1. Origin of the Title: "Mary Beloved of the Trinity"
The title Mary Beloved of the Trinity first came to my mind and heart in Advent 1981. I received this verbal icon through the Trinitarian spirituality embedded in the poetry of St. John of the Cross. The title itself is not in the poetry. The origin of this Marian praise came to me in silent time during which I sought the guidance of St. John of the Cross.
The words "Beloved of the Trinity," with reference to Mary, came as I read St. John's Romances on the Gospel, In Principio erat Verbum, regarding the Most Blessed Trinity. 1 After seven sets of stanzas on the dwelling with the intra-Trinitarian love, the eighth Romance speaks of the Incarnation. The poetry conveyed to me a light on the Trinity "working in concert." The theological tradition regarding the Trinity working outside itself, ad extra, became luminously real. The stanza (Romance 8) on the Incarnation suggested to me the words of the title:
Then he called/The Archangel Gabriel/And sent him to/The Virgin Mary,/At whose consent/The mystery was wrought,/In whom the Trinity/Clothed the word with flesh.
And though Three work this,/It is wrought in the One:/And the Word lived in-carnate/In the womb of Mary. 2
These lines brought me a deep personal realization of the oneness of trinitarian love. I immediately wrote on the page: "Mary Beloved of the Trinity." So, on December 6, 1981,1 met the Holy Trinity in relationship with Mary, and Mary in relationship with the Holy Trinity.
The title brought me personal joy and I began to use it in a variety of ways in my ministry of Catholic education. At that time, I was not aware that Pope John Paul II would propose for the millennium 2000 observance the theme of "The Mystery of the Trinity and Mary." In 1989, as we approached the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of St. John of the Cross (in 1991), I sent a letter to Pope John Paul II, whose dissertation was "Faith according to St. John of the Cross." 3 A kind response arrived, signed by Msgr. Sepe, Assessor. 4 I surmised that there was a file somewhere in Rome where my letter safely rested.
For the next seven years, I simply kept the title active in personal life and ministry. I continued to grow in the conviction that the title was to be a blessing for Christians, not only to honor Mary but also to participate with her in the identity of being "beloved of the Trinity."
However, I wished to consult with theological and ecclesiastical authorities about the title. I wrote to Cardinal William Keeler on March 25, 1996. 5 My letter suggested consideration of the title in association with the Great Jubilee of 2000. Within a week, I received a reply from Cardinal Keeler, stating that he had forwarded my letter for review to Fr. Frederick Jelly, O.P. 6 In his reply to Cardinal Keeler, Fr. Jelly noted there is no precise historical example for the title, but there is solid theological basis for the title in Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. Father considered the title appropriately drawn from the poetry of St. John of the Cross. Further, Fr. Jelly agreed that the title should have fruitful pastoral results. 7
John Saward, author and professor at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, wrote to me in May 1996, "I agree entirely with Father Jelly's judgment. I hope and pray that devotion to Our Lady under this title will flourish and help us all on our journey toward more intimate communion with the Trinity." 8
After a lecture at the International Marian Research Institute (summer of 1996), Fr. Rene Laurentin, while holding a bookmark I had given him of the title, exclaimed, "This title has no problem!" Then Fr. Laurentin watched me as I marked a circle with Trinity and Incarnation symbols and wrote, "We come from the Trinity. We return to the Trinity." Paralleling the second sentence, I wrote, "Mary companions our return to the Trinity." Father Laurentin's resounding "Yes!" remains with me still.
In July 1997, I sent title materials to John Cardinal O'Connor through Fr. Michael L. Walsh. The Cardinal wrote in reply, "I will be happy to discuss this matter with Cardinal Keeler with whom I work closely on many important issues. Let's try to see what the Holy Spirit is asking us." 9
In May 1999,1 began attending the annual Mariological Society of America meetings. Since then, I have had numerous enlightening and supportive conversations about the new Marian title with various members of the MSA.
