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The Immaculate Heart of Mary

A sermon of St. Bernardine of Sienna
From sermon 9 on the Visitation

    What mortal man, unless he were protected by a divine pronouncement, would presume with his impure lips to speak briefly or at length about the true Mother of God and man -- about her whom God the Father predestined before all ages to be a perpetual virgin, whom the Son chose for His most worthy Mother, whom the Holy Ghost prepared as the dwelling place of every grace? With what words can a mere man like myself say anything of the lofty thoughts of that Virgin's Heart, uttered by her most holy lips; thoughts for which the tongues of all the Angels would not be adequate? For the Lord said, "The good man from the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good"; and this word can also be a treasure. Among those who are merely human, who can be thought of as better than she who merited to be made Mother of God, who for nine months gave the hospitality of her heart and her womb to God Himself? What treasure could be better than that divine love with which the heart of the Virgin burned like a fiery furnace?

    And so, from this heart, as a furnace of divine ardor, the Blessed Virgin brought forth good words; that is, words of the most ardent love. For as from a vase full of the best wine only the best wine can be poured, or as from a very hot furnace nothing can come forth that is not burning hot, so indeed from the Mother of Christ could come no word except one of the highest and greatest divine love and ardor. And as the words of a wise mistress and lady are few, but substantial and full of meaning, so it is that seven times approximately seven words are read as having been spoken by the Blessed Mother of Christ; a mystic way of showing that she was full of the sevenfold grace. To the Angel she spoke twice only, and twice also to Elizabeth. And she spoke twice to her Son, once in the temple and once at the marriage feast; and once to the servers at that feast. On all these occasions she spoke very little, though she spoke at greater length in praise of God and in thanksgiving when she said, "My soul magnifies the Lord"; and here she spoke not with men, but with God. These seven words were spoken in a wonderful gradation and order according to the seven progressions and acts of love; they are like seven flames from the furnace of her heart.

From Church documents

    At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Apostolic See first approved the liturgical worship by which the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary is given due honor. The way was prepared for this cult by many holy men and women. Pope Pius VII instituted the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, to be celebrated in a devout and holy way by all the dioceses and religious congregations which had requested it. Later Pope Pius IX added the proper Office and Mass. But the ardent zeal and hope, which had arisen even in the seventeenth century and had grown day by day, that this feast should be given greater solemnity and be extended to the whole Church, was graciously fulfilled by Pope Pius XII in the year 1942, when a terrible war was spreading through almost the whole world. He had pity on the limitless hardships of the people, and because of this devotion and trust in the heavenly Mother, he solemnly commended the whole human race to her most gentle Heart and appointed that a feast with its own Mass and Office be celebrated forever and everywhere in honor of her Immaculate Heart.


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