MARY, OUR HOPE.
the Hope of All.
Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salue and call Mary our hope:
"Hail, our Hope!" They say that God alone is our hope; and that he curses
those who put their trust in creatures in these words of the prophet
Jeremias: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man
("Maledictus homo qui confidit in homine"Jer.
xvii. 5). Mary, they exclaim, is a creature; and how can a
creature be our hope? This is what the heretics say; but in spite of
this, the holy Church obliges all ecclesiastics and religious each day to
raise their voices, and in name of all the faithful invoke and call Mary
by the sweet name of "our Hope,"the hope of all.
The angelical Doctor St. Thoma says (2. 2, q. 25, a. 1, ad 3),
that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause,
and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it
from him as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an
intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king,
but it comes through the instrumentality of the favorite; and in this case
he who seeks the favor is right in calling his intercessor his hope. The
King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to
enrich us with his graces; but because confidence is requisite on our
part, and in order to increase it in us, he has given us his own Mother to
be our mother and advocate, and to her he has given all power to help us;
and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of
every blessing in her. Those who place their hopes in creatures alone,
independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship
and favor of a man, fear not to outrage his divine Majesty, are most
certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremias says. But those who hope
in Mary, as Mother of God, who is able to obtain graces and eternal life
for them, are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God, who
desires to see that greatest of his creatures honored; for she loved and
honored him in this world more than all men and angels put together. And
therefore we justly and reasonably call the Blessed Virgin our hope,
trusting, as Cardinal Bellarmin says, "that we shall obtain, through her
intercession, that which we should not obtain by our own unaided
prayers." "We pray to her," says the learned Suarez, "in order that the
dignity of the intercessor may supply for our own unworthiness; so that"
("Ut dignitas intercessoris suppleat
inopiam nostram"), he continues, "to implore the Blessed Virgin in
such a spirit, is not diffidence in the mercy of God, but fear of our own
unworthiness" ("Unde, virginem
interpellare, non est de divina misericordia diffidere, sed de propria
indignitate timere"De Inc. p. 2, d. 23, s. 3).
It is, then, not
without reason that the holy Church, in the words of Ecclesiasticus,
called Mary the Mother of holy Hope
("Ego mater . . . sanctae spei"Ecclus. xxiv. 24). She is
the mother who gives birth to holy hope in our hearts; not to the hope of
the vain and transitory goods of this life, but of the immense and eternal
goods of heaven.
"Hail, then, O hope of my soul!" exclaims St. Ephrem,
addressing this divine Mother; "hail, O certain salvation of Christians;
hail, O helper of sinners; hail, fortress of the faithful and salvation of
the world!" ("Ave animae Spes! Ave,
Christianorum firma Salus! Ave. peccatorum Adjutrix! Ave. Vallum fideliuim
et mundi Salus!"De Laud. Dei Gen.). Other saints remind
us, that after God, our only hope is Mary; and therefore they call her,
"after God, their only hope" ("Post Deum,
sola spes nostra"Cant. p. Psalt).
St. Ephrem, reflecting
on the present order of Providence, by which God wills (as St. Bernard
says, and as we shall prove at length) that all who are saved should be
saved by the means of Mary, thus addresses her: "O Lady, cease not to
watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of thy compassion and
mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in thee"
("Nobis non est alia quam in te fidueia, O Virgo sincerissima! sub alis
tuae pietatis protιgι et custody nos"De Laud. Dei Gen.).
St. Thomas of Villanova repeats the same thing, calling her "our only
refuge, help, and asylum" ("Tu unicum
refugium, subsidium, et asylum"In Nat. B. V. Conc. 3). St.
Bernard seems to give the reason for this when he says, "See, O man, the
designs of God,designs by which he is able to dispense his mercy more
abundantly to us; for, desiring to redeem the whole human race, he has
placed the whole price of redemption in the hands of Mary, that she may
dispense it at will" ("Intuere, O homo,
consilium Dei, consilium pietatis: redempturus humanum genus, pretium
universum contulit in Mariam"De Aquaed).
In the book of Exodus we read that God commanded Moses to make
a mercy-seat of the purest gold, because it was thence that he would speak
to him. Thou shalt make also a propitiatory of the purest gold . . .
Thence will I give orders, and will speak to thee
("Facies et propitiatorium de auro
mundissimo . . . Inde praecipiam et loquar ad te"Exod. xxv. 17).
