A ode to the Blessed Virgin by St. Anselm, read on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, December 8. The doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary from the moment of her conception was believed and taught in the church long before it was solemnly defined as a dogma of faith by Pope Pius IX in the mid 19th century.
Mary received her salvation as a pure gift of grace even before she could say yes to that grace. By way of anticipation, the fruit of her son’s death and resurrection was applied to her at the moment of her conception, In this way she was spared both the guilt and damaging effects of original sin This was done by God in order to preserve and protect the holiness of the human nature of his divine Son which would be totally drawn from Mary’s human nature and then nurtured in her womb.
Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendor by men who believe in God.
The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.
Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.
Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.
To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.
God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.
Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.
This selection is an excerpt from a sermon of St. Anselm (Oratio 52; PL 158, 955-956). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for the Solemnity (Solemn Feast) of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. The accompanying biblical reading is from Romans 5:12-20. .
Banner/featured image of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Public domain.