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


WE have seen in the preceding chapter that in describing the effects of the Grace conferred upon our Blessed Lady when she became the Mother of God, St. Thomas speaks of her being " confirmed in good," and teaches that her perfection was consummated. But we have also seen that these expressions refer to immutability, not to finality in the sanctity of the Immaculate. The Angelic Doctor does not imply that the Mother of God either could not or did not make further progress in perfection, or that the Grace she then received was inactive. Grace always implies supernatural activity; consequently, while our Blessed Lady was established in perfection when she became the Mother of God, she could nevertheless continue to use the Grace that had been given to her, continue to increase in the knowledge and love of God, continue to merit still further Graces as long as life was hers in which to merit, since death alone destroys all possibility of meriting further Grace. So long as the creature is a wayfarer on earth it is possible to add to the store of merit. There was only One Who fully realised the infinite possibilities of Grace from the beginning. Jesus Christ alone possessed the plenitude of Grace absolutely from the instant when " the Word was made flesh." He alone, in the language of St. Thomas, was the Comprehensor, not merely a wayfarer, since His human soul was united in the closest possible union with God from the first moment of His human life. Hence, He was so fully endowed with Grace that further increase was impossible. It was not thus with His Mother. She was a creature and a wayfarer; further increase in perfection and Grace was only at an end for her when her earthly existence was closed and Grace had given place to Glory. She was " full of Grace " at the moment of her Immaculate Conception, but it was not the fulness of Grace that was hers when she became Mother of God, just as her plenitude of Grace then was not so full as when she closed her eyes on earth to open them to the splendours of the unveiled vision of God in heaven. During the years that passed from the Annunciation to her Dormition, our Blessed Lady " went forwards and increased " in Grace and perfection " to perfect day," when she received her Queenly crown as the noblest effect of God's sanctifying Grace.

" The Blessed Virgin was endowed with a threefold perfection of Grace," says St. Thomas: " the first was by way of preparation that she might be worthy to be the Mother of God. . . . The second . . . was the outcome of the presence of the Son of God incarnate in her womb. The third is her final perfection, that of Glory. That the second perfection is greater than the first, and the third greater than the second, is evident." 1

There was no reason why God's Mother should not have gone " forwards and increased" in Grace and holiness. Being a creature she could not exhaust the infinite possibilities of Grace, for Grace is a participation in the divine nature, and it matters not how holy or how perfect the creature is, it will ever fall infinitely short of the Infinite Sanctity and Perfection of God. Neither can we say that, in becoming Mother of God, Mary was so filled with Grace as to be incapable of receiving any further increase. The effect of the Grace our Blessed Lady received was to deepen and intensify her love of God. Her Grace and Charity went hand in hand. Progress in the one implied progress in the other, and, as St, Bernard says: Love is limitless. 2

In loving we acquire yet further power to love; " abyss calleth to abyss." The love of God ever demanded the love of His mother, and she responded to the demand. To love Him more, and love Him more intimately and intensely, demanded still further Grace. Even God's Mother could not love Him so absolutely as to set a limit to her love. God alone can love Himself adequately. Infinite love alone can love infinitely; and the Mother was a creature. Hence, she could ever increase in the love of God: consequently, though " full of Grace " from the beginning; " full of Grace " in the conception of her Divine Son so that she was confirmed and established in perfection, our Blessed Lady, so long as she remained on earth, was capable of receiving still further Grace, still further perfection, until " her Grace was finally consummated when she entered into Glory, and she was made perfect in the enjoyment of all good " for ever. 3

There were three factors which made for the increase of Grace and perfection in the Mother of God: her merits, the Sacraments, and her share in the Mysteries of her Divine Son. Merit, considered in the abstract, is a certain right to receive recompense; in the concrete, it is an act worthy of being rewarded. Theologians distinguish between Merit de Condigno, that which is due in justice and rigorously, on account of the intrinsic worth of the act; and Merit de Congruo, that which is fittingly due. Certain conditions are required for merit: The acts must be free, morally good, performed by one who is in the state of Grace, who is, moreover, a wayfarer, and they must be done for God. These conditions, it is needless to say, were fulfilled by the Immaculate. No human being was so utterly free as our Blessed Lady. Her Immaculate Conception had rendered her free in the most perfect manner, by exempting ;> her from sin, from ignorance, error, and concupiscence, those forces which are so destructive of human liberty. Every act of hers was supremely good because the outcome of a will which, centred in God from the beginning, had been confirmed in good when she became Mother of God. And her actions were those of one who had been created " full of Grace," which indeed " had not been void " in her, but which impelled her to love God with supreme love. This Charity influenced each virtue and directed its activities towards God; and this, be it remembered, from the instant when she reached out to Him by the first movement of her intelligence and will, until the last moment of her earthly life.

