I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
and my soul shall be joyful in my God:
for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation:
and with the robe of justice he hath covered me,
as a bridegroom decked with a crown,
and as a bride adorned with her jewels.
Isaiah 61, 10
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
Behold, from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 46-49
The Catholic Church has always taught that God alone infallibly knows who His elected are and who have been predestined to glory. And although Catholics believe that Mary’s salvation must have been assured, especially since she was predestined to be the Mother of God and, by a singular Divine favour, was preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin in view of her Son’s foreseen merits, our Blessed Lady couldn’t possibly have presumed that her individual salvation was guaranteed just by pronouncing her Fiat (Lk. 1:38). This is evident by the fact she conceived Jesus because of her poverty of spirit and deep humility. In her Canticle of Praise, Mary owns that God has looked upon the lowliness (humble estate) of his handmaiden (Lk. 1:48).
Being shielded from the effects of original sin, notably the pride of life, Mary didn’t have the disposition to be so presumptuous. Unless Jesus had told her at some point that she would be with him body and soul in heaven, her personal salvation was something she purely hoped for and worked out in “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:2). Thus, she would understand that she should never cease to pray for all the graces she needed to persevere to the end and attain what she hoped for. God never ceased to be her source of strength and song. Mary’s trust in God’s promises was never misplaced in any way either. Nor did she ever fear that God might prove to be unfaithful in their covenant with each other. If any of the two could ever be unfaithful, it would surely be her.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12, 2
Because of her faith, however, Mary trusted God with all her might and had complete confidence in His promises throughout her entire life once she was mature enough to know and personally relate with Him. God was her salvation because she trusted Him with steadfastness in faith. And so, she had no cause to be afraid, having found favour with God for doing His will by trusting His goodness and mercy (Lk. 1:30). What the Lord’s handmaid was sure of was that God would never disown her if she never disowned Him (2 Tim. 2:12).
Thus, Mary must have prayed constantly for the plenitudes of grace she received, so that she finally would be united with God in His heavenly kingdom. It was more God’s faithfulness than her own faith in God that she had confidence in. God could never withhold from Mary the many graces she asked for in prayer. If her heart did not condemn her, Mary knew that she would reap the fruits guaranteed by God’s goodness and righteousness. In faith, she was assured that she would receive countless blessings from God if she obeyed His commandments and did what pleased Him (1 Jn. 3: 21-22). Only then could she declare in the imperative mood: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!”
Indeed, Mary must have concurred with her Son that she was more blessed for having heard the word of God and keeping it than for being his natural mother (Lk. 11:28). She couldn’t have rejoiced in God her saviour if it hadn’t been for her faith working through love (Gal. 5:5-6). Mary had in fact rejoiced when she declared to the angel: “Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). She was more disposed to please God rather than please herself by receiving the blessing of being the mother of God incarnate. Not even spiritual pride (an effect of original sin) could touch her.
Moreover, in charity and grace, Mary was no less mindful of the world’s redemption than she was of her own. Her Lord and Saviour wasn’t only personally hers, but just as importantly everyone’s. She joyfully proclaimed her Magnificat immediately after her kinswoman Elizabeth had praised her for having believed in the word of God for the spiritual benefit of the whole human race (Lk. 1:45). The two of them could rejoice in the formal redemption of Israel and the entire world. That both Mary and Elizabeth were celebrating the final assurance of their own personal salvation wasn’t the case.
O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You,
I will give thanks to Your name;
for You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago,
with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25, 1
If it hadn’t been for her Immaculate Conception, we can be sure that if Mary boasted in anything, it would have been in her weaknesses that required the aid of divine grace for the influence of her divine Son to impel her (2 Cor. 12:9). Of course, she was liberated from contracting the moral ill-effects of original sin, but she was still free to say No to God in her innocence just as Eve was before her fall from grace. So, it was by her co-operation with the abundance of grace God bestowed on her that our Blessed Lady merited to be the mother of the Divine Messiah and the gift of salvation for all humanity in the incarnation. She first had to conceive Jesus in her heart, as St. Augustine puts it, before she could conceive him in her womb.
Grace preceded Mary in her collaboration with God in His work of redemption; so, unless she united her spirit with the Spirit of God by acceding to His prompting, there could be no salvation for her or anybody. Mary must not receive the grace of God in vain if His work were to be accomplished first in her before it should be in the world by His Anointed One (2 Cor. 6:1). Fortunately for us, as well as for Mary, she sought to exalt God when she pronounced her Fiat. This was more important to her than any eternal reward she might receive because of her faith. Her love of God was impeccable, which gave her just cause to rejoice in her salvation. From this love flowed her love of fallen humanity which God honoured to her credit before He would become man.
