|THE INTERIOR LIFE OF OUR LADY|
|William G. Most
are not always inclined to accept teachings of the Church, and especially not to
believe just because the providentially protected Church says it is true. Yet
they often insist others should accept their own notions.
The Epistle to the Hebrews in 10: 7 tells us that "On entering into the world, He said: 'Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’" Clearly, in order to say this He had to be conscious of Himself. The Church has taught repeatedly that from the first moment of conception, His human mind saw the vision of God, in which all knowledge is present. In fact, Pius XII, in his great Encyclical on the Mystical Body said that as a result of that vision, He knew each member of His Mystical Body individually, and as clearly as a mother knows her son on her lap.
Yet this teaching is almost everywhere denied and contradicted. Instead, He is accused of not even knowing who He was until various points in His Human life, He is even accused of some superstition. It is asked how we can know if He "thought" heaven is above the clouds: Did He share our sophistication on the point?
The implication is of course that His Mother did not know much about him. The question is even raised; if she knew she had conceived virginal, would not she have told him, and so He would not have been so ignorant? This even implies a doubt about the virginal conception.
So we must ask: Just what did she really know about Him and when? We are going to explore that Scripturally. We will also try to penetrate her interior life.
The key is found with remarkable ease. As soon as the archangel told her that her Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever—at once, not just she who was full of grace, but almost any ordinary Jew would know: He will be the Messiah!
At once there would begin to flood into her mind all the scriptural prophecies about the Messiah. And in pondering in her heart even more would come to mind.
How much would she be able to understand? The not too sharp scholars now say that we cannot get much out of those prophecies without hindsight—without seeing them fulfilled in Christ. Yet we have the means of knowing what the ancient Jews understood, and understood without hindsight—they hated Him!
We can know these things thanks to the Targums, which of course were composed without hindsight.
It is really strange how our modern commentaries on the prophecies ignore the Targums, even the New Jerome Commentary which includes a rather good essay on the Targums, yet in dealing with the individual prophecies not once uses them. So it is
shocking but true that ancient and modern Jews saw and see more than do so many Catholic scholars.
Now the Targums are very old Aramaic versions of the Old Testament—mostly rather free—and so they show how the texts were understood. But when? How early? One of the best of modern Jewish scholars, Jacob Neusner, in his work <Messiah in Context> made a survey of all Jewish writings from after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. up to and including the Babylonian Talmud—probably written 500-600 AD. He found something very surprising: up to the Talmud there was hardly any interest in the Messiah; within it, interest returns, but it speaks of only one major note: He is of the line of David.
In contrast, the section in the Targums on the prophecies find the Messiah in so very many places. It is obvious: they hardly could have been written during literally centuries when there was virtually no interest in the Messiah. So they must date, at least in oral form, to before 70 AD. Some would put the first beginnings in the scene in the book of Nehemiah where Ezra read the Law to the people, and had Levites among them explain it.
What did the Levites do? Some think they translated into Aramaic, since during the exile many Jews had switched to Aramaic. Others think they gave explanations, which would be the start of the Targums. Whatever be the truth, we know the Targums were on hand at least by the time of Christ.
Would Our Lady have heard the Targums? Of course, they were read in the synagogues. But even without that: if the stiff-necked Jews could see so much, of course the one full of grace would see that and much more.
Now modern scholars have a hard time with Gen 3: 15, "Enmity between you and the woman." Some foolishly say it just means that women do not like snakes!
But the Targums knew it referred to the Messiah. True, they did cloud it with a bit of allegory, but they surely knew it spoke of the Messiah, and therefore of His Mother. (This is true independently of what we think of Jerome's version: <she> shall crush your head).
No, three of four Targums speak similarly. Here are the words of Targum Neophyte: "And it shall be: when the sons of the woman observe the Torah and fulfill the commandments, they will aim to strike you [serpent] on the head and kill you. And when the sons of the woman forsake the precepts of the Torah and will not keep the commandments of the Law you will aim at and wound him at his heel and make him ill [the son of the woman] For her son, however, there will be a remedy, but for you, serpent, there will be no remedy. They will make peace in the future in the day of King Messiah."
In spite of the small cloud from the allegory, it is clear that there will be a victory by the son of the woman. But she, seeing this, could not help seeing that if Gen 3: 15. spoke of the Messiah: she was to be His Mother. And even though some moderns think there is only a draw, no victory, the Targum saw the victory. So He would be the victor, and she in that way was to share in the victory—If we may anticipate a bit: later on PIUS XII, in <Munificentissimus Deus>, would see her obedient suffering was so great and close that the Pope spoke of a "work in common" with that Son, so much so that since His suffering brought Him glorification in resurrection and ascension, then the "work in common "<had to> bring her the glorification of the Assumption—It was the Holy Spirit who later brought the Church to see this fullness: hardly would He, her Spouse, who made her full of grace, omit to bring her to see the same evident truth: He. obedient even to death, death on a cross; she, obedient to what she knew was the positive will of the Father, not only not crying out, but positively willing, with a heart wounded by love for Him, that He should die, die then, die so horribly. Any soul, when it knows the positive will of God, is required to positively will the same.
What was to be the nature of the victory? Obedience, by Him who on entering into this world had said: "Behold I come to do your will, O God. That work in common would outweigh and cancel out the disobedience of Adam and Eve and of all their offspring.
