The Immaculate Heart of Mary: A life of mediation
Today’s date marks the octave of the Assumption, the traditional feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a feast moved to earlier in the year in the modern calendar and lowered to an optional memorial. It is a shame for the feasts of the Assumption and the Immaculate Heart to have been thus divorced from each other in modern times, as the traditional date allows the Church more time to dwell on the glories of Mary, the wonders of the Assumption, and the role which she now plays in her celestial throne.
Dom Gueranger writes on this point in his commentary for the Octave day of the Assumption: “the immensity of grace and merit, whereby the Blessed Virgin’s supernatural perfection stands quite apart from all others, gives us a right to conclude that she has an equal supereminence in glory, which is always proportioned to the sanctity of the elect.” Indeed, the glories of her Assumption into heaven are matched only by the continuous act of love whereby she makes intercession for her children here below, from the tenderness of her Immaculate Heart.
“Mary desires nothing in heaven, and has nothing to desire,” writes St. Alphonsus. No other creature could be, or is, more closely united with God than she is. Having been assumed into the heavenly glory, the communion of hearts spills out as the outpouring of graces upon those desirous of following Christ. For the love which the Immaculate Heart has first and foremost for God, has a secondary element, namely that all those on earth respond to the divine call, and heed the will of God.
Mary desires that all come to love and imitate her Son, just as she loved and accompanied Him during His salvific mission of redemption. It is the natural response of her heart, for since she is so filled with the love of God, she cannot but will that all come to love Him as she does.
Having this feast after the Assumption therefore highlights this element of Mary’s work of mediation, for the saints and theologians teach that being “even nearer to God, she better knows our miseries, and her pity for us is greater while she is better able to help us.”
“Let us not fear that, amidst the great interests of the spreading of God’s Kingdom, she will forget our littleness or our miseries,” encourages Dom Gueranger. “She knows all that takes place in the obscurest corners, in the furthest limits of her immense domain…On the other hand, we must believe that her charity could not possibly be defective: as her love of God surpasses the love of all the elect, so the tenderness of all mothers united, centered upon an only child, is nothing to the love wherewith Mary surrounds the least, the most forgotten, the most neglected of all the children of God, who are her children too.”
The reign of the Immaculate Heart is one of utmost dedication to God, and one in which the humble virgin points always to Him, and never to herself. Despite receiving the most singular graces, the terrible honour of participating in the act of redemption, and being assumed into heaven, Mary does not take any of this glory unto herself. Rather, the feast of the Immaculate Heart is a reminder of how still in heaven, her life is dedicated to the love and service of God, to union with her Son, and being the channel of graces bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon all below.
The French Mariologist Pere Neubert notes this aspect in his discourse on the Assumption: “By the very fact that the Assumption makes us realise better how Mary is our Mother, how close she is to us, how well she knows our prayers and our needs, how warmly she sympathises with us in our joys and in our trials – this mystery also makes u understand more fully her will to save all her children in this world and realise better he earnest desire to have us aid her in the accomplishment of this mission.”
The outpouring of love and grace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the natural consequence not only of the Assumption, but of her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity, her Divine Maternity, and her co-operation in the redemption. Each of these honours and graces of Mary are oriented towards God, and the fulfilment of His will. Each action which she performs, is an act whereby she unites her will to His, always desirous of the salvation of souls and the glorification of almighty God.
It is important to thus dwell on the mystery of the Immaculate Heart at this juncture in the Church’s calendar, for as Dr. Kwasnieswki notes: “She is borne into heaven to emulate, enter into, and extend as Mediatrix of all graces the intercessory role of Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man. Clearly the Ascension and the Assumption in the tradition of spiritual theology (one need only look at the homilies of St. Bernard of Clairvaux) are about Jesus and Mary going to the throne of God to make intercession for us—obviously in two different ways.”
Small wonder therefore that St. Alphonsus closes his discourse on the Assumption, by making reference to the mediation which Mary continues to perform from her heavenly throne. Her mission of glorifying God and bringing souls to Christ does not end with her Assumption, but in many ways intensifies, as she now channels graces to all who offer earnest petition, as noted in the words of the Memorare:
Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.