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Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure

CHAPTER XVII

TO WHOM THE FRUIT OF THE WOMB OF THE BLESSED MARY BELONGS, AND TO WHOM IT IS DUE

"Benedictus fructus ventris tui." After we have seen, in some small 
measure, of what kind and how great the Fruit of the womb of Mary is and is 
believed to be, let us now see to whom it belongs and to whom it is due. 
For this Fruit is not only the fruit of the womb, but of the mind. It is 
the fruit of the womb of Mary alone; but it is the fruit of the mind of any 
faithful soul; the fruit of the womb according to the flesh; the fruit of 
the mind by faith. Therefore St. Ambrose says: "If, according to the flesh, 
one only is the Mother of Christ; nevertheless, according to the mind, 
Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul conceives the Word of God, if 
only it is immaculate and immune from vices." Therefore, according to St. 
Ambrose, anyone who wishes to have this fruit of the mind, should be free 
from all vice. For Christ is the fruit of the virtuous, not of the vicious 
mind: not of the mind vicious by the seven deadly sins; but virtuous 
against the seven capital vices. Therefore, this fruit is the fruit of the 
humble against pride, the fruit of those possessing fraternal love in 
opposition to envy, the fruit of the meek as opposed to anger, the fruit of 
the diligent as against sloth, the fruit of the liberal as opposed to 
avarice, the fruit of the temperate as against gluttony, the fruit of the 
chaste against lust.

First, let us see how this blessed fruit is that of the humble against 
pride. On this we may understand what is said in the Book of Kings: 
"Whatsoever shall be left of the house of Juda, shall take root downward, 
and bear fruit upward" (4 Kings XIX, 30.) The Blessed Virgin Mary was of 
the house of Juda, and every faithful soul is of the house of Juda; the 
former in the body, the latter in spirit; the former by blood, the latter 
by faith. And, therefore, not only Mary, but every faithful soul wishing to 
bear fruit upward, should take root downward. The root sending its shoots 
downward is humility; which, after the manner of roots, always tends to the 
lowest. The higher the tree, the deeper should be its root, according to 
that word of Ecclesiasticus: "The greater thou art, the more humble thyself 
in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God." Also, the taller a 
tree is, the more danger there is of its being uprooted by the winds of 
elation, if the root is not firmly fixed in great and deep humility. Let 
us, therefore, ponder how deeply the root of this rod was established (in 
humility), which was to grow to so sublime a height that it deserved to 
bear a fruit higher than the angels, that fruit indeed of which St. Ambrose 
says: "This fruit is the flower of the rod, of whom Isaias says: 'There 
shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall ascend 
from its root.' " Whatever soul shall have struck deeply the roots of 
humility, shall deserve to bear fruit upward; upward, I say, in high 
understanding, in high affection; upward in contemplation, upward in love. 
Thus this blessed fruit is that of the humble. Therefore Mary, above all 
human beings, was most worthy, because of all she was the most deeply 
rooted in humility. Well, therefore, doth St. Bernard say of her: "O 
Virgin, rod sublime, to what a height dost thou raise thy holy summit! Even 
unto the throne of majesty, because thou strikest deep down the root of 
humility."

Secondly, let us see how this blessed fruit is that of those who love God 
and fly envy. Of this we can understand the word of the Psalmist: "Behold 
the inheritance of the Lord, the fruit of the womb." Commenting on this 
passage, St. Ambrose says: "The inheritance of the Lord is sons, which 
reward is the fruit of Him who came forth from the womb of Mary." 
Therefore, many sons are the reward of that only Son, who is the blessed 
fruit of the womb. But where or when did He merit that reward ? Without 
doubt He merited it in being born, in lying in the manger; He merited it in 
bearing to be circumcised, in teaching; He merited it in doing the works of 
our salvation; He merited it by dying; He merited it, I say, in serving for 
us for thirty-three years. And because of this, He justly exacts this 
reward, saying: "If it seems good in your eyes, bring my reward" (Zach. XI, 
12.) But without doubt it is not only sons who are the reward of the Fruit 
of the womb; but this Fruit of the most holy womb is Himself the reward of 
every son of adoption. Who are these sons? Listen and hear. It belongs to 
sons to love their father, and to the father to love his sons. Those, 
therefore, are sons of God and of the Church, who ever love God and their 
neighbor. Therefore, the Apostle says to the Ephesians: "Be ye imitators of 
Gad, as most dear children, and walk in love." And in St. Matthew it is 
said: "Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, and pray for 
those that persecute and calumniate you, that you may be the children of 
your Father, who is in Heaven," etc. Such sons as these, therefore, that is 
to say, lovers of God and of men, are the reward of the Fruit of this 
blessed womb, and the reward of sons such as these is this blessed Fruit 
itself. Thus, therefore, is this Fruit that of those who love; and Mary 
above all men was most worthy of this Fruit, because she was the most 
affectionate in charity. Well, therefore, does St. Augustine say: "Who can 
doubt that all the bowels of Mary had passed into the love of charity, 
since within her rested for nine months that charity which is God?"

