The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
O DULCIS VIRGO MARIA. Oh sweet Virgin Mary!
HOW SWEET IS THE NAME OF MARY IN LIFE AND IN DEATH!
THE great nAme of Mary, which was given to the divine mother, was not found on earth, neither was it invented by the mind or will of men, as were all other names that are in use among them; but it came from heaven, and was given to the Virgin by divine ordinance, as St. Jerome, St. Epiphanius St. Antoninus, and others attest. The name of Mary was drawn from the treasury of the divinity, as Richard of St. Laurence says: "De thesauro divinitatis Marise nomen evolvitur." From the treasury of the divinity, oh Mary, came forth thy excellent and admirable name; for the Most Holy Trinity, the same author goes on to say, gave to thee this name, next to the name of thy Son, so superior to every name, and attached to it such majesty and power, that when it is uttered, all in heaven, earth, and hell must fall prostrate and venerate it. Among the other privileges which the Lord has attached to the name of Mary, let us see how sweet he has made it to the servants of this most holy Lady in life as well as in death.
To begin with life, the holy anchorite, Honorius, says, that the name of Mary is fall of all divine sweetness. And the glorious St. Anthony of Padua attributes to the name of Mary the same sweetness as St. Bernard attributed to the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus, said the latter, the name of Mary, said the former, is joy to the heart, honey to the mouth, melody to the ear of their devoted servants. It is related in the life of the venerable Father John Ancina, Bishop of Saluzzo, that when he pronounced the name of Mary, he experienced so great a sensible sweetness that he even tasted it on his lips. We also read that a certain woman in Cologne told the Bishop Marsillius, that whenever she pronounced the name of Mary she perceived in her mouth a taste sweeter than honey. Marsillius made the trial, and he also experienced the same sweetness. We read in the holy Canticles, that at the Assumption of the Virgin, the angels three times asked her name: "Who is she that goeth up by the desert as a pillar of smoke?" "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising?" And in another: "Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights?" Richard of St. Laurence inquires why the angels so often asked the name of this queen, and answers: The sound of the name of Mary was so sweet to the angels, and they repeated the question that they might hear it repeated also.
But I do not hear speak of this sensible sweetness, since it is not commonly granted to all, but I speak of the salutary sweetness of consolation, love, joy, confidence, and strength, which the name of Mary universally gives to those who, with devotion, pronounce it. Speaking on this subject, Francone the Abbot says, that next to the holy name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in blessings, that no other name is uttered on earth or in heaven from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness. For the name of Mary, he goes on to say, contains in itself something admirable, sweet, and divine, which, when it meets a friendly heart, breathes into it an odor of holy sweetness. And the wonder of this great name is, he concludes, that if heard a thousand times by the lovers of Mary, it is always heard as new, the sweetness they experience in hearing it spoken being always the same.
The blessed Henry Suso, also speaking of this sweetness, says, that in pronouncing the name of Mary, he felt his confidence so much increased, and his love so joyfully enkindled, that amidst the joy and tears with which he pronounced the beloved name, he thought his heart would have leaped from his mouth ; and he affirmed that this most sweet name, as honeycomb, melted into the depths of his soul. Whereat he exclaims: Oh most sweet name! oh Mary, what must thou thyself be, if thy name alone is so lovely and sweet?
The enamored St. Bernard, too, addressing his good mother with tenderness, says to her: Oh great, oh merciful Mary, most holy Virgin, worthy of all praise, thy name is so sweet and lovely that it cannot be spoken without enkindling love to thee and to God in the heart of him who pronounces it; the thought of it alone is enough to console thy lovers, and inflame them with a far greater love to thee. If riches are a consolation to the poor, because by them they are relieved of their miseries, oh how much more, says Richard of St. Laurence, does thy name console us sinners, oh Mary; far more than the riches of earth it relieves us in the troubles of the present life.
