Friday, August 21st, 2020

‘Terra dedit fructum suum:’ a Sermon for the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The earth has given its fruit (Psalm 66, 7)

St John Eudes refers to Our Lady as the earth.[1] He has warrant for doing this both from the Fathers and from the Scriptures. As far as the Sacred Scripture is concerned, today’s epistle makes it quite clear:

As a vine I bore a sweet aroma, and my flowers are the fruit of honor and riches . . . . Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. [2]      

(This same epistle, it is worth noting, is also used on the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel and on the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception. Thus, there is a theological tie that unites these three feasts—but that is for another time.)

It is out of the earth that all vines and fruits and flowers grow. 

Then we can think of two texts from the Holy Gospels: the first, in which Our Lord speaks of the good earth receiving the seed to bear thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold;[3] and the second, in which, speaking of his Mother, he says: ‘Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.’[4] These two texts—of the rich soil and obedience—are joined in Our Lady’s Heart.

You know the custom of blessing blossoms and herbs on the feast of the Assumption, the octave of which we are now celebrating. You know, too, that this custom is connected to the tradition of how the Apostles, at the time of Our Lady’s Assumption, found her tomb empty of her body, yet filled with blossoms and greens. And yet, it is also true that this is just the time of year (as I recently learned) in which herbs are to be cut and dried. Thus the Church stands ready to bless the yield of the earth in the presence of the Immaculate One.—Terra dedit fructum suum

Which brings us to today’s text. In the monastic office, Psalm 66 is prayed at the beginning of Lauds daily. It is a psalm that calls down the mercy of God, a mercy which is indeed new every morning.[5] It is a psalm of benediction and of praise. All these make it perfectly fitting for the Church’s prayer as the sun begins to color the sky in the east. But if what we have been saying is true, namely, that according to the language of Scripture the earth often refers to Our Lady, then Psalm 66 speaks of her, too:

Let the peoples praise Thee, O God, let all the peoples praise Thee: the earth has given its fruit.

Fruit represents all the divine benefits. And when Israel of the Old Dispensation is given material blessings—like rich harvests, fertility in marriage, rest from enemies—all these are so many prefigurements of the fruitfulness of grace. And the Immaculate One, on account of the mystery of the divine maternity, is the earth out of which springs the fruit of her womb, the Word Incarnate. Which is why St Bonaventure could teach that ‘All salvation springs from Mary’s Heart.’[6] 

Thus, Psalm 66 is a Marian psalm. Terra dedit fructum suum. As the earth ripens toward the harvest, the Heart of Mary shines over the Church as the font of all spiritual harvests. Anywhere we see the fruitful earth—both in the Scriptures and even in nature itself—we see Mary.     

Please God, we may begin, more and more, to see her everywhere. 


[1] The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Two, Chapter IV, P. J. Kenedy & Sons: 1948.

[2] Ecclesiasticus 24: 23, 26.

[3] Matthew 13, 18.

[4] Luke 11, 28.

[5] Lamentations 3, 22-23.

[6] In Psalt. B. Virg. Psalm 79.

{Art Credit: detail, George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Ruth and Boaz (c 1836), The Tate.}

Homilies & Sermons, Our Lady