Behold Your Mother By Matthew Russell S.J. Part 8. The Title "Mother of God."

[This theological essay and the one that follows it are not my own. I have preserved "Thoughts on the Assumption" as a relic of a very holy and gifted friend, Father William Hughes, S.J., who died on the 2nd of April, 1902, after the self-sacrificing and fruitful labours of many years in Australia, The writer of the present paper, which was published in The Ave Maria, is Father John Naughton, S.J.]

There are few subjects in religions controversy on which it is more a duty to avoid all kinds of bitterness towards our adversaries than the honour paid to our Blessed Lady. "If I believed as you believe" says an atheist to careless and indifferent Christians, " I would go barefoot through the world to proclaim the folly of living as you live." And if our adversaries knew what we know and believed what we believed, and are bound by our very faith to believe, regarding the ever-glorious Virgin, they might not—and many of them assuredly would not—yield to us in devotion toward her. But, unfortunately, there is between us a radical difference of opinion, a divergence of belief, on a fundamental point.

The truth is that non-Catholics, generally speaking—for, doubtless, there is a large class of exceptions—do not know, and, still more generally, do not recognise, the doctrine of the Divine Maternity. The idea essentially involved in the truth of the Incarnation is hidden from them. They do not believe Mary to be the Mother of God. They do not believe we hold it; and when we profess it, they conceive that we must be speaking the language of metaphor—it is only by some figure of speech ; some playing on a double sense; some poetical, but unreal, conception of the mind ; some devotional sentiment, not supposed to be severely and dogmatically true. That Mary was in very deed God's Mother, that the Eternal became her Child in all the plenitude of truth, that with all that inherent realism with which each of us is a mother's child He was hers, they neither believe themselves nor conceive that we believe.

Any one who has had much to do with intelligent converts will at once recognise the truth of what we say. When you introduce to them the subject of Mary, they will speak of her with profound reverence, and even love. She is the "Virgin of Isaias," the Woman of the Proto-gospel, of whom the promised One was born ; the noblest and fairest of God's creatures; she is the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Redeemer—the one whose seed crushed the serpent's head. But when, with the light of faith in your eyes and the lamp of faith to guide your steps, you advance and call her, as you have been taught from very childhood to call her. Mother of God, they draw back. Stopped by an incredulity, as the Israelites were stopped when just within sight of the Promised Land, they draw back from the one great truth that constitutes all the prerogatives, all the dignity, of Mary.

And, bad as this is, there is something worse still. If, turning from the Blessed Mother, you speak of her Divine Child, there is a correlative but far more serious error. One can not fail to be struck by the profound and personal love with which they speak of Him. He is their Alpha and Omega —the One on whom they cast the.burden of their sorrow, rest all their hope, and lean for comfort and consolation. He is the "Messiah," "the Redeemer," "the Saviour,'' "the Son of the Most High,'' "the Son of God." But if, in the full light of Catholic faith, you ask them," Is He who was born of Mary—that Child in the Crib—is He God ? Is He your God?" very often you have the unutterable pain of hearing them, unconsciously indeed, but none the less really, " dissolve the Lord Jesus Christ." In very reverence they hesitate—they put up their hands to save the ark from falling. You are going too far for them. Much as they love Jesus of Nazareth, they would not like precisely to say that; and if forced to give an answer at all on a subject on which they would prefer to keep silence, they would say, "No."

Though we have said it before, it would be wrong not to say it again : there are many exceptions to this ; but, then, they are exceptions. What we have described is, as a rule, the feeling and belief of by far the greater number outside the pale of the Catholic Church, They have a fundamentally erroneous idea of the nature of the Incarnation, They have lost the key to its understanding. They ignore the Divine Maternity, or they explain it away. There was no room for her in the inn of Bethlehem ; and, with Mary, Jesus too retired into the grotto. They have some vague belief that of her a most holy and perfect but purely human child was born, to whom the Godhead was afterward united, and in whom the Divinity afterward personally dwelt; whereas no purely human child—no mere man— was ever born of Mary, The only person born of her was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He was man indeed, but only by being the God-Man—God, in that He was born of the Father from all eternity; man, in that He, the same, and not another, was born of Mary in time.

