MARY AS CREATED WISDOM
O Mary, conceived without sin, who wert not only filled with wisdom, but wert in some sort wisdom itself—that created wisdom, in whose praise the Holy Scriptures employ all the wealth of deepest poetry,—unfold to the Christians of this our age the meaning of the Scriptures, that they may see thee therein; and if the Scriptures are truly, as St. Augustine says, a kind of incarnation of Christ, let them learn to contemplate the Mother of Christ as present where Christ is, in the same way as on the altar we recognize the blood of Jesus Christ which was derived from that of the Virgin, the Mother of regenerated man.
(Ecclesiasticus 24:5 DRB) “I came out of the mouth of the most High, the first-born before all creatures.”
“all agree in calling her the first-born of God; which being the case, it was not meet that Mary should be the slave of Lucifer, but that she should only and always be possessed by her Creator, as she herself asserts: ‘The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways.’ (Proverbs 8:22)” [St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary]
(Proverbs 8:22-36 DRB) “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived, neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out. The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when he balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men. Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord: But he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death.”
(Ecclesiasticus 24:5-32 DRB) “I came out of the mouth of the most High, the firstborn before all creatures: I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth: I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud. I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven, and have penetrated into the bottom of the deep, and have walked in the waves of the sea, And have stood in all the earth: and in every people, And in every nation I have had the chief rule: And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low: and in all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle, And he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him. And so was I established in Sion, and in the holy city likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem. And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho: As a fair olive tree in the plains, and as a plane tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted. I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon, and aromatical balm: I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh: And I perfumed my dwelling as storax, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odour is as the purest balm. I have stretched out my branches as the turpentine tree, and my branches are of honour and grace. As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting. All these things are the book of life, and the covenant of the most High, and the knowledge of truth.”
“Thus speaks the great St. Augustine; and after this description of the most holy of creatures, perfect in the contemplation of God, which has never fallen away, and which nothing has ever separated from God, he adds:
“ ‘Will you call that error which the truth teaches me, by God's All-powerful word, speaking to the ear of my soul; what is there here for contradiction to contradict?
“ ‘Will you deny that there is such a perfect creature, continually united to the eternal and the true God, by so chaste a love, that without being co-eternal with Him, yet being never distracted from Him, she knows not time nor its changes, but ever remains in the repose of eternal contemplation? Thou dost manifest Thyself to her, O Lord, and it sufficeth her, and never do her desires tend towards herself, or towards aught but Thee. This is the house of God, a house not made of earth, nor even of the matter of the heavens; but spiritual, and partaking of Thy eternity, because it is eternally without spot. Thou hast founded her for ever; it is a law which Thou hast made, and which shall not be broken. Yet this divine dwelling is not eternal, for it had a beginning, it was created.
“ ‘Not that we can find any time before her, for wisdom was created before all things—not the Wisdom which is equal and co-eternal with God His Father, and our God, by whom all things were made, the Lord of heaven and earth; but that other created wisdom, the intellectual nature, which is light through the contemplation of the Light, and which, though created, is also called wisdom. As the Light that illumines differs from the light that is illumined, so does the Wisdom that creates differ from created wisdom; so does essential Justice differ from our imparted justice. There is, then, a wisdom anterior to all created things, itself created; it is the intelligent and reasonable soul of Thy holy city, our heavenly Mother, which is free, and lives in heaven for ever; in that heaven of heavens which praises Thee, herself being the heaven of heavens, which is the Lord's; and although we find no time before her, because she precedes the creation of time, yet before this wisdom there is the eternity of God who created her, and who gave her her beginning.’
“Let us meditate carefully on this prayer, dedicated by the light of wisdom, and whose depth of doctrine has perhaps never been sufficiently commented on.
“And first we should notice that the illustrious Father of the Church, who is the chief authority in the West, here declares with a strength of affirmation which is seldom met with throughout his writings, that this doctrine was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, with the clearness, and with the almighty power of a voice speaking to his soul.
“And what does he teach? He teaches that there is one sublime created being, who is our heavenly Mother, in whom God dwells, and who from the first hour of her creation lived without any change, or the least falling away, but always and entirely united to God.
“But who is this sublime creature? According to St. Augustine, it is she of whom Holy Scripture speaks: ‘The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made any thing from the beginning;’ and elsewhere, ‘Wisdom was created before all things.’ ”
“ ‘I am the Mother of fair love, and of holy hope,’ the Scripture makes thee say. ‘In me is all hope of life and of virtue; he that eateth me shall yet hunger, and he that drinketh me shall yet thirst.’ [Ecclus. 24] Compare this with what our Saviour says: ‘Blessed are they that hunger, and thirst after justice; for they shall have their fill;’ and again: ‘He that eateth me shall hunger no more, and he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.’
“By placing these two passages together, we discover something of the mystery of the holy Communion. No creature can live, without some communion with God; but no soul can have eternal life, but by the real communion of the divinity, the soul and the body of Jesus Christ. Now there is as it were a preparatory communion which gives a heavenly hunger, and there is the communion itself which gives paradise; and the soul grows with its appetite for that sacred food, which gives life more and more abundantly, as our Saviour says. And this growth of appetite is nothing but that opening of our heart which God ever requires from those who love Him,—‘Open your heart, and I will fill it.’
“God, then, ever requires that our heart should open itself wider the more life it receives, in order that it may receive still more. God gives an increase of life whenever a new impulse of hunger craves for it; and then, we reconcile the two texts, ‘He who feeds on me has still hunger;’ and, ‘He who feeds on me shall never hunger.’ For this heavenly food is of two kinds; one increases the hunger and thirst for life, the other satisfies all hunger and quenches all thirst. One opens the heart, the other fills it; the first is the created wisdom, who says: ‘He who feeds on me, is still hungry;’ the other is the uncreated Wisdom, which says: ‘He who feeds on me, shall never hunger more.’
“Therefore, O holy Mother of God, it is thou who givest us, or rather conveyest to us, this heavenly hunger. When we imitate thy humility and thy purity, thou becomest the human preparation for our substantial communion with God. To partake of God is our life and our highest good, and thou, by thy humility and purity, art the hunger and thirst after God. Therefore thou art the hope of happiness and of life; and if Christian life, is all summed up in the Holy Communion worthily received, if the worthy reception depends entirely on our preparation, and if thou art our preparation, what place dost thou hold in the work of our salvation? Now I understand the pious opinion: ‘He who loves thee, O Mary, cannot perish.’ It is thou that enlargest our souls, and openest our hearts, for the hunger and thirst after God; by thy prayers and thy example we can make those aspirations for life, those expansions of heart, which invite God to come to us, and increase His presence within us, which are the hope and the growth of life. Truly, then, O Mother, thou art our hope.”
Adapted from: The Month of Mary, Conceived without Sin. Translated from the French of A. Gratry; with an Introduction by the Very Rev. F. W. Faber.