We have said that " every act was supremely good." This means that each act performed by the Immaculate was a human act—that is, fully free and deliberate, consequently that her merit was continual and uninterrupted. Nothing was lost. Our Blessed Lady was always completely mistress of herself. It was one of her privileges. We refer our readers to what has been said with regard to the infused knowledge of our Lady. It was quite independent of any physical organism, and was, in consequence, free from interruption, distraction, and suspension of activity. In other words, it was deliberate. Every deliberate act is either good or evil; there are no indifferent deliberate acts, or, what comes to the same thing, no indifferent human acts. And if the deliberate act is performed by one who is in the friendship of God, one who is in the state of Grace, the act is meritorious and deserves a new increase of divine and supernatural perfection. Our Lady was created " full of Grace "; she had been confirmed in Grace when she became Mother of God. Every act of hers, therefore, because fully deliberate was also meritorious; and these acts continually repeated throughout the years of her life on earth meant an ever-increasing store of merit, an ever-constant progress in perfection. Our actions are not always subject to the control of our intelligence and will, owing to the revolt of the passions, our blindness of mind, and our feeble will, which is swayed to and fro by the mere semblance of good. But there was no room for the play of these forces in the life of the Mother of God. Everything in her was in perfect harmony. Her inferior powers were subject to reason; her body was subject to her soul; and God was her soul's Master. The intellect specifies to the will the object to which the will tends; and an intellect such as that with which God's Mother was endowed was ever actively directed towards Him, its supreme object. Hence her will was ever active. Hence, again, her acts were continual, and because they were supernaturally good, were ever meritorious.

As we have already stated, 4 this activity of our Lady did not hinder the performance of her ordinary duties, or lessen in any way the exercise of her other faculties. Her infused knowledge energised in the highest spiritual regions of her soul, and was absolutely independent of sense-perceptions or imagination. Her other faculties, therefore, preserved their autonomy in full; and her life, while it was wholly supernatural, lost nothing of its human, natural activity. Hence, too, this exercise of infused knowledge rendered her repose an act of love. She could say as the Spouse in the Canticle of Canticles: " I sleep, and my heart watcheth." 5

" This heavenly Queen," says St. Francis de Sales," slept only through love, for she only gave rest to her body to restore its vigour, so that she might serve God more perfectly afterwards, an act of Charity which was most excellent." 6 " Even during her sleep the Blessed Virgin enjoyed a more perfect contemplation than an ordinary mortal enjoys when awake." Suarez 8 and Contenson 9 teach that our Blessed Lady enjoyed the use of reason during sleep, consequently that the continuity of her merit was absolute. Father Terrien holds the same opinion. 10 " Once the real nature of infused knowledge is grasped," says Father Hugon," there is little difficulty in accepting the teaching. It is altogether independent of sensory conditions, receives no assistance from the inferior faculties, and does not require the services of the imagination. It is not fettered when the senses are in repose, does not sleep when they are at rest, but is active even when they are inactive. It resembles the intuitive knowledge of the Angels, and is all light: a day that never wanes, it knows neither night, fatigue, nor sleep. If Mary enjoyed this privilege at her Conception, it remained possible during her sleep, for the spirit was not less free, nor the will less perfect then than it was in the first instant of her existence." 11 Hence it is that, from the first moment of her life on earth until the last, our Blessed Lady's activity was uninterrupted and her merit, in consequence, continual.

This, however, was but one source of merit, the continuity of act. The perfection of her personality and of her acts enters also into the conception of merit. Acts are attributed to the person, and the supernatural dignity of the person is a reason for the perfection of the merit due to the acts. The more supernaturally perfect the person is, the greater the dignity, the greater will be the merit-value of the acts. Thus our Divine Lord's merits are of infinite value because He is infinitely perfect, and each act of His was of infinite worth on account of His infinite dignity. After Jesus, Mary is the most perfect work of God and highest in dignity. Because she is Mother of God she has acquired a kind of infinite dignity, 12 and her actions, therefore, possess a value not possessed by those of any other creature. The dignity of the Immaculate was the effect of Grace, and, as St. Thomas teaches, " the more fully an act is quickened by Grace the more meritorious it is,"13 it follows that each action performed by her who was " full of Grace," full with the fulness of superabundance, was meritorious in the highest degree, and that increase of merit was commensurate with increase of Grace.

