THE FIRST EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS. CHAPTER VI.15 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ ?
19 Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own ?
20 For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body.
Great is the dignity of man in being created to the image of God, greater still in that God has by His Incarnation deigned to take the image of man, even the likeness of sinful flesh ; but greatest of all when, by union with Christ through baptism and holy communion, he becomes almost identified with the God-Man. This union is so close that the very members of his body are looked upon as, in some sense, the members of Christ's virginal body. This identification is the work of the Holy Ghost, for He it is who forms Christ in us. Now these principles show us the incomparable dignity of Mary. The Holy Ghost overshadowed her, and she became His temple by a nobler consecration than ever was conferred on creature. He formed Christ in her, not metaphorically, not mystically, not by grace only, but literally, so that not only was her body a member of Christ, but the members of Christ were taken from her body. Mary was not her own. She was created for, sanctified for, glorified for, her Son. She exists for Him. She was bought at a great price. What else could have been present in the Apostle's mind as the antitype of this, so to speak, mystical Incarnation, but the thought of Mary ? Who will ever strive to separate Jesus and Mary. Dominus tecum. " God does not dwell in any one," says S. Augustine, " whom the Holy Ghost has not first sanctified and purified. And even so to Mary, that Blessed Virgin, was it said, ' The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,' no doubt to sanctify and purify her."
25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.
34 And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35 And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.
38 Therefore, both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better.
40 But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.
What Virgin was the antitype and ideal exemplar present here to the Apostle's mind, but Mary, the Virgin of virgins ? She who was ever thinking on the things that concerned Jesus Christ, her Lord and Son, and pondering them in her heart. Here some words of Cardinal Newman, though on another matter, are of force: " I do not deny that under the image of the Woman the Church is signified, but what I would maintain is this, that the holy Apostle would not have spoken of the Church under this particular image, unless there had existed a Blessed Virgin, who was exalted on high, and the object of veneration to all the faithful." [Letter to Dr. Pusey.]
" Mary," says S. Austin, " alone of women is Mother and Virgin, not only in spirit, but also in body. And Mother she is, indeed, in spirit, not of our Head, who Himself is the Saviour, of whom rather she was herself spiritually born: since all who believe in Him, in whose number she is, are rightly called the children of the Bridegroom : [Matt. ix. 15.] but she is clearly the spiritual Mother of His members, which we are; because she co-operated by her charity, that the faithful might be born into the Church; and these are the members of that same Head. For it was befitting that our Head should, according to the flesh, be born of a Virgin, for an admirable marvel, whereby He would signify that His members were to be born of a virgin Church, according to the Spirit. Consequently Mary alone is Mother and Virgin both in spirit and in body ; both Mother of Christ and Virgin of Christ. But the Church, in the saints who will possess the Kingdom of God, is, if taken as a whole, in spirit indeed, Christ's Mother, and, as a whole, Christ's virgin; but not so, as a whole, in body ; since in some she is Christ's-virgin, in some a mother, but not of Christ." [De Sanct. Virginit. Cap. vi.]
"O prudent Virgin, O devout [devota, vowed] Virgin,'" exclaims S. Bernard, "who taught thee that virginity was-pleasing to God? What law, what claim of justice, what page of the Old Testament, either commands, or counsels,, or exhorts to live in the flesh not as in flesh, and to lead here on earth an angelic life ? Where hadst thou read, Blessed Virgin,. ... of virgins that they sing a new canticle, which none other can sing, and ' follow the Lamb, whithersoever He goeth'? [Apoc. xiv. 4,] Where hadst thou read : ' Though we walk in the flesh, we da not war according to the flesh,' [2 Cor. x. 3.] and, He that giveth his virgin in marriage doth well, and he that giveth her not doth better. Where hadst thou heard, I would that all men were even as my self? and, It is good for a man if he so remain according to my counsel ? and, Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel ? But thou hadst—I will not say,, neither commandment, nor counsel, nor example, but—nought save what the unction (of the Spirit) taught thee concerning all things, and that wherewith ' the Word of God, living and effectual,' [Heb. iv. 12.] Who first became thy teacher, ere He was made thy Son, previously instructed thy mind, before He put on thy flesh. To Christ therefore thou vowest to present thyself a virgin, and knowest not that to Him thou must be presented as His Mother also. Thou choosest to be contemptible in Israel, and, that ' thou mayest please Him to Whom thou hast engaged thyself,' [2 Tim. ii. 4.] to incur the curse of sterility : and, lo, the curse is exchanged for benediction, sterility is recompensed with fecundity." [Super Missus est, Hom. iii. 7.]
1 Am not I free ? Am not I an apostle ? Have not I seen Christ. Jesus our Lord ? Are not you my work in the Lord ?
If these were so many claims on the respect and submission of the Corinthian Christians, as being the grounds of S. Paul's dignity, how much greater are those of Mary. What is it to be & an Apostle of Christ compared with being His own true Mother ? If it was a great thing to have seen Jesus Christ for a few moments, what must it have been to have given Him birth, to have given Him her own breasts, to have brought Him up from childhood and lived with Him for thirty years 1 Deep was the debt which the Corinthians owed to S. Paul, chosen from the other Apostles to build up their spiritual edifice. But Mary's is a place that no other could supply. She alone is our Mother, who has given us our Saviour, and brought us forth to the life of grace.
5 Have we not power to carry about a woman a sister, as well as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas ? Not without meaning does the Holy Ghost lead the Apostle -to speak of, as a title of dignity, the brethren of the Lord [See Acts i. 13, 14 ; Gal. i. 19 ; Jude 1.] S. Paul considers that this relationship with Jesus Christ was a claim to honour and authority. But it was all through Mary In so far as they were nearly related to her, were they nearly related to her Divine Son Jesus Christ. She was the channel of whatever dignity they received from this relationship. S. Paul knew this well. How much greater veneration, then, in the Apostle's mind was due to her. How much more honour would he pay to her : for how much closer, and of what a different nature was her relationship to Jesus .Christ as His own true Mother. Because S. James, the brother (kinsman) of our Lord, was first bishop of Jerusalem, that Church was wont in ancient times to be styled with the dignity of the Theadelphian See : we might hence draw out -from analogy the relationship of the Divine Mother with Christ's universal Church.
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.
"S Paul made himself all to all by assimilation and .condescension. The most blessed Virgin conformed herself, in truth and reality, to all in various times and states, even to such as were mutually most opposed. For she was a model at once to mothers, and virgins, and widows ; to men, and angels." [B. Albert. Magn. super Missus est, c. 126. See supra, Rom. i. 14.]