Homily on the Virgin Mary
The Solemn Feast of THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
A Sermon by Saint Anslem, Bishop (1033-1109)
Virgin Mary, All Nature is Blessed by You
Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them, The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendor by men who believe in God.
The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.
Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.
Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation received new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.
To Mary God gave his only begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.
God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, noting could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.
Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.
Source: The Liturgy of the Hours – Office of Readings
About Saint Anselm:
Saint Anselm (1033-1109) was born at Acosta, Italy in 1033 and had an early longing to follow the monastic life. At 16, he left home to study in Burgundy, France and became a disciple and friend of Lanfranc at the monastery of Bec in Normandy. He became a monk in 1060 at the age of 27 and for the next eighteen years studied Sacred Scripture, theology and philosophy and developed a profound spiritual and ascetic life. In 1078, at 45, he was named abbot of the monastery, a position which required him to visit England to inspect abbey property there.
In 1092, the English clergy elected Anselm archbishop of Canterbury but Anselm refused to compromise the spiritual independence of the archdiocese. Thus King William II of England refused his approval. On his arrival to England in 1093 he immediately came into bitter dispute with King William. The king refused to permit the calling of needed synods and demanded an exorbitant payment from Anselm as the price of his nomination to the see. Anselm refused to pay it. In 1097, he went to Rome, where Pope Urban I refused William II’s demand that he depose Anselm, and so William threatened to exile Anselm and confiscate diocesan properties. The pope supported Anselm and ordered the king to permit him to return to England and that he return all confiscated property to him.
In 1098 Anselm attended the Council of Vari and defended the Filioque of the Creed in the controversy over the procession of the Holy Spirit.
Anselm returned to England in 1100, on the death of William II, (who was killed in a hunting accident receiving an arrow through his eye) but also encountered difficulties with William’s successor, Henry II, who laid on new demands over lay investiture. (It was Henry II who would later order the death of the Catholic bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket in 1170). Again Anselm returned to Rome and Pope Paschal II supported his refusal of lay investiture of bishops to Henry. Anselm prevailed but agreed bishops and abbots could pay homage to the King for their temporal possessions. This brought about a certain reconciliation.
While Anselm vigorously defended the Church rights against English kings, he was also a pre-eminent theologian and was called “the Father of Scholasticism.” He denounced the slave trade and believed that revelation and reason could beharmonized. He was the first to incorporate the rationalism of Aristotle into theology. He authored the “Monologium,” on the existence of God, and Proslogium, which deduces God’s existence from man’s notion of a perfect being. This influenced the great thinkers of later ages, among them Duns Scotus, Descarte and Hegel. His “Cur Deus homo?” was the outstanding theological treatise on the Incarnation in the Middle Ages. He died at Canterbury in 1109 and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1720.