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The degrees of life of union of the soul with Mary our mother

In the previous article we talked about Mary’s motherhood towards us. We have seen what it means that the Immaculate is our Mother, the reasons why she loves us with this maternal love, how she exercises this motherhood both towards sinners and towards souls who already make a journey of faith, etc. Now let us try to enter even deeper into this reality trying to deepen, once we become aware of it, how what is a real dependence of the soul on the Blessed Virgin is really manifested, and what are the degrees of this life of union with her, following the same pattern of the three degrees of the interior life: purifying way, illuminative way and unitive way.

Just as our life as creatures necessarily and naturally depends on His Creator and subsists only to the extent that there is a continuous act of His Will that wants us in being, so also in the spiritual, supernatural life, we depend essentially on the Holy Spirit who infuses us with the life of grace and on His inseparable Bride, the Virgin Mary, through whom He works.

But in addition to this dependence that we can consider natural and that we can in no way dissolve as it is part of our own nature, the soul can, according to its will, forge more or less close bonds with Mary, and in the same proportion, receive more or less graces from her.

To remain always united to Mary, first of all, constant prayer is necessary. No one can feel exempt from this: even those who have made progress in the spiritual life, if they are not careful to always maintain close ties with the Immaculate, will soon end up wasting everything, letting themselves be taken by some movement of pride and selfishness, and thus losing all virtue and merit. Mary’s son can never omit the prayer of the Holy Rosary: alone or in company, locked in his room or through the streets of the city or the countryside, in the silence of solitude or noise, he will recite even mentally the Hail Mary. It is necessary to be persevering in prayer. There are many obstacles that souls encounter in the life of prayer; in fact, many wonder what value their prayer has when it is full of distractions. St. Maximilian M. Kolbe replied that“the value of prayer does not lie in what I would like, but in what I want and desire, that is, in the will; prayer is not better and more meritorious when it abounds in consolations, but when greater effort and fidelity are needed”.

When the soul learned to remain united to its heavenly Mother through continuous prayer, it laid the foundations for its spiritual growth. We certainly receive the fundamental nourishment to nourish our life of grace then, with the Sacraments, but no one can receive the Sacraments with fruit if Mary has not first well disposed her soul and prepared the opportunity to receive them.

Again, we receive all the graces from the Holy Spirit, but He wanted them to be distributed by His Bride, Our Lady, who knows each of her children and adapts, measures and chooses graces according to the real needs of each one. This is the office of the Immaculate which nevertheless requires cooperation on the part of the soul, which must be ready to accept these graces that cannot be imposed. Mary strengthens you, inspires you, advises you, warns you, but the soul must be docile to the action of this good Mother so that it can form Jesus in her. This work of assimilation to Jesus (who is the essence of holiness) goes hand in hand with that of purification because the life of Jesus and that of the cd. “old man” are opposites and cannot coexist in our soul. This is why the Immaculate, in the soul of her devotee, will try to drive away unregulated affections, disordered desires, selfishness and those bonds to creatures that hinder the Presence of Jesus. She will stimulate in the soul a continuous struggle against sin, through holy inspirations, counsel, remorse of conscience, movements of repentance, etc. But we also need our collaboration: an act of will, a resolution of wanting to give ourselves to her and through her to Jesus. For this reason it is necessary to maintain a spirit of compunction that creates in the soul that purity and humility that dispose it to welcome Jesus. To hide in her, to be hidden from the eyes of the world, as she lived hidden in God: as Jesus closes himself in the Holy Tabernacles, so we too close ourselves in that living Tabernacle which is Our Lady. We imitate Mary to imitate Jesus. Let us think of how many hearts Jesus drew to Himself through Mary! No one, not even the greatest Saints, being in any case stained by original sin or even by some current sin, can go directly to Jesus: only Mary can perfectly please Jesus; for all the others, we must pass through Our Lady who purifies us and presents us to the Son so as to please him.

