Mother Of Divine Grace By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. Chapter 1. Part 1.

NO Catholic would dream of exalting the Immaculate Mother of God above her Divine Son. No Catholic would think of giving to Mary the worship, honour, glory, and praise that belong to Jesus Christ. But every Catholic recognises the fact that God's Mother holds a unique position, and that the relationship between " the Child and His Mother " is inviolable. Thought of the One instinctively calls up thought of the other, and in this the Catholic mind is the faithful reflection of the mind of the Eternal. God does nothing by chance: and when Mary of Nazareth became Mother of God, she entered into a relationship which, in the mind and will of the Almighty, had been decreed from all eternity.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church, from an experience of nineteen centuries, is fully aware that there can be no real solid love of and loyalty to Him Who, while He is the Eternal Word, is also " the Word made flesh," if love of and loyalty to His Mother be wanting. And hence it is that the Church reverences Mary Immaculate just because she is Mother of God. It stands to reason that our Blessed Lady who " was chosen from amongst thousands to be in the full sense Mother of God," cannot be what Protestantism protests she is, an ordinary woman like other women. No; just because our Lady was freely and deliberately chosen for the position was she "blessed . . . above all women upon the earth," 1 and was prepared and made worthy—it is the expression of St. Thomas—so far as any creature could be made worthy, for her high office. Consequently, every privilege which in the mind of the Church was enjoyed by our Blessed Lady is but the logical outcome of her greatest privilege, the Divine Maternity 2

This privilege was conferred but once and upon only one creature. There was only one Annunciation; it was made to the Virgin of Nazareth. There was but one Incarnation; it was in the Virgin's womb that the mystery was wrought. There is but one Jesus Christ; Mary is His Mother. No power can destroy the relationship that exists between a mother and her child. Strive as men may, they can never rob our Blessed Lady of the crown of Divine Motherhood which has been placed upon her brow by God Himself.

As we look back to the beginnings of Christianity two beings compel our attention: Jesus, and the Mother who bore Him. The shepherds saw them in the cave by the wayside, when at the bidding of the angel they went over to Bethlehem " to see this word . . . which the Lord had shown them." 3 Wise men from the East were led by a star across the desert until at last they found " the Child with Mary His Mother, and falling down they adored Him." 4

It is the same on each page of the Gospels: Jesus and Mary are always together, on the Hill of Sacrifice as in the cave of Bethlehem. Time has ratified the decrees of eternity. Jesus and Mary were united in the mind of God. They were united during thirty-three years of earthly life. In heaven they are still united, and shall be for ever. Why, then, should men try to separate them? Why refuse to honour the Mother on the plea that by doing so they dishonour her Son ? Has Mary Immaculate brought dishonour to the race of man ? And if not, why refuse to give her the glory that is her due ? What has devotion to and love of God's Mother accomplished in the world since the beginning of Christianity ? Have they made for the world's uplifting and betterment ? Have they been productive of greater purity, nobility of character, and delicacy ? Ruskin is not a man to be accused of what some persons, Ruskin himself included? call" Mariolatry," yet Ruskin tells us that: " After the most careful examination, neither as adversary nor as friend, of the influences of Catholicism for good and evil, I am persuaded that the worship of the Madonna has been one of its noblest and most vital graces, and has never been otherwise than productive of true holiness of life and purity of character. . . , There has probably not been an innocent cottage home throughout the length and breadth of Europe during the whole period of vital Christianity, in which the imagined presence of the Madonna has not given sanctity to the humblest duties, and comfort to the sorest trials of women; and every brightest and loftiest achievement of the arts and strength of manhood has been the fulfilment of the assured prophecy of the poor Israelite maiden: < He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His name.'" 5 This is noble testimony, and it is the deliberate evidence of a man who was not by any means partial to the Catholic Church. His words could be supported by those of other writers, but there is no need. The testimony of Ruskin is the testimony of history.

