Holy Intransigence: One Aspect of the Immaculate Conception

The advent of Our Lady in the midst of the depravity that inundated the ancient world marked a new era for humanity. Her Immaculate Conception calls us to holy integrity in loving good and hating evil.

In the life of the Church, piety is the key issue. Piety properly understood – not the routine and sterile repetition of formulas and acts of worship, but true piety – which is a gift descended from Heaven, capable of regenerating and bringing souls, families, peoples and civilizations to God through human correspondence.

The key issue in Catholic piety is devotion to Our Lady. Since She is the channel through which all graces come to us, and it is through Her that our prayers reach God, the great secret for triumph in the spiritual life consists in being intimately united to Mary. […]

The sentire cum Ecclesia invites us in a very special way to meditate this year on the Immaculate Conception […]. It is a rich theme, filled with a poetic beauty worthy of attracting and fuelling the talent of the greatest poets and artists, but one which, for this very reason, can easily lead the Brazilian temperament, naturally inclined to digressions, to be detained in the poetry alone.

Now, every emotion – in piety more than any other terrain – is only legitimate and salutary to the extent that it is based on truth, and has truth as its measure. Accordingly, emotion in our sensibility should be nothing but the harmonious, proportionate, coherent vibration of the truth contemplated by our intellect. It seems appropriate, therefore, to compose a meditation on the Immaculate Conception free of literary pretensions, focused solely on the application of intelligence to the truth contained in the dogma.

Decline of the ancient world, prelude to the Redemption

Before Jesus Christ, humanity was made up of two clearly distinct categories: Jews and Gentiles. The former, constituting the chosen people, had the Synagogue, the Law, the Temple and the promise of the Messiah. The latter, given to idolatry, ignorant of the Law, lacking knowledge of the true religion, lay in the shadow of death, waiting unknowingly, or sometimes moved by a secret urging, for the Saviour who was to come. Among the Gentiles, two categories could further be distinguished: the Romans, rulers of the universe, and the peoples who lived under the authority of the Empire. […]

Much is said of the military valour of the Romans and the brilliance of their conquests. There is obviously much to admire about them from this standpoint. But an accurate weighing of all the historical circumstances forces us to recognize that, although the Romans made great conquests, the peoples they subjected were for the most part old and worn out, dominated by their own vices, and therefore destined to fall under the iron fist of the first adversary who opposed them. […]

What had reduced so many once dominant and glorious peoples to this state of weakness? Moral corruption. The historic trajectory is the same for all of them. Initially, they were in a semi-primitive stage, leading a simple life, dignified by a certain natural rectitude. From this came enough strength to dominate their neighbours and build an empire. But with glory comes wealth, with wealth comes pleasure, and with pleasure comes debauchery. Debauchery in turn brings the death of all virtues, social and political decadence, and the ruin of the empire. And so, one after another, they appeared on the historical scene, growing to great proportions and decimating the great peoples of the East. All the civilized nations that Rome conquered had gone through the various stages of this cycle. She herself went through them in turn. […]

With the decline of Rome, which began even before Christ, it was the entire West that threatened to collapse. It was the end of a culture, a civilization, a historical cycle. It was the end of a world…

Ruins of the Roman Forum

But the chosen people were also at their end. Two tendencies had always stood out within them. One wanted to remain faithful to the Law, to the promise, to their historical vocation, trusting entirely in God. The other, of little faith and little hope, was intimidated by the Jews’ lack of military and political prowess in the ancient world. […] Hence an adaptation of the chosen people to the Gentile world, the surreptitious penetration of exotic doctrines into the Synagogue, the formation of a priesthood without fibre, without a spirit of sacrifice, willing to do anything to vegetate placidly in the shadow of the Temple, and the propensity of an immense majority of Jews to follow this policy. […]

Night – the moral night of the darkening of all truths, of all virtues – had descended on the whole world, both the Gentiles and the Synagogue…

It was at this height of evil, in this environment opposed to all good, that the holiest of creatures was born, the one full of graces, whom all nations would call blessed. […]

Masterpiece of nature and grace

Who was the Blessed Virgin, created by God at that time of universal decadence? The most complete, uncompromising, categorical, unshakeable and radical antithesis of the age.

