“Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved? Under the apple tree I raised thee up: there thy mother (Eve) was corrupted, there she was defloured that bore thee.” (Cant. 8:5)

She Shall Crush Thy Head

From The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church

From the beginning of the world God predicted to the infernal serpent the victory and the empire which our queen would obtain over him, when he announced to him that a woman would come into the world who should conquer him. ‘I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.’ (Gen. 3:15) And what woman was this enemy if not Mary, who, with her beautiful humility and holy life, always conquered him and destroyed his forces? St. Cyprian affirms that the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in that woman, and hence he remarks, that God did not use the words ‘I put’, but ‘I will put’, lest the prophecy should seem to appertain to Eve. He said, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman’, to signify that this his vanquisher was not the living Eve, but must be another woman descending from her, who was to bring to our first parents greater blessings, as St. Vincent Ferrer says, than those they had lost by their sin.

Some of the commentators doubt whether these words refer to Mary or to Jesus Christ, because in the Septuagint version we read: ‘He shall crush thy head.’ But in our Vulgate, which is the only version approved by the Council of Trent, it is She, and not He. And thus St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and many others have understood it.

It is well known that the palm is the emblem of victory, and for this reason our queen has been placed on a high throne in the sight of all potentates, as a palm, the sign of certain victory, which all can promise themselves who have recourse to her. ‘I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades’ (Ecclus. 24:18) That is, for a defence as blessed Albertus Magnus says: ‘Oh, my children, Mary seems to say to us with these words, when the enemy assails you, lift your eyes to me, behold me and take courage; for in me, who defends you, you will behold, at the same time, your victory.’ So that recourse to Mary is the most certain means of overcoming all the assaults of hell; for she, as St. Bernardine of Sienna says, is queen over hell, and ruler of the spirits of evil, for she controls and conquers them. And therefore Mary is called terrible against the power of hell, as an army set in array. ‘Terrible as an army set in array.’ (Cant. 6:3) Set in array, because she knows how to array her powers, that is, her compassion and her prayers, to the confusion of the enemy and the benefit of her servants, who, in their temptations, invoke her powerful aid.

‘As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour’ (Ecclus. 24:23) ‘I, like the vine, as the Holy Spirit puts it in her mouth to say, have given fruit of sweet odor.’ ‘It is said,’ adds St. Bernard, on this passage, ‘that every venomous reptile shuns the flowering vines.’ As from vines all poisonous serpents flee, thus the demons flee from those fortunate souls in whom they perceive the odor of devotion to Mary. On this account she also is called a cedar: ‘I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus’ (Ecclus. 24:17) not only because as the cedar is free from corruption, so Mary is free from sin, but also because, as Cardinal Hugo remarks upon this passage, as the cedar with its perfume puts serpents to flight, so that Mary with her sanctity puts to flight the devils.

Victories were gained in Judea by means of the ark. Thus Moses conquered his enemies. ‘And when the ark was lifted up, Moses said: Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered’ (Num. 10:35) Thus Jericho was conquered; thus were the Philistines conquered; ‘For the ark of God was there that day with the children of Israel.’ (1 Kgs. 14:18) It is well known that this ark was the type of Mary. As the ark contained the manna, thus Mary contained Jesus, whom the manna also prefigured, and by means of this ark, victories were gained over the enemies of earth and over hell.

From True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, by St. Louis de Montfort

Mary must become as ‘terrible as an army in battle array’ (Cant. 6:3) to the devil and his followers, especially in these latter times. For Satan, knowing that he has little time — even less now than ever — to destroy souls, intensifies his efforts and his onslaughts every day. He will not hesitate to stir up savage persecutions and set treacherous snares for Mary's faithful servants and children whom he finds more difficult to overcome than others.

It is chiefly in reference to these last wicked persecutions of the devil, that we should understand that first and well-known prophecy and curse of God uttered against the serpent in the garden of paradise. It is opportune to explain it here for the glory of the Blessed Virgin, the salvation of her children and the confusion of the devil. ‘I will place enmities between you and the woman, between your race and her race; she will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel.’ (Gen. 3:15)

God has established only one enmity — but it is an irreconcilable one — which will last and even go on increasing to the end of time. That enmity is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil, between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and followers of Lucifer.

Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother. From the time of the earthly paradise, although she existed then only in his mind, he gave her such a hatred for his accursed enemy, such ingenuity in exposing the wickedness of the ancient serpent and such power to defeat, overthrow and crush this proud rebel, that Satan fears her not only more than angels and men but in a certain sense more than God himself. This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited. It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God. Moreover, God has given Mary such great power over the evil spirits that, as they have often been forced unwillingly to admit through the lips of possessed persons, they fear one of her pleadings for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats more than all their other torments.

God has established not just one enmity but ‘enmities’, and not only between Mary and Satan but between her race and his race. That is, God has put enmities, antipathies and hatreds between the true children and servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and slaves of the devil. They have no love and no sympathy for each other. The children of Belial, the slaves of Satan, the friends of the world, — for they are all one and the same — have always persecuted and will persecute more than ever in the future those who belong to the Blessed Virgin, just as Cain of old persecuted his brother Abel, and Esau his brother Jacob. These are the types of the wicked and of the just. But the humble Mary will always triumph over Satan, the proud one, and so great will be her victory that she will crush his head, the very seat of his pride.

But Mary's power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is, for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him. In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body. But in compensation for this they will be rich in God's graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary. They will be great and exalted before God in holiness. They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ.