Leo XIII, in his encyclical Magnæ Dei Matris, affirms about the Most Holy Virgin: “In Mary we see how a truly good and provident God has established for us a most suitable example of every virtue.”
To understand to what degree the supernatural virtues have been given by God to the one who would become the Mother of His Son, and how they impregnated her immaculate soul, it is helpful to consider what St. Thomas Aquinas says about the virtues of the Incarnate Word.
The Angelic Doctor explains that the supernatural virtues are “as derivations of grace.” They flow in fact from this initial principle, from this marvelous gift given by God, as an effect flows from its cause.
The Scholastic Angel adds, “Now the more perfect a principle is, the more it impresses its effects.” That is not difficult to understand: the more a cause has power—for example, the more the temperature of a fire is elevated—the more it can diffuse its effect. For the fire, the more it is able to provide heat or burn.
The holy Doctor continues: “Hence, since the grace of Christ was most perfect, there flowed from it, in consequence, the virtues which perfect the several powers of the soul for all the soul’s acts; and thus Christ had all the virtues” (III, 7, 2).
The Virgin Mary is the image of her Son
St. Thomas’ reasoning can be applied to Our Lady. It is appropriate to note that it applies both to the infused virtues as well as to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are present in a soul according to the measure of the soul’s charity. Theology will say that they are “linked” with the infused virtues.
It should be recalled here that the particular excellence of the Holy Virgin’s grace comes from her dignity as the Mother of God, to which the habitual grace of Mary is “in proportion,” or measured.
Our Lady possessed all the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It should be especially noted:
Faith: “And blessed art thou that hast believed.” Our Lady had the faith. She even possessed this virtue to the highest degree in the history of salvation, because her divine Son did not possess it. In fact, He had the Beatific vision from the first moment of His conception, a vision which necessarily excludes the faith. Therefore, she is our model for this virtue.
Hope: It follows faith. As with faith, she is the one who possesses the highest degree of hope, because her Son had it no more than faith: He already possessed the Beatific Vision.
Charity: the Virgin possessed the greatest charity after that of Christ.
Temperance: Our Lady did not have the source of sin. Consequently, the perfect virtue reigned in her, the passions were subject to her reason. One cannot, consequently, speak of continence, since this word designates the use of the will to contain the passions not yet submitted.
Penitence: this virtue concerns personal sins, but there were none in Mary. Since this virtue was also not in Christ, it is another saint who possessed the highest degree of penitence.
The gifts of the Holy Ghost reigned in the holy and immaculate soul of the Mother of God. The highest of these gifts, Wisdom, especially shines there. Her fiat is the wisest word that has ever come out of the mouth of a creature: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”
The charisms or freely given gifts are destined for the edification of the mystical Body. Similar to Christ, the one who must transmit all the graces must possess all the graces. Our Lady received the charisms, especially wisdom—in her contemplation and in enlightening the Apostles after the Ascension—and prophecy, illustrated by the Magnificat: “All generations shall call me blessed.”
May the contemplation of the virtues of Mary help us to imitate especially her faith and her charity, which will guide us in the midst of the apostasy and the cooling of a great number of the faithful.