The Obedience of Mary

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1931

When the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary God's great designs upon her, she, through love for obedience, would only call herself a handmaid: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. [Luke 1:38] "Yes," says St. Thomas of Villanova, "for this faithful handmaid never, in either thought or word or deed, contradicted the Most High; but entirely despoiled of her own will, she lived always and in all things obedient to that of God." She herself declared that God was pleased with her obedience, when she said, He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid, for in prompt obedience it is that the humility of a servant, properly speaking consists. St. Irenreus says that, by her obedience the Divine Mother repaired the evil done by Eve's disobedience: "As Eve, by her disobedience, caused her own death and that of the whole human race, so did the Virgin Mary, by her obedience, become the cause of her own salvation and of that of all mankind." Mary's obedience was much more perfect than that of all other Saints; since all men, on account of Original Sin, are prone to evil, and find it difficult to do good; but not so the Blessed Virgin. St. Bernardine writes, that, "Because Mary was free from Original Sin, she found no obstacle in obeying God; she was like a wheel, which was easily turned by every inspiration of the Holy Ghost." "Hence," continues the same Saint, "her only object in this world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to discover His will, and, when she had found out what He required, to perform it." Of her was said, My soul melted when He spoke. [Cant. 5:6] that is, as Richard explains it, "My soul was as metal, liquefied by the fire of love, ready to be moulded into any form, according to the Divine will."

Mary well proved how ready she was to obey in all things, in the first place, when, to please God, she obeyed even the Roman emperor, and undertook the long journey of at least seventy miles to Bethlehem, in the winter, when she was pregnant, and in such poverty that she had to give birth to her Son in a stable.

She showed equal obedience in undertaking, on the very same night on which she had notice of it from St. Joseph, the longer and more difficult journey into Egypt. Here Silveira asks why the command to fly into Egypt was given to St. Joseph rather than to the Blessed Virgin, who was to suffer the most from it; and he answers, that it was "that Mary might not be deprived of an occasion in which to perform an act of obedience, for which she was always most ready."

But above all she showed her heroic obedience when, to obey the Divine will, she offered her Son to death; and this with such constancy, as St. Anselm and St. Antoninus say, that had executioners been wanting, she would have been ready herself to have crucified Him. Hence Venerable Bede, explaining our Lord's answer to the woman spoken of in the Gospel, who exclaimed, Blessed is the womb that bore Thee ... Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it, [Luke 11:27] says that Mary was indeed blessed in becoming the Mother of God, but that she was much more so in always loving and obeying the Divine will.
For this. reason, all who love obedience are highly pleasing to the Blessed Virgin. She once appeared to a Franciscan friar, named Accorso, in his cell; whilst she was still present, obedience called him to hear the confession of a sick person. He went, and on his return found that Mary had waited for him, and highly commended his obedience. On the other hand, she greatly blamed another religious, who remained to finish some private devotions after the refectory-bell had rung.
Our Lord, once speaking to St. Bridget on the security which is found in obeying a spiritual director, said, "Obedience brings all Saints to glory;" for, as St. Philip Neri used to say, "God demands no account of things done by obedience, having Himself said, He that heareth you, heareth Me: and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me.
[Luke 10:16] The Mother of God herself revealed to St. Bridget that through the merit of her obedience she had obtained so great power that no sinner, however great were his crimes, who had recourse to her with a purpose of amendment, failed to obtain pardon."

Our own sweet Queen, then, and Mother, intercede with Jesus for us; by the merit of thine obedience obtain that we may be faithful in obeying His will and the commands of our spiritual Fathers. Amen.


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