The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
SPES NOSTRA SALVE. Hail, our hope.
MARY IS THE HOPE OF ALL.
MODERN heretics cannot endure that we should salute Mary in this manner by calling her our hope. Hail, our hope, spes nostra salve." They say that God alone is our hope, and that he who places his hope in a creature is accursed of God. Mary, they exclaim, is a creature, and, as a creature, how can she be our hope? Thus say the heretics, but notwithstanding this, the Church requires all the clergy, and all religious daily to raise their voices, and in the name of all the faithful, invoke and call Mary by the sweet name of our hope, the hope of all: "Hail, our hope!"
In two ways, says the angelic St. Thomas, can we place our hope in a person: as the principal cause, and as the intermediate cause. Those who hope for some favor from the king, hope for it from the king as sovereign, and hope for it from his minister or favorite as intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes in the first place from the king, but it comes through the medium of his favorite; wherefore, he who asks a favor justly calls that intercessor his hope. The king of heaven, because he is infinite goodness, greatly desires to enrich us with his graces; but, because confidence is necessary on our part, in order to increase our confidence, he has given his own mother for our mother and advocate, and has given her all power to aid us; and hence he wishes us to place in her all our hopes of salvation, and of every blessing. Those who place all their hope on creatures, without dependence upon God, as sinners do, who to obtain the friendship and favor of man, are willing to displease God, are certainly cursed by God, as Isaias says. But those who hope in Mary, as mother of God, powerful to obtain for them graces and life eternal, are blessed, and please the heart of God, who wishes to see that noble creature honored, who, more than all men and angels, loved and honored him in this world.
Hence we justly call the Virgin our hope hoping, as Cardinal Bellarmine says, to obtain, by her intercession what we could not obtain by our prayers alone. We pray to her, says St. Anselm, in order that the dignity of the interessor may supply our deficiencies. Therefore, the saint adds, to supplicate the Virgin with such hope, is not to distrust the mercy of God, but to fear our own unworthiness.
With reason does the Church, then, apply to Mary the words of Ecclesiasticus, with which he salutes her: "Mother of holy hope;" that moth er who inspires us not with the vain hope of the miserable and transitory advantages of this life, but with the holy hope of the immense and eternal good of the blessed life to come. St. Ephrem thus salutes the divine mother: "Hail, hope of the soul! hail, secure salvation of Christians! hail, helper of sinners! hail, defence of the faithful, and salvation of the world!" St. Basil teaches us that, next to God, we have no other hope than Mary, and for this reason he calls her: After God our only hope, "Post Deum sola spes nostra;" and St. Ephrem, reflecting on the order of Providence in this life, by which God has ordained (as St. Bernard says, and we shall here after prove at length) that all those who are saved must be saved by means of Mary, says to her: Oh Lady, do not cease to receive and shelter us under the mantle of thy protection, since, after God, we have no hope but thee. St. Thomas of Villanova says the same thing, calling her our only refuge, help, and protection.
St. Bernard assigns the reason for this by saying: Behold, oh man, the design of God, a design arranged for our benefit, that he may be able to bestow upon us more abundantly his compassion; for, wishing to redeem the human race, he has placed the price of our redemption in the hands of Mary, that she may dispense it at her pleasure.
God ordered Moses to make a propitiatory of the purest gold, telling him that from it he would speak to him: "Thou shalt make a propitiatory of the purest gold. Thence will I give orders, and will speak to thee." A certain author explains this propitiatory to be Mary, through whom the Lord speaks to men, and dispenses to them pardon, graces, and favors. And therefore St. Irenseus says that the divine Word, before incarnating himself in the womb of Mary, sent the archangel to obtain her consent, because he would have the world indebted to Mary for the mystery of the incarnation. Also the Idiot remarks, that every blessing, every help, every grace that men have received or will receive from God, to the end of the world, has come to them, and will come to them, through the intercession and by means of Mary. Rightly, then did the devout Blosius exclaim: Oh Mary, who art so amiable, and so grateful to him who loves thee, who will be so stupid and unhappy as not to love thee! In doubt and perplexity thou dost enlighten the minds of those who have recourse to thee in their troubles. Thou art the comfort of those who trust in thee, in time of danger. Thou dost help those who invoke thee. Thou art, continues Blosius, next to thy divine Son, the secure salvation of thy servants. Hail then, oh hope of the despairing. Hail helper of the destitute! Oh Mary, thou art omnipotent, since thy Son would honor thee by immediately doing all that thou desirest.
