The days leading up to Mary’s death

August 26, 2021 • 9 min

From The Glories of Mary, page 484
By St. Alphonsus Liguori

Cedrenus, Nicephorus, and Metaphrastes, relate, that the Lord, some days before [her] death, sent to her the angel Gabriel, the same who once announced to her that she was the blessed woman chosen to be the mother of God:

My Lady and Queen, (said the angel to her,) God has already graciously heard thy holy desires, and he has sent me to tell thee to prepare to leave the earth, for he wishes thee with him in paradise. Come then, to take possession of thy kingdom, for I and all its holy citizens await and desire thee.

At this happy annunciation what should our most humble and holy Virgin do but conceal herself more deeply in the centre of her most profound humility, and reply in those same words with which she answered St. Gabriel when he announced to her that she was to become mother of God: Behold the handmaid of the Lord?

Behold, (she again answered,) the servant of the Lord; he in his pure goodness has chosen me and made me his mother; now he calls me to paradise. I neither merited the one or the other honor; but since he wishes to manifest his infinite liberality towards me, I am ready to go where he wishes. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord;” may the will of my God and Lord always be fulfilled in me.

After receiving this precious intelligence, she imparted it to St. John, and we may imagine with what grief and tender emotion he heard this news; he who for so many years had been near her as a son, and had enjoyed the celestial conversation of this most holy mother.

She then visited anew the holy places of Jerusalem, tenderly taking leave of them, especially of Calvary, where her beloved Son had died. And then she returned to her poor dwelling to prepare for death.

During this time the angels did not cease to come and visit this their beloved queen, consoling themselves with the thought that they should soon see her crowned in heaven.

Many authors assert, that before she died, by a divine miracle, the apostles and also some of the disciples came from the different places where they were dispersed, and all assembled in the apartment of Mary, and that when she saw all these her dear children united together in her presence, she thus addressed them:

My dear children, for love of you, and to help you, my Son left me on this earth. But now the holy faith is spread throughout the world, already the fruit of the divine seed is grown up; hence my divine Son, seeing that my assistance was no longer needed upon the earth, and compassionating me for the pain of separation, has graciously heard my desire to depart from this life, and go to see him in glory. If I leave you, my heart does not leave you; I will carry with me the great love I bear you, and it shall always remain with me. I am going to paradise to pray for you.

At these sad tidings, who can realize how great were the tears and lamentations of these holy disciples, knowing that they were shortly to be separated from their mother?

Then, (they all in tears exclaimed,) then, oh Mary, thou wilt leave us! It is true that this earth is not a worthy and fit place for thee, and that we are not worthy to enjoy the society of a mother of God; but remember that thou art our mother; thou hast until now enlightened us in our doubts, consoled our sorrows, strengthened us in persecutions, and how canst thou now abandon us, leaving us alone without thy comfort in the midst of so many enemies and so many conflicts? We have already lost on earth Jesus, our master and our Father, who has ascended into heaven; we have since been consoled by thee, our mother; and now how canst thou leave us orphans, without father or mother? Oh remain with us, oh our Lady! or take us with thee.

Thus writes St. John Damascene:

No, my children (thus sweetly the loving queen began to speak) this is not according to the will of God; content yourselves to do what he has appointed for you and for me. To you it yet remains to labor on the earth for the glory of your Redeemer, and to perfect your eternal crown. I do not leave you to abandon you, but to help you more by my intercession with God in heaven. Be satisfied. I commend to you the holy Church; I commend to you the souls redeemed by my Son; let this be my last farewell, and the only remembrance that I leave you. If you love me, labor for souls, and for the glory of my Son; for we shall one day meet again in paradise, never more to separate throughout eternity.

Then she begged them to give burial to her body after death, blessed them, and directed St. John, as Damascene relates, that after her death he should give her two garments to two virgins who had served her for some time, and then she decently composed herself upon her poor little bed, where she laid herself to await death, and with death the meeting with her divine spouse, who shortly was to come and take her with him to the kingdom of the blessed.

Behold, she already feels in her heart a great joy, the forerunner of the coming of the spouse, which overwhelms her with a great and new sweetness.

The holy apostles, seeing that Mary already was about to depart from this earth, burst forth into fresh weeping, and knelt around her bed: some kissed her holy feet, others asked her special blessing, one recommended to her some particular necessity of his, and all wept bitterly, for their hearts were pierced with grief at being obliged to separate forever in this life from their beloved Lady.

And she, their most loving mother, compassionated all, consoled all, promising to some her protection, blessing others with peculiar affection, and encouraging others to labor for the conversion of the world; especially did she call St. Peter to her, and as head of the Church, and vicar of her Son, she recommended to him in particular the propagation of the faith, promising him her special protection from heaven.

But in a very special manner did she call to her St. John, who felt a greater sorrow than all the others at the moment of separation from that holy mother; and the most grateful Lady, calling to mind the affection and attention with which this holy disciple had served her through all the years they had passed on earth since the death of her Son, said to him with great tenderness:

My John, I thank thee for all the assistance thou hast afforded me; my son, be certain that I never will be ungrateful to thee for it. If I leave thee now, I am going to pray for thee. Remain in peace in this life until we meet in heaven, where I will await thee. Do not forget me; in all thy necessities call me to thy aid, for I never will forget thee, my beloved son. My son, I bless thee, I leave thee my benediction; rest in peace—adieu.

But the death of Mary draws near. The divine love, with its blessed and ardent flames, have almost entirely consumed the vital spirits, the celestial phoenix is going to lose her life in the midst of this fire. Then the host of angels come to meet her, as if to be ready for the great triumph with which they were to accompany her to paradise.

Mary was indeed consoled at the sight of these holy spirits; but not fully consoled, for she did not yet see her beloved Jesus, who was the whole love of her heart. Hence she often repeated to the angels who descended to salute her:

“I adjure you, oh daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love.” Oh holy angels! oh blessed citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem! ye come in hosts kindly to console me, and ye all console me with your sweet presence; I thank you, but ye all do not fully satisfy me, for I do not yet see my Son coming to console me. Go, if you love me, return to paradise, and tell my beloved, from me, that I languish and faint for his love. Tell him to come, and come quickly, for I am dying with my desire to see him.

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