St. Andrew of Crete says that "the whole world embraces Mary as being this
propitiatory." And commenting on his words a pious author exclaims,
"Thou, O Mary, art the propitiatory of the whole world. From thee does
our most compassionate Lord speak to our hearts; from thee he speaks words
of pardon and mercy; from thee he bestows his gifts; from thee all good
flows to us" ("Te universus mundus
continent commune propitiatorium: inde pientissimus Dominus nobis loquitur
ad cor; inde response dat benignitatis et veniae; inde response dat
benignitatis et veniae: inde munera largitur: inde omne nobis bonum
emanate"Paciucch. in Sal. Ang. Exc. 20). And therefore,
before the divine Word took flesh in the womb of Mary, he sent an
archangel to ask her consent: because he willed that the world should
receive the Incarnate Word through her, and that she should be the source
of every good. Hence St. Irenaeus remarks, that as Eve was seduced, by a
fallen angel, to flee from God, so Mary was led to receive God into her
womb, obeying a good angel; and thus by her obedience repaired Eve's
disobedience, and became her advocate, and that of the whole human race.
"If Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin
Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And as the human race
was bound to death through a virgin, it is saved through a Virgin"
("Quid est quod sine Mariae consensus non
perficitur Incarnationis mysterium? quia nempe vult illam Deus omnium
bonorum esse principium"Ap. C. ΰ Lap. In Prov. xxxi. 29).
And Blessed Raymond Jordano also says, "that every good, every help, every
grace that men have received and will receive from God until the end of
time, came, and will come, to them by the intercession and through the
hands of Mary" ("Per ipsam, habet mundus
et habiturus est omne bonum"Cont. B. M. in prol.).
The devout Blosius, then, might well exclaim, "O Mary, O
though who art so loving and gracious towards all who love thee, tell me,
who can be so infatuated and unfortunate as not to love thee? Thou, in
the midst of their doubts and difficulties, enlightenest the minds of all
who, in their afflictions, have recourse to thee. Thou encouragest those
who fly to thee in time of danger; thou succorest those who call upon
thee; thou, after thy divine Son, art the certain salvation of thy
faithful servants. Hail, then, O hope of those who are in despair, O
succor of those who are abandoned. O Mary, thou art all-powerful; for thy
divine Son, to honor thee, complies instantly with all thy desires"
("O Maria! quis te non amet? tu enim in
dubiis es lumen, in moeroribus solatium, in periculis refugium. Tu, post
Unigenitum tuum certa fidelium salus. Ave, desperantium Spes, ave,
destitutorum Adjutrix! Cujus honori tantum tribuit Filius, ut, quiidquid
volueris, mox fia"Par. An. p. 2, c. 4).
St. Germanus, recognizing in Mary the source of all our good, and
that she delivers us from every evil, thus invokes her: "O, my sovereign
Lady, thou alone art the one whom God has appointed to be my solace here
below; thou art the guide of my pilgrimage, the strength of my weakness,
the riches of my poverty, remedy for the healing of my wounds, the soother
of my pains, the end of my captivity, the hope of my salvation! Hear my
prayers, have pity on my tears, I conjure thee, O thou who art my queen,
my refuge, my love, my help, my hope and my strength"
("O Domina mea, tu sola mihi ex Deo
solatium, itineris mei direction, debilitates meae potential, mendicitatis
meae divitiae, vulnerum meorum medicina, dolorum meorum relevatio,
vinculorum meorum solution, salutis meae spes; exaudi orations meas,
miserere suspiriorum meorum, Domina mea, Refugium, Vita, Auxilium, Spes,
et Robut meum!"Encom. In S. Deip.).
We need not, then, be surprised that St. Antoninus applies the
following verse of the Book of Wisdom to Mary: Now all good things came
to me together with her ("Venerunt
autem mihi omnia bona partier cum illa"Wisd. vii, 11). For
as this Blessed Virgin is the Mother and dispenser of all good things, the
whole world, and more particularly each individual who lives in it as a
devout client of this great Queen, may say with truth, that with devotion
to Mary, both he and the world have obtained everything good and perfect.
The saint thus expresses his thought: "She is the Mother of all good
things, and the world can truly say, that with her (that is, the most
Blessed Virgin ) it has received all good things"
("Omnium bonorum mater est, et venerunt
mihi omnia bona cum illa scilicet virgine, potest dicere mundus"P. 4, l.
