CHAPTER III MARY, VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD
THE privilege of Immaculate Conception was bestowed upon our Lady as a free gift from God. In no sense was it merited—she received it for the sake of men that she might fitly co-operate in the work of Redemption ; above all she received it for the sake of her Son. It was the first of her endowments designed to equip her soul for the supreme office— the most sublime that can be conferred on a creature —the Motherhood of God.
It is the Catholic Doctrine—the Doctrine of the Creeds and of the Ancient Councils of the Church, handing down to us the Divine Tradition, that God took to Himself a human Body, formed by the operation of the Holy Spirit, from the body of Mary, and thus became her Child. This is taught expressly in the Holy Scriptures. "A Body hast Thou fitted for Me." "The Word was made Flesh." Jesus Christ is the Word made Flesh, for whom a Body was fitted. Mary is the Mother of Jesus. The Holy Ghost was to overshadow her, and the Holy One, to be formed of her, should be called the Son of God. 1
This is the very heart of historic Christianity— that is, of Christianity as it has come down to us from its origins. If any man fail to accept the statement of the Creed: " I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth," he has no right to be called a Theist; unless he accept also the further profession of faith: "And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary," it is difficult to see how,—if words are to preserve the meaning they have borne for well-nigh two thousand years—he can have any claim to the Christian Name. Faith in Christianity begins with faith in the truth that Jesus Christ, the Virgin's Son, is the Lord our God. In His Human Nature He is as truly and really of one Substance with His human Mother, as in the Everlasting Trinity He is con-substantial with His Father in Heaven.
"Just as all the Law and the Prophets are contained in two words, so too all our hope hangs upon the Childbearing of Blessed Mary." 2
This, it will be freely admitted, is no light matter. We poor mortals here find ourselves in the presence of the very heart of Mystery. When we behold the unveiled features of the Babe of Bethlehem, we are gazing in very truth upon the veiled Majesty of God.
"What subject," asked Basil of Seleucia, "can, be more sublime than this ? No man can either conceive or speak of that which is the medium between the divine and the human. For, as it is no easy matter either to conceive or speak of God—yea rather it is a thing utterly impossible—so is the great Mystery of the Mother of God above all thought and speech."
1 " Should be called the Son of God " is a well-known Hebraism for "should be in truth the Son of God."
2 Acta Disputationis S, Archelai cum Manete Haercsiarchae, xlix. (P.G. Tom. x., p. 1512). These Acts are a great authority on Manichaeism. It is uncertain who is really represented in the discussion under the name of Archelaus, Bishop of Chalcar in Mesopotamia.