Returning to the Blog

I managed to work out how to get back on this old blog, and now I’m ready to return to the blogosphere.

For me, the most important part of this blog is the links to the Latin works that can be found online, particularly the Summa Aurea de Laudibus Beatissimae Virginis Mariae.

But, this is only useful for people who can read Latin.

Someday, perhaps, some of these texts will be translated into English. Someday…

St. Anselm of Canterbury and His Profound Marian Spirituality

Years ago I did a paper (somewhat legendary in the length of time it took for me to finish) on St. Anselm’s Mariology. Now that I’m teaching a Mariology class, I’ve dug out the old paper. It’s not bad! Well, it did take years to write.

Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M. wrote some thoughts on St. Anselms’s Marian Spirituality, conveniently including the three famous prayers to Mary written by him.

Here’s a little from Prayer 3:

Palace of universal propitiation,
cause of general reconciliation,
vase and temple of life and universal salvation:
I have made too little of your praises,
and in a little man like me it is especially vile
to belittle your merits.
For the world rejoices in your love
and so proclaims what you have done for it.
O Lady, to be wondered at for your unparalleled virginity;
to be venerated for a holiness beyond all reckoning—
you showed to the world its Lord and its God
whom it had not known.
You showed to the sight of all the world
its Creator whom it had not seen.
You gave birth to the restorer of the world
for whom the lost world longed.
You brought forth the world’s reconciliation,
which, in its guilt, it did not have before.

St. Anselm recognizes the profound role Mary has played in being the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God incarnate.

The Marian Person by Fr. Joseph Kentenich

Purchase info: buy here.

This little book is worth its weight in gold. As a Marian of the Immaculate Conception (which is not related to the Schoenstatt movement, but we can certainly appreciate it), I am just blown away by the profound insights of Fr. Joseph Kentenich.

The book consists in conferences from 1924 and two sermons from 1965. They work together quite well. The key to this book is the definition Fr. Kentenich gives of the “Marian person:”

The Marian person is the person who understands as deeply as possible, in the spirit and light of faith, Mary’s role in the work of redemption, and allows her to permanently impact his practical life even to the last consequence, so as to become a holy apostle (pg. 21).

Anyone devoted to the Blessed Virgin should read this little book.

Mary, Our Mother and Educator

Purchase info: buy here.

I’ve just discovered the writings of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt movement. Wow. He has some incredible insights. And, his Mariology is quite practical, focusing on Our Lady’s intercession today, here and now, with us, including the idea of her educating us.

This book is quite helpful, since it gives an overview of how Fr. Kentenich sees Mary working in our lives:

As a side note… Fr. Kentenich also has some profound thoughts on humility, including the humility of Our Lady in a short book called He Exalts the Lowly.

Mary Foreshadowed

Book: Mary Foreshadowed; or, Considerations on the Types and Figures of Our Blessed Lady in the Old Testament
Author: Rev. F. Thaddeus, O.S.F. (Francis Hermans)
R. Washbourne
London, 1885.

This has some great examples and great quotes, including a number from Raymond Jordan (Idiota).

Here is an example in the comparison of Our Lady to Esther:

There are many points of resemblance between Esther and the Blessed Virgin Mary; but we will confine ourselves to the most conspicuous among them.

Esther pleased Assuerus so much that he loved her more than all other women; he took her for his spouse, and made her queen. Similarly, our Blessed Lady was so pleasing to God, that He blessed her above all other women; He chose her to be the Mother of His Beloved Son, and consequently made her Queen of the whole universe. St. Bernardine expresses this thought in the following terms: ‘Mary is the true Esther, whom the King, that is, God, loved above all other women, above all other creatures. He placed the royal crown upon her head, and made her Queen.’ Oh! what an advantage, what a privilege it is for us to have so great, so excellent a Queen! Let us with all our heart dedicate ourselves to the service of this Queen; let us honour her, and love her to the utmost of our power; for, as Richard of St. Lawrence says, she is not like other sovereigns who oppress their subjects with burdens and taxes; our Queen, on the contrary, enriches her servants with graces, merits, and rewards. (pages 216-7)

Denis the Carthusian on the Blessed Virgin

Many great works about the Blessed Virgin Mary exist in Latin, and one I recently discovered is by Denis the Carthusian. He lived in the 15th century, dedicated much of his life to prayer, study, and writing, and wrote a number of profound theological works.

One of his works on Our Lady is a treatise called De praeconio et dignitate Beatae Virginis Mariae. I think one could say “Of the proclamation and the dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It consists of 4 books, and they are contained in volume 35 of his Opera Omnia, which is, like many old books these days, available free online. The work begins on page 477.

A few headings: Of the enmity which has arisen between the Woman and the serpent.
What then is the enmity this Lady has toward the serpent?
That the same Son eternally begotten of the Father was born of Blessed Mary in time.
That the glory, dignity, and grace of Mary is indescribable, and in some sense infinite.
Of the incomparable fruitfulness of Mary
A comparison of the fecundity of the Holy Virgin to the fecundity of the Eternal Father…

Would that someone could translate these works….

Idiota: Contemplations on the Virgin Mary

This is from a work by Idiota (Raymundus Jordanus)

Now… an improved translation!

This is actually the beginning of a longer tract on Our Lady. The text that is traditionally called the “contemplations of the Virgin Mary” is much shorter. A complete translation of it exists in English, and I hope to “bring out” this text at some point.

THE BEGINNING OF THE CONTEMPLATIONS OF IDIOTA ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN

1. Draw me after you, Virgin Mary, draw me after you, so that I might run in the odor of your ointments. (Song of Songs, 1:3) Draw me after you, because the weight of my sins detains me. Draw me after you, because the pleasures of carnal concupiscence bind me. Draw me after you, because the malignant cunning of the perverse enemy ensnares me. Draw me after you, so that I might more quickly come to you; for just as no one comes to your blessed Son, unless the Father draws him; so in a certain way it could be said that no one comes to your glorious Son, unless you draw him by your most sacred prayers. Therefore, draw me who am petrified, so that you might render me a runner; draw me, a sinner, so that you may render me a penitent; draw me, who am ignorant, so that you might render me full of knowledge.

