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CHAPTER VII.

 Illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.

TURN, THEN, THINE EYES OF MERCY TOWARDS US

MARY, OUR GUARDIAN.

Mary is All Eyes to Pity and Succor Us in our Necessities.

St. Epiphanius calls the divine Mother many-eyed ("Multocula"—Hom. In Laud. S. M.), indicating thereby her vigilance in assisting us poor creatures in this world.  A possessed person was once being exorcised, and was questioned by the exorcist as to what Mary did.  The devil replied, "She descends and ascends."  And he meant, that this benign Lady is constantly descending from heaven to bring graces to men, and re-ascending to obtain the divine favor on our prayers.  With reason, then, used St. Andrew Avellino to call the Blessed Virgin the "Heavenly Commissioner," for she is continually carrying messages of mercy, and obtaining graces for all, for just and sinners.  "God fixes his eyes on the just," says the royal prophet.  The eyes of the Lord are on the just ("Oculi Domini super justos"—Ps. xxxiii. 16).  "But the eyes of the Lady," says Richard of St. Laurence, "are on the just and on the sinners" ("Oculi Dominae super peccatores et justos").  "For," he adds, "the eyes of Mary are the eyes of a mother; and a mother not only watches her child to prevent it from falling, but when it has fallen, she raises it up" ("Sicut oculi Matris super querum, ne cadat, et si ceciderit, ut eum relevet"—De Laud. B. M. l. 2, p. 2).

            Jesus himself revealted this to St. Bridget, for one day he allowed her to hear him thus addressing his holy mother:  "My Mother, ask me what thou wilt" ("Pete ergo quod vis"—Lib. vi. cap. 23).  And thus is her Son constantly addressing Mary in heaven, taking pleasure in gratifying his beloved Mother in all that she asks.  But what does Mary ask?  St. Bridget heard her reply: "I ask mercy for sinners" ("Misericordiam peto miseris"—Rev. l. i. c. 50).

            "And so, O Mary, thou art so full of mercy," says St. Bonaventure, with deep feeling, "so attentive in relieving the wretched, that it seems that thou hast no other desire, no other anxiety" ("Undique sollicita de miseris, undique misericordia vallaris; solum misereri tu videris appetere"—Stim. Div. am. p. 3, c. 19).  And as amongst the miserable, sinners are the most miserable of all, Venerable Bede declares "that Mary is always praying to her Son for them" ("Stat Maria in conspectus Filii sui, non cessans pro peccatoribus exorare"). 

            "Even whilst living in this world," says St. Jerome, "the heart of Mary was so filled with tenderness and compassion for men, that no one ever suffered so much for his own pains as Mary suffered for the pains of others" ("Nullum in hac vita adeo poenae torserunt propriae, sicut Mariam alienate").  The compassion for others in affliction she well showed at the marriage-feast of Canad, spoken of in the preceding chapters, when the wine failing, without being asked, remarks St. Bernardine of Sienna, she charged herself with the office of a tender comfortress ("Officium piae Auxiliatricis assumpsit non rogata"—Pro Fest. V. M. s. 9, a. 3, c. 2): and moved to compassion at the sight of the embarrassment of the bride and bridegroom, she interposed with  her Son, and obtained the miraculous change of water into wine. 

            "But perhaps," says St. Peter Damian, addressing Mary, "now that thou art raised to the high dignity of Queen of heaven, thou forgettest us poor creatures?"  "Ah, far be such a thought from our minds," he adds; "for it would little become the great compassion that reigns in the heart of Mary ever to forget such misery as ours" ("Numquid, O Beata Virgo! quia ita deificata, ideo nostrae humilitatis oblita es?  Nequaquam Domina, non enim convenit tantae misericordiae, tantam miseriam oblivisci"—In Nat. B. V. s. 1).  The proverb, that "honors change our manners" ("Honores mutant mores"), does not apply to Mary.  With wordlings it is otherwise; for they, when once raised to a high dignity, become proud, and forget their former poor friends, but it is not so with Mary, who rejoices in her own exaltation, because she is thus better able to help the miserable.

