The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
MARY CONDUCTS HER SERVANTS TO PARADISE
OH, what a signal inark of predestination have the servants of Mary! The holy Church applies to this divine mother the words of Ecolesiasticus, and makes her say for the comfort of her servants: "In all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord." Cardinal Hugo, commenting on this, remarks; Blessed is lie in whose habitation the holy Virgin found rest : "Beatus in cujus domo beatae Virgo requiem invenerit." Mary, through the love she bears to all, seeks to make devotion to her prevail in all hearts. Many do not receive it or do not preserve it; blessed is he who receives it and preserves it. In the inheritance of the Lord will I abide; that is, adds the learned Paciucchelli, in those who are the inheritance of the Lord. Devotion to the Virgin abides in all those who are the inheritance of the Lord, that is, who will be in heaven praising him eternally. Mary continues in the passage above cited: "He that made me, rested in my tabernacle, and he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect "My Creator has condescended to come and rest in my bosom, and has willed that I should inhabit in the hearts of all the elect, whom Jacob prefigured, and who are the inheritance of the Virgin; and he has ordained that devotion to me and confidence in me should take root in the hearts of the elect.
Oh, how many would have failed of being among the blessed in heaven, if Mary, by her powerful intercession, had not conducted them thither! "I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth;" thus Cardinal Hugo putsinto her mouth these words of the same chapter of Ecclesiasticus: I have made to shine in heaven as many eternal lights as I have devoted servants. Whence the same author adds, commenting on this text: Many saints are in heaven by her intercession, whenever would have been there without it. St Bonaventure says, that the gate of heaven will be opened to receive all those who trust in the protection of Mary. Hence St. Ephrem called devotion to the divine mother the opening of paradise. And the devout Blosius, addressing the Virgin, says to her: Lady, to thee are committed the keys and the treasure of the heavenly kingdom. And, therefore, we should continually supplicate her in the words of St. Ambrose: Open to us, oh Virgin, heaven, for thou hast the keys of it. Nay, thou art even the gate of it, as the holy Church names thee, "Janua coeli."
For this reason the great mother is also called by the holy Church: Star of the sea: "Ave, Maris Stella." For as navigators, says the angelic St. Thomas, are guided to port by means of a star, thus Christians are guided to heaven by means of Mary.
She is for this reason, finally, called by St. Peter Damian, the ladder of heaven: "Scala ccelestis;" for, as the saint says, by means of Mary, God has descended from heaven to earth, that by the same, or by her, men might merit to ascend from earth to heaven. And for this reason, oh Lady, says St. Anastasius, thou art full of grace, that thou mightest be made the way of our salvation, and the ascent to the celestial country. St. Bernard calls the blessed Virgin: The vehicle to heaven: "Vehiculum ad coelum." And St. John the Geometrician salutes her: Hail, most noble chariot: "Salve clarissime currus;" by which her servants are con ducted to heaven. And, St Bonaventure addresses her thus: Blessed are those who know thee, oh mother of God! for to know thee is the path to immortal life, and to publish thy virtues is the way to eternal salvation.
In the Franciscan chronicles it is related of brother Leo, that he once saw a red ladder, up on which Jesus Christ was standing, and a white one, upon which stood his holy mother. He saw persons attempting to ascend the red ladder; they ascended a few steps and then fell; they ascended again, and again fell. Then they were exhorted to ascend the white ladder, and on that he saw them succeed, for the blessed Virgin offered them her hand, and they arrived in that manner safe in paradise. St. Denis the Carthusian asks: Who will ever be saved? Who will ever reign in heaven? They are saved, and will certainly reign, he himself answers, for whom this queen of mercy offers her prayers. And this Mary herself affirms: By me kings reign: "Per me reges regnant." Through my intercession souls reign first in the mortal life on this earth, by governing their passions, and then they go to reign eternally in heaven, where, as St. Augustine declares, all are kings: "Quot cives tot reges." Mary, in a word, as Richard of St. Laurence says, is the mistress of paradise, since there she commands according to her pleasure, and introduces into it whom she will. Therefore, applying to her the words of Ecclesiasticus, he adds: "My power is in Jerusalem:" I command what I will, and introduce whom I will. And as she is the mother of the Lord of paradise, she is with reason, also, says Rupert, the Lady of paradise. She possesses, by right, the whole kingdom of her Son.
