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


GOD decreed the Incarnation as the means by which the human race, estranged from Him through the deceits of Satan, should be redeemed; and the Incarnation meant that God should become man really and actually, not figuratively only or in semblance. A human mother, therefore, was required; and, as God does nothing by chance, He chose one woman from amongst all other women to be the Mother from whom He should receive the human nature He had willed to assume. Such choice meant predestination: and by the fact that a woman had been so predestined by God, " He at once separated her morally from the rest of mankind. Having resolved to become incarnate and to suffer to redeem all men, He intended that His Mother should first of all receive the full benefit of His redeeming power; He wished not merely to raise her, with others, from the original fall ? but to preserve her beforehand and entirely from it; so that, always beautiful and pleasing to the eyes of God, always in His light, always near Him, she might occupy by His side the place predestined for the Mother of God, and participate in all His glory." 1

The predestination of the woman chosen by God to be His Mother was gratuitous. She was not chosen on account of any merits or perfections she possessed and which were foreseen by God. No creature could ever possibly merit such an office in the strict sense of the term; and when we find the expression used by some of the Fathers, or in the Liturgical Prayers of the Church, we must ever remember that it has reference to congruous merit, not to merit strictly so called. In other words, when we find it stated that the Blessed Virgin " merited to become the Mother of God," we are to understand that she corresponded so perfectly with Grace as to make it fitting that she should receive the ineffable Grace of the Divine Maternity. All the perfection, sanctity, and subsequent glory of our Blessed Lady was the result of this predestination by God, for such predestination, as we shall see later, implied predilection. In the fullest sense of the words could Mary have said: By the Grace of God I am what I am: and His Grace in me bath not been void. 3

But we must beware of imagining that God's Grace made our Lady what she was despite herself, and that she became so marvellously perfect because she could not have been anything eke. In the words of Father Faber: " Mary was no mere monument of marvels upon which God has hung external dignities, and endless banners, and figurative emblems, and the external spoils of a redeemed world. The bewildering glory outside —and truly was it bewildering-^was as nothing compared to that which was within. Mary was a creature, a woman, a mother, a sufferer; and by stupendous correspondence to them, she had made God's gifts her own."4

Like every other creature, Mary had the power to accept or reject the gifts of God. She possessed the radical power of rejecting the initial Grace she received, otherwise she would not have been free. But she corresponded with that Grace so fully, that she merited still further Grace, still further perfection; and hence, while all her perfections are from God, they are also " Mary's own self, her own human, characteristic, loving, quiet self." 5

We can understand that God would prepare her whom He had chosen from eternity to be the Mother of His Son. We can further understand that this preparation would be unique since she herself was unique, the woman chosen from amongst all others as the link which should unite God with man. This preparation began with the initial Grace, initial in the order of time, of an Immaculate Conception. Mary , is the Immaculate Conception.

The doctrine which teaches that, in the first instant of her conception, " Mary, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was preserved from every stain of Original Sin," 6 is a doctrine which is not only in perfect harmony with the mystery of the Incarnation, but one which is eminently reasonable. The Son of God became man that He might redeem mankind and destroy the power which Satan exercised over the human race. Would it have been fitting that the Mother who was to minister to Him His human nature should ever, even for a fleeting instant, have been stained by sin ? Would Mary's preparation for the Divine Maternity have been worthy of God if she had ever been under the thraldom of His enemy ? God could preserve her He had chosen for His Mother from the blighting curse of sin which fell upon every other creature: Dare we say that He would not preserve her ? God's very choice of her to be His mother urges us to expect that the law which was made for all others would not affect her, and that the sentence pronounced upon every other child of Adam would be suspended in her case. Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, exclaims the Psalmist, 7 and surely u the holiness that becometh the actual House of God should be something more than the patched-up sanctity which overlies a foundation of original corruption." 8

The dignity of the Son and the position of the Mother demanded that she should be preserved from all taint of sin. This is expressed in the words of the Promise made in Genesis, where God, addressing the tempter, said:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
And thy seed and her seed:
She shall crush thy head,
And thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. 9

