THE IMPLICIT TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN THEIR EPISTLES.
|Our Lady Of Glory|
We have now to deal with what is more positive. And it remains for us to show that notwithstanding this silence, there lies hidden beneath the surface of the Apostolic writings a large amount of implicit teaching on our Lady, which we propose to bring in detail to view. But we must first claim as incontrovertible what we have before observed, viz., that the Apostles could not have deigned by their silence to ignore the Blessed Virgin, we mean that they could not have thereby intended of set purpose to take no account of her in their Epistles, and to exclude her from their own consideration, and that of those to whom they wrote.
The one great central theme of all their teaching, whether oral or written, was our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the promised Messias and Saviour of the world. But His Virgin Mother is so intimately connected with Him; her ancestry, privileges, whole life and character are so closely interwoven with those of her Son ; His claims to be believed in for what He professed to be, and was set forth to be by the Apostles, are so dependent on the truth of the recorded facts of Mary's history, that there could be no adequate teaching concerning Him without regard to her. Hence, the Apostles had necessarily to reckon, so to speak, with Mary in treating of Jesus Christ, and could not ignore her.
Moreover, everyone would, we think, admit that if we had had only the Apostolic Epistles to look to, our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ would be on many points very indefinite and imperfect. In order to complete this knowledge and to intelligently understand all that the Apostles write concerning Him in their Epistles, we must bring to them, as we read them, the knowledge we have of Him from whatever is elsewhere revealed in God's written word. But to this knowledge of Jesus Christ appertains all that is said in the sacred Scriptures, and especially in the Gospels, about Mary His Mother ; as the Blessed one amongst women, fore told by God Himself in the primeval promise made to our first parents in paradise ; the Virgin of virgins predicted by the prophets, saluted by Gabriel as full of grace; the true Mother of the Incarnate Word, whom on earth, above all others He honoured and obeyed as a most dutiful and loving Son ; with whom He spent far the most part of His life, living and conversing with her alone; who was made at the Visitation the channel for communicating to others the first graces of His Incarnation ; at whose prayer He anticipated the time for working miracles, whereby He first manifested His divine glory, and His disciples believed in Him ; to whom He gave the chief share in His sufferings, and therefore of His graces, virtues, and merits, as also of His resurrection glory ; to whom, when dying, He commended, as to their own Mother, all His brethren in the person of His beloved disciple, charging them at the same time that henceforth they should, as dutiful, loving children, regard her as their Mother ; whom, in fine, the Holy Ghost had, by her own lips, foretold God's faithful in all generations should bless and praise.
Such a delineation of Mary's personal history, as well as of striking traits in her character, which at once appear from the incidents recorded of her, and remarks made about her by the Evangelists, is patent on the page of the Gospel to all who read what is there written with a believing and unprejudiced mind. And since, obviously, all that we know of Mary bears importantly on our knowledge of Jesus Christ, and serves to explain what is said of Him in Holy Scripture, it is evident that whoever would understand adequately what the Apostles wrote concerning Jesus Christ in their Epistles, must take with him in reading them what is elsewhere revealed of His Blessed Mother. And this all the more, because the authors of the Epistles, as Apostles, were in full possession of what ever had been revealed concerning Mary, and had, when writing, all this present to their minds, with an understanding and knowledge much more complete, clear, and profound than we can have. Besides, they lived in her own lifetime, had personally known her, and enjoyed intimate converse with her. This, too, was more or less incident to some, at least, of those whom the Apostles addressed, who, if they had not known or seen her personally, had, at any rate, seen and heard those who had known her, and from them learnt many circumstances of her life and character that are wanting to us, and which would go to fill in the sketch that is drawn in mere outline by the Evangelists, and to complete the marvellously beautiful idea of her, which even the little that they say brings up to our view.
Hence, from what we have said, it seems fair to conclude : that in whatever measure an explicit know ledge of the Blessed Virgin was needed for a full and adequate understanding of the Apostles' teaching concerning our Lord Jesus Christ in their Epistles, in the same measure they supposed that explicit know ledge of Mary to be in the possession of those to whom they wrote. In other words, so far was an implicit teaching on the Blessed Virgin, in this sense, contained in the Apostolic Epistles.
