Homily for the Feast of the Miraculous Medal
Homily for the Feast of the Miraculous Medal
An Argentinian silversmith, Juan Carlos Pallarols, is handcrafting a simple silver chalice for Pope Francis, which will be embossed with two images of the Blessed Mother: Our Lady of Lujan, an Argentinian image of the Immaculate Conception, associated with a 17th century miracle, and Our Lady Undoer of Knots, a German devotion which Cardinal Bergoglio brought to Argentina in the 1980′s and has since promoted there. The same silversmith collaborated with Cardinal Bergoglio in designing another chalice, embossed with the image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots, which the Cardinal presented to Pope Benedict shortly after he ascended to the Chair of St. Peter.
It is quite interesting that that this Argentinian pope should have a personal attraction to the German devotion. It provides a kind of link between the two successors of St. Peter, of which there are others. Continue reading
The iconography of heaven referenced in my post for the Immaculate Conception, particularly as it relates to the Miraculous Medal, finds an antecedent in the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was painted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma by the Virgin Herself. She is clothed with the sun and is standing on the moon. Though the artists rendition above includes the serpentine imagery from Apocalypse 12, the actual image on the tilma has no depiction of the serpent. One might think that any reference to Genesis 3:15 is only indirect by way of the allusion through the commonality of The Woman.
But not so. In fact, the heavenly iconography of Guadalupe passes from the prophecy of Genesis and the vision of St. John right into the history that it was intended to address. The image itself is a miracle that manifests and perpetuates the Virgin’s presence. We see what Juan Diego saw. Once Our Lady’s command to build a temple was obeyed, the image came to rest on Tepeyac Hill, where formerly, before the conquest of Mexico by Cortes, there had been a shrine to the Aztec goddess Coatlicue (below).
Yes, she is the mother goddess with two serpent heads who wears a snake skirt and human body parts for a necklace.
There is a sense in which this idol (image) completes the iconography of the Virgin, insofar as image of cactus cloth smashes the stone idol. According to Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, the glyph for a conquered civilization was a burning temple turned on its side. The building of a new temple, the original of which was completed within two weeks of the apparitions, was the sign of a new beginning, the founding of a civilization of love. The serpent is not in the icon because the very icon itself is what crushes his head, through the force of Our Lady’s mediation.
Think about this: Juan Diego was given a mission to be Our Lady’s instrument to crush the serpent’s head in New Spain. He simply obeyed in trust and total abandonment. All he really needed to do was take the message to the bishop. The result was that the image was produced miraculously and then placed where our Lady wanted it, right over the serpent’s head, over the mockery of truth, life, beauty and motherhood.
Devotion to Mary is smashing dragons.
Click here for a homily of mine for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel (Gen 3:15b).
This primordial prophecy of sacred scripture is a word picture that has served over the ages to instill in the hearts of the faithful confidence in the power of the Immaculate Conception. The image of the Woman of Genesis 3:15 with Her foot on the head of the serpent is a source of confidence of countless souls who wear the Miraculous Medal (the Medal of the Immaculate Conception). St. Maximilian called the Medal his Silver Bullet. Indeed it is a visual exorcism over the enemies of faith and charity, because of its reference to Genesis 3:15.
Blessed Pope Pius IX utilized this verse, evincing such a militant and confident spirit, as the principle scriptural text in the bull of definition for the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus.
The verse in its entirety reads: (a) I will put enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and Her seed; (b) She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel. Pius IX, in accord with the received tradition, teaches that enmity exists between the Woman and the serpent only because She is never under His power through sin. The enmity indicates, not only the fact that there is this unbridgeable gulf between the Woman and the serpent, but also that the two are engaged in an unending conflict. In this She is associated with Her Seed, namely, Christ. In fact this association is emphasized in the verse in the way that parts (a) and (b) complete each other. The first part sets up a parallel that is recapitulated in the second.
In part (a) The Woman and the serpent are set in opposition and then likewise Her Seed and the serpent’s seed. In part (b) the Woman completes the relation of opposition by destroying the serpent.
Much has been written concerning the second part of the verse, as to whether it should read He (Christ) shall crush thy head heel or She (Mary) shall crush thy head. (Here is a good argument in favor of the Marian interpretation of 3:15b). Regardless of what conclusions one might come to with respect to the most accurate translation, several things should be noted: first of all, the woman is definitely associated with the Seed in a mutual hatred for the serpent, so much so that promised Redeemer is identified as none other than the Seed of the Woman; secondly, that the logic of part (a) calls for the completion of part (b), so that whether the Woman is mentioned explicitly or not Her collaboration in the crushing of the serpent’s head is at least implied.
