MAY DEVOTION: UNDERSTANDING THE MARIAN TITLES IN THE LITANY OF LORETO – DAY 24: “SPIRITUAL VESSEL” (VAS SPIRITUALE)

Spiritual vessel

We have already seen that Litany of our Lady of Loreto is a pedagogy of faith. It is a way of speaking, or rather, praying the truths revealed from the very heart of God. Mary is a living reflection of these truths. I dare to say that she was Jesus’ catechist, together with St. Joseph. She taught him not only his first steps but also his first words. In other words, she taught “The Way” himself how to walk; taught “The Truth” to speak; taught “The Life” to live! As we continue our reflections on the Marian titles in the litany on the third collection of titles enshrined in figurative expressions, we tend to encounter ambiguous phrases that seem strange or distant from any important meaning. However, it must be noted that they are formulas rooted in the Bible and Church Tradition. We now come to the set of three very similar invocations. Here, Mary is called a “Vessel”: a “Spiritual Vessel;” a “Vessel of Honour;” and a “Singular Vessel of Devotion.” Today, being the twenty-fourth day of our devotion, we shall reflect on the title: “Spiritual Vessel” (Latin, Vas Spirituale). What does this title mean?

The Latin derivative “Vas” is translated as “Skeuos” in Greek, meaning not only vessel but also an instrument, tool, equipment or apparatus, used literally or figuratively to refer to a wife who contributes to the usefulness of the husband. In 1Peter 3:7, Peter exhorts husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, honouring them as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with their husbands of the grace of life. Therefore, the invocation, “Spiritual Vessel” can be said to be an allusion to the text of the Gospel of Luke (cf. 1:34-35), when the angel Gabriel answers the question of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “How will this come about since I know no man?” The angel replied: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.” As such, Mary becomes the “Clay Vessel” of which the Holy Spirit of God was poured into – “Spiritual Vessel.” Put differently, by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the perfect spiritual instrument/tool (Vessel) used by God to carry out His redemptive plan.

This image of the Spirit like the cloud which covers with its shadows is clearly understood in the pages of the Bible. In the first page of the Bible (Book of Genesis), it is said that in the beginning the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. For the Israelites, God’s protective presence was illustrated with a cloud which led, guard and guided people during the years of wandering in the desert. The people got used to seeing in the cloud a sign of God’s providence. It was often called “the glory of the Lord.” “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would resume their march. If the cloud did not rise, they would not resume their march until the day it did rise. For Yahweh’s cloud stayed over the Dwelling during the daytime and there was fire inside the cloud at night, for the whole House of Israel to see, at every stage of their journey” (Ex. 40:36-38).

In the New Testament, it was the same “Cloud” (a metaphor for the Holy Spirit) that covered or filled the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Vessel); the same way it filled the Tent of Meeting where the Ark of the Covenant was. We also have a strong image of the cloud that surrounded Jesus on Mount Tabor. Pope John Paul II said in the document, “Vita Consecrata,” dedicated to religious, that the cloud of Tabor is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It transfigured Jesus. This is the mission of the Spirit in our lives, to fill our lives with the grace of God so that we are transfigured and overflowing.

God wants to give us his Spirit, without measure. We became spiritual vessels when we received the Sacrament of baptism which is completed by the Sacrament of Confirmation. However, by our sins, we tend to grieve the Holy Spirit, and our vessels become empty. Nevertheless, the Blessed Virgin Mary (Full of Grace) – the most perfect Spiritual Vessel, continues to serve as a shining example for us in order to be filled again with grace and the Holy Spirit. When we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Spiritual Vessel”, we are called to follow her examples and be spiritual vessels ourselves, filled with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, from which rivers of Living Water spring; and thus, satiating the world with blessings and peace.

Let us pray:

O Holy Spirit, You filled Your precious Vessel, the Blessed Virgin Mary with Your grace and power, may by honouring and invoking her as the “Spiritual Vessel,” we may come to imitate her ways and persevere in keeping the spiritual vessels of our hearts filled with Your divine grace. Amen.

Oh “Spiritual Vessel” (Vas Spirituale), pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith.

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