THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
by Father Francois de Sainte Marie, OCD.
The interior life of contemplative souls is quite simple because it consists of one single act perpetually renewed. Bright or shadowy, this contemplation of God is at once love, adoration, self-oblation. Ideas and words, if they at times serve to nourish it, cannot express its richness. The act of contemplation is incapable of translation into our language. It is a different manner of speaking from that of men a speaking of spirit to Spirit.
The spiritual life of the Queen of contemplatives, more than any other, surpasses our understanding and our descriptions. It is too simple and at the same time too rich. In striving to exalt its simplicity, we impoverish it, for our simplicity is mere deficiency. In sketching its richness, we complicate it, for our richness is destitute. One would have to grasp in a single glance its richness and its simplicity. And that is impossible.
If we decompose this pure light through the prism of our understanding, we shall no longer have anything but reflections. We realize this very well; the ideas that we are about to expound are nothing but distant approximations, if one can associate those two terms. They represent not so much the interior life of the Blessed Virgin in itself as its translation into the register of human language.
II. HER FAITH
In this perspective, it is her faith that should first receive our praise. As Elizabeth said to her, she is indeed "she who has believed," without ever hesitating in her heart. At first sight, one might be inclined to wonder whether she had to live by faith. Did she not touch with her finger tips, so to speak, the mysteries of our salvation? She "felt" the Incarnation in her flesh, saw with her eyes the Son of God. By her tears and her torments, she cooperated in a special manner in the Redemption of the world. Certainly! But while living these divine things from within, more than anyone else, she found herself at grips with their mysterious obscurity.
From the moment of the Annunciation, her power of reasoning was exceeded: "How shall this be? For I do not know man." Inspired by God, she had doubtless taken a vow to preserve her virginity, and now there is announced to her a future maternity. In the face of this apparent contradiction, the Blessed Virgin knows only one attitude: that of faith. She clings to the divine word: "Let it be done unto me according to Thy word." And, by her faith, like Abraham, she merited the accomplishment of the promise.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of this little being who received all from her in order to give all to her, inundated by the light of the Word, Mary continued to live in the shadow of faith. She did not have the beatific vision. Like us, she knew God only by His ways reflected in the mirror of creation or the message of revelation, and also by the supernatural intuitions which He gave her.
But if the faith of the Blessed Virgin was of the same nature as ours, it must have been incomparably clearer. No obstacle in her understanding ever opposed the inpouring of the divine light. Faith completely impregnated her being and she had within herself the strength and security of actual vision.
But for all that, the mystery was not "done away with." The birth of the Infant God took place amid the dangers of a census-taking, at night, in cold, poverty, silence. God became man, the Spirit united with flesh, which is, in a sense, its antagonist. He appeared in the very thing that veils Him. How could the Blessed Virgin, though wrapped as she was in an immense peace, have failed to be aware on that Christmas night of the disturbing elements of the Incarnation. Her faith alone, a pure and immense faith, was capable of appreciating the "gift of God."
It was in the light of this faith that she considered the whole life of her Son. In faith, she lived the mystery of the hidden life. "Not understanding" certain things, such as the delay of the Child in the Temple, she submitted to God's secret reasons which justified them.
The public life of our Lord was no less mysterious: both because of certain words of Christ, certain of His actions, and because of the hardness of heart of the majority, the increasing opposition to His work. But Mary's faith continued to increase, stimulated, so to speak, by the contradictions that reality appeared to oppose to it. To the end, to the foot of the cross, Mary was "she who believes."
This "scandal of the cross" is something men become familiar with slowly. Mary underwent the first shock of it, at a time when exterior reassurances were lacking. Was it not the general rule of her existence to live the mysteries of God almost always alone and deprived of human support? It was she who "blazed the trail." She believed the words of Jesus: "Raised up above the earth, I will draw all to myself," at the very moment when she saw Him an object of repulsion for all: "Crucify Him!" she believed that the salvation of the human race was being accomplished at the very moment when the latter was guilty of deicide. She believed that this bloody tragedy was merely one aspect of the seemingly excessive love of the Father, delivering His own Son to redeem His sons of adoption.... She believed all that, at the very moment when the world, unbeknown to itself, was being saved. The word of God, at that instant, just as during all the other hours of her existence, was her only support, her only strength.
