488. In few words the holy Elizabeth described the greatness of the faith of most holy Mary, when, as re ported to us by the evangelist Luke, She exclaimed:
"Blessed art thou for having believed, because the words and promises of the Lord shall be fulfilled in Thee" (Luke 1, 45). The faith of this great Lady must be estimated from the greatness of her good fortune and beatitude, and from her ineffable dignity; for her faith inspired Her with so great and so excellent a belief in God, that it merited a place inferior only to God himself. She believed that Sacrament of all sacraments and mysteries, which was to be fulfilled in her own Self. So great was the prudence and the divine light in Mary our Mistress, in believing this new and unheard of mystery of the In carnation, that it surpassed all human and angelic under standing, and that it could be properly estimated and understood only in the divine Mind, the workshop of the Most High, where in the power of his right hand all the virtues of this Queen had their origin and completion. I always find myself taken aback and stupefied, whenever I speak of these virtues, and more particularly of the interior ones ; for though great is the light and intelligence, which were given to me concerning them, yet too limited are human terms to describe the concept and acts of faith, which were engendered in the mind and spirit of Her, who was the most faithful of all creatures, or rather, of Her, who was greater in faith than all of them taken together. I will say what I can, acknowledging my inability to say what I desire, and much more, what is due to the reality.
489. The faith of the most holy Mary was an image of the whole creation and an open prodigy of the divine power, for in Her the virtue of faith existed in the highest and the most perfect degree possible; in a certain manner and to a great extent, it made up for the want of faith in men. The Most High has given this excellent virtue to mortals so that, in spite of the carnal and mortal nature, they might have the knowledge of the Divinity and of his mysteries and admirable works: a knowledge so certain and infallibly secure, that it is like seeing Him face to face, and like the vision of the blessed angels in heaven. The same object and the same truth, which they see openly, we perceive obscured under the veil of faith.
490. One glance at the world will make us understand, how many nations, reigns and provinces, since the beginning of the world, have lost their claims to this great blessing of the faith, so little understood by the thankless mortals: how many have unhappily flung it aside, after the Lord had conferred it on them in his generous mercy, and how many of the faithful, having without their merit received the gift of faith, neglect and despise it, letting it lie idle and unproductive for the last end to which it is to direct and guide them. It was befitting therefore, that the divine equity should have some recompense for such lamentable loss, and that such an incomparable benefit should find an adequate and proportionate return, as far as is possible from creatures ; it was befitting that there should be found at least one Creature, in whom the virtue of faith should come to its fullest perfection, as an ex ample and rule for the rest.
491. All this was found in the great faith of the most holy Mary and on account of Her and for Her alone, if there had been no other creature in the world, it would have been most proper, that God should contrive and create the excellent virtue of faith ; for according to our way of understanding, Mary by Herself was a sufficient pledge to the divine Providence, that He would find a proper return on the part of man, and that the object of this faith would not be frustrated by the want of correspondence among mortals. The faith of this sovereign Queen was to make recompense for their default and She was to copy the divine prototype of this virtue in its highest perfection. All the other faithful can measure and gage themselves by the faith of this Mistress; for they will be more or less faithful, the more or less they approach the perfection of her incomparable faith. There fore She was set as Teacher and example of all the believing, including the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs and all that have believed or will believe in the Christian doctrines to the end of the world.
492. Some one might ask the question : how can it be possible, that the Queen of heaven exercised faith, since She had clear visions of the Divinity many times, and many more times was favored with abstract visions, which likewise make evident that which is perceived by the understanding, as was said above (No. 229, 237) and will be said over and over again later on. On account of its uncertainty, the Apostle says, that faith is the substance of the things that appear not ; by which is meant, that we have no other presence or evidence of the real existence of the things we hope for as the ultimate realization of our happiness, than that which is obscurely and as in a mirror presented to us by faith. It is the force of this infused habit, drawing us to believe what we do not see, and the infallible certitude of what is believed, which present those strong motives for prompting the will to strive after what it desires and hopes. According to this doc trine, it seems, that, if the most holy Virgin had ever enjoyed the vision and possession of God (for these two are one) She was deprived of the obscurity necessary for the existence of faith in the things, which She had seen face to face; especially if her understanding retained the images of what She had seen in the intuitive or open vision of the Divinity.