2. So that I might run in the odor of your ointments, that is, in the fragrance of your virtues, which, just as they smell of ointment and are fragrant, they soothe anguish and heal wounds; your most fragrant ointments are, for example, heavenly wisdom, spiritual grace and unfading glory; for by your words and example, you teach true wisdom, because you are the teacher of the wisdom of God; you obtain grace for sinners and you promise glory for those who honor you. Hence, obtain by your assiduous intercession, that I might praise you, glorify you, bless you, recount your virtues, announce your wonders, and preach your holy and exemplary life, elucidate what is written about you, so that I might have eternal life: for, it is written about you, those who explain me, will have eternal life. (Cf. Sir 24:22)

First Part – Contemplation I – On the Head of the Virgin Mary

1. Your head is like Carmel, most merciful Virgin Mary, because Carmel is a high and fruitful mountain: whence, your head, that is, your intellect, which resides within the head, was high on account of the eminence of [your] contemplation; since your intellect was always elevated toward God on account of your continual contemplation, and you were more clearly contemplating God, because you reached into the heavens while stills standing upon earth: and (as it is piously believed by many) and while still a pilgrim, your blessed soul more frequently comprehended and enjoyed things heavenly and eternal than all the other Saints. And although you displayed all the works of the active life to your blessed Son: nevertheless, interiorly, you never departed from divine contemplation, for you possess in this matter the perfection of the Angels. For the Angels, since they are sent unto us, as they minister exteriorly, nevertheless interiorly do not depart from their contemplation of God.

2. Your blessed Head you humbled before God; your Head is Carmel, that is, on account of the most generous fertility of singular graces, you excelled the dominion of your members; just as through the head, the entire body is ruled. From this follows the manifold fruit of good works; for from your virginal substance, the Supreme Pontifex [High Priest] assumed, as a victim, you flesh, which, upon the altar of the Cross for the salvation of the world, was elevated upon the Cross and with his hands offered the evening sacrifice; whose most sweet odor consoled the wrath of God the Father: and from you he drew, not the heat (fervor) of the wounds, but the matter for healing.

3. Truly, I am the most miserable sinner; and full of all misery, and worth of all punishment, by not contemplating what was said above, and by not responding to the graces to any extant I have not united to the head of my most kind Lord Jesus Christ, my own head, by humbling itself, through devout contrition, confession, and true and meritorious satisfaction; but my sinful head I have dared to raise through pride, by not knowing you nor your blessed Son, spurning the graces given to me, by committing so many sins, harming my neighbor or having the will to harm. Oh, most clement Virgin Mary, deign to have compassion upon me, a miser, incline your head toward your blessed Son and pray that my proud and ungrateful head might be worthy to become humble; so that I might know how to love Him and you, amend my sins, not harm but love my neighbor, persevere in good works, and having finished the course of this present life, I might rest with my head, the most glorious Jesus Christ, for all eternity. Amen.

Anybody want more translated from this?

Some translation from Cardinal Berulle’s “Life of Jesus”

The powerful thoughts of Cardinal Berulle (founder of the French School of Spirituality, which included St. John Eudes and St. Louis Marie de Montfort) are, for the most part, not translated into English. I’ve put together a rough translation from an Italian text concerning a reflection on the Annunciation:

In Nazareth is a small house that contains the treasure of heaven and earth, and the secret love of the Father towards the world. In this small place there is a Virgin greater than heaven and earth, chosen by God to comprehend the incomprehensible. In her is a greatness and light that exists neither in Rome, nor Athens, nor among men nor among the angels. A virgin named Mary, as her name says, is an abyss of grace, an ocean of grandeur, a universe of wonders. This is the Virgin that God looks upon. She also looks at God, staying with Him. To this Virgin God sends his angel.

God is everywhere. He works in all things in a way so worthy, powerful, sweet. There is a correspondence between His being and His works, so as He is in heaven, so on earth is, how He acts up there, so here for us. As He acts in the angel, He acts in Virgin, and indeed acts more in Our Lady than in the angel.

Ht fills the spirit, guided her contemplation, prepared and disposed this soul to what He wants to accomplish in her, to that mystery which the angel will soon announce. He gives her thoughts, motions, as the provisions for the work that must be accomplished.

Mary yearned for the presence of the Messiah on earth Her feelings are conquered by the powerful desire to see him and to serve him during his days. She hope to see him, to worship him and serve him on earth. God pours out in her a new grace, a divine quality, a heavenly gift. This grace is the last measure before the perfect form, the divine being, I mean to say the eternal Word, is introduced into the world.

A further text:
The Virgin being so occupied, the angel comes in a heavenly state and surprises her. He comes into this small room as a sanctuary, more holy and venerable than the place called the Holy of Holies in the temple. He comes full of respect and light, and he appears in the form of man, for he takes to her what he announces, and he announces a God-Man. He greets her in very deep humility, because he is dealing with the highest mystery and the most humble that will ever be, and we had read in his face and his comportment, the impression of the dignity, the purity of the humility of this divine mystery of which he must speak. He said great words to the Virgin, because she will go into such a great state, there is nothing like it. This mystery, this conference, they are divinely represented by the Paintbrush of the Holy Spirit in the tableau of the Gospel. (from Chapter 8)

More from chapter 8
This angel, sent for this great and extraordinary commission, is called Gabriel, this one St. Luke mentions (and this is the third time in these few words), his name translates to Strength of God because he announces the mystery that God has set his strength and his power to save men, to vanquish the demons, and establish his grace in the earth, his glory in heaven and the terror of his name in the underworld. There are even some great and ancient doctors, who say in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus, that name Gabriel means, God and Man, as if to say the name of this angel corresponded to the great weight of his embassy, and that portended in this name the perpetual sign of the greatest diplomatic representation he will ever have.

