Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)
How can we extol the beauty of Our Lady? She looks gorgeous, speaks eloquently, moves gracefully, smells sweet.
Her mind courses with sublime concepts, with memories of magnificent vistas, with fond feelings for everything worthy, and with quiet reflections on the most profound ideas. The honesty of her mind makes everything in it clear as the morning, perfectly harmonious, well-ordered, and solid as the bedrock of the earth.
Her eyes shine with this pure honesty, and they burn softly with tenderness. She breathes delicately, patiently. She holds her hands with consummate modesty, but also with deft readiness to help. She smiles on everything wholesome; she gazes at everything illuminating, and she bows her head before the endless divine mystery.
No poet or troubadour could ever capture the beauty of the Blessed Virgin in words or song. No sculptor or painter could produce the living image. The most skilled actress could never portray her with adequate luminosity.
Having said all this, we still have not touched on the most decisive aspect of the Blessed Virgin’s beauty—the all-important center of it, in fact.
What “maculates” us? What makes us less than immaculate, like the Virgin?
Does dirt do it? An “immaculate” room has no crumbs, no dust, no smudges, no stinky odors, no grease or grime. Can a good bath take care of our most profound problems? No. We could make our bodies “immaculately” clean, but we would still not be immaculate like the Virgin is immaculate.
Does exposure to the mess of human experience make us dirty? Do we call our Blessed Virgin “immaculate” because she lives in blissful ignorance, knows nothing or how hard and sad our human lot can be? Could we be immaculate ourselves if we could just forget everything, know nothing—be mindless, carefree ciphers, with no regrets over the tragedy that separates the world as it is from the world as it can and should be?
No. We do not venerate a hear-no-evil-see-no-evil-speak-no-evil Virgin Mother. In fact, there is nothing human which she does not understand. Yet, even with all this wisdom, she continues to be immaculately beautiful.
The maculations that make us maculate have to do with our wills—moral maculations. We want things we should not want, and we give in. The moment summons us to greatness, to kindness, to self-sacrifice—and we miss it altogether. We bumble along, constantly distracted by self-centeredness. Our whole frame of reference gets ugly, because our lackluster habits drag us into moral mud.
We find the distinctive beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her perfect submission to the will of God. She spent a great deal of her pilgrim life in a dusty house, her hands begrimed with toil. But she was always immaculate—in her will.
Not because she aspired to be anything special. She probably would have had as much trouble spelling “immaculate” as we do.
What she wanted was to love God and obey Him in everything. To love God and obey Him in everything is what makes a person beautiful.
With the help of Christ, we can be beautiful like that, too.