Mary's Virtues, Obedience

Madonna in Adoration of the Sleeping Child - by BELLINI, Giovanni - from Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence


As Eve by her disobedience caused her own death and that of the entire human race,
so Mary by her obedience became the cause of her own salvation and that of all mankind


Note Bene: Bible verses quoted in this Book are from the English Douay-Rheims translation commissioned by the Catholic Church. 


Mary Virtues, Obedience

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Mary loved obedience so much that when the angel made his astonishing announcement, she chose in response to call herself merely a servant: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38). According to Saint Thomas of Villanova, "this faithful servant never opposed the will of her Master in thought, word, or deed. Completely despoiled of any will of her own she lived always and in all things obedient to the will of God" She herself made it known that God was pleased with her obedience, for she said: "He has regarded the humility of His handmaid" (Luke 1:48). The humility of a servant consists precisely in a willingness to obey promptly. Saint Irenaeus says that by her obedience Mary repaired the evil done by Eve's disobedience: "As Eve by her disobedience caused her own death and that of the entire human race, so Mary by her obedience became the cause of her own salvation and that of all mankind". Mary's obedience was much more perfect than that of the other saints. All other men are prone to evil and find it difficult to do good because of original sin; but not so Mary. Saint Bernardine writes that because Mary was free from original sin, she did not find it difficult to obey God. "She was like a wheel", he says, "which was easily turned by every inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it". The Canticles refer this saying to her: "My soul melted when my Beloved spoke" (Canticles 5:6). As Richard of Saint Lawrence explains it: "My soul was as metal, liquefied by the fire of love, ready to be molded into any form, according to God's will".

Mary proved her love for obedience first of all when, to please God, she obeyed the Roman emperor and undertook the long journey to Bethlehem. It was winter. The distance was seventy miles. Mary was pregnant and so poor that she had to give birth to her Son in a stable. She was equally obedient when she undertook on the very same night that Saint Joseph suggested it, the longer and more difficult journey to Egypt. The Carmelite Father Silveira asks why the command to flee to Egypt was given to Saint Joseph rather than to the Blessed Virgin since she was to suffer the most from it? And he answers: "So that Mary might not be deprived of the opportunity to perform an act of obedience, for which she was always most ready". Our Blessed Lady showed her heroic obedience above all when, in conformity with God's will, she offered her Son to death. And this with such perfect abandonment, as Saint Anselm and Saint Antoninus remark, that had there been no executioners waiting for Him on Calvary, she herself would have been ready to crucify Him. Venerable Bede explains Our Lord's answer to the woman in the Gospel who exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bore you...Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27,28). He says that Mary was very blessed by being the Mother of God, but was even more blessed by always loving and obeying His divine will.

For this reason, all who love obedience are highly pleasing to our Blessed Lady. She once appeared to a Franciscan friar named Accorso, who was in his cell. While Mary was still there, obedience required that he go to hear the confession of a sick person. He went, and on his return found that Mary had waited for him. She commended him highly for his obedience. On the other hand, she censured another religious who had remained to finish some private devotions after the refectory bell had rung.

Mary once spoke to Saint Bridget about the confidence with which one ought to obey one's spiritual director, and said: "It is obedience that brings chosen souls to glory". As Saint Philip Neri used to say: "God demands no accounting of things done by obedience, since He Himself said: He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me" (Luke 10:16)". Mary revealed to Saint Bridget that it was through the merit of her obedience that she obtained such great power that no sinner who appealed to her with a desire to mend his ways would fail to obtain pardon, however great his crimes.



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Most sweet Queen and Mother, intercede with Jesus for us. By the merit of your obedience obtain that we may be faithful in obeying God's will and the injunctions of our spiritual guides.