God could not have exalted Mary more

July 23, 2021 • 12 min

From The Glories of Mary, page 422
By St. Alphonsus Liguori

Point Second.—In order to comprehend the greatness to which Mary was elevated, it would be necessary to comprehend the sublime majesty and grandeur of God. It is sufficient, then, only to say, that God made this Virgin his mother, to have it understood that God could not exalt her more than he did exalt her.

Rightly did St. Arnold Carnotensis affirm, that God, by making himself the Son of the Virgin, established her in superior rank to all the saints and angels, so that, next to God, she is incomparably higher than the celestial spirits, as St. Ephrem asserts. St. Andrew of Crete confirms this, saying: God excepted, she is the higehst of all. And St. Anselm also says: Oh Lady, there is none equal to thee, because every other, is above or beneath thee; God alone is superior to thee, and all others are inferior. So great, in a word, says St. Bernardine, is the exaltation of this Virgin, that God alone is able to comprehend it.

This removes the surprise expressed by some persons, remarks St. Thomas of Villanova, that the holy Evangelists, who have so fully recorded the praises of a Baptist and a Magdalene, have been so brief in their descriptions of the privileges of Mary; for, says the saint, it was enough to say of her, that from her Jesus was born. What more would you wish the Evangelists to say, continues the saint, of the grandeur of this Virgin? let it be enough for you, that they attest her to be the mother of God.

Having recorded in these few words the greatest, and, indeed, the whole of her merits, it was not necessary for them to describe each separately. And why not? because, as St. Anselm answers: To say of Mary this alone, that she was the mother of a God, transcends every glory that can be attributed to her, in thought or word, after God. Peter of Celles adds, remarking on this same thought: By whatever name you may wish to call her, whether queen of heaven, ruler of the angels, or any other title of honor, you will never succeed in honoring her so much as by calling her only the mother of God.

The reason of this is evident, for as the angelic Doctor teaches: The nearer a thing approaches its author, the greater the perfection it receives from him; therefore, Mary being the creature nearest to God, she has partaken more than all others of his grace, perfection, and greatness.

To this Father Suarez traces the cause why the dignity of mother of God is of an order superior to any other created dignity; because it appertains, in a certain manner, to the order of union with a divine person, with which union it is necessarily connected.

Hence St. Denis the Carthusian asserts, that after the hypostatic union, there is none more intimate than the union of the mother of God with her Son. This, as St. Thomas teaches, is the highest union that a pure creature can have with God. And the blessed Albertus Magnus affirms, that to be mother of God is a dignity next to that of being God; therefore he says, that Mary could not be more united to God than she was, without becoming God.

St. Bernardine affirms, that in order to become mother of God, it was requisite that the holy Virgin should be exalted to a certain equality with the divine Persons, by a certain infinity of graces. And as children are esteemed morally one with their parents, so that their possessions and honors are in common, therefore St. Peter Damian says, that if God dwells in creatures in different modes, he dwelt in Mary in a singular mode of fitness, making himself one with her. And he exclaims in these celebrated words: Here let every creature be silent and tremble, and scarcely dare to behold the immensity of so great a dignity. God dwells in a virgin with whom he has the identity of one nature.

St. Thomas asserts, that Mary, being made mother of God, by reason of this close union with an infinite good, received a certain infinite dignity, which Father Suarez calls infinite of its kind. The dignity of mother of God is the highest dignity which can be conferred on a pure creature.

The angelic Doctor teaches, that the humanity of Jesus Christ, though it might have received greater habitual grace from God, yet, as to the union with a divine Person, could not receive greater perfection; so, on the other hand, the blessed Virgin could receive no greater dignity than to be the mother of God. For as habitual grace (this is his reasoning) is a created gift, we must acknowledge that its essence is finite. The capacity of every creature is limited in measure, which however prevents not the divine power from being able to form another creature of greater capacity.

Though the divine power may create something greater and better than the habitual grace of Christ, yet it could not destine it to any thing greater than was the personal union of the only begotten Son with the Father. The blessed Virgin, because she is the mother of God, has a certain infinite dignity from the infinite good, which is God; and in this respect nothing greater can be created.