15, c. 20, #12). And hence the Blessed Abbot of Celles expressly
declares, "that when we find Mary, we find all"
("Inventa Maria, invenitur omne bonum"De
Cont. de V. M. in Prol.). Whoever finds Mary finds every good
thing, obtains all graces and all virtues; for by her powerful
intercession she obtains all that is necessary to enrich him with divine
grace. In the Book of Proverbs Mary herself tells us that she possesses
all the riches of God, that is to say, his mercies, that she may dispense
them in favor of her lovers. With me are riches . . . and glorious
riches . . . that I may enrich them that love me
("Mecum sunt divitiae, et . . . opes
superbae . . . ut ditem diligentes me"Prov. viii. 18). And
therefore St. Bonaventure says: "That we ought all to keep our eyes
constantly fixed on Mary's hands, that through them we may receive the
graces that we desire" ("Oculi omnium
nostrum ad manus Mariae simper debent respicere, ut per manus ejus aliquid
boni accipiamus"Spec. B. V. lect. 3)").
O, how many who were once proud have become humble by devotion
to Mary! how many who were passionate have become meek! how many in the
midst of darkness have found light! how many who were in despair have
found confidence! how many who were lost have found salvation by the same
powerful means! And this she clearly foretold in the house of Elizabeth,
in her own sublime canticle: Behold, from henceforth all generations
shall call me blessed ("Ecce enim ex
hoc beatam me dicent mones generations"). And St. Bernard,
interpreting her words, says: "All generations call thee blessed, because
thou has given life and glory to all nations
("Ex hoc Beatam te dicent omnes
generations, quae omnibus generationibus vitam et gloriam genuisti"In
Pentec. s. 2), for in thee sinners find pardon, and the just
perseverance in the grace of God" ("In te
justi gratiam, peccatores veniam inveniunt in aeternum"In Pent. s.
Hence the devout Lanspergius makes our Lord thus address the
world: "Men, poor children of Adam, who live surrounded by so many
enemies and in the midst of so many trials, endeavor to honor my Mother
and yours in a special manner: for I have given Mary to the world, that
she may be your model, and that from her you may learn to lead good lives;
and also that she may be refuge to which you can fly in all your
afflictions and trials. I have rendered this, my daughter, such that no
one need fear or have the least repugnance to have recourse to her; and
for this purpose I have created her of so benign and compassionate a
disposition, that she knows not how to despise any one who takes refuge
with her, nor can she deny her favor to any one who seeks it. The mantle
of her mercy is open to all, and she allows no one to leave her feet
without consoling him" ("Matrem meam
devotione praaecipua venerate. Ego enim hanc mundo dedi, in puritatis
exemplum, in praesidium tutissimum, ut sit tribulatis asylum. Quam nemo
formidet, nemo ad eam accedere trepidet; propterea namque adeo feci eam
mitem, adeo misericordem, ut neminem aspernetur, nulli se neget, omnibus
pietatis sinum apertum teneat; neminem a se redire cristem sinat"Alloq.
l 1, p. 4, can. 12). May the immense goodness of our God be
ever praised and blessed for having given us this so great, so tender, so
loving a mother and advocate.
O God, how tender are the sentiments of confidence expressed
by the enamoured St. Bonaventure towards Jesus our most loving Redeemer,
and Mary our most loving advocate! He says, "Whatever God forsees to be
my lot, I know that he cannot refuse himself to any one who loves him and
seeks for him with his whole heart. I will embrace him with my love; and
if he does not bless me, I will still cling to him so closely that he will
be unable to go without me. If I can do nothing else, at least I will
hide myself in his wounds, and taking up my dwelling there, it will be in
himself alone that he will find me." And the saint concludes, "If my
Redeemer rejects me on account of my sins, and drives me from his sacred
feet, I will cast myself at those of his beloved Mother Mary, and there I
will remain prostrate until she has obtained my forgiveness; for this
Mother of Mercy knows not, and has never known, how to do otherwise than
compassionate the miserable, and comply with the desires of the most
destitute who fly to her for succor; and therefore," he says, "if not by
duty, at least by compassion, she will engage her Son to pardon me"
("Quantumcumque me Deus Praesciverit, scio
quod seipsum negare non potest. Eum amplexabor, et, si non mihi
benedixerit, nec tunc dimittam; et sine me recedere non valebit. In
cavernis vulnerum suorum me abscondam, ibique extra se me invenire non
poterit. Ad matris suae pedes provolutus stabo, ut mihi veniam impetret.
Ipsa enim non misereri ignorat, et miseris non satisfacere nunquam scivit.
Ideoque ex compassione maxima mihi ad indulgentiam Filium inclinabit"Stim.
