[Taken from The Communion of Saints: Sanctity Through the Centuries]
A girl, or as we may call her, a woman, is in herself the most wonderful creature that God has ever made. The first man was made from the slime of the earth. But the first woman was made from the living body of a man. The structure of a girl, in her being, transcends in wonder and grace and beauty everything God has devised.
We often say of a man that he is handsome or goodlooking. But, it is only a girl we call beautiful. Every girl we see, every woman we behold, is somewhat of an image, somewhat of a reflection of the girl of all girls that God made: Mary the Mother of God. That is why, in all true Christian countries, our courtesy, our respect, for a woman or a girl should be clearly evident in everything we do.
In every Catholic country, before the days of the so-called Reformation and before the deterioration of Christian culture began, man’s respect for a girl was clearly evident in everything he did or said to her. A girl was then confidently and humbly aware of her great dignity as an image or vestige of the Mother of God. She showed it in the way she dressed, the way she walked, the way she fixed her hair, the way she smiled, the way she asked questions or the way she made a reply.
Every Catholic girl in the Middle Ages knew in substance what was said in the Bible in the Book of Deuteronomy in Chapter 22:5, and rarely violated it.
A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God.
This is the lovely distinction between the genders that God means men to keep and women to expect.
The deterioration of distinction between genders in our own day is in the way girls and women dress, walk and talk. It is a horror to behold and a hatred for all God has revealed. For the ideal of all girls and women has been given us by the Most Blessed Trinity in the pure Virgin Mary, the lovely and noble Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Spouse of the Holy Ghost, whom we are allowed to call, and love to call, and should call, “Our Lady.”
To let us know that even all the angels were created for this girl of all girls, Our Lady, we are informed that above the nine choirs of angels whose names are: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim-there are seven angels that stand before the throne of God. Four of their names we do not know, but three of them we do know. And all three of them have been dedicated to the Holy Family-to Mary, to Mary’s spouse and Mary’s Divine Child.
The Angel Gabriel is Our Lady’s special angel, the one who brought her the news at the Annunciation. The Angel Michael is Saint Joseph’s special angel, who is the protector of the Universal Church. And Saint Michael escorted Our Lady into Heaven on the day of the Assumption. The Angel Raphael is the special angel of Mary’s Child, Jesus. He is the one angel who came and comforted Him in the Garden of Olives when He went through His agony and sweat blood.
Angels are greater than men by nature. But one girl is superior to all angels by grace. She is the Queen of Angels. It is for her that all the angels were created, so that they could be her subjects, and she their Queen.
In the whole history of humanity there never was a son who looked so like his mother as Jesus looked like Mary. She was His virginal Mother. He had no human father, and so the color of His eyes, the tone of His voice, the fabric of His skin, the whole structure of His face was the image of the beautiful virginal Mother from whom He took His flesh and blood. It is a dear tradition that Jesus and Mary were very nearly the same height. Both were tall.
In height, in looks, in manners, in tone of voice, in grace of utterance, God resembled His Mother. It was the most beautiful mother and son resemblance in the history of the world.
The promises of the Old Testament about Mary are most abundant.
We learn from the Book of Genesis that Mary is to be the second Eve. She is also to be “Mother of all the living” and the “Woman who will crush the serpent’s head.” “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Gen. 3:15) And she is foretyped by Rachel, the mother of Joseph, the son of Jacob in the Old Testament.
The Book of Exodus calls Our Lady a “burning bush.” Because Our Lady was to sing the Magnificat, Miriam, the sister of Moses, said, “Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magnified.” (Ex. 15:21)
The Book of Numbers refers to her as the “ark of the covenant,” “star of Jacob” and the “blooming of Aaron’s rod.”
The Book of Judges calls Mary “Gedeon’s fleece,” and foretypes her in Debbora, the prophetess, in Jahel and in the daughter of Jephte.
In the Book of Ruth, Ruth the Moabitess is Mary’s foretype.
In the Books of Kings, Mary is prefigured in Anna, the mother of Samuel, and in the way she sings. She is also prefigured in the ivory throne of Solomon and in a vessel of gold.
The Book of Judith calls Mary who is to come “the glory of Jerusalem.” “And she was greatly renowned among all, because she feared the Lord very much, neither was there anyone that spoke an ill word of her.” (Judith 8:8) “The Lord has blessed thee by His power, because by thee He has brought our enemies to nought.” (Judith 13:22) And the canticle that Judith sings in the book named for her is a preamble to Mary’s Magnificat.
