By: Marlio Nasayó Liévano, CM
Province of Colombia
At the approach of the month of May, the month of Mary, I have a desire to write boldly about the eyes of the Immaculate Virgin. Truly bold, but with the help of our Blessed Mother, I trust that she will enlighten me as I engage in this reflection.
This reflection is inspired by the sharing of one of our missionary veterans: before 1950, the Vincentian seminarians spent their vacation on a farm near the savannahs of Bogota. During that time of leisure, the Archbishop of Bogotá, Ismael Perdomo (a close friend of the Congregation who was declared Venerable on July 7, 2017) visited us and asked the seminarians who approached him with deep veneration: What are the eyes of the Virgin like? Immediately, Brother Eduardo Arboleda, with his intellectual and spiritual sharpness, replied: Your excellency, her eyes are merciful!. I was intrigued by his answer and so I asked him how he had come to that conclusion. He stated very simply: because of the Salve that we pray every day.
Let us separate our reflection into sections:
- The eyes: Our eyes “speak” a powerful non-verbal language and they are like small windows through which our soul appears. Our eyes can also reveal our feelings (with more or less intensity). No wonder we have this wonderful saying that states: the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Yes, our eyes reflect all our feelings, our fears and our deepest and most secret emotions.
- Mercy: let us first recall the root meaning of the word. This word is derived from the Latin misere (misery, necessity), cor, cordis (heart) and ia (towards others). Therefore “mercy” means having a heart of solidarity with those who have some need … it implies a willingness to sympathize with the sufferings and the misery of our sisters and brothers.
And if this is the reality, how then can I speak of the merciful eyes of Mary, if I have never seen them, as Saint Bernadette, the shepherds at Fatima and especially Mélanie Calvat in Salette, or Saint Catherine Labouré, who was able to see those eyes up close? But it is good for us to reflect on those testimonies, which can provide us with much assistance in our journey as pilgrims.
- During the first apparition on the night of July 18-19, 1830, Sister Labouré tells us: Then I recognized the Blessed Virgin, I quickly knelt before her on the steps of the altar and put my hand on her knees … There, I spent the greatest moment of my life. Who has looked more closely at the eyes of the Virgin than Catherine Laboure? Mary looked at Catherine who was certainly ecstatic, but she did not lose the opportunity to behold Mary who gave her a message not only with her voice, but also with her eyes. The Virgin expressed her pain and anguish that were the result of the internal difficulties of the Vincentian Family, the needs of the universal Church and the calamities that afflicted so many people. Mary became unable to speak a word and so she spoke to us through the affliction that appeared on her face and the copious tears that flowed from her eyes. But Mary’s message is not only one of demands and complaints but rather she offers us her permanent presence, her accompaniment and protection even in the midst of situations that appear to have no solution. Mary looks upon our misery and expects us to place our trust in her and in her Son. Here we can affirm that Mary spoke to Catherine more through her teary eyes than with her spoken words … and those tearful eyes tells us that she looks at us with her merciful eyes.
- During the apparition of November 27, Catherine affirms: [Mayr’s] feet were resting on a globe or better on what appeared to me to be a half of globe. She had her hands raised gracefully, and her eyes were elevated to heaven. Her face was quite beautiful. I cannot describe it … The Blessed Virgin lowered her eyes and looked at me … and a sort of oval picture formed around Our Lady. At the tope of this image written in gold were the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Here we have the twofold gaze from Mary: she lifted up the globe in her hands and raised her eyes and offers the globe to the Lord, and then lowering her eyes, she looked at Catherine and all people throughout the world. She shared with humankind the light that mercifully emanated from her hands.
Let us now return to another seer, who is the one who gives us the final key to this reflection. Here I refer to Mélanie Calvat to whom the Virgin appeared on the mountain of Salette. Mélanie tell us that the eyes of the Virgin, our tender mother, cannot be described. To do so the very language of God would be needed … The eyes of the beautiful Immaculate Virgin were like the door of God, from where you could see everything that can intoxicate the soul.
For our internalization:
- We cannot see the Lord and Mary with our human eyes, but we can see them with the eyes of the spirit, with those of the heart, which are faith and love. Only by possessing a pure soul can we see and contemplate God and his Mother. Saint Augustine enlightens our reflection when he affirms: Only in a pure heart are found the eyes with which God can be seen.
- If the previous reality is true, the same does not occur with Mary. Mary’s eyes must have been beautiful, with the natural beauty of a Jewish woman, who did not need any kind of artificial makeup to make them appealing. She had simple eyes, that is, eyes that looked at others without arrogance or contempt, kind eyes, without hatred or rancor, not even when observing the angry eyes of the enemies of her Son. Sincere eyes, without lies, that expressed a heart without any shadow of duplicity. Eyes open to the needs of others as experienced in Cana of Galilee. Eyes that knew how to contemplate the virtues of others, rather than notice and be disturbed by their faults and defects. Those eyes whose gaze Judas avoided when leaving the Upper Room the night of his treasonous act and that Peter also avoided during the time of his triple denial … eyes swollen by the tears shed when her Son was crucified and then lowered into her arms … but those eyes became radiant and joyful when told of Jesus’ Resurrection and those same eyes that were turned into welcoming and calm eyes that awaited the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room.
- Eyes that, from her glorious assumption into heaven, never ceased looking at us in this valley of tears, taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home (Lumen Gentium, #62).
- With the generations that have prayed the Salve Regina since the 11th century, we can also have recourse to those merciful eyes, especially in light of the fact that so many people want to make the mercy of God disappear from the heart of humankind. We are moving toward a society in which the human person attempts to become master of the land, through the incredible advances in science and technology. Yet despite those advances people have been unable to find a solution to their own problems and those of the world.
As men and women of faith, we call upon God’s mercy in order to find a solution to the world’s problems. In this situation, we can invoke Mary, the Mother of all consolation and observe the sweetness of her gaze. With those merciful eyes, she intercedes before her Son for us especially during these very complicated moments of unbelief, natural disasters, wars, hunger and the current reality of the pandemic, which afflicts even the most distant places of the world.
Yes, Miraculous Mother, we need your mercy because we are infinitely poor. Your immense love becomes for us an ocean of goodness, mercy, and piety. We thank you for your love, and above all we recognize the mercy of your face and your heart. You have eyes and a heart made of goodness … O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!