Today, we offer some thoughts from Saint Francis de Sales on the Immaculata
Prayer for the Immaculate Conception
by Saint Francis de Sales
O Mary! Immaculate Lily of Purity, I rejoice with you that you have been filled with grace and have loved God more than the Seraphim from the first instant of your Immaculate Conception. May the most Holy Trinity be eternally thanked and adored for so many and such rare privileges bestowed upon you. I humble myself profoundly before you, seeing that I am so devoid of graces and poor in merits. O my most loving Mother, make me a partaker of the graces which you have received so abundantly, that I also may be able to love God ardently during life, and not be separated from Him in death. Amen.
On the Immaculate Conception of Mary
The wonderful variety which is observable in the works of nature gives us a very high idea of the immeasurable riches of the Almighty Creator. And yet He manifests His power still more in the super natural order, and the wonderful diversity of the works of grace preaches more loudly the munificence of His mercy. God, in the excess of His goodness, did not merely grant a general redemption to men, sufficient for the salvation of each one, but He diversified and multiplied the super natural gifts which accompany this redemption with infinite liberality and wonderful variety. But His highest favors were lavished upon the most holy Virgin.
From all eternity the Heavenly Father had ordained in His love to form her heart to the perfection of charity, that she might love His Divine Son with the most perfect maternal love—as He had loved Him from all eternity with the most perfect paternal love. The Son of God cast His eyes upon this Virgin, and chose her for His Mother, and co-operator in the great work of the world’s redemption, a merciful Mother, a most powerful advocate of mankind—the most amiable, the most loving, and the most beloved of all creatures. It is the opinion of many theologians that our Lord sanctified St. John the Baptist in the womb of St. Elizabeth, by a ray of His light and grace, and gave him the use of reason together with the gift of faith, so that he knew his God, hidden in the immaculate womb of Mary, adored Him, and consecrated himself to His service.
If such a grace were granted by Our Lord to His precursor, who can doubt for a moment that He should have granted not only a similar, but a much greater privilege to her whom He Himself had chosen for His Mother, and that He should not only have sanctified her in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, but should have, moreover, raised her from the very first instant of her conception to a state of purity and sanctity? The adorable Redeemer of the human race, the eternal object of the love of His Heavenly Father, considered His Mother from that first moment, as a delicious garden which was to produce the fruit of eternal life, and He cultivated this garden in order that every kind of perfection should flourish therein.
He adorned her with the gold of charity and with a wondrous variety of virtues, that she might be able to sit at His side as a Queen—that is to say, occupy the first place amongst the elect, and, in this manner, enjoy the delights that are found at the right hand of the Eternal God. This Divine Mother was redeemed, therefore, in a manner becoming the dignity of the Son, for Whom she was created. Hence she was preserved from reprobation and from all danger of it, because she was enriched with the perfection of grace and with everything necessary for its preservation. Well is she compared to a beautiful aurora, or dawn, which, from its very beginning, went on increasing until it reached its perfect day.
O first-fruit of the Redemption! O masterpiece of the Redeemer! It is just, indeed, O my Divine Saviour, that as a Son full of love and devotion towards Thy Mother, in preventing her with the blessings of Heaven, Thou shouldest have preserved her, not only from sin like the Angels, but even from every danger of sinning, and shouldest, moreover, have removed from her path all that could hinder or even retard her in the exercise of Thy holy love. It was written in Thy eternal decrees that Thou wouldest at one day prefer her to all rational creatures who were dear to Thy Divine Heart, and that Thou wouldest call her the beloved object of Thy predilection, Thy dove, Thy spotless and beautiful one, perfect beyond compare.
A special privilege was reserved for Mary, worthy of a Son Who loved her with an infinite love, and Who, being infinitely good, wise and perfect, was to choose for Himself a Mother, and form her according to His own heart. He willed then that the grace of Redemption should be applied to her as a preservative remedy. Like the waters of the Jordan that, in the days of Josue, interrupted their course through respect for the Ark of the Covenant, so the stream of original corruption stayed its course at the feet of Mary, at the conception of this living tabernacle of the Eternal Covenant.
From the first instant of her conception, Mary knew her God, and loved Him sovereignly; from that moment she became impeccable, through the special assistance of the divine protection, and through the continual inflow of efficacious and preventing graces, to which she never offered the slightest resistance. God not only adorned her with the most abundant habitual grace, but He preserved it in her, keeping her always free from every evil inclination, every idle thought, and every feeling in the slightest degree contrary to the most perfect sanctity.
As to her body, we may believe it was endowed with singular perfections. St. Joachim and St. Anne received her from God through a particular, and we may say, even a miraculous grace, so that she was one of the most excellent works of the Holy Ghost, and breathed only sanctity and purity. This Queen loved, then, her virginal body, not only because it was docile, humble, pure and obedient to Divine Love, but still more because from it was formed the Body of her Saviour. Truly has this Holy Virgin been called elect as the sun, because as the sun shines resplendent above all the stars, through the excellence of its prerogatives, so there is no one amongst all the Saints who has obtained, or can ever obtain, graces superior to those bestowed upon Mary.
There are Saints who have received signal graces from our Lord, and these, compared with the rest of the world, are like queens crowned with charity, and occupy a distinguished position in the love of our Divine Saviour. But His most blessed Mother is the Queen of all Queens, for she is not only crowned with charity, but with the perfection of charity, and to use an expression of the Holy Spirit, Who says that the Son is the crown of the Father; her crown is in truth her Son; that is to say, the sovereign object of charity, the Eternal Love, forms her crown.
How lovely is the rose and yet it causes great sadness in my soul. It reminds me of my sin, on account of which the earth was condemned to produce thorns.—St. Basil.
Mary, conceived without sin, is compared to the incorruptible cedar, the scent of which puts serpents to flight.—St. Alphonsus Liguori.
How great will be our happiness in heaven, where we shall be able to contemplate Mary, to love her and be loved by her; for she alone forms a paradise of delights. Mary is truly, after God, all that is beautiful, sweet, glorious and amiable in that celestial realm; all is in Mary, all through Mary, all, in fine, is hers.—St. Bonaventure.
Nothing is of greater service to our soul, nor more sustains and strengthens it, than the frequent thought of Mary.—St. Teresa.
(Saint Francis de Sales. “The Saint Francis de Sales Collection” [16 Books] Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition)
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.