In the time of the Mosaic Law one of the greatest wonders of the world was the temple of Jerusalem. Yet this stupendous temple was merely a figure and an image of the multitude of temples to be found in the Christian world. It prefigured particularly the Sacred Humanity of the Son of God, for Christ referring to His own body said to the Jews: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
The temple of Jerusalem was a figure of Holy Church and a figure of each Christian. It prefigured our churches and cathedrals, but was also a representation of a temple far more holy and august than any material structure. What then is the true temple? It is the Holy Heart of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church says of her person that Mary is “the temple of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,” and we can apply these words with still better reason to her admirable Heart (since)… it is the source of all the qualities and excellences with which she is adorned. If, according to the divine Word, the body of each Christian is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19), who will dare to deny this characterization to the most worthy Heart of the Mother of all Christians? I affirm, therefore, that the Holy Heart of Mary is the true temple of the Divinity, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, the Holy of Holies of the Blessed Trinity.
This temple was not like Solomon’s built by a host of workmen, but by the Almighty Hand of God, Who can achieve greater wonders in a single instant than all the powers of Heaven and earth can accomplish during the whole of eternity.
The temple of Mary’s Heart was consecrated by the Sovereign Pontiff, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It was never profaned by the slightest sin and stood adorned with a tremendous wealth of ordinary and extraordinary graces, and by all Christian virtues practiced in the highest degree.
Not only is her Heart entirely covered with King Solomon’s gold, but it is itself wrought of the finest and purest gold, of a metal infinitely more precious than all the material gold to be found in the universe. The Heart of our amiable Mother is filled with love of God and charity towards us. It is entirely transformed into love and charity, and completely identified with the purest love and the most perfect charity. Its love is more ardent, more pure and divine, its charity more fervent, holier and more excellent than the love and charity of all the Seraphim. The temple of Mary contains all the riches of God together with all the treasures of Heaven and earth because it keeps within its cloister all the mysteries of the life of the Son of God. “His Mother kept all these words in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Her Heart possesses the very Son of God Himself, the treasure of the Eternal Father, Who encompasses all the wealth and beauty of the Most Holy Trinity.
In this temple Christ, the Sovereign Priest, offered His first sacrifice at the time of the Incarnation. Christ, the Doctor of doctors and the Preacher of preachers, Who taught and preached so often in the temple of Jerusalem, imparts to us from the temple of His Mother’s Heart as many instructions and lessons as there are virtues exemplified in this virginal Heart.
In this temple God is adored more profoundly and worthily, praised and glorified more perfectly than in all other material or spiritual temples that ever were and shall be in Heaven and on earth, the sacred humanity of Jesus alone excepted. The smallest acts of virtue and even the prayerful thoughts of Mary’s holy Heart are more agreeable to the Divine Majesty and render God greater honor and glory than the greatest actions of the foremost among the Saints.
The Heart of the heavenly Mary is indeed a temple and a temple filled with rarest marvels. God entrusted to King David a description of the temple of Jerusalem written by His own hand, as recorded in the words: “All these things came to me written by the hand of the Lord” (1 Par. 28:19). The Eternal Father willed to place several remarkable objects in this temple to foreshadow and represent many great and wondrous mysteries that were to be found in the admirable Heart of His holy Mother. Among them I notice seven principal objects that add significance to this symbolic picture, namely: the golden candlestick, the table with the loaves of proposition, the altar of perfumes, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tables of the Law, the Propitiatory and Oracle which reposed on the Ark, and the Altar of Holocausts.
St. Epiphanius (1) and St. John Damascene, (2) together with several other Doctors, tell us that the golden candlestick is a figure of the Holy Mother of God. Next to Jesus, her beloved Son, Mary is the most luminous torch and the brightest light of the House of God. “O virginal candlestick,” says St. Epiphanius, “which enlightened those who sat in the shadow of death! O virginal torch, which dissipated the gloom of hell, and caused the brilliance of heaven to shine in our souls! O radiant lamp, ever filled with the oil of grace and light, with the fire of divine love, lighting our minds and inflaming our hearts! This virginal light has spread its splendor throughout the world!” (3)
O admirable Virgin, you are truly the golden candlestick of the chosen temple of God, which is His Church! With excellent reason does Holy Church salute you and recognize you as the portal through which the light came into the world: “Hail, gate of morn, whence the world’s true Light was born.” (4) But this parallel can best be applied to your most holy Heart, and especially to your spiritual Heart, which comprises the three faculties of the superior part of your soul. Your shining Heart is the seat of light, of the light of reason, of the light of faith, and of the light of grace. It is the throne of the Eternal Sun and is itself a sun filling Heaven and earth with its radiance.
The remarkable table in Solomon’s temple, described in the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus, was made by divine command from the wood of Setim, not common variety of cedar, but according to the Septuagint, a most rare and altogether incorruptible wood. The table was completely covered with gold plate and edged with a gold-plated cornice or border surrounding it like a crown while two additional golden crowns embellished it. It was designed to hold the loaves of proposition that were offered to God daily by the priests, and were thus named because they lay in the temple as a perpetual sacrifice proposed or exposed to the Divine Majesty. Afterwards they were consumed by the priests.
