Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What the angels asked one another as Mary was assumed into heaven

The humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary was so great in this life that no one, save God alone, knew or even began to perceive her magnificence. Who could comprehend the most excellent work of God, this perfect creature, this holy temple? As the beloved of the Lord, our Lady far surpasses all that the human mind can contain or even imagine.
What is more, the glories of Mary exceed not only the minds of men, but even the angelic intellect, so that even the angels did not fully perceive – nay, they scarcely have even begun to perceive – her beauty, her magnificence, her grace, and her glory.
The soul of the Virgin Mary, and even her very body (the purity of which exceeds merely rational estimation), is the enclosed garden which is fully known and possessed by God alone. And yet, out of his love for us poor creatures, the Almighty shares with us this august creature – he gives his Mother as our Mother. What joy!
And (according to the prophecy of Solomon), as the angels see the Woman assumed into heaven, they marvel at the perfection of God’s work and say to one another: Who is she?

From The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Liguori (the Marian Doctor)
[from chapter X, section I]
We gather from the sacred Canticles [i.e. the Song of Songs], that on the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the angels asked her name three times.  "Who is she that goeth up by the desert as a pillar of smoke?" - ("Quae est ista, quae ascendit per desertum, sicut virgula fumi?"—Canticles 3:6) again, "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising?" - ("Quae est ista, quae progreditur quasi aurora consurgens?"—Canticles 6:9) and again, "Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights?" - ("Quae est ista, quae ascendit de deserto, deliciis affluens?"—Canticles 8:5)  "And why", says Richard of Saint Laurence, "do the angels so often ask the name of their Queen?"  He answers, "That it was so sweet even to the angels to hear it pronounced, that they desired to hear that sweet name in reply" - ("Forsitan quia dulce nomen sibi desiderant responderi"—De Laud. V. M. l. 1, c. 2).
From The True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
[from the introduction to the work]
1. It was through the Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world.
2. Because Mary remained hidden during her life she is called by the Holy Spirit and the Church "Alma Mater", Mother hidden and unknown. So great was her humility that she desired nothing more upon earth than to remain unknown to herself and to others, and to be known only to God.
3. In answer to her prayers to remain hidden, poor and lowly, God was pleased to conceal her from nearly every other human creature in her conception, her birth, her life, her mysteries, her resurrection and assumption. Her own parents did not really know her; and the angels would often ask one another, "Who can she possibly be?", for God had hidden her from them, or if he did reveal anything to them, it was nothing compared with what he withheld.
4. God the Father willed that she should perform no miracle during her life, at least no public one, although he had given her the power to do so. God the Son willed that she should speak very little although he had imparted his wisdom to her.
Even though Mary was his faithful spouse, God the Holy Spirit willed that his apostles and evangelists should say very little about her and then only as much as was necessary to make Jesus known.
5. Mary is the supreme masterpiece of Almighty God and he has reserved the knowledge and possession of her for himself. She is the glorious Mother of God the Son who chose to humble and conceal her during her lifetime in order to foster her humility. He called her "Woman" as if she were a stranger, although in his heart he esteemed and loved her above all men and angels. Mary is the sealed fountain and the faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit where only he may enter. She is the sanctuary and resting-place of the Blessed Trinity where God dwells in greater and more divine splendour than anywhere else in the universe, not excluding his dwelling above the cherubim and seraphim. No creature, however pure, may enter there without being specially privileged.
6. I declare with the saints: Mary is the earthly paradise of Jesus Christ the new Adam, where he became man by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order to accomplish in her wonders beyond our understanding. She is the vast and divine world of God where unutterable marvels and beauties are to be found. She is the magnificence of the Almighty where he hid his only Son, as in his own bosom, and with him everything that is most excellent and precious. What great and hidden things the all-powerful God has done for this wonderful creature, as she herself had to confess in spite of her great humility, "The Almighty has done great things for me." The world does not know these things because it is incapable and unworthy of knowing them.
7. The saints have said wonderful things of Mary, the holy City of God, and, as they themselves admit, they were never more eloquent and more pleased than when they spoke of her. And yet they maintain that the height of her merits rising up to the throne of the Godhead cannot be perceived; the breadth of her love which is wider than the earth cannot be measured; the greatness of the power which she wields over one who is God cannot be conceived; and the depths of her profound humility and all her virtues and graces cannot be sounded. What incomprehensible height! What indescribable breadth! What immeasurable greatness! What an impenetrable abyss!
8. Every day, from one end of the earth to the other, in the highest heaven and in the lowest abyss, all things preach, all things proclaim the wondrous Virgin Mary. The nine choirs of angels, men and women of every age, rank and religion, both good and evil, even the very devils themselves are compelled by the force of truth, willingly or unwillingly, to call her blessed.


James Zahler said...

In glory she reigns forever!

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

Yes, it is only in the past few years that when saying the Rosary, no doubt through the force of good teaching on EWTN, etc, I got the concept, that, as Blessed Mary "pondered these things in her heart" and must have repeated the Angelic Salutation, right afterward, and then all through her life with Our Lord Jesus, even during the Passion, so it is fitting that we repeat the salutation with her, and then pray for her intercession now, and at the hour of our death. So as thick as my skull is, I finally got it, it's not "just a prayer", it is a love song, the pivotal request in Time of God the Father to His creature, and she said yes, Be it done unto me according to Thy Will. With the exception of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, it is the most important moment, the most important message in history. AND, as with the Angels, this Mother of God isn't just "up there", she loves us personally with all her heart and desires to help and guide us to Her Son! So the Rosary means more to me now, even as I have grown in my appreciation for the mysteries through the years. Thank you, Father.

Angela said...

Fr. Ryan,

Regarding this passage, "And (according to the prophecy of Solomon), as the angels see the Woman assumed into heaven, they marvel at the perfection of God’s work and say to one another: "Who is she?" Does this mean that the angels do not have full access to or knowledge of God's plan in heaven?
And about the nine choirs of angels, is it an angelic designation?

This is such a beautful post because it highlights for me the magnificence of the Blessed Mother. I understand things about her intellectually (from several readings), but what I knew did not have as much depth as reading this. Thank you.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The angels knew something of the plan, but they did not realize just how marvelous the Virgin Mary was (even when they saw her on earth, they did not yet realize her glory).

Indeed, I suspect that, even in heaven, her fully glory cannot be grasped by the angels -- she is the special delight of the Almighty, and he alone fully appreciates his creation! :-)

Regarding the nine choirs ... the idea is that the angels are grouped according to their functions. Each angel is his own nature and species, but all the seraphim are fulfilling the same function of worship in heaven.

Peace and blessings to you, in the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Lady! +

Unknown said...

Dear Fr Ryan,

Thank you for this beautiful article. It’s been sometime after you posted it but it stays ever fresh and inspiring to read. I consider the Virgin Mary as a real mother, whom Jesus gave to us from the cross. I look at my association with God as a real child. God is our father, Jesus is our brother, and Mary our mother. Otherwise the family is not complete. I also believe in what you say that there are unheard of wonders in our Mother. Because of this I believe she now exercises the powers her son has given her in her own way, even to the extent of “disregarding” normal rules when she intervenes on our behalf. What I am also so proud of our Mother is when she said “all generations shall call me blessed.” No other personality in the bible has ever said that of himself, no matter how close he was to God.

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