The Office of the Blessed Virgin
“I made that in the heavens there should arise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth. I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud” [Ecclesiasticus 24:6-7].
The rapid and imperfect view we have taken of the joys, sorrows and glories of the Blessed Virgin prepares us for a better appreciation of the great office she discharges in the economy of redemption. Every creature has its place and its proper vocation throughout the whole universe of God. There is nothing without its use and end. The intelligent creature to whom God has given free will can accept or refuse His gracious purposes, but under all circumstances they must contribute to His glory. If they will not magnify His mercy they must illustrate His justice. The happiness of the creature consists in perfectly corresponding to the end for which he was created. So in the spiritual kingdom which our Lord has set up, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and even the humblest Christians, have their proper places and their especial offices. The Mother of God has an office peculiar to herself, being necessary to the Incarnation, a sharer in the mysterious Passion of Christ, and a channel of grace to all others. We do not limit in any way God’s omnipotence. We do not say that He could not have redeemed the world in any other way than the one He has chosen. But He chose to take our nature into union with His divine nature, and to become flesh. To accomplish this a mother was necessary, and Mary was therefore a necessity in the plans of God. The redemption purposed could not be effected without her, and she enters into the work of salvation as one of the great actors. She, only a creature, was to have her Creator for her Child. This was her office to conceive in her womb, to bring forth, to nourish the eternal Word, and to act towards Him the part of a mother in time and eternity. We say in eternity, because as her relation once existing, must endure forever, so her duties flowing from that relation could never cease. And all Mary’s glory flows from the great relation in which she stands to God. No doubt she would have been the greatest of saints if God had not been pleased to make her His Mother. Yet she owes all her peculiar privileges to the part she had in the Incarnation. And in truth she could not be the mother of our Lord without the privileges which faith ascribes to her. It was, therefore, to fit her for her office, that she was conceived without sin, that God continually accumulated upon her the riches of His grace. As a necessary consequence of her dignity, she was assumed into Heaven, and seated upon a throne such as it was fit that the eternal Son should give His Mother. And as her infinitely perfect Child can never forget His filial duty, so she through all eternity can never forget the offices which flow from her maternal relation. She is more than any other creature interested in the glories of Jesus, and in the extension of His kingdom; and therefore more than anyone but God is she concerned in the sanctification and salvation of souls. And as prayer is the appointed means of obtaining favors from above, so her intercession must avail more with her Son than the prayers of all other creatures. There is, moreover, an especial power springing from the share which she had in the Passion of Christ. She, alone of all, whom He redeemed, suffered with Him, and she found a real martyrdom in His death. Her union with His suffering was indeed a necessity in the divine plans. She could not avoid her great cup of agony, and Jesus could not be baptized with blood without also covering His Mother with the crimson flood. In all things her will was free, and she entered voluntarily into the awful tragedy to act her part, forced by no constraint, but giving herself a free-will offering. Since she had such a share in the agonies by which man was redeemed, how can we doubt that she has a peculiar office in the application of the Passion? It was promised to the suffering victim that He should see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. Why should not the afflicted Mother have her great share in this satisfaction? By her martyrdom she not only added to her wonderful merits, but she established a new claim upon the gratitude of her Son. The sorrows which were the life of the world broke her heart, and gave her an especial right to see the fruit of those sorrows, to seek the lost and ruined sinner, and to bind up his hideous wounds. Some of the saints do not hesitate to call her the co-redemptress of the world, not because she was in any proper sense our redeemer, but because of the great office which she has of suffering with Christ, and of applying the saving blood to lost souls. Again, the facts of revelation, as well as the analogies of faith, demonstrate that she is the great channel through which grace flows from God to our fallen race. Jesus loves to convey His gifts through the hands of His Mother. He hears her intercessions and grants her the power to dispense His favors. This is the most fitting reward to her merits. When all Heaven is interested in the conversion of sinners, she could not sit idle on her throne. When the Church of Christ excites the energies of angelic spirits, she cannot rest, who more than all creatures knows the Heart of Jesus, and entered into the mysterious depths of the Passion. Her prayers bring down daily the dew of Heaven upon our barren hearts, and her hands scatter the gifts of His grace wherever there are souls to be roused from death or purified from sin. Every land testifies to her power. Every heart bears witness to her compassion. We feel the perfection and justice of the divine ways, and see how consistent throughout is the plan of salvation. Mary, next to the humanity of our Lord, the most beautiful creation of God, bears witness to the hand that formed her. We see how the eternal Word has taken a Mother, not only in the necessities of the Incarnation, but also for our sakes. He has given her to us for a Mother in this valley of tears. “Woman, behold thy son.” “Son, behold thy mother.” This knowledge brings us to the shore of that great ocean of the divine love, in which our souls hope to be swallowed up forever. Only through Mary do we see our God as He has revealed Himself, and come to some faint comprehension of the length and depth, and height of that mercy which planned the Incarnation. Perhaps the reflections we have made upon Mary’s life may bring is to a practical appreciation of her office towards God and man. If this be the result of our meditations, we shall have accomplished much in the work of our sanctification. We cannot conceive of Christianity without Mary, and any gospel without her is not the gospel of Christ. As she had the care of the real body of her Son, so to her are committed the interests of His mystical body. She is a “light that never faileth, and her throne is in a pillar of a cloud.” And yet her throne is a throne of mercy to which the sinner may ever come with confidence. She had nothing to do with the justice of God; she is the minister of His mercy. To her, therefore, let us look with hope in all the stages of our pilgrimage, and let us commit the care of our souls to her hands. Let us form our hearts after her model, and seek, by the imitation of her virtues, to become in truth her children. She will teach us how to serve God, and how to love her Son. We can never know the sweetness of Jesus until we have learned at Mary’s feet the mysteries of grace which are hidden in the “Word made flesh.”