A question arose about the wording of the title in English and its translation in other languages-that is, whether "Beloved" should be preceded by "Most" (corresponding to the Latin praedilecta).10 My concern was that the use of "most" in English might indicate distance rather than preeminence, and diminish the sense of the presence of Mary. After consultation with many experts, I decided to remain with Mary Beloved of the Trinity. No comma is to be used between Mary and the phrase Beloved of the Trinity, since commas set off nonrestrictive phrases but do not set off restrictive phrases. The participle "beloved" makes Mary "the object of the Triune God's special predilection among those redeemed by her Son," as Father Jelly stated. 11
2. Purpose of the Title: Growth in Trinitarian Spirituality Through Marian Presence and Praise
The title Mary Beloved of the Trinity opens an expansive and penetrating vision of the Marian dimension of the Christian life, specifically in relation to the Trinity. The title's power as a verbal icon contributerto the presence of Mary in our lives and growth in Trinitarian spirituality. John of the Cross's commentary on stanza 123 of the Spiritual Canticle tells us that God does not communicate with the soul through its knowledge of him, but through the love the soul has from this knowledge. 12 Continuing, St. John states, "For just as love is the union of the Father and the Son, so it is the union of the soul with God." 13 Trinitarian spirituality is the living of the love received through knowledge of Jesus Christ, one with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.
Through the knowledge given to Mary at the Annunciation, there flowed an abundance of Divine Love from God's favor. To this communication of Love, Mary's own response to love was complete. Mary's love models, inspires, and invites our love to union with the Trinity's love. It is with Mary that we can best offer the Trinity worship from within the community of disciples of Jesus Christ.
With Pope John Paul II, we can say, we Christians who know that the providential plan of the Most Holy Trinity is the central reality of Revelation and of faith feel the need to emphasize the unique presence of the Mother of Christ in history" 14 Awareness of the Trinity's love for Mary and of Mary's presence in the Christian life contributes to lived Trinitarian-Marian spirituality.
Mary's relatedness with us radiates particularly from her graced presence in the faith-filled humanness of her person who journeys with us. We look back at her life and we see her present in our lives. Our prayerful attentiveness to her presence invites her to draw us into her attentiveness before God. Though we lack her fullness of grace, we do not lack the benefit of her Son's merits. It is through her Son that we return to the Trinity; and through Him we are gifted with her companionship, as we journey always with our eyes fixed on Jesus. 15
The title has been anticipated by artists who have depicted Mary in the presence of the Holy Trinity. Frequently, paintings and stained glass windows portray Mary surrounded by the Trinity. Often, there is emphasis on the privileges of Mary in visual representation.
This verbal icon is an interior representation that unites Marian privilege and Marian presence. Because it is verbal, it can become present anywhere at anytime. While visual representation may convey Mary's beauty, the verbal icon carries the gift of Mary to the interior of the one who prays. Such interior beholding of Mary may generate Marian attitudes of faithful discipleship.
The canvas for this verbal icon is the human heart. Interiorly, we watch the restorative hand of God refresh our desire for holiness by our understanding of who-Mary-is-to-God in God's plan of salvation. Through her, there is clarity about who-we-are-to-God and one another. Therefore, the title is a painting of our creation and formation in the image and likeness of God.
Union with God is humanity's vocation through, with, and in Christ, after the example of Mary, first among the beloved of the Trinity. Mary's preeminence leads us near to the Blessed Trinity. It is a part of her nearness to us. Growth in Trinitarian spirituality is the purpose of the title. With Cyril of Alexandria, we pray, "Because of you [Mary], the Trinity is glorified and adored." 16
1.See The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, trans, by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (2d ed.; Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1979), 724-732 (hereafter cited as Kavanaugh and Rodriguez).
2.Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, 732.
3.Letter (from author) to Pope John Paul II, September 28, 1989.
4.Letter (to author) from Msgr. C. Sepe, November 23, 1989.
5.Letter (from author) to William Cardinal Keeler, March 25, 1996.
6.Letter (to author) from William Cardinal Keeler, April 3, 1996.
7.Letter (of Frederick Jelly, O.P.) to William Cardinal Keeler, May 3, 1996.
8.Letter (to author) from John Saward, May 31, 1996.
9.Letter (to author) from John Cardinal O'Connor, July 15, 1997.
10.Conversation with Aristide Serra, O.S.M. (during 1999 MSA meeting, Washington, D.C.), resulted in the following translations: (in Italian) Maria, laprediletta della Trinita; (in Latin) Maria, praedilecta filia Trinitatis; (in Spanish) Maria, lapredilecta de la Santissima Trinidad (from personal notations, May 28, 1999).
11.See note 7 above.
12.Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, 461.
13.Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, 461.
14.John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer (Redemptoris Mater) (Boston: St. Paul Books and Media, 1987), 3.
15.Hebrews 3:1, NJB.
16.Cyril of Alexandria, as cited in Bertrand Buby, Mary of Galilee (3
vols.; Staten Island, N.Y: Alba House, 1994-1996), vol. 3, The Marian Heritage
of the Eariy Church, 299.
