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 our bodily ills can ever be. O Mother of Mercy, have pity on all who are miserable, and especially on those who remain unaware of their own misery.”
And now I go on to another object to be envisioned in the earthly paradise. In the second chapter of Genesis, we read that God brought to the first man the animals and the birds He had created that Adam might give them suitable names, as a sign of his dominion over them and o£ their dependence on him. Several learned Doctors are of the opinion that Adam offered some of the animals to God in sacrifice at that time.
We may now ask if any qualities of the Heart of the Queen of Heaven can have been symbolized by such humble things as animals and birds? Yes, and this should not surprise you, since her Son, Who is God Himself, willed to be represented by oxen, sheep, lambs, and several other beasts which, under the Old Law, were sacrificed to God.
What, then, is represented by the animals and birds subjected by God to the dominion of Adam in Paradise? They represent the natural passions that have their seat in the corporal and physical heart of man. These passions are of two kinds, that is, the more earthly and animal instincts, such as anger, hatred, fear, sadness, aversion, distrust, which are represented by the animals, and the more spiritual emotions, such as love, desire, hope, courage and joy typified by the birds.
All these passions existed as we have seen, in the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just as they are found in the hearts of all children of Adam, but she enjoyed the great privilege that in her Heart they were completely subject to reason, just as the savage beasts were under the complete control of Adam in the earthly paradise. The spirit of Christ, the new man, reigned so perfectly in Mary’s Heart and so absolutely ruled her passions, that they never experienced any motivation contrary to the will of God. She never employed them except under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and for the glory of His Divine Majesty. She never loved anything besides God; she never desired anything except to please Him; she feared nothing save to displease Him. All the difficult tasks she undertook were accomplished in His service and for His glory, the sole cause of her joy, even as the offence and dishonor afforded Him by sin were the only motives of her hatred, her aversion, and her anger. So truly were her natural passions uplifted and almost annihilated towards the world and all worldly objects and concerns, even with regard to herself and her own interests, that her emotions existed and vibrated only for what was pleasing to Him who possessed, animated and directed them in all thoughts.
From this we learn that the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary was truly the Earthly Paradise, in which there was no war, trouble or disorder of any kind, but peace, tranquility and marvelous order, combined with ceaseless praise and adoration of the God who had established His throne in this Paradise. All her passions, being entirely subject to reason and the Spirit of God, and perfectly blended together, blessed and praised Him with admirable harmony in the variety of their distinct motions, uses and functions. They were all guided by the same Spirit and all directed towards the same end, to glorify the Divine Majesty.
Now let us study the gardeners. In the first terrestrial paradise, Adam was appointed “to dress it, and to keep it,” (Gen 2:15) but instead of cherishing his beautiful garden, he sold it to his arch-enemy the serpent, for a mere taste of the forbidden fruit. Instead of cultivating the Garden of Eden, Adam brought sin into it, filling it with thorns and thistles. What an unfaithful guardian! What a wicked gardener!
But in the second Paradise, the enclosed garden of the Heart of Mary, the gardener is Wisdom, eternal, watchful and faithful, and the three assistant gardeners are Love, which digs and prepares the soil to receive the seed of heavenly inspiration, Grace which sows the seed, and Patience that cultivates it to fruition by perseverance. Thus the flowers of Mary’s heart grow ever more beautiful, more admirable to us and more delightful to God, while the fruits of her garden multiply a hundred thousandfold.
As for the significance of the events that transpired, I consider that the marriage of our First Parents in the Garden of Eden, a holy union designated directly by God, was symbolic of the hypostatic union between the divinity and humanity of the Eternal Word, and the mystical alliance of Our Savior and His Church. Yet where was the contract for these divine alliances drawn up, if not in the Garden of the heart of Mary, the handmaid of God Almighty and the beloved Spouse of the Holy Spirit? There took place the secret and ineffable negotiations between the Eternal Father and the Blessed Virgin concerning the mystery of the Incarnation. There she made the offering and surrender of herself to the Divine Will, and gave her consent to have a part in the Divine Espousals, not only between the august Trinity and herself, but between divine and human nature, between the Son of God and Holy Church.
In the original garden of Paradise, God sought for man, saying “Where art thou?” (Gen 3:9), because sin made Adam seek to hide and blot himself out in fear. In the second Paradise, God sought to hide Himself and His great glory for love, concealing His royal splendor so that the Three Kings, who came from afar to adore Him, had to ask: “Where is he?” It was sin that caused the annihilation of Adam, but love achieved the annihilation of the new Adam, the Son of God, who descended into the garden of Mary to draw us from the nothingness of sin.
In the first garden, God pronounced sentence upon the serpent: “The woman shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15). In the garden of Mary’s heart, this pronouncement was fulfilled. Her Immaculate Conception crushed original sin, her sanctity routed the powers of evil, and her love obtained the commutation of our death-sentence, bringing us the Savior of the world. (5)
Man, having rebelled against God in the first paradise, was driven from that garden and banished forever with all his posterity, and at the gate was placed an angel with a flaming sword in his hand to prevent the children of Adam from re-entering the Garden of Eden. From this we learn that to enter and share the second paradise, namely the pure heart of the Mother of the new Adam, we must cease to be sons of Adam and become children of Jesus Christ, that is, our old life must die.
This death seems fearful; the sword of the cherubim is terrifying; yet actually it is a sword of love, which wounds, or even slays the blessed, in order to heal their souls and make them live the life of God. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps 115:15) says Sacred Scripture, meaning the death that is not death but the beginning of eternal life.
Now that I have shown you, dear reader, the admirable Heart of Mary as the garden of delectation of the God-Man, I would warn you that your own heart must be one of two things, either a hell of torment for yourself, or a paradise of delights for you and for Jesus Christ. If you banish sin and self-love from the garden of your heart, opening wide the door to grace and to the King of Virtue, He will enter in and find repose in that place (Prov 15:15). If you drive away grace and mortification, letting sin grow in your garden, then the demons will enter and make it their abode, a veritable hell instead of paradise. But if you strive to imitate Mary, your Queen, tending your heart with wisdom, love, grace and patience, God will not refuse you the full measure of His gifts so that you may cultivate your garden fruitfully, and make it, like Mary’s, a paradise of delight for your Lord and Savior, as well as a place of refreshment, deep sweetness and peace for yourself.
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Two, Chapter VII, 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) In locis commun. Sacr. Script, verbo Cor. § 4.
(2) De sanctis, serm. 18.
(3) Homil. 2, sup. Missus est.
(4) In deprecat. et laude ad B. Virg.
(5) Cf. St. John Damascene: Orat 2 de dormit. B. Mariae.