The Purity of the Blessed Virgin
“Thy name is as oil poured out, therefore young maidens have loved thee. Draw me, we will run after thee, to the odor of thy ointments” [Cant. 1:2-3].
No mortal tongue can worthily speak of the purity of the holy Mother of God, and yet while we linger in this “house of gold,” it is meet to consider a virtue of which she is the great model and exemplification. In body and soul she was wholly consecrated to God, and the infection of sin never came near her. Conceived without sin, she was freed from the effects of the fall and its ignominy. She never knew the stimulus of concupiscence, and there was no rebellion of the flesh against the spirit. The prince of the world came to her, and found nothing in her to correspond with his temptation. Hence he was baffled at every point, and could only address her with external solicitations which were resisted as soon as presented. The degree of holiness to which the Blessed Virgin attained, led her to the most perfect love of God. This love produced a true and real espousal to her celestial Bridegroom, and the vow of virginity was the necessary consequence. That vow is only the consecration which love in his highest degree includes. Of all the daughters of Eve, Mary was the first to solemnly devote herself in body and soul to the worship of God. She began that life on earth, which is the angelic life in Heaven. And after her many have followed, according to the words of Scripture, “after her shall virgins be brought to the king.” Her name hath touched many souls, inspiring them with the divine love, and coming as oil poured out to soothe and heal the wounds of earth. “Therefore your maidens have loved her,” and following her attractions, have run after her to the odor of her ointments. She made her vow in her early years, and she would not have sacrificed her virginity even to be Mother of God. She was espoused to St. Joseph with the express understanding that she should ever remain a virgin, and because wonderful designs of providence so ordered. When the archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to bring forth the Messiah, she did not consent until she was clearly assured that her purity should be preserved intact. It was only when she heard that she was to conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, that she exclaimed, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” Thrice precious among all the jewels of Heaven is this grace of virginity of which Mary was the example. Her holy soul was also beyond the reach of any contamination. No darkness or ignorance ever clouded its clear view of God and things eternal. Every thought was the inspiration of the Divine Spirit Who dwelt in her, and the pure intention with which every act was performed made her least work an acceptable offering in the sight of Heaven. In her heart was no place for any merely human affection. If she loved any human thing, it was by love which first went up to God, and then descended from Him to His creatures. In her there was no division of services, no half-way consecration. All was for God. She was a temple filled with His life and light, and ever resounding with His praise such purity the creation had not before seen. It was a wonderful condescension to our fallen humanity that she was made a creature like unto us, instead of a bright angel formed to tread the golden streets of the celestial city, and walk in the midst of the stones of fire. Yet Mary, the second Eve, the Mother of the living race, was only a daughter of Adam adopted by God as His own daughter, the Mother of His Son, and the spouse of His eternal Spirit.
Of all virtues, perhaps chastity is the most difficult to practice. In our fallen state the flesh ever rebels against the spirit, and the motions of concupiscence are sometimes a heavy trial to the regenerate soul. Sense allures with the sight of apparent good, and our appetites are seduced by the desire of gratification. Without grace we cannot overcome the power of sin in our members. But thanks be to God, Who hath given us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Under the new law where sin abounded, grace much more abounds. The Redeemer has wrought a perfect work. He has left grace to counteract every effect of the fall, and His blood has power to cleanse every stain and defilement. He pours His Spirit into our hearts and washes us clean from every transgression. He gives us His own flesh, which is the food of angels, and His own blood, which is the wine that germinates virgins. He gives us the immaculate Mary for our Mother, and He brings the young heart to her and seeks to preserve it from the contamination of the world. What more could infinite love devise? God calls us all to preserve purity according to our state of life. Virginal chastity is not the lot of all His servants. But all are bound to seek Him alone with upright souls, and to be pure in heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” shall draw nigh to Him in this life, and experience even on earth His gracious manifestations. And in proportion as we purify our hearts, does the great King come near us, to draw us more completely within the circle of His attractions, and to bring us to oneness with Himself. For all our past sins against this great virtue there is a remedy at hand. A stream purer far than Jordan rolls at our feet. We must wash in it seven times and we shall be clean, and the flesh of a child shall come back to us. For every present temptation we have a ready assistance. Jesus and Mary are ours. We have but to ask, and the arm that prostrated the tempter in the wilderness will hold us up. We have but to call upon Mary, and the serpent whose head she crushed will flee away. The cool breath of the rose of Sharon will revive our fainting spirit; the fragrance of the lily of the valley will throw around us the air of Heaven. And for the future let us prize our purity even above all virtues. Let us guard our senses, for the least touch will defile us. Our unguarded moment will undo the work of many years. Let us remember that we belong to God, that Jesus is our Master, that Mary is our Mother. Whatever grace God may deny us, let us ask Him to give us this most precious jewel of chastity. Let Him bring us into the waters of affliction, or prostrate our strength beneath the wasting power of disease, rather than let us fall victims to sin which defiles the body and kills the soul. And happy are they who can follow closely in Mary’s footsteps. The heavenly Bridegroom will be faithful to them. He will lead them into green pastures, and one day they shall follow Him wheresoever He goeth.