During the long ensuing years that she was required to remain on earth, she lived with this word preserved in her heart and constantly meditated upon it. Her own Son she received from another, from the priest, who alone would henceforth have power over His Body, and she encountered Him all invisible.
III. HER HUMILITY
The Virgin Mary is she who believed in the mystery of God, who lived under its obscure illumination. With one glance, without stopping to consider herself, she recognized her "lowliness," to use her own expression. Knowledge of God and knowledge of self are one and the same. The keen sense she had of her smallness as a creature appears to us in proportion to the lights she received about God. And her humility is characterized by an admirable balance. Because she is truthful, the Blessed Virgin recognizes in a straightforward manner all that the Lord has done for her: "He Who is mighty has done great things to me." And she avoids the exaggerated formulas that spring from a secret pride. She did not take pleasure in declaring herself "the most unworthy of all creatures." The term she used was more moderate, but so much more beautiful: "the handmaid of the Lord." Mary loved this expression, for it came from her lips at the Annunciation as well as at the Visitation. It well describes her attitude before God, so respectful of His transcendence and, at the same time, so intently at His service. Here again, the Blessed Virgin anticipated the Gospel, whose spirit she already possessed: "Say: we are useless servants." Like Christ, she wanted to serve and not to be served.
That is why her humility manifested itself more in action than in words. The truly humble person is not the one who says much evil about himself (some prefer to speak evil of themselves rather than say nothing), nor he who seeks outstanding humiliations, in which he really is seeking himself. It is rather the one who loves to be in the background, to be forgotten, and rejoices to be counted as nothing. The Virgin Mary excelled in this form of humility.
She was enveloped in a very humble life. Without a doubt, the greater part of her existence was made up of prayer, meditation on Scripture, the accomplishment of her religious duties. But did she not also engage in the most ordinary domestic tasks? She cleaned her house, prepared food for her family, went to get water from the well. Her own hands kneaded the bread and baked it. Duties of charity and hospitality were added to these family obligations; she did not hesitate to render service, as the Visitation proves. She also had to clothe her family: "Her lamp is not extinguished during the night," Scripture declares. "She puts her hand to the distaff and her fingers take up the spindle."(1)
Within such an apparently banal life this creature reaped for God an imperishable glory, so true is it that love alone counts. Stifling within herself the desire to cry out to the world this good news that she knew so well, she was silent - she who would have been able to speak so well concerning God. And to hide herself she used those stores of ingenuity which men ordinarily employ to call attention to themselves. Moreover, she succeeded in remaining unseen during Jesus' lifetime on earth, and even afterward. One hardly finds any trace of her presence in the early Church, although she was at the heart of it.
Centuries were required before she would consent in some manner to emerge from this shadow and appear in the Church's firmament. And then God, as a reward for her love of obscurity, clothed her with the sun and crowned her with the stars. And all generations shall call blessed the one who, for having made herself small, became the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
IV. HER SPIRIT OF ABANDONMENT
In faith, Mary saw the invisible and perceived her "lowliness" in this light; how could she fail to abandon herself henceforth to all the wishes of the Father? Filial abandonment seems to sum up her whole spiritual life: "Ecce....fiat"; did she not personally translate the movement of her soul in these two words confided to the Evangelist? Being perfectly at God's disposal, she seemed to be saying to Him each moment: "Ecce ... here I am." She surrendered herself to Him even to the last fiber of her being, so that His will might be done in her: "Fiat." From the Annunciation to the Cross and the Assumption, she said "yes" in an attitude of total acquiescence. Within the very depths of her soul she lived the petition of the Pater Noster in which Christ sums up the attitude of the Christian: "Thy will be done."
