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Mary’s consecration was entire and without reserve

10 min • Digitized on July 18, 2021

From The Glories of Mary, page 398
By St. Alphonsus Liguori

Point Second.—The enlightened infant well knew that God does not accept a divided heart, but wishes it entirely consecrated to his love, according to the precept he has given: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.” Hence, from the first moment of her existence, she began to love God with all her strength, and gave herself wholly to him.

But her most holy soul awaited with earnest desire the time when she could in reality consecrate herself entirely, and with a public solemnity, to God. Let us consider, then, with how great a fervor the loving Virgin, seeing herself actually inclosed in that holy place, first prostrated herself to kiss that ground as the house of the Lord, then adored his infinite majesty, and thanked him for the favor she had received of being brought so early to inhabit his house. Then she offered herself entirely to God; entirely, without reserving any thing.

She offered to him all her powers and all her senses, her whole mind and her whole heart, her whole soul and her whole body, for it was then, as we are told, that to please God, she made the vow of virginity. A vow, according to Rupert the Abbot, that Mary was the first to make.

And she offered herself without limitation of time, as Bernardine de Bustis asserts: Mary offered and dedicated herself to the perpetual service of God.

Since she had then the intention of dedicating her whole life to the service of his Divine Majesty in the temple, if it should so please God; and of never quitting that sacred place, Oh, with what affection must she have exclaimed: My beloved to me, and I to him. I for him, as Cardinal Hugo remarks, will wholly live and will wholly die. My Lord and my God, she said, I have come hither only to please thee, and to give thee all the honor I can; here I will live wholly for thee and die for thee, if it so please thee; accept the sacrifice which this thy poor servant makes to thee, and help me to be faithful to thee.

And here let us consider how holy was the life that Mary led in the temple, where, like the rising morn, increasing always in perfection, as the dawn increases in light; who can describe how, from day to day, in her more brightly shone her virtues; charity, modesty, humility, silence, mortification, meekness?

This fair olive-tree, planted in the house of God, as St. John Damascene says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became the habitation of all the virtues. The same saint says in another place: The countenance of the Virgin was modest, her mind humble, her words kind, proceeding from a recollected heart. And he elsewhere asserts: The Virgin withdrew her thoughts from all earthly things, embracing all the virtues.

Thus, then, by the practice of perfection, she made so great progress in a short time, as to merit being made a temple worthy of God.

St. Anselm, also, speaking of the life of the holy Virgin in the temple, says: Mary was docile, spoke little, was always composed, never laughed, was never distracted. She persevered in prayer, in the reading of the Holy Scripture, in fasting, and all virtuous works.

St. Jerome goes more into detail, and tells us how Mary’s life was ordered: From early in the morning till nine o’clock she remained in prayer; from nine to three she was engaged in labor; at three she resumed her prayers, until the angel, as usual, brought her food. She was the most constant in vigils, the most exact in obedience to the divine law, the most profound in humility, and the most perfect in every virtue. No one ever saw her angry; all her words were so full of sweetness, that when she spoke it always appeared that God was with her.

The divine mother herself revealed to St. Elizabeth, a Benedictine nun, in the convent of Sconaugia, as we read in St. Bonaventure, that when she was left in the temple by her parents, she resolved on having God alone for father, and often thought what she could do to please him. She determined, moreover, to consecrate to him her virginity, and to possess nothing in the world, giving her entire will to God.

She also told her that above all the divine precepts to be observed, she placed before her eyes the precept, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and that she went in the middle of the night to pray the Lord before the altar of the temple, that he would grant her the grace to observe the commandments, and to see the mother of the Redeemer born while she lived, praying him that he would preserve her eyes to see her, her tongue to praise her, her hands and feet to serve her, and her knees to adore in her arms, his divine Son.

St. Elizabeth, on hearing this, said to her: “But, my Lady, were you not full of grace and virtue?” and Mary answered her: “Know that I esteemed myself the most vile, and unworthy of divine grace; therefore I prayed thus for grace and virtues.” And, finally, that she might persuade us of the absolute necessity we are all under, of asking from God the graces that we need, she added: “Do you think that I obtained grace and virtue without effort? Know that I received no grace from God without great effort, constant prayer, ardent desire, and many tears and penances.”

But above all, we should consider the revelations made to St. Bridget, of the virtues and exercises practised by the blessed Virgin in her childhood, in these words: "Even from an infant Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, and as she increased in age, she increased also in grace. Even from that time she resolved to love God with all her heart, so that he should never be offended by her actions or her words, and for this reason all the goods of earth were despised by her. She gave all she could to the poor. In her food she was so temperate that she only took what was absolutely necessary to support life.

“Discovering then from the sacred Scriptures, that this God was to be born from a virgin to redeem the world, her spirit was so kindled with divine love that she desired and thought only of God; and taking pleasure only in God, shunned the conversation even of her parents, that they might not hinder her from thinking on God. And more than all did she desire that the coming of the Messiah might be in her day, that she might be the servant to that happy Virgin who merited to be his mother.” Thus the revelation made to St. Bridget.

Ah, for love of this exalted child the Redeemer hastened his coming into the world, for whilst she through her humility did not esteem herself worthy of being the servant of the divine mother, she was herself chosen for this mother, and by the odor of her virtues and her powerful prayers, she drew into her virginal womb the divine Son.

Hence was Mary called the turtle by her divine spouse: The voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Not only because she, like the turtle, always loved solitude, living in this world as in a desert, but also because, like the turtle who makes the fields mournful with its sad note, Mary was always mourning in the temple over the miseries of the lost world, and asking from God, the Redeemer of the world.

Oh, with how much greater affection and fervor than the prophets did she repeat to God in the temple their supplications and sighs, that he might send the Redeemer; “Send forth, oh Lord, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth.” “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just.” “Oh, that thou wouldst rend the heavens and wouldst come down.”

In a word, it was an object of delight to God to see this young Virgin always ascending to a higher perfection, like a pillar of smoke, rich in the odors of all virtues, as the Holy Spirit exactly describes her in the sacred Canticles: “Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh, and frankincense, and of all the powders of the perfumer?”

This holy child, says Sophronius, was in truth the garden of delights of the Lord, for he found there flowers of every kind, and all the odors of the virtues. This St. John Chrysostom affirms, that God chose Mary for his mother on earth, because he found not on the earth a more perfect and more holy Virgin than Mary, neither a place more worthy for him to dwell in than her sacred womb; as St. Bernard also says: On the earth there was no more worthy place than the womb of the Virgin. St. Antoninus asserts that the blessed Virgin, in order to be elected and predestined to the dignity of mother of God, must have possessed a perfection so great and consummate, that it should surpass the perfection of all other creatures.

As then the holy young child Mary, presented and offered herself in the temple promptly and entirely, so let us, at this day, without delay and without reserve, present ourselves to Mary, and entreat her to offer us to God, who will not refuse us when he sees us offered by the hand of her who was the living temple of the Holy Spirit, the delight of her Lord, and the chosen mother of the Eternal Word. And let us place a great hope in this exalted and most gracious Lady, who rewards with so much love the devotions that are offered to her by her servants, as may be seen by the following example.

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