Litany of Loreto – Holy Virgin of Virgins
Foretold in the scriptures and attested to by the Apostles, Fathers, and subsequent Council’s of the Church, the Catholic tradition always witnesses to an indissoluble link between Mary’s Virginity and the Incarnation of the Word. It is perhaps one of the most wondrous mysteries of our faith that Our Lady was a virgin ante partum, in partu, and post partum (before, during, and after) the birth of Our Lord. In that familiar passage from Isaiah 7:14 we read, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” In the Gospel of St. Luke (1:34-35) we see how this momentous occurrence came to pass when we read of Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel; “Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” But what of this link, why is it important and what can we take from this?
There are a number of approaches to this question. Not least is the fact that the birth of Our Saviour should come from one who, immaculately conceived, was guided from birth by the Holy Spirit to remain as a ‘pure and spotless vessel’ for the birth of Our Lord. For Mary, as the Mother of God, this relationship was truly unique and the depths of this mystery are quite profound to dwell on. But aside from the importance of our venerating Mary for her role, can the example of her virginity really help us today; all of us that is, no matter what our situation as married, single, celibate, widowed, and so forth? I think, without question that it can, because Our Lady’s virginity was not simply a physical matter but a matter of the heart which disposed her most suitably for her role in God’s plan. Mary’s physical virginity (virginitas carnis) is a symbol of her virginity of heart (virginitas cordis); she is the true exemplar of our faith. Our Lady is the faithful disciple, who without any defilement, falsehood, or pride submitted gladly to God’s will and fulfilled her role with steadfastness, humility and compassion. What better example could we have of faithfulness of heart, of true and thankful submission to God’s will, than her? Likewise, we all have our unique part to play in God’s plan and our disposition to be open, faithful, and pure of heart, is essential if we are to flourish as God’s children. If we nurse pride and allow vice to take its hold upon us then we lose our virginitas cordis, so let us instead take our example from her and thus be led to Christ. Ad Iesum per Mariam.