The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
OF THE CHARITY OF MARY TOWARDS GOD
St. ANSELM says, that where there is the greatest purity, there is the greatest charity: "Ubi major puritas, ibi major charitas." The purer and more emptied of self is a heart, the more it will be filled with charity towards God. Most holy Mary, because she was all humility, and entirely emptied of self, was entirely filled with the divine love, so that she surpassed all men and all angels in love to God, as St. Bernardine teaches. Therefore St. Francis of Sales has justly called her: The queen of love. The Lord indeed has given to men the precept to love him with their whole heart: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart;" but, as St. Thomas declares, this precept will never be perfectly fulfilled by men on this earth, but in heaven. And here the blessed Albertus Magnus remarks, that in a certain sense, it would be unbecoming for God to give a commandment which none could perfectly fulfil, if the divine mother had not perfectly fulfilled it; These are the words of Albertus: Either some one fulfils this precept or no one; if any one, it is the most blessed Virgin. And this is confirmed by Richard of St. Victor, who says: The mother of our Emmanuel was perfect in all virtues. Who has ever fulfilled as she did that first commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart?" In her the divine love was so ardent, that there could be no defect of any kind in her. Divine love, says St. Bernard, so penetrated and pervaded the soul of Mary, that no part was left untouched by it, so that she loved with her whole heart, her whole soul, and her whole strength, and was full of grace. Wherefore Mary might well have said: My beloved has given himself wholly to me, and I have given myself wholly to him: My beloved to me, and I to him: "Dilectus meus mihi, et ego illi." Ah, says Richard, well might even the seraphim descend from heaven to learn from the heart of the Virgin how to love God.
God, who is love: "Deus charitas est," came on earth to kindle in all men the flames of his holy love; but he inflamed no heart so much as the heart of his mother, who, being entirely pure from every earthly affection, was perfectly ready to be enkindled by this blessed flame. Thus St. Jerome teaches. Hence the heart of Mary became all fire and flames, as we read of her in the sacred Canticles: The lamps thereof are fire and flames: "Lampades ejus, lampades ignis, atque flammarum." Fire burning within, through love, as St. Anselm explains, and flames shining forth upon all, by the practice of virtue. Mary, therefore, when she bore Jesus in her arms, might indeed have called herself: Fire carrying fire: "Ignis gestans ignem," more properly than a certain woman who was carrying fire in her hand was so called by Hippocrates. Yes, for St. Ildephonsus said: As fire heats iron, the Holy Spirit so wholly inflamed Mary that nothing was seen in her but the flame of the Holy Ghost, nothing was felt but the fire of the love of God. St. Thomas of Villanova says that the bush which Moses saw entirely in flames without being consumed, was really a symbol of the heart of the Virgin. Wherefore with reason, as St. Bernard says, was she seen by St. John clothed with the sun: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun: "Et signum apparuit in coelo, mulier amicta sole." For, says the saint, she was so united to God by love that it seems as if no creature could be more united to him. Mary, then, is justly described as clothed with the sun, for she has penetrated to an incredible depth the abyss of divine wisdom, so that, as far as it is permitted to a creature not personally united with God, she appears immersed in that inaccessible light.
Therefore St. Bonaventure asserts, that the holy Virgin was never tempted by the spirits of hell: For as flies, he says, are driven away by a great fire, so from the heart of Mary, which was one flame of love, the devils fled, and did not even dare to approach her. And Richard also says: The Virgin was terrible to the princes of darkness, so that they did not presume to approach and tempt her, for the flame of charity deterred them. Mary herself revealed to St. Bridget, that in this world she had no other thought, no other desire, no other joy, than God: I thought of nothing but God; nothing pleased me but God: "Nihil nisi Deum cogitabam, nulla mihi nisi Deus placuerunt." So that her blessed soul being, as it were, on this earth in a continual contemplation of God, the acts of love she made were innumerable; as Father Suarez has declared: The acts of perfect love which the blessed Virgin made in this life were innumerable, for she passed almost her whole life in contemplation, and was very frequently repeating an act of love. But Bernard de Bustis pleases me more when he says, that Mary did not so much repeat the acts of love in order, as other saints do, but, by a singular privilege, always actually loved God with one continued act. Like the royal eagle she kept her eyes always fixed upon the divine Sun, so that, as St. Peter Damian says, neither did the actions of life prevent her from loving, nor love prevent her from acting. Thus, says St. Germanus, Mary was prefigured by the altar of propitiation on which the fire was never extinguished by day of by night.
