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Mary, Mother of God

Divine Mercy Section

Mary, Mystery of Mercy


Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P.

Copyright © 2002 Marians of the Immaculate Conception

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 0-944203-75-2

Mystery according to its basic sense gleamed from the New Testament, signifies an object of revelation - a truth known only by revelation, and more particularly, the truth that is the divine plan and decision to save all human beings through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In the concrete, Christ Himself can be called the mystery, and the Church is identified with this mystery in Ephesians 5:32. All in all, then, it is the wonderful plan of salvation, hidden from eternity in God, and only gradually unfolded in creation in time.

In Mary, Mystery of Mercy, Fr. M.D. Philippe, O.P., delves into an indispensable ingredient of the mystery of Christ - the part played in it by His Virgin-Mother as the fullest recipient of the Father's acts of mercy towards His adopted children in Christ, especially manifested in the great mysteries of the Immaculate Conception, the Presentation, and the Annunciation.

This first complete translation from the French of his Mystères de Misericorde, published in 1958 and again in 2000, makes available to the English speaking public an extraordinarily rich trilogy of consideration on God's wonderful plan to pour out His mercy upon the world through the maternal mediation of the blessed Virgin Mary.

Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, M.I.C.

Table of Contents

Preface   7

Introduction    11

1.             Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception      17

Part One: Father of Mercy  19

Mercy: Path to God     19

Mercy: Father’s Love   20

Mercy: Power at the Service of Love   20

The Sin of the World: Love at the Service of Power    22

The Mercy of Jesus: Manifestation of the Mercy of the Father    24

Part Two: Mary: Masterpiece of Mercy  27

Creation: First Act of Mercy     27

Original Sin: Attack on Mercy    29

Original Sin: Attack on Human Nature    31

Second Birth: Second Act of Mercy 33

Immaculate Conception: Unique Act of Mercy   36

Immaculate Conception: Revelation of Mercy   41

Moses: Figure of Mary  43

Immaculate Conception: Seed of Contemplation     48

Immaculate Conception: Mercy of the Father for Us  50

2.             Presentation of Mary

Presentation of Mary    55

Presentation: Consecration to the Father    55

Consecration and the Mystery of Abandonment    61

From Moses to Mary: From the Servant to the Child of God    71

Abandonment: Evangelical Attitude of Spiritual Childhood   76

Mary and Joseph: Radiance of Abandonment    80

3.         Annunciation

The Father’s Mercy: The Gift of His Son    87

Divine Motherhood: Source of Contemplative Life   91

Divine Motherhood: Act of Contemplative Faith   94

Contemplative Faith of Mary: Source of Silence   103

Divine Motherhood: Act of Hope  108

Divine Motherhood: Act of Love  114

Christian Contemplation and Maternal Service: Poverty of a Servant  117

Moses at Horeb, Mary at Nazareth  123

Education of a Servant  132


Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P.

It has now been over 40 years since I began to consider the mystery of Mary in the light of the Father’s mercy, thinking that the best way to enter her mystery was perhaps to see that she was totally fashioned and educated, and “determined,” by the Father’s mercy. In this sense I sought to specify the particular characteristics of this mercy, in all of the mysteries of her life. At that time, I had wanted to give a series of lectures on the Father’s mercy vis-a-vis Mary — from the first, initial mercy found in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception to the ultimate mercy found in the mystery of the Assumption. I had wanted to consider, in each of the periods of Mary’s life (the joyous mysteries and the sorrowful mysteries), this mercy of the Father with respect to her: His gaze as Father upon His little child, which is “pure gaze”, so to speak. With respect to us, mercy consists in purifying “poor sinners”, for, in us, mercy has been damaged, stained; mercy in us has not the limpidity, the purity that it has in Mary. What is wonderful regarding Mary is that we find ourselves before mercy received (be it consciously or unconsciously — for the mercy of the Immaculate Conception was received unconsciously) in all purity, such mercy in no way being damaged by anything. In Mary, nothing countered the Father’s mercy. His mercy could be exercised with unique purity.