This divine mother, with her powerful prayers and assistance, has obtained for us paradise, if we place no obstacle to our entrance there. Wherefore those who are servants of Mary, and for whom Mary intercedes, are as secure of paradise as if they were already there. To serve Mary and to belong to her court, adds St. John of Damascus, is the greatest honor we can attain; for to serve the queen of heaven is to reign already in heaven, and to live in obedience to her commands is more than to reign. On the other hand, he says that those who do not serve Mary will not be saved; whilst those who are deprived of the support of this great mother, are deprived of the succor of the Son, and of all the celestial court.
Forever praised be the infinite goodness of our God who has constituted Mary our advocate in heaven, that she, as mother of the judge and mother of mercy may efficaciously by her intercession, order the great aifair of our eternal salvation. This sentiment is taken from St. Bernard. And James the Monk, esteemed a doctor among the Greek fathers, says that God has made Mary a bridge of salvation, by which we are enabled to pass over the waves of this world, and reach the blessed port of paradise. Hence St. Bonaventure exclaims: Hear, oh ye people who desire paradise; serve and honor Mary, and you will certainly find life eternal.
Not even those who deserve hell should despair of attaining the kingdom of the blessed, if they faithfully devote themselves to the service of this queen. Sinners, says St. Germanus, have sought to find God by thy means, oh Mary and have been saved! Richard of St. Laurence remarks that Mary is said by St. John to be crowned with stars. On the other hand, in the sacred Canticles, the Virgin is said to be crowned with wild beaste, lions and panthers: "Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come; thou shalt be crowned from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards." What does this signify? Richard answers that those wild beasts are those sinners, who, through the favor and intercession of Mary, have become stars of paradise, which are a crown more worthy of this queen of mercy, than all the material stars of heaven. The servant of the Lord, sister Seraphina da Capri, as we read in her life, in her prayes to the most holy Virgin during the Novena of her assumption, asked of her the conversion of a thousand sinners; but as she feared that her demands were too extravagant, the Virgin appeared to her, and reproved her for this her vain fear, saying to her: "Why do you fear? am I not powerful enough to obtain for thee from my Son the salvation of a thousand sinners? Be hold them, I have already obtained it." She showed her the soul of innumerable sinners who had merited hell, and had afterwards been saved by her intercession, and were already enjoying eternal bliss.
It is true that in this life no one can be certain of his eternal salvation: "Man knowethnot whether he be worthy of love or hatred, but all things are kept uncertain for the time to come." David asked of God: Oh Lord, who will be saved? "Who shall dwell in thy tabernacle?" St. Bonaventure, writing on these words, answers: Oh sinners, let us follow the footsteps of Mary, and cast ourselves at her blessed feet, and let us not leave her until she blesses us, for her blessing will secure to us paradise. It is enough, oh Lady, says St. Anselm, that thou dost wish to save us, for then we cannot but be saved. St. Antoninus adds, that souls protected by Mary are necessarily saved; those upon whom she turns her eyes are necessarily justified and glorified.
With reason, says St. Ildephonsus, the most holy Virgin predicted that all generations would call her blessed ; for all the elect by means of Mary obtain eternal blessedness. Thou, oh great mother, art the beginning, the middle, and the end of our felicity, says St. Methodius. The beginning, because Mary obtains for us the pardon of our sins; the middle, because she obtains for us perseverance in divine grace; the end, because she finally obtains for us paradise. By thee, St. Bernard continues, heaven has been opened by thee hell has been emptied by thee paradise has been restored by thee, in a word, eternal life has been given to many sinners who have merited eternal death.
But above all, we should be encouraged in the certain hope of paradise, by the rich promise which Mary has herself made to those who honor her, and especially to those who, by their words and their example, strive to make her known and honored among others: They that work by me shall not sin; they that explain me shall have life everlasting."! Oh happy, then, are they, says St. Bonaventure, who gain the favor of Mary! they will be welcomed by the blessed as being already their companions; and whosoever bears the seal of a servant of Mary, has his name already written in the book of life. Of what avail is it, then, to trouble ourselves with the opinions of the school men, on the question, whether predestination to glory precedes or follows the foreknowledge of merits? Whether or not our names are written in the book of life? If we are true servants of Mary and obtain her protection, we certainly are written there; for, as St. John of Damascus says, God gives the grace of devotion to his holy mother only to those whom he will save ; in conformity with this, as the Lord seems to have declared expressly through St. John: "He that shall over come, I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God." And who is this city of God but Mary? as St. Gregory explains, commenting on this passage of David: "Glorious things are said of thee, oh city of God."
