The Admirable Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not only a fountain, as we have seen, it is also a sea, of which the ocean created by God on the Third Day is a beautiful figure….
St. John Chrysostom says that the heart of St. Paul is a sea: Cor Pauli Mare Est, (1) but the Holy Spirit Himself gives this name to the most holy Mother of God, and therefore to her Heart, to which the title is even more applicable than to her person, for we shall show that her Heart is the principle of all the holy qualities that adorn her.
The Holy Spirit declares that Mary, His most worthy Bride, is a sea. A humble and learned writer who, while revealing his brilliant gifts in his excellent commentary on the psalms, has chosen that his name and person remain unknown, (2) teaches us that the name of sea is given in Sacred Scripture to the glorious Virgin because she is indeed a sea of purity, vast in extent and in usefulness. We shall consider shortly that Mary is an ocean in purity and in extent. As for usefulness, this holy Doctor tells us that just as the sea does not permit the adjoining land to remain sterile, so the souls who approach the Mother of God with true devotion bring forth abundant fruits of benediction, thanks to the graces she lavishly bestows on them. Let us say of her Heart that it is a sea full of great and wondrous riches.
In the order of nature, the sea is one of the greatest marvels of God’s omnipotence. “Wonderful are the surges of the sea” (Ps. 92:4). God, Who is great everywhere, is especially admirable in the sea. “Wonderful is the Lord in the depths” (Ps. 92:4). The holy Heart of Mary is an ocean of wonders and an abyss of miracles. It is the extraordinary masterpiece of essential and uncreated Love, in which the effects of infinite power, wisdom and goodness shine more brilliantly than in all the hearts of angels and men.
What is the sea? It is the gathering of the waters, says Sacred Scripture, or if you prefer, it is the place where all the waters are gathered. “Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place” (Gen. 1:9). And the sacred text adds: “The gathering together of the waters, he called Seas” (Gen. 1:9). Now what is the august Heart of Mary? It is the place where are gathered and united the living waters of all graces springing from the Heart of God, as from their first source. St. Jerome says: “Grace is divided among other saints, but Mary possesses the plenitude of sanctity.” (3) For the same reason St. Peter Chrysologus calls Mary collegium sanctitatis, (4) that is the place where all grace and holiness are assembled and gathered together; and St. Bernard, mare admirabile gratiarum, (5) a prodigious sea of graces.
“All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow,” says the Holy Spirit (Eccles. 1:7). Thus also all the streams, all the torrents and all the rivers of heavenly grace run into the Heart of the Mother of Grace, and are readily contained there. All the graces of heaven and earth merge their waters in the great sea of the Holy Heart of the Mother of the Saint of Saints. “In me is all grace of the way and the truth” (Eccles. 24:25). In Mary’s Heart are all the graces of the angels and of men, all the graces of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels, all the graces of the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, disciples of Jesus, martyrs, priests and levites, confessors, hermits, virgins and widows, of the Holy Innocents and of all the blessed in heaven. There is no overflow of grace in Mary; she is not overwhelmed, for her Heart is worthy of all the gifts and all the liberalities of God’s infinite goodness, and is capable of receiving and using them all for the glory of His Divine Majesty.
St. Bernardine of Siena tells us that all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit descended into the soul and heart of this heavenly Virgin in such fullness, especially when she conceived the Son of God within her chaste womb, that her Heart forms an abyss of grace which no human or angelic intellect can comprehend. The mind of God, that of her Son, Jesus Christ, and her own, are alone capable of understanding the abundance and perfection of this ocean of grace. (6)
The sea does not hoard its waters, but freely dispenses them to the earth through the rivers, which flow into the ocean only to come out of it again, that they may water the whole earth and make it bear all kinds of fruit. “Unto the place from whence the rivers come, they return, to flow again.” The Heart of our munificent Queen does not withhold any of the graces she receives from the generous hand of God. She returns them all to the first source, and waters the barren earth of our hearts to the extent needed to make them fruitful for God and for eternity. “That we may bring forth fruit to God” (Rom. 7:4).
