The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 49.


Arca Sanctificationis Domini.
                                                                                    PSALM cxxxi. 8.

THE grace of God proffered to every man is abundantly sufficient to enable him to resist and overcome successively each temptation, regarded singly, that may assail him during the course of his life. So great, however, is human weakness, even though repaired by Christ, that, apart from a special privilege of God, it is morally impossible for any man always to correspond in such a wholehearted manner with divine grace, as to avoid all venial sins and deliberate imperfections, when the various temptations that assail us through life are looked at collectively. Here or there, even in the holiest soul, on one or another occasion, a lapse will take place. So that, with reason, should all men ask pardon for their offences in the sight of God. Not only the thief, expiating a life of crime by a beautiful death, but also John the beloved disciple standing faithful beneath his Master's Cross, must humble themselves as sinners before the Lord — all men, that is, save only Mary. For the Catholic Church teaches that such an extraordinary privilege was bestowed upon the Most Holy Mother of God, as to preserve her spotless from the slightest taint, not merely of original, but also of actual sin.

The following is the definition of the Council of Trent:

"Should anyone assert that it is possible after Justification to avoid, throughout the whole of life, all sins even those which are venial—apart from a special Privilege of God such as the Church holds concerning the Blessed Virgin (quemadmodum de Beata Virgine tenet Ecclesia) let him be anathema."

This is, undoubtedly, the teaching of Antiquity, both East and West, taken as a whole. In the West there was no wavering whatsoever, I have already called the attention of my readers to the well-known words of the of  great Augustine, who, when confronted with Pelagian denials of the need of grace and undue exaltation of the powers of human nature, taught that: " All men, even the most holy, have sinned save the Holy Virgin Mary, touching whom, for the honour of our Lord, I wish, when we are treating of sins, no question to be raised at all." (De Nat. et Gratia, con. Pelag., xlii.) 

We may, however, notice that, whereas the Church has defined that the Privilege of the Immaculate Conception belongs uniquely to the Blessed Virgin— with regard to actual sin, we are taught merely that no man can avoid all sins through life without a special privilege such as that which was bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin. There is therefore nothing in the Church's authoritative teaching, notwithstanding the absolute words of St. Augustine, forbidding us to believe that this special privilege may have been extended to St. Joseph, who was drawn so closely within the intimacies of the Incarnation, and belongs to its hierarchy as the foster-father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. That this was actually the case is the opinion of St. Francis of Sales.