Today is the feast day of St. Mary, mother of God. Mary is one of my favorite saints: this fearsome female who dared to say “Yes” to God’s plan to totally screw up her life, and thereby save the whole world.
I spent a lot of last month with a Marian image called the hortus conclusus (enclosed garden), a metaphor for the Virgin Mother based on Chapter 4 of Song of Songs:
A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse…
My favorite literary treatment of the hortus conclusus was written in the 17th century by an English Jesuit priest, Henry Hawkins. He spent a whole book talking about Mary as a garden, full of beautiful flowers that represented her different virtues.
So today, on Mary’s feast day, I’d like to share with you a little bit of Hawkins’ book, on the symbol of the rose. The rose was a favorite metaphor for Mary (check out medieval art of Mary), and it’s where we get rosary from.
The Rose, the more it is wrung or pressed, the sweeter odor it sends forth, and yields such a redolent fragrancy withal, that all are wonderfully taken with the odoriferous breath it gives: And this our Rose, the more she was wrung and pressed with the cruel finger of tribulations and afflictions, the greater her sanctity appeared.
Being banished into Egypt, she gave forth a most fragrant odor of patience, wherewith she embalmed all Egypt, and fructifyed [sic] afterwards into an infinite race of devotees, to her and her Son; witness the Pauls, the Anthonies, the Hilarions, the Macarians of Egypt.
In the Passion of her Son, transfixed the with sword of sorrow, she yielded a sweet perfume of perfect faith.
In other afflictions and tribulations she imparted the communicative odor of compassion.
For the torments which he suffered of the Jews, she sent up the fragrancy of thanksgiving to the heavenly Father, from the thurible of her heart.
And in the desolation she felt after his Ascension, for the absence of her Beloved, she poured forth incense of her holy desires and incomparable devotion.
After all which odors, O give me leave most sweet and odiferous Rose, through desires and devotion to run after thee; or, do thou but draw me after thee, unto the odor of thine ointments.