Let’s take another step forward. To please Jesus perfectly we must bring him the same love that His Mother brought him, we must love him with the same heart as Mary. We have therefore understood that we must love Jesus through Mary. But that’s not enough. We must also allow the Mother to love Her Son through us. When you love Jesus through Mary, Our Lady is still your instrument, but if you want her to love Jesus through you, She will have to totally take the direction and government of your heart and soul and you will be nothing more than a means for Mary, to multiply Her Love for Jesus, an extension of Her love for Jesus. We become like little repeaters through which Mary transmits Her love for Jesus. In this way we will make our heavenly Mother even happier by being able to multiply Her love for Jesus through her children whom He Himself had given her.

Of course, the Love that Mary brings to Jesus in Paradise is already perfect, complete and infinite, yet this is a necessary love in the sense that when you are in the beatific vision it is essentially not possible not to love Jesus. But she also desires to continue to love him spontaneously, as a free act of will, as she did here on earth. And today this can be done through us who are His children. Do we want to be the channels through which Mary loves Jesus? This is what the Saints did. Father Giuseppe Schryvers gives us a wonderful example: St. Gemma Galgani saw herself in the arms of Our Lady resting with her head resting on the Heart of Mary. At a certain point Our Lady asked her: “Gemma, tell me, do you love someone more than me?” And the saint replied, “Yes! Good Mother, I love one more than You!” At these words the Virgin held her even closer to Herself and said to her: “Tell me, who do you love more than me?” And Gemma replied, “She looks a lot like you, her hair is yours, her complexion is yours.” And the Mother insisted: “Gemma, don’t hide from me who she is!” Then the girl replied: “It is Jesus! Your son!” At these last words Our Lady held Gemma to her heart and said: “Oh yes! Love Jesus … love Jesus while you can!” And the vision disappeared.

But the most perfect union of union with Mary is realized with the cd. “exchange of hearts”: we give her our poor heart and she gives us hers. How is this exchange possible? It does not depend on us: we are asked only for an act of will: to want it and ask for this grace; it is a grace, a gift that Mary can give us if she wants it. This is the highest degree that can be reached in the life of Consecration and corresponds to the mystical union between us and Mary (so-called unitive way). As said it does not depend on us, but on our part we can ask for this gift and commit ourselves to the previous steps that are the incessant prayer to the Virgin (reciting many Rosaries) and mortification (that is, the so-called purifying way) and contemplate Our Lady to imitate her virtues (so-called illuminative way). When the mystical union between the soul and Mary is realized, Our Lady takes full possession of the soul (and it is a possession of love!), and directs it in all its spiritual and corporal faculties. We are thus transformed into Mary (cd. Marianization). But this transformation into Mary will not be an end in itself, but the means to be transformed into Jesus. And this is holiness. Let us think of when Jesus will come within us into Holy Communion! May our soul truly be the place of this mystical encounter of love between Jesus and Mary!

It is very beautiful to see how in the spiritual life there are these degrees and this perfect order, in the awareness that the most does not depend on us, but collaboration is necessarily required of us: in order for Our Lady to possess us totally, we must, through an act of will, cede to her the full ownership of our life and our soul: the Consecration is only this act, as St. Maximilian M. Kolbe well recalls: a transfer of ownership! Then the Virgin will give us the means to continue and live this donation (if we know how to welcome them and put them into practice).

By having given her power over the natural Only Begotten Son, God has also given power to Our Lady over all of Her adopted children. And this power concerns not only the body, but above all the inner life, the soul. By virtue of this power we can say that the Virgin Mary is not only our Mother, but is also our Queen in that she nourishes us, forms us in Jesus Christ and forms Jesus Christ in us, plants in our hearts the roots of the virtues and takes care of their development, accompanies the Holy Spirit in all His operations in us, it generates us to eternal life as a mother. If the Son is King, St. Athanasy rightly says, then it is right that Mary be called Queen, and whoever wants to serve God, adds St. Bernardine of Siena, must also serve Mary. It is therefore not enough that the Immaculate is present in our soul, in our heart, in our mind, it is necessary instead that She directs, supports, governs, in a few words we must let her reign in our soul by moving all our intellectual faculties (memory, intelligence and will) and inspiring thoughts, actions, words. And if Mary reigns in our souls, God Himself will place in it the roots of His Kingdom.