Everything in nature, grace and glory, all the effects of power, wisdom, goodness, mercy and justice of God, all the mysteries, actions and sufferings of the God-Man, all the sacrifices, sacraments and functions of God’s Church, in a word, all things in heaven, on earth and even in hell, are like so many voices proclaiming God’s ardent zeal for His own glory and for the salvation of souls.
In the first place, God does everything for Himself and for the glory of His divine Majesty: “The Lord hath made all things for himself” (Prov. 16:4). Being the first principle and the last end of all things, it were impossible for Him to act otherwise. This zeal for His own glory fills Him with an infinite hatred of everything that is contrary to it, that is, every kind of sin, especially vanity, presumption and pride. Whereas the humble render honor and glory to God in all things, the pride are like thieves who would take for themselves the honor and glory which belong to God alone. This same zeal for His honor leads God to derive His glory from all created things, even from the greatest evils. He would never permit such evils to exist if He did not have the power to turn them to His greater glory. As St. Augustine expresses it: “He has deemed it preferable to derive good from evil, than to prevent evil altogether” (1). Finally, the zeal of the Son of God for His Father’s honor induced Him to assume human nature, to be born in a stable, to live thirty-four years on earth amidst tribulations and sufferings, and to die on the Cross, that He might atone for the insults offered by sinners to God the Father and to glorify Him in a manner worthy of His infinite Majesty.
In the second place, God’s ineffable goodness and immense love for all the souls created to His image and likeness enkindles in His Heart a most ardent zeal for their salvation. It is this zeal that induces Him to avail Himself, in order to save souls, of His Divine Essence, His power, wisdom, goodness, love, charity, mercy, justice and all His other perfections. The three Divine Persons, their thoughts, words and actions, the life, passion, precious blood and death of the Son of God, the angels, the saints, the entire Church with the sacraments she administers, all God’s works, all He is, everything He has, everything is employed to procure the salvation of souls.
Now this divine zeal likewise inflames the virginal Heart of the Mother of God in a wonderful manner. The Holy Heart of Mary was ever on fire with such zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls that she never allowed anything contrary to the honor of the divine majesty to come near her. Not only were her actions performed with sovereign perfection for God’s glory alone, not only did she employ all the powers of her soul and body to serve and honor Him, but she was ever ready to sacrifice to this end her life and her very being, and to suffer all conceivable torments.
What is more, she sacrificed her well-beloved Son. Why did she offer Him up to God? For His glory and the salvation of souls. She immolated Christ Her Son to destroy everything contrary to the honor of the divine Majesty and the eternal salvation of men, to render to God a glory worthy of His infinite grandeur, to repair the offence given to God by the sins of the children of Adam, to deliver all souls from the tyranny of hell and to enable them to glorify God eternally in heaven.
St. John Chrysostom, Theophilactus, Oecumenius, St. Bernard and Rupert comment on these words of Moses in the thirty-second chapter of Exodus: “Either forgive them this trespass or strike me out of the book of life,” by explaining that this holy prophet, Moses, inflamed with zeal for the salvation of his brethren, asked God to deprive him of eternal felicity and to impose this penalty on him forever that the people might be delivered from damnation (2).
Explaining the words of St. Paul: “I wished myself to be anathema from Christ, for my brethren” (Rom. 9:3), St. John Chrysostom and many other holy doctors say also that we must understand this text to refer to the eternal torments, but separated from sin. In other words, the zeal of the holy Apostle for the salvation of his Brethren was so ardent that he desired for their sake to suffer the eternal punishment of hell, provided there was no sin on his part. “He wishes to be lost forever,” says Chrysostom, “that many, nay all, may love and praise Christ.” “He desires to suffer eternal torments,” says Cassian. “Because we are so far removed from such charity,” adds Chrysostom, “we cannot understand these words.” “We should not marvel,” observes Origen, “to see the servant desiring to be anathema for his brethren, since the Master deigned to become malediction for his servants, ‘being made a curse for us'” (Gal. 3:13) (3).
