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Mirror Of The Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Bonaventure

CHAPTER VII

THE NINE PLENITUDES IN MARY, WHICH REPRESENT THE NINE CHOIRS OF THE ANGELS IN GLORY

Ave, gratia plena. It was not enough for the Arch angel simply to commend 
the grace of Mary; he wished also to insist emphatically on its fullness, 
when he said: "Gratia plena." O truly full, and fully full! Gabriel had not 
yet said: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in the womb." He had not yet said: 
"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee." If, therefore, before the coming 
upon her of the Holy Ghost, before the conception of the Son of God, Mary 
was full (of grace), how much more so afterwards? Therefore Anselm aptly 
says of her fullness and of the fullness of her gratitude: "She, being 
already a thousand times full (of grace), was saluted by the Angel, filled 
with the Holy Ghost, breathed upon by the divine plenitude." Well, 
therefore, is Mary said to be full of the illumination of wisdom, of the 
outpouring of grace, of the riches of a good life, of the unction of mercy, 
of the fecundity of a pious offspring, of the perfection of the Church, of 
the redolence of fair fame, of the resplendence of divine glory, of the joy 
of eternal gladness. Let us consider these nine plenitudes in Mary, which 
represent the nine plenitudes of the angelic orders in glory.

First let us consider that Mary is full of the illumination of wisdom and 
understanding. She may aptly be symbolized by that which is said in the 
Book of Proverbs: "My husband is not at home, he is gone on a very long 
journey. He took with him a bag of money: he will return home the day of 
the full moon" (VII, 19 f.) This is that Man of whom Jeremias saith: "The 
Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth, a woman shall encompass a 
man" (XXXI, 32.) The woman is Mary--a woman indeed in sex, not in 
corruption; a mother of virtue, who encompassed Our Lord in her womb, 
clothed Him with our nature. This Man--if indeed, as Josephus saith, it be 
lawful to call Him a man-- has three houses. It belongs to imperial majesty 
to have three mansions in the palace, namely, a reception-room, a supper-
room, and a bedchamber. The reception-room is the place for conversation 
and discussions; the supper-room, for food; the bedchamber, for rest. So 
our Emperor, who rules the winds and the sea, has His reception-room, which 
is the world; He has His refreshment-room, which now is the Church, and was 
of old, the Synagogue; He has His place of rest, namely, the rational soul 
of man. But alas! this Man, the Lord of hosts, had been very far distant 
from His house of the world, His house of the synagogue, His house of the 
soul, for "far from sinners is salvation" (Ps. CXVIII, 155.) This Man was 
not in His house when Jeremias complained: "I have forsaken my house, I 
have left my inheritance" (Jer. XII, 7.) He took the bag of money with him 
when He hid the treasure of His mercies and His grace from the world. But 
lo! this Man came back on the day of the full moon--of that moon, I say, of 
which it is said in the Canticle of Canticles: "Fair as the moon." This 
moon, therefore, is Mary. The full moon is Mary full of grace. Well is Mary 
compared to the moon, because by the Eternal Sun she is fully illuminated 
with the light of wisdom and truth. Therefore, the name Mary is well 
interpreted illuminatrix or illuminated. For she, who is our moon and our 
lamp, was illuminated by the Lord, and she was the illuminatrix of the 
world, according to that prophetic word: "For thou lightest my lamp" (Ps. 
XVII.) In the fullness of this moon, the Man came back to his house, when 
Christ came into this world in the flesh. O truly wonderful fullness of 
this moon! Behold, if Mary was full of the light of wisdom, which she 
received from the Eternal Sun, before she conceived Him; how much more full 
was she, when she so wonderfully conceived this Sun, and so entirely 
received Him within herself ! Well, therefore, saith St. Bernard, when 
commending the fullness of the wisdom of Mary: "Heavenly wisdom built for 
Himself a house in Mary: for He so filled her mind that from the very 
fullness of her mind her flesh became fecund, and the Virgin by a singular 
grace brought forth that same Wisdom, covered with a garb of flesh, whom 
she had first conceived in her pure mind."

