Heaven in Her Hands
We can find Heaven in the hands of Mary as well as in her Heart. If her Heart is the image by which we understand her inner life, purity, and motherly love, then her hands express her maternal activity in praying for us, protecting us, and bringing God’s grace to us. In sacred images and in our own spiritual life, we see Mary’s hands holding Jesus and presenting Him to us as our Savior. We also see them folded in prayerful intercession for us, and we see them streaming with the light of the heavenly graces she brings to us as Mediatrix. Most tenderly, we also recognize those motherly hands pressing us lovingly to her Immaculate Heart, thus offering us a foretaste of Paradise.
A particularly striking experience of the heavenly hands of Mary was recounted by Lucia of Fatima, when Our Lady appeared to them: “Mary opened Her hands, and we were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light’s reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it… She opened Her hands and for the second time, She communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards Heaven, and I in that which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation…”
What I find so fascinating and attractive is that Our Lady, who lives in Heaven with God and the angels and saints, is so full of Heaven, full of grace, full of God, that she can communicate his divine Light through her own hands. She opens them and the whole light of Heaven that permeates her is spread out over the children, and they are thus able to enter into an extraordinary communion with God that draws them immediately to worship Him, as if they had just entered Heaven itself. Mary holds Heaven in her hands, as it were, and she can communicate its light and grace to whomever God sends her.
So it is through Mary’s hands that the light and grace of God are given to us. This is expressed in the Church’s teaching on Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace:
“St. Bernard comments thus: ‘Just as every rescript of grace or of pardon that is sent by a king passes through the palace gates, in the same way every grace that comes from Heaven to the world passes through the hands of Mary’” (The Glories of Mary, ch. 5).
“…we are profoundly convinced that the destiny of God’s people is in the power of his grace, which in turn is abundantly dispensed through the hands of his Blessed Mother Mary…” (address of Blessed John Paul II, Oct. 1980).
“…since Divine Providence willed that the God-Man should come to us through Mary, who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and bore Him in her womb, we can now receive Christ only from the hands of Mary…” (Ad Diem Illum, Pope St Pius X).
“God has made Mary the dispensatrix of all His graces and favors to men, so that absolutely nothing comes down from Heaven to man save through the hands of this holy Mother… This explains why our heart burns so ardently with love for Mary… This influx of grace which gives life to the soul seems to proceed so directly from the loving Heart and hands of Mary… that She appears to us as the absolute Mistress of the divine treasures, from which She takes what She pleases in order to adorn our souls and render them beautiful in the sight of God…” (Venerable Marie Petyt).
“No heavenly gift is given to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such indeed is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary…” (St Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #25).
A few passages from Mary’s messages from Heaven direct us to her motherly hands as well: “With the act of consecration you have put your life in my hands. Now it belongs to me; it is mine… With my own hands, I root out from you whatever might, in any way, be displeasing to the Lord… Let yourself be led always by the hand of your heavenly Mother… I have taken your heart into my hands; I have placed it into my motherly Heart… My Son gives to me all those souls who come to me with confidence, calling upon my aid. Their salvation is in my hands…”
Finally (though all the above is just a sample of what we can meditate upon while contemplating the hands of our heavenly Mother), there is the extraordinary vision of Our Lady granted to the unbelieving Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, who immediately afterward converted to Catholicism and shortly became a priest. The following is part of the account of his vision and conversion:
“Ratisbonne drew out his medal [a Miraculous Medal he had been given, and put on only as a lark], kissed it, and showed it me, saying, ‘I saw her! I saw her!’ and again emotion choked his words, but soon he grew calmer and spoke. I shall give his own words: ‘I had only been in the church a moment when I was suddenly seized with an indescribable agitation of mind. I looked up and found that the rest of the building had disappeared. One single chapel seemed to have gathered all the light and concentrated it in itself. In the midst of this radiance I saw someone standing on the altar, a lofty shining figure, all majesty and sweetness, the Virgin Mary just as she looks on this medal. Some irresistible force drew me towards her. She motioned to me to kneel down and when I did so, she seemed to approve. Unable to look up because of the blinding light, I fixed my glance on her hands, and in them I could read the expression of mercy and pardon. In the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin, even though she did not speak a word to me, I understood the frightful situation I was in, my sins and the beauty of the Catholic Faith. Though she never said a word, I understood her perfectly’ … At first he had been able to see the Queen of Heaven clearly, appearing in all the splendor of her immaculate beauty; but he had not been able to bear the radiance of that divine light for long. Three times he had tried to look up to her, and three times he had found himself unable to raise his eyes higher than her hands, from which blessings and graces seemed to be falling like so many shining rays.”
It is a delicate detail that Mary “spoke” to Ratisbonne through her hands. In seeing their beauty and the divine light shining through them, he learned all he needed to know.
We ought, then, to place ourselves in the loving hands of Mary, allow her to press us to her Immaculate Heart, and to carry us in this way to Our Lord. All graces come to us from God through Mary’s hands, so we ought to turn to her in all our needs, and also honor her fittingly for this extraordinary and unique privilege granted her by the infinite love of the Lord. Let us not hesitate to kiss the hand through which God’s gifts are granted to us, and do so even when his gifts take the form of a cross. This will be a profound expression of our love and trust, and it will be rewarded by God.
If we are faithful to the end, we will live with God in Heaven forever. When it comes time for us to leave this world, the heavenly Queen and Mother, to whom we have prayed countless times to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death,” will come joyfully to us—with Heaven in her hands.
To be continued…