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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Legion Picture

- From an allocutio by the Very Rev. Francis J. Canon Ripley taken from Talks to Legionaries

The Legion picture is meant to be an inspiration and to teach all who study it the Legion’s devotional outlook.

The general design reproduces the outline of the Vexilium or Standard. Then the picture depicts the Legion prayers. The invocation and collect of the Holy Spirit and the Rosary are pictured by the dove overshadowing Mary and filling her with supernatural light and divine fire. In this way we are reminded of that moment toward which all time before it moved and from which all time after it has fallen. It lied at the centre of time, the moment when a young maiden at Nazareth consented that the infinite God should take flesh within her and so became the mother of God and the channel of his grace to all men. Active and auxiliary Legionaries everywhere are bound to this glorious mother by her Rosary. They try to render effective the words of Pope Pius IX: "I could conquer the world if I had an army to say the Rosary."

The presence of the Holy Spirit on our picture reminds us of His visible coming on Mary and the Apostles. It was, we might say, the Church’s Confirmation and can we doubt that Mary was the channel of it, that it was brought about through Mary’s prayers? On that day the Church was born. The Holy Spirit filled it with the apostolic fire which was to renew the face of the earth. As Pope Pius XII wrote: “"It was her most powerful intercession that obtained for the new-born Church that prodigious outpouring of the Spirit of the divine redeemer" As it was then, so it is now. The task of the Church is to enkindle that fire in the hearts of men. The lighting of it is a grace and like every other it comes through Mary’s prayers.

Look at the border of the picture and you see a representation of the Catena for the letters of the Latin texts are each in the links of the chain. Now look at the portrait of Mary herself. She is depicted as he antiphon of the Catena proclaims her, as “She that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array.” She is the Morning Star, heralding the dawn of the Sun of Justice. So the artist has adorned her brow in the picture with a brilliant.

The principal item in our Catena is Mary’s own canticle, the song of the triumph of her humility, so the first verse of the Magnificat is inscribed over Mary’s head. Was not this a thought which was ever present in her mind? Was not her spirit always raised to the praising of God? But do not overlook that the letters are letters of fire. The zeal of Mary’s followers must be as a burning fire, consuming every obstacle to the apostolate. All the time it must be saturated with the spirit of Mary’s humility. Otherwise it will radiate self instead of Christ God wills still to depend on His humble Mother for His conquests. He continues to accomplish great things for His glory by the agency of those who are united with her.

The Versicle and Response of the Catena are those of the Immaculate Conception, which is one of the primary devotions of the Legion. The words set in the chain border also refer to it. They come from God’s promise of redemption to the serpent in the third chapter of the Book of Genesis: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head.” In the picture we see this warfare. Between Christ and Satan enmity is complete. Likewise it is complete between Mary and Satan. All those who are consecrated to her share in this enmity. So the picture shows the conflict between the Legion and the powers of evil which are falling back scattered in defeat.

Glance at the picture again and you will see the significance of its arrangement. Between the Holy Ghost at the top and the globe below (which is surrounded by the good and bad who are embraced in the world of souls) is the bond of Mary, the Channel of all Graces, who is depicted as aflame with charity. Those who love her most will be most enriched. Typical of them is the Beloved Disciple who rests on the heart of Christ and lovingly accepted Mary as his mother. That is why, in the chain border, are included Our Lord’s words from the Cross: “Woman, behold thy son: behold thy Mother.”

Every line of the picture mirrors our concluding prayers. See the Legion there advancing in battle array, led by its Queen, bearing her standard, “the Crucifix in their right hand, the Rosary in their left, the Sacred names of Jesus and Mary in their hearts and the modest and mortification of Jesus Christ in their behaviour. “ (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort). We pray that our faith will be our Legion’s Pillar of Fire and so it is represented in the picture, as the fire which melts all Legionary hearts into one and guides them on to victory. St. Elizabeth proclaimed that Mary was blessed because she believed; the words of that proclamation are also in the border: “Blessed art thou that hast believed.” The pillar is Mary who saved the world by her faith. Through encircling gloom she still leads on without a possibility of error all those who call her blessed.

At the end of our prayer is a reminder of eternity: “So that the battle of life over, our Legion may reassemble without the loss of anyone in the Kingdom of Thy love and glory.” What a wonderful roll call that will be, when the faithful Legionaries will muster shoulder to shoulder to receive the incorruptible crown of their membership.

As we say our Rosary we might as well gaze upon out picture, which is also reproduced on the Tessera. In Roman times, the Tessera was like a tally or token which was divided amongst friends so that they and their descendants might always recognize each other. The Roman Legion understood by the Tessera a square tablet on which their watchwords was written and circulated to all.

These ideas are followed by Mary’s Legion. Every member should have a Tessera. It contains the watchword, our prayers. It is the bond of unity and brotherhood between all Legionaries anywhere in the world.

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