The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
HOW POWERFUL IS MARY IN PROTECTING THOSE WHO INVOKE HER IN TEMPTATIONS OF THE DEVIL.
NOT only most holy Mary is queen of heaven and of the saints, but also of hell and the devils, for she has bravely triumphed over them by her virtues. From the beginning of the world God predicted to the infernal serpent the victory and the empire which our queen would obtain over him, when he announced to him that a woman would come into the world who should conquer him. "I will put enmities between thee and the woman ; she shall crush thy head." And what woman was this enemy if not Mary, who, with her beautiful humility and holy life, always conquered him and destroyed his forces? St. Cyprian affirms that the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in that woman : and hence he remarks, that God did not use the words I put, but I will put, lest the prophecy should seem to appertain to Eve. He said, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, to signify that this his vanquisher was not the living Eve, but must be another woman descending from her, who was to bring to our first parents greater blessings, as St. Vincent Ferrer says, than those they had lost by their sin. Mary, then, is this great and strong woman who has conquered the devil, and has crushed his head by subduing his pride, as the Lord added: "She shall crush thy head." Some of the commentators doubt whether these words refer to Mary or to Jesus Christ, because in the Septuagint version we read: "He shall crush thy head." But in our Vulgate, which is the only version approved by the Council of Trent, it is She, and not He. And thus St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and many others have understood it. However this may be, it is certain that the Son by means of the mother, or the mother by means of the Son, has vanquished Lucifer; so that this proud spirit, as St. Bernard tells us, has been ignominiously overpowered and crushed by this blessed Virgin. Hence as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this queen. St. Bruno says, that Eve, by yielding to the serpent, brought into the world death and darkness ;but that the blessed Virgin, by conquering the devil brought us life and light: and she has bound him so that he cannot move to do the least harm to her servants.
Richard of St. Laurence gives a beautiful explanation to these words of Proverbs; "The hearts of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. Richard says; The heart of her husband, that is, Christ, trusts in her, and he shall have no need of spoils, for she will endow him with the spoils which she has taken from the devil. God has intrusted the heart of Jesus, as a Lapide expresses it, to the care of Mary, that she may procure for it the love of men; and thus he will not be in need of spoils, that is, of the conquest of souls, for she will enrich him with those souls of which she despoils hell, and which she has rescued from the demons from her powerful aid.
It is well known that the palm is the emblem of victory, and for this reason our queen has been placed on a high throne in the sight of all potentates, as a palm, the sign of certain victory, which all can promise themselves who have recourse to her. "I was exalted like a palm-tree in Cades." That is, for a defence as blessed Albertus Magnus says: Oh, my children, Mary seems to say to us with these words, when the enemy as sails you, lift your eyes to me, behold me and. take courage; for in me, who defends you, you will behold, at the same time, your victory. So that recourse to Mary is the most certain meant of overcoming all the assaults of hell; for she, as St. Bernardine of Sienna says, is queen over hell, and ruler of the spirits of evil, for she controls and conquers them. And therefore Mary is called terrible against the power of hell, as an army set in array. "Terrible as an army set in array." Set in array, because she knows how to array her powers, that is, her compasfion and her prayers, to the confusion of the enemy and the benefit of her servants, who, in their temptations, invoke her powerful aid.
"As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor." "I, like the vine, as the Holy Spirit puts it in her mouth to say, have given fruit of sweet odor." "It is said," adds St, Bernard, on this passage, " that every venomous reptile shuns the flowering vines. " As from vines all poisonous serpents flee, thus the demons flee from those fortunate souls in whom they perceive the odor of devotion to Mary. On this account she also is called a cedar: " I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus," not only because as the cedar is free from corruption, so Mary is free from sin. but also because, as Cardinal Hugo remarks upon this passage, as the cedar with its perfume puts serpents to flight, so that Mary with her sanctity puts to flight the devils.
Victories were gained in Judea by means of the ark. Thus Moses conquered his enemies. "When the ark was lifted up, Moses said, Arise, oh Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered." Thus Jericho was conquered; thus were the Philistines conquered; "for the ark of God was there." It is well known that this ark was the type of Mary. As the ark contained the manna, thus Mary contained Jesus, whom the manna also prefigured, and by means of this ark, victories were gained over the enemies of earth and over hell. Wherefore St. Bernardine of Sienna says that when Mary, the ark of the New Testament, was crowned queen of heaven, the power of hell over men was weak ened and overthrown.
"Oh, how the devils in hell," says St. Bonaventure, "tremble at Mary and her great name!" The saint compares these enemies to those of whom Job makes mention and says: "He diggeth through houses in the dark .... If the morning suddenly appear, it is to them the shadow of death." Thieves enter houses in the dark to rob them, but when the dawn comes they flee, as if the image of death appeared to them. In the same manner, as St. Bonaventure expresses it, the demons enter into the soul in times of darkness, that is, when the soul is obscured by ignorance; they dig through the houses of our minds in the darkness of ignorance; but then, he adds, as soon as the grace and the mercy of Mary enter the soul, this beautiful aurora dissipates the darkness, and the infernal enemies flee as at the approach of death. Oh, blessed is he who always, in his conflicts with hell, invokes the beautiful name of Mary!
In confirmation of this it was revealed to St. Bridget that God has given Mary such power over all evil spirits, that whenever they assail any of her servants who implore her aid, at the slightest sign from her they flee far away in terror, preferring that their pains should be re doubled rather than that Mary should domineer over them in this manner.
A Lapide remarks upon the words with which the divine spouse praises his beloved bride, when he calls her the lily, and says that as the lily is among thorns, so is his beloved among the other daughters; that, as the lily is aremedy against serpents and poisons, so the invocation of Mary is a special remedy for overcoming all temptations, particularly those of impurity, as they who have tried it have universally experienced.