Div. am. p. 3, c. 13).
"Look down upon us, then," let us exclaim, in the words of
Euthymius, "look down upon us, O most compassionate Mother; cast thine
eyes of mercy on us, for we are thy servants, and in thee we have placed
all our confidence" ("Respice, O Mater
misericordiosissima! Respice servos tuos; in te enim omnem spem nostram
collocavimus"Ap. Sur. 31 Aug.).
St. Gregory relates that there was a young woman named Musa, who was very
devout to the Mother of God; to whom, when she was in great danger of
losing her innocence by the bad example of her companions, Mary appeared
one day with many saints, and said: "Musa, dost thou also wish to be one
of these?" On her answering "Yes," she added, "Well, withdraw from thy
companions, and prepare thyself, for in a month thou shalt come." Musa
did so, and related the vision. On the thirtieth day she was at the point
of death, when the most Blessed Virgin again appeared, and invited her to
come. She replied, "Behold, I come, O Lady," and sweetly expired
(Dial. 1. 4. c. 17).
O Mother of holy love, our life, our refuge, and our hope, thou well
knowest that thy son Jesus Christ, not content with being himself our
perpetual advocate with the eternal Father, has willed that thou also
shouldst interest thyself with him, in order to obtain the divine mercies
for us. He has decreed that thy prayers should aid our salvation, and has
made them so efficacious that they obtain all that they ask. To thee
therefore, who art the hope of the miserable, do I, a wretched sinner,
turn my eyes. I trust, O Lady, that in the first place through the merits
of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, I shall be saved. Of
this I am certain; and my confidence in thee is such, that if my eternal
salvation were in my own hands, I should place it in thine, for I rely
more on thy mercy and protection than on all my own works. My mother and
my hope, abandone me not, though I deserve that thou shouldst do so. See
my miseries, and, being moved thereby with compassion, help and save me.
I own that I have too often closed my heart, by my sins, against the
lights and helps that thou hast procured for me from the Lord. But thy
compassion for the miserable, and thy power with God, far surpass the
number and malice of my sins. It is well known to all, both in heaven and
on earth, that whosoever is protected by thee is certainly saved. All may
forget me, provided only that thou dost remember me, O Mother of an
omnipotent God. Tell him that I am thy servant; say onl that thou
defendest me, and I shall be saved. O mary, I trust in thee; in this hope
I live; in it I desire and hope to die, repeating always, "Jesus is my
only hope, and after Jesus the most Blessed Virgin Mary"
("Unica spes mea Jesus et post Jesum Virgo
the Hope of Sinners.
In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis we read that God made two
great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule
the night ("Fecitque Deus duo
luminaria magna: luminare majus, ut praeesset diei, et luminare minus, ut
praeesset nocti"Gen. 1, 16). Cardinal Hugo says that
"Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary the lesser to rule
the sinners" ("Luminare majus, Christus,
qui praeest justis; luminare minus, Beata Maria, quae praeest peccatoribus");
meaning that the sun is a figure of Jesus Christ, whose light is enjoyed
by the just who live in the clear day of divine grace; and that the moon
is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are
enlightened. Since Mary is this auspicious luminary, and is so for the
benefit of poor sinners, should any one have been so unfortunate as to
fall into the night of sin, what is he to do? Innocent III replies,
"Whoever is in the night of sin, let him cast his eyes on the moon, let
him implore Mary" ("Qui jacet in nocte
culpae, respiciat Lunam, deprecetur Mariam"In Assumpt. s. 2).
Since he has lsot the light of the sun of justice by losing the grace of
God, let him turn to the moon, and beseech Mary; and she will certainly
give him light to see the misery of his state, and strength to leave it
without delay. St. Methodius says "that by the prayers of Mary almost
innumerable sinners are converted" ("Mariae
virtute et precibus pene innumerae peccatorum conversions fiunt"Paciucch.
in Ps. lxxxvi. exc, 17).
One of the titles which is the most encouraging to poor
sinners, and under which the Church teaches us to invoke Mary in the
Litany of Loretto, is that of "Refuge of Sinners." In Judea in ancient
times there were cities of refuge, in which criminals who fled there for
protection were exempt from the punishments which they had deserved.