Her <fiat>. just given, would inaugurate the obedience. Or rather, it would merge with His obedience already offered, "Behold I come to do your will O God.
Pope Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception said that the "unspeakable God [<ineffabiliis deus>] heaped her up with such an abundance of every grace that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it. "So not even the highest seraphim who in Isaiah's vision never cease saying "Holy, Holy, holy" could grasp her holiness.
Naturally, then, we ask if she had at least at times the beatific vision?
Some reason: It is often said: Moses had that vision—so she must have had it too. Now in chapter 33 of Exodus we read that God used to speak with Moses "face to face". At first sight this seems to mean Moses had that beatific vision. But then, a few lines lower in the same chapter, Moses asked God to see His face. God explained it was impossible, but that He would hide Moses in the cleft of the rock, and then shade him until His glory passed. So the words earlier saying Moses spoke to God "face to face" would not really mean a direct vision, but only that God would converse back and forth with Moses as with a present friend.
But St. Paul in 2 Cor 12 said he was taken up to the third heaven and heard unspeakable words [<arrheta rhemata>], that no one may speak or is able to speak [<exon>—can mean 'is permitted" or, "is able "]. That expression has several possible meanings. First it might merely mean he was forbidden to speak—<exon> can have that meaning. Or it could mean there are no words to express it.
When we use words, e. g. red, green, blue, they are understood at once: both of us have a common experience. But the same words to a colorblind man would not mean much. Similarly with the highest reaches of infused contemplation, there are no words that are known to both speaker and hearer. Hence Paul might have been unable to find words.
So too, her grace from the inexpressible God is inexpressible.
St. John of the Cross helps us now: "God alone moves the powers of those souls. . . to those deeds which are suitable according to the ordinance of God, and they cannot be moved to others. . . . Such were the actions of the most glorious Virgin, Our Lady, who, being elevated from the beginning [of her life] to this lofty state, never had the form of any creature impressed on her, but was always moved by the Holy Spirit" (<Ascent> 3. 2, 19 and <Living Flame> 1. 4; 1. 9; 2, 34).
So she began at a point higher than that at which other souls leave off at the culmination of a life of holiness. She "never had the form of any creature impressed on her. . . . "—to see this we review the three levels of guides a soul may follow in making decisions. First and lowest, it follows the whim of the moment. Aristotle in Ethics 1. 5 says this is a life fit for cattle—they always do just what they feel like doing. On the second level the soul follows reason, which in practice will usually be aided by actual grace. On this level the typical pattern is discursive, from step to step. Thus I might say to myself: I see I have sinned, I need penance. But what penance? How much have I sinned? what will fit with the duties of my state in life?
In this way the soul comes to a decision step by step. But on the third level, that on which the Gifts of the Holy Spirit operate—and they do more than just give guidance—the answer is as it were dropped ready-made into the soul. There are no steps. Hence if later someone asked: why do you want this?, the soul would have to say I do not know I just know it is right.
Of course in this the soul could be deceived. But the Holy Spirit protects:—first, this sort of guidance comes only when the soul is well advanced. Second, ordinarily this guidance leaves the soul somewhat short of certain: a sign to consult a director or superior. Only in rare cases, when needed, will certitude be given at once.
We saw that St. John of the Cross said that never was the form of any creature imprinted upon her. When we are led to act on either the first or second levels described above, the image or form of something good to do is impressed on our minds. This goodness attracts us. But in Our Lady, far up on the third level, such was not the case: it was not a created form that attracted her, but simply the movement of the Holy Spirit. Hence her perfect responsiveness to the Spirit, who is often called her Spouse.
When a soul reaches the higher levels of the purgative way, there comes a point of total aridity (one of the three signs given by St. John of the Cross of the coming of infused contemplation): It finds no pleasure in earthly or in spiritual things. Thus God brings it to the point at which no form of any creature imprints itself on it. Our Lady was at the highest level reached by the highest Saints at the end of their ascent. She came even to the edge of the abyss of the divinity as it were, and peered into that abyss. Not even a ;positive imperfection could impress itself on her so as to move it. There would be grace under God capable of preventing that—so she had it, else her grace would not be so great that none greater under God can be thought of.
St. Gregory of Nyssa pictures Moses as is were rising through the mist that covered Sinai to the point where "the true vision of the One we seek. . . consists in not seeing: for the One Sought is beyond all knowledge". Moses had then a certain contact with God. Philo, followed by the Rabbis, says Moses after his first encounter with God, no longer had sex with his wife.
We ask: did she know her Son was divine? Yes.
First she almost certainly perceived that from her inexpressible contact with the divinity. Not a few Saints have been able to perceive the Presence in the Tabernacle. This does not prove she could perceive it, but makes it most highly likely with her grace such that "none greater under God can be thought of."
So did she know she was Mother of God? As soon as the archangel told her that her Son would reign forever she knew He was Messiah; but further, the angel said she would conceive when the Holy Spirit would <overshadow> her. Now that was the word used at the end of the Book of Exodus for the Divine Presence filling the ancient temple in the days of the desert wanderings. And further "for this reason" [<dio>] He would be called Son of God.
That was not just the ordinary reason Jews could be called son of God—This was absolutely unique, given because He would be conceived when the Divine Presence would fill her.