I thus began with the mysteries of the Immaculate Conception, the Presentation, and the Annunciation. The advantage of considering all three of these mysteries is that we can see more clearly how Mary was educated by the Father in and through mercy. If one day I have the time, I hope to consider the Father’s mercy in the other mysteries of Mary’s life.

Ii is very important for us to understand that the Father gazes upon us always through His mercy, and in His mercy. His gaze is not primarily one of justice, seeing whether or not we are in conformity with law. Mercy surpasses the law. The surpassing is an absolute. Mercy goes further than the law. If Jesus says that he comes to accomplish, to fulfill the law, it is because Jesus is perfectly united to the Father. He is one with the Father. Consequently, he enters this fatherly mercy perfectly. Jesus continues this fatherly mercy and adapts it for and to us. The mercy of Jesus brings the law to completion, without suppressing it. If the mercy of Jesus were to suppress the law, it would not be mercy. The law is not suppressed, but rather reaches its perfection. It is developed in an infinitely greater sense, where love envelops and takes hold of everything. This is true for all the saints, but for Mary, it is eminently and perfectly true.

Mary never diminished the Father’s action in her. She never betrayed the Father’s merciful action in her. Mary understood and loved perfectly this merciful action. In this consists her holiness. Mary’s holiness consists in having received all of the mercies of the Father in an absolutely perfect fashion, with total limpidity, without diminishing them. This is wonderful. Nowadays, in the great struggles that we endure, the Devil is particularly furious, for his days are numbered; and he knows that the Second Coming is closer than it was 2000 years ago. He knows that, at the Second Coming, he will be rendered impotent viv-a-vis humanity. He will be obliged to return to the “place” prepared for him.

The Father gives His mercy to Mary, in increasingly superabundant fashion. He enlarges Mary’s heart, enabling her to go always further in mercy. The Devil does just the opposite. He tries to lead us to that which hinders the Father’s mercy in us, damaging, limiting, and reducing it to his own dimensions, those of a being who has rebelled against God’s mercy. The mercy of God with respect to Mary is so great and so strong that it is unbearable for the Devil. To understand this rage of the Devil, and his “furious” action upon us, it suffices to consider the Father’s mercy for Mary, His little child.

That is why it seemed beneficial to present these three “mysteries of mercy”, originally published in three separate books in 1958, edited and newly published in a single book (in French) in 2000, and now published in English. We see with great force how the Father educates Mary through His mercy. Mary has been given to us as mother, so that we might live the same mystery as her. The following pages propose just that: to live the same mystery as Mary. May these, her mysteries, help us to live the Father’s mercy, and make of our lives an unceasing canticle of thanksgiving: “I will sing the mercies of Lord forever.” (Psalm 88)


Born in 1912 in Cysoing, in northern France, Marie-Dominique Philippe came from a large family, whose prayerfulness played an important role for him, and his siblings. Indeed, seven of the twelve children entered the religious life. His passion as a youngster was mathematics. Nevertheless, he entered the Dominican Order in 1930, in the footsteps of his older brother, Père Thomas (co-founder of the L’Arche community with Jean Vanier) ... largely influenced by his Dominican uncle, Père Pierre-Thomas Dehau (then spiritual director for Raissa Maritain). He made his religious profession in 1931, and was ordained to the ministerial priesthood in July of 1936.

Fr. Philippe was sent as a professor to the (Pontifical, Dominican) University of Fribourg (Switzerland) in 1945, where he taught full time until 1982. Although preoccupied with what he believed God was asking of him through his religious community, his teaching/preaching “career” afforded him a variety of enriching encounters with the likes of persons such as theologians Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P. and Henri De Lubac, S.J., artists George Roualt and Paul Claudel, thinkers Etienne Gilson and Jean Guitton, and scientists, politicians, religious leaders and psychoanalysts and ... .

Impassioned by the search for truth at all levels, Fr. Philippe has labored incessantly for the acquisition of wisdom. Recognizing the great autonomy of the human intellect (which he sees as an expression of the respect the Creator has for his creature), he has developed, with as much precision as possible, the three wisdoms of which man is capable: philosophical, theological, and spiritual (or mystical), a distinction found in Thomas Aquinas, and more recently reiterated in Fides et Ratio, published by John Paul II in 1998. Fr. Philippe is indeed an original thinker. His tremendous love for Thomas Aquinas does not as one discovers upon closer reading, inscribe him in the “good old Scholastic Tradition.

