The Death of the Blessed Virgin – Day of Victory
“Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples, because I languish with love” [Cant. 2:5].
It was the will of God that the Blessed Virgin should linger on earth for a few years after the ascension of her Son. She had her part to perform in the foundation of the Church, and she became the great consolation of the apostles in the absence of their Master. She who was wholly a sacrifice to God was willing to bear her exile when the interests of her Son required her presence on earth. Yet what a lonely exile was hers! Sometimes the saints have been raised above the attraction of earthly things to ardently long for Heaven. They have found the world a barren desert, and the days of their pilgrimage long and wearisome. As the thirsty hart seeketh the stream of water, so their souls have been athirst for God. But what was their loneliness compared to that of the Mother of our Lord! Earth had long since vanished out of her sight. No human thing had any hold upon her. She was wholly absorbed in the love of her Son, and while He was with her she seemed to be in Heaven also. Now He had left her, and the heart of the Mother yearned unceasingly for her Child. Her heart responded to the attractions of His heart, and its pulsations were still in unison with His. She could see His face no more. She could receive Him in the Blessed Eucharist, and be in spiritual communion with Him every moment, but His visible presence was no longer here. The most dreary desert is not so drear to the exhausted traveler as was this world to her when Jesus had gone from it. In His Father’s house were many mansions. He had gone to prepare a place for His children, and she knew of that bright throne which He was making ready for her. Yet the love He had shown her, and which He still manifested to her, only made her yearn the more for His presence. When should she be near Him again? When should she look into His face, and live in the light of His eyes? When should she once more embrace Him? His love was then her life, and as that love was ever increasing, it was one day to cause her death. Mary, being conceived without sin, had no part in the original curse. She was exempt from the pains and infirmity of mortality. The hand of disease never touched her beautiful form. She never grew old. She grew to perfect womanhood, and then she grew no more. Decay never laid his blighting finger upon her. She never suffered, except as she suffered for and with her Son. His Passion had left its lines of anguish upon her fair brow, but none of the infirmities of man’s fall came near her. Now she was to die, but not as ordinary mortals die. There was to be no wasting of nature, no gradual descent to the grave. The king of terrors had no power over her. She was to die only to pass out of this world to her Son, only to bless with her hallowed feet the valley of the shadow of death. No coldness, no paleness, no sign of dissolution was to precede her hour of victory. She was to languish of love and die in an ecstasy of its excess. So when the time drew near, she sent for the apostles and gave them her last benediction. She promised to be their Mother when she was exalted in Heaven. The brightest angels crowded around her, and strains of celestial melody were heard. The watchers who sang “Gloria in Excelsis” were there to sing a new song, and Heaven came down to welcome the holiest and purest of creatures. Sweetness such as she had never known overwhelmed her. She heard the voice of her Child bidding her to come to His arms, and repeating again her Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” she sank away to her eternal rest, and Jesus and Mary were forever united. The humble Virgin had found her hour of victory, and her holy soul was received into the embraces of the Blessed Trinity. As perfection and completeness are the marks of all God’s words, so did He finish the work which He had begun. We give Him thanks for His own great glory, and we praise Him for the love He has shown to His Mother, for it is His own perfection. The Blessed Virgin lay now like one entranced. The soul had left the body, but corruption could not invade the ark of God, or touch the flesh of which Jesus was born. The odor of Heaven filled her humble chamber. The choicest spices of paradise were giving out their fragrance. The apostles knelt, overcome with their nearness to Heaven, and filled with the grace which her dying prayer had sent into their hearts. Never could they forget that scene. It nerved them for their baptism of blood. They knew that Jesus was love, but now they had seen with their eyes, and heard with their ears. What a victory was Mary’s now! She had lived her appointed time, had lived for God alone. Her labors were all accomplished. She had served her Creator as no creature had served Him before. She had no sorrow and no regret, for she had never for a moment been unfaithful to grace. Now in her perfection and completeness she goes to Him Who made her, goes to be Queen of all the heavenly host, and Mother of all the redeemed. So is she an example for us. We have our labors to discharge in the day of probation. Our appointed time must soon come. We cannot die as Mary did, for we are sinners. Disease and decay must do their work upon us, and our bodily strength must be wasted by anguish and pain. This is the penance we deserve for sins committed in the body. Corruption will make us its prey, and our sinful dust must return to the dust of which it came. This will be our only way of purification. But the likeness of Mary’s death may still be ours, if like her we seek for God alone, and thirst for union with Him. Could we by penance and prayer pay our debt to the divine justice, then the hour of death would be the hour of our triumph. If by constant fidelity to the Holy Spirit we could break the chains which bind to earth, and master the tyranny of self-love, then what power would the adversary have to torment us in that hour? If the soul were really united to God and wholly purified, the last agony would be our entrance upon eternal bliss. And why is not this possible to us? Grace is not wanting, and all we need is a firm resolve and a steady will. Let the death of Mary by its very loveliness attract us to seek to die to all things of sense, and above all to ourselves. The mystical death must precede the natural death. We must be fast locked in the embrace of Jesus, and then no harm can betide us, for everything must bring us nearer to God. Let not past sin nor present infidelity discourage us. He Who died for us loves us with a love far exceeding our comprehension. He will heal the wounds of the past and help us up the steep ascent. Mary’s death will be our encouragement in the last contest; by her example and her prayers we shall be victors over every foe. A good death will be our last and crowning triumph. It will be no trial to us to go where the feet of Jesus and Mary have trod, for there is no darkness where the light of their presence has made the grave the door of entrance to Heaven, the gate to a blessed immortality. As Mary is our consoler in every vicissitude of life, so will she be our protector in death.