In order to better surrender herself to Love, she suppressed many an impulse that was not demanded for the accomplishment of her duty. Thus, when she guessed the anguish of her espoused, she knew that one word from her would have sufficed to enlighten him and bring peace to his mind. Should she not have intervened? Our human prudence suggests so. But our human prudence is pitiful in comparison with the heroic abandonment practiced by this soul. The Virgin Mary said nothing. She thought less of "doing" the will of God than of letting it "be done" through her, without mingling any more of herself than necessary with it. Carrying abandonment to its ultimate perfection she would let the Lord intervene personally when He saw fit.
In the course of the Passion, her abandonment was even more perfect. We do not read that she wiped the face of her Son, as Veronica did. She did not even speak a word at the foot of the cross. God did not ask her, as He had on the day of the Annunciation, to pronounce her Fiat. He preferred to see it inscribed upon her heart, deep within her. For this was, more than ever, the hour of total abandonment.
Like her faith, this abandonment indicates the measure of the love Mary had for God. Love does not limit itself to giving, which would be too little; love gives itself, surrenders itself. In a sense, one cannot please the Beloved more than by abandoning oneself to His pleasure. For then one even avoids that annoyance which might be caused by imposing oneself upon him. St. Therese of the Child Jesus understood these things so very well, in her desire to dispose as He willed!... This is the essential attitude of the Gospel. If Christ, in the course of His apostolic life, often said: "My meat is to do the will of My Father....I do what is pleasing to Him" at the culminating point of His existence, He insisted even more upon His abandonment with regard to His Father. It is as if His own will deferred to that of His Father: "Not what I will, but what Thou wilt." And the Father, dwelling within Him, accomplished all his designs.
It was with this same abandonment that the Virgin Mary prayed, with such simple prayer. She "did not multiply words," in addressing God or Christ. This may be well seen at Cana where she was content to say: "They have no wine." This supplication contains, it seems, the whole secret of her prayer. To awaken her faith, to look to our Lord, to make known to Him her own needs and those of the world, and then, without saying any more, without asking for any particular thing from Him, to have confidence in Him, to let Him act according to His own heart.
One likes to think that, at the Cenacle, the Blessed Virgin prayed for the Church that was being born with the same confidence and simplicity, presenting to her God and her Son the spiritual needs of the Apostles: "They have no wine!" She asked for them the wine of the Spirit which, as it inebriated them with new ardor, would send them forth to the conquest of the world.
And in heaven, what is she doing, if not tirelessly showing to Christ all men with their miseries and needs? Her confidence is such that it knows no hesitation. What she asks, Mary believes that she has obtained, as we see at Cana where, despite her Son's evasive answer, she had the stewards make preparations.
It is difficult to cultivate perfect abandonment, in action as well as in prayer. At first glance such an attitude doubtless appears easy, even quietistic. In reality, if it does not go astray, it leads to heroism and to complete detachment, for every action of God in our behalf aims at tearing us away from ourselves. This is because we take back with one hand what we have given up with the other. Mary, on the contrary, in abandoning herself to the action of God, attained the ultimate in detachment. Not that she needed, as we do, to tear herself away from creatures, for she was always so profoundly detached from them. But she needed, in a sense, to detach herself from the very gifts of God, from this Son whom He entrusted to her and later took away from her.
Mary, as a young mother, knew indescribable joy when she caressed and lulled to sleep the Son of God, who had become her Son. It seems that she is beaming, her eyes bright with joy, as she pronounces for us the words of the liturgy: "Rejoice with me, for I have given birth to God and man."
But, little by little, Jesus grew up. Then He went away from her, often deprived her of His presence. And Mary let Him go. Only at Capharnaum do we see her insist upon meeting her Son, since she had come with this intention. Most likely she longed to meet Him in a still purer way in faith, but her woman's feelings, her mother's heart, could not bear such separations. And what shall we say of her suffering on the evening of Good Friday, when she had to entrust to the bosom of the earth the Body she had borne in her womb? It was by living her Fiat in such circumstances that she achieved complete detachment within herself.
