The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
MARY IS THE PEACE-MAKER BETWEEN SINNERS AND GOD.
THE grace of God is a treasure, very great and most earnestly to be desired by every soul. It is called by the Holy Spirit an infinite treasure, since by means of divine grace we are raised to the honor of being made the friends of God: "She is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God." Whence it is that Jesus, our Redeemer and God, did not hesitate to call those who are in grace, his friends: You are my friends: "Vos amici mei estis." Oh accursed sin that loosens the ties of this blessed friendship: Your iniquities have divided between you and your God: "for they make the soul hateful to God, and from a friend it becomes an enemy of the Lord:" To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike." What, then, must a sinner do who finds himself so unhappy as to have become an enemy of God? He must find a mediator who will obtain pardon for him and enable him to recover the lost friendship of God. Take courage, says St. Bernard, oh sinner, who has lost God. Thy Lord himself hath given thee a mediator, even his Son Jesus Christ who can obtain for thee whatever thou desirest.
But, oh God, the saint here exclaims, why do men esteem severe this most merciful Saviour, who hath given his life for our salvation? Why do they look upon him as terrible who is all loveliness? Distrustful sinners, say, why do you fear? If you fear because you have offended God, remember that Jesus with his own lacerated hands has nailed your sins to the cross, and having satisfied the divine justice for them by his death, he has removed them from your soul. But if ever, adds the saint, you fear to have recourse to Jesus Christ because his divine majesty alarms you, since when he became man he did not cease to be God, if you ever wish for another advocate with this mediator, invoke Mary, for she will intercede for you with the Son, who will surely graciously listen to ner, and the Son will intercede with the Father, who can refuse nothing to this Son. And so, concludes St. Bernard, this divine mother, oh my children, is the ladder of sinners, by which they ascend anew to the height of divine grace. This is my greatest confidence this is the whole ground of my hope.
Let us hear what the Holy Spirit makes the blessed Virgin say in the sacred Canticles: I am, says Mary, the defence of those who have recourse to me, and my mercy is to them a tower of refuge for this I have been appointed by my Lord as a peacemaker between sinners and him. Cardinal Hugo, on the same text, says, that Mary is the" great peacemaker who obtains from God, and gives peace to enemies, salvation to the lost, pardon to sinners, and mercy to the despairing. For this reason she was called by her divine spouse: Beautiful as the curtains of Solomon: Formosa sicut pelles Salomonis." In the tents of David there was nothing treated of but war, but in the tents of Solomon peace alone was spoken of. The Holy Spirit giving us to understand by this, that the mother of mercy does not treat of war and of vengeance against sinners, but only of peace and the pardon of their offences.
Again, Mary was prefigured by Noe's dove, who returned to the ark bearing in her beak the olive-branch, as a sign of the peace which God granted to men. Wherefore St. Bonaventure says: Thou art that most faithful dove, which, mediating with God, hath obtained for the world, which was lost, peace and salvation. Mary, then, was the heavenly dove who brought to the lost world the olive-branch, a sign of mercy; for she gave us Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of mercy, and thus obtained, by the price of his merits, all the graces which God gives us. And as through Mary the world received celestial peace, as St. Epiphanius says, by means of Mary sinners are constantly becoming reconciled to God. In the same way, the blessed Albertus Magnus says in her name: I am that dove of Noe, who brought to the Church universal peace.
Moreover, the rainbow seen by St. John, that surrounded the throne of God, was also an exact type of Mary. According to the explanation of Cardinal Vitalis, Mary is always before the divine tribunal to mitigate the sentence and punishment due to the sinner. And St. Bernardine of Sienna says, that it was of this rainbow that the Lord spoke, when he said to Noe that he would place in the clouds the bow of peace, that when he should see it he might remember the eternal covenant that he had established with men. And Mary, says St. Bernardine, is that very bow of eternal peace. For as God, at the sight of the bow, remembers the peace promised to the earth, thus at the pray ers of Mary he pardons sinners the offences committed against him, and establishes peace with them.
For the same reason Mary is also compared to the moon. For, St. Bonaventure says, as the moon is in the midst between heaven and earth, so she continually interposes between God and sinners, that she may appease the Lord towards them, and enlighten them on their return to God.