St. Thomas of Villanova says the same thing: Certainly there is something infinite in being the mother of the Infinite One. And St. Bernardino says, that the state to which God exalted Mary as his mother was the highest, so that he could exalt her no higher.) And this is confirmed by Albertus Magnus. The Lord conferred on the blessed Virgin the highest gift which any pure creature was capable of receiving, namely, the maternity of God.

Therefore St. Bonaventure wrote that celebrated sentence, that God could make a greater world, a greater heaven, but could not exalt a creature to greater excellence than by making her his mother. But better than all others has the divine mother herself described the height to which God has elevated her when she said: He that is mighty hath done great things to me. And why has the holy Virgin never made known what were the great favors conferred upon her by God? St. Thomas of Villanova answers, that Mary did not explain them, because they were so great that they could not be explained.

St. Bernard therefore, with reason, says that God has created all the world for this Virgin, who was to be his mother. And St. Bonaventure says that the preservation of the world is at the disposal of Mary. The saint in this place adheres to the words of Proverbs, applied by the Church to Mary: I was with him forming all things. St. Bernardine adds, that God, for love of Mary, did not destroy man after the sin of Adam.

Hence the Church, with reason, sings of Mary: She has chosen the best part. For this virgin mother not only chose the best things, but she chose the best part of the best things; the Lord bestowing upon her, in the highest degree, as the blessed Albertus Magnus attests, all the graces, and the general and particular gifts conferred on all other creatures, wholly in consequence of the dignity granted her of becoming mother of God.

Thus Mary was an infant, but of this state she had only the innocence, but not the defect of incapacity, for from the first moment of life she always had the perfect use of reason. She was a virgin, but without the reproach of sterility. She was a mother, but with the privilege of virginity.

She was beautiful, even most beautiful, as Richard of St. Victor asserts, and also St. George of Nicomedia, and St. Dionysius the Areopagite, who, as many believe, once had the happiness of enjoying the sight of her beauty, and said that if faith had not taught him that she was a creature, he should have adored her as God.

And the Lord himself revealed to St. Bridget, that the beauty of his mother surpassed the beauty of all men and angels, allowing the saint to hear him say to Mary: “Thy beauty exceeds that of all the angels, and of all creatures.”

She was most beautiful, I repeat, but without injury to those who looked upon her, for her beauty put to flight impure emotions, and suggested even pure thoughts, as St. Ambrose attests: So great grace had she, that she not only preserved her own virginity, but also conferred a remarkable gift of purity on those who beheld her.

And St. Thomas confirms this: The grace of sanctification not only repressed in the Virgin illicit emotions, but also had efficacy for others; so that although she was beautiful in person, she never excited impure desires.

Therefore she was called myrrh, which prevents corruption: I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh, as the holy Church applies it.

She was occupied in active life, but labor did not interrupt her union with God. In the contemplative life she was recollected in God, but without neglect of the temporal life, and of the charity due to the neighbor. Death came upon her, but without its suffering, and without the corruption of the body.

To conclude then: this divine mother is infinitely inferior to God, but immensely superior to all creatures; and if it is impossible to find a Son more noble than Jesus, it is also impossible to find a mother more noble than Mary.

This should cause the servants of such a queen not only to rejoice in her greatness, but also to increase their confidence in her most powerful protection; for, being mother of God, says Father Suarez, she has a certain right to his gifts, to obtain them for those for whom she prays.

St. Germanus, on the other hand, says that God cannot but hear the prayers of this mother, for he cannot but recognize her for his true and immaculate mother. Thus says the saint addressing the Virgin: But thou, who dost prevail with God by a maternal authority, even for those who grievously sin, thou dost obtain the great grace of reconciliation; for thou canst not but be graciously heard, as God in all things conforms to thy wishes as to those of a true and pure mother.

Therefore, oh mother of God, and our mother, in thee is not wanting the power to help us. The will, too, is not wanting. For thou knowest, I will say with thy servant the Abbot of Celles, that God has not created thee for himself alone, but has given thee to the angels for their restorer, to men for their deliverer, and to the demons for their conqueror, for by thy means we recover divine grace, and by thee the enemy is conquered and crushed.

And if we wish to please the divine mother, let us often salute her by saying the “Hail Mary.” One day Mary appeared to St. Matilda, and told her that no one could honor her better than by this salutation; and we shall certainly obtain through it, peculiar graces from this mother of mercy, as will be seen by the following example.

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