THE GRACES CONFERRED ON OUR BLESSED LADY WHEN SHE BECAME MOTHER OF GOD
WE have seen that our Blessed Lady was endowed by God with the use of her rational faculties from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception, and that there are good and solid reasons for believing that this privilege was not transitory but permanent. It necessarily follows that our Lady's knowledge was in the strict sense infused knowledge—that is, it was directly an I immediately caused by God, independent, therefore, in its origin and activity, of all co-operation of the organism. For we do not suggest that the Immaculate was fully and perfectly formed from the beginning; or that the organs were fully developed; or that while yet unborn she could receive impressions, consequently knowledge, as she would in after life receive them, through the medium of the senses. The Blessed Virgin was a marvel of Grace, which, in view of what she was to be, was conferred upon her in an extraordinary manner. Hence, as Father Terrien well says: " God, who formed Christ in the Virginal Womb of Mary without man's co-operation, could make a human intelligence fruitful without the co-operation of sensory images." 1
This infused knowledge, therefore, possessed certain characteristics.
It was wholly interior. There was no external manifestation of the knowledge possessed by our Blessed Lady. Externally she was in all things a normal child: " All the glory of the king's daughter was within." 2 It was uninterrupted.
No distracting thoughts or images had any power to interrupt the communion of our Lady's soul with God. He, the " First and only Fair," was discerned as such by her whom He had made " all fair." Nothing could come between the clear vision of the Immaculate and God Who had made her so: and the words of the Spouse in the Canticle of Canticles were applicable to our Lady in a special and pre-eminent degree: " I sleep, and my heart watcheth." 3
And it was unwearied. Just because the knowledge was independent of all co-operation of the senses or brain, there was no lassitude, no weariness. The exercise of our intelligence causes weariness, not because the mind itself grows tired: the mind or intelligence, being a spiritual faculty, does not experience those drawbacks inseparable from what is material: we grow wearied because our material organism grows weary; the lower faculties, being what they are, cannot co-operate indefinitely with our highest powers. But there was no question of any such co-operation of the inferior powers in the knowledge possessed by our Blessed Lady. It was infused, therefore untrammelled by sensory images, and placed no tax upon the organism. Hence, while our Lady in after life acquired knowledge like every other creature through contact with the outside world, that infused knowledge, that clear vision of God, remained undisturbed. Her life, therefore, was one of uninterrupted communion with God which nothing could break.
In saying this, however, we are not to think that such contemplation, such communion, was an obstacle to the ordinary activity of our Blessed Lady in her daily life. The Gospels, in the few instances in which mention is made of her, show our Lady to us, not as one lost in ecstatic contemplation, but as one who took her full share in external works. At the marriage of Cana " the Mother of Jesus was there." 4 She fulfilled all the requirements of the Mosaic Law. 5 And at the hour when more than any other time we might expect to find her utterly absorbed in contemplation, the hour when first her ravished gaze fell upon her Divine Child, we are clearly given to understand that, while she adored Him, her contemplation did not hinder her in the performance of all and more than all the duties of a mother. She " wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger." 6
This continual contemplation of, and union with, God, meant a constant, actual correspondence with Grace; uninterrupted progress in perfection; and an ever-increasing store of merit until the " fulness of time " decreed by the Eternal had arrived, and His messenger greeted the Virgin of Nazareth with the salutation: " Hail! full of Grace." At that moment God's preparation of our Blessed Lady was complete. By her perfect correspondence with the ineffable graces with which God had endowed her, Mary was now worthy to be Mother of God. His love for her had been so wonderful, that of her alone amongst all creatures could it be said: " Thou art all fair, and there is no spot in thee." 7
How far-reaching and comprehensive in its effects was the Grace received by our Blessed Lady, and how the whole being of the Immaculate, body as well as soul, responded to and was influenced by that Grace, we shall consider when we discuss our Lady's further Plenitude of Universality.
