Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 20


4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels,
5 And every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.

This is according to what Mary herself says : " Fecit mihi magna qui potens est. Fecit potentiam in brachio suo. Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui. Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles."

17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

18 For not he who commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God commendeth.

God commended Mary, and she gloried only in the Lord: Magnificat, etc. [See supra, 1 Cor. i. 24-31.]


2 For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

3 But I fear lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted, and fall from the simplicity that is in Christ.

What ideal chaste virgin could have been in the mind of the Apostle here but the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Virgin of virgins, predicted as such by the Prophets, testified as such in the Gospel? What other was espoused to One, even to the Divine Spouse and faithful, as was Mary ? Virgo fidelis. Virum non cognosco. Dominus tecum. " This is He, beautiful above the sons of men," writes S. Augustine, " the Son of holy Mary, the Bridegroom of the holy Church, whom He has rendered like to His Mother: for He hath made her for us a mother, and hath kept her for Himself a virgin. To her it is, S. Paul speaks, I have joined you as a chaste virgin to Christ. Of her again, he says, that our mother is not a bond-woman, but free, and that the children of her who before was desolate, are more in number than hers who hath a husband. [Gal. iv. 26, 27.] Thus also in the case of the Church, as in that of Mary, it is perpetual virginity and incorrupt fecundity. For what Mary merited in flesh the Church hath preserved in spirit . . . with this difference, that Mary gave birth to One, whilst the Church gives birth to many, to be gathered together into One, by One (that is, Christ). ... He came forth from His bride-chamber, and rejoiced as a giant to run His way. [Psalm xviii. 6.] . . . Abiding in the bosom of His Father, He filled the womb of His Mother. And in this bride-chamber, that is, in Mary's womb, the Divine Nature united itself to the human nature ; and there the word was made flesh for us, that going forth from His Mother, He might dwell in us, and going before to His Father, He might prepare a place for us wherein to dwell." [Serm. 195 (alias de Tempore 12).] " May Christ assist us," says the same holy Doctor, " the Son of a Virgin, and the Spouse of virgins, corporally born from a virginal womb, spiritually married in virginal wedlock. Since, then, the whole universal Church herself is espoused to one Man, Christ, as saith the Apostle, of how great honour are His members worthy, who keep this (virginity) in their very flesh, which she, as a whole, keeps in the faith ; thus imitating the Mother of their Bride groom and their Lord ! For the Church also is both a Mother and a Virgin. And of whose purity, in sooth, do we take account, if she be not a virgin? or of whom do we predicate off spring, if she be not a mother. Mary corporally gave birth to the Head of this body, the Church spiritually gives birth to the members of that Head. Both in one and the other virginity is no hindrance to fecundity. In both one and the other fecundity takes not away virginity. Hence, since the Church universal is holy both in body and spirit, and yet the universal Church is not virgin in body, but in spirit. How much holier is it in those members, wherein it is virgin both in body and in spirit." [De Sanct. Virginit. cap. ii.]

And again : " It was in this virginal womb that the Only-begotten Son of God deigned to assume human nature, that He might unite to Himself, the spotless Head, the spotless Church ; which the Apostle calls a virgin, not only taking account of the virgins in body within her, but from the desire he had to see the souls of all incorrupt. For, says he, I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. The Church, then, in imitating the Mother of her Lord, since she could not do so in body, is yet "both mother and virgin in spirit. Think not, then, that Christ by His birth in any way detracted from the virginity of His Mother—He who made the Church virgin by redeeming her from the fornication of demons (i.e., idolatry). It is from this incorrupt virginity that you have been brought forth, 0 holy virgins, who spurning earthly nuptials, have elected to be virgins in flesh also. Celebrate, then, with solemnity and joy this day of the virginal Child-birth . . . He who has conferred on you this privilege so dear to you, has not taken it away from His Mother. He who heals in you what you inherited from Eve—far be it from you to think that He should not keep intact what you have so much loved in Mary. You follow the footsteps of the Virgin . . . imitate her as much as you are able ; not indeed by fecundity ; for this you cannot do whilst preserving virginity. . . . She alone had this double prerogative, she who gave birth to the Omnipotent. . . . But think not, therefore, that Christ is nothing to you, because He is Son of one only Virgin. Him, whom you cannot give birth to in flesh, you may have in heart for your Spouse. . . . Nor think that you are sterile by remaining virgins. For holy virginity of body brings with it fruitfulness of soul. Do what the Apostle says,—since you think not of things of the world, nor how you may please husbands—think of the things of God, that you may please Him in all things, [1 Cor. vii. 32-34.] and be fruitful, not in body but in soul, by the practice of virtues. . . . What you admire in the flesh of Mary, reproduce in the hiding-places of your soul. Whoso believes in the heart unto justice, conceives Christ; whoso confesses unto salvation, brings forth Christ. 