As a maiden of true faith, Mary joyfully received the words of the angel in the depths of her heart, for she saw that what God graciously desired for the lasting happiness of mankind would redound to the glory of His love and mercy. She said Yes to the angel in a spirit of thanksgiving, ever-mindful of how faithful God was in keeping His promises, albeit the ungratefulness and unworthiness of fallen man. Mary’s spirit had rejoiced in God her saviour, who alone could have wrought wonders beyond all human understanding outside the sanctifying light of faith. Mary understood all too well that the redemption of humanity was certain provided she be faithful to God in return. All that was asked of her was that she align her spirit with the Spirit of God so that the Divine work be made complete as promised.
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God
for whom we have waited
that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25, 9
Mary did not simply rejoice in her salvation, though she had good reason to, seeing that it meant enjoying eternal life with God in heavenly bliss. But despite how joyful she must have been with the prospect of this great blessing – the Beatific Vision – presented before her, Mary rejoiced first and foremost in the Divine Messiah himself from the depths of her soul in faith and love. That she should have been chosen to bring the living Source of salvation into the world as a daughter of Zion was cause enough for her to be overjoyed in God’s mercy and love. For this, Mary was thankful that God should look upon her humble state as to manifest His infinite glory in a fallen world. Yet, our Blessed Lady understood, that before the Holy Spirit should come upon His chosen bride and cover her with His shadow, she had to have adorned herself with the jewels of divine grace by allowing it to supernaturally transform her heart and mind in the depths of her soul; she would have had to array herself with the garments of salvation by “putting on” the holy child she might bear (Rom. 13:14), and only then could she become His mother.
Hence, what was most important to Mary was that she loved God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul for the glory of His holy name despite the personal sacrifices she might have to make in union with her divine Son. She rejoiced in the One whom she must array herself in, if He were to bring the gift of salvation to the world through her. And she rejoiced in the marvelous work God accomplished in her by His grace. The Lord had done great things for her in His mercy, for which she should be thankful and glad. Mary’s salvation initially depended on the One who was the living source of all the graces she had received so that she could be saved. Our Blessed Lady humbly owned there could be no salvation for her or anyone else without the Divine initiative.
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with strings of beads.”
Song of Solomon 1, 10
The apostle Paul teaches us that our “perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). Only then can our redemption and resurrection from the dead be personally realized. Mary saw herself in God’s plan as a woman who should be removed from sinful humanity, as Israel was separated from the surrounding pagan nations, if the formal redemption of the world were to be accomplished by the promised Messiah through the untilled soil of her virgin womb. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, since it conformed to His Spirit and the Spirit of the Son whom she would bear. Not unlike the holy Child she would be the mother of, Mary made no provision for the flesh or gratified any vain desires that would offend God; she had a compassionate heart, she was kind, humble, meek, and patient; holy and beloved by God because of her faith in charity and grace (Col. 3:12). Her interior disposition attested to what it meant to be saved. Mary rejoiced in God’s salvation by her virtuous living. A wicked spirit has no cause to rejoice.
The incarnation happened and, as a result, the world’s redemption and hope of salvation because Mary was “robed in a mantle of justice” through the plenitudes of grace she was endowed with and never spurned at any time in her life (Lk. 1:28). Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour by being one in spirit with Him and like Him through His grace. So, unless Mary had led a life of obedience to the will of God, by shedding what was perishable in the flesh and putting on what was imperishable in the Son whom she would bear, she could not be God’s chosen and beloved handmaid. By living a life in the flesh and in disobedience to God together with fallen humanity, she could not rejoice in the One who was the world’s salvation, since she could only then reject the One in whom she would have no joy. The Divine Word chose to come into the world and become man on condition that the woman whom He chose to be His mother would find no joy except in Him.
And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD;
It shall exult in His salvation.
