Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure
There is no doubt, as St. Jerome remarks, that whatever is worthily said of
Our Blessed Mother redounds wholly to the praise and glory of God.
Therefore, for the honor and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and ardently
desiring to produce a work which will tend to the praise of His most
glorious Mother, I have judged it fitting to take for the subject-matter of
my treatise the most sweet Salutation of this Blessed Mother. But I
acknowledge my utter insufficiency for such an undertaking. First, because
of the sublimity of the subject; secondly, because of the slenderness of my
knowledge; thirdly, because of the aridity of my speech, and, finally,
because of the unworthiness of my life, and the supreme glory and
praiseworthiness of the person whose praises I wish to sing.
For who is there who would not deem that subject incomprehensible of which
St. Jerome does not hesitate to speak as follows: "That which nature
possesseth not, which custom useth not, which eclipseth reason, which the
mind of man is unable to compass, which maketh the heavens tremble, and
striketh dumb the earth, which amazeth every inhabitant of Heaven, all this
was divinely announced by Gabriel to Mary, and was fulfilled in Christ."
Therefore I confess myself unworthy to speak of such and so great a
heroine. Again I say, how could my slender knowledge and my dull mind
suffice to conceive praises worthy of Mary, when the illuminated mind of an
Anselm faileth in presence of the task? For he saith: "My tongue faileth,
Lady, for my mind is insufficient. Lady, all that is within me burns that I
may render thee thanks for thy so great benefits. But I am unable to
conceive worthy praise, and am ashamed to put forth that which is
St. Augustine, addressing Mary, says: "What shall I, so poor in talent, say
of thee, when whatever I may say of thee is less praise than thy dignity
Again, how can my untrained tongue, my arid powers of interpretation not
fail in the praises of Mary, when Augustine, that most eloquent of men,
says: "What shall we, so little, so feeble, say in praise of Mary, when, if
all our members were turned into tongues, no one of us would suffice to
Again, if praise in the mouth of a sinner is unbecoming (Eccli. XV, 9), how
shall I, a miserable sinner, a man of most unworthy life--how shall I dare
to proclaim the praises of Mary, when I hear Jerome, a man of such great
worth, hesitate ? For he saith: "I fear and tremble, all the while that I
long to fulfill your expectations, lest I should prove to be an unworthy
panegyrist. For there is in me neither sanctity nor eloquence, worthily to
praise the Blessed and glorious Virgin."
And again: "Why should I add to the sea a small cup of water? Why a stone
to a mountain? And as Mary has already been so adequately praised by the
tongues of men and angels, what can our puny efforts, and especially my
own, add to these ?"
Finally, St. Jerome, speaking of Mary, says: "If I am to speak the truth,
whatever can be expressed in human words is less than the praise given by
Heaven; for Mary has been excellently preached and praised by divine and
angelic heralds, foretold by prophets, fore-shadowed by patriarchs, in
types and figures, set forth and described by Evangelists, worthily and
officially saluted by Angels."
Having diligently weighed all these things, pious reader, I must beg your
forgiveness for whatever insufficiency, whatever want of skill appears in
this writing of mine. How shall I, so inefficient, succeed in a task before
which Mary's unique and zealous panegyrist, St. Bernard, quailed ? For he
saith: "There is nothing which gives me greater delight than to preach on
the glory of the Virgin Mother." And giving his reasons for this delight,
he continues: "For all men honor, embrace, and receive her with the great
affection and devotion that is fitting, yet whatever is said of one so
unspeakably sublime, by the very fact of its being put into words, is less
worthy, less pleasing, less acceptable."
Yet St. Jerome encourages and consoles me, saying: "Although none can be
found who is worthy to praise her, yet let not even the sinner desist from
glorifying her with all his might."
And St. Augustine, speaking of the manner in which the Son of God bestowed
upon His Mother the gift of fecundity, yet took not away her integrity by
being born of her, among other things says: "We who are so insignificant,
cannot suffice to speak of so great a gift of God; and yet we are compelled
to utter her praises, lest, by being silent, we should appear ungrateful.
And certainly, that poor widow who made an offering so pleasing to God with
her two brass mites, should not have withheld that offering because she
could not give more; yea, rather by giving what she could, she pleased God
Hence it is that I, so poor in talent, and equally devoid of knowledge and
eloquence, have presumed to offer to so great a Queen this poor script of
mine, that in it, so to speak, as in a dim mirror, the simpler lovers of
this great Queen should in some imperfect manner perceive who and how great
she is. And because this treatise is, as it were, a kind of mirror which
reflects the life, grace, and glory of Mary, it is not unfittingly termed
the Mirror of Mary. Oh, do thou, therefore, my most kind Lady and Mother,
graciously accept this small gift offered to thee by thy poor lover! For
with this puny gift, with this small work on thine own Salutation, I salute
thee. On bended knee, with bowed head, with heart and lips, I salute thee,
I wish thee blessing. Hail Mary, etc.
1. St. Augustine, "De Sanctis," CCVIII, n. 5.
2. St. Jerome, "Epist. ad Paulam et Eustoch."
3. "Epist. cit."
4. "Serm. de Assumpt. B. Mar.," IV.
5. St. Jerome I. c.