- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
Mother Of Divine Grace By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. Chapter X Mary The Almoner Of Divine Grace.
The devotional routine of worship within I quoted bears witness to her acceptance . by the Church," 1 says an author already, of the opinion that all gifts come through Mary. It is a constant nan sequitur to external appreciation that when a Catholic is in special need of divine aid, when he is to have recourse to prayer, he is universally recommended to say a " Hail Mary." We need scarcely say that everyday experience confirms the truth of this statement; and while Catholics in general may have but little explicit knowledge of the opinion given above, that " all gifts come through Mary," in other words, that the Mother of God is the channel of God's Grace, the true Catholic instinct is in this direction.
There are two facts regarding our Blessed Lady accepted by all Catholics and which have ever been so accepted: Mary Is the Mother of God, Mary Is the Mother of men; and because of her Divine Maternity she enjoys the sovereignty of a Queen. Her Son is King by right divine and by right of conquest, and His sovereignty is universal. It is to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, that the pledge is given: Ask of Me, and I will give Tbee the Gentiles for Thy inheritance, and the utmost farts of the earth for Thy possession. 2 The sovereignty of the Mother is co-extensive with the inheritance of her Son. He has redeemed all men. Mary Is therefore their Queen, and as such must rule as well as reign. What the sovereignty of our Lady implies we have seen when we considered her claims to be Mediatrix, Co-operatrix, and Intercessor; we also saw that her claims to exercise these functions are rooted in her free and intelligent co-operation with God in the work of man's salvation and redemption. Does our Lady's sovereignty extend further than mediation and intercession f Does she still co-operate with the Eternal In the work of man's salvation?—still actively further God's designs in the Incarnation ? These are questions we shall attempt to answer now.
The purpose of the Incarnation is realised in each soul by means of that Sanctifying Grace which Jesus Christ has merited for us. It is through the reception of this Grace that human souls " put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth." 3 Mary, as Mother of God, was the channel of the Incarnation: she still is the channel of Divine Grace; and all the grace that men receive from God comes to them through her who gave to them their Redeemer. This is but an opinion; it is not the defined teaching of the Church. But it is the opinion of some of the deepest theologians and the greatest Saints, while it has also received the approval of more than one Supreme Pontiff.
Before we proceed further it will be advisable to consider for a moment the nature of our Lady's intercession. It is not merely intercession for all men in general but for each one in particular. This doctrine is the outcome of principles which theologians accept as certain. St. Thomas teaches that: " Each created intelligence understands in the Word, not indeed, all things, but the more, the more perfect its vision of the Word. And in the Word, the knowledge of whatever is of interest to them is not withheld from the blessed." 4 Hence, a father or mother will have knowledge in heaven of whatever affects their children. They will see the difficulties and dangers their children have to face, the trials they have to bear, their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears. A mother does not cease to be a mother when she enjoys the vision of God. Her children are hers for ever; the relationship cannot be broken; and her interest in them is not lessened but intensified because of the clear vision she possesses and the happiness that is hers. If she showed her love of and interest in her children in life, she will continue to show that love and interest in them now that she is in heaven; consequently, she will pray for them, plead for them before God, that they may never be separated from her for eternity.
Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Mother; Mother of the human race; Mother of each individual. The difficulties, dangers, temptations, and trials of each of her children are known to her: Can she be indifferent to them ? Would she be really a Mother, or show a Mother's love of or take a Mother's interest in us her children ? Would she have the honour of her Divine Son at heart if she did not help us by making intercession for each of us when such intercession makes for the triumph of her Son and the reign of God in each individual soul i Her Motherhood of men began when she accepted the Motherhood of God, and it was ratified and confirmed on Calvary. Jesus Christ, " having loved His own, loved them to the end." It is the same with His Mother. We are her children, therefore will she love us to the end. So long as there is a human being on earth there is one who has a claim upon our Lady's care, one to be followed by her maternal love through all the vicissitudes of life until the end, so that when her Divine Son shall behold Himself reflected in such a soul, He may turn to her into whose keeping He entrusted it that it might be " made conformable " to Him, and repeat once more His words from the Cross: " Mother, behold thy son !"