Psalm 35, 9
Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour because her soul magnified the Lord. The supernatural quality of Mary’s soul proclaimed His glory in a fallen world. She embodied in her person what it takes to be saved and enjoy eternal life with God. Mary never presumed that her personal salvation was guaranteed, but the state of her soul attested that it was, provided she should persevere in God’s grace. If her heart did not condemn her, Mary had confidence before God. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, for it was perfected in love of God and neighbour. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary because of her perfect love which conformed to the love God has for all His created children. This pleased God (1 Jn 3:21-22). By joyfully pronouncing her Fiat, Mary essentially begged God to come into the world as its salvation. Her prayer was answered, since her spirit rejoiced in what pleased God, “that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Mary’s spirit was united with the Spirit of God; her joy was what pleased God and what he desired of her.
In faith and love, Mary rejoiced in what should be to the glory of God’s goodness and righteousness. Nor could she bear to imagine the desolation of never ever seeing God face to face in His heavenly kingdom. Mary did not exalt in only her salvation, but also in the salvation which only God could offer all humanity in His love and mercy. She rejoiced in God’s benevolence for the salvation of the world. And what God offered Mary was something she couldn’t possibly resist, having been supernaturally transformed by His grace, as to be worthy to bear His salvation in the promised Messiah. She rejoiced in her Son Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “God is salvation”. Meanwhile, Mary desired for the world what she desired for herself, for she knew that no soul could find true happiness separated from God. She desired God more than anything else. The salvation of her soul meant nothing if it did not entail eternal life with God and seeing Him face to face. The hope of the Beatific Vision gave Mary’s soul cause to rejoice in God her saviour (Ex. 24:11).
She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony
of giving birth… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about
to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
Revelation 12, 2-4
With Mary’s joy would come sorrow, without which there could be no heavenly bliss in God’s presence. The greatest trial our Blessed Lady ever faced in her pilgrimage of faith must have been when she stood at the foot of the Cross. She could have felt as abandoned by God as her Son might have had in his humanity, if he weren’t a Divine person, as she witnessed his humiliating and cruel death at the hands of ungrateful sinners, who certainly didn’t deserve God’s love and mercy. Yet Mary remained steadfast in her faith together with her Son in his steadfast obedience to the will of the Father. Here lies the paradox of faith: Concomitant with Mary’s sorrow was her joy in having to face this terrible trial for the salvation of all souls, including her own. Her soul joyfully exalted in God’s salvation even when it was pierced by immense sorrow, and because of her shared agony (Lk. 2:34-35). To live and reign with Christ one must suffer and die with him.
Mary knew that the Passion of her Son was all for a greater good, that God would never renege on His promised inheritance. At the foot of the Cross, God faithfully upheld His end of the covenant by establishing His handmaiden’s second maternal role. It was through her agonizing sorrow – the sword that pierced her heart – that Mary gave birth to the countless sons and daughters of all nations who would form the mystical Body of her Son, which is the Church, upon his resurrection and ascension into heaven, where he established his authority and everlasting rule after casting out Satan and his angels from heaven (Rev. 12:5, 9-11).
When Mary gazed upon her suffering and dying Son with a loving mother’s terrible anguish, she understood that the testing of her faith produced endurance; and by letting her endurance have its full effect, she would become mature and complete in her faith, lacking nothing, which being associated with her Son in his redemptive work required. God would be faithful in keeping His promise if she was faithful to Him. Mary rejoiced in God her saviour because of her faith in God’s faithfulness, despite this difficult trial.
Golgotha was indeed the climatic point in Mary’s journey of faith, but even on this heart-rending occasion, her soul continued to magnify the Lord and proclaim His glory. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, for the salvation of all humanity demanded that our Blessed Lady suffer for the sins that had offended God, whom she wished to propitiate on behalf of all ungrateful humanity because of her perfect love for Him. The interior suffering that was imposed on her she gladly accepted, not only because of her love of God, but also because of her love and compassion for fallen mankind.
Our sorrowful Mother’s merciful spirit resembled the compassion God had for all His created children. Without Mary’s willing collaboration with God in and through the Holy Spirit, the temporal reparation she was called to make would be left undone. Without it, her divine Son would not make eternal reparation and be the expiation for the sins of the world (1 Pet. 1:3-7). Mary could rejoice in her suffering, since it was united with the suffering of her beloved Son for the salvation of humanity. She drew all her moral courage from him.
Our Blessed Lady possessed a love for the world that emulated the love her divine Son had in his humanity. The divine image that she was created in reached full perfection as she stood beneath the Cross under the weight of her sorrow. Because of her supernatural love for God and humanity, Mary could rejoice in His salvation, but not without rejoicing in her interior suffering. Jesus made suffering the necessary means of redemption, that is being willing to suffer out of love of God for sin which offends Him and has ravaged mankind, so that the equity of justice between God and man may be restored. The apostle Paul rejoiced in his suffering for the sake of his flock and the glory his sheep might attain because of it (Col 1:24).
