Saturday, 16 May 2009

Of the Virtues of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

This is the second part in a series; the first part can be found here:
Of the Virtues of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
SECTION I. Of the Humility of Mary.

SECTION II. Of Mary’s Charity towards God.

Saint Anselm says, that ‘wherever there is the greatest purity, there is also the greatest charity.’1 The more a heart is pure, and empty of itself, the greater is the fullness of its love towards God. The most holy Mary, because she was all humility, and had nothing of self in her, was filled with divine love, so that ‘her love towards God surpassed that of all men and angels,’2 as Saint Bernardine writes. Therefore Saint Francis of Sales with reason called her ‘the Queen of love.’ God has indeed given men the precept to love Him with their whole hearts, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart;”3 but, as Saint Thomas declares, ‘this commandment will be fully and perfectly fulfilled by men in heaven alone, and not on earth, where it is only fulfilled imperfectly.’4 On this subject, blessed Albert the Great remarks, that, in a certain sense, it would have been unbecoming had God given a precept which was never to have been perfectly fulfilled. But this would have been the case, had not the Divine Mother perfectly fulfilled it. The Saint says, ‘Either some one fulfilled this precept, or no one; if any one, it must have been the most Blessed Virgin.’5 Richard of Saint Victor confirms this opinion, saying, ‘The Mother of our Emmanuel practised virtues in their very highest perfection. Who has ever fulfilled as she did that first commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart”? In her Divine love was so ardent, that no defect of any kind could have access to her.’6 ‘Divine love,’ says Saint Bernard, so penetrated and filled the soul of Mary, that no part of her was left untouched; so that she loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with her whole strength, and was full of grace.’7 Therefore Mary could well say, My Beloved has given Himself all to me, and I have given myself all to Him: “My Beloved to me, and I to Him.”8 ‘Ah! well might even the Seraphim,’ says Richard, ‘have descended from heaven to learn, in the heart of Mary, how to love God.’9

God, who is love,10 came on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the flame of His Divine love; but in no heart did He enkindle it so much as in that of His Mother; for her heart was entirely pure from all earthly affections, and fully prepared to burn with this blessed flame. Thus Saint Sophronius says, that ‘Divine love so inflamed her, that nothing earthly could enter her affections; she was always burning with this heavenly flame, and, so to say, inebriated with it.’11 Hence the heart of Mary became all fire and flames, as we read of her in the sacred Canticles: “The lamps thereof are fire and flames;12 fire burning within through love, as Saint Anselm explains it;13 and flames shining without, by the example she gave to all in the practice of virtues. When Mary, then, was in this world, and bore Jesus in her arms, she could well be called, ‘fire carrying fire;’ and with far more reason than a woman spoken of by Hippocrates, who was thus called because she carried fire in her hand. Yes, for Saint Ildephonsus said, that ‘the Holy Ghost heated, inflamed, and melted Mary with love, as fire does iron; so that the flame of this Holy Spirit was seen, and nothing was felt but the fire of the love of God.’14 Saint Thomas of Villanova says,15 that the bush seen by Moses,16 which burnt without being consumed, was a real symbol of Mary’s heart. Therefore with reason, says Saint Bernard, was she seen by Saint John clothed with the sun: “and there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun;”17 ‘for,’ continues the Saint, ‘she was so closely united to God by love, and penetrated so deeply the abyss of divine wisdom, that, without a personal union with God, it would seem impossible for a creature to have a closer union with Him.’18

