DAY 5: “REFUGE OF SINNERS” (REFUGIUM PECCATORUM)
We have just invoked Mary as “Health of the Sick” (yesterday); the consequent three invocations are: “Refuge of Sinners,” “Comforter of the afflicted,” and “Help of Christians.” At the heart of these invocations that recognize the powerful intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the members of the Pilgrim Church, we recognize that she is “Refuge for Sinners” (Latin, “Refugium Peccatorum”). In other words, one of the titles with which the holy Church tells her members to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and which encourages the poorest sinners the most, is the title of “Refuge of Sinners.” In what context could we understand the Blessed Virgin Mary in this very invocation?
To begin with, it is important to note that in ancient times, there were cities of refuge in Judea (Judah), where the delinquents would stop to be freed from the punishment they deserved. Now, there are not as many cities of refuge as there were then, but there is only one of which it is written: “Gloriosa dicta sunt de te, civitas Dei,” meaning: “Glorious things are told of you, O City of God” (cf. Psalm 87). The first three verses of this very psalm clearly express: “On the holy mountain is the city cherished by the Lord; the Lord prefers the gate of Zion to all of Jacob’s dwellings. Of you are told glorious things, O City of God.” This is because Zion in the Old Testament is the easternmost of the two hills of ancient Jerusalem. It was the site of the Jebusite city captured by David, king of Israel and Judah, in the 10th century BC (cf. 2 Samuel 5:6–9) and established by him as his royal capital, which has been the fortress of the city. Put differently, Zion was magnificent in its buildings, it was the delight of nations, the joy of the whole earth; there was the royal residence of the kings of Judah; there were the temple, the Ark, and the glory of God; the King of heaven dwelling in the midst of her (cf. Ps. 46:5 –“God in the midst of its citadels, it cannot be shaken…”). Little wonder in Psalm 91, the psalmist sings: “he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, and abide in the shade of the Almighty, says to the Lord, my Refuge, my stronghold, my God in whom I trust…He will conceal you with His wings….”) Now, if Zion was understood as the city of refuge for miscreants because of its fortress, temple; and above all, the Ark of the Covenant dwelling within it; how much more could be thought of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, overshadowed by the power of the Most High, stronger than the fortresses of Zion, etc. because she bore in her womb, the living God in the flesh. Therefore, it becomes fitting that sinners (even the worst of all) could run to her – the temple/tabernacle of the Most High, the “Shelter of the Almighty,” – “Theotokos” (God-bearer), that they might find refuge and protection in the Almighty. Thus, as soon as someone enters this “mystical city,” (the Blessed Virgin Mary), they will recover divine grace.
From the antecedent, it follows then, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “city of refuge” to which all who wish to avoid death should flee. The refuge formerly provided in Zion could only save the lives of the murderers if they committed an involuntary homicide, and they were therefore not really guilty. God, in His infinite mercy, prepared for Mary a safe haven. As guilty as a sinner is, if they appeal to Mary’s protection, they would surely encounter God’s mercy and grace; therefore, the sinner will not have to make a long and dangerous journey to find this blessed refuge. As such, Mary always waits for the poor sinners, and her heart is constantly open to receive them.
The second part of the “Hail Mary’s” prayer captions this invocation (Refuge of Sinners): “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the time of our death. Amen!” Recognizing that you are a sinner in constant need of grace is not always so easy. But when we are before the one who is holy and immaculate, our stains and sins become more evident. St. Bernard affirms that Mary has no horror of any sinner, however filthy and abominable. As long as the sinner turns to Mary and seeks refuge in God, she will not hesitate to give them a godly hand in order to uproot them from the depths of sin and despair. Therefore, taking refuge in Mary is taking decisive steps towards heaven. Every child knows very well where to take refuge in time of danger – the mother! Can this be disputed? Children are fond of running to the one who generated and breastfed them. Some childhood “morning sicknesses” are only cured with a “mother’s lap” (loving care). Hence, running to the Blessed Virgin Mary (our Mother) for refuge that she might obtain divine graces for us is highly recommended.
Dear friends in Christ, as sinners drowning in the stream of sin, it is appropriate to utilize this special privilege of “October Devotion” to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary daily and seek refuge; this way, we shall enjoy the soothing protection of the Almighty who has made His tabernacle in her. Praying the holy rosary daily is one of the surest ways of entrusting our hearts to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “holy city” that shelters sinners – Refuge of Sinners.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, you made your home in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Refuge of Sinners, in order that sinners might seek refuge and protection from you through her. Grant, we pray, that by a faithful devotion to her and through her intercession, we may come to the full realization of the heavenly city where you dwell. You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen
Oh “Refuge of Sinners” (Refugium Peccatorum) 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
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?