In a word, thy name, oh mother of God, is full of grace and divine blessings, as St. Methodius says. And St. Bonaventure affirms that thy name cannot be pronounced but it brings some grace to him who devoutly utters it. So great is the virtue of thy name, oh most compassionate Virgin, says the Blessed Raymond Jordano, that no one can pronounce it, however hardened, however desponding may be his heart, and not find it wonderfully softened; for it is thou who dost console sinners with the hope of pardon and of grace. Thy most sweet name, according to St. Ambrose, is a sweet ointment, which breathes the fragrance of divine grace. The saint thus invokes the divine mother: May this oil of salvation descend into the depths of our soul; by which he intends to say: Oh Lady, remind us often to pronounce thy name with love and confidence; for thus to name thee, either is a sign that we already possess divine grace, or it is an earnest that we shall soon recover it.
For as Landolph of Saxony expresses it: The remembrance of thy name, oh Mary, consoles the afflicted, brings back the wanderer to the path of salvation, encourages the sinner, and saves him from despair; and Father Pelbart remarks, that as Jesus Christ by his five wounds has prepared for the world the remedy for its woes, thus also Mary, with her most holy name, which is composed of five letters, confers every day pardon upon sinners.
For this reason, the holy name of Mary in the sacred Canticles is compared to oil: Thy name is as oil poured out: "Oleum effusum nomen tuum." The blessed Alanus, commenting on this passage, says: The glory of her name is compared to oil poured out. As oil heals the sick, diffuses odor, and kindles flame; thus the name of Mary heals sinners, rejoices hearts, and inflames them with divine love. Hence Richard of St. Laurence encourages sinners to invoke this great name, because that alone will be sufficient to cure all their maladies; adding, that there is no disease so malignant that it will not at once yield to the virtue of this name.
On the other hand, the devils, as Thomas À Kempis affirms, are in such fear of the queen of heaven that at the sound of her great name they flee from him who pronounces it as from burning fire. The Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget that there is no sinner living so cold in divine love, that if he invokes her holy name, with the resolution to amend, the devil will not instantly depart from him. And she at another time assured her of this, telling her that all the demons so greatly venerate and fear her name, that when they hear it pronounced they immediately release the soul which they held in their chains.
And as the rebel angels depart from sinners who invoke the name of Mary, thus, on the contrary, our Lady herself told St. Bridget, that the good angels draw more closely around those just souls who devoutly pronounce it. And St. Germanus assures us, that as breathing is a sign of life, so the frequent utterance of the Dame of Mary is a sign that we are already living in divine grace, or that we shall soon receive that life; for this powerful name is effectual to obtain help and life for him who devoutly invokes it. Finally, Richard of St. Laurence adds, that this admirable name is like a tower of strength, by taking shelter in which the sinner will be saved from death, since from this celestial tower the most abandoned sinners come forth securely defended and saved.
A tower of strength, thus continues the same Richard, which not only shields sinners from punishment, but also defends the just from the assaults of hell; and he adds: Next to the name of Jesus there is no name which gives such support, and through which so great salvation is bestowed upon men, as this great name of Mary. Especially is it everywhere known, and the servants of Mary daily experience, that her great name gives strength to overcome temptations against chastity. The same author, remarking on the words of St. Luke: And the name of the Virgin was Mary: "Et nomen Virginis Maria," says, that these two names, of Mary and of Virgin, are united by the evangelist to show that the name of this most pure Virgin can never be separated from chastity. Hence St. Peter Chrysologus says, that the name Mary is a sign of chastity: "Nomen hoc indicium castitatis;" meaning, that whoever is in doubt whether he has yielded to temptations against purity, if he remembers having invoked the name of Mary may be sure that he has not violated chastity.