Further Isaiah 9. 5-6, which the Targum recognizes as Messianic, calls Him, "God the mighty ", in Hebrew <El gibbor>.
O course the Jews would have trouble with El-gibbor. They never rendered it God-hero, as did NAB. They found other ways to dodge. They might twist the sentence structure, so to say His name has been called Messiah by the mighty God. Such a twist is quite easy with the Targum, and H.J. Levey did just this in <The Messiah, An Aramaic Interpretation>. But J. F. Stenning of Oxford refused the twist, so that in his version of the Targum the Messiah is indeed called El gibbor. But Our Lady would have no need of such twisting: she simply knew that He was God the Mighty.
There is further help from other OT passages. Thus in Ps 80. 15-18 God is asked to visit this vine, and he stock which your right hand has planted, upon the son of man whom you have strengthened for yourself." Levey comments here that "The Targum takes the Messiah to be the son of God." Of course he rejects that, and adds that later rabbis: "carefully steer clear of any messianic interpretation" by the Targum—but our Lady would not steer clear: gladly she would she accept it.
Psalm 45-7-8 is often said by modern commentators to be a song for a royal marriage—but the Targum saw it was messianic. In it we read: "Your throne O God, is ever and ever." Levey notes that Hebrew <melech> used several times here refers to God.
Ezekiel 34. 11: God Himself said: "For thus says the Lord God: Behold I, I will search out my sheep and seek them out." We notice the repeated "I ", which seems to stress the thought that God Himself would come. But in verse 23 of the same chapter: "I will set one shepherd over them, my servant David." So the Targum Jonathan does treat the psalm as messianic. Of course this is far from clear, but there could be an implication that the Messiah, called here "my servant David" would be God Himself.
Jeremiah 23. 3: God said: "And I myself shall gather the remnant of the my sheep from all the lands to which I have driven them." But in verse 5: "I will raise up for David a righteous branch." That word "branch" is often taken by the Targums to indicate the Messiah. Hence Targum Jonathan on verse 5 does use "a righteous Messiah" instead of "branch". Then, surprisingly, in verse 6: "And this is the name which He shall call him: "the Lord is our righteousness." In the later Midrash, <Lamentations Rabbah> 1. 51 we read: "What is the name of the King Messiah? R. Abba b. Kahana said: "His name is 'the Lord’". In the Hebrew text of that passage, the word for Lord is Yahweh! It is astounding to find a later rabbi doing such a thing. (c. f. Levey, op. cit., p. 70).
Jeremiah 30. 11: "For I am with you—oracle of Yahweh—to save you." The Targum clearly calls this passage messianic. Levey notices this, and comments: "in v. 11 the apparent anthropomorphism of God being with Israel, in the physical sense is softened by the use of the word Memra"—Memra is a puzzling word in the Targums, which seems in general to refer to the complex interplay between God's constancy and the fickleness of His people—but a times, it seems to mean God Himself. (On Memra cf. Bruce Chilton, <The Isaiah Targum>, Glazier, 1987, p. lvi).
With such a cloud of witnesses,—to borrow words from Hebrews—how could she possibly have not understood His divinity! And if Moses from one contact with God gave up even lawful sex, what was her perception of and reverence with that Divine Presence within her for nine continuous months!
She understood His Holiness most fully, while most fully seeing the goodness of God. Hence there was in her mind no clash when she heard from Isaiah 53 that He would suffer—and she with Him. Stiff-necked Jews could not see how the Messiah could suffer and die and yet reign forever This is one reason why the Targum, on Isaiah 53 sadly distorted the meek lamb into an arrogant conqueror. Major Jewish scholars of today admit such distortion was practiced, e. g. Jacob Neusner, Samson Levey and H. J. Schoeps. Later Jews, seeing the Christian use of Isaiah 53, tried to speak instead of atonement by the binding of Isaac.
But her mind, illumined by the inexpressible God, could see. She knew that God Himself said through Amos the prophet. (3. 6): "Is there an evil in the city which the Lord has not done?" And after a great defeat by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4. 3 the Jews asked: "Why did the Lord strike us today before the face of the Philistines?" Her Son was later to say: When you pray, pray in secret." And yet: "Let your light shine before men, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."
What others may have grasped poorly if at all, she would take in as it were intuitively, in the mystery of God.
For God is supremely One:—our minds as it were draw distinctions in Him: but all His attributes in Him are one. So even mercy and justice, which to us seem opposite, are the same in Him.
Yet we may say that He is, in a way most basically, Love. For Love wills good to the other for the other's sake. It is Love that constitutes the Most Holy Trinity: The Father wills the good of divine nature to the Son: that constitutes the Son. Together They will divine nature to the Spirit: thus He is constituted.
God who is Love created not as though needing anything, but to have someone to receive, wrote St. Irenaeus (4. 24. 14). Yet, so that the giving may be effective, there is need of openness: God's commands tell how to be open.
They do Him no good, but they tell us how to be open—and this simultaneously provides for universal goodness. in itself. The Holiness of God wills that goodness in itself, and for our sake. Hence if anything has damaged that universal order of goodness—His Holiness wants full holiness restored, for the sake of goodness in itself, and for our sake.