Quotes from “Idiota”

Raymundus Jordanus, or Raymund Jordan, styled himself “The Idiot,” or in Latin “Idiota.” He lived in the 14th century. Yet this author had some profound reflections. Let’s look at a few:

Here’s one about the Blessed Virgin as a Spring.
Thou, O most pious Virgin, art properly called “a Spring”; for as a spring issues cool water at all times, so by thy kindness the fire of our passions is cooled, and the cold hearts of the sinners are warmed. From thee, O blessed fountain, flow abundant streams of grace, refreshing all those who draw water with humility.

O fountain of love and mercy, fountain of sweetness and clemency, water the dry and sterile soil of my heart! May thy stream of grace flow towards me, a most guilty sinner! May it wash out the stains of my sins, that, being made pure, I may for ever rejoice in the happy fruition of the inexhaustible Source of Life!

Here is another about honoring Mary:
It is the will of thy Most Blessed Son, O Mary, that we should bless thee, His Mother and our Lady, at all times; and that thy praise should be in our mouth and heart day and night in prosperity and adversity; that we should constantly meditate upon thee, invoke thee, work in thy honour, give thee thanks, relate thy life, and proclaim thy greatness!

Another profound thought from Idiota:
Amongst all the works of the Great Creator, after the wonderful operation whereby the Son of the Eternal Father was united to our nature, thou, O Blessed Virgin, wast the special work of God, Who made thee in order that what had become deformed of His first production might be reformed through thee.

The Bibliografia Mariana is Online!

I didn’t realize this, but this important tool in Mariological research is online. It’s sometimes called the “Besutti,” after the name of the main editor for many years. Ok, most people reading this have never heard of it, but, trust me, as far as a reference to what has been done in the 20th century concerning Mariology, this is probably one of the most complete. It covers many languages, also.

Bibliografia Mariana

An “Extensive Summary,” but Not Well Understood

Paul VI on Lumen Gentium, from a speech at the close of the 3rd Session of the Second Vatican Council (November 22, 1964) – my translation

“For this is the first time, and in saying this we are deeply moved in spirit, that an Ecumenical Council has concentrated into one extensive summary the Catholic doctrine regarding the place the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies in the mystery of Christ and the Church.”

In other words, Vatican II said more about Mary than any previous Ecumenical Council, yet the newspapers reported Vatican II as a “downgrade” of Mary or a “lessening of emphasis” on her [example 1] [example 2]. The vote to incorporate teachings on Mary into the document on the Church was seen as a de-emphasis, but in fact there was still more said than had ever been said before concerning Mary. Unfortunately, there were a number of clerics that wanted to believe the newspapers, and the new generation was all about change for the sake of change, and that meant downgrading Mary in practice.

The doctrine contained in Lumen Gentium requires careful study, and spin doctors of the ’60s tried to minimize the impact by focusing on certain phrases that would seem to de-emphasize devotion to Mary (avoiding false exaggeration, for instance). Overall, though, the document shows that devotion to Mary is very important, and gives a stronger doctrinal basis for her role in salvation history than any previous council.

from Lumen Gentium
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. [Emphasis added.] At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.”(3*) Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.

St. Bernardine of Sienna on the Magnificat

CHAPTER V.

THE FOURTH WORD.

“AND Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden, for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name, and His mercy is from generation to generation to them that fear Him. He hath showed might with His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy, as He spoke to your fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.”

The love which here manifests itself is called by St. Bernardine the love of “jubilation.” Its nature, he says, is to be always singing and making melody about the Beloved. Mary was wrapt in the most lofty contemplation, her mind entirely occupied with God, and she broke out, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” Her canticle is full of the praises and glorification of God and of thanksgiving for the greatness of His benefits. She first speaks of His great gifts to herself in particular, then of gifts and benefactions which are general to all, and then of the particular and special benefit and mercy to the world of the Incarnation.

We may say a few words concerning each of these heads. Mary does not say that her tongue magnifies the Lord, but her soul, for the soul can understand the greatness of God far better than the tongue can describe it. God had magnified the soul of Mary above all men and angels, He had even Himself become Man in her womb, and now she gives Him back all this greatness, which is His and not hers. She will speak no word of her own greatness, all greatness is His, all His gifts are to be referred to Him. All creatures praise and magnify: Him, she above all. Then she shows her gratitude by exulting and rejoicing in Him. He is her Saviour, her Jesus, her own, He belongs to her more than to all the world. She has no joy but in Him, her thoughts rejoice to dwell on Him, her memory feeds itself upon Him, the salvation which He works out for all the world she rejoices in more than all the world, for it belongs most of all to her.

There are two things in God on which the contemplations of men and of angels are turned with an everlasting gaze of ecstatic wonder–His majesty and His goodness. The first generates chaste fear, the second ardent love. They venerate His majesty and love His goodness. The one requires the other, for love without reverence is a waste, and reverence without love is a pain.

Mary proceeds to speak of the great instance of His goodness, which has been shown in His treatment of her. “Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,” I shall be called blessed not only by one or two, but by all the generations of mankind. She speaks as the one who had been chosen to be the promised Mother, in whose seed all the generations of the world were to be blessed, the Woman between whom and Satan enmities had been placed by God, and who was to crush the head of the serpent under her virgin foot. “He hath regarded her humility,” for her love and choice of humility, as her great virtue, was inspired by Him first, and then next she was chosen and accepted for her humility, and then, again, she was exalted for her humility.