St. John of Damascus said, and every one may say the same who is so happy as to be devoted to this great queen: Oh, mother of God, if I trust in thee, I shall surely not be vanquished; for, defended by thee, I will pursue my enemies, and opposing to them thy protection and thy powerful support as a shield, I shall surely conquer them. James the Monk, reputed a doctor among the Greek fathers, discoursing of Mary to our Lord, says : Thou, oh my Lord, hast given us this mother for a powerful defence against all our enemies.
It is related in the Old Testament that the Lord guided his people from Egypt to the promised land, by day in a pillar of clouds, by night in a pillar of fire. This pillar, now of clouds, now of fire, says Richard of St. Laurence, was a type of Mary and her double office, which she exercises continually in our be half; as a cloud she protects us from the heat of divine justice, and as fire she protects us from demons. Fire, as St. Bonaventure adds, for as wax melts at the approach of fire, thus the evil spirits lose all power in the presence of those souls who often call upon the name of Mary, and devoutly invoke her, and more than all, strive to imitate her.
Oh, how the devils tremble, exclaims St. Bernard, if they only hear the name of Mary uttered! As men, says Thomas a Kempis, fall to the earth through fear, when a thunderbolt strikes near them, so fall prostrate the devils when but the name of Mary is heard. How many noble victories have the servants of Mary not gained over these enemies by the power of her most holy name. Thus St Anthony of Padua conquered them, thus the blessed Henry Suso, thus many other lovers of Mary. It is related in the accounts of the missions to Japan that a great number of demons appeared in the form of ferocious animals to a certain Christian of that country, to alarm him and threaten him, but he spoke to them in these words: "I have no arms with which to terrify you; if the Most High permits it, do with me according to your pleasure. Meanwhile I use as my defence the most sweet names of Jesus and Mary." Hardly had he uttered these words, when behold, at the sound of those fearful names, the earth opened and those proud spirits were swallowed up. St. Anselm also asserts that he had seen and heard many persons who at the mention of the name of Mary were delivered from their dangers.
Vary glorious, oh Mary, and wonderful, exclaims St. Bonaventure, is thy great name. Those who art mindful to utter it at the hour of death, have nothing to fear from hell, for the devils at once abandon the soul when they hear the name of Mary. And the saint adds, that an earthly enemy does not so greatly fear a great army, as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary. Thou, oh Lady, says St. Germanus, by the invocation alone of thy most powerful name, dost render thy servants secure from all the assaults of the enemy. Oh, if Christians were mindful in temptations to invoke with confidence the name of Mary, it is certain that they would never fall; for, as blessed Alanus remarks, at the thunder of that great name, the devil flees and hell trembles. This heavenly queen herself revealed to St. Bridget, that even from the most abandoned sinners, who had wandered the farthest from God, and were most fully possessed by the devil, the enemy departs as soon as he hears her most powerful name invoked by them, if they do it with a true intention of amending. But the Virgin added, that if the soul does not amend, and with contrition quit its sins, the demons immediately return to it and hold it in their possession.
In Reisberg there lived a Canon regular named Arnold, who was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Being at the point of death, he received the sacraments, and calling his religious to him, begged them not to leave him at the last moment. Scarcely had he said this,when he began to tremble violently and roll his eyes; cold sweat fell from him, and with an agitated voice he exclaimed: "Do you not see those demons who would seize me and carry me to hell?" Then he cried: My brothers, invoke for me the help of Mary; I trust in her that she will give me the victory." They immediately began to recite the Litany of our Lady, and at the words, Holy Mary, pray for him, "Sancta Maria, ora pro eo," the dying man cried: "Repeat, repeat the name of Mary, for I am even now at the tribunal of God." He stopped for a moment, and then added: "It is true that I did it, but I have done penance for it." Then turning to the Virgin, he said: "Oh Mary, I shall be delivered if thou wilt help me." The demons soon after made another attack, but he defended himself by blessing him self with the crucifix, and invoking Mary. Thus he passed the whole night, but when morning dawned, Arnold, restored to serenity, joyfully said: "Mary, my Lady, and my refuge, has ob tained for me pardon and salvation." Then be holding the Virgin, who summoned him to follow her, he said: "I come, oh Lady, I come." He made an effort to rise, but not being able to follow her with the body, gently expiring, he followed her with his soul, as we hope, to the blessed kingdom of glory.
Behold at thy feet, oh Mary my hope, a poor sinner who many times, through his own fault, has been the slave of hell. I know that I have often been conquered by the devil, because I have neglected to recur to thee, oh my refuge. If I had always sought thy protection, if I had invoked thee, I should never have fallen. I hope, oh my Lady, most worthy of love, that by thy help I have escaped the powers of hell, and that God has pardoned me. But I tremble for the future, lest I again fall into their power. I know that these enemies of mine have not lost all hope of reconquering me, and at this moment they are preparing new assaults and temptations. Oh, my queen and refuge, aid me. Shelter me beneath thy mantle, let me not become again their slave. I know that thou wilt succor me and give me victory whenever I invoke thee. I fear only that in my temptations I may forget thee, and neglect to call upon thee. This, then, is the grace, oh most holy Virgin, that I seek and wish from thee, that I may always remember thee, and especially when I find myself in conflict with the enemy; let me not then fail to invoke thee often with the words: "Oh Mary, help me, help me, oh Mary." And when at length the day of my last conflict with hell, the day of my death arrives, oh, my queen , powerfully assist me then, and remind me thyself to invoke thee more frequently, with the voice or with the heart, that expiring with thy most sweet name, and that of thy son Jesus on my lips, I may go to bless and praise thee, and never leave thy feet in paradise through all eternity. Amen.