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Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure

CHAPTER II

FREEDOM OF MARY FROM THE THREEFOLD WOE OF ACTUAL SIN, FROM THE THREEFOLD WOE OF ORIGINAL MISERY, AND FROM THE THREEFOLD WOE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT

Hail Mary, full of grace. Let us all utter this good and sweet word Ave, by 
which our redemption from eternal woe was begun. Let each one of us, I say, 
utter it; let all utter it most devoutly, saying: Ave Maria, Ave, Ave, and 
again a thousand times, Ave! Behold, Ave is said to the most holy Virgin 
Mary because of her absolute immunity from any fault; because of her 
perfect innocence and purity of life; rightly is Ave said to her in the 
very beginning of her salutation, Ave indeed and without woe ("a" or 
"absque vae").

We must consider that the "vae" or woe, from which she is entirely immune, 
is threefold. There is the woe of guilt, misery, and hell. There is the woe 
of actual sin, of original misery, and the woe of the punishment or pain of 
hell. Of these three woes we may not unfitly understand what we read in the 
Apocalypse. "I heard," says John, "the voice of one eagle flying through 
the midst of heaven, and saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to the 
inhabitants of the earth!" Behold how each of these woes is multiplied by 
three, so that all together we have nine woes, against which Ave is rightly 
said to Mary. For there are three faults, three miseries, three hells in 
this woe, for the absence of which Mary is rightly saluted by the Ave.

First, the woe of guilt is threefold, i. e., the woe of the guilt of the 
heart, of the guilt of the lips, and of the guilt of deeds. On account of 
these three woes it may be said: "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the 
earth!" Woe, therefore, to sinners because of the guilt of the heart, as it 
is said in Isaias: "Woe to you who are of a deep heart, that ye hide 
counsel from the Lord." Woe, indeed, to those who are of a deep heart unto 
evil, for the deep hearts of evil-doers are haunts of the devils, and 
sepulchers full of the filth of vice. Woe, therefore, to them, as is said 
in St. Matthew: "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, who are 
like to whited sepulchers, which appear outwardly to men fair, but within 
are full of dead men's bones, and of all abominations." Oh, how far from 
this woe was the most innocent heart of Mary, as St. Bernard says: "Mary 
had no fault of her own, and far from her most innocent heart was 
repentance." Of what could the heart of Mary repent when she had never 
admitted into it anything worthy of penance ? Therefore, her pure heart was 
not the haunt of the devil, nor the sepulcher of vice. Rather, it was a 
garden and a paradise of the Holy Ghost, according to that word of the 
Canticle of Canticles: "A garden enclosed is my Sister, my Spouse."--"A 
garden," says St. Jerome, "a garden of delights, in which were planted the 
seeds of all virtues, and the perfume of virtue." Because Mary was far from 
this woe of guilt, therefore it is rightly said to her: Ave.

Again, woe to sinners because of the guilt of the lips, as it is said in 
Isaias: "Woe to you who call evil good, and good evil." Woe to these, woe 
to all who sin by the lips, as is said in the Psalms: "The poison of asps 
is under their lips." Oh, how far from this woe was the most innocent mouth 
of Mary! Therefore Blessed Ambrose says: "There was nothing evil in the 
eyes of Mary; nothing prolix in her words, nothing forward in her deeds." 
On the lips of Mary there was nothing of the gall and poison of the devil, 
but the honey and milk of the Holy Ghost, according to the word of the 
Canticles: "Thy lips are as the dropping honeycomb, my Spouse; honey and 
milk are under thy tongue." Had not Mary on her lips this most pure milk 
when she uttered that most chaste word: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord"? 
Because the woe of the guilt of the lips was so entirely absent from Mary, 
therefore is she rightly saluted with Ave.

