I'm currently taking Prof. Fulton-Brown's class on the medieval study of liberal arts. For our final project, we had to produce a rhetorical work in the medieval style. I chose to write a poem about Mary. I didn't attempt to do it in verse (or in Latin), but I did try to use the rhetorical structures that were the foundation of medieval rhetorical style. Despise not my offerings, O classmates, but enjoy!
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Nowhere is the truth of this moral more apparent than the life of Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She committed all her works to the Lord, and she reigns now at His side, in blessed communion with Him.
Enthroned at the foot of her Son she sits. All bodily signs of her earthly labors have been wiped away by the healing of God, and her physical beauty reflects the beauty of her virtue. The twelve-pointed crown of heaven rests upon her milky brow, and her slender figure is adorned in rich raiment. Her hair is dark as the midnight sky, and her bright eyes shine like stars. Her mild expression glows with the peaceful joy of her love. Her arms are slim and graceful, so often outstretched to those who call to her, so often folded in pious prayer. Soft are the breasts that nourished the infant Lord, and narrow is the waist to which He clung. I dare not describe that holy tabernacle, the blessed womb that bore Him. And further, to all these she adds complementary attractions: grace, modesty, and sweetness. Yet as great as her loveliness is, admiration for her beauty is a barren study beside contemplation of her life.
O Mary full of grace, Mother Most Pure! You were conceived without the stain of original sin. Sin! That accursed sin that separates man from God! That blessed sin for which Christ became man! From sin springs all that is contemptible in man’s nature. In sin, Eve became the mother of the living; full of grace, you became the Holy Mother of Christ. Unsullied by the pollution of sin, you are the only vessel fit to hold the incarnate Lord.
O obedient Mary, New Eve! You responded willingly to God’s call when told that you would be the Mother of God. Eve rejected the gift of God’s love and hid the nakedness of her body from Him, but you accepted His love and offered your body to Him for the fulfillment of His plan; Eve’s pride brought about the Fall of man, but your obedience brought about our redemption. All creation rejoiced at your words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” So wide is your obedience to the will of the Lord that it encompasses all of humanity in salvation.
O Mary undefiled, Mother Most Chaste! You bore a Son without ever having relations with a man. Chastity is the virtue to which all spouses are called, and you, the Spouse of God, model that chastity. You remain a maiden, for you have never felt the touch of a man –and yet you are a mother. This is truly a miracle we have received from God: that a virgin should conceive, that the Lord should condescend to descend to earth, that He who alone is able to bear the weight of our sins should be born of a woman.
O humble Mary, Mystical Rose! You proclaimed the greatness of the Lord all the days of your life. Not for yourself did you claim the glory of the Lord’s conception, but for the Lord God, by whose power He was conceived. You received the message of the angel. You believed that God would fulfill his promise. You gave glory to God for his goodness. Your humility glorifies you, most venerable virgin. As a rose is made beautiful by unfurling its petals to the Sun, so are you made holy by rendering praise to the Lord.
O fruitful Mary, Holy Mother of God! You gave birth to a son, Jesus, Our Savior and Redeemer. You it was who first cradled our Savior safe in your arms, who welcomed the Creator to His creation. Through your openness to the will of the Lord, you became the bridge between heaven and earth, allowing God to become man. You bore to us the most precious gift in the most humble form –a helpless baby –and through the most humble method –the bitter pangs of labor. Just as he did not disdain to take on human flesh, so He did not scorn your labor, but rather He honored it beyond all other works.
O gentle Mary, Mother Most Amiable! You nurtured the infant Jesus with tender love and affection. Who but a mother could have cared for Our infant Lord with such devotion? Your breasts nourished the body of the infant Lord, your love his Most Sacred Heart. You stole the cries from his mouth with kisses, and the tears from his eyes with tender embraces. As a drop of dew clings to a leaf, so the infant Jesus clung to your breast. O how loving is your gentleness, O how gentle your love!
O joyful Mary, Queen of the Family! You devoted your life to the care of Jesus, your son, and Joseph, your most chaste husband. In raising your child, in tending your home, in nurturing your family you found so much happiness. For great happiness is not restricted to those of great deeds, but to those of great virtue. What joy to hear Our Lord’s first words, to see His first steps! What joy to guide Him and teach Him! What joy to watch Him grow! O Mary, Cause of Our Joy, heaven itself rejoiced with you.
O wise Mary, Seat of Wisdom! You kept in your heart all the Lord’s words, and you guided your actions by them. In your goodness, Mother of Good Counsel, you gave them to us to follow as well: “Do whatever He tells you.” So small was your speech, but so great was its effect! By your labor did Jesus begin life, and by your wisdom did He begin his labor. Oh that we shared in your wisdom! To contemplate the ways of the Lord should be our highest goal and greatest honor. May your last words to us be always our first rule.
O faithful Mary, Mother Most Admirable! You followed your son throughout his ministry, even unto his last journey at Calvary. Closer than his shadow you followed him, listened to him, learned from him, and when atop Calvary, his shadow melded with his cross, still you remained with him. You were wounded by his every wound –every blow, every insult, every lash of the whip, every lagging step and gasping breath. Your face was wrinkled, your joints stiff, and your back bowed; your aging body was weak, but your spirit is strong.
O mournful Mary, Mother of Sorrows! You suffered great distress at the death of Jesus, your Son. He whom you bore into life you then bore in death, for into your arms they laid the stricken body of Our Savior, the body of Our Lord, the body of your Son. Who can be so heartless as to be unmoved by so deep a sorrow as a mother mourning her child? O Mary, body bent with weeping, soul broken in sorrow, for no small sorrow do you mourn. Yet this sorrow brings us joy, for from His death is born our eternal life.
O glorious Mary, Virgin Most Powerful! You reign as Queen of Heaven, Empress of the Universe, adored by all the angels and saints. Your love for God gave you faith; your faith inspired your obedience; and your obedience is rewarded with power. On earth, you offered your body to be ruled by the will of the Lord; in heaven, it is His will that you should rule over His Body, the Church. The sun, the moon, the stars all rejoice to witness such a perfect communion of Creator and creature, but the light they radiate cannot compare with your heavenly glory.
O merciful Mary, Help of Christians! You advocate for us from your throne in heaven, interceding on our behalf with your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. You are both Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, mother of the sinless and mother of the sinful. Truly you are our mother: you teach us in our folly, guide us in our confusion, comfort us in our affliction, and most importantly, pray for us to your Son. O Mary, in your power, you have mercy on the Church that calls you Mother.
To you, Blessed Virgin Mary, I offer myself: my thoughts, my words, my actions, my hopes, my sufferings, and my love. You walked in holiness all your days, and there is so much that can be gained by meditating on your life. I dedicate this humble work to you, Blessed Mother. Despise not my offerings, O clement Gate of Heaven, but pray for me continuously so that, by the grace of Our Lord, one day I may join you in praising Him without end.