O Mary graced immaculate,
A woman holy you were made
Companion us along life's way
To Father, Son, and Spirit praise
The purpose of this title is to invite us to appreciate Mary's role in accompanying us on our return to the Trinity, while acknowledging her Son as our sole Mediator with the Father in the Spirit. Mary will be seen as she is: a creature preeminently loved by the Trinity for the sending of Jesus among us as man. In fact, our view of Mary will make clearer our own identity. "Mary Beloved of the Trinity," will focus on our being in the family of the Beloved of the Trinity also.
Always before discussing who Mary is for us, it is necessary that we speak of the Trinity and of Jesus Christ, God-Made-Man.
Christians can find their Trinity-illumined identity in the scripture that states God is Love. God created us in the image and likeness of the Three Divine Persons in One God. Thus, God created us in the image of Love, Relational Love, and Perfect Community in Unity.
Love defines not only our identity, but also our relational power that is designed to flow full-circle. The movement of human life has both its origin and destination in the Trinity Who is Love. The flow of human life that moves from origin to return is accompanied. It is not a journey made in isolation. Everyone who believes in Jesus, His Father and the Spirit knows the spiritual path cannot be walked without reference to the community of believers, past, present and future. We recognize the full community of love that forms the journey: the Trinity and those who precede and join us in faith and discipleship, especially Mary.
Simply put, our human family name is Beloved of the Trinity. That reality is totally inclusive. It establishes equality of persons worldwide, even for our brothers and sisters who do not yet know their identity in the same terms.
Our quality of life takes on a profound spiritual richness when we know we are the object of the love of the Trinity. To be the object of the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit calls for response on our part. Response in love to the Trinity is found in true Gospel living.
Further, our human family name "Beloved of the Trinity" includes Mary pre-eminently as "Beloved of the Trinity" both in time and for eternity. Realization of this has potential for healing the wounds of humankind and for encouraging fidelity to our identity alone and together before God.
A summary of the Christian life is found in the full circle experience: we come from the Trinity; in grace we return to the Trinity. Since the Incarnation, we know Mary companions our return to the Trinity. As the creature who best knows and lives relationship to the Trinity, Mary is our teacher in faith.
Additional reflections and material Available:
See below for a selection of images that portray Mary in the presence of the Trinity. Images
|Each of us, like Mary, is beloved of the Trinity.
Fostering loving devotion to Mary teaches each of us
no matter what our age and place in life
that as she was loved, so too are we loved.
|Children draw images of Mary||Beloved of the Trinity|
The meditation, Mary, Beloved of the Trinity, was prepared by Sister Ann Marie Harrison, IHM. The words to the hymn were also written by A. M. Harrison, IHM, 1998; Melody: "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow."
Further information on the development of this Marian title can be obtained by emailing Sister Ann Marie Harrison, IHM at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Images That Portray Mary in the Presence of the Trinity|
|Coronation of Mary
Dieric Bouts d.A.,
of the Virgin
Diego Velazquez, 1599-1660
of the Virgin
|Altarpiece of Coronation of the Virgin
1499, Wood, 180 x 230 cm
See actual website Web Gallery of Art
|Adoration of the Trinity
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Trinity with the Virgin
The image depicts God the Father seated on a throne, blessing with His right hand and holding an orb, symbol of dominion over the world in His left. From His heart proceeds the Holy Spirit, who is directed to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus holds the scepter in His right hand and Sacred Scripture in His left. The words of the sacred text are John 14,6: "I am the way, the truth and the life." Mary shares the seat with Jesus, even while she turns to Him in prayer. The angels kneeling at the foot of the throne offer gifts and praise.
The image to the left appeared in the July 1999 issue of The Burlington Magazine.
It was sponsored by Hall and Knight Ltd., Dealers and Agents in European Art. They can be reached at 212-772-2266
|Coronation of the Holy Virgin
1891 printing plate based on Gagliardi tableau in the Church of St. Augustine, Rome
Le Saint Rosaire / Marian Library holdings
Madonna of the Stonemasons
Circle of Trinity Love
Mary's love was formed to hold us all -
Gift of the Son
The Eternal Son reserves
Graced, Chosen, Given
Mary of Nazareth,
Mary of Bethlehem,
Mary of Calvary,
Holy Name of Mary
"I need the Virgin's name," I said,
In honor of Mary Rose Fitterer Harrison (1903-1972)
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