Of Mary’s Charity Towards God.
St. Anselm says, that ‘wherever there is the greatest purity, there is also the greatest charity.’ The more a heart is pure and empty of itself, the greater is the fulness of its love towards God. The most holy Mary, because she was all humility, and had nothing of self in her, was filled with Divine love, so that ‘her love towards God surpassed that of all men and angels,’ as St. Bernardine writes. Therefore St. Francis of Sales with reason called her, ‘the Queen of love.’ God has, indeed, given men the precept to love Him with their whole hearts: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.’ But, as St. Thomas declares, ‘this commandment will be fully and perfectly fulfilled by men in heaven alone, and not on earth, where it is only fulfilled imperfectly.’ On this subject, blessed Albert the Great remarks, that in a certain sense, it would have been unbecoming had God given a precept, which was never to have been perfectly fulfilled. But this would have been the case had not the Divine Mother perfectly fulfilled it. ‘Divine love,’ says St. Bernard, ‘so penetrated and filled the soul of Mary, that no part of her was left untouched; so that she loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with her whole strength, and was full of grace.’ Therefore Mary could well say: ‘My Beloved has given Himself all to me, and I have given myself all to Him.’ ‘Ah, well might even the Seraphim,’ says Richard, ‘have descended from heaven to learn, in the heart of Mary, how to love God.’
God, who is love, came on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the flame of His Divine love; but in no heart did He enkindle it so much as in that of His Mother; for her heart was entirely pure from all earthly affections, and fully prepared to burn with this blessed flame. Thus St. Sophronius says, that ‘Divine love so inflamed her, that nothing earthly could enter her affections; she was always burning with this heavenly flame, and, so to say, inebriated with it.’ Hence the heart of Mary became all fire and flames, as we read of her in the sacred Canticles: ‘The lamps thereof are fire and flames;’ fire burning within through love, as St. Anselm explains it; and flames shining without, by the example she gave to all in the practice of virtues. St. Thomas of Villanova says, that the bush seen by Moses, which burnt without being consumed, was a real symbol of Mary’s heart. Therefore with reason, says St. Bernard, was she seen by St. John clothed with the sun: ‘And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun;’ for, continues the Saint, ‘she was so closely untied to God by love, and penetrated so deeply the abyss of Divine Wisdom, that, without a personal union with God, it would seem impossible for a creature to have a closer union with Him.’
Hence St. Bernardine of Sienna asserts that the most holy Virgin was never tempted by hell; for he says: ‘As flies are driven away by a great fire, so were the evil spirits driven away by her ardent love, so much so, that they did not even dare approach her.’
Mary herself revealed to St. Bridget, that in this world she never had any thought, desire, or joy, but in and for God: ‘I thought,’ she said, ‘of nothing but God, nothing pleased me but God;’ so that her blessed soul being in the almost continual contemplation of God whilst on earth, the acts of love she formed were innumerable, as Father Suarez writes. But a remark of Bernardine de Bustis pleases me still more: he says that Mary did not so much repeat acts of love as other Saints do, but that her whole life was one continued act of it; for, by a special privilege, she always actually loved God. As a royal eagle, she always kept her eyes fixed on the Divine Sun of Justice; ‘so that,’ as St. Peter Damian says, ‘the duties of active life did not prevent her from loving, and love did not prevent her from attending to those duties.’ Therefore St. Germanus says, that the altar of propitiation, on which the fire was never extinguished day or night, was a type of Mary.
Neither was sleep an obstacle to Mary’s love for God ; since, as St. Augustine asserts, ‘the dreams, when sleeping, of our first parents, in their state of innocence, were as happy as their lives when waking;’ and if such a privilege were granted them, it certainly cannot be denied that it was also granted to the Divine Mother, as Suarez, the Abbot Rupert, and St. Ambrose fully admit. In fine, St. Bernardine asserts, that as long as Mary lived in this world she was continually loving God: ‘The mind of the Blessed Virgin was always wrapped in the ardour of love.’ The Saint moreover adds, ‘that she never did anything which the Divine Wisdom did not show her to be pleasing to Him; and that she loved God as much as she thought He was to be loved by her.’
But since Mary loves God so much, there can be nothing which she so much requires of her clients as, that they also should love Him to their utmost. This precisely she one day told blessed Angela of Foligno after communion, saying, ‘Angela, be thou blessed by my Son, and endeavor to love Him as much as thou canst.’ She also said to St. Bridget, ‘Daughter, if thou desirest to bind me to thee, love my Son.’ Mary desires nothing more than to see her Beloved, who is God, loved. Novarinus asks why the Blessed Virgin, with the Spouse in the Canticles, begged the angels to make the great love she bore Him know to our Lord, saying: ‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my Beloved, that you tell Him I languish with love.’ Did not God know how much she loved Him? ‘Why did she seek to show the wound to her Beloved, since He it was who had inflicted it?’ The same author answers, that the Divine mother thereby wished to make her love known to us, not to God; that as she was herself wounded, so might she also be enabled to wound us with Divine love. And ‘because Mary was all on fire with the love of God, all who love and approach her are inflamed by her with this same love; for she renders them like unto herself.’ For this reason St. Catherine of Sienna called Mary ‘the bearer of fire,’—the bearer of the flame of Divine love. If we also desire to burn with these blessed flames, let us endeavor always to draw nearer to our Mother by our prayers and the affections of our souls.
A young nobleman who was on a sea voyage began to read an obscene book, in which he took much pleasure. A religious noticed it, and said to him: ‘Are you disposed to make a present to our Blessed Lady?’ The young man replied that he was. ‘Well,’ the other answered, ‘I wish that for the love of the most holy Virgin you would give up that book, and throw it into the sea.’ ‘Here it is, Father,’ said the young man. ‘No,’ replied the religious, ‘you must yourself make Mary this present.’ He did so, and no sooner had he returned to Genoa, his native place, than the Mother of God so inflamed his heart with Divine love that he entered a religious order.
Ah, Mary, thou Queen of Love, of all creatures the most amiable, the most beloved, and the most loving, as St. Francis of Sales addressed thee, — my own sweet Mother, thou wast always and in all things inflamed with love towards God; deign then to bestow, at least, a spark of it on me. Thou didst pray thy Son for the spouses whose wine had failed: ‘They have no wine.’ And wilt thou not pray for us, in whom the love of God, whom we are under such obligations to love, is wanting? Say also, ‘They have no love,’ and obtain us this love. This is the only grace for which we ask. O Mother, by the love thou bearest to Jesus, graciously hear and pray for us. Amen.