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Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure

CHAPTER XII

MARY A ROD OR STEM, AND A FLOWERING STEM

"The Lord is with thee." Having seen how the Lord was with Mary, as the sun 
is with the dawn which goes before it, let us now see how the Lord is with 
Mary as the flower is with the budding stem. For Mary is that rod of which 
it is said in Isaias: "There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, 
and a flower shall ascend from that root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall 
rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of 
counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of piety, and He 
shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Is. XI.) Let us 
place these words before the eye of our mind, and direct our consideration 
first to the rod and then to the flower.

First consider, that this rod, this royal rod, is the Virgin Mary, as St. 
Ambrose testifies, saying in speaking to the Blessed Virgin: "Thou thyself, 
who hast brought forth the Lord, art of the land of Israel; thou hast grown 
into a rod, the rod from the root of Jesse; thou hast arisen and flowered, 
O rod of Aaron; thou hast flowered and brought forth." For Mary is a rod 
smoking with incense, a rod of wood, a rod of gold, a rod of iron. Mary is 
a rod smoking to beginners, a rod of wood to those who are advancing, a rod 
of gold to the perfect, a rod of iron to the incorrigible and the demons.

I say that the Virgin Mary is as a smoking rod to beginners and to 
penitents. Of this rod it is said in the Canticle of Canticles: "Who is she 
that cometh up from the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, 
of myrrh, and frankincense, and of all the powders of the perfumer?" (Cant. 
III, 6.) The desert is the heart of the sinner, which is indeed devoid of 
grace and virtue. The aromatical spice, the sweet incense of the soul, is 
the aspiration of hope for pardon. The Blessed Virgin Mary, therefore, came 
up from the desert as a pillar of smoke, when, by her prayers, the heart of 
the sinner received the smoking incense of pardon. This smoke is generated 
from the aromatical myrrh of contrition, and of incense in confession, and 
from all the powders of the perfumer in manifold satisfactions. No desert 
doth the Virgin Mary abhor, no sinner doth she despise; but wherever she 
passes, she spreads the sweet incense of pardon. Excellently, therefore, 
does St. Bernard say: "Thou dost not abhor or despise any sinner, however 
foul, if he but sighs to thee, and begs with a repentant heart for thy 
pardon; thou drawest him from the abyss of despair with thy loving hand, 
thou breathest upon him the remedy of hope, and embracest him, the outcast 
of all the world, with maternal affection, thou cherishest him and dost not 
desert him, until he is reconciled with the tremendous Judge."

Again, Mary is the rod of wood, the rod which is flowering to those who are 
advancing. Of this rod it is said in the Book of Wisdom that the rod of 
Aaron, which was of wood, bore fruit and flowers. By the flowers are 
signified virtues, which, after the passing of the devilish winter, rise up 
in hearts, as it is well said in the Canticle: "Now the winter is over and 
gone, and flowers have appeared in our land." Let the winter, therefore 
pass, let that torpor in which charity grows cold, pass, and then the 
flower of virtue will appear again. Oh, with what flowers the flowering 
Virgin hath abounded, as St. Bernard says, speaking to her: "Thou art as a 
garden-plot of holy perfumes, planted by the heavenly Perfumer, delectably 
flourishing with the flowers of all virtues." As flowers signify virtues, 
so fruits denote the works of the virtues. Of these it is well said: "By 
their fruits you shall know them." When, therefore, we advance in virtues 
and in the works of the virtues, we advance by the examples and merits of 
Mary, and then the Virgin Mary is to us a rod of wood, flowering and 
fruitful.

Likewise the Virgin Mary is to the perfect and contemplative a golden rod. 
We read that Esther; with two maidens went to King Assuerus, and when she 
had become faint from exceeding fear, the King held out to her the golden 
scepter to console her. Esther means "raised up" or "hidden," and is a 
figure of the contemplative soul, whom God raises up in contemplation and 
hides in the hidden place of His face from the tumult of men. This soul by 
contemplation enters into Christ the King. The two maidens by whose help 
she enters are the two powers of the soul, the intellect, which proceeds by 
way of knowledge, and the affections, which follow by love. The soul which 
has thus entered into Christ, sometimes faints away by a kind of stupor, 
when she recognizes the inaccessible brightness of the divine glory, or the 
terrible severity of the divine justice. The golden rod, the royal scepter, 
is the Virgin Mary. Golden indeed by her charity, royal by her nobility; 
golden by her purity, royal by her justice; golden by her incorruption and 
virginal integrity, royal by her domination and power. This is the happy 
rod, which is extended with clemency to comfort the contemplative soul, 
when the happy Virgin Mary, by contemplation and devotion of this soul, 
which is so loving and sweet, enters into it; so that from this the soul is 
strengthened against fear of the divine splendor and justice. The 
contemplative soul of St. Anselm desired this rod to be extended to it, 
when he exclaimed: "O Virgin fair to look upon, lovable to contemplate, 
delightful to love, who transcendest the capacity of the heart, give 
thyself, O Lady, to the weak soul who followeth thee."

