The return to God is the meaning and destination of our existence. In order to reach this destination, we must lay hold of the means that God gives us, so that we will not grow faint along the way and so that we don’t fall prey to the enemy.
Now this return to God takes place along the same way by which He came to us. There is no other ladder to heaven. And just as Mary is the last rung of this ladder descending from God to us, so too she is the first rung of our ascent to God. That is the meaning of the axiom: per Mariam ad Jesum - to Jesus through Mary.
St. Anselm explains this in a magnificent prayer:
“Through thee, O glorious Lady, we become worthy to ascend to thy Son Jesus, who deigned to descend to us through thee. Through thee, O Blessed Virgin, we can arrive at the glory of Him who through thee came to us in our misery” (Oratio 54, PL 158, pp. 960-961). In this connection St. Bernard says that in our “travels through this foreign land” we have a “kindly advocate” who precedes us, “who intercedes for us, as the Mother of the Judge and the Mother of Mercy, with her humble and effective plea in matters of salvation” (Sermo Nr 2 in dominica infra Oct. Assumpt. BMV, PL 183, p. 431).
The Immaculata herself confirms this when she declares at Fatima that her Immaculate Heart is our refuge and the way that leads us to God. Isn’t Mary the first creature that returns to God after her Incarnate Son? Yes, she is not only the first, but also encompasses all of us within herself in this progress of union with God. She is the pristine image, the prototype of all the redeemed. Furthermore she is in certain respects the representative of all the redeemed, according to the remarkable saying of St. Thomas Aquinas: “In the Annunciation the Virgin’s consent was besought in lieu of that of the entire human nature” (Summa Theologica III, q. 30, art. 1). Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis confirms this with the lapidary comment: “In place of all mankind she gave her consent”.
The return of the world to God begins in a new covenant of God with mankind. This divine espousal, however, does not take place immediately with mankind as a whole. God chooses to go by way of Mary. There ought to be peace between God and man. Therefore God establishes this covenant, as two powers do when they ratify a peace treaty. Mary is the one chosen by God to represent mankind. Her fiat welcomes the Eternal World into the human race. And in her consent the return of all creation to God becomes possible in the first place. In this sense Mary constitutes the beginning of our salvation. How man ought to respond to the God’s redeeming love is explained to him not only in God’s commandments and in the guidance and instruction of Christ and the Church (objective means of salvation); it is tangibly and vividly set before his eyes in the figure of Mary. Her attitude must become ours; her word - our word; her fiat - our fiat. Only in the measure that I imitate Mary’s consent in my own circumstances will my heart be open to Christ and His grace.