Celebrating the Historical Feast of the “Espousal” of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 by Jayson M. Brunelle

While it may not be a very well-known fact, today, January 23, marks the commemoration of the espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Joseph.  It is this author’s suggestion that Catholic Christians who have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially those individuals who have made an act of total consecration to Mary, reconsider the significance of this day in light of the concept of Marian Consecration.

Many devout Catholics are well aware of the long-standing tradition and devotion of consecration to Mary.  St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe, in particular, stand out as two of the greatest advocates of this devotion.  De Montfort explains in his famed treatise on “True Devotion to Mary” that consecration to Mary is the easiest, quickest, shortest, most secure and most perfect way of attaining union with the Sacred Heart of Christ and conformity to His image.  In short, de Montfort explains that as Christians, we are called to imitate Christ in all things.  Thus, we are called to imitate Christ in the mysteries of his Incarnation and divine infancy by spiritually becoming little children and entrusting ourselves entirely to the care of our Spiritual Mother Mary.  For, how can Mary, as Spiritual Mother, nourish a child who puts up resistance to her?  We must become docile in her arms, and allow her to nourish us with the milk of divine grace or spiritual life. 

In addition to the marvelous Mariology set forth by de Montfort, Kolbe stands out as the great promoter of Marian consecration specifically for these times in which we live – that is, the 20th Century and beyond.  Kolbe founded the Militia Immaculata in response to a public protest held by the Freemasons in St. Peter’s Square.  He believed that consecration to the Immaculata served as a sort of spiritual inoculation for these times in which we live; an antidote to the spiritually infectious and potentially fatal diseases of Marxist Atheism and other philosophical, theological and ideological errors which, in our times, have infiltrated virtually every aspect of our culture.  The Blessed Mother Herself has personally confirmed to Fr. Gobbi of the Marian Movement of Priests that through consecration to Her Immaculate Heart, She promises two things: (1) protection from theological error, which is so very prevalent and widespread, and (2) the assurance of one’s salvation.

The firm theological foundation for total consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary consists in Mary’s role as Spiritual Mother of humanity, specifically as it is carried out according to Her three-fold function as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.  As Co-Redemptrix, Mary participated with Christ in the redemption of humanity in a wholly unique and singular way.  Certainly, there was absolutely nothing lacking in Christ’s perfect redemptive offering of Himself to the Father.  Nevertheless, He wished to associate Mary in His redemptive action.  The Church Fathers explained that just as Eve participated with Adam in bringing about the fall of humanity from grace, so too Christ, the New Adam, wished to have Mary, the New Eve – Spiritual Mother of Humanity – participate in the restoration of Grace to the human Family.  Moreover, Mary, in giving birth to Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, necessarily gives birth to the body connected to that Head.  Thus, Mary truly is our Mother in the order of grace.

Having participated intimately with Christ in obtaining grace, or divine life, for humanity, it follows that she would be entrusted with the task of distributing that same grace that she participated in meriting.  For, motherhood does not cease with the definitive act of giving birth but continues in the nourishing and nurturing of the Child after it has received life.  Thus, Mary is the Mediatrix of all Grace, for the Church has consistently taught that every grace that comes to us from God additionally comes through the willed intercession of Mary.

Finally, Mary is the Advocate for the People of God.  Simply put, Jesus cannot refuse His Mother when she makes a request of Him.  Thus, it would certainly be in our best interest to become faithful clients of Mary, for she will act as our Advocate with Her Son.  This reality is clearly manifested in the Scriptural account of the Wedding at Cana.  We are told that Mary, Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding feast.  Mary turns to Jesus, who had not yet begun His public ministry, and says, “They have no wine.”  Jesus’ response may seem harsh at first glance, as He states, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.”  Mary proceeds to say to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” – the exhortation She repeats to this day in each of Her many apparitions.  Clearly, Jesus had no intention of performing His first public miracle that day, but he did; in fact, He turned water into wine (which symbolized and foreshadowed our sharing in the divinity of Christ, Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity) as a result of the Advocacy of His Mother.

