Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure CHAPTER V


 Hail Mary, full of grace. It has been shown above, how Mary, because of the pure innocence of her life, is rightly saluted by the Ave. We have now to show how, by the abundance of her grace, she deserves the salutation "full of grace." Consider, dearly beloved, this grace, the grace of Mary, this admirable grace. Consider the truth, the immensity, the multiplicity, the utility of the grace of Mary. For the grace of Mary is a most true grace, a most immense grace, a most manifold grace, and a most useful grace.

First, consider the truth of the grace of Mary. Of this Gabriel saith: "Thou hast found grace," etc. (Luke I, 31.) That grace is true which is found with God who is the Truth. He says "with God" and not with the devil. For the devil offers the grace of an evil prosperity, that one may sin more freely. Holofernes, who signifies the devil, says: "Drink now, and sit down and be merry: for thou hast found favor before me" (Judith XII, 17.) He says, "with God," not with the world, because with the world, that is, with worldly men, false grace and false contrition are often found. Therefore it is said in Ecclesiasticus: "Open not thy heart to every man, lest he repay thee with an evil turn; and speak reproachfully to thee" (VIII, 22. ) "With God," he says, not with men; therefore Blessed Bernard saith: "Let us seek grace, but grace with God, for with men favor is deceitful." Again he says, "with God," not with the flesh; for the grace or favor of the flesh is false, as beauty of body and such like. Solomon saith: "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain" (Prov. XXXI, 31.) For the Virgin Mary, so full of grace, condemned the false grace of the world, of the flesh and of the devil. Therefore did she find grace with God, true and pure, defiled by no base mixture, so that she could truly say with Ecclesiasticus: "My odor is as unmixed balm" (Eccli. XXIV, 21.) The balm of Mary is the unction of grace, which was most copiously poured forth on her. Therefore St. Bernard, speaking of the text, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," says: "That precious balm flowed upon thee with such fullness and abundance that it overflowed abundantly all around thee." Balm is usually mixed, and thereby adulterated, with honey or oil. But the balm of the Holy Spirit in Mary was not mixed, for it was adulterated neither by the honey of carnality and worldly consolation, nor by the oil of praise and flattery. But because the grace of, Mary was so true and pure, therefore St. Jerome well says of her: "Whatever was done in Mary, was all purity and simplicity, all grace and truth, all mercy and justice, which looked forth from Heaven." Whoever, therefore, desires with Mary to find true grace, let him approach with Mary to Him with whom it is found, with every desire, in all earnestness, with all the ardor of longing, as the Apostle exhorts the Hebrews saying: "Let us go with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid" (Heb. IV, 16.) And note that whoever wishes to find, must seek, and whoever wishes to seek, must bow down. Let him bow down with Mary in true humility, whoever wishes to find true grace with Mary. For it is said in Ecclesiasticus: "The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God" (III, 20.) Mary, because she truly humbled herself, found true grace, as it is said: "He hath regarded my humility."

 Secondly, consider the immensity of the grace because of which Mary is called "full of grace." The grace of which she was full was certainly immense. An immense vessel cannot be full, unless that is also immense wherewith it is filled. Mary was an immense vessel, since she could contain Him who is greater than the Heavens. Who is greater than the Heavens? Without doubt He of whom Solomon says: "If heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this house which I have built?" (3 Kings VIII, 27.) It was not indeed the house which Solomon built, but she of whom that house was the type, which could contain God. Thou, therefore, O most immense Mary, art more capacious than the Heavens, because He whom the Heavens cannot contain was borne in thy womb. Thou art more capacious than the world, because He whom the whole world cannot contain, being made man, was enclosed within thee. If Mary's womb then had such immensity, how much more had her mind? And if so immense a capacity was full of grace, it was fitting that that grace which could fill so great a capacity, should also be immense. Who can measure the immensity of Mary? Behold what is said in Ecclesiasticus: "Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss?" (I, 2.) Mary is a heaven, as much because she abounded in heavenly purity, heavenly light, and other heavenly virtues, as because she was the most high throne of God, as the Prophet saith: "The Lord hath prepared His throne in heaven" (Ps. CII, 19.) Mary was also the earth which brought forth for us that fruit of which the same Prophet saith: "The earth hath given its fruits" (Ps. LXVI, 7.) Mary is also an abyss in goodness and deepest mercy. Therefore she obtaineth for us the mercy of her Son, as it were an abyss calling upon an abyss. Therefore Mary is a heaven, Mary is the earth, Mary is the abyss. Who hath ever measured the height of that heaven, the breadth of that earth, the depth of that abyss, except He who hath made her, not only in grace and glory, but in mercy so high, so wide, so deep? Therefore it is especially of her mercy that Bernard saith: "Who can search into the length and breadth and depth and sublimity of thy mercy, O blessed one? For the length of it will help all who call upon her till the last day; the breadth of it fills the whole world, so that the earth is full of her mercy; and the sublimity of it will bring about the restoration of the heavenly city, and its depth hath obtained redemption for them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.("Serm. de Assumpt.," 4.)

