Circular Letter: Christmas 1999
Mary Mother of God
“The state to which God exalted Mary in making her His mother was the highest state which could be conferred on a pure creature, such that God could not have exalted her more” (St. Bernadine). “The Divine Motherhood is so great”, exclaimed St. Bonaventure, “that nothing could exceed it. God could make a greater world, a greater heaven, but He could not exalt a creature more than by making her His mother.” Since Christ came unto us through the love and consent of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we do well to approach Him through her. The first day of the Year 2000 is the Feast of Her Divine Motherhood. Let us, following the pen of St. Alphonsus Maria di Liguori reflect upon her dignity and her love for us.
I. The Regal Dignity of Mary
Mary is Queen of the Universe
Since the glorious Virgin Mary was raised to the dignity of Mother of the King of kings, it is not without reason that the Church honors her, and wishes her to be honored by all with the glorious title of Queen. “If the Son is a King,” says an ancient writer, “the Mother who begot him is rightly and truly considered a Queen and Sovereign”. “No sooner had Mary,” says St. Bernadine of Sienna, “consented to be Mother of the Eternal Word, than she merited by this consent to be made Queen of the world and of all creatures.” “Since the flesh of Mary,” remarks the Abbot Arnold of Chartres, “was not different from that of Jesus, how can the royal dignity of the Son be denied to the Mother? Hence we must consider the glory of the Son, not only as being common to, but as one with, that of His mother.”
And if Jesus is the King of the universe, Mary is also its Queen. “And as Queen,” says the Abbot Rupert, “she possesses, by right, the whole kingdom of her Son.” St. Bernadine of Sienna concludes that “as many creatures as there are who serve God, so many there are who serve Mary: for as angels and men, and all things that are in heaven and on earth are subject to the empire of God, so are they also under the dominion of Mary.” The Abbot Guarricus, addressing himself to the Divine Mother on this subject, says: “Continue, Mary, continue to dispose with confidence of the riches of your Son; act as Queen, Mother, and Spouse of the King: for to you belongs dominion and power over all creatures.”
Mary is Queen of Mercy
Mary, then, is a Queen: but, for our common consolation, be it known that she is a Queen so sweet, clement, and so ready to help us in our miseries, that the holy Church wills that in the Salve Regina we should salute her under the title of “Queen of Mercy”.
Although a queen, Mary, is not a queen of justice, intent on the punishment of the wicked, but a queen of mercy, intent only on commiserating and pardoning sinners. And this is the reason why the Church requires that we should expressly call her “the Queen of Mercy.” Commenting on the words of David: “These two things have I heard, that power belongs to God, and mercy to You, O Lord,” – the Medieval author John Gerson writes: “The kingdom of God consists in power and mercy; reserving the power to Himself, He, in some way, yielded the emperor of mercy to His Mother.” This is confirmed by St. Thomas, in his Preface to the Canonical Epistles, saying, “that when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in her womb, and brought Him forth, she obtained half the kingdom of God; so that she is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus Christ is King of Justice.”
The Eternal Father made Jesus Christ the King of justice, and consequently universal Judge of the world. Therefore the royal prophet sings: “Give the King Your judgment, O God, and to the King’s Son Your justice” (Ps 72,2). St. Bonaventure, paraphrasing these words of David, thus interprets them: “Give to the King Your judgment, O God, and Your mercy to the Queen, His Mother”. Earnest, Archbishop of Prague, also remarks, “that the Eternal Father gave the office of judge and avenger to the Son, and that of showing mercy and relieving the necessitous to the Mother.” This was foretold by the prophet David himself; for he says that God (so to speak) consecrated Mary Queen of Mercy, anointing her with the oil of gladness. (cf. Ps 44,8). And so we miserable children of Adam can rejoice, remembering that in heaven we have this great and loving Queen; with St. Bonaventure we can say, “O Mary, you are full of the unction of mercy and the oil of compassion, therefore God has anointed you with the oil of gladness.
St. Bernard asks why the Church calls Mary “the Queen of Mercy”, and he replies: “It is because we believe that she opens the abyss of the mercy of God to whomever she wills, when she wills, and as she wills; so that there is no sinner, however, great, who is lost if Mary protects him.” St. Bonaventure rhetorically asks her: “How can you, O Queen of Mercy, refuse to succor the miserable?” He reflects: “Who are the subject for mercy, if not the miserable?” Then he addresses her anew: “Since you are the Queen of Mercy, and I am the most miserable of sinners, it follows that I am the first of thy subjects. How, then, O Lady, can you do otherwise than exercise your mercy on me?” St. George of Nicomedia concurs, exclaiming: “Say not, O holy Virgin, that you cannot assist us on account of the number of our sins, for your power and compassion is such, that no number of sins, however great, can outweigh it. Nothing resists your power, for our common Creator, honoring you as His Mother, considering your glory as His own;” and the Son, “exulting in it, fulfills your petitions as if He were paying a debt.” That is to say, that although Mary is under an infinite obligation to the Son for having chosen her to be His Mother, yet it cannot be denied but that the Son is under great obligation to her for having given Him His humanity; and therefore, Jesus, to pay as it were what He owes to Mary, and glorying in her glory, honors her in a special manner by listening to and granting all her petitions.
Confidence in the Queen of Mercy
How great, then, should be our confidence in this Queen, knowing her great power with God, and that she is so rich and full of mercy, that there is no one living on the earth, who does not partake of her compassion and favor. This was revealed by our Blessed Lady herself to St. Bridget, saying, “I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just and the door through which sinners are brought to God. There is no sinner on earth so accursed as to be deprived of my mercy; for all, if they receive nothing else through my intercession, receive the grace of being less tempted by the devils than they would otherwise have been. No one, unless the irrevocable sentence of judgment has (already) been pronounced, is so cast off by God, that he will not return to Him, and enjoy His mercy, if he invokes my aid.”
II. The Mother of God is our Spiritual Mother
Our Mother at the Incarnation
It is not perchance that the devotées of Mary especially call upon her as Mother, and expect every good from her maternal love. The Fathers of the Church teach that Mary became our spiritual mother on two occasions. The first, according to St. Albert the Great, was when she merited to conceive in her virginal womb the Son of God. St. Bernadine of Sienna, says the same thing more distinctly, for he tells us that “at the Annunciation when the most Blessed Virgin gave her consent which was expected by the Eternal Word before becoming her Son, she from that moment asked our salvation of God with intense ardor, and took it to heart in such a way, that from that moment, as a most loving mother, she bore us in her womb.” Abbot St. William writes: “Mary, in bringing forth Jesus, our Savior and our Life, brought forth many unto salvation, and by giving birth to Life itself, she gave life to many.”
Our Mother beneath the Cross
The second occasion on which Mary became our spiritual Mother, and brought us forth to the life of grace, was when she offered to the Eternal Father the life of her beloved Son on Mount Calvary, with such bitter sorrow and suffering, so that St. Augustine declares: “as she then cooperated by her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became the spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus.” Thus we are given to understand the following verse of the sacred Canticles, which refers to the most Blessed Virgin: “They have made me the keeper in the vineyards; my vineyard I have not kept.” St. William says, that “Mary, in order that she might save many souls, exposed her own to death”, meaning, that to save us, she sacrificed the life of her Son. And who but Jesus was the soul of Mary? He was her life and all her love. And therefore the prophet Simeon foretold that a sword of sorrow would one day transpierce her own most blessed soul. And it was precisely the lance which transpierced the side of Jesus, Who was the soul of Mary. Then it was that this most Blessed Virgin brought us forth by her sorrows to eternal life. And thus we can all call ourselves the children of the sorrows of Mary.
Our most loving Mother was always, and in all, united to the will of God. “And therefore,” says St. Bonaventure, “when she saw the love of the Eternal Father towards men to be so great that, in order to save them, He willed the death of His Son; and, on the other hand, seeing the love of the Son in wishing to die for us: in order to conform herself to this excessive love of both the Father and the Son towards the human race, she also with her entire will offered, and consented to the death of her Son in order that we might be saved.”
III. Mary, the Mother of fair love
The beauty of her Love
The Church applies to Mary these words of the sacred Canticles: “I am the mother of fair love” (Sir 24,24 Vulg.), and a commentator explaining them, says, that the Blessed Virgin’s love renders our souls beautiful in the sight of God, and also makes her as a most loving mother receive us as her children, “she being all love towards those whom she has thus adopted”. And what mother, exclaims St. Bonaventure, loves her children and attends to their welfare, as you love us and care for us, O most sweet Queen. “For do you not love us and seek our welfare far more without comparison than any earthly mother?”
Her Love inspires confidence
Now Mary accepts as her children all those who choose to be so. Accordingly, there is no need to fear being lost, when such a Mother defends and protects us. “Say, then, O my soul, with great confidence: I will rejoice and be glad; for whatever the judgement to be pronounced on me may be, it depends and must come from my Brother and Mother” (St. Bonaventure). “Thus it is”, he exclaims, “that each one who loves this good Mother and relies on her protection should animate himself to confidence, remembering that Jesus is our Brother, and Mary our Mother.” “O happy confidence! O safe refuge!” is the cry of St. Anselm, who explains: “the Mother of God is my Mother. How firm, then, should be our confidence since our salvation depends on the judgment of a good Brother and a tender Mother!”
It is the love she bears us that makes her our Mother. For this reason someone remarked that she glories in being a Mother of love, because she is all love towards us whom she has adopted as her children.
