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Litany of Loreto - Singular Vessel of Devotion

Sunday, February 13, 2011
In certain periods of the Church's history (and the current time, I think, is probably one of them), Christians have been rather cautious about giving too much honour to the saints: after all, true worship is due to God alone (cf. Ex 20: 3-6), and veneration of the saints can sometimes look dangerously like diverting that true worship elsewhere.

This phenomenon is particularly interesting nowadays, though, when secular society appears to be fascinated with the cult of celebrity. We seem to be quite happy honouring people not even for what they have achieved but simply for who they are - for being famous. I say this is interesting because, ultimately, Christians don't honour the saints because of their achievements. We honour the saints because the Church perceives in their lives a flourishing of humanity, a conformity to the divine image in which we are all created. Such conformity is achieved not by human effort but by an openness to the Holy Spirit, by sharing in the free gift of divine life which we call grace.

It follows that of all the saints, Our Lady occupies a special place in Christian devotion. She whom the angel called 'full of grace' (Luke 1:28) was so profoundly conformed to God, the ultimate object of all our devotion, that she was chosen to bear within herself the very Word of God made Flesh. Thus  she is quite literally a singular vessel of our devotion. So it is that the Byzantine Church dares to sing so exultantly in response to the Magnificat, Mary's own song of joy:

More honourable than the Cherubim,
and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim
Thou who inviolate didst bring forth the Word of God,
very Mother of God, Thee do we magnify!

Gregory Pearson OP


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