The Blessed Virgin Mary is the “spiritual vessel”, “vessel of honor”, and “singular vessel of devotion” described in the Litany of Loreto. These are gracious but mysterious descriptions, to be sure, but they manifest the unique character of the one who unties knots and dissolves problems for us. They tell us that she is a receptacle of grace and favor whose capacity to help us is unlimited.
For many years I struggled to understand these images, but Pope St. John Paul II finally solved the problem for me in his 2003 encyclical, Ecclesia De Eucharistia. He referred to Our Lady as the “tabernacle” of Jesus’ Eucharistic Presence:
Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, She bore in Her womb the Word made flesh, She became … the first “tabernacle” in history in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed Himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating His light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. (55)
Our Lady was the tabernacle of the Eternal Word Himself! In that very same moment, she became a “vessel” for all prayers, intentions, sufferings, desires, longings, hopes, and joys of God’s faithful throughout the ages.
Our Spiritual Mother
Just as a baby enlarges the womb of its mother, similarly, the physical Presence of Jesus in Our Lady’s womb, and in her life for thirty-three more years, enlarged Mary’s spirit and created an openness within our Mother’s soul that was destined to belong to every other child of God after the Resurrection. She became like a spacious room into which any needy child can enter with confidence.
It is not too bold to say that, as Mother of the infinite God, Mary’s spiritual availability to her children has no limit in receiving whatever we wish to place within her heart for safekeeping. Our natural mothers have understandable human limitations which diminish their ability to help us in certain areas of our lives, but Mary, our spiritual Mother, has no such limits. Technically, she has one limit: Mary cannot do – or ask for us – anything contrary to the Will of God. She does, however, teach us to bring our prayers, our requests, and our desires into greater conformity with God’s Will.
Mary’s Love for Us
Our Lady’s love is a mother’s love that is not tainted by sin, human imperfection, or self-interest in any way. Too often, perhaps, we underestimate her maternal willingness to assist us and plead for our intentions before God to undo our problems and answer our concerns. We reap little benefit from Mary’s immense love if we do not approach that vessel of grace with confidence.
In the famous apparitions of the Miraculous Medal in 1830, Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré with open arms and rays of light issuing from jeweled rings on her hands. The curious thing was that a number of the jewels were not sending forth any light. St. Catherine asked our Blessed Mother why that was so. Our Lady simply responded that those were the graces that her children had not asked for.
We Need but Ask
This striking image teaches us that the spiritual vessel of Mary’s heart is open both for giving and receiving. A treasure of grace awaits us in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and all we have to do is to ask for what we need. Mary will help us. She will purify our prayers if they are not in accord with God’s Will. She will raise them up to the Throne of Grace and then dispense the treasures of Heaven to us. She will untie our knots and reconcile us in the areas of our life where we need it the most.
Have you devotedly placed all your concerns in the spiritual vessel of Mary’s heart? If not, do it today! Mary has no lack of room for any concern of yours. In fact, such a loving Mother will look out for your needs as if you were the only child in the world who needed anything. Our Lady, untier of knots and tabernacle of God, we entrust all our problems to your heart, knowing that you will take care of them.
By Peter Darcy
Key Words: Spiritual Vessel, Immaculate Heart, Litany of Loreto, John Paul II, Eucharist, Mother