Third, consider the manifoldness of the grace of Mary, of whom Ecclesiasticus says: "I, like the turpentine tree, have stretched forth my branches, and my branches are of honor and grace" (XXIV, 22.) According to Pliny and the Gloss, the turpentine tree is a large tree of Syria, and it has many and wide-spreading branches. The male tree bears no fruit, but only the female; this fruit is double, ruddy and white and of a pleasant smell. This beautiful tree, growing in Syria, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. For "Syria" means watered, and truly the whole life of Mary was watered by grace, for she grew in the healthful moisture of grace from the womb of her mother. What wonder if Mary grows in the moisture of grace, when without it every seed will wither? Whence it is said of the seed in St. Luke's Gospel: "And being sprung up, it withered, because it had no moisture" (Luke VIII, 6.) The branches of this tree, branches of honor and grace, are the virtues, and the examples, and the- benefits of Mary. Many are the branches, branches of honor and grace, the merits of her abundant grace, her many virtues and good example, her many benefits and her mercy. In these branches the birds of heaven joyfully dwell, that is, holy souls, so that it can be said of them what we find in the Book of Daniel: "In the branches thereof the fowls of the air had their abode" (IV, 9.) Oh, how wide-spreading, how high are the branches of that blessed tree, the Virgin Mary! How wide-spreading to men, how long to the angels, how high towards God! In what way she extends to all the branches of her graces and her mercies St. Bernard sets forth, saying: "Mary has opened to all the bosom of her mercy, that all may receive of her fullness: the captive redemption, the sick healing, the sad consolation, the sinner pardon, the just grace, the angels joy, the Blessed Trinity glory, the Person of the Son the substance of human flesh! The fruit of that tree is that of which it is said: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb." That fruit was ruddy in blood, white in death. Therefore the spouse of God, that is, the holy soul, saith as in the Canticle: "My beloved is white and ruddy" (Cant. V, 10.) This fruit is-also of a pleasant odor to devout souls. John the Apostle had this odor in mind when he said to the Lord: "Thy odor hath roused in me eternal concupiscences." O soul, O soul, dost thou not experience the odor of mercy of this fruit? Oh, if thou didst inhale it, wouldst thou not run after it, as is said in the Canticle: "We run in the odor of thy ointments"? It is to be noted that it is not the male turpentine tree, but the female, that brings forth fruit. So that fruit of life, Jesus Christ, was brought forth, not by a man, but by a woman, a virgin. Well, therefore, doth St. Augustine say: "A virgin mother was chosen, who would conceive without concupiscence, and bring forth a man without a man." 

Fourthly, consider the utility of the grace of Mary. It is said: "A gracious woman will find glory" (Prov. XI, 16.) Behold the utility of the grace of the gracious Mary; it is the finding of perpetual glory. Most useful was the grace of Mary both to herself and to us. Most useful, I say, was the grace of Mary to herself. For grace made Mary delightful, miraculous, and glorious. Delightful in her soul, miraculous in her Son, glorious in her kingdom. Mary was certainly delightful in her spiritual mind, miraculous in her virginal offspring, glorious in her eternal diadem. Grace, therefore, made the mind and the soul of Mary delightful with spiritual delights, as a spiritual paradise of the living God, like that word of Ecclesiasticus: "Grace is like a paradise in blessings" (XL, 17.) Truly she was a paradise of God in blessings of manifold spiritual delights. Of which St. Bernard saith: "What shall I say of the delights of the beauty of virginity, with the gift of fecundity, the mark of humility, the dropping honeycomb of charity, the bowels of mercy, the fullness of grace, the prerogative of singular glory?" Likewise grace made Mary miraculous in her offspring, miraculous in her conception and bringing forth, while miraculously the virgin brought forth, and more miraculously conceived and brought forth God.