Mary does not cease to be our Mother because she is the Queen of Heaven. She is now and for ever " full of Grace," Plena sibi, superplena nobis, and overflowing with Grace for us. " It is a wonderful thing for any Saint to possess grace that is sufficient to save many souls," says St. Thomas, but " the supreme degree of plenitude is to possess grace sufficient to save the whole human race. This is the plenitude of grace possessed by Christ and His Mother. For you may obtain salvation from this glorious Virgin in every danger. . . . You may have her assistance in every act of virtue, and hence she says in Ecclesiastics: In me is all grace of the way and of truth." 5
According to St. Thomas, therefore, our Blessed Lady can assist us to practise virtue, and give us strength to overcome every temptation; in other words, she can help us to work out our salvation. Her power, then, Is not a sterile power, nor merely nominal; it means actual assistance. Hence, when St. Thomas teaches that our Blessed Lady can win Grace for us, and that we may obtain salvation from her, it is the same as if he taught that she actually obtains this Grace we need and that we actually win salvation from her. In this teaching the Angelical follows closely in the footsteps of his master, Blessed Albert the Great, who calls our Blessed Lady " the Universal Almoner of all good." 6 Other doctors taught the same opinion previously. St. Peter Damian says: " In thy hands are the treasures of divine mercy;" 7 and St. Anselm exclaims: " If thou keep silence no other can pray for or assist us: but if thou wilt intercede, all others may pray and plead for us." 8 St. Bernard of Clairvaux addresses us in the following words: " O thou, whosoever thou art, that knowest thyself to be here not so jnuch walking upon firm ground as battered to and fro by the gales and storms of this life's ocean, if thou wouldst not be overwhelmed by the tempest, keep thine eye upon this Star's clear shining. If the hurricanes of temptation arise against thee, or thou art running upon the rocks of trouble, look to the Star, call upon Mary. ... In danger, in difficulty, or in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. . . . If thou follow her, thou wilt never go astray. If thou pray to her, thou wilt never have need to despair. ... If she hold thee, thou wilt never be weary. If she keep thee, thou wilt reach home safe at last." 9 Again he says: " She openeth her bosom of mercy to all, that of her fulness all may receive: the captive, ransom ; the sick, health; the sorrowful, comfort; the sinful, pardon; the righteous, grace; even Angels, gladness." 10 But it is in his Sermon De Aquaductu, and hi? Homily for the Nativity of our Blessed Lady, that we fihd St. Bernard's most explicit teaching on this question: " Take away the sun which gives light to the world: where, then, is day ? Take away Mary, the Star of the Sea, a vast and limitless sea: what remains save blinding mist, the shadow of death, and blackest darkness ?
Let us, therefore, reverence Mary with our whole heart, with all the affection of our soul, with all our loyalty, for this is the will of Him Who desires that we shall obtain everything through Mary." 11 " God has decreed that we shall receive nothing unless it comes through Mary's hands." 12 We address the Mother of God as the " Virgin most Powerful," and St. Bonaventure gives the reason for our doing so, in the following words:" Because the Almighty is with thee . . . therefore art thou all-powerful with Him, thou art all-powerful by Him, and thou art all-powerful before Him, so that thou canst say: My power is in Jerusalem." 13 "God the Son has communicated to His Mother," says Blessed Louis de Montfort," all that He has acquired by His life and His death, His infinite merits and His admirable virtues; and He has made her the treasuress of all that His Father has given Him for His inheritance. It is by her that He applies His merits to His members, and that He communicates His virtues, and distributes His grace. She is His mysterious canal; she is His aqueduct, through which He makes His mercies flow gently and abundantly. To Mary, His faithful Spouse, God the Holy Ghost has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispensatrix of all He possesses, in such sort that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills, and-when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not pass through her virginal hands." 14
We have said that more than one Sovereign Pontiff has approved of this doctrine: we should have said that several Popes have emphatically taught it. Benedict XIV. calls Mary "the heavenly canal by which all graces and all gifts come to us." 15 In his Encyclical on the Jubilee of the Immaculate Conception, the late Pope Pius X. styles our Lady " the supreme ministrant in the distribution of grace." 16 Leo XIII. makes St. Bernardine of Siena's words his own when he says that " every grace which is bestowed upon man comes to him by three perfectly ordered degrees: God communicates the grace to Christ; from Christ it passes to the Holy Virgin; we receive it from Mary's hands." 17
We are all aware that this glorious Pontiff summoned the Catholic world to beg the intercession of the Mother of God, by the Rosary, against the dangers which threatened the Church and the Faith. Year after year he issued his Encyclicals in which, as Supreme Doctor of the Church, he insistently taught the power and efficacy of this form of prayer. He consecrated the month of October to our Lady of the Rosary; ordered the public recitation of the Rosary each day during the month, and added another invocation to our Lady in the Litany of Loreto— " Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us." This attitude of the Sovereign Pontiffs proves that, though nothing has been defined in this matter, we are in agreement with the mind of the Church when we say that the Mother of God Is the Almoner of Divine Grace. 18
We have seen what some of the Saints and Popes have said in reference to this doctrine. Their teaching is consonant with the Liturgy of the Church. Not only does the Church formally ask that Jesus Christ will " accept our prayers through her of whom He was born," but in the Canon of the Mass she recognises the position and power of the Mother of God in the prayer Communicantes: " Communicating with, and honouring in the first place the memory of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord and God Jesus Christ; as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs . . . and of all Thy Saints; by whose merits and prayers grant that we may be in all things defended by the help of Thy protection."