Hence Saint Bernardine of Sienna asserts that the most holy Virgin was never tempted by hell; for, he says: ‘As flies are driven away by a great fire, so were the evil spirits driven away by her ardent love; so much so, that they did not even dare approach her.’19 Richard of Saint Victor also says, that ‘the Blessed Virgin was terrible to the princes of darkness, so that they did not presume to tempt or approach her; for the fire of her charity deterred them.’20 Mary herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that in this world she never had any thought, desire, or joy, but in and for God: ‘I thought,’ she said, ‘of nothing but God, nothing pleased me but God;’21 so that her blessed soul being in the almost continual contemplation of God whilst on earth, the acts of love which she formed were innumerable, as Father Suarez writes: ‘The acts of perfect charity formed by the Blessed Virgin in this life, were without number; for nearly the whole of her life was spent in contemplation, and in that state she constantly repeated acts of love.’22 But a remark of Bernardine de Bustis pleases me still more: he says that Mary did not so much repeat acts of love as other saints do, but that her whole life was one continued act of it; for, by a special privilege, she always actually loved God.23 As a royal eagle, she always kept her eyes fixed on the Divine Sun of Justice: ‘so that,’ as Saint Peter Damian says, ‘the duties of active life did not prevent her from loving, and love did not prevent her from attending to those duties.’24 Therefore Saint Germanus says, that the altar of propitiation, on which the fire was never extinguished day or night, was a type of Mary.25

Neither was sleep an obstacle to Mary’s love for God; since, as Saint Augustine asserts, ‘the dreams, when sleeping, of our first parents, in their state of innocence, were as happy as their lives when waking;’26 and if such a privilege were granted them, it certainly cannot be denied that it was also granted to the Divine Mother, as Suarez, the Abbot Rupert, and Saint Bernardine fully admit. Saint Ambrose is also of this opinion; for speaking of Mary, he says, ‘while her body rested, her soul watched,’27 verifying in herself the words of the wise man: “Her lamp shall not be put out in the night.”28 Yes, for while her blessed body took its necessary repose in gentle sleep, ‘her soul,’ says Saint Bernardine, ‘freely tended towards God; so much so, that she was then wrapped in more perfect contemplation than any other person ever was when awake.’29 Therefore could she well say with the Spouse in the Canticles, “I sleep, and my heart watcheth.”30 ‘As happy in sleep as awaking;’31 as Suarez says. In fine, Saint Bernardine asserts, that as long as Mary lived in this world she was continually loving God: ‘The mind of the Blessed Virgin was always wrapped in the ardour of love.’32 The Saint moreover adds, ‘that she never did anything which the Divine Wisdom did not show her to be pleasing to Him; and that she loved God as much as she thought He was to be loved by her;’33 so much so, indeed, that, according to blessed Albert the Great, we can well say that Mary was filled with so great charity, that greater was not possible in any pure creature on earth.”34 Hence Saint Thomas of Villanova affirms, that by her ardent charity the Blessed Virgin became so beautiful, and so enamoured her God, that, captivated as it were by her love, He descended into her womb and became man.35 Wherefore Saint Bernardine exclaims, ‘Behold the power of the Virgin Mother: she wounded and took captive the heart of God.’36

But since Mary loves God so much, there can be nothing which she so much requires of her clients as that they also should love Him to their utmost. This precisely she one day told blessed Angela of Foligno after communion, saying, ‘Angela, be thou blessed by my Son, and endeavour to love Him as much as thou canst.’37 She also said to Saint Bridget, ‘Daughter, if thou desirest to bind me to thee, love my Son.’ Mary desires nothing more than to see her beloved, who is God, loved. Novarinus asks why the Blessed Virgin, with the Spouse in the Canticles, begged the angels to make the great love she bore Him known to our Lord, saying, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell Him that I languish with love.”38 Did not God know how much she loved Him? ‘Why did she seek to show the wound to her Beloved, since He it was who had inflicted it?’ The same author answers, that the Divine Mother thereby wished to make her love known to us, not to God; that as she was herself wounded, so might she also be enabled to wound us with Divine love.39 And ‘because Mary was all on fire with the love of God, all who love and approach her are inflamed by her with this same love; for she renders them like unto herself.’40 For this reason Saint Catherine of Sienna called Mary ‘the bearer of fire,’41 the bearer of the flame of Divine love. If we also desire to burn with these blessed flames, let us endeavour always to draw nearer to our Mother by our prayers and the affections of our souls. Ah, Mary, thou Queen of love, of all creatures the most amiable, the most beloved, and the most loving, as Saint Francis of Sales addressed thee,--my own sweet Mother, thou wast always and in all things inflamed with love towards God; deign, then, to bestow at least a spark of it on me. Thou didst pray thy Son for the spouses whose wine had failed: “They have no wine.”42 And wilt thou not pray for us, in whom the love of God, whom we are under such obligations to love, is wanting? Say also, ‘They have no love,’ and obtain us this love. This is the only grace for which we ask. O Mother, by the love thou bearest to Jesus, graciously hear and pray for us. Amen.

