Mary in the Epistles by Thomas Stiverd Livius. Comments on the Epistles part 41


4 Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.

5 So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high-priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

6 As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

7 Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence.

8 And whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.

9 And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.

Neither did Mary ever think to take the honour to herself, or to glorify herself, that she should be the Mother of God, but He who sent unto her : " Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus—the Son of God." [Luke i. 31-35.] From Mary, let us bear in mind, it was that Christ received the essential constituent elements of His priesthood; to wit, that Sacred Humanity, whereby as a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech, He continually offers up in His holy Church His Body and Blood, under the appearance of bread and wine.

" Mary too," says B. Albertus Magnus, " when she prays to her Son for us, is heard for her reverence, that is to say, for the reverence which is due to her as His own Mother."

We may also say of Mary, that whereas indeed she was the Mother of God, she learned obedience by the things which she suffered; an obedience most like to that of Jesus Christ, in whose sufferings she had the greatest share, since the same sword that caused His Passion pierced at the same time her own heart. It is, so to say, quite a commonplace amongst the earliest Fathers, that as Eve was by her disobedience the cause of our ruin, so Mary by her obedience obtained our salvation.


10 For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shewn in. his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints.

Mary ministered not to Saints alone, and in the name of Jesus, but to Himself in person, the Lord and King of Saints, the most beloved Only-begotten Son of God, as a Mother to her own Son. What a showing forth of work and love to Jesus was the whole life of Mary. Is He unjust that He should forget her and all that she did for Him on earth ? Does He not reward her proportionately with glory now in Heaven ?


1 For this Melchisedech, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, 

6 Blessed him that had the promises.

Melchisedech, the type of Jesus Christ our great High-priest, blessed the patriarch Abraham, who, remotely, had the promises, viz., that through his seed, that is, Jesus Christ, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. What, then, must be the blessing that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Melchisedech, bestowed upon Mary, to whom the promises were actually fulfilled, by herself being His own Mother.

14 For it is evident that our Lord sprung out of Juda.

It is clear that the Apostle has here Mary in his mind, though he is silent with regard to her personally. How could it be evident to S. Paul and to those for whom he writes, that our Lord sprung out of Juda, unless with the actual thought of our Lord's Mother, "Mary of whom was born Jesus"? Hence we see that the silence about Mary in the Epistles cannot be brought forward any way as an index of the little share and place she had in the mind and estimation of the sacred writers.

26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.

If Mary, from whom Jesus Christ derived His human nature, viz., that flesh and blood which were to be essential constituent elements of His perfect priesthood, had been once a sinner, subject to the curse of original sin, then He would not have been, as the Apostle affirms He was, a high priest separated from sinners. Mary was, therefore, entirely sinless and immaculate. This too was fitting. [See 2 Cor. vii. 1, supra. ]

"A learned author observes that, according to S. Paul, it was fitting that our Blessed Redeemer should not only be separated from sin, but also from sinners; according to the explanation of S. Thomas, who says that 'it was necessary that He, who came to take away sins, should be separated from sinners, as to the fault under which Adam lay.' [3 p. q. iv. art. 6, ad. 2m.] But how could Jesus Christ be said to be separated from sinners, if He had a Mother who was a sinner? S. Ambrose says that 'Christ chose this vessel into which He was about to descend, not of earth, but from heaven ; and He consecrated it a temple of purity. [De Inst. Virg. c. 5.] The Saint alludes to the text of S. Paul: 'The first man was of the earth, earthly: the second man from heaven, heavenly.' [1 Cor. xv. 47.] The Saint calls the Divine Mother 'a heavenly vessel,' not because Mary was not earthly by nature, as heretics have dreamt, but because she was heavenly by grace; she was as superior to the angels of heaven in sanctity and purity, as it was becoming that she should be, in whose womb a King of Glory was to dwell. This agrees with that which S. John the Baptist revealed to S. Bridget, saying, ' It was not becoming that the King of Glory should repose otherwise than in a chosen vessel exceeding all men and angels in purity.' [Rev, lib. i. c. 31.] And to this we may add that which the Eternal Father Himself said to the same Saint: ' Mary was a clean and an unclean vessel : clean, for she was all fair; but unclean, because she was born of sinners; though she was conceived without sin.' [Ib. 1. v. Exp. Rev. xiii.] And remark these last words, ' Mary was conceived without sin, that the Divine Son might be born of her without sin.' Not that Jesus Christ could have contracted sin, but that He might not be reproached with even having a Mother infected with it, who would consequently have been the slave of the devil." [S. Alph. Lig. Disc, on Mary's Immac. Concept. Glories of Mary, p. 250, 1]


2 For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks, and the table, and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the Holy.