A very helpful comparison is provided by Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar (c. 170 AD in <Tosephta Kiddushin> 1. 14): "He [a sinner] has committed a transgression—woe to him: he has tipped the scales to the side of debt [<hobah>] for himself and for the world?" (Cf. Paul VI, <Indulgeniarum doctrina>). The sinner takes from one pan of the two-pan scales something he has no right to take: the scales is out of balance. It is the Holiness of God that wants it rebalanced.
If the sinner stole property, he begins to rebalance by giving it back. If he stole a pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up a pleasure of comparable weight. But he only begins to rebalance, for the imbalance from even one mortal sin is infinite. Hence IF the Father willed perfect balance—He was not so obliged—He could have sent His Son, to be born in a palace, never to suffer or die, to ascend in glory forever. The mere fact of the incarnation was of infinite value, both as to merit, and as to satisfaction.
So now we get a clue to the policy of the Father: As long as there was any way to make it richer. He would not stop with anything short of that. Hence He really went to infinity beyond infinity! For the incarnation in a palace would have been infinite, without the infinite value of the stable and the cross. The Greek Fathers bring this out with their teaching on Physical-Mystical Solidarity. (Cf. Lumen gentium 61)
Incidentally, we can begin now to see how mercy and justice are he same:—the sinner gets more and more blind, going down as it were in a spiral. He has earned his blindness: in justice; But as his understanding of divine things diminishes, his responsibility at he time of acting is diminished:—which is mercy. . . . .
Small wonder then—in view of view of this policy—that the Father chose do to still more: to add the finite, but immeasurable contribution of the obedient suffering of the Mother of that Son. For her dignity as Mother of God was as Pius XI said, quasi-infinite. Further, the worth of all she did during the hidden life was immeasurable, coming from one of holiness-love beyond the ability of anyone but God to comprehend! !
How much did she know in advance of His suffering? Isaiah said His appearance was marred. not like other men—we think of Pilate's Ecce homo! He would be the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The chastisement that makes us whole was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed—This of course does not mean that the Good Father literally punished His innocent Son! How abhorrent! Rather he was giving up far more than all sinners had wrongfully taken, He was rebalancing balancing the order of goodness—we recall the two-pan scales of Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar—So it did please he Lord to crush Him. He was cut off from the land of the living.
And yet, verses 10-11 say that if He gives His life for the many, He will see his descendants in length of days—no small hint, for those who can see, of His subsequent resurrection and glorification.
If we move on to other prophecies, real if obscure at the time, we see remarkable things which she, full of grace would not have missed/: Zech 13. 7 wrote: "Awake O Sword against my Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered." Jesus Himself explained this of Himself in Mt 26/. 31 and 56. Continuing with the image of the shepherd, Zech 11. 12-13 said: speaking to those who rejected the Good Shepherd: "If it is good in your eyes, give me my price[ for my service]. And they weighed out 30 pieces of silver."
Then the Lord added: "Throw it to the potter."And they bought for it the Potter's field.
Even more mysteriously Zechariah said in 12. 10: "They shall look on ME whom they have pierced, and mourn for HIM as for an only child." Modern versions, not facing the sense, change ME to HIM. But really it is God the Messiah who speaks, and then shifts to the more usual Him in the same line. John 19. 37 and Apoc 1. 7 make the sense clear for those who need help.
More painful clarity came from Psalm 22. 16-18 part of which Jesus Himself recited on the cross: "Dogs surround me, a circle of evil doers are about me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. . . for my vesture they cast lots." From the same Psalm Jesus recited v. l: "My God, why have your forsaken me?" As explained, He always knew His unity with the Father—I and the Father are one—But in the area of His being below the high point of the soul, there was a wasteland: He no longer could FEEL the presence of the Father! Imagine her desolation in all this!
In her Magnificat she says all generations will call me blessed. . . He had looked on the lowliness of His handmaid. Many have taken lowliness to mean humility. but that is not so: she is echoing he canticle of Anna—and besides, the claim to be humble would be a problem.
So we must ask ;what is humility? How could she be humble, knowing herself without sin, and being so close to God? First of all, humility is truth: it requires a soul to know itself in itself, in relation to God. in relation to others All this must be done with full sincerity: one must not subconsciously take any degree of credit for oneself.
So if man Saints have said dreadful things about themselves, it was merely true. They were not supposed to deceive themselves—until the next life when they could admit, with the whole Church that they were wonderful.
St. Paul helps much. Of course she had not read his Epistles, but probably knew him personally. And for certain she knew more broadly by the truths taught by St. Paul. who told the Corinthians (i. 4. 7): "What have you that you have not received? And if you have received it: why boast as if you had not received it?" In other words: Every bit of good that you are, or have or do, is simply God's gift to you. "Without me you can do nothing" as her Son was to say later.
What a staggering thought? She is so holy that no one but God comprehend it—yet every bit of goodness that she is or has or does is purely the gift of the Inexpressible God!
To press on more deeply, as St. Paul also wrote (2 Cor 3. 5—following the definition of the Second Council of Orange): "We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves as from ourselves—our sufficiency is from God." So we cannot even get a good thought unless God gives it to us!
So to move on more deeply, St. Paul also said (Phil. 2. 13), "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both the will and the doing." Those first words about fear and trembling are usually misunderstood—they do not mean: Be trembling,: you might go to hell. The sense, as we shall see, is quite different, but tremendously impressive. The real sense, as we see from other uses is merely "with great respect."
