Mother Of Divine Grace By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P. The Plenitude Of Universality. Part 1.

IN laying down the broad, far-reaching principle that: " The Blessed Virgin must be endowed with every perfection," 1 St. Thomas sums up in one luminous sentence the teaching of the Fathers and theologians. And if we but steadily keep before our minds the position and dignity of the Mother of God, we shall see that the principle is an eminently rational one. As we have already said, our Blessed Lady occupies a position in the scheme of Creation and Redemption which is unique. Jesus Christ is very God and truly Man: Mary is His Mother. The Word was made flesh, and it was in the Virgin's womb that the Mystery was wrought. Mindful of these facts, we see the force and appositeness of the principle; and we acknowledge that every perfection, natural and supernatural, perfections of body as well as perfections of soul, must have been bestowed upon her whom God had chosen to be the Mother of His Son.

For the better understanding of the principle and of what may be legitimately inferred from it, we remind our readers of the two rules laid down regarding the extent of our Lady's privileges. We stated that: First, every privilege which had been bestowed upon any of God's servants was also conferred, and in a more excellent manner, upon the Mother of God. Secondly, our Blessed Lady received all those privileges and perfections it was fitting she should receive that she might be made worthy for her high office. We stated, furthermore, that the privileges bestowed upon our Lady were conditioned by her position as a creature, a woman, and a wayfarer.

Now we must not be taken as implying that each specific privilege enjoyed by any particular Saint was also enjoyed by our Blessed Lady. We are not to conclude, for example, that she was actually endowed with the power of bilocation because St. Philip Neri had received it; or that because St. Hyacinth walked dry-shod over the waters of the Dneister our Lady did the same. We imply that she received privileges of a higher order in which wonders such as those we have mentioned were contained; and refer to privileges the absence of which would have implied a kind of inferiority, and the possession of which made for her greater excellence. Thus some theologians have taught that our Lady enjoyed the Beatific Vision during her earthly life, not indeed permanently, but in a transient way, and they base their arguments upon the fact that St. Augustine claims this privilege for Moses; 2 and St. Thomas, speaking of St. Paul's rapture, 3 says: " It is more fitting to assume that he beheld God in His essence"' 4 If Moses and St. Paul enjoyed this privilege, the Mother of God must assuredly have enjoyed it also. In the same way, and following the same process of reasoning, they have taught the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven. It was fitting in every sense that the future Mother of God should be preserved absolutely from all taint of Original Sin. Therefore was she created Immaculate. It was not fitting that God's Mother " should see corruption." Therefore was she assumed into heaven.

St. Alphonsus makes this reasoning his own " When an opinion tends in any way to the honour of the Most Blessed Virgin, when it has some foundation, and is repugnant neither to the faith nor to the degrees of the Church, nor to truth, the refusal to hold it, or to oppose it because the reverse may be true, shows little devotion to the Mother of God. Of the number of such as these I do not choose to be . . . but rather of the number of those who fully and firmly believe all that can, without error, be believed of the greatness of Mary. ... If there was nothing else to take away our fear of exceeding in the praises of Mary, St. Augustine should suffice; for he declares that whatever we may say in praise of Mary is little in comparison with that which she deserves on account of her dignity of Mother of God" 5 With these forceful words of so great a client of our Lady to encourage us, let us discuss as briefly and as reverently as possible the perfections and privileges of our Blessed Lady from the point of view of universality.

We have said that every perfection, natural and supernatural, those of body as well as those of soul, must have been granted to her, yet each and all of them conditioned in the way we have mentioned.