The Fathers of the Church all agree that the loaves of proposition were a figure of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the royal bread that came down from Heaven. Christ is the bread of the angels, the bread of God, the bread of the children of God, a bread which is the nourishment and life of the Christian soul, and all Christians are called priests in Sacred Scripture: Fecisti nos Deo nostro sacerdotes (Apoc. 5:10). Some are priests by office and bear the special character of consecrated priesthood; others share it by participation.
What is the table bearing this divine bread, prefigured by the table carrying the loaves of proposition? St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, answers that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary (5) and St. Epiphanius confirms his words. (6)
Is not the table designed to receive the bread and food laid on it? Is it not true that the Heart of the Mother of God was the first to receive Our Lord as He came forth from the bosom of the Eternal Father? Did she not receive Him in order to give Him to us? Is it not true that the Eternal Father carries His Beloved Son in His all-glorious Heart from all eternity and that the Blessed Virgin will carry her Son in her Heart for all eternity? God the Father has revealed that His paternal Heart gave us His well-beloved Son, the Divine Word, in the Incarnation, and still gives Him to us daily in the Eucharist: Eructavit or according to another version, Effudit Cor meum Verbum bonum. “My heart hath uttered a good word” (Ps. 44:2). In like manner, the Blessed Virgin refers to her maternal Heart, and Holy Church often represents her as speaking in unison with the Eternal Father: Eructavit Cor meum Verbum bonum. Hence we hear the words which the Holy Spirit puts on Mary’s lips: “I was with him,” that is, with the Eternal Father, “forming all things” (Prov. 8:30). In the Hebrew version this passage reads: “I was with Him and near Him as a nurse,” which reveals Mary’s role as the Mother who gives nourishment to mankind.
Our Lady says: “I was intimately united to Almighty God in will, mind and heart, possessing only, as it were, one will, mind and heart in common with Him, and a heart ablaze with love for men. This love induced God to give mankind His well-beloved Son; a similar love urged me to give this same Son, who is my own as truly and really as He is the Son of God, so I gave Our Divine Son, the fruit of His Father’s Heart and of my own, to be the bread of men’s souls and the life of their hearts.”
Several learned interpreters of Sacred Scripture teach us that the altar of perfumes of the Mosaic temple represents the hearts of the faithful, which are symbolized as altars on which each one should offer a perpetual sacrifice of prayer and praise to God. Now if the hearts of the children of God were figured by this altar, how much more truly does it symbolize the Heart of the Mother of God, which is after the Heart of Jesus, the first and holiest of all altars? It is “the golden altar, which is before the throne of God,” mentioned in the eighth chapter of the Apocalypse (Apoc. 8:3). On this altar the Mother of the Savior offered to God a sacrifice of love, adoration, praise, thanksgiving and prayer far more to His Divine Majesty than all the sacrifices that ever were or ever shall be offered on all other altars.
If we consult the Fathers of the Church we learn particularly from St. Ambrose that the Ark of the Covenant was a figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and therefore of her most holy Heart, the holy Heart, the first and noblest part of her person. “Yes,” exclaims the seraphic St. Bonaventure, “the Ark of Moses was merely a reflection of the Virgin’s Heart. Her Heart is the true ark containing within itself the secrets of the divine Word and the treasure of the law of God.” (7) A holy Abbot (8) of the Cistercian Order calls Mary the Ark of Sanctification, containing revelations written by the hand of God. She is the holy Ark of the Covenant, the Covenant by which God reconciled us with Himself and pledged His alliance with us forever.
What more shall we say of the Ark of Moses? We may regard it as an image of the Blessed Virgin’s most holy Heart inasmuch as it contained the essential treasure, the chief glory and the holy joy of the Jewish people, the principal mystery of their religion, the bulwark of their defense and the terror of their enemies, even as the admirable Heart of our Queen is the glory, treasure and joy of Christendom. Next to God, Mary’s Heart should be the first object to which we look up when we pray. Her Heart is an impregnable stronghold, turris fortissima Cor Mariae, for the true children of this heavenly Mother. This tower is strong, so well fortified with defensive and offensive weapons that the soldiers fighting under the banner of Mary, leader of the armies of the Most High, find there a mighty defense against the heaviest assaults of hell. Yes, her mighty Heart is more formidable to the enemies of her children than any army terrible in battle. Terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata (Cant. 6:3).
Let us, then, withdraw into this invincible fortress; let us entrench ourselves in the impregnable tower of Mary. May we ever dwell there, and never depart from its walls.
But let us remember that the Heart of Mary is a tower of ivory, turris eburnea, which does not suffer within its precincts anything defiled and unclean. It is the tower of David, open only to those who follow the meekness of Jesus Christ, the true David. It is a tower built and adorned with all kinds of precious stones: Turris Jerusalem gemmis aedificabuntur, (9) that is, with perfections of every kind. He who seeks to dwell therein must renounce sin and imperfection; he must undertake wholeheartedly the practice of every Christian virtue.
