Historical and Artistic Servite Calendar
MEDIEVAL SERVITE MARIAN SPIRITUALITY
Service is an essential element of the Charism of the Order. This spirit of Service has its deep roots in the Sacred Scripture. In their ideal of service, the Servants of Mary are indeed inspired by the example of Christ who embodies the figure of the "the Servant of the Lord" (cf. Is 42, 1-7; 49, 1-9; 50, 4-11; 52, 13-53,12), who came "to serve and to give his own life in ransom for many" (Mk 10, 45) and is present in the midst of his disciples "as one who serves" (Cf. Lk. 22, 27; Jn.13, 3-17) and by the humble attitude of the blessed virgin Mary who presented herself as "the handmaid of the Lord" when she was called by God to collaborate in the salvific plan of the incarnation of the Word (Lk. 1, 38). The Servites do a good variety of services: Service to God, Virgin Mary, Church, humanity, and to the friars of his own community. Service is ‘sharing the aspirations and the restlessness of man and promoting the genuine forms of Christian life’; - service as offering hospitality and welcoming the brothers, especially the humble; assisting the elderly ones, the sick and the needy; - service also means manifold forms of apostolic responsibilities, particularly missionary activities; - Also study, exercise of authority for the well-being of others, broad-mindedness toward all the creatures, relationships of peace and justice and love for all the creatures."
The constitutional text gives us a very clear idea about the importance of fraternal communion in our life. Jesus' prayer to the Father (cf. Jn.17, 11), the witnessing life of the first Christian community (Act 4, 32), the community life-style proposed by St.Augustine, and finally the exemplary life of the Seven Saints (cf. Legend de origin Ordinis) help us understand the importance of fraternal communion as an essential element of our life. Without this we would not be authentic Servants of Mary. The fraternal communion characterizes our way of witnessing the Gospel; - It defines our life-style, our work and prayer; - It determines the form of government of the Order and it gives a peculiar imprint to our apostolic services; this is where we give witness to the evangelical poverty, obedience to the Word of God and to the community decisions; - In our fraternal communion, we recognize a source of friendship and a safeguard of our consecration to the Lord in the chastity for the Kingdom; - And finally the fraternal communion is a very essential atmosphere for the authentic formation of the Servants of Mary and for the integral development of our personality"
The total dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary is another essential element of the life of the Order. It is rooted in the same experience of the seven holy Fathers at the beginning of their spiritual itinerary: "As they were aware of their imperfection, they humbled themselves, and with much devotion surrendered themselves at the feet of the glorious virgin May, the Queen of heaven, because she as a mediator and advocate, reconciled them to her Son and made them bear much fruits. That is why, from then on, they wanted to be called “Servants of Mary”. In fact the Order was very much convinced about the presence of Mary down through the centuries in its life. Already in the time of the seven holy Fathers and St. Phillip Benizi, the Servite friars were aware of the reality that the Order was a sign of the maternal and merciful figure of Mother Mary, as Innocent IV himself called the Order (in the Bull ‘Ut religionis vestrae’ of 1st August 1254, as a vineyard planted by the Virgin Mary. Down through the centuries the Order felt the presence of Mary very close to itself and venerated the Virgin Mary with devoted service to her. And it felt consoled and protected whenever it feared the risk of losing its spiritual patrimony. In those moments of trials and difficulties, the conviction that the Order was "religio Dominae nostrae" gave a new hope and strength to take up again its evangelical commitments. In the Constitutions of 1987, the whole mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary is proposed for the contemplation. According to the secular tradition of the order, some of the following aspects are very much highlighted: - The incarnation of the Word, a great event in which the Servites contemplate the holy Virgin of annunciation who gives her "fiat" (cf. Lk 1, 38), as a humble and faithful servant of the Lord. And it is from her that the Servites learn "to welcome the Word of God and to be attentive to the call of the Spirit." - The role of Mary taking part in her Son’s salvific sufferings (cf. Lk 2, 34-35; Jn. 19, 25-27) inspires the servites to have a special veneration towards Our Lady of Sorrows; - The maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, queen and mother of Mercy, to whom her Servants appeal and whose merciful love they strive to live out in their life; - Her glorification in heaven being close to her Son, by which she is resplendent as the most glorious Lady to whom the Servites offer their devoted service under her maternal protection.
In the iconography of the Servants, we find the image of the Mother of mercy as one who welcomes her servants and protects them from every physical and spiritual evil, imploring graces and mercy from her Son; but in this piety of the Servants of Mary, we recognize a constant internal process which calls for Conversion which is understood as our constant effort to come back to God and our day-to-day progress in our spiritual journey based on the Gospel values. And conversion is a component characteristic of the spirituality of the Servants. It is rooted in the serious admonishment of Jesus towards whoever desires to be his disciple: "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mk. 1:15) and it implicates a "radical and constant orientation of the community and of the individuals towards the newness of Christ." For the Servites, the convincing example for the ‘conversio morum’ is that the Seven holy fathers renounced everything and made a radical choice to follow Christ. The ‘conversio morum’ demands in fact an austere, sober and penitential way of life so that in each of us the words of St. Paul the apostle may come true: 'And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit' (Gal. 5:24-25) ".
Mary in the mystery of the Redemption:
The Sorrowful Virgin For the Servants of Mary, their devotion to the Sorrowful Virgin is connected to the symbolism of the black habit, in which already the hagiographists of the 14th century recognized a sign of humility of the Virgin and the sufferings she underwent as she took part in the passion of her Son. Philip Benizi, responding to the two Dominican friars who asked him about the Order of Servants of Mary, explained the significance of the black habit of the Servites. And also according to the author of ‘legenda de origin Ordinis’ the Marian vision that Blessed Peter martyr had gives us a clear idea of the connection between the black habit of the Servites and the mystery of the sufferings that Virgin Mary underwent. Here we deal with the early witnesses that go back to the first half of the 14th century. The historians of the Order are very much interested in making further research on these witnesses. We can recognize in them the careful attention paid towards the mystery of the sorrowful virgin. This special attention toward the sorrowful Mother grew got developed in the following centuries and it has become a very important element of the spirituality of the Order. In fact, the particular cult toward our Lady of Sorrows was expressed with devotions like ‘Corana’ of the Our Lady of Sorrows, Via Matris, and votive Mass of the seven sorrows of Mary, granted for the friars of the order on 9th 1668. From 17th to 19th century, we note a gradual development of this devotion among the friars of the Servite Order. On the 9th of August 1692, the Sorrowful Virgin was declared as patroness of the Order. In the Constitutions of the Order, we find an epilogue that synthesizes the figure of the Mother of God in the mystery of the Redemption: "In our commitment of service, the figure of Mary at the feet of the Cross shall be our model. Since the Son of Man is still being crucified in his brothers and sisters, we, Servants of his mother, wish to be with her at the foot of those countless crosses in order to bring comfort and redemptive co-operation.”