Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 18


1 And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

S. Paul calls himself and other sacred ministers God's coadjutors. He attributes to them a share in man's reconciliation and redemption. Why then should we refuse to Mary, in a right sense, the title and office of co-redemptress ? " God gives grace," says S. Antoninus, " that man by co-operating with it may acquire for himself the merits of eternal life. He, then, who does not work when he can, receives grace in vain and to no purpose. Now though the Saints exercised themselves in grace in many things and by many good works, yet there has been no one, who has always and in everything that he has wrought, followed the inspiration of grace, and has thus always merited by his works. But this was the privilege of singular grace in the Blessed Virgin Mary." [P. iv., tit. 15, c. 20, 6. See supra, 1 Cor. x. 3.]

3 Giving no offence to any man, that our ministry be not blamed :

4 But in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses, 

6 In chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned,

7 In the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armour of justice on the right hand and on the left;

8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true ; as unknown, and yet known ;

9 As dying, and behold we live; as chastised, and not killed ;

10 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as needy, yet enriching many; as having nothing, and possessing all things.

If we were well to study the Blessed Virgin, even in the fragmentary sketch of her life and character given in the Gospels, we should see that each and all of those beautiful traits set forth by S. Paul, except such as belong peculiarly to the Apostolic life, are found in their perfection in Mary. And the proof of this is, that it is impossible for us to attempt any idea of Our Lady—unless the mind be distorted by perversity and prejudice—and not see in her the assemblage, and mirror, so to speak, of these and all other virtues. "Long-suffering (v. 6), i.e. longanimity, is according to the Gloss, says S. Antoninus, not to give way, but to bear up in the expectation of good deferred. When anyone has to endure what is sad or grievous for a short time, or to wait for some great good which he will soon receive, he strives to bear up with equanimity, because the time is short. But when he sees, in such case, that he must endure long in toil or sorrow, or wait long for the attainment of some good, he is often led to grow tired and weary, and sometimes to give up altogether through the length of time. Now longanimity keeps a man from growing weary, helps him to persevere, though the toil last long, and the good that is looked for tarry, and refreshes his mind with a sort of pledge and assurance of reward. Therefore, says the Apostle, In all things let us exhibit ourselves . . . in longanimity. The Blessed Virgin Mary was for many years in the tribulations of this world, and in expectation of glory deferred—about sixty years, according to the more common opinion—but, all the while, she continued ever more and more fervent and eager for every good work."—P. iv. tit. 15, c. 26, § I.

11 Our mouth is open to you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged.

12 You are not straitened in us, but in your own bowels you are straitened.

13 But having the same recompense (I speak as to my children,) be you also enlarged.

The Apostle tenderly upbraids the Corinthians for their narrowed hearts and affections towards himself, and asks for their love, on account of, and in return for, his large love for them. He appeals to them as a father to his dear children. Much more might Mary speak thus to us. Is she not our Mother ? Does she not love us with a Mother's heart ? Why, then, should we not love her in return, and profess our love and devotion to her ?

14 Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness ?

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever ?

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? For you are the temple of the living God; as God saith : I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17 Wherefore, Go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing:

18 And I will receive you; and I will be a Father to you; and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

If the Apostle forbids to Christians, marriage and other intimate relations with unbelievers, on account of the utter opposition in the essential principles which constitute and actuate the faithful and unbelievers—how much more must Jesus Christ, the ideal Model of all perfection and sanctity, have separated Himself, as far as possible, from all that had relation to sin. " It was fitting that we should have such a High-priest, holy, innocent, undented, separate from sinners " [Heb. vii. 26.] —and separated from them in every possible way, so far as such relation might touch upon His own sacred Person and Office. And such a holy High-priest " was He made, according to the power of an indissoluble life "—" not without an oath"—free from infirmity or imperfection of any sort; but "made higher than the heavens, the Son who is perfected for evermore." [Ib. vv. 16, 17, 20, 21, 26, 28. ...] Now as this Son, our great High-priest, was " made of a woman," [Gal. iv. 4.] it would, surely, be repugnant to the idea of absolute perfection, and separation from sinners, it would argue some sort of infirmity, some, at least indirect, remote concord with Belial —were she of whom "He was made," and from whom, in fact, He derived (by being her Son) the very essential constituent elements and principles of His priesthood, that is, flesh and humanity—for the Manhood of Jesus Christ enters as necessarily and essentially into the very constitution of our great High-priest, as does His Divinity [See Heb. ii, 9, 14-16, 17, 18 ; iv. 15 ; v. 1, 2, 7-10; 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.] —were she, we say, Mary His Mother, any way, or at any time, under the dominion of sin and Satan ; that is, if she were not conceived immaculate, and did not always remain entirely sinless, pure from all stain, as well of original, as of actual fault. We are all, indeed, temples of God [2 Cor. vi. 16.] : but Mary is so by excellence, and in quite another way from other Christians. She must therefore be pure and undefiled in another and more excellent way than the rest. "As the story goes," writes S. Jerome, " a man who was unknown to the world, and not able to think of any good deed whereby to bring himself into notice, set the temple of Diana on fire ; and when nobody could say whose the sacrilege was, he came before the public himself and owned that he had done it to gain notoriety. But you, Helvidius, have set on fire the Temple of the Lord's Body, and defiled the Sanctuary of the Holy Ghost, by denying Mary's perpetual virginity." [Contr. Helvid. See infra, Heb. ix. 2-4.] All Christians are sons and daughters. But Mary, the blessed amongst women, with whom, before the Incarnation, God declared Himself to be united (Dominus tecum), was His beloved Daughter by excellence, the one chosen alone above all others. She was received into His love from the first moment of her creation, nay from all eternity : " Dominus possedit me in initio viarum suarum ." [prov, viii. 22.] Never had she to go out from them, i.e. His enemies, for never was she amongst them ; nor did she ever come in contact with the unclean thing. No need had she of cleansing herself from defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, for she was ever most pure, and was constantly from the very first perfecting sanctification in the fear of God: " Sanctificavit tabernaculum suum Altissimus." [Ps. xiv. 5.] " Misericordia ejus . . . timentibus eum."[Luke i. 50.]