Secondly, let us consider that Mary is full of the outpouring of grace in 
her affections. For such was the inundation of grace, so great was its 
depth and magnitude in Mary, that she could well be called a full sea 
according to that word: "Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof" (I 
Par. XVI, 32.) As in the sea there is a gathering together of waters, so in 
Mary is a gathering together of graces. Therefore it is written: "The 
gathering together of the waters was called (Vulg. "he called") seas" (Gen. 
I, 10.) It is also said in Ecclesiastes: "All the rivers run into the sea" 
(I, 7.) All the rivers are the gifts of the graces, which entered into 
Mary, according to that word of Wisdom: "In me is all grace of the way and 
of the truth" (Ecclus. XXIV, 25.) How full is this sea, how full of grace 
is Mary, St. Jerome declares, saying: "Truly full, because on others it is 
only bestowed in part, but on Mary the whole plenitude of grace was 
outpoured at once." This sea, therefore, being full, let us hear it roar 
against vices. Let the sea roar, therefore, and the fullness thereof, let 
the full sea, let the full Mary, roar. Let it roar against luxury, preach 
chastity, and say: "How shall this be done, for I know not man?" Let it 
also roar against pride, by humility, saying: "Behold the handmaid of the 
Lord." Let it roar against ingratitude, giving thanks and saying: "Behold 
the handmaid of the Lord.... My soul doth magnify the Lord." Of the 
fullness of this sea it is likewise said in the Psalm: "Let the sea be 
moved, and the fullness thereof." Let the sea be moved, let Mary be moved, 
let her be moved by our sighs and mortifications, let her be moved by our 
tears and prayers, let her be moved by our alms and our other acts of 
veneration. Let her be moved fully, I say, that she may pour out on us of 
her fullness. Let us note what St. Bernard says in speaking of her: "If a 
vessel full of liquid is moved, it is easily spilt, and lets drop its 
contents. So the Blessed Virgin Mary, if she is moved by our prayers, pours 
forth graces upon us."

Thirdly, let us consider that Mary is in very truth full of the riches of a 
good life. Of this plenitude we can truly say: "The earth is the Lord's." 
By the earth is signified Mary, of whom we read in Isaias: "Let the earth 
be opened, and bud forth a savior!" What more lowly than the earth ? What 
more useful ? We all tread the earth under our feet, and draw from it the 
nourishment of our life. Whence have we food and clothing, bread and wine, 
wool and thread, flax. and all the necessaries of life except from the 
earth, and from the fullness of the earth? What, therefore, is more lowly, 
what more useful than the earth? In like manner, what is more humble, what 
more useful than Mary? She by her humility is the very least of all; by her 
fullness of grace, the most useful of all. For we have all that is needful 
for our spiritual life through Mary. Well therefore doth St. Bernard say: 
"Let us look more deeply and see with how great a depth of devotion He 
wishes Mary to be honored by us who hath placed the fullness of all good in 
Mary, so that if we have any ground for hope, or for salvation, we should 
know that it is from her it springs." ("Serm. de Aquaeductu.") Hear now the 
Psalmist: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." The fullness 
of the earth consists in fruits and divers riches, according to the 
Psalmist: "The earth is filled with Thy riches." The fruits and the riches 
of this most full earth, Mary, are the works, the examples, and the divers 
merits of the most holy life of Mary. The Lord filled her with such riches 
and with so great gifts that it is said: "The Lord looked upon the earth, 
and filled it with his goods" (Ecclus. XVI, 30. ) St. Jerome, speaking of 
this fullness, says: "It was fitting that the Virgin should be pledged with 
such gifts, that she should be full of grace, she who gave glory to the 
heavens, God to the earth, who restored peace, who gave faith to the 
nations, put an end to vices, brought back order to life, and discipline to 
manners."

