The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 8

As Woman was " in the Transgression," so was it decreed that Woman should be in the Reparation. " I will put enmities between thee and the Woman " was the divine decree in the beginning. Accordingly, when Gabriel saluted Mary, it was as one who had been already filled with grace—Ave gratia plena. (Luke i. 28.) Catholics, then, believe that Mary was full of grace from the outset of her life. The privilege bestowed upon our first mother in the natural order was not denied to her who was the Mother of our Redeemer, and in Him the mother of all the redeemed. (cf. pp. 76-77) There was, however, a difference. Mary, as a daughter of Adam, would, unlike Eve yet unfallen, but like all Adam's children, have been born without the gift of sanctifying grace, had it not been for the bounty of the Redeemer. The grace of her Immaculate Conception was bestowed upon Mary Immaculate—so the Church expressly teaches—

"through the foreseen Merits of Christ." (Bull Ineffabilis, defining the Immaculate Conception of our Lady.) She who is called the Co-redemptrix is also the First of the redeemed. Redeemed, not with the rest of us, by grace bestowed after our coming into being, but by a more excellent way—the way of prevention. Amongst all the children of Adam, pre-eminent, sinless, solitary in her transcendent vocation, Mary could still say that her soul rejoiced in God her Saviour.

It may be well to observe here that in the case of every child save the Divine Child Jesus, the body is transmitted, by the action of natural laws established by God, through its parents (this is called the active conception of the child) ; whereas each soul is infused directly by God (this is called the passive conception). There is no question amongst Catholics concerning the active conception of our Lady. She was born as other children. Her Immaculate Conception relates only to the grace bestowed by God upon her soul.

In the famous letter (clxxiv.) in which St. Bernard blamed the Canons of Lyons for establishing in their church a Feast of the Conception of our Lady " without the authority of the Apostolic See," it is clear that he had the active conception only before his mind. " I say that she was at once Mother and Virgin, but not that she was born of a virgin. Otherwise where will be the prerogative of the Mother of the Lord, to have united in her person the glory of maternity and that of virginity, if you give the same honour to her mother also ?"

From what has been said so far, it will be seen that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of our Lady—the doctrine, that is, which teaches us that the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, preserved by a unique privilege of God, free from all stain due to the sin of our common origin—is a necessary consequence of the truth, that she holds the place in the economy of our redemption which was held by our first mother in the story of our fall. Were it otherwise, Mary could not rightly be called the Second Eve. But that she is, in fact, the Second Eve, was taught without hesitation from the beginning of Christianity and all over the Christian world.