What were the bodily perfections of the Immaculate ? Jesus Christ was " beautiful above the sons of men," for he was God Who is " clothed with beauty," the^source of all beauty. Mary is His Mother; the woman foretold in the Divine Promise; the Ideal Woman, as her Son is the Ideal Man. If the Eternal " had Christ in view when He moulded the dust of the earth into a human body," surely He had His Son in view when He formed the body of the Mother who was to minister to Him His human nature. 7 Why should the living Temple of God be fashioned in any imperfect manner, or be bereft of external beauty, when " beauty is, as it were, a voice of praise to, and an acknowledgment of, God"; 8 and God Himself had ordered with extremest care the beautifying and adornment of that other Temple in which His presence was revealed ? 9 Mary is the " unspotted mirror of God's majesty," the clear reflection of His eternal beauty, and it is only fitting that she who was predestined to be the Mother of His Son should be a marvel of every perfection. Hence, according to the Fathers, she united in her own person all the exterior beauty of those who are her types and figures in the Old Testament. She possessed the charm of Rachel, the grace of Rebecca, the radiant beauty of Judith, and the sweet majesty of Esther. To the maidenly beauty of the Virgin she united the stately beauty of the Mother. Yet what colours are bright enough, what human hand is skilful enough to paint even the faintest way in the beauty of the Immaculate? The brush of an Angelico, guided by Angel hands, has given us a picture of our Queen, and it is as if a smile from heaven had been frescoed on the lifeless walls to cheer and brighten human lives. What is it to the reality? The inspired writer in the Canticle of Canticles has drawn her image, and there the Holy Ghost describes her as " the most beautiful among women," " the fairest among women," "the lily among thorns." Her "eyes are as those of a dove"; her "lips are as scarlet laces," and " as a dropping honeycomb "; her " speech is sweet, honey and milk are under her tongue"; her " neck is as a tower of ivory "; her " cheeks are as a piece of pomegranate"; her "head is like Carmel"; her "stature is like to a palm-tree"; and " she cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun." She is " the one, the perfect one, the only one." She is " all fair, and there is not a spot in her." The Holy Spirit describes His Spouse as one " chosen out of thousands," incomparably perfect, with a perfection that is more than human, and a beauty which is " not like earthly beauty, dangerous to look upon," This phrase of Cardinal Newman's expresses the opinions of theologians on the question; 10 and we may well believe that, when the mere sight of certain of God's Saints inspired virtue, the vision of the immaculate beauty of God's Virgin Mother, the presence of the Queen of Saints, must have uplifted human hearts to heaven and have turned man's thoughts to God.

Now we know that while our Divine Lord could and actually did experience fatigue, hunger, and thirst, He was utterly perfect, nevertheless, in His Sacred Humanity. There was no organic disturbance, no disease, nothing that could cause sickness or ill-health. In this, as in so many things, His Immaculate Mother resembled Him. There was no discordance in her: everything was harmoniously perfect. Neither age nor sickness could affect her, and nothing could disturb the deep serenity of her soul, or paralyse its influence over the body which it quickened. As we have said before: Mary was always completely mistress of herself, fully self-contained. Her virginal body received energy to the fullest extent from its natural principle of life and activity, and, in a sense, shared in her souls eternal youth and incorruption. 11 Nor must we forget or overlook the fact that she was the Mother of Him from Whom that " virtue went out " for the healing of the sick, the diseased, all who came into contact with Him. They were ordinary, sinful creatures; His mother was the Immaculate. If the virtue of Jesus Christ brought healing to them, may we not justly say that it brought immunity to her in whose womb the Omnipotent became incarnate, from whom He received His humanity ? A single word in the Gospels brings home to us the fact that our Blessed Lady was fully mistress of herself: it is the word Stabat. She was human; a mother; and her only Son hung dying on the Cross amidst surroundings and in circumstances which rendered His death peculiarly painful and humiliating. The Mother shared His pain and suffering; she shared His humiliation, too, and her sufferings and humiliation were all the greater because she alone amongst creatures understood, as far as a creature could possibly understand, all that the tragedy of Calvary meant. No human sympathy could alleviate her suffering, for no human being could sound its depths. Yet, in A the hour of supreme desolation, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, uncomforted but unfaltering, heart-broken yet sublime. The waters of bitterness passed over her, but they did not overwhelm her, and on Calvary as at Nazareth the Graces she received upheld her and strengthened her to show herself a worthy Mother of the Redeemer of mankind.

We have said that the exterior beauty and perfection of our Blessed Lady served to throw into bolder relief the beauty and perfection of her soul; and we have spoken of the infused knowledge which, without interruption or suspension, she possessed from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception. Let us try to enter more fully into the subject.

Just because the Graces she received were so immeasurably great must her soul have been incomparably perfect. We do not mean to say that Grace is given in proportion to natural perfection: we imply that of necessity there must be proportion between what can be perfected and that which perfects it.

1 " In Beata Virgine debuit apparere omne illud quod perfectionis fuit" (iv. Dist. 30, Q. II., A. 1, sol. 1).

2 Super Genesim lib. xii. 1

3 Cor. xii. I sqq.

4 Sum. Theol, II.-IIa., Q. CLXXV., A. 3.

5 Glories of Mary, P. i., ch. v, p. 125.

6 " Quodcumque limus exprimebatur, Christus cogitabatur homo futurus" Tertullian, De Resurrectione Carnis, ch. vi.

7 Cf. Bossuet, I Sermon sur la Nativite de la Sainte Vierge.

8 "Omnium pulchritudo quodam modo vox est confitentium Deo" St. Augustine, Ennar . in Psalm 148,

9 Cf. Exodus xxv., xxvi., xxvii., xxxv.

1o Cf. St. Thomas, in III., d. 3., Q. I., A. 2, sol. 1, ad 3. 

11 Cf. Hugon, op. cit., p. 166; Lepicier, op. cit., pp. 224-226.