Fair As The Moon-Fr. Louis Campbell
The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us an opportunity to reflect upon her virtues, especially her humility. Humility means seeing ourselves as we are, with a realistic view of both our virtues and our faults. Mary was a totally realistic person. She had no illusions about herself. Unspoiled by sin from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, she was not blinded by pride, and could see her true self with perfect clarity, as a mere creature contemplating the immensity of God. Aside from the human nature of the God-Man Himself, Mary was God’s most perfect work, a marvel of nature and grace, yet she gave the credit and the glory to God: “He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lk.1:49).
Unlike Mary, we who were born in the state of Original Sin tend to be blinded by pride. Even though we receive the gift of Sanctifying Grace through Baptism, we must live in a world of illusions. Mary recognized her complete dependence upon God, whereas pride inclines us to be independent and willful. Like strayed sheep, we often follow earthly heroes who are unworthy of our admiration, and accept the false values of a fallen humanity. We read in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!… The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear filled with hearing” (Eccles.1:2;8b).
The world is full of illusions and with fools who follow vain pursuits that lead nowhere. Elvis fans still make pilgrimages to his “shrine” thirty-six years after his death. A distinguished director has just signed on to make a new documentary of his life and career as “The King of Rock”. In England pilgrims flock to the “shrine” of the Princess Diana, who rests like a “goddess” in a pagan temple. But in the end they will have to shed their illusions and appear before Jesus Christ, the Just Judge, Who renders to every man according to his works.
The world persuades us that the most important questions in life is: “What do I want out of life, and how can I achieve success (without having to walk over too many people in the process)?” In search of the answer to this question we follow one wrong path after another. Often enough, when we get what we thought we wanted, we want something else instead. We end up unhappy and confused while envying the wealthy and the powerful, thinking that life has passed us by. Earthly idols and elusive dreams do not bring peace.
The question is not “What do I want?” but “What does God want of me?” Mary was always in readiness to do the Lord’s will, as we see in her response to the Angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to according to thy word” (Lk.1:38). Jesus, whose very food and drink was to do the will of the Father, is Himself our perfect role model, our hero. He says in St. John’s Gospel:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. Now this is the will of him who sent me, the Father, that I should lose nothing of what he has given me, but that I should raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father who sent me, that whoever beholds the Son, and believes in him, shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn.6:39,40).
It is not wrong to admire talented and successful people, but it is all too easy to find ourselves following the crowd down the slippery slope that leads to hell. “For what does it profit a man,” says the Lord, “if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mt.16:26).
“Tell me what you love,” says St. Augustine, “and I will tell you what you are.” If we love the sleazy, the crude and the grotesque, then we ourselves become sleazy, crude and grotesque. On the other hand, if we “behold the Son, and believe in him,” cultivating our friendship with Him, we become like the Son. If, like Mary, we ponder the things of God in our hearts, then we become like Mary – humble, obedient, and attached to the will of God, which is the source of our peace.
Now Mary works very quietly, but powerfully, and the secret of her power is her humility. Among the disasters precipitated by Vatican II was a steep decline in devotion to Mary. The Rosary was ridiculed and ended up in bureau drawers, if it was not destroyed outright. Like so many others I no longer said the Rosary, although I always carried it around in my pocket. At that time I was a young priest in Canada, where I went through some dark valleys. But one evening after dark I decided to go for a walk in the parking lot behind the church, and as I paced back and forth I happened to look up at the moon. I thought of the words the Church applies to Mary from the Canticle of Canticles: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?” (Cant.6:10). I reached into my pocket for my Rosary, and I began to pray the Rosary again.
The Church, wanting to inspire in us true devotion to Mary, our spiritual Mother, makes use of Scripture passages like this one from Ecclesiasticus, read on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
“As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor, and my flowers are the fruit of honor and riches. I am the mother of fair Love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits; for my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger; and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He who obeys me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting” (Sir.24:23-31).