Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Our Lady of La Salette
Described by Melanie, the Little Seer
Saint of the Day, Monday, September 19, 1966
Today, September 19, is the feast of the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette. Duramey's book, “Les plus beaux textes sur la Vierge,” carries this statement by Mélanie, the girl who saw Our Lady.
“Appearance: The Blessed Virgin was tall and well proportioned. She looked so light that a breath could hit her, yet she remained motionless and unalterable. Her physiognomy was majestic, imposing, but not imposing as those of the grandees of the earth. She imposed respectful fear while her majesty imposed respect mixed with love. She attracted. Everything around her and in her person inspired majesty, splendor, and the magnificence of an incomparable queen. She looked beautiful, clear, immaculate, crystalline, heavenly. She also seemed to me like a good mother full of goodness, kindness, love, compassion and mercy for us.”
This illiterate little shepherdess deserved to join the French Academy of Letters for this admirable description.
“Tears: The Holy Virgin cried almost the entire time she spoke to me. Her tears flowed slowly, one by one, to her knees, then disappeared like sparks of light. They were bright and full of love. I had wanted to comfort her so she would not cry. But it seemed that she needed to show her tears the better to show her forgotten love for men. Far from weakening her majestic air as a Queen and Lady, the tears of our tender Mother, on the contrary, seemed to beautify her and to make her more amiable and radiant.
“Eyes: No human tongue can describe the eyes of the Blessed Virgin, our tender Mother. To speak of them would take a Seraph; it would take the very language of God, the God who formed the Immaculate Virgin, the masterpiece of His power. The eyes of the august Mary seemed a thousand times more beautiful than diamonds and precious stones. They were like God’s door through which one could see everything that could enchant the soul. They alone would suffice to be the heaven of a blessed soul, to make a soul enter the fullness of the will of the Most High, among all the events that happen in the course of life; they would suffice to impel a soul to continual acts of praise, thanksgiving, reparation, and atonement.
This vision alone focuses the soul on God and makes it like an undead that looks at earthly things, even the apparently most serious, as children’s toys. She just wanted to hear about God and His glory. Sin is the only evil that She sees on Earth; She would die of pain because of it if God did not sustain her.”
Each of the points concerning Our Lady’s appearance is a true beauty. Many ideas are symbolized by Our Lady’s appearance, but I would choose three. The first idea is of a completely celestial entity flooded with supernatural values and graces as if personifying the grace of God. So the first idea is supernatural.
The second is of a royal majesty is nameless but expresses itself in Our Lady, radiates from her and surrounds her..
The third idea, which that the Revolution would not like to see combined with majesty, is goodness that also has no name. She displays compassion, mercy, affability, and readiness to make everyone participate in her gifts. This is something seemingly contradictory to majesty but is the indispensable corollary of majesty. It is this incomparable outpouring of goodness found in Our Lady. All her traits given here are meant to symbolize that.
So let us see the narration.
“The Blessed Virgin was tall and well proportioned.”
Tallness or height is a hallmark of majesty, so much so that princes who are not kings are called Your Highness. Obviously, it is not physical height, but it is a physical image of height in other senses. Therefore, Our Lady did not need to be tall, but it suited her to have a well-proportioned physical height. A well-proportioned height is the opposite of a monolithic or overwhelming height. A person’s height makes him, so to speak, accessible by the perfection of his proportions. In Our Lady, many small things fit in Her with grace and harmony, making it a variegated height—it is unity in variety.
So you have this perfection in her proportions, which counterbalances any sightly frightening aspect that her height might have. It continues:
“She looked so light that a breath could hit her.”
She was an entirely spiritual being whose body was but a dependence completely dominated by the soul. Thus, She was not subject to the law of gravity and the earth’s attraction. In her, the supernatural was at its fullest.
“She imposed respectful fear while her majesty imposed respect mixed with love.”.
On the one hand, the respect She imposed instilled fear, and on the other hand, it instilled love. It is appropriately the image of true majesty, which instills reverential fear. It is not a fear of the whip, which incidentally can occur, but the fear of displeasing such an elevated being; on the other hand, She instilled love because of who She was. This is splendidly expressed.
True majesty attracts indeed; true majesty does not repel. When we see a majesty that repels, it is a false majesty. For example, Napoleon had a ‘repelling’ majesty because he was a vagabond, low-level commoner. He had nothing of authentic majesty. True majesty attracts and does not repel.
Everything around her and in her person inspired majesty, splendor, and the magnificence of an incomparable queen.
What was around her? An ordinary little meadow with some herbs. But She entered there and everything turned everything into a palace. Why? Scripture says that all the glory of the King’s daughter –Our Lady– comes from within Her, and She communicates this glory to everything around Her.
She looked beautiful, clear, immaculate, crystalline, heavenly.
It is luminous, supernatural clarity. It is very interesting for someone like me, who likes crystals, to see the idea of a crystalline lens to describe Her purity and its diaphanous aspect, which displays something of the nobility of crystals. Now comes the corollary:
She also seemed to me like a good mother full of goodness, kindness, love, compassion and mercy for us.
Here is the perfect juxtaposition. That is why St. Bernard, when writing the Hail Holy Queen, placed this paradox at the very beginning “Hail, Holy Queen,” and soon after, “Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.” Supremely Queen, supremely Mother, and Mother of supreme mercy. This juxtaposition gives us the idea of perfect majesty.
