The Legion and Paschal Time
Paschal time is in many ways the loveliest time of the Christian year. We celebrate the presence of the risen Christ among us. We enjoy his nearness and intimacy with us. Our life is no longer just a temporary thing with only a passing and finite significance. We have an eternal destiny and meaning. We have been taken up into the inner life of God, immersed in his love for us and called to be witnesses to the presence of the Risen Christ in the circumstance of our daily lives. Of course, the spirit of Easter must be with us throughout the whole year but paschal time presses us to mediate more explicitly and live more deeply our relationship with the Risen Christ. The Alleluia really is the basic and ultimate song of every Christian.
But I think the legionary should love Easter and rejoice at this time with a special exuberance and renewal of life. Why is this? Well, paschal time is the time of the full manifestation of the Mystical Body of Christ. Who can forget the last words of the Risen Christ on this earth: ‘And remember, I am with you always until the end of the world.’ This is the good news of the Mystical Body of Christ. And this doctrine is the life and soul of the Legion. Everything in the Legion goes back to this doctrine as its source, its fundamental motivation and the goal of all its activity. The Legion is simply a group of laymen and women in union with their priests trying to live the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ to the very full. For the Legion to say Mary is immediately to point to Jesus. The whole reason of Mary’s personal existence is to point to Jesus. To Jesus through Mary must always be put in block letters in the spirituality of the Legion. But the Handbook fills out the meaning of this axiom by underlining that it is through Mary to the Whole Christ - Jesus Head of his Mystical Body the Church.
This thought permeates the whole Handbook and more importantly it should be what is most characteristic of every legionary and legion apostolate. Let us recall just some passages of the Handbook that express these ideas: ‘The sole purpose of Mary’s existence is to conceive and bring forth the whole Christ, that is the Mystical Body with all its members perfect and fitly joined together (Eph 4:15-16), and one with its Head, Jesus Christ. Mary accomplishes this in co-operation with, and by the power of, the Holy Spirit, who is the life and soul of the Mystical Body. It is in her bosom and subject to her maternal care that the soul grows up in Christ and comes to the age of His fullness (Eph 4:13-15)’. If the sole purpose of Mary’s existence is focused on the Mystical Body of Christ, surely it must be the primary concern of those who wish to live in total union with her. The Legion must never forget the social dimension of its consecration to Mary: the love of Jesus in His Body the Church.
It is Mary who cares for each and every person as though they were Jesus himself. As the Handbook puts it: ‘The various offices which Mary fulfilled, of nourishing, tending and loving the actual body of her Divine Son, are still her offices in regard to each member of the Mystical Body, the least brethren as well as the most honourable.’ So that when ‘the members may have the same care for one another’ (1Cor 12:25), ‘they do not act independently of Mary, even when, through thoughtlessness or ignorance, they fail to recognise her presence. They but join their efforts to Mary’s efforts.’ Now every praesidium and indeed every Council of the Legion is a cell of the Body of Christ and Mary is intimately involved as the Mother of that cell. Each member is called to unite with Mary in loving and serving and encouraging the other members as Jesus Himself. This is the school in which we learn to love and serve the Whole Christ with, in and through Mary. Wherever in the Legion the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Jesus is not truly lived there the Legion will gradually die out. If we do not reverence Jesus in each other in and through Mary, how can we authentically and effectively invite non-legionaries into the company of the Legion? If the spirit of the paschal time with its profound emphasis on the Mystical Body of Jesus is weak, all our projects will tend to be merely outward show and have little lasting influence.
As you probably recognise, I am simply paraphrasing the Handbook, so let me quote just one final passage that sums up all I have been trying to say: ‘As at the first meeting, so every since, no effort has been spared to bring home to legionaries that this motive is to be the basis of their service, and likewise that the discipline and internal harmony of the Legion rest chiefly upon the same principle. In their offices and in each other they must recognise and reverence Christ Himself. In order to ensure that this transforming truth will remain impressed on the minds of the members, it is incorporated in the Standing Instruction, which is read monthly at the praesidium meeting. In addition, the Standing Instruction emphasises the other legionary principle that the work must be done in such a spirit of union with Mary that it is she, working through the legionary, who really performs it.’
May I suggest and recommend that legionaries everywhere in the Legion world read and pray over the chapter of the Handbook on the Mystical Body of Christ during this lovely and grace filled paschal season. Amen.