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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Most Holy Mary is the Mediatrix of Sinners

Most Holy Mary is the Mediatrix of Sinners 
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
"Ego murus et ubera mea sicut turris; ex quo factus
sum coram eo quasi pacem reperiens."

"I am a wall, and my breasts are as a tower, since I am become
in his presence as one finding peace."--Cant. viii. 10.

by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Divine grace is an infinite treasure, because it makes us friends of God. For she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God (Wisd. vii. 14). Hence it follows, that if there cannot be a greater happiness than to enjoy the grace of God, there cannot be a greater misery than to incur His displeasure by sin, which makes us His enemies. But to God the wicked and His wickedness are hateful alike (Wisd. xiv. 9). But if, my brethren, any of you have had the misfortune to forfeit this divine grace by sin, do not despair, but console yourselves with the reflection, that you have in Jesus Christ Himself a mediator, who can obtain pardon for you, and restore you the grace you have lost. And He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John, ii. 2).

What have you to fear, says St. Bernard, when you can have recourse to so great a mediator? He can do all things with his eternal Father. He has satisfied the divine justice for you, continues the holy abbot, and has nailed your sins to the cross, having taken them away from your soul. But if, notwithstanding all this, you fear to approach Jesus Christ on account of His divine majesty, God has given you another advocate with His Son, and that advocate is Mary.

Thus Mary has been given to the world as a mediatrix between God and sinners. Hear the words which the Holy Ghost makes her speak in the divine canticles: I am a wall, and my breasts are as a tower, since I am become in His presence as one finding peace (Cant. viii. 10). I am, she says, the refuge of those who fly to me; my breasts, that is, my mercy, are like a tower of defence to every one who has recourse to me; and he who is the enemy of God, let him know that I am the mediatrix of peace between God and sinners. "She finds peace for enemies, salvation for the lost, mercy for those who are in despair," says Cardinal Hugo. For this reason is Mary called beautiful . . . as the curtains of Solomon (Cant. i. 4). In the tents of David naught was to be heard of but war; in the tents of Solomon naught is spoken of but peace. By this we are to understand that Mary has no other ministry in heaven than that of peace and pardon. Hence St. Andrew Avellino calls her the pleader of Paradise; but what are those occupations in which Mary is engaged? "Mary," says Venerable Bede, "stands in the presence of her Son, praying unceasingly for sinners." And Blessed Amadeus says that "Mary, all-powerful by her prayers, stands before the face of God, continually interceding for us."

Thus Mary never ceases to implore of God by her all-powerful prayers all graces for us, if we do not refuse them. And are there any found to refuse the graces solicited for them by this divine Mother? Yes, there are found such--yes, those who will not abandon sin, who will not give up this friendship, this occasion; who will not restore their neighbor's property those are they who will not receive the graces begged for them by Mary, because Mary wishes to obtain for them the grace of breaking off this connection; of flying this occasion of weakness, and they will not do it. And such as will not do it, positively refuse the grace sought for them by Mary. From heaven she sees well all our miseries and dangers; and oh, how deeply is she touched with compassion for us! With what motherly affection is she always endeavoring to assist us! "For she sees our dangers," continues the Blessed Amadeus, "and as our merciful Sovereign compassionates us with maternal affection."

One day St. Bridget heard Jesus Christ saying to Mary: "Mother, ask of me what you will." And Mary answered him: "I ask mercy for the unfortunate." As if she were to say to him, Son, since Thou hast made me the Mother of mercy, and Advocate of Sinners, can I ask aught else of Thee than mercy for the unhappy? In a word, St. Augustine says, that amongst all the saints, we have not one who is so solicitous for our salvation as Mary.

