The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 13

Grignon De Montfort
The hymns of St. Ephrem are full of this doctrine. The following are verses from his Hymn XVIII. In Commemoration of the Mother of God :

"The Adam from above appeared with all things that were of the former Adam and followed his steps, sin excepted. And for this reason was He called Adam by his herald Paul. . . .

"Mary is the garden upon which descended from the Father the rain of benedictions. From that rain she herself sprinkled the face of Adam. Whereupon he returned to life and arose from the sepulchre—he who had been buried by his foes in hell. . . .

"Sublime is the Mystery of the Virgin most pure, too great for all tongues to speak.

"Eve in Eden became guilty. Great was the handwriting of the debt, whereby her posterity were doomed to death. The Serpent, that perverse Scrivener, wrote it out, signed and gave it force with the seal of his fraud. . . .

"Eve it was that was found guilty of sin. But the debt was reserved for Mary, that so the daughter might pay her mother's debts and tear up the handwriting that had transmitted her groans to all generations.

"Since Mary was the Virgin Inviolate—prepared by Eden's blest region ere its lands were torn by furrows—there blossomed from her Bosom the Tree of Life which by its taste, that is by its Mercy, gives life to souls."

And again:

"Instead of the Serpent arose Gabriel, and instead of Eve, Mary the Virgin. . . .

"Eve became a debtor to God; she it was who gave ear to the Serpent's counsel. A child of one day, she despised the commandment, and therefore through a young Maiden, salvation was sent to the world.

"Gabriel by his words undid the speech that the execrable wanderer had held with the virgin Eve. Eve had written the debt in her handwriting and the Virgin paid the debt. . . .

"The daughter full of grace stood up in battle for her mother. Eve had fallen, Mary raised her up, and to the exiles was given hope of their reconciliation and return to Eden." (On the Annunciation of the Mother of God, Hymn II, verses 9-14.)

We find an echo of this tradition even in the Koran. Mr. Rodwell writes: "According to a tradition of Muhammed every newborn child is touched by Satan, (Cf. p. 12.) with the exception of Mary and her Son, between whom, and Satan, God ' interposed a veil.' These words of the Koran, therefore, with verse 37 of the same Sura [iii] :O Mary, verily God hath chosen thee, and hath purified thee and chosen thee above the women of the world,' seem to show that Muhammed had received the Christian Tradition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin." Gibbon, however, turns the facts round and suggests that " Christians borrowed this doctrine from the Koran." (Decline and Fall, Chapter I.) Belief in Mary's Immaculate Conception has remained living in the East—where Muhammed learned it—not only amongst Catholics, but also in separated heretical bodies where we might have expected that it would disappear; thus, it is to be found amongst the Eutychians, notwithstanding the fact, that their error commenced with the denial that Christ was of one substance, not with His Heavenly Father alone, but with his earthly Mother also, and amongst the Nestorians, whose specific heresy it is to deny to that Mother her title of Theotokos, that is Mother of God. 1 The Abyssinians, who are Eutychian in their Christological doctrine, to this day cherish a strange belief that the Blessed Virgin was created before the Fall, and was actually in the Garden of Eden, where our Lord made a compact with her about the salvation of the world. We have here, evidently, a corruption of the teaching of St. Irenaeus that Mary was Eve's advocate and undid her work. 2

The Holy Scriptures show us the idea of Mary emerging from the beginning, in the Mind of God, in the primeval prophecy.

" I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed " (Gen. iii. 15)—these are divine words concerning the Woman who was to defeat the enemy to whom her first mother had succumbed. That Woman of Victory and of Prophecy is our Lady. We cannot doubt it when we read that the enmities were to be, not only between herself and Satan, but also between her Seed and his seed. Her seed undoubtedly is the Redeemer—Mary's Son. Thus do we find, at the very opening of our Sacred Books, Jesus and Mary, the Son and His Mother, joined together in our Reparation, as our first parents were joined in our Fall. Blessed Grignon De Montfort observes that God, the Author of Peace, has only made one enmity—that between good and evil, between Mary and Satan, but this God-made enmity is everlasting. It reached from the beginning to the end. Here, then, in the Book of Genesis, is the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, not yet stated explicitly, but necessarily involved in the thought which is suggested. Eve was God's daughter, clothed in grace; therefore she once was Satan's foe. Seduced by her enemy, she fell away; the place from which she fell was to be filled by Mary. In order that this should be verified Mary, like Eve, must be Immaculate from the first moment of her existence.

1 The learned Dr. Gustavus Bickell, who first published the Carmina Misilena in 1866, from the Syriac MS. in the British Museum, quotes George Varda, the most celebrated hymnographer of the Nestorians, as thus giving their tradition : " Mary was sanctified in the very moment of her Conception. She alone was preserved from the universal deluge of sin, and remained dry and unmoistened as the fleece of Gideon."

2 See Article in Dublin Review for April, 1868, pp. 356-60 ; also Livius, The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries, pp. 208-254.