I would like to present to you in a few words five of the most beautiful jewels in the heart of Mary: her simplicity, her abandonment, her love for the Cross, her thirst for souls, and her love.
The Gospel tells us nothing about the childhood of Mary. It seems that God willed jealously to hide this diamond of greatest beauty. And Mary, all her life, kept her love of reticence, of self-effacement, of the hidden life, under the veil of simplicity, like a marvelous treasure.
Think of her at Nazareth, the wife of a carpenter, keeping the household, sweeping, going to the fountain, she, the Queen of Heaven. She appears later as if lost in the midst of the holy women, having nothing to distinguish her. I do not see Mary fainting in the arms of St. John or Mary Magdalene, but standing — Stabat Mater (“His Mother stood”) — in immense sorrow and in divine peace at the foot of the Cross. After laying Jesus in the tomb, St. John brought Mary back to his own home, where she was to live, until the Assumption, the same life she had led at Nazareth.
I picture to myself Mary during the discourse of St. Peter on the morning of Pentecost; no one in the crowd of hearers had any idea that the Mother of this resurrected Jesus, of whom St. Peter told them, the Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit who inflamed their hearts, was there, silent, in their midst.
Mary is the most imitable of all the saints. If I search the catalogue of the saints for a model of the most humble and poorest of women on earth, I find not a single one who is more truly this model than Mary.
Little Thérèse rediscovered this road of Nazareth. She approached this simplicity, but without equaling it — far from it. At Carmel there is still the austerity of the religious habit, of the enclosure. At Nazareth there was none of that.
In our time Jesus also wants hidden saints like the “woman of Nazareth,” who distinguish themselves in nothing exteriorly, but who burn interiorly. Never, moreover, have there been more saints of this kind than in our day.
Mary’s second jewel is her total abandonment: her living and limitless faith. The angel brings her the phenomenal announcement: she will be the mother of the Messiah; the Son of God will be her Son. Seeing her moved in her humility and not understanding how she will remain a virgin, the angel reassures her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” He reminds her that nothing is impossible to God. He gives her a sign. God has spoken, and the response pours forth from the depths of the soul of Mary: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” This is the fiat of Mary, pronounced in the name of all humanity.
At the origin of the redemption of those souls whom God has resolved to save through you must be also your loving abandonment, your Ecce ancilla (“Behold the handmaid”), your fiat. He asks us to pronounce these words very often each day, which sometimes cost our feeble nature so much, with unreserved acceptance of the divine will, whatever it be — so often crucifying yet always to be held in adoration.
Mary’s third jewel is her heroism of the Cross.
Jesus told St. Margaret Mary, “From the first moment of my Incarnation, the Cross was planted in my Heart.” We might well think that at the same moment it was also planted in the heart of Mary. She knew the Scriptures too well not to know that her Son would be “the Man of Sorrows” of Isaiah, that she would see Him one day with “no beauty in Him, nor comeliness . . . despised and the most abject of men . . . wounded for our iniquities, bruised for our sins.” She very soon received confirmation from Simeon’s announcement: “Your own soul a sword shall pierce.” What must she not have felt at the time of the massacre of the Innocent One whom she carried in her arms and pressed to her heart?
The abnegation of Mary appeared again in two separations from Jesus. It is so hard to leave those we love! She had already known a sorrowful separation at the moment of the death of St. Joseph. The Gospel does not speak of it, but we can picture to ourselves the first departure of Jesus from Nazareth. She had the certainty of His coming death. Finished were the long conversations with her Son, the unspeakable sweetness of the exchanges between two hearts so marvelously exquisite, sensitive, delicate, radiant with tenderness, as were the Heart of Jesus and the heart of Mary. All that was ended for this earthly life.
Then there was the separation of Calvary, when she witnessed with her eyes, with her broken heart, the full reality. She saw the soldiers strip Him of His clothes, tear to shreds the adorable flesh she had given Him, pound nails into the hands she had so often held in her own and kissed with adoration. What an exchange it was when Jesus gave her to St. John! “She received,” says St. Bernard, “the servant for the Lord, the disciple for the Master, the son of Zebedee in exchange for the Son of God!” He adds, “The thrust of the sword did not reach the soul of Jesus, for He was dead, but it reached the very depths of the soul of Mary.” But Mary said, without hesitation, in her spirit, in her will, in her heart, “Fiat, magnificat.” She knew that all these crosses were, in the divine plan, necessary for the salvation of men and the greatest proof of love which Jesus could give her.
