St. Bernard of Clairvaux: In praise of the Virgin Mother

I have edited this using several different English translations; in so doing I believe I have sanitized it from any potential accusations of Maryolatry. I believe that what follows would be accepted in Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican circles. I’d be very happy to hear otherwise.

“You have heard that you shall conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it shall not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel is waiting for your answer; it is time for him to return to God Who sent him. We too are waiting, dear Mary, for your word of compassion; because the sentence of death weighs heavily upon us.

“The price of our salvation is offered through you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God were we all made, and behold, we die. Through one little word of yours in answer we may be remade alive.

“Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, exiled as he is from Paradise with his poor wretched children. Abraham begs this of you, and David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, even your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the valley of the shadow of death. This is what the whole world waits for, prostrate at your feet. And rightly so, for on your lips depends the consolation for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, the salvation for all the children of Adam, the whole of your race.

“Answer quickly, O Virgin. Answer the angel speedily; or rather through the angel answer the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word. Offer what is yours, and conceive what is of God. Give what is temporal and embrace what is eternal.

“Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive! Let your humility put on boldness, and let your modesty be clothed in trust. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this one thing alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. For although modest silence is pleasing, more needful now is the loving-kindness of your word.

“Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin; open your lips to praise, open your very self to your Creator. See, the Desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If He should pass by because of your delay, again in sorrow you should have to begin to seek for Him afresh, the One Whom your soul loves! Arise then, run and open. Arise by faith, run by the devotion of your heart, open yourself by your word of praise and thanksgiving. ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord,’ she says, ‘be it done to me according to your word.’”


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