Prior to Gabriel's announcement, Mary was already betrothed to Joseph and together they had planned their future. Both were favored by the Lord. Yet, God would transform their personal designs into a larger and lovelier mosaic. Mary, followed by Joseph, said yes to the divine plan, and both assumed their respective roles in salvation history. Consider in amazement: creation was redeemed through Mary’s yes; without it, nothing would be redeemed. It is no wonder that Mary is so highly venerated in the Church.
Mary is the “Theotokos,” the God-bearer, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary mirrored God before God mirrored her. Despite her singular role in salvation history, Mary’s holiness is entirely accessible because it is rooted in reality. Hers was not a blind or naive faith, but a faith that was intelligent, knowing, and total. She went about her day=s work–ordinary and commonplace. There she found God in the sacrament of the present moment. She bore fruit, and that fruit was the fruit of her womb, the Messiah of the world.
Mary and the Rose
In Marian art forms, Mary and the rose are closely linked, for the rose is a flower of rare beauty. Mary is “the Rose-Tree who bears Christ, the Rose-Blood-red” the Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs 2:1). The experience of contemplating a rose is partly sensory and partly cognitive. A rose reveals its beauty mainly because it scents the atmosphere with its fragrance. But the rose also attracts by its color, texture, and conspicuous form. It captures the attention and gives pleasure and deep satisfaction. Even the blind derive pleasure from its beauty. As one is drawn to the rose and is overwhelmed by it, the whole person grasps its beauty. One enjoys it, loves it, and exclaims: “How, beautiful!”
Mary is the most beautiful rose in the garden of the Church because her life exudes ‘the odor of sanctity.’ This phrase, used so often in ascetical theology, may be described as the fragrance proceeding from the person, clothing, or domicile of a saint during life or after death. It means a reputation for goodness. Ascetical theology also documents that sainted people have emitted pleasant fragrances during their lifetime or at death. These sweet odors resemble those of the rose, or violet, orange-blossom, cinnamon, or musk. St. Paul links holiness in Christ to the image of a fragrant aroma:
. . . Christ, through us, spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved
and among those who are perishing,
to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor 2:14-16)