Fourthly, let us consider that Mary is full of the unction of mercy and of 
the oil of piety. Therefore she may be signified by that woman who, having 
closed the door of her house and gathered together within all her vessels, 
they were miraculously filled with oil, according to what Eliseus had 
prophesied to her, saying: "Thou shalt take them away, when they are full" 
(Kings IV, 4. ) This woman is Mary, who was called "woman" by her Son in 
the Gospel of St. John, where we read: "Woman, behold thy Son." The vessels 
of this woman are her affections and her deeds, her desires and her 
benefits, which in Mary are all full of the oil of mercy. Well, therefore, 
doth St. Bernard say of this oil: "No wonder, Lady, if the sanctuary is so 
copiously anointed with the oil of the mercy of thy heart, when that 
inestimable work of mercy, which God had predestined from all eternity in 
our redemption, was first of all effected in thee by the Maker of the 
world. Let us, therefore, say to Mary: 'Give us of your oil.' Let us beg 
for the oil of her mercy in this world, lest we should ask in vain at the 
judgment." That the house in which the vessels were filled should also have 
been closed, is admirably suited to Mary, of whose spiritual enclosure 
Ezechiel says: "This gate shall be closed, and it shall not be opened, and 
no man shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel has entered 
through it" (XLIV, 2.) The gate of Mary was closed by the lock of 
virginity; no man had passed through it by way of conjugal embrace; the 
Lord God came forth through her by a singular manner of birth. But 
certainly, because for the multiplication of the oil, vessels not a few 
were collected from the neighbors; therefore by these vessels may be 
signified all those who have been partakers of the mercies of Mary. Who 
these are, St. Bernard declares when he says: "Mary has opened the bosom of 
her mercy to all, that all may receive of her fullness: the captive, 
redemption; the sick, healing; the sad, consolation; the sinner, pardon; 
the just, grace; the angel, joy; in fine, the whole Trinity, glory; the 
person of the Son, the substance of human flesh."

Fifthly, let us consider that Mary is full of the fecundity of the divine 
offspring. Of this plenitude we may understand that word of Isaias: "I saw 
the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and elevated, and the earth was full 
of His majesty" (Is. VI, 1.) That house on the throne of which God sits is 
the Blessed Virgin, on the throne of whose mind the Lord rested. O truly 
blessed and stable throne, as it is said in the third Book of Kings: "Thy 
most firm throne for ever" (VIII, 13.) This most high throne is in the 
intellect, raised up on the affections. It is also most high above men, 
raised up over men. On this throne, therefore, of Mary, on the throne, I 
say, of her mind, the Lord was seated, and the house of her body was full 
of the majesty of the Incarnate Word. Of this ineffable fullness St. 
Ambrose says: "Well is she alone said to be full of grace, who alone 
obtained the grace which none other ever had, of being filled with the 
author of grace." O truly happy house, full of so happy a fecundity! For 
St. Bernard saith: "Well was she full of grace, who both kept the grace of 
virginity and acquired the glory of fecundity." The Lord, therefore, sat on 
the throne of the mind of Mary by grace, and filled the house of her body 
with His majesty by His assumed nature. Therefore, it is said in the third 
Book of Kings: "The glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord" 
(VIII, II.) Then saith Solomon: "The Lord hath said that He would dwell in 
the cloud" (ibid., 12.) Mary, therefore, the house of the Lord, was filled 
with the glory of the Divine Majesty by the cloud of the humanity assumed 
by God--that cloud, I say, of which we read in Ecclesiasticus: "The healing 
of all is in the hastening of the cloud" (XLIII, 24.) And again: "Like the 
morning star in the midst of a cloud." For like the star in a cloud is the 
Word in the flesh assumed by Him.

Sixthly, let us consider in what way Mary was full of the perfection of the 
universal Church. The Church had and has diverse and marvelous perfections 
and graces in her various saints, in whose fullness it would seem that Mary 
abode, that she might truly utter that word of Ecclesiasticus: "My abode is 
in the full assembly of saints." Truly was the abode of Mary in the 
plenitude of the saints, while in her own wonderful perfection the fullness 
of the perfection of the saints was not wanting to her. As St. Bernard 
declares, when he says: "Rightly in the fullness of the saints was her 
abode, to whom was not wanting the faith of the patriarchs, the spirit of 
the prophets, the zeal of the Apostles, the constancy of the martyrs, the 
sobriety of the confessors, the chastity of the virgins, the fecundity of 
the married, yea, nor the purity of the angels." For it is written in the 
book of Ecclesiasticus: "And shall be admired in the holy assembly" (XXIV, 
3.) On account of this, the abode of Mary is in the fullness of the Saints, 
not in the fullness of the impious; because Mary remains willingly with 
those who are full of sanctity, not with those who are full of iniquity. 
She not only abides in the fullness of the Saints, but abides in fullness 
with the Saints, lest their fullness should grow less. She takes hold of 
virtues, lest they fly; she takes hold of merits, lest they perish; she 
takes hold of demons and keeps them in check, lest they do harm; she takes 
hold of her Son, lest He strike sinners. Before Mary there never was one 
who could dare thus to take hold of the Lord, as Isaias bears witness, 
saying: "There is none that calleth upon thy name, that riseth up and 
taketh hold of thee" (Is. LXIV, 7.)

