Devotion to Mary
We are all familiar with the story Dominic related to blessed Cecilia as recounted in The Lives of the Brethren:
“One night as Dominic stood praying; he glanced at the other end of the dormitory and saw three women enter. He noticed that the one in the middle was a venerable lady of greater beauty and dignity than the other two. One of the other two was carrying a beautiful shining vessel and the other a holy water sprinkler which she handed to the lady in the centre. This lady sprinkled the brethren and blessed them. She said to Saint Dominic “I am the one you call upon each evening. When you say ‘turn then most gracious advocate,’ I prostrate myself before my son and ask him to preserve this Order”.
From its foundation, the Order has not hesitated to acknowledge the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to continuously experience it and to commend it to the hearts of the brothers and sisters, so that encouraged by this maternal solicitude we might adhere more closely to Jesus as we labour to carry out our mission of salvation in the world. Mary the mother of Jesus “is our own special mother, bringing us forth, advancing and defending the Order whose purpose it is to praise bless and to preach her Son.” We are told in the Legenda that after the vision in which Mary showed Dominic the Order hidden within the folds of her cloak, Dominic assembled the brethren and gave them a long and beautiful talk, exhorting them to love and pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin whose unfailing intercession has kept us faithful.
Examples of the brothers’ and sisters’ love for Mary and her solicitude for them abound in the lives of Dominican Saints all through the ages and the great veneration in which we hold the Rosary, her special gift to us, exemplifies this love. The Rosary has been for so many of us our way of doing Lectio. In the company of her who pondered all the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and treasured them in her heart, we too have learned to listen and with her to respond “behold the servant of the Lord be it done unto me according to your word.”
The ‘fiat‘ of Mary is the gate through which the Saviour enters our world. The gate closed by Eve is again opened in a new way through Mary’s ‘yes’. She is the gate though which grace becomes incarnate in flesh and blood, the only Son of God become man. In Mary was the Word made flesh, the Word we receive and contemplate, the Word we praise and preach, the Word by which we live and which transforms our lives, the Word who is Jesus in whom we become the adopted children of God. While meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, we contemplate with Mary the face of Christ and she who ‘mothers each new grace which does now reach our race’, brings us to birth in Him, until Christ is fully formed in us.
Dominic had a passionate appetite for God’s word in Sacred Scripture. This was the deepest source of his inspiration. His eagerness to imbibe the streams of Holy Scripture was so intense and unrelenting that he spent whole nights without sleep. Dominic’s reading fed not just his mind but his relationship with God. This was the wellspring from which his preaching emerged. Indeed we are told that he sent out his brethren simply in the strength of the Gospel. Dominic spent long hours before the shrine of Mary, and I think we may assume that it was in her company that He learned to love her Son and to make the Word his home. Perhaps it is because he was formed in the school of Mary – Jesus first and most perfect disciple – that his likeness to Jesus is so striking.
When reflecting on Dominic I seem to be more aware of Jesus than of Dominic. Like Mary he directs our gaze to Jesus. This grace-filled preacher and gospel man of prayer seems to draw my attention away from himself and turn me towards Jesus. All he did was to live the Gospel and preach it in word and deed. His life is all about Jesus. And it is this central focus that is the heart of our Dominican way of life. With Dominic there is nothing to side track us from coming face to face with the challenge of the Gospel – the call to be in name and in fact disciples of Jesus.
As I understand it, what binds us as Dominicans, what indeed makes us Dominicans, is the fact that we are all looking in the same direction – toward Jesus – that in Him, with Him and through Him we may be turned towards the Father and towards the world. I remember being told that contemplation was the ability to see clearly, to see things as they are and then to share with others what we have seen. “Jesus looked at him and loved him”- This is what Dominic and each of us see and experience when we gaze on Jesus and it is this good news, this awe inspiring, stupendous reality that we are called to share.
Mary mother of the Word Incarnate explain and reveal Him to us.