And abandonment permitted her to continue to live an exile in the midst of men, poor of all possessions, but rich in hope, wrapped in silence.
V. THE SILENCE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The silence of the Blessed Virgin is very profound. It is the silence of a contemplative soul intent upon God. God, who is Silence to us, acts in the midst of us in silence. His great interventions in the world are enveloped in obscurity. Such is the humility of the One who hides Himself among men, instead of asserting Himself as He might. He is not in the cyclone, nor in lightning or thunder, but in the light breeze, in the imperceptible murmur. He is silent while acting: "Et ego tacui."
The mysteries of our salvation bear this seal of silence which render them, in their own time, almost unperceived. The Annunciation took place probably in the privacy of Mary's room, as certain Fathers have chosen to imagine it. The Nativity took place in the dead of night, in the country, "when silence takes possession of all things."
The hidden life of Jesus was very silent. Did they speak in the house of Nazareth? One may doubt it. Did not each one live, beyond the world of word and images, in that God who cannot be expressed by man and who asks only his silence in order to express Himself in him? Mary's soul, taught by that of Jesus, must have engulfed itself more and more in silence. One may guess this from seeing how brief are her words in the Gospel. Not a word too many: that would have been a theft from God.
The supreme lesson that the Blessed Virgin received from Jesus was that of Calvary and of the Passion. At the moment when He was accomplishing our Redemption, Jesus was silent, the Evangelists tell us: "Jesus tacebat." For three years He had spoken to the crowds, sown the seed of the word of God, but this seed could only develop in silence. What a contrast between the diabolical agitation which stirred the people at that hour, tumultus in populo, and the divine silence that reigned in the souls of Christ and His mother. Both now knew that nothing more could be said in words; it was their very suffering that expressed to the Father the sentiments of abandonment and of confidence in their souls and that taught men of the tremendous love with which God pursues them.
It seems that the Virgin Mary never again came down from these heights of silence. For a long time we have no word of her, but we can imagine that she was more silent than ever in order to live within herself, in Faith and Love.
Nevertheless, this silence had nothing of sullenness or constraint about it. Mary spoke as much as charity required of her. Perhaps she exercised a discreet influence upon the Apostles in the early Church, recalling on occasion this or that word of Jesus. We know that she recounted to the evangelist her recollections of the childhood of Christ. Tradition says that she lived with St. John for many years. She must often have recalled to him the great episodes of the life of Jesus, meditating in His company upon the theme of the Fourth Gospel. But it was especially by her silent prayer that she mothered the Infant Church, the secret hearth from which the great Mystical Body began, without even suspecting it, to draw its vital warmth. "Full of grace," even beyond all that she could understand or express of her relationships with God, she radiated grace and life.
VI. HER LIFE OF GRACE
Can we penetrate even further into the mystery of Mary, to the very source whence her spiritual life is nourished? The Angel of the Annunciation invites us to do so.
We know the importance placed upon names by the Hebrews, who made of them a sort of definition of the person. Here we find Gabriel, instead of calling the Blessed Virgin "Mary," revealing her new name: "Hail, full of grace"-or better still: "she who has found grace," the "graced" one. Thus, while God has the name "Love," a woman is "Grace." Two abysses are face to face with one another: the One who fills and the one who receives. Before God, here is a creature capable of receiving Him as totally as He pleases to communicate Himself to her.
Other men, by being ever so slightly satisfied with what they are or with what they already possess, shut themselves off from all that they might be or might still acquire. Even saints do not arrive at the point of assimilating fully "the being, the movement and the life" which God offers them the opportunity of drawing from Him. St. John said this in a poignant manner, and the drama is eternal: "His own received Him not." Only the Immaculate Conception, delivered from the slightest movement of self-satisfaction, truly "capable of God," could receive at every instant, in its totality, the gift of God. The Fiat that she pronounced on the day of the Annunciation merely expressed in a word this continuous disposition of her soul.
