“THEY THAT WORK BY ME SHALL NOT SIN.”
St. Bernard calls the Blessed Virgin “the heavenly Chariot.” St. John Geometra salutes her: “Hail! resplendent car!” signifying that she is the car in which her clients mount to Heaven. “Blessed are they who know thee, O Mother of God,” says St. Bonaventure; “for the knowledge of thee is the high road to everlasting life, and the proclaiming of thy virtues is the way of eternal salvation.”
In the Franciscan Chronicles it is related that Brother Leo once saw a red ladder, on the summit of which was Jesus Christ; and a white one, on the top of which was His most holy Mother; and he saw some who tried to ascend the red ladder, and they mounted a few steps and fell — they tried again, and again fell. They were then advised to go and try the white ladder, and by that one they easily ascended, for our Blessed Lady stretched out her hand and helped them, and so they got safely to Heaven (Wadding, Ann. 1232, n. 28).
Denis the Carthusian asks: “Who is there that is saved? Who is there that reigns in Heaven?” And he answers: “They are certainly saved and reign in Heaven for whom this Queen of mercy intercedes.” And this Mary herself confirms in the book of Proverbs: By me kings reign (Prov. viii. 15), through my intercession souls reign, first in this mortal life by ruling their passions, and so come to reign eternally in Heaven, where, says St. Augustine, “all are kings.” “Mary, in fine,” says Richard of St. Laurence, “is the Mistress of Heaven; for there she commands as she wills, and admits whom she wills.” And applying to her the words of Ecclesiasticus: And my power was in Jerusalem (Ecclus. xxiv. 15), he makes her say: “I command what I will, and introduce whom I will.” Our blessed Lady, being Mother of the Lord of Heaven, it is reasonable that she should also be sovereign Lady of that kingdom, according to Rupert, who says that “by right she possesses the whole kingdom of her Son.”
St. Antoninus tells us that “this Divine Mother has already, by her assistance and prayers, obtained Heaven for us, provided we put no obstacle in the way.” Hence, says the Abbot Guerric, “he who serves Mary, and for whom she intercedes, is as certain of Heaven as if he was already there.” St. John Damascene also says, that “to serve Mary and to be her courtier is the greatest honour we can possibly possess; for to serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under her commands is more than to govern.” On the other hand, he adds, that “those who do not serve Mary will not be saved; for those who are deprived of the help of this great Mother are also deprived of that of her Son and of the whole court of Heaven.”
“May the infinite goodness of our Lord be ever praised,” says St. Bernard, “for having been pleased to give us Mary as our advocate in Heaven, that she, being at the same time the Mother of our Judge and a Mother of Mercy, may be able, by her intercession, to conduct to a prosperous issue the great affair of our eternal salvation.” St. James, a Doctor of the Greek Church, says that, “God destined Mary as a bridge of salvation, by using which we might with safety pass over the stormy sea of this world, and reach the happy haven of Paradise.” Therefore St. Bonaventure exclaims: “Give ear, O ye nations, and all you who desire Heaven! Serve and honour Mary, and certainly you will find eternal life.”
Nor should those even who have deserved hell be in the least doubtful as to obtaining Heaven, provided they are faithful in serving this Queen. “O how many sinners,” says St. Germanus, “have found God and have been saved by thy means, O Mary!” Richard of St. Laurence remarks, that St. John in the Apocalypse says that Mary was crowned with stars: And on her head a crown of twelve stars (Apoc. xii. 1). In the sacred Canticles, she is said to be crowned with wild beasts, lions, and leopards: Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come; thou shalt be crowned … from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards (Cant. iv. 8). How is this? He answers, that “these wild beasts are sinners, who by the favour and intercession of Mary have become stars of Paradise, better adapted to the head of this Queen of mercy than all the material stars of heaven.”
We read in the Life of the servant of God, Sister Seraphina of Capri, that once during the Novena of the Assumption of Mary she asked our Blessed Lady for the conversion of a thousand sinners, but afterwards thought that she had asked too much; and then the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and corrected her for her ungrounded anxiety, saying: “Why dost thou fear? Is it that I am not sufficiently powerful to obtain from my Son the conversion of a thousand sinners? See, I have already obtained the favour.” With these words, she took her in spirit to Heaven, and there showed her innumerable souls which had deserved hell, but had been saved through her intercession, and were already enjoying eternal happiness.
It is true that in this world no one can be certain of his salvation: Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred, says Ecclesiastes (Eccles. ix. 1). But St. Bonaventure, to the words of King David, Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? (Ps. xiv. 1), answers, “Sinners, let us follow Mary closely, and casting ourselves at her feet, let us not leave them until she has blessed us; for her blessing will ensure our salvation.”
“It suffices, O Lady,” says St. Anselm, “that thou willest it, and our salvation is certain.” And St. Antoninus says that “souls protected by Mary, and on which she casts her eyes, are necessarily justified and saved.”
“With reason, therefore,” observes St. Ildephonsus, “did the most Holy Virgin predict that all generations would call her blessed; for all the elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary.” “And thou, O great Mother,” says St. Methodius, “art the beginning, the continuation, and the end of our happiness”; — the beginning, for Mary obtains us the pardon of our sins; the continuation, for she obtains for us perseverance in Divine grace; and the end, for she finally obtains us Heaven. “By thee, O Mary, was Heaven opened,” says St. Bernard; “by thee was hell emptied; by thee was Paradise restored; and through thee, in fine, is eternal life given to so many miserable creatures who deserved eternal death.”
But that which above all should encourage us to hope with confidence for Heaven, is the beautiful promise made by Mary herself to all who honour her, and especially to those who, by word and example, endeavour to make her known and honoured by others: They that work by me shall not sin; they that explain me shall have life everlasting (Ecclus. xxiv. 30). “O happy they who obtain the favour of Mary!” exclaims St. Bonaventure; “they will be recognised by the Blessed as their companions, and whoever bears the stamp of a servant of Mary is already enrolled in the Book of Life.”