493. But this experience was not only no hindrance to the faith of the most holy Mary, but augmented and raised it to its highest excellence. For the Lord wished, that his Mother should be so wonderfully distinguished in this virtue of faith (and likewise in the virtue of hope), that She should therein surpass all that is given to ordinary wayfarers. He wished, that her understanding, in order to befit her position as the Mistress and Artist of these great virtues be embellished at one time by the most perfect acts of faith and hope, at another enraptured with the vision and the possession (even if only temporary), of the very End and Object of faith and hope. Thus She was prepared by her personal experience and fruition to teach the faithful to believe what She had herself seen and enjoyed. To join these two things in the most holy soul of Mary was easy to the power of the Almighty ; it was due to her dignity as his most pure Mother, and so it must be done : no privilege, however great, was unbecoming to Her ; and in Her none must be wanting.
494. It is true that the clear vision of a mystery is in compatible with the obscurity of the faith by which we believe it, and the possession of a thing excludes the hope of it. So most holy Mary, whenever these high mysteries were shown to Her by evident intuition or intellectual abstractions did not exercise the obscure acts or habits of faith; for on those occasions She could make use only of her infused science. But the theological virtues of faith and hope did not therefore remain idle all the time of her life; for the Lord, in order to afford Her the possibility of exercising them, suspended the influx and activity of the clear and evident vision, thereby causing a cessation of the effects of infused knowledge, and making room for the obscurity of faith and the Lord hid himself from Her by taking away all clear evidence of Himself from her mind. This happened in the most high mystery of the Incarnation, as I shall relate in its place (Part II, 119, 133).
495. It was not proper, that the Mother of God should be deprived of the reward of the infused virtues of faith and hope ; yet in order to gain this reward, it was necessary to merit it; and in order to merit it, She must have practiced these virtues in proportion to the reward. Just as her merits were great beyond comparison, so the faith in each and every one of the acts of this exalted Lady were correspondingly great; for She perceived and accepted explicitly all the truths of the Catholic religion with the deepest and most perfect faith as a wayfarer. Manifestly the understanding, as soon as it sees the prop er evidence for that which it perceives, does not wait for the consent of the will in order to believe, for before it can receive the command of the will, it has already been compelled to accept the truth by its evidences. Therefore the act of believing what cannot be denied, is not meritorious. When most holy Mary assented to the message of the archangel, She merited an ineffable reward on ac count of the act of faith necessary to believe such a deep mystery; and the same was true of other acts of faith, whenever the Most High gave Her an opportunity for its exercise by withdrawing the infused knowledge. But even when She applied infused knowledge, She gained great merit, on account of the love with which She utilized it, as I have said in another place (Supra 232, 381, 384).
496. Just as little did She use the gift of infused science, when She lost the divine Child, at least not in order to find the place where He tarried, though this was possible to Her in many other things. She did not then make use of the clear images of the Divinity ; also not at the foot of the Cross, because the Lord restricted those visions and operations of her most holy soul which would have prevented sorrow. It was becoming, that She should feel it and be left to the strength of her faith and hope alone. The joy occasioned by any of her visions or intelligences of the Divinity (even if only abstractive), would naturally pre vent pain, unless God wrought a new miracle to unite pain with joy. It was not proper that God should work this miracle, since on the sorrows of the Lady depended her merits, and the imitation of her divine Son was to be commensurate with the graces and excellences of the Mother. Therefore She sought the Child sorrowfully, as She herself says, in faith and lively hope; and the same virtues were also active in witnessing the Passion and Resurrection of her beloved Son. During those times She depended upon Catholic faith, which then became as it were restricted and confined to Her, as its Mistress and Foundress.