Theologians began to treat the question in the fifteenth century, but It was only in the seventeenth century that it came to receive more formal and explicit recognition. 19 Our Lady's claims were defended against the attacks of certain writers who were antagonistic to the popular devotion to the Mother of God. A number of theologians took up the cause of the Immaculate, and foremost amongst them was a Saint who is also a Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori. He teaches in the most express terms, that all graces without exception are conferred upon us by God through His Blessed Mother. Further on we shall give some of the Saint's reasons for his statement. Suarez, S.J., 20 Vega, S.J., 21 Con-tenson, O.P., 22 and Justin of Mieckow, O.P., 23 in former times, were firm defenders of this doctrine, while in our own days, to mention only a few theologians, it is taught by Father Lepicier, 24 Father Hugon, O.P., 25 and Father Terrien, S.J. 26 Now it is very remarkable that, when our Lord communicated his grace on solemn occasions, He did so through the instrumentality of His Mother. Three occasions on which this occurred stand out clearly: the Visitation to St. Elizabeth, the Marriage-Feast at Cana, and Calvary. On these occasions, the graces conferred are typical of those which extend over the entire spiritual life of Man: the Graces of Vocation, of Justification, and of Perseverance. The sanctification of the unborn Baptist represents the calling of any soul to the supernatural life of Faith. The establishing of the Apostle's belief in Jesus Christ, the result of the miracle at Cana, typifies the justification of the sinner. Finally, St. John is the type of those children of adoption, born of the sufferings of Christ and the sorrows of His Mother, who persevere to the end, and for whom " there is laid up a crown of justice. ,, " In making use of His Mother to communicate this threefold Grace," says Father Hugon, "Christ gives us to understand that all other help must come through her since all other Graces are consequent to, dependent on, and applications of, these three fundamental Graces." 27
The full purpose of the Incarnation is only realised in each soul when it has been " made conformable to the image of Jesus Christ." When the Mother of Christ became Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, she took upon herself the duties of a Mother towards that Mystical Body, and must do for all her children what she did for Christ Himself. A mother does not merely conceive and bring forth her children; she nourishes, tends, and safeguards them. The spiritual Maternity of Mary demands similar service. We must " in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ"; and such growth and development necessitates a continual outpouring of actual grace each moment of life, until we arrive " unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ. " 28 Mary, as the Mother of God and of men, is a Queen, and, as we have seen, her intercessory power is immeasurable. She can obtain for us the grace that is indispensable, 29 and it is in obtaining this grace for us all our life long that she " shows herself a Mother " in reality, and nourishes, tends, and safeguards us until the end.
Furthermore, our Blessed Lady has been fittingly called the Collum Ecclesia, the neck of the Church. Jesus Christ is the Head, the Holy Ghost is the Heart of the Church. From the Head proceeds all energy and life; the Heart, by its action, causes this life and energy to circulate through each member of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. But the head is joined to the body by the neck, and this is the position which God's Mother holds in the Church. Life and energy in the supernatural order, in other words grace, flow from the Head, Jesus Christ, into the body, the Church, through her. Jesus Christ is the principle of grace. His Mother has received her fulness of Grace from Him, and is absolutely dependent upon Him for her perfection. But now, as of old, the Son makes use of His Mother to accomplish His designs and communicate His favours. Of " His fulness we all have received, and grace for grace "; 30 but, as members of His mystical body we have received that Grace through her who is, and shall for ever be, the link that united the race of man with God in Jesus Christ.
In replying to the objection that, as Jesus Christ is the One Necessary Mediator, consequently we cannot lay claim to the mediation of His Mother, or teach that all Graces come through her, St. Alphonsus replies: " Mediation of justice by way of merit is one thing, and mediation of grace by way of prayer is another. And again, it is one tiling to say that God cannot, and another that He will not, grant graces without the intercession of Mary. . . . We most readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of Justice . . . and that by His merits He obtains us all graces and solvation; but we may say that Mary is the Mediator of grace; and that receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, and because she prays and asks for it in the name of Jesus Christ, yet, all the same, whatever graces we receive they come to us through her intercession." 31
Elsewhere the Saint teaches that," if all these first fruits of Redemption passed by Mary as the channel through which grace was communicated to the Baptist, the Holy Ghost to Elizabeth, the gift of prophecy to Zachary, and so many other graces to the whole house, the first graces, which, to our knowledge, the Eternal Word had granted on earth after His Incarnation, it is quite correct to believe that from henceforward God made Mary the universal channel, as she is called by St. Bernard, through which all the other graces which our Lord is pleased to dispense to us should pass." 32
Our Blessed Lady, like Rebecca her foretype, " a most beautiful virgin, and not known to man . . . went down to the spring, and filled her pitcher. . . . And the servant ran to meet her, and said: Give me a little water to drink of thy pitcher. And she answered: Drink, my lord. And quickly she let down the pitcher upon her arm, and gave him to drink. And when he had drunk, she said: I will draw water for thy camels also, till they drink." 33 " Mary c went down to the spring ' of grace by her humility, and became c full of Grace,' and not only does she in her charity give her faithful servants to drink when they ask her, but even sinners receive of her plenitude ' till they all drink.'" 34
Mary Immaculate is therefore fully deserving of her title of Mother of Divine Grace. Full of Grace herself, she overflows with Grace for us. Just as " we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities," 35 but One Who has sympathy for us, and everlasting love; One Who is ready to help us, even our Brother; so does it come to pass, that she who gave Him to us, and in giving Him has made us His brethren, becomes a Mother to each of us, the intermediary between her Divine Son and her spiritual children, the instrument of the continued workings of the Incarnation in each human life.
