With reason might St. Irenaeus declare: " That which Eve bound by her faithlessness Mary loosed by her believing."
"Mary," in the beautiful words of St. Alphonsus, " had more faith than all men and than all the angels. She saw her Son in the Stable of Bethlehem and believed that He was the Creator of the world. She saw Him before Herod and did not cease to believe that He was the King of kings. She saw Him born and believed that He was the Eternal. She saw Him live as a poor Man, wanting the necessities of life, and believed Him to be the Master of the Universe. She saw Him lying upon the straw and believed Him to be the All-powerful. She observed that He spoke not and believed Him to be the Everlasting Wisdom. She heard Him mourning in sorrow and believed that He was the Joy of Paradise. She saw Him at the end exposed in His death to scorn and reproaches—crucified— and though the faith of the others was shaken, she believed Him to be God." (Glories of Mary, " Mary's Virtues," Chapter iv.)
We have already considered at some length the wondrous faith exhibited in consistent strength and vigour throughout our Lady's life. Great was the faith of Abraham—held up to us in Holy Scripture as the model of Faith—greater far the faith of Mary. Abraham exercised his faith at the chief crises of his life; Mary's faith was tried and found perfect throughout her days—notably at the Annunciation, at Bethlehem, in Egypt, at Nazareth, during the years of the Public Ministry, finally on Mount Calvary. Under all circumstances, however unexampled, were the words spoken first by Elisabeth marvellously verified : " Blessed art thou that hast believed." Blessed indeed was Mary in that she believed always in the Word of God—believed without faltering, believed in the face of all difficulty, believed to the end.
Hope is the flower of Faith. The more firmly we believe in God's promises, in His Power to fulfil them, in His Divine Faithfulness, in His loving Providence in our regard, the more firmly shall we hope in Him, hoping, it may be, even against hope. Thus it was with our Blessed Lady. As her faith was tried, so was her hope, but the measure of her hope was the measure of her faith. We cannot do better than listen once more to St. Alphonsus:
"Mary showed how great was her confidence in God when she saw that her spouse St. Joseph, not knowing the cause of her miraculous conception, was troubled and minded to put her away. It would have seemed that it was necessary to disclose this sacred mystery to Joseph; but no, she would not herself make known the grace which she had received. She thought that it would be more perfect to abandon herself to Divine Providence, throwing upon God the care of guarding her innocence and reputation. Once more she showed her confidence in God, when on the point of giving her Son to the world, she found herself at Bethlehem, shut out even from the hospitality which is given to the poor, and reduced to giving birth to her Child in a stall. She let no complaint escape her, but abandoning herself completely to the Lord, she trusted Him that He would come to her aid in her necessity. . . .
"The confidence of the Mother of God in Divine Providence was no less manifest when, on being warned by St. Joseph that she must fly into Egypt, she got ready, that same night, to make such a long journey into a strange and unknown land, without provisions, without money, none with her save the Child Jesus and her poor spouse.
"Mary gave a still greater proof of her confidence when she asked of her Son the miracle of the wine at Cana . . . after an answer which seemed to point out to her that her prayer was rejected, nevertheless, relying upon His Goodness, she told the waiters to do whatever her Son should say to them, sure as she was that the favour which she asked would not be refused." (Glories of Mary, "Our Lady's Virtues," Chapter v.)
No Saint has ever taken to heart in the same measure as did our Blessed Lady—especially during the bitter days of the Sacred Passion—the words of the wise man : " He who has placed his hope in the Lord shall never be confounded." (Eccles. ii. 11.) Even as Mary's perfect faith was the foundation of all her joys, so did her constant confidence in God stay and sustain her soul in its dread agony. With reason, then, the Church applies to the Mother of God the words of Holy Scripture : " I am the Mother of holy Hope."
She is also "the Mother of beautiful Love." (Ecclus. xxiv. 24 : " Ego Mater pulchræ dilectionis et timoris ct sanctæ spei.") Love (or Charity) is, we know, the bond of perfection and the end of our religion. When faith has been swallowed up in sight, and hope has passed away in full fruition, charity shall yet remain. We will, therefore, reserve for the conclusion of this chapter the consideration of Mary's love of God and man, and proceed to devote a few pages to her humility and purity and holy prayer.
By humility is understood the recognition of the creature that all the good that he possesses, whether Our Lady's in the natural or supernatural order, has Humility, come to him from God and from God alone. " Our sufficiency is of God," writes the Apostle. (2 Cor. iii. 5.) Again, he asks the question: " What hast thou which thou didst not receive? If, then, thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. iv. 7.) By pride—the vice directly opposed to humility—a creature arrogates to himself the claim to glory in the gifts that have been bestowed upon him, as though he owed them in some way to himself. Further, the man who is humble, recognising his own nothingness, and it may be his own sins, will, in proportion to the depth of his humility, be anxious to keep himself in the background, whereas he that is proud will be anxious, once again in proportion to the extent of his pride, to be prominent, thought well of, praised, and to have his name constantly on the lips of men.