The Charity of the Blessed Virgin
“I sat down under His shadow, Whom I desired; and His fruit was sweet to my palate. He brought me into the cellar of wine, He set in order charity in me” [Cant. 2:3-4].
As the love of God is the sign of life, so in Mary the spouse of the Holy Ghost we find it in overflowing luxuriance. Her life was a life of love. In fact, she lived through love and she died of love. Jesus was impressed “as a seal upon her heart, as a seal upon her arm.” Her love was strong as death. Many waters could not quench it, neither could the floods drown it. To love God with the whole heart and soul is the precept of the law, and all Christians are bound to render Him this service. Mary outstripped every command, and went beyond every counsel of perfection. From her first existence she gave her pure heart to God, and she became more entirely His with every breath she drew. Her first reasonable act was an act of love to God, and every act which followed was a new fruit of her love. Every word she spake, every look, every thought, every respiration even was meritorious before Heaven, because all she did was animated by her great ruling motive, the divine love. Her whole being was filled with her charity. To God she gave every faculty, every power of soul and body. And all this service was free on her part. No constraint was every employed to force her obedience. She sought the divine attractions, and as they were daily more and more manifested to her, her will could hardly run fast enough for the impulses of her heart. Her sleep even, as the Fathers tell us, was a beautiful offering to her Creator. “I sleep,” says she, in the Canticles, “but my heart waketh.” “In my bed by might I sought Him Whom my heart loveth.” So perfect a passion for God excluded every affection merely human from her soul. What was all of earth to her? What were its strongest attractions to the eyes which gazed on the infinite beauty? How like an empty bubble appeared to her every created thing, when compared with the immeasurable glories of the Creator? All the characteristics of love were found in her in their highest perfection. Hers was a love of attraction since God first drew her to Himself, and her free will obeyed the call. Her love was also a love of gratitude. The favors she had received bound her by a tie of inexpressible sweetness to Him Who had so magnified her. She could never do enough to show her thankfulness. He had freed her from every touch of sin, had taken the whole weight of Adam’s sin from her shoulders, had lavished upon her the profusion of His grace. He had done more; He had come down from Heaven, and had become her Child! He was a true, faithful, loving Child to her. Could she ever make return for such favors? All she could do was to throw herself back upon Him with all she had to give – the wealth of the virginal heart which He loved so well. He was everything to her, and she was nothing but what He had been pleased to make her. Her love was also one of preference. She was free to choose the object of her affection, and she chose her God and Him alone. Nothing but God ever moved her will. She had a clear sight of His claims upon her heart, and her whole intellect was filled with His light. She was therefore borne to Him the only choice of her soul, as surely and steadily as the needle points to the pole. And so she accomplished the love of union which made her one with the object of her love. In this degree of love, the person loving and the object loved meet together by one and a simultaneous action. God, the jealous lover of souls, throws His attractions around the heart, and the heart responds by an instantaneous burst of affection. Or rather the stream of love flows from God, and meets the stream which He sets in motion from the creature, and the two streams are mingled together. The Creator lovingly extends His arms to embrace the creature, and the creature lovingly casts itself into that blissful and unending embrace. In such a love everything earthly has vanished out of sight. There is perfect purification from every sin and every affection to sin, and the whole being is illumined with light that pervades every part, and puts every shadow of sense to flight. In Mary there was no need of purification. She was ever purer than the crystal dew of Heaven. And from her very conception she was the temple of the Holy Ghost, the tower of David, the tower of ivory and the house of gold. There was no rebellion in her flesh, and no obstacle in her soul to the perfect effect of the divine graces. What she received she gave back to the Giver, and in every oblation gave herself. The hearts of Jesus and Mary were the hearts of Mother and Child, and while one was the heart of God, filled with all His infinite riches, the other was the heart of the holiest of creatures, consuming and overflowing with love. Angel and archangel were mute before the throne of the infinite majesty. Cherubim and seraphim were the very intelligent expression of love, and yet no creature ever loved God as Mary loved Him, as she loves Him now, and as she will love Him through eternity. If we are in any sense the children of Mary, her heart is the model after which we are seeking to form our own hearts. If we have none of her love for God, we are in no sense her servants. The very first thing which she does for the sinner is to give him a love for her Son. If she cannot accomplish this in us, she can do nothing. Love is the sign of life. It is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Whose indwelling makes us sons of God and heirs of Heaven. Without it we are dead and barren branches of the vine. And even if we find in ourselves some degree of love, by comparing our hearts to Mary’s, we shall see how utterly deficient we are in this most necessary of all virtues. The world has such a strong hold upon us that the divine attractions are hardly felt. We mean to serve God, but our purposes, aims, and wishes are formed after human models, and breathe a worldly spirit. Few are the generous hearts that freely and unreservedly follow the impulses of grace, to the utter disregard of human respect and human opinion. The flesh is rebellious, and things sensual have not lost their power over us. We feel the divine attraction, but we respond freely to it, as if afraid of the sacrifices which may be the consequence. We say we have chosen God for our portion, but our actions belie our words. There is something else which we seek for, some other object of affection, some shapeless hope perhaps which we run after, as it ever eludes our grasp. And the worst of all is, that generally there is some dark corner in our hearts, some wound into which we like not to put the probing knife of the physician. One would think that gratitude would rise above all these obstacles, but alas! Gratitude is rarer than love. Here we see the great want of our souls. Here we behold the cause of our imperfection. We see why we do not daily overcome our defects, why we remain ever as beginners in the way of life. The garden of the Lord is filled with weeds and briars, instead of fruits and flowers. Our resolutions come to nothing, our good intentions die before they result in actions, because the vital flame of love burns so low and feebly in us. We are just alive, and that is all that can be said of the most of us. To be conscious of our need is the first step to restoration, and hence of the picture of Mary’s loving heart makes us sensible of our coldness, we shall have accomplished much towards our recovery. Let us pray to her to give us of her own spirit. Let us really turn from earthly things as she did. God will manifest Himself to us as soon as we make ready to receive His attractions. His love will be the sovereign remedy for all our ills. It will undo the effects of past sin, dispel the power of present temptation, and give peace to the most distracted heart. It will bind up every bleeding wound, and make the wilderness a garden and the desert a paradise.