Saturday, May 3, 2014

Am I Not Here, Who Am Your Mother?

I know that that quote is from Our Lady of Guadalupe and this post doesn't have anything to do with the apparition at Tepeyac, but I was trying to think of my favorite phrase that has anything to do with Mary, and that is probably it.

When I was searching the catalog of the library at CBU where Bill works for books about Fra Angelico, I found The Splendour of the Rosary.  I saw the name Caryll Houselander, and that the illustrations were by Fra Angelico (Fra Giovanni da Fiesole--note, another of my Sts. John), and I thought, "Yes, indeed. That book is for me." So, I asked Bill to bring it home. I didn't realize until I started reading it that it was written by Maisie Ward, but it has prayers for each mystery by Caryll Houselander. Unfortunately, this book having been published in 1945, and during the war, the illustrations are black and white, and not very detailed, but that's okay, because we can find them in color whenever we like, and that is what I'm going to do during Mary's month.

The Annunciation

Holy spirit of Life!
Come down into our hearts,
that we may live.
Descend into emptiness,
that emptiness
may be filled.
Descend into the dust,
that the dust may flower.
Descend into the dark,
that the light may shine in darkness.
                                                                                      Caryll Houselander

Maisie Ward tells us that John Ruskin wrote that the tiny words across the bottom of this picture are, Virginis intactae cum veneri ante figuram, which translates, When you come before the face of the Virgin Inviolate, be sure to utter an Ave as you pass. (Click on the picture to see the words better.) I can't find any image that show the words above the picture, but Ms. Ward says they are:
Salve Mater Pietatis/Et totius Trinitatis/Nobile Triclinium.
Hail Mother of Compassion and noble resting-place of the whole Trinity.

Ruskin also says:
The face is of no strange far-sought loveliness; the features might even be thought hard, and they are worn with watching, and severe, though innocent. She stoops forward with her arms folded on her bosom: no casting down of eye nor shrinking of the frame in fear; she is too earnest, too self-forgetful for either: wonder and enquiry are there, but chastened and free from doubt; meekness, yet mingled with a patient majesty; peace, yet sorrowfully sealed, as if the promise of the angel were already underwritten by the prophecy of Simeon.
 This quotes makes me wonder what I've never wondered before, and that is if Mary was waiting for something, if she had a sense that something was coming. Sometimes the Lord prepares us for impending events, and if this can happen to us, then surely it might have been the case with Mary, especially since her sinlessness would have made her unusually receptive to God's presence. 

When I was praying the Rosary after reading all this, I was thinking how much I would like for an angel to come and tell me some things very clearly. I don't mean portentous things. I did have sense last year that there were going to be several changes in our lives, but, goodness, I am glad that no angel came and spelled them all out for me beforehand. But what I would like to know is, "Am I doing the right thing about A, and what should I be doing about B, and am I just supposed to sit here and wait, and how can I grow patient enough to just be still? That line of the poem asking the Holy Spirit to "Descend into the dust/that the dust may flower," really resonates with me at the moment.

Of course, if an angel really showed up, I might not be as thrilled as I think I would be. I might find out that perfect goodness, as C. S. Lewis says, is not all that comfortable to be around. I'm pretty sure that he would not find me self-forgetful, and free from doubt as Ruskin describes Mary. But I know she would be there with me, holding me in "the hollow of [her] mantle" and "the crossing of [her] arms."



  1. I don't have much Latin, but I couldn't help noticing that you didn't quote enough of the line at bottom to account for all the English translation. The remainder reads PRETEREUNDO CAVE NE SILEATUR AVE.

    And if you look closely on the floor to the left and right of the central column, you'll see what appears to be the other text you mentioned, starting with Salve.

  2. That's what I get for trusting the book instead of looking at them myself.