The real meaning of the next words is much more impressive—so much so that the versions always soften it. But if we follow against the II Council of Orange it reads: "It is God who works—produces—in you both the will and the doing."
This means, shockingly, that we cannot make a good decision on our own—it is God who <causes> it in us!
How then are we free, if we cannot even get a good thought on our own, or make a good act of will? And yet it not only happens to be true—it could not be otherwise. Suppose the sense were that God merely helps us to make an act of will. <Then basically the good act would be mine, with God merely a helper>! But that would be the Pelagian heresy. Yet St. Paul; is right: if there were any bit of good in my acts that I would not receive from God, Paul could not say: What is there that you have not received "?
So the truth is true, devastatingly true: Even when I get a good thought, or make a good decision, it is God who causes them! What have you that you have not received? Without me you can do nothing!
Still, we know that <in some way> when a grace comes to me, I decide if it will come in vain. (2 Cor 6. 10;) "we urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain." So it does, then, depend on me whether or not it comes in vain, fruitlessly.
How can this be? We see great mystery before re us: We are utterly powerless, yet we control all.
There is a way to reconcile these truths. Did Our Lady see it? or did she just accept as it were intuitively, the way we saw before when we read Is there any evil in the city that the Lord has not done?"
We are not sure in just what way she understood, yet she surely did.
Dare we make the attempt? The Church has given us just one bit of the solution: we are not entirely passive under grace. For the rest, we are on our own. Two rival schools of theology, the "Thomists" and the Molinists tried for 10 years. beginning in 597, to gain papal endorsement, but failed.
Yet let us try, and in so doing cling as tightly as possible to the words of St. Paul. For the real reason those long early attempts failed is that both sides neglected the setting or context of the words of Scripture.
An actual grace comes—to lead me and enable me to do a particular good thing here and now. First it puts the good thought into my mind: 2 Cor 3. 5. Then, almost automatically it makes me well-disposed or friendly—At this point could I say: I hereby decide to accept this grace? No. that would violate Phil l2. 13: "It is God who works in you the will." Of course a decision not to block would be a good decision—and so ruled out by Phil 2. 13.
What is left? I could merely not block that grace, non-resist it. Then the grace would continue on its course, and work in me both the will and the doing.
But I would not be entirely passive. The Council of Trent: says I am not merely passive. So in the second phase I am cooperating with grace but that is only by means of the power then being given by the grace.
So grace is all-powerful—. I merely do not block it. Then every bit of good that I am and have and do is simply God's gift to me! There is nothing that I have not received!
Am I then nothing? No, but I can do nothing without Him.
To face and accept this at every level of my being is what humility wants.
Of myself, I am nothing. Yet I am wonderful, for grace makes me an adopted child of the Father, even sharing in the divine nature.
Turning to Our Lady, these same truths hold: she is nothing of herself, but He who is Mighty has done great things for her, so great that only God Himself can comprehend them.
Earlier we said that humility requires that we accept the truth about ourselves at every level of our being. There is such a thing as a subconscious motive. We might compare it to a submarine, which does its best work when it is not seen or perceived in any way.
For example, if I were still living in a college dormitory, and the announcement was made that Thursday night there would be a collection for some charity. After thinking it over, might decide to give the collector $50. My motive might be purely 100% charity. But it could also be part vanity, in any ratio. My motive could be pleasure at thinking of the big congratulations from the collector—or, alternatively, I could be patting myself on the back.
How would these things affect the value of my good work? Clearly something done out of 100% charity would be worth more than something done out of only 40%.
Could there be some sin from subconscious vanity? Yes, but only if the soul in some way perceives it is there and allows it.
But in some cases that happens. Think of a college student in the days when there was not so much openness about sex. He was taking an introductory biology course, and early in the semester did just enough work to get by. But then they come to the chapter on sex, and he says to himself: I really should be working. So he reads the whole chapter eagerly, gets other works from the library too.
Clearly there are submarines at work. To be clear, there are three motives: 1) the solid desire for study—but the first part of the semester shows it is not very powerful. 2) Mere curiosity about such a subject. If that did not involve proximate danger of consent, the fault could be only venial. If there would be some excess. 3) bootlegging sexual kicks. Clearly he might reach a point at which he almost says to himself; I suspect I am kidding myself. The submarines are beginning to surface. Various degrees of sin, even mortal, could be at hand—only God can assess the degree of the guilt in a concrete case.
So the Pharisee in the temple had said: O God I give <you> thanks. Yet or even in a partly conscious way he would know he was deceiving himself. Hence Our Lord gave him an F on his report card.
We all have such submarines—some resulting only in a loss of spiritual credit; others bringing even outright sin.
The oracle of Delhi in ancient Greece had the motto: <gnothi sauton>—get to know yourself. If I seem to myself to have no sins yet I can find there may these faults. <For real spiritual growth it is necessary to bring the subs to the surface. Only than can we work on them.> Here is something to do on a retreat!
Our Lady of course had no such submarines. She had nothing to hide, hid nothing. She was so entirely empty of self that she could serve as a channel of all graces.
