Saturday, January 28, 2006

Saturday - Day of Our Lady

Third Week after Epiphany. The Virtues of Mary. From "The Glories of Mary" by St. Alphonsus of Liquori. TAN Books reprint from 1868 edition.

Section II. Of Mary's Charity towards God.
Saint Anselm says, that 'wherever there is the greatest purity, there is also the greatest charity' (ubi major puritas, ibi major charitas). The more a heart is pure, and empty of itself, the greater is the fulness of its love toward God. The most holy Mary, because she was all humility, and had nothing of self in her, was filled with divine love, so that 'her love towards God surpassed that of all men and angels' (Serm. de Glor. Nom. M. art.I cap.2) as Saint Bernardine writes. Therefore Saint Francis of Sales with reason called her 'the Queen of love'. God has indeed given men the precept to love Him with their whole hearts, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart;" (Matt. XXII.37) but, as Saint Thomas declares, 'this commandment will be fully and perfectly fulfilled by men in heaven alone, and not on earth, where it is only fulfilled imperfectly'.( On this subject, blessed Albert the Great remarks, that, in a certain sense, it would have been unbecoming had God given a precept which was never to have been perfectly fulfilled. But this would have been the case, had not the Divine Mother perfectly fulfilled it. The Saint says, 'Either some one fulfilled this precept, or no one; if any one, it must have been the Most Blessed Virgin. (Sup.Missus.q.135). Richard of Saint Victor confirms this opinion, saying, 'The Mother of our Emmanuel practised virtues in their very highest perfection. Who has ever fulfilled as she did that first commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord the God with thy whole heart"? In her Divine love was so ardent, that no defect of any kind could have access to her.' (Lib. II. de Emanuele, cap.29,30). 'Divine love', says Saint Bernard, 'so penetrated and filled the soul of Mary, that no part of her was left untouched; so that she loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with her whole strength, and was full of grace. Therefore Mary could well say, "My beloved has given Himself all to me, and I to Him". 'Ah! well might even the Seraphim', says Richard, 'have descended from heaven to learn, in the heart of Mary, how to love God'.
God, who is love (1 Joan, IV.8), came on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the flame of His Divine love; but in no heart did He enkindle it so much as in that of His Mother; for her heart was entirely pure from all earthly affections, and fully prepared to burn with this blessed flame. Thus Saint Sophronius says, that 'Divine love so inflamed her, that nothing earthly could enter her affections; she was always burning with the heavenly flame, and, so to say, inebriated with it'. 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, burning within through love, as Saint Anselm explains it, and flames shining without, by the example she gave to all in the practice of virtues. When Mary, then, was in this world, and bore Jesus in her arms, she could well be called, 'fire carrying fire'; and with far more reason than a woman spoken of by Hippocrates, who was thus called because she carried fire in her hand. Yes, for Saint Ildephonsus said, that 'the Holy Ghost heated, inflamed, and melted Mary with love, as fire does iron; so that the flame of this Holy Spirit was seen, and nothing was felt but the fire of the love of God. Saint Thomas of Villanova says, that the bush seen by Moses, which burnt without being consumed, was a real symbol of Mary's heart. Therefore with reason, says Saint Bernard, was she seen by Saint John clothed with the sun: "and there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun;" 'for', continues the Saint, she was so closely united to God by love, and penetrated so deeply the abyss of divine wisdom, that, without a personal union with God, it would seem impossible for a creature to have a closer union with Him'.
Hence Saint Bernardine of Sienna asserts that the most Holy Virgin was never tempted by hell; for, he says: 'As flies are driven away by a great fire, so were the evil spirits driven away by her ardent love; so much so, that they did not even dare to approach her'. Richard of Saint Victor also says, that 'the Blessed Virgin was terrible to the princes of darkness, so that they did not presume to tempt or approach her; for the fire of her charity deterred them.