THE CATHOLIC EPISTLE OF S. JAMES THE APOSTLE. CHAPTER II.
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with respect of persons.
2 For if there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire,
3 And you have respect to him that is clothed with the fine apparel, and shall say to him : Sit thou here well; but say to the poor man : Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool:
4 Do you not judge within yourselves, and are become judges of unjust thoughts ?
The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ that Mary had, was free from all such respect of persons. She knew that He, the Lord of glory, was meek and humble of heart, that He scatters the proud and lofty-minded, and exalts the humble. Her heart was most like to His own. She knew how to receive the poor, rude, and simple shepherds, with a like sweet grace, courtesy and charity, as she did the rich and royal Magi.
"And deem not," says S. Ambrose, "the words of the shepherds to be despised as though of little worth. For from the shepherds Mary gathers faith. From the shepherds a people is congregated for the worship of God. They were, too, in admiration, all who heard what was said to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them over in her heart. Let us learn the chastity in all things of holy Mary, who no less pure in speech than in body, pondered over the arguments of faith in her heart." [Lib. ii. in Luc. c. ii. circa med.]
5 Hearken my dearest brethren: hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him.
What choice did God ever make like to His choice of Mary to be His Mother—the model, type and crown of all His elections ? Poor indeed in this world she was, for she gave birth to her Divine Child in a stable. But rich in faith— blessed in believing—surpassing all others in the wealth of her love to God, she was on earth the first heir of the promise. What, then, is her right amongst the heirs of the heavenly kingdom ? Surely, as she so excelled in all that gives aught of claim in God's kingdom on earth, her right is to be Queen over all in His kingdom above. Regina cӕli, Iӕtare, Alleluia!
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar ?
22 Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect ?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God.
Abraham, to whom the promise was made, became through his faith, the father of the faithful. Mary, to whom first the promise was actually fulfilled, became, by her excelling faith, in a far higher sense than Abraham is their father, the Mother of the faithful. Like Abraham, Mary also was justified by works : of which in either case the principal was that of offering a sacrifice. But what a difference in the sacrifice of one and the other. Abraham offered up in will, though not in effect, the sacrifice of Isaac his son—Mary offered up, not only in will, but also in effect, Jesus Christ her only Son, Whom she loved incomparably more than Abraham loved Isaac, on the altar of the Cross. Isaac was a type of Jesus Christ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; and Abraham's offering was but a figure of the sacrifice which Mary made.
"O Lady," says S. Anselm, " what fountains of tears burst forth from thy most modest eyes, as thou didst behold thy only Son, so holy and innocent, before thee scourged, bound, bruised, His flesh torn by wicked men. And yet so conformed wert thou to the Divine Will, as to be most eager for the salvation of mankind, that (I am bold to say it), had there been no one found to crucify thy Son, thou wouldst have thyself placed Him on the Cross, if so the salvation of men and the will of God required it. For we are not to believe that there was less perfection and obedience towards God in Mary, than in Abraham, who offered to God his own son as a sacrifice to be slain, and bound with his own hands."
Seest thou not how faith did cooperate with her works; and by her works which corresponded in excellence to her faith — her faith was made perfect ? And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, "Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished, that were spoken to thee by the Lord." [Luke i. 45.] Thus faith obtained for Mary a complete triumph over Satan, God's enemy, who had brought to ruin our first mother Eve ; and it was reputed to her for justice, and she was called, and was indeed, the friend of God,' [" Amica mea." Cant. ii. 2.] even His own be loved Mother.
17 But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation.
18 And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace.
Here we have a beautiful description of Mary, who is called by the Church, Sedes Sapientiӕ, as her character has been impressed on the mind of the faithful and traced by tradition.
6 But he giveth greater grace. Wherefore he saith: God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
7 Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
10 Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Who so humble as Mary, who so subject to God as she ? Ecce ancilla Domini —To her then God gave His greatest grace.
" To be the Mother of God," says S. Bonaventure, " is the greatest grace that can be conferred on a pure creature. God could make a greater world, God could make a greater heaven: a greater Mother than Mother of God, God could not make." [Spec. B. M. V. Lect. x.]
" The last grace of Mary's perfection," says S. Antoninus, " was that which prepared her for the Conception of the Son of God : and this preparation was by means of profound humility." [P. i v. tit. xv. c. 6, n. 2.]
It was indeed her own triumphs of humility that she was recounting, when thus she magnified God: "He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." Through her humility and consequent excelling grace, she so effectually resisted and vanquished the devil, and still forces him to flee from her children who strive to imitate her humility and invoke her aid.
Approach to God on our part through His attracting grace is the condition of His approach to and union with us. How wondrously perfect, then, must have been Mary's drawing nigh to God, before He became so wondrously united to her. Thus must she have been prepared in order to become a worthy Mother of His Son. The height of Mary's exaltation corresponded to the depth of her humility. Respexit humilitatem ancillӕ suӕ, etc.