THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE ROMANS. CHAPTER XI.
33 O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God. How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways !
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? Or who hath been his counsellor ?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?
36 For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things : to him be glory for ever. Amen.
What a great glory to our Lady, that, though she did not originate the plan of the Incarnation, yet in its execution she was taken into God's counsel, and her consent to it was asked. She could, indeed, only give to God what He had first given to her. Her faith was His gift, her humility, her purity, her soul and her body that had been prepared by Him. Yet she did give to Him, and proportionate recompense was made to her. The words: " God loveth a cheerful giver," have their highest application in Mary. We may well exclaim in thinking of all her graces and glories : 0 altitudo divitiarum !
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world ; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
Mary had practised these lessons in a more excellent manner than all others. She, according to the constant tradition of the Church, presented herself, body and soul from earliest years to God in the Temple to live in perpetual virginity. More over, she offered herself to Him throughout her life, together with her Son, as a living sacrifice, and especially when she presented Him to the Eternal Father in the Temple. She was indeed holy and pleasing unto God, so that she found grace before Him. Invenisti gratiam apud Deum. The world had no part in her, and so she was enabled to prove and to do the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
" To-day," writes S. Bernard, " earth's most excellent fruit is presented to the Creator. To-day an appeasing Sacrifice, pleasing unto God, by virgin hands is offered in the Temple, is borne by the parents, is expected by aged ones, Joseph and Mary offer the Sacrifice of praise, the morning sacrifice ; Simeon and Anna receive it." [De Purif. B. M. Serm. ii.] " Offer thy Son, O Sacred Virgin, and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of thy womb. Offer for the reconciliation of us all the Sacrifice holy, pleasing unto God."' [ib. Serm. iii.]
Beata Dei Genitrix Maria, exclaims Holy Church, Virgo perpetua, Templum Domini, Sacrarium Spiritus Sancti, sola sine exemplo placuisti Domino nostro Jesu Christo. Alleluia. [Ana ad Vesp. in Praesentat. B. M. V.]
4 For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office :
5 So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us.
Mary as Mother of Christ, is Mother also of all the faithful who are the members of His mystical body, whereof He Himself is the Head. Mary is also the most excellent member of this body. She is sometimes compared to the neck, through which the energy and life of the head are derived to all the other members. As Mary's place and office in the Church are pre-eminent and unique, so also are the gifts, and the fulness of grace, bestowed upon her. [See infra, 1 Cor. xii. 26, 27 ; Eph. v. 29-32 ; Col. ii. 19.]
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good.
10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.
11 In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Serving the Lord.
12 Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer.
13 Communicating to the necessities of the saints. Pursuing hospitality.
We may gather what was the mind and spirit of Mary from her recorded words and acts. What an example does she give of humble charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another in her visit to Elizabeth when she was the first to salute her cousin. Serving the Lord: " Ecce ancilla Domini."
" Respexit humilitatem ancillae suae." In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Patient in tribulation. Think of Mary's diligence in seeking her lost Jesus : " Dolentes quaere-bamus te;" [Luke, ii. 44-48.] and again on Calvary: " Stabant autem juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus . . ." [John, xix. 25.] Rejoicing in hope. " Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo." Instant in prayer; as at Pentecost. "Hi omnes erant perseverantes unanimiter in oratione cum mulieribus, et Maria Matre Jesu ;" [Acts i. 14.] and at Cana, where we see, too, her thoughtful care for others, in communicating to the necessities of the saints, and pursuing hospitality. " Deficiente vino, dicit mater Jesu ad eum : vinum non habent." [John ii. 3 sq.]
14 Bless them that persecute you : bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that rejoice ; weep with them that weep.
Mary under inspiration of the Holy Ghost foretells that all generations of the true children of God shall bless her. God had Himself predicted the perpetual enmities that should exist between the seed of the evil one and the promised woman. [Luke i. 48 ; Gen. iii. 15 ; 1 Pet. iii. 9.] The wise man says, " There is a generation that doth not bless their mother." [pr0v. xxx. 11.] What shall we think of those heretics who will not bless the Blessed Virgin Mary ; but almost curse her ? They are like Esau, [Gen. xxvii. 41.] and worse than Balaam. [Numb. xxii. 12, xxiii. 20.] Catholics, animated with a different spirit, love to take part in the joys, sorrows, and glories of their Mother. This they do when they say the Rosary.
" Though," says S. Chrysostom, " you cannot remove another's sorrow, yet give your tears, and you take away the greater part of it, and though you cannot increase his joy, yet rejoice with him, and you augment it much."
16 Being of one mind one towards another. Not minding high things, but consenting to the humble. Be not wise in your own conceits.
The Blessed Virgin loved humility, and was herself the-most humble of all. " He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid. He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." " Mary kept all the words (that were told by the humble unlettered shepherds) pondering them in her heart." [Luke ii. 16-19.] Her place is recorded the last amongst the disciples and women in the Upper room awaiting the: Descent of the Holy Ghost, [Acts i. 14.]
1 Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.
What a striking example Mary showed of submission, when-according to the decree of Augustus, she went to be enrolled at Bethlehem. [Luke ii. 1-5.]
7 Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour.
8 Owe no man anything, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law.
Is no honour then due to Mary ? Is no love owed to Mary ?
14 Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was Mary who gave us the Lord Jesus Christ, wherewith to clothe ourselves. " Because," says S. Ephrem, " He put His Mother's garment on, she clothed her body with His glory." [S. Ephrem, In Nat. Dom. xi., Morris, p. 51.] And : " Thy Mother put on in her Virginity the garment of Glory that sufficeth for all." [Ib. p. 53.]