Behold Your Mother By Matthew Russell S.J. Part 9. Thoughts On The Assumption (b)

As we have other intentions, we will try to give some illustrations of what is meant by this analogy or proportion. Poets sometimes take an unfair advantage of our simplicity. They begin a beautiful description moving onward with harmony and grace towards the complete portraiture of some grand idea, but when our fancy is warmed, and expectation is at its height, they let us down to something very commonplace indeed. They may smile at us when we cry out with Desdemona, " O most lame and impotent conclusion ! '' but we cannot help feeling, all the same, that we have been hardly dealt with. They succeed in entrapping us, because we love proportion between part and part, and appreciate whatever is rendered perfect by symmetrical evolution according to a uniform type. We require, then, in true and serious art, harmony and proportion between the colours, lights, shades, and forms, which make up a picture, whether painted with pen or pencil. If we turn from art, which Dante quaintly calls "God's grandchild," to Nature, which is His child, we can trace similar laws of proportion in the works of Him who, in the old Christian language, is styled the Great Artist. Every one of His works is perfectly disposed, after its kind, according to number, weight, and measure. In the higher forms of life, the different parts which go to make up an organised being are so manifestly in accordance with each other, and conspire so harmoniously to the perfection of the whole, that those who have studied the laws of the Divine

Art in the works of Nature can, from a few chance fragments, delineate the complete type of a species hitherto unknown.
The world of Grace, which presupposes Nature, is ordered according to the laws of a more perfect harmony. Faith opens to our mental eye regions of wondrous beauty and variety, wherein the Divine Wisdom, disporting Itself, reacheth, in a more excellent way, from end to end mightily, and disposeth all things sweetly. In this fair world Mary is the masterpiece of the divine hand. If, then, we can discern some of the rich tints which glow in that gracious figure, and trace, through part of their course, the lines which portray the Mother of God, as they move on in perfect grace, beauty, and loveliness, we can well perceive what would be out of harmony with the perfection which they inclose, though our mind faints in the effort to conceive the hidden splendour which they promise. If we examine the grand outlines of Mary's excellence, we find that they proceed in such sort as to include whatever is perfect in nature and grace, and to avoid even the shadow of whatever is harsh and unseemly. She springs in the natural course from Adam, yet she is no child of wrath. She possesses our nature in its fulness, yet never felt our nature's wounds. Whilst others grope in ignorance, faint in well-doing, turn shuddering from the right path on encountering obstacles, in order to follow, at least for some moments, the slippery road which winds down to the abyss, Mary progresses always by the narrow way, her mind ever basking in the light of God, her heart filled with love, with modesty, purity, and peace continually guiding her heavenward steps. She joins the marriage bond to the sacred vow of virginity, and maternal fruitfulness to the flower of maiden integrity. She is the handmaid of the Lord, His creature, and yet His mother. Must we not add that, though yielding to Death, she conquers Him in the tomb, by rising in renewed youth to soar like the eagle above the clouds to the blissful kingdom where her Son reigns in glory ? No other end is worthy of her Maker, No other end is worthy of her whom the Church represents as the living image of Eternal Wisdom—" I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all the grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations.'' (Ecclesiasticus xxiv.)


Along with the arguments already given, we might bring forward several others from the inexhaustible sources of Christian tradition concerning Mary's privileges. In order, however, not to pursue the matter too far, we shall touch on only two more. Mary, by reason of her stainless origin, was exempt from the other penalties of original sin, or shared in them only after the fashion in which they were assumed by her Divine Son. Hence, we cannot admit without clear proof, and proof there is none, that she fell under that part of the primal curse: "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return."