            On this subject St. Bonaventure applies to the Blessed Virgin the words addressed to Ruth:  Blessed art thou of the Lord, my daughter, and thy latter kindness has surpassed the former ("Priorem misericordiam posteriore superasti"—Ruth, iii. 10); meaning to say, "that if the compassion of Mary was great towards the miserable when living in this world, it is much greater now that she reigns in heaven" ("Magna erga miseros fuit misericordia Mariae, adhuc exsulantis in mundo, sed multo major est regnantis in coelo").  He then gives the reason for this, saying, "that the divine Mother shows, by the innumerable graces that she obtains for us, her greater mercy; for now she is better qcquainted with our miseries" ("Majorem, per beneficia innumerabilia, nunc ostendit misericordiam, quia magis nunc videt hominum miseriam").  Thence  he adds, "that as the splendor of the sun surpasses that of the moon, so does the compassion of Mary, now that she is in heaven, surpass the compassion she had for us when in the world" ("Nam quemadmodum sol lunam superat magnitudine splendoris, sic priorem Mariae misericordiam superat magnitude posterioris").  In conclusion, he asks, "who is there living in this world who does not enjoy the light of the sun? and on whom does not the mercy of Mary shine?" ("Quis est, super quem misericordia Mariae non replendeat?"—Spec. B. V. lect. 10) 

            For this reason, in the sacred Canticles she is called bright as the sun ("Electa ut sol"—Cant. vi. 9).  "For no one is excluded from the warmth of this sun," says St. Bonaventure, according to the words of the Psalmist ("Nec est qui se abscondat a calore ejus"—Ps. xviii. 7); and the same thing was also revealed to St. Bridget, by St. Agnes, who told her "that our Queen, now that she is united to her Son in heaven, cannot forget her innate goodness; and therefore she shows her compassion to all, even to the most impious sinners; so much so, that, as the celestial and terrestrial bodies are all illumined by the sun, so there is no one in the world, who, if he asks for it, does not, through the tenderness of Mary, partake of the divine mercy" ("Nunc autem conjuncta Filio, non obliviscitur innatae bonitatis suae, sed ad omnes extendit misericordiam suam, etiam ad pessimos.  Sicut sole illuminantur coelestia et terrestrial, sic, ex dulcedine Mariae, nullus est, qui non per eam, si petit, sentiat pietatem"—Rev. l. 3, c. 30).

            St. Bernard says, "that Mary has made herself all to all, and opens her merciful heart to all, that all may receive of her fullness; the slave redemption, the sick health, those in affliction comfort, the sinner pardon, and God glory; that thus there may be no one who can hide himself from her warmth" ("Maria omnia omnibus facta est; omnibus misericordiae sinum aperit, ut de plenitudine ejus accipiant universi, captivus redemptionem, aeger curationem, tristis consolationem, peccator veniam; ut non sit qui se abscondat a calore ejus" —In Sign. Magn.).  "Who can there be in the world," exclaims St. Bonaventure, "who refuses to love this most amiable Queen?  She is more beautiful than the sun, and sweeter than honey.  She is a treasure of goodness, amiable and courteous to all" ("Quis non te diligit, O maria, pulchriorem sole, dulciorem melle? omnibus es amabilis, omnibus es affabilis").  "I salue thee, then," continues the enraptured saint, "O my Lady and Mother, nay, even my heart, my soul.  Forgive me, O Mary, if I say that I love thee; for if I am not worthy to love thee, at least thou art all-worthy to be loved by me" ("Ave ergo, Domina mea, Mater mea, imo, Cor meum, Anima mea!  mihi parce, Domina, quod me amare dicam te; si non sum dignus, non es indigna amari").                   

            It was revealed to St. Gertrude (Insin. l. 4, c. 53), that when these words are addressed with devotion to the most Blessed Virgin, "Turn, then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us," Mary cannot do otherwise than yield to the demand of whoever thus invokes her. 

