Devotion to the admirable Heart of Mary is by no means new, for it springs from the adorable Heart of the most Holy Trinity, and it is as old as the Christian religion and the Gospel itself. St. Luke the Evangelist bears witness to this in one chapter of his gospel by making twice a particular mention of her most holy Heart. In the 19th verse of chapter 2 he says: "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart," and in the 51st verse: "And his mother kept all these words in her heart."
The devotion, therefore, has its origin and foundation in the holy Gospel itself. The Holy Spirit inspired the evangelists and willed that one of them should speak with such particular honor of the virginal Heart of the Savior’s Mother, representing it as the sacred depository and faithful custodian of the ineffable mysteries and inestimable treasures contained in the life of Our Lord. This must have been written that we might likewise honor her august Heart, so worthy to be honored forever.
To incite us to this devotion, let us consider this inspired text: "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." To understand the full significance, we must remember that, according to God’s language, verba, does not signify words only, but also deeds as will be seen in the following passages: Ecce ego faciam verbum in Israel ("Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel," 1 Sam 3:11) Quia postulasti verbum hoc ("Because you have asked this," 1 Kings 3:11)Videamus hoc verbum quod factum est ("Let us go see this thing that has happened," Lk 2:15). In like manner, we must understand the words: Maria conservabat omnia verba haec. Mary kept all these words, that is, all these things, for there is a great difference between the words of men and the words of God. The words of men are gone with the wind, and usually produce no effects: "They say, and do not" (Mt 23:30). But God’s words are facts: "He spoke and they were made" (Ps 32:9).
Mary kept all these things in her Heart, that is, all the marvelous events of our Savior’s life. "This holy Virgin," writes St. Ambrose, "always carried in the depths of her heart the mysteries of God and the Passion of her Son and whatever else He did" (1).
She kept these things as wonderful tokens of the love of her dear Son for His heavenly Father and for mankind. She kept them as sacred relics preserved and cherished for most special veneration. She kept all these things as a store of precious fuel to augment divine fire brought upon earth by her divine Son and to inflame the hearts of men with fresh love. She kept them because they were the foundation stones on which our adorable Savior willed to build His Church.
Mary kept these things in her Heart as living miracles and incomprehensible works of the all-powerful goodness of God, with which evangelical history was to be filled. She kept them as precious mysteries and secrets consoling and divine, representing the new alliance of God with men under the covenant of the New Testament. She kept them also as the precious inheritance and rich share of God’s chosen children, joint heirs with the Son of God.
Our Lady kept all these words in her Heart as the source and foundation of the divine graces to be spread throughout the world, and of the immortal glories which were to shine forever in heaven. She guarded them as the boundless treasure of Divine Mercy with which she could enrich all the denizens of heaven and earth. She kept them to be the bread and wine placed on the table of the Heavenly Father to His children, as a priceless manna brought down from heaven by her beloved Son that mortal men might feast on the bread of angels.
Mary, the General of the great King’s army, kept these words as celestial weapons for her to place in the hands of her soldiers and thus help them to overcome the enemies of God and of their own salvation. She kept them also as sacred torches to lighten the path of mankind shrouded in the gloom and shadows of death.
She kept them as medicine to heal our souls from all types of evil and as a powerful remedy to fill mankind with all kinds of good. She kept them as inexhaustible records of Divine Wisdom, in which we might find the divine lore of the saints. She kept them as the very Heart of Jesus, her Son, and therefore, as her own Heart. The heart of man is the source of his life, and the treasury of his secrets, plans and aspirations, so likewise Sacred Scripture, containing as it does the word of God, is the source of the life Our Savior wills to have in His members, and the treasury of His designs and secrets. St. Augustine (2) and St. Gregory (3) both refer to Holy Writ as the Heart of God.
Our Lady kept all these words, not merely in her memory and her intellect, but in her heart, in corde suo in that heart which is the most worthy sanctuary of all virtues, and the ocean of grace and holiness; in that Heart that is a furnace of love and charity, and the Paradise of the most Blessed Trinity. In that Heart she kept all the mysteries, marvels and every event of the life of her beloved Son, our Redeemer, to be the object of her love and of all the sentiments, aspirations and affections of her soul.
