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Mary’s Faith

by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope (Ecclus. 24:24). Just as Mary is the mother of love and hope, so She is also the mother of faith. St. Irenaeus says that “this is so for a very good reason, for the evil done by Eve’s unfaithfulness was remedied by Mary’s faith.” Tertullian confirms this by saying that because Eve believed the serpent against the warning she received from God, she brought death into the world; because Mary believed the angel at the Annunciation, she brought salvation into the world. He puts it this way: “Eve believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. What Eve demolished by her foolish credulity, Mary restored by Her genuine faith.” St. Augustine says: “It was Mary’s faith that opened Heaven to men when She agreed to co-operate in the Incarnation of the Eternal Word.” Richard of St. Lawrence, commenting on the words of St. Paul: for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife (1 Cor. 7:14), says: “Mary is the believing woman by whose faith the unbelieving Adam and all his posterity are saved.” It was as a tribute to Her faith that Elizabeth called Our Lady “Blessed”: Blessed art Thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to Thee by the Lord (Lk. 1:45). And St. Augustine adds: “Mary was blessed more by receiving the faith of Christ than by conceiving the flesh of Christ.”

Father Suarez says that the most holy Virgin had more faith than all men and angels together. She saw Her Son in the crib at Bethlehem and believed that He was the Creator of the world. She saw Him flee from Herod and believed that He was the King of kings. She saw Him born, yet believed Him to be eternal. She saw Him poor and in need of food, and believed that He was the Lord of the universe. She saw Him lying on straw, and believed that He was omnipotent. She observed that He did not speak, and yet believed that He was filled with infinite wisdom. She heard Him cry, and believed that He was the joy of paradise. Finally, She saw Him in death, despised and crucified, and even though faith wavered in others, She remained firm in the conviction that He was God.

Commenting on those words of the Gospel: There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother (Jn. 19:25), St. Antoninus says: “Mary stood there, supported by Her faith, which She firmly retained in the divinity of Christ.” And this is the reason why, the saint adds, in the midst of the Tenebrae service only one candle is left lighted. With reference to this St. Leo applies to Our Blessed Lady the words of Proverbs: At night Her lamp is undimmed (Prov. 31:18). And with regard to the words of Isaias: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and ... there is not a man with me (Isa. 63:3), St. Thomas remarks that the prophet says “a man” because of the Blessed Virgin who never failed in faith. St. Albert the Great assures us: “Mary displayed perfect faith. Even when the disciples doubted She did not doubt.”

By Her magnificent faith, therefore, Mary merited to become “a light to all the faithful,” as She is called by St. Cyril of Alexandria. Holy Church herself attributes the destruction of all heresies to the merits of Mary: “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for Thou alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world.” St. Thomas of Villanova, explaining the words of the Holy Spirit: Thou has wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse ... with one of Thy eyes (Cant. 4:9), says: “These eyes denoted Mary’s faith, by which She pleased the Son of God so much.”

St. Ildephonsus makes a point of urging us to imitate Mary’s faith. But how can we do this? Faith is both a gift and a virtue. It is a gift of God because it is a light infused by Him into our souls; it is a virtue inasmuch as the soul must strive to practice it. Hence faith must not only be the rule of our belief, but the rule of our actions as well. That is why St. Gregory says: “That man really believes who puts what he believes into practice.” And St. Augustine: “You say ‘I believe.’ Do what you say and then it will be faith.” To live according to our belief is what is meant by the expression “to have a living faith.” My just one lives by faith (Heb. 10:38). The Blessed Virgin lived very differently from those who do not live according to what they believe. St. James declared: Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26).

Diogenes lighted a lantern and looked around for a man on earth. But God seems to be looking for a Christian. Among the baptized on earth, there are many who perform no good works at all. The majority are Christians only in name. The words once addressed by Alexander to a cowardly soldier should be applied to these people: “Either change your name or change your conduct.” Father Avila used to say: “It would be better to lock these poor creatures up as madmen. They believe that eternal happiness is in store for those who lead good lives and an eternity of misery for those who lead bad lives. And yet they act as if they believed nothing.” St. Augustine exhorts us to look at things with the eyes of Christians, that is, with eyes that see everything in the light of faith. St. Teresa often used to say: “All sins come from the lack of faith.” Let us therefore beg Our Blessed Lady, by the merit of Her faith, to obtain a living faith for us. “O Lady, increase our faith!”

“It was Mary’s faith that opened Heaven to men when She agreed to
co-operate in the Incarnation of the Eternal Word,” said St. Augustine.