AN EXPLANATION OF CHAPTER XXXI OF THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON, TO WHICH THE LORD REFERRED ME REGARDING THE LIFE OF MOST HOLY MARY IN MATRIMONY.
772. As soon as the Princess of heaven, Mary, found Herself so unexpectedly in the new state of matrimony, She raised her pure soul to the Father of light for illumination and direction in the fulfillment of all its obligations according to his pleasure.
In order to give me some insight into her holy thoughts at this time, the Lord referred me to the last chapter of the Proverbs, in which Solomon outlined the virtues of our Lady in describing the qualities and doings of a valiant woman.
Discoursing on this chapter I will say as much as I can of what I was made to understand regarding Her. The chapter begins with the words: “Who shall find a valiant woman? The price of Her is as of things brought from afar off and from the uttermost coasts.”
This question is one implying admiration in regard to our great and valiant woman Mary and a doubt in regard to all other women, when compared with Her; for none other as valiant can be found in the whole range of the human and natural existence.
All the others are weak and wanting, not one being exempt from tribute to the demon through the guilt of sin.
Who then will find another woman? Not the kings and monarchs, nor the princes of the earth, nor the angels of heaven, nor the divine power itself will find another, since it had not created another like Her: She is the only one, without a peeress or one resembling Her, who was exalted in dignity according to the measure of his own Omnipotence.
For He could not have given Her more than his own eternal Son, consubstantial, equal to Him in immensity, uncreated and infinite.
773. Accordingly the price of this Woman is as something coming from afar, since upon earth and among creatures there was none like to Her.
The price of a thing is the value for which a thing is bought or at which it is estimated; then is its price known, when it is known at what value it is held or estimated.
The price of this valiant woman Mary was set in the council of the most blessed Trinity, when God himself claimed or purchased Her for Himself in advance of all the other creatures, having received Her in real purchase as a sort of return for the creation of the whole human nature.
The price and payment, which He gave for Mary, was the incarnate Word itself and the eternal Father (according to our way of speaking) considered Himself sufficiently repaid by Mary.
For finding this valiant Woman in his divine mind, He set such a value on Her, that He devoted his only Son to be at the same time his Son and Hers: and the Son himself took from Her human flesh and chose Her as Mother.
Thus this purchase price by which the Most High acquired and appropriated Her, included his wisdom, goodness, omnipotence, justice and all other attributes, and all the merits of his Son, releasing beforehand the whole human race from debt; so that, if all men were to be lost as Adam had lost himself, He would still have left Mary and her Son.
Hence truly She was estimated at a price so distant, that all creation would not be able to reach an estimate and appreciation of it.
This is meant by the saying “that She came from afar.”
774. By this term “afar” are also to be understood the ends of the earth; for God is the last end and the beginning of all creation, from which all things proceed and to which all things return, as the streams return to the sea (Eccles. 1, 7).
Also the empyrean heaven is the final material end of all corporeal matter; and it is called in an especial way the footstool of the Divinity (Isaias 66, 1).
［经文〈依撒意亚 66:1〉：上主这样说：上天是我的宝座，下地是我的脚凳，你们还能在哪里给我造殿宇，建我休息的地方呢？ ］
Yet, in another sense, the end of natural life and the full perfection of virtue might be called the ends of the earth, for in these is fulfilled the purpose of man's natural existence; being called forth by the Creator for the knowledge and love of God, He himself is the ultimate and most apparent end of life and action.
All this is included, when the price of most holy Mary is said to come from the farthest ends. Her graces, gifts and merits came and commenced from the ultimate regions, they began where those of the other saints, the Virgins, Confessors, Martyrs, Apostles and Patriarchs ended: they in all their lives and all their sanctity did not arrive at the point where Mary merely commenced.
And if Christ, her Son and our Lord, calls Himself the end of the works of Abraham, so can it be said with equal justice, that the price of most holy Mary is as from the farthest ends; for all her purity, innocence and sanctity came from her most holy Son as the exemplary, anteceding and principal cause of Her alone.
775. “The heart of her husband trusteth in Her, and he shall have no need of spoils.” (Prov. 31, 11).
775. 「她的丈夫对她衷心信赖，一切所需从来不会缺少。」 （箴言31：11）
It is certain that the heavenly Joseph is called the husband of this valiant Woman, as he had legitimately espoused Her; and it is also certain, that his heart confided in Her, believing that on account of her incomparable virtues all true blessings would come to him.
