In explaining the characteristics of true devotion to Mary, St. Louis De Montfort said that Our Lady practiced many virtues particularly;
1. Her profound humility
2. Her lively faith
3. Her blind obedience
4. Her continual prayer
5. Her universal mortification
6. Her divine purity
7. Her ardent charity
8. Her heroic patience
9. Her angelic sweetness
10. Her divine wisdom.
We shall consider each of these virtues, by trying to understand their meaning, how Our Lady practiced them in the light of the biblical account and possible, look at the reward or advantage that lies in practicing these virtues. Before this is done, there is need for a proper understanding of what virtue is.
VIRTURE: What is Virtue?
In the Old Testament, virtue can implicitly be referred to as “Act of righteousness” (Gen 15:6). This act of righteousness which was pleasing to God was displayed by Abram. Virtue can be regarded as keeping God’s commandments, Deut 6:25
Virtue can be regarded as any act that is true, noble, good, pure and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8)’
According to the concise dictionary f Theology, Virtue is a habit of good behavior that enables one to do what is right with ease, pleasure and consistency. The opposite is termed vice or the habitual inclination to do evil.
Now the virtues of Mary
1. Her Profound Humility: humility comes from the Latin word “Humus,” meaning top soil. It means “being down to earth,” not having a big or high opinion of oneself. It is the quality of being modest in the opinion/idea one has about him/her self. Therefore, when we say her profound humility, we are simply saying that, Mary was completely and deeply down to earth. She was deeply modest in the opinion she had about herself. Mary displayed this virtue when she said to the angel “Be it done to me according to your words” God elevated Mary as a consequence of her humility by making her the Mother of his Son Lk. 1:30-32. Again Mary declared “for he has remembered his lowly servant” (Lk 1:48)
Like Mary, all those who humble themselves will have a share of Christ’s promise which he declared when he said: “Anyone who humbles himself will be exalted….
2. Her Lively Faith: Faith is a supernatural gift of God which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed. By Mary’s faith being lively, implies that, it was for all times/seasons, firm, solid, grounded, unwavering even in trying moments.
It was by faith, that she accepted the angel’s message, without doubting, knowing that God is the very truth and can neither deceive nor be deceived and so she declared her acceptance of God’s plan for her, her consent Lk1:38 which the Church refers to as Mary’s Fiat.
It was because of her faith; her believe in God, that she received God’s promise (of becoming the Mother of his Son). It is only by faith, that we can receive God’s promise. This we are sure of as we have learned from the lesson of the fig tree, Mk 11:20-26(with emphasis on 24) and the healing of the boy with an evil spirit in Mk 9:14-23(with emphasis on verse 23).
3. Her Blind Obedience: Obedience is the submission of one’s will, oneself, willingly to another. Mary’s blind obedience implies that, she submitted her will to that of God’s to the observance of the law unhesitatingly. She displayed this virtue in the biblical account of Jesus presentation in the temple Lk2:22-24. We too must be ready and willing to submit to God’s commands, to the instructions of those who have been placed in authority over us in as much as their instructions are sin-free, for obedience to God is better than sacrifice. 1Sam 15:22
Obedience to God’s command and even to those in authority, (for he placed them in such positions) has a reward, attraction of God’s blessings to oneself, family and relations Deut 28:1- 14(emphasis on verse 6).
4. Her Continual Prayer: Prayer is the dialogue of the mind with God, and to St. John of Damascus, it is, “The elevation of the mind to God.” To pray, is to invoke, adore, praise, thank, express sorrow and ask blessings from our creator and Lord. Prayer can be uttered aloud or silently in the heart. Like everyone, Our Lady had her time for communing with God but in addition to this she endeavored to commune with her Creator interiorly in all her activities throughout the day. She displayed this virtue of continually communing with God in Lk 2:19 and Lk 2:51…His mother treasures all these things in her heart. Practicing this virtue has the advantage of filling our minds with spiritual thoughts and reducing the tendency of evil thoughts in us.
5. Her Universal Mortification: mortification comes from the Latin word, “mortificara,” meaning, putting to death. It is the discipline and self denial required for growth in the new life given through faith and baptism –Rom 8:13, Gal 5:24. It is termed, universal mortification because Mary struggled to put to death or get rid of the pleasures which the senses tends to derive. In other words, she practiced mortification in all her five senses
6. Her Divine Purity: purity is the quality of being without stain, sin. Mary remained divinely pure, that is, she was preserved from stains of sin by the Trinity right from her conception to death. We are sure of Mary’s divine purity because God in the second person of the Trinity; Jesus in his holiness choose to dwell in Mary and to choose to dwell in her implies, that Mary was without stains of sin, for Jesus who is himself God can never dwell in a sinful place.
