What, then, was the perfection of our Lady's Intelligence and Will—those two spiritual faculties which make for the soul's excellence ?
We may say without hesitation that, in whatever dealt with the things of the Spirit of God, our Blessed Lady's knowledge was perfect and of extraordinary extent and intensity. It must necessarily have been so when we remember that it was proportionate to the Graces conferred upon her; for those Graces were not blindly used, they were used intelligently. Hence, that her supernatural activity might work fully and without hindrance, her knowledge, as we have said, must have been extraordinary. How extraordinary it was may be guessed at when we say that, " a condition of Charity, it went hand in hand with it." 1 The very position of the Mother of God demanded this. She was made worthy— idonea is the term used—for that office, and we cannot conceive of her being so if there had been any deficiency or imperfection in the knowledge that was fitting or due. It must at least have been as great as the knowledge possessed by the Angels, for even during her life on earth Mary was their Sovereign Queen. It must also have been as extensive as the knowledge which Adam possessed as head of the human race, a knowledge which fitted him to be the guide of the intelligence of humanity as he was its human source.
Moreover, as the personal presence of the Word made flesh brought immunity from physical weakness, must it not also have brought enlightenment to the Mother i Our Blessed Lady is called the Seat of Wisdom " because the Son of God, Who is also called in Scripture the Word and Wisdom of God, once dwelt in her, and then, after His birth of her, was carried in her arms and seated in her lap in His first years. . . . But the possession of her Son lasted beyond His infancy— He was under her rule, as St. Luke tells us, and lived with her in her house, till He went forth to preach—that is, for at least a whole thirty years. ... If such close and continued intimacy with her Son created in her a sanctity inconceivably great, must not also the knowledge which she gained during those many years from His conversation of present, past, and future, have been so large, and so profound, and so diversified, and so thorough, that, though she was a poor woman without human advantages, she must, in her knowledge of creation, of the universe, and of history, have excelled the greatest of philosophers, and in her theological knowledge the greatest of theologians, and in her prophetic discernment the most favoured of the prophets." 2
Her knowledge had its limits, for even the most perfect human knowledge is finite, as also is the prophet's vision and the intuition of the Angels. But limitation does not imply ignorance, still less does it imply error. There is no ignorance where there is the knowledge befitting and requisite to the condition and office; and there can be no error in one who, by her very choice as Mother of God, was created perfect in body and soul, in external beauty, and in transcendence of intellect—perfection which made her what God had willed she should be, the worthy Mother of His Son.
It stands to reason that our Lady's knowledge increased during her life. Those periods of her existence when she received increase of Grace were also periods of greater enlightenment. When she became the very Mother of God we may be assured that she received an extraordinary increase of enlightenment; and we may also be assured that, during those thirty years of the Hidden Life, her Son dwelt with her as the Eternal with Moses: " I will speak to him mouth to mouth, and plainly, and not by riddles and figures doth he see the Lord." 3 Who could gauge the knowledge that Mary obtained from Eternal Wisdom Incarnate during those thirty years ? And when she took upon her a new relationship towards us on the Hill of Calvary, or rather was confirmed in her Motherhood of men, still further illumination was necessitated. The Paraclete came upon her in that upper room at Pentecost and filled her with the plenitude of His Gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, that she might cradle the infant Church and tend it, as once she had cradled the Infant Christ.
Hence we may rightly conclude that our Lady's knowledge was marvellous. How could it be otherwise in one who was taught of God directly, by the impression of new ideas, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, by her constant intercourse with the Divine Teacher of men ? How could it be otherwise in one who was so perfect that the thought of any imperfection in her is repugnant to our sense of what is her due i Surely her intelligence acted as none other could, except the human intelligence of her Son, in regard to those visible things of God, the works of Nature, which " show forth His glory " so clearly that all who know Him not are inexcusable. 4 And if her Son on the way to Emmaus " opened the understanding " of the two disciples " that they might understand the Scriptures," 5 can we doubt that, during those thirty years in which He lived with her, He opened the understanding of His Mother and revealed to her the designs of God, upon which she meditated, "pondering them in her heart" throughout her life, growing in the knowledge of God, drawing nearer to Him day by day, until at last His full glory was unveiled for ever in the eternal vision of His Face ?
