Mother Of Divine Grace By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. Chapter VIII The Grace Of Glory And Of Queen.

OUR Blessed Lady passed from earth to heaven through the portals of death. But as we said in the preceding chapter, death was[not a debt our Lady had to pay as is the case with other human beings. It was an event which she accepted with the same cheerful submission, the same complete abandonment to the will of God which characterised her whole life; and, as death had been accepted by her Divine Son, it was also accepted by His Mother as a means by which she was made conformable to Him even to the end. We do not imply that because our Blessed Lady was Immaculate she was therefore immortal by nature. No human being is immortal by nature, for the human body, on account of the elements of which it is composed, is by nature destined to dissolution. Hence the immortality which would have been enjoyed by our first parents if they had remained faithful was not inherent in their nature, but came from " a supernatural energy imparted by God to the soul, by which the body should be preserved from corruption so long as the soul remained subject to God." 1 In other words, their immortality was a Grace conferred upon them by God in the state of original justice in which they had been created. When Adam fell from his estate through disobedience, he forfeited the free gift of immortality, and the forces of nature pursued their way to corruption unimpeded. Just because our Blessed Lady was human she was by nature mortal; but because she was Immaculate, because she ever retained the original justice in which she was created, she was immortal. The supernatural energy imparted by God to the souls of our first parents had also been given to the soul of the Immaculate. They lost it because they proved faithless. Mary never lost it because she never was unfaithful. In losing this energy our first parents incurred the penalty of death. No such penalty was incurred by the Mother of God. 2 Her death was the final act of love in a life of love, the last of a series which began in the first instant of her Immaculate Conception. The Mother of God died through love of God. There was no other reason for her death, since neither failing strength, nor sickness, nor age had any dominion over her. Like the Spouse she " languished with love," 3 and with the Psalmist she prayed: " As the heart panteth after the water springs, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God. . . . When shall I come and appear before God?" 4 This is the opinion of many theologians. Blessed Albert the Great distinctly teaches that the Mother of God died through love. 5 St. Francis de Sales, 6 St. Alphonsus Ligouri, 7 Suarez, 8 are of the same opinion, which Justin of Mieckow quotes with approval, 9 and Father Terrien fully endorses. 10 Bossuet teaches the same doctrine in an eloquent passage: "Mary's death was not a miracle, rather was it the cessation of a miracle. The continual miracle was that she could live apart from her Beloved. . . . Hence, we need not seek for any other cause of Mary's death than her eager love." 11 But we must never lose sight of the fact that, at the hour of her death as in each moment of her life,Our Blessed Lady was completely mistress of herself, and ever retained full control over her desires however holy and vehement they were. There was nothing inordinate, therefore, in the love which caused her death, and it was supernatural. At the close of her life, as at its commencement, she was " the handmaid of the Lord." " Sorrow, agony, and martyrdom, all these she had already endured with Jesus; her last hour was a sweet slumber, a ' passing,' a rapture. . . . The Virgin passed from earth to heaven without any interruption in the exercise of her charity; but now she loves in the light without shadow, in the vision face to face, in a glory equal to her fulness of Grace, in the eternal and ever blessed possession of her God." 12

These words might be applied to every Saint at the hour of death, in that each Saint passes swiftly into the clear vision of God by reason of the charity that quickens each. The more intense has been the Saint's love of God, the clearer will be his vision of Him; on this head we may say absolutely that no creature possesses so keen a vision of God as the Immaculate Mother. But we naturally ask: Was the Mother of God only to have the same recompense as other servants of God and nothing more ? Was not a fuller reward due to her—a reward to receive which she should not be compelled to await the resurrection of the dead as others must wait for it? Once again our sense of what was fitting finds its echo in the constant tradition of the Church that the resurrection was anticipated in the case of God's Mother, and that after her death and burial she was assumed body and soul into heaven, where she now reigns " clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." 13 We have no intention of discussing the subject from the view-point of historical tradition, but shall confine ourselves to the dogmatic arguments in favour of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady. 14

As we have said, our sense of what was fitting urges us to believe that our Lady was bodily assumed into heaven, and that the corruption of the tomb was not permitted to dishonour the virginal body of her who knew not the corruption of sin, and who had been the living Ark of the Covenant in which God had dwelt incarnate. The doctrine, it is true, is not of faith, but as Suarez says: " Whoever would impugn an opinion so venerable and sacred would be guilty of the greatest temerity," 15 while Gotti goes further and says that " he who denies the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is to be regarded as a heretic." 16

