The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary As Set Forth in Her Litany – Vessel of Singular Devotion

Saint Thomas teaches that devotion comes from devotedness. They practice devotion who consecrate themselves entirely to the service of God. It embraces the cultivation of all the virtues. In the Book of Proverbs it is said, that wisdom is “more precious than all riches; and all things that are desired are not to be compared with her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand, riches and glory. Her ways are beautiful ways, and all her paths are peaceable. She is a tree of life to them who lay hold on her: and he that shall retain her is blessed” (Proverbs 3:14-18).

True riches, says Saint Bernard, are not gold and silver, but virtues. The holy man, Job, deprived of all his belongings, seated on a dung-hill, was nevertheless the richest of all his neighbors, because he practiced virtue. “Fear not, my son,” said the aged Tobias, “we lead, indeed, a poor life, but we shall have many good things if we fear God, and depart from all sin, and do that which is good” (Tobias 4:23).

Virtue is the image of the beauty that is in God. It makes us like unto Him. He communicates of His beauty to virtue, and shows forth of His splendor in it. This is especially so in the Word made flesh, who is the divine mirror of all virtues, and of Him the psalmist says: “Thou art beautiful above all the sons of men” (Psalm 44:3).

Three degrees of virtue are distinguishable. The first is that ordinary virtue, whereby men live conformably to the laws of God. The second is that of those who go farther and seek to become more and more like unto Him. Their virtues are cleansing, that is by practicing prudence, and meditating on holy subjects, they trample under foot all things earthly and direct their efforts towards the gaining of Heaven; in cultivating temperance they overcome the cravings of the body, and by drawing near to God they are not disturbed by the adversities of life. The third degree of virtues is still more elevated. It disengages the soul from every attachment to things earthly, and in purifying it, makes it perfect. It is the virtue peculiar to the saints. For whether still in the flesh or enjoying the beatific vision, they are devoted to whatever tends to the honor and glory of God. They sing His praises, they magnify His name, their mind, heart and soul are aflame with love and devotion for Him. As star differs from star in brilliancy, so the saints differ from one another in the brightness of their many perfections. The virtues possessed by one are not in the same degree those of another.

But there shines out one among them, who, like the sun in the heavens, surpasses them all in devotion, the peerless Virgin Mary. In her are all virtues, all perfections. From the first moment of her immaculate conception, she was more perfect than all the saints united. She had the faith of the Patriarchs, the inspiration of the Prophets, the zeal of the Apostles, the courage and constancy of the Martyrs, the chastity of the Virgins, the purity of the Angels, and the charity of the Seraphim. “Many daughters have gathered together riches: but thou hast surpassed them all” (Proverbs 31:29). The heavens are not farther removed from the earth than the perfections of the spotless Virgin Mary are above those of all the angels and of all the saints. What can we say of her devotion to the ever Blessed Trinity?

We are as little able to fathom its depths as we are to understand the marvels of God’s creation. It is a prodigy of God’s grace. She, who, from her immaculate conception, was full of grace, was singularly devout, loving God and His house among men. The conspicuousness of her devotion gained for her privileges denied to all other maidens about the temple of Jerusalem. It was for her the transcendent glory of being called to be the Virgin Mother of Jesus, the Saviour of men.