Furthermore the merit-value of human acts is proportionate to the influence of Charity. The more fully God takes possession of our being and activity, the more pleasing to Him, and the worthier of His acceptance will be our life and work. It is Charity that makes God master of our life, and this Charity quickens every act, however trivial it may appear, in those souls who love Him: "To them that love God all things work together unto good." 14

Our Blessed Lady loved God in a supreme degree, as fully and as perfectly as could be given to any creature to love Him. Her first act of Charity was heroic. Every subsequent act of Charity was also heroic, and love of God possessed her completely " from the beginning of her ways.'' It influenced her entire existence; influenced each particular virtue and the activities of each virtue; and made the being, existence, and activity of the Immaculate its own. What merit must hers have been, when every act from first to last was an act of the love of God ? " And the fire on the altar shall always burn, and the priest shall feed it. . . . This is the perpetual fire which shall never go out on the altar." 15 The fire of divine love was lighted on the altar of Mary's soul. She fed it day and night by every act she performed, for each act was free and deliberate, and a deliberate act of Charity. Those acts became more intense as her love increased, and her love of God increased when He took flesh in her womb, when she freely offered Him to His Father on Calvary, when the Holy Ghost descended upon her and the assembled Apostles on Pentecost; and each time that she received the Bread of Life. The fire was perpetual: it never waned and was never extinguished. And at the hour of her death, that fire of Charity was only transferred from earth to heaven, where it burns as an unquenchable flame for eternity.

Another source of merit was the excellence of our Lady's actions. There is a scale of perfection in work as in virtue; and when acts are influenced by and spring from Charity, they increase in perfection according to the perfection of their object.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church are unanimous in teaching that, after her Divine Son, Mary is the most perfect model of all virtue. Like Him, she too has passed through every phase of human life and has experienced its trials. She is wholly human, yet through God's Grace she has become to all a perfect exemplar of every virtue, and this excellence is due to the fact that Charity was the root of her activities. This excellence was consistent and perpetual; and, as the object of her actions was ever the highest, and each action was influenced by most perfect Charity, her merit was matchless.

St. Paul extols the faith of Abraham, " who against hope believed in hope." 16 What was Abraham's faith in comparison with that of our Blessed Lady who believed without question or hesitation in the word of the Angel of the Annunciation, that " the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadow her," and a Son Who was God should be born of her, and that she should remain a Virgin while becoming a mother ? Well might St. Elizabeth exclaim:" Blessed art thou that hast believed!" 17 Her faith was marvellous: equally marvellous was her purity. " What greater gift" could God give her," says Bossuet, u than His Son to be her Son? Yet, rather than lose her virginal purity, she was ready to refuse the gift" until she learned how this should be done. 18 And her humility was as marvellous as her faith and purity. She, the Mother of God, proclaimed herself to be His handmaid ! Her son was the Son of the Most High; the Lord God would give unto Him the throne of David His Father; He should reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there should be no end. 19 The glory of her Son should envelop her, His Mother, and the tongues that praised Him should sing her praises too. Through her, the Desired of Nations had come, the Prince of Peace, God the Mighty; while because of her part in the Incarnation, people in after years, even until the end of time, would bless " the womb that bore Him, and the breasts that gave Him suck." Never, even in thought, could she be separated from her Son; and yet, uplifted though she was to such heights of glory, the Mother finds no other words than these in which to express the thoughts of her heart: "My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid." 20 Her confidence in God was absolute and unshaken, though trial came upon trial to wound her. " Joseph . . . being a just man . . . was minded to put her away privately." 21 A word from her would have dispelled his doubts, but Mary spoke no word. She was in God's hands. She was His handmaid. He would make known His designs in His own time and in His own way. Her absolute confidence was shown again when, obeying her spouse to whom the command had been given, she fared forth into the unknown calmly and fearlessly, to await in the land of exile a further manifestation of the Divine Will. Her thoughtfulness and charity are seen at the marriage feast in Cana, as her tender solicitude had been already proven when she made the long journey to visit her kinswoman St. Elizabeth. And while she won for herself the title of " Virgin most Prudent," in weighing the words of the Angel's message to her at Nazareth, she was crowned the Queen of Martyrs when " she stood by the Cross of Jesus " on Calvary, and showed a fortitude, a spirit of self-sacrifice, and a generosity wholly supernatural, sublime, and heroic.

