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Saint John Eudes: The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God

Updated: May 30, 2020

This article was excerpted from St. John Eudes, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God (Albany, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc., 2000), part I, chapter 1.

First Part – Containing the Reasons for the Title of This Book, Our Obligations to Honor This Amiable Infant, and 12 Wonderful Mysteries that Pertain to Her Holy Childhood

The Reasons for the Title of This Book

Be not astonished, dear reader, that I have chosen as title for this book, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, for, in truth, this holy Childhood is replete with marvels.

This incomparable Virgin is admirable not alone for the grandeur of the divine maternity, and in the glorious accessories of this most sublime dignity, her sovereign power, eminent holiness, and unspeakable glory, but she is admirable in the lowliness and feebleness of her Childhood. She is not only admirable in her surpassing qualities of eldest Daughter of the Eternal Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Temple of the most Holy Trinity, Queen of men and Angels, Empress of heaven and earth; but also in quality of daughter of Joachim and Ann. Not only is she admirable in the conception and birth of the Eternal Word, but her own conception and birth are subjects of marvelous grandeur.

I behold the angels all in transports. Seeing her mount glorious and triumphant into heaven they exclaim: “Who is this that cometh up from the desert of the earth, winging her way with such magnificence towards heaven, flowing with delights and leaning upon her beloved?” (Song 8:5) But these same angels, perceiving that from her birth Mary appeared as a glorious orb of day commencing to shine, and little by little becoming fair as the moon, bright as the sun, cry out in ravishing accents: “Who is this that cometh as the morning (quasi aurora consurgens), fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?” (Song 6:9)

We hear the Eternal Father complain lovingly that she has wounded His Heart with the burning dart of most pure love, and, according to the Septuagint, ravished His Heart; that is to say, she has attracted to her virginal womb His only and well-beloved Son. “Rapuisti cormeum” (Song 4:9)

But how has she ravished His Heart? Not only by a glance of her eyes, “in uno oculorum tuorum,” that is to say, by the great acts of virtue she performed, when far advanced in the ways of grace, which is signified by the glance of the eye, one of man’s noblest organs. But she has ravished His Heart by a hair of her neck, “in uno crine colli tui,” that is, by the smallest acts she performed for God in the littleness of her age and in the beginnings of grace.

But have you not observed in what manner her divine Spouse, the Holy Spirit, draws her portrait in the seventh chapter of the Song of Songs?

He depicts her entire person, praising all that is most noble and excellent in her, her eyes, her neck, her breast, her head. He commences by her feet and shoes, which represent the beginning of her life and the first steps she made in the ways of God during her Infancy. He speaks in ravishing terms. “How beautiful are thy steps in shoes, O Prince’s daughter!”(Song 7:1)

Observe that He speaks not here of that blessed womb which would bear the Son of the Eternal Father, nor of the blessed breasts that would nourish Him; He says naught of the holy hands that would swathe Him, nor of the sacred eyes bathed in tears on His account. He is silent regarding that angelic tongue which would sing His praises, and that seraphic heart which would love Him more ardently than the hearts of all men and angels combined.

But the steps of her feet and her shoes, the first actions and movements of her life, the things apparently most vile and abject, such as the littleness of infancy, it is these that cause Him to exclaim in transports of admiration: “O Prince’s daughter, how admirable and how beautiful are thy steps!”

There is nothing in this glorious Infant which is not worthy of admiration.

She is admirable in her eternal predestination, in those holy figures which preceded and represented her and in the divine oracles which predicted and announced her coming. O Virgin without compare, thou art admirable in that abyss of prodigies, thy Immaculate Conception; in the nine months which were passed in the womb of thy holy mother, every moment of which was miraculous. Thou art admirable in thy birth, which, after that of thy Son, exceeds all other births. How august is that name of thine, a world of marvels! How wonderful thy life of three years at home with thy parents! Every moment was miraculous. Thy departure for the Temple, there to consecrate thyself solemnly to God, at the age of three years, was extraordinary and miraculous. It was proof of thy inconceivable love for the Divine Majesty, and this oblation and presentation were replete with heavenly prodigies. When Divine Providence miraculously ordained thy sojourn in the sanctuary of the Temple, how admirable the exercises and occupations to which thou didst apply thyself during all this time!

Behold in this blessed Child prerogatives and perfections of untold magnificence, which, for all eternity, will be the object of admiration and of praise for all the inhabitants of heaven.

If we trace back her origin and extraction, we shall find Mary is illustrious and glorious before God and man. For she is of the race of princes and kings of which the holy King David is the first. Several holy patriarchs eminent for sanctity may claim this glorious Infant as of their stock.

If we regard the parents whom God gave her, we shall see they were two prodigies of virtue and holiness. She was the miraculous fruit of their holy prayers. Her conception and her birth were announced by an archangel sent by God for this express purpose. She was formed by a miracle of divine power in the womb of a mother hitherto sterile.

Casting our eyes upon her virginal body we behold it adorned with a beauty ravishing, but miraculous, for it imprinted the love of purity in the hearts of those who beheld it.

If we consider her interior, we shall behold her spirit enlightened by such brightness as the poor children of Adam cannot understand.

Her soul was replenished with graces far surpassing all those of angels and of men. Her heart burned with divine love above that of all the seraphim.

Who does not marvel to behold this Infant of a day, the Mother of God and of us all, as we shall cause her to be seen in this book? What a prodigy to see the little Mary, daughter of Joachim and Ann, just born and already Queen of heaven and earth! Behold this speechless little one, a marvel of learning and of wisdom, an abyss of grace, a miracle of holiness, an ardent furnace of love and charity. See her all virtuous; the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, the most sacred temple of the Holy Trinity. In a word, behold this world of immense gift and graces.

After this, you will not be surprised, dear reader, that I have named this book The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God.

If you love this amiable Child and if you will read this book, you will exult with joy at the marvels which God has wrought in her and by her.

These sentiments will cause you to bless the Divine Majesty, they will augment your devotion towards Mary. You will yearn to imitate her virtues, and you will endeavor to lead others to this same end. Thus will you contribute to the salvation of many souls, the one end and aim I have had in view in undertaking this work.

By God’s grace, I have no other pretension than to make better known and loved my most adorable Jesus and my most adorable{footnote}At the epoch when Father Eudes wrote, the word “adorable” was not used exclusively in reference to Divine Worship.{/footnote} Mary, and to cooperate in the salvation of those souls who will serve and honor them in this world, and thereby render themselves worthy of being eternally blessed and glorified by them in the next. To this end, I know of no means more efficacious and more delightful than to persuade them to a very special devotion to the most sacred Mother of God. For it is the sentiment and language of all the holy doctors that as those who do not serve this grand Princess dare not presume that Jesus, her Son, Who so loves her, will give them a place in His Paradise, so, also, is it impossible that those who bear a true devotion to Mary should eternally perish.

Therefore do I exhort with all my heart and supplicate with intense instance all who have it in their power, especially the true children of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, to leave nothing undone by word and example to imprint a particular and sincere devotion to the Blessed Virgin in the hearts of the faithful. Thus will they contribute to the salvation of many souls, and these words of the Holy Spirit shall be accomplished in their regard: “They that explain me shall have eternal life. Qui elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt” (Vulgate, Sir 24:31, cf. Douay-Rheims version).

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