And this was the most important office given to Mary when she was placed upon the earth of lifting the souls fallen from divine grace, and reconciling them to God. Feed thy kids: "Pasce haedos tuos." This was said to her by the Lord when he created her. It is well known that sinners are represented by goats; and as the elect, represented by sheep, will be placed on the right hand in the valley of judgment, the goats will be placed on the left. Now these goats, says William of Paris, are committed to thee, oh great mother, that thou mayest change them into sheep, and that those who, by their sins, have merited to be banished to the left, by thy intercession may be placed on the right. Hence the Lord revealed to St. Catherine of Sienna that he had created this hia beloved child as a sweet bait, that would draw men, and especially sinners, to God. And here we should note the beautiful reflection of William, the Englishman, on the passage above cited, who says, that God recommends to Mary her own goats, "haedos tuos;" because the Virgin does not save all sinners, but only those who serve and honor her. Those, on the contrary, who live in sin, and do not honor her with any special devotion, neither recommend themselves to her in order to escape from their sins, are not the goats of Mary, but in the judgment will be placed miserably on the left among the damned.
A certain nobleman who was despairing of his eternal salvation on account of his sins, was encouraged by a religious to have recourse to the most holy Virgin, by visiting her sacred image which was in a certain church. The nobleman went to the church, and on seeing the figure of Mary he felt himself, as it were, invited by her to cast himself at her feet and trust. He hastens to do so, kisses her feet, and May, from that statue, extended her hand for him to kiss, and on it he saw these words written: "I will deliver thee from them that afflict thee." As if she had said to him: My son, do not despair, for 1 will deliver thee from thy sins, and from the fears that oppress thee. It is related that on reading these sweet words, that sinner felt such sorrow for his sins, and conceived such a love for God, and for his sweet motherf that he died there at the feet of Mary. Oh, how many obstinate sinners does this magnet of hearts draw daily to God, as she herself said to St. Bridget: "As the magnet attracts to itself iron, thus I draw to myself the most obdurate hearts, that I may reconcile them to God;" and this prodigy is not rarely, but daily experienced. I could myself testify to many cases that have occurred in our missions alone, where sinners who have remained harder than iron during all other sermons, while hearing that on the mercy of Mary, were touched with compunction, and turned to God. St Gregory relates that the unicorn is so ferocious a wild beast, that no hunter can succeed in taking it; but at the voice of a maiden who calls upon him to surrender, he draws near, and without resistance allows himself to be bound by her. Oh, how many sinners, more fierce than wild beasts, who flee from God, at the sound of the voice of this great Virgin Mary, advance and allow themselves to be gently bound by her to God!
For this end, says St. John Chrysostom, the Virgin Mary was made mother of God, that those sinners who, by reason of their wicked life, could not be saved according to the divine justice, might obtain salvation through her sweet compassion and powerful intercession. St. Anselm confirms this when he says that Mary has been exalted to be mother of God for sinners rather than for the just, since Jesus Christ announced that he came not to call the just, but sinners. And so the holy Church sings: "Sinners thou dost not abhor, since but for them thou never wouldst have been worthy of such a Son " William of Paris also says: Oh Mary, thou art obliged to help sinners, since for all the gifts, graces, and honors thou dost possess, which are comprehended in the dignity thou hast received of being the mother of God, for all, if I may so speak, thou art indebted to sinners, since for their sakes thou wert made worthy to have a God for thy Son. If, then, concludes St. Anselm, Mary, for the sake of sinners, has been made mother of God, how can I, however great may be my sins, despair of pardon?
The holy Church teaches us, in the collect of the Mass for the Vigil of the Assumption, that the divine mother has been removed from this earth that she might intercede for us with God, in sure confidence of being graciously heard. Hence Mary is named by St. Justinian, Arbitress: "Sequestra." The Word employed as arbitress. Sequester signifies the same as arbiter, one to whom two contending parties refer all their questions; so that the saint means to say, that as Jesus is mediator with the eternal Father, so Mary is our mediatrix with Jesus, to whom the Son refers all the charges which, as judge he has against us.
Mary is called by St. Andrew of Crete, the confidence and security of our reconciliation with God. And by this the saint intends to say, that God seeks a reconciliation with sinneri by pardoning them, and that they may not despair of pardon, he has given them Mary as a pledge of it; hence he salutes her: Hail, oh peace of God with men; "Salve divina hominibus reconciliatio." Wherefore St. Bonaventure says, encouraging every sinner: If thou fearest, on account of thy sins, that an angry God may wish to avenge himself upon thee, what art thou to do? Go to the hope of sinners, namely, Mary; and if thou fearest that she will refuse to take thy part, know that she cannot refuse to defend thy cause, for God himself has assigned her the office of relieving the wretched.
