Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meditation on First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: Mary's Role In Our Salvation

Yesterday, October 6, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
Battle of Lepanto
Coincidentally, today is the Feast of of the Most Holy Rosary of the BVM.  The reason for this feast is that on October 7, 1571, the Muslim Turks, known as the Ottoman Empire, were defeated by the European Christians, known as the Hapsburg Empire.  It was the time of the Protestant revolt against the Church causing great turmoil in Europe, and the Muslims felt this was a most opportune time to attack. 

The fate of all Europe hung in the balance.  If the Muslims were victorious, Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, would be crushed and Sharia law would be the law of the land.  As Integrated Catholic Life tells us:
This feast day of the Church (October 7) finds its origins in the defeat of the Turkish fleet by Christian naval forces at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The victory was attributed by Pope Pius V to Mary’s intercession as people all across Europe prayed the Rosary on that day for victory. As a result, he established the Feast of Our Lady of Victory in thanksgiving to God.

This began as a local feast. In 1716, Pope Clement XI made this a feast of the universal Church. The name as we know it today was adopted in 1573.
 
Catholic Culture tells us that the Christians were badly outnumbered at the Battle of Lepanto:
The Turks had an estimated 328 ships, of which 208 were galleys, the rest being smaller supporting craft. Aboard them were nearly 77,000 men, including 10,000 Janissaries, but also 50,000 oarsmen, many of them Christian slaves. At Don Juan's command were 206 galleys, along with 40,000 oarsmen and sailors, and more than 28,000 soldiers, knights, and gentleman adventurers. He also had the blessings of the pope and the papal banner; the ministrations of Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Capuchins who accompanied the fleet, the prayers of the faithful; and the rosaries that were pressed into the hands of every Christian oarsman.  
The results of the battle:
Not only was the battle lost for the Turk, but so were 170 of his galleys and 33,000 men killed, wounded, or captured, as well as 12,000 liberated Christian slaves. Lost was a generation of experienced Ottoman bowmen and seamen; and though a mighty fleet could, and indeed was, rebuilt, and though the sultan was committed to renewing the jihad by sea — or if not by sea, then by land — the threat of the Ottoman Turks dominating the Mediterranean was finished.
Catholic losses were 7,500 dead — though many of these were knights and noblemen — and another 22,000 wounded (including Miguel de Cervantes). Pope Pius V, who had commanded the faithful to pray the rosary for victory, was convinced that it was prayer that had turned the tide. The Battle of Lepanto became the feast day of Our Lady of Victory, later of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Our Lady of Victory
Pope Pius V was the Pope who gave us the Tridentine Council and all the wonderful things connected with that council, including the official Tridentine Mass. 

Integrated Catholic Life quotes from an encyclical of Pope Leo XIII regarding this tremendous victory entitled Supremi Apostolatus Officio:
“The efficacy and power of this devotion was also wondrously exhibited in the sixteenth century, when the vast forces of the Turks threatened to impose on nearly the whole of Europe the yoke of superstition and barbarism. At that time the Supreme Pontiff, St. Pius V., after rousing the sentiment of a common defence among all the Christian princes, strove, above all, with the greatest zeal, to obtain for Christendom the favour of the most powerful Mother of God. So noble an example offered to heaven and earth in those times rallied around him all the minds and hearts of the age. And thus Christ’s faithful warriors, prepared to sacrifice their life and blood for the salvation of their faith and their country, proceeded undauntedly to meet their foe near the Gulf of Corinth, while those who were unable to take part formed a pious band of supplicants, who called on Mary, and unitedly saluted her again and again in the words of the Rosary, imploring her to grant the victory to their companions engaged in battle. Our Sovereign Lady did grant her aid; for in the naval battle by the Echinades Islands, the Christian fleet gained a magnificent victory, with no great loss to itself, in which the enemy were routed with great slaughter. And it was to preserve the memory of this great boon thus granted, that the same Most Holy Pontiff desired that a feast in honour of Our Lady of Victories should celebrate the anniversary of so memorable a struggle, the feast which Gregory XIII. dedicated under the title of “The Holy Rosary.” Similarly, important successes were in the last century gained over the Turks at Temeswar, in Pannonia, and at Corfu; and in both cases these engagements coincided with feasts of the Blessed Virgin and with the conclusion of public devotions of the Rosary. And this led our predecessor, Clement XL, in his gratitude, to decree that the Blessed Mother of God should every year be especially honoured in her Rosary by the whole Church.” (Pope Leo XIII; Supremi Apostolatus Officio, 4; September 1, 1883). 
It has become my custom to post my meditation on one of the mysteries of the Rosary on the First Saturday of each month.  I recently did a post on the First Joyful Mystery, which is the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to our Blessed Mother in which the angel Gabriel announces to the young girl Mary that she has been chosen by the  Creator of the Universe to be the Mother of God. Normally I like to vary my meditations among the various mysteries of the Rosary. However, this is October, which is the month of the Rosary, and since this is the Feast of of the Most Holy Rosary of the BVM, I would like to concentrate on the importance of our Blessed Mother's role in the history and salvation of mankind.