"'Tis to believers Christ is pleased to come.
   The heart of fickle faith that doubts, he spurns
   Unhonoured, and withholds His proffered grace.
   Virginity and ready faith drink in
   Christ to the inmost soul, from whence there formed,
   In hiding-places pure, they bring Him forth."
                                                         —Prudentius, Apotheosis v. v. 580-4.

Thus may fruitfulness united to persevering virginity abound in your souls." [Serm. 171, 2, 3.]
" The Blessed Virgin," writes Morales, " was the figure of the Church, which is both a virgin and the spouse of Christ. It was meet therefore that the Mother of God should be both a Virgin and a Spouse. Hence S. Ambrose speaks thus on this likeness and figure: 'As the Blessed Virgin was married to one (Joseph), yet filled by Another, that is to say, by the Holy Ghost; so is the Church outwardly married to the visible priest, yet filled by the Holy Ghost, in order to form children of adoption, according to the Apostle's words, 'I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase. But neither he who watereth, nor he who planteth is any thing, but God who gives the increase.' [1 Cor. iii. 6, 7. S. Ambrose L. 2, in Luc.] And S. Isidore: 'Joseph typically represents Christ, Whose office is to guard the holy Church which hath not spot nor wrinkle. But Mary signifies the Church, which being espoused to Christ, as a virgin hath conceived us of the Holy Ghost, and as a virgin hath also given us birth.' [Allegorice ex N. Test.] From hence the greatest glory and incomparable praise result to our Blessed Joseph, since—from his having been protector and guardian of Christ our Lord, the Spouse of the Church, and of the Blessed Mother of God, who is a type of the Church, as we have just said—this same S. Joseph was and is the protector and guardian of the Church, and kept the living Bread from heaven, not for himself, but for the whole world, as S. Bernard id (Horn. 2 super Missus est)" [Lib. ii., T,r 6.]

The immediate mention that S. Paul here makes of Eve and her seduction to sin almost forces upon us the conviction that he had Mary distinctly—though it might be only implicitly—in view, in setting forth a Virgin, pure and chaste, espoused to One alone, and faithful to Him, as the exemplar to the Corinthians of their spiritual union with Christ, in opposition to Eve's infidelity. For this antithesis of Eve and Mary forms the very earliest tradition of the Fathers, and is so prominent in their writings of the century next to that of the Apostles, as, we might almost say, to be the one only doctrine with regard to the Blessed Virgin of that age now on record. It is the special theme of S. Justin, S. Irenaeus, and Tertullian. These Fathers insist on the point that Eve and Mary were alike virgins, when each took her part, the one in the Fall, the other in the Redemption of mankind : also, that both virgins were each alike espoused to one alone. They then contrast the infidelity of Eve with the faithfulness of Mary, and the opposite effects of life and death which thence resulted. From this we conclude that the doctrine of Mary the Second Eve forms an integral part of S. Paul's implicit teaching, as that of Jesus Christ the Second Adam does of his explicit exposition. We here remark that the description of Mary by the Evangelists as an espoused Virgin [Matt. i. 18. Luke i. 27, ii. 5.] forms, as though, a title peculiarly attaching to our Blessed Lady, of which no other instance is to be found in Holy Writ to suggest such thought to S. Paul's mind. Moreover, the figure that he gives of a chaste virgin espoused to a virginal husband well illustrates the marriage of the Blessed Virgin and S. Joseph. "Does it not seem," writes Pere D'Argentan, "that the admirable words of the great Apostle S. Paul, Despondi vos uni viro virginem castam exhibere Christo, were expressly written to show the excellence of the marriage with S. Joseph ? See here a marriage indeed extraordinary, which is made only to consecrate virginity. You are married to a man, but it is not for the man who espouses you, but it is for God in Whose name he is espoused to you." [Conferences sur la S. V. Marie, ix. p. 280.]