Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 25


1 For this cause, I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you gentiles:

2 If yet you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me towards you :

3 How that according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in few words :

4 As you reading may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.

5 Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles, and prophets in the Spirit.

12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

13 Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you which is } 7 our glory.

14 For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 Of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man.

17 That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts : that being rooted and founded in charity,

18 You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth.

19 To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us :

21 To him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, unto all generations world without end. Amen.

The more S. Paul magnifies the grace and excellence of his own apostleship, the more does he give grounds for magnifying far more exceedingly the grace and dignity of the Mother of God. For what part does an Apostle hold in the great Mystery of Christ comparable with that of Mary ? She, the little humble handmaid of the Lord, was made His Mother by the fulness of the grace of God which was given to her, according to the power of the Highest Who came upon her, and the Mighty One who did great things unto her, so that she gave to the whole world God manifested in the flesh, and showed Him first to simple Jewish shepherds, and then to royal sages of the Gentiles with all His unsearchable riches, as an earnest that He should be manifested to all mankind, "the light of the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel". It was through Mary that for all eternity the manifold wisdom of God in this mystery of the Incarnation, should be made known to all the principalities and powers in heaven ; since she, the human Mother, is there the ever-living witness and testimony of its truth, the gage and the pledge that God her Son is ever and very Man—that "great mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, appeared unto Angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up to glory." [1 Tim. iii. 16.]

What was Mary's knowledge in the Mystery of Christ ? Illi solum datum est nosse, says S. Bernard, cui datum est experiri. In the Annunciation she had a full revelation of the Mystery. In the Virginal Conception an experimental knowledge. How was she strengthened by the Spirit with might unto the inward man, when that Spirit ineffably overshadowed her, that Christ might dwell, not merely by faith in her heart (though for that she was praised by the Holy Ghost Himself), but by the wondrous union of maternity. The charity, in which she was rooted and founded, was not merely that of a creature to its Creator, but that of a mother to a son. Yet it was a most supernatural charity, having God for its object, and the Holy Ghost for its author. God, Who is able to do all things more abundantly than we can desire or understand, Himself wrought these works of sanctification in Mary. Well, then, does she say, Fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus. More abundant are they than we could desire : but Mary had in its fulness the beatitude of the hungry : and esurientes implevit bonis. What creature, then, save the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, the Incarnate Word, could be the ideal present to the Apostle's mind, as he wrote his burning words ?—Strengthened inwardly in all perfection, so far as a pure creature is capable thereof, by the Divine Spirit ; her heart united to Jesus Christ, and rooted in charity above all others ; comprehending beyond the other saints the intensity and extension of the exceeding love of Christ; approaching, as far as the finite may, to the infinite fulness of God. "Our Lord and Saviour, Himself ever-Virgin, had a Virgin for His Mother. He offered in His own person an example of virginity to men, and in His Mother to women. Whereby is clearly shown, how in both sexes blessed purity merited to have the fulness of the

Divinity, since all that there is in the Son was found in the Mother." [Int. opp. Sulpic. Sever. Ep. 2.]

In whom we hare boldness. The Apostle, in order to encourage the Ephesian converts, reminds them of the freedom and confidence wherewith Christians might have access to Jesus Christ, through faith in Him ; and entreats them by this consideration, not to lose heart on account of his own present tribulations. These sufferings, he tells them, he is enduring for their sakes, and that they are their glory. That is, the persecution of S. Paul ought to be a ground for their rejoicing and thanksgiving to God, that he, the Apostle of the Gentiles, was accounted worthy thus to suffer in their behalf for the Name of Jesus, and thereby to glorify God, and their holy faith. It was the Apostle's glory to suffer for Christ, and this his glory redounded on them. [1 Pet. ii. 19--21.] His suffer ings were their glory, too, as being an efficacious means of grace and glory to them, for whom he suffered. For his own part, the persecutions he endured for Christ so greatly strengthened his confidence, as to constrain him, with most earnest devotion and humble reverence, to beseech the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whose cause he suffered, to pour in abundance upon the Ephesian Christians the richest blessings of grace.

To make application of the foregoing to Mary, it is enough to suggest one or other thought which meditation will unfold. 1. What confident access [Rom. v. 2.] must His most holy Mother have to Jesus Christ her Son. 2. How great is our ground for hope, consolation, thanksgiving, and joy, in the thought of all Mary's dolours which she underwent on our account. How powerful and meritorious must these dolours render her intercession. How efficacious in obtaining mercy and grace for us. 3. What great glory must these dolours have given to God ; suffered, as they were, in union with the Passion of Jesus Christ her Son to satisfy the Divine Majesty outraged by sin.

What grateful compensation did Mary's perfect compassion render to our Saviour for all the indifference and ingratitude shewn to Him by men in His Sacred Passion. 4. How glorious are Mary's dolours for the Church of Jesus Christ and for His holy Name. 5. How fruitful in virtue, merit, and glory for herself. For since Jesus, " whereas, indeed, He was the Son of God, learned obedience by the things that He suffered ; [Heb. v. 8.] so too Mary, His Mother, had to acquire virtue and perfection worthy of her sublime dignity and office, by means, of suffering : and as it was by His sufferings He became for us before God a merciful High-priest and Saviour, so also through her dolours has Mary become for us our Mother of Mercy, and a Consoler of the afflicted, who can have compassion on our miseries, and is able to succour us in our temptations—a Mother to whom we may go at all times with confidence, beseeching her to obtain mercy, and grace to help us in seasonable aid. [Ib. ii. 17,18; iv. 15, 16.] In fine, as it behoved Christ to suffer and thus to enter into His glory, [Luke xxiv. 26.] so also did it behove Mary His Mother to earn by suffering her glorious crown.

Of whom all paternity, etc. God the Father has willed that all in heaven and earth should be brought into relationship with Himself, through our Lord Jesus Christ, His Only-begotten Son made man : and through Him the Eternal Father is the Father of all His adopted children. Equally true is it—though not in the same, but in another sense—that all these are brought also into relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, as her children. Through Him she has become the Mother of all in heaven and earth ; that is, of all those who can claim the paternity of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence in such secondary sense of Mary it may be said, Of whom all maternity in heaven and earth is. named. [Rom. vii. 15,16. Gal. iv. 5, 6. See infra, Note A, pp. 275-0.]