THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS. CHAPTER IV.
7 But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith : Ascending on high he led captivity captive ; he gave gifts to men.
9 Now that he ascended, what is it but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might nil all things.
11 And he gave some apostles and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors.
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.
As Christ gave to Mary, far, far above all others, viz., Him self to be her own true Son, so is the measure of her grace in proportion to the gift. And she is full of grace. He gave some apostles, etc., but He gave Himself one only Mother. To His Church, too, He gave but one Mother, for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of His body. That as she nurtured His human body of flesh, watched over and brought Him up from infancy to childhood, and on to maturity ; so also might she care for His mystical body, and each individual member of the same, until we all meet unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.
" Now that He ascended, etc., (v.v. 9, 10). That is, He who thus most profoundly humbled Himself was exalted to a height of dignity most sublime. This is also applicable, after our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, above the nine choirs of Angels, herself alone fills with her majesty a tenth choir, which is as much more glorious than the others, as she is nearer to God, and receives a more perfect participation of the divinity."
1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children :
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.
The perfection of a creature is to copy its Creator in things imitable. " Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," said our Lord, and in so saying, He referred especially to His perfection in bounty and mercy, even to His enemies. The perfection of a Christian is to imitate Christ in the spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice. Most strikingly was this two-fold imitation exemplified in Mary. How perfect was our Blessed Queen, both as the most dear Child of the Eternal Father, and most dear Mother of the Son. What a dolorous walk of love was that of Mary from the Crib to the Cross—every step a sacrifice, every breath an odour of sweetness in union with the Sweetness of Jesus.
" The name of Mary," says S. Ambrose, " is as ointment poured forth. May that same ointment descend into the inmost depths and recesses of our souls, whereby holy Mary was redolent not of odours of (earthly) delights, but of the breathings of divine grace." [De. lnst. Virg. c. 13.]
8 For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.
Our Blessed Lord contrasts the children of light and the children of the world ; the former are the seed of the woman, the latter of the serpent. The children of Mary are the children of light.
18 Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit:
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord :
20 Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father.
Mary was the first to set an example in the New Testament of what the Apostle here recommends, by her Magnificat. She first gave thanks to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Church wants to make sweet melody and to pour out thanksgiving to God, evening by evening she borrows the words of Mary : Magnificat anima mea Dominun.
" I will sing to Thee on a harp of ten strings," says the Psalmist : In psalterio decachordo. [Ps. cxliii. 10.]
There are exactly ten chords touched by the hand of Mary in the Magnificat.
1. She magnifies the Lord—chord of adoration.
2. She rejoices in God—-chord of joyful thanksgiving.
3. Thrill of humility—He hath regarded my lowliness.
4. Exultation in His greatness and holiness, as exhibited to herself.
5. Exultation in His mercy, as exhibited to others.
6. Exultation in His power, and justice.
7. Exultation in His grandeur, and condescension.
8. Exultation in His bounty, and severity.
9. Exultation in His special love.
10. Exultation in His everlasting fidelity to His promises.
22 Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord :
23 Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is head of the Church. He is the saviour of his body.
24 Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.
What a beautiful example of conjugal obedience did the Blessed Virgin shew in her conduct towards S. Joseph, following in all things his guidance. [See Luke ii. 5, 16, 39, 41-44, 51— Matt. ii. 14, 21, 23. Also S. Augustine's words quoted supra, 1 Cor. xi. 3.] She had at the same time wonderful motives for this submission in the enlightenment and foreknowledge which she possessed with regard to the mysteries of the Church and of her Divine Son.
29 For no man ever hated his own flesh ; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church :
30 Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For tins cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.
32 This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church.
No man hates his own flesh. Even if he denies, and chastises it, it is from enlightened love. " He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it." [Matt. x. 39.] But Mary must have loved her own flesh in Him who was " made of a woman," far better than in herself : since in Him that flesh was deified, in her it could only be glorified, though with unutterable glory. Mary consented to see this Flesh scourged, pierced with nails, and quivering with pain, because she believed " in the operation of the might of His power, which He (would work) in Christ, raising Him up from the dead, and setting Him at His right hand in the heavenly places above all principality and power and virtue and dominion, and every named that is named." [Ephes. i. 19-21.] So Christ loves His Church, nourishes and cherishes it, even as our Lady fed the Divine Child at her breast, yet giving over its most precious members to every kind of martyrdom ; but numbering each hair of their head for eternal glory. And though He cherished most of all His blessed Mother, He made her the Queen of Martyrs.
We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. How much more she! He was of her body, of her flesh, and of her bones. We are members of His body. How then must Mary cherish us for His sake in Him. We are members of His body. How ought we then to cherish her, His Mother and ours. Is she not indeed our Mother, if we are His members ?
This great sacrament in Christ and in the Church : the mystery of the Incarnation, or the hypostatic union of the Word with human nature, is the model of the Sacrament of Matrimony, or the Christian union of man and wife. This mystery was accomplished in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was shadowed forth in the virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary, wherein were found the greatest goods of marriage, proles, fides, sacramentum, as says S. Augustine. This mystery is the model, after which, was formed the union between Christ and His Church.
" From Mary," writes S. Epiphanius, " is taken that Scripture, which is applicable also to the Church : For this cause . . . one flesh: whereon the holy Apostle says : This is a great sacrament: but I speak as to Christ and the Church. And observe, the accuracy of the Scriptures. For of Adam it is said that God formed him ; but of Eve it is not said she was formed, but was ' built. ' Since we read that God took one of Adam's ribs, and built it for him into a woman ; thus to show, that when the Lord had formed again a body for Himself from Mary, it was from the rib from her the Church was built, in the piercing of His side, and that the mysteries of the Blood and Water were made baths for us." [Haeres. 78. n. 20.]
" Let us now bring forward that celebrated passage of the Apostle," says S. Ambrose, " where is written : For this cause in Christ and in the Church. We remark, then, that by a woman has this heavenly mystery of the Church been fulfilled, in her grace been figured forth, for whose sake Christ came down, and completed that eternal work of human redemption. Hence, too, Adam called the name of his wife Life[Gen. ii. 23.] for it is by means of woman that the series and propagation of the human race is diffused through the world, and by means of the Church that eternal life is bestowed." [De Instit. Virg. iii. 24.]