Luther said that he “could not endure the thought that the Church of Rome should call Mary, who is only a creature, ‘our hope,’ for God alone [he said], and Jesus Christ as our Mediator, is our hope.” But the Church does teach us to invoke Mary on all occasions and call her our hope: “Hail, our hope!” ~St. Alphonsus Liguori, quote from The Glories of Mary
To start the week, I am posting an excerpt from the beloved St. Alphonsus Liguori, and his book, The Glories of Mary. This particular section of the book explains how necessary the Blessed Virgin Mary is for our eternal salvation. This necessity was, and is, willed by God. This might sound strange to us who have breathed in the air of Protestantism our entire lives; hence, the efficacy of reading this Doctor of the Church. Yes, this passage is long, but it is an antidote to the erroneous teachings we have received for the past fifty years. It is something to be read slowly, and perhaps, to be reread throughout the week. We need to return to a Catholic way of thinking, and St. Alphonsus is a wonderful teacher.
The following is today’s excerpt which is taken from Chapter 5 of The Glories of Mary:
It is an Article of Faith that it is not only allowable but useful to invoke the Saints, and especially the Queen of Saints, that they may obtain grace for us. This doctrine was defined by General Councils against heretics who said that such a teaching was injurious to Jesus Christ, our only Mediator. In addition, Jeremiah prayed for Jerusalem after his death, the ancients of the Book of Revelation presented the prayers of the Saints to God, St. Peter promised his disciples that after his death he would be mindful of them. And St. Stephen prayed for his persecutors, and St. Paul for his companions. Hence, if the Saints can themselves pray for us, why can we not beseech them to pray for us?
Indeed, St. Paul commended himself to the prayers of his disciples and St. James exhorts us to pray for one another. Then we can do the same. No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only Mediator of justice. By His merits He has won our reconciliation with God.
But, on the other hand, it is impious to maintain that God is not pleased to grant graces at the intercession of His Saints — and particularly of Mary His Mother, whom Jesus desires so much to see loved and honored by all. Who will pretend that the honor bestowed on a mother does not redound to the honor of her son? So St. Bernard says, “Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the Mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son. There can be no doubt that whatever we say in praise of the Mother gives equal praise to the Son.”
By the merits of Jesus, Mary was made the mediatrix of our salvation; not a mediatrix of justice, of course, but of grace and intercession — as St. Bonaventure expressly calls her: “Mary, the most faithful mediatrix of our salvation.”
And St. Lawrence Justinian asks: “How can she be otherwise than full of grace? She has been made the ladder to paradise, the gate of heaven, the most true mediatrix between God and human beings.”
Only those who have no faith will deny that it is very useful and commendable to have recourse to the intercession of Mary. But what we intend to prove here is that Mary’s intercession is not only useful but necessary for salvation: not absolutely, but morally, necessary. This necessity goes back to the very will of God Himself, Who had decreed that all the graces He gives human beings should pass through Mary’s hands (emphasis added by SCF). This is the opinion of St. Bernard — an opinion which we may now safely call the general opinion of Theologians and Doctors.
Mediation of justice by way of merit (and this is Christ’s mediation) is one thing, and mediation of grace by way of prayer (our Lady’s mediation) is another. Besides, it is one thing to say that God cannot, and another that He will not, give graces without the intercession of Mary.
We grant that God is the source of every good and the absolute master of all graces, and that Mary is only a creature, who receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God.
But no one can deny that it is reasonable and fitting for God to decide that all graces given to those He has redeemed should pass through Mary’s hands and be dispensed by her.
For so God wishes to exalt this great creature, who loved Him and honored Him during her life more than all others have ever done, and whom He chose to be the Mother of His Son, our common Redeemer. We readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice, according to the distinction above. By His merits He obtains for us all grace and salvation. But we also say that Mary is the Mediatrix of grace. She does indeed receive through Jesus Christ all she obtains, and prays for it in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet, whatever graces we receive, they come to us through her intercession.
There is certainly nothing against faith in this; quite the reverse, as a matter of fact. It is in perfect accord with the sentiments of the Church.
In her public and approved prayers, the Church is always teaching us to have recourse to the Mother of God, and to invoke her as “Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Help of Christians, and Our Life and Our Hope.”
Again, in the Office for the feasts of our Lady, the Church applies the words of Sirach to the Blessed Virgin and thus gives us to understand that in her we find all hope: In me is all hope of life and of virtue.
In Mary is every grace: In me is all grace of the way and of the truth. In Mary we shall find life and eternal salvation: Those who serve me shall never fail. Those who explain me shall have life everlasting (Sir. 24:25, 30, 31— Vulgate).