Esther, in the Book of Esther, is a beautiful foretype of Mary.
The Book of Psalms says, “Thou art beautiful above the sons of men.” (Ps. 44:3) King David says in Psalm 44:10, “The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing; surrounded with variety.” The beauty of Mary’s soul is told in Psalm 44:14. “All of the glory of the king’s daughter is within.” “Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy; and grant us Thy salvation.” (Ps. 84-8.) “The foundations, thereof, are in the holy mountains: The Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob.” (Ps. 86:1,2.) “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.” (Ps. 86:3) “The just…shall give glory to Thy name.” (Ps. 139:14)
The Book of Proverbs refers to Mary as “set up from eternity.” It calls her “a valiant woman” and says that she surpasses all the daughters of men. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived, neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out.” (Prov. 8:22-24) “He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.” (Prov. 8:35) “Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her.” (Prov. 31:10)
The beautiful Canticle of Canticles is almost a continual song about Mary and her symbols and figures. It speaks abundantly of her as the “flower of the field,” “the lily of the valleys,” “the lily among thorns,” “a fountain sealed up,” “the garden enclosed,” “the well of living waters,” “the sun,” the “vineyard,” “a bundle of myrrh,” the “dove in the clefts of the rock,” the “doves’ eyes,” “the tower of David,” “the dropping honeycomb,” “pillars of marble,” “the moon,” “the sun,” the “wine,” the “oil poured out,” “the odor of thy ointments,” the “tents of Cedar,” “the curtains of Solomon.” “Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one and come.” (Cant. 2: 10) “Show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.” (Cant. 2:14) “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.” (Cant. 4:7) “My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands.” (Cant. 5:10)
The Book of Wisdom refers to Mary-to-come as “the unspotted mirror,” and goes on to say, “She teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life.” (Wisd. 8:7)
Ecclesiasticus pays her the tribute of being “the first-born before all creatures,” the light that never faileth,” “a cypress tree on Mount Sion,” “a palm tree in Cades,” “a fair olive tree,” “a plane tree by the water in the streets,” and “as the morning star in the midst of a cloud.” “I came out of the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures.”(Eccus. 24:5) “Then the Creator of all things…made me and rested in my tabernacle.”(Eccus. 24:12) “From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before Him…and my abode is in the full assembly of saints.”(Eccus. 24:14,16) “I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on Mount Sion.”(Eccus. 24:17) “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.”(Eccus. 24:24,25) “They that shall explain me shall have life everlasting.”(Eccus. 24:31)
Isaias the prophet says that Mary is foretold by the prophets, and speaks of the fact that she is the earth that budded forth a Savior. “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”(Is. 7:14) “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root.” (Is. 11:1)
In Jeremias her divine motherhood is referred to as “a woman shall compass a man.”
Ezechiel says that Mary is the gate passed through by the prince alone, and Daniel refers to Mary as “the stone cut out of a mountain without hands.”
She is also prefigured in the Second Book of the Machabees by the mother of the Machabees.
Mary is the ladder that God made, by means of which He descended from Heaven and by which we must ascend to it.
Mary combines the beauty of Sara, the charity of Rebecca, the prayerfulness of Anna, the humility of Ruth, the chastity of Susanna, the courage of Judith, the obedience of Esther and the holiness of the mother of the Machabees.
The New Testament goes on to call Mary “a woman clothed with the sun” and a “tabernacle of God with men.”
When the angel said, “Blessed art thou among women,” he placed her for our admiration before all women there ever were – Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Debbora, Judith, even Esther, whose beauty won the king’s heart.
The New Testament in its twenty-seven books rejoices in declaring that there had come what the Old Testament in its forty-five books had always been promising the world. This promise was that one day would be born the girl of all girls, the Mother of God.
What we had just said about Mary comes from all the prophecies of the Old Testament during hundreds and hundreds of years when the true believers were waiting for her to come. There never was a saint who with some utterance or other did not declare the majesty, the dignity and the supremacy of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We know many of the wonderful events that occurred in connection with Mary before the year 1000. She appeared on a pillar to Saint James in the year 36. The feast of Our Lady of the Snows reminds us that in the year 355 she let a snowfall occur in summer to show where she wanted a church built in her honor.