There is, of course, no proportion, much less any equality, between these two generations of the Child ; but then, the Word in the Beginning, that was with God, before all things were made, the same it was who was made flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. Without further comparison than that of simple truth, as truly as God was His Father, because He communicated to Him from all eternity His divine nature, so truly is Mary His Mother, because she gave Him, and He took from her, that human nature in which He dwelt amongst us, and in which we have seen the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Most High. These things are comparatively easy to us, because the teachings of faith, as well as its instincts, have long made them famiHar. There is no need to explain to the simplest Catholic that Mary was not the Mother of the divinity of Our Lord. In that divinity He was from unbeginning eternity God of God, Light of Light, before Mary herself was created. He was always God, because He was always born of the Father. From Him He had His divinity—His divine nature. But He was not always man. He was not man till He was born of the Virgin. She gave Him His human nature, and from the moment of His Incarnation He had for evermore two natures; and in one as well as in the other it was the same God who subsisted. It was the Person of the Word that constituted the bond of the hypostatic union between them, and both natures belonged alike to the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity.

In every other instance where mere man is "born, his soul and body subsist in themselves and give him an individuality of his own. His human nature finds its completion in itself, and gives him that human personality by which He is one as distinguished from another. But in our Divine Lord there was no human personality : the Person of God took its place. There was human nature complete and entire. But His human nature—His body and soul—never for a moment subsisted in themselves apart and alone, but were, in the instant of creation, assumed by, and united with, and fitted unto, the Person of God Himself. It was the Word that was made flesh. It was God that was made man. It was He who was born, and He alone to whom the Virgin gave birth; and as different mothers give birth, this to one, and that to another, the One to whom the Virgin of Israel gave birth was her Creator and her God. The greatest of all her titles, the foundation of all her dignity, the reason of all her privileges, the explanation of all the honour we pay her, is found here—that we can hail her as we do, " Mother of God."

Such is the faith of the Catholic Church—the great doctrine for which she fought so strenuously in the Council of Ephesus. Not a doctrine merely, but a dogma as well; for in it is involved the true nature of the Incarnation, with its manifold consequences. Without it there is no real Christianity; without its belief, no real Christian. Without it the whole series of fundamental truths that make up revealed religion would fall to the ground. For if Mary were not the Mother of God, then God was not born of her ; He did not become man ; He did not have amongst us here, and die for our redemption on the cross-Without the truth of the Divine Maternity the keystone of the arch were gone.

And in proportion as we have reason to be grateful to the Church for her wisdom in keeping this truth prominently and incessantly before us, have we reason to be gentle with those who do not think as we think, only because they do not know as we know. In our religious training our minds have been, with purpose aforethought, fixed on this as a great central truth till there is nothing so familiar to us in sacred history as the scene and the surroundings in which it was accomplished. Millions of times we have repeated the words with which Gabriel, descending from the heavens—when the fulness of time had come— greeted Mary: "Hail, full of grace : the Lord is with thee. "We know that when she said, "Be it done unto me according to thy word,'' swift-winged angel as he was, he had not reached the throne before the Mystery of mysteries was accomplished. In a moment—in as little time as it took to create the light, when God said, "Let it be, and it was"—that Virgin was Virgin-Mother of a Child Divine. And not that alone do we know, but, through the mercy of God revealing it to lis, we know still more—even the marvellous manner of its accomplishment. We know that the Power of the Most High—the S pirit of God proceeding eternally from the Father and the Son—the Holy Ghost—overshadowed her, and from out her purest veins formed the body, and vivified it with the soul— the adorable body and the adorable soul—of Christ; for in that instant they were both fitted unto the Eternal Word, and assumed as His own.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, what mightier thing could He who is mighty have done unto thee? ''Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb ! "May we be, each of us and all of us, part fulfilment of thy prophecy, and with every generation of the elect call thee blessed, love thee more and know thee better : that we may the better know Him whom to know is eternal life; and the better love Him whom if any one loveth not he is anathema ! Continue to be a Mother to us, and be a Mother to them who yet know thee not; that so thy only and Divine Child may be unto us all '' the First-Born of many brethren."