We may, then, well say with St. Paul: "Hav ing this seal, the Lord knoweth who are his." Whosoever carries the seal of a servant of Mary, is acknowledged by God as his own. We read in St. Bernard, that devotion to the mother of God is the most certain sign that we shall obtain eternal salvation. And the blessed Alarms, speaking of the "Hail Mary," says that he who often invokes the Virgin with this angelical salutation, has a very certain sign of predestination. And again he says of perseverance in the daily recitation of the holy rosary: Let it be to thee a most probable sign of eternal salvation, if thou dost perseveringly honor the blessed Virgin by daily reciting her rosary. Father Kierembergh still further remarks, that the servants of the mother of God not only are more privileged and favored in this world, but also in heaven will be more especially honored. And he adds, that in heaven they will have a peculiarly rich device and livery, by which they will be known as servants of the queen of heaven and as the people of her court, according to those words of Proverbs: "All her domestics are clothed with double garments."
St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi saw a small vessel in the midst of the sea, in which all the servants of Mary had taken shelter; she herself steering it, safely conducted them to port. By this the saint understood that they who live under the protection of Mary, are rescued , in the midst of all the dangers of this life, from the shipwreck of sin, and from damnation, for by her they are guided in safety to the port of paradise. Let us, then, strive to enter this blessed little vessel of the mantle of Mary, and there let us dwell secure of the kingdom of heaven; for the Church sings, "Holy mother of God, all those who are to be partakers of eternal joy dwell with thee, and live under thy protection."
Oesarius relates, that a certain Cistercian monk, who was a devoted servant of our blessed Lady, desired very earnestly a visit from his dear Lady, and was praying her continually to grant him this favor. He went one night into the garden, and while he stood there looking up to heaven, breathing forth to his queen in ardent sighs his desire to see her, a beautiful and radiant virgin descended, and said to him: Thomas, wouldst thou like to hear me sing?" "Certainly," he answered, and then she sang so weetly that it seemed to the devout religious that he was in paradise. Having finished her song, she disappeared, leaving him absorbed with an ardent desire to know who it could have been; and, soon after, another extremely beautiful virgin appeared to him, who, like the first, allowed him the pleasure of hearing her sing. He could not refrain from asking this one who she was, and the virgin answered "It is She whom you saw a little while ago was Catherine, and I am Agnes, both martyrs for Jesus Christ, sent by our Lady to console you. Give thanks to Mary, and prepare for a greater favor." Having said this she disappeared, but left the religious with a greater hope of finally seeing his queen. Nor was he deceived, for shortly after he saw a great light and felt a new joy flowing into his heart, for in the midst of that light the mother of God appeared to him surrounded by angels, and of a beauty far surpassing that of the other two saints who had appeared to him. She said to him: "My dear servant and son, I have been pleased with the devotion which you have offered me, and have graciously heard your prayers: you have desired to see me; look on me, and I will also sing to you." Then the most holy Virgin began to sing with so great sweetness, that the devout religious lost his senses, and fell with his face upon the ground. The matin-bell sounded, the monks assembled, and not seeing Thomas, searched for him in his cell and other parts of the convent, and at last going into the garden they found him there, apparently lifeless. The superior comanded him to tell what had befallen him. And coming to himself, by the power of obedience, he related all the favors which the divine mother had bestowed upon him.
Oh queen of paradise! mother of holy love! for thou art of all creatures the most lovely, the most beloved of God and his first lover; ah, suffer the vilest and most ungrateful sinner on the earth to love thee, who sees himself released from hell by thy intercession, and without any merit of his own so blessed by thee, that he is enamored of thy goodness. I would wish if I could, to make known to all men who do not know thee, how worthy thou art to be loved, that all might love and honor thee. I would willingly die for love of thee, in defending thy virginity, thy dignity as mother of God, and thy immaculate conception; if it were ever needful for me to die in defence of these thy great privileges. Oh my most beloved mother, graciously accept this my affection, and do not permit that one of thy servants, who loves thee, should ever become an enemy of thy God, whom thou lovest so much. Ah, unhappy me, such once was I when I offended my Lord. But then, oh Mary, I did not love thee, and I sought little to be loved by thee. Now, after the grace of God, I desire nothing else than but to love thee, and to be loved by thee. I do not despair of this on account of my past offences, for I know that thou, oh most benign and grateful Lady, dost not disdain to love even the most miserable sinners who love thee, never dost allow thyself to be outdone in love by any one. Oh most lovely queen, I wish to go to thee in paradise, there to love thee. There, at thy feet, I shall better know how amiable thou art, and how much thou hast done to save me; therefore I shall love thee there with greater love, and shall love thee eternally, without the fear that I shall ever cease to love thee. Oh Mary, I have the certain hope of being saved through thee. Pray to Jesus for me. I have no other wish. It is thine to save me; thou art my hope. I will always exclaim, Oh Mary, my hope, thou must save me.