But especially did he trust in Her when he perceived her pregnancy and yet was ignorant of its mysterious origin; for then he believed and hoped against hope (Rom. 4, 18) ; all indications being adverse and having no other foundation for his hopeful belief, than the holiness of such a Spouse and Wife.
And although he resolved to leave Her (Matth. 1, 19) as he saw the outward tokens of pregnancy with his own eyes without the slightest knowledge of the cause; yet he never ventured to distrust her honor and modesty, nor did he ever diminish in his holy and pure love, with which his most upright heart was bound to such a Spouse.
Nor was he disappointed in anything, nor was he in need of spoils; for if spoils are things that are superfluous, then this man was abundantly supplied with them, as soon as he knew who was his Spouse and what belonged to Her.
776. But this heavenly Mistress had another Man, who confided in Her, and to Him principally does Solomon refer; and this Man was her own Son, the true God and Man, who confided in this Woman to the extent of his own life and honor in the face of all creation.
In this confidence was included the greatness of both these, his life and his honor; for neither God could confide more to Her, nor could She correspond better so as to assure Him of superabundant return. O what a miracle of the infinite power and wisdom!
That God should trust Himself to a mere creature and a woman, assuming flesh in her womb and of her very substance!
To call her Mother with unchangeable confidence, and She to call Him Son, nurse Him at her breast and have Him subject to her commands!
That She should be his Co-adjutrix in the rescue and restoration of the world, the Depositary of the Divinity, the Dispensatrix of his infinite treasures and of the merits of his most holy Son, and of all the merits of his life, his miracles, his preaching, his death and of all the other mysteries!
All this He confided to most holy Mary. But our wonder increases, when we find that He was not frustrated in his confidence; for we see that a mere Creature recognized and could adequately fulfill such a trust, without failing in the least point, and in such a manner, that She could not act with greater faith, love, prudence, humility and perfection of all holiness.
Her Man found Himself in no need of spoils, but rich, prosperous and well supplied with honor and renown. Therefore Scripture adds:
777. “She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.” That for which most holy Mary makes a return to her Man, I understand to be the blessing, which Christ, her true Son, rendered unto Her; for what, She herself rendered is already mentioned.
The equity, which the Lord observes in remunerating with the greatest blessings and favors even the smallest good deed, will enable us to form some idea of those which flowed from the divine power upon our Queen during her life.
They commenced from the first instant of her existence and were showered upon Her more abundantly than upon the highest angels as a fitting adjunct of her preservation from original sin; She corresponded with these favors in an adequate manner and co-operated with them to the utmost limit, and all the deeds of her life were without remissness, negligence or tardiness.
What wonder then, that o'nly her most holy Son was superior to Her and that all the rest of the creatures were left behind as it were at an infinite distance ?
778. “She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands.” A well beseeming praise and worthy of a valiant woman: that she should be industrious and diligent within her home, spinning flax and weaving linen for the shelter and comfort of her family, providing these things for the inmates and for others, who may be benefited thereby.
This is profitable counsel, which is put in practice by hands industrious and not idle; for the idleness of a woman, who lives from hand to mouth, is a proof of base foolishness and of other vices, which cannot be imputed without shame. In this exterior virtue, which in a married woman is the foundation of good domestic management, most holy Mary was a valiant woman and a worthy example to all the womankind.
For She was never idle, but was diligently engaged in preparing linen and wool for her spouse and for her Son and for many poor, whom She aided by the labor of her hands. Nevertheless, since She joined in the most perfect manner the works of Martha with those of Mary, She was more busy with the counsels of her heart in regard to interior works than in the works of her hand.
Preserving the memory of the divine visions and the sayings of the holy Scriptures, She was never interiorly at leisure, but continued to utilize and increase the gifts and virtues of her soul. Accordingly the text continues:
779. “She is like the merchant ship, she bringeth her bread from afar.”
As this visible world is called an unquiet and stormy sea, those that live upon it and are tossed about upon it, can appropriately be called ships.
All are engaged in this navigation in order to earn their bread, namely the sustenance and the maintenance of this life, which is meant by bread.
That vessel brings its bread from the farthest distance, which is farthest from what it is to procure; and that, which spends more labor upon it, gains the more, since it brings it from afar by so much the greater difficulty.
