Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 3


3 For what saith the scripture ? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.

16 Therefore it is of faith, that according to grace the promise might be firm to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

17 (As it is written: I have made thee a father of many nations) before God, whom he believed, who quickeneth the dead; and calleth those things that are not, as those that are.

18 Who against hope believed in hope; that he might be made the father of many nations, according to that which was said to him : So shall thy seed be.

19 And he was not weak in faith ; neither did he consider his own body now dead, whereas he was almost an hundred years old, nor the dead womb of Sara.

20 In the promise also of God he staggered not by distrust; but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God:

21 Most fully knowing, that whatsoever he has promised, he is able also to perform.

22 And therefore it was reputed to him unto justice.

23 Now it is not written only for him, that it was reputed to him unto justice,

24 But also for us, to whom it shall be reputed, if we believe in him, that raised up Jesus Christ, our Lord, from the dead,

25 Who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

How well and how truly might we not here substitute the name of Mary for Abraham. What saith the Gospel ? " Blessed art thou that hast believed, because these things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." [Luke i. 45.] How much higher and more efficacious was Mary's faith than that of Abraham ; and, consequently, how much greater and more perfect her justice; how much fuller and more extended the blessedness and promised inheritance resulting to her therefrom. Are these not proportioned to the immediate object of her faith, the Redeemer of the world, the Incarnate Lord of men and angels, who was so much greater than Isaac, the son of Sara, the immediate object of Abraham's faith ?

Yes, Blessed, indeed, Mary, art thou amongst women, whom all generations, in time and eternity, shall pronounce Blessed.

Has not Mary, in a more true and far higher sense than Abraham is the father of the faithful, become through her faith the Mother of its all ? She who against hope believed in hope, that she might be the Mother of her God, and of all generations of His faithful ones : [See infra, Gal. iii. 6-9, 16, 18, 22, 26-29 ; iv. 22-31. Heb. xi. 11, 12, 17-19. James ii. 21-23.] who was not weak in faith, considering not her virginal sterility ; in the promise also that " the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadow her, and that there should be born of her the Holy, the Son of God," staggered not by distrust; but strengthened in faith, knowing that no word is impossible with God, said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Thy word ;" and giving to God all the glory, exclaimed : " My soul doth magnify the Lord . . . because He that is Mighty hath done great things to me ; and holy is His Name. Now it is not written only for her, but also for us, if we believe; as she herself declared : " His mercy is for them that fear Him throughout all generations."

"Blessed be the Babe," exclaims S. Ephrem, "whose Mother was Bride of the Holy One ! . . . Sara had lulled Isaac as being a slave that bare the image of the King his Master on his shoulders, even the sign of His Cross, yea on his hands were bandages and sufferings, a type of the nails. Rachel cried to her husband, and said, Give me sons. Blessed be Mary, in whose womb, though she asked not, Thou didst dwell holily, 0 Gift, that poured itself upon them that received it. Anna with bitter tears asked a child, Sara and Rebecca with vows and words, Elizabeth also with her prayer: after having harassed themselves for a long time yet so obtained comfort. Blessed be Mary, who without vows and without prayers, in her virginity conceived and brought forth the Lord of all the sons of her companions, who have been or shall be chaste and righteous, priests and kings. Who ever lulled a son in her bosom as Mary did ? Who ever dared to call her son, Son of the Maker, Son of the Creator, Son of the Most High ? Who ever dared to speak to her son as in prayer ? 0 Trust of Thy Mother as God, her Beloved and her Son as Mary, in fear and love it is meet for Thy Mother to stand before Thee." [De Natal. Dom. Horn. vi. Opp. Syr. ii. Morris, p. 36.]