We know of course that Our Lady was and is full of grace. Of course. We know this most forcefully from the words of the solemn document in which Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception, which we have often quoted:—her holiness even at the start was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it!".
What of the translations often found today which merely say: Hail favored one. Are they correct philologically—for we know from Pius IX that these expressions all fall far short of the reality.
The fact that "full of grace" is found in official documents of the Church shows merely that they are following the Vulgate, which the Council of Trent declared authentic, i. e, correct. Yet the Council did not intend to settle all critical problems of text.
Without doubting in the least the teaching of Pius IX, we can still ask about the linguistic picture. St. Luke wrote <kecharitomene>. [a perfect passive participle of the verb charitoo] In secular Greek <charis> meant charm, that which attracts favor. It was used to translate Old Testament Hebrew hen which first meant a favorable attitude of God to us, then the expression of that favor, then what He gives as a result of that favor. namely <hokmah> or <beraka>, wisdom or blessing. (Oo verbs means to put someone in the state expressed by the root, which here is <charis>.) The word was not used broadly like NT charis which came to mean any gift from God to us. The net result was that charis could mean either favor or grace.
But now, a thing often overlooked: if God merely sat there and gave nothing but a smile, favor, then the human would do the good by his own power—which would be Pelagianism. So when we translate favor, we must keep this in mind, and usually would do better to translate grace. So then charitoo will mean to put into grace.
Further, in English we may use a noun to mark a person as the ultimate in his class. <Kecharitomene> is used here as her personal name. So just as Mr. Tennis is the ultimate in the category of tennis—therefore she would be "Miss Grace." much the same as full of grace. . . .
But when we call her full of grace, the question must arise: Did she never make any further progress? for it is a general principle that a soul should go back or forward? The trouble is with the image, which seems to be a container into which we pour a liquid. But that is not the real situation. Grace is not like a physical liquid. Sanctifying Grace means the transformation of the soul by the prince of the divinity making it capable of the face to face vision of God in the next life. But again we must be careful. God does not have a face, and the soul does not have eyes. So what is it really? When in 1 Cor 13. 12 St. Paul says we will see face to face he means that we will see Him as directly as I can see you. Now I do not take you into my head, I take an image, that works well enough—But with seeing God—No image could represent God or tell us what He is like. So it means: there is no image in that vision—: God Himself joins Himself directly to that soul, without even an image in between! Now to know Him this way requires divine nature. So in 1 John 3. 2: "When He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall know Him as He is"—that is directly, without any image. In this sense Jesus said: (Mt 11. 17) "No one knows the Father but the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father."
All this difficult language means simply: to know God in the same way (directly) in which He knows Himself, requires that being to be partly divine, sharing in the divine nature. But that is what we have by grace, a that radical ability, which will bring it about that when He appears we will be like him, knowing without an image—for we shall see Him as He is!
We will see Him in the same <way> as He sees the Father, and so will be part divine. But not in the same degree, totally—then we would be identified with God. So of course Our Lady did not become God, yet incredibly sharing in the divine nature, so much so that none greater under God can be thought of and no one but God can comprehend it! But the possible growth is without limit, is infinite. So even though her holiness at the start was so great that only God can comprehend it—God could comprehend more than she did at any given point: her capacity could and did increase. Yes, she did perceive the creatures about her—but they never moved her. so as to imprint their form on her.
Yet her humility did not allow onlookers to see what was within her soul. For example, during her travel; to see Elizabeth she would seem like a very good but ordinary person to those with her. When she came to Elizabeth the Holy Spirit surely told her pondering heart her in the words of Malachi 3. 1: "Behold, I send my messenger before me, who will prepare my way before me. "Later Jews transformed these words into the promise that God would send His angel before Israel during the wandering. But she knew the true sense. In fact, even modern scholars know that it is God Himself who speaks in Mal 3. 1.
While with Elizabeth, they must have taken pleasure in praising God,: "For He who is mighty has done great things for me."
The greater love, the greater dignity, the greater the increase. Now since to love is to will what God wills, the more intensely her will adhered to His, the greater her capacity for increase. Her dignity was as Pius XI said, a "quasi-infinite dignity." But her adherence to the will of God was magnificent, and all the more when to adhere was enormously difficult. She needed, we might say, to "hold on in the dark" many times over.
If the soul of John was sanctified at the first coming of the Mother of God, may we not expect that John's soul would as time went on grow even more in holiness, being made ready to have no form of creatures imprinted on it, when early in life he fled to the desert. to escape creatures and find God.
Sanctifying grace then, is the transformation of the soul by the Divine Presence within it. We of course do not speak now of the Divine Presence that would overshadow her, though it would be that same Divine Spirit. of which her Son would say: ": If any man loves me, we will come to him and take up our abode within him" (Jn. 14. 23). Abode of course is not a physical presence, for Spirit does not take up space, It means that the Spirit produces effects in the soul—the effect is the transformation, making it part divine, and giving it the ability to see Him face to face in the future. Increase in sanctifying grace then means increase in ability to see face to face, that is without even an image in between, the soul and the inexpressible God. Since that Presence is infinite, the possible growth of the soul to take it in is without limit.
