Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 22


1 Now I say: as long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all:

2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father.

"Not only was Joseph the nurturer of Christ," writes Morales, " but also His most apt tutor, governor, and protector : since His tender age required many services, which a mother by herself cannot conveniently render. Hence well said Augustine (in Luc. i.) : ' The Virgin was espoused, that Joseph might himself take care of the Infant, whether in going to Egypt, or returning thence.' Joseph, therefore, was in truth Christ's tutor, according to the words of S. Paul: As long as the heir . . . by the father." [L. ii. tr. 1. 2 Ps. cix. 1.]

On the same text S. Thomas says: "Christ was even as a servant, because, though Lord of all, [Ps. cix. 1.]  He seemed to differ nothing in outward things from a servant, and, so far as man, He debased Himself, taking the form of a servant, and was in habit found as a man. [Philip, ii. 7.] Hence, indeed, it is no wonder that He should render humble obedience to Joseph, since He came to serve." [Is. xliii. 10. Mark x. 45.] At this thought Gerson exclaims : " Oh, utterly marvellous sublimity is thine, 0 Joseph ! 0 in comparable dignity, that the Mother of God, the Queen of heaven, and Mistress of the world should think to call thee A no unworthy lord ! I know not, in truth, which here is the more wonderful, Mary's humility, or Joseph's sublimity: although incomparably surpasses both, their Child Jesus, Blessed for ever, of whom is written: Et erat subditus illis. Subject to a creature is He who made the morning light and the sun. [Ps. Ixxiii. 16.] Subject to a weaving woman is He to whom bows every knee of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." [Philip, ii. 10. Serm. de Nativ, Virg. Consid. 3. ap. Morales 1, tr. ]

"According to the form of a servant, [Phil. ii. 7.] the Child Jesus was even less than His parents." [S. August. Contr. Maximin. c, 18.]

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law :

5 That he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons.

6 And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father.

7 Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also through God.

This is the one only passage in all the Epistles wherein the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary is explicitly mentioned : Made of a woman. God, says the Apostle, sent His Only-begotten co-equal Son, made of the substance of the Blessed Virgin man, one of ourselves, under the Law, to redeem as from servitude to true liberty, that we might become sons of God by adoption; and that, through the Spirit of His Son in our hearts, being now the brethren of Jesus Christ, we might be able to call God our Father. Being sons, we are heirs, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our elder Brother, of God's kingdom of glory. All that is Christ's, is now ours. Not only is His Father ours, but also His Mother. Consequently that same Spirit of His Son, which enables us to cry, Abba, Father, prompts us to call Mary His Mother, our Mother. And as God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has through Him adopted us, and treats us as His children ; so the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Him, by that same Divine Spirit Who came upon her and overshadowed her, and on account of the dying bequest of Jesus Christ her Son, is our true and most loving Mother, would have us cherish her as our Mother, and treats us as her own most dear children.

"Mary," says S. Augustine, "is called a woman, not from any detriment to virginity, but according to the manner of speaking proper to her country. Hence, the Apostle, in saying that our Lord Jesus Christ was made of a woman, does not break in upon the order and texture of our faith, whereby we confess Him to be born of tlie Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary. For virgin she conceived, virgin brought forth, and virgin remained. But they called all females women, according to the Hebrew idiom. Of this we have an evident example in Eve, whom God made by taking her from the side of Adam, who was called woman whilst still a virgin, and before, with her husband, she went forth from paradise." [Gen. ii. 22, 23 ; iii. 12, 13, 15, 16, 24 ; iv. 1 Scrm. li. c. 11.]

" We read of Eve, that she was made from man," remarks Estius, "because she was made and formed from his substance. So the Son of God was made from a woman, because He received flesh of a woman's substance. And as Eve was from man alone, so Christ was from woman, alone. Adam was not, however, father of Eve, as Mary is Mother of Christ, for Eve was not made from man by way of generation and birth, as Christ from woman. Still, even so, the Apostle preferred to say made of a woman, rather than born of a woman, as some have supposed should be read." [In loc.]

The Angelic Doctor further explains this' distinction be tween made and born, showing how certain ancient heresies against the Incarnation are confuted, and the truth of the mystery is clearly established by the language of the Apostle. We give the words of S. Thomas, and also some of Cardinal Cajetan, as follows : Per hoc quod dicitur ex muliere factus, destruuntur duo errores, scilicet Valentini dicentis Christum non sumpsisse corpus de Virgine, sed attulisse illud de caelo, et per Beatam Virginem, sicut per fistulam, seu canale transivisse. Sed hoc est falsum, quia si verum esset quod dicit ;- non fuisset factus ex muliere, ut Apostolus dicit; haec enim praepositio ex, causam materialem designat. Item error Nestorii dicentis Beatam Virginem non esse Matrem Filii Dei, sed filii hominis; quod falsum esse ostenditur, per hoc quod dicit Apostolus hic, quod misit Deus Filium suum factum ex muliere ; qui enim fit ex muliere, est films ejus.

