The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
ANOTHER DISCOURSE ON THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
1st. How glorious was the triumph of Mary when she ascended to heaven!
2d. How exalted was the throne to which she was raised in heaven!
IT would seem just that the holy Church, on this day of the Assumption of Mary to heaven, should rather invite us to weep than to rejoice, since our sweet mother has quitted this earth, and left us bereft of her sweet presence, as St. Bernard says: It seems that we should rather weep than exult: "Plangendum nobis, quam plandendum magis esse videtur." But no, the holy Church invites us to rejoice: "Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary." And justly, if we love this our mother, we ought to congratulate ourselves more upon her glory than upon our own particular consolation." What son does not rejoice, although separated from hia mother, if he knows that she is going to take possession of a kingdom? Mary, to-day, is to be crowned queen of heaven, and shall we not make a feast and rejoice if we truly love her? Let us all rejoice, let us rejoice: "Gaudeamus omnes, et gaudeamus. " And that we may be consoled the more by her exaltation, let us consider, in the first place, how glorious was the triumph of Mary ascending to heaven; secondly, how exalted was the throne to which she was elevated in heaven.
First Point. After Jesus Christ our Saviour had completed the work of our redemption by his death, the angels earnestly desired to have him with them in their heavenly country; hence they were continually supplicating him, repeating the words of David: "Arise, oh Lord, into thy resting-place, thou and the ark which thou hast sanctified." Come, oh Lord, now that thou hast redeemed men, come to thy kingdom with us, and bring with thee also the living ark of thy sanctification, namely, thy mother, who was the ark sanctified by thee when thou didst inhabit her womb. Thus St. Bernardino puts it into the mouth of the angels to say: Let thy most holy mother Mary also ascend sanctified by thy conception. At length, then, our Lord wished to satisfy this desire of those citizens of the heavenly country, by calling Mary to paradise. But, if he wished that the ark of the covenant should be conducted with great pomp into the city of David And David and all the house of Israel brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord with joyful shouting, and with sound of trumpetf with far more splendid and glorious pomp he ordained that his mother should enter into heaven. The prophet Isaias was carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire, which, according to the interpreters, was but a company of angels who raised him from the earth. But, to conduct thee into heaven, oh mother of God, as Rupert the Abbot says, a company of angels was not enough, but the King of heaven himself, with all his celestial court, came to accompany thee.
St. Bernardine of Sienna is of the same opinion, namely: that Jesus Christ, in order to honor the triumph of Mary, came himself from paradise to meet and accompany her. And precisely for this object it was, says St. Anselm, that the Redeemer wished to ascend before his mother, not only to prepare for her a throne in that palace, but also to render her entrance into heaven more glorious, accompanying her himself, with all the blessed spirits. Hence St. Peter Damian,coutemplating the splendor of this assumption of Mary into heaven, says that we shall find it more glorious than the ascension of Jesus Christ; for the angels only came to meet the Redeemer, but the blessed Virgin went to glory met and accompanied by the Lord of glory himself, and by all the blessed company of saints and angels. Hence Guerric the Abbot represents the divine Word speaking thus: I descended from heaven upon earth to give glory to my Father ; but afterwards, to pay honor to my mother, I ascended again into heaven, that I might thus be enabled to come to meet her, and accompany her by my presence to paradise.
Let us now consider how the Saviour really did come from heaven to meet his mother, and at the first interview said, to console her; "Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come; for winter is now past . . . and gone." Come, my dear mother, my beautiful and pure dove, leave that valley of tears where thou hast suffered so much for my love; come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come, thou shalt be crowned. Come with soul and body, to enjoy the reward of thy holy life. If thou hast suffered much upon earth, far greater is the glory that I have prepared for thee in heaven. Come there to sit near me; come to receive the crown that I will give thee as queen of the universe. Now, behold, Mary leaves the earth, and calling to mind the many graces she had there received from her Lord, she looks at it at the same time both with affection and compassion, leaving in it so many poor children, in the midst of so many miseries and dangers. And now Jesus offers her his hand, and the blessed mother rises in the air and passes beyond the clouds and spheres. Behold her now arrived at the gates of heaven. When monarchs made their entrance to take possession of their kingdom, they do not pass through the gates of the city, for either these are taken off entirely, or they pass over them. Hence the angels, when Jesus Christ entered paradise, cried: "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates; and the King of glory shall enter in." Thus, also, now that Mary is going to take possession of the kingdom of the heavens, the angels who accompany her cry to the others who are within: "Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and the queen of glory shall enter in."
