What is this earth and what is its center? I find several meanings of the word “earth” as mentioned in Sacred Scripture, among which two seem to be most important. The first is the earth created by God at the beginning of the world, which He gave to Adam and his descendants. “But the earth he has given to the children of men” (Ps. 113:16). The second is the earth made for the new man, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, to whom the following words were spoken: “Lord, thou hast blessed thy land” (Ps. 84:2).
The first earth incurred the wrath of God because the first man sinned. “Cursed is the earth in thy work” (Gen. 3:17). The fallen earth is a land of misery and darkness, of disorder and death, a land of never-ending woe. In the words of Job, it is “a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth” (Job 10:22).
The second earth is a land of blessings, grace and light, a land of eternal life, a land that has become nobler, more august, more luminous and holier than all the heavens. What is this priceless renewed earth? It is the most Blessed Virgin Mary, of whom the first earth, considered as it left the hands of God and existed before being cursed by God, is only an imperfect image and sketch. Of this earth did the Holy Spirit speak in Scripture, when He said through the Prophet, Isaiah: “Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a savior” (Is. 45:8).
It was in Mary, the center of this blessed earth, that God worked out the salvation of mankind. “He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Ps. 73:12). Both St. Jerome and St. Bernard (1) apply these words to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Notice, however, that the Holy Spirit who uttered these words through the lips of the Royal Prophet, David, does not proclaim merely that God worked the salvation of the world in this earth, but in the midst of the earth, in medio terrae, or according to another version, in intimo terrae, in the center or the heart of the earth. By that is meant the heart and bosom of the spotless Virgin Mary. Yes, it was in the midst of this “good earth,” or better, in the good and excellent Heart of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, “in a good and perfect heart,” (Lk. 8:15) that the Eternal Word, coming forth from the Father’s bosom to save mankind, was received and zealously nourished, producing fruit a hundredfold and one hundred thousand times a hundredfold.
All this was declared in that divine prophecy or the Holy Spirit which reveals so many great and admirable mysteries: “There shall be a firmament on the earth on the tops of mountains, above Libanus shall the fruit thereof be exalted: and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth” (Ps. 71:16); or according to another version: “A full measure of wheat scattered over the lofty mountains, shall grow so tall that, stirred by the breath of the wind, its undulations shall imitate the verdant woods of Lebanon.”
What is this overflowing measure of wheat, if not the only Son of God, the true wheat of the elect, the bread of God, Who is the life and strength of man’s heart? “Bread may strengthen man’s heart” (Ps. 103:15). The Eternal Father scattered this sanctifying wheat when He gave us His Divine Son with such great love in the mystery of the Incarnation and He still scatters it every day in full measure when He continues to give us Our Lord daily with consummate goodness in the Blessed Eucharist. What are the lofty mountain-tops, if not His most worthy Mother, whom the Holy Spirit sets before our eyes under the name and figure not of a single mountain but of many mountains? Mary possesses in the highest degree all that is most excellent in the sacred mountains, that is in all the Saints, who are called in Sacred Scripture “the holy mountains,” (Ps. 86:1) and “the everlasting hills” (Ps. 75:5). What are the mighty summits of these mountains, if not the exalted prerogatives and sublime perfections of the Sovereign Lady of the Universe?
Now then it was up on these holy mountains with lofty summits in the midst of this sacred soil, in the excellent Heart of the best of Mothers, that the adorable wheat of redemption was first sown and planted, since she received Our Savior in her heart before conceiving Him in her womb. It was later scattered throughout the world by the preaching of the Apostles, animated by the Holy Spirit as by an impetuous wind and became infinitely multiplied in the hearts of all Christians.
We can, therefore, say in truth that Jesus is the fruit of Mary’s Heart as well as of her womb, and that the faithful are the fruits of the same Heart, because the very virtues of faith, humility, purity, love and charity, which rendered her worthy to become the Mother of God, made her also the Mother of all God’s children. As the Eternal Father gave her the power to conceive His Son in her Heart and in her virginal womb, by clothing her with the divine virtue whereby He generates His Divine Son from all eternity in His own adorable bosom, so also did God grant her the power to form Christ and give birth to Him in the hearts of the children of Adam, who thus became members of Jesus Christ and sons of God.
Even as Mary conceived and will eternally bear her Son Jesus Christ in her Heart, she also conceives and holds forever in the same Heart all the holy members of our Divine Head. They are her beloved children, the fruits of her maternal Heart, and she offers them to the divine majesty as a perpetual sacrifice.
