There is no doubt, as St. Jerome remarks, that whatever is worthily said of Our Blessed Mother redounds wholly to the praise and glory of God. Therefore, for the honor and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and ardently desiring to produce a work which will tend to the praise of His most glorious Mother, I have judged it fitting to take for the subject-matter of my treatise the most sweet Salutation of this Blessed Mother. But I acknowledge my utter insufficiency for such an undertaking. First, because of the sublimity of the subject; secondly, because of the slenderness of my knowledge; thirdly, because of the aridity of my speech, and, finally, because of the unworthiness of my life, and the supreme glory and praiseworthiness of the person whose praises I wish to sing.
For who is there who would not deem that subject incomprehensible of which St. Jerome does not hesitate to speak as follows: "That which nature possesseth not, which custom useth not, which eclipseth reason, which the mind of man is unable to compass, which maketh the heavens tremble, and striketh dumb the earth, which amazeth every inhabitant of Heaven, all this was divinely announced by Gabriel to Mary, and was fulfilled in Christ." Therefore I confess myself unworthy to speak of such and so great a heroine. Again I say, how could my slender knowledge and my dull mind suffice to conceive praises worthy of Mary, when the illuminated mind of an Anselm faileth in presence of the task? For he saith: "My tongue faileth, Lady, for my mind is insufficient. Lady, all that is within me burns that I may render thee thanks for thy so great benefits. But I am unable to conceive worthy praise, and am ashamed to put forth that which is unworthy."
St. Augustine, addressing Mary, says: "What shall I, so poor in talent, say of thee, when whatever I may say of thee is less praise than thy dignity deserves ?"
Again, how can my untrained tongue, my arid powers of interpretation not fail in the praises of Mary, when Augustine, that most eloquent of men, says: "What shall we, so little, so feeble, say in praise of Mary, when, if all our members were turned into tongues, no one of us would suffice to praise her?"
Again, if praise in the mouth of a sinner is unbecoming (Eccli. XV, 9), how shall I, a miserable sinner, a man of most unworthy life--how shall I dare to proclaim the praises of Mary, when I hear Jerome, a man of such great worth, hesitate ? For he saith: "I fear and tremble, all the while that I long to fulfill your expectations, lest I should prove to be an unworthy panegyrist. For there is in me neither sanctity nor eloquence, worthily to praise the Blessed and glorious Virgin."
And again: "Why should I add to the sea a small cup of water? Why a stone to a mountain? And as Mary has already been so adequately praised by the tongues of men and angels, what can our puny efforts, and especially my own, add to these ?"
Finally, St. Jerome, speaking of Mary, says: "If I am to speak the truth, whatever can be expressed in human words is less than the praise given by Heaven; for Mary has been excellently preached and praised by divine and angelic heralds, foretold by prophets, fore-shadowed by patriarchs, in types and figures, set forth and described by Evangelists, worthily and officially saluted by Angels."
Having diligently weighed all these things, pious reader, I must beg your forgiveness for whatever insufficiency, whatever want of skill appears in this writing of mine. How shall I, so inefficient, succeed in a task before which Mary's unique and zealous panegyrist, St. Bernard, quailed ? For he saith: "There is nothing which gives me greater delight than to preach on the glory of the Virgin Mother." And giving his reasons for this delight, he continues: "For all men honor, embrace, and receive her with the great affection and devotion that is fitting, yet whatever is said of one so unspeakably sublime, by the very fact of its being put into words, is less worthy, less pleasing, less acceptable."
Yet St. Jerome encourages and consoles me, saying: "Although none can be found who is worthy to praise her, yet let not even the sinner desist from glorifying her with all his might."
And St. Augustine, speaking of the manner in which the Son of God bestowed upon His Mother the gift of fecundity, yet took not away her integrity by being born of her, among other things says: "We who are so insignificant, cannot suffice to speak of so great a gift of God; and yet we are compelled to utter her praises, lest, by being silent, we should appear ungrateful. And certainly, that poor widow who made an offering so pleasing to God with her two brass mites, should not have withheld that offering because she could not give more; yea, rather by giving what she could, she pleased God exceedingly."
Hence it is that I, so poor in talent, and equally devoid of knowledge and eloquence, have presumed to offer to so great a Queen this poor script of mine, that in it, so to speak, as in a dim mirror, the simpler lovers of this great Queen should in some imperfect manner perceive who and how great she is. And because this treatise is, as it were, a kind of mirror which reflects the life, grace, and glory of Mary, it is not unfittingly termed the Mirror of Mary. Oh, do thou, therefore, my most kind Lady and Mother, graciously accept this small gift offered to thee by thy poor lover! For with this puny gift, with this small work on thine own Salutation, I salute thee. On bended knee, with bowed head, with heart and lips, I salute thee, I wish thee blessing. Hail Mary, etc.
1. St. Augustine, "De Sanctis," CCVIII, n. 5. 2. St. Jerome, "Epist. ad Paulam et Eustoch." 3. "Epist. cit." 4. "Serm. de Assumpt. B. Mar.," IV. 5. St. Jerome I. c.