We have said that Charity was the source of all our Blessed Lady's acts, and we know that " the Charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us." 22 Every just soul is the tabernacle of the Spirit of Love, and His presence is more perfect in so far forth as Sanctifying Grace is more abundant. He is the Principle of all supernatural activity, and He influences each and every act, so that the soul becomes a divine instrument in which the natural and infused virtues combine to produce a perfect harmony of praise to God. This is true of all the just, but when applied to our Blessed Lady it has an incomparably higher signification, for she is the Temple of God in an absolutely unique sense. The Gifts of the Holy Ghost had full sway in her Immaculate soul from the moment of her creation. The Holy Trinity had taken full possession of her whole being, with the result that all her actions and the natural course of all her activity became supernaturally perfect. God was all in all to her. She belonged fully and entirely to Him: My beloved to me, and I to Him. 23 Hence, our Blessed Lady's life and activity were completely and at all times under the benign influence of God, and her actions merited an increase of Grace and a corresponding increase of Glory. 24

Lastly the Sacraments, and those divine mysteries in which the Mother of God had a part, were another source of Grace for her, consequently of merit.

The Sacraments are the means by which God gives to His children that supernatural energy which enables them to live the supernatural life. They confer Grace of themselves. One of these means, however, our Blessed Lady could not receive because she was a woman—Holy Orders. It was unnecessary that she should receive the Sacrament of Baptism, since she had been exempt from the stain of Original Sin; or Penance, since she had never committed any actual sin; or Extreme Unction, since she did not require to be strengthened against either the effects of sin or the temptations of the Evil One. When she was espoused to St. Joseph Matrimony had not been raised to the dignity of a Sacrament; while the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost produced the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Yet theologians have held that our Blessed Lady did actually receive the Sacrament of Baptism, not indeed, that it was necessary that she should receive it, but because it was fitting that she should be sealed with the character conferred upon all those who by Baptism are incorporated in the Mystic Body of Jesus Christ, the Church; and furthermore, become like unto Christ by receiving the sign of His Passion of which this Sacrament is the token. 25 Others have taught that our Lady received the Sacrament of Extreme Unction " because of its fruits, for the strengthening of the faith, and as an example of humility." 26 But did not the Divine Motherhood constitute our Blessed Lady the chief member of the Mystical Body of her Son ? Did not her sacrifice of Him make her more conformable to Him, and give her a greater right to share in the graces of His Passion than any other creature ? As to Extreme Unction, there were no effects of sin, no reliquiӕ in the Immaculate; she was " all fair " and always so. Furthermore, this Sacrament is for the sick, for those who are dying from sickness; but our Blessed Lady knew neither sickness, infirmity, nor age. But while we say there was no need that the Mother of God should receive these Sacraments, and that she could not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we do not say that she was deprived of the Graces conferred by them. The Sacraments are the means of Grace, and it was her Son Who freely instituted them. He could have appointed other means, or have dispensed with those He had instituted. Surely we cannot deny that He could also have poured incomparably greater Graces into His Mother's soul without the Sacraments than through them. Can we say that He refrained from doing so ?

There was one Sacrament, however, and the chief, which our Blessed Lady did receive—the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; and it is the opinion of theologians that she received it daily. Their teaching is based upon the words of the Acts of the Apostles, which speak of the charity of the early Christians who were " persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayer." 27 No tongue can fittingly speak of those Communions in which the Mysteries of Nazareth and Bethlehem were daily renewed, and the Mother was united to her Son in the Sacrament of Love. But when we remember that the effects of this Sacrament are proportionate to the dispositions with which It is received; when we remember, furthermore, the perfection of Qur Blessed Lady, her incomparable faith and love, her wonderful humility, her immaculate purity, and her longing for Him " Whom her soul loved," we may learn something of the Graces that inundated her soul in each Communion, and obtain some idea, faint and imperfect it is true, of her stupendous merits.