Nowadays these cities are not so numerous; there is but one, and that is
Mary, of whom the Psalmist says Glorious things are said of thee, O
city of God ("Gloriosa dicta sunt de
te. Civitas Dei"Ps. lxxxvi. 3). But this city differs from
the ancient ones in this respectthat
in the latter all kinds of criminals did not find refuge, nor was the
protection extended to every class of crime; but under the mantle of Mary
all sinners, without exception, find refuge for every sin that they may
have committed, provided only that they go there to seek for this
protection. "I am the city of refuge," says St. John Damascene, in the
name of our Queen, "to all who fly to me"
("Ego Civitas refugii omnium ad me confugientum"In
Dorm. B. V. or. 2).
And it is sufficient to have recourse to her, for whoever has the good
fortune to enter this city need not speak to be saved. Assemble
yourselves, and let us enter into the fenced city, and let us be silent
there ("Ingrediamur civitatem munitam,
et sileamus ibiJer.
viii. 14), to speak in the words of the prophet Jeremias. This
city, says Blessed Albert the Great, is the most holy Virgin fenced in
with grace and glory. "And let us be silent there," that is, continues an
interpreter, "because we dare not invoke the Lord, whom we have offended,
she will invoke and ask" ("Quia non
audemus deprecari Dominum, quem offendimus, ipsa deprecetur et roget"Bib.
Mar. Jer. n. 3). For if
we do not presume to ask our Lord to forgive us, it will suffice to enter
this city and be silent, for Mary will speak and ask all that we require.
And for this reason, a devout author exhorts all sinners to take refuge
under the mantle of Mary, exclaiming, "Fly, O Adam and Eve, and all you
their children, who have outraged God; fly, and take refuge in the bosom
of this good mother; know you not that she is our only city of refuge?"
("Fugite, O Adam et Eva! Fugite ipsorum
liberi, intra sinum Matris Mariae: ipsa est Civitas refugii, spes unica
Fernandes in Gen. c 3, s. 22)
"the only hope of sinners" ("Spes unica
194, E. B. app.), as she is also called in a sermon by an
ancient writer, found in the works of St. Augustine.
St. Ephrem, addressing this Blessed Virgin, says, "Thou art
the only advocate of sinners, and of all who are unprotected." And then
he salutes her in the following words: "Hail, refuge and hospital of
sinners!" ("Ave, peccatorum Refugium et
Laud. Dei gen.)true
refuge, in which alone they can hope for reception and liberty. And an
author remarks that this was the meaning of David when he said, For He
hath hidden me in his tabernacle ("Protexit
me in abscondito Tabernaculi sui"Ps.
xxvi. 5). And truly what can this tabernacle of God be, unless it
is Mary! who is called by St. Germanus, "A tabernacle made by God, in
which he alone entered to accomplish the great work of the redemption of
man" ("Tabernaculum a Deo fabricatum, in
quo solus Deus ingressus est, sacris mysticis occulte operaturus in te pro
Nat. S. M. or. 2).
St. Basil of Seleucia remarks, "that if God granted to some
who were only his servants such power, that not only their touch but even
their shadows healed the sick, who were placed for this purpose in the
public streets, how much greater power must we suppose that he has granted
to her who was not only his handmaid but his Mother?" We may indeed say
that our Lord has given us Mary as a public infirmary
("Aperuit nobis Deus publicum
valetudinarium"), in which all who are sick, poor, and destitute
can be received. But now I ask, in hospitals erected expressly for the
poor, who have the greatest claim to admission? Certainly the most
infirm, and those who are in the greatest need.
And for this reason should any one find himself devoid of
merit and overwhelmed with spiritual infirmities, that is to say, sin, he
can thus address Mary: O Lady, thou art the refuge of the sick poor:
reject me not; for as I am the poorest and the most infirm of all, I have
the greatest right to be welcomed by thee.
Let us then cry out with St. Thomas of Vallanova, "O Mary, we
poor sinners know no other refuge than thee, for thou art our only hope,
and on thee we rely for our salvation" ("Nescimus
aliud refugium, nisi te; tu sola es unica Spes nostra, in qua confidimus;
tu sola Patrona nostra, ad quam omnes aspicimus"De Nat. V. M. conc.
