THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE ROMANS. CHAPTER II.
|Ambrogio Bergognone -The Virgin and Child XV Century|
6 Who will render to every man according to his works.
7 To them indeed, who according to patience in good work, seek glory, and honour, and incorruption, eternal life.
"What recompense will Christ render to the Blessed Virgin? Christ the Lord, the just judge, gives rewards, says the Apostle, to every man according to his works. As what Mary, His most holy Virgin Mother, has wrought is incomprehensible, and unspeakable the gift she received, so beyond all price and incomprehensible is the reward and the glory which she has merited. I say not amongst the rest of virgins, but also amongst all the Saints." [S. Ildephonsus, Serm. 2, De Assump.]
" And who would there be, for whom the Lord would lay up greater merit and reserve greater reward than for His Mother?" [S. Ambrose, De Inst. Virg. vi. 45.]
10 But glory, and honour, and peace to everyone that worketh good.
There is then an honour due to creatures, as w r ell as to the Creator ; though the honour due to the " only God " [i Tim. i. 17.] cannot be shared by creatures. But, we may add, neither can the glory and honour due to creatures be given directly to God. Honour is due to excellence. Now, God's excellence is not only infinitely greater in degree than that of His creatures, but also essentially different in kind from theirs. Nay rather, they are not merely different, but contradictory. God's excellence is in His Infinite, Independent, Self-sufficing Nature. The honour due to this is latria, supreme adoration. The excellence of creatures is in their submission to God, their perfect dependence on Him, their absolute reference of them selves to Him. Mary, who of all creatures was the most humble, the most submissive, the most prostrate before God, is most deserving of honour as a creature. But this honour does not raise her up as a rival to God, but proclaims her the very humblest of His servants. If it places a crown on her brow, it is one which she casts at the feet of her Son. [Apoc. iv. 10.]
13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God; but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Mary is frequently praised in the Gospel as not a mere hearer but a doer. Indirectly she is thus commended by our Lord Himself in answer to the woman who exclaimed: " Blessed is the womb that bore thee," etc. ; when He said, " Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." [Luke xi. 27, 28.] And directly she is commended by the Evangelist, who records of Mary that she " performed all things according to the Law of the Lord," [75. ii. 39.] and carefully takes note of her exact obedience. [v.v. 21-27, 41, 43.] Thus that blessedness of keeping God's word, which our Lord pronounced to be greater than that of the divine maternity, was pre-eminently Mary's : and hence pre-eminently was she just before God.
" Mary was more blessed," says S. Augustine, " in receiving the faith of Christ than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. For to one who said : 'Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the paps that gave thee suck,' He answered: ' Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.' What profited it His brethren, that is, His kindred according to the flesh, who did not believe in Him, their relationship ? So, too, the near relationship of mother would have profited Mary nothing, had she not borne Christ in her heart, which was more blessed than bearing Him in her flesh. . . . Thus Mary, by doing the will of God corporally is only the Mother of Christ, but spiritually is both sister and mother." [De Sanct. Virginit. c.c. 3, 4.]
29 But he is a Jew, that is one inwardly ; and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter ; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Such was Nathanael, "an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile ;" [John i. 47.] thus praised by our Lord Himself. Such, still more, was Mary. It was not fitting that His earthly lips should directly praise her. But her interior piety is praised by the Angel and the Evangelist. [See Luke i. 28, 30, 41-45 ; ii. 19, 51.] "All the glory of the King's daughter is from within." [Ps. xliv. 15.]
23 For all men have sinned.
" Does this universal statement include the Blessed Virgin ? By a special privilege granted to Mary an exception was made in her case to the general rule that all have sinned, as S. Augustine declares." [S. Antoninus , P iv., Tit. 15, cap. 20, 4. See the passage from S.
Augustine, De Natura et gratia c. xxxvi., infra, ad 1 John i. 8.]