Mary and Fraternal Charity
Presence of God – O Mother, whose love for man was so great, teach me how to fulfill, in all its perfection, the precept of fraternal charity.
Charity is one in its essence, because of the oneness of its object: God loved in Himself, God loved in the neighbor. Hence, the more a soul loves God, so much the more does it love its neighbor. Now if charity toward God reached its peak in Mary, we must also say that her charity toward her neighbor was boundless. This is the peculiar quality of true love of God; far from narrowing the soul of one who possesses it, charity dilates the soul, that it may pour out on others the wealth it has accumulated. Such was the characteristic of Mary’s charity. Although she was completely filled with the love of God, wholly recollected in the contemplation of the divine mysteries which were taking place in and around her, her recollection did not hinder her from giving attention to her neighbor; on the contrary, we see her always gracious and attentive to the needs of others. Furthermore, her own interior wealth urged her to desire to share with others the great treasures which she possessed. This is the attitude described in the Gospel, when, immediately after the Annunciation, she undertook a journey “in haste,” as St. Luke says, to visit Elizabeth. It would have been very pleasant for her to remain at Nazareth, adoring in solitude and silence the divine Word incarnate in her womb, but the Angel had told her of the imminent maternity of her aged cousin; this was enough for her to feel obliged to go to Elizabeth and offer her humble services. We can say, therefore, that Mary’s first act after becoming the Mother of God was an act of charity toward her neighbor. God gave Himself to her as a Son, and Mary, who gave herself to Him as His “handmaid,” wished also to give herself as the “handmaid” of others. The close union which exists between charity toward God and charity toward the neighbor is singularly evident here. Her act of charity toward Elizabeth is in perfect accord with the act of sublime love in which Mary gave herself wholly to God when she pronounced her “fiat.”
“O Mary, with what sweetness and humility of heart you went to Elizabeth! You, the Queen, go to the servant; You, the Mother of God, visit the mother of the precursor…. And at Cana how graciously you went to the aid of the bridal couple! You took pity on their embarrassment because you are merciful and kind. Can anything but tenderness come forth from the fountain of tenderness? Is it strange that a heart so full of kindness should produce kindness? If we hold in our hand a fragrant fruit for half a day, does not our hand retain the fragrance for the rest of the day? With how much virtue, O Mary, did not infinite Goodness fill your heart during the nine months He reposed within you! I know infinite Goodness filled your heart before entering your womb, and even when He left it, He did not leave your soul” (St. Bernard).
O holy Virgin, it is just this charity, the fruit of your intimate union with God, which you pour out upon all mankind, condescending to receive them in the wide embrace of your immense love. This same charity, which fires you with love for the Eternal, also inflames you with love for men, for you see them, not in themselves, but in God, considering them as His creatures and His children. This charity which has consecrated you to the service of the Most High, has also vowed you to the service of humanity, and so you have loved every creature, even me, despite my wretchedness.
It is true, O Mary, that on the day of my baptism the Holy Spirit diffused His charity in me; but my self-love has halted its growth, and I, who have so little love for my God, have likewise very little love for my neighbor. O most loving Mother, see how I need to have my heart dilated with charity! Stir up, then, and nourish that virtue in me and grant that, having given myself to the service of God, I may also give myself to that of my neighbor, with kindness and humility, promptness and generosity.
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Art for this post on Mary and fraternal charity: The Visitation (Mary Visits Elizabeth), Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890), date unknown, Restored Traditions, used with permission. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.