And now Mary enters into the blessed country. But on her entrance, the celestial spirits seeing her so beautiful and glorious, ask of those who are without, as Origen describes it, and exclaim, all rejoicing in heaven in one (voice): Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?" And who is this creature so beautiful, that comes from the desert of the earth, a place so full of thorns and tribulation? But this one comes so pure and so rich in virtue, supported by her beloved Lord, who deigns to accompany her with so great honor. Who is she ? The angels who accompany her answer: This is the mother of our King, she is our queen, and the blessed one among women, full of grace, the saint of saints, the beloved of God, the immaculate, the dove, the most beautiful of all creatures. And then all those blessed spirits begin to bless and praise her, singing, with more reason than the Hebrews said to Judith: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." Ah! our Lady and our queen, then thou art the glory of paradise, the joy of our country, thou art the honor of us all; be ever welcome, be ever blessed; behold thy kingdom, behold us, we are all thy servants, ready for thy commands.
Then all the saints who were at that time in paradise came to welcome her and salute her as their queen. All the holy virgins came: They saw her, and declared her most blessed and they praised her. We, they said, oh most blessed Lady, are also queens of this kingdom, but thou art our queen; for thou wast the first to give us the great example of consecrating our virginity to God; we all bless and thank thee for it. Then came the holy confessors to salute her as their mistress, who had taught them so many beautiful virtues by her holy life. The holy martyrs came also to salute her as their queen, because by her great constancy in the sorrows of the passion of her Son, she had taught them, and also obtained for them by her merits, strength to give their life for the faith. St. James came also, the only one of the apostles who was then in paradise, to thank her in the name of all the other apostles, for the great comfort and support she had given them while she was upon earth. The prophets next came to salute her,and they said to her: Ah, Lady, thou wast foreshadowed in our prophecies. The holy patriarchs came and said to her: Oh Mary, thou hast been our hope, so much and so long sighed for by us. And among those came our first parents, Adam and Eve, to thank her with greater affection. Ah, beloved daughter, they said to her, thou hast repaired the injury done by us to the human race; thou hast obtained for the world that blessing lost by us, on account of our crime: by thee we are saved, and for it be forever blessed.
Then came holy Simeon to kiss her feet, and with joy reminded her of that day on which he received from her hands the infant Jesus. St. Zachary and St. Elizabeth also came, and thanked her again for that loving visit, that with so much humility and charity she made them in their dwelling, and through which they received so many treasures of grace. St. John the Baptist came with greater affection to thank her for having sanctified him by means of her voice. But what could her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anna, say to her, when they came to salute her? Oh God! with what tenderness must they have blessed her, saying: Ah! beloved daughter, what happiness was ours in having such a child! Ah! be thou our queen now, because thou art the mother of our God; as such we salute thee and adore thee. But who can comprehend the affection with which her dear spouse St. Joseph came to salute her ? "Who can describe the joy that the holy patriarch experienced at seeing his spouse arrive in heaven with so much triumph, made queen of all paradise? With what tenderness did he say to her: Ah! my Lady and spouse how shall I ever be able to thank our God as I ought for having made me thy spouse, thou who art his true mother? Through thee I merited on earth to attend upon the childhood of the incarnate Word, to bear him so often in my arms, and receive from him so many special favors. Blessed be the moments that I spent in life serving Jesus and thee, my holy spouse. Behold our Jesus; let us console ourselves that now he is no more lying in a stable upon hay, as we saw him at his birth in Bethlehem; he does not now live poor and despised in a shop, as once he lived with us in Nazareth; he is not now nailed to a shameful cross, as when he died for the salvation of the world in Jerusalem; but he sits at the right hand of the Father, as king and Lord of heaven and of earth. And now, oh my queen, we shall never more depart from his holy feet, where we shall bless and love him eternally.
Then all the angels came to salute her, and she, the great queen, thanked all for the assistance they had given her on earth, especially thanking the Archangel St. Gabriel, who was the happy ambassador of all her glories, when he came to announce to her that she was to be made mother of God. Then the humble and holy Virgin, kneeling, adores the divine majesty, and wholly lost in the consciousness of her nothingness, thanks him for all the graces bestowed upon her solely by his goodness, and especially for having made her mother of the eternal Word. Let those who can, comprehend with what love the most holy Trinity blessed her. Let them comprehend what a welcome the eternal Father gave to his daughter, the Son to his mother, the Holy Spirit to his spouse. The Father crowns her by sharing with her his power, the Son his wisdom, the Holy spirit his love. And all the three divine persons establishing her throne at the right hand of Jesus, declare her universal queen of heaven and of earth, and command angels and all other creatures to recognize her for their queen, and as queen to serve and obey her. And here we pass on to the consideration of how exalted was this throne to which Mary was elevated in heaven.