So this month I am going back to the First Joyful Mystery, in which our Lady's answer to the Trinity changed not the history of just one country, but of the entire world for all time.  Mary was a young Jewish girl, whose nation had been enslaved by the Romans.  The Jews were a part of the once powerful nation of Israel which had been handpicked by God to be a witness to the world of God's glory.  Approximately 1500 years before this time, the Israelites had been slaves in the land of Egypt.  They were rescued by God, who had rescued them from slavery and made them into a nation.  But they squandered this magnificent blessing through grave sin and disobedience down through the generations and had been enslaved first by the Persians and now by the Romans. 

Mary lived in the forgotten land of Nazareth in a city called Galilee ruled over by the Romans.  Her family had no standing in society at all.  They were poor people in a poor land.  The consensus among people at that time is found in John 1:46 - "Can any thing of good come from Nazareth?"  To use an analogy, Haiti may be the poorest and most downtrodden country in the world.  Would that be where we would expect a Savior to arise? 

Yet, it was to a young and most likely uneducated girl in the forgotten land of Nazareth that the angel Gabriel appeared.  He greeted her in a most unusual way:
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
This is a simple statement, but one packed with awesome meaning. 

"Hail, full of grace."  This means that Mary had no sin attributed to her.  She was completely filled with God's grace, a perfect human being unstained by the world.  She was like one who lived in a garbage dump and yet no taint of any of the dirty, foul smelling debris with which she was surrounded had attached itself to her.  She was completely pristine and pure.  Not even the original sin of our first parents, inherited by all human beings, tainted Mary.  Never once did she have a vain or selfish thought or action, never once was she angry or harsh with another human being, she never once spoke a cross word.  She was completely filled with the Love of God.  The world had never seen such a human being. 

"The Lord is with thee."  The devil lays claim to each and every human being when they are born.  Unless and until we are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, we are the property of Satan and completely cut off from God.  But the Blessed Mother was never contaminated by sin at any time in her life.  From the time of her Immaculate Conception, she was at one with the Trinity.  Satan never had any claim to her.  She was completely at one with God.  Where Mary was, there was the Triune God.  They were never separated. 

"Blessed are thou among women."  Through mother Eve, all women received a curse from God.  Gen 3:16:
To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee.
Mary did not know the sorrow of other women.  The only one who had dominion over Mary was the Creator God.  The children born to all other women were conceived through the sin of this world and born into sin, bringing deep sorrow and pain.  No other woman was pure enough to be the Temple of God, the living Ark of the Covenant, as our Blessed Mother was.  Only she was blessed and able to bear the Son of God.

It should be noted that although our Blessed Mother did not suffer from the sorrow that afflicted all other women, her suffering was actually much deeper and more severe in that she sacrificed her Son to save the world. 