She kept them, not in part, but entirely, omnia. In the first place, Our Lady knew that no part of the Savior’s life could be termed small, that everything in Him was great, divine and admirable and that each one of His footsteps, each breath, each flutter of his eyelids, each very least thought of His, deserved the eternal adoration of angels and men. In the second place, Mary knew that the love of her Son Jesus Christ for mankind is so great that He counts every hair of their heads: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Lk 12:7); all their thoughts, all their steps: "Thou indeed hast numbered my steps" (Job 14:16); and that He takes into account the least action performed for love of Him, in order to reward each deed with an eternal glory. He keeps them in His Heart as a precious treasure and guards them as the apple of His eye, according to the divine words: "The alms of a man is as signet with him, and shall preserve the grace of a man as the apple of the eye" (Sir 17:18), which means, "As a man having a purse full of diamonds would guard each stone jealously, so does God keep the alms given or the favor shown to a poor man, even if it were only a glass of water."
Hence the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary were constantly fixed on her beloved Son, and she was ever vigilant and attentive to the smallest detail of His life. Not one of these heavenly pearls and divine diamonds was lost, for she understood their infinite value, and that they would be the focus of the eternal happiness, praise and adoration of all the denizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. She hid there these treasures and preserved them in her virginal Heart, where, after the adorable Heart of the Eternal Father, they were more worthily, holily and gloriously guarded than in the hearts of Seraphim, and they worked hidden effects of light, love and sanctification more admirable than in the breadth of the empyrean heaven. Those inestimable treasures shall forever remain in Mary’s Heart; there angels and saints shall contemplate, adore and glorify them throughout eternity.
But why did the glorious Virgin keep all these things so worthily and so holily in her Heart? Why? Because of her ardent love for her Divine Son and for us. She kept these mysteries in her Heart to adore and glorify them incessantly in the name of all men for whom they were fulfilled, men who nevertheless remained indifferent. She kept them that they might one day be adored and glorified throughout the world, and become like so many inexhaustible fountains of grace and blessings for all the souls belonging to the household of God.
She kept all these words so that she might reveal them to the evangelists to be written in the holy Gospel and thus they would become the center of the faith and religion of all Christians. She kept these words, finally, to repeat them to the holy Apostles, who were to make the treasures of Mary’s Heart known and reverenced throughout the entire world.
Let us now see what is meant by the words: Conferens in corde suo. Mary kept all these things, comparing them one with the other. St. John Chrysostom and several other Fathers say that the Blessed Virgin Mary, having read what the Prophets had foretold concerning the Savior, compared their prophecies with the events that were happening before her own eyes, admiring and honoring the marvelous conformity of the latter with the former. St. Bernard is of the opinion that the comparison concerned the admirable parallel of prediction and fulfillment of the angelical salutation, the conception of the Son of God in her chaste womb, her painless child-birth, the adoration of shepherds and kings, the flight into Egypt, and all the other mysteries of the Redeemer which occurred in His Blessed Mother’s presence.
Thus did Mary keep in her Heart and compare everything she saw in her beloved Son and whatever she learned from His divine lips in their familiar intercourse. It was revealed to St. Brigid that while the adorable Infant Jesus lived with His holy Mother, He manifested many divine secrets, not merely to enlighten and guide her, but also to enable Mary to teach and enlighten others. Hence the martyr St. Ignatius, in a letter addressed to Our Lady calls her Apostolorum doctricem, "Teacher of the Apostles" (4). Other writers call her Heart the "library of the Apostles," the treasury of wisdom "where they learned," says St. Jerome, "many things they would never have known otherwise" (5).
After all this, what should be our gratitude to our heavenly Mother’s most loving Heart for having preserved such great treasures for us? Should we not reverence it as a sacred depositary and faithful guardian of the infinite riches Our Savior has acquired for us by His Blood? Ought we not to honor her Heart as a living and eternal Gospel, containing the admirable Heart of our Redeemer written in letters of gold by the Holy Spirit Himself? How great should our veneration be for this holy ark of the New Testament, containing a heavenly manna unknown to the children of the world, the bread of life, which can be found and tasted only by those whose hearts are consecrated to the love of Jesus, the Son of Mary and of Mary, Mother of Jesus.
This article was excerpted from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, part six, chapter VI. St. John Eudes is a spiritual father of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy. For more information on the order, visit heartsofjesusandmary.org.
(1) In ista verba. Tuam ipsius animam.
(2) In Ps 21. s
(3) ln I Reg.
(4) Only one letter of St. Ignatius the Martyr is extant. The expression Apostolorum doctricem is not found in it. Cf. Migne, Summa aurea, vol. 2, col. 694, and vol. 10, col. 928.
(5) Serm. de Assumpt.