Mary’s Love for God
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
St. Anselm 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 itself, 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 St. Bernardine; St. Francis de Sales beautifully calls Her the Queen of Love.
God has indeed given man the command to love Him with his whole heart: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart (Mt. 22:37). However, St. Thomas declares: This commandment will be fulfilled by men fully and perfectly only in Heaven, not on earth. On earth it is only fulfilled imperfectly. On this subject Blessed 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 St. 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: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart? Divine love burned so ardently in Her that no defect of any kind could come close to Her. St. 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 beloved 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.
God, Who is love, came on earth to kindle the flame of His divine love in the hearts of all men. But in no other 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.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart. This commandment will be fulfilled by men fully and perfectly only in Heaven, not on earth. On earth it is only fulfilled imperfectly, declared St. Thomas.
St. 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 St. 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. St. 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. St. Thomas of Villanova says that the bush seen by Moses, which burned without being consumed, was a true symbol of Mary’s heart. And St. Bernard rightly says that Mary was seen by St. 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, continues the saint, 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.
St. 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 too the evil spirits were driven away by Her ardent love. They did not even dare to approach Her. Richard of St. 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 away. Our Lady revealed to St. 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. As a royal eagle, She always kept Her eyes fixed on the divine Son of Justice. As St. Peter Damian says: The duties of an active life did not prevent Her from performing Her duties. That is why St. 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. St. 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 St. Bernardine fully admit. St. 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 St. 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, St. 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 Blessed Albert the Great, we can say that Mary was filled with such great love for God that no mere creature on earth could possibly possess any more. St. Thomas of Villanova maintains that Mary, by Her ardent charity, became so attractive to God, that He was captivated, as it were, by Her love and descended into Her womb to become man. This thought caused St. Bernardine to exclaim: See the power of the Virgin Mary! She wounded and 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 St. 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 of 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 St. Catherine of Siena called Mary the bearer of fire, meaning the bearer of the flames 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, Thou art the Queen of love. Of all creatures, Thou art the most lovable, the most beloved, and the most loving, as St. Francis de Sales said. My own sweet Mother, Thou wert always and in all things inflamed with love for God. Give me at least a spark of Thy fervor. Thou intervened with Thy Son on behalf of the spouses at Cana. They have no wine (Jn. 2:3), Thou said. Will Thou 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 for us this love that Thou hast for Jesus, graciously hear and pray for us. Amen.