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Mary’s Hope

by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

Hope is born of faith. God enlightens us by faith to know His goodness and the promises He has made, thereby to rise by hope to the desire of possessing Him. Mary had the virtue of faith in the highest degree, and She also had the virtue of hope in the same high degree. And this enabled Her to say with David: But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God (Ps. 72:28).

Mary was the faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit. Scripture asks regarding Her: Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning on Her beloved? (Cant. 8:5). Mary was always completely detached from earthly affections, looking upon the world as a desert. Since She never relied either on creatures or on Her own merits but only on divine grace in which She had the fullest confidence, She continually advanced in the love of God. Algrino said of Her: “She came up from the desert, that is, from the world which She had renounced so completely that She turned all Her affections away from it. She leaned upon Her beloved because She did not trust in Her own merits but relied entirely on the graces God gave Her.”

The Blessed Virgin gave a clear indication of Her confidence in God, first of all when She saw the anxiety of St. Joseph. Unable to understand the mystery of Her pregnancy, he thought of leaving Her: But Joseph ... was minded to put Her away privately (Mt. 1:19). It then appeared necessary, as we have remarked above, to reveal the secret to him. But Mary could not bring Herself to disclose the grace She had received. She thought it better to abandon Herself to divine Providence in the full confidence that God Himself would protect Her. This is precisely what Cornelius a Lapide says in his commentary on the words of the Gospel quoted above: “The Blessed Virgin was unwilling to reveal this secret to Joseph, lest She might seem to be boasting of Her gifts. She therefore resigned Herself to the care of God in the fullest confidence that He would guard Her innocence and reputation.”

Mary showed confidence in God again when She knew that the time for the birth of Our Lord was approaching, and when She was driven even from the lodgings of the poor in Bethlehem and obliged to bring forth Her Child in a stable: And She laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Lk. 2:7). She did not utter a word of complaint, but abandoned Herself wholly to God and trusted that He would help Her.

She also showed Her great confidence in divine Providence when She learned from Joseph that they had to flee to Egypt. That very night She was obliged to undertake a long journey to a strange and unknown country, without any provisions, without money, and accompanied only by Her Infant and Her poor husband. He arose and took the Child and His Mother by night, and withdrew into Egypt (Mt. 2:14).

She showed Her confidence much more when She asked Her Son for wine at the marriage feast at Cana. When She said: They have no wine, Jesus answered Her: What wouldst Thou have me do, woman? My hour has not yet come (Jn. 2:3). Even after this answer, which seemed such an obvious rebuff, Her confidence prompted Her to tell the servants to do whatever Her Son would tell them to do. She was certain that the favor would be granted. Do whatever He tells you (Jn. 2:5). And everyone knows what happened: Jesus ordered the jars to be filled with water and then changed the water into wine.

Let us therefore learn from Mary to have confidence in God — in every sphere of life — but principally in the business of our eternal salvation. This is an affair in which we must of course cooperate. At the same time we must hope for the necessary grace to attain the result. We must distrust our own strength and say with the Apostle: I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

O most holy Lady, Ecclesiasticus tells me that you are the Mother of holy hope (Ecclus. 24:24): and holy Church, that you are “our hope.” Where else need I look for hope? After Jesus, Thou art all my hope. This is what St. Bernard said, and this is what I say: “Thou art the whole basis for my hope.” And with St. Bonaventure I will repeat again and again: “O salvation of all who call upon Thee, save me!”