In the second and third chapters of Genesis is one of the most expressive figures drawn by the omnipotent and all-wise hand of God to represent the Heart of His beloved Daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary. His infinite goodness has given us an excellent picture of her immaculate Heart. The earthly paradise of Scripture is the perfect representation of another paradise; it is the paradise of the first man, Adam, excellently portraying the paradise of the second man, Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer.
To view this picture in its true light, we must consider many aspects of it.
Let us begin with the name. If we consult Sacred Scripture, we shall learn that the first paradise was called “a paradise of pleasure,” (Gen 2:8) “a place of pleasure” (Gen 2:10). The name of the garden of delights can very properly be applied to the admirable Heart of the Mother of God, true paradise of the new man, Jesus Christ. It is a garden of the Beloved, a garden sealed and doubly barred, a garden of delights. The Divine Spirit gives three names to the Heart of His holy bride, and they contain many profound meanings.
In the first place, Mary’s Heart is the Garden of the Beloved. Do we not hear the Holy Spirit inspiring her to say: “Let my beloved come into his garden” (Cant 5:1). Who is the beloved of whom she speaks? Is it not her Son Jesus, the single and only object of her love? Into what garden does she invite Him to come, if it be not her virginal Heart, into which He was attracted, as we have said, by her humility and her love? Such is the explanation of the learned Balingham. (1) The Garden of the Beloved, therefore, is the Heart of the Beloved Bride; the Heart of Mary is the Garden of Jesus.
In the second place, the Admirable Heart of the Mother of God is a sealed garden. Her heavenly Spouse says of her: “My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up” (Cant 4:12). But why does He twice repeat that it is an enclosed garden? He thereby means to teach us that the Heart of His Beloved Bride is absolutely shut against two things: it is shut against sin, which together with the serpent, the author of sin, never entered there: and it is shut against the world and all things of the world, against everything that is not God. He alone has always occupied this garden entirely, and there never existed place in it for anything else.
The third name given by the Holy Spirit has reference to the prophetic figure, the first Paradise, and He calls it a garden of delights, locus voluptatis (Gen 2:8, 10) paradisus voluptatis (Gen 3:23, 24). Mary’s spotless heart is indeed a garden of rapture for the Son of God, a garden where He experienced joys which were His greatest delights after those enjoyed from all eternity in the heart and bosom of His Eternal Father.
If Thou dost assure us, O Jesus, that Thy delight is to be with the children of men, (Prov. 8:31) even though they are full of sin, ingratitude and infidelities, what must not have been Thy delight in the most amiable Heart of Thy Blessed Mother, where Thou didst never meet anything displeasing to Thee, but found Thyself always praised, glorified and loved more perfectly than in the Paradise of the Cherubim and Seraphim? One can easily say that, after the adorable Bosom of the Eternal Father, no place ever was or will be so holy, so worthy of Thy majesty, so filled with glory and contentment for Thy delectation as the virginal Heart of Thy most amiable Mother.
Hence it is, O Savior, that after hearing the invitation to come into her garden, that is, her Heart, expressed in the words: “Let my beloved come into his garden,” (Cant 5:1) thou dost answer her: “I am come into my garden, O my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh, with my aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk” (Cant 5:1). The myrrh represents the mortifications and anguish of thy loving Heart which I have gathered as well as all acts of virtue thou hast practiced for love of Me, and I shall keep them in my Heart forever to be eternal joy and glory. I have also eaten honey, and drunk my wine and milk, that is, I find so many delights in this paradise given to me by my Heavenly Father, that I seem to be constantly feasting therein on honey.
These inspired words certainly define for us the name of “paradise.”
Do you wish to know the Creator of this earthly paradise? Listen to the Word of God; “The Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning” (Gen 2:8). It was His infinite goodness towards the first Adam, that impelled God to plant this first paradise for men and posterity. If men had been obedient to God, they would have passed from an earthly, temporal paradise to an eternal and celestial heaven.
The unfathomable love of the Eternal Father for the second Adam, namely His Divine Son, Jesus Christ, led Him also to create a second paradise for Christ and all His true children, who will abide therein forever with their all-good Father. He causes them to participate even now as well as for all eternity in the holy and divine delights He there enjoys. For this reason, having told His most worthy Mother that He has come into her garden to eat His honey and to drink His wine and milk, He turns to His children and says to them: “Eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved” (Cant 5:1).
I see three principal objects in the garden of the First Adam. I see the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, planted in the center of Paradise. I see also many other trees bearing all kinds of fruit, agreeable to look upon and delightful to taste.