This is the mystery of predestination of which she, like ourselves, can never find the reason. For it is none other than the eternal Good Pleasure. The Lord made immaculate the one whom He pleased. He knew her and loved her even before she existed. Then His eyes settled upon her, among so many beings scattered about upon the face of the globe. Under this gaze, the creature blessed above all others trembled as she sang: "He has considered the lowliness of His handmaid."
This gaze caused life to penetrate into her being in vast torrents. For when the Lord looks at a soul with this expression of love, He penetrates, so to speak, into the depths of that creature, impregnating every fiber of its being. This is attested by Scripture. They affirm the interior reality of grace "it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your bosom"-"Out of His bosom shall flow rivers of living water." God indeed has never finished creating us. He keeps the human clay moist under His thumb, He molds and remolds it to the resemblance of the "Idea" which He has within Himself. The souls of men truly verge upon the Infinite.
And it is not the Lord's fault if they do not expand. Even in the human order, they can, by means of thought, spread to the confines of the universe; by love, they escape the limitations of their ego to become lost in others. All that is little enough in comparison with the prodigious expansion which God offers to His creature, by restoring it to the image of His Son. He then invites it to participate in His infinite perfection. Apart from our egoism and our pride, nothing is capable of limiting on our side this gift of grace. The Lord can always create within us new capacities for receiving it. It is only His good pleasure that fixes limits to this communication. And it has pleased Him to push back these limits to "the confines of the divinity" for the one who has found grace in His eyes. A sentence of the Gospel evokes the secret of Mary's interior life, the ultimate explanation of the love of God in her regard: "To him who has shall all be given."
Such is the source of her extraordinary human personality, as well as of her entire spiritual life. When God acts, says St. John of the Cross, "His work is God." He impresses a trace of Himself upon everything He touches. He places His likeness upon the souls that He divinizes, in order to render them perfect as He is perfect. He is capable of making His creatures blossom forth in the sunlight of His love without doing violence to them and as if by a completely interior growth. As He brooded over the world with His Spirit, was there not called forth that irresistible burst of life which mounted toward Him in a tremendous surge of forms seeking to receive the anointing of the spirit? In the order of grace, He did still more. In this woman, in whom the human race became exalted, He planted a divine seed that blossomed divinely in the warmth of His Spirit and bore savory fruits. The Liturgy reminds us of this by applying to Mary the rich images of Scripture: "Like a palm tree in En-gaddi, like a rosebush in Jericho, like a fair olive tree in the field...I bud forth delights like the vine, my blossoms become fruit fair and rich."
VII. HER TRINITARIAN LIFE
But grace is much more than the blossoming forth and the spiritualization of a soul. In addition to this created aspect, there is another that is completely divine. Grace is a participation in the very mystery of God. It renders our soul present to the Trinitarian life: "If any one keeps My commandments, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him." The least Christian bears God within him. And within him, even without his being conscious of it, the Father generates His Son, and from the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit proceeds.
But is it true to say that he never has any consciousness of this? In His discourse after the Last Supper, Christ made reference to a possible "manifestation" of the divine Guests. It is a confused knowledge that springs from our living contact with Them: "Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me, because I live, and you live..."
Through the centuries, many of the faithful have experienced the truth of these words and have perceived, with greater or lesser intensity, the presence of God within themselves. We have a tendency to consider these experiences as extraordinary. Christ, on the contrary, has them arise quite simply within the soul that longs for this Presence.
Moreover, some very spiritual persons have seemed to realize the Gospel's promise: "Once the soul is introduced in this Mansion," says St. Teresa, " the Persons of the Holy Trinity reveal themselves to it in an intellectual vision...all three communicate Themselves to the soul, speak to it, and disclose to it the meaning of that passage of the Gospel in which our Lord announced that He will come, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to dwell in the soul that loves Him and keeps His commandments."
It is then that a true intimacy is established. In a sort of twilight, that of faith, the soul discerns the particular characteristics of each Person and treats each of them in a particular manner. For the Person of the Father is different from the Person of the Son and from that of the Holy Spirit.
