Mother of Salvation

May 02 2016 | by

HOW OFTEN we pray this prayer to the Blessed Mother: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus; O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Blessed Mother is the Mother of Mercy because she is our ‘gracious advocate’ before the Lord. She looks upon us with ‘eyes of mercy’ and recognizes our need. Her compassion causes her motherly heart to cry out to God for us. Therefore, we feel confident in asking her to pray for us so ‘that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ’.

Pope Francis, in his prayer for the Year of Mercy, recognized the advocacy of the Mother of Christ when he asked “the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy.” Likewise, St. Anthony saw Mary as our merciful intercessor. In one of his Marian sermons, he compares Jesus’ glory to an olive tree which “stands for peace and mercy. The blessed Virgin Mary, our mediatress, re-established peace between God and the sinner” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Messaggero di Sant’Antonio Editrice, Vol. III, p. 407).


Blessed Bernard


How did she do this? By pleading for us to our merciful God. She reminds Christ of her love for him and of his partly human nature, while he reminds God the Father of his human death and the depths of his love. Anthony quotes the insight of “blessed Bernard” who says, “you have a sure access to God, o man, where you have the mother standing before the Son, and the Son before the Father. The mother shows her heart and breasts to her Son, and the Son displays his side and wounds to the Father. There will be no refusal where so many signs of charity come together” (Sermons III, p. 407).

The Blessed Mother is the Mother of Mercy because she conceived, carried in her womb, gave birth to, breastfed and nurtured Jesus, her son, who, in his merciful love, was crucified to save us from our sins. Hence, the Mother of Mercy gave birth to and mothered Mercy in the flesh. Lumen Gentium (no. 62) stated this truth in these words: “Mary… has not laid aside this office of salvation, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to obtain for us the graces of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she takes care of the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.”


Prevenient grace


In addition to giving birth to Mercy in the Person of Christ, and continuing to intercede for God’s mercy with the Father, Mary enjoys another reason for her title as ‘Mother of Mercy’. Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, who is director of the John Paul Institute of Divine Mercy, writes, “Mary is Mother of Mercy because, through her Immaculate Conception, God fashioned her to be the created masterpiece of his mercy in the world.” Divine Mercy, according to Dr. Stackpole, “is God’s undeserved, unmerited, often even unsought for divine grace – the grace that our compassionate God pours out upon us to help us overcome our miseries and meet our true needs.” This grace is ‘prevenient’ grace, that is, it comes freely from God before we even ask for it, and certainly before we deserve it. The Blessed Mother did not ask to be free of original sin, nor did she do anything to deserve it. The Immaculate Conception was God’s freely given gift to the little unborn female who would, one day, be honored as the Mother of God.

St. Anthony recognized this grace. “She was found fit to receive the Savior of all.” Jesus Christ “loved this glorious Virgin ‘above all other women’,… her from whom he took flesh, who found grace and mercy in his sight above all women.” Anthony marvels at this. “Oh immeasurable dignity of Mary! O in expressible sublimity of grace! O unsearchable depth of mercy! What grace so great, what mercy so great was ever shown or could be shown to angel or to man, as that of the blessed Virgin, whom God the Father willed to be mother of his own Son, equal to him and begotten before all ages?” (Sermons III, p. 434)


Our Lady’s humility


St. Anthony presents an analogy to help the listener understand the great mercy which God showed to the humble teenager from Nazareth. During Anthony’s lifetime, Frederick II was the holy Roman Emperor. The populace was as intrigued by Frederick as they are intrigued today by prestigious heads of state, popular sports figures, or film stars. Occasionally a celebrity marries an individual of no popular renown. Frederick II’s wives were all noble women, but suppose he had wed a peasant and made her Empress. “It would be the greatest grace and honor for some poor little woman to have a son by the Emperor; truly, more excellent still was the grace of blessed Mary, who bore a Son to God the Father; and therefore she has been found worthy of being crowned… in heaven.” (Sermons III, p. 434)

Finally, Dr. Stackpole notes that the Blessed Virgin performed a tremendous work of mercy for us all: She showed us the way to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Anthony repeatedly notes, through many different metaphors and similes throughout his sermons, that Mary was the perfect follower of Jesus. She is “blessed Mary, through whom we receive the rewards of grace. (Sermons III, p. 420). Grace is able to pass to us through Mary because of her humility.


Mary’s radiance


Anthony gives Mary the highest compliment by comparing her to the most brilliant of stars. “The morning star is called Lucifer, because it shines more brightly among all the other stars, with what is properly called ‘radiance’” (Sermons III, p. 392). Today Christians associate the name Lucifer with Satan, who was radiant and beautiful before his fall from grace. However, this connection did not exist during Anthony’s lifetime. So Anthony likens Lucifer, the morning star, to the Mother of Our Lord. He sees the sun as Jesus and the morning as the dawn of his grace.

Therefore, Anthony can write, “Lucifer, going before the sun and heralding the morning, scatters the shades of night with the brightness of its light. The true morning star, or Lucifer, is blessed Mary” (Sermons III, p. 392) because she preceded Jesus and, through her yes to God, banished the darkness and ushered in the dawn of God among humanity. “When the time of mercy came, the time to build the Lord’s house, the acceptable time and the day of salvation, then the Lord brought forth ‘Lucifer’-blessed Mary-to be the light of the people” (Sermons III, p. 392). So, for Saint Anthony, Mary is the ‘Mother of Mercy’ because she brought about the reign of Mercy.


Updated on October 04 2016