St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the Tables of the Mosaic Law kept in the temple of Solomon were a figure symbolic of the hearts of the Saints. (10) Hence, St. John Chrysostom affirms that the Heart of St. Paul was the table of the Holy Spirit and the book of charity, a living book in which divine charity inscribed with letters of gold the evangelical law of love and charity. (11)
Now, if the hearts of the Saints are real tables of the evangelical law, what shall we say of the holy Heart of the Queen of Saints, who is the Mother of the Saint of saints? Her glorious Heart is the first and holiest table of the Christian law. It is not made of stone, but of gold, or better still, of diamond; it is not dead but living; not breakable like the tables of Moses but indestructible. On it the Holy Spirit, the finger of God, has written and engraved in golden letters, not merely the will of God and His laws, but all the counsels, maxims and truths of the gospel as well. They are so deeply engraved that the united forces of hell and of earth could more easily snatch the sun from the sky and destroy the world than remove a single iota or tarnish a single letter of this sacred writing.
Mary’s incomparable Heart is not only the true table of God’s Law, but also a living and admirable book in which the Holy Spirit has stamped all the mysteries of the Deity, all the secrets of eternity, every Christian law, each maxim of the gospel and all the truths drawn by the Son of God from the Heart of the Almighty Father and poured forth abundantly in the Heart of His Immaculate Mother. St. Augustine (12) assures us that the books mentioned in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse represent the hearts of the Saints, in which are engraved God’s will and His laws; how much more truly must this be said of the most holy Heart of the Mother of Him who is holiness personified?
The Propitiatory (13) is regarded as another figure symbolic of the glorious Virgin because by her intercession the flame of God’s wrath was extinguished, His Divine Majesty was turned to look upon mankind with favor and His infinite mercy moved Him to compassion for our infirmities. For this reason St. Ildephonsus calls the Mother of Grace; Propitiatio humanae salutis. “The propitiation of man’s salvation.” (14) St. Andrew of Crete styles Mary: Universi mundi commune propitiatorium. “The universal propitiatory of the entire world.” (15) Lastly, St. Epiphanius proclaims her: Admirandum propitiatorium. “Admirable propitiatory.” (16)
Now this qualification applies most properly and principally to her merciful Heart. It is this gentle Heart which is the admirable Propitiatory. Whence does her compassion for sinners spring, if not from her Heart full of mercy? What urged Mary to become our advocate before the throne of divine justice, if not the loving kindness of her Heart? What could be more symbolic of Our Lady’s holy companionship with the angels than the golden cherubim designed to guard the Propitiatory?
St. Augustine, (17) St. Gregory the Great, (18) and several other Fathers say that the Altar of Holocausts also symbolized the hearts of all the Saints, who are the real altars on which God is honored by the spiritual sacrifices offered day and night to His Divine Majesty. Yet much more truly can this be said of the Holy Heart of Mary. “Her Heart is the true altar of holocaust,” says the illustrious John Gerson, “and on it the sacred fire of divine love blazed day and night.” (19)
The Mother of the Sovereign Priest constantly offered to God sacrifices of love, praise, thanksgiving, expiation for the sins of the world and every possible sacrifice. On the altar of her Heart Mary sacrificed to God all the things of the world and every creature of the universe as so many different victims. She sacrificed her being, life, body, soul, all her thoughts, words and actions, the employment of her senses and faculties, and in general, all that she was, all that she possessed and every power of her soul. She offered to the Divine Majesty the very sacrifice that her Son Jesus Christ offered on Calvary. Our adorable Savior offered Himself to the Eternal Father only once on the altar of the Cross, but His holy Mother immolated Him ten thousand times on the altar of her pure Heart.
What veneration is then due to this sacred altar! Be blessed, O God of my heart, for having consecrated this most worthy altar to the glory of Your most adorable majesty. Deign to transform our cold hearts into glowing altars on which we may offer You an unremitting sacrifice of praise and love.
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Three, 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) De laudib. B.M.V.
(2) Orat. 1 de Dorm. Deiparae.
(3) St. John Eudes does not give the reference for this quotation.
(4) Words taken from the hymn Ave Regina caelorum.
(5) Orat. in Nativit. B. Virg.
(6) Maria est fidei mensa intellectualis, quae vitae panem mundi suppeditavit. In. serm. de laud. Virg.
(7) In Exposit. cap. 2 Lucae.
(8) Nicolaus Salicetus in Antidotario animae.
(9) Fifth antiphon of Vespers and Lauds for the Office of the Dedication of a Church.
(10) Homil. 14.
(11) In cap. 16 Epist. ad Rom. Homil. 23.
(12) Lib. 10 de Civit. Dei, cap. 14.
(13) Cf. St. Germanus of Constantinople, Orat. in Nativ. Virg.; St. Ildephonsus, Serm. 1 de Ass.; St. Andrew of Crete, De dormit. Virg.; St. Antoninus, Part. 4, tit. 15, Cap. 14, 4; Richard of St. Lawrence, Lib. 12 de laud. B. Virg.
(14) Serm. 1 de Ass.
(15) De Dormit. Virg.
(16) Serm. de laud. Deiparae.
(17) Serm. 255 de temp.
(18) Homil. 22 in Ezech.
(19) Tract. 9 sup, Magnif. partit. 1.