Purity as a virtue, invites us to strive with the help of God’s grace to keep away from any act in thought, words, deeds or omissions that can soil our body and soul with sin. While purity borders on all aspects of our life, chastity deals directly with our sexuality. Chastity as a virtue enables human beings to integrate sexuality within their whole personality according to their vocation in life.
It is practiced by the celibate through complete abstention
It is practiced by married couples through fidelity to each other.
It is practiced by single persons through self – control
The Blessed Virgin was chaste Lk 1:34 “I am a Virgin.” Purity and chastity attracts a big blessing to those who practice them such persons are used for special purpose by God 2Tim 2:19-22 and such was the case of Mary; she kept herself free from anything that can incur sin on her and so she was used for special purpose – becoming the Mother of our Savior. We too can also be used for special purpose like Mary in various capacities. It could be to serve as an instrument through which others would come to know of God’s love for them, as an instrument of conversion like the three children of Fatima etc.
7. Her Ardent Charity: charity is an attitude of dedication and service to others. This is love. Mary was and is still zealous about her charity towards us. Her charity is ardent, that is, she is deeply dedicated/ committed in her service towards us, and her commitment and service towards us is deeply rooted in her. Immediately she got angels message we were told, she went to her cousin Elizabeth and stayed there for about three months. Doing what? Helping her out with the daily chores Lk 1:39&56. Like Mary, we too are invited by this virtue to develop an attitude of dedication and service towards our neighbors by praying for them, helping them in their time of need for Christ said, love your neighbour as yourself.
8. Her Heroic Patience: patience is a supernatural gift of God by which we are able to cope or bear difficult, unpleasant experience for a long time without complaining.
When Joseph realized that, Mary was with a child, he planned to divorce her secretly, it is evident that Mary was worried throughout this period but she live through this period patiently while putting her hope in God (waiting/expecting God’s intervention) and indeed God did not forsake her Matt 1:18-21. In patience, she hoped and with these two, she persevered (a constant effort to achieve one’s goal). No wonder, this virtue is termed “Heroic” because Mary, knowing what embarrassment she would face, even though the divorce will be done secretly, never complained neither did she ever regretted declaring her consent before God’s messenger nor did she withdraw it.
We too like Mary must in all circumstances, even in difficult experience like bareness, unemployment, poverty, no husband, etc practice the virtue of patience while hoping(waiting, expecting) for what faith promises and then with all these, carry on in perseverance.
9. Angelic Sweetness: here we talk of the most pleasant, polite nature of Mary’s attitude and responses towards others. Her responses to the angel had a calm and polite tone, with all politeness she demanded for an explanation of the angel’s message Lk 1:34 and with utter calmness and politeness, she declared her consent Lk 1:38. One thing is certain, that St. Louis De Montfort must have reflected carefully on Mary’s tone of response and seeing that it is the same with that of the angel whom God have sent to his people, concluded by merging the two together and thus, we have Angelic Sweetness, that is, Mary’s pleasant, calm and polite approach and responses like that of the angels/messengers of God.
To understand this clearly, we consider three scenes in which angels featured: Two in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament/
i. The visit of the three angels to Abraham. In a calm, polite tone, they(angels) declared their acceptance of Abraham’s request Gen 18:5
ii. Tobit discussion with angel Raphael Tobit 5:9. Angel Raphael’s calm, polite, tender question inspired Tobit to pour out the sorrow of his heart, “How can all be well with me? I am blind and cannot see a thing”
iii. Appearance of God’s angel to Joseph in a dream. Matt 1:20-21. The angel calmly and politely said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…” he never said, “Joseph, you must take Mary as your wife” in this angelic sweetness, one lesson is clear – our manner of approach, the way we talk or respond will certainly have a great impact on people
a. To listen to us
b. To obey us
c. To welcome us
d. To help us
e. To open up their hearts to us.
10. Her Divine Wisdom: wisdom is tantamount to prudence. Therefore, we can say that, wisdom/prudence is a supernatural moral virtue which inclines our intellect to choose rightly the best way to attain our goal; spiritual or temporal.
Mary’s wisdom is certainly divine for it was given her from above and indeed, all wisdom comes to us from God Sirach 1:10. This virtue manifested itself in the way, Mary carefully, handled the encounter/discussion between her and her Son, Jesus in the temple – she carefully avoided angry arguments or words or even resentment.
We all need this wisdom if we do not want to offend God in any way. Wisdom or prudence will incline us to practice what is called CORT:
C – FINDING THE COUSE(S) OF SIN
O – OCCASIONS WHERE THESE SINS ARE COMMITED
R – REMEDIES/SOLUTIONS TO THESE SINS & OCCASIONS
T – APPLYING THE TREATMENT WE HAVE FOR THEM.