You see a little bit of this in the figure of Saint Pius X in that painting in the St. Pius X room in the Aureliano Coutinho Seat, which I consider better than that big and very beautiful one in the Alcácer Seat. In it Saint Pius X appears with such a strong physiognomy that we can see that he is a hero who does not shrink from anything and fears nothing. But so much sweetness radiates from his face, so much kindness, that it is impossible not to love and respect him. Here is a good expression of truly Catholic greatness.
Our Lady wept. There are two ways of crying. One is a way of crying out of weakness, the other, of crying out of pride. We cry under pain but can also cry when above pain. Let us see how Our Lady cries.
The Holy Virgin cried almost the entire time she spoke to me. Her tears flowed slowly, one by one, to her knees...
All this is symbolic. Her tears flowed slowly, indicating self-control. There was nothing disheveled, convulsive as in an opera. They were tears of a queen filled with noble, serene sadness. They flow down to her knees to indicate the impulse of the weeping and the soul of the One weeping, as if signalling that her tears and pains run almost through her whole body and floods her entire soul. It is a beautiful symbol. Then she adds:
“...then disappeared like sparks of light.”
How could Our Lady’s tears disappear? Fall into the ground, mixing with dirt or prosaically soaking her dress? Could one understand a queen with her clothes wet and heavy with tears? No. How beautiful is this disappearing like sparks of light. A tear shining at its last moment sheds light and is collected by the Eternal Father in His splendors. What a beautiful solution to a problem that could easily become prosaic. It continues:
“They were bright and full of love.”
The tears of such a queen should have been luminous; they could not be opaque, brownish earthly tears. They are tears of the One who is all pure, so can only be crystalline. And they glow with love. People understand that a certain glow can especially mean love. You see how all these formulations are highly tactful and well thought out.
“I had wanted to comfort her so she would not cry. But it seemed that she needed to show her tears the better to show her forgotten love for men.
Far from weakening her majestic air as a Queen and Lady, the tears of our tender Mother, on the contrary, seemed to beautify her and to make her more amiable and radiant.”
The tears beautified her majesty. The true Queen is such that she has one kind of beauty when happy, another beauty when sad, yet another beauty when she is carefree. They are all special beauties. In Our Lady, tears showed unmistakable beauty, the beauty of the Queen’s sorrow. It is a specific physiognomic aspect. Then she says, the tears made Our Lady more amiable and radiant. Radiant here does not mean very happy but radiating more her personality.
The face is the summary of the body. The eyes are the summary of the face, meaning the eyes are the quintessence of the entire expression of the body. How would Our Lady’s soul express itself in the most expressive part of her most holy body?
“No human tongue can describe the eyes of the Blessed Virgin, our tender Mother. To speak of them would take a Seraph; it would take the very language of God, the God who formed the Immaculate Virgin, the masterpiece of His power.
Indeed, it is characteristic of the sublime not to be described by human language.
The eyes of the august Mary seemed a thousand times more beautiful than diamonds and precious stones.
Here is another comparison dear to my heart because it compares not only her tears but also her eyes with crystals and gemstones so that She is an excellent creature materially speaking.
They were like God’s door through which one could see everything that could enchant the soul.
The expression is magnificent because the Litany calls Our Lady Janua caeli, the gate of heaven. Indeed, more than any angel, She is the clearest manifestation of God. Therefore, whoever looks into the eyes of Our Lady, looks at the highest manifestation of a soul that is the mirror of God’s justice. So it is something totally ineffable, unspeakable. It is not possible to describe the expression of Our Lady’s gaze.
I have the impression that only the look of Our Lord Jesus Christ is more transcendent. It is impossible to say anything about it. If we think of the thousand gazes of Our Lord, if we follow the scenes of the Gospel thinking of His look at the Last Supper, that alone makes for a superabundant, magnificent meditation on the Gospels. Take the Holy Face and imagine what it looked like. Above all, I believe that the Holy Shroud and the Beau Dieu d’Amiens are the two images where such a meditation can best be done. The latter, as far as I know, is the most beautiful image of Our Lord. For me, it is the perfect image of one of His aspects.
The vision of the eyes of the purest of virgins alone would suffice to be the heaven of a blessed soul.
She speaks of the purest of virgins naturally because the purity of that gaze caught her attention. How could it not have been most pure? I have the impression that it is a ‘chastity-fying’ look. Anyone who looked at that gaze could be instantly made chaste for life simply because his gaze managed to meet Our Lady’s immaculately pure gaze.
The vision of her eyes alone would suffice to be the heaven of a blessed soul, to make a soul enter the fullness of the will of the Most High, among all the events that happen in the course of life; they would suffice to impel a soul to continual acts of praise, thanksgiving, reparation, and atonement.
These are the acts of worship: praise, thanksgiving, atonement and reparation. That vision alone would suffice for a person to have so much to praise, so much to atone for, so much to make amends for, so much to give thanks, that he could spend his whole life doing it.
This vision [of her eyes] alone focuses the soul on God and makes it like an undead that looks at earthly things, even the seemingly most serious, as children’s toys.
The seer goes on to explain that once a person has seen it, he does not care about anything else except to stay away from sin.
* * *
May we have the desire to see Our Lady’s eyes in heaven. Imagine that in heaven, all we had was to gaze into the eyes of Our Lady and Our Lord for all eternity. That alone would suffice for us to be flooded with happiness eternally.
So, in order to have a desire for heaven, we must think of an eternity contemplating those eyes that contain all kinds of expressions of love for us as we contemplate and imbue ourselves eternally with God’s sublimity and greatness. We would need nothing else to have such an immense desire for heaven that we would be tempted to say a prayer an ultramontane should not say: a prayer asking to die soon because things on this earth are decidedly too disgusting.