Her humility, then, she says, was the one quality beyond all others for which God looked upon her. She was noble and high born, but God did not regard her noble or royal blood and high rank, for He looketh on those things, that are lowly, and regardeth the lofty afar off. She was beautiful, but beauty is vain. She might have been powerful, but He it is that humbles the mighty. She might have been wise, but God chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Her virginity was beautiful in His eyes, yet it was not that that He looked upon. Nor could He have regarded her prudence, or riches in this world, nor the fact that she had been sanctified in the womb, nor her gifts of prayer and contemplation, nor her watchfulness over her senses, nor even her faith, nor her hope, nor her most wonderful charity. And so she leaves these virtues unspoken of, and says only, “He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

St. Bernardine says that, by all generations, our Lady means to signify the dwellers in Heaven and on earth and under the earth. For the angels have seen their fall repaired through her, and men have been reconciled to God through her, and the captives detained in Limbus and in Purgatory have been set free through her. So her canticle embraces the future as well as the past and the present, and takes in the course of the world until the end, and the thanksgivings and joys of angels, as well of men, for the grace which has been bestowed upon her. “For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name,” that is, it seems, He that is mighty and Whose Name is holy, the Omnipotent and the Most Holy, hath done to me and in me great things–great things even in regard to His omnipotence and His holiness, so that He Himself cannot surpass in any created being or thing those most wonderful things of might and of sanctity which He hath done to me His handmaid.

For the union of the Divine Person to the Sacred Humanity, so that her Son, Jesus Christ, should be God and Man in one Divine Person, the Redeemer of the world, and so that she should be the true Mother of God, is a work of power and sanctification which no other Divine work can equal. And yet our Blessed Lady, as St. Bernardine tells us, speaks of these great things in such a way as to preserve her own humility intact, by attributing the whole to God. She had been made able to bear a Son Who was God, but this was all wrought by Him Who is mighty. And she was made so holy that the fruit of her womb should be the Holy of holies, the Son of God, but this is the work of Him Whose name is holy. And He has taken her, the humblest and lowliest of women, to be the person in whom these great things are to be brought about, which surpass all other mighty works either of His power or His sanctity.

St. Bernardine then tells its that our Lady proceeds from magnifying God for the blessings which He had bestowed upon her own person,
to the celebration of His more general favours through the Incarnation which had taken place in her womb. “And His mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear Him.” He says that the first generation of men had been divided, as it were, into many streams or strains, and among them the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had been separated from all others to be God’s own people, to whom the “oracles of God,” the revelation of the future salvation, had been confided, and who had been commissioned to keep alive in the world the knowledge of Him and of His Law. In the fulness of time the separation between Jews and Gentiles was to cease, the wall of partition was to be demolished, the knowledge of God, His law, and the salvation which was to be through her Son, was to become the inheritance of the whole human race.

To be continued….

Chapter 3 of The Seven Words of Mary Derived from St. Bernardine of Siena

CHAPTER III.

THE SECOND WORD.

“AND the Angel answering said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee, and therefore also the Holy that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold Elisabeth thy cousin, she hath also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God.” It is needless to point out how great is the advance in the revelation of the counsel of God which is made in these words. Nothing had been said before this moment as to the Divine Person by Whose agency the Incarnation was to be brought about, and on the other hand there had been a remarkable silence as to any human person but Mary herself having any part in it. It was not so in former announcements, somewhat the like in kind, in Sacred Scripture, as, for instance, it had been said by st. Gabriel to Zachary, “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” The omission of all reference to a father was significant, and fell in altogether with the desire of our Blessed Lady. And now that she had asked her question, so full of the love of God of which St. Bernardine speaks, a supplementary revelation of the highest and most ineffable importance is made by the mention of the Holy Ghost. The crown is thus put to the revelation as it before stood, and the article of the Christian Creed is proclaimed for all time, that the Son of God made Man was to be conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.

But we are not now to draw out the full meaning of these most sublime words, for we are dwelling upon the effect which they produced upon her who was the first to hear, from the messenger of Heaven, this truth which it was beyond the highest imaginations of the Cherubim to conceive. The change which these words wrought in Mary herself cannot be described. It is certain that they overwhelmed her soul with the most intense joy and gratitude, that she no longer hesitated or was uncertain, as before, as to the course which the great mystery of the Incarnation was to take, and as to her own immediate part and duty. Thus it drew from her the words which she uttered at once, words of the most perfect obedience, humility, charity, and joy, ” Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.”

Mary, the humblest as well as purest of women, understood, then, that she was to be the Mother of God, as the former words of Gabriel had shown, and that further, she was to become the Mother of God without any impairing of that virginal purity of which her own First Word showed her to be afraid. And further still, she understood that this marvel was to be brought about in her by no created agency at all, even of the highest angel, but by the direct action of God Himself, the Third Person in the Adorable Trinity, and that, in consequence of that “supervention” of the Holy Ghost and of the overshadowing of the power of the Most High, by which the action of the Eternal Father is signified, her Child was to be the true Son of God made Man.

St. Bernardine calls this utterance of our Blessed Lady, in answer to the final revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation, a flame of “transforming” love. For it is the property of love to transform the one of the two who love into the other, uniting them most closely and inseparably. All true love, indeed, he says, must consist in this perfect union of those who love one the other, and so it might seem that this was the first flame which should have been mentioned in order, instead of the second. He explains that he has put the love which he calls of separation before this, because the flight and avoidance of everything whatsoever that is inconsistent with and opposed to the interests of the object of love must precede any perfect union with him, and thus it was right to put the perfect abandonment of any love but that of God in its perfect purity, before this second flame which manifests itself in the Second Word of Mary.

He sees the qualities of this perfect love in the words themselves of the Blessed Virgin. Her great humility, and readiness to serve God with all kinds and degrees of service, are shown in the words, Behold the handmaid or the servant of the Lord. Her confidence and intense love and great hope, are shown in the other words, Be it done to me according to thy word, as if to say, he says, that she would not dare of herself to ask or pray for this that had been announced to her, and at the same time that she neither dares nor wishes to lessen the promise of God, and thus she desires and wishes neither more nor less than that which the words spoken by the messenger of God have declared to her. “Be it done to me according to thy word!” This, too, was spoken by the one person in the world who understood most perfectly all that was contained in the message of the Angel, and in the prophecies and promises of God which that message embodied and set forth. The word, “behold,” implies the complete and irrevocable manner of her surrender of herself to God, the word, “the handmaid,” signifies the entire humility of the offering, the words, “be it done unto me,” show the breadth and extent of the subjection she professes, and the words” according to thy word,” signify the depth of her faith in what had been promised.

