Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 14


4 Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit;

5 And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord;

6 And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all.

7 And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.

8 To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;

9 To another, faith in the same Spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit;

10 To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches.

11 But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.

The Apostle teaches in this Chapter that, as in the natural body, so also in the mystical body of Christ, the members are of various degrees of dignity, according to the particular functions which they have to perform ; and that they receive special gratuitous graces and gifts proportioned to their several dignity and office, for the profit of the other members, and the common good of the whole Church.

Now the Blessed Virgin, as Mother of Jesus Christ, the Head of His mystical body, and as Mother of all the faithful, holds the highest place of dignity amongst all the other mem bers ; and has consequently received in super-eminent degree such gifts and graces as are fitted for the worthy discharge of her sublime functions. Hence it is considered certain, accord ing to S. Thomas and theologians generally, that Mary had all the gifts here enumerated in the highest degree, at least inherently, and also their actual exercise, so far as this was suitable to her sex and condition, and was expedient for the ministry to which she had been chosen by God. Accordingly, she possessed the gift of wisdom, or an excellent intelligence, through contemplation, [Luke ii. 19.] of the most profound mysteries of revelation, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Redemption ; together with the faculty of explaining them to others.

The gift of knowledge is said to refer especially to a deep understanding of, and the faculty of setting forth to others, all that is best and most perfect in practice. The marvellous prudence of the Blessed Virgin shows that she had this gift. But she had not the exercise either of this gift, nor of that of wisdom for public preaching or teaching, since this would have been out of order, and unbefitting her sex and condition.[i Tim. ii. 12.] She, however, exercised these gifts, in an unofficial and private capacity, so to say, and was, as tradition tells us, the instructress of the Apostles and Evangelists in many things, and especially in what related to the infancy, childhood, and hidden life of her Divine Son. And we may well believe that after the Ascension they often consulted her as the living commentary on all His words and acts, and the best interpreter of His mind and thoughts. Hence Eusebius of Emisa says: " Mary, being most wise, preserved in her heart all the words of Jesus Christ, and kept them for us, and caused them to be registered, in order that, according to her instruction, their recital and dictation should be published and preached throughout the world, and given to us to read." [Hom, in Evangel.] The gift of faith, as distinguished from the theological virtue of faith, is a firm trust and confidence in the power and help of God, spite of all difficulties, obstacles, and even seeming impossibilities ; such as, in the words of our Lord, can " remove mountains." [Matt. xvii. 19 ; xxi. 21. Mark xi. 23. 1 Cor. xiii. 2.] This gift was evidenced in ;the Blessed Virgin, when she believed the Angel's word that she should be Mother of the Son of God, and still remain a Virgin : [Luke i. 37, 38.] and again, when at the Marriage-feast she had firm confidence that our Lord would fulfil her desire, and work the miracle, though He seemed to refuse her petition. This gift of faith connotes also the power of easily convincing others of divine truths. It is thus bestowed on those especially whose ministry it is to preach God's "Word. Mary, of course, had not such exercise of this gift: but that she possessed the gift of faith, understood in this sense, we may see clearly from the same miracle at Cana. For not only was her own faith and confidence so strong ; but she had also the power of inspiring the domestics with faith, so that, when she bid them do whatever her Son commanded them, they at once acted on His word, believing that He would work the miracle, though all appearances were against it. This exercise of Mary's gift of faith was moreover, the root, so to say, of His disciples' faith, who, as the Evangelist records, then believed in our Lord. [John ii. 1-11.] With regard to the grace or gift of healing, and of miracles generally, S. Thomas says that, "its exercise did not belong to the Blessed Virgin during her lifetime : because that was the time when Christ's doctrine had to be confirmed by miracles. And, therefore, for Christ alone, and His disciples who were the bearers of Christ's doctrine, was it fitting to work miracles. For the same reason, too, it is said of John the Baptist that ' he did no sign,' [John x. 42.] in order, namely, that all might fix their attention on Christ." The working of miracles (operatio virtutum) is considered to be greater than the last gift: comprising marvels and prodigies which have reference, not only to the body, but also to the soul, and all things else, such as to raise the dead to life, to cast out devils, and to work extraordinary miracles in the order of grace. We may see Mary's exercise of this gift, as to the last effect, at the Visitation, when the yet unborn infant, John the Baptist, heard her salutation, and at the very sound of her voice leapt for joy, and was sanctified in his mother's womb ; and at the same time Elizabeth was illuminated and filled with the Holy Ghost. "That the Blessed Virgin had the exercise of the gift of prophecy," says S. Thomas, " is evident from the Canticle which she made : Magnificat anima mea Dominum," etc. S. Augustine referring to our Lord's words (Mutt. xi. 13) enumerates those recorded in the New Testament as having prophesied before John, and adds: " We know, too, from the Gospel (Luke i. 46-55) that the Lord's Virgin Mother herself prophesied before John." [De Civil., Dei, 1. xvii. c. 22.]