The angel Gabriel then made an astounding statement that only the simple and humble could understand.  Those who were highly educated and the elite of this word would never understand this message or accept it.  Luke 1:30-33:
And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
This was the most momentous moment in the history of man up to that time.  The entire fate of mankind rested upon the answer of this young girl.  She has been specially prepared and preserved from sin to be the Ark of the New Covenant, the Theotokos, the God Bearer.  She was the one who would give the nature of man to the God of the Universe.  It was this nature that would enable Him to die upon a Cross and through the saving power of his Precious Blood, rescue mankind from Satan and eternal damnation in hell.  But Mary still had free will.  She was as free to say No as our first parents were.  Just as our Lord was forced to cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden and forbid them access to the Tree of Life because they said No to Him, Our Lord could not save mankind without the cooperation and the "Yes" of this young girl.

The young girl answered:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.
 It was at her Yes that we are told in John 1:14:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Jesus is our Saviour.  It is only through his Sacrifice that we can be saved from our sins.  But he chose to do this through His Blessed Mother, Mary.  Mary was prepared and chosen by God to be the Mother of the One who would rescue all of mankind from our evil adversary, Satan, and from eternal damnation.  Mary was not a robot or an android of some kind.  She was as human as you and I are, with one BIG exception.  She was not stained by sin.  However, our first parents were created without the stain of sin, and that did not keep them from falling. 

All of the saints have realized just how vital Mary is to our salvation.  They all knew that we receive salvation from Christ only through the Blessed Mother.  It was only because of her Yes that he was able to come to earth as a man, and it is only our Yes through her that we can go to Christ.

St. Augustine of Hippo lived from 354 to 430 A.D.  This was before many of the dogmas of the Virgin Mary had been codified by the Church.  At the time of St. Augustine, the only official Marian dogma of the Church was that she was a perpetual virgin.  She had not even been officially acknowledged as the Mother of God, although most held this to be true.  This official dogma was not declared until 431 at the Council of Ephesus, a year after St. Augustine's death.  This was long before she had given us the Rosary through St. Dominic.  Yet, even at the time of St. Augustine, the Church was aware of the magnificent and vital role our Blessed Mother plays in our salvation.  This Prayer of Saint Augustine to the Blessed Virgin shows his profound understanding of Mary's Role in our salvation:
O blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay thee thy just dues of praise and thanksgiving, thou who by the wondrous assent of thy will didst rescue a fallen world? What songs of praise can our weak human nature recite in thy honor, since it is by thy intervention alone that it has found the way to restoration. Accept, then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, though they be unequal to thy merits; and receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offenses. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the antidote of our reconciliation. May the sins we bring before Almighty God through thee, become pardonable through thee; may what we ask for with sure confidence, through thee be granted. Take our offering, grant us our requests, obtain pardon for what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the remission of our sins, and in thee, O blessed Lady, is our hope of reward. Holy Mary, succour the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection. Be thou ever ready to assist us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it thy continual care to pray for the people of God, thou who, blessed by God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
Our Blessed Lady is always here for us.  She appeared at Guadalupe, Mexico and through her appearance stopped the human slaughter being carried out by the Aztec Indians and brought about the conversion of 9 million Mexicans.  The Mexicans to this day still give our Lady of Guadalupe deep and heartfelt honor and glory.

Our Lady gives the Scapular
to St. Simon Stock
Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic to stop heresies.  The Rosary is still one of our of our most powerful spiritual weapons.  St. Dominic said, "One day, through the rosary and scapular, she will save the world."  The Brown Scapular, given to St. Simon Stock in 1251, is so powerful that our Lady promises that, "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

The Brown Scapular

The victory of the Battle of Lepanto through the Rosary is just one example of Our Blessed Mother's constant intercession on our behalf.  If we put our total trust in her, we can never fail.  The devil had no power over Mary, and he will have no power over her trustful and devoted children. 

“When the Holy Spirit finds Mary in a soul, He enters that soul completely and communicates Himself completely to that soul.”
St. Louis de Montfort



3 comments:

  1. Aloha, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed my visit to your blog. God bless!

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