" Mary hid in us to-day leaven come from Abraham." [Jb. Horn. i. p. 8. S. Ephrem in his sermon on Abraham and Isaac draws out the analogy between the conception of Sara (Gen. xviii. 10-12, xxi. 7), and the Annunciation to Mary, dwelling on the former only for the sake of
the latter (Opp. Graec. iii. p. 376). The Blessed Virgin has alluded in her Magnificat to God's fidelity to His promises made to " Abraham and his seed for ever." The Jews in our Lord's time were fond of calling Abraham their father, but they were often degenerate children. The Pharisees were rebuked for this by S. John Baptist, [Matt. iii. 9.] as well as by our Blessed Lord Himself, [John viii. 39.] Who told them to imitate or do the works of Abraham. Yet the great patriarch has some genuine children amongst his lineal descendants, and of these Mary was the chief. She was a true daughter of Abraham. But she was far more. She was the Mother of Him who was before Abraham, [John viii. 58] and whose day Abraham rejoiced to see. [ ib. v. 56.] No doubt Abraham rejoiced also in the birth and life of his more favoured daughter. Abraham's faith and hope were great. Greater still were Mary's. He believed that his barren wife could be made fruitful, but Mary that a virgin could conceive. " Blessed art thou that didst believe." Abraham believed that though he should slay his child of promise, God's promises would still be fulfilled. Mary saw her Son die in shame, and even heard Him cry : " My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me ? " Yet she believed in His resurrection and future reign. And so she is the Mother of us all, the Mother of many nations, the Mother whom all generations shall call Blessed.

" Was the faith of the Blessed Virgin greater than that of Abraham ? Abraham, indeed, believed in the hope of the promise made to him by the angel concerning a son who was to be born contrary to the hope that he had naturally that he should yet have a son, since he was very old and his vile barren. But the faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary was greater, for she believed the angel, that of herself a virgin should be born, not a man only, but the Son of the Most High. Magis enim est contra, vel potius supra naturam, virginem concipere, permanente virgine, et verum Deum et hominem, quam concipere vetulam ex vetulissimo, et purum hominem." [S. Antonin. P. iv. Tit. 15, cap. 19, 3.]


1 Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God.

3 And not only so; but we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

4 And patience trial; and trial hope;

5 And hope confoundeth not; because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.

By faith we have access to our present grace. Faith is the beginning and root of our justification. The Church is the kingdom of faith. Without faith we cannot participate in its treasures. It is faith which gives us access to our sonship. "As many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name." [John i. 12.] Consequently it is faith which admits us to our hope of that eternal bliss, which God our Father will confer on His sons. "Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God ; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is." [1 John iii. 2.] Now Mary was daughter, first-born daughter of God, and like us she obtained that grace by faith. But she was more than daughter : she was Mother. Mother of her Heavenly Father! And how had she access to this grace ? By her faith. " Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." [Luke i. 45.] And note how Mary, standing in this grace gloried in the hope of the glory of Mother of God. No sooner had Elizabeth reminded her of the grace to which faith has given her access, than her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour. " Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid : for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." [Luke i. 46-48.] And now in heaven Mary possesses that for which she hoped. She who was hungry is filled with the good things of her Divine Son: she who was humble is exalted to His right hand. She " sees Him as He is," in the beatific vision—not, indeed, adequately, as He sees Himself ; yet more perfectly than the saints or angels. And because she sees Him more perfectly, she is more " like to Him " than they. Oh ! what vision! what likeness ! It is part of the hope in which we glory that we shall one day see the Son reflected in the Mother, His spotless mirror.

If all Christians have access, through their faith, to the grace of reconciliation with God, and to the hope of future glory as His adopted children, what access to all graces must not Mary have obtained through her pre-eminent faith ! Beata, quce credidisti. She who was declared, even before her divine maternity, by God Himself to be perfectly united to Him, Dominus tecum ; and to have already found grace and blessed ness, and to be full of grace. What must be her glory, and what the hope wherewith she looked forward to it, as the Blessed amongst women, the elect daughter of the Father, the true Mother of the Incarnate Son, the immaculate Spouse of the Holy Ghost. Again : what tribulations like to hers, whose soul the sword of sorrow was to pierce through and through, as continually she contemplated, and herself was witness of, and sharer in, the Passion and Death of her beloved Jesus. What glory in tribulations, what perfect trial, what assuring hope was hers, in whose heart the charity of God, the love of Jesus her own Divine Son, was so super-abundantly poured forth, by the Holy Ghost, who overshadowed her at the Incarnation, and again was given to her at Pentecost in all His fulness.

17 Much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through One, Jesus Christ.

According to the measure of the grace, gift, and justice, will be the reign in eternal life. What abundance of grace comparable with the fulness which Mary received ? What gift, with that bestowed on her, to whom God was given to be her own true Son 1 What justice and sanctity with hers, to whom God from heaven declares Himself to be united, whom the holy Archangel salutes with his Ave as Queen? What, then, in, eternal glory must be the reign in life through Jesus Christ of Mary, His own Mother, the holy Queen of angels and saints ?