Have recourse to her in thy temptations,
And the serenity of her countenance will strengthen thee
(Psalter of the BVM II)
Catholics often explain their devotion to Our Lady by saying that it is easier to gaze upon the moon than it is to look directly at the sun. That is to say that we know that the source of light and strength, love and wisdom is God and that He has, through Jesus, made it easy for us to approach Him. Nonetheless when we think how hideous and ugly we have made ourselves by our self-willed wickedness and repeated failures to act as we know we should our heart fails us. Reason and the teachings of the Church make it clear that we can turn to Our Lord but the heart has its own logic and will not be convinced by mere words and thoughts.
Knowing this weakness of ours and longing for us to turn to Him the Good God has given us Mary to be our companion, guide and teacher on the path towards Him. As the moon receives all its light from the sun so to the Mother is a perfect mirror of the virtues of her Son. The moon has its own features and characteristics, likewise Mary unites her own maternal solicitude to the light of the Spirit which illuminates her from within. Her purpose is to bring us to Jesus and our purpose in turning to her is to be covered by her mantle so that we may appear before Him without shame.
St Bonaventure (to whom the Psalter of the BVM is attributed) wisely advises us to draw strength from the serene countenance of the Blessed Virgin when assailed by the storms of temptation. How can we do this? One option is to take his advice literally. Never be far from an image of Mary, a picture, an icon, a statue, and when the need arises stop what we are doing and simply look at her. Focus our attention on the Virgin in her serenity until the storm subsides and we can resume our normal business.
We can also through our prayers meditate on her countenance as reflected in her life. The mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary or those of the Seven Sorrows, her attributes mentioned in the Litany of Loreto and the accounts of her in the Gospel are things we can spend time with. Immersing ourselves in these will weaken the hold of satan upon us and help to drive temptation far away.
Most profoundly we can, in the depths of our hearts, wordlessly and silently simply contemplate the one who can say of herself "I am the Immaculate Conception." Looking at the night sky on a clear, still night can fill us with a wonderful sense of the infinity of the universe. Similarly gazing with the eyes of the heart upon the Immaculata can open up to our sight the wonders of the Blessed Trinity to whom no one is closer than Mary, daughter of the Father, spouse of the Spirit, mother of the Son. In the battle against darkness Our Lady of Light, the Most Serene Virgin Mary, is a powerful ally and source of strength.
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The painting is The Immaculate Conception by Carlo Crivelli
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