St. Bernardine has in another place (Sermon viii., De Consensu Virginali (in the same volume)) some more to say about the consent of the Blessed Mother which was given in her Second Word, and, although some of his expressions are obscure on account of the brevity which characterizes the records which we have of his sermons-unless, indeed, we have little more than the notes from which what he actually said was expanded by him when he came to preach–it is well worth our while to draw out his meaning as far as we can. St. Bernardine uses scholastic words which may now and then frighten us, but they have often very simple meanings. His great sermon De Cousensu Virginali is the source from which our commentary on this Second Word will be chiefly derived.

The Saint begins by speaking of what he calls the object of the consent which our Lady declared in the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” Under this head there are four points to be considered. Mary consented to conceive the Son of God, in visible, passible, and mortal flesh. She understood and consented to the proposal that He should take human and visible flesh, and all that belongs to our nature in soul and body, that He should be a mortal man like others; and should be capable of suffering in all its forms, that He might be like unto us in all things, except sin. Moreover, He was to suffer and die for our sins, the sins of the whole world, and make satisfaction to the infinite justice of God for all men. All this was contained in the prophecies which she knew so well, and was actually expressed, though not in greater detail than was necessary to put her in mind of the truths that were so familiar to her, by the saying of the Angel, “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus”–words which were afterwards repeated by the Angel to St. Joseph, “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” This was the proposal, the acceptance of which was now Mary’s part, and depending on her use of her own free will.

When we consider the immense range of the predictions concerning our Lord, and especially concerning the redemption of the world by Him, and the way in which that redemption was to be carried out, we see what a wonderful depth and power of resolution was required of Mary in order that she should close with the offer now made to her. One thing must be quite clear, namely, that unless she could throw her whole heart and affections at the feet of God with the utmost abandonment of herself, and her whole life and will, she could never have given a worthy and due acceptance to so momentous a work. She must have seen that the work was absolutely unique, and could have no parallel in the self-surrender it required, her faith must have been most immovable and robust, her humility must have been utter in its submission, her emptying of herself and self-annihilation altogether unrivaled, and, as far as such a result could be obtained by the power of love, she must have desired and been ready to make herself as far as could be one and the same thing with the Saviour of the world Who was to become Man in her.

It is also needless to try to think how lofty must have been her conceptions of the Divine Person, One with His Father and the Holy Ghost in the ineffable Unity of the Godhead, Whom it was proposed to her to receive for a Son, and, again, her conceptions of the infinite and most marvellously loveable humility with which He was to enter her womb, to be a little Child, and then to suffer the most bitter pangs for our sins, dying for them on the Cross. This was to accept Him as Crucified and to be Crucified, as the ransom to be paid to the justice of God in superabundant satisfaction for the sins of all, and moreover in impetration for all boons, as the reparation of all that had been lost, and as the mediation required by all the elect and the children of God. Such were the conditions under which she was asked to receive in her womb the Son of God, for thus it was that His mortal Body was to be formed out of her most pure blood.

In the second place St. Bernardine bids us consider that it was proposed to our Blessed Lady that the Holy Ghost was to come upon her for the purpose of sanctifying her, and producing in her the marvellous change which was necessary, in order that the Body of our Lord might be formed in her in a most spiritual and supernatural manner, according to the decree of God. We know that there are changes made in us from time to time, as when persons pass from a secular state to the state of religion, or when they are raised to a higher state, or higher stages in any state in which they live, or even when they pass to new scenes and new duties and new habits. Some of these changes are like passing from death to life, from the utmost pain and infirmity to the most robust health, from utter poverty and destitution to great riches, from the greatest danger or despair to the happiest and most secure condition in the world. Such changes are sometimes most surprising and alarming on account of their novelty, and even produce astounding bodily effects by the suddenness of the horror and fright which they engender, making the hairs to stand on end, or the body to become rigid, so that the shock is sometimes like the shock of death.

But we can well imagine that the shock must have been great indeed when our Blessed Lady was asked to give her consent for this overshadowing of the power of God, and this coming upon her of the Holy Ghost, nor could it have been without fear and dread, notwithstanding the ineffable clearness of her faith, and the wondrous strength of her hope and confidence, that she gave herself up, trembling and astonished, to receive that incomprehensible and most Divine advent of the Holy Ghost upon her which was to make her the Mother of God. No wonder if she was filled with calm and reverential confusion, with anxiety in order that she might receive so great a dignity in no unworthy manner, as far as that was possible. With all her eager love for the coming of the salvation of mankind by means of the promised Incarnation, when the moment came for its accomplishment in her own person, what immense courage must she have required, who can imagine?

Again, St. Bernardine tells us that as the Eternal Father proposed to bestow His Son upon her to be her Son, and asked her consent to this, we are to consider how she must have felt the immensity of the obligation laid upon her, of love, of gratitude, of acknowledgment, for so great a gift. It was no other than God Who was to become her Son, the Father was to give Him to enter her heart, her womb. He was to form in her and of her the Body for His Son, Who was to be at the same time His Son and hers. To correspond to the dignity of the Father Who offered this, and of the Son Who was thus offered, must have required an act of love and gratitude and self-oblation higher than the merits of all the saints. She was bound to “bring into captivity,” as St. Paul speaks, all her intelligence and all her affections to assent and consent to the truth of the mystery now proposed to her in so sublime a manner, all that was now declared to her mind, and all the consequent truths which it involved. She knew that it involved nothing less than this, that in her, in one moment, the foundations of the whole fabric of our restoration and the redemption of the whole world were to be firmly and solidly laid. Her faith and her hope were the means by which she was made strong enough for this, together with the loving and humble obedience and subjection with which her assent and consent were given at the words of the Angel.

