"Mary, Mystery of Mercy"

A Meditation as a Preparation for the Solemnity Of The Annunciation of the B.V.M.
March 25, 2003

Excerpt from a new book published by John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P.

It has now been over 40 years since I began to consider the mystery of Mary in the light of the Father's mercy, thinking that the best way to enter her mystery was perhaps to see that she was totally fashioned and educated, and "determined" by the Father's mercy.

In this sense, I sought to specify the particular characteristics of this mercy, in all of the mysteries of her life. At that time, I had wanted to give a series of lectures on the Father's mercy with regard to Mary - from the first, initial act of mercy found in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception to the ultimate act of mercy found in the mystery of the Assumption.

I had wanted to consider, in each of the periods of Mary's life (the joyous mysteries and the sorrowful mysteries), this mercy of the Father with respect to her: His gaze as Father upon His little child, which is a "pure gaze", so to speak.

With respect to us, mercy consists in purifying "poor sinners", for, in us, mercy has been damaged, stained; mercy in us has not the clarity, the purity that it has in Mary. What is wonderful regarding Mary is that we find ourselves before mercy received (be it consciously or unconsciously - for the mercy of the Immaculate Conception was received unconsciously) in all purity, such mercy in no way being damaged by anything. In Mary, nothing countered the Father's mercy. His mercy could be exercised with unique purity.

I thus began with the mysteries of the Immaculate Conception, the Presentation, and the Annunciation. The advantage of considering all three of these mysteries is that we can see more clearly how Mary was educated by the Father in and through mercy. If one day I have the time, I hope to consider the Father's mercy in the other mysteries of Mary's life.

It is very important for us to understand that the Father gazes upon us always through His mercy, and in His mercy. His gaze is not primarily one of justice, seeing whether or not we are in conformity with law. Mercy surpasses the law. The surpassing is an absolute. Mercy goes further than the law. If Jesus says that He comes to accomplish, to fulfill the law, it is because Jesus is perfectly united to the Father. He is one with the Father. Consequently, He enters this fatherly mercy perfectly. Jesus continues this fatherly mercy and adapts it for and to us. The mercy of Jesus brings the law to completion, without suppressing it. If the mercy of Jesus were to suppress the law, it would not be mercy. The law is not suppressed, but rather reaches its perfection. It is developed in an infinitely greater sense, where love envelops and takes hold of everything. This is true for all the saints, but for Mary, it is eminently and perfectly true.

Mary never diminished the Father's action in her. She never betrayed the Father's merciful action in her. Mary understood and loved perfectly this merciful action. In this consists her holiness. Mary's holiness consists in having received all of the mercies of the Father in an absolutely perfect fashion, with total limpidity, without diminishing them. This is wonderful. Nowadays, in the great struggles that we endure, the Devil is particularly furious, for his days are numbered; and he knows that the Second Coming is closer than it was 2000 years ago. He knows that, at the Second Coming, he will be rendered impotent against humanity. He will be obliged to return to the "place" prepared for him.

The Father gives His mercy to Mary, in increasingly superabundant fashion. He enlarges Mary's heart, enabling her to go always further in mercy. The Devil does just the opposite. He tries to lead us to that which hinders the Father's mercy in us, damaging, limiting, and reducing it to his own dimensions, those of a being who has rebelled against God's mercy. The mercy of God with respect to Mary is so great and so strong that it is unbearable for the Devil. To understand this rage of the Devil, and his "furious" action upon us, it suffices to consider the Father's mercy for Mary, His little child.

That is why it seemed beneficial to present these three "mysteries of mercy", originally published in three separate books in 1958, edited and newly published in a single book (in French) in 2000, and now published in English. We see with great force how the Father educates Mary through His mercy. Mary has been given to us as mother, so that we might live the same mystery as her. The following pages propose just that: to live the same mystery as Mary. May these, her mysteries, help us to live the Father's mercy, and make of our lives an unceasing canticle of thanksgiving: "I will sing the mercies of the Lord forever" (Ps 88).

Chapter 1 - Masterpiece
Mary is given to us as the masterpiece of God's mercy, as she whose primary role it is to have us enter through the narrow and royal door of the Father's mercy.

Because Mary is truly the masterpiece of mercy, she is, so to speak, the Father's mercy personified. In God, mercy is an attribute. In Mary, God's mercy "is" Mary.

What I mean is that everything in her is mercy. There is nothing but mercy in her; that is why she is truly the Father's mercy personified. In God, mercy is an attribute because the mystery of God Himself is beyond mercy.

One might say that mercy personified is Jesus, to which I respond, "Yes and no." We must understand that because Christ Himself is God, His mystery is beyond mercy. The Father has placed His "good pleasure" in Jesus. However, as Thomas Aquinas tells us, in Jesus, human nature, strictly speaking, is assumed. It is not a creature. With this we understand how Jesus is not an object of the Father's mercy, for the Father's mercy is only exercised toward creatures. Jesus is the source of mercy for us, but, in His intimate relationship with the Father, He is beyond mercy, for He is the only Son of the Father. The Father does not have an attitude of mercy to the Son, but an attitude of love. That is why, on the Cross, Jesus can accomplish an act of justice in the highest sense, that is, complete satisfaction for our faults. He is the Beloved Son.

Mary, however, is a creature, and only a creature. Mercy, therefore, envelops her from the beginning, totally and completely. Throughout her life, she unceasingly receives the fullness of God's mercy. This mercy is destined to introduce her into love, but a love with a particular nuance: when the love of God is communicated to a creature, it necessarily takes the form of mercy.

Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. is a widely-respected scholar of Catholic theology. This is the first English translation of his work "Mystères de Misericorde", published in 1958 and again in 2000.

This is the first in a series of excerpts from Fr. Philippe's book, which will appear on this website on the feasts of the Assumption and Immaculate Conception 2003.

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