 Therefore is it well said of her: "Thou hast found grace with God" (Luke I, 30.) Of this name, St. Bernard, speaking to Mary, said: "Understand, prudent Virgin, how great and what special grace thou shalt find with God, from the name of thy promised Son." Grace likewise made Mary glorious, wherefore it has well been said: "A gracious woman shall find glory" ( Prov. XI, 16. ) O truly happy finder, Mary, who is so great in this world, so great in Heaven! No pure creature found such grace in this world, such glory in Heaven. And certainly she found both grace and glory with the Lord, for as it is said in the Psalm: "The Lord will give grace and glory" ( Ps. LXXXIII. )

But the grace of Mary was not only most useful to herself, but also to us, to the entire human race. For the grace of Mary gathers in the evil, nourishes and fattens the good, delivers all. It gathers in sinners from guilt, fattens them by grace, delivers them from eternal death. I say, therefore, that the grace of Mary gathers in souls to mercy, gathers evil- doers into the Church. This is well signified in the favor which Ruth found when she collected the ears of corn left by the reapers, when she said to Booz: "I have found grace in the eyes of my lord" (Ruth II, 12.) "Ruth" is interpreted "seeing" or "hastening," and she typifies the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was truly a seer in contemplation and was swift in work. For she seeth our misery and swiftly bestows on us her mercy. Booz is interpreted as "strength," and signifies him of whom it is said in the Psalm: "Great is the Lord and great is His strength" (Ps. CXLVI.) Ruth, therefore, in the eyes of Booz, Mary in the sight of the Lord, found this grace, that she gathered up the ears of corn left by the reapers, that is, souls are gathered to pardon by her. Who are the reapers but the teachers and pastors? O truly great grace of Mary, by which many are saved and find mercy, who were given up as hopeless by their priests and pastors! Therefore St. Bernard saith: "Mary, thou embracest with maternal affection the sinner despised by the whole world, thou cherishest him, thou never forsakest him, until he is reconciled to the tremendous Judge." Likewise Mary nourishes the good with the fatness of grace. Therefore is it said in Ecclesiasticus: "The grace of a diligent woman shall delight her husband, and shall fat his bones" (XXVI, 16.) Mary was indeed the diligent woman of whom Bede saith: "Mary was silent about the secret of God, but she diligently considered it in her heart." Who was the husband of this diligent woman, but He whom she had encompassed in her womb ? Of whom Jeremias says: "The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth, a woman shall encompass a man" (Jer. XXXI, 32.) The bones of this man are all they who are strong in the Church, that is, in His body. These bones, by the help of the grace of Mary, are fattened by the unction of grace. They are fattened, I say, by the fatness of the Holy Ghost, by which he longed to be enriched who said: "Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness." Oh, who can reckon how many souls by the help of Mary are nourished and fattened by grace? And who indeed can calculate how great in Mary herself was this fatness of grace, by which so many millions of souls are nourished? What was lacking to her who was the dwelling of all virtue and grace? St. John Damascene says: "Mary, planted in the house of the Lord, and fattened in spirit like a fruitful olive tree, was made the dwelling of every virtue." Likewise Mary delivers all men from everlasting death. This was well typified in Esther, of whom we read: "The king loved her more than all women, and placed the diadem of his kingdom on her head" (Est. II, 17.) We read, therefore, that there was a twofold utility in the grace of Esther which she had with the king: one was that she obtained the royal crown; the other, that she delivered her nation, which had been condemned to death. So Mary, our Esther, obtained such grace with the eternal King that by it she not only attained to the crown herself, but delivered the human race, which was condemned to death. Therefore St. Anselm says: "How shall I worthily praise the Mother of my Lord and God, by whose fecundity I, a captive, was redeemed, by whose Son I was rescued from eternal death, by whose Child, I, being lost, was recovered and led back from the exile of misery to the homeland of eternal beatitude." O Mother of grace, make us sons of grace. Grant that by thy most true grace we may be gathered for the pardon of sin, nourished by the spirit of devotion, and delivered from the death of damnation ! Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.