We know that the first four ecumenical councils of the Church which were held, in no small way protected the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Council of Nicea, in 325, protected the divinity of Jesus, Our Lady’s Child.
The Council of Constantinople I, in 381, protected the divinity of the Holy Ghost, Our Lady’s Spouse.
The Council of Ephesus, in 431, protected the Divine Maternity of Our Lady. It also called Our Lady “Immaculate.”
The Council of Chalcedon, in 451, protected the maternity of Our Lady.
And here is a summary in substance of what the Saints said or implied about her in their praises and prayers.
Mary was more beautiful than all the men and women of the world. The sun and the moon are dazzled by the beauty of the Virgin Mary. Her name is filled with divine graces and blessings. All the evil done by Eve’s incredulity was remedied by Mary’s faith. Mary was made the holy one, more glorious and more pure and saintly than all the rest of mankind. She had a mind whiter than snow and a soul more purified than the finest gold. The Lord has given us in Mary arms that no forces of war can overcome. She is a vessel and a chamber containing all mysteries. In knowledge, experience and revelation she outshines all the angels, patriarchs and prophets.
Mary was chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of God so that those who could not be saved according to the rigor of divine justice might be saved with the help of her sweet mercy and by her powerful intercession. Mary is set up by God to be a light to shine for all creatures. Her very name is the key to the gates of Heaven.
Mary stands before her Divine Son unceasingly praying for sinners. Mary not only deserves to be called merciful, but even mercy itself. God made her whom He had chosen, and chose her of whom He would be made. There is nothing of splendor or glory that does not shine in Mary, and no created mind or heart is capable of knowing how much love the heart of Mary had for Jesus.
On others grace was bestowed in measure, but the fullness of grace was poured over Mary. Mary’s humility was the heavenly ladder by which God came into the world. Through Mary the Blessed Trinity is glorified. Through her the precious Cross is venerated and reverenced. Because of her, mankind, enslaved by the errors of idolatry, has been converted to truth. Believers have been baptized. Churches have been built everywhere.
By Mary we obtain pardon for our sins. She is altogether sinless. She is the Virgin and Mother who found grace to restore salvation to all men because she gave birth to the Son of God. She is the Mother of the living. We owe Mary such gratitude because in the tabernacles of our churches we possess the same Body that the Blessed Virgin conceived and bore in her womb, wrapped in swaddling clothes and nursed most affectionately. Everything God can do by will, Mary can do by prayer. Her prayer is omnipotent. She has a Mother’s jurisdiction over God, her Son. When we go to Mary we should never fear to ask too much. Mary was the first guardian of Jesus, and hers was the first voice to which He listened. Whenever we receive Holy Communion we become children of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She suffered more than all the martyrs. She is called the Queen of martyrs.
The Twelve Apostles constantly came to speak to her and ask her advice and prayers and blessing. Mary constantly prayed for the Apostles and she prayed for the conversion of all to the one, true Faith. When Mary entered Heaven, she was welcomed by the Blessed Trinity, and when she prostrated herself in humble adoration before God, all the angels and saints came to pay honors to their Queen. Anyone devoted to Mary will be saved, and anyone greatly devoted to her will become a saint. She is the paradise in which God dwells. She is the paradise of delight.
The most beautiful of all prayers said to the Mother of God is the Hail Mary. Its first greeting was sent to her by God Himself. Mary is our Mother and loves us with a love that surpasses that of all mothers for their children. On the Cross Jesus entrusted us to her maternal care. We are the children of Eve by birth. We are Mary’s children by redemption. As the children of Eve we are born into sin; as the children of Mary we are born into grace. Mary is a hammer against heretics, but she will save heretics of good will who seek her, who want to be her children and who become members of the Church of which she is the Mother.
The last age of the world from the death of Our Lord on, is the Age of Mary. But, in the fullest sense, the Age of Mary can best be called from the year 1000 on. Because in the last thousand years, or, as we can call it, the last millennium, there have been not merely an abundance of saints realizing and appreciating and praising Our Lady with, all their hearts, and not only has the Church come out and declared dogmatically most safeguarding and wonderful truths connected with her, and not only have events relating to Mary taken place in outstanding fashion, but also there have been abundant apparitions of Our Lady, coming down to our earth to encourage and comfort us, usually by way of appearances to simple religious, simple people, even simple children.