Likewise the Virgin Mary is as an iron rod to the demons and incorrigible 
sinners. To this rod we may apply that word of the Psalm: "Thou shalt rule 
them with a rod of iron." O Mary, rod of gold to the perfect, rod of gold 
to the hard, rod of gold to men, rod of iron and hard to the demons, keep 
the demons from us I This, Lady, we ask, and we ask it devoutly with 
Innocent: "Hail, loving Mother of God, who from the dignity by which thou 
art Mother of God, hast power to restrain the demons, restrain the demons 
lest they hurt us; command the angels to guard us." Thus, therefore, the 
Blessed Virgin Mary is to us a rod of smoke or incense in our conversion, a 
flowering rod in our lives, a golden rod in our contemplation, an iron rod 
in our defense. St. Bernard, admiring and worthily contemplating this rod, 
saith: "O Virgin, sublime rod, to how great a height thou raisest thy 
summit even unto Him who sitteth on the throne, unto the Lord of Majesty, 
for thou castest deep down thy roots in humility."

Let us now consider the flower of this rod; let us consider in the royal 
rod, and in the Virgin Mary a fourfold flower, a precious flower, a flower 
of virginity, of virtuous reputation, of miraculous fecundity, and of 
glorious immortality.

Of this flower consider, first, in Mary the flower of precious virginity, 
which is virginity itself. Of this it is said in Isaias: "The desert shall 
rejoice and shall flower as a lily." Mary can fittingly be said to be a 
desert, who was so willing to be alone, who was in her voluntary solitude 
visited by an angel. Therefore St. Ambrose well says: "Alone in the inner 
part of her house, she whom no man could see, he found her alone without a 
companion, alone without a witness." In what manner this desert, the Virgin 
Mary, should rejoice, let her say herself: "And my spirit hath rejoiced in 
God my Savior." This desert of earth flowered like a lily by virginity. O 
angelical lily! O heavenly flower! O truly heavenly flower! whom that 
supercelestial Bee hath so loved. For St. Bernard saith: "That Bee who 
feedeth among the lilies, who dwelt in a flowering fatherland, when He flew 
to Nazareth, which is interpreted a flower, flew towards thee, and came to 
the sweet smelling flower of thy perpetual virginity, he rested upon it, he 
embraced it." The flower of virginity has as many petals, so to speak, as 
the conditions and praises of virginity. Oh, how greatly the crowns of this 
flower were multiplied by Mary! St. Ambrose says: "In the whole world the 
flower Mary weaves unfading crowns, and keeps the royal court of purity 
with immaculate affection, until integrity perseveres to the palm of 
victory, that in maidens it may grasp the trophy of sanctity, and in the 
footprints of the Virgin Mary, attain to the heavenly bridal chamber."

Secondly, consider in Mary the flower of virtuous reputation, of manners 
and of life, and hear what she herself says: "My flowers are the fruits of 
honor and riches" (Ecclus. XXIV, 23.) Of these it is also said: "Our bed is 
flowering." Behold, we find flowers in the earth, and in the bed. The earth 
is the mind of the active (souls); the bed is the mind of contemplatives. 
The earth, I say, is the mind bearing fruit in good actions; but the bed is 
the mind seeking quiet in contemplation. Let the mind be active, or let it 
be contemplative, it should always be beautiful with flowers. Note also 
that the flower of honesty, of a good reputation, yea, the flower of any 
virtue has, as it were, as many petals as it has good and meritorious works 
to show. Oh, how flowering was that earth, how flowering was the bed of 
Mary, who in the flowering virtue of her life flourished in the beauty of 
every virtue, as St. Bernard testifies, saying: "Thou art the casket of 
holy perfumes, O Mary, gathered by the heavenly Perfumer, delightfully 
blooming with the beautiful flowers of every virtue, among which three are 
excellent above all, the violet of humility, the lily of chastity, and the 
rose of charity."