It has been stated above that man was not created immortal by nature; that, because he was composed of a body and soul, his body was destined to dissolution and corruption, but that he was endowed by God with immortality as a grace which should be his so long as he remained faithful to God. By his faithlessness he forfeited the grace he had received and incurred the penalty of death with its consequent corruption. The Mother of God was " full of Grace " from the first instant of her existence as a rational being. She had been created in the state of original justice as Adam had been, and enjoyed, therefore, all the privileges which had been conferred upon him. She never fell from that state. Grace was never void in her; on the contrary, it was ever active and ever made for her increasing perfection. Consequently, she ever retained the privilege of immunity from death and the corruption of the tomb. This immunity was realised and achieved in her bodily Assumption into heaven.
Furthermore, our Lady was " blessed among women " in a special manner, and the benediction of God in creating her Immaculate excluded all malediction, not only of sin but of death also and its consequences. " Mankind was afflicted by a threefold malediction on account of sin," says St. Thomas. " The first affected woman. . . . The second had reference to man. . . . The third fell upon both man and woman, that they should return to dust. But the Blessed Virgin was exempt from this curse also, for she was assumed bodily into heaven. We believe, indeed, that after her death she was raised up again, and borne into heaven: Arise\ O Lord, into thy resting-place: Thou and the ark of thy holiness (Ps. cxxxi. 8). Thus was she exempt from all malediction, and therefore a blessed amongst women." 17

We cannot forget that caro Christi caro Maria : the flesh of Christ is that of Mary. The human nature He assumed was wholly ministered to Him by His Mother. Could the Son allow the virgin body in which He had been tabernacled and in which He was clothed with our nature, to become the food of corruption ? Well may St. John of Damascus ask: "How should corruption dare to touch the body which had received Life Himself ?" 18 And if Mary crushed the serpent of sin beneath her heel, must she not also have crushed the serpent of death ? Would her victory have been absolute or universal, as absolute as the enmity which existed between her and the serpent, and between her seed and the serpent, if the serpent could have claimed her body in the tomb as an object upon which that corruption which is a consequence of sin should work its will ? Mary was exempt from sin. She must also be exempt from the corruption of the tomb. In the full sense of immunity from the corruption of the tomb must the words be applied to the Immaculate as they were applied to her alone with regard to exemption from sin: Thou shalt not die; for this law is not made for thee, but for all others. 19

For the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is the complement of her Immaculate Conception, the final expression of God's love for her He had chosen and prepared to occupy the unique position to which she had been predestined from eternity. When we realise what this choice meant, and all that was implied in Mary's preparation for the Divine Motherhood; when we further realise the extraordinary Graces of which she was the recipient, and her stupendous sanctity and perfection in consequence of those Graces, we feel that God was compelled, as it were, to complete His work by the crowning Grace of the Assumption. With all reverence we say that, considering what Mary's life had been, and how filled with Grace had been each moment of it, there would have been an incompleteness and a want of symmetry in it if she had not been assumed body and soul into heaven, as there would have been a break in the continuity of the favours conferred upon her by God if this final favour had been withheld.

Those who have died in God's friendship shall have a place in His kingdom proportionate to the intensity of their Charity. A throne was promised to each of the Apostles as a reward of their fidelity, 20 and a kingdom to all who shall " seek first the kingdom of God and His justice." 21 When this is so in the case of each servant of God, what place did He reserve for His Mother? From what has been said of the sanctity and perfection of our Blessed Lady, and of her Charity and merits, we may logically conclude that her position in heaven is supreme over all other creatures, a position in keeping with her dignity, and proportionate to her love. That position is the position of Queen. St. John from his island of exile beheld the " great sign" of " a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."

It was the vision of the Immaculate ! She could not occupy a position in heaven that was lower than her position on earth, and that, as we know? was unique. She alone was, and she alone shall ever be, the Mother of God. Therefore, as she was " exalted above the choir of Angels" even when she was a wayfarer in this vale of tears, so is she their Sovereign Queen in the Kingdom of God. No other crown would have been worthy to grace the brow of her who had been crowned by God Himself with the crown of Divine Motherhood. Fittingly may we apply to our Blessed Lady the words of King Assuerus to Aman: " What ought to be done to the woman whom the king is desirous to honour ? . . . The woman whom the king desireth to honour ought to be clothed with the king's apparel . . . and to have the royal crown upon her heard. And let the first of the king's princes and nobles . . . proclaim before her and say: Thus shall she be honoured whom the king hath a mind to honour." 22 God honoured Mary from eternity in choosing her to be His Mother, in preparing her for her office by His extraordinary Graces that she might be a worthy Mother. He must honour her through eternity by placing "her on His right hand in gilded clothing." 23

