Mary in the communion of saints

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY’S MERITS ARE UNFATHOMABLE

                           

                              “HAIL [MARY], FULL OF GRACE” (Luke 1: 28)

If one reflects for a moment on the fact that Mary truly merited to become the Mother of God (“The Blessed Virgin is said to have merited to bear the Lord of all: not that she merited his Incarnation, but that she merited, by the graces she had received, such a degree of purity and sanctity, that she was fit to be the Mother of God” – St. Thomas Aquinas), then one begins to better understand the magnitude of her spiritual motherhood for all who believe (“She is mother wherever [Jesus] is Savior and head of the Mystical Body” – CCC 973).

When we consider the immense assistance Mary can provide to us in the spiritual life, it is helpful to see that the Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly says that her merits are “unfathomable,” which would seem to suggest that they are available to all of us in surplus quantity. The Catechism states:

We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury, which is “not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy.This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God” (from nos. 1476-77).

In his invaluable book, True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis De Montfort writes earnestly about the “necessity” of devotion to Mary (Chapter 1), and of the importance of developing a “great union” (1.36) with her. He attests in his book to the increase in spiritual life that comes from consecration to Mary. Of this “true devotion” to Mary, Father Faber says:

“I cannot think of a higher work or a broader vocation  for anyone than the simple spreading of this peculiar devotion [to Mary] of Saint [Louis] De Montfort. Let a man but try if for himself, and his surprise at the graces it brings with it, and the transformation it causes in his soul, will soon convince him of its otherwise almost incredible efficacy as a means for the salvation of men, and for the coming of the kingdom of Christ” (Preface to True Devotion to Mary, p. xxii).

Of the power of Mary’s mediation, Saint Pope John Paul II once said:

“In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation…Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ ” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 39)

“In the communion of saints,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (no. 1475).

This exchange of “all good things” is illustrated by Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. We clearly see from Luke’s Gospel that Mary’s visit had an extraordinary effect on Elizabeth, for Luke tells us that upon hearing Mary’s greeting, “the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped  for joy and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit”, praised Mary, exclaiming: 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1: 42-45).

These are tremendous words uttered by Elizabeth. Let us see exactly what happened when Elizabeth first heard Mary’s greeting. The sequence of events is breathtaking: 1. The babe in Elizabeth’s womb (John the Baptist) leaped for joy; 2. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; 3. Elizabeth proclaims that Mary is blessed above all other women; and 4. Elizabeth proclaims Mary’s Divine Maternity, calling Mary “the mother of my Lord.” What is further, and is quite extraordinary, is that John the Baptist has been sanctified in Elizabeth’s womb, just as prophesied earlier in the same Gospel at Luke 1: 15 (these thoughts about Mary’s visitation are gathered from Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne Von Speyr).

This profound relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit (as clearly seen by Mary’s visit to Elizabeth) was also noted by Saint Louis De Montfort, who said: “The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary, His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ” (True Devotion to Mary, 1.20).

Mary, by way of her union with the Holy Spirit, holds a very special place in the mystical body of Christ and has been granted a unique maternal office to draw us closer to Jesus. She proclaims: “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46). Each of us must say, like Elizabeth, “Who am I that the mother of Jesus Christ should come to me with such amazing spiritual assistance?” And yet Jesus wills it so, and it was he who merited Mary’s maternal intercession for us and the “unfathomable” merits she possesses. Why? – because, as Father Faber says, Jesus knew how much we would love Mary.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: The Virgin of the Lillies (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Refrences: The quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas appears in The Glories of Mary by Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, p.253. On the Catholic understanding of merit, see CCC 208, which states: “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.” See also CCC 2010.

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