These words quite evidently refer to a woman who should undo the wrong the first woman had done. They signalise not" a " but" the " woman between whom and the Spirit of Evil there has been established everlasting enmity. Not only will the Spirit of Evil never exercise any dominion over " the woman," on the contrary, she shall possess full supremacy over and shall crush Satan; and " her seed," her Son in a very special and exclusive sense, since He shall be born of her without human intervention, shall destroy the empire of sin in the souk of Eve's descendants. The complete and absolute triumph of " the woman " and her seed over sin and Satan is promised by God. That the triumph may be absolute, absolute immunity is necessary. Hence God promised that His Son, and the Mother of whom He should be born, should never, at any moment of their existence, be under the dominion of Satan. 1o

But let us guard against an error into which some have fallen. While the Divine Maternity of our Blessed Lady demands an Immaculate Conception as a fitting preparation for her position, it does not demand it as a necessary condition. We are not to imagine that God preserved His Mother from all taint of sin in order that His Son might be preserved. Our Lord's Conception was wholly miraculous. His immunity was assured in that He " was conceived of the Holy Ghost." Hence, even if our Blessed Lady had not been Immaculate, even if she had not been preserved from the stain of Original Sin, her Divine Son would not have been affected, because His Conception was wholly supernatural, wholly miraculous; it was not human but divine. 11

The Immaculate Conception, marvellous privilege though it is, is nevertheless only the beginning and the negative side of the Graces conferred by God upon His Blessed Mother. She was not merely preserved from sin in the first instant of her rational existence, but was endowed with virtues so great and glorious, and was filled with Grace so completely as to deserve the title " full of Grace " while yet unborn.

Just because our Blessed Lady was chosen by God to be His Mother was she loved by Him above all other creatures. She was the " fairest among women," and the " perfect one," because she was the chosen one. Now God's love is creative. He creates the beauty and perfection which He sees and loves in the creature.. He pours Himself out on the creature He loves and endows it with every perfection; while the greater His love is, the greater will be the perfection He confers upon the object of His love ; for, as St. Thomas teaches: " That God should love one more than another is simply that He wills greater good for such a one; God's will is the cause of good in created things." 12 Hence, because of the position she was to occupy, our Blessed Lady was loved by God more than all others, and because she was so loved she was endowed with greater perfection. Hence her Immaculate Conception. 13 As has been said, this privilege, marvellous though it was, was but the negative side of our Lady's initial perfection. She was preserved from all stain of Original Sin by reason of the Immaculate Conception: was her soul not endowed at the same instant with such Grace that even then she was " full of Grace " ? We take the principle laid down by St. Thomas that our Lady-received disposing Grace " by which she was made worthy to be the Mother of Christ," 14 and reply in the affirmative. In the first instant of her Immaculate Conception our Blessed Lady was " full of Grace ": not, indeed, full with the fulness of Grace which excluded any progress, but with the fulness necessary to prepare her from the beginning for her position as Mother of God. The question now occurs: What was the extent of this initial plenitude of Grace ? Was it greater than the consummated perfection of Angels and Saints individually? Was it greater than the consummated perfection of Angels and Saints collectively ?