SECTION III. Of Mary’s Charity towards her Neighbour.

Love towards God and love towards our neighbour are commanded by the same precept: “And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother.”43 Saint Thomas44 says that the reason for this is, that he who loves God loves all that God loves. Saint Catherine of Genoa one day said, ‘Lord, Thou willest that I should love my neighbour, and I can love none but Thee.’ God answered her in these words: ‘All who love Me love what I love.’45 But as there never was, and never will be, any one who loved God as much as Mary loved Him, so there never was, and never will be, any one who loved her neighbour as much as she did. Father Cornelius a Lapide, on these words of the Canticles, “King Solomon hath made him a litter of the wood of Libanus . . . the midst he covered with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem,”46 says, that ‘this litter was Mary’s womb, in which the Incarnate Word dwelt, filling it with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem; for Christ, who is love itself, inspired the Blessed Virgin with charity in its highest degree, that she might succour all who had recourse to her.’47 So great was Mary’s charity when on earth, that she succoured the needy without even being asked; as was the case at the marriage-feast of Cana, when she told her Son that family’s distress: “They have no wine,”48 and asked Him to work a miracle. O, with what speed did she fly when there was question of relieving her neighbour! When she went to the house of Elizabeth to fulfil an office of charity, “she went into the hill-country with haste.”49 She could not, however, more fully display the greatness of her charity than she did in the offering which she made of her Son to death for our salvation. On this subject Saint Bonaventure says, ‘Mary so loved the world as to give her only-begotten Son.’ Hence Saint Anselm exclaims, ‘O blessed amongst women, thy purity surpasses that of the angels, and thy compassion that of the Saints!’50 ‘Nor has this love of Mary for us,’ says Saint Bonaventure, ‘diminished now that she is in heaven, but it has increased; for now she better sees the miseries of men.’ And therefore the Saint goes on to say: ‘Great was the mercy of Mary towards the wretched when she was still in exile on earth; but far greater is it now that she reigns in heaven.’51 Saint Agnes assured Saint Bridget that ‘there was no one who prayed without receiving graces through the charity of the Blessed Virgin.’52 Unfortunate, indeed, should we be, did not Mary intercede for us! Jesus Himself, addressing the same Saint, said, ‘Were it not for the prayers of My Mother, there would be no hope of mercy.’53

Blessed is he, says the Divine Mother, who listens to my instructions, pays attention to my charity, and, in imitation of me, exercises it himself towards others: “Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors.”54 Saint Gregory Nazianzen assures us that ‘there is nothing by which we can with greater certainty gain the affection of Mary than by charity towards our neighbour.’55 Therefore, as God exhorts us, saying, “Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful,”56 so also does Mary seem to say to all her children, ‘Be ye merciful, as your Mother also is merciful.’ It is certain that our charity towards our neighbour will be the measure of that which God and Mary will show us: “Give, and it shall be given to you. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”57 Saint Methodius used to say, ‘Give to the poor, and receive paradise.’58 For the apostle writes, that charity towards our neighbour renders us happy both in this world and in the next: “But piety is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”59 Saint John Chrysostom, on the words of Proverbs, “He that hath mercy on the poor lendeth to the Lord,”60 makes a remark to the same effect, saying, ‘He who assists the needy makes God his debtor.’61 O Mother of Mercy, thou art full of charity for all; forget not my miseries; thou seest them full well. Recommend me to God, who denies thee nothing. Obtain me the grace to imitate thee in holy charity, as well towards God as towards my neighbour. Amen.

1Ubi major puritas, ibi major caritas. +

2Superat . . . omnium creaturarum amores . . . in Filium suum. -- Serm. Glor. Nom. M. art. i. cap. 2.

3Diliges Dorninum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo. -- Matt. xxii. 37.

42. 2. q. xxiv. art. 8.