Second Point. If the human mind, says St. Bernard, cannot attain to comprehend the immense glory which God has prepared in heaven for those who have loved him on earth, as the apostle declares, who will ever attain to comprehend what he has prepared for her who bore him? "Quod praeparavit gignenti se, quis loquatur"? What glory did he prepare for his beloved mother, he who on earth loved her more than all men; who, even from the first moment of her creation, loved her more than all men and angels united! Justly, then, does the holy Church say that Mary having loved God more than all the angels, she has been exalted above all the angels, in heaven. Yes, she was exalted, says William the Abbot, above the angels, so that she sees no one above her but her Son, who is the only begotten Son of God.
Hence the learned Gerson asserts, that all the orders of angels and of saints being divided into three hierarchies, as the angelic Doctor declares, and St. Dionysius also, Mary constitutes in heaven a hierarchy of herself, the most sublime of all, and next to God. And as the mistress, St. Antoninus adds, is incomparably above her servants, so is the glory of Mary incomparably greater than that of the angels. And in order to understand this, it is enough to know what David said, that this queen was seated at the right hand of the Son: The queen stood on thy right hand: "Astitit regina a dextris tuis." Which St. Athanasius exactly explained by say ing: Mary is placed at the right hand of God. The works of Mary, as St. Ildephonsus says, certainly incomparably surpassed in merit the works of all the saints, and therefore the reward and the glory she merited cannot be conceived. And if it is certain that God rewards according to merit, as the apostle says, "Who will render to every man according to his works; it is also certain, says St. Thomas, that the Virgin who excelled in merit all, both men and angels, must have heen exalted above all the celestial orders. In fine, adds St. Bernard, let us measure the singular grace that she acquired on earth, and then we may measure the singular glory that she has obtained in heaven.
The glory of Mary, remarks a. learned author, which was a full glory, a complete glory, is different from that which the other saints have in heaven. It is true that in heaven all the blessed enjoy a perfect peace and full content; yet it will always be true that no one of them enjoys that glory that he could have merited if he had loved and served God with greater fidelity. Hence, although the saints in heaven desire nothing more than what they possess, yet, in fact, there is something they could yet desire. It is also true that the sins which they have committed, and the time which they have lost, do not bring suffering; but it cannot be denied that the most good done in life, innocence preserved and time well employed, give the greatest content. Mary in heaven desires nothing, and has nothing to desire. Who of the saints in paradise, says St. Augustine, if asked whether he has committed sins, can answer no, except Mary? It is certain, as the holy Council of Trent has defined, that Mary never committed any sin, not even the least; not only she has never lost divine grace never bedimmed it, but she has never kept it unemployed; she never did an action that was not meritorius; she never said a word, or had a thought, or drew a breath, that was not directed to the greatest glory of God; in a word, she never relaxed or stopped one moment in her onward course to God; she never lost anything through negligence, for she always corresponded with grace with all her power, and loved God as much as she could love him. Oh Lord, she now says to him in heaven, if I have not loved thee as much as thou dost merit, at least I have loved thee as much as I could.
The graces of the saints were different in each, as St. Paul said: There are diversities of graces: "Divisiones gratiarum sunt." So that each of them corresponding with the grace received, has rendered himself excellent in some virtue; one in saving souls, one in leading a life of penance, one in suffering torments, one in contemplation; hence the holy Church, when celebrating their festivals, says of each: And there was not found the like to him: "Non est inventus similis illi." And as in their merits, so are they in heaven different in glory: for star differeth from star in glory: "Stella enim a Stella differ in claritate." The Apostles differ from the martyrs, confessors from virgins, the innocents from penitents. The holy Virgin being full of all graces, excelled each saint in every kind of virtue; she was the apostle of the apostles; she was queen of the martyrs, for she suffered more than all of them; she was the standard-bearer of the virgins, the model of spouses; she united in herself a perfect innocence with a perfect mortification; in a word, she united in her heart all the most heroic virtues which any saint has ever practised. Hence it was said of her: "The queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety;" for all the graces, privileges, and merits of the other saints were found united in Mary, as the Abbot of Celles says: The prerogatives of all the saints, oh Virgin, thou hast united in thyself.