Thirdly, let us see how this fruit of Mary is that of those who are meek 
and patient and avoid anger. It is said in the Book of Job: "Submit thyself 
then to him, and be at peace, and thereby thou shalt have the best fruits" 
(Job. XXII, 21.) To submit and to be at peace belongs to the meek and to 
the patient; and those who are meek and patient have the best fruits by 
these very virtues. But the best fruit of the mind is charity, of which the 
Apostle says: "Now the fruits of the Spirit," etc. The fruits which are 
here enumerated are some, indeed, which are good, but there are some which 
are better; the first is best, namely, charity, by which all the others, as 
St. Augustine says, are good. The best Fruit of the womb is Christ: for 
whoever is sanctified in the womb, is the good fruit of the womb: 
therefore, good is the fruit of the womb of Elizabeth--John; better is the 
fruit of the womb of Anne--Mary; best is Jesus, the Fruit of the womb of 
Mary. Ponder, brother, who is this fruit, and from what earth it was 
produced, and thou shalt see that it is the best. St. Jerome says: "The 
fruit is a Virgin from a virgin, the Lord from the handmaid, God from man, 
the Son from the Mother, the fruit from the earth" O happy ones, who in the 
discipline of every sort of trial have a soul so patient, so just, so well 
prepared, that because of this they most justly reap the fruit of patience, 
that most peaceful fruit of which St. Paul says in the Epistle to the 
Hebrews: "Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring 
with it joy, but sorrow; but afterwards it will yield, to them that are 
exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice" (Heb. XII, 11) Having 
had their patience tested, they reap the best fruit, according to St. Luke: 
"They bring forth fruit in patience." As this blessed fruit is that of the 
patient and the meek, Mary above all men was most worthy of this fruit, 
because she was above all most meek, so that neither in looks, nor in word, 
nor in deed did she ever show the very slightest sign of impatience, but 
was most patient, as St. Ambrose says: "There was nothing fierce in the 
looks of Mary, nothing prolix in her words, nothing unbecoming in her 
deeds."

Fourthly, let us see how the fruit of Mary is that of those who labor and 
are diligent, and fly sloth. Of this it is said in the Book of Wisdom: 
"Glorious is the fruit of good works." This fruit, therefore, is to be 
sought by labor, as the bee seeks the fruit of honey; that fruit of which 
Ecclesiasticus says: "Small among flying things is the bee, and her fruit 
has the first sweetness." Consider, how the bee flies from garden to 
garden, from flower to flower, from tree to tree, in search of the fruit of 
honey; so do thou in meditations, in desires, and zealous imitation of 
virtues. exercise thyself about the examples of the just, and principally 
of the perfect. Fly, I say, from garden to garden, that is, from state to 
state; run from tree to tree, that is, from one just soul to another; from 
flower to flower, that is, from one virtue to another, from one good 
example to another. Above all, ruminate chiefly upon that flower in which 
you will find the whole fruit of the divine honey, upon that flower which 
is both flower and fruit, of which St. Ambrose says: "The Flower of Mary is 
Christ, who, like the fruit of a good tree, for our progress in virtue now 
bears fruit in us."

Note that this fruit is not of any labors whatsoever, but only of good 
works; it is not of those labors of which we read in the Book of Wisdom: 
"He that rejecteth wisdom and discipline, is unhappy: and their hope is 
vain, and their labors without fruit, and their works unprofitable" (Wisdom 
III, 11.) Thus is this blessed fruit that of those who exercise themselves 
in good and fly sloth. And therefore Mary above all human beings was most 
worthy of this fruit, because above all she was most diligent in good, as 
Bede well shows, when, in discoursing on the Magnificat, he puts these 
words into her mouth: "I offer the whole affection of my soul in the 
praises of thanksgiving; all my life, all that I feel, all that I discern 
in contemplating His magnitude, all this I employ in observing His 
precepts."