Long before Gabriel came to her, there had been widespread, intense expectation that the time for the Messiah was at hand. And with good reason: The dying Jacob in Egypt had made a prophecy about his son Judah (Gen 49. 10): The scepter shall not depart from Judah. . until Shiloh comes". Modern Catholic scholars usually mistranslate, not seeing that <Shiloh> meant the Messiah—they fuss about a grammatical point, that <Shiloh> is grammatically feminine, whereas the verb with it is masculine. They should have seen that such irregularities at times come elsewhere in the OT. But more importantly the sense should have made it clear; and still more the ancient Jews saw it, and wrote it in their commentaries. A great modern Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner, in his <Messiah in Context> (p. 242) translated, with the rabbis: "until the Messiah comes". And then Neusner asks: What else could it be but the Messiah?—A Jewish scholar easily saw what Catholics are too blind to see! What a picture!
But Our Lady was not blind she saw clearly what it meant, and so many Jews did likewise, for hey were expecting the Messiah soon. The reason was easy:—Jacob's prophecy then was being fulfilled to the letter: at that time for the first time a ruler from the tribe of Judah had failed to come: in 40 B. C. Rome made Herod a Tetrarch, and then soon, also king.
Was Herod a Jew? In a way, for he refused to eat pork and greatly enlarged the temple. But Emperor Augustus is reported to have quipped that he would rather be Herod's pig than his son. <And for sure, Herod was not of the tribe of Judah—. He was half Idumean, half Arab>!
So the signs were up for all to read—all but those who today are blind. But Our Lady was not blind: she certainly saw that the time was at hand. <And yet, knowing that, she had made some sort of promise of virginity when most Jewish women were praying they might bear the Messiah!>
Were promises of virginity common then? Not at all. What could have induced Our Lady to be willing to give up the golden opportunity? We already saw the answer some time earlier. St. John of the Cross tells us that never did the form of any creature imprint itself on her; she was always led by the Holy Spirit!
Did she understand then that the Divine Presence to come upon her was not merely a power (<ruach>) that comes from God to work His will? Or did she understand it as a Divine Person? The language of the Angel would not necessarily show another Divine Person—that the use of he same word as that for the Presence filling the tabernacle would most easily be taken to mean the Divine Person.
<Then, since she already knew, as we saw above, that her Son was to be Divine Person—and now she heard of a Third Divine Person—what a trial of faith!> We so easily mouth the words: Three Divine Persons—one God. We are used to the thought, without of course understanding. But it burst upon her completely new.
We may be tempted to say: She could see, and did not have to just believe. Yes, she saw one thing, Had to believe a much more incomprehensible thing. For all Jews had had it hammered into them: that God is One!! Yes, only magnificent faith—moved in her by that same Spirit—could and did inspire her to believe!
Moved by that same Spirit, she did not hurry to tell the authorities in Jerusalem that the Messiah was at hand. Even, Joseph—it was necessary for God to send an angel to inform Joseph not to put her away.
The text of Is. 7-14 was not as clear as possible. Isaiah said: Behold the <almah shall> conceive. Isaiah could have written <betulah>. Vatican II in <Lumen gentium> 55 showed doubt about how much Isaiah himself may have understood here. Speaking of this text and Genesis 3. 15, L. G. 55 wrote: "These primeval document, as they are read in the Church and understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring before us the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer. She in this light is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given to our first parents, fallen into sin, of a Redeemer (Cf. |Gen 3. 15. cf. 1. 7-14)."
So we cannot be sure what Isaiah meant by <almah>—did he mean <virgin>, or <young woman>? For the whole setting in which Isaiah spoke was ambiguous. A sign to Achaz seven centuries later would not be much of a sign. Yet the image of the child in 9. 5-6 (same child) is much too grandiose for Hezekiah son of Achaz.
But Our Lady needed no question. She could see and feel the prophecy being fulfilled in herself.
After that point in time, on the one hand, she knew His divinity and probably even sensed it in a way, yet the feelings she had would be just those of any ordinary mother-to-be. Hence the beginning of the clash between what her senses told her, when she held Him as a child, and what her faith told her.
Except that when the time for birth came, she felt no labor pains. As the oldest creeds tell us, she was <aeiparthenos: ever virgin>. The General Council of Chalcedon in 451 wrote; "He sealed her womb." Leo the Great in his Tome (DS 291) wrote; "with her virginity intact, she brought forth, just as she had conceived with her virginity intact.". Vatican II in LG. 57 "Her union with her Son. . . was manifest, . . . when she joyfully showed her first born, <who did not diminish, but consecrated her virginal integrity>. to the shepherds and the Magi."
There are two special points to notice in these words of L. G. 57: First, it speaks of her <virginal integrity>—a clearly physical term. No mere symbolism of holiness could account for it. Secondly, the Council spoke with no hesitation, in a matter of fact way, of the shepherds and the Magi. In L. G. 55 it had inserted a precautionary cf. before Gen 3. 15 and Isaiah 7. 14., to avoid guaranteeing the application of these words in the minds of the original human author. So the shepherds and the Magi were real, not just symbolic! There are indeed symbolic expressions in Scripture, there are also different patterns writing, called literary genres. Vatican II <On Divine Revelation> 10 summed up the matter neatly: Whatever is <asserted> by the human wrier is <asserted> by the Holy Spirit. Remarkably, in the case of the shepherds and the Magi, L. G. 57 does tell us that the Human writer and therefore the Holy Spirit asserts these things to be historical. Sometimes human study can tell us which is which. But often it is only the providentially protected Church that can assure us. Without that Church, human imagination often runs wild. This it is that one time scholars said the infancy Gospels were just <midrash>. Newer studies, tell us there is no such genre as midrash. And the Church tells us that these reports are historical.
