Singular Vessel of Devotion

All virtues are habits; that is to say, they become easier every time we practice them, and we eventually do them without thinking about it. This may sound kind of strange–shouldn\’t you feel kindness when you do a kind deed, for example? But in fact, this habit of virtue allows us to act in a virtuous manner even when we feel like doing the exact opposite. We were struck by this when we saw Disney\’s live-action movie version of \”Cinderella\” a few years back. After her wicked stepmother and stepsisters leave for the ball, having torn up her dress and laughed at her, leaving her behind, she suddenly encounters an old woman who asks for a drink of water. The natural response might be, \”Look, lady, my whole world just fell apart. There\’s the well–get your own water!\” Instead Cinderella–who has the habit of virtue–immediately says, \”Oh yes, mother\” and gets the water for the woman. Of course, the old woman turns out to be the fairy godmother, who was waiting to see how Cinderella would react. Because she has proved herself worthy, she is given everything, eventually marrying the Prince. 
Mary is the singular vessel of devotion because she is the new Eve–the woman who reverses Eve\’s disobedient act in the Garden of Eden by saying Yes to God when He asked her to be the mother of His Son. Remember: she was not yet formally married to Joseph when this happened, and in fact when her condition became known Joseph\’s first thought was to divorce her quietly. However, Mary trusted God in spite of everything, and all went according to God\’s plan. The angel calmed Joseph\’s fears; he married Mary; and together they raised Jesus, the Son of God. 
Mary, you are fruitful with virtues beyond all measure. Pray for us, that we too may strive to live virtuous lives, so that the habit of virtue becomes stronger than our natural inclination toward vice. 

Vessel of Honor

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz,“Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el. –Isaiah 7:10-14

This is a traditional icon of Mary which is referred to \”Our Lady of the Sign\” or, in Greek, Platytera ton ouranon (Πλατυτέρα των Ουρανών), meaning \”more spacious than the heavens\”. The icon shows Mary at the moment of Jesus\’ conception in her womb. Mary\’s hands are lifted in the ancient orans or praying gesture, and her divine Son is shown as an infant Who is also a king enthroned in majesty, wearing His royal robes and giving His blessing. The title \”Our Lady of the Sign\” refers to the passage from Isaiah above. Although Ahaz pretended humility in refusing to ask for a sign, the Lord gave him one anyway, as prophesied by Isaiah. The Greek title refers to Mary as one whose womb is at the same time a human womb for a child to find a home in and also something indescribably huge.
For how can one human woman bear the Creator of the Universe within her? Truly, this is the work of God. 

Mary, Vessel of Honor, help us to follow your example of humility. When the angel Gabriel appeared to you, you obediently agreed to what God was asking of you. May we too be open to what God is asking of us, and may we remain obedient come what may, as you were. 

Spiritual Vessel

Three times in the Litany of Loreto Mary is referred to as a \”vessel\”. This may seem like a strange way of describing Our Lady, but in fact it is part of the essence of who she is. All women have the physical capacity, at least, to bear children because they were created by God to do so. They have a womb which may become a safe place for a child to grow and become able at last to be born and live outside the mother. All women, daughters of Eve, have \”inherited\” a tendency toward original sin. Mary is different.  Because Mary was preserved from all stain of sin by the foreseen merits of Christ, she is the perfect woman to bear God\’s only Son. Our Lady carried Jesus in her womb for nine months, becoming truly both a physical and a spiritual home, or vessel, for her Divine Son. 
Mary, Spiritual Vessel, help all women who are considering abortion, or who now regret having had an abortion. Be with them and comfort them, providing the motherly care and love only you can give. Remind all women that we are created in this unique way to give glory to God, whether we bear physical children, or become spiritual mothers to children.