Again, there is woe to sinners because of the guilt of their deeds, as it 
is said in Ecclesiasticus (II, 14): "Woe to the double heart and the wicked 
lips, and to the hands that do evil." Woe to the double heart, for the 
guilt of the heart; woe to the wicked lips, for the guilt of the lips; woe 
to the hands that do evil, for the guilt of their deeds. Oh, how far 
removed from such a woe was every deed of Mary and the whole of her life! 
Therefore St. Bernard saith: "It behoved the Queen of Virgins, by a 
singular privilege of sanctity, to lead a life entirely free from sin, that 
while she ministered to the Destroyer of death and sin, she should obtain 
the gift of life and justice for all."

Note that never did she contract the least stain either in thought, word, 
or deed, so that the Lord could truly say to her: "Thou art all fair, O my 
beloved, and there is no spot in thee." So, therefore, the most innocent 
and holy Mary was without woe in thought, word, and deed, and therefore is 
it said to her, Ave.

Secondly, we must consider that Mary was not only free from the threefold 
woe of actual guilt, but also from the threefold woe of original misery, i. 
e., from the misery of them that are born, from the misery of them that 
bring forth, and from the misery of them that die.

The woe of the misery of being born is the woe of the weakness of 
concupiscence; the woe of them that bring forth is the woe of the pains of 
travail; the woe of the dying is the misery of being reduced to dust and 
ashes. Because of these three woes is it said to the inhabitants of the 
earth: "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth!" The woe of those 
who are born is the woe of the fuel of sin which is born in us, by which, 
according to our original corruption, we are so weak unto good and so prone 
to evil; so that each one is born with the "fomes peccati," and by this is 
weak and wounded, and can truly say with Jeremias: "Woe is me for my 
destruction, my wound is very grievous. But I said, truly this is my own 
evil, and I will bear it" (Jer. X, 19.) But alas! not only is there in 
those that are born weakness and misery, inclining them, when adults, to 
actual sin; but also the woe of stain and of guilt, bringing them even as 
little infants under the wrath of God. Therefore the Apostle saith: "All 
are born children of wrath" (Eph. II, 3.) Oh, how far from this woe of them 
that are born was the most holy Nativity of Mary, who was not only free 
from original sin, but also from the fuel of misery, in so far as it leads 
to sin, for she was conceived without stain. Because the Nativity of Mary 
was so far removed from this woe, she is saluted by Ave.

Again, the misery of them that bring forth is that original curse 
pronounced against Eve, "Thou shalt bring forth children in sorrow" (Gen. 
III, 16.) On account of this woe it may be said to all who bring forth what 
the Lord said to some amongst them: "Woe to them that are with child and 
bring forth in those days" (Matt. XXIV, 19.) Oh, how far from this woe was 
Mary when she conceived and brought forth, as St. Augustine testifies, 
saying: "Oh, how blessed is that Mother who without stain conceived Purity, 
and without pain brought forth Healing." Because she was so far from this 
woe of them that bring forth, therefore is Mary saluted with Ave.

Again, the misery of them that die is the woe of dissolution into dust, 
which was imposed upon man when it was said to the sinner: "Dust thou art, 
and unto dust thou shalt return" (Gen. III, 19.) Hence of those that are 
born and those that die, can be said that word of Ecclesiasticus: "Woe to 
you, ungodly men, who have forsaken the law of the most high Lord, and if 
you be born, you shall be born in malediction: and if you die, in 
malediction shall be your portion" (Eccli. XLI, 11 f.)

Certainly both just and unjust are born under the curse of concupiscence, 
and in danger of being reduced to dust; yet to the impious alone is this 
curse particularly addressed, for their concupiscence is more deadly and 
their dissolution into dust more odious; and to the wicked their evil 
inclinations are more hurtful, and the remembrance of their future 
dissolution is more bitter, than to the just. Oh, how far from this 
dissolution was the body of Mary, as we universally believe. For this body 
was the most holy Ark of God, to which corruption was unbecoming, but 
which, according to the likeness of her Son, should rise again, before any 
taint of corruption could infect it. Whence it is both of the Son and the 
Mother that the Prophet saith: "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and the 
Ark of Thy sanctification" (Ps. CXXXI, 8.) This Ark was made of 
incorruptible wood, because the flesh of Mary never became corrupted. 
Therefore St. Augustine well says: "The heavens were more worthy to 
preserve so glorious a treasure than the earth, and rightly 
incorruptibility followed on integrity, and not any dissolution or 
corruption." As Mary was entirely free from the misery of them that are 
born, so also was she from the woe of the dying, and rightly is she saluted 
by Ave.