St. Bernardino adds, that Mary was moved to this by her great desire that that which the whole world was in need and in expectation of should come about, the redemption and restoration of the whole universe, including her own salvation and the salvation of all men, and the immense glory to God which would follow therefrom. Who can imagine how much she desired and longed for this? And he quotes St. Augustine, in his sermon on her Nativity, who says to her that the whole world beseeches her consent, and bids her answer for the faith, “Delay not, O Blessed Maiden, speak the word of answer, receive the Son of God, and begin to feel His power!” Her consent was as beautiful and royal as that which was asked of her was great. God had predestined that the salvation of all the elect should depend on the consent of Mary, and it is reasonable to suppose that He gave to her consent a corresponding merit and power.

St. Bernardine goes on with some considerations in the great virtues which our Lady exercised at this moment of her consent to the Conception of the Son of God. He first speaks of the kind of martyrdom to which she offered herself in this. With her enlightenment as to the manner in which the kingdom of the Incarnation was arranged in the decrees of God, she must have foreseen the cross which awaited her, and she must have welcomed it with an incomparably greater love than that which would have moved her before to undergo anything whatever for the glory of God.

At the time of His Conception, our Lord Himself made a most intense interior act, by which He satisfied for the sins of all the world, and offered Himself freely to undergo every pain and death, fully and completely, with the utmost promptitude. We know also that God, by means of His Angel, proposed to Mary that His Son should be conceived in her womb as the future Redeemer and Saviour of all the world. She knew the gravity of the reason for which the Incarnation took place. She must have known all the shame and pain and suffering of all kinds ill which she might be herself exposed, and certainly we hear from her no word of inquiry from the Angel how all this might be avoided or be met. She knew she was to conceive Him, Who was to be crucified, and the part that she might herself have to bear in the Crucifixion. “And the wisdom of God ordained,” says St. Bernardine, “to show that she was conscious of this, that on the same day on which our Lord was conceived, He was also crucified.”

The Saint speaks next of the virtue of pity and mercy as exercised in a wonderful manner by our Blessed Lady in consenting to the Conception of our Lord in her womb. She had always desired and prayed for the salvation of the elect, and at this moment she dedicated herself to the carrying out of the counsel of God which was ordained for that salvation. From that moment she bore in her womb the Saviour of all, and she bore, all in her heart as tenderly as her own children. And in the same way he speaks of her wonderful purity of mind and heart. She showed, as we have seen, her intense love for purity in the vow which she had made of old, to which she had referred in her First Word to the Angel. This love of purity, St. Bernardine says, was increased in her at the time of our Lord’s Conception, and he gathers this from the words of St. Gabriel, that the Holy Ghost was to come upon her and the power of the Most High was to overshadow her, and that therefore the Holy which was to be born in her was to be called the Son of God. The action of the Holy Ghost and of the power of the Most High, which is here spoken of, could not be without producing in her a still greater sanctification than it found in her.

We may therefore consider these words as showing that Mary’s intelligence that at this time she was to be so entirely purified, pure as she already was, as that the fruit of her womb was to be purity itself, and the Son of God. Her consent, therefore, given to His Conception, involved her consent to and her desire for this further advance in purity. Indeed, St. Bernardine adds, she now tasted and partook of the purity of God Himself. For the nearer that a creature draws to God, the more does it become like to Him, and share His character. It is a very little thing to think of Divine purity that it is free from all that is contrary to cleanness in thought. But Divine purity consists in the freedom from any thought or image that is short of the highest sanctity, It is into this heavenly region and atmosphere that the pure in soul ascend, and it was this atmosphere that our Blessed Lady habitually breathed. So it was at this time of the Conception of our Lord that she became the Virgin of Virgins, and attained a purity than which no higher can be found except in God Himself.

St. Bernardine adds some beautiful considerations as to the immense helps by which our Blessed Lady was aided to make this wonderful act of consent, on which the happiness of the universe depended, He speaks of four heads under which these helps may be ranged. The first is her election by God, the second the perfection of virtues she already possessed, the third the suffrages of the whole angelic host, and the fourth the “paternal affection” of all the ancient saints. By this he means all the prayers and merits and desires of the servants of God before her time, which all were directed to the obtaining from Him the one great object, the gift of the Saviour and His introduction to the world to which He had been promised.

It is so important that we should endeavour to raise ourselves, as far as possible, to the full height of the conceptions of the saints concerning the ineffable and unique importance of the mystery of the Incarnation, and of Mary’s part therein, that we must dwell for a few moments on this part also of the words of St. Bernardine. The Saint reasons thus. It is certain that the” elective grace” and charity of God, now shed upon Mary, cannot be compared to that which has been given to any of the saints, but must have been far greater. For this grace or charity is borne down upon the saints in a greater and higher measure of love in some cases than in others, and produces greater effects on their souls in proportion to that measure. For if God chooses, efficaciously and meetly, to raise anyone to a lofty and difficult state, His charity must move that soul in a degree proportionate to the difficulty of that state, and especially if there be no resistance and want of disposition on the part of the person moved. But the state of the Divine Maternity, for which God chose the Blessed Virgin, was the highest possible state that could be conferred on a pure creature. Therefore the elective charity and grace of God came to our Lady and moved her heart so as to help her to rise to this state, and the consent, now given by her, shared in the highest degree the perfection of the charity of God that moved her to it, the charity of God, full of love to her, and raising the act of her will to something resembling, as far as could be, His own love and choice of her.

In the second place our Lady was helped and strengthened to this act of consent by her own formal possession of all virtues. How great these were is shown: by the words of Gabriel, who calls her “full of grace,” “blessed among women,” and declares that the Lord is “with her” in a way which has no peer. It may be supposed as certain, therefore, that she was “full of grace” beyond all others, the habits of charity and of the other virtues being in her in a far higher degree than in any other saint. This seems to be contained in the words of the Angel.