For this reason, and because of the Church’s use of the Marian translation of part (b) within the liturgy, we need to be convinced that the image of the Immaculate Conception standing on the serpent’s head tells us something profoundly important. Whether it is the bas-relief of Our Lady on the Medal of the Immaculate Conception (Miraculous Medal) or one of the many painted versions of the Immaculate Conception, like the one of Rubens at the head of this post, one of the identifying features of Our Lady portrayed under this particular title is the representation of Her immaculate foot over the proud and defeated head of Satan.
What this tells us is that Our Lady’s immaculate purity of heart is powerful and victorious. Not only is it beautiful and all-holy, it a sword in the hand of God.
This interpretation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is confirmed and strengthened with the support of the Church’s understanding of Apocalypse 12, another militant passage in which the Woman is pitted against the serpent (this time in the form of a red dragon). In this passage Our Lady is clothed with sun, stands on the moon and is crowned with twelve stars. In some images of the Immaculate Conception of the Imagery of Genesis 3 and Apocalypse 12 are combined, both strengthening the symbolism and using the one passage to interpret the other (as Ruben’s renders it above). This imagery of Apocalypse 12 indicates both a state of militancy and triumph. Our Lady is both suffering here on earth and glorified in heaven. This is because She is the personification of the Church, which is both militant and triumphant. Those of us who still suffer already share in the victory of those who have passed through the veil. This is particularly true in the way in which we participate in the victory of the Woman.
Jesus Christ, our victorious King, has chosen to associate His Mother in His Redeeming work in an absolutely unique way. He created Her immaculate so that She might be the worthy Tabernacle of His presence, and also so that She by worthy to stand by Him at the foot of the Cross and suffer with Him in a way that was meritorious for salvation of all. Our Lord made Her so perfect that Our Lady She possesses a holiness greater than which cannot be conceived. He is so perfect a Redeemer that the most perfect fruit of His perfect redemption is associated with Him in His redeeming action.
For this reason, Satan fears Our Lady. His hatred for Her is bitter but futile, for, as Apocalypse 12 shows us, he is unable to touch either Her or Her child. Our Lady is His humiliation. The Fathers of the Church, interpreting Apocalypse 12 teach that fall of Satan and the bad angels was due to a rejection of the mystery of the Incarnation, especially insofar as it pertains to Our Lady’s Queenship over all the angels. (For a great explanation of this as it relates to the Immaculate Conception, see The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God: An Exposition, by Bishop Ullathorne, c. viii, pp. 65-76.)
The last verse of Apocalypse 12 is a synopsis of the whole of sacred history as the ongoing hatred of Satan for the Woman:
And the dragon was angry against the Woman: and went to make war with the rest of Her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (17).
Satan is always standing on the frontier of each human life, seething with hatred for Jesus and Mary and perceiving their image and likeness in us and projecting his hatred for them onto us. He longs to destroy us, but his designs will be frustrated if we are truly the rest of Her seed.
St. Maximilian always counseled his friars and the members of the Militia Immaculatae to make the novena leading up to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception a time to examine one’s conscience in respect to the degree of surrender they had made to the Immaculate. The day of the solemnity was to be the most precious time of grace in which one was to renew their consecration and resolve to live it more faithfully. War is never easy. We should not expect the spiritual life to be anything but constant struggle. Our blessings and consolations will come not in spite of struggle but as a fruit of it.
The spiritual life is a battle. Our Lady is the Immaculate Warrior Queen is the Victrix of Lepanto and of every conflict that threatens the salvation of souls. May we always have confidence in the She who is tota pulchra, all beautiful. Let our confidence be our consolation.
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere.
Breathe freely. It will do you some good.
Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
I am off on my last leg of my journey from California to Texas. I will be preaching in a parish in the Houston-Galveston Dallas Archdiocese for a few days in preparation for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
St. Maximilian always exhorted those consecrated to the Immaculate to use the novena in preparation for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception as a time to do an examination of conscience relative to the standard of holiness required of one who is thus consecrated.
In a particular way, those who consider themselves to be Her “knights” ought to consider the patrocinium or vow that they have made to Her. In days of old, during the golden age of chivalry, some priests and religious, most notably those among the Franciscans were inspired to take a vow of blood to defend Our Lady in Her prerogative of the Immaculate Conception whenever the opportunity arose, even at the risk of shedding their blood. I conceive the Marian Vow as it should be lived by the Knights of Lepanto as something along these lines.