Neither did sleep interrupt the love of Mary for her God. For if such a privilege was given to our first parents in the state of innocence, as St. Augustine asserts, saying: Their dreama when sleeping were as happy as their life when waking: "Tam felicia erant somnia dormientium, quam vita vigilantium," it certainly could not be denied to the divine mother, as Suarez and Rupert the Abbot believe, with St. Bernardine and St. Ambrose, who has written concerning Mary: While her body rested, her soul watched: "Cum quiesceret corpus, vigilaret animus." Thus were verified in her the words of the wise man: Her lamp shall not be put out in the night: "Non extinguetur in nocte lucerna ejus." Yes, for while her blessed body with a light sleep, took its needed rest, her soul, says St. Bernardine, freely rose to God, so at that time her contemplation was more perfect than is that of any other person when awake. Therefore could she well say with the spouse in the Canticles: I sleep and my heart watcheth: "Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat." Happy in sleep as in waking: "Tam felix dormiendo, quam vigilando," as Suarez says. In a word, St. Bernardine asserts, that Mary, while she lived on earth, was continually loving God: "Mens Virginis in ardore dilectionis continue tenebatur." And he adds further, that she never did any thing that she did not know was pleasing to God; and that she loved him as much as she knew he ought to be loved. Hence, according to blessed Albertus Magnus, it may be said that Mary was filled with so great charity that a greater was not possible in any pure creature on this earth. For this reason St. Thomas of Villanova has said, that the Virgin, by her ardent charity, was made so beautiful and so en amored her God, that captivated as it were, by love of her, he descended into her womb to be come man. Wherefore St. Bernardine exclaims: Behold a Virgin who by her virtue has wounded and taken captive the heart of God.
But since Mary loves her God so much, she certainly requires from her servants nothing else so much as that they should love God as much as they can. And precisely this she to the blessed Angela de Foligno one day after communion: "Angela, may you be blessed by my Son; seek to love him as much as you can." And the blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget: Daughter, if you wish to bind me to you, love my Son; "Si vis me tecum devincire, ama filium meum." Mary desires nothing more than to see her beloved, who is God, loved by all. Novarino asks why the holy Virgin, with the spouse of the Canticles, begged the angels to make known to her Lord the great love she bore him, saying: "I adjure you, oh daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love." Did not God know how much she loved him? Why does she desire to show the wound to her beloved who gave the wound? The same author answers, that the divine mother did not wish by this to make known her love to God, but to us ; that, as she was wounded, she might be able to wound us also with divine love: "Ut vulnerata vulneraret." And because she was wholly inflamed with the love of God, she inflames all those who love and approach her, and renders them like herself. For this reason St. Catharine of Sienna called Mary: The bearer of the flame of divine love "Portatrix ignis." If we also wish to burn with this blessed flame, let us always endeavor to draw near to our mother with prayers and affections.
Oh queen of love, Mary, the most lovely, tha most beloved, and the most loving of all creatures, as St. Francis de Sales said to thee: Ah, my mother, thou wert always wholly inflamed with love to God; ah, deign to bestow on me at least one spark of it. Thou didst pray thy Son for that family whose wine had failed: They have no wine: "Vinum non habent," and wilt thou not pray for us, who are wanting in love to God, whom we are under such obligations to love? Say to Jesus: They have no love: "Amorem non habent." Do thou obtain for us this love. We ask of thee no other favor than this. Oh mother, by the great love thou hast for Jesus, graciously hear us and pray for us. Amen.