3). Thou art our only advocate with Jesus Christ; to thee we all
In the revelations of St. Bridget, Mary is called the "Star
preceding the sun" ("Sidus vadens ante
Solem"Rev. Extr. c. 50), giving us thereby to understand,
that when devotion towards the divine Mother begins to manifest itself in
a soul that is in a state of sin, it is a certain mark that before long
God will enrich it with his grace. The glorious St. Bonaventure, in order
to revive the confidence of sinners in the protection of Mary, places
before them the picture of a tempestuous sea, into which sinners have
already fallen from the ship of divine grace; they are already dashed
about on every side by remorse of conscience and by fear of the judgments
of God; they are without light or guide, and are on the point of losing
the last breath of hope and falling into despair; then it is that our
Lord, pointing out Mary to them, who is commonly called the "Star of the
Sea," raises his voice and says, "O poor lost sinners, despair not; raise
up your eyes, and cast them on this beautiful star; breathe again with
confidence, for it will save you from this tempest, and will guide you
into the port of salvation" ("Respirate ad
illam, perditi peccatores, et perducet vos ad portum"Psal. B. V. ps.
18). St. Bernard says the same thing: "If thou wouldst not be lost
in the tempest, cast thine eyes on the star, and invoke Mary"
("Si non vis obrui procellis, respice
Stellam, voca Mariam"De Laud. V. M. hom. 2).
The devout Blosius declares that "she is the only refuge of
those who have offended God, the asylum of all who are oppressed by
temptation, calamity, or persecution. This Mother is all mercy,
benignity, and sweetness, not only to the just, but also to despairing
sinners; so that no sooner does she perceive them coming to her, and
seeking her health from their hearts, than she aids them, welcomes them,
and obtains their pardon from her Son. She knows not how to despise any
one, however unworthy he may be of mercy, and therefore denies her
protection to none; she consoles all, and is no sooner called upon than
she helps whoever it may be that invokes her. She by her sweetness often
awakens and draws sinners to her devotion who are the most at enmity with
God and the most deeply plunged in the lethargy of sin; and then, by the
same means, she excites them effectually, and prepares them for grace, and
thus renders them fit for the kingdom of heaven. God has created this his
beloved daughter of so compassionate and sweet a disposition, that no one
can fear to have recourse to her." The pious author concludes in these
words: "It is impossible for any one to perish who attentively, and with
humility, cultivates devotion towards this divine Mother"
("Ipsa peccantium singulare refugium.
Ipsa omnium, quos tentatio, calamitas, aut persecution aliqua urget,
tutissimum asylum. Tota mitis est, tota suavis, non solum justis, verum
etiam peccatoribus ac desperatis. Quos, ut ad se ex corde clamare
conspexerit, statim adjuvat, suscipit, et Judici reconciliat. Nullum
asperantur, nulli se negat; omnes consolatur, et, vel tenuiter invocate,
praesto adest. Sua bonitate saepe eos, qui Deo minus afficiuntur, ad sui
cultum blande allicit, potenterque excitat ut per hujuscemodi stadium,
praeparentur ad gratiam, et tandem apti reddantur regno coelorum. Talis a
Deo facta est, ut nemo ad eam accedere trepidet. Fieri non potest, ut
pereat, qui Mariae sedulous et humilis cultor fuerit"Par. An. fid.
p. 1, c. 18).
In Ecclesiasticus Mary is called a plane-tree: As a plane-tree
I was exalted ("Quasi platanus exaltata
sum"Ecclus. xxiv. 19). And she is so called that sinners
may understand that as the plane-tree gives shelter to travelers from the
heat of the sun, so does Mary invite them to take shelter under her
protection from the wrath of God, justly enkindled against them. St.
Bonaventure remarks that the prophet Isaias complained of the times in
which he lived, saying, Behold thou art angry, and we have sinned . . .
there is none . . . that riseth up and taketh hold of thee
("Ecce tu iratus es, et peccavimus . . . ;
non est qui . . . consurgat, et teneat te"Is. lxiv. 5).
And then he makes the following commentary: "It is true, O Lord, that at
the time there was none to raise up sinners and without thy wrath, for
Mary was not yet born;" "before Mary," to quote the saint's own words,
"there was no one who could thus dare to restrain the arm of God." But
now, if God is angry with a sinner, and Mary takes him under her
protection, she withholds the avenging arm of her Son, and saves him.
"And so," continues the same saint, "no one can be found more fit for this
office than Mary, who seizes the sword of divine justice with her own
hands to prevent it from falling upon and punishing the sinner"
("Ante Mariam, non fuit qui sic detinere
Dominum auderet. Detinet Filium, ne peccatores percutiat. Nemo tam
idoneus, qui gladio Domini pro nobis manum objiciat, ut tu Dei amantissima"Spec.