In agony, Mary gave new birth to mankind. Adam’s trespass resulted in the condemnation of humanity; so also the righteous act of her Son, the second Adam, resulted in justification and new life for all (Rom. 5:18), but on condition that his mother Mary, the second Eve and helpmate, suffer in union with him by offering the fruit of her womb back to God to complete and perfect his super-abundant peace offering of reconciliation.
God’s plan of salvation required Mary’s full moral participation, since the Fall involved both genders and, therefore, could not be totally undone without full reciprocation. Mary’s willingness to suffer on Calvary, because of sin, was her loving response to God’s will in union with her Son, which eradicated Eve’s unfaithfulness to God and her transgression because of her inordinate love of self. Mary vindicated Eve by acting in an alternate way. She denied herself to the point of dying to her maternal self, thereby becoming the spiritual mother of redeemed mankind.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3, 16-18
Mary was more of a mother to Jesus and further blessed in this capacity (Lk. 11:27-28). Subjectively, her love of God and compassion for fallen humanity had redeeming value. Her obedient act of faith pleased God because of the supernatural quality of her soul. Grace preceded Mary, and so she could merit the grace her Son produced by his self-immolation for fallen humanity by right of friendship with God. Our Blessed Lady could rejoice in God’s salvation, for she understood and accepted what was required of her for His salvation to be perfect and complete.
Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour, for our Blessed Lady was “buried with Christ” at the hour of his Passion. Mary stood beneath the Cross dead to the world with all its vain allurements. She sacrificed her maternal rights when she offered her beloved Son back to God for the salvation of the world. The hope of our salvation, which only Christ could initially produce by his merits alone, was completed, however, by the Blessed Mother who crucified her flesh and died to self in union with her Son’s Passion, so that everyone might be saved (Col. 1:24; Eph. 3:13).
Beneath the Cross, Mary raised her heart and mind to things that are above this world, as our Lord was raised in spirit when he was lifted high on the Cross through his obedience to the will of the Father so that we might share in his glory, provided we die with him in spirit (Col. 3:1-4). God honoured Mary’s interior sorrow as a temporal means of reparation for the sins of the world, and thereby He exalted His faithful and loving handmaid by designating her Mother of the Church (Jn. 19:26-27).
The Incarnation happened because Mary did not doubt God. She wasn’t like “the wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, being double-minded and unstable in every way.” And, so, she could expect to “receive anything from the Lord” both for her and the human race (Jas. 1:2-8). Her spiritual work of mercy completed her faith by animating it. Our Blessed Lady couldn’t have appeased God’s justice and make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world if her faith had been nothing but a mental construct. Mary could rejoice in God her saviour only by possessing a living and active faith (Jas. 2:14-25). Her faith anticipated the faith of the Church: a faith that sought what she could do for God rather than what God could do for His bride. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the disciples of Christ who were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost days after his ascension (Acts 2:1-13). But first, the Holy Spirit had to come upon and overshadow the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her faith (Lk. 1:35, 38).
The Incarnation alone should not redeem fallen man, though it could more than sufficiently by God becoming man and being born in a lowly manger on a cold night. The Annunciation had to be the starting point in Mary’s pilgrimage of faith as the mother of the divine Redeemer who chose to suffer and die an ignominious death for the world’s salvation. After all, suffering and death are concomitant with sin. The completion of God’s plan of salvation called for Mary’s perseverance in faith and unshakable trust in God, just as our own salvation depends on the quality of our faith when having to be tested through the trials God sends us (1 Pet. 1:7).
Jesus chose to die on the cross with his mother kneeling before him in anguish, for if we hope to be saved, we must take up our crosses after him (Mt.16:24; Mk.8:34; Lk. 9:23). Only then, should we have cause to rejoice in our salvation together with our Blessed Mother. Without suffering and having to die to self in this imperfect world, we could never show our love for God by choosing to make sacrifices to Him for our transgressions. His faithful handmaid chose to suffer for humanity because of her love for Him. This act of worship she offered God who was grieved by sin was paradoxically an expression of her joy in God’s salvation.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2, 20
God would never have chosen Mary to be the mother of His Son if He knew that she would prove to be unfaithful at the hour of His Son’s perfect obedience to His will. Her spirit must rejoice in God her saviour, which could be expressed by nothing less than Mary accepting her sorrow and uniting her interior suffering with the suffering of her Divine Son for the remission of sin. Christ used suffering as a means by which he merited the grace of redemption for the entire world. He sanctified suffering by his Passion. What was once an evil effect of original sin and a condition of it had been given a “quasi-sacramental” value, by which we might be saved if offered to God in union with our Lord and Savior (cf. Dom Bruno Webb, Why Does God Permit Evil?). God was temporally appeased by Mary’s suffering, for her Son lived in her while she willingly suffered in union with him for the sins of the world.