St. Bernard’s words on this subject are most beautiful. He tells us that Mary desires to become everything to everyone. In her abundant charity, she denies no man a claim upon her Heart. She opens the door of her mercy and the portals of her generous Heart to all, that all may receive of her fullness. To the captive, she brings redemption; to the sick, healing; to the afflicted, comfort; to the sinner, forgiveness; to the just, increase of grace. She augments the joy of the angels; to the Son of God she gives the substance of human flesh, and to the Most Blessed Trinity glory and everlasting praise. The love and charity of her Heart make themselves felt by the Creator Himself and by all His creatures. (7)
Yes, Mary’s admirable Heart is indeed a sea, being, after Our Lord Himself, the basis and sustenance of the Christian world, a sea of charity and love, a sea more solid and firm than that which sustained the feet of St. Peter as he walked upon its surface. Her heart is an ocean more strong than the firmament itself, that sea of which St. John speaks in the Apocalypse: “And in the sight of the throne was, as it were, a sea of glass like to crystal; a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had overcome the beast… standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God” (Rev. 4:6; 15:2).
Let us study the symbolism of the vision of the Evangelist. Glass is a product which owes its clarity, shape and perfection to molding in the heat of intense fire. Similarly, the Heart of Mary was fashioned in the all-consuming fire of the Blessed Trinity, the furnace of the Holy Spirit, of which it is the most perfect work. Also, during her life on earth, the heart of Mary was tempered, like glass, in the furnace of suffering. St. John speaks of glass like to crystal, meaning glass that is both transparent and shining, absorbing and radiating clear light, the most vivid symbol of purity. The sea like unto crystal is the ocean of Mary’s heart shining in its flawless purity. Glass made by man is dark in darkness, needing light to be luminous, shining most brilliantly in the direct brightness of the sun, reflecting the measure of light it receives. Similarly, the admirable Heart of Mary absorbs and reflects most marvelously the full celestial radiance of the Eternal Sun.
She is the sea of crystal “in the sight of the Throne” that is, directly before the face of the Divine Majesty, her entire existence being to receive and to reflect the image of God, not only as a sea but as a shining mirror.
St. John also speaks of the vision of a miracle, a sea mingled with fire, and thus he explains the inspired words of the Canticle of Canticles: “Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it” (Cant. 8:7). These floods represent the torrent of sorrow that engulfed the heart of Mary, the Beloved Spouse, particularly during the Passion of her Divine Son. “…O Virgin daughter of Sion, great as the sea is thy deep affliction” (Lam. 2:13). Yet even the ocean of sorrow did not overwhelm the fire of love in the heart of Mary, but rather caused its flames to glow more brightly.
The Evangelist envisions the saints standing upon the sea of crystal, because their salvation has been founded upon Mary and they have chosen to dwell with her Beloved Son. Because of her, they have won the grace to chant forever the canticle of the Lamb, the hymn of praise, of joy, of victory over evil; therefore they stand upon the sea of her heart, bearing harps.
O adorable Jesus, grant unto us that we may sing with thee, with Thy Mother most admirable, and with the entire company of the saints, this miraculous canticle in praise of the adorable Heart of the Blessed Trinity, which is the source of the countless wonders and perfections enriching the heart of Mary, the ocean of grace and charity.
O Mary, thou sea of love unquenched by sorrow, behold my heart, the least and smallest of all hearts, a mere drop of water seeking to unite itself with thy vast ocean, to become lost in thy depths forever! O Mary, Queen of all hearts consecrated to Jesus, look down upon the tiny drop, my unworthy heart, offered to thee, to become merged forever in the sea of thy glowing love! Mother of Mercy, thou seest us here below, tossed upon a stormy sea of raging trial and temptation. In thy great mercy, deign to be our strength, our guiding-star, our sustenance, that, standing firm upon that crystal sea before the Throne, thy Admirable Heart, which tempests cannot assail, we may sing without fear:
“Thy royal heart is our pure light, our refuge safe. Why should I fear? Her goodness is firm support of our lives. Nothing can trouble our hearts.”
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Two, Chapter VI, 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 cap. 28 Act. Apost. homil. 55.
(2) Incognitus, in Ps. 71.
(3) “Caeteris per partes: Mariae vero simul se tota infundit plenitudo gratiae.” Serm. de Assumpt. B. Mariae.
(4) Serm. 1, 46.
(5) Serm. de B. Virg.
(6) Serm. 5 de Nativ. B. Virg. cap. 12.
(7) Serm. de verb. Apoc. Signum magnum.