The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 111.

St. Jerome translated into Latin for the use of his spiritual children St. Paula and St. Eustochium the Homily from which the above passage is taken. Similarly, St. Ambrose has written :

"Well is Holy Mary represented as having fulfilled her office of charity. For friendly intercourse was not the only reason of her stay, but also the advancement of so great a prophet. If at her first entrance such great progress was made, that, at Mary's salutation, the infant leaped in the womb, and the infant's mother was filled with the Holy Ghost, how greatly must we not suppose that this progress was increased by the presence of Holy Mary, during so long a time."

In the Church of God, which is the treasure-house of His grace, the position of our Lord is unique—so also (but at an infinite distance) is that of His Glorious Mother. St. Bernardine of Siena illustrated this truth by a striking figure:

"The Blessed Virgin is the neck of our Head, through which all spiritual gifts are communicated to the mystical Body of her Son."

This thought has been developed by the learned Cardinal Bellarmine:

"Christ is the Head of the Church and Mary is the Church's neck. All divine favours, all graces, all heavenly influences come to us from Christ, as from the Head. They all descend to the body by Mary, just as in the human organism it is by the neck that the head vivifies its members. In the body of man there are arms, shoulders and feet. There is only one head and only one neck. Similarly, in the Church I behold several Apostles, many Martyrs, many Confessors, many Virgins. There is, however, but one only Son of God, one only Mother of God."

This analogy drawn from the human body, representing the Blessed Mother of God as the point of union and contact between the Divinity and humanity, between our Lord and His Church, is seen to be peculiarly apposite, when we remember that the neck, though uniting the head and the body, is itself one of the members of the body. Mary, too, is one of the members of the mystical Body of Christ, though the most noble. Our Lady depended absolutely upon God her Saviour for her spiritual life, receiving first and in full measure the grace which through her was to descend to all Christians. God filled with grace the soul of her who already, even before she became the Mother of God, was hailed by Gabriel as full of grace.

This recalls to our mind another analogy, which we also owe to the great St. Bernard in his sermon De Aquaeductu, from which I have already quoted in this book. St. Bernard comments very beautifully on the words of the Apostle: " You have as for your end Life Everlasting."

" Life Everlasting is the unfailing Fountain, the well of living waters, which rush as a torrent from Mount Libanus, and the torrent of this stream gives joy to the City of God. But what is the fountain of life, save Christ our Lord? . . . That heavenly stream descended through an aqueduct, not bestowing the fulness of the fountain, but pouring drops of grace into thirsty hearts, granting to some more and to others less. Full, assuredly, was the aqueduct, so that these others might receive of its fulness, but not the fulness itself. You have discovered, if I mistake not, whom it has pleased me to call the aqueduct, who it was that received the fulness of the fountain from the Father's heart, and then gave Him to us, if not as He is, yet at least so far as we are able to receive Him. For you know to whom it has been said: 'Hail thou who art full of grace.' Should we not marvel that one could be found, to be made such and so great an aqueduct, of which the top, like the Ladder seen by the Patriarch, should reach the Heavens. Yes, and should pass the Heavens, and come to that most Life-giving fountain of waters, which is above the heavens. . . . Look therefore on high and see with how great an abundance of devotion He has wished us to honour her— He who has placed all fulness of good in Mary, so that if there be any hope in us, if there be any grace, if there be any health, we may know that it flows from her, who ascended on high overflowing in delights. 1 She is—who can doubt it ?—the garden of delights, through which the Divine breeze has blown from Heaven, so that her perfumes are flowing over—that is to say, the abundance of her grace. Take away the sun which enlightens the world, and where is the day ? Take away Mary, the star of the sea, that illumines the mighty ocean, and what will remain but an enveloping darkness and the shadow of death and densest obscurity ? Therefore with all the affection of our hearts, with all the love of our being, with all our aspirations heavenwards, let us venerate her, for such is His will, who has willed that we should have all things through Mary."

In this passage St. Bernard compares the Blessed Mother of God to the Ladder seen by Jacob, which reached from earth to heaven. This mysterious Ladder is commonly held by the Fathers to be a type of Mary.