Mother Of Divine Grace By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. Chapter IX The Mother Of Mankind.

IN the words of the Promise 1 there is a very marked antithesis between the serpent and " the woman," between the seed of the serpent and that of " the woman," an antithesis which affects not only the personality but also the office of " the woman." Moreover, the fact that the promise was made in reference to one who should be Eve's descendant emphasises the contrast between Eve and " the woman." Eve had failed. The perfection, therefore, from which she had fallen should be realised in her descendant. She whose heel was to crush the head of the serpent, and whose seed was to destroy the dominion of sin and death which the revolt of our first parents had established in the world, should not only undo the havoc Eve had wrought, but should be in reality what Eve had failed to be, " Mother of the Living." God's hopes had been destroyed and His plan frustrated by the disobedience of our first parents, with the result that Adam was not head of the human race in the full sense, nor Eve the mother of mankind. By their sin they had lost God'sf crowning gift, the supernatural life, and they had furthermore inflicted that loss upon their children. But God would not suffer His designs to be thwarted by any creature. He would uplift man and place the supernatural life once again within his reach. He would vanquish the serpent and defeat his purpose. He would accomplish this by the " seed " of " the woman." Her seed, therefore, should be the real head of the human race; and " the woman" should be the true Mother of Mankind, the Second Eve, the Mother of the Living because the Mother of Him Who came " that men might have life and have it more abundantly." 2

This position of our Blessed Lady as the Second Eve has ever been recognised in the Church. Several of the Fathers allude to our Lady in express terms as fulfilling the functions of Eve; and, as Cardinal Newman has shown, they insist that " she was not a mere instrument in the Incarnation . . . they declare she co-operated in our salvation." 3 He shows that St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian "do not speak of the Blessed Virgin merely as the physical instrument of our Lord's taking flesh, but as an intelligent, responsible cause of it; her faith and obedience being accessories to the Incarnation and gaining it as her reward. As Eve failed in these virtues, and thereby brought on the fall of the race in Adam, so Mary by means of the same had a part in its restoration." 4 A single quotation from one of the Fathers will give point to the Cardinal's words. St. Irenaeus says: " As Eve by the speech of the Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel's speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a Virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin's disobedience by a Virgin's obedience." 5 Predestined " from of old and before the world was made," to be the Mother of the Redeemer, our Blessed Lady became the Mother of the redeemed and was confirmed in that office on Calvary. For the words of her Divine Son were not symbolical only, but effective; and as the disciple to whom Jesus committed His Mother was the representative of the race of man for whom He suffered and died, so was the Mother of Jesus made Mother of men in becoming the mother to St. John, We are witnesses of the pangs of a spiritual childbirth on Calvary that was universal in its effectiveness; and as Jesus died for all men, the Mother who gave Him to us was given to us to be our Mother, that she might mould and fashion " those whom God foreknew," that they might " be made conformable to the image of His Son."

"To us she is always the Mother," says a modern writer, " and this is scarcely removed from being our Mother. Mary would thus be the Mother of Christendom though the Lord had not adopted us as His brothers, and though He had not specially so designated her. But He has so designated her, and He has so adopted us. Our religious instinct, our natural intelligence anticipates or at least accepts our Lord's appointment. Mother, we learn to call her who was the Mother of Jesus. ... It is impossible to overestimate the effect—one would not say in the militant progress of the Christian Creed, but in . its after-recognition—of the simple revelation of the Fatherhood of God. But while God was revealed to us as our Father, there was coincidently the manifestation of one among ourselves as the Mother of Christendom. No one needs to listen to argument upon the association of the name of Mother. Now Christianity appeals— the life and death of our Lord is full of it—to our affections as much as it satisfies our understanding and spiritual craving. Somewhere in Christianity we might anticipate that the most moving of our associations would appear. It appears blazingly on the first page. Can you omit the Mother and Child from Christianity? Can you deny the Mother of Bethlehem to be our Mother as well ? 6 No Catholic would ever dream of denying the Motherhood of Mary; and the Church in teaching the Communion of Saints acknowledges this Motherhood as the complement of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Jesus Christ. Where this relationship of the Immaculate is ignored there is an absence of solidarity amongst men. There is no " Church " in the real sense. There may be a school of thought, a system of philosophy, but there is not the cohesion which is characteristic of the Mystical body of Christ. 7

The Mother of God is also Mother of mankind, and being so, she was endowed with special Graces for her office. As Mother of the human race, Mary is Mediatrix, Co-operatrix and Intercessor, a threefold office which is summed up in the title by which we address her in her Litany: Refugium Peccatorum, The Refuge of Sinners.

