Spiritual Vessel

By Peter Darcy | On Jul 2, 2016 | No Comments | In Our Lady

By Peter Darcy

Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became … the first “tabernacle” in history in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 2003.)

When I was younger, I had trouble understanding the “vessel” images that were applied to Mary and used quite frequently in the devotional life of the Church. However, the beautiful image of Mary as the “tabernacle” of Jesus’ Eucharistic Presence better than any other explains the obscure title of “spiritual vessel” that was for so long a mystery to me. Do not these words of Blessed John Paul II fill the hearts of all lovers of Mary with a respectful awe for the unique position that Mary occupies in the history of salvation? They certainly do for me.

Our Lady, because she became the repository of the Eternal Word Himself, is also a spiritual vessel for all other prayers, intentions, sufferings, desires, longings, and joys of the faithful throughout the ages. In a sense, the physical Presence of Jesus in her womb for those nine months, and in her mortal life for thirty-three more years, created a universal capacity—that is, an open space—within our Mother for every other child of God. It is not too bold to say that her internal and spiritual openness has no limit to receiving whatever her children wish to place in her safekeeping. She is the Mother of the infinite God, and therefore she is the mother of the whole world, and she has an infinite capacity to give space and attention to the needs of all the children of God, all the souls that Christ redeemed by His saving sacrifice.

My other favorite image describing Mary as “spiritual vessel” comes from St. John Chrysostom who said that Mary is like a crystal goblet into which the Lord poured the finest wine of his divine life. When held up to the light, the rays of the sun penetrate the perfectly pure vessel and the precious crystal magnifies the divine radiance of what it contains. What a beautiful image! It describes Mary as the pure and “translucent” vessel that both contains Christ and radiates His essence to the world. This is the vocation of Mary, and she said as much in her Magnificat when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” (Lk 1:46)

In my own devotional life I have learned, perhaps the hard way, that we humans have a tendency to short-change Mary in thinking that she is either not interested in our concerns or that she doesn’t have the ability to do anything about them. Sometimes, mostly under the influence of the Protestant churches, we even believe that turning our hearts and minds in prayer to Mary detracts from our worship of God. Oh, how untrue are all of these ideas!

What is really lacking is not in Mary or in Jesus—it is in us! We lack the faith to go with all—not just some—but all our concerns and prayers and desires to deposit them in the “spiritual vessel” of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. I believe that we really underestimate her capacity and her desire to receive all our needs and prayers, every day, at every moment, in every circumstance, as well as her ability to take them and place them before the Throne of Grace to petition God to help us. Have we devotedly placed in her care all our needs and concerns? She has no lack of room for them! Let us constantly go to her with the innocent confidence of a child that knows that his Mother will look out for his needs as if he were the only child in the world who needed anything.

Prayer

Dearest Mary, “Spiritual Vessel” and repository of all graces, let your most holy and immaculate heart be for us the vessel in which to place all our sorrows, problems, concerns, and needs. May we find in your heart the greatest treasure of all, the infinite blessing of Christ, Who lives and reigns over us, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Written by Peter Darcy

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