St. Germanus, recognizing Mary to be the source of every blessing, and the deliverance from every evil, thus invokes her: Oh my Lady thou alone art my help, given me by God; thou art the guide of my pilgrimage, the support of my weakness, my riches in poverty, my deliverer from bondage, the hope of my salvation: graciously listen, I pray thee to my supplications, take compassion on my sighs, thou my queen, my refuge, my life, my help, my hope, my strength.
Justly, then, does St. Antoninus apply to Mary that passage of wisdom: "Now all good things came to me together with her." Since Mary is the mother of God and the dispenser of all good, the world may truly say, and especially those in the world who are devoted to this queen, that, together with devotion to Mary, they have obtained every good thing. Wherefore the Abbot of Celles said positively: He who has found Mary finds every good thing. He finds all graces and all virtues; since she by her powerful intercession obtains for him in abundance all that he needs to make him rich in divine grace. She gives us to know that she has with her all the riches of God, that is, the divine mercies, that she may dispense them for the benefit of those who love her. "With me are riches and glory, that I may enrich them that love me." Hence St. Bonaventure says: "We should all keep our eyes fixed on the hands of Mary, that through her we may receive the blessings we desire.
Oh! how many of the proud have found humility through devotion to Mary; how many of the violent, meekness; how many blind, the light; how many despairing, confidence; how many lost, salvation! And precisely this she herself predicted when she pronounced in the house of Elizabeth that sublime canticle: "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." Which words St. Bernard re peats, and says: All nations will call thee bless ed, for to all nations thou hast given life and glory; in thee sinners find pardon, and the just find perseverance in divine grace. Whence the devout Lanspergius represents the Lord thus speaking to the world: Venerate my mother with especial veneration. Oh men, he says, poor children of Adam, who live in the midst of so many enemies and so much misery, strive to honor with particular affection my mother and yours. I have given her to the world as an example of purity, a refuge and asylum -for the afflicted. That is, I have given Mary to the world for your example, that from her you may learn to live as you ought ; and for your refuge, that you may have recourse to her, In your tribulations. This my child, says God, I have created such that no one can fear her, or be unwilling to have recourse to her, for I have created her with so benign and compassionate a nature, that she will not despise any who seek her protection, and she will deny no favor to any who ask it. She spreads the mantle of her com passion over all, and never permits any one to go from her feet unconsoled. May the great goodness of our God, then, be ever blessed, who has given us this great mother and advocate, so loving and tender.
Oh how tender are the sentiments of confi dence which filled the heart of the most loving St. Bonaventure for his dear Redeemer Jesus, and for our loving intercessor Mary! Let the Lord chastise me as much as seemeth to him good, I know that he will not refuse him self to those who love him and who seek him with an upright heart. I will embrace him with my love, and I will not let him go till he has blessed me, and he will not depart without me. If I can do nothing else, at least I will hide myself in his wounds ; there I will remain, and out of himself he shall not be able to find me. Finally, he adds, if my Redeemer, for my sins, drives me from his feet, I will cast myself at the feet of his mother Mary, and, prostrate there, I will not depart until she has obtained my pardon; for this mother of mercy has never failed to take pity on misery and console the wretched who seek her aid; and therefore, if not from obligation, at least from compassion, she will not fail to induce her Son to pardon me.
Look upon us, then, we will conclude with the words of Euthymius, look upon us, then, with thine eyes of compassion, oh our most merciful mother, for we are thy servants, and in thee we have placed all our hope.