Here, again, St. Bernardine reasons thus. Every holy and discreet mind girds itself up with intense vigour, collects its forces, and strives to rise to the performance of any work in a due, and devout, and perfect manner, the more it feels that that work is divine and sublime, and calling for the greatest possible virtue, and effort, and carefulness, and perfection, that it may be performed worthily and meetly, and in a way most pleasing to God the Father. But any believing mind will see that to conceive God, and to be the Mother of God, is the highest of all works, and that therefore the act by which it is brought about must be a most perfect act above all. This act was the consent of our Lady. When therefore she perceived that God had chosen her for this, and prevented her by His grace for this, and that her consent was required for this, then it behoved her with her whole heart, and the utmost efforts she could make, to dispose herself and lay herself open to receive so wonderful a grace in a worthy manner and without the slightest flaw of sin or imperfection. This was done by consenting to it worthily and fitly. But a means to such a consent was the whole array and armament of her wonderful virtues, which were all, as it were, strained to their utmost force in forming that consent.

A third aid to this magnificent consent of Mary is said by St. Bernardine to be the “infusion” of the angels. The whole body of the angelic hierarchies desired and laboured for nothing so much as the salvation of all the elect. When Gabriel was sent to salute our Lady, all the angels became aware that the beginning and foundation of our salvation, that is Christ, God made Man, to be brought into being by the consent of our Lady. Therefore the whole company of the angels bent all their desires and efforts to the helping of Mary, that she might undertake and bring to perfection this great work, and for this they all prayed to God, and used the “influence” which they all have, in proportion to their rank, in aiding and assisting her, the highest of all receiving their “influence” from God, and all working with one another in due order, until the grace reached Mary. So that St. Gabriel spoke in the name and in the power of all, as the ambassador and delegate of the whole angelic body. In this way they all cooperated, and the power of all with God was exercised in her favour.

In the fourth place St. Bernardine tells us that our Blessed Lady was assisted to the great act of her consent by the “paternal affection” of all the ancient saints. For all of them, either explicitly or implicitly, had longed above all things for the obtaining from God the Saviour Who had been promised, and His bringing into the world. Their holy intentions and desires and prayers and merits, all concurred to this effect. It follows that we must conclude that God had regard to their prayers and merits in bringing about the Incarnation, and in this sense they had a share in helping on its coming, and in aiding her on whose consent it depended, when the time duly came, to make that most wonderful act. The whole company of the ancient saints, therefore, as well as all the hierarchies of the angels, had a part in this great second Word of Mary, which involved a magnitude of perfection almost inconceivable to man, and of which we can only say that it hears some correspondence and proportion to the ineffable dignity to which she who was to he the Mother of God was elevated by Him.

These thoughts of St. Bernardine represent the consent of Mary, expressed in her second Word, as a choice, indeed, of the exercise of her own free will, and yet as an act brought about by the immense love of predilection with which God regarded her, as the fruit of immense graces received with immense fidelity, and assisted by all the power of the good angels, and all the prayers and merits of the ancient saints.

Chapter 2 of The Seven Words of Mary Derived from St. Bernardine of Siena

CHAPTER II.

THE FIRST WORD.
THE First Word of our Blessed Lady was spoken at the time of her Annunciation, when the Angel entered the room in which she was engaged in prayer, probably about that very mystery which was soon to be accomplished in her own person. We are all familiar with the story. The words of Gabriel and of Mary are on our lips several times a day: “And the Angel being come in, said unto her, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women.”

But we are to remember that, before our Lady made any answer, she remained silent, and her first use of speech, if we may so say, was not to use it. For the virtue of prudence in speech, as we all know, consists as much in not speaking as in speaking at the right time. Before the word of speech comes the word of silence, as we shall see. “And when she had heard she was troubled at his saying, and thought within herself what manner of salutation this should be.” The words of St. Luke do not so much signify that she pondered in herself what the meaning of the salutation was, as how great it was, and whence it came.

We know that the message sent by God to our Blessed Lady was not sent till the fulness of time had come, that is, till the long preparation which was to precede the Incarnation in the counsels of God in the providential government of the world was accomplished. It is not likely that there was no analogous preparation made in the chosen Virgin who was to be the conscious and intelligent instrument of God in the execution of the great mystery. As a matter of fact, Catholics believe that the process of the Divine preparation of Mary for her position in the Kingdom of her Son began at the very instant of the dawn of her intelligent life, and continued from that moment without interruption till the time came for the message of the Annunciation to be delivered to
her. The intelligent life of Mary began with her use of the spiritual gifts with which she was so largely endowed at the time of her Immaculate Conception, the graces and virtues, the knowledge of God and His works, which she then received, and this was met on her part by so perfect and faithful a correspondence as to win her an ever continuing increase from His bounty of the gifts with which she began.

Although the few words which conveyed to Mary the first part of the message of God did not fully unfold the whole of that Divine message, as it was afterwards drawn out by St. Gabriel, still they conveyed to her enlightened mind, so fully versed in the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures and of the ways of God. the whole truth at least in germ and in essence. There was only one point in the whole Divine counsel of the Incarnation which was kept back for later revelation, namely, the manner in which the mystery was to be brought about by the agency of the Holy Ghost Himself. The words she now heard conveyed to her mind the intimation that she was the chosen Woman by whose means God was to be born into the world, in order to redeem it. This would be a natural conclusion to form concerning the thoughts of Mary at any ordinary time. We mean that, if she had known that the very same salutation had been made to another Virgin, she would have thought that it meant to announce to that Virgin that she was to be the Mother of God according to the promises made to mankind from the very first. But, more than this, it is certainly most natural to suppose that according to the usual ways in which God deals with His chosen instruments, she would have had an extraordinary internal illumination as to the meaning of the message. delivered to her, corresponding to the extraordinary external grace of the visit and words of the Archangel. We may therefore fairly conclude that she understood the message, and that her trouble was not so much as to what it meant, as on account of the greatness of the dignity to which, as it implied, she was about to be raised. We must take this into account in considering what we are
told of her trouble.

