It has been said by several mystics in the last century that the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the final gift that God is giving to the world for its conversion and salvation before the Second Coming of Christ. The role of Mary in the divine plan of salvation and in our own spiritual lives is part of “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God… that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known…” (Eph. 3:9-10). The Church has made known this mystery of Mary, planted as a seed in the soil of the Holy Scriptures and coming to full fruition in the life of the Holy Catholic Church. So the saints have said that if people would come to the Lord through his Mother, He would welcome them and spare them from the evils of this age and from eternal damnation. We see that all too few people have so far responded to this invitation and received this gift, but the offer is still open, precisely because it is the final one.
This corresponds well to what we find in the Gospel of John at the time of Jesus’ death on the Cross. Jesus says to Mary: “Woman, behold your son!” And then Jesus says to John: “Behold, your Mother!” It’s important to read the very next verse, which begins: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished…”
“After this… all was now finished.” This means that Jesus’ work wasn’t finished until He gave us his Mother as our own, and once He did so, his mission was complete. The gift of Mary to us as our Mother was the last gift Jesus gave to the world before He died. If people traditionally honor the last request of a dying man, how much more should we receive what the Son of God has given us just moments before He died! So, as Mary was Jesus’ final gift to us before the end of his life, her Immaculate Heart is his final gift to us before the end of the world.
At Cana and at the Cross, Mary is at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ public life—and she was obviously at the very beginning of his life through the incarnation and divine maternity. So we also find her to be present at the beginning of our lives: from the moment of our baptism, when she becomes our Mother—because at that moment we are adopted by the Father and become brothers and sisters of the Only-begotten Son—until the hour of our death, when she will be present at our final agony, as she stood next to the Cross of Jesus. Then He will tell us once more to behold our Mother, to receive the gift, and then be carried in her arms into the Kingdom of Heaven. We constantly pray to her to assist us now and at the hour of our death.
Jesus’ gift of Mary to us as our Mother is intimately connected with the Holy Eucharist, so she should be very close to our hearts. Blessed John Paul II made that clear in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (#57) when he wrote: “In the memorial of Calvary [which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice], all that Christ accomplished by his passion and his death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present. To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us… To each of us he also says: ‘Behold your mother!’ (cf. Jn. 19: 26-27). Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting—like John—the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist.” So Blessed John Paul says that at every Eucharistic Sacrifice not only are the mysteries of his death and resurrection manifested and communicated, but also the gift of Mary as our Mother, which is meant to be renewed at every Holy Mass.
In our lives, then, the paschal mystery of Christ finds its expression primarily in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, but also in the precious gift of his Mother, who is intimately united to all his divine mysteries.
Mary, having suffered so much in union with Jesus on the Cross, has the most reason to rejoice in his resurrection. A hymn to Our Lady during paschal time begins by saying: “An angel greeted you, O Full of Grace…” This sounds like the annunciation, but then it goes on to say, “Rejoice, for after three days your Son rose from the dead.” So perhaps as the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary just before Jesus entered her holy womb, the same Archangel announced to her the resurrection, moments before Jesus manifested Himself to her in his risen glory, as the mystics say He did—and how could it be otherwise?
Then the hymn immediately leaps forward to Mary’s final glorification, exulting: “Shine forth in splendor, New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen on you!” Our Lady shines forth in the power of the glory of the Lord, who has made her the Queen of Heaven. The Queen wields the power and authority of the King insofar as He grants it to her. It is his by nature, hers by grace. As an earthly king holds all power for himself, but shares it as he wills with the queen, so too Christ the King has exalted his Mother and shared the authority of his reign with her, because He loves more than anyone He has ever made. The picture I’ve posted here was not originally painted to depict the Queen of Heaven, but it has been used and accepted as such by a number of people in the Church (like Fr Donald Calloway in his new book, Under the Mantle), for the beauty and power of its Catholic symbolism. I think that any man with a chivalrous bone in his body would love this picture, would love to be knighted by his Lady, to serve her mission to gather souls for the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a beautiful image of the ideal of manly devotion and love—and the willingness to fight to the death to defend the honor of the Queen—which is lost on so many souls today, either because traditional ideals of truth, beauty, and goodness mean little to them, or because they simply refuse to honor her whom the Lord honors so highly in Heaven.
But there is more. The Queen, while the central figure in this picture, does not act alone. See how the bright light (the Uncreated Light of God, for our purposes), shines upon her right side, running down her arm and even into the blade of the sword. (I don’t know how it looks on your screen, but the darker the background is, the brighter the light looks.) So the power, the grace, is God’s, but the Queen, as Mediatrix of Grace, communicates it to us. She has often been sent by God over the centuries to call us to repent and return to the Lord, and by his power she has worked many miracles. So the Queen has authority from the King to consecrate “knights” for her service, who will labor for the triumph of her Immaculate Heart as she prophesied at Fatima, and who manifest the manly devotion which she inspires. God is jealous to defend her honor against those who would reject, denigrate, or ignore her, and so he sets aside certain persons and gives them a special vocation to offer service and reparation to her, thus vindicating God’s righteousness and winning the grace of repentance for those who blindly (or even hatefully) refuse to honor the Queen. Our Lady said to Sr Lucia of Fatima: “There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask for reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray…” While the ranks of the devout are mostly composed of women, this is an honorable thing a man can do: ask God to be taken into the service of the Queen, set apart to receive grace through her for the offering of reparation to her Immaculate Heart, and fruitful prayers and sacrifices for the salvation of souls. Thus you will receive the full benefit of the Lord’s “final gift” to mankind, and many others will benefit as well.
This post is also my final gift to you on Two Pillars. The Contemplatives of St Joseph have a mission that will consume all of my time, for a long time, and I will not even be able to dig up old homilies to recycle. I ask your prayers for this mission, because I need to spend many hours a day in prayer in addition to all this work, if it is going to be fruitful (and if I’m not to burn out through excessive activity!). If it were up to me, I would have a little cottage on the coast and spend the rest of my life praying and writing. But I’m here to do the Lord’s will, and He is moving me in a new direction. I trust that obedience will bear its fruit.
I will make this blog available indefinitely, since there is still much in the archives you can look through. It’s worth all the time and effort if I have been able to help some souls advance a little farther along the road of truth and love, of holiness and salvation. Pray for me as I will pray for you. Good-bye for now, and I hope to see you on the Other Side. And, as my old Unk Gene used to say: “God bless you and Mary keep you!”