497. Three qualities or excellences must in particular be mentioned in speaking of the faith of the most holy Mary: its continuity, its intensity and the intelligence with which it was exercised. The faith of Mary as mentioned above, was suspended only during those times, in which She enjoyed the clearness of the intuitive, and the evidence of the abstractive visions of the Divinity. Although only the Lord himself, who dispensed them, could know when She put into operation the one or the other kind of acts, yet the most holy Queen, in making use of the different kinds of spiritual activity, never allowed Her understanding to remain idle for one instant of her life, and from the first moment of her Conception She never lost sight of God. For when She suspended faith, it was because She was enjoying the clear vision of God through the highest kind of infused knowledge, and as soon as the Lord interrupted this clear vision, She renewed the memory of his presence by her faith. The interchange and succession of these acts produced in the mind of the most holy Mary an exquisite harmony, to which the Most High called the attention of the angels, when He said in the eighth chapter of the Canticles:
"Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the friends hearken: make me hear thy voice."
498. In regard to the intensity or efficacy of the faith of this sovereign Princess, it is certain, that it exceeded that of the Apostles, Prophets and Saints taken together and reached the highest degree possible in a creature. It not only exceeded the faith of all true believers, but She supplied the faith that was wanting in all those that have not believed and She could by Her faith enrich them all. Thus Her faith remained firm, immovable and constant, when the Apostles in the hour of the Passion fell away; and if all the temptations, deceits, errors, and falsehoods of the world were joined together, they could not prevail or disturb the invincible faith of the Queen of believers. She, its Foundress and Instructress, would overcome them all and issue forth victorious and triumphant.
499. The intelligent love, with which She explicitly believed all the divine truths, cannot be expressed in words, without misrepresenting its intensity. The most holy Mary knew all that She believed and believed all that She knew ; for the infused theological knowledge of the credibility of faith s mysteries, and the understanding of this credibility, existed in the wisest Virgin Mother in the highest degree possible in a mere creature. Her knowledge was kept in a constant actuality, and by means of her memory, like that of an angel, She never forgot, that which once She had learnt. This gift and faculty of the understanding She kept in constant operation in order to exercise her deep faith ; only at times, as already said, God suspended faith by other acts of the mind (No. 492, 465). Except that She was not yet a comprehensor, nothing was wanting in regard to her intelligence of the matters of faith and in regard to the clear knowledge of the Divinity. In this regard She held a position far above that of all the wayfarers and She by Herself constituted a class of such high degrees, as cannot be attained by any other wayfarer to heaven.
500. And if the most holy Mary, while She exercised the acts of faith and hope, was in what might be called her most ordinary and therefore the lowest degree of activity, and if in that state She excelled all the angels and saints in merits by her faith and love, what must we say of the excellence of her acts, her merits and her affections, during the time in which She was exalted by the divine power to the blessed state of highest intuitive vision and clear knowledge of the Divinity? If this is beyond the comprehension of the angelic mind, how can an earthly creature ever hope to find words to describe it ? I there fore can only express the mere wish, that all mortals might come to a knowledge of the precious value of faith, by learning it from this heavenly Original, in whom faith attained its ultimate perfection and where it completely fulfilled the end for which it was created. Let the infidels, the heretics, the pagans and idolaters approach this Mistress of faith, most holy Mary, in order to be en lightened in their falsehoods and darksome errors and in order to find the sure way toward the last end of their being 1
. Let also Catholics approach and learn to under stand the copious rewards of this virtue ; let them ask the Lord with the Apostles to increase their faith (Luke 7, 5). Not that they ever can reach the faith of most holy Mary, but let them ask for the desire to imitate Her and follow Her, for by her faith She teaches us, and by her merits She helps us to obtain this virtue.
501. Saint Paul calls the patriarch Abraham the father of all the faithful ( Rom. 6, 11), because he first received the promise, hoping against hope (Rom. 4, 18) . He wishes to extol the excellence of the Patriarch s faith, be cause he believed the promise of the Lord, that Sarah, his wife, would bear him a son though she was sterile, and, according to the laws of nature, incapable of conception ; moreover, in offering his son as a sacrifice at God s command, he relinquished at the same time the prospect of the countless offspring, which the Lord had promised to Him. This all, and many other sayings and promises of the Lord were made impossible of fulfillment according to the laws of nature, yet Abraham believed, that the divine power could execute them in a supernatural manner. Therefore he merited to be called the Father of all the believers and to receive the seal of his faith which justified him, namely circumcision.
