Sancta Maria

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Who is this that cometh up from the desert flowing with delights?[1]

There is one most high Creator, almighty and a powerful King, and greatly to be feared, who sitteth upon the throne, and is the God of Dominion. He created her in the Holy Ghost, and saw her and numbered her and measured her. And He poured her out upon all His works, and upon all flesh according to His gift, and hath given her to them that love Him… and they to whom she shall show herself love her by the sight and by the knowledge of her good works.[2]

The Most High hath sanctified His own tabernacle.[3]

“Who is this that cometh up from the desert?”[4] “There is one most high Creator who hath seen her and numbered her and measured her and hath poured her out upon all His works.” We know God does not do His work in a careless, haphazard fashion. We learn from the book of Genesis that after His various creations He examined them, and saw that they were good. When He made His beautiful, His spotless one, He carefully numbered her. With what number, it may be asked? Surely, sweet Mother, thou was the first of all creatures, the chef d’œuvre of the whole creation. And then thou was measured. We know that when a piece of choice material is folded together, it may seem faultless and clean, but if it is opened out in broad daylight many a flaw may be discovered, many a crease and perhaps unsightly spot will stand revealed; but in thy soul, Mother mine, not a speck was visible, e’en to the searching gaze of thy Maker. Naught but a wide expanse of glittering, peerless brilliancy unrolled itself before Him. When my turn comes to be measured, what will come to light? One’s mind shrinks from the thought of our infinitely holy God handling aught so vile. What will be shaken out of the endless creases? The imagination recoils in horror from the picture conjured up.

“He measured her.” There is a calmness of purpose shown forth by the phrase. When we measure a thing we are in earnest about it. We want no mistakes, no ocular delusions. We take down our measurements. We examine if they are long enough, sufficiently wide for our purpose. Now God was deeply in earnest when He measured Mary. He was not like the foolish man against whom we are warned in the Gospel, who began to build a house, not having wherewith to finish it. He wanted her for a definite purpose. He wanted a mother for Himself, and so He “sanctified His tabernacle.” He wanted too, a mother for His brethren, and so, having measured her, and not finding her wanting, “He poured her out on all mankind.”

“And they that know her love her by the sight, and by the knowledge of her great works.” What were these great works? One’s first impulse would be to say she did none, her life was hidden and retired. Yet was it not a great work to prepare a temple for the most high God? The architect of a vast cathedral is famous throughout the length and breadth of the world for many centuries. Yet the temple Mary prepared was destined to survive that day of doom when the most stately edifices will fall to ruin. Her heart was the dwelling-place of the Eternal. Was is not a great work, again, to guard and bring up the Son of the Most High? And by vanquishing the evil one did she not achieve a victory to which that of the most renowned conqueror can bear no comparison. What earthly general had ever to encounter enemies of such power, astuteness and magnitude? St Paul tells us our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers and the spirits of evil in high places. And did she not withstand them? St Bonaventure says: “Mary alone was free from every vice and shone with every virtue. To pride she opposed humility most lowly; to envy, charity most loving; to sloth, diligence most unwearied; to anger, meekness most gentle; to avarice, poverty most straitened; to gluttony, sobriety most temperate; to sensuality, virginity most chaste” (Speculum B.V.M., Lect.10).

And so, Mother mine, by thy sanctity thou didst crush the head of the evil one, as God foretold to our first parents. Pray and make intercession for us, that we, too, may have grace to withstand and overcome him, that so we may be clad with the vesture of holiness, ever striving more and more to fulfil that precept of thy divine Son, “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Holy Mary, pray for us. Not only does the word holy bring many thoughts in its train, but our sweet Mother’s name itself is full of help and encouragement. It has various significations from which we can draw consolation. It means “Lady,” and is she not known as “Our Lady” all the world over? “Our Lady, our Queen and our Mother,” What have we to fear when so great a sovereign is our very own? Then it signifies “Star of the Sea,” so when tossed about by the tempest of life on the waves of trial and temptation, let us look to her for guidance. Though St Bernard’s passage on this subject is so well known, one cannot refrain from inserting it here, for it scarcely seems as if any work on Our Lady would be complete without it. “O thou, whosoever thou art, that knowest thyself to be here not so much walking upon firm ground as battered to and fro by the gales and storms of this life’s ocean, if thou wouldst not be overwhelmed by the tempest, keep thine eyes fixed on this star’s clear shining… If thou art running upon the rocks of trouble, look to the star, call on Mary… If thou begin to slip into the deep of despondency, into the pit of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in difficulty or in doubt, think on Mary, call on Mary… If thou follow her, thou wilt never go astray. If thou pray to her, thou wilt never have need to despair. If thou keep her in mind, thou wilt never wander. If she hold thee, thou wilt never fall. If she lead thee, thou wilt never be weary. If she help thee, thou wilt reach home at the last. And so thou wilt prove in thyself how meetly it is said: “And the virgin’s name was Mary.”

Holy Mary, pray for us.


[1] Cant. viii, 5.

[2] Ecclus I, 8, 9, 10-15.

[3] Cant. ii.

[4] Cant. ii.