Tonight I have been asked to talk about Mary, Woman of Hope. Before I do this I would like to recap and hopefully summarise the main points on Hope raised by Marty at our July meeting in his talk on 'The Theological Virtue of Hope'.
Marty told us that Hope is the second theological virtue. Hope is that virtue by which we desire Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises, relying not on our own efforts but upon the help of the Holy Spirit. Marty went on to say that 'Hope responds to our God-given human aspiration to happiness. It takes up the human hopes that inspire human activities and purifies them for Heaven. It keeps us from discouragement, sustains us when we feel abandoned and opens our hearts to expect Heaven. Marty quoted from Bernard Haring, CSsR, who considers hope to be the dynamic force of growing love and faith.
The Catholic Catechism suggests some good reasons to Hope. Firstly, Hope responds to the God-given human aspirations to happiness, that is to say, it meets a human need. Secondly, Hope takes up the human hopes that inspire human activities and purifies them for heaven. Thirdly, it keeps us from discouragement, sustains us when we feel abandoned and opens up our human hearts in expectation of Heaven. Because we cannot fully respond to God's love by our own efforts, we need the virtue of hope to sustain those efforts.
Let us answer the second question first. Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salute and call Mary our hope. Mary is a creature and how can a creature be our hope. St Thomas explains that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause and as a mediate one. In the case of Mary, we place our hope in her as 'a mediate one' because God has given us His own Mother to be our Mother and advocate and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in her. Therefore those who hope in Mary, as "Mother of God who is able to obtain graces and eternal life for them are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God. Therefore we justly and reasonably call the Blessed Virgin our hope, trusting, as Cardinal Bellarmine says, "that we shall obtain through her intercession that which we should not obtain by our own unaided prayers".
The holy Church, in the words of Eccleslasticus, calls Mary 'Mother of holy hopequot;. She is the Mother who gives birth to holy hope in our hearts, not to the hope of the vain and transitory good of this life, but of the immense and eternal goods of heaven. St Irenaeus also so remarked that as Eve was seduced by the fallen angel to flee from God, so Mary was led to receive God into her womb, obeying a good angel; and thus by her obedience repaired Eve's disobedience, and became her advocate and that of the whole human race.
Mary is the woman of hope through prayer. Through prayer, our heavenly Father and his divine Son has willed that Mary should intercede for us with him in order to obtain the divine mercies for us. Hence her title 'Meatrix of all graces". God has decreed that Mary's prayers should aid our salvation. Therefore, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through Mary's intercession, we shall be saved.
Mary is the hope of Sinners. In the Book of Genesis we read that 'God made two great lights; a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night. Cardinal Hugo says that 'Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary the lesser light to rule sinners. meaning that the sun is a figure of Jesus Christ, whose light is enjoyed by the just who live in the clear day of divine grace; and that the moon is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are enlightened. Therefore, with this in mind, Innocent III replies; "whoever is in the night of sin, let him/her cast their eyes on the moon, let him/her implore Mary."
Mary is our refuge. In Judea in ancient times there were cities of refuge in which criminals who fled there for protection were exempt from the punishments which they had deserved. Now there is only one city and that is Mary, of whom the psalmist says, "Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God. In the latter city all kinds of criminals did not find refuge, nor was the protection extended to every type of crime. However, under the mantle of Mary all sinners, without exception, find refuge for every sin that they may have committed, provided only that they go there to seek for this protection. Therefore, for those who do not presume to ask Our Lord to forgive us, it will suffice to enter this city and be silent, for Mary will speak and ask for all that we require.
In the revelations of St. Bridget Mary is called the "star preceding the sun giving us thereby to understand that when devotion towards the divine Mother begins to manifest itself in a soul that is in a state of sin, it is a certain mark that before long God will enrich it with His grace." St Bonaventure, in order to revive the confidence of sinners in the protection of Mary, places before them the picture of a tempestuous sea, into which sinners have already fallen from the ship of divine grace; they are already dashed about on every side by remorse of conscience and by fear of the judgements of God; they are without light or guide, and are on the point of losing the last breath of hope and falling into despair; then it is that Our Lord, pointing out Mary to them, who is commonly called the "star of the sea", raises His voice and says, "O poor lost sinners, despair not., raise up your eyes, and cast them on this beautiful star; breath again with confidence, for it will save you from this tempest, and will guide you into the port of salvation". A pious author concludes by saying; "it is impossible for any one to perish who attentively, and with humility, cultivates devotion towards this divine Mother".
St. Bonaventure goes on to remark that the prophet Isaias complained of the times in which he lived, saying, "Behold thou art angry and we have sinned, there is none that riseth up and taketh hold of Thee". And then he makes the following commentary:--- It is true, O Lord, that at the time there was none to raise up sinners, and withhold Thy wrath, for Mary was not yet born-," "before Mary, there was therefore no one who could restrain the arm of God. But now, if God is angry with a sinner, and Mary takes him under her protection, she withholds the avenging arm of her Son, and so saves them".
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there is no sinner in the world, however much he/she may be at enmity with God, who does not return to Him and recover his Grace, if he has recourse to her and asks her assistance."
The Church, through the centuries has proclaimed the hope we can place in Mary- "Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope", However, the title of Mary - Women of Hope is best summarised in the "Magnificat" for it is here we see Mary place all her hope and trust in the mercy and wisdom of the Lord.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all nations shall call me blessed:
The Almighty works marvels for me,
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
and scatters the proud hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons forever.
Marty Morris' talk of 24 July 1998.
The Blessed Virgin Mary - Our Queen, Our Mother, Our Life, Our Sweetness and Our Hope by Saint Alphonsus Liguori (taken from the "Glories of Mary").