We have said that because our Blessed Lady was Immaculate in her Conception she was not deprived of the original justice in which our first parents had been created. Consequently, neither her intelligence nor her will was affected as the intelligence and will of every other human being have been affected. 6 Our readers will bear in mind what we said regarding the use of her rational faculties, which our Lady enjoyed from the beginning. She was able to co-operate with Divine Grace, to merit still further Grace from the first moment of her earthly existence, and her soul was endowed with every virtue, even to the degree of heroism. What further privileges of will did our Blessed Lady enjoy? Absolute exemption from all personal sin, and the privilege of impeccability. .
" Those whom God elects for the accomplishment of any purpose," says St. Thomas, " He so prepares and disposes for it that they are capable of achieving it, as we read in 2 Cor. iii. 6: Who also hath made us Jit ministers of the New Testament. The Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Wherefore there cannot be any doubt that God rendered her worthy for this office by His Grace, for we read in Luke i. 30: Thou hast found grace with God. But she would not have been a worthy Mother of God if she had ever sinned, not only because the reputation of the parents affects their children, as we see in Proverbs xvii. 6: The glory of the children are their fathers, and, on the contrary, the mother's dishonour would redound upon the son; but, also, because the Blessed Virgin had a singular affinity to Christ, Who received His human nature from her, and it is said in 2 Cor. vi. 15: What concord hath Christ with Belial? And, moreover, because the Son of God, Who is the Wisdom of God, dwelt within her in a singular manner, not only within her soul but in her womb. But we read in Wisd. i. 4: Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. Therefore we must unconditionally conclude that the Blessed Virgin never committed any actual sin, whether mortal or venial, that the words of the Canticle of Canticles might be realised: Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee (iv. 7). 7 " Contenson completes his Master's teaching," says Father Hugon, 8 and Contenson's words are pregnant. " The Grace that Mary received excluded not only every actual fault, but also the moral power to do wrong. A special providence safeguarded her as an exterior preservative, and banished every occasion of sin; while the uninterrupted flow of preventing efficacious Grace which enlightened her intelligence to know good, and strengthened her will to do it; the concentration of her mind upon God; a docile, eager will; the custody of the senses; and that privilege which fettered or destroyed all concupiscence, was the interior cause. God's Mother, therefore, knew nothing of earthly attachments; never did the least desire affect her, never did she experience the sting of pleasure, never did any indeliberate movement urge her." 9 That our Blessed Lady should have been rendered absolutely free from all concupiscence when she became Mother of God is perfectly intelligible ; her Divine Maternity made for this as did her union with the Author of all sanctity and her relationship with her Child, a relationship which could never be broken once it was contracted. Furthermore, when we bear in mind the initial perfection of our Blessed Lady, and the extraordinary Graces she received in consequence of God's surpassing love for her whom He had chosen for His Mother, we can understand that no fault, however slight, ever dimmed the brightness of her immaculate soul even before she was confirmed in Grace in the conception of her Son. The question is not whether this concupiscence was so fettered in the Immaculate as to prevent any actual yielding to evil, but whether the inclination or tendency to evil was utterly destroyed ?
From - Mother Of Divine Grace: A Chapter in the Theology of the Immaculate. By Father Stanislaus. M. Hogan, O.P.
1 Hugon, op, cit, p. 171.
2 Meditations and Devotions of Cardinal Newman, pp. 47-48. Longmans, Green and Co. London, 1903.
3 Num. xii. 8.
4 Rom. i. 20.
5 Luke xxiv. 45.
6 Cf. supra, c. iii.
7 Sum. Theol., III. Pars, Q. XXVII., A. 4.
8 Op. cit., p. 183.
8 Op. cit., p. 183.
9 Theol. Mentis et Cordis, LX., dissert, vi., ch. i., spec. 2, decimo.