Let us, then, always follow the beautiful counsel of St. Bernard, who says: In every danger of losing divine grace let us think of Mary, let us invoke the name of Mary together with that of Jesus, for these names are always united. Let these two most sweet and powerful names never depart from our heart and our lips, for they will always give us strength to keep us from falling, and to conquer every temptation. Very precious are the graces which Jesus Christ has promised to those who are devoted to the name of Mary, as he himself, speaking to his holy mother, gave St. Bridget to understand, revealing to her that whoever will invoke the name of Mary with confidence and a purpose of amendment, shall receive three special graces: namely, a perfect contrition for nis sins, the grace to make satisfaction for them and strength to obtain perfection, and at last, the glory of paradise ; for as the divine Saviour added: "Thy words are so sweet and dear to me, oh my mother, that I can not refuse thee what thou dost ask."
Finally, St. Ephrem adds that the name of Mary is the key of the gate of heaven to him who devoutly invokes it; and therefore St. Bonaventure rightly calls Mary the salvation of all those who invoke her: "O salus te invocantium;" as if it were the same thing to invoke the name of Mary and to obtain eternal salvation; for as the Idiot affirms: The invocation of this holy and sweet name leads to the acquisition of super- abundant grace in this life, and sublime glory in another. If you desire, then, brethren, concludes Thomas À Kempis, to be consoled in every affliction, have recourse to Mary, invoke Mary, honor Mary, recommend yourselves to Mary. Rejoice with Mary, weep with Mary, pray with Mary, walk with Mary, and with Mary seek Jesus; in a word, with Jesus and Mary desire to live and die. Do this, he adds, and you will al ways advance in the way of the Lord; for Mary will pray for you, and the Son will surely graciously listen to the mother. Such are his beautiful words.
Very sweet, then, in life to her servants, is the most holy name of Mary, on account of the great graces which it obtains for them, as we have seen above; but sweeter still will it be to them in dying by the sweet and holy death she will obtain for them. Father Sertorio Caputo, of the Society of Jesus, exhorted all those who were called to the bedside of the dying, often to pronounce the name of Mary, saying that this name of life and of hope, pronounced in death, is alone sufficient to scatter the enemies and to comfort the dying in all their anguishes St. Camillus of Lellis also strongly recommended it to his religious, that they should remind the dying often to invoke the name of Mary and of Jesus, as he always practised it with others; but more sweetly he practised it himself at the moment of his death, when, as we read in his life, he named with so much tenderness his beloved names of Jesus and Mary, that he inflamed also with love of them all those who heard him. And at length, with his eyes fixed on their adorable image, and his arms crossed, the saint expired in celestial peace, pronouncing with his last breath the most sweet names of Jesus and Mary, This short prayer of invoking the holy names of Jesus and Mary, says Thomas a Kempis, which it is as easy to retain in the memory as it is sweet to consider, is at the same time powerful to protect whoever uses it from all the enemies of our salvation.
Blessed is he, says St. Bonaventure, who loves thy sweet name, oh mother of God. Thy name is so glorious and admirable, that those who remember to invoke it at the moment of death, do not then fear all the assaults of the enemy.
Oh, the happy lot of dying as Father Fulgentius of Ascoli, a Capuchin, died, who expired singing: Oh Mary, Mary, the most lovely of all beings, let me depart in thy company. Or, as blessed Henry the Cistercian, of whom it is related in the annals of the order, that he died with the name of Mary on his lips. Let us pray, then, my devout reader, let us pray God to grant us this grace, that the last word we pronounce at death may be the name of Mary; as St. Germanus desired and prayed. Oh sweet death, oh safe death, that is accompanied and protected by such a name of salvation, that God does not permit it to be invoked in death, except by those whom he will save!
Oh, my sweet Lady and mother, I love thee much, and because I love thee, I love also thy holy name. I purpose and hope with thy aid al ways to invoke it in life and death. For the glory, then, of thy name (let us conclude with the tender prayer of St. Bonaventure), when my soul departs from this world, wilt thou come to meet it, oh blessed Lady, and take it in thy arms? Do not disdain, oh Mary, let us continue to pray with the saint, to come and comfort it, then, with thy sweet presence. Thou art its ladder and way to paradise. Wilt thou obtain for me the grace of pardon and eternal rest? And the saint then terminates with saying: Oh Mary, our advocate, to thee it belongs to shield thy servants, and defend their cause before the tribunal of Jesus Christ.