Seventhly, let us consider how Mary is full of the redolence of fair fame. 
As a field is full of the scents of various flowers, so is Mary full of the 
fair fame of fragrant sprinkling. Of her fullness we may understand what we 
read in Genesis: "Behold the smell of my son is as the smell of a full 
field, which God hath blessed" (Gen. XXVII, 27.) This field is Mary, in 
whom the treasure of the angels, yea verily, the whole treasure of God the 
Father is hidden. Happy is he "who sells all that he has, and buys that 
field." The full odor of this full field is the full fair fame of Mary, her 
full honor. Of this St. Jerome saith: "Because she was filled with the many 
odors of the virtues, there came forth from her a most sweet odor, 
rejoicing the angelic spirits." Of this odor she herself, glorying, could 
use the words of Ecclesiasticus (XXIV, 20): "I gave a sweet smell like 
cinnamon and aromatical balm." The good odor of Mary was like cinnamon 
externally, in the rind of her conversation; like aromatical balm 
interiorly, by the unction of her devotion; like myrrh, in the bitterness 
of her suffering. The good odor of Mary was also like cinnamon in her 
deeds; like balm in her contemplation; like myrrh in her sufferings. O 
truly rich, and exceedingly rich she who, besides other aromas, was so full 
of the odoriferous balm of the Holy Spirit that St. Bernard, speaking of 
that word, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," says: "That precious balm 
flowed in on thee with such copiousness and plenitude that it overflows 
most abundantly on all around thee." Well, therefore, could God the Father 
say: "Behold the odor of my Son is as the smell of a full field," as though 
He said: "Behold the smell of my Son, the honor of my Son, is from the 
honor and the good fame of His mother." St. Jerome saith: "The maternal 
honor is His, who was born from her."

Eighthly, let us consider how Mary was full of the reflection or 
resplendence, as it were, the expression of the divine glory, according to 
Ecclesiasticus: "The work of the Lord is full of His glory" (XXIV, 20.) 
Above all, the most wonderful work of the Lord is Mary, of whom it is said 
in Ecclesiasticus: "An admirable instrument the work of the Most High" 
(XLIII, 2.) Truly a wonderful work, for a similar one can never be found. 
Whence it is said of it: "There was no such work made in any kingdom" (3 
Kings X, 20.) None indeed in the kingdom of Heaven, none in the kingdom of 
earth, nor in that of hell; for there never was such a work in Heaven, on 
earth, or in the nether regions. For this work is full of the glory of the 
Lord, because this glory shines most fully in Mary, above all pure 
creatures. For after the humanity assumed by the Word, there is no work, no 
creature, in whom there is such scope for the divine glory as in Mary. For 
the Lord has through Mary glory because of the restoration brought about in 
Heaven, glory in the Redemption accomplished in the world, glory for the 
deliverance wrought in hell --this glory He has in the fullness of grace in 
Mary. Therefore, well does St. Anselm say: "I speak to thee alone, Lady; 
the world is full of thy benefits; they have penetrated hell, and surpassed 
the Heavens. For by the fullness of thy grace those who were in limbo 
rejoice in their deliverance, and those who were above the world have joy 
in their restoration." Therefore, full of the glory of the Lord is His 
work, Mary, because, as it is said in Isaias, "The earth is full of His 
glory" (Is. VI, 3.) Full indeed is the whole earth, full is Mary of the 
divine glory, which shines in her most fully. Rightly above all the 
aforesaid is she said to be full of grace, who is most pleasing to all who 
are not ungrateful, as St. Bernard shows when, speaking of the words, Ave 
gratia plena, he says: "Well is she fully pleasing because she is pleasing 
to God, to the angels, and to men; to men by her fecundity, to the angels 
by her virginity, to God by her humility."