And in the Book of Proverbs: Those who find me find life and win favor from the Lord (8:35). Surely such expressions are enough to prove that we require the intercession of Mary.
I may be allowed to make a short digression and give my own sentiment here. I would say that when an opinion tends in any way to the honor of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when it has some foundation and is not repugnant to the faith, nor to the decrees of the Church, nor to truth, to refuse to hold it, or to oppose it because the reverse may be true, shows little devotion to the Mother of God. I do not choose to be counted in that company, nor do I wish my reader to be. I wish rather to be in the company of those who fully and firmly believe all that can without error be believed of the greatness of Mary. If there were nothing else to take away our fear of going too far in the praises of Mary, St. Augustine’s opinion would be enough: he declares that anything we may say in praise of Mary is little in comparison with what she deserves, because of her dignity as Mother of God.
Let us see what the Saints say on the subject. Take St. Bernard: “God has filled Mary with all graces, so that human beings may receive through her, as through a channel, every good that comes to them. “Mary is an aqueduct filled to capacity, that others may receive of her fullness. Before the birth of Mary there was no constant flow of graces, because this aqueduct did not exist.” Holofernes, to gain possession of the city of Bethulia, ordered the aqueducts to be destroyed. So too the devil tries with all his power to destroy in souls devotion to the Mother of God, for if this channel of grace is closed, he has no trouble in gaining possession of them. So St. Bernard continues: “See the tender devotion our Lord wants us to have for Mary , so that she may be honored. He has poured into her the fullness of every good, so that we might acknowledge that whatever hope or grace or other token of salvation we possess, we receive it through her fullness.” St. Antonine says the same thing: “Whatever grace the world has received has come down from Heaven through her.” And St. Bonaventure: ” As the moon, standing between the sun and the earth, transmits to the earth whatever light it receives from the sun, so Mary stands between God and human beings and pours His grace upon us.”
Again, the Church hails her as the “happy Gate of Heaven.” And St. Bernard comments thus: “Just as every rescript of grace or of pardon that is sent by a king passes through the palace gates, in the same way every grace that comes from Heaven to the world passes through the hands of Mary.” St. Bonaventure says Mary is called “the Gate of Heaven because no one can enter that blessed Kingdom without passing through her.”
The fullness of grace was in Christ as in the head, from which it flows to the whole body, and in Mary as in the neck, through which it flows. Since the fullness of the Divine Nature dwelt in Mary’s womb, the Blessed Virgin thereby acquired a kind of jurisdiction over all graces, for all the streams of Divine grace flow from her womb as from the ocean of Divinity which was within her. So says St. Bonaventure. Repeating the same idea in more distinct terms, St. Bernardine of Siena asserts that from the moment when this Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in her womb, she acquired a special jurisdiction, so to say, over all the graces of the Holy Spirit. No creature has since received any grace from God except through the hands of Mary.
Another author speaks about this theme in a commentary on a passage of Jeremiah, in which the prophet, referring to the Incarnation of the Eternal Word and to Mary His Mother, says that the woman must encompass the man (Jer. 31:22). He states: “No line can be drawn from the center of a circle without passing through the circumference. Similarly, no grace proceeds from Jesus, the center of every good thing, without passing through Mary, who encompassed Him when she received Him into her womb.”
St. Bernardine of Siena says that for this reason all gifts, all virtues, and all graces are dispensed through Mary’s hands to anyone she pleases, when she pleases, and as she pleases. Richard of St. Lawrence also accepts that God wills that every good He bestows on His creatures should pass through Mary’s hands. Therefore, the Venerable Abbot of Celles exhorts all to go to the Blessed Virgin, because through her the world is to receive every good.
It is quite clear that when these Saints and authors tell us in such terms that all graces come to us through Mary, they do not mean simply that we received Jesus Christ, the source of every good, through Mary (as a certain writer pretends). They mean that God, Who gave us Jesus Christ, wills that all graces that have been, are, and will be dispensed to human beings to the end of the world through the merits of Jesus Christ, should be dispensed by the hands and through the intercession of Mary.
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Is. 11:1,2). St. Bonaventure makes a beautiful comment on these words: Whoever yearn to possess the grace of the Holy Spirit, let them seek for the Bud in the Shoot (that is, for Jesus in Mary). For by the Shoot we find the Bud, and by the Bud the Holy Spirit . . . And if you long to have this Bud, bend down the Shoot of the Bud by prayer.
