The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 21

Moreover, Catholics believe not only that our Lady is the Virgin Mother of God, but also that, in virtue of His Grace, she is God's Holy Mother. The extrinsic gifts of Immaculate Conception and Divine Mother-Mother o£ hood were bestowed upon Mary—gifts which are hers alone so that no other being can in these things imitate her; but the intrinsic adornments of sanctity are also hers in fullest measure, and here we all, at however great a distance, may follow after her, for growth in sanctity depends solely, in every creature, upon the co-operation of human free will with divine grace. " Mary conceived Christ by faith in her heart," writes St. Augustine, " before she conceived Him in her womb." So we read that St. Elisabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, greeted the Holy Virgin as Blessed, expressly on this double ground: " She cried out with a loud voice, Blessed art thou amongst women and Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb (Blessed art thou in thy Mother hood). . . . Blessed art thou that hast believed, because these things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord (Blessed art thou in thy faith)." In truth Mary was rather blessed in that she believed, than because wondrous things were accomplished in her by the Lord, when the Holy Ghost overshadowed her and she became Mother of God—since the blessing which springs from that which is inward and spiritual, is of a higher order than that which is external and physical. It may, however, be well to observe that we should be careful not to separate even mentally, the grace and dignity which were inseparably conjoined in the person of the Holy Mother of God.

If we may be allowed for a moment to illustrate that which is heavenly by that which is earthly—we may imagine a child catching a glimpse of the gracious presence of our Queen-Mother, and over come with the thought of her greatness, exclaiming aloud : " Oh ! how wonderful ! How marvellous a dignity! To be the mother of England's King!" And, listening the while a wise teacher might make answer: "Yes, but rather think of her goodness. Happier far that she is venerated by her people for her virtues, that her children rise up and call her blessed, than for her high estate." One who should thus speak, would wish to turn the thoughts of the child from that which he could not imitate, to that from which he might learn, to his lasting welfare. He would be far from desiring to detract in aught from the honour which no sane man can doubt rightly attaches to the King's Mother. In this manner we may well believe would the Queen herself be the first to speak.

Thus even our Lord, when once He was called " Good Master," drove home the lesson : " Why callest thou Me good ? There is none good, save God only." It is idle to praise Christ, unless we praise Him as the Lord our God, unless we beg Him to give us of that goodness of which He is the only Fount. Again, when women wept with compassion during His sorrowful Passion, our Lord asked them : " Why weep ye for Me ? Weep rather for yourselves and for your children." Idle are tears shed even for the Passion of Christ, should they spring merely from empty sentiment—unless they lead us to hate and fight against that sin in ourselves and round about us, to which the Passion of Christ is due. Similarly, when the woman cried out from the crowd, blessing the physical maternity of Mary —the womb that bore our Lord, the paps that gave Him suck—for the mother is rightly honoured in her son  —He answered, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it"- —This is the maternity which is spiritual; in this may we all bear Him anew, as His Mother bore Him of old when she kept all His words in her heart. (Luke ii 51) " Even my Mother," paraphrases St. Augustine, " is happy in that she keeps the Word of God."

"In all truth," writes the Venerable Bede, " are they blessed who hear the Word of God and keep it. Beautifully does the Saviour assent to the woman's witness, when He declared that not only the Mother who had deigned to give birth physically to the Word of God, but they who, by the hearing of faith, conceive the same Word spiritually, and by good works strive to bear Him, and, as it were, nourish Him in their own hearts and in the hearts of their neighbours, are blessed; for the Mother of God herself was indeed blessed in that ^ she was made, in time, the minister of the Incarnation of the Word, but far more blessed in that she guarded His Love—for all eternity."

Indeed it is right and seemly to dwell, with the Saints, on our Blessed Lady's unique dignity in that ineffable Maternity in which none of us can have any lot or share, but, if we listen, we may hear her gentle voice repeating the warning of her Divine Son : Remember, rather, that blessedness of which you too may have your appointed part, the blessedness that comes to all who strive to do the Will of God. " Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. Who are My Mother and My Brethren? They who do the Will of my Father; they are My Mother and My Brethren."