Marian Virtue Series: Surpassing Purity

This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.

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Happy Birthday to Mother Mary!

I hope you are enjoying a piece of cake and a delicious cup of something as you read this.  I know full well that this post will be very long and I most certainly hope theologically sound, so read through and there is an easy giveaway at the end!

It is not what you think it is.

When you hear the word "purity," what is the first thing that comes to mind?  For most people, it is modesty, chastity, virginity, long skirts, a strange Christian subculture.  However, that is not what purity actually is.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Baptism "confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins."   (CCC, 2520) Purity is a grace, something to aid us in fighting spiritual battles, as the fall of Adam and Eve brought us disordered desires of the flesh as well as concupiscence.

Mary was immaculately conceived meaning she was born FULL of grace.  Y'all, do you know what it means to be full?  It means stuffed, no more room, packed to the brim.  That's what happened to Mary.  If she was to be the mother of Jesus--who is both fully Man and fully Divine--she would have to be fully human but also be set aside from others in some way.  So God decided to completely fill her with grace.

Now that we have established that purity is a grace, we can break it down even more.  I will use certain mysteries of the Rosary as reference points to show what purity is.

First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation - purity of heart

Tradition has it that Mary was brought to the temple at a young age, and lived there, being brought up in holy ways.  She was fourteen years old when the angel Gabriel appeared to her on a "mission from God" (guess my movie reference...).  Basically, as most know, Gabriel startled Mary by telling her that God had found favor with her.  What would a fourteen year old girl think, even one who was full of grace?!  At this point, was she aware that she was full of grace?  Anyways, the angel goes on to tell her, not ask her, mind you, that she will become pregnant with a Son who would be named Jesus.  He would be a great Man, forever King of a forever kingdom.  After inquiring as to how that could possibly happen because she was still a virgin, Gabriel told her that the power of God would overshadow her and the Child would be the Son of God.  Her response is jaw dropping: Be it done unto me according to thy word, or fiat.

Now this is where we observe purity in action.  One of the Beatitudes is, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."  Mary did not ask what was in it for her, suddenly becoming pregnant with the Son of God and everything.  She did not pause to weigh the pros and cons, let alone a "how about I talk to my parents about this."  Living in the holy and meditative environment of the temple would, I assume, draw you into closer conversation and union with the Lord.  Mary would have needed to make decisions for herself, even larger ones.  She took the angel's message for what it was, a message from God.  She did not, at least according to what we read in Scripture, question the authenticity of this message or the messenger.  

Mary was so pure of heart, that she saw and heard God through Gabriel, trusting He knew why He had chosen her among all women through all of time.  This particular example strikes me, as there are so so so many times in my life, that I doubt others.  I doubt the authenticity and intention of a confessor, wondering if the advice and wisdom they are imparted on me is actually what God is wanting me to hear.  I will negate what others are saying because I am not mentally or emotionally, even spiritually, prepared to hear them.  I am not pure of heart, therefore I fail to see God properly.  Mary's example in this particular mystery shows me that I can take a leap of faith to trust, not only the Lord, but the outcome.  His love is so great, that He will always provide though we may go astray.

Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation - purity of vision

Mary's older cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah finally conceived a child after years and years and years of infertility.  Though Mary was in her first trimester (ugh, think nausea and exhaustion, though Mary might have been exempt from that), she embarked on a journey to go help Elizabeth out as she completed her last trimester.

Once she arrived at Elizabeth's home, Elizabeth, in her excitement, shouted part of what we know of now as the Hail Mary, "Blessed are you among women!  And blessed is the fruit of your womb!  Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me."  She confirmed what Gabriel had told Mary just a few months before.  This is where it gets awesome.  Mary, growing baby Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, sings her Magnificat, announcing that her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior.  Her words are beautiful, and she praises the Lord for all the good He does.  Not once does she brag about the fact that she was the ONLY woman chosen from ALL of time and history to be the God-bearer, the Theotokos.  Not once does she choose to sit around expecting the world to fall at her feet because she and ONLY she can grow the Christ child.  In her humility, she goes to serve another instead.  In humility, she refuses to give in to selfish whims and thoughts, choosing to guide others to see God only.

Mary's example at Elizabeth's home shows us what it means to have purity of vision, which, according to the CCC, is a "discipline of feelings and imagination" which refuses "all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God's commandments." (CCC, 2520)  Pure vision is able to take a step back from the reality; it is able to redirect both reality and the meaning of it towards something and some One higher and holy.  It is both a grace to ask for, and a virtue to cultivate.  Thinking well of oneself is not always a wrong thing, but to do so without any thanks or acknowledgment to the Lord is.  Mary knew how blessed she was, but gave every bit of credit to the Lord, not to her fiat.

Second Luminous Mystery: The Wedding at Cana - purity of intention

While at a wedding in Cana, Christ performed His first public miracle because of His mother.  The wine had run out, so either the bride and groom had underestimated the amount of wine they would need, they did not have enough money to provide more than was needed, or their guests were just having a grand old time.  Mary's good heart went out to them, and knowing that her Son could remedy the problem, went to Him and told Him that there was no more wine.  He asked her what she wanted Him to do, and told her that His time was not yet come.  So Mary goes over to the servants, knowing her Son better than anyone else and knowing that He would end up performing a miracle, and tells them to do what ever Jesus told them.  He then turned the water filled jars into jars full of wine, His first miracle.  It was at this moment, and because of His presence, that marriage became elevated to the dignity of a Sacrament.

Mary's intention was as pure as it was clear: the true end of man is to seek out the Lord, and to fulfill the will of God in everything.  Mary sought out the Lord at the wedding feast, and He fulfilled the will of His Father by performing a miracle to take care of others.  They also wanted us to know that we are to have the same purity of intention in marriage, but not only marriage.  We are to have the same purity of intention wherever we are at in life, no matter our vocation and path we choose for ourselves.  We are to constantly seek out the Lord, to keep Him in the middle of whatever we do and pursue.  We are to pray and discern what His will is for us, and we are to fulfill it.  That is what it means to have purity of intention.

What does this mean for us?

I know I can continue to find examples of how Mary lived out a pure life, I could even talk about her marriage to Joseph.  However, purity of heart, vision, and intention go much further than one would think.  If one strives to be pure of heart, vision, and intention, then many other things will fall into place from there.  One will want to protect what is most intimate, not out of fear, but out of respect for the dignity of the person.  That was also Joseph's role in the Holy Family: he protected the dignity of his wife and the Christ Child, and guided them as best he could on a path to holiness.  This is how we are to be in our families, communities, and workplaces; a guiding star, a humble leader, and a lover of the Lord.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.

xoxo, alex

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Debbie Staresinic describes herself as a Daughter of God. Wife. Mother of 4 + 2 in heaven. Grandmother of 3. Author of Theology of the Body Rosary Meditations.

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