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Ave Maria Meditations
thoughts from: A Little Treatise on Mary
St. John Damascene-Feast Day December 4th
Patristic Father and One of the Thirty-three Doctors of the Church:
Doctor of Christian Art and Doctor of the Assumption
c. 676-749


With regard to Marian devotion, a very practical part of Christian life, it is particularly interesting to revisit the thought of St. John Damascene. He introduces the fine distinction between the cult of adoration, or latria, owed to God alone, and the honor or veneration that ought to be given to the holy Virgin. Later on the terms dulia [and hyperdulia] was introduced for this, but it was unknown to the Saint. Here is a text:
But we, who consider God the object of adoration—–a God not made out of anything, but existing from all eternity, beyond every cause, word, or concept of time and nature—–we honor and venerate the Mother of God. [Homily 2 on the Dormition, 15]
The cult of Mary, even though inferior to that owed to God, is superior to the honor paid to the other Saints and to the Angels in Heaven. Because she is queen and mistress of all things, she merits the veneration suited to her greatness and unique dignity:

If the memory of all the Saints is celebrated with panegyrics, who will refuse to praise the font of justice and the treasury of holiness? This is not done to glorify her but so that God might be glorified with an eternal glory. [Homily 1 on the Dormition, 5]

Such veneration can also be extended to images of Mary. In his discourses in defense of sacred icons, Damascene makes some extremely clear distinctions about this form of veneration.   . . . As for icons of the Mother of God, they merit a special veneration because of Mary’s unique personal position in the economy of salvation.

In addition to the theological clarity with which our doctor resolves the objective question of Marian devotion, he is not held back by any inhibition or timidity when he wants to express his personal feelings toward her. Let us choose two texts from among the most expressive: 

O daughter of Joachim and Anna, O Lady, receive the word of a sinful servant, who nevertheless burns with love and places in you his only hope of joy; in you he finds the guardian of his life, not only a Mediatrix in your Son’s presence, but also a sure pledge of salvation. [Homily on the Nativity, 12]

St. John Damascene proposed a practice of Marian devotion that seems to come very close to the concept of consecration to the Blessed Virgin as understood and practiced in Marian devotion today. He explains it in a passage from a homily on the Dormition:

We today also remain near you, O Lady. Yes, I repeat, O Lady, Mother of God and Virgin. We bind our souls to your hope, as to a most firm and totally unbreakable anchor, consecrating to you mind, soul, body, and all our being and honoring you, as much as we can, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles. [Homily 1 on the Dormition, 14]

If we firmly abstain, then, from past vices and love the virtues with all our heart, taking them as our companions in life, the Virgin will frequently visit her servants, bringing all manner of blessings. She will be accompanied by Christ her Son, the King and Lord of all, Who will dwell in our hearts. [Ibid, 19]

Through her, the long warfare waged with the Creator has been ended. Through her, the reconciliation between us and him was ratified. Grace and peace were granted us, so that men and Angels are united in the same choir, and we, who had been deserving of disdain, have become sons of God. From her we have harvested the grape of life; from her we have cultivated the seed of immortality. For our sake she became Mediatrix of all blessings; in her God became man, and man became God. [Homily 2 on the Dormition, 16]


Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Author Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Our Lady found this unworthy lukewarm person and obtained for her the grace to enter the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. May this person spend all eternity in showing her gratitude.

More posts by Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

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