            "Ah, truly, O great Lady," says St. Bernard, "does the immensity of thy mercy fill the whole earth" ("Latitudo misericordiae ejus replete orbem terrarium"—In Assumpt. s. 4).  "And therefore," says St. Bonaventure, "this loving Mother has so earnest a desire to do good to all, that not only is she offended by those who positively outrage her (as some are wicked enough to do), but she is offended at those who do not ask her for favors or graces" ("In te, Domina, peccant, non solum qui tibi injuriam irrogant, sed etiam qui te non rogant").  So that St. Hildebert addresses her, saying: "Thou, O Lady, teachest us to hope for far greater graces than we deserve, since thou never ceasest to dispense graces far, far beyond our merits" ("Doces nos sperare majora meritis, quae meritis majora largiri non desistis"—Ep. 20, Bibl. Patr.)

            The prophet Isaias foretold that, together with the great work of the redemption of the human race, a throne of divine mercy was to be prepared for us poor creatures:  And a throne shall be prepared in mercy ("Praeparabitur in misericordiae solium"—Is. xiv. 5).  What is this throne?  St. Bonaveture answers, "Mary is this throne, at which all—just and sinners—find the consolations of mercy."  He then adds:  "For as we have a most merciful Lord, so also we have a most, merciful Lady.  Our Lord is plenteous in mercy to all who call upon him, and our Lady is plenteous in mercy to all who call upon her" ("Solium divinae misericordiae est Maria, in quo omnes inveniunt solatia misericordiae.  Nam sicut misericordissimum Dominum, ita misericordissimam Dominam habemus; Dominus noster multae misericordiae est invocantibus se, et Domina nostra multae misericordiae est omnibus invocantibus se"—Spec. B. M. V. lect. 9).  As our Lord is full of mercy, so also is our Lady; and as the Son knows not how to refuse mercy to those who call upon him, neither does the Mother.  Wherefore the Abbot Guerrie thus addresses the Mother, in the name of Jesus Christ:  "My Mother, in thee will I establish the seat of my government; through thee will I pronounce judgments, hear prayers, and grant the graces asked of me.  Thou has given me my human nature, and I will give thee my divine nature" ("In te mihi quondam regni sedem constituam; per te preces exaudiam; communicasti mihi guod homo sum: communicabo tibi quod Deus sum"—De Assumpt. s. 2), that is, omnipotence, by which thou mayest be able to help to save all whomsoever thou pleasest.

            One day, when St. Gertrude was addressing the foregoing words, "Turn thine eyes of mercy towards us," to the divine Mother, she saw the Blessed Virgin pointing to the eyes of her Son, whom she held in her arms, and then said, "These are the most compassionate eyes that I can turn for their salvation towards all who call upon me" ("Isti sunt misericordissimi oculi mei, quos ad omnes me invocantes salubriter possum inclinare"—Insin. l. 4, c. 53)

            A sinner was once weeping before an image of Mary, imploring her to obtain pardon for him from God, when he perceived that the Blessed Virgin turned towards the child that she held in her arms, and said, "My Son, shall these tears be lost?"  And he understood that Jesus Christ had already pardoned him" (Sinisc. Il Mart. Di M. ott.)

            How, then, is it possible that any one can perish who recommends himself to this good Mother, since her Son, as God, has promised her that for her love he will show as much mercy as she pleases to all who recommend themselves to her?  This our Lord revealed to St. Gertrude, allowing her to hear him make the promise to his Mother in the following words: "In my omnipotence, O revered Mother, I have granted thee the reconciliation of all sinners who devoutly invoke the aid of thy compassion, in whatever way it may please thee" ("Ex omnipotentia mea, Mater reverenda, tibi concessi potestatem propitiandi omnium peccatis, qui devote invocant tuae pietatis auxilium, qualicumque modo placet tibi"—Insin, l. 4, c. 53)