We have to consider now the Grace received by our Blessed Lady when u the Word was made flesh and dwelt " in all the fulness of His Godhead in her womb. If her perfection had been marvellous in the beginning of her existence; if by corresponding with the never ceasing flow of Grace into her soul our Lady made ever continual progress in the knowledge and love of God, therefore in holiness, from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception until the day of the Annunciation; what was the height and breadth and depth of the Grace conferred upon her when she spoke her Fiat, and became the Mother of God ? Surely the Grace she then received must have been more extraordinary than that which she had hitherto received. St. Thomas tells us what it effected in the Mother's soul, and leaves us to guess at its nature and intensity by saying: " When she conceived the Son of God, her Grace was consummated, and she was confirmed in sanctity." 8
So wonderful a change was wrought in the Virgin Mother when God became man, that the Grace she received is termed " consummated," not in the sense of finality—that is, that it could neither be further increased nor merited—but in the sense of immutability. Her will, already centred in God from the beginning, became unalterably fixed upon Him henceforth and for ever. This is called the Plenitude of our Lady's Second Sanctification. What it implies may be gathered from this: Mary was worthy to be Mother of God. The heavens are not pure in His sight. The Angels veil their faces in His presence. But Mary of Nazareth was without spot or stain, and so marvellously perfect, that the All Holy deigned to take flesh in her womb, to live with her life, and to contract so close and indissoluble a union with her that no power, not even that of Omnipotence, can destroy it. Everything is summed up in these words: Mary was found worthy by God Himself to be His Mother.
When we speak of the union which existed between the Child and His Mother we furnish another reason for our Lady's perfection, for it is a principle that the more intimately anything is united to the source of its being the greater is the influence of that source or cause upon the effect. God is the Source and Cause of Sanctity and Perfection because He is Absolute Perfection; and the more intimately a creature is united with God, the greater will be the perfection of that creature. Jesus Christ as God is the sole Cause of Grace: as Man He is the Instrumental Cause of Grace, and all the Graces conferred upon any creature are conferred through Jesus Christ. He has merited them for us; and hence, the more intimate our union is with Jesus Christ, the greater will be the Grace we shall receive. No human being was so closely united with Jesus Christ as His Mother. It was a kind of substantial union-The human nature in which He appeared amongst men and by which He came into personal communication with them, for their healing and salvation, He received from our Blessed Lady. In after years, " virtue went out from Him and healed all" 9 so that the mere touch of His garment brought health to the sick. Surely it must have been that the Mother, who was more closely united to Him than any other creature could ever be, received Grace from Him during that mysterious hidden life in her bosom, which uplifted her nearer to Him than all other creatures ? Surely her soul, already " full of Grace " to prepare her, must have received a yet further increase of Grace which made her, now that she was really Mother of God, the Mirror of Justice in which the All-Perfect beheld Himself clearly reflected, as far as any creature can reflect the Creator ? And we must remember, too, that while Mary in tabernacling the Word made flesh in her bosom was physically united to Him, she also conceived Him spiritually by Charity. Personal contact with Jesus Christ meant superabundance of Grace for our Blessed Lady, but the still more intense union of love demanded it, and in the Mother's soul there was no obstacle to hinder or lessen its unceasing flow. That union between the Mother and the Child was incomparably more wonderful and efficacious in its effects than the chiefest of the sevenfold means of Grace which Jesus Christ has instituted for us. The Blessed Eucharist brings us into intimate communion with our Divine Lord. He gives Himself entirely to us; the Christ, the Son of the Living God; the Christ, the Son of Mary; but He comes under the appearances of bread and wine; we live by Him, but He does not live by us, for He receives nothing from us. In the Incarnation Jesus gave Himself entirely to His Mother in the fulness of His humanity: she lived by Him because of the Grace He conferred upon her; but He also lived by His Mother, for He received His human nature from her; it was of her substance. And so there was an exchange between Jesus and Mary: divine life radiated from the Child and filled the Mother's soul with Grace and supernatural gifts, while she communicated her life to Him, sustained and strengthened Him.
It is a principle of the spiritual life that Grace corresponds to and is commensurate with Charity. We have already seen that God loved our Blessed Lady more than all creatures, and that He manifested His love in choosing her to be His Mother* in preserving her because of this choice from all taint of sin, and by conferring upon her those extraordinary gifts of which we have spoken. How would He manifest His love, now that she became His Mother in reality ? And what would Mary's love of Him be when He had become incarnate in her bosom ? Her love would be the measure of the plenitude of Grace she then received, and it was the purest, noblest, and most sacred love ever given to God by any human being, for it was the love of a Virgin, a Mother, and a Mother whose Child was God Incarnate, natural and spontaneous, yet spiritualised beyond conception, uplifted to the highest regions of the supernatural and divine.
Our Blessed Lady was ever the Virgin of virgins. She could say in the most absolute manner: " Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever." 10
Consequently she fulfilled the precept of Charity as no other has ever done, by loving God with her whole heart, with all her mind, and with all her strength. There was no division of love: it was all given to God, and given with a singleness, simplicity, and strength of the Virgin's heart which recognised God's supreme claim and had responded to it from the beginning.
