LADY’S NIGHT - “Mater Misericordiae”
I know that I’m a day late for this Lady’s Night, but any night can be Lady’s Night, I think. In any case, I’m sure Our Lady doesn’t mind.
Well, we have just entered into Lent last Wednesday, our great retreat in the desert: a special holy time and liturgical season when God calls out to us, "return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD your God" (Joel 2:12-13). Indeed, rather than being another time to make a New Year’s resolution to eat less or exercise more, Lent provides us with an opportunity for conversion. Particularly, we are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance in order to aid our spiritual progress through this Lenten season in preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.
Some of you, like me at times, may be hesitant to go to Confession. And that is why, my brothers and sisters, that I am truly grateful for:
1. God’s Divine Mercy,
2. Our Lady,
3. and confessionals with screens
The photograph above is a picture that I took of a statue, a gift of one of Peter’s Successors, that stands in front of the House of the Virgin Mary, Meryemana, the sacred place in Ephesus where, it is said, St. John lived with Our Lady. I choose this particular image for Lady’s Night because our Blessed Mother is depicted with her arms open.
It is a gesture which reflects her openness to the will of God at the Annunciation.
It is a posture she might have used when she embraced her Infant King in Bethlehem or the Child Jesus she found in the temple.
Likewise, it is an imitation of our crucified Lord to Whom her life and mission have always been so closely united.
And for us, poor sinner, when we see Our Lady with open arms, we cannot help but think of the Father, recklessly extravagant in mercy, catching that first glimpse of his Prodigal Son walking on the road towards home.
So, too, Our Mother of Mercy opens wide her arms to embrace her sons and daughters who are ready to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. She sees the great pain and hurt caused by sin—even though we have freely chosen the suffering as we have chosen the sin—and she desires nothing but to comfort us, enfolding us under her mantle.
On seeing us so far away from her Son, our merciful Mother stretches her arms to us and cries out, "Come, my child. Behold your Mother who loves you most tenderly despite your crimes. I cannot condemn you, for you are my little one. Run into my arms! How greatly I long to hold you close to my Heart! Take my hand, and let us go to Jesus."
In the Salve Regina, we pray, “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy….” The great son the Church and lover of Mary, St. Louis Maria de Liguori, meditated on this exact phrase in his amazing work, The Glories of Mary. In it he wrote the following with my emphasis:
But maybe you fear that Mary simply will not intercede for certain sinners because their crimes are so terrible. Or maybe we ought to feel awe before a Queen so holy and exalted!
This is not the case at all, says St. Gregory the Great. The holier she is, the greater is Mary’s compassion for sinners who come to her with the determination to do better.
Kings and queens, because they are invested with majesty, do inspire awe and make their people fear to come near them. But how can any poor sinner fear to approach this Queen of Mercy? She inspires no terror, shows no severity to anyone, but is so tender and gentle!
Then St. Bernard asks: “Who are the most logical candidates for mercy if not the miserable? And since you are the Queen of sinners, it follows that I am the first of your subjects. So how can you help showing me mercy, O Lady?”
Have pity on us then, Queen of Mercy, and remember our salvation.
Accordingly St. Gregory of Nicomedia exclaims: "O Blessed Virgin, never say that, because our sins are too numerous, you cannot help us. No matter how numerous they are, they can never outweigh your power and your compassion."
Suppose a mother (says Adam, the Abbot of Perseigne) knew that her two sons had a mortal hatred for each other, and that each was planning the other’s murder. Would she not do everything in her power to make peace between them? Any good mother would consider it her duty to do this.
Mary acts in the same way, for she is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of human beings. When she sees a sinner at enmity with Jesus, she cannot bear such a state of things —- she does all in her power to reconcile them.
This kindest of Ladies demands only one thing —- that sinners recommend themselves to her and be determined to change their ways. When she finds sinners at her feet imploring mercy, she does not fix her attention on their crimes, but she looks only at the motive that brings them to her. If the motive is good, and even though they have committed every conceivable sin, this most loving Mother takes them in her arms to heal the wounds of their soul.
She is not only called the Mother of Mercy. She is the Mother of Mercy. And she proves herself such by the loving tenderness with which she helps us all…
In the Second Book of Samuel (14:6) we read how that wise woman of Tekoa addressed King David: “Your majesty, I had two sons, and to my misfortune one killed the other, so that I have now lost one and justice demands the life of the other, the only one that is left. Have mercy on a poor mother and let me not lose both my sons.”
In a similar way we may imagine Mary pleading with God, when His justice is directed against a sinner who has recommended himself or herself to her.
"My God, I had two sons, Jesus and Mankind. mankind took the life of Jesus on the Cross, and now your justice would condemn the guilty one. O Lord, my Jesus is already dead. Have pity on me; if I have lost the one, do not let me lose the other also.”
You can read his entire reflection on the first part of the Salve Regina here.
If you are in the state of sin, as I was until recently, do not hesitate one moment to go to Confession. Take courage and find comfort in your Mother who is so merciful. Fly into her arms, for she desires to embrace you.
"Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).