The functions of a mediator, as St. Thomas tells us, imply " the bringing together of extremes." The extremes in the present case are God and man, each separated from the other by sin, each united to the other by Jesus Christ, Who, therefore, is the perfect Mediator between God and man, in that by His death He reconciled man to God. He is the " one mediator of God and men" as the Apostle tells us. 8 Why seek for another ? The mediation of Jesus Christ is infinite; it was also essential. No other mediation on the part of any creature could ever be of such efficacy as that of our Divine Lord. All this is absolutely true; and yet the infinite and necessary mediation of Jesus Christ does not exclude the finite mediation of His Mother, when such mediation makes for the union of man with God. 9 There is mediation of influence, of association, of disposing power, and such according to the teaching of the Church is the mediation of our Blessed Lady, who is styled by Pius IX. "the most powerful Mediatrix and Reconciler in the whole world before her only begotten Son." 10

From the words of the Sovereign Pontiff we learn the nature of our Lady's mediation. It is not the direct mediation between humanity and God; it is the mediation of a mother, strengthened by the influence and supported by all the associations which attach to a mother's name and office, in the presence of her Son, on behalf of those other children of hers whom He in dying committed to her care.

This is shown forth in the Liturgy. The Church accepts the fact of Mary's Motherhood of men and then prays that she will " show herself a Mother." But in what manner is the Mother of God to show her maternal solicitude for us ? By God's acceptance of our supplications through her. 11

In other words, the Church prays that Jesus Christ, the One,. Perfect, and only Mediator before His Eternal Father, will hearken to our petitions when they are presented to Him by His Mother. This is mediation. Can a son refuse his mother's request? Can Jesus refuse the request of Mary His Mother on behalf of us His brethren ? " What is thy petition . . . that it may be granted thee? And what wilt thou have done: although thou ask the half of my kingdom, thou shalt have it. Then she answered: If I have found favour in thy sight, O King . . . give me . . . my people for which I request. But he, as the manner was, held out the golden sceptre with his hand, which was a sign of clemency." 12

As Mother of the human race, Mary also cooperated in its redemption, for she is intimately united with her Divine Son in the economy of man's salvation. The Divine Maternity was not forced upon her; she was perfectly free, as has been already stated, either to accept or refuse the dignity. She accepted it, and in pronouncing her " Fiat" Mary acted, not as a mere individual, but as the representative of the human race. 13 Her consent was necessary for the accomplishment of the Mystery, for as we have said, Mary was not merely an instrument that God might use and set aside, or merely a substitute in the place of any other. She had been chosen by God, therefore she was necessarily included in the Divine Plan as the one human being who, according to the designs of God, was essential to their fulfilment. Eve had wrought ruin for the human race by her free, deliberate consent to the suggestions of the Evil One; Mary repaired the injury inflicted by Eve in freely consenting to be the Mother of God. Hence, from the very beginning of the work of reparation Mary co-operated fully, freely, and intelligently with God's purpose in the Incarnation.

Now the purpose of the Incarnation, as the Creed shows us, was man's salvation. The Word was made flesh proper nos homines et propter nostrum salutem (for us men and for our salvation); and the manner in which the Incarnation was accomplished is expressed in the terms: " Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto EX MARIA VIRGINE " (and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary) . The Son and His Mother are inseparable. Her co-operation was necessary to the Incarnation, but that co-operation did not cease when the Mystery was wrought. It continued throughout the life of Jesus Christ and was renewed on Calvary, where the Mother merited our salvation in union with her Son. 14

