Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 40


3 How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ? which having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.

Since the fact of having heard the word of Jesus Christ was the ground of authority which gave it confirmation. What confirmation must Mary not have given; for who was there who heard, who knew Him as she did ?

5 For God hath not subjected unto angels the world to come, whereof we speak.

But to Mary " the Father of the world to come" [Isa. ix. 6.] was really subject. Mary had over Him the rights of a mother. It is little to say of her that she is above the Angels, and the rest of creation. For what, after all, is it to be Queen of Angels and all creation, compared with being Mother of God, the Maker and Lord of Angels, and the whole creation? What honour, short of that which belongs to God alone, can be too great for us to pay to her whom God has thus honoured ?

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that, through the grace of God, he might taste death for all.

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, who had brought many children into glory, to perfect the author of their salvation, by his passion.

Mary, too, who is of all the most closely allied with Jesus, though lower than the Angels by nature, is crowned with surpassing glory and honour.—It was meet that she who had the chief share with Jesus in the work of our salvation, and is our spiritual mother, should be made perfect, by having the chief share in His Passion.

11 For both he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.

Jesus Christ and His faithful are all of One, that is, of One God and Father. Hence Jesus Christ is our Brother. Again, they with Him are all of One, that is, of One Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. "We have here another ground for claiming Him as our Brother.

14 Therefore because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner hath been partaker of the same : that, through death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil:

15 And might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their life-time subject to servitude.

Here, implicitly, but emphatically, the Apostle refers to Mary. For well did he know that it was of Mary alone Jesus Christ received that same flesh and blood, through which by death, He triumphed over Satan and wrought our redemption.

16 For no where doth he take hold of the angels : but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold.

17 Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren.

Of the seed of Abraham He took hold in His Incarnation, generally and remotely: but of Mary He took hold, in particular and immediately. Through Abraham, says the Apostle, we are made brethren of Jesus Christ: and Abraham is our father. How much more, then, through Mary; and how much more is she our Mother. For of her pure blood alone did He take hold, and therefrom derived His own most precious Blood, by which we were redeemed from death and received our life.

18 For in that, wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted, he is able to succour them also that are tempted.

In a true sense we might apply these words of S. Paul to Mary, who, on our account, had the greatest share in all the sufferings of her Divine Son. How well might she use the language of the old poet: Haud ignara mali miseris succurrere disco.

" There is not one amongst all the Saints," says S. Antoninus, " who can ever feel for us in our miseries, both corporal and spiritual, like this woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary." [P. iv., tit. xv. cap. 2.]


5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant for a testimony of those things which were to be said:

6 But Christ as the Son in his own house: which house are we if we hold fast the confidence and glory of hope unto the end.

Mary was faithful as the Mother and Mistress in her own house. And what a house and family was that over which she presided ! Do we not here see a claim for Mary's dignity, and for her pre-eminence over all the choirs of Angels and Saints in heaven? And may we not trust that faithful Virgin to care for, as Lady and Mother, the house of Christ her Son on earth, His Holy Church, to which we are called; and to take care of ourselves in particular, if only we hold fast, by true devotion to her, the confidence and glory of hope, which we have in her protection, unto the end ?

"It was just—according to what the Apostle says in his Epistle to the Hebrews, regarding Moses as a faithful servant in his house, and Christ as an only Son ruling in His house that His own Mother should by her virtues and glory preside over the whole family, next after Himself in the same house. As, therefore, to her belongs the name, peerless and unique, high above all others, after God, of Mother of God; so peerless and unique, high above all others after God, here on earth and in heaven, is the grace and glory of the same Mother of God." [Petrus Venerab. L. iii. Ep. 7. Bib. Max. t. 22, p. 901.]


1 Let us fear therefore lest the promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should be thought to be wanting.

2 For unto us also it hath been declared, in like manner as unto them. But the word of hearing did not profit them, not being mixed with faith of those things they heard.

3 For we, who have believed, shall enter into rest; as he said. 

9 There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God.

11 Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest.

The Holy Ghost has more than once borne testimony to Mary that she believed, and kept the Divine word in her heart to her profit. She is emphatically pronounced blessed for her faith. Is not, then, her super-eminent faith blessed with a corresponding share of the rest of Paradise ? If there remaineth a rest for the people of God, how much more for the Mother of God—for her who whilst on earth so ardently aspired and hastened to enter into that rest: "In all these I sought rest ... in the holy city likewise I rested . . . and my abode is in the full assembly of the saints." [Ecclus. xxiv. 11-16. See the Breviary Office for the Feast of the Assumption, 15th August.]

12 For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight; but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is.

There is much similarity of ideas in these words of the Apostle and those of Simeon to Mary: " And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed." [Luke ii. 35.] The word of God that Mary then heard was to her indeed living and effectual, and as a two-edged sword pierced her soul, revealing to her many diverse thoughts both of sorrow and joy. The living Incarnate Word of God Himself, proved to be to her also such a sword in His Passion and Death. [See supra, Eph. vi. 17] In commenting upon Simeon's words, S. Ambrose, S. Augustine, S. Bede, and other Fathers interpret these words of S. Paul in the same sense, and apply them to our Lady.

"God," says S. Antoninus, "may be said to be by His presence in all things, because He knows all the most secret things of creation : All things are naked and open to His eyes. But He was by His presence in the Blessed Virgin, not only because He saw all things that were secret in her, her thoughts and affections, with the eye of cognition ; but also because He approved all her acts interior and exterior, with the eye of approbation." [P. iv tit. 15, cap. 21.]

14 Having therefore a great high-priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God : let us hold fast our confession.

15 For we have not a high-priest, who cannot have compassion on our infirmities : but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.

16 Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace : that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.

We might apply these words regarding our Divine Redeemer to Mary, in a sense they could not attach to any other: Having therefore an advocate passed into heaven, Mary the Mother of God, given to be our Mother also—one full of mercy and compassion, who herself suffered and was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin—let us go with confidence to her throne of grace, for she is full of grace, that we may obtain mercy and grace, through her intercession, and seasonable aid.