The Seven Words of Mary Derived From St. Bernardine of Siena

By | June 24, 2013

I will be putting here a work derived from the work of St. Bernardine of Siena on the seven words of Mary. This is not an exact translation, but a work that preaches the same message, often quoting the original author, but taking some liberties. The original is used as a “store of thought.” The book was written by Henry James Coleridge, S.J. and published by Burns and Oates in London in 1889. The original texts in Latin can be found in Book 6 of St. Bernardine’s Opera Omnia.

Here is Chapter 1: THE WORDS OF MARY

“How sweet are thy words unto my palate, more than honey unto my mouth!” Thus the tender-hearted St. Bernardine of Siena begins his discourse on the Words of Mary. (De Visitatione et Septem Verbis B.M.V. Serm. ix. (Op. tom. iv.)) which will furnish us with so large a portion of the thoughts which we hope to set forth in the pages which are to follow. And then he breaks out into the prayer of the Church, Dignare me laudare te, Virgo Sacrata, and he begs her not despise the slight service which he offers her, considering that the devotion with which it is offered to her is not slight. He begs her in her pity to assist him with some heavenly breeze, as he is about to set sail on a great deep. He desires to endeavour to explain, with faltering tongue, the sublime meaning of her words, he relies on her assistance and favour, and implores her to help him. “For what mortal is there
who would venture, unless he could feel safe under some divine instruction, to say anything, either small or great, with uncircumcised and polluted lips, about her whom God the Father predestined before all ages to be that chosen and most worthy Virgin, whom the Son chose for His Mother, and whom the Holy Spirit chose to be the home of all grace? With what words shall a poor child of Adam like himself speak of the sublime thoughts of the Heart of the Blessed Virgin, which her most holy mouth uttered, words for which the tongues of men and angels would not suffice?”

He goes on to remind us that our Lord has said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things,” (St. Matthew xii. 35) and who among men could be better than she, who found grace to become the Mother of God, who received for nine months, in her heart and her womb, God Himself? What heart can have a treasure like that divine love, with which the Heart of the Blessed Virgin burnt as a furnace? It was out of that Heart, the furnace of divine love, that the good words of the Blessed Virgin came forth, all glowing with the love of God. Nothing but the best of wine can proceed from a vessel full of what is best, and from a furnace of intense heat nothing can come forth but the hottest fire. So from the Blessed Mother of our Lord there can come forth no word but of the highest and most divine love.

Any most wise and prudent lady is sparing of her words, but they are full of solidity and meaning. There are Seven Words recorded of the most Blessed Mother of Christ, but they are words of wonderful depth and virtue, and they show how full she was of sevenfold grace. She spoke twice to the Angel, saying the first time, ” How shall this be done, because I know not man?” and the second time, ” Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” She spoke twice also to St. Elisabeth, the first time to salute her, and again when she sang her Magnificat. She spoke twice also to her Son, once in the Temple when she said, ” Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing,” and again at the Marriage Feast at Cana, when she said. “They have no wine.” Once also she spoke to the servants in the feast, when she said, ‘Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.” In all these words she spoke very little, but once, when God was to be praised and thanked, then she allowed herself greater latitude, ” My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” and her Canticle then tells us much more about her Heart than all her other words besides.

These words, says St.Bernardine, were uttered in wonderful order, following seven acts or processes of love, as if they were so many flames proceeding from the furnace of her Heart, and the most devout student of them may well say, “How sweet are thy words to my lips,” to all my affections and feelings. And he then distinguishes them in order, according to what he calls the seven flames of love of the Heart of the most Blessed Virgin. The first comes of the love that separates, the second of the love that transforms, the third of the love that communicates, the fourth of the love that rejoices, the fifth of the love that savours, the sixth of the love that pities, and the seventh of the love that consummates. These are the titles which the Saint of Siena gives to these seven flames of love, and we shall see how it is that they are to be explained. We may add that these Seven Words are not distributed throughout the life of our Blessed Lady according to any plan that lies on the surface, although we cannot doubt that their places in the Gospel records are divinely ordered for our instruction. The Gospel records do not relate for us the life of our Blessed Lady, except so far as it is important that what she said or did should be told us, that we may understand the Life of our Lord and her position towards Him on particular occasions. Four of these words of Mary belong to the period before our Lord’s Birth. The two first belong to the mystery of the Annunciation, the two next to that of the Visitation. The fifth Word was spoken during what we term the Hidden Life, and the two last belong to the very beginning of His public preaching, having been uttered at the Marriage Feast in Cana of Galilee.

All the seven Words of Mary are connected, therefore, with most marvellous mysteries, for the first four throw an immense light on the Annunciation and the Visitation, the accomplishment of the Incarnation itself in her chaste womb, and the first spiritual miracle of our Lord of which we have any knowledge, the sanctification of the Blessed Baptist while yet unborn, in the womb of St. Elisabeth. The two last words are necessary for the intelligence of His first external miracle, the change of the water into wine. The fifth word of Mary stands by itself, in the history of the mystery which contains the first recorded Word
spoken by our Blessed Lord Himself, on the first occasion on which, at the age of twelve, He took upon Himself, in a certain sense, the great office of the Teacher of mankind, as the work which His Father had given Him to do. The lesson which He taught, so to speak, to the doctors in the Temple is not recorded for us, but the lesson contained in the short conversation with His Blessed Mother is fruitful in instruction, and we owe that lesson, after Him, to Mary, while at the same time it reveals to us in a wonderful manner her position in regard to Him. The same may be said also of the power which she exerted in the Marriage Feast of Cana, the beginning of signs, which, as we shall see, St. Bernardine considers as representing to us our Lord’s design as to what we may expect from her intercession at all times.

We shall have occasion as we proceed to notice, especially, the marvellous consequences which followed on each of these words of our Blessed Mother. Isaias sings of the word of God “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be which shall go forth from My mouth, it shall not return to Me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55, 10,11). No words but the words of God have in them this Divine power. Yet it seems as if our Lord had ordained that the words of His saints and servants, speaking in His name, have in them often a marvellous force and fecundity, and we may notice this power in these seven recorded Words of His Blessed Mother.

The first Word spoken by Mary brought down upon her the revelation, which seems to have been given then for the first time, of the operation of the Divine Person of the Holy Ghost in the Conception of our Lord. The second Word was her Fiat, which brought about the Incarnation itself. The third was fraught with the sanctification of St. John in the womb of St. Elisabeth, and the filling of St. Elisabeth herself with the Holy Ghost and the spirit of prophecy. The fourth Word of Mary summed up the thanksgivings of angels and men for the gift of the Incarnation. The fifth Word was followed by the eighteen years of our Lord’s subjection to His parents, and prepared our Lady for her part in the sufferings of her Son. Her sixth Word brought about the beginning of signs, and made her take her place as our great intercessor with Him. And the seventh laid down the law according to which we are to reap the full benefits of her intercession–the condition of fulfilling His commandments.

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