We have seen that an act is meritorious when it is morally good, is performed freely, under the influence of Divine Grace, by one who is a wayfarer towards heaven, and who performs the act for God. We have also seen that each act of our Blessed Lady was a meritorious act, and have given the reasons for the statement, 15 It is a theological principle that the Mother of God, because of her union with Him, has merited de congruo —that is, according to the fitness of things—whatever her Divine Son has merited in strict justice, or de condigno. 16 By His death on the Cross Jesus Christ merited our salvation in the most absolute manner. The Grace which is indispensably necessary for us, and without which we can do nothing, has been merited for us by Christ on Calvary. " That Grace was His not only as an individual but also because He is the Head of the Church of which we are the members, that from the Head it might overflow upon the members. Whoever is established in Grace and suffers for justice' sake, merits eternal life, as St. Matthew says: Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 17 Christ, therefore, by His Passion, merited salvation, not only for Himself but also for all His members." 18 But the Mother of God is also the Mother of Christ's Mystical Body. She could not merit our salvation in the strict sense, since she was a creature and not divine. But because of her union with God, her perfect conformity with His will, and her burning Charity, she could and did p merit our salvation. Her conformity to the • will of God and her Charity were so perfect that she willed and loved only what and as God willed and loved. Hence, like Him, and in order to accomplish His designs, Mary did not spare her only-begotten Son for our sake, and so she merited the salvation of those other children of hers, for whom He suffered and died. Nor may we forget that the actions of our Blessed Lady as Mother of God take on a dignity and value which is immeasurable, and that they were the outcome of Charity and therefore meritorious each of them, Mary possessed the plenitude of Charity as she possessed the fulness of Grace, She is the Mother of Fair Love, a love so great that it is surpassed by the infinite love of God alone; and, loving God so intensely, she desired in consequence what He desired, with all the ardour and strength 'of her being.

The Sacrifice of the Cross is the only necessary sacrifice—necessary in the sense that it had been preordained by God. It alone wrought our salvation and redemption; alone, that Sacrifice made superabundant satisfaction for our sins. But inasmuch as this Sacrifice was the culminating point of the purpose of the Incarnation, and the free consent of the Virgin of Nazareth was required for the accomplishment of this Mystery, in giving her consent, Mary became intimately associated with God in the purpose of the Incarnation and subsequent Sacrifice. She had her place at the Altar, and it was as a Mother who offered to God all she loved and possessed—her Son. In the sufferings of Jesus the anguish of Mary was included as a part, though not an essential part, of the price that was paid. And if the Apostle could rejoice that by his sufferings he filled up " those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ," 19 with greater reason could the Mother rejoice that her sorrows filled up what was "wanting of the sufferings" of her Son, and thus unite her sacrifice with His for the sins of the world.

The third function which our Blessed Lady exercises as Mother of the human race is that of Intercession. It is of faith that the saints offer our prayers to God and plead for us; while the greater the degree of Charity possessed by them, and the more intimate their union with God in consequence of this Charity, the more efficacious will be their intercession. " Prayer is made to another in a twofold manner," says St. Thomas. " First, as if the one to whom we pray will grant our request; secondly, as if he will obtain our request. We. pray to God alone in the first manner, in that, as all our petitions should be made that we may obtain grace and glory, it is God alone Who bestows these gifts: The Lord will give grace and glory? 20 But we pray to the Angels and Saints in the second way, not that God may come to know our wants through them, but that our petitions may be granted on account of their merits and intercession. Hence we read in the Apocalypse: And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the Saints ascended up before God from the hand of the Angel 21 This may also be understood from the manner in which the Church prays: for we ask mercy from the Holy Trinity, but we ask the Saints to pray for us." 22 How powerful, then, must be the intercession of the Queen of Saints! Her Charity is only surpassed by the everlasting love of God; her union with God by Grace and love is far beyond that of any other creature and of all creatures collectively; and her Divine Maternity, by uniting her so closely to God, has endowed her with a power greater than that wielded by all God's Angels and Saints together. 23 It is but meet and natural that Mary should possess this power of pleading in a super-eminent manner. The unique position she occupies as Mother of God and Mother of mankind gives her this power. Love makes a mother importunate and her pleading resistless. Just because Mary loved God so intensely, and so ardently desired that His designs should be accomplished; just because she loves us, not only because her Son loves us and died to prove His love, but also because He gave us to her and her to us as His last legacy, does she desire to assist us by interceding for us, knowing, as no other creature can possibly understand, that in pleading for us she gives glory to God and furthers the purpose of the Incarnation.