502. But our supereminent Lady, Alary, possesses much greater rights and titles to be called the Mother of faith and of all the faithful. In her hand is hoisted the standard and ensign of faith for all the believers in the law of grace. First indeed, according to the order of time, was the Patriarch and consequently he was ordained to be the father and head of the Hebrew people: great was his belief in the promises concerning Christ our Lord, and in the works of the Most High. Nevertheless in comparably more admirable was the faith of Mary in all these regards and She excels him in dignity. Greater difficulty and incongruity was there that a virgin should conceive and bring forth, than that an aged and sterile woman should bear fruit ; and the patriarch Abraham was not so certain of the sacrifice of Isaac, as Mary was of the inevitable sacrifice of her most holy Son. She is the One, who perfectly believed and hoped in all the mysteries, and She shows to the whole Church, how it must believe in the Most High and in the works of his Redemption. Having thus understood the faith of Mary our Queen, we must admit Her to be the Mother of the faithful and the prototype of the Catholic faith and of holy hope. And in order to conclude this chapter, I will add, that Christ, our Redeemer and Teacher, as He was a comprehensor and as his most holy soul enjoyed the highest glory and the beatific vision, had no necessity or occasion for faith, nor could He in his own actions give us an example of this virtue. But what the Lord could not do in his own Person, He did in the person of his most holy Mother, constituting Her as the Foundress, the Mother and the example of faith in his evangelical Church. And thus on the day of universal accounting this sovereign Mistress and Queen shall in an especial manner assist her most holy Son in the judgment of those, who, in spite of such an ex ample, have not believed during their stay on earth.
Instruction of the Mother of God, Our Lady
503. My daughter, the inestimable treasure of the virtue of divine faith is hidden to those mortals who have only carnal and earthly eyes ; for they do not know how to appreciate and esteem a gift and blessing of such in comparable value. Consider, my dearest, what the world was without faith and what it would be today if my Son and Lord would not preserve faith. How many men whom the world has celebrated as great, powerful and wise have precipitated themselves, on account of the want of light of faith, from the darkness of their unbelief into most abominable sins, and thence into the eternal darkness of hell ! How many kingdoms and provinces, being blind themselves, follow these still more blind leaders until they together fall into the abyss of eternal pains! And they are followed by the bad Christians, who having received the grace and blessing of faith, live as if they had it not in their hearts.
504. Do not forget, my dear friend, to be thankful for this precious jewel which the Lord has given thee as a dower and a wedding gift of thy espousal with Him; in order to draw thee to the bridal chamber of his holy Church and afterwards to have intercourse with Him in the eternal beatitude. Continually exercise this virtue of faith, for it places thee near to thy last end, after which thou strivest, and brings thee near to the object of thy de sires and thy love. Faith teaches the sure way of eternal salvation, faith is the light that shines in the darkness of this mortal life and pilgrimage; it leads men securely to the possession of the fatherland to which they are way faring, if they do not allow it to die out by infidelity and sinfulness. Faith enlivens the other virtues and serves as a nourishment of the just man and a support in his labors. Faith confounds and fills with fear the infidels and the lax Christians in their negligence; for it convinces them in this world of their sin and threatens punishment in the life to come. Faith is powerful to do all things, for nothing is impossible to the believer; faith makes all things attainable and possible. Faith illumines and ennobles the understanding of man, since it directs him in the darkness of his natural ignorance, not to stray from the way, and it elevates him above himself so that he sees and under stands with infallible certainty what is far above his powers and assures him of it no less than if he saw it clearly before him. He is thus freed from the gross and vile narrow-mindedness of those who will believe only what they can experience by their own limited natural powers, not considering that the soul, as long as it lives in the prison of this corruptible body, is very much circumscribed and limited in its sphere of action by the knowledge drawn from the coarse activity of the senses. Appreciate, there fore, my daughter, this priceless treasure of the Catholic faith given thee by God, watch over it and practice it in great esteem and reverence.