B. V. lect. 7, 14). Upon the same subject Richard of St.
Laurence says that "God, before the birth of Mary, complained by the mouth
of the prophet Ezechiel that there was no one to rise up and withhold him
from chastising sinners, but that he could find no one, for this office
was reserved for our Blessed Lady, who withholds his arm until he is
pacified ("Conquerebatur Dominus, antequam
Maria nasceretur: Non est qui consurgat, et teneat me"De Laud. B. M.
l. 2, p. 5).
Basil of Seleucia encourages sinners, saying, "O sinner, be
not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all thy necessities; call
her to thine assistance, for thou wilt always find her ready to help thee;
for such is the divine will that she should help all in every kind of
necessity" ("Ne diffidas, peccator; sed in
cunctis Mariam sequere et invoca, quam voluit Deus in cunctis subvenire"Paciucch.
in Salve R. exc. 7). This mother of mercy has so great a
desire to save the most abandoned sinners, that she herself goes in search
of them, in order to help them; and if they have recourse to her, she
knows how to find the means to render them acceptable to God. The
patriarch Isaac, desiring to eat of some wild animal, promised his
blessing to his son Esau on his procuring this food for him; but Rebecca,
who was anxious that her other son Jacob should receive the blessing,
called him and said, Go thy way to the flock, bring me two kids of the
best, that I may make of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly
eateth ("Pergens ad gregem, affer mihi
duos haedos"Gen. xxvii. 9). St. Antoninus says
(P. 4, t. 15, c. 2, #2), that
Rebecca was a figure of Mary, who commands the angels to bring her sinners
(meant by kids), that she may adorn them in such a way (by obtaining for
them sorrow and purpose of amendment) as to render them dear and
acceptable to the Lord." And here we may well apply to our Blessed Lady
the words of the Abbot Franco: "O truly sagacious woman, who so well knew
how to dress these kids, that not only they are equal to, but often
superior in flavor to rel venison" ("Vere
sapiens Mulier, quae sic novit haedos condire, ut gratiam cervorum
coaequent, aut etiam superent"De Grat. D. l. 3).
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there
is no sinner in the world, however much he may be at enmity with God, who
does not return to him and recover his grace, if he has recourse to her
and asks her assistance" ("Nullus ita
alienatus est de Deo, qui, si me invocaverit, non revertatur ad Deum"Rev.
l. 6, c. 10). The same St. Bridget one day heard Jesus Christ
address his mother, and say that "she would be ready to obtain the grace
of God for Lucifer himself, if only he humbled himself so far as to seek
her aid" ("Etiam diabolo exhiberes
misericordiam, si humiliter peteret"Rev. extr. c. 50).
That proud spirit will never humble himself so far as to implore the
protection of Mary; but if such a thing were possible, Mary would be
sufficiently compassionate, and her prayers would have sufficient power to
obtain both forgiveness and salvation for him from God. But that which
cannot be verified with regard to the devil is verified in the case of
sinners who have recourse to this compassionate mother. Noah's ark was a
true figure of Mary; for as in it all kinds of beasts were saved, so under
the mantle of Mary all sinners, who by their vices and sensuality are
already like beats, find refuge; but with this difference, as a pious
author remarks, that "while the brutes that entered the ark remained
brutes, the wolf remaining a wolf, and a tiger a tigerunder the mantle of
Mary, on the other hand, the wolf becomes a lamb, and the tiger a dove"
("Quod arca animalia suscepit, animalia
servavit"Paciucch. In Sal. Ang. exc. 4). One day St.
Gertrude saw Mary with her mantle open, and under it there were many wild
beats of different kindsleopards, lions, and bears; and she saw that not
only our Blessed Lady did not drive them away, but that she welcomed and
caressed them with her benign hand. The saint understood that these wild
beasts were miserable sinners, who are welcomed by Mary with sweetness and
love the moment they had recourse to her (Insin.
l. 4, c. 50).
It was, then, not without reason that St. Bernard addressed
the Blessed Virgin, saying, "Thou, O Lady,
dost not reject any sinner who approaches thee, however loathsome and
repugnant he may be. If he asks thy assistance, thou dost not disdain to
extend thy compassionate hand to him, to extricate him from the gulf of
despair" ("Tu peccatorem, quantumlibet faetidum non horres; si ad te
suspiraverit, tu illum a desperationis barathro pia manu retrahis"Depr.
Ad. B. V.). May our God be ternally blessed and thanked, O
most amiable Mary, for having created thee so sweet and benign, even
towards the most miserable sinners! Truly unfortunate is he who loves
thee not, and who, having it in his power to obtain thy assistance, has no
confidence in thee. He who has not recourse to Mary is lost; but who was
ever lost that had recourse to the most Blessed Virgin?