It is related in the Fourth Part of the Treasure of the Rosary, miracle eighty-fifth, that a gentleman who was most devoted to the divine mother, had set apart in his palace an oratory where, before a beautiful statue of Mary, he was accustomed often to remain praying, not only by day, but also by night, interrupting his rest to go and honor his beloved Lady; but his wife, for he was married, though she was a very devout person, observing that her husband in the deepest silence of the night left his bed, and going from his apartment did not return for a long time, became jealous, and was suspicious of evil; wherefore, one day, to free herself from this thorn which tormented her, she ventured to ask him if he ever loved any other woman but herself. Smiling, he answered her: "I assure you that I love the most amiable lady in the world; to her I have given my whole heart and rather would I die than cease to love her; if you knew her, you would say that I ought to love her more than I do." He meant the most holy Virgin whom he loved so tenderly. But his wife, conceiving a greater suspicion than before, in order to ascertain the truth better, interrogated him anew, and asked him if he arose from his bed and left the room every night to meet that lady. The gentleman, who did not perceive the great trouble of his wife, answered "Yes." The wife was completely deceived, and, blinded by passion, one night when her husband according to his custom, had left the chamber, seized a knife in despair, cut her throat, and very soon died. Her husband having finished his devotions returned to his apartment, but. on going to bed, found it wet. He called his wife; she did not answer: he tried to arouse her; she was immovable. At length he took a light, found the bed full of blood, and his wife dead, with her throat cut. Then he perceived that she had destroyed herself through jealousy. What does he do? He locks the door of his apartment, re turns to the chapel, prostrates himself before the most blessed Virgin, and shedding a torrent of tears, said to her: "Oh my mother, be hold my affliction: if thou dost not console me, to whom shall I go ? Remember I am so unfortunate as to see my wife dead and lost because I have come hither to pay thee honor, oh my mother, who dost help us in all our troubles, help me now." How surely does every one obtain what he wishes if he supplicates with confidence this mother of mercy! No sooner did he offer this prayer than he heard a servant-maid calling him: "My lord, come to your apartment, for your lady calls you." The gentleman could hardly believe these words for joy. Return, he said to the servant, and see if she really calls me. She re turned, entreating him to go quickly, for her mistress was waiting for him. He went, opened the door, and found his wife living; she threw herself at his feet in tears and begged him to pardon her, saying : "Oh, my husband, the mother of God, through thy prayer, has delivered me from hell." Weeping for joy, they went to their oratory to thank the Blessed Virgin. The next day the husband made a feast for all their relations, to whom the wife herself related the facts, at the same time showing the marks of the wound, and all were more deeply inflamed with the love of the divine mother.
Oh mother of holy love, oh our life, our refuge, and our hope, thou knowest that thy Son Jesus Christ, not content with making himself our perpetual intercessor with the eternal Father, would have thee also engaged in obtaining for us, by thy prayers, the divine mercy. He has ordained that thy prayers should aid in our salvation,and has given such power to them that they obtain whatever they ask; I, a miserable sinner, turn to thee then, oh hope of the wretched. I hope, oh Lady, through the merits of Jesus Christ and thy intercession to secure my salvation. In these I trust; and so entirely do I trust in thee, that if my eternal salvation were in my own hands, I would wish to place it in thine ; for in thy mercy and protection I would trust far more than in my own works. My mother and my hope, do not abandon me, as I deserve. Behold my misery, pity me, help me, save me. I confess that I have often, by my sins, shut out the light and aid which thou hast obtained for me from the Lord.
But thy compassion for the wretched and thy power with God are far greater than the number and malignity of my sins It is known in heaven and on earth that he who is protected by thee will certainly not perish. Let all forget me, but do not thou forget me, oh mother of the omnipotent God. Say unto God that I am thy servant, tell him that I am defended by thee, and I shall be saved. Oh Mary, I trust in thee: in this hope I live, and in this hope I wish to die, repeating always: "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus, Mary."