Si ergo Filius Dei est factus ex muliere, scilicet ex Beata Virgine, manifestum est, quod Beata Virgo est Mater Filii Dei. Licet autem posset dici natus ex muliere, signanter autem dicit factum et non natum. Nasci enim aliquid, est ipsum produci solum ex principio conjuncto ; sed fieri est produci ex principio separato ; area enim fit ab artifice, sed fructus nascitur ex arbore. Principium autem humane generationis est duplex, scilicet materiale, et quantum ad hoc Christus processit ex principio conjuncto, quia materiam sui corporis sumpsit ex Virgine, unde secundum hoc dicitur, nasci de ea (Matt. i. 16) : De qua natus est Jesus. Aliud est principium activum, quod quidem in Christo quantum ad id quod principium habuit, id est quantum ad formationem corporis, non fuit conjunctum, sed separatum ; quia virtus Spiritus Sancti formavit illud, et quantum ad hoc, non dicitur, natus ex muliere, sed factus, quasi ex principio exteriori ; ex quo patet, quod hoc, quod dicit : Ex muliere, non dicit corruptionem, quia dixisset natum, et non factum." [S. Thomas, Comment. in loc.] And

Cardinal Cajetan: "Plus explicavit dicendo, Factum ex muliere, quatu factum in carne : quoniam non solum car-neam naturam ex muliere sumptam, sed etiam sine virili semine signiticat dicendo: Factum ex muliere. Quod enim ex muliere, virili semine formatur, non proprie factum, sed natum dicitur, ad significandum, quod ex muliere virgine, ex muliere sola factus est, et ad significandum, quod non est factus in carne quemadmodum. Adam, sed ex muliere." [Ap. Sum. Aur. De Laud. B.M.V. tom. ii. p. 1254.]

19 My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you.

20 And I would willingly be present with you now.

Who was that ideal mother present to the mind of the Apostle ; that mother in, and of whom, Christ was really formed, and who first brought Him forth ; that mother to whom S. Paul would here liken himself ? What mother, too, would recur to the thoughts of the Galatian converts as the antitype whence this figurative language of the Apostle was borrowed ? Was it only some mother in general, or was there no mother in particular, who had a great part in Christ and His religion ? We should here remember that the Galatians were recent converts, and the chief lessons they had been taught would be the historical facts of the Gospel, but above all that of the Incarnation. Who then could be that mother but Mary, "of whom was born Jesus" ? Mary, whom that same Jesus when dying had given from His Cross to be our spiritual Mother, Mary who at the foot of the Cross, travailed in pangs of sorrow for us, as she gave her Jesus up to death, that thus He might be the Life of our souls ; Mary, who still wearies not until Christ be formed in us. O how much more truly might she use the language of the Apostle, My little children ... in her loving desire for our conversion and sanctification. Still in heaven is she mindful of us, and willingly would she be present with us now, and is indeed present with us by her ever-anxious care, and powerful intercession with her Son, whilst we are exiles mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Does not S. Paul speak as though Mary was in his thoughts ? As though he would fain put on the tender love of that Mother for his children ? As though, too, he was setting her forth for their imitation, as their model, and wishing them to strive that Jesus Christ might be formed in their hearts, through that same Holy Spirit, Who formed Him in her, really and corporally as her Son, as well as spiritually in her soul by grace ?

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bond-woman, and the other by a free-woman.

23 But he who was of the bond-woman, was born according to the flesh : but he of the free-woman, was by promise.

24 Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one from mount Sina, engendering unto bondage; which is Agar:

25 For Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

26 But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free: which is our mother.

27 For it is written :Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not : break forth and cry, thou that travailest not : for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

29 But as then he, that was born according to the flesh, persecuted him that was after the spirit : so also it is now.

30 But what saith the scripture ? Cast out the bond-woman and her son ; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman.

31 So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bond-woman, but of the free : by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

Which things are said by an allegory. May they not be well applied, in a really true mystical sense, to the Blessed Virgin Mary ? Is she not the true, the heavenly Jerusalem ? [Ps. Ixxxvi., cxxi.] Is she not free? Was she ever a bondswoman to Satan? Is she not that Jerusalem which is our Mother ? Is she not indeed our Mother ? Are we not her children ? Was it not of this Virgin Mother that the Prophet sang : Rejoice thou barren etc. ? [Isa. liv. 1.] Was it Sara, was it Isaac, in whom the Promise was fulfilled? Which, then, was the real promise, "Sara shall have a son," [Rom. ix. 8.] or Mary shall have a Son ? Was not the former but the type of the latter? This thought caused S. Ambrose to exclaim : " Come then, 0 Lord, and seek Thy sheep, not now by servants, not by mercenaries, but by Thine own self. Do thou in flesh which in Adam fell, receive me. Receive me not from Sara, but from Mary : that it may be a Virgin incorrupt, a Virgin by grace intact, and free from all stain of sin." [In Ps. cxviii.n. 30 v. 176.]

Was the persecution here alluded to of Isaac by Ishmael anything but a figure of the enmities between the Serpent and the Woman, and between the Serpent's seed and that of Mary ? Is not this the distinguishing note, that is being fulfilled every day, of the generations of the faithful, and of the seed of error, devotion to, or aversion from, the Blessed Virgin Mary ? She herself foretold it : Ecce enim . . . Mark it well— Henceforth all the generations of God's faithful children, the children of the free-woman, my children, shall bless and praise me. So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bond-woman, but of the free : by the freedom wherewith Christ hath made us free. Which things are said by an allegory.

"With rival words," writes S. Ephrem, "did Mary wax hot, yea she lulled Him, saying, Who hath given me, the barren, that I should conceive and bring forth this One, that is manifold, a little One, that is great ; for that He is wholly with me, and wholly everywhere ? The day that Gabriel came in unto my low estate, he made me free instead of a handmaid, of a sudden : for I was the handmaid of Thy Divine Nature, and am also the Mother of Thy human nature, 0 Lord and Son ! Of a sudden the handmaid became the King's daughter in Thee, Thou Son of the King. Lo, the meanest in the house of David by reason of Thee, Thou Son of David, lo, a daughter of earth hath attained unto heaven by the Heavenly One ! " [Rhythm iv. on the Nativity. Opp. Syr., Morris, p. 28.]

" The free-woman, my Son, is Thy handmaid." [Id. R. xii. p. 54.]