It is in the heart, that is, in the very depth and substance of the Christian soul, that sanctifying grace resides and exercises its powerful influence. There grace establishes the throne of its power, extending to the memory, the intellect and the will, affecting all the higher and lower faculties, and all the internal and external senses.
Granting this, I say that the admirable Heart of Mary is an ocean of grace. Yet it is not I who make this statement, it is the Archangel Gabriel, sent by God from Heaven to announce to the Queen of Angels that the divine Majesty had chosen her to be the Mother of His Divine Son. The Archangel greets Mary by telling her first of all that she is “full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Notice that he does not say she will be, but that she is full of grace.
Would you know how it is that Mary was full of grace even before the Son of God became Incarnate in her womb? You must consider two truths taught by several distinguished theologians.
The first is that Mary was filled with such eminent grace at the moment of her Immaculate Conception that, according to many learned divines, she already surpassed the chief of Seraphim and the greatest of Saints. From the beginning of her existence she possessed more grace than they enjoyed at the time of their greatest perfection.
The second truth is that the heavenly Virgin was never idle, but remained constantly turned towards God, ever exercising her love for His divine Majesty. She loved Him with her whole Heart, her whole soul and all her strength, according to the full extent of the grace that was in her, so that grace was doubled in her soul, if not from moment to moment, at least from hour to hour, and perhaps more often. She had therefore attained to an inconceivable and unutterable degree of grace when the Archangel Gabriel saluted her as being full of grace.
Now if this most Blessed Virgin was so full of grace before conceiving the Son of God, what must have been the abundance and plenitude of grace poured by the Holy Spirit into her Heart and her virginal bosom to make her worthy to give birth to the Son whom the Eternal Father begets from all eternity in His own adorable bosom, to make her worthy to be the true Mother of His Son? Surely, the dignity of the Mother of God being infinite, the grace bestowed on the Blessed Virgin to prepare her to give being and life to God Himself must also in a way be infinite, for St. Thomas assures us it was proportioned to her sublime dignity.
If it is a great privilege to be Mother of God, and if no grander destiny can be conceived than for a mere creature to form the Son of God of her own substance, what shall we say of the glory of having Him in her womb and making Him live by her virginal blood for a space of nine months! What abundance of grace did the Holy Spirit pour into her Heart to make her worthy thus to continue her office of Motherhood towards such a Son! Who could fathom what the adorable Infant, infinitely rich, generous and grateful, gave in return to the Mother from whom He constantly received during those nine months a new being and a new life, a life incomparably more precious than all the lives of angels and of men? To this we must add all the love and praises Mary incessantly rendered Him then. If Jesus bestows an eternal kingdom upon those who give a glass of water to the poor for love of Him, what gifts, what treasures, what graces did He constantly pour into Mary’s pure Heart, in which He did not encounter the least obstacle to the inexhaustible blessings which He ardently wished to communicate to her.
Mary performed the duties of a Mother towards her Son Jesus not only when she conceived and gave birth to Him in Bethlehem; but also when she nourished Him, carried Him in her arms and on her bosom, clothed Him, delivered Him from the fury of Herod, brought Him to the Temple of Jerusalem, led Him back to Nazareth and cared for Him as every good mother cares for her child.
If, according to St. Bernardine (Serm. 5 pro festivitat B.M.V.), Mary merited by her consent to the Incarnation of the Son of God more grace than all the angels and saints together by all their acts of virtue, what graces and merits must our Savior’s most worthy Mother have acquired when she so often carried Him on her virginal bosom. What blessings she received during her familiar conversations with her Son, when she possessed Him on earth and listened to His divine discourses; but above all when, in the Temple on the day of His presentation, as well as on Calvary at the time of His death, she offered Him to the Eternal Father as a sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.
If the Holy Spirit poured into this admirable Mother’s Heart torrents of almost infinite grace to render her worthy of giving Him birth, what must He have done to dispose her to sacrifice her beloved Son in spite of so great sorrow and love? We can certainly state that as her Heart was then turned into an immense sea of sorrow, so did it also become an unfathomable and boundless ocean of grace and holiness.
Who could conceive the almost infinite abundance of graces that filled the loving heart of the Mother of the Crucified Savior when He visited her after His Resurrection? Measure, if you can, the extremity of this desolate Mother’s sorrow when she beheld her Beloved Son actually die amid frightful torments, and you will understand the immense graces she thus merited, which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her after His Resurrection and on the day of His Ascension.
What treasures of grace enriched the most holy Heart of the Mother of God through the divine Sacrifice of the Altar at which she daily assisted with unutterable devotion, and by her daily communions made with inconceivable love during the fifteen years she remained on earth after her Son’s ascension!
O Mother of perfect grace, thou wast the woman chosen to find the grace that all mankind had so unhappily lost. Through thee the God of grace and goodness restored to us what we had lost. To thee, after Jesus Thy Divine Son, must we have recourse in order to find the graces we need to serve Him and to assure our own salvation. Thy maternal Heart is the treasure and the treasurer of all these graces. In thy most loving and ardent Heart we cannot fail to find them. Hence dare we say to thee, with the beloved of thy Heart, St. Bernard: “O Mother of mercy, open the door of thy most tender Heart to the prayers and sighs of the children of Adam, thou who dost not despise the sinner however horrible his condition, if he but cry to thee and implore thy aid with a penitent and contrite heart” (In Deprec. B.V.).
This article was excerpted from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Eight, Chapter II, 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.