Fifthly, let us see how the fruit of Mary is of those who are liberal and 
fly avarice--principally of those generous souls who for the sake of this 
fruit renounce all temporal things, according to that word in the Canticle 
of Canticles: "Every man bringeth for the fruit thereof a thousand pieces 
of silver" (Cant. VIII, 11.) The commentator says, "by leaving all things." 
And again he says: "By 'a thousand' perfection, by 'silver' every worldly 
thing is meant." Whoever, therefore, has left all worldly things for 
Christ, as it were gives a thousand pieces of silver for this fruit. But he 
who is unwilling to give a thousand by leaving all things, let him at least 
give something for this fruit, by helping the poor, that he may be as the 
fruit-bearing olive by bearing the fruit of mercy. Because the highest 
fruit of mercy is the highest mercy, which is God; therefore Mary, who bore 
this fruit of mercy most abundantly, was most fittingly said to be like a 
fruit-bearing, a beautiful olive-tree in the fields. St. John Damascene 
well says: "Mary, planted in the house of the Lord and nourished by the 
Holy Ghost like a fruit-bearing olive-tree, became the dwelling-place of 
every virtue." Alas, how far from this fruit of mercy of the merciful, and 
of those detached from the love of earthly things, are the souls of the 
avaricious, of whom it is said: "Going their way they are choked with the 
cares and the riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit" (Luke 
VIII, 14.) It is also said in Ecclesiastes: "He that loveth riches, shall 
reap no fruit from them" (Eccles. V, 9.) Thus this blessed fruit is of the 
liberal and of those who despise earthly things; and, therefore, Mary was 
above all most worthy of this fruit, because she was most generous in the 
contempt of temporal things, as St. Bernard says: "Whatever honor Mary had 
among her people, whatever she could have had of the riches of her father's 
house, she esteemed it all as dung, that she might gain Christ."

Sixthly, let us see how the fruit of Mary belongs to those who are 
temperate, and fly gluttony. And on this point we must note what is said by 
Solomon: "Of the fruit of his own mouth shall a man be filled with good 
things" (Prov. XIII, 2.)

The fruit of Mary can be said to be the fruit of the mouth, because it is 
acquired not only by the prayer of the lips and by teaching, but also by 
abstinence. With this fruit he is filled with spiritual things who for the 
sake of this fruit abstains from temporal goods. He shall be satisfied with 
the good things of this fruit who bears in his body hunger and thirst, but 
who hungers and thirsts spiritually with more eagerness for this fruit. 
Therefore St. Bernard says: "This is a good fruit, which is meat and drink 
to the souls who hunger and thirst after justice." It is well for those who 
thirst for this fruit in the world, because they shall be satisfied with it 
in Heaven, according to that word of the Savior: "Blessed are ye who thirst 
now, for you shall be filled." Here the blessing is for those who abstain 
for the sake of this fruit, there it will be for those who eat of this 
fruit. Wherefore Isaias says: "Say to the just, that it is well; for he 
shall eat of the fruits of his doings" (Is. III, 10.) Thus this blessed 
fruit is of those who are temperate and fly gluttony, and therefore Mary 
above all human beings is most worthy of this fruit, for she was the most 
temperate and shunned gluttony. Well, therefore, does St. John Chrysostom 
say: "Mary was never a great eater nor given to wine; she was not light, 
nor frivolous, not a loud talker, nor a lover of evil words; these things 
are always the consequence of intemperance."

Seventhly, let us see how the fruit of the womb of Mary belongs to the 
chaste and continent who fly lust. Of this the Wise Man says: "Happy is the 
barren; and the undefiled, that hath not known bed in sin, she shall have 
fruit in the visitation of holy souls" (Wisd. III, 13.) I say, in the 
visitation by grace, but more so in the visitation by glory. And truly, the 
fruit of the most chaste womb, of the virginal womb, is rightly the special 
fruit of those who are chaste. When, therefore, by the blessed fruit of the 
Virgin all the faithful in general are blessed, rightly the chaste are 
specially Blessed by Him, by whom also the blessed Queen of the chaste is 
blessed above all, as St. Bernard says: "Truly blessed is the Fruit of thy 
womb, in whom all nations are blessed: of whose fullness thou, too, hast 
received with the rest, and also differently from the rest." Woe to the 
lustful, who have no part in the virginal fruit: woe to the wretched, who 
have no branch which can bear a virginal fruit. Therefore is it said of the 
adulterous woman: "Her branches will not bear fruit" (Eccli. XXIII, 35.) 
Therefore does this blessed fruit belong to the chaste, who fly lust. And 
therefore Mary was above all worthy of this fruit, because she was most 
chaste, as St. Chrysostom well says: "O ineffable praise of Mary, Joseph 
trusted more to her chastity than to her womb, and more to grace than to 
nature; he rather believed it possible for a woman to conceive without a 
man, than that Mary could sin." O Mary most happy, who truly, as the most 
virtuous one, wast most worthy of the divine fruit, help us, that by our 
virtues we may be worthy to attain to this fruit, Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
thy Son. Amen.








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