Yet we are not to think that our Blessed Mother pleads for all men with equal insistence and power. True, she is the Mother of all, but there are many who reject her help and refuse to recognise her claims upon them, or her power of intercession. She has the desire to succour all men, but because her will is in the most perfect conformity with the Will of God, she only wills absolutely and efficaciously whatever is the absolute and efficacious Will of the Eternal. We may take, therefore, the words of Scripture: Ego diligentes me diligo (I love them that love me), 24 as the standard of the extent and efficacity of our Lady's intercession. We do not imply that she will not plead for sinners. She is the " Refuge of Sinners," and we pray to her to " pray for us sinners" every day of our exile in this vale of tears. But Mary is not and cannot be a " refuge " to those who persist in sin, in the presumptuous hope that she will intercede for them and win mercy for them despite themselves. " Nothing in Christianity is more detestable than this diabolical presumption," says Blessed Louis Marie Grignonde Montfort. " For how can we say truly that we love and honour our Blessed Lady, when by our sins we are pitilessly piercing, wounding, crucifying, and outraging Jesus Christ her Son ? If Mary laid down a law to herself to save by her mercy this sort of people, she would be authorising crime, and assisting to crucify and outrage her Son. Who would dare to think such a thought as that ?" 25 Our Blessed Lady will not intercede for such as these. But for the sinner who strives to break with sin, for the weary and desponding, for all who recognise that she is their Mother, she will show a Mother's love and plead with a Mother's importunity, and her pleading will not be in vain. " And the king said to her: My Mother, ask; for I must not turn away thy face." 26

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

1 Gen. ii. 15.

Cf. John x. io.

3 Letter to Pusey in Difficulties of Anglicans, vol. ii., p. 36. Longmans, Green and Co, 1900.

4 Letter to Pusey in Difficulties of Anglicans, vol, ii., p. 35.

5 Adv. Hӕr. v. 19. Cardinal Newman's translation, op. cit., P- 35.

6 The Mother of Jesus, by J. Herbert Williams, pp. 178-179. London, 1906.

7 Cf. Apologie des Christenthums, by Father Albert-Maria Weiss, O.P., French translation, vol. x,, pp. 275 sqq.

8 I Tim. ii. 5.

9 Sum Theol., III. Pars, Q. XXI., A. 1. 

10 Bull Ineffabilis.

11 Monstra te esse Matrem:
      Sumat per te preces. 
      Qui pro nobis natus 
      Tulit esse tuus.

" Show thyself a watchful mother;
   And may He our pleadings hear,
   Who for us a helpless Infant
   Owned thee for His Mother dear."

(Hymn for Vespers of our Lady. Translated by Father Aylward, O.P.)

12 Esth. vii. 2-3; viii.4.

13 Sum. Theol., III. Pars,Q. XXX.,A. 1.

14 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 388 sqq. 

15 Vide supra, ch. v.

16 St. Thomas (Ia.-IIa., Q. CXIV., A. 6) formulates this principle when he says that" since one in the state of grace does God's will, it is fitting (congruum est) that, according to the degree of friendship, God should accede to the request of such a one when he prays for another's salvation, provided that other does not impede the request." Hence St. Paul (i Cor. iii. 9) terms us " God's coadjutors." This principle is insinuated in the Office for the Feast of the Seven Dolours, while the reason for it, the perfect conformity of our Lady's will with God's will, is repeatedly insisted upon by the Fathers, who call her " Mother of Grace," " Mother of Salvation," " Mother of Life." It would seem that it is to the insufficient attention paid to this principle that Blessed Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, O.P., refers when he complains that " the greater part of Christians, even the most learned, do not know the, necessary union which there is between Jesus and His Mother." (T me Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Father Faber's translation, 8th ed., p. 40. Cf. Lepicier, op, cit., pp. 389-399.)

17  v. io.

18 Sum. Theol., III. Pars, Q. XLVIII, A. 1.

19 Col. i. 24.

20 Ps. kxxxiii. 12.

21 viii. 4.

22 Sum. Theol., II.-II., Q. LXXXIII., A. 4.

23 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 404-405.

24 Prov. viii. 17.

25 True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Father Faber's translation, 8th ed., p. 69.

26 3 Kings ii. 20.