The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 65.


The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all the heart. St. Thomas Aquinas has written : " This commandment shall be completely and perfectly fulfilled in the heavenly country (in patria), but only imperfectly in the estate of the way (in via)." (Sum. Theolog. 2A, II √¶, Q. XXIV., aa. 6 et 8.) However, Blessed Albert the Great, the Master of St. Thomas, has written: " It hardly becomes God to give a commandment which no one has fulfilled; if it was fulfilled by any, it was by the Most Blessed Virgin." (Serm. Supra Miss., c. Ixxvi.) Ordinarily, there will linger, even in the greatest Saints, some inordinate attachment to the creature (slight— indeed unrecognised— it may be), which derogates from the complete and perfect love of the Creator. But in Mary no such attachment can be imagined; in her immaculate soul reigned, supreme, the Love of God, in such wise that all was perfectly regulated and subordinated to His Will. In Mary there was no self-seeking, no love of earthly goods that could in any way lessen her love of Him who was alone her first Beginning and last End, to whom alone she owed her all.

Furthermore, in the lives of most men and women who wish to serve God with their whole hearts much perplexity will often arise with regard to the human affections. On the one hand to be without natural affection is classed by the Apostle amongst the greatest crimes, (Romans i. 31.) to be without affection for those who love us is, as our Lord says, to be worse than the publicans. (Matt. v. 46.) A miserable, hard, cold egoism is the punishment that lies in wait for those who live for themselves alone, trampling upon the most sacred ties when those ties stand in the way of their lusts or selfishness. On the other hand it is so terribly easy for even the purest affections to partake in some measure of the nature of idolatry. Not only evil things, not only things in themselves indifferent, but even things in themselves most beautiful, the love of husband for wife, of mother for her child, of friend for friend can sometimes stand in the way of the perfect love of God—not if they be used rightly, but if they become inordinate and are abused. And they are all tragically capable of abuse. The mother, for example, must needs be careful that she loves her child, as God would have her love, in such a way as to draw both herself and the child she loves nearer to God and to His Love, from which all pure love flows, and which in itself is supreme. In other words, it is one of the chief aims of the spiritual life to super naturalise affections that are in themselves, however precious, only natural. Though all pure natural affections come from God, still, through the miseries of our fallen nature, they are capable of leading away from God; if, then, natural affection is to serve not merely a temporal but also an eternal, purpose, it must be raised to a higher level and be made supernatural—that is, be directed to God, to whom we owe it, and subordinated to His Will. But in our Lady the natural love of her Child was blended with the supernatural love of her God, as is possible in no other, for her Child was God. In her the natural and the supernatural mingled and were fused. As she clasped her Child to her heart, she loved Him with a human mother's love—as she adored Him on her knees, she loved Him with the love that is due to the Creator; thus the love that is natural and the love that is supernatural met and became one, without effort on Mary's part, in love directed to the Person of Jesus Christ. No man in the flesh can see God, as He is in His unveiled Godhead, and live. To enable us the better to love God whom we have not seen, He became manifest in the Incarnate Word. One of the chief means whereby we may learn to love God is to study the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this manner is the Love of God made manifest, when we listen to Him who spoke as man never spoke before or shall ever speak again, when we watch Him going about doing good, lovely in all His Ways, when we kneel before the Crib at Christmas, or before the Crucifix showing forth His Passion, or near the Altar where He is hidden in His Sacrament. And yet we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, but Mary saw Him face to face, and her heart was set on fire and ravished with the love of God. St. Bernard expresses this truth when he writes:

"The love of God did not merely transfix, it so penetrated the soul of Mary, that it left no corner empty of love. 1 Thus Mary loved with her whole heart, her whole soul, with all her strength, and was able to say : ' My beloved to me, and I to him.' " 2

" Thou shalt love the Lord 'thy God with all thy heart; thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is Our Lady's a twofold precept which is but one. For Love of Man. the love of man can never be separated from the love of God from which it springs and by which it is commanded. Of Mary's love for her children I have already written in this book.  In our Blessed Mother's heart, out of her supreme love for Jesus Christ sprang her love for the souls redeemed at a great cost by the shedding of His Precious Blood—souls in which she saw the reflection of the Image of her dearest Son.

Not long ago a soldier said to me when we were talking on this subject: " According to my idea the love of our Lady for us is so great that there cannot be greater in any human being." Surely he was right, and did but express the instinctive feeling of Catholics. Theologians will tell us that since Mary was a creature, it is always possible that the Infinite Creator might have made her more wonderful than she actually is. No doubt this is true, for it is impossible to limit the power of God. But Mary is the creature whom the Creator actually did create when He would bestow upon the destined Mother of His Son that capacity for love which it beseemed her to possess. With that love Mary's heart was filled—that love she bears not only to her Divine Son, but also to us, who love her too—the earthly children whom God has entrusted to her maternal care.

In writing this it seems to me that I have written all. As we reflect upon it, great peace and contentment should possess our souls, and boundless gratitude to God our Saviour.

1 Mari√¶ animam non solum transfixit, sed etiam pertransiit, ut nullam particulam vacuam amore reliquisset.

2 Serm. XXIX., In Cantic.