In the second Garden, I behold incomparably better trees, of which the first are but shadows. I see the real Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, Whom the Father planted in the midst of this divine paradise of the virginal Heart of His most Holy Mother, when the Angel said to her: “The Lord is with thee.” St. Augustine thus explains this passage: “The Lord is with thee, to abide first in thy Heart and then in thy virginal womb, to fill thy soul before descending into thy chaste bosom.” (2)
Was it not the fruit of this Tree of Life that restored to us the eternal life which we had lost by eating another fruit given to us by a woman whose name was Eve? Was not the fruit of everlasting life given to us by the hands of a celestial woman whose name was Mary? “What didst thou say, O Adam?” exclaims St. Bernard. “‘The woman whom Thou didst give to me gave me of the fruit, and I did eat.’ These words tend to increase thy guilt, rather than diminish it. Change this unjust excuse into words of gratitude, and say: ‘Lord, the woman thou gavest me, gave me of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and I did eat, and my mouth found it sweeter than honey, because by this precious fruit Thou hast restored me to life.'” Then the Saint adds: “O Marvelous Virgin, worthy of every honor! O woman to whom the highest veneration is due, who are admirable above all others, who hast repaired thy parents’ fault and hast imparted life to those who will come after thee!” (3)
Such is the first tree I behold in the second Paradise, the Virginal Heart of Mary, which is more of Heaven than of earth. But I also see there the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, because the luminous and most enlightened Heart of the Mother of God has been filled with the science of the Saints, with the wisdom and science of Jesus Christ, the Saint of Saints. Her Heart is the dwelling-place of the Sun, ever united to Him in Whom all the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge are hidden. Mary’s heart has therefore perfectly known the sovereign good, which is God, and the supreme evil, which is sin. She did not know sin, however, as Adam and Eve knew it, by transgressing the commands of God; she knows sin in the light of God and as God knows it, hating it as God hates it. The fruit of this tree did not harm her as the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the first paradise harmed the first man and woman. Adam and Eve lost themselves and their posterity by eating of its fruit, because they ate of it against God’s will. But our true Eve, the real Mother of the Living, sanctified herself and contributed to the sanctification of her children by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which God had planted in her Heart. She ate of it as God does, and as God wished that she should eat, that is, in using her knowledge as God employs His divine omniscience, availing herself of knowledge only to love God as God loves Himself, and to hate sin as God hates it.
God said of Adam, after his sin, in a sense implying his confusion and condemnation: “Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:22). So also can He say of our incomparable Virgin, but in a sense that contributes to her praise and glory: “Behold Mary is become like one of us, knowing good and evil in the same light as we know them, and thus becoming a clear image of our holiness and perfection.”
I see many other trees in our new Garden, that is, in the Heart of Mary, laden with excellent fruits most agreeable to the sight and delightful to the taste of Him who planted them. Does she not have these fruits in mind when she says to her Beloved: “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees” (Cant 5:1)? Her faith, her hope, her charity, her submission to the divine will, are as many holy trees planted in her Heart and bearing an infinite variety of fair fruits.
Her virginal purity is another heavenly tree which bore the fruit of fruits, Christ, the King of Virgins, and later the thousands of virgins who will ever be found in the Church of God. Mary’s ardent zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls is a divine tree upholding as many fruits as there are souls in whose salvation she has cooperated. Our Lady speaks of these fruits, which she also calls flowers, when, in the excess of her love for souls, she exclaims: “Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples: because I languish with love” (Cant 2:5). With the flowers she indicates newly converted souls who have just begun to serve God; with the fruits, those souls who have made progress and are more steadfast in virtue.
Such then are the trees to be found in the first and the second gardens of Eden. Are any flowers to be found there? Sacred Scripture does not mention the presence of any blossoms in the first garden; yet who can doubt that a garden of delight must have contained flowers in great abundance? It is certain, however, that the garden of Jesus is filled with heavenly flowers, the most beautiful and sweet-scented imaginable. The Heart of Christ’s Mother is a celestial flowerbed dotted with the holy blossoms of all Christian virtues, immortal flowers, which never fade, whose ravishing beauty and delightful fragrance remain in every season. They fill the universe with their sweet perfume and give joy to the Angels, yea, even, to God Himself. They are at once flowers and fruits, for the Holy Spirit inspires the words: “My flowers are the fruit of honor and riches” (Ecclus. 24:23).
The Eternal King adorns His garden with these flowers, and by means of their divine fragrance attracts innumerable hearts to Himself. He eats of these fruits, which are among the choicest viands of His heavenly table, and gives them as nourishment to His children. He assures us, moreover, that He takes His rest and refreshment in the works of mercy which are among the first flowers of His garden: “This is my rest, refresh the weary, and this is my refreshing” (Is 28:12). So also does He feast with delight on the other acts of virtue which proceed from devoted hearts, and especially from the perfect Heart of His glorious Mother. With them He nourishes and strengthens the souls of His children.
This is what God meant when He said that He came into His garden, ate His honey and drank His wine with milk, and then invited His friends and children to eat, drink and be inebriated with Him (Cant 5:1).
Among the flowers in Mary’s Garden for her divine Spouse, St. Bernard admires especially the perfume of violets, the whiteness of lilies and brilliant color of the roses. Here are his words: “Thou art an enclosed garden, O Mother of God, wherein we cull all kinds of flowers. Among them, we gaze with particular admiration on thy violets, thy lilies and thy roses, which fill the House of God with their sweet fragrance.
Thou art, O Mary, a violet of humility, a lily of chastity, and a rose of charity” (4) We may add: “Thou art, O Mary, a carnation of mercy, a double carnation, because thy wondrous Heart is filled with mercy and compassion, not only for our corporal infirmities, but still more for our spiritual misery, which is infinitely more painful and complex than o