            On this assurance the Abbot Adam of Perseigne, considering the great power of Mary with God, and, at the same time, her great compassion for us, full of confidence, says "O Mother of mercy, thy tender compassion is as great as thy power, and thou art as compassionate in forgiving as thou art powerful in obtaining all" ("Mater Misericordiae! tanta est pietas tua, quanta potestas: tam pia es ad parcendum, quam potens ad impetrandum").  "And when," he asks, "did the case ever occur in which thou, who art the Mother of mercy, didst not show compassion?  O, when was it that thou, who art the Mother of omnipotence, couldst not aid?  Ah, yes, with the same facility with which thou seest our misfortunes thou obtainest for us whatever thou willest" ("Quando non compatieris miseris, Mater Misericordiae? aut quando illis opem conferre non poteris, cum sis Mater Omnipotentiae, eadem facilitate obtines quodcumque vis, qua facilitate nostra innotescit miseria"—Marial. s. 1).

            "Satiate, O satiate thyself, great Queen," says the Abbot Guerric, "with the glory of thy Son, and out of compassion, though not for any merit of ours, be pleased to send us, they servants and children here below, the crums that fall from thy table" ("O Mater misericordiae! saturare Gloria Filii tui, et dimitte reliquias tuas parvulis tuis"—De Assumpt. s. 4)

            Should the sight of our sins ever discourage us, let us address the Mother of mercy in the words of William of Paris: "O Lady, do not set up my sins against me, for I oppose thy compassion to them.  Let it never be said that my sins could contend in judgment against thy mercy, which is far more powerful to obtain me pardon than my sins are to obtain my condemnation" ("Ne allegaveris peccata mea contra me, qui misericordiam tuam allego contra ea; absit, ut stent in judicio peccata mea contra misericordiam tuam, quae omnibus vitiis fortior est"—De Rhet. Div. c. 18)

 

EXAMPLE.

In the kingdom of Valencia a great sinner resolved to become a Mohammedan, hoping thereby to escape from the arm of justice.  On his way to the ship's landing where he meant to set sail, he entered a church in which the Jesuit Jerome Lopes was preaching on the Mercy of God.  Touched by the sermon, the poor sinner went to confession to the missioner.  When asked if he had practiced any special devotion to which this great grace might be attributed he replied: "I simply prayed to Mary every day not to abandon me."

            In a certain hospital the same Father met a sinner who had not gone to confession for fifty-five years.  He had however practiced this little devotion: whenever he passed her picture he greeted the Mother of God and asked her for a happy end.  He then related: one day while fighting with my enemy my dagger broke.  I turned to Mary and cried out: "Alas, alas, now I shall be killed and eternally lost; Mother of sinners, help me."  Scarcely had he said this when he found himself in safety.  The poor sinner made a general confession and died full of confidence" (Patrign. Menol. 2 Feb.).                 

 

Prayer.

O greatest and most sublime of all creatures, most sacred Virgin, I salute thee from this earth—I, a miserable and unfortunate rebel against my God, who deserve chastisements, not favors, justice, and not mercy.  O Lady, I say not this because I doubt thy compassion.  I know that the greater thou art the more thou dost glory in being benign.  I know that thou rejoicest that thou art so rich, because thou art thus enabled to succor us poor miserable creatures.  I know that the greater is the poverty of those who have recourse to thee, the more dost thou exert thyself to protect and save them.  O my Mother, it was thou who didst one day weep over thy Son who died for me.  Offer, I beseech thee, thy tears to God, and by these obtain for me true sorrow for my sins.  Sinners then afflicted thee so much, and I, by my crimes, have done the same.  Obtain for me, O Mary, that at least from this day forward I may not continue to afflict thee and thy Son by my ingratitude.  What would thy sorrow avail me if I continued to be ungrateful to thee?  To what purpose would thy mercy have been shown me, if again I was unfaithful and lost?  No, my Queen, permit it not; thou hast supplied for all my shortcomings.  Thou obtainest from God what thou wilt.  Thou grantest the prayers of all.  ask of thee two graces; I expect them from thee, and will not be satisfied with less.  Obtain for me that I may be faithful to God, and no more offend him, and love him during the remainder of my life as much as I have offended him.

 


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