The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
EJA ERGO ADVOCATA NOSTEA. Ah, then, our advocate.
MARY IS AN ADVOCATE POWERFUL TO SAVE ALL.
So great is the authority of mothers over their children that although they may be monarchs, having absolute dominion over all the persons in their kingdom, yet their mothers can never become subject to them. It is true that Jesus is now in heaven, for he is seated there at the right hand of the Father even as man, as St. Thomas explains it; by reason of the hypostatic union with the person of the Word, and has supreme dominion over all, and even over Mary; yet it will always be true, that at the time when our Redeemer lived on this earth, he was pleased to humble himself and make himself subject to Mary, as St. Luke teaches us: And he was subject to them: "Erat subditus illis." St. Ambrose even says, that Jesus Christ having deigned to make Mary his mother, was obliged as her son to obey her. And therefore, observes Richard of St. Laurence, it is said of the other saints, that they are with God; but of Mary alone can it be said, that not only was it her lot to be subject to the will of God, but that God was also subject to her will. And as it is said of the other holy virgins, as the same author remarks, that they follow the divine lamb wherever he goes: "sequuntur agnum quocumque ierit;" of the Virgin Mary it may be said, that the divine Lamb followed her on this earth, having become subject to her.
Hence we may say, that though Mary is in heaven, and can no longer command her Son, yet her prayers will ever be the prayers of a mother, and therefore most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. Mary, says St. Bonaventure, has this privilege with her Son, that she is most powerful to obtain by her prayers whatsoever she will. And wherefore? Precisely for the reason which we have before mentioned, and which we will now examine more fully, namely, because the prayers of Mary are the prayers of a mother. And therefore, says St. Peter Damian, the Virgin has all power in heaven as on earth, being able to raise to the hope of salvation even the most despairing. And then he adds, that when the mother asks any favor for us of Jesus Christ (called by the saint the altar of mercy where sinners obtain pardon from God), the Son has so great regard for the prayers of Mary, and so great a desire to please her, that when she prays, she seems to command rather that request, and to be a mistress rather than a handmaid. Thus Jesus would honor this his dear mother, who has honored him so much in her life, by granting her immediately whatever she asks and desires. St. Germanus beautifully confirms this by saying to the Virgin: Thou art mother of God, omnipotent to save sinners, and needest no other recommendation with God, since thou art the mother of true life.
St. Bernardine of Sienna does not hesitate to say that all obey the commands of Mary, even God himself; signifying by these words, that God listens to her prayers as though they were commands. Hence St. Anselm thus addresses Mary: The Lord, oh holy Virgin, has so highly exalted thee, that by his favor thou canst obtain all possible graces for thy servants, for thy protection is omnipotent. Thy help is omnipotent, oh Mary: Omnipotens auxilium tuum, O Maria;" as Cosmas of Jerusalem exclaims. Yes, Mary is omnipotent, adds Richard of St. Laurence, since the queen, by every law, must enjoy the same privileges as the king. For as the power of the Son and mother are the same, the mother by the omnipotent Son is made omnipotent.! As St. Antoninus says: God has placed the whole Church, not only under the patronage, but also under the dominion of Mary.
As the mother, then, must have the same power as the Son, justly was Mary made omnipotent by Jesus, who is omnipotent; it being, however, al ways true, that whereas the Son is omnipotent by nature, the mother is so by grace. And her omnipotence consists in this, that the Son denies nothing that the mother asks; as it was revealed to St. Bridget, who heard Jesus one day addressing Mary in these words: Oh my mother, thou knowest bow I love thee; ask from me, then, whatever thou dost desire, for there is no demand of thine that will not be graciously heard by me." And the reason that he added was beautiful: "Mother, when thou wast on earth, there was nothing thou didst refuse to do for love of me; now that I am in heaven, it is just that I refuse nothing which thou dost ask of me. Mary is, then, called omnipotent in the sense in which it can be understood of a creature, who is not capable of any divine attribute. She is omnipotent, because she obtains by her prayers whatever she wishes.
With reason, then, oh our great advocate! says St. Bernard, dost thou only wish, and it is done: "Velis tu et omnia fient." And St. Anselm: Whatever thou askest, oh Virgin! cannot but be done. Wish, and it will be done; dost thou wish to raise the most abandoned sinner to an exalted sanctity, to thee it is given to do it. The blessed Albertus Magnus represents Mary speaking thus: I must be asked to wish, for if I wish it must be done. Hence St. Peter Damian, contemplating this great power of Mary, and praying her to have pity on us, says: Oh Mary! oh our beloved advocate! since thou hast a heart so compassionate, that thou canst not behold the miserable without pity, and, at the same time, hast so great a power with God to save all those whom thou dost defend; deign to intercede in behalf of us miserable creatures, who place in tbee all our hopes. If our prayers do not move thee, may thy merciful heart at least move thee; may thy power at least move thee, since God, for this end, has enriched thee with so much power, that the richer thou art in the power to aid us, so much more compassionate thou mayest be in thy desire to aid us. Of this, St. Bernard assures us, saying, that Mary is abundant in mercy as well as in power; as her charity is most powerful, so also is it most merciful in our behalf, and this is manifested to us continually by its effects.