Rightly, then, do we call her Spes nostra, Mary our Hope. Rightly do we beg that she will " succour the miserable, help the faint-hearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for the people, plead for clerics, and make intercession for those virgins who are consecrated to God." All are her children, since all have been redeemed by her Son. Rightly do we ask her, our Advocate, to prove a Mother to us in this " vale of tears," to " turn her eyes of mercy towards us," that through her we may obtain the Mercy of God. And with fullest confidence do we pray that, when the time of exile in a strange land is drawing to a close, when " the winter is past " and " the rain is over and gone," our Mother will win for us the crowning grace of perseverance at the last, and " show unto us the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus."
From - Mother Of Divine Grace: A Chapter in the Theology of the Immaculate. By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P.
1 J. Herbert Williams, op. cit., p. 149. The whole chapter, the third in the second part, is instructive.
2 Ps. ii. 8.
3 Eph. iv. 24.
4 Sum. Theol., III. Pars, Q. X., A. 2; cf. De Veritate, Q. VIII., A. 4; Q. XX., A. 4.
5 Expositio super Salut. Angelica.
6 Omnium bonitatem universaliter distributiva. Quast super Missus est, xxix.
7 Serm. I., De Nativitate.
8 Orat. 45. Ad.B. Virginem.
9 Sermo ii., sup. Missus est. Marquess of Bute's translation.
10 Sermo xcviii. Marquess of Bute's translation.
11 Sermo de Aquӕductu.
12 " Nihil nos habere voluit quod fer Mariӕ manus non transiret " (Serm. III., in Vigil. Domini., No. io).
13 Speculum viii.
14 Op. cit., pp. 12-13.
15 Bull, Gloriosӕ Dominӕ.
16 Ea ... est princeps largiendarutn gratiarum ministra.
17 Encyclical on the Rosary, Jucunda semper, September 8, 1894.
18 Cf. Justin of Mieckow, O.P., op. cit., Conf. 129. § 6; Hugon, O.P., op. cit., pp. 240-244; Terrien, S.J., op. cit., vol. iii., 1. v., ch. i., ii.; 1. vii., ch. iii. Dante gave expression to the instinctive and traditional opinion of the Catholic mind in the verse:
Donna, se'tanto grande, e tanto vali,
Che qual vuol grazia, e ate non ricorre,
Sua dizianza vuol volar senz'ali.
(" Lady, thou art so great and hast such worth, that if there be who would have grace, yet betaketh not himself to thee, his longeth seeketh to fly without wings.") (Paradiso, xxxiii. 13-15. Wicksteed's translation). Possibly St. Antoninus, O.P., Archbishop of Florence, "borrowed the thought from Dante's immortal poem," says Father Terrien (op. cit., vol. iii., p. 575, note), when he wrote of our Lady: Qui petit sine ipsa duce, sine alis tentat volare (Sum. Theol, p. iv., tit. 15, c. 22, § 9), " Whoso makes a request without her as guide, seeks to fly without wings."
19 Terrien, op. cit., vol. iii., pp. 578-581.
20 De Myst. Vitӕ Cbristi, d. 23, sect. 3, 5.
21 Theol. Mariana, Palestra xxix., Cert. iv.
22 Theol. Ment. et Cord., lib. x., passim.
23 Op. cit., Conf. 129.
24 Op. cit., pp. 404 sqq.
25 Op. cit., pp. 257 sqq.
26 Op. cit., vol. iii., liv. vii., c. 3 and 4.
27 Op. cit., pp. 258-259.
28 Eph. iv. 13.
29 Regina, che puoi
Cio che tu vuoi . . . says Dante. Paradiso, xxxiii.
30 John i. 16.
31 Glories of Mary. Part I., c. v., pp. 123-124.
32 Ibid., second part, discourse v., p. 321.
33 Gen. xxiv. 16-19.
34 La Vierge Marie et le Plan Divin, par Auguste Nicolas, liv., iii., c. 5. Paris, 1864.
35 Heb. iv. 15.