Since the Annunciation, the life Mary led as the mother of our Lord wasn’t merely the natural life of a mother, but a life lived by faith in her divine Son and what he came to accomplish for us all. The mother of our Lord lived her faith by putting it into action for the salvation of souls. Her exile into Egypt together with the infant Jesus was her first great act of sacrificial love and spiritual worship of God. Mary made temporal satisfaction for sin in union with her Son long before Calvary arrived.
As the second Adam and new Head of humanity, our Lord merited grace for us, so that by our suffering in union with him, grace can be transmitted to us and even to others. By Mary’s willingness to suffer in union with her Son, our Lord suffered in her to complete his act of redemption. Thus, her suffering had supernatural value and could merit an increase of the grace of sanctification or justification on behalf of the world in and through the merits of her divine Son. Our Blessed Lady understood this by the sanctifying light of faith, and she knew by the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge, that she had no cause to rejoice in God her Savior unless she were willing to suffer for God her “spiritual worship”. Her salvation, not unlike ours, meant offering herself as a living sacrifice to God holy and pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1-2). Mary’s spirit (pnuema) had rejoiced in God her saviour by the life she had led in faith in her Son as his mother. She was more or truly (menoun) a mother to him in this respect (Lk. 11:27-28). Mary’s Divine Maternity was a sublime form of discipleship. Catholics have long praised her as Queen of Apostles.
A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12
Fortunately, for both her and mankind, our Blessed Lady never doubted God, not even on Golgotha; since, as she knelt and gazed upon her dying Son, she fervently prayed for the graces she needed to endure her interior suffering in union with his suffering. By her perseverance in faith, Mary accepted God’s will, that her heart should also be pierced, if her Son was to redeem the world and reconcile it to God (Lk. 2:34-35). That Our Lady of Sorrows should cradle her beloved Son’s lifeless body in her arms because of man’s sins against God was a condition of the salvation she rejoiced in. Her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour up to this culminating moment, albeit the pain and the loss. She possessed a faith that pronounced “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) and “died with Christ” so that she and all humanity could hope to live eternally with her divine Son in heavenly glory (Rom. 6:8). Our Blessed Mother suffered and died for us all “with the Redeemer,” and so we rightly hail her as our co-Redemptrix.
Mary rejoiced in her suffering and found consolation in it because of the suffering her beloved Son was willing to endure in his love for humanity and its salvation. Mary rejoiced in God her saviour, the Father’s suffering servant, by reciprocating her love for her Son who was wounded for our transgressions. She could return her love only by willingly suffering with him for all the sins which had offended God. Her virtue of faith gave cause to her soul’s rejoicing in God her savior amid the piercing sorrow. This was a faith informed by love in charity and grace, the faith we need to be saved: faith put into loving action in union with Christ’s work of sacrificial love.
Our sorrowful Mother understood what the Apostles hadn’t until Pentecost, that she could rejoice in being alive with her Son in the Resurrection only by dying to self and being buried with him in his death through suffering. Hence, despite her sorrow at the foot of the Cross, Mary had cause to rejoice and be glad in God’s salvation – that is in what it must take for us to be saved. Mary perceived, by the sanctifying light of faith, as she looked upon her suffering and dying Son, that our salvation may be attained only if we suffer and die to self and to this world in obedience to God in union with Jesus in perseverance to the end (Rom. 6:5-8). Jesus did not come into this world only to save us, but also to show us what we must do if we hope to be saved in and through his merits.
“Let us not be astonished that the Lord, who came to save the world, began his work in Mary, so that she, by whom the salvation of all was being readied,
would be the first to receive from her own child its fruits.”
St. Ambrose of Milan, In Lk. II, 17
(ante A.D. 397)
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion,
for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst,
declares the Lord.
Zechariah 2, 10