While the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is now defined a dogma and know longer needs to be defended in the face of theological opposition among Catholics, the doctrine of Our Lady’s Mediation and Coredemption does.
Furthermore, there are plenty of opportunities to defend Our Lady’s honor in the face of minimalism and error. Every knight of Our Lady should consider it a great honor to have the opportunity to stand up for the Blessed Mother and a disgrace to fail to do so. Consider well what true Marian Chivalry is and what the vow truly means.
In my last post, I had mentioned the vow of blood professed by some friars to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and how such conviction and devotion led to the Franciscan Triumph. It was certainly a form of chivalry, and not entirely bookish, especially by virtue of such a vow. Prowess directed toward the preservation of all that is true, good and beautiful: is this not true manliness?
Here is Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B. on the Triumph of the Immaculate Conception and Her Knights. (Notice how the good Benedictine is humble to tip his hat to the Friars Minor. Would that Our Lady’s Brothers of Penance in the Order of Penance be so self-forgetful.):
But, whilst thus mentioning the different nations which have been foremost in their zeal for this article of our holy faith, the Immaculate Conception, it were unjust to pass over the immense share which the seraphic Order, the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned John Duns Scotus! And when at length the great day of the definition of the Immaculate Conception came, how justly merited was that grand audience, which the Vicar of Christ granted to the Franciscan Order, and with which closed the pageant of the glorious solemnity! Pius IX. received from the hands of the children of St. Francis a tribute of homage and thankfulness, which the Scotist school, after having fought four hundred years in defence of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, now presented to the Pontiff.
In the presence of the fifty-four Cardinals, forty-two archbishops, and ninety-two bishops; before an immense concourse of people that filled St. Peter’s, and had united in prayer, begging the assistance of the Spirit of truth; the Vicar of Christ had just pronounced the decision which so many ages had hoped to hear. The Pontiff had offered the holy Sacrifice on the Confession of St. Peter. He had crowned the statue of the Immaculate Queen with a splendid diadem. Carried on his lofty throne, and wearing his triple crown, he had reached the portico of the basilica; there he is met by the two representatives of St. Francis: they prostrate before the throne: the triumphal procession halts: and first, the General of the Friars Minor Observantines advances, and presents to the holy Father a branch of silver lilies: he is followed by the General of the Conventual Friars, holding in his hand a branch of silver roses. The Pope graciously accepted both. The lilies and the roses were symbolical of Mary’s purity and love; the whiteness of the silver was the emblem of the lovely brightness of that orb, on which is reflected the light of the Sun; for, as the Canticle says of Mary, ‘she is beautiful as the moon. The Pontiff was overcome with emotion at these gifts of the family of the seraphic patriarch, to which we might justly apply what was said of the banner of the Maid of Orleans: ‘It had stood the brunt of the battle; it deserved to share in the glory of the victory.’ And thus ended the glories of that grand morning of the eighth of December, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.
This is the title of the reatreat I am giving our sisters here in Bloomington, Indiana who are preparing to renew their vows on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The line comes from a prayer composed spontaneously be Blessed John Duns Scotus, and which has entered into the language of the liturgy as an antiphon from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The full text is Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.
The story goes that Scotus was on his way by foot to Paris where he was to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception during a disputation conducted at the great University of Paris. Along the way he passed by a wayside shrine of Our Blessed Lady, and was inspired to kneel down and say this prayer. Our Blessed Lady was pleased to acknowledge the humility and devotion of her servant by miraculously manifesting that the prayer had been heard and answered.
The statue animated and bowed to the Blessed John, and he went on to Paris to brilliantly defend Our Lady’s prerogative of Her Immaculate Conception. The Franciscan Order has generally been recognized as one of the principle instruments for the defense and articulation of the dogma. Blessed Pope Pius IX, in fact, used the argumentation of Blessed John Duns Scotus as the basis for the papal bull defining the dogma in 1854. That defining moment is know affectionately within the Order as the Franciscan Triumph.
St. Maximilian Kolbe believed that the dogma was a blueprint for Catholic life, a battle plan for the crushing of the serpent’s head in our godless age. His act of consecration is a chivalric commitment, in our order a vow of blood to fight under Our Lady’s banner for the extension of the kingdom of Christ. Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.