But, beside this argument, based to some extent, it may be thought, on a priori grounds—many passages of the Epistles bear positive evidence of such implicit teaching; since the principles and doctrines laid down in them point directly of themselves, and necessarily lead up to what was then known and believed about Our Lady, and to all that the Catholic Church has ever held concerning her. Many things, too, are said in the Epistles which seemingly would never have been written at all, were it not for the knowledge their authors had of Mary.
We shall bring many instances in proof of this assertion, from the words of the Apostles, when we go through their several Epistles in detail. It will suffice here summarily to observe that, whatever qualities of person, state, character, or office are spoken of in the Epistles, as grounds of dignity, claiming respectful attention, honour, praise, admiration, and love, on the part of Christians, meet with their perfect realisation, and, so to say, culminate in our Lady. Those virtues, too, which the Apostles most extol, and recommend to the faithful, are strikingly characteristic of, and exemplified in, Mary, as she is portrayed in the Gospels. Again, many of the metaphors, comparisons, and analogies that occur in the Epistles would seem to be directly borrowed from the idea of Mary, and to have been made use of by the Apostles, with the thought of her present to their mind, as they wrote ; since, in her alone, they meet with their full and highest significance. And the same may be said, with due proportion, of illustrations, types, predictions, and promises taken from the Old Testament.
We will state our position and line of argument in another way, thus :—
The Blessed Virgin Mary is, in point of fact, through her ineffable union with Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, immeasurably above all the rest of creation in dignity, more well-pleasing and united to God than any other creature ; and, consequently, was enriched with most noble graces of state, gifts, and privileges, and with a fulness of sanctifying grace and of the Holy Ghost beyond all others. By co-operating most faithfully with the graces she received, she surpassed all in acquired holiness and in the practice of every virtue, and through her perfect fidelity to grace, merited to be recompensed with a crown of glory greater than that of all others. Mary, as Mother of God, and through her exceeding grace and sanctity, is the most noble and excellent member of Christ's mystical Body, wherein she holds the highest place of state and office, after Jesus Christ, its Head. Mary is also the spiritual Mother of all Christians, who are the brethren of Christ; and in her they may find the Model of all virtues for their imitation. On all these grounds the Blessed Virgin should be an object of veneration, love, and hope to all Christians.
The foregoing points must, we think, be admitted as true by all who sincerely believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Son of God ; and who seriously reflect on them, meditating, at the same time, on God's Attributes of Wisdom, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Justice.
But if this be so, we are in full accord with reason and truth, when we predicate of Mary, in its highest degree, whatever the Apostles say in their Epistles of dignity, honour, privileges, gifts, and graces that are bestowed on the rest of the faithful; whatever, too, they say in praise of Christian sanctity, virtues, and merits; and when we enhance, in her regard, the claims that they urge of any others on our veneration, hope, and love ; and, when we contemplate her crown of eternal glory in heaven as surpassing far in splendour that with which they assure us all the elect are recompensed.
We say that to make such application to the Blessed Virgin of what is thus contained in the Epistles—even though this were beside the writers' intention—would entirely accord with reason and truth, because all these things are really applicable to Mary in the highest degree. But we say further, that implicitly it was the intention of the Apostles to make such application : since the professed theme of their Epistles was Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, with whom the thought of Mary, His Mother, is indissolubly united ; and they were so well conscious of all that Mary was. We shall, moreover, point out several passages in the Epistles that bear trace of an explicit thought of the Blessed Virgin being present in the minds of the Apostles as they wrote.
What we now add may be deemed not strictly relevant to our particular inquiry. It is at any rate, one of those " undesigned coincidences " which will serve as a confirmation to our whole argument. And it is this, that the beautiful descriptions and praises of the various Christian virtues, which we read in the Epistles, exactly portray and vividly recall to mind that idea of Mary, as the type of all perfection, that is ever impressed on the minds and hearts of the faithful, as she has been depicted by the holy Fathers, Doctors, and Saints, and witnessed to by Catholic tradition in every age.
As, however, some consideration of this thought is necessary to better understand the full meaning and scope of our thesis, we shall devote the next chapter to its development.