The Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims that “Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time…In her, the ‘wonders of God’ that the Spirit was to fulfill in Christ and in the Church began to be manifested.” Through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, “the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ.”
Grace has been described as “God’s better beauty, the splendor of the soul.” And Mary, who is full of grace, radiates that splendor, that spiritual beauty. Grace (sanctifying grace) gives us a share in the Divine Life; it conforms our souls into the likeness of Christ. Mary in her abundance of grace is a reflected beauty of her Son. She possesses the “radiance” which is the third of the qualities of beauty. The great St. Bernard of Clairvaux declares that “contemplating the countenance of the Mother is the best way of preparing to see the glorious face of the Son.” Saward endorses this idea by pointing to the fact that Our Lord is conceived by the Holy Spirit without seed, thus there is only one human person whom He resembles in His humanity, and that is His Virgin Mother. fashion with beauty
How does Mary’s beauty enable women of today to be an image of true beauty, and hence of truth and goodness also? Mary, the Theotokos – the Mother of God, the Mother of Infinite Beauty, who is herself beautiful, will guide women to that which is true and good. She shows the falsehood of “seductive beauty,” which we have noted above as being whatever allures us to our self-destruction (morally or spiritually), by holding up her own “true” beauty in contrast. Before showing the essence of Mary’s beauty, which meets St. Thomas’ requirements for beauty: wholeness, due proportion, and radiance, we will look at society’s claim of womanly beauty. Women today are told by society that what is good and beautiful is that which is glamorous and seductive. Beauty is separated from God, Who is disregarded and Whose goodness is exchanged for a “base mind and improper conduct” (Rom. 1:28), leading to both spiritual and often physical dissolution. The “truth” that they are taught is one which “considers the human being (and hence, the woman) not as a person but as a thing, as an object of trade, at the service of selfish interest and mere pleasure… this falsehood produces such bitter fruits as contempt for men and for women, slavery, oppression of the weak, pornography, prostitution…”
Thus, beauty is often seen as a mere physical quality. It lacks “due proportion” because only one aspect of the whole person is considered. Society emphasizes the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual. Flowing from this same type of mentality, we see that women are honored more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family. What is “seen” as attractive is a woman who is able to achieve the “good” of a successful career, which promises happiness and “equality with men.” In order to achieve this, women often times either renounce their femininity or become a mere imitation of the male role. They are in a sense trading in the quality of “integrity,” which is necessary for true beauty, for society’s limited claim of the beautiful. This “seductive beauty” which promises so much “good” gives rise to a hedonism that distorts and falsifies human sexuality and the true dignity of the human person. This leads not only to a lack of respect for what womanhood is to be, since the truth about their personal dignity as one who was created and redeemed by God is unknown, but it also hinders women from achieving the “fullness of grace” for which they were created. It leads to women’s spiritual destruction because they are not living a life of grace. They are not living for God.
Mary, who lived a grace-filled life, is, however, the model of redeemed woman. God Himself “manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary, whom the Church honors as the Mother of God.” The highest elevation of the human nature took place in the masculine gender, when Jesus, the Son of God, became man and male. The highest elevation of the human person took place in the feminine gender, in the Virgin Mary. Her divine maternity gives her an exalted dignity. She is “blessed among women.” Therefore, all womanhood shares in her blessing and is made radiant by her. “When the Virgin Mary is humbly honored for the sake of her Son, women will be honored…for she has revealed the true beauty of womanhood.”Looking at what we have already said about Mary, we know “full of grace” reveals her essence, her identity. It is also the key to her reflection of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. It is the key to women discovering the truth of their own dignity, and hence, obtaining the divine life that is offered to them through a life of grace. This is a life that will bestow on them true goodness and beauty, which is a participation in the beauty of the Creator.