Even when she was living on this earth, the only thought of Mary, after the glory of God, was to relieve the wretched. And we know that then she enjoyed already the privilege of obtaining whatever she asked. This we know from what took place at the nuptials of Cana of Galilee, when the wine failed, and the blessed Virgin, compassionating the distress and mortification of that family, asked the Son to relieve them by a miracle, making known to him this want: They have no wine: "Vinum non habent." Jesus answered: "Woman, what is that to thee and to me my hour is not yet come." Observe, that although the Lord appeared to refuse this favor to his mother, by saying: Of what importance is it, oh woman, to me and to thee that the wine has failed? It does not become me now to perform any miracle, as the time has not arrived, the time of my preaching,when with signs I must confirm my doctrine; yet not withstanding this, Mary, as if the Son had already granted her the favor, said to the attendants, Fill the water-pots with water: "Imple hydrias aqua." Come fill the water pots, and you will be consoled; and Jesus Christ, indeed to please his mother, changed that water into the best wine. But how is this? If the time appointed for miracles was the time of preaching, how could it be anticipated by the miracle of the wine, contrary to the divine decree? Nothing, it may be answered, was done contrary to the divine decree; for although, generally speaking, the time for signs had not come, yet from eternity God had established by another general decree, that nothing the divine mother could ask should be denied her; and therefore Mary,well acquainted with her privilege, although her Son seemed to have then set aside her petition, said notwithstanding, that the water pots should be filled, as though the favor was already granted. This, St. John Chrysostom would express, when commenting on the passage of John above men tioned "Oh woman, what is that to thee and to me?" he says, that although Jesus had answered thus, yet, for the honor of his mother, he did not fail to comply with her demand. St. Thomas confirms the same, when he observes, that by these words "My hour has not yet come" Jesus Christ wished to show that he would have deferred the miracle, if another had asked him to perform it; but because his mother asked it, he immediately performed it. St. Cyril and St. Jerome confirm this, according to Barrada. And Jansenius of Ghent says, commenting on the same passage of St. John: That he might honor his mother, he anticipated the time of working miracles.
In a word, it is certain that no creature can obtain for us miserable sinners so many mercies as this good advocate, who is honored by God with this privilege, not only as his beloved handmaid, but also as his true mother. William of Paris says this when addressing her. It is enough that Mary speaks, and the Son does all she wishes. The Lord, speaking to the spouse of the Canticles, by whom is understood Mary, says: "Thou that dwellest in the gardens the friends hearken, make me hear thy voice. The friends are the saints, who, when they ask any favor for their clients, wait until their queen prays to God for it and obtains it; for, as was said before in Chap. V., no favor is dispensed except by the intercession of Mary. And how does Mary obtain favors? It is enough that her Son hears her voice: Make me to hear thy voices "Fac me audire vocem tuam." It is enough that she speaks, and her Son immediately hears her. William of Paris, explaining in the same way the passage above named, introduces the Son, who thus addresses Mary: Oh thou who dwellest in the celestial gardens, intercede with confidence for whomsoever thou wilt, for I can not forget that I am thy Son, or think of refusing any thing to my mother. It is enough for thee to speak, and thy Son will graciously hear and grant thy petition. The Abbot Godfrey says that Mary, although she obtains favors by praying, yet prays with a kind of maternal authority; hence we may be sure that she will obtain whatever she desires and asks for us.
It is related of Coriolanus, by Valerius Maximus, that when he held Rome besieged, all the prayers of his friends and of the citizens could not induce him to withdraw his forces; but when his mother Veturia came to entreat him he could not resist, and immediately raised the siege. But the prayers of Mary are as much more powerful with Jesus than the prayers of Veturia with her son, as the love and gratitude of Jesus to Mary exceeds that of the son of Veturia for his mother. Father Justin Micoviensis writes: One sigh of Mary has more power than the prayers of all the saints united. The devil himself confessed this same thing to St. Dominic, when, constrained by his commands, he spoke through the mouth of a possessed person, saying, as Father Pacciucchelli narrates that one sigh of Mary availed more with God than the united prayers of all the saints.
St. Antoninus says, that the prayers of the blessed Virgin being the prayers of a mother, have a certain kind of authority, hence it is impossible that she should not be heard when she prays. On this account St. Germanus encourages sinners to recommend themselves to this advocate with these words; Thou, oh Mary, having the authority of a mother with God, dost obtain pardon for the vilest sinners; for the Lord, who in all things recognizes thee for his true mother, cannot refuse to grant thee what ever thou dost ask. St. Bridget, too, heard the saints in heaven saying to the Virgin: What is there that thou canst not do? Whatever thou dost desire is done. To which corresponds that celebrated verse: What God by a command, thou, oh Virgin, by a prayer canst effect. Is it not, says St. Augustine, worthy of the goodness of the Lord thus to guard the honor of his mother? for he asserts that he has come on the earth, not to break, but to fulfil the law, which, among other things, commands us to honor our parents.
