Love for God
Saint Albert says that "where we
find the greatest chastity, there we find also the greatest charity." The more
pure a heart is and the more empty of self, the more it is filled with love for God.
Because Mary was thoroughly humble and thoroughly unselfish, she was filled with
divine love. "Her love for God surpassed that of all men and angels," writes
Saint Bernardine. Saint Francis de Sales beautifully calls her "the queen of love."
indeed given man the command to love him with his whole heart: You shall love
the Lord your God with your whole heart (Mt 22:37). However, Saint Thomas
declares: "This commandment will be fulfilled by men fully and perfectly
only in heaven, not on earth. On earth it is fulfilled only imperfectly."
On this subject, Saint Albert the Great remarks that, in a certain sense,
it would be unfitting for God to give a commandment that could never be perfectly
fulfilled. But this would have been the case if Our Lady had not fulfilled it
perfectly. The saint says: "Either someone fulfilled this precept, or no
one did. If anyone did, it must have been the Blessed Virgin." Richard
of Saint Victor confirms this opinion when he says: "The mother
of our Emmanuel practiced all virtues as perfectly as possible. Whoever
fulfilled the first commandment the way she did: You shall love the Lord
your God with your whole heart? Divine love burned so ardently in her that no defect
of any kind could come close to her." Saint Bernard says: "Divine
love penetrated and filled the soul of Mary to such an extent that no part
of her was left untouched. She loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul,
with her whole strength, and she was full of grace." Therefore Mary
was in a position to say: My lover belongs all to me and I to him (Cant 2:16). "Even
the Seraphim," according to Richard, "might have come down from heaven
to learn how to love God from the heart of Mary."
who is love, came to earth to kindle the flame of his divine love in the hearts
of all people. But in no heart did he kindle so much love as in the heart
of his mother. Her heart was entirely free from all earthly loves and fully
prepared to burn with this precious flame. Saint Sophronius says that divine love
inflamed her so much that nothing earthly could enter her heart. She was,
so to speak, incandescent with divine love. The heart of Mary became all fire
and flames, as we read of her in the sacred Canticles (Cant 8:6); fire burning
within through love, as Saint Anselm explains it, and flames shining without by
the example she gave in the practice of virtue. When Mary was in this world
and held Jesus in her arms, she could well be called "fire carrying fire";
and with far more reason than the woman spoken of by Hippocrates who was called
this because she carried fire in her hands. Saint Ildephonsus says: "The Holy
Spirit heated, inflamed, and melted Mary with love, as fire does iron;
so that nothing was seen in her but the flame of this Holy Spirit, and nothing
was felt but the fire of the love of God." Saint Thomas of Villanova
says that the bush seen by Moses, which burned without being consumed,
was a true symbol of Mary's heart. And Saint Bernard rightly says that Mary
was seen by Saint John clothed with the sun: And a great sign appeared in heaven,
a woman clothed with the sun (Apoc 12:1). She was so closely united to God by love,
and she penetrated the abyss of divine wisdom so deeply, that apart from personal
identification with God, it would seem impossible for a creature to have
a closer union with him.
Saint Bernardine of Siena maintains
that the Most Blessed Virgin was never tempted by hell. He says that "as flies
are driven away by a great fire, so the evil spirits were driven away by her ardent
love. They did not even dare to approach her." Richard of Saint Victor
says: "The Blessed Virgin was such a terror to the princes of darkness that
they did not dare to come near her. The fire of her charity kept them off."
Our Lady revealed to Saint Bridget that she never had any thought, desire,
or joy in this world, but only in and for God: "I thought of nothing but God;
nothing pleased me except God." Since her blessed soul almost continually
contemplated God while on earth, the acts of love she performed were innumerable.
Father Suarez writes: "The acts of perfect charity Mary performed
in this life were without number. Practically speaking, her whole life was spent
in contemplation, and while she was in that state she constantly repeated
acts of love." A remark of Bernardine de Bustis pleases me even more.
He says that Mary did not repeat acts of love as other saints do; her whole
life was one continual act of love. By a special privilege, she was always
actually expressing love for God. As a royal eagle, she always kept her eyes
fixed on the divine Sun of Justice. As Saint Peter Damian says: "The duties
of an active life did not prevent her from loving, and love did not prevent her
from performing her duties." That is why Saint Germanus says that the altar
of propitiation, on which the fire was never extinguished day or night,
was a symbol of Mary.
Sleep was no obstacle to Mary's love.
Saint Augustine asserts: "The dreams of our first parents, when sleeping
in their state of innocence, were as happy as their lives were
when they were awake." And if they had such a privilege it certainly
was not denied to our Blessed Lady, as Suarez, the Abbot Rupert,
and Saint Bernardine fully admit. Saint Ambrose also holds this opinion.
He says: "While Mary's body rested, her soul watched." She verified
in herself the words of the Holy Spirit: At night her lamp is undimmed (Prov 31:18).
While her blessed
body found its necessary repose in sleep, according to Saint Bernardine, her soul
freely winged its way to God. In fact, she was then wrapped in more perfect
contemplation than the average person when awake. And so she could well say
with the spouse in the Canticles: I was sleeping, but my heart kept
vigil (Cant 5:2). "She was as happy in sleep as when awake," says Suarez.
In short, Saint Bernardine asserts that as long as Mary lived in this world
she continually loved God: "The mind of the Blessed Virgin was always
wrapped in the ardor of love." The saint adds moreover: "She never did
anything except what divine Wisdom revealed as pleasing to him.
She loved God as much as she thought he should be loved by her." As a matter
of fact, according to Saint Albert the Great, we can say that Mary was filled
with such great love for God that no creature on earth could possibly possess more.
Saint Thomas of Villanova maintains that Mary by her ardent charity
became so attractive to God, that he was captivated by her love
and descended into her womb to become man. This thought caused Saint Bernardine
to exclaim: "See the power of the Virgin Mary! She captured the heart of God!"
But since Mary loves
God so much, there is nothing she wants us to do more than to love him as much as we
can. This is what she told Blessed Angela of Foligno one day after holy
Communion: "Angela, may you be blessed by my son. And on your part,
may you endeavor to love him as much as possible." She also said
to Saint Bridget: "Bridget, if you want me to love you, love my son."
Mary desires nothing more than to see her beloved, who is God, loved.
Novarinus asks why the Blessed Virgin begged the angels to make known
to the Lord the great love she had for him in the words of the
spouse in the Canticles: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you
find my beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love (Cant 5: 8).
Was God not aware how much she loved him? "Why did she try to
show the wound of love to her beloved, since it was he who had inflicted it?"
He answers that Mary wished to make her love known in that way to us,
not to God. She wanted us also to be wounded with divine love, just as
she was wounded. He continues: "Because Mary was all on fire with love of God,
all who approach her and are close to her are also inflamed with this same burning
love, for she makes them like herself." This is why Saint Catherine of Siena
called Mary "the bearer of fire," meaning the bearer of the fire
of divine love. If we want to burn with this blessed flame, let us try always
to draw nearer to Mary by our prayers and our devotions.
O Mary, you are Queen of love.
Of all creatures, you are the most lovable, the most beloved,
and the most loving, as Saint Francis de Sales said. My own sweet Mother,
you were always and in all things inflamed with love for God. Give me at least
a spark of your fervor. You intervened with your Son on behalf of the spouses
at Cana. Will you not also pray for us who are so wanting in the love of God,
whom we are under such great obligation to love? Say of us: "They have no
love," and obtain this love for us. This is the only grace we ask for.
O Mother, graciously hear and pray for us. Amen.