(In Cant.cap.XXVI)' Mary herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that in this world she never had any thought, desire, or joy, but in and for God: 'I thought, 'she said, 'of nothing but God, nothing pleased me but God; so that her blessed soul being in the almost continual contemplation of God whilst on earth, the acts of love which she formed were innumerable, as father Suarez writes:'The acts of perfect charity formed by the Blessed Virgin in this life, were without the number; for nearly the whole of her life, was spent in contemplation, and in that state she constantly repeated acts of love. But a remark of Bernanrdine de Bustis pleases me still more: he says that Mary did not so much repeat acts of love as other saints do, but that her whole life was one continued act of it; for, by a special privilage, she always actually loved God. As a royal eagle, she always kept her eyes fixed on the Divine Sun of Justice: 'so that' Saint Peter Damian says, ;the duties of active love did not prevent her from loving, and love did not prevent her from attending to these duties.' Therefore Saint Germanus says, that the altar of propitiation, on which the fire was never extinguished day or night, was a type of Mary. Neither was sleep an obstacle to Mary's love for God; since Saint Augustine asserts, 'the dreams, when sleeping, of our first parents, in their state of innocence, were as happy as their lives when waking; and if such a privilage were granted them, it certainly cannot be denied that it was also granted to the Divine Mother, as Suarez, the Abbot Rupert, and Saint Bernardine fully admit. Saint Ambrose is also of this opinon; for speaking of Mary, he says, 'while her body rested, her soul watched, verifying in herself the words of the wise man: "Her lamp shall not be put out in the night." Yes, for while her blessed body took its necessary repose in the gentle sleep, 'her soul' says Saint Bernardine, 'freely tended towards God; so much so, that she was then wrapped in more perfect contemplation than any other person ever was when awake. Therefore could she well say with the Spouse in the Canticles, "I sleep, and my heart wacheth." (Cant.V.2). 'As happy in sleep as awaking', as Suarez says. In fine, Saint Bernardine asserts, that as long as Mary lived in this world she was continually loving God: 'The mind of the Blessed Virgin was always wrapped in the ardour of love'. The Saint moreover adds, that she never did anything which the Divine Wisdom did not show her to be pleasing to Him; and that she loved God as much as she thought He was to be loved by her; so much so, indeed, that, according to blessed Albert the Great, we can well say that Mary was filled with so great charity, that greater was not possible in any pure creature on earth. Hence saint Thomas of Villanova affirms, that by her ardent charity the Blessed Virgin, became so beautiful, and enamoured her God, that, captivated as it were by her love, He descended into her womb and become man. Wherefore Saint Bernardine exclaims, 'Behold the power of the Virgin Mother: she wounded and took captive the heart of God.'
But since Mary loves God so much, there can be nothing which she so much requires of her clients as that they also should love Him with their utmost. This precisely she one day told blessed Angela of Foligno after communion, saying, 'Angela, be thou blessed by my Son, and endeavour to love Him as much as thou canst'. She also said to Saint Bridget, 'Daughter, if thou desirest to bind me to thee, love my Son'. Mary desires nothing more that to see her beloved, who is God, loved. Novarinus asks why the Blessed Virgin, with the Spouse in the Canticles, begged the angels to make the great love she bore Him known to Our Lord, saying, "I adjure you, O daugthers 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 did she seek to show the wound to her Beloved, since He it was who had inflicted it?' The same author answers, that the Divine Mother thereby wished to make her love known to us, not to God; that as she was herself wounded, so might she also be enabled to wound us with Divine love. And 'because Mary was all on fire with the love of God, all who love and approach her are inflamed by her with this same love; for she renders them like unto herself'. For this same reason Saint Catherine of Sienna called Mary 'the bearer of fire', the bearer of the flame of Divine love. If we also desire to burn with these blessed flames of Divine love, let us endeavour always to draw nearer to our Mother by our prayers and the affections of our souls. Ah, Mary, thou Queen of love, of all creatures the most amiable, the most beloved, and the most loving, as Saint Francis of Sales addressed thee, - my own sweet Mother, thou wast always and in all things inflamed with love towards God; deign, then, to bestow at least a spark of it in me. Thou didst pray thy Son for the spouses whose wine had failed: "They have no wine". And wilt thou not pray for us, in whom the love of God, whom we are under such obligations to love, is wanting? Say also, 'They have no love', and obtain us this love. This is the only grace for which we ask. O Mother, by the love thou bearest to Jesus, graciously hear and pray for us. Amen