Mercedarian spiritualityThe basilica of la Merced holds the most precious treasure of the Mercedarian spirituality. Imagine you enter the sacred precinct and there at the top is the Virgin Mary framed in splendour.
On the front of the door of the exterior façade there is a Latin phrase taken from the book of Revelation which alerts us: A woman clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet and crowned with twelve stars.
The Order of la Merced has their worship of Mary ,as a sign of their spirituality, deeply rooted.
Mary, the mother of God, mother of Jesus Christ is the Mother of the Redeemer who has begot our Saviour.
The name with which she is known is Merced (Mercy), gift, present, payment and ransom; and all that refers to the charisma and apostolic work of the Mercedarians throughout eight centuries, which is the redemption of captives, prisoners for their faith. In the Middle Ages the charisma of redemption was called the work of Mercy; and for the worked accomplished to the Mercedarian and the dedication to Mary, the title of la Merced was given. Maria de la Merced is the mother of captives and all prisoners who turn to her with the hope of freedom.
Where does the Marian aspect of Mercedarian spirituality spring from? From the gospel of St. John 19, 25-27. Jesus himself puts Mary into the hands of the beloved disciple, who he names Mother. Mary becomes the mother of humanity and of the family of disciples of Jesus. His redemption and the universal motherhood of Mary are united.
The figure of Mary being important, in Mercedarian spirituality, as key to the vault where the identification with Jesus Christ the Redeemer is found.
Mercedarian life has as its centre Christ who identifies himself with the little ones from the Gospel, the captives. There is a parallel between the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, who through the surrender of his own life has redeemed captive humanity from the power of sin, and the liberation from the chains of oppression and captivity, which are also necessary to break to restore freedom. And following the code of identification, it must be done even offering one’s life. The Mercedarian tries to live his life making himself a reflection of Christ in his redemptive mystery.
Where does the aspect of identification of Christ with the Mercedarian spirituality come from? From the gospel of St. Mathew 25, 31-46. In this universal judgement, Jesus Christ has identified himself with the weakest (the hungry, the thirsty, strangers , the naked, the sick and prisoners): “What you did to one of those, you did it to me” When the first Mercedarians phrased the introductory clause of the constitutions of the Order of la Merced in 1272, they modified the text to express precisely how to live this identification with Christ the Redeemer: “I was in jail and you came to visit me, I was sick and you came to see me” because they gave their lives for the captives and the poor and sick in their houses-hospitals of St. Eulalia (on which the current Basilica of la Merced stands).
P. Manuel Anglés, OM