Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hortus Conclusus

The medieval mystics loved to meditate on the Virgin Mary as the “enclosed garden” or “walled garden” of the Song of Songs, and as the new “Garden of Eden”, Paradise restored. St Bernard of Clairvaux is frequently cited – as here, by St John Eudes in The Admirable Heart of Mary (Loreto Publications, 2004, 70):
Thou art an enclosed garden, O Mother of God, wherein we cull all kinds of flowers. Among them, we gaze with particular admiration on thy violets, thy lilies, and thy roses, which fill the House of God with their sweet fragrance. Thou art, O Mary, a violet of humility, a lily of chastity, and a rose of charity.” 
In the original Garden, St John comments, man hid from God and God had to call for him. In the new Garden, the second Paradise, God hid himself and his glory for love, so that the three kings who came from afar had to ask, “Where is he?”

The tradition of the hortus conclusus is entwined with that of the Immaculate Conception, because just as Adam was made from the earth before the Fall, so it seemed eminently fitting that the second Adam should be made from a woman similarly untouched by sin. God was making a new beginning for the human race. In order to plant the new Tree of Life, he had to establish around it an enclosed garden, protected from the corruption of the world outside. That garden was Mary.

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