As his confrère, Aidan Nichols, OP. from Great Britain suggests, Fr. Philippe is unclassifiable. “Fr. Philippe,” he says

extends the tradition of the ‘vision’ of Thomas Aquinas by creatively transforming it. I think he will one day come to be regarded as a major inspiration in late twentieth, early twenty-first century Francophone Catholicism.

Fr. Philippe is a man interested in anyone who seeks truth, no matter how different his or her background may be. “All seekers of truth are friends,” as he likes to say.

His professorial role was that of a philosopher, having held a chair in Metaphysics. That would seem to make him an unlikely candidate for the foundation of a new religious order, the Congregation of Saint John (founded in 1975). The foundation of the Brothers of Saint John (and later, two branches of nuns — contemplative in 1982, and apostolic in 1984) was not something Fr. Philippe had intended, and for which, consequently, he was not preparing. As he says,

I had never thought of it, ever. It’s very simple, in fact: the Congregation of Saint John was asked of me. It was not something I had willed. It was a small group of my students who approached me." [1]

Fr. Philippe’s initial reaction was understandably one of hesitancy. It was clear to him that nothing new was necessary. Or so he thought.

The new foundation, in retrospect, was indeed an unusual thing: a new community, founded by a Dominican, in a Dominican setting, that was not Dominican. There is, of course, an inevitable kinship. When asked of the connection, Fr. Philippe responds,

I absolutely do not wish the Congregation of Saint John to be a rival of the Order of Saint Dominic. They are different. Seen from without, in a sociological fashion, the difference may seem subtle, and therefore difficult to detect. Indeed, agens agit simile sibi: can a Dominican found anything that is not a certain prolongation, or extension, of the Dominican Order? And yet, if one is truly a founder, that is, if it is God who is asking, and it is not a personal decision (as would be the case with someone who always dreamed of founding an order that would correspond to what he dreams), then one is, above all, an instrument of the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit can have spring, from a Dominican, a Brother of Saint John!

He continues,

The Congregation of Saint John is not a reform of the Order of Saint Dominic. I never thought along those lines. I never positioned myself as a reformer. But, in my life, I have been careful to try to highlight the sources, the deep intention of Saint Dominic his concern to ‘speak only with God and of God’ and his great thirst for truth. His thirst for truth, for light, and a very penetrating gaze upon the mystery of Jesus crucified, always seemed to me to be the deep secret of Saint John. And the way in which Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks of the holiness of Saint John always seemed to me to be what characterizes his own holiness, that of a son of Saint Dominic.[2]

As a son of Saint Dominic himself, Fr. Philippe is an intimate son of Mary, the love for whom he shares with his sons, the Brothers of Saint John, and anyone else willing to listen. His philosophical inquiry and research has, interestingly enough, served this communication. From the age of six, Fr. Philippe read for his uncle, Fr. Dehau, who was going blind. As a novice, on a visit to his uncle, a visit during which he continued a reading of Aristotle, he was given wise counsel:

You must enter deeply into metaphysics, for metaphysics enables us to speak of Mary. You must study metaphysics to be able to speak of Mary, and to communicate her to others.

Indeed, who is Mary? She is a mystery, a mystery of mercy, for she has been enveloped by God ... and given to us.

Mary is the masterpiece of God at the Cross. She is the masterpiece of God, of the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for us. The one who is given to us is the Woman, who is one with Jesus crucified. And she who is entirely turned towards Jesus is entirely turned towards us, and is given to each one of us in a unique way. We must receive her. We must ask the Holy Spirit to grant us a divine experience of the heart of Mary, who is our desert.[3]


1. Les Trois Sagesses, Fayard, Paris, 1994

2. Les Trois Sagesses, Fayard, Paris, 1994

3. J’ai Soif, Editions Saint Paul, Versailles, 1996

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Copyright ©; 2002 Marians of the Immaculate Conception

Version: 4th December 2002

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