The “pilgrimage of faith’
7. I wrote in Novo Millennio Ineunte: “One can never really reach Jesus except by the path of faith” (n. 19). This was the path that Mary followed throughout her earthly life and it is the path of the pilgrim Church until the end of time. The Second Vatican Council placed great emphasis on Mary’s faith, mysteriously shared by the Church, shedding light on the journey of Our Lady from the moment of the Annunciation to the moment of the redemptive Passion (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 57, 67; Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, nn. 25-27).
In the writings of St Louis Marie we find the same accent on the faith lived by the Mother of Jesus in her journey from the Incarnation to the Cross, a faith in which Mary is the model and type of the Church. St Louis Marie expresses this with a range of nuances, when in his letter he expounds on the “marvellous effects” of perfect Marian devotion: “The more, then, that you gain the favour of that august Princess and faithful Virgin, the more will you act by pure faith; a pure faith which will put you above all sensible consolations and extraordinary favours; a lively faith animated by charity, which will enable you to perform all your actions from the motive of pure love; a faith firm and immovable as a rock, through which you will rest quiet and constant in the midst of storms and hurricanes; a faith active and piercing, which like a mysterious skeleton key, will give you entrance into all the mysteries of Jesus, the ultimate goal of man, and into the heart of God himself; a courageous faith, which will enable you to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for God and for the salvation of souls; lastly, a faith which will be your blazing torch, your divine life, your hidden treasure of divine wisdom and your omnipotent arms, which you will use to enlighten those who are in the darkness of the shadow of death, to inflame those who are lukewarm and who have need of the heated gold of charity, to give life to those who are dead through sin, to touch and move by your meek and powerful words the hearts of stone and the cedars of Lebanon, and finally, to resist the devil and all the enemies of salvation” (cf. Treatise on True Devotion, n. 214).
Like St John of the Cross, St Louis Marie insists above all on the purity of faith and its essential and often sorrowful darkness (cf. The Secret of Mary, nn. 51-52). Contemplative faith, by giving up tangible or extraordinary things, penetrates the mysterious depths of Christ. Thus, in his prayer, St Louis Marie addresses the Mother of the Lord saying: “I do not ask you for visions, revelations, sensible devotion or spiritual pleasures…. Here below, I wish for nothing other than that which was yours: to believe sincerely without spiritual pleasures” (ibid., p. 72). The Cross is the crowning moment of Mary’s faith, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: “Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying…. This is perhaps the deepest kenosis of faith in human history” (n. 18).
A sign of sure hope
8. The Holy Spirit invites Mary to reproduce her own virtues in the elect, extending in them the roots of her “invincible faith” and “firm hope” (cf. Treatise on True Devotion, n. 34). The Second Vatican Council recalled this: “The Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 68). This eschatological dimension is contemplated by St Louis Marie especially when he speaks of the “apostles of the latter times” formed by the Blessed Virgin to bring to the Church Christ’s victory over the forces of evil (cf. Treatise on True Devotion, nn. 49-59). This is in no way a form of “millenarianism”, but a deep sense of the eschatological character of the Church linked to the oneness and saving universality of Jesus Christ. The Church awaits the glorious coming of Jesus at the end of time. Like Mary and with Mary, the saints are in the Church and for the Church to make her holiness shine out and to extend to the very ends of the earth and the end of time the work of Christ, the one Saviour.
In the antiphon Salve Regina, the Church calls the Mother of God “our Hope”. The same term is used by St Louis Marie who took it from a text of St John Damascene, who applies to Mary the biblical symbol of the anchor (cf. Hom I in Dorm. B.V.M., 14: PG 96, 719): “”We fasten our souls'”, he says, “”to your hope, as to an abiding anchor’. It is to her that the saints who have saved themselves have been the most attached and have done their best to attach others, in order to persevere in virtue. Happy, then, a thousand times happy, are the Christians who are now fastened faithfully and entirely to her, as to a firm anchor!” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 175). Through the devotion to Mary, Jesus himself “enlarges the heart with firm confidence in God, making it look upon him as a Father” (ibid., n. 169).
Together with the Blessed Virgin and with the same maternal heart, the Church prays, hopes and intercedes for the salvation of all men and women. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium concludes with these words: “The entire body of the faithful pours forth urgent supplications to the Mother of God and of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honoured with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (n. 69).
As I once again make my own this hope which I expressed, along with the other Council Fathers almost 40 years ago, I send to the entire Montfort Family a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2003, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
JOHN PAUL II