"Mary, Mystery of Mercy"

A Meditation as a Preparation for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.
December 8, 2003

Excerpt from a new book published by John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P.

The mystery of the Annunciation reveals the third act of the Father's mercy for Mary: the gift that the Father gives, that is His Son. It also reveals that only children can receive the Father's gift, that only children can receive the Father's secrets. God is not content only to envelop us with prevenient mercy, with mercy that educates us. God wants us to cooperate so that we might penetrate to the very heart of His personal mystery, the Trinity, and live it....

In the mystery of the Annunciation the Father gives His Son to Mary. And in order that this mystery extend into her heart, Mary, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives herself entirely in an act of loving ecstasy. She forgets herself in order to be close beside the Word, and so that the Word be close beside her. In receiving the One who is the gift of the Father, she herself becomes gift and welcome. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the mystery of the Annunciation involves a mission, the temporal mission to which the Father destines His Son. In the mission, the eternal procession of the Son terminates in the heart of Mary, the heart of a creature. The same gift, eternally realized in the Trinity, the gift that the Father gives to the Son, is prolonged in the heart of Mary. However, the gift takes on a particular form: that of mercy, for it terminates in a creature, which it transforms.

Indeed, the Father cannot give his Son to a creature without that gift being an act of mercy. There can only be pre gift in the Trinity, the Father's gift of His Son is necessarily accompanied by mercy, unique and wonderful mercy. The Father can give no greater or more absolute gift: giving His Son to a creature and giving Him as Son, as He Himself, the Father, possesses Him eternally. The mercy which envelops the Father's gift at the Annunciation is realized and manifested precisely in the wonderful "adaptation" of the Incarnation. The Father wishes to give His Son to Mary in such a way that she receives Him as perfectly as possible. In her, the Word assumes human nature, the Word becomes flesh. In order for the gift to be perfect, Mary is called to cooperate with it in her own way. The Father's supreme mercy - which is infinitely delicate and tender-requires that the person who receives cooperate in this work of mercy so that it might become his or her own, all the while remaining something to which he or she has no right. Such a gift is received gratuitously. It is a gift which is also the most intimate fruit of the person's labor. Jesus is the Son of God. He is the gift of the Father. If the Father gives His Son to a creature and calls the creature to cooperate fully with the gift, the creature must be able to look at the Son as does the Father, that is, as his or her only son. Now, a creature can only look at the Word, the eternal Son of the Father, as her own son by becoming mother of His body, mother of the human nature that He assumes, and mother of the Word who assumes human nature....

Mary's will is exercised in evangelical littleness which is only perfect in love, in love given in response to God's gift. Only giving to the one who gives himself can bring about true littleness. Mary's will was entirely taken by and submitted to the love of God and so evangelical littleness comes about in her heart. Is evangelical littleness not the fundamental receptivity of charity as it stands before the greatness of God's love? Does not evangelical littleness express the special depth of the soul as it loves God supernaturally, a depth which has the soul, as it were, disappear in order to yield to the Beloved, to the One who is love? Once a person grasps that he gives himself to One who loved him first (because he is Love, the Source of all love, of all gift, because He is the only one who can teach us how to love), immediately littleness becomes the only real interior attitude. Such littleness in love gives to a Christian the sense of His radical incapacity to love God as God ought to be loved with all the qualities of love, with pure, disinterested generosity, with complete transparency, with no self-centeredness. We must love God as He loves us. The human heart, however, is incapable, by itself, of such simplicity, of such purity of love. When grasped with acuteness, this incapacity places us in a state of littleness, of radical humility. For, if we are incapable of loving, we can do nothing. Indeed, supernatural love gives our life its meaning and eternal value....

When grace, when charity, fully penetrates the heart, it purifies it radically and completely. This we can contemplate in Mary. In her, grace truly and completely penetrated. There is no trace of concupiscence. Everything in her is "absorbed" by charity which blossoms into evangelical littleness, enabling her to give herself totally, to forget herself completely, to consider only the Father's gift of His Son. Her disinterested and generous and tender love opens the living forces of her heart. There was no human heart more blossomed than that of Mary at the Annunciation.

Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. is a widely-respected scholar of Catholic theology. This is the first English translation of his work "Mystères de Misericorde", published in 1958 and again in 2000.

This is the third in a series of excerpts from Fr. Philippe's book.

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