Oh Sinless One!
Today’s feast of Sts. Joachim and Ann, Mary’s parents, reminded me of a very intriguing passage of Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest. A Novel. The Canon de Torcy is counseling the young priest:
“And what of Our Lady? Do you pray to Our Lady?’
‘We all say that – but do you pray to her as you should, as befits her? She is Our Mother – the mother of all flesh, a new Eve. But she is also our daughter. The ancient world of sorrow, the world before the access of grace, cradled her to its heavy heart for many centuries, dimly awaiting a virgo genetrix. For centuries and centuries, those ancient hands, so full of sin, cherished the wondrous girl-child whose name even was unknown. A little girl, the queen of Angels! And she is still a little girl, remember! The Middle Ages understood that well enough. They understood everything. You can’t stop fools from reconstructing ‘the drama of the Incarnation,’ as they call it! People who seem to think it adds to the dignity of a simple magistrate to dress him up like Punch, and plaster gold braid over a station-master’s sleeve, are too nervous to tell unbelievers that the one and only drama, the drama of dramas – since there is no other – was played without scenery, was never really staged. Think of it! The Word was made Flesh and not one of the journalists of those days even knew it was happening! When surely their experience should have taught them that true greatness, even human greatness, genius and courage, love, too – that ‘love’ of theirs – it’s the devil to recognize ‘em! So that ninety-nine times out of a hundred they have to take bouquets of rhetoric to the graves. The dead alone receive their homage. The blessedness of God! The simplicity of God, that terrible simplicity which damned the pride of the angels. Yes, the devil must have taken one look at it, and the huge flaming torch at the peak of creation was plunged down into the night… That triumphant entry into Jerusalem, for instance, so lovely! Our Lord deigned to taste of human triumph, as of other things, as of death… But remember this, lad, Our Lady knew neither triumph nor miracle. Her Son preserved her from the least tip-touch of the savage wing of human glory. No one has ever lived, suffered, died in such simplicity, in such ignorance of her own dignity, a dignity crowning her above the angels. For she was born without sin – in what amazing isolation! A pool so clear, so pure, that even her own image – created only for the sacred joy of the Father – was not to be reflected. The Virgin was Innocence. Think what we must seem to her, we humans. Of course she hates sin, but after all she has never known it, that experience which the holiest saints have never lacked, St. Francis of Assisi himself, seraphic though he may be. The eyes of Our Lady are the only real child-eyes, which have never been raised to our shame and sorrow. Yes, lad, to pray to her as you should, you must feel those eyes of hers upon you: they are not indulgent – for there is no indulgence without something of bitter experience – they are eyes of gentle pity, wondering sadness, and with something more in them, never yet known or expressed, something which makes her younger than sin, younger than the race from which she sprang, and though a mother, by grace, Mother of all grace, our little youngest sister.” (Kindle edition)
It’s a long quote, I know, but placed beside some of the marvelous meditations of the Doctors of the Church, concerning the home environment provided for Mary by Sts. Joachim and Ann, challenges us also to pray unceasingly as parents and for parents for the wisdom and love necessary to preserve our not-so-innocent little children from temptation and harm.
Bernanos’ high praise for the faith filled insights of the believers of the Middle Ages and to my mind their beautiful three generation images (carved, painted or illuminated) of an elderly Ann, a girl Mary and a baby Jesus will be for me forever more tied to the Canon de Torcy’s exhortation to his young protégé to pray to Mary, with the innocent eyes of my little youngest sister looking at me in my need, she, the Mother of all grace.
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