University of Notre Dame
Jacques Maritain Center   

Dear Father Lynch:

Your kind request to write a few lines for the issue of Thought dedicated to the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of Wisdom makes me feel my inadequacy, for I am not a theologian, but at the same time it offers me a privilege for which I am particularly grateful: namely the opportunity to pay my tribute, as a simple layman and philosopher, to the One through whom all Christ's graces descend into our hearts, and to whom St. Bernard and St. Grignion de Monfort have taught us to give and entrust everything.

Just as Mary is the only creature in which the work of redemption has succeeded in an absolutely pure and plenary manner, without the least trace of human peccability, so she is the only one, among created persons, in whom the fulness of wisdom resides without the least trace of human obscurity. That is why she is "the mother of beautiful love, and fear of God, and knowledge, and holy hope"{1}, and the words of the Ecclesiasticus about divine Wisdom have been applied to her by the Church: "Et radicavi in populo honorificato, et in parte Dei mei hereditae illius, et in plenitudine sanctorum detentio mea"{2}, -- "Ab initio et ante saecula creata sum, et usque ad futurum saeculum non desinam, et in habitatione sancta coram ipso ministravi"{3}. And that is why, no doubt, in her very beatitude she weeps, as she did at La Salette, when she contemplates the human race -- the kind of children whom she received in addition to her Only Son, and the little store they set both by grace and wisdom.

Let us think of young Mary brought up in the Temple, of this immaculate daughter of the Hebrews, and of her total, absolute eagerness for divine truth, -- for that divine Truth which was to take flesh in her. Let us think of her during the Passion of Christ, and later on, after Pentecost. The entire life of the Blessed Virgin was steeped in contemplative wisdom. She also had, in an infused and superior way, and through connaturality with her Son, theological wisdom and philosophical wisdom. It is impossible to imagine to what degree the Mother of the Incarnate Word cherishes the integrity of truth and abhors any stain on intelligence. In the tympanum of a portal of the cathedral of Chartres, she is represented surrounded by the seven liberal arts. She is interested in our work, poor philosophers that we are.

She looks at, and loves, the least spark of truth in any effort of ours. She hates lying and sophistry. Was my friend Benjamin Fondane right when he insisted that the Hegelian temptation was the very Serpent's temptation? In any case a lasting war is going on between the Woman and the Serpent. In the face of intellectual delusions and betrayals, I believe that in our times, when the main struggles of the mind are taking place at the level of philosophy, Mary has especially at heart the fate of Christian philosophy.

For everyone to whom any responsibility in teaching human minds has been entrusted, it is a little frightening, but infinitely more comforting, to think that the virginal eyes of the Mother of God are set on his task. Let us dedicate our whole intellectual work and whole teaching to her, praying her to purify it by her gaze and inspiration: illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.

Jacques Maritain
Princeton, N.J.
October 31, 1954

{1} Ecclesiasticus, XXIV, 24; Parv. Off. B.M.V., ad Compl., capit.

{2} Ibid., XXIV, 16; Parv. Off., ad Sextam, capit.

{3} Ibid., XXIV, 14; Parv. Off., ad Vesp., capit.