Theologians have discussed the question : Whether the Divine Motherhood was itself a means of sanctification ? Without inquiring into the arguments, we may surely assert with Contenson that, "the Divine Maternity made for the sanctification of Mary, if not formally and directly, certainly radically and indirectly. The exigency was such that God could not overlook it. 28

But the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, in which our Blessed Lady was so intimately associated with the designs of God, made for an increase of Grace in her soul. We have already shown that the physical presence of the Word made flesh implied and necessitated an ever-increasing flow of Grace. When " virtue went out from Him and healed all" who came in contact with our Lord, we may say with truth that the same " virtue went out from Him " to His Mother, when she did for Him all that any mother does for her child, and that this contact with the Sacred Humanity rendered our Blessed Lady purer, holier, more pleasing to God. 29 The same may be said of the Sacrifice of Calvary. Our Blessed Lady was the first to benefit by the Passion of her Divine Son; and as she shared in His Sacrifice and suffered with Him, she assuredly merited still further Grace, and to be crowned with greater glory in consequence. Martyrdom is a source of grace for those who give this supreme proof of charity. The Mother of God was not a mere onlooker at the Sacrifice, neither was she only a recipient of its fruits. She joined with her Son in the Sacrifice; consented to it as she had consented to the Incarnation, and on Calvary, as at Nazareth, made her act of absolute conformity to the Will of God: Be it done to me according to His word. Her love was supreme; supreme too was her sorrow; but the anguish she suffered was a proof of her Charity, a martyrdom which merited for her yet greater Grace. 30 And as she was filled with the plenitude of Grace when she became Mother of God, so also must she have been filled with Grace again, when, at the foot of the Cross, she was confirmed in her Motherhood of men. " This spiritual childbirth," says Father Hugon, "is the complement of her Divine Maternity. . . . She is Mother of the natural and the Mystical Body. The Maternity in both cases was wholly supernatural; the Holy Ghost must needs come upon her now as in the first moment of the Incarnation, and the power of the Most High confer upon her this other Virginal Motherhood. Her first Maternity was wrought by the Spirit and power of God; the second Maternity was accomplished by the Spirit of God and Grace." 31

And so the Mother of God was prepared for the position she was to occupy for ever, by the Grace which increased each instant of her life, by the merit which was a consequence of this Grace, by the Sacraments which were its channels, and by her share in the Mysteries of her Son.

She was made perfect, so perfect that we cannot conceive of a creature more perfect than the Mother of God. Then it was that the voice of the Beloved called: " Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come." 32

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

1 Sum. Theol., III. Pars, Q. XXVII., A. 5, ad, 2

2 Modus sine modo diligere. De diligendo Deo, c. I.

3 Sum. Theol., III. Pars, Q. XXVII, A. 5, ad 2: cf. Hugon, op; cit., pp. 108-111; Terrien, op cit., pp. 191-198.

Cf. ch. iv. 

5 V. 2.

6 Traite de l'Amour de Dieu, 1. iii., ch. 8.

7 St. Bernardine of Siena, Opera, vol. iii., Ser. iv.

8 De Myst. Vitӕ Christi, d. 18, sect, 2.

9 Theol. Mentis et Cordis, lib. x., diss, vi., ch. i., spec. II, quinto. 

10 Op. cit.,  vol ii., L vii., ch. I.

11 Op. cit., p.120.

12 Sum. Theol, I. Pars, Q. XXVI., A. 6, ad 4.

13 "Quanto majori gratia actus informatur, tanto magis est meritorius 99 in D. ii., d. 29, Q. I., A. 4.

14. 8 Rom. viii. 28.

15 Lev. vi. 12-13.

16 Rom. iv. 18-19.

17 Luke i. 45.

18 Cf. Bossuet, Elevations sur Us Mysteres. Sen. 12e, 3e, Elevation.

19 Lukei. 32.

20 Luke i. 46-48.

21 Matt. i. 19.

22 Rom. v. 6.

23 Cant of Canticles, ii. 16.

24 Cf.Hugon, op. cit., pp. 138-139; Terrien, op. cit., pp. 232-234.

25 Cf. St. Thomas in IV., dist. 6, Q. I. A. 1., sol. 3.

26 Suarez, De Myst Vitӕ Christi, d. 18, 8. 3; cf. B. Albert the Great. Marial, ch. lxxii., lxxiv.; St. Antoninus, Summa, III. Pars, tit. xiv., ch. viii.; St. Bernardine of Siena, Marial, IV. Pars, Serm. ix.

27  ii. 42.

28 Theol. Mentis et Cordis, vol iii., Dissert, vi., ch. ii., Spec 2.

29 " Gratiam multipliciter ex opere operato fuisse auctam: in Conceptione Verbi, in susceptione Eucharistiӕ, in prӕsentia Salvatoris in sinu gestati, inter brachia, sugentis mammas, in cruce morientis, in adventu Spiritus Sancti. ..." (Contenson, op. cit., lib. x., Dissert, vi., ch. i., Spec. 2.)

30 Cf. Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 389-395.

31 La Mere de Grace, p. 147.

32 Cant, of Canticles, ii. 10.