Saturday, February 11, 2006

Of the Virtues of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Of Mary's Faith. From "The Glories of Mary" by St. Alphonsus of Liquori.

As the Blessed Virgin is the mother of holy love and hope, so also is she the mother of faith:"I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope." Eccles. 24,24. And with reason is she so, says Saint Ireneus; for 'the evil done by Eve's incredulity was remedied by Mary's faith'. This is confirmed by Tertullian, who says that because Eve, contrary to the assurance she had received from God, believed the serpent, she brought death to the world; but our Queen, because she believed the angel when he said that she, remaining a virgin, would become the mother of God, brought salvation into the world. For Saint Augustine says, that 'when Mary consented to the incarnation of the Eternal Word, by means of her faith she opened heaven to men'. Richard, on the words of Saint Paul, 'for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife', also says, that 'Mary is the believing woman by whose faith the unbelieving Adam and all his posterity are saved'. Hence, on account of her faith, Elizabeth called the holy Virgin blessed: "Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished in thee that were spoken by the Lord". And Saint Augustine adds, that 'Mary was rather blessed by receiving the faith of Christ than by conceiving the flesh of Christ'.
Father Suarez says, that the most holy Virgin had more faith than all men and angels. She saw her Son in the crib of Bethlehem, and believed Him the creator of the world. She saw Him fly from Herod, and yet believed Him the King of kings. She saw Him born, and believed Him eternal. She saw him poor and in need of food, and believed Him omnipotent. She observed that He did not speak, and she believed Him infinite wisdom. She heard Him weep, and believed Him the joy of Paradise. In fine, she saw Him in death, despised and crucified, and, although faith wavered in others, Mary remained firm in the belief that He was God. On these words of the Gospel, "there stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother", Saint Antoninus says, 'Mary stood, supported by her faith, which she retained firm in the divinity of Christ. And for this reason, it is', the Saint adds,' that in the office of Tenebrae only one candle is left lighted'. Saint Leo, on this subject, applies to Our Blessed Lady the words of Proverbs, "Her lamp shall not be put out in the night." And on the words of Isaias, "I have trodden the wine-press alone," Saint Thomas remarks that the prophet says a man, on account of the Blessed Virgin, in whom faith never failed. Hence blessed Albert the Great assures us that 'Mary then exercised perfect faith; for even when the disciples were doubting she did not doubt'. Therefore Mary merited by her great faith to become 'the light of all the faithfu'l, as Saint Methodius calls her; and the 'Queen of the true faith', as she is called by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. The holy Church herself attributes to the merits of Mary's faith the destruction of all heresies: 'Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout world.' Saint Thomas of Villanova, explaining the words of the Holy Gost, "Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse...with one of thy eyes", says that 'these eyes denoted Mary's faith, by which she greatly pleased the Son of God.' Here Saint Ildephonsus exhorts us to imitate Mary's faith. But how can we do so? Faith, at the same time that it is a gift, is also a virtue. It is a gift of God, inasmuch as it is a light infused by Him into our souls; and a virtue, inasmuch as the soul has to exercise itself in the practice of it. Hence faith is not only to be the rule of our belief, but also that of our actions; therefore Saint Gregory says, 'He truly believes who puts what he believes in practice', and Saint Augustine, 'Thou sayest, I believe; do what thou sayest, and it is faith'. This is to have a lively faith, to live according to our belief: "My just man liveth by faith." Thus did the Blessed Virgin live very differently from those who do not live in accordance with what they believe, and whose faith is dead, as Saint James declares, "Faith without works is dead". Diogenes sought for the man on earth; but God, amongst the many faithful, seem to seek for a Christian, for few there are who have good works; the greater part have only the name of Christian. To such as these should be applied the words once addressed by Alexander to a cowardly soldier who was also named Alexander: 'Either change thy name or change thy conduct.' But as Father Avila used to say,'it would be better to shut up these poor creatures as madmen, believing, as they do, that an eternity of happiness is prepared for those who lead good lives, and an eternity of misery for those who lead bad ones, and who yet live as if they believed nothing'. Saint Augustine therefore exhorts us to see things with the eyes of Christians, that is to say, with eyes which look at all in the light of faith; for, as Saint Teresa often said, all sins come from a want of faith. Let us therefore entreat the most holy Virgin, by the merits of her faith, to obtain us a lively faith; 'O, Lady, increase our faith,'