Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
(To Thee do we sigh, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.)
On the Necessity of Mary’s Intercession for Our Salvation
by St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
That it is not only lawful but useful to invoke and pray to the Saints, and more especially to the Queen of the Saints, the most holy and ever-blessed Virgin Mary, in order that they may obtain us the divine grace, is an article of faith, and has been defined by general Councils, against heretics who condemned it as injurious to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our only Mediator. But if a Jeremias after his death prayed for Jerusalem (2 Mach. 15.14); if the ancients of the Apocalypse presented the prayers of the saints of God (5.8); if a St. Peter promises his disciples that after his death he will be mindful of them (2 Pet. 1.15); if, in fine, the saints can pray for us, why cannot we beseech the saints, and especially Our Blessed Mother, to intercede for us? And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head (Heb. 12.1).
If we implore Our Blessed Mother to obtain us a favor, it is not because we distrust the divine mercy, but rather that we fear our own unworthiness and the absence of proper dispositions; and we recommend ourselves to Mary, that her dignity may supply for our lowliness. Hence, to invoke the aid of the Most Blessed Virgin is not diffidence in the divine mercy, but dread of our own unworthiness.
The intercession of Mary is necessary to our salvation – not absolutely, but morally. This necessity proceeds from the will itself of God, that all graces that He dispenses should pass through the hands of Mary. It is one thing to say that God ‘cannot’, and another that He ‘will’ not, grant graces without the intercession of Mary. We willingly admit that God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces; and that Mary is only a pure creature, who receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God. We most readily admit as well that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice, according to the distinction just made, and that by His merits He obtains us all graces and salvation; but we say Mary is the Mediatress of grace; and that receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ Our Lord, and because she prays and asks for it in the Name of Jesus Christ, yet all the same whatever graces we receive, they come to us through her intercession. Hence the Holy Church, the ground and pillar of the truth (1 Tim. 3.15), applies the following passages to our Blessed Mother: In me is all hope of life and of virtue. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth (Ecclus 24.25). He who finds me finds life, and draws salvation from the Lord (Prov. 8.35).
Ave, gratia plena (“Hail, full of grace” – Lk. 1.28). St. Bernard says “that God has filled Mary with all graces, so that men may receive by her means, as by a channel, every good thing that comes to them.” He says that “She is a full aqueduct, that others may receive of her plenitude.” On this the Saint makes the following significant remark: “Before the birth of the Blessed Virgin, a constant flow of graces was wanting, because this aqueduct did not exist.” But now that Mary has been given to the world, heavenly graces constantly flow through her on all.
St. Bonaventure: “As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of justice. While the Church calls her felix coeli porta (“the happy gate of heaven”) for as the same St. Bernard remarks: “As every mandate of grace that is sent by a king passes through the palace-gates, so does every grace that comes from heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary.” St. Bonaventure says Mary is called “the gate of heaven, because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her.”
An ancient author, probably St. Sophronius in a sermon on the Assumption, published with the works of St. Jerome, says “that the plenitude of grace which is in Jesus Christ came into Mary, though in a different way,” meaning that it is Our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits (that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are the members of His Mystical Body (cf. Col. 1.18); and that the same plenitude is in Mary, as in the neck, through which these vital spirits pass to the members.
And St. Bernardine of Sienna: “that as God was pleased to dwell in the womb of this Holy Virgin, she acquired, so to speak, a kind of jurisdiction over all graces; for when Jesus Christ issued forth from her most sacred womb, all the streams of divine gifts – of which Our Lord is the source – flowed from her as from a celestial ocean so that no creature has since received any grace from God otherwise than through the hands of Mary.”