St. Paul says of our Divine Lord:" He sitteth at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Being so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath He said at any time: Thou art My son, today have I begotten thee ? And again, I will he to him a Father, and he shall be to Me a son ? . . . But to which of the angels said He at any time: Sit on My right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool ? Are they not all ministering spirits sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation ? 24 " " Due proportion being observed," says Father Terrien, " these words show forth the fundamental title of the Immaculate. She also is as far uplifted above Angels and men as the name she has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to what Angel, to what human being, has the Son of God ever said: ' Thou art My Mother, today have I been born of thee' ? All are ministers; she alone, although calling herself a handmaid, can say to Jesus Christ, the Lord of all: ' I am Thy Mother, Thou art my Son.' To what Angels, therefore, or to what human being has Jesus Christ ever said with the same truth and appositeness as to the Virgin Mother: ' Sit on My right hand and share My throne, My inheritance, all that My humanity possesses of glory, power, and beatitude' ? 25 Just because Mary is the Mother of Him to Whom were addressed the words: " Ask of Me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession," 26 does she share in the universal dominion of her Son, He is King. His Mother is Queen. In rising from the dead, and in " ascending on high," Jesus Christ " led captivity captive," 27 and reigns as the Ideal Man. In her Assumption into heaven, and in her participation in the glory and power of her Son, Mary reigns as the Ideal Woman," the woman " of the Promise through whom the serpent's craft was frustrated and sin destroyed. And hence we say with the Angelical that, " as Mary's merits were greater than those of all other creatures, it was but meet that she should reign over them all." 28 Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, was her Son. He was hers as no other child belongs to the mother who bore him. The natural love of a child for his mother was intensified in Him, therefore, beyond all human conception, and we may legitimately infer that this intense love would urge Him to give proof of it by associating His Mother with Him in His Kingdom, by a delegation of power as well as by a participation in His glory, greater than that received by any other creature. Mary had not been a mere passive instrument in the hands of God: she had fully and freely co-operated with Him in the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, She had shared in the toil and labours, the weariness and sufferings of her Son; she had been " the handmaid of the Lord" even on the Hill of Sacrifice. Therefore did she experience after her death God's effective love in the fullest manner, as she had experienced it each instant of her life. There was no interruption of the favours, no cessation of the Graces which made her the Mother of Divine Grace. In the beginning of her life that Grace had made her the Immaculate. After her death it crowned her Queen of Heaven and of Earth, that in her new position she might be gracious unto all who are her subjects because they have been ransomed by her Son.

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

1 Sum. Theol

2 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 244. sqq.

Cant, of Canticles, ii. 5.

4 Ps. xli. 1-2.

Super Missus est, Q. 132.

6 Traite de l'Amour de Dieu, liv. vii., c. 13, 14.

7 Glories of Mary, Part ii., discourse vii.

8 De Myst. VitÓ• Christi, d. 21, s. I.

9 Op. cit., vol. ii., conf. 96, p. 193.

10 Op. cit., vol. ii., pp. 326 sqq.

11 l er Sermon pour l'Assomption.

12 de la Broise, op, cit., p. 243.

13 Apocalypse xii. I.

14 A succinct but careful study of the question from the historical side may be found in the American Ecclesiastical Review, by the Rev. F. G. Holweck,August and September, 1910.

15 In III. Pars, Q. 37, A. 4., disp. 25, s. 2.

16 De Verit. Relig. Christ., p. 2. ch. 41, 2.

17 Expositio in Salut. Angel.

18 Homilia II. in Dormit. B.V.M., 3 Pat. Gr. xcvi. 728.

19 Esth. xv. 13.

20 Luke xxii. 30.

21 Ibid. xii. 32.

22 Esth. vi. 6-9.

23 Ps. xliv. 10.

24 Heb. i. 3-13.

25 Op. cit., vol. ii., p. 409.

26 Ps. ii. 8.

27 Eph . iv 8

28 "Habuit meritum omnium et amplius, ita congruum fuit ut super omnes panatur" Serm. lvii., in Assumpt., ap. Lepicier, op. cit., p. 216.