From the beginning of her existence the Catholic Church has made for the uplifting of the people. Freeman and serf, rich and poor, lettered and illiterate, were and are on an equal footing in the eyes of the Church, because all men are equal in the sight of God; and it was the Catholic Church that created the woman, the Virgin, the Wife, and the Mother. The Church established social and domestic life on a firm basis by her repudiation of divorce, her insistence upon the indissolubility and sacredness of the marriage-tie, and. the equality of the sexes. We are aware that these statements are questioned by a certain class of writers at the present time, and that they are flatly contradicted by many. But it is impossible to gainsay historical facts; and history tells us that, before the advent of Christ, the position of woman was such as to make the complaint o£ Medea absolutely true: " Of all beings on earth, woman is the most unfortunate." In the East amongst the Assyrians and Persians, in India and Scythia, in Greece and Rome, woman was degraded by being made the victim of divorce, polygamy, and legalised prostitution. 6 Athens kept its women apart, always in subjection, liable to be bought and sold; while the only women who received any recognition, who were permitted any freedom, or allowed to take any part in public life, were the hetaerae. The Spartan woman was regarded as a servant of the State whose sole duty was to bear children. Roman women were " owned" by their husbands or by their nearest male relatives, who had full power to dispose of them; and a Roman mother had no share in the education of her children. 7

The result of this tyranny and mistrust was only what might have been foreseen. Wounded in her most cherished possession, woman revenged herself for her loss of honour and dignity by unbridled licence and the most shameless depravity, until at last the Roman matron came to count the years of her life by the number of " husbands" she had wedded, and immorality grew to so appalling an extent, that even pagan poets had their hours of despair at the sight of such widespread corruption. 8 The position of woman in Greece, and under the Roman Emperors, was similar to her position in those countries where Christianity—and by Christianity we mean the Catholic Church—has gained no foothold. " She is sacrificed on the tomb of her husband in India, ' ' says de Maistre, " is a slave under the Koran, and is regarded as an article of commerce amongst savage tribes." 9

There was, however, one nation which was an honourable exception in its treatment of woman— the Jewish nation. 10 Amongst the Jews woman was held in honour; 11 marriage was not regarded as a mere State affair, 12 and children were considered a blessing. 13 Domestic life was fostered, and a man was considered to have attained the fulness of earthly happiness " when he tilled his land in peace . . , and every man sat under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and there was none to make him afraid." 14 " The very terms by which woman is named in the Old Testament," says Edersheim, " are significant. If man is Isb, his wife is Isha> simply his equal; if the husband is Gever, the ruler, the woman is in her own domain, Gevirath and Gevereth, the mistress (as frequently in the history of Sarah and in other passages), or else the dweller at home (Nevath bayith, Ps. lxviii. 12) ." 15 Divorce, it is true, was permitted and polygamy was not unknown. But divorce was merely a temporary concession on account of " hardness of heart," while polygamy was the exception, not the rule. 16 The Prophet Malachias gives us clearly to understand that both divorce and polygamy were hateful. 17

From - Mother Of Divine Grace: A Chapter in the Theology of the Immaculate. By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. 

1 Jud. xiii. 23.

2 La Mere de Dieu et la Mere des Hommes, par Pere J. B. Terrien, S J., vol. i., liv. ii., ch. 345, Paris, 1900.

3 Luke xi. 15.

4 Matt xi. 11.

5 Fors Clavigera, letter xli.

6 For a description of the status and condition of woman before Christianity, cf. La Verge Marie et le Plan Divin, par Auguste N. Nicolas, tome iv., liv. iv., ch. i.; Dollinger, The Gentile and the Jew, English translation by N. Darnell, and ed., vol. I., bk. vi.; Apologie des Christentbums, by Albert M. Weiss, O.P., French translation, vol. i., pp. 457 sqq.i Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. ii., ch. v.

7 Cf. Dollinger, op, cit. 9 vol. i., bk. vi.; vol. ii., bk. ix.

8 Cf. Horace, Carmina, iii. 6.

9 Ap. Nicholas, op. cit., p. 316.

10 Tacitus (Gtrmania, 18, 19, 20) extols the Germans on account of their morality; but as Father Weiss shows (op. cit., rol. i., pp. 453-454), the Roman historian has idealised them. The Germans were not at all so perfect as Tacitus represented them. They shared with other nations the prevailing views regarding woman, though not to such an extreme degree. They despised woman nevertheless, and as proof of their contempt for her, forced her to work as a drudge.

11 Tob. vi. 17,18.

12  Deut. xxiv. 5.

13 Ps. cxii. 9.

14 Macc. xiv. 5, 12.

15 Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the days of Christ, p. 141. The Religious Tract Society. London.

16 ii. 14-17. For a description of the status of woman in Palestine, cf. Edersheim, of. cit. 9 ch. ix.; Dollinger, op. cit., vol. ii., pp. 359 sqq.

17 Mal. ii. 14-15.