May is Mary's Month, and I Muse at that and wonder why
Perhaps in imitation of these opening lines from Hopkins’ The May Magnificat, one could write:
August paints her bleeding heart, And I long to know her art
Obviously that plagiarist is embarrassing herself a bit. But she still thinks it’s important to muse on the beautiful mercy of our Mother Church, who dedicates the month of August to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo writes, “Of all the things that God has made, the human heart is the one which sheds the most light, alas! and the most darkness.” The Lord longs to unveil our hearts to us. He desires to reveal His luminosity shining within and to expose our sin that darkens the light. He wants to show us our desires, our hidden wounds, our beauty and power as men and women made in His image. And as we behold the messy glory of our hearts created for His, He places His hands on our shoulders and whispers, “Don’t run.”
The heart can be a frightening thing. We look at Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and the first thing we notice in that unparalleled beauty is the stabbing sword. Last I checked, people don’t exactly enjoy being stabbed. So it makes sense that in our desire for self-protection, we close ourselves off from love. We climb Mount Everest with our thumbs rather than have a conversation. We eat ice cream and watch dumb viral videos rather than share our suffering with others, including Christ. We look at past rejection, betrayal, and loss and choose to remain closed off rather than be hurt again.
But St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose Feast we recently celebrated, writes, “The soul cannot live without loving.” C.S. Lewis expands on the same theme:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”The Four Loves
We look at Mary, whose heart loves with an unimaginable love and tenderness, and we see a sword. We see the tears which stream down her face as she hears the wails of the Innocents in Bethlehem, as she endures another night of Jesus lost in the temple, as she embraces her Son for the last time, or kisses His nail-torn feet.
We cannot imagine the pain she would have experienced when she heard her crucified little boy say, Ecce filius tuus, “Behold your son,” and this son was John, not Jesus. But we also cannot imagine the way that her sorrow mingled with joy upon hearing the words, Ecce mater tua, “Behold your Mother.” In that moment when Mary said “Yes” to receiving all broken humanity as her own, she made our wounds her own. In your darkest moment, dear heart, you were not alone. Your mother also knew your pain.
And she also knows your wildest joy, your deepest dreams, your sighed longings. She sees you as you are and like the Bride in the Song of Songs, she whispers, “Let us run to Him.”1
For Mary’s heart knows a deeper joy, a more passionate purity, and a more scintillating delight than any other heart. She has embraced the “One thing” and knows the joy of total surrender to Love’s Will. She teaches spouses how to love their imperfect Joseph, children how to heroically honor their parents, and all souls how to delight in every individual in their Nazareth.
Regardless of where you are in life, August likely brings with it transition and change. In the words of the illustrious Jane Austen, “Of all horrid things, leave-taking is the worst,” especially if you are leaving home for the first time or saying goodbye to people you will never again see on this earth. But August is Mary’s month. She so deeply desires to teach her children the art of loving, and to share the Beauty she knows and loves so intimately.
To close with another Victor Hugo quote, “His whole heart melted in gratitude, and he loved more and more.”2 This August, may any frost in our hearts melt with gratitude for our mother. May she hold our hand as we love more and more.
1 – cf Song of Songs 1:4
2 – Guess what I’ve been reading this Summer?