Cornelius a Lapide, in his commentaries on this thirty-second chapter of Exodus, relates that Blessed Jacopone, of the Order of St. Francis, possessed the most ardent desire of suffering in this world all imaginable sorrows, afflictions, pains and hardships, and after this life he would fain have been thrown into hell to suffer eternal torments out of love of Our Lord and in satisfaction for his own sins and to atone, if possible, for the sins of all mankind, including the damned and the demons (4).
We read in the tenth chapter of the life of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, a Carmelite nun, that God showed her a place (which she calls the Lion’s Lake) where she saw a numberless multitude of demons having a most frightful appearance. She was told that she was to enter the lake and remain there five years, suffering atrocious pains, in order to help in the salvation of many souls. She readily consented, and actually entered this Lion’s Lake, which was a veritable hell. There the malice and rage of the demons inflicted the greatest torments on her, both interiorly and exteriorly, during the space of five years.
These prayers, desires and sufferings of Moses, St. Paul, Bl. Jacopone and St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, are irrefutable proofs of a great love for God and a supernal charity towards men. But what is this compared to the peerless zeal of the most charitable Heart of the Mother of God? It is but a spark compared to a burning furnace. Divine zeal is only the ardor of divine love, or divine love in its greatest ardor; therefore it follows that the measure of this holy love is likewise the measure of the zeal, and that a heart is filled with zeal in proportion to its love of God. Now it is certain that the Heart of Mary, the Mother of God, was always filled with greater love of God and men than the hearts of all the prophets, patriarchs, apostles, martyrs and other saints whence it follows that her Heart was inflamed with a zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls far greater than the hearts of all the saints put together.
Our Lady can well say with the Prophet David and several other saints, but more truly and perfectly than any of them: “My zeal hath made me pine away; because my enemies forgot thy words (Ps. 119:139). My eyes have sent forth springs of water: because they have not kept thy law” (Ps. 119:136). “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9), that is, zeal for the salvation of souls, created by God for His eternal indwelling.
So it is that the Mother of Fair Love accomplished more for the salvation of souls and the glory of God by sacrificing her Beloved Son to His Heavenly Father when she stood at the foot of the cross, than was done or could have been done by all the saints together, even if each had suffered all the torments of hell for that end.
We can now judge of our obligation to honor the Maternal Heart our Mother most admirable so filled with affection and zeal for our interests. But do not say that we have a true devotion to this heavenly Virgin, if our hearts do not share the holy inclination of her Heart, if we do not love what she loves and hate what she hates. Our Lady’s love is the greatest for all things that contribute to the honor of God and salvation of souls, and her hatred deepest for everything opposed to God. Let us enter into these sentiments, and employ our mind, heart, thoughts, affections, words, actions to glorify the divine Majesty in every way, and to procure the salvation of souls, above all, our own. Consider that salvation as the great and only business of God, of the God-Man, of the Mother of God, of all the angels, of all the saints and of the entire Church.
This article was excerpted from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Five, Chapter IV. St. John Eudes is a spiritual father of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 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. For more information on the order, visit www.heartsofjesusandmary.org.
(1) In Enchiridio, cap. 26 and 27.
(2) St. John Eudes is here the echo of Cornelius a Lapide who, in his commentary on Exod. 32:31-32, after having quoted Rupert’s commentary on this passage, adds: “Therefore Chrysostom commenting on Rom. 9, teaches that Moses and Paul, going beyond the heavens and the very angels, despised all invisible things, and out of love for God not only requested, but really and seriously desired to be deprived of the enjoyment of God and ineffable glory.” Unde S. Chrysost, in c. (ad Rom. Docet Moysen et Paulum . . . caelos et Angelos supergredientes, omnia invisibilia sprevisse, ac pro Dei amore ab ipsa Dei fruitione, beatitudine et ineffabili gloria excidere non tantum petisse, sed revera et serio optasse. Thus St. Chrysostom, Theophil., Oecumen, on chapter 9 of the epistle to the Romans; Cassian, Collot. 32, chapter 6; Bernard, Serm. 12 in Cant. These are precisely the references given here by St. John Eudes.
(3) St. John Eudes is echoing Cornelius a Lapide.
(4) Corn, a Lap. loc. cit.