Spiritual Reading for Passion Friday ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading


The Blessed Virgin already understood the Sacred Scriptures; she well knew that the time foretold by the Prophets for the coming of the Messias had arrived; she knew that the Seventy Weeks of Daniel were completed, and that the sceptre of Juda had passed into the hands of Herod, a stranger, according to the prophecy of Jacob; she also knew that the Mother of the Messiah was to be a Virgin. She then heard the Angel give her praises, which it was evident could apply to no other than the Mother of God. May not a thought or doubt have entered her mind, that she was perhaps this chosen Mother? No; her profound humility did not even allow her to have a doubt. Those praises only caused her so great fear, that the Angel himself was obliged to encourage her not to fear, as St. Peter Chrysologus writes: “As Christ was pleased to be comforted by an Angel, so had the Blessed Virgin to be encouraged by one.” St. Gabriel said, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace with God. (Luke i. 30). As if he had said, Why fearest thou, O Mary? Knowest thou not that God exalts the humble? Thou in thine own eyes art lowly and of no account, and therefore He in His goodness exalts thee to the dignity of being His Mother. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. (Luke i. 31).

In the meantime the Angel waits to know whether she is willing to be the Mother of God. St. Bernard addresses her, saying: “The Angel awaits thy reply; and we also, O Lady, on whom the sentence of condemnation weighs so heavily, await the word of mercy.” “Behold, O holy Virgin, the price of our salvation, which will be the Blood of that Son now to be formed in thy womb. This price is offered to thee to pay for our sins, and deliver us from death; we shall be instantly delivered, if thou consentest.” “Thy Lord Himself desires thy consent; for by it He has determined to save the world. He desires it with an ardour equal to the love with which He has loved thy beauty.” “Answer, O sacred Virgin,” says St. Augustine, “why delayest thou the salvation of the world, which depends on thy consent?”

But see, Mary already replies to the Angel. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done unto me according to thy word. (Luke i. 38). O admirable answer, which rejoiced Heaven, and brought an immense treasure of good things to the world. An answer which drew the only-begotten Son from the bosom of His eternal Father into this world to become Man; for these words had hardly fallen from the lips of Mary before the Word was made flesh: the Son of God became also the Son of Mary. “O powerful fiat!” exclaims St. Thomas of Villanova; “O efficacious fiat! O fiat to be venerated above every other fiat!” for with that fiat Heaven came down to earth, and earth was raised to Heaven.

Let us now examine Mary’s answer more closely: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. By this answer the humble Virgin meant: Behold the servant of the Lord, obliged to that which her Lord commands; since He well sees my nothingness, and since all that I have is His, who can say that He has chosen me for any merit of my own? Behold the handmaid of the Lord. What merits can a servant have, for which she should be chosen to be the Mother of her Lord? Let not the servant, then, be praised, but the goodness alone of that Lord, Who is graciously pleased to regard so lowly a creature, and make her so great.

“O humility,” exclaims the Abbot Guerric, “as nothing in its own eyes, yet sufficiently great for the Divinity! Insufficient for itself, sufficient in the eyes of God to contain Him in her womb, Whom the Heavens cannot contain!” Let us also hear the exclamations of St. Bernard on this subject. He says: “And how, O Lady, couldst thou unite in thy heart so humble an opinion of thyself with so great purity, with such innocence, and the so great a plenitude of grace as thou didst possess?” “Whence this humility,” continues the Saint, “and so great humility, O blessed one?” Lucifer, seeing himself enriched by God with extraordinary beauty, aspired to exalt his throne above the stars, and to make himself like God: I will exalt my throne above the stars of God I will be like the Most High. (Is. xiv. 13) O, what would that proud spirit have said had he ever been adorned with the gifts of Mary! He, being exalted by God, became proud, and was sent to hell; but the more the humble Mary saw herself enriched, so much the more did she concentrate herself in her own nothingness; and therefore God raised her to the dignity of being His Mother, having made her so incomparably greater than all other creatures, that, as St. Andrew of Crete says “there is no one who is not God who can be compared with Mary.” Hence St. Anselm also says, “there is no one who is thy equal, O Lady; for all are either above or beneath thee: God alone is above thee, and all that is not God is inferior to thee.”

To what greater dignity could a creature be raised than that of the Mother of her Creator? “To be the Mother of God,” St. Bonaventure writes, “is the greatest grace which can be conferred on a creature. It is such that God could make a greater world, a greater Heaven, but He could not exalt a creature more than to make her His Mother.” This the Blessed Virgin was pleased herself to express when she said, He that is mighty hath done great things to me. (Luke i. 49). But here the Abbot of Celles reminds her: “God did not create thee for Himself only; He gave thee to the Angels as their restorer, and to men as their repairer.” So that God did not create Mary for Himself only, but He created her for man also; that is to say, to repair the ruin entailed upon him by sin.

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