The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
ST. BERNARD says, that as a man and a wom an have co-operated for our ruin, so it was fit that another man and another woman should co operate for our restoration; and these were Jesus and his mother Mary. Doubtless, says the saint, Jesus Christ alone was all-sufficient for our redemption: yet it was more fitting that each sex should take part in our redemption, when both took part in our corruption. For this reason blessed Albertus Magnus calls Mary the co-operatrix with Christ in our redemption: "Adjutrix Redemptionis." And she herself revealed to St. Bridget, that as Adam and Eve sold the world for one apple, so her Son and! herself with one heart redeemed the world. God could, indeed, as St. Anselm asserts, create the world from nothing; but when it was lost by sin, he would not redeem it without the co operation of Mary.
In three ways, says Father Suarez, the divine mother shared in the work of our salvation: first, by having merited, that is, with merit of congruity, the Incarnation of the Word. Secondly, by praying much for us while she lived on the earth. Thirdly, by willingly sacrificing to God the life of her Son for our salvation; and therefore the Lord has justly ordained that as Mary has,with so much love for man, aided in the salvation of all, and thereby so greatly promoted the glory of God, all through her intercession shall obtain salvation.
Mary is called the co-operatrix with her Son in our justification, because God has committed to her keeping all the graces that he has des tined for us. Wherefore St. Bernard affirms, that all men, past, present, and to come, should regard her as the medium and negotiator of the salvation of all ages.
Jesus Christ has said, that no one could find him unless his Eternal Father drew him by his divine grace. Thus, also, according to Rich ard, Jesus said of his mother: No one comes to me unless my mother draw him with her prayers.
Jesus was the fruit of Mary, as Elizabeth expressed it: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." Whoever, then, wishes for the fruit, must go to the tree; whoever wishes for Jesus must go to Mary; and he who finds Mary, certainly also finds Jesus. St. Elizabeth, when the most holy Virgin came to visit her in her house, not knowing how to thank her, in deep humility exclaimed: "How have I merited that the mother of my God should come to visit me?" But why! we may ask: did not Elizabeth already know that not Mary only, but Jesus also, had entered her dwelling? And why, then, does she call herself unworthy to receive the mother, and not rather unworthy of receiving a visit from the Son. Ah, well did the saint understand that when Mary comes she brings Jesus also; and hence it was sufficient for her to thank the mother, without naming the Son.
"She is like the merchant's ship, she bringeth her bread from afar." Mary is that blessed ship, which brought to us from heaven Jesus Christ, the living bread that came from heaven to give us life eternal, as he has said: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." Hence Richard of St. Laurence says, that all those will be lost in the sea of this world who are not received into this ship, that is, protected by Mary. He also adds, that whenever "we find ourselves in danger of destruction from the temptations or passions of the present life, we ought to flee to Mary, crying quickly, Oh Lady, help us; save us, if thou wouldst not see us lost. And let it be remarked here, in passing, that this writer does not hesitate to say to Mary: Save us, we perish "Salva nos, perimus;" as the author mentioned several times in the previous section does, who denies that we can ask the Virgin to save us, because, as he says it belongs only to God to save us. But if a person condemned to death may ask some favorite of the king to save him by interceding for him with his prince, why cannot we implore the mother of God to save us by obtaining for us through her prayers the grace of eternal life? St. John of Damascus did not hesitate to say to the Virgin: Oh pure and immaculate queen, save me, deliver me from eternal damnation. St. Bonaventure called Mary the salvation of those invoking her.The Church allows us to invoke her: Health of the weak "Salus infirmorum;" and shall we hesitate to ask her to save us, when, according to a certain author, to no one is the door of salvation open except through her? And before him St. Germanus, speaking of Mary, said: No one can be saved except through thee.
But let us see what more the saints say of the need we have of the intercession of the divine mother. The glorious St. Cajetan said that we could ask for graces, but we could never obtain them without the intercession of Mary. And St. Antoninus confirms this, expressing himself thus beautifully: Whoever asks and wishes to obtain graces without the intercession of Mary, attempts to fly without wings; for, as Pharaoh said to Joseph, "The land of Egypt is in thy hand;" and as he sent all those to Joseph who applied to him for assistance, saying: Go to Joseph "Ite ad Joseph;" so God, when we supplicate him for favors, sends us to Mary: Go to Mary "Ite ad Mariam;" for he has de creed, says St. Bernard, that he will grant no favors except through the hands of Mary. Hence Richard of St. Laurence says: Our salvation is in the hands of Mary, and we Christians can more justly say to her than the Egyptians to Joseph, our salvation is in thy hand. The venerable Idiot says the same thing: Our salva tion is in her hands "Salus nostra in manu illius est." Cassian asserts the same thing, but in stronger language. He absolutely affirms that the salvation of the whole world depends upon the favor and protection of Mary. St. Bernardine of Sienna thus addresses her: Oh Lady, since thou art the dispenser of all graces, and we must receive the grace of salvation through thy hand alone, then our salvation depends on thee.
