Stories of Mary 32:
Mary’s Charity in the Visitation
Mary’s Charity in the Visitation
We must not imagine that the Blessed Virgin Mary was moved to undertake this long journey to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth, by curiosity to know if what the Angel had told her were true, for she had not the slightest doubt of it. Our Blessed Lady was moved by a secret impulse of God, Who wished to commence the work of Redemption and the sanctification of souls in this visit, by the sanctification of the infant St. John.
The most ardent charity and most profound humility animated her, and gave her wings to fly across the mountains of Judea, and these two virtues were also the cause of her journey. As St. Ambrose says, charity or grace knows no delays nor cold deliberations: Nescit tarda molimina sancti spiritus gratiae.
It need not therefore surprise us if the Most Holy Virgin, filled as she was with charity (because she bore in her womb Him Who is Love itself), should exercise it in continual acts towards God, to Whom she was closely united by the sacred bond of perfect love, and towards her neighbours, whom she loved so tenderly and sincerely that she sighed for the salvation and sanctification of the whole world.
She went with all alacrity, because she knew with what happy results her visit would be attended, in the person of St. John, and also because she wished to congratulate her cousin who, notwithstanding her age and sterility, had conceived the long-predicted precursor of the Word Incarnate. She went that they might rejoice together, and excite each other to glorify the God of all mercy, and to thank Him for so many favours and benedictions.
St. Luke would teach us by the words, Exurgens Maria abiit cum festinatione in montana in dvitatem Juda – ‘Mary arose and went into the mountain country with haste, into a city of Judea’ – the care and readiness with which we also ought to correspond to the divine inspirations. As it is the work of the Holy Spirit to banish all tepidity and negligence from the heart, so He would have us execute His Divine Will with all care and diligence, and He is offended by any kind of delay.
The virginal purity of Mary, which so dearly loved solitude, also caused her to go with haste, for the best protection for virginal purity is to appear as little as possible in the tumult of the world.
Having reached the house of Zachary, she entered it. She saluted Elizabeth. The Evangelist does not relate that she saluted Zachary also, for her love of purity was so great that she spoke little with men. Let virgins learn from this that they cannot take too great care for the preservation of this virtue.
Who can imagine the sweet fragrance of this most beautiful lily in the house of Zachary during the three months that she remained there? How well did she spend every instant! What honey, what precious balsam, must those sacred lips have distilled in the few but excellent words that they uttered! Indeed, Mary could speak only that which filled her heart, and that was Jesus!
Let us consider the meaning of the words, that ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost’ – Et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth – that Elizabeth, who had already received the Holy Ghost with all His gifts, received a new fullness and a new increase of grace by this visit. Although the Lord grants His graces to the just in full measure, yet, as the Gospel says, this measure can be so augmented as to overflow on all sides: Mensuram bonam confertam et coagitatam et supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum.
Let us well understand this important truth. The grace of the Holy Ghost can never be granted to us in this life in such full measure that it cannot be augmented; therefore, let us beware of saying: “It is enough; I am sufficiently enriched with graces and virtues. Mensura conferta est – the measure is filled up, further progress in mortification is unnecessary.”
He who should speak thus would only show too clearly his misery, or rather, his presumption, and the great danger to which he exposes himself. Omni habenti dabitur et abundabit, ei autem qui non habet et quod videtur habere auferetur ab eo. This text signifies that to him who has received much – that is to say, who has laboured much, and never gives up – much shall be given.
Such a one believes that he has never done enough; but, conscious of his own misery, he continues to labour with holy and sincere humility. He, then, who possesses much, shall receive with usury, and superabundantly; but from him who profits not by the grace received, letting it lie idle and fruitless, because he believes he is rich enough, from him shall be taken that which he thinketh himself to possess and that which he does not possess.
This means that graces already received shall be taken away, because he has not traded with them, and those which have been prepared for him shall not be bestowed upon him, since he has rendered himself unworthy of them by his negligence. All this, however, is not to be understood of sufficient grace, which is never denied by God to anyone, but of efficacious grace, which, by a just judgment of God, is not granted to tepid and ungrateful souls.
The thirst for riches and honours, by which worldlings are tormented, never allows them to say, Enough. And yet they ought to be contented with a little, for experience teaches us that the highest dignities and honours and great wealth frequently occasion the loss of souls. It is in regard of such temporal matters that we should say, I have sufficient.
But, with regard to spiritual goods, let us never believe that we possess them in sufficient abundance, so long as we remain in this land of exile, but let us make every possible effort to advance day by day from virtue to virtue.
Experience teaches us that plants and fruits do not attain maturity until they have produced their seeds, which are necessary for the reproduction of their species. In the same way our virtues will never be sufficiently perfected, or reach their maturity, until they produce within us an ardent desire to make further progress. This desire is the spiritual seed which produces new degrees of virtue.
Consecration of the Saturday to Mary
Holy Church is ever desirous to maintain a tender devotion in the hearts of the faithful towards the Most Blessed Virgin, and from the earliest ages of Christianity she has encouraged the consecration of the Saturday to her.
It is related that there was in the church of Santa Sofia at Constantinople a picture of the Mother of God which was veiled during the rest of the week, but on Friday evening the veil was raised without human aid, and lowered on the evening of Saturday.
Thus did Almighty God manifest His Will that Saturday should be dedicated to Mary. It was on Saturday she took so great a part in the work of our redemption, and it was fitting that on the morrow of the day when she so bitterly wept over the sorrowful scene of Calvary we should remember her tears shed for us in a special manner.
Again, on Saturday God rested from His work in the creation of the world, and the Church consecrates this day to her, to honour the mysterious repose of the Holy Ghost in her Immaculate Heart, and that of Our Blessed Saviour in her chaste womb. Saturday is the introduction to Sunday – the symbol of eternal rest – and the Holy Virgin is truly invoked under the title of “Gate of Heaven” – Janua Caeli.
Saturday, moreover, is the day between Friday, the day of mourning, and Sunday, the day of joy and the Holy Virgin is the mediatrix between God, Who is Eternal Beatitude, and man, who is subject to endless evils and miseries.
Mary is the way to arrive at Jesus, and Saturday is a prelude to the solemnity of Sunday. Saturday is as a magnificent portal consecrated to the Mother of God, by which we enter the Sanctuary of God Himself. The Saints held this day in great esteem – on it they redoubled their pious exercises – and many begged, as a signal favour, that they might die on a Saturday.
This Story of Mary is taken from The Month of Mary, According to the Spirit of St. Francis de Sales; by Don Gaspar Gilli; translated and abridged from the Italian by a Sister of the Institute of Charity. Robert Washbourne, London. 1890. Nihil Obstat: Fr. T.A. Smith, O.P. Imprimatur:Henricus Eduardus, 14 March 1890.