It is related in the sacred Scriptures that Booz allowed Ruth
to gather the ears of corn, after the reapers
("Colligebat spicas post terga metentium"Ruth,
ii. 3). St. Bonaventure says, "that as Ruth found favor with Booz,
so has Mary found favor with our Lord, and is also allowed to gather the
ears of corn after the reapers. The reapers followed by Mary are all
evangelical laborers, missionaries, preachers, and confessors, who are
constantly reaping souls for God. But there are some hardened and
rebellious souls which are abandoned even by these. To mary alone it is
granted to save them by her powerful intercession"
("Ruth in oculis Booz, Maria in oculis
Domini hanc gratiam invenit, ut ipsa spicas, id est, animas a messoribus
derelictas, colligere ad veniam posit"Spec. B. V. M. lect. 5).
Truly unfortunate are they if they do not allow themselves to be gathered,
even by this sweet Lady. They will indeed be most certainly lost and
accursed. But, on the other hand, blessed is he who has recourse to this
good Mother. "There is not in the world," says the devout Blosius, "any
sinner, however revolting and wicked, who is despised or rejected by Mary;
she can, she wills, and she knows how to reconcile him to her most beloved
Son, if only he will seek her assistance"
("Nullum tam exsecrabilem peccatorem orbis habet, quem ipsa abominetur, et
a se repellat, quemque dilectissimo Nato suo, modo suam precetur opem, non
posit, sciat, et velit reconciliare"Sac. An. fid. p. 3, c. 5).
With reason then, O my most sweet Queen, did St. John
Damascene salute and call thee the "hope of those who are in despair"
("Salve. Spes desperatorum!").
With reason did St. Laurence Justinian call thee "the hope of malefactors"
("Delinquentium Spes"), and another
ancient writer "the only hope of sinners"
("Spes unica peccatorum"). St. Epherem calls her "the safe harbor
of all sailing on the sea of the world" ("Naufragorum
Portus tutissimus"). This last-named saint also calls her "the
consolation of those who are to be condemned"
("Protectrix damnatorum"). With
reason, finally, does St. Bernard exhort even the desperate not to
despair; and, full of joy and tenderness towards his most dear Mother, he
lovingly exclaims: "And who, O Lady, can be without confidence in thee,
since thou assistest even those who are in despair? And I doubt not, that
whenever we have recourse to thee, we shall obtain all that we desire.
Let him, then, who is without hope, hope in thee"
("Quis non sperabit in te, quae etiam
adjuvas desperantes? . . . Non dubito quod, si ad te venerimus, habebimus
quod volemus; in te ergo speret, qui desperate"Med. in Salv. R.).
St. Antonine relates (P. 4, t. 15, c. 5,
#1) that there was a sinner who was at enmity with God, and who had
a vision in which he found himself before the dread tribunal; the devil
accused him, and Mary defended him. The enemy produced the catalogue of
his sins; it was thrown into the scales of divine justice, and weighed far
more than all his good works. But then his great advocate, extending her
sweet hand, placed it on the balance, and so caused it to turn in favor of
her client; giving him thereby to understand that she would obtain his
pardon if he changed his life; and this he did after the vision, and was
O most pure Virgin Mary. I venerate thy most holy heart, which was the
delight and resting-place of God, thy heart overflowing with humility,
purity, and divine love. I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart
all loathsome and wounded. O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this
account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and
excite thee to help me. Do not stay to seek virtues or merit in me before
assisting me. I am lost, and the only thing I merit is hell. See only my
confidence in thee and the purpose I have to amend. Consider all that
Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst. I
offer thee all the pains of his life; the cold that he endured in the
stable; his journey into Egypt; the blood which he shed; the poverty,
sweats, sorrows, and death that he endured for me; and this in thy
presence. For the love of Jesus, take charge of my salvation. Ah, my
Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I
have recourse to thee and ask thy help. Did I fear this, I should be
offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in
order to help them. O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus
has not denied his blood. But the merits of this blood will not be
applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God. Through thee do I hope
for salvation. I ask not for riches, honors, or earthly goods. I seek
only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of his
will, and his heavenly kingdom, that I may love him eternally. Is it
possible that thou wilt not hear me? No; for already thou has granted my
prayer, as I hope; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me
the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection. My
Mother, abandon me not. Never, never cease to pray for me, until thou
seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee forever.