“Mary the Hope of All”
by St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church and Founder of the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer
Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salute and call Mary our hope: Spes nostra! Salve(“Hail, our Hope!”). They say that God alone is our hope; and that He curses those who put their trust in creatures in these words of the Prophet Jeremias: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man (17.5). Mary, they exclaim, is a creature; and how can a creature be our hope? This is what the heretics say; but in spite of this, the Holy Church obliges all ecclesiastics and religious each day to raise their voices, and in name of all the faithful invoke and call Mary by the sweet name of “our Hope” – the hope of all.
The Angelic Doctor St. Thomas says, that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from his as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king, but it comes through the instrumentality of the favorite; and in this case he who seeks the favor is right in calling his intercessor his hope. [And the written Word of God teaches us that when Mary, the sister of Moses and Aaron, was punished with leprosy for murmuring against the servant of God, Aaron turned to Moses to plead for Mary, saying I beseech thee, my lord, lay not upon us this sin, which we have foolishly committed… And Moses cried to the Lord, saying: O God, I beseech Thee heal her (Num. 12.11,13)]. The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with His graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, He has given us His own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to Her He has given all power to help us; and therefore He wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in Her. Those who place their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage His Divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the Prophet Jeremias says. But those who hope in Mary, as Mother of God, who is able to obtain the graces and eternal life for them, are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God, Who desires to see that greatest of His creatures honored; for She loved and honored Him in this world more than all men and angels put together. And therefore we justly and reasonably call the Blessed Virgin our hope, trusting, as St. Robert Bellarmine says, “that we shall obtain, through Her intercession, that which we should not obtain by our own unaided prayers.” “We pray to Her,” says the learned Suarez, “in order that the dignity of the intercessor may supply for our own unworthiness; so that,” he continues, “to implore the Blessed Virgin in such a spirit, is not diffidence in the mercy of God, but fear of our own unworthiness.”
It is then, not without reason that the Holy Church, in the words of Ecclesiasticus, calls Mary the Mother of holy hope (24.24). She is the mother who gives birth to holy hope in our hearts; not to the hope of the vain and transitory goods of this life, but of the immense and eternal goods of heaven.
Before the Divine Word took flesh in the womb of Mary, He sent an archangel to ask Her consent: because He willed that the world should receive the Incarnate Word through Her, and that She should be [as the bearer of the highest Good which contains all that is good] the source of every good. Hence, St. Irenaeus remarks, that as Eve was seduced, by a fallen angel, to flee from God, as 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. “If Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate the virgin Eve. And as the human race was bound to death through a virgin, it is saved through a Virgin.” And Blessed Raymond Jordano also says, “that every good, every help, every grace that men have received and will receive from God until the end of time, came, and will come, to them by the intercession and through the hands of Mary.”
We need not, then, be surprised that St. Antoninus applies the following verse of the Book of Wisdom to Mary: Now all good things came to me together with Her (7.11). For as this Blessed Virgin is the Mother and Dispensatrix of all good things, the whole world, and more particularly each individual who lives in it as a devout client of this great Queen, may say with truth, that with devotion to Mary, both he and the world have obtained everything good and perfect. Hence the Blessed Abbot of Celles expressly declares, “that when we find Mary, we find all.” Whoever finds Mary finds every good thing, obtains all graces and all virtues; for by Her powerful intercession She obtains all that is necessary to enrich him with divine grace. In the Book of Proverbs Mary Herself tells us that She possesses all the riches of God, that is to say, His mercies, that She may dispense them in favor of Her lovers.With me are riches… and glorious riches… that I may enrich them that love me (8.18). And therefore St. Bonaventure says: “That we ought to keep our eyes constantly fixed on Mary’s hands, that through them we may receive the graces that we desire.”
How many who were once proud have become humble by devotion to Mary! how many who were passionate have become meek! how many in the midst of darkness have found light! how many who were in despair have found confidence! how many who were lost have found salvation by the same powerful means! And this She clearly foretold in the house of Elizabeth, in Her own sublime canticle: Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. And St. Bernard, interpreting Her words, says: “All generations call thee blessed, because thou hast given life and glory to all nations, for in thee sinners find pardon, and the just perseverance in the grace of God.”
Hence the devout Lanspergius makes our Lord thus address the world: “Men, poor children of Adam, who live surrounded by so many enemies and in the midst of so many trials, endeavor to honor My Mother and yours in a special manner: for I have given Mary to the world, that She may be your model, and that from Her you may learn to lead good lives; and also that She may be a refuge to which you can fly in all your afflictions and trials. I have rendered this, My Daughter, such that no one need fear or have the least repugnance to have recourse to Her;and for this purpose I have created Her of so benign and compassionate a disposition, that She knows not how to despise any one who takes refuge with Her, nor can She deny her favor to any one who seeks it. The mantle of Her mercy is open to all, and She allows no one to leave Her feet without consoling him.” May the immense goodness of our God be ever praised and blessed for having given us this so great, so tender, so loving a mother and advocate!