Yet, as the Church teaches, while our Blessed Lady is the Virgin and Queen of Virgins, she is also the Mother of Christ; and so we may look for those qualities of maternal love in the heart of the Virgin-Mother, the qualities of heroism, tenderness, and self-sacrifice, which make mother-love what it is. And in Mary this love, even in the natural order, if we may use the term in reference to what was so supernatural, was unique. Her Child was hers in a sense to which no other child belongs to his mother, for He owed His human nature to her alone. She alone ministered to Him His humanity, and the words attributed to St. Augustine: " Caro Christi, caro Mariӕ, Christ's flesh is Mary's flesh," 11 are representative of Mary's exclusive right among mortals as the only human being necessary to the Incarnation, to say: " Thou art my beloved Son." And this love of the Virgin-Mother, with all its natural purity, strength, heroism, tenderness, and sublimity, with the additional perfection given to it by Grace, was also the love of a Virgin-Mother whose Son was the ^Incarnate God ! St. Thomas tells us that Mary, "in becoming Mother of God, assumes a land of infinite dignity from God who is Infinite Good; and hence, on this account, nothing more perfect than she could be made, for there is nothing more perfect than God." 12
The same may be said of our Blessed Lady's love of her Son: it takes on a characteristic, a feature, that is like to the love of the Eternal Father. The object of the love of the Eternal and of the Immaculate was the same, the Word of God. The Word who is " the splendour of the Father and the brightness of His substance," Who is equal with the Father in all things, and eternally begotten of the Father, is the Object of His eternal love. The same " Word made flesh " is the Object of His Mother's love. The Eternal and the Temporal Generation had reference to the same Word; and hence our Blessed Lady assumes a species of affinity with the Father. 13
The Word is begotten of the substance of the Father only. The " Word made flesh " received His human nature from His Mother only. The Word is " the only-begotten of the Father." Jesus is the only Son of Mary ever Virgin. And so we cannot conceive of a more perfect human being than the Immaculate. In the language of St. Bonaventure: " Though God could create a more perfect world, He could not create a more perfect mother than the Mother of God." 14
When our Blessed Lady was so perfect and her love of God so transcendent, we may expect that the favours and graces bestowed by God would be in keeping with that perfection and love. We do not seek to understand or comprehend them. They are incomprehensible. Yet we feel that no favours could be too great for her who was Mother of God. We know that the continual intercourse of the Mother and her Son meant continual progress in sanctity for her who " bore, suckled, and handled the Eternal," 15 and that, in the words of St. Augustine: " When she suckled Him she herself was fed with heavenly food; when she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, she was clothed by Him in the robes of immortality; and when she laid Him to rest, He prepared for her a banquet of delights." 16 Remembering these things, we bow before her in all humility, as the holiest and most perfect work of God after the Sacred Humanity of her Son, whom God Himself deemed worthy to be His Mother, because He had made her so. And as St. Thomas of Villanova asks:" What beauty, what virtue, what perfection, what grace, what glory, is not befitting the Mother of God ?"
From - Mother Of Divine Grace: A Chapter in the Theology of the Immaculate. By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P.
1 Op. cit., vol. ii., p. 35.
2 Ps. xliv. 14.
3 V. 2.
4 John ii. I.
5 Luke ii. 22.
6 Ibid. 7.
7 Cant, of Canticles, iv. 7.
8 "In conceptione autem Filii Dei consummata est ejus gratia, confirmans eam in bono." Sum. TheoL, III. Pars, Q. XXVII., A. 5, ad 2.
10 Ps. lxxii. 26.
11 Sermo de Assumpt B,VM., ch. ii. " The expression is found (for the first time?) in the Treatise on the Assumption, composed probably about the time of Charlemagne, which has often been attributed to St. Augustine." (De la Broise, op. cit, p. 250, note.)
12 Sum. TheoL, I. Pars, Q. XXV., A. 6, ad 4.
13 Cf Lepicier, op. cit., p. 77.
14 Speculum, ch. viii.
15 Cardinal Newman, Difficulties of Anglicans, vol. ii., p. 83.
15 Cardinal Newman, Difficulties of Anglicans, vol. ii., p. 83.
16 " Creatori succum porrigis lactis, et cibis ccelestibus satiaris; pannis involvis Puerum, qui tibi immortale condonavit indumentum; in prӕsepio ponis infantilia membra, qui cӕlestem tibi prӕparavit mensam 99 (Serm. 14, de Tempore).