Finally, Mary's plenitude of grace and mercy requires as its meet recompense the plenitude of glory. And glory cannot be complete in all its perfection if body and soul are not knit together in the same life of happiness. A little reflection will enable us to take in the force of this argument. Our Divine Lord represents the pursuit of eternal life as a species of traffic, and bids men trade till He come. The capital with which we are furnished is His grace, and our business, if we may so speak, prospers in proportion to the extent of our capital, and the amount of vigorous, persevering labour we employ in turning it to advantage. Consequently, our great affair progresses in the compound ratio of God's graces and our own efforts. Let us examine each of these elements as they are found in ever-blessed Mary, In comparison with her, even the greatest saints have been slack in their work. Some of them have been for years held back by a hankering after the folly of the world ; in all, the sluggishness of the body weighed down the soul, and clogged its heavenly aspirings; none, so far as we know, were always so perfectly on their guard as for a lifetime to resist the bent of nature towards sin. According to the Council of Trent, it is Mary's special privilege never to have given the slightest offence to her Maker ; and nowhere is it authentically recorded that any of the saints have been similarly favoured. Mary knew no sin, and lost no time. Nature in her perfectly recovered the strength for doing good with which it was originally endowed. Moreover, she was endowed with the plenitude of grace in order to make her worthy, as far as a creature can be, of an office whose sublime grandeur fills heaven and earth with wonder. All these stupendous gifts she turned to the best account, so that her soul, without ceasing, magnified the Lord, until her sweetness and purity and gentle lovingness drew Him down from the seat of His glory to nestle as a little Child in her bosom. It is no wonder, then, that she began far beyond where other creatures end ; that the treasure of her merit transcends the united hoardings of men and angels; that her worth out prices the whole universe of creatures; that she is addressed by the Spouse as his beautiful one, his only love, and foreshadowed by the mystic city, whose foundations are in the holy mountains, and whose gates the Lord loveth above all the tabernacles of Jacob.

And doth He hunger to crown her with the crown of immortality ? "Arise," He saith, "make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. The winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come : the voice of the turtle is heard in our land : the fig-tree hath put forth her green figs : the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears, for thy voice is sweet and thy face comely " (Cant. ii.).

So are they joined in glory, the Man and the Woman, the Virgin and her Seed; the Man who ransomed us with His own dear blood, the Woman who, for our sake, consented to the payment of that dread price : Jesus, who won the daily bread by the labours of His Passion; Mary, whose motherly hands break it to the children.

They are the last of three groups that shall be the eternal wonder of the human race. The first is a human pair standing in a bright garden beside a noble tree crowded with pleasant fruit. The woman, with clouded look and eager voice, offers to the man some of the fruit which she has plucked from that fair tree. He knows the awful doom ; he eats, and all is lost.

The next pair are upon a hill around which darkness settles at noon. On its top there is a tree to which the Man is nailed by the hands and feet. The Woman stands before the tree, and on her face is traced a tablet of unutterable woe. The Man, bowing down His thorn-crowned head, gives up the ghost, and all is saved.

The third group is the same that was upon the mountain, but how changed is the scene ! The Man now sits at the right hand of God the Father, in glory and in joy, with no trace of suffering save the five resplendent wounds whence flowed our redemption. Millions and millions of bright intelligences, whose glory passes the utmost stretch of reason to conceive, bow down before Him in prostrate adoration. But far above this princely throng of worshippers, close to the Man, on whom she bends her meek eyes in loving awe and wonder, is the Woman, in whom is shrined whatever there can be in maid and mother that is lovely and pure and tender, crowned with the fulness of grace, and transfigured into the fulness of glory :—

"Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo Figlio,
  Umile ed alta piu che creatura,
  Termine fisso d'eterno consiglio:
  Tu se colei che I'umana natura
  Nobilitasti si che 'l suo Fattore
  Non disdegno di farsi sua fattura.
  In te misericordia, in te pietate,
  In te magnificenza, in te s' aduna
  Quantunque in creatura e di bontate."

"Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
  Humble and high beyond all other creature,
  The limit fixed of the eternal counsel.
  Thou art the one who such nobility
  To human nature gave, that its Creator
  Did not disdain to make Himself its creature.
  In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
  In thee magnificence; in thee unites
  Whatever of goodness is in any creature"

(Dante, Paradiso xxxiii,, Longfellow's translation.)