3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holy of Holies:

4 Having a golden censer, and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed, and the tables of the testament.

11 But Christ, being come an high-priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation :

12 Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

24 For Jesus is not entered into the Holies made with hands, the patterns of the true : but into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us.

In the writings of the Fathers and in the language of Catholic devotion most of the particulars here enumerated are applied mystically to the Blessed Virgin.

"'When the ark was lifted up, Moses said : Arise, 0 Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered.' [Numb. x. 35.] Thus was Jericho conquered. Thus also the Philistines ; 'for the ark of God was there." It is well known that this ark was a figure of Mary. Cornelius a Lapide says, ' In time of danger Christians should fly to the Most Blessed Virgin, who contained Christ as manna in the ark of her womb, [A golden pot that had manna : see S. Basil of Saleucia, supra, Rom. ix. 23.] and brought Him forth to be the food and salvation of the world.'" [S. Alph. Lig., Glories of Mary, p. 113.]

" O burning bush unconsumed, open meadow, and blossoming rod of Aaron ! " exclaims S. Ephrem, " for thou truly wert the rod, and thy Son the flower ; since from the root of David and Solomon budded forth Christ, our Creator, Almighty God and Lord, the alone Most High. Of Him Who is God and Man art thou Mother, Virgin before birth, Virgin in birth, and Virgin after birth." [De laud. Gen. Dei Maria. Opp. Gr. t. iii. p. 575. See supra, Rom. xv. 12.] The same Saint says elsewhere : "A King's palace she was by Thee, 0 Son of the King, and a Holy of Holies by Thee, 0 High priest." [De Natal. Dom. xii. Opp. Syr. t. ii. Morris, p. 53.]

And S. Germanus : " Thou art the tabernacle not made with hands, but made by God, into which only God the Word and first High priest entered in once at the end of ages, [See v.v. 7, 11, 25, 26; iv. 14 ; viii. 2. ] secretly to accomplish in thee sacred mysteries." [In Nativ. S. Deip.]

" By the tables of the Testament," says Blessed Albert the Great, "are signified the perfect knowledge of the Old and New Law which Mary had fully, because the Author of the Scriptures dwelt in her : hence S. Jerome says that she was most excellently versed in the Scriptures as is clear from her own words : Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros ; [Luke i. 55.] and also from what we read : ' Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart ;' [Ib. ii. 10, 51.] so that she afterwards taught the Apostles, and was instructress of the New Testament. For since in Mary was the whole by prefigurement, she may be truly said to have had a full knowledge of both Laws ; and this is signified by the union in the ark, of Deuteronomy and the tables of the Testament." [De laud. B.M. V. cap, 1.]

" In Mary," says S. Antoninus, " was the treasure of wisdom, [Wisd. vii. 14.]signified by the Law laid up in the ark. For no pure creature had so great knowledge of divine things and such as pertain to salvation as Mary ; hence she was the instructress of the Apostles and Evangelists, to teach them concerning the mysteries of Christ. And no wonder that she had an immense treasure of wisdom since in her reposed Christ in whom are all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God in fulness. And he, says S. Ambrose, who knows Christ, knows the treasure of wisdom and knowledge. There was also in the ark the rod, which signifies power and dominion. For Mary is Queen of heaven, and Mistress (Domina) of the angels. Now as the ark was considered as what was most precious in the tabernacle of old, so also Mary is held to be that which is most precious and holy in the tabernacle of the Church." [P. iv. tit. xv. cap. xiv. 4.]

"Christ, our High priest," says Armandus de Bello-visu, " entered once into the Holy of Holies, that is, the Virgin's womb, when He took to Himself blood for the expiation of our sins. Hence it is said, Christ being come a high priest . . . not by the blood of goats or of calves, for then He would not have been of our race ; but by His own blood, that is to say, by assuming our human blood, entered once into the Holies, that is, the Virgin." [Ap. sum Aur. de B.M.V. Tom. ii. p. 1532.]

"As our Lord Jesus Christ entered into heaven itself, that He may appear now in the presence of God for us; so the Mother of God assumed to heaven, appears in the presence of her Son, as the bow in, the clouds, the token of divine clemency, and shows to Him her breasts, whereby she ceases not to invoke His mercy in behalf of us sinners. Hence in the prayer called the Secret of the Mass for the Vigil of the Assumption, the Church supplicating to be heard through the prayers of the Mother of God, utters these words concerning her: Since for this cause Thou hast translated her from this present world, that before Thee she may intercede with confidence for our sins." [Adam. Brower., Ibid.]