Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 43


3 Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4 And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.

Mary, next to Jesus Christ her Son, had the most to suffer, and was most exercised in patience. In her, patience had a perfect work, as she stood by the Cross assisting at the death of her Son. As He was made perfect through suffering, so too was Mary through her patience made perfect and entire, failing in nothing.

"Patience," says S. Antoninus, "hath a perfect work, when one is not excited on account of adversity, but one bears it when it comes with equanimity. For this there are the examples of the Saints, who, though just, had many things to suffer, but did so most patiently. Now the most blessed Virgin had no lack of adversities, as neither had her Son ; but when a few days after the birth of her Babe He was sought for to be slain, she had to fly into Egypt, and there remain for seven years amongst idolaters, and strangers ; and when at the age of twelve He remained behind in the temple, without her knowledge, she sought Him for three days, not without sorrow, but without anger, and such sadness as to absorb or obscure reason. She was likewise most patient in the persecutions of her Son ; and hence is said of her: ' As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.' [Cant. ii. 2.] Neither the lily, nor the rose loses its beauty and fragrance amongst thorns, so neither did Mary lose the sweet odour of patience amongst tribulations." [P. iv . tit. 15, c. 26, § 1.]

9 But let the brother of low condition glory in his exaltation:

10 And the rich, in his being low.

Mary, in her lowly-mindedness as the handmaid of the Lord, gloried in her exaltation : Et exultavit spiritus meus . . . quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est. Again, Mary, though so rich in grace, and possessed of Him " in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," gloried, rather, in her low estate, which God had deigned to regard : Quia respexit humilitatem ancillӕ suӕ"

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.

Mary, the blessed amongst women, had pre-eminently this blessedness of which the Apostle here speaks. For who was ever tried, who ever endured as she ? Having been well proved, the crown of life that she has received surpasses that of all others in glory; since she loved God with a love exceeding far that of all others, and loved Him both as her God, and as her Son.

17 Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.

18 For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature.

The Gift of gifts, the best and the most perfect of all others, was given by the Father of lights to Mary, even that of His Only-begotten co-equal Son. Mary was in a peculiar, and far higher sense than others, the chosen daughter of the Eternal Father. And not only was she begotten by the word of truth, and was the beginning of His creation ["Ego ab ore Altissimi prodivi primogenita ante omnem creaturam." " Ab initio creata sum," etc. Ecclus. xxiv. 5. 14. " Dominus possedit me in initio viarum suarum, antequam quidquam faceret a principio " etc. Parab. Salom. viii. 22. Words spoken of Eternal Wisdom, but applied by the Holy Church to the Blessed Virgin in the Breviary Lections for our Lady's Feasts.] but she herself conceived and gave birth to the Divine Incarnate Word of truth.

"No grace," says S. Bernardine of Sienna, "comes down from heaven save through Mary. Such is the hierarchical order of the effusion of heavenly graces. They come from God into the blessed soul of Christ: Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. They then descend into the soul of the Virgin : into the Seraphim and Cherubim, and the other angelic orders : into the soul of the Saints, lastly on the Church militant." [Serm, de glorios. nom. Maria;, art. 3. c. 2.]

19 And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger.

21 Wherefore . . . with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

23 For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he snail be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass.

24 For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.

25 But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; this man shall be blessed in his deed.

26 And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

27 Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this : to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation : and to keep one's self unspotted from this world.

If we study the portrait of the Blessed Virgin, as sketched in the Gospel narrative, and her character, as unvarying tradition has impressed it in the minds and hearts of the faithful, we shall find shining brightly in her all those virtuous traits which the Apostle here commends. She was most prudent in her speech, sweet and gentle in her bearing: she received with meekness the divine word, keeping and pondering over it in her heart, listening to it with humble attention from the lips of all whoever they might be, whether the Archangel Gabriel or Elizabeth, Shepherds or Sages, Simeon or Anna ; welcoming it though it might deeply wound her heart. Mary was not a hearer only but a faithful doer of the word, and was blessed in her deed. She shewed to all a perfect model of religion, clean and undefiled, before God and the Father, by her holy life of spotless purity, and her works of charity and mercy towards others : of these the Visitation, and her mediation at Cana are typical instances, and will suggest to us how many were the services she rendered to those in need and distress, whilst following our Lord in His public ministry, and, after His Ascension, in the infant Church during the years she still remained on earth. [Hence Mary is styled by the Church, and invoked by the faithful, as Virgo prudentissima, Vas spirituale, Vas insigne devotionis and as Mater misericordiӕ, dulcedo et spes nostra, O Clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria, Mater amabilis, Virgo clemens, Causa nostrӕ lӕtitiӕ, Salus infirmorum, Refugium peccatorum, Consolatrix afflictorum, Auxilium Christianorura.]