St. George, Archbishop of Nicomedia, even adds, that Jesus Christ grants to his mother all her petitions, as if to satisfy the obligation that he is under to her for having caused, by her consent, that the human nature should be given him. Wherefore, St. Methodius, the martyr exclaims: Rejoice, oh Mary, that a Son has fallen to thy lot as thy debtor, who gives to all and receives from none. We are all debtors to God for whatever we possess, since every thing is his gift; but God has wished to make himself a debtor to thee, taking from thee his body and becoming man. So also St. Augustine says: Mary having merited to give flesh to the Divine "Word, and by that to furnish the price of the divine redemption, that we might be delivered from eternal death; therefore is she, says the same doctor, more powerful than any other to help us and obtain for us eternal salvation. Hence St. Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, who lived in the time of St. Jerome, thus wrote: The Son is pleased to be entreated by his mother, because he wishes to grant for her sake all that he does grant; aud thus to recompense the favor he has received from her when she gave him flesh. Hence St. John Damascene addresses the Virgin in these words: Thou, then, oh Mary, being mother of God, canst save all men by thy prayers, which are enforced by a mother's authority.
Let us conclude with the words of St. Bonaventure, who, considering the great benefit which the Lord has conferred on us in giving us Mary for our advocate, thus addresses her: Oh truly immense and admirable goodness of God, who to us miserable, guilty creatures, has grunted thee, oh our Lady, for our advocate,that thou inightest, by thy powerful intercession, obtain for us whatever good thou wilt. Oh, the great mercy of God, continues the saint, who, that we might not flee to hide ourselves from the sentence to be pronounced upon us, has destined his own mother and the treasurer of graces for our advocate.
Father Razzi, of the order of Camaldoli, relates that a certain youth having lost his father, was sent by his mother to the court of a prince. The mother, who had a great devotion to Mary, when she parted with him made him promise to recite every day a "Hail Mary," and add these words: "Blessed Virgin, help me in the hour of my death" The youth arrived at court, but soon began to lead so dissolute a life, that his master was obliged to send him away. In despair, without means of support, he went into the country and became a highway robber; but even then he did not omit to recommend himself to our Lady, as his mother had directed him, At length he fell into the hands of justice, and was condemned to death. Being in prison the evening before his execution, and thinking of his disgrace, the grief of his mother, and the death which awaited him, he fell to weeping bitterly. The devil seeing him so oppressed by melancholy, appeared to him in the form of a beautiful young man, and said to him that he would release him from death and prison, if he would follow his directions. The convict engaged to do all that he required. Then the pretended youth made known to him that he was the devil and had come to his assistance. In the first place, he ordered him to renounce Jesus Christ and the holy sacraments. The youth consented. He then required him to renounce the Virgin Mary and her protection. "This," exclaimed the young man, "I will never do," and turning to Mary, repeated the accustomed prayer that his mother had taught him: Blessed Virgin, help me in the hour of my death. At these words the devil disappeared. The youth remained in great affliction for the wickedness he had committed in denying Jesus Christ. He invoked the blessed Virgin, and she obtained for him, by her prayers, a great sorrow for all his sins, so that he made his confession with much weeping and contrition. On his way to the gallows, happening to pass before a statue of Mary, he saluted her with his usual prayer: Blessed Virgin, help me in the hour of my death, and the statue, in the presence of all, inclined its head and saluted him. Deeply moved, he begged to be allowed to kiss the feet of the image. The executioners refused, but after wards consented on account of the clamor of the people. The youth stooped to kiss her feet, and Mary extended her arm from that statue, took him by the hand and held him so strongly that no power could move him. At this prodigy the multitude shouted "Pardon, pardon," and pardon was granted. Having returned to his country, he led an exemplary life, and was always most devoted to Mary, who had delivered him from temporal and eternal death.
Oh great mother of God, I will say to thee with St. Bernard: Thy Son hears thee and will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask. Speak then, speak, oh Mary our advocate , in behalf of us miserable creatures. Remember that thou hast received thy great power and dignity even for our benefit. A God has chosen to become thy debtor, by taking from thee the human nature to the end that thou mayest dispense to the miserable the riches of divine mercy. We are thy servants, in a special manner consecrated to thy service, and among these I hope to be one. We glory in living under thy protection. If thou doest good to all, even to those who do not know thee and do not honor thee, and who even insult and blaspheme thee; how much ought we to hope from thy kindness, who dost seek for the wretched that thou mayest relieve them! We who honor, love, and trust in thee! We are great sinners, but God has granted thee mercy and power greater than all our sins. Thou canst and wilt save us; and we will so much the more earnestly desire this, as we are unworthy of it, that we may glorify thee the more in heaven, when we shall have been received there by thy intercession. Oh,mother of mercy, we present to thee our souls once pure and washed with the blood of Jesus Christ,but since defiled with sin. To thee we present them, wilt thou purify them? Obtain for us sincere amendment, obtain for us the love of God, perseverance, paradise. We ask great things of thee, but canst thou not obtain them all for us? Are they greater than the love God has for thee? Thou hast only to open thy lips in prayer to thy Son, and he will grant thee all things. Pray, then, pray, oh Mary, for us; and surely thou wilt be heard graciously, and we shall be saved.