Human vocabulary is insufficient to express Our Lady’s sanctity. In the natural order, the Saints and Doctors compare Her to the sun. But were there another star inconceivably brighter and more glorious than the sun, they would compare Her to that star instead. And they would moreover say that it was but a pale, defective and inadequate image of Her. In the moral order, She is declared to have far transcended all the virtues, not only of all the celebrated men and women of antiquity, but – and what is immeasurably more – of all the Saints of the Catholic Church.

Imagine a creature having all the love of St. Francis of Assisi, all the zeal of St. Dominic of Guzman, all the piety of St. Benedict, all the recollection of St. Teresa, all the wisdom of St. Thomas, all the intrepidity of St. Ignatius, all the purity of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the patience of a St. Lawrence, and the spirit of mortification of all the anchorites of the desert: such a creature does not come to Our Lady’s feet.

What is more, the glory of the Angels is incomprehensible to the human intellect. […] And the glory of Our Lady is immeasurably above that of all the angelic choirs.

Could there be a greater contrast between this masterpiece of nature and grace, not only indescribable but even inconceivable, and the quagmire of vices and miseries that was the world before Christ?

The Immaculate Conception

To this most beloved of all creatures, superior to everything created and inferior only to the most holy humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God conferred an incomparable privilege, which is the Immaculate Conception.

By virtue of original sin, human intelligence had become prone to error, the will was disposed to weakness, sensibility fell prey to unruly passions, the body, so to speak, was set in revolt against the soul.

Now, through the privilege of her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first instant of her being. Thus, in Her, everything was profound, perfect and imperturbable harmony. Her intellect, never subject to error, endowed with an inexpressible understanding, clarity and agility, enlightened by the highest graces, had an admirable knowledge of the things of Heaven and earth. Her will, docile in everything to the intellect, was entirely orientated to the good and fully governed her sensibility, which never felt or asked of the will anything not fully just and in accordance with reason. If we imagine a will naturally so perfect, a sensibility naturally so irreproachable, both enriched and super-enriched with ineffable graces that were perfectly corresponded to at every moment, we can have an idea of who the Blessed Virgin was. Or rather, we can comprehend why we are unable to even form an idea of who the Blessed Virgin was.

Absolute intransigence

Endowed with so many natural and supernatural lights, Our Lady certainly knew the infamy of the world in her day. And with this She suffered bitterly. For the greater the love of virtue, the greater the hatred of evil.

Now Mary Most Holy had in herself abysses of love for virtue, and therefore She necessarily felt in herself abysses of hatred for evil. Mary was therefore an enemy of the world, from which She lived apart, segregated without any mingling or alliance, focused solely on the things of God.

The world, for its part, seems not to have understood or loved Mary. For it does not seem to have paid Her an admiration commensurate with her most chaste beauty, her most noble grace, her most sweet disposition, her always open and accessible charity, more abundant than the waters of the sea and more pleasing than honey.

And how could it be otherwise? What understanding could there be between She who was all of Heaven and those who lived only for the earth? She who was all faith, purity, humility, nobility, and those who were all idolatry, scepticism, heresy, concupiscence, pride and vulgarity? She who was all wisdom, reason, balance, perfect sense of all things, absolute temperance and without blemish or shadow, and those who were all unrestraint, extravagance, imbalance, error, cacophony, contradiction, given to constant loud outbursts, and chronic, systematic, vertiginously increasing intemperance in everything? She who was faith taken by an adamantine and inflexible logic to all its consequences, and those who were error taken, by an infernally inexorable logic, also to its last consequences? Or those who, renouncing all logic, voluntarily lived in a swamp of contradictions, where all truths were mixed and polluted in the monstrous intermingling of all the contrary errors?

