The Virgin Mary possessed wisdom in superabundance. The divine wisdom possessed by all the Apostles, Church Fathers and Doctors put together remain but a dim reflection of the fullness of resplendent wisdom residing in the Immaculate Heart of our dearest Mother and Teacher, Mary.
On the level of mere natural understanding and penetration of truth, the Immaculate Virgin did not have the intellectual dullness and darkness consequent to original sin. She possessed a keenness of intellect that surpassed all creatures, even the Angels, since She was eternally predestined to be the Mother of God and was therefore given singular graces to fulfill this role from the moment She came into being. However, wisdom goes beyond natural knowledge of things, and even surpasses the Spirit’s gift of understanding which accompanies faith. Wisdom is not content with knowing and believing in the truth revealed by God. No, wisdom desires union with that truth—wisdom loves the truth it knows; wisdom tastes and savors the truth believed; and wisdom judges all things in light of this divine truth.
In fact, from the first moment of Her Immaculate Conception She was already the true Seat of Wisdom. Isaiah had prophesied of the Messiah that “the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Is. 11:2-3a). Since this also applies in general to all who are in a state of grace, how much more does this apply to the Blessed Mary who was filled with the Spirit of the Lord from the first moment of Her Conception!
St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe explains that “Mary, insofar as She is Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and therefore elevated above every other created perfection, fully accomplishes the will of the Holy Spirit who dwells in Her, and this right from the first instant of Her Conception” (SK 1229). From Her very existence in the womb of St. Anne, the Immaculate was filled with the Spirit of Wisdom and corresponded completely to His loving action in Her soul. Wisdom found a throne in Her Immaculate Heart from the beginning.
As a child Our Lady exceeded all the chosen people of Israel in penetrating the Torah, the Psalms, the Wisdom literature, and the Prophets regarding the covenant, the commandments, and above all the coming Messiah. She longed for the coming of Emmanuel: whose name would be Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace (cf. Is. 7:14; 9:6). And thus Eternal Wisdom, that is to say the Logos, the Second Divine Person of the Trinity, first dwelt in Her Heart through faith (cf. Eph. 3:17). Already She could “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 33:9).
“But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4) so that She, who was already spiritually the Seat of Wisdom through faith, became also the Seat of Wisdom Incarnate as Mother. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Her Heart had been a spiritual throne for King Wisdom; now Her virginal womb became, by the power of the Spirit of Wisdom, the physical throne of Wisdom Incarnate.
After the virginal birth of Jesus, She continued to enthrone Wisdom in Her bosom in such wise that the Magi, in beholding the Infant in Her arms, adored on bended knee, and Simeon, gazing upon the promised Messiah in Her maternal embrace and receiving Him from Her hands, was filled with the Holy Spirit and glorified God.
The fact that She nurtured and reared Wisdom at the holy house of Nazareth reveals to us that She is divinely designated to nurture and educate us in the ways of the Lord. Hence She is not only our Model in the paths of divine wisdom, She is truly Mater et Magistra, our Mother and Teacher. No philosopher ever loved and sought out Wisdom as did Mary. She studied Incarnate Wisdom and pondered all His ways and sayings in Her Pure Heart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51). She is the true Philosopher who discovered and penetrated Jesus, who is Truth Himself (cf. Jn. 14:6). She is the Teacher of teachers, the Doctor of doctors who, in union with Her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, instructs the hearts of the faithful in “the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ” Her, and our, Lord (Phil. 3:8).
She teaches us true Wisdom in all its fullness. Her heavenly instruction finds an inspired echo in St. Paul: “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:5). To put on the mind of Christ, to know all things in Him, to love all things in Him, to see all things in His divine radiance, to be Christ—this is the true Wisdom which Our Lady practiced and now teaches. She ever points us in the direction of Her Son: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn. 2:11).
This most wise and prudent Virgin ardently longs to instruct us in how to transcend this created world and even our very selves in order to arrive at God Himself. St. Bonaventure describes this as “mystical wisdom” and outlines the journey in this fashion: “In this passing over, if it is to be perfect, all intellectual activities ought to be relinquished and the most profound affection transported to God, and transformed into Him. This, however, is mystical and most secret, which no one knows except him who receives it, no one receives except him who desires it, and no one desires except him who is penetrated to the marrow by the Holy Spirit, Whom Christ sent into the world. That is why the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit” (ItinerariumVII, 4).
Our Lady alone perfectly and swiftly traveled this path of mystical wisdom. Of all creatures, She was penetrated to the marrow by the Holy Spirit and thus vehemently desired perfect union with God, received it, and knows it. Mary, wholly transformed in God from Conception through Her Assumption into the glory of the Most Holy Trinity knows this mystical wisdom and is eager to communicate it to us. Are we willing to heed Her instruction? Are we willing to allow the Spirit of Wisdom to work in us freely through Her Immaculate Heart? Or will we scorn Her instruction by following the way of folly?
She wishes us to be entirely inflamed by the Holy Spirit, Her Spouse, in order that we might ardently desire communion with God and receive it, especially in the Holy Eucharist where we receive Wisdom Incarnate Himself. It is in this Sacrament of Love, worthily received, that Our Lady wants to bring us to “taste” that loving union with the Beloved. Let us not despise Mary’s instruction; rather, let us be docile to Her, God’s chosen Seat of Wisdom, as She leads us swiftly beyond creatures and self to transformation into Him who is above all.
Fr. Maximilian Mary Dean, F.I. is a member of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and author of several Mariological publications which include his recent book, In Pursuit of Immortal Souls.