FROM MARY MAGNIFYING GOD. BY WILLIAM HUMPHREY, OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE OBLATES OF ST. CHARLES. AD 1873
|Our Lady of the Night, Sister Marie Pierre Semler, 1934|
Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
My soul doth magnify the Lord. St. Luke i. 46.
IT is a wonderful thought, full to us of consolation and of strength, that the highest and noblest and most perfect of creatures, and that creature which most magnifies the Lord, and gives greatest glory to the One Creator, is, of all creatures,—not an angelic, but a human being.
Mary said, 'My soul.' The word 'soul' is not one which can be applied to designate an angel. It signifies the ' spirit that is in man.' Angels are pure spirits; they are not souls. The difference between a pure spirit, or an angel, and a soul, is this: both are independent of matter, can exist apart from it, and so existing, perform all purely spiritual acts, such as those of memory, intellect, and will; can remember, understand and know, determine and love :—but a human soul, although it can exist apart from a material body, and although it has, so apart, the exercise of all its purely intellectual powers, forces, and faculties, and that moreover in a higher degree, more unrestrainedly, more intensely, and more consciously then, in that moment when it is set free from the mortal and corruptible body — this body of death to which it is now united — although it then only begins really to understand its own nature, and the stretch and limit of its own capacities, and adequately to realise what it is to be a spirit—to possess a spiritual existence — to exercise spiritual faculties, and to live with a spiritual life—yet that disembodied spirit, even although full of grace, purified from every stain of sin, cleansed from the slightest soil of earth, nay, even after its entrance on the life invisible and immortal—after its admission to the eternal glory, and the undisturbed possession of the unseen, unheard-of, unconceived delights and joys and satisfactions of the beatific vision — even then that disembodied soul is still in an estate of imperfection. It is imperfect with the imperfection of a part; existing severed from that other part, union with which is necessary in order to the completeness of the whole; and it will not attain to its perfection until the day of the general resurrection, when that other part, its material body, shall be reformed from out those constituent elements into which, by decomposition, it has been resolved, reconstructed in accordance with a glorious, eternal, and divine idea, and renewed in all the perfection of which its nature is capable. Then shall the beatified soul not only put on that transformed body as a garment to cover its nakedness—not only enter into it as into a habitation and a home —but it shall assume it into its own unity, into the oneness of its own personal individuality; it shall be so intimately and indissolubly wedded to it that, in virtue of that eternal union, those two component parts of a human being, the human body and the human soul, shall thenceforth and for ever live with one human life, and act with one human operation.
The existence of a material being, so formed and organised by the processes of nature as that it should fittingly become a human body by the infusion into it of a human soul, was the moral cause inducing God to the creation, not only of a human soul, but of that particular human soul, with all its peculiar, personal, special, individual characteristics, qualities, properties, and perfections.
God does not simply create a soul—any kind of soul—to be united to and inform a body, with out reference to that body; but He creates this particular soul in order to and with special and direct reference to this particular body, with a real relation and a special adaptation of one to the other, and in such wise that this body belongs to this soul—can claim it, possesses it by a right—a right of property, a title of dominion — can say strictly and with truth, 'This is my body.'
There exists now, at this moment, between the disembodied souls in purgatory and in paradise and the lifeless bodies in the grave—nay, between those souls and the constituent elements into which their bodies have been resolved—a real bond—so real that at the latter day this particular soul must necessarily be reunited to this particular body-to its own body—to identically that same body which it inhabited, informed, and possessed while here on earth.
Moreover, so intimate and so real is the union between soul and body—between this particular soul and this particular body—that, of the original divine intention, in the idea and purpose of the Creator from the beginning, that union was never to be dissolved. There was to be no death. Man had bestowed upon him the gift of immortality-the possibility of unending, uninterrupted human life, because the possibility of unending, uninterrupted union between soul and body. There was to be no purgatory, and no grave. Man was to live for ever; and, his period of probation at an end, to be translated alive from the paradise on earth to the paradise of God.
The severance of the union, the dissolution of the bond, the divorce of soul and body, was the consequence of sin : 'The wages of sin is death.' 'By man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' It was the Divine decree : 'In the day that thou sinnest thou shalt die.' Hence forth—from the moment of the first human transgression of the Divine law — there was not only heaven and earth, a temporary pilgrimage and an eternal home—there was a hell for fallen man as for rebel angels. There was a grave, in which should be buried the disembodied souls, as well as a grave into which should be cast the lifeless bodies of the damned. Sin had thwarted the Divine intention of an everlasting union between soul and body—had rendered an impossibility the original design of the Creator. Sin begot death ; and death begot hell and the grave.