with light, and folded her to His own bosom. Her early years were devoted to His service in the temple, where an uninterrupted contemplation of the divine perfections was the food and solace of her whole being. And when the auspicious hour arrived, and the Word was made flesh in her womb, it was only a fitting reward for that incessant desire with which she had sought Him. As in all things she renounced herself, and looked alone to His power, so every action of her life was a prayer going directly to His heart. The faith and all-consuming love with which she looked upon her Child were ever the most sublime acts of contemplation. And day by day she drew nearer to perfect conformity with the divine model visibly before her. As the prayer of His creatures goes up to His throne, and is heard amid the music of cherubim and seraphim, so did He on earth ever accept Mary’s sweet worship. It was dearer to Him than the hosannas of Heaven. When He went upon the duties of His ministry she was left to the consolation of prayer, and was able to keep up her uninterrupted communion with Him in all His wanderings and sufferings.
The great hour of man’s redemption found her upon Mount Calvary, there to learn a new lesson in her wonderful power of prayer, and to be sprinkled with the blood of her Son, that she might begin her great work of intercession. Mary was the only light on earth in that dark hour when the whole human race seemed to seek the death of its God. That death opened anew the fountains of the divine charity, and the afflicted Mother, feeling the efficacy of those dying agonies, lifted up to Heaven her supplication for guilty man. Her pleading words ascended, mingled with the pitying cry, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The whole life of the Blessed Virgin was solitary. When Jesus was with her nothing else could be present, and when He was taken from her she could think of nothing but Him. After the ascension the holy places of Jerusalem were her favorite resort. She sought the steps of the way of sorrows that she might retrace all the stages of the Passion. Calvary and the sepulcher were quiet retreats where the remembrances of her Child renewed in her soul both the sorrows and the consolations of her martyrdom. She passed in ecstasy to Him to Whom she was wholly united, and the day of her assumption but lifted her body to the Sacred Heart on which she had rested. Her prayer is now the crown of all the intercessions of Heaven, and angels and archangels wait in silence when she opens the lips which “are as a dropping honeycomb.” For “honey and milk are under her tongue, and the smell of her garments as the smell of frankincense.” To her the poor sinner looks with hope, for if her lips do but plead his cause, the graces of Heaven fall like dew upon his soul. It is her office, now that she is inseparable from her Son, to pray for the souls for whom He died, and for the kingdom which He has established on earth; that kingdom over which He reigns, and which His human heart ever draws nearer and nearer to His sacred Person. So in truth Mary is one of the greatest consolations of our religion, not only as she guides us by her example in every way of holiness, but also as her prayers encircle the soul that seeks for God, and never fail in the hour of battle and danger. And let man offend the divine majesty as he will, her heart always sends up its sweet sacrifice to make reparation for our countless ingratitudes.
The beautiful spirit of prayer which the Blessed Virgin thus exhibited may through God’s mercy incite us to seek a union with her heart, and through her with the heart of Jesus. To see Him Whom we love always before our eyes, and in each action to seek His favor, is to pray without ceasing. This habit of recollection will drive away distractions from our devotions, and make the state of prayer habitual, while it will open to us new treasures in the mercy which has redeemed us. Let us call upon God at all times, and especially in the hour of temptation. And why should not His goodness allure us to follow on in the path of prayer, till the vision of faith is enlarged, and the spiritual world becomes our familiar abode? This path leads to joys no stranger can know, to perfect union with Him Whose embrace is bliss inconceivable, Who desires to espouse our souls, that we may have no lover but Him. This is the path of every Christian, and the mountain heights to which it guides are open to every heart that really longs and seeks after God.