Richard says rightly then, that as a stone falls so soon as the earth is removed from beneath it, in like manner a soul, if the support of Mary is taken away, will fall first into sin and then into hell. St. Bonaventure adds, that God will not save us without the intercession of Mary, and goes on to say, that as an infant cannot live without its nurse, so no one without the protection of Mary can be saved. Therefore he exhorts us in this way: Let thy soul thirst for devotion to Mary; preserve it always, never abandon it until you arrive in heaven and receive her maternal benediction. Who, says St. Germanus, would ever know God, if it were not through thee, oh most holy Mary? Who would be saved? Who would be free from peril? Who would receive any favor if it were not through thee, oh mother of God? Oh Virgin mother, oh full of grace! And in another place he says: If thou didst not open the way, no one would be frefi from the sting of the flesh and of sin.
As we have access to the eternal Father only through Jesus Christ, so, says St. Bernard, we have access to Jesus Christ only through Mary. And St. Bernard gives us the reason why the Lord decreed that all men should be saved by the intercession of Mary, namely that through Mary we might be received by that Saviour who, through Mary, has been given to us; and therefore the saint calls her the mother of grace and of our salvation. Then, resumes St. Germanus, what would become of us? what hope of salvation would remain to us if thou, oh Mary, didst abandon us, thou who art the life of Christians?
But, the modern author above quoted remarks: If all graces pass through Mary, when we implore the intercession of the saints, they must have recourse to the meditation of Mary to obtain for us these graces. This, however, says he, no one believes, or has ever thought of. I reply, that there can be no error or difficulty in believing this. What difficulty is there in saying that God, to honor his mother, having crowned her queen of the saints, and having ordained that all graces should be dispensed by her hands would have the saints also invoke her to obtain favors for their clients? As to saying that no one has ever thought of it, I find that St. Bernard, St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, Father Suarez also, and others expressly assert it. In vain, says St. Bernard, would one pray to the other saints for a desired favor, if Mary did not intercede to obtain it for them. Thus also a certain author explains, in this connection, that passage of David: "All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance." The rich of that great people of God are the saints, who, when they wish to obtain a favor for one of their clients, all recommend themselves to Mary, that she may obtain it for them. Justly, then, says Father Suarez, we implore the saints to be our intercessors with Mary, who is their lady and queen.
It is precisely this which St. Benedict promised to St. Frances of Rome, as we learn from Father Marchese. The above-named saint appeared to her one day, and taking her under his protection, promised to be her advocate with the divine mother. St. Anselm adds, in confirmation of this, addressing the blessed Virgin: Oh Lady, what the prayers of all these saints can obtain, in union with thine, thou canst obtain, by thy intercession alone without their aid. But wherefore hast thou such power? "quare hoc potes?" continues the saint. Because thou alone art the mother of our common Saviour, thou art the spouse of God, the universal queen of heaven and earth. If thou dost not speak for us, no saint will pray for us and aid us. But if them art moved to pray for us, all the saints will engage to intercede for us and help us. So says Father Segneri, applying to Mary, as the holy Church does, these words of Wisdom: "I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven." As with its motion the first sphere puts in motion all the others, so when Mary is moved to pray for a soul, she moves all heaven to pray with her. St. Bonaventure says even, that when she commands, as being their queen, all the saints and angels to accompany her and unite their prayers to hers.
So we see, finally, why the holy Church requires us to invoke and salute the divine mother with the great riame of our hope: Hail our hope, "Spes nostra salve." The impious Luther could not endure that the holy Roman Church should call Mary, our hope; because, as he said, God only and Jesus Christ as our mediator are our hope; but that God curses those who place their hope in any creature, as we find in Jeremias: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man." But the Church teaches us everywhere to invoke Mary, and call her our hope: "Spes nostra salve." Whoever places his hope in a creature, independently of God, is certainly accursed of God, since God is the only fountain and the dispenser of every good, and the creature, without God, has nothing and can do nothing. But if the Lord has ordained, as we have proved, that all graces shall pass through Mary, as a channel of mercy, we can, and ought even to assert that Mary is our hope, by whose intercession we receive divine graces, and therefore it is St. Bernard called her the whole cause of his hope. St. John of Damascus expresses the same thing when, addressing the blessed Virgin, he says to her: Oh Lady, in thee I have placed all my hope, and with firm confidence I look to thee for my salvation, St. Thomas says that Mary is all the hope of our salvation. St. Ephrem explains: Oh most holy Virgin, receive us under thy protection, if thou wilt see us saved, since we have no other hope of being saved but through thee.
