Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 36


4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity.

6 But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God ?

The Virgin Mother had her Child, Almighty God made Man, subject to her. [Luke ii. 51.] May we not ask: If she knew how to rule well the holy house of Nazareth, and to have her Lord subject to her, is she not worthy and well able to take care of the Church of God, and shall not its members be subject to her ?

9 Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.

Thus did Mary : nay, she bore "the Author and Finisher of faith " in her virginal womb.

11 The women chaste.

Following the example of the Virgin of virgins.

13 For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

What degree of glory, then, has not Mary purchased for herself: who, though the Mother of God, took her place, rather, as the Lord's handmaid, and, after His example, came not to be ministered unto but to minister. Correspondingly great, too, must be the confidence of her access to her Divine Son.

14 These things I write to thee, hoping that I shall come to thee

15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

16 And evidently great is the 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 in glory.

S. Timothy needed instruction how to behave as Bishop in the Church: for the Church has to deal with and make known the great mystery of godliness, the Incarnation. But Mary needed a still higher wisdom to know how to bear herself to the Incarnate God Himself. Her Epistle and teaching was the Holy Ghost. [See S. Chrys. Horn, in S. Ignat. n. 2.] Evidently great is the mystery of Mary, the true Virgin Mother of God—ever indissolubly united, as she is, to the great mystery of godliness, the Eternal Word Incarnate ; since through and of her He was made man, manifested in the flesh and given to mankind. Evidently great is the mystery of Mary, who was overshadowed, filled, justified, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost; whom the Angel, appearing as the ambassador from on high, saluted as closely united to God : whose spirit exulted in God alone; who was to be celebrated, Virgo praedicanda, as the Blessed one by all generations; whose glorious life illumines all the churches; who after death was taken up into heaven and crowned in presence of angels and saints with exceeding glory.


10 We hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.

And most especially is He the Saviour of Mary, the first-fruits and Mother of the faithful, Beata quae credidisti; redeemed and saved, as she was, in most perfect and singular manner from ever coming under the dominion of Satan, or contracting any stain of sin. Mary therefore in a singular manner and beyond all others hoped and rejoiced in the living God— to whom, indeed, she herself gave His human life—as her Saviour : " Exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo."

12 Be thou an example of the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity.

14 Neglect not the grace that is in thee.

15 Meditate upon these things, be wholly in these things : that thy profiting may be manifested to all.
16 Take heed to thyself and to doctrine : be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.

If S. Timothy, by the merits of his works and example, could thus save others; how much more may not Mary save us ? Since she exemplified all these virtues so much more brightly than S. Timothy, viz., holy conversation, charity, faith, chastity, correspondence to grace, meditation, example. To be convinced of this it is enough to gather together the passages in the Gospels which speak of Mary, to mark well the traits of her life and character therein contained, then to fill up the sketch by devout meditation and reflection, and lastly to compare all this with what early tradition says of her in the Holy Fathers, specially S. Ambrose.


3 Honour widows, that are widows indeed.

5 But she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, let her trust in God, and continue in supplications and prayers night and day.

6 For she that liveth in pleasures, is dead while she is living.

7 And this give in charge, that they may be blameless.

8 But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

9 Let a widow be chosen of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband.

10 Having testimony for her good works, if she have brought up children, if she have received to harbour, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have ministered to them that suffer tribulation, if she have diligently followed every good work.

And shall we not honour Mary, so long a widow from the death of S. Joseph; a widow indeed, and desolate, after the death of Jesus Christ? Did she not trust in God, and continue in prayer ? [Acts i. 10.] Mary must surely have been the widow indeed, present, implicitly at least, in the Apostle's mind ; the type and model of all holy widows. What testimony of her good works must have been in the Church at the time he wrote. She had brought up her Child—and what a Child!

Moreover, all Christians had been commended by Him as children to her maternal care. She had received to harbour the afflicted, such as Mary Magdalene. She had washed saints' feet, nay, the feet of the Saint of saints, in His infancy and childhood, and when His body was taken down from the Cross and placed in her arms. She had, as tradition tells us, during the years that remained to her on earth diligently followed every good work.

"A triple good," says S. Antoninus, "attaches to holy widowhood. 1. Liberty for contemplation (v. 5). Hence we read of the widow Anna, the prophetess, that ' she departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving God night and day.' [Luke ii. 36, 37.] 2. Mortification of the flesh ; for the Apostle says (v. 6) that the widow ' that liveth in pleasures, is dead while she is living.' Hence the holy widows Judith and Anna practised fasting. 3. Exercise of works of piety and mercy (v. 10). Thus the widow of Sarepta supported Elias with food to sustain his life. Now all these things were beyond comparison in the Blessed Virgin Mary ; for not only did she observe the fasts prescribed by the Law, but S. Ambrose says that she added others besides ; she was wholly given to prayer and contemplation; out of her poverty she nourished Christ who was a mendicant and poor." [P. iv. tit. 15, c. 24, 3.]

But if any man, etc. (v. 8). Mary, then, will not neglect those of her household, that is, who are in her confraternities and wear her livery.