||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
This past Sunday we heard the moving Gospel passage of “the vine and the branches,” wherein Jesus makes clear that He, Himself, is the true vine to which we must all remain attached, and only through which can we bear any fruit.
The imagery of the vine and the branches clearly refers to our role in Christ’s Church, and while I’m tempted to reflect at length on the Church with you here, I’d like to spend some time reflecting more particularly upon Mary in this first column of May.
Role of the Mother of God in God’s vineyard
In reflecting upon the role of the Mother of God in the vineyard of the Lord, our thoughts are drawn to the very roots of the vine, and another scriptural image — that of Isaiah 11: “a staff shall spring forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall come up from his root; and the Spirit of God will rest upon him (Is 11:11).”
The connection to the root of Jesse and the House of David refers to Jesus, through Mary, and these roots are essential in our story of salvation. God chooses to save mankind through the people of Israel and specifically through the line of David. Mary is the fulfillment of the Jewish longing for the Messiah and carries, rightly, the title of, “the Beloved Daughter of Sion.”
Mary provides link between God and humanity
Mary, the greatest human being who ever lived, provides the link between God and all of humanity. She is the conduit by which God “grafts” Himself to us and the way by which He chooses to save us.
Mary provides for the roots of humanity a fresh start, a root free of all disease and impurity, such that Jesus Christ can spring forth to call all of humanity to be connected to Him, the perfect vine, with His Father as vine-grower.
God marks this moment of Mary’s “yes,” through the words of His prophet, by making clear that a flower blooms from the stem. Miraculously, from the stem blooms a flower. Life springs forth from the stem, by way of a virgin.
For this reason, among others, Mary is often referred to as the “Mystical Rose.” Mary truly is the perfect flower of all humanity and the example for us of fruitfulness. Mary is “our life, our sweetness, our hope.”
Mary, the Mystical Rose, is our example
This points to a mystical reality, spoken of through a mystical mixing of imagery, but a reality which stirs prayerful reflection. From the Root of Jesse springs forth the fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary. How can we hope to bear fruit ourselves, as branches of the vine, if we do not look to the example of Mary, the Mystical Rose?
This reflection provides an image of beauty for us to consider as we come upon our Year of Faith!
God, who is Himself perfect in beauty, offers to us an image of beauty in humanity. He gives us a woman truly beautiful in her loving charity, an image of creation returned to beauty, and an image of how we are called to love and adore the Lord, in the beauty of our thanksgiving in the liturgy.
The Mystical Rose provides for us an example of how we might imitate Christ in these three aspects which will provide the basis of our Year of Faith: beauty in charity, beauty in creation, and beauty in the liturgy.
Now, we’ve already considered a full array of images, but I’d like to conclude with a practical image, with regard to the Vineyard of the Lord and the Mystical Rose.
Roses play important role in a healthy vineyard
I’ve been told, by those who are expert in the tending of vineyards, that it is very typical to have roses surrounding or at the ends of vineyards. The roses serve two important roles in the healthy vineyard. The first is to be an attractant that draws bees and other helpful insects by their sweet fragrance. The second purpose of the roses is to provide for the vine grower an early indication of certain, serious diseases. Some of the very same diseases which affect the healthy vine, will first affect the rose plant, and in this way the vine workers can know when to act, to prune, and treat their vines, to prevent disease.
This very real image from creation can serve as a last image for reflection here. I would propose that in the very same way that the roses in the vineyard can be a bellwether for the health of the vine branches, the health of our devotion to Mary, the Mystical Rose, can help us to get a sense of the health of our own connection to Christ, the True Vine. We really need our Blessed Mother lovingly to give us the mandate, “do whatever He tells you (Jn 2:5).”
Engage in devotions to the Blessed Mother
So, I’d encourage each of us, in this month of May, this month of Mary, to examine and then work to grow a more healthy devotion to the Mother of God. In coming to know the Mystical Rose of Jesse’s stem, we can be drawn more fully into the beauty of God’s plan for us, and can find ourselves more healthily attached to Christ.
Let us cultivate, in ourselves, in our families, and in our parishes, a more vibrant devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mystical Rose.
Let us demonstrate to the world, by her example of beauty in charity, how we love one another. Let us witness to the beauty of creation, being more respectful of the ecology of human nature. And let us witness to beauty in the liturgy, loving, adoring, and thanking God, with Mary and like Mary, with the greatest reverence.
Let us work to honor the Lord, by honoring His Mother, and thus bring health and life to vineyard of the Lord.
May God bless each one of you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Para leer la columna del obispo en español vaya a: www.madisoncatholicherald.org/espanol.html