It is clear that total consecration to Mary is the perfect means to the end of transforming union with Christ. The more perfectly we live in union with Mary, the more perfectly will we be united to Christ. The essence of consecration to Mary consists in the giving of our hearts (“heart” meaning the very totality of our being) to her. It should additionally be pointed out that when we consecrate ourselves to Mary by entrusting our hearts to Her, she, in turn, meets us in the same spirit, giving to us her heart. There is here an exchange of hearts; the two become so utterly united as to become one. Now, if we take this understanding of total consecration and compare it to St. Joseph’s spousal relationship to Mary, we can see how his union with Her epitomizes total consecration to Mary. For, in his espousal of her, he gave his heart unreservedly to her and took her heart as his own. The hearts of Joseph and Mary became one; through the marital union, they became as “two in one flesh.” Thus, Joseph was necessarily united to the Heart of Christ, since the Immaculate heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are inseparably united. Reverend Stanley Smolenski, contemporary Josephologist, explains this point: “[Joseph’s] interior life was based on his singular union with Jesus through Mary. He was consecrated to Jesus through Mary by his espousal to her…. Thus Joseph’s consecration is the epitome of all consecrations to Jesus through Mary” (Smolenski, 3). Thus, we can understand Joseph’s sanctity as the fruit of his union with the two hearts, based on his espousal union with the heart of Mary. And we too can model our total consecration to Jesus through Mary on St. Joseph’s “spousal” union with Mary. We, like Joseph, are called to “espouse” the Immaculate Heart of Mary; to give Mary our hearts undividedly and take her heart as our own.

Throughout the history of Marian consecration, there have been many different but complementary ways of describing the totality of the entrustment. St. Louis de Montfort was fond of the term “slave;” this, he believed, sufficiently expressed the unreserved nature of the consecration. St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, felt that even this term didn’t go far enough. Instead, he advocated the terms “possession and property.” But both of these great Marian saints fully agreed that to live this consecration was to live “with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary” (Denis, 35). In short, to live with Mary is to take Mary as the model of all that we do; to live in Mary is to say that “Mary will be the only means used by our soul in dealing with God; she will be our universal refuge;” to live through Mary is to never go to God without her; and to live for her is to make her the proximate end of all our actions (Denis, 38). Yet, does not the model of “espousal” seem to most completely embody and connote the charism of living with, through, in, and for Mary? St. Joseph’s spousal union with Mary, then, epitomizes total consecration to her and serves as the perfect model for our union with the two hearts. Speaking on this, contemporary spiritual writer Aaron Joseph states the following: “in imitation of St. Joseph, we too can…espouse [Mary’s] heart, becoming “two in one flesh”(Gen. 2:24), in living with Jesus, loving God and neighbor. This way of St. Joseph can be seen in the imagery of old Jerusalem. As the temple of the Lord stood in the heart of this city of David, Jerusalem, containing the Holy of Holies, in a similar way, in the heart of Joseph, son of David(Mt. 1:20), through his spousal relationship with Mary, stands this Immaculate Temple of the Lord, whose heart contains the Spirit and the Light of Christ. Thus, Joseph, in his spousal relationship with Jesus through Mary, becomes…a model for the Church” (Joseph, 12).

He goes on to offer solid scriptural grounding for the universality of the “espousal” model of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In Eccl.15:1-2, we read, “He that fears God will do good, and he that possesses justice shall lay hold on her (Wisdom/Mary) and she will meet him as an honorable mother, and will receive him as a wife married of a virgin.” Likewise, in Wisdom 8:2, “Her have I loved, and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take her for my spouse, and I became a lover of her beauty.” In both these passages, the “her” refers to personified Wisdom which the Church, in her Liturgy, interprets as representing Mary.

We must be careful here, though, to not make the mistake of thinking that this espousal model does away with or replaces Mary’s role as Spiritual Mother. On the contrary, the espousal model compliments Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood; for it is by our espousal of Mary’s Heart that Mary is most able to act as our Mother. As we saw earlier, consecration to Mary enables Mary to most fully carry out her role as Mediatrix of all graces. If this is true, then it follows that “espousal,” being the perfect form of consecration, allows Mary to provide for us as Mother in the perfect and complete manner.

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