Ninthly, consider how Mary is full of the joy of eternal happiness. Who is 
ignorant that she is of those of whom her Son said: "Ask, and you shall 
receive, that your joy may be full"? If, therefore, the joy of the 
Apostles, of all those who are reigning with God, is full, how much more is 
the joy of the Mother of God full and complete? Of this plenitude St. 
Jerome says: "Full indeed of grace, full of God, full of virtues, she could 
not but possess most fully the glory of eternal splendor." What wonder, 
then, that plenitude that it overflows most abundantly on all around thee." 
Well, therefore, could God the Father say: "Behold the odor of my Son is as 
the smell of a full field," as though He said: "Behold the smell of my Son, 
the honor of my Son, is from the honor and the good fame of His mother." 
St. Jerome saith: "The maternal honor is His, who was born from her."

Eighthly, let us consider how Mary was full of the reflection or 
resplendence, as it were, the expression of the divine glory, according to 
Ecclesiasticus: "The work of the Lord is full of His glory" (XXIV, 20.) 
Above all, the most wonderful work of the Lord is Mary, of whom it is said 
in Ecclesiasticus: "An admirable instrument the work of the Most High" 
(XLIII, 2.) Truly a wonderful work, for a similar one can never be found. 
Whence it is said of it: "There was no such work made in any kingdom" (3 
Kings X, 20.) None indeed in the kingdom of Heaven, none in the kingdom of 
earth, nor in that of hell; for there never was such a work in Heaven, on 
earth, or in the nether regions. For this work is full of the glory of the 
Lord, because this glory shines most fully in Mary, above all pure 
creatures. For after the humanity assumed by the Word, there is no work, no 
creature, in whom there is such scope for the divine glory as in Mary. For 
the Lord has through Mary glory because of the restoration brought about in 
Heaven, glory in the Redemption accomplished in the world, glory for the 
deliverance wrought in hell --this glory He has in the fullness of grace in 
Mary. Therefore, well does St. Anselm say: "I speak to thee alone, Lady; 
the world is full of thy benefits; they have penetrated hell, and surpassed 
the Heavens. For by the fullness of thy grace those who were in limbo 
rejoice in their deliverance, and those who were above the world have joy 
in their restoration." Therefore, full of the glory of the Lord is His 
work, Mary, because, as it is said in Isaias, "The earth is full of His 
glory" (Is. VI, 3.) Full indeed is the whole earth, full is Mary of the 
divine glory, which shines in her most fully. Rightly above all the 
aforesaid is she said to be full of grace, who is most pleasing to all who 
are not ungrateful, as St. Bernard shows when, speaking of the words, "Ave 
gratia plena," he says: "Well is she fully pleasing because she is pleasing 
to God, to the angels, and to men; to men by her fecundity, to the angels 
by her virginity, to God by her humility."

Ninthly, consider how Mary is full of the joy of eternal happiness. Who is 
ignorant that she is of those of whom her Son said: "Ask, and you shall 
receive, that your joy may be full"? If, therefore, the joy of the 
Apostles, of all those who are reigning with God, is full, how much more is 
the joy of the Mother of God full and complete? Of this plenitude St. 
Jerome says: "Full indeed of grace, full of God, full of virtues, she could 
not but possess most fully the glory of eternal splendor." What wonder, 
then, that she has full and overfull joy and glory in the kingdom, who had 
grace full and overflowing in her exile upon earth? What wonder if both in 
Heaven and on earth her fullness was above that of every creature, from 
whose fullness every creature has life ? Therefore St. Anselm saith: "O 
Woman full and overfull of grace, of the overflowing of whose plenitude 
every creature gains new life !"

Thus you see in Mary the fullness of illuminative wisdom, the fullness of 
overflowing grace, the fullness of a fruitful life, the fullness of helping 
mercy, of the perfection of the Church, of good fame, of divine glory, of 
eternal joy. Now, therefore, O Virgin full of grace, deign to make us, who 
are so empty, partakers of thy fullness, that we may at last attain to 
eternal fullness. By Our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.








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