We will then conclude in the words of St. Bernard: Let us strive, with all the affections of our heart, to reverence this divine mother, Mary, since this is the will of that Lord who would have us receive all good from her hands. And the saint exhorts us, whenever we desire and ask any favor, to recommend ourselves to Mary, and trust that we shall obtain it through her intercession. For, says the saint, if you do not deserve from God the favor you ask, Mary, who asks it in your behalf, merits to obtain it. Hence the same Bernard exhorts us each and all, that, whatever we offer to God, whether works or prayers, we recommend all to Mary, if we wish our Lord to accept them.
Eutychian, Patriarch of Constantinople, relates the following well-known story of Theophilus. The Patriarch was an eye-witness of the fact which we here relate, and which is confirmed by St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Antoninus, and others. Theophilus was archdeacon of the Church of Adanas, a city of Cilicia; and was so much esteemed, that the people wished him to become their bishop, but his humility prevented his consent. Some malicious persons afterwards accused him, and he was deposed from his office. This afflicted him so much, that, blinded by passion, he went to a Jewish magician, who induced him to apply to Satan for help in his misfortunes. The devil answered that if he wished his assistance, he must renounce Jesus, and Mary his mother, and hand over to him the act of renunciation, written with his own hand. Theophilus executed the vile document. On the following day the bishop having heard of the wrong done him by his calumniators, asked his forgiveness, and restored him to his office. But Theophilus began then to feel so tortured by remorse of conscience on account of the great crime he had committed, that he wept continually. What does he do? He enters a church, prostrates himself in tears before an altar of the blessed Virgin, and exclaims: "Oh mother of God, I will not despair having thee, who art so merciful, to aid me." He persevered forty days in weeping and praying thus to the holy Virgin; when behold, one night the mother of mercy appeared to him and said: "Oh Theophilus, what have you done? you have renounced my friendship and that of my Son; and for whom? fur your own and my enemy."
"Oh Lady," answered Theophilus, "it belongs to thee to pardon me, and to obtain my pardon from thy Son." Then Mary, seeing his confidence, answered, "Take courage, and I will pray for thee." Theophilus, encouraged by these words, redoubled his tears, his penance, and his prayers, remaining constantly at the foot of the altar. And, behold, Mary appeared to him again, and with a joyful countenance said to him: "Theophilus, rejoice, I have pre sented thy tears and thy prayers to God; he hath accepted them, and hath already pardoned thee; henceforth be grateful and faithful." "Oh Lady," replied Theophilus, "this is not sufficient to console me; the enemy still holds that impious deed, by which I have renounced thee and thy Son; thou canst obtain it for me." After three days Theophilus awoke one night, and found the paper on his breast. The next day, when the bishop with a large assembly were present in the church, Theophilus cast himself at his feet, related the whole story, weeping bitterly, and gave him the infamous writing, which the bishop immediately ordered to be burned in presence of all the people, who wept for joy, praising the goodness of God, and the mercy of Mary towards that miserable sinner. Theophilus returned to the church of the Virgin, and there, three days afterwards, he died happily, with thanksgivings to Jesus and his holy mother on his lips.
Oh Queen and Mother of mercy! who dost dispense graces to all those who have recourse to thee, so liberally because thou art queen, and With so much love because thou art our most loving mother; to thee I commend myself to day, destitute of merits and virtues as I am, and laden with debts to the divine justice. Oh Mary, thou hast the keys of all the divine mercies, do not forget my miseries, and do not leave me in my great poverty. Thou who art so liberal with all, and who givest more than is asked of thee, do so with me, Oh Lady, protect me, this is all I ask. If thou dost protect me I fear nothing. I do not fear the demons, for thou art more powerful than all the spirits of hell; nor my sins, for one word of thine in my behalf can obtain pardon of them all from God. If I have thy favor I do not feareven the anger of God, for he is appeased by one prayer of thine. In a word, if thou dost protect me I hope all things, because all things are possible with thee. Oh mother of mercy, I know that thou takest pleasure and pride in giving succor to the most miserable, for thou canst aid them, if not prevented by their obstinacy. I am a sinner, but I am not obstinate; I wish to change my life. Thou canst, then, help me; do help and save me. To day I place myself entirely in thy hands. Teach me what I must do to please God, and I will do it; and I hope to do so with thy aid, oh Mary, Mary, my mother, my light, my consolation, my refuge, and my hope. Amen, amen, amen.