In the Kunsthistorisches Museum there is a canvas by Josef von Führich depicting the journey of Mary – in haste – over the hills to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
This is the Gospel of today’s Mass in the Vetus Ordo, the Roman Mass, for Ember Friday in Advent.
Mary has received the Annunciation from the Archangel Gabriel. She gave her “Fiat”. She pondered what happened. She acted. That is her pattern. It should be our pattern too, especially for liturgical participation: active receptivity of what God wants to give us, then internalizing it, then acting outwardly.
In this painting – you should be able to click it for a larger version – has charming elements.
Take a good look.
Note the accompanying posse of angels, who have different tasks. Immediately above the Virgin are apparently more important (larger) angels dropping roses before Mary as she walks. One of her titles in the Litany of Loreto is Rosa Mystica. Directly following is St. Joseph, gathering each fallen rose as if they are precious. He doesn’t want to miss even one of them… which will be a lot of roses by the time they reach the house of Zechariah. Perhaps he and the angels have a recycling deal?
Going before the virgin is a gang of smaller angels. It looks as if they are consulting a map. “It’s this way!” “Noooo…. I’m telling you, it’s that way!” “Look. I’ve been there. We have to go right.” It looks like they consulting a map. But…. No.
Look more carefully, this is a choir, a schola cantorum, singing as the Virgin hastens along, the embodiment of festina lente, calmly hurrying.
Now you can also see an angel with a thurible, incensing the Blessed Virgin.
Orrrr… incensing the God made flesh within her.
It’s starting to look at lot like a Corpus Christi procession, isn’t it?
Mary is the perfect ostensorium, “show-er,.. displayer” of the One who will be Host.
This is a good way of connecting our own way of participation at Holy Mass – active participation properly understood – with the lessons derived from Mary, who is the Lord’s First Disciple.
A tip for PRIESTS from Joseph: Don’t let a single lovely rose – words and gestures and all the liturgical elements you can control by ars celebrandi and choices of good taste – escape your loving and respectful grasp. Bow down, bend yourself humbly down to take them up and make them yours, yours for distribution to others who depend on you for “the good stuff”. This is your heritage as a priest of the ROMAN Church! Don’t let it be lost. This is your flock’s patrimony. Help them to keep it.