The offenses of those who directly outrage the Virgin in her holy images -Part II

Today I continue on the theme of the offenses of those who directly outrage the Virgin in her holy images by considering a bit more in depth the culture of ugliness that surrounds us in relation to the pure beauty of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

In this culture of ugliness people take little thought about what they look at, listen to, and read. They willingly feed upon, taken in, and nourish their minds and imaginations with all sorts of inappropriate, coarse, crude, debased, and ugly things in the name of ‘harmless fun’. Nevertheless, at best it produces in people’s lives an ugly incoherence, a lack on consistency between thought, word, and deed, a lack of integrity of life.

Consider the middle school age when children, both boys and girls, seem to readily acquire the habit of using ‘bad words’. But, in the case of girls, you can ask, “Do you want to be pretty?” To which the reply will be, “Yes.” Then you can ask, “Is that bad language pretty or ugly?” To which the girl will reply, “Ugly.”

That sort of disconnect between a desire to be pretty and the readiness to make use of ugly language is actually a sort of disconnect that characterizes our culture on every level. It reaches the extreme in which it really doesn’t matter what a person thinks, does, or says, so long as his “heart” is in “the right place”. At that point no one is capable of saying what it might mean for someone to have his heart in the right place, except by affirming that ultimately everyone has his heart in the right place. This leads us to the point of a most extraordinary blasphemy against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a blasphemy that denies there is anything special about her Immaculate Heart, because everyone really has an immaculate heart – except of course for those really wicked people like ISIS terrorists or child molesters or Christian “haters”.

This culture of ugliness is truly offensive to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Consider this praise of Mary, inspired by the words of Scripture: “You are all beautiful, O Mary, and there is no stain in you.” (cf. Sgs. 4:7) “Not a stain in you” that is “Immaculate”. The Blessed Virgin Mary, precisely because of the gift of her Immaculate Conception, is the most beautiful, the truly beautiful one, the one possessed of the true spiritual beauty of holiness and truth. Her beauty begins in a heart united to God, but is displayed in a perfect coherence and integrity, a perfect order and harmony in thought, word, and action. Her every thought was true, every imagination well proportioned, every emotion and desire appropriate, fitting, and rightly ordered, every word a marvelous blend of truth, gentleness, consideration, and tact, spoken always at the right moment, her every action an expression of the beauty hidden within.

“You are all beautiful, O Mary, and there is not stain in you.”  The beauty of the Blessed Virgin inspired the greatest cultural display of visible beauty the world has ever seen. If we look at the Middle Ages, those terrible Middle Ages, we see even today the resplendent beauty of churches, stained glass, paintings, sculptures, and illuminated manuscripts. Again and again we find in those works of art the image of the Blessed Virgin, the source and inspiration for it all. If we think of two of the greatest Cathedrals ever built we will likely think of the famous Cathedral in Paris which we know simply as ‘Notre Dame’, our Lady, and the famous Cathedral in Chartres, which is also ‘Notre Dame’. The beauty of the Gothic cathedrals is a beauty that soars aloft in spires pointing heavenwards and directing our hearts on high. Such is the beauty of the Blessed Virgin; it is the beauty of God himself; it is a beauty that teaches and inspires us to seek for true spiritual beauty in our own lives.

If we are to make reparation for the offenses committed against the Blessed Virgin in the holiness of her images it is not enough, then, that we honor her images, we must seek to honor her by cultivating in our own lives the spiritual beauty of holiness; by becoming living images of the holiness of the Virgin; by taking care of what we choose to look at, listen to, and read; by seeking coherence and integrity of thought, word, and deed in our lives; by building up around us, as an expression of true interior beauty, a culture of visible beauty.

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.”  When we turn to Mary, the Immaculate one, the beautiful one, she leads us unfailingly to the source and origin of all that is true, good, and beautiful, the one to whom she gave birth, her Son, Jesus Christ.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.