It is related by Father Rho, in his Sabbati, and by Father Lireo, in his Trisagio Mariana, of a certain young maiden of Guelder-land, who lived about the year 1465, that she was sent one day by her uncle to purchase something at the market of the city of Nimeguen, with the direction to go and pass the night at the house of her aunt, who lived in the town. The girl obeyed, but when she went at night to her aunt s house, she was rudely sent away by her, and she set out on her way homewards. Night overtaking her, she fell into a passion, and called loudly upon the devil to come to her aid. And behold, he suddenly appeared in the form of a man, and promised to assist her, provided she would do one thing. I will do any thing, answered the unhappy creature. I only wish, said the enemy, that henceforth you will not bless yourself with the sign of the cross, and will change your name. As to the cross, she answered, I will no longer sign myself with it, but my name of Mary is too dear to me, I will not change it. Then I will not help you, said the devil. At length, after much debate, is was agreed that she should be called by the first letter of the name of Mary, that is, Erarae. They then went together to Antwerp, and the wretched girl remained there six years with her diabolical companion, living so sinful a life, that it was the scandal of the whole place. One day she told the devil that she wished to see her country again; the enemy objected, but finally was obliged to consent. When they entered together the city of Nimeguen, there was just then performing a public representation of the life of the most holy Mary. At such a sight the poor Emrne, from that little devotion she had still preserved towards the mother of God, began to weep. "What are we doing here?" said her companion; "would you perform here another comedy?" He then seized her to take her away, but she resisted, and seeing that she was escaping from him, in a rage he raised her into the air and let her fall in the midst of the theatre. The poor girl then related what had happened to her. She went to the parish priest to confess, but he sent her to the Bishop of Cologne, and the bishop sent her to the Pope, who, having heard her confession, imposed it upon her as a penance, that she should wear three rings of iron, one around her neck, and two around her arms. The penitent obeyed, and having arrived at Maestricht, she retired into a convent of penitents, where she lived for fourteen years in severe penance. One morning she arose from her bed and found the three rings broken. Two years after she died in the odor of sanctity, and wished to have the ring buried with her, which had changed her from a slave of hell into the happy slave of Mary, her deliverer.
Oh great mother of God, and my mother Mary, it is true that I am unworthy to pronounce thy name, but thou who lovest me, and dost desire my salvation, thou must obtain for me, that, unclean as maybe my tongue, I may yet always invoke thy most holy and most powerful name; for thy name is the support of the living, and the salvation of the dying. Ah, most pure Mary! ah, most sweet Mary! make thy name henceforth to be the breath of my life. Oh Lady, do not delay coming to my help when I call upon thee, since in all the temptations which may assail me, in all the necessities I may suffer, I shall never cease calling upon thee, al ways repeating Mary, Mary. Thus I hope to do in life, thus especially I hope to do in death, that I may afterwards come to praise eternally in heaven thy beloved name: O clemens! O pia! O dulcis Virgo Maria! Ah Mary! Mary most amiable! what comfort, what sweetness, what confidence, what tenderness does my soul feel only in pronouncing thy name, only in thinking of thee? I thank my God and my Lord that he has given thee, for my good, this name so sweet, so lovely, so powerful.
But, oh my Lady, I am not satisfied with merely pronouncing thy name, I would pronounce it also with love; I desire that my love may remind me to speak thy name at every hour, that I may exclaim with St. Anselm: Oh name of the mother of God, thou art my love. O amor mei nomen matris Dei. Oh my dear mother Mary! oh my beloved Jesus! may your most sweet names always live in my own and in all hearts. May I forget all other names, that I may remember and always invoke none but your adored names. Ah Jesus, my Redeemer! and my mother Mary, when the moment of my death shall arrive, and my soul shall depart from this life, by your merits grant me the grace then to utter my last accents, repeating: I love you, Jesus and Mary; Jesus and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul.