The Obedience of the Blessed Virgin
“To my company of horsemen in Pharao’s chariots have I likened thee, O my love. Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove’s, thy neck as jewels. We will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver” [Cant. 1:8-10].
By disobedience our first mother Eve lost Paradise, and left us to an inheritance of shame. The second Eve, who was to restore us to our birthright, accomplished her task by a life of perfect obedience. The service of God requires the submission of all our faculties to His will. The laws which He gives us are only the expression of the eternal and unchangeable counsels of the divine Being. A creature endowed with free will can resist the purposes of the Creator, but by so doing he frustrates the end for which he was made. An intelligent obedience is not only the tribute due to the Author of our existence, it is also the only way of happiness. Pride excites us to rebel against the divine counsels, and has been the cause of our ruin. The Blessed Virgin began the work of our reparation by a just and true service of God. In every act of her whole life she was guided by the sincere desire to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, and hence she never sought for one instant her own pleasure. All that self would dictate she utterly renounced, and every moment her whole being was a sacrifice to God. Her soul desired nothing but Him, her heart loved nothing but Him, and her intellect knew nothing but Him. Being exempt by her especial privilege from original sin, the disorders of the fall never reached her. There was never rebellion in any part of her being, nor even an impulse contrary to the wishes of her Beloved. He had but to speak and instantly she obeyed, and His work and her cooperation kept pace in her soul. So is she compared to a company of horsemen hastening after the voice of their captain; and the chains of gold inlaid with silver are the symbol of the perfect union of will between herself and her celestial Spouse. Since then every breath she drew was an act of obedience, it is hard to particularize the proofs of her heroic conformity to the divine pleasure. In her early life she offered herself to God, because His voice called her to the sacrifice, and the irrevocable vow was only the expression of her self-abnegation. The office of Mother of God was freely accepted by her, with a full knowledge of the pains it involved. The spirit of her life was according to her words, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy will.” She took a long journey to Bethlehem, led by the Holy Spirit, that according to the prophecy she might bring forth the Son of God in the city of David. Blind obedience led her to the stable, to the despised village of Nazareth, to the lonely sojourn in Egypt. It was her consolation never to have any desire of her own, and hence every event of providence found her prepared. We have seen the Son of the highest bowed down to the earth in Gethsemane, while blood gushed from every pore of His body. We have seen the God-man lifted upon a cross between two thieves, drinking to the dregs the cup of the world’s scorn and contempt. A spectacle like this man had never seen before, and shall never see again. But next to this astonishing picture is the sight of the brokenhearted Mother, standing beneath the accursed tree and offering up her infinite treasure, her only Child, all she had. No mere creature ever approached this act of self-renunciation. As obedience raised the knife by which our father Abraham prepared to slay his only son, so obedience sublime and wonderful fastened the afflicted Virgin to the foot of the cross. In all she adored the divine purposes, in darkness as in light, in the shadows of death as in the splendors of the resurrection. Obedience had reached its height. Calvary was its test. Mary gave God back to God, and not in the tender beauty of infancy as she received Him, but with bruised and mangled limbs crimsoned with His own blood. The sinner may draw near the cross which he prepared for Mary’s Son, and learn the lesson of submission to God’s will. If he cannot learn it here, there is no teacher who can instruct him. Our lives have been made up of rebellions, and our free wills have often been employed to dishonor our Creator and to contemn His laws. We could have given Him much glory before men and angels, and we have refused to pay Him our tribute. Disobedience to His voice is the cause of every misery we have experienced, and there is but one remedy for our manifold infirmities. We must trample under foot our won will, and by fidelity to all divine inspirations seek to recover the graces we have lost. Regeneration made us in truth the children of God with the docility which belongs to the heart of a child. “We must humble ourselves and become as little children” if we desire to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. All God’s providences are directed for our sanctification. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge, and even the hairs of our heads are numbered. Is it not easy to throw ourselves into the arms of His fatherly care, and to be led by His all-perfect counsels? In the spiritual life He calls us to many trials. No character could be perfected without painful lessons of the nothingness of human promises. Yet wherever these is the earnest purpose to obey, there is always light enough to illumine our footsteps. We need not to behold the distant scene when present day duty is clear, and the voice of conscience gives us its plain admonition. God calls the sinner to repent of his sins, and to cut himself off from all dangerous occasions. He calls a thousand times, and often His call is totally disregarded. He seeks continually the perfection of the just, and bids them aim for higher and higher degrees of holiness. We hear His voice, but we have not the inclination of the courage to obey Him. So He can do very little with our souls, and there is no chance for us but in the scourges of His anger, or in the purifying flames of justice. How much better would it be for us to yield Him a loving heart and to let His great mercy accomplish its work in us. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.”
That we may not lose the fruit of these reflections, let us directly apply them to our own hearts, and ask our consciences to tell us the duty which at this moment God requires of us. The answer will often come before we ask the question, and then if we desire any part on Mary’s reward, we must imitate her obedience. At once, and with zeal we must do the work which our heavenly Master commands, and we shall find our labors light and our toil even refreshing. From the way of life our feet shall never wander, for He Who is our guide can never err. Step by step we shall leave the valley behind us, and ascend the mountain where God gathers His elect, and where the human will lays itself down at the feet of the divine perfections. If we hesitate and seek to serve the world as well as God, we shall either fall altogether from the state of grace, or lead a cold and unhappy life, constantly tasting of remorse, and treasuring up fearful regrets for the hour of death. Who can estimate the results of our false step, or tell the evils that shall flow from one disobedience? Many a soul which would have glorified its creator through the long ages of eternity, is now agonizing in the eternal fire because of one transgression. There are souls just hanging between life and death, and the next act shall decide their destiny. And many of us for whom perhaps God designed high perfection, have wandered from the narrow path, when the heavenly goal was almost in view; and one slight infidelity was the turning point in our probation. Happy indeed was Mary to have been the Mother of her God, but happier far that always and in everything she heard His word and kept it.