09 December 2013

The Immaculate Conception: 'Our tainted nature's solitary boast'.

I have often heard the quotation about our Blessed Mother from English poet William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850), Our tainted nature's solitary boast. But I never read the poem from which it is taken until now.

The Virgin

Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!

William Wordsworth wasn't a Catholic but he understood the meaning of Mary's Immaculate Conception, something the Church believed in for many centuries and that was declared a dogma of the church by Pope Pius IX, 'Pio Nono', in 1854, four years after the death of Wordsworth and four years before Mary appeared to St Bernadette in Lourdes and revealed to her in her local French patois that she was the Immaculate Conception.

In 2001 I did mission appeals in for the Columbans in the Diocese of Lancaster, which includes the beautiful Lake District of England. In August that year I visited the grave of William Wordsworth in the cemetery attached to the Anglican church in Grasmere. I attended Sunday Evensong (Vespers) in the church and was the only person there apart from the Anglican priest and a liturgical assistant. At one level it was quite sad. But Jesus did assure us that when two or three of us gather in his name he is there among us. However, the church was full later in the evening for a lecture on the life and work of Wordsworth.

The Lourdes Hymn, sung in Lourdes

The hymn is being sung in different languages, with the words Ave, Maria, 'Hail, Mary', in Latin. The video is by John O'Sullivan.

Today's solemnity reminds us of the mission that God the Father gave to Mary: to bring her Son, God who became Man, to us and to bring us to her Son, God who became Man.

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