A virtuous Woman who can find? Her price is far beyond pearls. – Proverbs 31:10
Again, the kingdom of heaven is as if a merchant were looking for rare pearls: and now he has found one pearl of great price, and has sold all that he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:45-46
Cornelius a Lapide mentions that one can take the pearl of great price to mean Our Lady. But in that case who is the merchant? The merchant is God Himself Who searched through all generations till He found the “virtuous woman” who was to be the Mother of His Son. And He was willing to pay all He had for her. In an earlier post I looked at how the Our Lady can be seen as the final cause of the entire universe; she is more than all other purely created things the end and motive that God had in mind when He created the world. And it was above all for Her that the Divine Son paid the ultimate price on the Cross. There is a beautiful meditation on this in Fr. Antonio Maria Sicari’s Way of the Cross for the Jubilee of Priests:
She had been the first to be called upon to contemplate ‘the price of redemption’; not only our redemption as sinning children, but all the more so; her redemption as the Immaculate One, redeemed in advance by the her Son’s sacrifice. Mary accompanied Jesus to the hill where she was to understand, in a mysterious illumination, that she first of all was ‘daughter of her Son’.
The depth of Our Lady’s gratitude is measured by the depth of her humility. This pearl knows that her beauty is caused by the price paid for her. Magnificat: anima mea Dominum.Et exultavit spiritus meus: in Deo salutari meo. Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae. We can get a clue to the depths of Our Lady’s gratitude from a famous passage of St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul. St. Thérèse is reflecting on her gratitude for the gift of having been preserved from ever committing a mortal sin, but one can read it as an analogy for the infinite gratitude which Our Lady felt for being preserved from the stain even of original sin:
I know that without Him, I could have fallen as low as St. Mary Magdalene, and the profound words of Our Lord to Simon resound with a great sweetness in my soul. I know that ‘he to whom less is forgiven, LOVES less,’ but I also know that Jesus has forgiven me more than St. Mary Magdalene since He forgave me in advance by preventing me from falling. Ah! I wish I could explain what I feel. Here is an example which will express my thoughts at least a little. Suppose a clever physician’s child meets with a stone in his path which causes him to fall and break a limb. His father comes to him immediately, picks him up lovingly, takes care of this hurt, using all the resources of his profession for this. His child, completely cured, shows his gratitude. This child is no doubt right in loving his father! But I am going to make another comparison. The father, knowing there is a stone in his child’s way, hastens ahead of him and removes it but without anyone’s seeing him do it. Certainly, this child, the object of his father’s tender foresight, but UNAWARE of the misfortune from which he was delivered by him, will not thank him and will love him less than if he had been cured by him. But if he should come to learn the danger from which he escaped, will he not love his father more? Well, I am this child, the object of the foreseeing love of a Father who has not sent His Word to save the just, but sinners. He wants me to love Him because He has forgiven me not much but ALL. He has not expected me to love Him much like Mary Magdalene, but He has willed that I KNOW how He has loved me with a love of unspeakable foresight in order that now I may love Him unto folly! I have heard it said that one cannot meet a pure soul who loves more than a repentant soul; ah! how I would wish to give lie to this statement! (MS A 38v-39r)
The pearl of great price for which God gave His only Son has been made so perfectly white and luminous by the blood shed for her that God can say to her: “tota pulchra es amica mea et macula non est in te!”
And therefore, “She repays him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks out wool and flax and performs with willing hands.” (Proverbs 31:12-13) The wool and flax are the graces from which she makes white garments in which to clothe us her children. Oh Blessed Lady, may thy purity excuse the fault of our corruption. May thy humility implore pardon for our vanity. May thy abundant charity cover the multitude of our sins, and may thy glorious fruitfulness confer upon us an abundance of merits. (cf. S. Bernard)