Since a man and a woman cooperated in our ruin, it was proper that another man and another woman should cooperate in our redemption, and these two were Jesus and His Mother Mary. There is no doubt that Christ alone was more than sufficient to redeem us. Yet it was much more becoming that the two sexes should work together to repair the evil which the two had worked together to bring about. So St. Albert the Great calls Mary the “Co-helper of Redemption.”
Our Blessed Lady made this revelation to St. Bridget: “Adam and Eve sold the world for a single apple; my Son and I bought it back with a single heart.”
God was able to create the world out of nothing, but He is unwilling to restore it without the cooperation of Mary.
No person can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (Jn. 6:44). In similar words, says Richard of St. Lawrence, Jesus speaks of His Mother: “No one comes to Me unless My Mother draws that person by her prayers.”
Jesus was the fruit of Mary. Whoever wants the fruit must go to the tree. Whoever wants Jesus must go to Mary. whoever finds Mary will most certainly find Jesus.
Are we then going to scruple to ask her to save us when (as St. Germanus says) no one is saved except through her?
St. John Damascene had no hesitancy in addressing our Lady in these words: “Pure and Immaculate Queen, save me, and deliver me from eternal damnation. St. Bonaventure called Mary the salvation of those who invoke her.
Cassian tells us, without. qualification, that “the whole salvation of the human race depends on the great favor and protection of Mary.” Whoever is protected by Mary will be saved; whoever is not will be lost.
Thus, Richard of St. Lawrence had good reason for saying: “As a stone falls into the abyss when the ground goes from under it, so a person deprived of Mary’s help falls first into sin and then into Hell.”
St. Bonaventure says: “God will not save us without the intercession of Mary.” And again: ” A child cannot live without a nurse to suckle it; neither can a person be saved without the protection of Mary.” And St. Germanus exclaims: “No one, O most holy Mary, can know God but through you. No one can be saved or redeemed but through you, O Mother of God. No one obtains mercy but through you, O full of all grace! . . .
“Human beings cannot be free from the effects of the concupiscence of the flesh, unless you open the way for them . . . Then what will become of us if you abandon us, O Life of Christians?” But, a certain author objects, if all graces come through Mary, then when we ask the intercession of other Saints, they have to have recourse to the mediation of Mary. But no one, he argues, has ever believed or dreamed of such a thing. As to believing it, I answer that there is no problem at all. What difficulty can there be in believing that God, to honor His Mother, after making her Queen of all Saints and wishing to have all graces pass through her hands, should also will that the Saints come to her to obtain favors for their clients? Take, for one example, what Suarez says: “Among the Saints, we do not make use of one to intercede with the other, because they are all of the same order. But we do ask them to intercede with Mary, because she is their Sovereign and Queen. Or consider St. Bonaventure: “Whenever the Most Blessed Virgin goes to God to intercede for us, she commands all the angels and Saints to accompany her because she is their Queen, and to unite their prayers to hers.”
And as to saying that no one ever dreamed of such a thing, I find that St. Bernard, St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, Suarez, and others expressly teach this doctrine.
Luther said that he “could not endure the thought that the Church of Rome should call Mary, who is only a creature, ‘our hope,’ for God alone [he said], and Jesus Christ as our Mediator, is our hope.” But the Church does teach us to invoke Mary on all occasions and call her our hope: “Hail, our hope!” (emphasis added by SCF)
Certainly God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing. But if our Lord has so arranged matters — as we have already shown — that all graces pass through Mary as through a channel of mercy, we not only can but must maintain that she, through whose means we receive God’s graces, is truly our hope.
Listen to what the Saints say. My children, she is my greatest confidence and the whole foundation of my hope! (St. Bernard) O Lady, with all my heart I have placed my hope in you and, with my eyes fixed on you, I look for my salvation from you! (St. John Damascene) Mary is the whole hope of our salvation. (St. Thomas) O most holy Virgin, receive us under your protection, for we have no hope of salvation but through your means! (St. Ephrem)
This is the will of God, that we should receive every good thing from her hand, says St. Bernard. Therefore he advises us to recommend ourselves to Mary whenever we look for any favor, and then we are bound to receive it by her means.
Though you yourself do not deserve the favor from God (he says), Mary is deserving of it. “Because you were unworthy of the gift, it was given to Mary, that through her you might receive whatever you have . . . And whatever you offer to God, make sure to commend it to Mary, unless you wish to be refused.”
Hail, Our Hope, the Blessed Virgin Mary: pray for us, pray for the Church!
May you have a good day.