by Fr. Joseph Horn, O.Praem.
The other day I read a strange question. The question was: Is the Virgin Mary a strong woman, or a feminine woman? The answer, of course, is YES! Both! Mary is the very model of femininity, and a paragon of strength!
The Litany of Loreto calls her, “Virgin most powerful”!
She is also referred to as “Our Lady of Victory” and many other strong titles.
Mother Church even identifies Mary with the Woman of Genesis 3:15 who God said would be the perpetual enemy of the Devil: “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall crush your head and you shall strike his heel.” She is the enemy of the devil for a very personal reason. She watched her Son die as Satan tried to conquer both Him and her; she WATCHED it happen! A strong woman, to watch the serpent do that, and then to crush its head with her heel!
This is one of the reasons that the Brown Scapular of the Carmelite Order is a very important symbol of devotion to Mary. The scapular is a symbol of spiritual warfare; it is the “uniform” of the legions of spiritual warriors who fight under the banner of Mary.
The following is an excerpt from a Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
“How strange it seems to think of Mary as a warrior. The gentle maid of Nazareth, the Virginal Mother, the Mother of the Prince of Peace, is still called — and properly called — more terrible than an army in battle array. And so she is. Mary, conqueror of heresies. Mary, triumphant always in the battle with sin.
When then we put on the scapular, which is Mary’s uniform, we join in a special way the regiment of which Mary is the queen and honorary colonel. We pledge ourselves to do battle against the enemy of the human race. We will be victorious as Mary is victorious, and conquering as Christ is conquering.”
In 1953, Pope Pius XII said of Mary, “Mary is beautiful in herself as the moon, radiates her brilliance as the sun; but against the enemy she is formidable; terrible as an army arrayed for war. As we rejoice and exalt her today, God knows how we would like to forget the difficulties of the times in which we live…. The enemy is even at the very doors of the Church, threatening souls. And behold, another aspect of Mary: her power in combat…. Mary, sinless, has crushed the head of the corrupting serpent. When Mary approaches, the demon flees – just as darkness dissipates when the sun rises. Where Mary is present, Satan is absent; where the sun shines, there is no darkness.”
Look even at the beloved image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Look at her! She is crushing under her feet the seven-headed dragon of Apocalypse! To call her a strong woman is an understatement!
In northern Italy about 200 years ago, Saint John Bosco promoted devotion to Mary Help of Christians (another title drawn from the Litany of Loreto). Listen to the power and authority of the Mother of God in St John Bosco’s words:
“Mary, most powerful Virgin,
You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.
You are the marvelous Help of Christians.
You are awe-inspiring as an army in battle array.
You have destroyed heresy in the world.
In the midst of our anguish, our struggle and our distress defend us from the power of the enemy,
and at the hour of our death receive our soul into heaven.
Notice all the powerful Marian titles mentioned here – most powerful Virgin, terrible as an army, destroyer of heresies, etc.
Saint John Damascene called Mary “the powerful and always ready help of Christians, by which they are delivered from dangers.”
St. Cosmas of Jerusalem writes, “The help of Mary is all-powerful to deliver us from sin and hell.”
St. Bernard, addressing Mary, says, “Thou art an invincible warrior in defense of thy servants, fighting against the devils who assail them.”
Weakness comes from lack. If your arms lack muscles, you have weak arms. What did Mary lack? Nothing! She was (and still is) FULL of grace, from her Immaculate Conception to her glorious Assumption into heaven where she is today, full of grace, and thereby FULL of STRENGTH!
The Blessed Virgin possesses and exemplifies feminine strength, a strength that fights and conquers evil and protects dependents, such as children. In the Virgin most powerful, all women can find a model of personal strength and fortitude. All of these virtues have an important place – for both women and men! – in the Christian life.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.
The name “Martha” is a Greek translation of an Aramaic word meaning “the Lady”—which is the feminine form of their word for “the Master”—but the Church doesn’t elevate saints to its calendar merely because they have an impressive name—so we look elsewhere.
Moses went up Mount Sinai to speak with God. When he came down the mountain, his face was brilliant, literally shining. It was so dazzling, in fact, that when the Israelites saw it, they were so terrified, that Moses had to veil his face.
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