5Aut aliquis implet hoc præceptum, aut nullus; si aliquis, ergo Beatissima Virgo. -- Sup. Missus. q. 135.

6Emanuelis nostri puerpera, in omni fuit virtutum consummatione perfecto. Quis illud primum et maximum mandatum sic unquam implevit? Quis sic unquam implere poterit? Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex tote corde tuo, et ex tota anima tua . . . Divinus amor in ea adeo convaluit, adeo eam ipsam in omni bono solidavit, ut de cætero, spiritualis qualiscunque defectus, in eam incidere omnino non posset. -- Lib. ii. de Emanuele, cap. 29, 30.

7Amor Christi, Mariæ animam non modo confixit, sed etiam pertransivit, ut nullam in pectore virginali particulam vacuam amore relinqueret, sed toto corde, tota anima, tota virtute diligeret, et esset gratia plena. -- Serm. xxix. in Cant.

8Dilectus meus mihi, et ego illi. -- Cant. ii. 16.

9Seraphim de cœlo descendere poterant, ut amorem discerent in corde Virginis. +

10Deus caritas est. -- 1 John, iv. 8.

11Mariam totam incanduerat divinus amor, ita ut in ea nihil esset mundanum, quod violaret affectus, sed ardor continuus, et ebrietas perfusi amoris -- Serm. de Assump. int. op. S. Hieron.

12Lampades ejus, lampades ignis atque flammarum. -- Cant. viii. 6.

13Ap. Corn. á Lap.

14Beatam Mariana . . . velut ignis ferrum, Spiritus Sanctus totam decoxit, incanduit, et ignivit: ita ut in ea Spiritus Santi flamma videatur, nec sentiatur nisi tantum ignis amoris Dei. -- Orat. i. de Assump. B.M.V.

15In Nat. D. Conc. 2.

16Exod. iii. 2.

17Et signum magnum apparuit in cœlo: mulier amicta sole. -- Apoc. xii. 1.

18Jure ergo Maria sole perhibetur amicta, quæ profundissimam divinæ sapientiæ ultra quam credi valeat, penetravit abyssum; ut quantum sine personali unione creaturæ conditio patitur, luci illi inaccessibili videatur immersa. -- In Sign. Magn.

19Sicut magnus ignis effugat muscas, sic a sua ardentissima mente et inflammatissima caritate dæmones effugabantur et pellebantur, in tantum quod solum in modico non erant ausi respicere mentem ejus, nec de magno spatio illi appropinquare. -- Serm. de Concep. B.M.V. art. iii. cap. 2.

20Virgo . . . principibus tenebrarum terribilis fuit, ut ad eam accedere, eamque tentare non præsumpserint. Deterrebat enim eos flamma caritatis. -- In Cant. cap. xxvi.

21Nihil nisi Deum cogitabam, nihil volebam nisi ipsum. -- Rev. lib. i. cap. 10.

22Actus perfectæ caritatis, quos B. Virgo habuit in hac vita innumerabiles fuerunt, ita ut eorum multitudo possit fortasse cum numero sanctortum omnium conferri, quia fere totam vitam in perpetua contemplatione transegit, in qua ferventissime Deum amabat, et hunc amoris actum frequentissime repetebat. -- De lncarnat. p. ii. q. 37, art. 4, disp. 18, § iv.

23Tamen ipsa gloriosissima Virgo de privilegio singulari continue et semper Deum amabat actualiter. -- Marial. p. 2, Serm. v. p. 7.

24Adeo ut nec actio contemplationem minueret, et contemplatio non de æreret actionem. -- Serm. I. in Nat. B.M.V.

25In Annunt.

26Tam felicia erant somnia dormentium, quam vita vigilantium. -- In Jul. lib. v. cap. 2.

27Cum quiesceret corpus, vigilaret animus. -- De Virg. lib. ii. cap. 2.

28Non extinguetur in nocte lucerna ejus. -- Prov. xxxi. 18.

29Anima sua libere ac meritorio actu tunc tendebat in Deum. Unde tempore erat perfectior contemplatrix, quam unquam fuerit aliquis alius dum vigilavit. -- Serm. de Concep. B.M.V. art. i. cap. 2.

30Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat. -- Cant. v. 2.

31Tam felix dormiendo, quam vigilando. -- De Inc. p. 2. d. 18. § 2.

32Mens illius in ardore dilectionis continue tenebatur. -- Serm. de Concep. B.M.V. art. iii. cap. 2.

33Tertius Virginis splendor fuit caritas, scilicet quantum ad voluntatem, in quam tanta plenitudine divinus amor infusus est, quod nihil elicere vellet, nisi quod Dei sapientia præmonstrabat. Proinde hac sapientia illustrata, tantum Deum diligebat, quantum a se diligendum illum intelligebat. -- Ib. art. 1. cap. 3.

34Credimus etiam, sine præjudicio melioris sententiæ, Beatam Virginem in conceptione Filii Dei, caritatem Filii talem et tantam accepisse, quails et quanta percipi poterat a pura creatura in statu viæ. -- Sup. Missus Resp. ad q. xlvi.

35Hæc Virgo beata nobis Deum protulit et hominem: hæc sua eum pulchritudine et decore a cœlis allexit: amore illius captus est, humanitatis nostræ nexibus irretitus. -- Conc. viii. in Nat. Dom.

36O incogitabilis virtus Virginis matris . . . . una puella, nescio quibus blanditiis, nescio quibus violentiis decepit, et ut ita dicam, vulneravit et rapuit divinum cor. -- Serm. de Nat. B.M.V. cap. iv.

37Boll. 4 Jan. Vit. c. 7.

38Adjuro vos, filiæ Jerusalem, si inveneritis dilectum meuro, ut nuntietis ei quia amore langueo. -- Cant. v. 8.

39Ut vulnerata vulneret. -- Umbra Virg. exc. 28.

40Quia tota ardens fuit, omnes se amantes, eamque tangentes incendit, et sibi assimilat.

41Portatrix ignis. – Or. in Annunt.

42John, ii. 3.

43Et hoc mandatum habemus a Deo ut oui diligit Deum, diligat et fratrem suum. -- 1 John, iv. 21.

442. 2æ q. 25. a. 1.

45Boll. 15 Sept. Vit. c. 4.

46Ferculum fecit sibi rex Salomon de lignis Libani. – Cant. iii. 9.

47Beatæ Virginis . . . sinus fuit ferculum augustissimum, ferens et bajulans Verbum incarnatum, ideoque media caritate constratum propter filias Jerusalem; quia Christus, qui est ipsa charitas, maximam gratiam et charitatem B. Virgini aspiravit, ut ipsa filiabus Jerusalem, id est, animabus devotis, ad illam in quavis diffilcultate rccurrentibus, opera ferret. -- In Cant. cep. iii.

48John, ii. 3.

49Luc. i. 39.

50O tu benedicta super mulieres, quæ angelos vincis puritate, sanctos superare pietate. -- Invoc. B. V. et Filii.

51Magna erga miseros fuit misericordia Mariæ, adhuc exulantis in mundo, sed multo major erga miseros est misericordia ejus, jam regnantis in cœlo. -- Spec. B.M.V. lect. x.

52Ex dulcedine Maria, nullus est, qui non per eam, si petitur, sentiat pietatem. -- Rev. lib. iii. c. 30.

53Nisi preces matris mex intervenirent, non esset spes misericordiæ – Ib. vi. c. 26.

54Beatus homo qui audit me, et qui vigilat ad fores meas quotidie, et observat ad postes ostii mei. -- Prov. viii. 34.

55Nulla res est, quæ Virginis benevolentiam conciliat ac misericordia. +

56Estote ergo misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est. -- Luc. vi. 36.

57Eadem quippe mensura qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis. -- Ib. 38

58Da pauperi, et accipe paradisum. +

59Pietas autem ad omnia utilis est, promissionem habens vitæ, quæ nunc est et futures. -- 1 Tim. iv. 8.

60Fœneratur Domino qui miseretur pauperis. -- Prov. xix. 17.

61Si Deo fœneramur, is ergo nobis debitor est. -- De Pœnit. hom. 5.

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