THE ROSARY AND CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

HOW, IN THE ROSARY, MARY FORMS US TO THE IMAGE OF JESUS.

To know, love and imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ –

such is the principle of Christian life,

the secret of perfection.

True perfection consists formally in the love

which unites us to Jesus,

but as one cannot love

without acquaintance,

and affectionate acquaintance engenders imitation –

one is anxious to resemble those whom one loves –

it follows that the imitation,

as well as the knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ,

form, as it were,

the integral parts of that perfection,

the essence of which is love.

The Rosary is the school

where Mary trains us

daily in the Christian life.

There, not only does this divine Mother

fill our understanding with the knowledge of Jesus

and our hearts with love of Him,

but she completes her work

by imprinting on us,

by imitation,

the image of Him who is

the First-born of all the elect.

To this last point

I would particularly direct your attention.

Created as we are to the image of God,

we feel the need of perfecting with us

this divine image,

of drawing out all its splendour,

by imitating more and more

closely our sovereign model.

In the beginning,

the angel and the man,

intoxicated with foolish pride,

wished to push the divine resemblance

beyond all limits,

even to the extent of absolute independence,

which is the attribute of God alone.

Avenging His slighted rights,

God struck down Lucifer,

and severely punished the first man.

The punishment of the latter,

however, was not untempered with mercy.

God raised Adam and Eve anew,

and once more showing Heaven to them,

revealed to their eyes

through the distance of ages

One whose imperfect image they were henceforth to bear,

till they at length resumed His glory.

Jesus Christ, the perfect image of God the Father,

appears at the centre of the new creation

as the finished model which we all must copy,

which we must all resemble

if we are to be counted among the children of God.

To the Blessed Virgin,

who formed this divine exemplar,

is allotted the task of reproducing

His likeness in each one of the elect.

The Rosary is the mould

into which she casts souls,

to form them to the divine image;

or let us say, rather, that with the Rosary,

as with a chosen instrument,

this admirable artist sculptures,

paints, and imprints the image of her Son.

She sculptures it in the neophytes,

paints it in souls more advanced,

and imprints it in hearts

which are responsive to the lightest touch of grace.

Spiritual authors tell us

that in the work of perfecting us,

and forming us in the likeness of Jesus Christ,

it is necessary,

first, to take away,

like the sculptors,

then to add, like the painters,

and finally to apply and unite closely,

like the printers.

In the purgative life,

in which the soul divests itself of its vices

and bad habits,

it is necessary above all to cut away.

In the Rosary,

therefore,

Mary sculptures certain souls,

refining them by the practice of poverty,

of mortification,

of ever increasing detachment.

In the joyful mysteries,

she takes from us the love of earthly treasures

by showing us Jesus poor and shelterless;

in the sorrowful,

she destroys our love of ease,

our desire for pleasure,

by opposing to our sensuality

the terrible sufferings of our Saviour;

in the glorious mysteries,

she severs the last ties

which bind us to earth,

elevating our hearts

by the spectacle of Jesus ascending into heaven.

As the sculptor

first rounds off a block of marble,

then gradually outlines the statue,

and finally completes it

with little touches of the chisel,

so the Blessed Virgin,

after the sinful habits,

removes the small defects,

even to the last lingering imperfections of a soul

which generously penitent abandons itself

entirely to her.

In the illuminative life,

in which the soul devotes itself

particularly to progress in virtue, Mary

resembles the painter

who adds colour to colour,

mixing and blending them suitably,

in order to produce an accurate and life-like portrait.

When the soul, purified of its faults,

presents, as it were, a spotless surface,

the immaculate Virgin complacently deposits

on this stainless background the colours

of all the virtues,

spreading perpetually a new layer of grace;

and the Rosary

is the rich palette from which she draws the tints

which contribute to the perfection of the image,

which she wishes to produce.

Under the brush of this incomparable artist

the dazzling whiteness of faith,

the celestial radiations of hope,

the soft crimson of charity,

the shades and reflections of all the virtues

mingle on the countenance of the soul,

formerly gloomy and darkened,

and stamp upon it the supernatural expression

which distinguishes the children of God.

Ah! could we, by a life of piety and habitual recollection,

by frequent meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary,

keep our soul always ready,

spread forth to its utmost limit,

like a precious canvas,

on which Mary might exercise her divine art

by completing in us the image of her Son!

In all cases there is no better way

to obtain a perfect resemblance in a short time

than to reproduce the model itself

by applying it to the surface on which

it is to be represented.

The image shows itself immediately,

distinguished by an accuracy

far greater than could be obtained

by endless touches of the brush.

When a soul has arrived at the punitive life,

that is, at such a degree of love for God

as excludes all return to self,

and justifies the words of the great apostle:

“It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me” –

then Mary imprints Jesus in this soul,

as on soft, pure wax.

In a moment the celestial image appears,

no longer merely in outline;

it is reflected each day more faithfully in the affections,

in the desires, in every act.

Pone me ut signaculum super cor tuum, ut signaculum super brachium tuum.

Jesus is set like a seal on the heart

and on the arm,

in the intention and in the deed.

The contemplative soul,

closely united to God by love,

receives, in passing through the mysteries of the Rosary,

the impression of this divine seal.

Mary herself applies it,

and, according to the mystery,

she reproduces Jesus humble, gentle, obedient,

Jesus in His wisdom, power, goodness and infinite grace;

or again, as in those modern portraits

which light produces with such exactitude,

Mary, admirable light emanating from the Sun of Justice,

transmits in perfection

the features of the divine model,

imprinting them with the utmost fidelity

in the depths of the heart.

Who then, faithful to his Rosary,

would not allow himself to be worked upon

by Her who knows so well how to mould a soul,

how to paint and imprint Jesus on it?

Let us dispose ourselves daily by

a life of mortification,

of recollection

and intimate union with God,

to aid Mary in her admirable work,

unquestionably more admirable

than all the works of nature,

for the material creation

even in its most beautiful manifestation,

offers only a distant reflection of God,

while the soul devoted to the Rosary,

closely united to Christ,

bears an imperishable resemblance to the

Father who is in Heaven.

(J S 1905)

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