Among all the virtues which shine as so many stars, or rather as so many suns in the heaven of the holy childhood of our thrice-hallowed Mary, I shall mention here twelve of the most remarkable.
The first is her innocence; the second her simplicity; the third her humility; the fourth her obedience; the fifth her patience; the sixth her love for God; the seventh her charity towards her neighbor; the eighth her contempt of and disengagement from the world and from herself; the ninth her virginal purity; the tenth her silence; the eleventh her gentleness and meekness; the twelfth her modesty.
…In the first place, to her alone, after her divine Son, could perfect innocence be attributed, because she was exempt from all sin, original and actual, and because she never injured anyone in any manner whatever. In the second place, she practiced excellently well those words her divine Son would one day utter: “Be ye simple as doves” ( Mt. 10:16). And the Holy Spirit, her divine Spouse, praises her, saying, “Thy eyes are as those of doves” (Cant. 1:14). She was a stranger to curiosity and duplicity. She had but one single end and aim in all her intentions, desires and actions, that of pleasing God and accomplishing His most adorable Will.
Thirdly, she was so humble that she regarded and treated herself as the least of creatures. She told St. Mechtilde that the first virtue she had practiced was humility. (1)
Fourthly, she obeyed God in the person of her parents and superiors so perfectly, that she never occasioned them the slightest pain.
Fifthly, as no one, except her divine Son, had ever endured such labor, persecutions, privations, opprobriums and agony, as she, so no one ever practiced such patience and this even from her childhood. She knew then that the Son of God would come into the world and suffer most atrocious torments and a most cruel death to save mankind, and this knowledge, joined to her inconceivable love for God, caused her such intense sorrow as to furnish ample matter for the exercise of patience such as hers.
Sixthly, her love for God was so great that she would have preferred to be annihilated rather than give any creature the least spark of the love she owed to the Creator. She left all, sacrificed all, for love of Him. She had no will but His. And if the Eternal Father calls his Son “Virum voluntatis meae,” (Is. 46:11) He may also call her “Virginem voluntatis meae,” or, better, “My pleasure in her, Vocabitur voluptas mea” (Is. 62:4). For the divine Will always reigned perfectly in this admirable Child: she always placed her joy and delight in willing what God willed, which is the sovereign test of divine love.
Seventhly, she had so much charity for her neighbor, that never was there in her anything contrary to this virtue. From reading the Holy Scripture she knew that one day His cruel enemies would crucify that Savior Whom she loved incomparably, yet even for these she incessantly implored mercy of the Eternal Father, and offered Him for their salvation the precious Blood of the adorable Redeemer, which was to be shed for them.
Eighthly, from the beginning of her life, she had lived in supreme contempt of the world, and, with far greater reason than St. Paul, she could say: “Omnia arbitror ut stercora” (Phil. 3:8); she was entirely dead to self, to her own wishes and inclinations, her own will and self-love, to all self-interest and satisfaction in spiritual as in corporal things, seeking nothing save to please Him in Whom and for Whom alone she lived and breathed.
Ninthly, it is the opinion of several Doctors that this precious Infant made a vow of virginity at the first moment of her life. And they assure us that if it had been proposed to her to be the Mother of God and cease to be a virgin, or to continue to be a virgin and lose the dignity of being Mother of God, and if God had commanded her to choose between them, she would have preferred virginity to the divine Maternity. And this is proven by her words to St. Gabriel: “Quomodo fiet istud,” etc. (Lk. 1:34). “Integritatem angelicae demonstrationi indicat anteponendam,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Tenthly, so profound was the silence she observed during her childhood, that neither in the Holy Scriptures, nor in ecclesiastical history, nor in any author, is there recorded one single word spoken by her either at the home of her parents, on the day of her presentation in the Temple, or during the time she dwelt therein.
In the eleventh place, there never was in any other mere human creature such meekness and gentleness; “Honey and milk are under thy tongue” (Cant. 4:11); thy lips distil only sweetness. “My spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb” (Ecclus. 24:27).
This heavenly sweetness was not confined to her childhood, however, for she has retained it and will retain it for all eternity. This is true even in regard to the most frightful sinners. She never rebukes them when they invoke her, especially regarding their salvation, no matter how fearful their crimes may be. And Holy Church therefore sings: “Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra. O benigna! O clemens! O pia! O dulcis Virgo Maria!“
Twelfthly, she was clothed with modesty so surpassingly great that one would have taken her for an Angel incarnate, who charmed and edified marvelously all those who beheld her.
Praise and immortal thanks be given to You, O God, for all the perfections with which You have enriched this admirable Child. Eternal honor and benediction to our amiable Mary for all the glory she has rendered the Most Holy Trinity by the practice of the virtues she exercised during her wondrous Childhood.
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, Third Part, Chapter 2, 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) “O virtutum Regina, dic obsecro, quae erat prima virtus in qua te in infantia exercuisti?” At illa respondit: “Humilitas et obedientia atque amor.” Liber, spec. grat., p. l, cap. 29.