S. Epiphanius writes: " ' I went,' says Isaias, ' to the prophetess ; and she conceived in her womb, and bore a son. And the Lord said to me: Call his name, hasten to take away the spoils : make haste to take away the prey,' etc. [Isa. viii. 3.] By which words he shews the entrance of Gabriel to Mary; when he went forth to bring her the glad tidings that she was to give birth to the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, not from seed of man, but by the Holy Ghost." [Haeres. Ixviii. 16.]

S. Jerome, commenting on the same text, says : " Some interpret the prophetess as the Blessed Virgin. That Mary was a prophetess there is no doubt, since she says herself in the Gospel: ' Behold from henceforth . . . great things.' [Comment in Isa. 1. iii.]  (Luke i. 48, 49.)

S. Nilus, too : " Thou hast asked us, why Mary the Mother of God is called by Isaias (vii. 14) a Prophetess. Remark in the Gospel her words, ' He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid : for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.' And if you do not find that the holy Mary is called blessed in all nations and in every tongue, because she bore in her womb God, made flesh of the Holy Ghost, and of her, and brought Him forth without corruption or any sort of stain, then give no credence to Isaias. But if throughout the world she is called blessed, and is extolled with praise, hymned forth, and eulogised—she, that land unsown and un-wrought—together with her all-blessed and eternal Fruit, why dost thou further dispute whether Mary the Mother of God should be called a prophetess ?" [Epist. 1. ii. 212.]

The gift of the discerning of spirits, that is to say, of thoughts and intentions, and consequently of words and actions—thereby to know whether they proceed from the natural spirit and instinct, or from the devil, or from God, or an angel, was pos sessed by the Blessed Virgin in the highest degree of perfection. She showed her exercise of this discernment especially at the Annunciation. By this gift she knew for certain that he who then spoke to her the message, otherwise incomprehensible, was in truth the Angel of the Lord, and that his words were divine. With regard to the gift of speaking divers kinds of tongues, the holy Virgin must have possessed it equally with the Apostles. It was fitting that she should not only understand foreign languages, but also speak them, because she would have been in want of this grace on many occasions, and God would not have deprived her of what was necessary for the accomplishment of the aims of His Divine Providence. For example, when the Magi came from the East to adore the Infant Jesus at Bethlehem, it was necessary that she should understand their language, as well as speak it. When she went into Egypt, and remained there several years, in order to save her Divine Infant from the persecution of Herod, it was necessary for her to understand and speak the language of those parts. Besides, it is reasonable to suppose and believe that after the Ascension of our Divine Lord, when the Christian faith began to be diffused and spread over the most distant countries, many came from afar to see the holy Mother of the Redeemer, and to honour her; she must then have understood them, and been able to speak their language. Again, we may well believe that they had the satisfaction of hearing in their own tongue the divine oracles from her mouth. By the gift of interpretation of speeches, is generally held to mean that of understanding and explaining especially the more obscure passages of Holy Scripture. Tradition tells us how versed Mary was in the Sacred Scriptures, and we might gather the same from several things said in the Gospels. We may see, too, her exercise of this gift in her Magnificat. [Quotations are made in the above comment from S. Thomas Summa p. iii. qu. xxvii. ; Art v. acl 3m. ; Cornel, a Lap. in Inc. ; and The Virgin Mary, by Rev. R. Melia, D.D., P.S.M., pp. 152-156. For the Blessed Virgins personal beauty, as a gratuitous grace, see the same work, pp. 157-161.]

26 And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member.

Hence in the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary the faithful not only take part in the Joys, Sufferings, and Glories of Jesus Christ the Head of the Body, but also in the Joys, Dolours, and Glories of Mary, who is the most excellent member of His Mystical Body.

"The Church," says S. Austin, "is a virgin." Thou wilt, perhaps, ask me : If she is a virgin, how does she give birth to children? And if she does not give birth to children, how is it we give in our names, that we might be born of her bowels ? I answer : She is both virgin and brings forth children. She imitates Mary, who brought forth the Lord. Did not the holy Virgin Mary both bring forth and remain a virgin"? So, too, the Church both brings forth and is a virgin. And if thou reflectest, she gives birth to Christ because those who are baptised are His members. You, says the Apostle, are the body of Christ, and members. If, therefore, she gives birth to Christ's members, she is most like to Mary." [Serm. 213, cap. 7. See also supra, vii. 34.] Again :
" Mary is clearly the spiritual Mother of Christ's members, which we are, because she co-operated by charity, that the faithful who are members of the Head, should be born into the Church ; and she is corporally Mother of that Head." [De Sanct. Virginit. cap. vi.]