Thirdly, consider in Mary the flower of her miraculous fecundity. This 
flower is the Son of the Virgin, of whom it is said: "There shall come 
forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall arise from its 
root." Oh, how beautifully this flower came forth, being born without sin, 
and how sadly was it crushed by dying, as it were like a sinner, according 
to that word: "Like a flower he goeth forth and is crushed." Oh, how white 
in His going forth, and how ruddy in His bruising was this flower! A 
flower, I say, delightful to the angels and most useful to men for life. 
St. Bernard saith: "The flower is the Son of the Virgin, a flower white and 
ruddy, a flower on whom the angels long to look, a flower by whose perfume 
mortals live again." Happy the wood which produces such a flower! Happier 
the stem or rod which in the wood produces this flower ! Happy above all 
the flower, without whom there can neither be wood nor rod happy! Truly a 
most happy flower, in which the Holy Ghost so rested that without Him no 
one could have the grace of the Spirit. St. Jerome testifies to this, 
saying: "The Holy Ghost, who in the vast wood of the human race had found 
no rest, at last rested upon this flower, so that without Christ no one 
could be wise, no one could have understanding, or counsel, or fortitude, 
or learning, or piety, or the fear of the Lord." This flower has, as it 
were, as many petals as it had ministries and examples. If thou desirest to 
have this flower, thou must bend its stem down to thee by prayer. If the 
flower is exceedingly high by its divinity, the stem is flexible by its 
love. And if the flower is most rare, because neither in Heaven nor on 
earth is there found another one, it is nevertheless most common, like a 
flower not enclosed in a garden, but in a field exposed to all passersby. 
Therefore, well could Christ say: "I am the flower of the field." He can be 
called a flower of the field, not only because it is openly exposed to the 
view of all, but also because it is produced without human culture. This 
St. Bernard hath in mind when he says: "The field flourishes without any 
human aid, it is not sowed by anyone, not harrowed by the plough, not made 
fertile with manure; thus indeed did the womb of the Virgin flower, so did 
the chaste and entire interior of Mary like pastures of eternal greenness 
produce Him whose beauty sees not corruption, whose glory will never fade."

Fourthly, consider the flower of gracious immortality, of which it is said 
in Numbers that the rod of Aaron bore at the same time both flowers and 
fruit. The rod of Aaron prefigures the Virgin Mary. In the straightness of 
the rod is prefigured the integrity of Mary; in the flower, the beauty of 
her glorified body; and in the fruit, the beatitude of her soul. It is to 
be noted that in youth the body is most beautiful, as it is said: "In the 
morning it blooms and fades." But the flower perishes in death, as it is 
said in Isaias: "The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen." It will 
flower again in a glorious resurrection, according to the Psalmist: "My 
flesh has flowered again." This flower of the glorification of the body 
has, as it were, as many petals as the glorified body has gifts and 
rewards. And certainly the holy Doctors seem to hold it as probable, and 
strive with some show of reason to prove, and the pious sense of the 
faithful always held, that the Blessed Virgin was taken up body and soul 
into Heaven, and that her body and soul are now in glory. St. Augustine 
says: "I hold that Mary is in Christ and with Christ; in Christ, because in 
Him we live and move and have our being; with Christ, because she is 
assumed into glory." Therefore we worthily believe that Mary rejoices with 
ineffable joy both in body and soul, in her own Son, by her own Son; nor 
has she ever felt the sting of corruption because no stain was communicated 
to her integrity in bringing forth her Son, because she begot Him who is 
the whole and perfect life of all; let her be with Him, whom she bore in 
her womb; let her be with Him, who bore Him, nursed Him, and fed Him. Mary 
is the Mother of God, the servant of God, the nurse of God, the follower of 
God. According to this belief she can now say: "My flesh hath flowered 
again." And according to this she has at the same time both fruit and 
flowers: as flower, her glorified body; and for fruit, her glorified 
spirit. A flower indeed in the beauty of her glorious body; and fruit in 
the unspeakable pleasure of her soul. We must note that, according to the 
aforesaid fourfold flower, the Virgin Mary has a fourfold flower of 
virginity, and a fourfold flower of fecundity; she has the flower of good 
repute and the flower of humility; she has at the same time in her Child 
the flower of humanity and the fruit of the divinity; she has at the same 
time the flower of immortality in the body and the fruit of blessed 
pleasure in the soul. Let us, therefore, discern these flowers in the 
virginal rod, and gather these new flowers of joy from the virginal garden, 
which St. Bernard saw gathered and commended to us, when, speaking to Mary, 
he said: "Thy most holy womb, O Mary, is to us a garden of delights; 
because from it we gather the flowers of manifold joys as often as we think 
in our minds how great a sweetness flowed thence over the entire world." 
Therefore, most sweet Virgin Mary, behold, the Lord is truly with thee, as 
the flower is with the stem which produced it. Grant that the Lord may also 
be with me, yea, with all of us, and give to us this flower, the Lord Jesus 
Christ. Amen.








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