Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Tower of Ivory

In Sacred Scripture we have the text in the Canticle of Canticles, "Thy neck is as a tower of ivory," which probably suggested this title of Our Lady.

We read in the 9th chapter of the Second Book of Paralipomenon of a great throne of ivory, overlaid with pure gold: "there was not such a throne in any kingdom." And a little later on in the same chapter we are told how the king's ships went to Tharsis every three years with the servants of Hiram, king of Tyre, and brought thence gold, silver, and ivory. So that some rich person of those lands might, if he pleased, have a tower overlaid with plates of ivory.

When we say "Tower of Ivory," the very words call up in our minds a glowing image of delicate beauty, a celestial structure with pinnacles and spires of dazzling whiteness, resplendent in the sunlight, lovely in shape as well as in substance, a very picture of elegance and stainlessness, a truly appropriate image of the Most Pure Virgin Mary. Its dazzling whiteness suggests to us the spotlessness of Her soul. As the ivory tower was for the king or owner of the vineyard in which it was built—a place of pleasure and delight, so was Mary's soul to Jesus.

We too must strive to make our souls such that Jesus will find in them a place of pleasure and repose. There, by the purity of our souls, may His eyes be soothed and refreshed in His disappointments. To a Saint Our Lord once said: "My child, I am weary and sorrowful with the sins and ingratitude of men; open to Me the dwelling of thy heart, that I may find a little rest with thee." The soul of that Saint must in some way have resembled Mary's, the Tower of Ivory; it must have been pure, calm, peaceful, and lovely. In the same way, if we strive to keep our souls calm, free from restless desires and turbulent passions, Our Lord will be able to come and take His pleasure in us, as the king of olden times did in his ivory tower. "His place is in peace."

And we, too, need a tower of refuge in our troubles and difficulties, a place where we can hide from the attacks of our passions. At those times we may think of Mary as the beautiful, graceful, pure, peaceful Tower of Ivory, opening to us its gates, ever ready to receive us and soothe us back to peace and calm of soul. Fly to Her, ask Her to shield you from the hot blasts of passion, to restore the calm, the peace, the serenity of your soul that you, too, may grow into a lovely tower of ivory for Our King and Lord.

The whiteness of ivory is, of course, the emblem of purity, and reminds us by contrast, how shameful and degrading is the opposite vice. Let us pray to Mary, the Tower of Ivory, that we may ever prize the purity and spotlessness of our souls above all things, and that She may preserve us from all sin, especially grievous sin, so that Our Lord may always find in us a choice dwelling-place.

We are told that Our Lord said of St. Gertrude: "You shall find Me in the heart of Gertrude." And every year in the Office of her feast, these words are chanted: "In the heart of Gertrude you shall find Me, My soul hath delighted in her." She was a true copy of Mary, the Tower of Ivory. But Jesus will not find in us a peaceful dwelling, if our souls are full of passionate desires, troubled, turbulent, and like a lake in a storm – for "His place is in peace." "The Lord is not in the whirlwind," that is, "non in commotione Dominus" – not in anything that is in agitation.

Motto: "In the holy dwelling-place I have ministered before Him."

Practice: Keep your soul pure in calmness and peace, that Jesus may dwell in you with delight.

Example—Our Lady of Joreval

Ruins of Joreval Abbey

There was formerly at Joreval in Yorkshire, England, a shrine of Our Lady. In the year 1150, twelve monks under Abbot John Kingston of Byland set out for this spot. The first night they rested at a certain village, where Abbot John had the following vision. It seemed to him that he was in the monastery at Byland when he saw a Lady, nobly dressed, and of surpassing beauty, holding by Her left hand a little Boy, who plucked a bough from a little tree that stood in the center of the cloister quadrangle, and then they both vanished. After this the abbot and monks set forth, but not knowing their way, the abbot proposed that they should recite their Office. Having done so, the Lady and Her Son re-appeared, and the abbot begged Her to lead them to Joreval. Then looking at Her Son, She said, "Sweetest Son, for the love Thou hast ever had for Me, be a guide to these brethren." Then the Child held out the branch He had picked from the cloister of Byland, and said, "Follow Me," and they did so, walking through rough and hard ways without any difficulty. And a number of little birds, snowy white, flew down on to the bough the Child held, and there sang the hymn, Benedicite omnia opera Domini Domino, whereby they were much refreshed, and at last they reached a wild uncultivated spot, where the Child planted His branch in the earth with the birds singing upon it, and said, "Here God will soon be invoked and adored." And it seemed as though the whole land grew into a great tree covered with white singing birds. Then the Child disappeared. Abbot John then awoke, and with his companions proceeded on his journey much consoled. The monks were all clothed in white, and everyone asked, "Who are all these men in white going by?" Then Abbot John heard one reply: "They are monks moving from Byland to Joreval." Another gazed at the firmament and stars for a while, and then, as if he had received a revelation, said, "These good monks have come at a happy moment; they will, within a brief space, attain to much prosperity, and have abundance of all things necessary." Abbot John was much rejoiced at these words and proceeded on his way. This legend was known to everyone in those parts and often retold.

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