A Vessel for Our Journey
In the back pages of my memory, I recall the day I began nursery school. I was, on the surface, confident and ready to embrace the rigorous demands of colouring-in and naptime. There were other children who seemed as eager as I was to begin the journey.
But one mother came with her little girl and joined the league of parents nervously handing over their children. Despite a hug and a kiss goodbye, the little girl could not bear the sight of her mother’s departure. The consolations did not suffice and the little girl wailed uncontrollably. Unexpectedly, I soon found myself sharing in her sorrow and begged my own mother to stay. Some way, somehow, I eventually stopped crying and so did she, and both of our mothers left to complete the tasks of their day.
I believe that there is something in this moment of vulnerability that can teach us about why we should cling to the Blessed Mother.
In the Litany of Loreto, we see that Our Lady is known by many titles. Among those, there is one with a maritime allusion, the “Vessel of Honour””. Fishermen, in the wisdom of their trade, go to great lengths to choose a sturdy ship by which they may set out to sail.
Likewise, we who traverse the treacherous waters of life, should do so in this most impenetrable “Vessel of Honour”. For if God saw Our Lady as being worthy of holding the life of his own son, who are we to scorn her? And if it was necessary that St Joseph, “Terror of Demons” and patron of the Universal Church, had to first become espoused to her Immaculate Heart before seeing the face of Jesus, who are we to sever ourselves from her?
Be a child as Christ was
The plan of salvation for all of us required a place for the Holy Spirit to dwell and bear fruit. It is the hope of God that, as we entrust ourselves to Mary’s care, we may see with our own eyes that the Lord has visited her and remains there. It is then that our faith is conceived, nourished and raised to maturity. We will be a child as Christ was a child; we will have a mother as Christ had a mother.
And what will become of those who imitate Christ by sharing in the motherhood that nourished him? Well, if obedience should run its course, there will be the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It is at the greeting of Our Lady by her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 12:41-45) that we encounter the message of God. For though the Lord appears distant in a radiant heaven far away, the divine essence or the “fullness of the deity” comes to us (Colossians 2:9). He journeys towards us, to the faraway lands where we reside — or sometimes hide. He comes to us veiled in the light of a virgin.
When Mary greets us and when we invite her to stay in our time of need, she does not hesitate to take on the work that must be done. She does not come for her own sake or to impose her own instruction. She is “the handmaid of the Lord” and does his work accordingly.
Let us not be fooled into thinking that such work is pretty, glamorous or dainty. Not so, I say, not so. Her sorrowful heart, pierced by a sword, slices through the sliminess of sin. And when she finds us there, marinating in mud and murkiness, she carries us to her beloved son who himself begins the work of purification.
Let us cry out for the Blessed Mother as did the infant Jesus at his birth. May she always hold us in her care and never depart. May she cradle us in her Immaculate Heart — a heart worthy to carry the Messiah.
Though the tides make us wary
We sail upon a vessel blessed.
Cry for the Virgin Mary
That she may carry us to our rest.
This article was published in the August 2022 issue of The Southern Cross magazine