Thus as the splendor of the sun exceeds the splendor of all stars united, so, says St. Basil, the glory of the divine mother exceeds that of all the blessed. And St. Peter Damian adds, that as the light of the stars and of the moon disappears as if they were not, at the rising of the arm, thus Mary so far obscures in glory the splendor of men and angels, that as it were, these do appear in heaven. Whence St. Bernardino of Sienna agrees with St. Bernard in asserting that the blessed participate in part in the divine glory, but that the Virgin, in a certain manner, has been so enriched with it, that it seems no creature could be more united with God than is Mary. Which is confirmed by the blessed Albertus Magnus, when he says that our queen contemplates God very near incomparably more so than all the other celestial spirits. And the above-named St. Bernardine says, moreover, that as the other planets are illuminated by the sun, so all the blessed receive greater light and joy from the sight of Mary. And in another place he likewise asserts, that the mother of God, ascending to heaven, increased the joy of all its inhabitants. Hence St. Peter Damian says,that the blessed have no greater glory in heaven, after God, than to enjoy the presence of that most beautiful queen: Summa gloria est post Deum te videre." And St. Bonaventure: Next to God, our greatest glory and our greatest joy is from Mary.
Let us rejoice, then, with Mary, in the exalted throne to which God has elevated her in heaven. And let us rejoice also for our own sake, since if our mother has ceased to be present with us, by ascending in glory to heaven, she has not ceased to be present with us in her affection. Nay, being there nearer and more united to God, fihe better knows our miseries, and therefore pities them more, and is better able to relieve us. And wilt thou, as St. Peter Damian asks, oh blessed Virgin, because thou hast been so exalted in heaven, be forgetful of us miserable creatures? No, may God preserve us from the thought; a heart so merciful cannot but pity our miseries which are so great. If the pity of Mary for us was so great when she lived upon earth, much greater, says St. Bonaventure, is it in heaven, where she reigns.
Meanwhile let us dedicate ourselves to the service of this queen, to honor and love her as much as we can; for she is not, as Richard of St. Lawrence says, like other rulers, who oppress their vassals with burdens and taxes, but our queen enriches her servants with graces, merits, and rewards. And let us pray her with Guerric the Abbot: Oh mother of mercy, thou who sittest so near to God, queen of the world, upon a throne so sublime, satiate thyself with the glory of thy Jesus, and send to us thy servants the fragments that are left. Thou dost now enjoy the banquet of the Lord; we who are still on earth, like the dogs under the table, ask thy pity.
Father Silvanus Razzi relates, that a devout ecclesiastic who had a tender love for our Queen Mary, had heard her beauty so much extolled that he ardently desired once to see his Lady, and with humble prayers asked this favor. The kind mother sent an angel to tell him that she would gratify him by allowing him to see her, but on this condition, namely, that after seeing her he should become blind. He accepted the condition. On a certain day, behold the blessed Virgin appeared to him, and that he might not become wholly blind, he at first wished to look at her with one eye only; but afterwards be coming enamored of the great beauty ot Mary, he wished to contemplate her with both, and then the mother of God disappeared. Deeply grieved at having lost the presence of his queen, he could not cease weeping; not indeed for his lost eye, but that he had not seen her with both. Then he began to supplicate her anew, that she would again appear to him, and he would be willing to lose the other eye and become entirely blind. "Happy and satisfied," oh my Lady, he said, "I will remain, if I become wholly blind for so good a cause, which will leave me more enamored of thee, and of thy beauty." Again Mary was willing to satisfy him, and again she consoled him with her presence; but because this loving queen can never injure any one, when she appeared to him the second time, not only she did not take from him the other eye, but she even restored to him the one he had lost.
Oh great, excellent, and most glorious Lady, prostrate at the foot of thy throne, we adore thee from this valley of tears. We rejoice at the immense glory with which our Lord has en riched thee. Now that thou art really queen of heaven and of earth, ah, do not forget us thy poor servants. Do not disdain from the lofty throne, from which thou dost reign, to turn thy pitying eyes towards us miserable sinners. As thou art so near the source of graces, thou art able so much the more to obtain them for us. In heaven thou seest more plainly our miseries, and therefore thou must pity and relieve us the more. Make us on earth thy faithful servants, that we may thus go to bless thee in paradise. On this day, when thou hast been made queen of the universe,we also consecrate ourselves to thy service. In thy great joy console us also this day, by accepting us for thy vassals. Thou, then, art our mother. Ah, most sweet mother! most amiable mother! thy altars are surrounded by many people wfeo ask of thee, one to be healed of some malady, another to be relieved in his necessities, one prays thee for a good harvest, and another success in some litigation. We ask of thee graces more pleasing to thy heart. Obtain for us that we may be humble, detached from earth, resigned to the divine will. Obtain for us the holy love of God, a good death, and paradise. Oh Lady, change us from sinners to saints. Perform this miracle that will redound more to thy honor, than if thou didst restore sight to a thousand blind persons, or raise a thousand from the dead. Thou art so powerful with God, it is enough to say that thou art his mother, his most beloved, full of his grace; what can he then deny thee? Oh most lovely queen, we do not pretend to behold thee on the earth, but we desire to go and see thee in paradise: thou must obtain this for us. Thus we certainly hope. Amen, amen.