By these separations, Mary was preparing for the great reunion of the Assumption, when she was to see the wounds streaming with Blood changed into wounds streaming with light and glory.
Mary’s fourth jewel is her thirst for souls. Mary is the Queen of the Apostles. She is an apostle in a different way, because each soul to be saved is a child of hers. In her fiat at Nazareth there is something of the impulse of a mother who wants to prevent her child from falling into the flames, for she realized more than anyone else what sin is, what Hell is. So she cried, “Yes, let me receive the sword, the piercing lance at Golgotha. I consent to see Jesus suffer and die to save my other children.”
St. Thomas of Villanova says that two loves existed in Mary: the love of Jesus and the love of men. Her heart as the mother of men prevailed. She loved men so much that she delivered up her only Son for them. In a certain manner, the words of Scripture apply also to her: “For God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son.” But the two loves in the heart of Mary were not in conflict, for it was from her love for Jesus that she drew this love for men, which was stronger than death. In Mary, as in Jesus, everything converged toward a single goal: the salvation of poor sinners. Thus Mary is Mediatrix by her cooperation in the unique mediation of the Redeemer.
The fifth jewel of the heart of Mary is her pure love. This is the diamond which flashes its splendor on all the others. It is more than a jewel of her heart — it is her heart itself. The love of Mary explains everything: the fiat of Nazareth, which made her the Mother of God; the fiat of Calvary, which made her our Mother.
Mary was all love because she was completely pure. Purity is not only exemption from any stain, from any sin.
Purity is too often made synonymous with the absence of sin. What an error it is to stop there! To drive away darkness we need light. The absence of sin is a condition; but what we need beyond that is the positive beauty of sanctifying grace — that is to say, the Holy Trinity in us. That is purity: Mary, full of grace.
Always go to Jesus through Mary, but not for fear of Jesus. Often in books of piety, Jesus is presented as a judge and Mary as the merciful Mother. Yet it is not like that at all, because if Mary has a merciful heart, a heart of ineffable tenderness, it is Jesus who gave it to her. He has, even more than she, the heart of a mother. No, this is not the reason we must always go to Jesus through Mary, but because it is His plan of love. In the same way that He Himself came through Mary, He wants us to go to Him through Mary. It is the surest way, the most direct way, the sweetest way, too. Why? Because we find Jesus in the arms of Mary.
Then, too, He looks much more at the giver than at the gift. Let it be Mary who presents Him all our gifts, and above all the gift of ourselves. It is because they spring from the mercy of God that the maternal gentleness and tenderness of Mary, my Mother, my Sister, my Queen, are for me so sweet and so tender — not because I see them as contrasting with divine justice. The Holy Spirit in us often works by attraction. What attraction I feel toward Mary — the attraction of a child for his mother!
Each morning at Mass, the focal point of your days and of your life, put Jesus on the altar of the wounded heart of Mary, the Mother of the Church. Assist at Mass near her, with her, at the foot of the Cross, like St. John and St. Mary Magdalene.
Love to recite the Rosary, meditating on its mysteries. Little Thérèse said that each Hail Mary goes up toward Heaven like incense whose smoking spirals are all alike, although it is always new incense which burns. Love always says the same things, yet never repeats itself.
I have told you, in speaking about Communion, that your heart is a heaven for Jesus, and this is even more so when Jesus finds Mary there. It is her heart which will reveal to you the intimate secrets of the Heart of Jesus, as it is the Heart of Jesus which will reveal to you the heart of Mary. Do for the Gospel of Mary what Mary did for the Gospel of Jesus — ponder these things in your heart, or rather, let it be Mary who keeps these things in your heart, all you have heard during the retreat, and reap from them the fruits of eternity.
Yes, it is Mary who will teach you to know Jesus. He is not loved because He is not known. How many there are who do not know Jesus, even among those who call themselves His friends! In the measure in which we place distance between ourselves and Him, our blindness increases, the darkness grows about us, and it is night and death. He is the light of the world! What can we see, what can we understand, without Him? The nearer we draw to Him, and the more we look at Him with the eyes of faith and especially with the eyes of love, the more we say to Him, “You are my all; You are my way; You are my truth; You are my life, the life of my life, the soul of my soul.” And the more He grows in you, and the more He enlightens you, the more He transforms you and fills you with divine life.
This is what the saints have done and always will do. Why were they heroic? Because, looking at Jesus, knowing Him, seeing Him in all His beauty, nothing seemed to them too painful, too hard, or too difficult in order to possess Him. They were irresistibly attracted to Him.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter from Fr. D’Elbee’s I Believe in Love, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.