The Reasons why she loves us
Let us consider the reasons of this love, for then we shall be better able to understand how much this good Mother loves us. The first reason for the great love that Mary bears to men, is the great love that she bears to God. Love towards God and love towards our neighbor belong to the same command, as expressed by St. John: “this commandment we have from God, that he who loves God, should also love his brother” (1 Jn 4,21). Consequently, as one becomes greater the other also increases. The Saints, because they loved God much, did much for their neighbor. But who ever loved God as much as Mary? She loved Him more in the first moment of her existence than all the saints and angels ever loved Him, or will love Him.
Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to Sister Mary the Crucified, that the fire of love with which she was inflamed towards God was such,… that the ardors of the seraphim, in comparison with it, were but as fresh breezes. And amongst all the blessed spirits, there is not one that loves God more than Mary. Accordingly, we neither have nor can have anyone who, after God, loves us as much as this most loving Mother. And if we concentrate all the love that mothers bear their children, husbands and wives bear one another, all the love of the angels and saints for their devotées, it does not equal the love of Mary towards a single soul.
Our Mother loves us much, in the second place, because we were recommended to her by her beloved Jesus, when He, before expiring, said to her, “Woman, behold your son!”, for we were all represented in the person of St. John.
And thirdly, we are exceedingly dear to Mary on account of the sufferings we cost her; mothers generally love those children most, the preservation of whose lives has cost them the most suffering and anxiety. We are those children for whom Mary, in order to obtain for us the life of grace, was obliged to endure the bitter agony of herself offering her beloved Jesus to die an ignominious death, and had also to see Him expire before her own eyes. It was then by this great offering of Mary that we were born to the life of grace. We are, therefore, very dear children, since we cost her such great sufferings.
St. John tells us, “God so loved the world so much as to give his only-begotten Son” (1 Jn 3,16). In the same way, declares St. Bonaventure, “we can say of Mary, that she has so loved us as to give her only-begotten Son for us.” The saint continues: “This love of Mary has indeed obliged us to love her; for we see that she has surpassed all others in love towards us, since she has given her only Son, whom she loved more than herself, for us.”
From this arises a fourth motive for the love of Mary towards us. She beholds in us that which has been purchased at the price of the death of Jesus Christ. How well she knows that her Son came into the world to save us poor creatures, as He Himself protested: “I am come to save that which was lost” (Lk 19,10). To save us, He was pleased even to lay down His life for us. If then, Mary loves us but little, she would show that she values but little the blood of her Son, the price of our salvation.
Mary’s special love for those devoted to her
Now, if Mary is so good to all, even to the ungrateful and negligent, who love her but little, and seldom have recourse to her, how much more loving will he be to those who lover her and often call upon her. “She is easily found by them that seek her” (Wisd 6,13). “O how easy,” adds St. Albert, “it is for those who love Mary to find her, and to find her full of compassion and love!” In the words of Proverbs: “I love them that love me” (8,17); she protests that she cannot do otherwise than love those who love her. And although this most loving Lady loves all men as her children, yet, says St. Bernard, “she recognizes and loves”, that is, she loves in a more special manner those who love her more tenderly. Blessed Raymond Jordano asserts that these happy lovers of Mary are not only loved but even served by her.
How we should love Mary
Let us love her like a Blessed Hermann (the author of the Hail Holy Queen), who called her the spouse of his love, for he was honored by Mary herself with this title. Let us love her like a St. Philip Neri, who was filled with consolation at the mere thought of Mary, and therefore called her his delight. Let us call her our beloved, like St. Bernadine of Sienna, who daily would visit a devotional picture of Mary, and there, in tender colloquies with his Queen, declared his love. Let us love her like a St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose love for Mary burnt so unceasingly, that whenever he heard the sweetest name of his Mother mentioned, his heart was instantly inflamed, and his countenance lighted up with a fire that was visible to all. Finally, let us love her as so many of her servants have loved her, who never could do enough to show their love.
The Greatest Gift of Love
Blessed are the hearts of those who love Mary; blessed are they who are tenderly devoted to her. Yes, for in this contest our most gracious Queen never allows her clients to conquer her in love. She returns our love and homage, and always increases her past favors by new ones. Mary, imitating in this our most loving Redeemer Jesus Christ, returns to those who love her their love doubled in benefits and favors.
Mary is, as the Abbot of Celle declares, the “the treasure of God, and the Treasurer of graces.” Mary is said to be full of grace,” St. Gregory Thaumaturgus explains, “for in her all the treasures of grace were hidden”. St. Bonaventure, speaking of the field in the gospel in which a treasure is hidden, says, “our Queen Mary is this field, in which Jesus Christ, the treasure of God the Father, is hid.” Along these lines St. Bernard states that our Lord “has deposited the plenitude of every grace in Mary, that we may thus know that if we possess hope, grace, or anything salutary, that it is from her that it came.”
Foremost among all gifts, of course, is the Christ Child, Which too she willingly offers us, for Christ is the Father’s gift to all mankind. May He, together with the Blessed Mother, lead us all into the new millennia in grace and peace and joy.
Fr. William Wagner, ORC
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