The Virgin Mary, since she was established in the state of perfect union with God from her birth, as St. John of the Cross says, experienced this intimacy with the Divine Persons. Perhaps she did not have, at the beginning, an explicit knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity. That had not yet been revealed to the world. It seems quite probable, in any case, that on the day of the Annunciation she became aware of it. The formulas of the Angel speaking of the Son of the Most High and of His Spirit would not have been sufficient to enlighten an ordinary soul. But they must have succeeded in bringing light to her understanding. Had she not, moreover, immediately experienced the presence of the Word within herself and the envelopment of the Spirit of Love?
Whether they were clear or marked by a certain obscurity, the relationships of the soul of the Blessed Virgin with the Divine Persons constituted the very basis of her interior life. As queen and model of all Christians, she was, like them, but in a more eminent degree, the daughter of the Father. Like them also, she had those relationships with the Incarnate Word that Jesus mentioned in the Gospel, but she was above all His mother. Finally, along with all true children of God, she was moved by the Spirit of God.
VIII. HER RELATIONSHIP TO THE FATHER
The Virgin Mary is the daughter of predilection of the heavenly Father. For the Mother of God, to become "worthy" of that title, had to be "full of grace." Sanctifying grace, for her as well as for us, is birth into heaven, complete filial adoption.
Our Lord seems to suggest these things in the Gospel. He hears a woman extol the remarkable privilege of her maternity. He replies, indirectly praising the attitude of the Virgin: "Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." He then characterizes the interior life of His mother in the same implicit manner: "Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, he is My brother, and My sister and My Mother."
Thus Mary is the beloved daughter of the Father, His "firstborn" on earth. He chose a transparent soul in whom He could reflect His attributes, somewhat as if He had made her the mirror of His Word. He wanted this creature to be attentive and docile to His command, somewhat as the Word is to that interior speaking which engenders Him.
Moreover, with the Incarnate Word and in Him, Mary is completely absorbed in the Father, completely in "relation" to Him. From the first moment of His existence, Jesus said to His Father: "Behold I come to do Thy will," and Mary, from the first awakening of her consciousness, must have directed herself toward the Father, to offer her soul to Him. During her whole life she communed, in the depths of her soul, with this mysterious Person. The prayer of her Son, the Lord's Prayer, was her prayer. She lived it interiorly. And by her constant self-surrender, she expressed at each moment this petition: "Thy will be done." She was the "little handmaid" who fulfilled the command received, the child who abandoned herself unquestioningly to all the wishes of the Almighty: "Consider well the course of her life and you will see nothing but a continuous submission," declares St. Francis de Sales. "She goes to the Temple, but her parents lead her there, having promised her to God. Soon after, she is betrothed. Consider her leaving Nazareth to go to Bethlehem, her flight into Egypt, her return to Nazareth: you will find these goings and comings, a marvelous submission and docility. She even comes to the point of seeing her Son and her God die on the wood of the Cross...submitting to the divine wishes by adhering to the will of the eternal Father..."
Thus the Mother of God the Son, throughout her earthly existence, showed herself in all things the daughter. of God the Father.
