SALVE, REGINA, MATER MISERICORDlAE! HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, MOTHER OF MERCY!
VII.-THE GREATNESS OF THE LOVE THE MOTHER BEARS US.
Since Mary is our Mother, we may consider how great is the love she bears us. Love towards our children is a necessary impulse of nature; and St. Thomas says that this is the reason why the Divine law imposes on children the obligation of loving their parents, but gives no express command that parents should love their children; for nature itself has so strongly implanted it in all creatures that, as St. Ambrose remarks, “we know that a mother will expose herself to danger for her children,” and even the most savage beasts cannot do otherwise than love their young. It is said that even tigers, on hearing the cry of their cubs taken by hunters, will go into the sea and swim until they reach the vessel in which they are. Since the very tigers, says our most loving Mother Mary, cannot forget their young, how can I forget to love you, my children? And even, she adds, were such a thing possible as that a mother should forget to love her child, it is not possible that I should cease to love a soul that has become my child: Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee-(Is. xlix. 15).
Mary is our Mother, not, as we have already observed, according to the flesh, but by love: I am the mother of fair love-(Ecclus. xxiv. 24); hence it is the love only that she bears us that makes her our Mother; and therefore a writer remarks that “she glories in being a Mother of love, because she is all love towards us whom she has adopted for her children.” And who can ever tell the love that Mary bears us miserable creatures? Arnold of Chartres tells us that” at the death of Jesus Christ she desired with immense ardour to die with her Son, for love of us”; so much so, adds St. Ambrose, that whilst “her Son was hanging on the Cross, Mary offered herself to the executioners,” to give her life for us.
But let us consider the reason of this love; for then we shall be better able to miderstand how much this good Mother loves us. The first reason for the great love that Mary bears to men is the great love that she bears to God; love towards God and love towards our neighbour belong to the same commandment, as expressed by St. John: this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother-(l John iv. 21); so that in proportion as the one becomes greater the other also increases. What have not the Saints done for their neighbour in consequence of their love towards God! Read only the account of the labours of St. Francis Xavier in the Indies, where, in order to aid the souls of these poor barbarians and bring them to God, he exposed himself to a thousand dangers, clambering amongst the mountains, and seeking out these poor creatures in the caves in which they dwelt like wild beasts. See a St. Francis de Sales, who, in order to convert the heretics of the province of Chablais, risked his life every morning for a whole year, crawling on his hands and knees over a frozen beam, in order that he might preach to them on the opposite side of a river; a St. Paulinus, who delivered himself up as a slave in order that he might obtain liberty for the son of a poor widow; a St. Fidelis, who, in order to draw the heretics of a certain place to God, persisted in going to preach to them, though he knew it would cost him his life. The Saints, then, because they loved God much, did much for their neighbour; but who ever loved God as much as Mary? She loved Him more in the first moment of her existence than all the Saints and Angels ever loved Him, or will love Him. Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to Sister Mary Crucified that the fire of love with whbh she was inflamed towards God was such that if the heavens and earth were placed in it they would be instantly consumed; so that the ardours of the Seraphim, in comparison with it, were but as fresh breezes. And as amongst all the blessed spirits there is not one that loves God more than Mary, so we neither have, nor can have, anyone who, after God, loves us as much as this most loving Mother; and if we concentrate all the love that mothers bear their children, husbands and wives one another, all the love of Angels and Saints for their clients, it does not equal the love of Mary towards a single soul. Father Nieremberg says that the love that all mothers have ever had for their children is but a shadow in comparison with the love that Mary bears to each one of us; and he adds that she alone loves us more than all the Angels and Saints put together.