The majority of theologians agree that the initial Grace and perfection of our Blessed Lady exceeded the consummated perfection of Angels and Saints taken individually. This is the teaching of Suarez, 15 and of one of the earliest commentators on the Litany of Loretto, Father Justin of Miechow, O.P., 16 to mention but two theologians. Their teaching is eminently reasonable. Our Blessed Lady had been chosen from eternity to be Mother of God. No other creature had been chosen for such an exalted position, and God gives His Grace in proportion to the position to which He has destined the creature. Consequently? when our Blessed Lady had been destined by the Eternal to occupy a position that was unique, a position with which no other can compare, the Grace she received as a preparation for that position must have been incomparably greater than the Graces bestowed upon any other creature. From all eternity our Lady had been loved by God beyond all other creatures as the chosen one, who should cradle in her bosom the Word made flesh, therefore did she receive greater Graces from the beginning than any other creature ever received. 17 There is not the same unanimity in regard to the second question: Was the initial Grace conferred upon our Blessed Lady greater than the consummated grace and perfection of Angels and Saints taken collectively? Some theologians do not treat the question at all; others do not consider that the arguments in favour of it are convincing; while others are frankly opposed to the doctrine.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri, however, is a zealous upholder of it; 18 and it would seem that St. Vincent Ferrer also inclines to the affirmative view. 19 Vega, S.J., expressly teaches it, 20 while Contenson, O.P., makes it his own. 21 It seems to us that the arguments in support of the first statement are equally applicable to the second. God loved our Blessed Lady more than and above all other creatures, therefore He endowed her with Grace in a measure that far exceeded the Graces received by all others. There is absolutely no comparison between the consummated perfection of Angels and Saints collectively, and the perfection due to her whom God had chosen to be His Mother that she might be rendered worthy of the position she was to fill. The position and dignity of the chosen Mother of God was such that from the beginning it placed her above all mere creatures and nearest to the divine. No perfection or Grace could be too great for such a being; nor would the accumulated Graces of all creatures ever render that being worthy of the office of Mother of God. The position was unique. So also was the perfection of her who held it; for that perfection disposed and prepared her, from the first moment of her existence, to be worthy of conceiving the Word of God in her womb. Yet such stupendous Grace did not prevent further increase or advancement. It was but a disposing Grace; merely a preparation for still greater Grace to be conferred, especially when our Blessed Lady actually became Mother of God, what time the " Word was made flesh." It was not infinite but finite Grace, and being so, it. was capable of increase—an increase especially at the moment of the Miraculous Conception; a still greater increase at the hour of our Lady's death.

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

1 The Blessed Virgin Mary, by de la Broise, p. 3.

2 Cf. Tractatus ds Beatissima Virgine Maria, Matre Dei, by Father Lepicier, O.S.M., pp. 18-19. Paris, 1901.

3 1 Cor. xv. 10.

4 The Foot of the Cross, 9th ed., p. 365.

5 Ibid.

6 Words of the Bull Ineffabilis Deus.

7 xcii. 5.

8 Meditations on Christian Dogma, by Bishop Bellord, vol. i., p. 333. London, C.T.S., 1898.

9 iii. 15. It is of but little moment whether the reading be " Ipse " or " Ipsum " instead of the " Ipsa " of the Vulgate. The Church has never taught, though Protestantism would have us believe that she has, that Mary of herself possessed the power to crush the serpent's head. Her power, like her perfection, it wholly the effect of God's love and predomination. Whatever reading it accepted! one outstanding fact remains; the woman and her seed conjointly are  placed in antagonism to the serpent and its seed: Christ and His Mother are united against Satan, and with them are also joined all who acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus and Mary. Cf. Lapide, Comment in Genesim, in lece; de la Broise, The Blessed Virgin Mary p. 9, note.

 10 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 95-97.

11 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 87-88

12 Sum. Theol.,La Pars, Q. XX., A. 4.

13 It is worthy of remark that St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P., was an ardent preacher of the Immaculate Conception. Cf. (Euvres de Saint Vincent Ferrier, edited by Pere Fages, O.P., tome i., p. 157. Paris, 1909.

14 Sum. Tbeol., IIIa. Pars, Q. XXVII., A. 5., ad. 2.

15 De Mysteriis VitÓ• Christi, dist. 4, 8. 1.

16 Discursus Predicabiles super Litanias Lauretaneas. French version Conferences sur les Litanies, by L'Abbe' Ricard, Conf. 13.4 Paris, 1868.

17 Cf. Pere Hugon, O.P., La Mere de Grace, pp. 19-24, Paris, 1904; Pere Terrien, S.J., La Mere de Dieu et la Mere des Hommes, vol. i., pp. 386-388, Paris, 1900; Lepicier, op. cit., p, 165.

18 The Glories of Mary, part ii., discourse ii. London, 1852.

19 Op. cit., Sermo de Conceptione B. Virginis, p. 157.

20 Theol. Mariana, n. 1160.

21 Theol. Mentis et Cordis, lib. x., diss. 6, cap. 8, sp. 2 primo.