Thirdly, we have to consider that Mary was not only immune from the 
threefold woe of actual guilt, and from the threefold woe of original sin; 
but also from the threefold pain of hell. This threefold woe consists in 
the greatness, the multitude, and the duration of the punishments.

Woe, therefore, to the damned and to those who will be damned, because of 
the greatness, the multitude, and the duration of their torments! "Woe, 
woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth!" First, there is the greatness of 
the torments, as Ezechiel saith: "Woe to the bloody city, of which I will 
make a great bonfire" (Ezech. XXIV, 9.) The bloody city is the multitude of 
the impious, of whom there will be an immense bonfire made in the great 
conflagration of the damned. Oh, how far removed from this woe of greatness 
of torment was the greatness of the grace and glory of Mary, for whom, 
instead of the grievous torments of hell, was prepared by God so great a 
glory in Heaven, and as she was great and garbed in merit, so is she great 
in her reward. She herself is that great throne of which it is said: "King 
Solomon also made a great throne of ivory" (3 Kings X, 8.) Mary is the 
Throne of Solomon, great in grace and glory. St. Bernard well says: "As 
much more grace than others as Mary obtained on earth, so great a degree of 
singular glory did she gain in Heaven." Rightly, therefore, is it said to 
her, Ave. There is also the multitude of the pains of hell. Isaias says: 
"Woe to their souls, for evil things are rendered to them" (Is. III, 9.) He 
says, evil things, in the plural, because there are many, yea, infinite 
evils rendered to evil-doers in hell. But to Mary, in contradistinction to 
the many evils prepared for the damned in hell, God hath prepared many good 
things in Heaven. No angel, no saint, can equal her in the multitude and 
accumulation of heavenly good things, as the Book of Proverbs says: "Many 
daughters have gathered together riches, thou hast surpassed them all." If 
we understand these daughters to be human souls or angelic intelligences, 
has she not surpassed the riches of the virgins, of the confessors, of the 
martyrs, of the Apostles, of the prophets, of the patriarchs, and of the 
angels, when she herself is the first-fruit of the virgins, the mirror of 
confessors, the rose of martyrs, the ruler of Apostles, the oracle of 
prophets, the daughter of patriarchs, the queen of angels? What is wanting 
to her of the riches of all these? St. Jerome says: "If you look diligently 
at Mary, there is nothing of virtue, nothing of beauty, nothing of splendor 
or glory which does not shine in her."

Now the pains of hell consist also in their perpetuity. In the Epistle of 
St. Jude it is said: "Woe to them, for they have gone in the way of Cain 
and after the error of Balaam, and have perished in the contradiction of 
Core." And a little further on: "to whom the storm of darkness is preserved 
forever" (Jude XI, 12.) Note that he says, forever, and think how great is 
the duration of these pains and of the darkness which will have no end. But 
against this eternal darkness in hell the Lord has prepared for Mary 
eternal light in Heaven, so that, as the sinful soul, the throne of the 
devil, will be miraculously dark forever, Mary, the Mediatrix, the throne 
of Christ, will be marvelously luminous forever according to the Psalm: 
"Her throne is as the sun in my sight, and as the moon perfect for ever" 
(Ps. LXXXVIII, 38.)

Thus, therefore, as the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was free from the. 
threefold woe of hell, yea, from all the nine woes, rightly is it said to 
her, Ave. Let every one of us salute her with Ave, and let us petition her 
that, through her own sweet Ave, she will pray that we may all be delivered 
from every woe by our Lord Jesus Christ, her Son.








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