Isaias complains in his day as follows: Behold, Thou art angry; . . . there is none who riseth up and taketh hold of Thee (Is. lxiv. 5-7). Lord, said the prophet, Thou art justly angry with us for our sins, and there is no one to appease Thee, or draw Thee from chastising us. St. Bonaventure says that the prophet had reason to speak thus, since there was no Mary then. But at present, if Jesus Christ wishes to chastise a sinner, and the sinner recommends himself to Mary, she by her prayers for him restrains her Son, and averts the chastisement from him. There is no one, he says, so well able to hold back the sword of the Lord. Justly, then, did St. Andrew call Mary the peace of the Lord with men. And St. Justin called her the "Arbitress," saying, " The Word uses the Virgin as arbitress." Sequestra signifies an arbitress, to whose decision disputants binds themselves to yield. By which St. Justin means to say, that Jesus lays before Mary all his reasons for punishing such a sinner, that she may negotiate a peace; and the sinner, on the other side, places himself in her hands. Thus Mary on the one side obtains for the sinner the grace of amendment, and penance on the other; she obtains pardon for him of her Son, and thus it is concluded. Such is the ministry in the exercise of which Mary is continually occupied.

When Noe judged that the deluge ought to have ceased, he dismissed the dove from the ark. It returned with a branch of olive, significant of the peace which God had concluded with the world. This dove was a figure of Mary. "Thou art," says St. Bonaventure, "that most faithful dove of Noe which became the most faithful mediatrix between God and the world submerged by a spiritual deluge." Thou, O Mary! art the dove all faithful to him who invokes Thee--Thou art the dove that, interceding with God, hast obtained for us peace and salvation, says St. Epiphanius. Pelbart inquires how it happens that in the Old Law, the Lord was so vigorous in His chastisements, of universal deluge, of fire from heaven, of fiery serpents, and such like punishments; whereas he now deals so mercifully with us, who have sinned more grievously than those of old? And he answers, he does it all through love of Mary, who intercedes for us. "Oh how long since should heaven and earth have been destroyed," says St. Fulgentius, "if Mary had not interposed."

Wherefore the Church wishes that we should call this divine Mother our hope. The impious Luther could not endure that the Church should teach us to call Mary our hope. He said that our hope ought to rest only in God not in the creature; and that God curses him who places his confidence in creatures: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man (Jer. xvii. 5)." True; but that is understood of those who trust in creatures, in contempt of God, or independently of Him. But we hope in Mary, as our mediatrix with the Lord. In the same manner as Jesus is our mediator of right with His eternal Father, because by the merits of His Passion He obtains pardon for penitent sinners, so Mary is mediatrix by divine favor with her Son, and is such a mediatrix that her Son grants her every request; nay, that He wishes that every grace should pass through her hands. "The Lord," says St. Bernard, "has placed in Mary the plenitude of all good; so that if aught of hope or grace or salvation, is in us, we know that we derive it from Mary." The Lord has confided to Mary the treasure of mercies which He wishes to have dealt out to us, and therefore wishes that we should acknowledge every grace as coming through her. Whence the saint calls her his chief confidence, and the principal ground of his hope. For which reason he exhorts us to look for grace always through the intercession of Mary. And for the same reason the Church, in despite of Luther, calls Mary our hope.

Hence also do the saints call Mary the ladder, the moon, and the city of refuge. She is called by St. Bernard the ladder of sinners. It is sin which separates us from God. But your iniquities have divided between you and your God (Is. lix. 2). A soul in the state of grace is in union with God, and God in union with it. He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him. But when the soul turns its back upon God, then is it separated from Him plunged into an abyss of misery, and as far removed from Him as sin itself. But when shall this wretched soul find a ladder by which to mount once more to God, and be again united to him? Mary is that ladder, to whom, if the sinner has recourse, no matter what his misery, or how great the filth of sins, he can come out of the pit of perdition. "Thou," says St. Bernard, " dost not abhor the sinner, however loathsome he be; if he once sigh to thee, thou readiest him thy hand to draw him out of the gulf of despair." For the same reason is she called the moon: Fair as the moon (Cant. vi. 9). "As the moon," says St. Bernard, "is placed between the sun and earth, so is Mary stationed between God and us, to pour out His graces continually upon us."