Mary was full of grace, and her humility was the choicest of all her virtues, and that in which she was most like our Lord Himself. Moreover, it is believed that she had been guided by a special instinct of the Holy Ghost to desire, and even to pray that, if her wish was granted that she might live in the times of the advent of the Messias, she might be the handmaid of the peerless Virgin who was to be chosen to be His Mother. It is not therefore wonderful that she should be troubled at the words of the Angel. It was not trouble of that sort with which we are ourselves familiar, an emotion interfering with the calm rule of reason in the soul or turning away its gaze from the presence of God. There are theologians who think that she may have shared in degree the privilege of our Lord in His Sacred Humanity, according to which He was never troubled, except when He deliberately took the trouble to Himself for His own reasons, as the Scripture says of Him that He “troubled Himself” or “began to grow sorrowful.” (St. John 11, 33; St. Matthew 26, 37) Mary’s trouble, even if involuntary, did not disturb the perfect dominion of reason in her soul.

It may be that the Blessed Virgin felt troubled at the appearance of an angel, though she was probably not unaccustomed to such visitations. At all events her humility must have been alarmed at the greatness of the Salutation, and perhaps also for the cause which St. Bernardine assigns, and which makes him call her Word in answer to the Angel, a “flame of separating love.” We shall speak of this presently. But the fear and awe of the Angel’s presence, added to her intense humility, is enough to account for her silence, on which we have already remarked. The saints of God are silent when they are praised, and are more inclined not to speak at all, than to be loquacious after commendation. Thus, as has been said, the first lesson which we learn from the words of Mary is that our words should be very few and not at all in our own praise. There is a tradition about the Holy Home of Nazareth that, of the three persons who lived therein, forming what has sometimes been called “the earthly Trinity,” the One who spoke the least was Jesus, next to Him Mary, and after her Joseph, who was the ruler and head of the house, and thus had more occasion to speak, while our Lord, as the Child, had the least.

St. Bernardine, when he speaks of the flame of “separating” love, as manifesting itself in our Lady on this occasion, does not of course refer to her silence, but to the answer which she gave to the further speech of St. Gabriel, which was itself a kind of answer to her silence. “And the Angel said to her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God, Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His Father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” It is not a part of our business here to draw out the full meaning of these great words, which Mary must have understood in their full sense, and which, together with the appellation which Gabriel had first used when he saluted her as full of grace and blessed among women, called to her mind the whole magnificent range of the prophecies concerning the Incarnation, which had been the precious possession of the holy nation, ever increasing in fulness and clearness of detail as the ages rolled on. It is enough to say that our Lady must have perfectly understood the meaning of the language of the Angel, hardly any word of which was not taken from the prophecies preserved in Sacred Scripture, while at the same time, as has been said, the manner in which the mystery was to be carried out, had not been explicitly declared as yet, either in the predictions of the prophets, or in the words of the Archangel.

“But Mary said to the Angel, How shall this be done, because I know not man?” That is, as St. Bernardine explains, “since my state of life and condition require that I should not become a Mother in that usual manner?” She knew, he says, that God had many ways in which His will as to the Incarnation might be carried out, and she wished to declare that as to her own mind and desire, that way was to be excluded. Many writers are of opinion that she had made a vow to remain ever a perfect Virgin, singly and wholly God’s. St. Bernardine quotes St. Augustine to the effect that our Lady had determined in her heart to keep her vow of virginity, although he thinks that this vow had not been expressed in words, on account of her perfect submission to the will of God, and he adds that, after she had conceived her Divine Son, both she and her Spouse made the vow expressly, whereas before she had made it privately, with the stipulation that it should be kept unless God otherwise revealed such to be His will.

St. Bernardine then bids us observe the great devotion of our Blessed Lady to the pure and simple love of God alone, which she considered might be impaired in herself by the slightest departure from the virginity she had offered to Him, even though without any sin she had conceived in the usual manner. And it is in this that our Saint sees the “separating flame of love” of which he speaks. He bids us consider the intense purity and fervour of the love for God which is revealed to us by this Word. Even when the matter proposed to her was nothing less than the Incarnation of God in her chaste womb, she shrank back from this inestimable honour and blessing, until she knew the declared will of God in the matter, preferring, even to what was proposed to her by St. Gabriel, to remain entirely and singly and wholly His.

There are many other things said about this First Word of Mary by the writers of the Church which do not exclude the truth of St. Bernardine’s contemplation. For, as has been said above, the active part which was to be taken in the Incarnation by the Holy Ghost was a hidden secret, and no one, however deeply read in the prophecies and anticipations of the Old Testament, could have done more than guess at the truth–even if such a guess could have been formed by mortal mind–without a special guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who was Himself to he the agent in the matter. And even, therefore, if our Lady had some anticipation of the truth, she could not have presumed that it was so to be without some positive declaration of the will of God. St. Bernardine says that he thinks that the reason why the manner of her proposed Maternity was not before this explicitly told to her, was that she might form in her heart this most perfect resolution with regard to virginity, and thereby show her immense and boundless love of purity and merit so much the more thereby.

It was fitting that the revelation of the manner decreed by God for the execution of His great counsel should have been made to no one before it was made to Mary herself at this time, and thus we see how her silence and her trouble brought down upon her the inconceivable blessedness of this most glorious revelation, filling her mind with heavenly light and her heart with the most intense and overwhelming ingratitude. It is natural to compare her treatment of the message of God and His consequent dealing with her, with the corresponding reception in the message of God by the same Archangel to the father of St. John the Baptist, related just before this by St. Luke. The inquiry of Zachary, “How shall I know this, for I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years?” is punished, on account of the incredulity which it manifests, while our Lady’s question, “How shall this be done?” which assumes the truth of the message, and only seeks information as to the manner in which it is to be executed, is rewarded by the astounding revelation of the action of the Holy Ghost. But here we pass to the second utterance of our Blessed Lady on which we have to comment.