Just yesterday, we reflected on an amazing title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her Litany, which depicts her wisdom or better still, her prudence as a worthy model for us Christians. Therefore, it becomes perfect to venerate her for such prudence in participating with Jesus in our salvation history. As such, today, we reflect on her title “Virgin Most Venerable” (Virgo Veneranda) which comes immediately after “Virgin Most Prudent” in the Litany.
The term ‘venerable’, according to the Online Cambridge Dictionary, simply means ‘deserving respect because of age, high position, or religious or historical importance’. It also has to deal with being ‘accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character.’ With this, we come to understand the Church’s veneration of saints and angels as the act of honouring them as having a high degree of sanctity or holiness as members of Christ’s Mystical Body. Angels are given similar veneration as well. However, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the hyperdulia way surpasses that of saints and angels (dulia veneration) but lesser than that of Christ (Latria worship – which is only given to God alone). For this reason, the Blessed Virgin Mary is regarded as “Virgin Most Venerable,” among the saints and angels.
When we Catholics venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Virgin Most Venerable,” we do nothing more than to repeat the gesture of her cousin St. Elizabeth who first venerated her saying: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). Soon after, Mary herself prophesies by the action of the Holy Spirit: “Yes! From this day onwards, all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me!” (Lk. 1:48). We are part of this generation that has the courage to fulfil Biblical prophecy by venerating her. This is the foundation of Marian veneration and devotion.
The Catholic Church practices worship in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4:24), in which She worships and adores God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and venerates or “honours with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her, the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of the redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be” (Sacrosanctum Concilium #103). Also, the Church venerates or honours the memory of martyrs and other saints, as proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical “Marialis Cultus,” in 1974. Under no circumstances do we admit the superficial accusation of the separated brethren that we “adore Mary.” If any member of the Catholic Church commits this deviation, he should be corrected and admonished to worship and adore only the Triune God, because even the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, together with all the angels, martyrs, saints, and the whole of heaven unite with earth to give solemn worship and adoration to the Triune God.
In Catholic Worship, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints appear as arrows that point to the centre of salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ. Mary is not the point of arrival. She is a clue for those who want to find Jesus. It is not possible to simply ignore the Blessed Virgin Mary as some intend to do as if that would diminish the figure of Jesus. On the contrary, who is the son who would not be happy to hear compliments and honour given to his mother? Anyone who is not happy to see Catholics venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary should simply tear out the biblical pages of those who venerated her and also the imperative to venerate her as cited above. In fact, Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, even wrote songs in honour of Mary. I have not heard these songs in today’s evangelical services.
Dear friends in Christ, to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary is not to adore her. It is simply to praise the action of God in His most venerable creature. Even God Himself praised and venerated her through the angel by saying “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Lk. 1:28). She is the Creator’s masterpiece. How can we not recognize such action of grace in her, a being referred to by God as “Kecharitomene” (full of grace)? Therefore, our veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary simply leads us to recognize the action of God in her life. Put differently, the Blessed Virgin Mary is for us an example of a woman who knows how to listen, answer, pray, obey, surrender to God, intercede, serve, follow Jesus to the cross, be present at Pentecost, etc. She is a mother and a disciple. Thus, to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Virgin Most Venerable” is to recognize these virtues and be willing to imitate them in our lives.
Let us pray:
O God, you are venerated, worshipped and adored by the humble veneration we render to your saints. May our veneration of the “Virgin Most Venerable” (which you filled with your grace) lead us to a solemn and profound worship of you as the only and true God. Amen.
Oh Virgin Most Venerable, pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?