It has been said that a saint is a window through which we get a glimpse of another world, a person through whom God’s light shines. If it applies to a saint, then surely it applies even more so to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I remember – many years ago now – sitting in the cloister garth of a monastery where I was making a retreat – watching the sun go down. As the sun dipped lower and lower the shadows began to lengthen; and as the sun retreated, one by one all the colours were extinguished.
As I got up to go back into the house, someone turned on the lights in the church, and my eyes were drawn to one of the stained-glass windows. When the sun was shining, I hadn’t noticed it, but now against the background of bright lights it glowed with a beauty which previously had been invisible. The lights inside the church were shining, not so much on the window as through it. That window had beauty before, but I had to wait until the sun went down and darkness set in to appreciate its true beauty. This beauty was revealed only because there was light within.
In some ways people are like stained glass windows. Many glow and shine, but only in the sunlight of the approval and recognition of others. Many celebrities and politicians suffer this fate. When they fall from favour, and this approval is withdrawn, and nobody pays attention to them anymore, they are plunged into darkness because they have no light within. Anyway, as these profound thoughts were passing through my mind in that monastery garden, whoever turned those lights on in the church suddenly turned them off. Now all was in darkness again. And how dark it is when a light goes out: darker by far than if it had never shone.
When we say that Our Blessed Mother was conceived without Original Sin what are we saying? We are saying that she was as holy as is possible for a redeemed creature to be. Like the rest of us Our Lady too had to be redeemed, but she was redeemed in advance. Unlike us, Our Lady was never subject to the Devil, not even for a moment. Because from the very moment of her existence, from her conception in the womb of her mother, she belonged to the kingdom of light, the Kingdom of God. The light of God’s grace illuminated her from within, so that no matter how deep was the darkness that surrounded her, she was still in the light. And far from extinguishing her light, the darkness merely served to show it up.
It was through the humble and obedient Virgin Mary that Our Lord’s powerful light shone into our world of darkness and shadows. Christ is the ‘light of the world’. He it is who enlightens all peoples. It was his light that illuminated the heart and soul of his mother.
Each of us was conceived and born, not only into a world darkened by many forms of evil, but we were personally subject to the kingdom of darkness. But when we were baptized the light of God’s grace was kindled within us and Christ began to free us from the grip of darkness. As Saint Peter put it, “God has called us out of darkness into his own wonderful light.” And Saint Paul says, “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of the light.”
Unfortunately, the darkness still has power over us. The process of freeing ourselves from it through the grace of Christ is a lifelong process. It can’t happen at the flick of a switch. Even though many people are afraid of the dark and it causes us to stumble and lose our way, yet it somehow has a fascination for us. But Our Lady, even though her inner light always burned brightly, knows what it is to live in a world darkened by greed, hatred, pride, cruelty and selfishness. Our Lady will help, guide and encourage us to walk in the way of her Son.
And so, what does living in the light consist of? Saint John tells us, “Anyone who loves his brother is living in the light and need not be afraid of stumbling; unlike the man who hates his brother and is in darkness, not knowing where he is going because it is too dark to see.”
Every time we meet our Blessed Mother in the gospels she is seen as someone who was concerned about other people. Not only did the light of God’s love illumine her own life, but it shone out through her and illuminated the lives of all those around her. Our Lady will help us to keep the light of Christ burning brightly within us, and she will encourage us to shed light into the path of others.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.