IX. SPOUSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
She could not be completely such, however, without being filled with the Holy Spirit, for "they are sons of God who are moved by the Spirit of God." The Holy Spirit is the mutual love of the Father and the Son. The Father cannot love a creature except insofar as it resembles His Son. He then loves it with the same love that He bears for His Son. The Word cannot become united to a creature without communicating it to His absorption in the Father, His own Love. Thus They are both intent upon the soul of Mary, infusing Their common spirit in her. From birth the Blessed Virgin received the Holy Spirit fully. But His possession of her soul became increasingly profound as He continued to embrace it. On the day of the Annunciation, the Angel greeted Mary as "full of grace": he announced to her a new influx of divine life: "The Holy Spirit will come upon thee..." And the Holy Spirit came upon her anew to render her divinely fruitful and to fashion within her the flesh of the Saviour. He was not given to her in a limited way. He was not infused into her as if she could contain Him. He engulfed her in His shadow. This "shadow" of which the Angel spoke is a wonderful symbol of intimate union. It has none of the coldness of other earthly images, which are lifeless and formless...The shadow of the Most High is the golden cloud of the Transfiguration, the divine chiaroscuro, the fire that burns without consuming. Mary's soul seems, from that time on, to have attained a true fullness of grace. And yet, at Pentecost, the Spirit came to her anew. She who had already received Him so many times was to receive Him again, for herself and for the whole Church. More was given to her who already possessed...This mystery has impressed many holy souls. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi says of it: "Mary herself awaited Him (the Holy Spirit) although she had already received Him so many times that she was completely filled with Him and had nourished the Word in Him. Mary was with the Apostles to strengthen them and to urge them to ask for Him. But during those ten days I hardly believe that she remained deprived of His gifts and His special graces; I think rather that at each instant He was communicating Himself to her with new gifts, although He did not appear exteriorly. Mary, an immense ocean of graces, thus awaited the arrival and the new infusion from that unfathomable ocean of love which is the Holy Spirit. Mary awaited union with this Divine Spirit Whom she was to receive and with Whom she was already filled."
Besides these visible and solemn missions, how many secret visits the Holy Spirit must have made to this soul! He celebrated within its depths those "feasts of love" mentioned by St. John of the Cross. As the Living Flame, He wounded and tormented it by His imperceptible palpitations. As the Spirit, He unleashed Himself upon it like that powerful and varied breath which the Mystical Doctor describes, now "a caressing murmur," now "vehement like the harmony of many harpists plucking their strings all together...." These are simple symbols, but so fraught with reality that the Holy Spirit has used them through the ages in visiting many spiritual persons. How did He use them with regard to Mary? We shall never know. But what must He not have done in a soul so entirely surrendered to His action, without a shadow of resistance or selfishness, a crystal ready to reflect light without dimming it or retaining any of it for itself.
Let us not think only of the extraordinary graces. Mary, who more than any other merited the happiness mentioned to Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed," must often have traveled in obscure faith. Did not Christ, when tempted in the desert, when in agony, will to experience for Himself something similar to faith's obscurity and anguish in the lower strata of His humanity? But no matter how dark the shadow of the Holy Spirit may have become in Mary at certain times, it never prevented her from living under His constant direction. In her, more than in any other Christian, the words of Christ were realized. The Spirit taught her "all things." He led her "to the fullness of truth."
X. HER DIVINE MATERNITY
The gift of the Holy Spirit which rendered the Blessed Virgin so perfectly the daughter of the Father, conformed her also to the Son. The profoundly intimate union she had with the Incarnate Word cannot be represented by our terms and ideas.
Without a doubt, Mary is essentially the Mother of Jesus. That is the title that the Evangelists give her, the title that she bears in the Church. That is the eminent dignity which won for her the graces with which she was filled, commencing with the privilege of her Immaculate Conception. Thus the divine maternity is the source of the unique intimacy between Mary and Jesus, but it does not explain it completely. The Blessed Virgin was able to give to Christ only His human flesh. But, in exchange, He gave her much more besides: His own divine life. She was born immaculate in virtue of the future shedding of the Blood of Jesus. And, in this sense, she is certainly the "daughter of her Son," according to Dante's expression.
The secret of God's simplicity is to be found in the very distinction of His Persons. We know that Mary's soul, in its relationships with the Three, drew from the very source of the divine simplicity. As she constantly viewed this mystery with a more or less obscure gaze of faith, as she was at certain moments drawn into it in a more luminous way, as she turned toward one or the other of these Persons she was ever penetrating more deeply into that impenetrable circle which incorporated her in the unity of God. Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, she was, with Them, "one as They are one."
1. Please refer to the OCDS Rule of
Life, Articles 2, 7, and 11.
2. The Holy Bible.
3. Lumen Gentium.
4. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. ICS Publications.
5. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila. ICS Publications.
6. Handmaid of the Lord, by Von Speyer, Ignatius Press.
1. Prov.31: 18-19
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