The Hope of Mary
“My Beloved is gone down into His garden, to the bed of aromatical spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies” [Cant. 6:1].
The virtue of hope is kindred to faith and springs from it. There can be no hope without faith, and faith can hardly exist in the soul without hope. We should expect to find this virtue in the Blessed Virgin in its utmost perfection, and our expectations cannot be disappointed. In truth her whole life is an exhibition of its power, and she is in all things a model of Christian hope. This virtue shone brightly in every stage of her career, and sustained her beneath affliction which otherwise must have crushed her. She ever hoped in God because of His promises, because of His especial love to her, and because of what He had already done for her. Every day, which brought some new manifestation of the divine goodness, added to her hopes. “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name.” In her joys she looked forward to the accomplishment of God’s perfect works. In her sorrows she ever contemplated the end, and not even the darkness of Calvary could take the light from her heart. Her hope was the elastic power which resisted the pressure of woes which no other mere mortal ever endured. She was tranquil under all the adversities of her lot. Her spirit was peaceful as the air of Heaven, in the poverty of Bethlehem, in the exile of Egypt, in the cruel tortures of the crucifixion. Her glories were her rewards, and, in the full fruition which they brought her, gave her new reasons to expect great things from her Beloved. When she obtained what she desired, she turned more tenderly towards her Child, and hoped more fondly, as her interests and His were blended together. She was never disappointed, but the experience of His perfect fidelity daily raised her to new and heroic heights of hope, until she realized what she longed for, and saw as present what she enjoyed in the future.
We cannot select a single incident of her life where we do not find the power of this virtue. Before the Incarnation of our Lord she was constantly looking for the consolation of Israel, and her ardent prayers for the coming of the Messiah were founded upon an unwavering trust in the divine promises. She did not know that she was to be the Mother of God. She would not have dared to anticipate such a dignity, yet the union of her heart with Heaven taught her that the Orient from on high was soon to visit the world. She was obliged to pass under the shadows which covered the path of her Child through this world. She gave Him birth in a stable and took her share in His cup of poverty and human contempt. Hope of better things was the light which made all her darkness sweet. We see her rising in the night and entering upon a long journey to Egypt without a murmur or word of discouragement. We see her completely the child of God’s providence, taking every dispensation as her own choice, simply because the certain expectation of the reward made everything easy. And her reward was the glory of her Child and the extension of His kingdom on earth. We have seen how she supported her loneliness, waiting for the great hour when the interruption of her maternal offices should cease. We have seen her on the way to Mount Calvary, and how she stood patiently beneath the cross. She neither fainted nor gave way to human weakness. Brokenhearted, she yet stood strong in hope, with full confidence in God. She went from the sepulcher, repeating the words of the psalmist: “I will bless the Lord, Who hath given me understanding. I set the Lord always in my sight; for He is at my right hand that I be not moved. Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced; moreover my flesh shall also rest in hope. Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt Thou give Thy holy one to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, Thou shalt fill me with joy with Thy countenance; at Thy right hand are delights forever.” The day of the resurrection came to realize her hope, and to reward her faith. And when her Son was taken from her, the thought of her throne so near to His, and of the bright crown His hands were to place upon her head, made cheerful her closing days in this world. Thus hope was one of the bright lilies which bloomed in this garden of the celestial spouse, where the king went to take His repose in the bed of aromatical spices. Hope is a virtue which especially pleases God because it is a constant adoration of His truth and mercy. He has done miracles of love to induce us to trust in Him, and when we throw away all human confidences and look to Him alone, we touch His heart. He will not and cannot disappoint any expectations which are founded upon His promises. He may try us, and sound the truth of our words, that we may “learn to hold fast the hope set before us, which we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.” If He brings darkness upon us, it is only to test our sincerity, and to make greater disclosures of His light when every created light shall have been taken away. He wishes us to exhibit the spirit which the Holy Ghost has inspired. “To Thee have I lifted up my eyes, Who dwellest in Heaven. Behold, as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters; as the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress, so our eyes are unto the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us.” Much need have we of this spirit in the trials and discouragements of life. We cannot escape affliction for we are sinners. But the worst of all trials is the experience of our own weakness. We have to learn sooner or later the lesson of our own nothingness. If the dispensations of providence do not teach us this, fearful falls will do it, and if we do not keep up our hope in God, we shall be in danger of despair. When we learn that the creature is nothing, we must at the same time learn that God is everything, or else our experience will not avail to our sanctification. Discouragement is only an evidence of pride and selfishness. We must hope in God always, when frequent falls tempt us to give up altogether our confidence, and when the rod of the divine mercy prostrates us in the dust. Many a soul has realized the words of the psalmist: “My heart hath been inflamed, and my reins have been changed, and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not. I am become as a beast before Thee.” God has a great work to do with our souls. Hope will sustain us while He Who knows our frame seeks to purify us. Let us ask Mary to give us her clear view of eternal joys, and let us aspire continually for the things which God has prepared for them who love Him. This will make our pilgrimage cheerful, will comfort us in every trial, will give our feet buoyancy in the path of virtue, will gild our dying hour with alight that shall never fade. Hope will be to us the foretaste of the glorious promises which are sealed to us in the blood of the Son of God.
“I am always with Thee. Thou hast held me by my right hand, and by Thy will Thou hast conducted me, and with Thy glory Thou hast received me. For what have I in Heaven? And besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth? For Thee my flesh and my heart have fainted away: Thou art the God of my heart and the God that is my portion forever. It is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God. That I may declare all Thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion.”