Every Saturday is special to Carmelites as it is the Our Lady’s day! Below is a beautiful excerpt from the writings of Pere Jacques Bunel on Our Lady given to the Carmelite nuns of the Carmel of Pontoise. I did a two posts on Pere Jacques recently.
VIRGINITY IN GOD AND IN MARY
Today, in honour of Our Lady, I would like to present fragments of the retreat Conference given to Carmelite Nuns in Pontoise Monastery by Pere Jacques Bunel in 1943. Pere Jacques was a diocesian priest in Rouen and popular preacher, who later entered Discalced Carmelite Order and became Carmelite friar. Carmelite nuns invited him to give conferences as retreat master. The conference theme is ‘Virginity in God and in Mary’ and was given on the feast day of Our Lady of Pontoise which was locally celebrated on 8th of September. Here, Pere Jacques gives us a very clear explanation of the virtue of virginity in relation to Triune God who is purity Himself. He gives us explanation of Our Lady’s unique role as Mother of the Word incarnate and also gives us opportunity to meditate on the mysteries of the Trinity. Very edifying reading that may bring us ponder on purity of heart, mind, intentions and body. It may also make us wonder how great and unique is the gift of vocation to the Priesthood and religious life. I will present the conference fragments in two parts. The book with full text of conferences, “Listen to the silence” is available from ICS.
For a moment, let us focus our full attention on the living presence of God and consciously consider our closeness to Him. Let us also link ourselves with the Virgin Mary, whom we solemnly honour today on the Feast of Our Lady of Pontoise….
“The Mother of Christ is a virgin. When God took on human form, he wanted to assure this characteristic in his mother. By virtue of our vow of chastity it is essential for us to make this commitment shine forth, even if contemporary culture does not grasp its full meaning. Because we have made vows of chastity, we are designated as virgins. This characteristic is one of the crown jewels of Mary’s divine motherhood. That same terminology is often applied to us. Perhaps we deceive ourselves by narrowing this beautiful concept…. [here Pere Jacques start to reflect on the concept of virginity not only as a mere abstinence from sensual pleasures but also as something much more deeper]. Let us fix now our gaze on the bosom of God and the mystery of the Trinity, to the degree that revelation permits. I maintain that the word of God is total, absolute virginity. Here is the reason why. As you are well aware, there is in the inner life of the Trinity a stupendous cycle, which overwhelms our poor, little minds. The pure intelligence grasps and sees itself; it speaks and express itself, It grasps and expresses itself in a word, which equals the intelligence that sets it forth. With infinite simplicity, the divine nature eternally expresses the Word of God. In this one word is the infinite activity of the divine intelligence. The Word of God, begotten by the Father, is the infinite, equal, and divine expression of the very Being of God. The Word posses the fullness of the divine nature, just as does the Father, and thus is truly God. In the infinite simplicity of God’s being, this unfathomable, living expression shines forth so brilliantly that a third person, an outpouring of love, unites in a single nature this Word and the One who begets him from all eternity. These three persons: the Father, the Son begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit, whose infinite breath of love unites the three, constitute the perfect purity of God. That divine purity is what I term the fullness of virginity. Such is God Himself! In Chirst, there is something sublime in realization of virginity. The human nature given in its totality to the Word is divinized in every respect. Therein, the gift of self to God attains its greatest conceivable realization. Christ, as a human being without a trace of vacillation and with unimaginable integrity, brings to admirable fulfillment his mission of total virginity.
We have also seen God’s remarkable preparation of the Virgin Mary for her role as Mother of the Word made flesh. God exempted her from original sin and its consequences. Thus, in the Virgin Mary, there comes about the restoration of what had been destroyed by Adam’s sin, especially the reestablishment of the proper balance between the natural and the supernatural. At the time of their creature by God, Adam and Eve came into existence and continued in existence with total dependence on God. As creature, they were necessarily beings who did not exist of and by themselves. God is His own reason for being; He has not drawn His existence from anything else. “God is” and “I A, Who am” (Ex. 3:14) are rich phrases that contemplative religious relish. God is pure act, as the philosophers say; that is, he is the total realization of all possibility. We are not pure act; we have not realized all possibilities of being that are in us. Our being evolves as our hearts intensifies its affections and perfects them. Our body grows and then declines. God himself is pure actuality, pure act. Nothing in him is in the state of possibility, passing from nonexistence to existence. All is infinite existence in him. The human person, on the contrary, far from being this totality of realization, is a creature of infirmity and dependence… Nothing exists that cannot be annihilated instantly, if the creative action ceases to operate. It is this way, because we are not self-existent beings, as the words of Our Lord to Saint Catherine of Siena indicated: “You are she who is not”…We are not; we have only a borrowed being, unceasingly renewed by God. The Virgin Mary shares this condition of creaturehood with us. By herself she was not; she was totally dependent, as we are totally dependent. It is precisely this quality that constitutes the Virgin Mary’s virginity. She is pure creature; God is pure deity, totally independent. For the Virgin Mary, her virginity lies in being a pure creature of God, namely, a creature living in total dependence on the will of God. Indeed, when we examine the Virgin Mary’s life, when we gather the conclusion of the Fathers of the Church who dwelt on this Marian mystery, and when we study the works of theologians, we find that she was absolutely obedient to the will of God, even to the least indications of that will. The virginity of the Virgin Mary is founded on her pure dependence on God.”