Show me thy face, dear Mother, and let thy voice resound in mine ears, for thy words are sweet, and thy countenance is beautiful.— SAVONAROLA.
THE Gospels have preserved words spoken by our Blessed Lady on four occasions—the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Finding in the Temple, and the Marriage Feast at Cana.
The words in which the Mother of God saluted St. Elisabeth, which were the occasion of the unborn Baptist leaping for joy within his mother's womb, have not been recorded. We have given to us but five short sentences, and the Magnificat. If out of the Magnificat we take two sentences, of which the first expresses our Lady's relation towards God, and the second declares what should be the attitude of all the future ages towards herself, we have seven sayings or Words of Mary.
1. How shall this be done, because I know not man ?
2. Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.
3. My soul doth magnify the Lord.
4. Behold from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed.
5. Son, why hast Thou done so to us ? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.
6. They have no wine.
7. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do ye.
It may be observed that the first five of these Words are to be found in St. Luke's Gospel—sometimes called the Gospel of the Infancy—which contains so much that the Evangelist can only have learned from our Lady herself, whilst the last two have been recorded by St. John, who, according to tradition, was present on the occasion when they were spoken.
It is but little as regards bulk; yet we shall find that these Words of Mary contain in themselves all the principles which constitute Christian perfection. They include Mary's petition to her Son at Cana, and a great prophecy uttered by the Queen of Prophets that is fulfilled before our eyes, and will be fulfilled—we doubt not—to the end of time.
Before considering our Blessed Lady's Words, let me call the attention of my readers to her silence on three occasions—a silence far more admirable than could have been any words. In the Temple when Christ asked : " Did you not know that I must be about My Father's Business?" we read that Mary made no reply, but pondered His question in her heart. At Cana, when again Christ asked a question, His Mother knew that His question called for no direct answer from her lips. On the Cross, when Jesus said to His Mother, pointing to His Disciple: " Behold thy son," once more—and this seems to me singularly touching—she spoke no word, simply bowing to the Will of God and allowing that disciple to take her " to his own."
"Our dear Lady St. Mary," so we read in the Ancren Riwle, (Written in the thirteenth century.)" who ought to be an example to all women, was of so little speech that we do not read anywhere in Holy Writ that she spake more than four times [on four occasions]. But in compensation for her seldom speaking her words were weighty and had much force. Her first words that we read of were when she answered the angel Gabriel; and they were so powerful that as soon as she said, * Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy Word,' at this word, the Son of God and very God became Man, and the Lord, whom the whole world could not contain, enclosed Himself within the womb of the Maiden Mary. Her next words were spoken when she came and saluted Elisabeth, her kinswoman. And what power, thinkest thou, was manifested in these words ? What ? That a child, which was St. John, began to leap in his mother's womb when they were spoken. The third time that she spoke was at the wedding; and there, through her prayer, water was changed into wine. The fourth time was when she had missed her Son and afterwards found Him, And how great a miracle followed these words ! That God Almighty bowed Himself to a man—to a carpenter—and to a woman and followed them, as subject to them, whithersoever they would !" [Ancrcn Riwle, p. 77 (Camden Society s Edition). (Cf. Our
Lady s Dowry, pp. 74, 75.)]