Hence, also, she is called the city of refuge, as she is made to call herself by St. John Damascene. "I am the the city of all those that have recourse to me." In the ancient law there were five cities of sanctuary; to which, if any one fled, he was secure of not being pursued by justice, no matter what his crime. At present we have not so many cities of sanctuary--we have only Mary, to whom if any one shall have fled he may rest secure of not being pursued by the divine justice. In the cities of the old law every delinquent was in danger, nor could all his crimes escape unpunished; but Mary is a city of refuge which receives every criminal." There is no one so much cast off by God," said this blessed Mother to St. Bridget, "who, if he have recourse to me, shall not return to God, and receive pardon."

Mary, so far from disdaining to assist sinners, prides herself upon the function of advocate of sinners, so that she is related to have said to the venerable sister Mary Villanin, "Next to my dignity of Mother of God, there is nothing which I so much value as my office of advocate of sinners." "To this end," says Idiota, who takes it from St. John Chrysostom, "hast thou been chosen from eternity to be the Mother of God, that those whose sins should exclude them from participation in the merits of thy Son might be made partakers of them by thy intercession." This was the principal office for the fulfilment of which God created her, and placed her in the world: Feed thy kids (Cant. i. 7). By kids He means sinners, and those kids are given in care to Mary, in order that they who on the day of judgment should by their sins have deserved to stand upon the left, may by her intercession stand upon the right. "Feed thy kids," says William of Paris, "whom thou shalt convert into sheep, that they who should have been placed to the left may through thy intercession take their stand upon the right." But we must not forget to notice what has been said upon this passage by William of England: "Feed thy kids." Who are the kids of Mary? "These sinners," he says, "who pay her no devotion, who do not beg of her to obtain their conversion, are not the kids of Mary, and shall be placed on the left."

St. Bridget one day heard Jesus Christ saying to his mother, "Thou givest assistance to every one endeavoring to rise to God." Mary assists every one who does himself violence to leave his evil life and turn to God, or at least prays to her that he may receive strength to do so; if he have not that desire, the divine mother herself cannot assist him. Mary then assists only those sinners who honor her by some special devotion, and who, if they yet remain in disgrace with God, have recourse to her that she may obtain pardon for them, and work their deliverance from their present infernal condition. The sinner who acts thus from his heart is secure, because Mary, as we have said before, has been therefore created that she might have charge of sinners, and lead them to God. The Lord revealed this to St. Catherine of Sienna: "She is chosen by Me as a most delicious food, so as to capture men, especially sinners." And the blessed Mother herself said to St. Bridget, that as the magnet attracts iron, so she draws the hard hearts of men to herself and to God. But we must always bear in mind that these hearts, notwithstanding their hardness, must desire liberation from their unhappy state.

Ah, if all had recourse to Mary with at least this desire, she would procure salvation for all. "What fear of damnation should that man feel," says the Abbot Adam, "to whom Mary offers herself for a mother and an advocate?" He inquires again, "Could it be possible that you, the mother of mercy, should not intercede with the Redeemer for the soul He has redeemed? He lastly makes answer: "Ah, Thou must intercede, because God, who has placed his Son mediator between man and heaven, has placed Thee mediatrix between his Son and guilty man."

Then, sinner, says St. Bernard, give thanks to Him who has provided you with such a mediatrix. Thank your God, who, in order to manifest His mercy towards you, has given you not only His Son for a mediator in His own right, but that you might have more confidence, has given you Mary as a mediatrix with that Son. Therefore it is St. Augustine who calls her the only hope of sinners. And St. Bonaventure: "If by reason of your iniquities you see the Lord in anger, and fear to approach Him, have recourse to the hope of sinners, who is Mary." She will not reject you because you are too wretched; "it is her office to assist the wretched." And William of Paris says exactly the same: "It is thy office to place thyself between God and man." Hence, when we have recourse to Mary, let every one say to her with St. Thomas of Villanova: "Ah, therefore, thou our advocate fulfil thy office." Since thou art Mother of God, and advocate of the wretched, assist me who am so wretched; if thou dost not assist me, I am lost; and let us proceed to address her in the words of St. Bernard: "Remember, O most pious virgin, that from the beginning, etc., etc." I do not wish to be the first unhappy man who shall have had recourse to thee, and yet be abandoned by thee.

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.