The Joyful Heart of Mary
A Meditation on the Joy of the Blessed Virgin
The Mother of God is truly the "Virgin most sorrowful." But she is fittingly called in song and prose the "happy Virgin," the "joyful Virgin," and the "blessed Virgin" - "blessed," beata in Latin, means "happy, prosperous, fortunate": concepts closely allied with joy.
When we are asked about the sword - as we often are - it is a wonderful opportunity to explain the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, and how Her Heart was wounded on Calvary when Jesus' Heart was pierced by the lance of Longinus. Our Lord already having given up the ghost, He could not feel the pain. This was in fulfillment of holy Simeon's prophecy: "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed" (Luke 2:35).
The Mother of God is truly the "Virgin most sorrowful." Her many sorrows culminated in the most bitter of them all, beholding the passion and death of Her Son. Excepting only the Man of Sorrows Himself, never has anyone been plunged into the torrent of sorrow as was the Holy Virgin.
Strengthened by the virtue (and the gift) of fortitude, however, Mary was not morose or gloomy. She remained strong. Moreover, she is fittingly called in song and prose the "happy Virgin," the "joyful Virgin," and the "blessed Virgin" - "blessed," beata in Latin, means "happy, prosperous, fortunate": concepts closely allied with joy.
Being immaculately conceived, and further possessed of a super-plenitude of spiritual gifts truly rendering Her "All Holy" (Panagia, as our Eastern brethren call Her), Mary has a more just claim on the emotion of joy than any other sheer creature.
What is joy? It is an act of the will delighting in the possession of a loved good. It is a rational version of the sensible appetite called "delight." Whereas diverse bodily goods and pleasures give us delight, just as they do for brute animals, joy is a delight unique to rational creatures. Its opposite is sorrow, a passion undergone in the presence of an evil we hate.
We sinners delight in all sorts of base things, even when we try to be good. St. Thomas notes that our lower natures can take delight in things that our reason rejects. This is indeliberate, and is part of that war St. Paul speaks of in such graphic terms: "For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would" (Gal. 5:17). But so many times, we take delight - and even joy - in foolish things, things that ought, rather, to make us weep. Mary's joys, by contrast, were all righteous.
Having no concupiscence, Mary lacked the disorder we all experience. And if joy is "delighting in the possession of a loved good," consider for a moment what might occasion Our Lady's joy, even before Her glorious Assumption: Sanctifying Grace in an eminent degree; the Gifts of the Holy Ghost operating at their apex; the infused and acquired virtues exercised in an heroic degree; the visible presence of the Incarnate Word, whom She conceived in Her mind before conceiving in Her womb (says St. Augustine); the affection of her Virgin Spouse, St. Joseph; and other manifold favors bestowed upon her by the Trinity - each Person of whom She stood in special intimate relation, as Daughter, Mother, Spouse.
Truly could She tell Saint Elizabeth, "My spirit hath rejoiced in God by savior" (Luke 1:47)!
In this, as in so many things, Our Lady stands as our exemplar. We may not be cognizant of the fact, but what we are considering here actually entails a sacred obligation of our Faith, for Holy Scripture admonishes us in manifold ways to rejoice. Often this is stated as a direct command:
"For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfect, take exhortation, be of one mind, have peace; and the God of peace and of love shall be with you" (2 Cor. 13:11).
"As to the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1).
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice." (Phil. 4:4).
"Always rejoice." (I Thess. 6:16)
"But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Pet. 4:13).
"And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice, and your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4).
How perfectly Mary ...
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