And what does the Abbot Adam say? Should a sinner fear being lost, to whom the mother of his judge offers herself as his mother and advocate? And then the same writer adds: Oh Mary! who art mother of mercy, couldst thou refuse to pray thy Son, who is judge, for another son, who is the criminal? Canst thou refuse to intercede in behalf of a redeemed soul with the Redeemer, who, for no other end than to save sinners, died on the cross? No, thou wilt not refuse, but earnestly wilt employ thyself in praying for all those who invoke thee, well knowing that the same Lord who hath constituted thy Son mediator of peace between God and man, has at the same time made thee mediatrix between the Judge and the criminal, Here St. Bernard takes up the subject, and says: Give then thanks to him who has provided thee with such a mediatrix. Whoever thou art, oh sinner, plunged in the mire of guilt, hoary in sin, do not despair; thank thy Lord, who in order to show mercy to thee, has not only given thee his Son for an advocate, but, to increase thy confidence and courage, has provided thee with such a mediatrix, who, by her prayers, obtains whatever she wishes. Have recourse to Mary, and thou wilt be saved.
It is related by Rupensis,f and by Boniface, that in Florence there lived a young girl, named Benedetta (the blessed), although she might better have been called Maladetta (the cursed), from the scandalous and wicked life she led. Happily for her, St. Dominic happened to preach in that city, and she, from mere curiosity, went one day to hear him. But the Lord touched her heart during the sermon, so that, weeping bitterly, she went to make her confession to the saint. St. Dominic heard her confession, gave her absolution, and directed her to say the rosary. But the unhappy girl, by the force of her evil habits, returned to her wicked life. The saint heard of it, and going to her, induced her to con- fess once more. God, in order to confirm her in her good life, one day showed hell to her, and some persons there who had been already con demned on her account. Then opening a book, made her read in it the frightful record of her sins. The pentitent shuddered at the sight, and, full of confidence, had recourse to Mary, asked her help, and learned that this divine mother had already obtained from God for her time enough to mourn for her numerous sins. The vision disappeared, and Benedetta devoted herself to a good life; but seeing always open before her eyes that dark catalogue, she one day prayed in these words to her consoler: "Oh mother, it is true that for my sins I should now be deep in hell; but since thou, by thy intercession, hast liberated me from it, by obtaining for me time for repentance, most merciful Lady, I ask of thee one other favor. I will never cease to weep for my sins; but do thou obtain for me that they may be cancelled from that book." After this prayer, Mary appeared to her, and told her that in order to obtain what she asked, she must preserve an eternal remembrance of her sins, and of the mercy of God towards her; and still more, that she must meditate on the passion of her Son, which he suffered for love of her; and also that she must bear in mind that many had been damned who had committed fewer sins than she had done. She also revealed her that a child of only eight years of age, for one mortal sin only, had been that day condemned to hell. Benedetta having faithfully obeyed the most holy Virgin, one day beheld Jesus Christ, who showed her that book, and said to her: Behold, thy sins are cancelled; the book is white, inscribe on it now acts of love and of virtue. Benedetta did this, led a holy life, and died a holy death.
Then, oh my most sweet Lady, if thy office is, as William of Paris eays, to interpose as a mediatrix between the sinner and God, I will say to thee with St. Thomas of Villanova: Ah, then, oh our advocate, fulfil thy office. Fulfil at once thy office also in my behalf. Do not tell me that my cause is too difficult to be gained; for I know, and all tell me, that no cause, how ever desperate, if defended by thee, was ever lost; and will mine be lost? No, I fear not this. I have only to fear, when I behold the multitude of my sins, that thou wilt not undertake my defence; but considering thy vast compassion and the great desire that fills thy most loving heart to help the vilest sinners, I no longer fear even this. And who was ever lost that had recourse to thee? I invoke, then, thy aid, oh my great advocate, my refuge, my hope, and my mother Mary. To thy hands I commit the cause of my eternal salvation. To thee I consign my soul; it was lost, but thou must save it. I always thank the Lord that he gives me this great confidence in thee, which, notwithstanding my unworthiness, I believe will secure my salvation. One fear alone remains to afflict me, my beloved queen: it is, that I may one day lose, through my neglect, this confidence in thee. Therefore I pray thee, oh Mary, by all thy love for thy Jesus, to preserve and increase more and more in me this most sweet confidence in thy intercession, by which I certainly hope to recover the divine friendship, which I have hitherto so foolishly despised and lost; and once having recovered it, I hope by thy means to preserve it and preserving it, I hope finally through thee to go one day and thank thee for it in paradise, and there to sing the mercies of God and thine through all eternity. Amen, Thus I hope, so may it be, and so it shall be!