There is a sort of agreement between God and man, that while they, as servants cultivate the earth and work upon it in the sweat of their brow, making use of the secondary causes by which the Lord of all succors them, the earth in return should sustain man and pay him for his perspiration and labor.
What happens in regard to this temporal contract, happens also in regard to the spiritual, namely, that he who does not work shall also not eat.
780. Among all the children of Adam most holy Mary was the rich and prosperous merchant ship, which brought her own and our bread from afar.
No one ever was so discreetly diligent and zealous in the government of her house; no one so solicitous for that, which in divine prudence She deemed necessary for its support and for succoring the needy.
She merited and earned all this by the most prudent solicitude, by which She brought it from afar; for She was far removed from our vicious nature and from all its doings.
How much She thus acquired, merited and distributed to the needy ones is impossible to conceive.
But still more estimable and admirable was the spiritual and living Bread, which She drew down from heaven for us; for She not only drew It from the bosom of the Father, whence It would not have descended, if It had not been drawn by this valiant Woman, but It would never have come to this world, so greatly unworthy of It, if It had not been brought in the ship of Mary.
Although She could not, as a mere creature, merit the advent of God into the world, yet She merited the hastening of his advent, and She merited, that He should come in the rich ship of her womb; for, since God could not take abode in any other inferior to Her in merit, She alone induced Him to become visible and to communicate Himself, and to nourish those who were so far off.
781. “And She hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens.”
Not less laudable is this activity of the valiant woman, that she deprived Herself of the repose and sweet rest of the night in order to govern her family, directing her domestics, her husband, her sons and relations, and also her servants to perform their duties and all that is necessary for the welfare of the family.
This kind of valor and prudence does not look upon night as the time for disengaging itself and forgetting in sleep its duties and obligations; withdrawal from work should not be sought merely to satisfy a whim, but as a necessary means for returning to it so much the more ardently.
Our Queen was truly admirable in this prudent kind of economy; although She had no servants in her family, because her love of obedience and humility did not permit her to charge any one but Herself with the servile duties of the house; nevertheless, in the care for her most holy Son and for her spouse Joseph, She rendered the most vigilant service and never was She guilty of any remissness, forgetfulness, tardiness, or inadvertency in providing what was necessary for them, as I shall have occasion to relate in the whole of the succeeding discourse.
782. But what tongue could ever describe the untiring watchfulness of this valiant Woman?
She arose and was on her feet in the night, when divine secrets were still withheld from her heart; and in the hidden darkness of the mystery of her matrimony She lived in vigilant hope of its unravelment, attentive to execute humbly and obediently, whatever was commanded to Her.
She provided all the necessary nourishment for her domestics and servants, namely her interior faculties and her exterior senses, and distributed to each one its sustenance in the labor of the day, so that while they were engaged in the outward service, the spirit might not find itself needy and unprovided.
She commanded the faculties of her soul to follow the inviolable rule of seeking its sustenance from the light of the Divinity, of being incessantly occupied in the ardent meditation and contemplation of the holy law day and night, never allowing it at any time to be withdrawn therefrom by exterior work or occupation of her state of life. This was the government and the nourishment of the servants of her soul.
783. Also to the other servants, the exterior senses, She distributed their legitimate occupation and nourishment; making use of the jurisdiction, which She possessed over these faculties, She commanded, that, as servants, they serve the spirit; that, though in the world, they be dead to it and ignore its vanities and live solely in as far as was necessary for nature and grace; that they be not taken up with sensible delights, except in so far as the superior part of the soul should allow and communicate by its overflowing influence.
She placed boundaries and limits to all their operations, so that without the slightest imperfection they were appropriated to the sphere of divine love, all of them serving and co-operating with it without resistance, unwillingness or tardiness.
784. In another way also She arose and governed Her Domestics.
For there was another kind of night in which this valiant Woman rose and other servants for which She provided.
She arose in the night of the ancient Law, in the obscure dawn of the future light: She came into the world at the decline of that night and with ineffable foresight She proffered and distributed the nourishment of grace and of eternal life to all her domestics and to the servants, namely her own people, to the rest of the human race, to the holy Fathers and the just of her own nation, and to the sinners, slaves and captives of all the world.
And She gave it so truly and so fully, that the nourishment was taken from her own substance and from her own blood, since it originated in her virginal womb.