Immaculate is a negative word. Etymologically, it means the absence of blemish and, therefore, of any error, however small, of any sin, no matter how slight or insignificant it may seem. It is absolute integrity in faith and virtue. It is, therefore, absolute, systematic and irreducible intransigence, a complete, profound and diametrical aversion to every kind of error or evil. Holy intransigence in truth and goodness is orthodoxy and purity, as opposed to heterodoxy and evil. Because She loved God without measure, Our Lady correspondingly loved everything that belonged to God with all her heart. And because She hated evil without measure, She hated Satan without measure, his pomps and works, the devil, the world and the flesh.

Our Lady of the Conception is Our Lady of holy intransigence.

True hatred, true love

Therefore, Our Lady prayed without ceasing. And as is so reasonably believed, She asked for the advent of the Messiah, and for the grace to be a servant of the one chosen to be the Mother of God.

She asked for the Messiah, for the coming of Him who could make justice shine once again on the face of the earth, so that the divine Sun of all virtues could rise, beating down the darkness of ungodliness and vice throughout the world.

Detail of the “Carmelite Immaculate Conception”, by Andrés López – Museum of Guadalupe Basilica, Mexico City

Our Lady certainly desired that the just living on earth would find in the coming of the Messiah the fulfilment of their longings and hopes, that the faltering would be revived, and that from every country, from every abyss, souls touched by the light of grace would take flight to the highest pinnacles of sanctity. For these are par excellence the victories of God, who is Truth and Good, and the downfalls the devil, the leader of all error and evil. The Virgin wanted the glory of God by this justice, which is the realization on earth of the order desired by the Creator.

But in asking for the coming of the Messiah, She was not unaware that He would be the rock of scandal, through whom many would be saved and many would also receive the punishment of their sin. This chastisement of the unrepentant sinner, this crushing of the obdurate and hardened reprobate, Our Lady also desired with all her heart, and it was one of the consequences of the Redemption and the foundation of the Church, which She desired and requested like no other. Ut inimicos Sanctæ Ecclesiæ humiliare digneris, Te rogamus, audi nos, sings the Liturgy. And before the Liturgy, of course, the Immaculate Heart of Mary had already raised a similar plea to God for the defeat of the unrepentant reprobates.

A marvellous example of true love and true hatred.

Suppliant omnipotence

God wants works. He founded the Church for the apostolate. But above all He wants prayer. For prayer is the condition for the fruitfulness of all works. And He wants virtue as the fruit of prayer.

Queen of all apostles, Our Lady is, however, above all the model of souls who pray and sanctify themselves, the North Star of all meditation and interior life. For, endowed with immaculate virtue, She always did what was most reasonable and, while She never felt in herself the agitations and disorders of souls who only love action and agitation, neither did She experience in herself the apathy and negligence of lax souls who turn the interior life into a shield to disguise their indifference to the Church’s cause. Her withdrawal from the world did not denote a lack of interest in the world. Who has done more for the ungodly and for sinners than She who, in order to save them, voluntarily consented to the most cruel immolation of her infinitely innocent and holy Son? Who did more for mankind than She who obtained the fulfilment of the Saviour’s promise in her day?

But, relying above all on prayer and the interior life, did not the Queen of the Apostles give us a great lesson in the apostolate, making both of these her main instruments of action?

Souls who attract divine graces

Souls who, like Our Lady, possess the secret of true love and true hatred, of perfect intransigence, of unceasing zeal, of a spirit of complete renunciation, are so valuable in God’s eyes that they are truly the ones who can attract divine graces to the world. […]

And what should we do, for our part? Fight on every permissible ground, with every licit weapon. But first and foremost, trust in the interior life and in prayer. This is Our Lady’s great example.

Our Lady’s example can only be imitated with Our Lady’s help. And Our Lady’s help can only be achieved through devotion to Our Lady. Now, what better way to devote ourselves to Mary Most Holy than to ask Her not only for love of God and hatred of the devil, but for that holy integrity in love of good and hatred of evil, in a word, that holy intransigence which shines so brightly in her Immaculate Conception? 

Taken from: Catolicismo.
Campos dos Goytacazes.
Year IV. N.45 (Sept., 1954); p.1-2



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