Mary, Virgin Most Faithful

Prof. Michael F. Hull, New York

In her Litany, the Blessed Virgin Mary is invoked as "Virgin Most Faithful." Mary’s instantaneous and unmitigated response to the Archangel Gabriel grounds the appropriateness of this title. From the moment of the Annunciation by Gabriel, Mary’s reply has been the apex of the Christian assent of intellect and will in the obedience of faith: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). So important was Mary’s testament of faith that Saint Augustine of Hippo says, "Mary is more blessed for her perceiving the faith of Christ than for conceiving the flesh of Christ" (Sermo 72/A.7). As the new Eve, Mary upends the defiance and incredulity of Eve (and Adam). Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes, "the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary has loosened by her faith" (Adversus haereses, 3.22.4; cf. Lumen gentium, n. 56). It is in Mary that we, "the poor banished children of Eve," find the exemplar of faith in Christ; it is from Mary that we beg intercession and protection from denial and doubt in faith, so that "we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

The Lord himself attests Mary’s faith-filled example. When from a crowd a woman cries out, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked," Jesus responds, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27–28; cf. Matt 12:46–50; Mark 3:32–35; Luke 8:21). In other words, the hallmark of discipleship—hearing the word of God and keeping it, the very thing that Mary did so perfectly at the Annunciation—is best illustrated not in Mary’s fecundity but in her Fiat. This exemplarism continues from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion, for Mary stands at the foot of Calvary. Immediately before surrendering his spirit, Jesus entrusts Saint John to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son," and commends Mary as the model extraordinaire to Saint John, "Behold, your mother" (John 19:26–27). "Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born to her" (LG, n. 58).

Likewise, Mary’s intercessory role is evidenced in the Lord’s earthly life. It is with the Wedding at Cana that Mary’s compassion is highlighted. When the wine runs short, she turns to intercede on behalf of her friends to her Son. So secure is her faith—"the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen" (Heb 11:1)—that she does not pause for a verification after having told Jesus of the problem. Instead, she turns straight away to the servants to say: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:1–11; cf. LG, n. 58). In other words, her absolute faith knows no hesitancy: once asked, her Son’s beneficence is assured for their hosts at Cana. And it is assured for us. "By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" (LG, n. 62).

For two thousand years, the sterling instance of Mary’s faith has stood efficaciously before the sons and daughters of the Church for inspiration and imitation. For two thousand years, Mary has mediated our petitions to her Son. Therefore, it is right and just that we should cry out: " Mary, Virgin Most Faithful, pray for us!