Thus did Our Lady, “the good earth,” fructify the grain of wheat which she received from God. Her Son had to die even as the seed must die and, as it were, become annihilated that He might not remain alone, but might produce numberless other grains. In this sense did the King of Kings work out our salvation in the center of the earth.
I could quote many holy Fathers and illustrious Doctors to show how Almighty God saved mankind “in the midst of the earth,” that is, in the Holy Heart of Mary, Mother of Jesus. Her Heart cooperated with His divine mercy, having received such a plenitude of grace, according to the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, that she became enabled to cooperate with her Son in the salvation of all men. (2) This inspires St. Bonaventure to say that her Heart is the source of universal salvation. “All salvation springs from Mary’s Heart.” (3)
All this being conceded, what must be our obligations towards the most charitable Heart of our Blessed Mother! What gratitude can we show, what praises can we sing, what least can we celebrate in honor of her Heart, that will be worthy of her excessive charity towards us, and of the favors granted to us by divine mercy through her intercession?
Mary is the center of the earth in which our salvation was wrought. She is also the center of the renewed world, the Christian world, the world of the new man, the world of divine love and holy charity. Here are three reasons to show that Mary’s Heart is the center of the Christian world.
First, all beings consider their center the seat of their repose, their conservation, and, as it were, their salvation. The salvation of man having taken place in the Heart of Mary, all Christians must consider her as the source of their life after God and as the cause and the center of their happiness.
The words of the Fathers of the Church will bear us out in this. Here is what St. Bernard has to say. His words refer to the person of the Blessed Virgin, but can be applied especially to her Heart:
With good reason is Mary called the center of the earth, for all the inhabitants of Heaven, and those of hell, those who come before us, and those who will come after us, their children’s children and their entire posterity look to her as to the midst and the center of the earth. She is, in fact, next to her divine Son, the mediator between God and Man, between the Head and the members of the Mystical Body, the Church, between the Old and New Testament, between Heaven and earth, between justice and mercy. They look to her as to the Ark of God, Ark of the Covenant and of peace between God and His people, as the cause of all that is good and the masterpiece of all ages, past and to come. The inhabitants of Heaven, that is, the angels, look to her as to the one through whom the losses inflicted on them by sin will be repaired; those who are in the fiery torment, which here means purgatory, look to her as to the one through whose mediation they will be delivered, those who came before us see in her the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, those who shall follow us consider her as the means whereby they will one day be crowned with immortal glory. (4)
These words of St. Bernard not only may be applied to the Heart of the Mother of God, but are actually more applicable to her Heart than to her person. The cause being nobler than its effects, her Heart so full of humility is, as we shall see, the cause and the source of all virtues which adorn Our Lady and render her worthy to be the object, the refuge, and as it were, the center of every creature past, present and to come. Hence I conclude that her marvelous Heart is indeed the midst and center of the world of the new man.
Secondly, I say that the Heart of Mary is the center of this new world, meaning the world of divine love and holy charity, a world of tenderness and dilection, having charity as its only law, because all holy love and divine charity contained in the hearts of angels and men, who love God for Himself and their neighbor for the love of God, are found united in the Heart of the Mother of Fair Love as in their center. Mary’s Heart is like a beautiful mirror, large enough to reflect all the Sun’s rays focused on its polished surface.
Thirdly, you will remember that the most humble and pure Virgin ravished and attracted to herself the adorable Heart of the Eternal Father, His Beloved Son, and that He became the Heart of her Heart. Jesus is, therefore, the true Heart of Mary. Is not this amiable Jesus the love, the delight, the center and the joy of Heaven and earth? Is it not certain, therefore, that the true Heart of Mary, namely Jesus, is the center of all the hearts of angels and men? They must ever be turned towards it, gaze upon it unceasingly and make it the object of their aspirations and desires. It is the seat of their perfect repose and of their supreme felicity. Out of it there is only trouble, fear, anxiety, death and hell.
O Jesus, true Heart of Mary, take possession of our hearts, and draw them nigh to Thee. Inspire them to love, desire, seek and relish only Thee. May they ever long for Thee, may they always seek their rest and happiness in Thee, may they remain in Thee forever and be consumed in the ardent furnace of Thy Divine Heart so as to be transformed eternally in Thee!
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, P. J. Kenedy and Sons, 1948, Part Two, Chapter IV, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is 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.
(1) Serm. 2 in die Pentec.
(2) Opusc. 8.
(3) In Psalt. B. Virg. Ps. 79.
(4) Serm. 2 in die Pentec.