Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary: "Mary, Eternal Fountain of Love"

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault 
Fontgombault, October 7, 2021

Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Be it done to me according to thy word. (Lk 1:38) 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

My dearly beloved Sons, 

The richness of the feast of the Holy Rosary, which unfolds both in the texts of the Mass and in those of the office, leads us to ponder all the mysteries of the Lord’s life through Mary’s eyes and heart. Pius XII wrote on August 7th, 1947, to the members of a congress which took place in Paris, and then in Lisieux between September 23rd and 30th, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: 

Whereas in the order of nature a child, as he grows, should learn to become self-sufficient, in the order of grace, the child of God, as he grows, understands ever better that he will never be able to be self-sufficient, and that he should live in a superior docility and dependence. 

Who might forget that if Mary gave birth without pain to Jesus in the Bethlehem stable, the all-sorrowful Virgin received all of us as her children and gave birth to us at the foot of the Cross: “Woman, behold thy son… behold thy mother.” (Jn 19:26-27) John the Evangelist, to whom these words were addressed, adds consequently: “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” 

Unlike the order of nature, in which the child, as he grows, goes away from his parents, since we have received Mary as our Mother, according to Jesus’ will, it is our remit to receive ever more this motherhood, to remain her children, to take her in our own. If we do that, a safe path opens up before us to walk towards the Lord. Mary is unable to teach anything else than what she has herself lived. He who follows the way she points to is assuredly setting off on the path towards Heaven, and he will reach it. 

In that way, the choice the Church has made of the Annunciation for the Gospel pericope on this Holy Rosary feast is not without significance. Since we are called to ponder the mysteries of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes and heart, let us acknowledge that for Mary, everything stems from the words she uttered as a conclusion to the angel’s words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.” St. John of the Cross used to send short notes to those he was spiritually helping, so as to guide them on the spiritual ways. Here is what he wrote in one of these notes: 

The Father has said but one word, which was His Son. And in an eternal silence, He still says it: the soul should listen to it in silence. (Maxims, n. 147) 

What concerns the eternal generation of the Word from the Father’s lips might be transposed to Mary’s lips for the birth in time of the Word according to human nature: Mary has said but one word, “Be it done to me according to thy word,” and this word has been fruitful. And Mary still says it, and the soul who wants to remain in Mary’s school should listen to it in silence, and tirelessly listen to it again and again. Mary’s life is but the blossoming of a single word. But how did Mary come to utter this word? It all began with the visit from an angel: “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” (Lk 1:28) This unexpected visit is cause enough to trouble the humble Virgin, who doesn’t understand such a greeting. After reassuring her, the angel confirms his first greeting, the Lord is with her: she has found grace with God. In a second time, the angel elucidates the meaning of this grace, this special beauty of Mary, due to the divine choice, the divine eyes that have considered her: she will conceive a son. She is requested to do something: to give Him the name of Jesus, namely, God saves. This request constitutes a whole program: how could a mother be foreign to her son’s work? The angel then reveals what this child will be: His name is Son of the Most High. He will receive the throne of David, for a reign that will know no end. From a purely human point of view, Mary answers that she knows no man. But the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. The motherhood of Elizabeth, who was barren, will confirm this announcement. The angel adds: “No word is powerless when it comes from God.” 

On God’s side, everything has been said: Mary has been chosen for a unique motherhood, that of the Son of the Most High, that of the Messiah. Much more than the mere acceptance of a miraculous conception, what is asked of Mary, through the name she is to give to her child, is to accept the totality of Christ’s mystery. She will not merely be the mother of a child, she will be the mother of the Savior. By an act of faith she makes on behalf of mankind, Mary answers as an echo to the angel’s words, “Be it done to me according to thy word,” this almighty word coming from God. Because Mary belongs entirely to God, God does great things in her. Through her, as on the day of the first creation, but in an even fairer way, since Mary is a reasonable creature, God says, and things are. May we imitate her! 

On this day, as many remembrances take us ten years back, let us listen to the words Father Abbot Édouard pronounced on the very day of his own blessing as an abbot, October 7th, 1953: 

Sitting with majesty, two angels behind her head, Our Lord on her knees with His hand raised in a gesture of blessing, while she, in a gesture of supreme respect, upholds with her own hand her Son’s arm, as if to egg Him on to give His blessing, or to associate herself with it, the Immaculate Virgin, the glorious Queen of Heaven, the Queen of the Rosary has remained faithful to her sanctuary, and has not desisted from keeping it in its young splendor, and singing with it its canticle of simplicity… I like to see there … as an invitation to allow her to make of this monastery, which has always been dedicated to her glorious Assumption, … a joyful centre of Marian life, a paradise of spiritual childhood, of simplicity in the freedom of God’s children, a springing source of living and inexhaustible water, an eternal fountain of love, Fons Amoris, donec dies elucescat. 

In the school of our Fathers Abbots of Heaven, let us remain, as little children, the docile and loving sons of our Virgin and Mother. Amen.