Many of the reasons given by human imagination against the historicity of the infancy Gospels are simply foolish. They try to say that both Mt and Luke must not be historical because in Luke the birth is in a stable, but in Matthew the Magi find the Holy Family in a house. How inane! Would Joseph stay long in the stable and not rent a house? The Magi came sometime after Jesus' birth, probably a year after the birth—Herod thought it might be as much as two years.
Again, it is even suggested, contrary to the Gospel and to the prophecy of Micah that Jesus was born in Nazareth, on the plea that the sequence of events of the two Gospels is convoluted. Not all. There was ample time after His presentation. Luke after that speaks of a return to Nazareth, he mentions that return next. But compendious narratives are not rare. Leftists normally suppose two meetings of the Council of Apostles telescoped into one—since Paul does not speak against food sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor—a thing the Letter of Acts 15 prohibited. They do not notice that the Letter was addressed only to the gentiles of Syria and Cilicia. So it held there—did not hold outside—just as the Vatican today can address a directive only to one episcopal conference. Again, in Isaiah 37, Sennacherib returns after the failed siege, and is killed by his sons—an event of long after that return. And there are many other instances.
What of the people who heard from the Shepherds and Magi? In time they would forget, especially since there were no follow-up wonders in the hidden life. There are various reports of wonders even today—we have a plethora of alleged reports of apparitions. Many pay little attention to them.
There was only one objection that even seemed solid—that of the star and the census. But here there is new research by E. L. Martin, <The Star that Astonished the World>. Since it depends on astronomical study it has won acceptance by over 600 of the planetariums in the US. and Europe. They have changed their presentations on the star to match Martin's work. Briefly, he has shown clearly that only one eclipse of the moon will fit the Scriptural data—that of Jan 10, 1 BC Josephus reports Herod died shortly after such an eclipse. Other eclipses during those years all meet with insuperable obstacles. So Jesus as born in September of 3 B. C. Quirinius was <governing>, nor <governor>, according to Luke's Greek. The real governor had to go to Rome for festivities for the following Feb. 5.
Sailing on the Mediterranean stopped during the winter. The census (<apographe>) was a registration to take an oath of allegiance to Augustus—as we learn from an inscription from Paphlagonia of 3 BC. , corroborated by texts of ancient historians. (Secondary calculations in Martin's work seem to show the Magi came in December of 2 B. C).
Classicists have welcomed the new work, since it solves some insuperable problems in the chronology of secular events. Only Scriptural scholars have largely ignored it—it does not fit with favorite preconceptions of theirs.
Of course our Lady could not and did not and could not forget: the great events—she continued pondering them in her heart—not that she did not understand, but to more deeply realize and take them into her heart. For there is a great difference between notional and realized knowledge. We have notional knowledge of things we hear of in passing, e. g. in a news report of famine. But if we went to the famine area and saw people dying, and got hungry ourselves—then the knowledge is realized, and is a powerful driving force within the soul.
Did these events dispense her from the need of believing what she could not yet see? On the contrary, they raised a huge problem for her—a difficulty of holding on as it were in the dark—a thing she was to experience far more acutely later on. We spoke of holding on in the dark, since God often puts souls into situations where it seems not just difficult, but impossible to believe—we think of Abraham who had to believe he would be the father of a great nation through Isaac, and Abraham was told to kill Isaac in sacrifice—or the difficulty for all the chosen people, of believing God rewards and punishes justly, when the only opening they saw for such retribution was in the <present> life, not yet having learned that He does that in the life to come—or the difficulty Jesus put before His followers of believing they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Why does God at times put people in such straits? It is not that He is not loving, or that it does Him any good—but that souls can profit immensely in such situations. For there is only one free thing within us: our freewill. If we could make that will match fully the will of God in all things—there is nothing more to do, that is perfection. And so it is not difficulty as such, but holding on when it seems impossible.
At once with His birth the difficulty became acute: on the one hand her faith told her He was and is divine—on the other hand her senses constantly reported the opposite—this feels just like any ordinary baby, even has normal baby needs.
And such was the case not just briefly, but for years on end. The angels' song was beautiful, but its impression on her senses was very short-lived. Her feelings from touching and handling Him went on and on.
Some appointed as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist report they find it a trial on their faith—the host feels like nothing special at all.
This clash was so strong that late when He began to show His power, the people of Nazareth could not understand it at all. He was always just an ordinary boy.
In just 8 days came the time to begin to shed His blood in circumcision: an ordinary child in this feels pain, but not the say Jesus did, with his full reflex consciousness. Of course it hurt her to see Him hurt. As Hebrews says sums up the thought of the Old Testament: "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission." As the suffering of a Divine Person made man, this pain was of infinite merit, infinite satisfaction, even if He had not gone on to further sufferings. Her obedient acceptance of this was similarly of immeasurable merit.
Far greater was the pain of the presentation in the temple. The ritual seemed to be a buying back of Jesus from the service of the Father—it was really the external renewal of the offering He had made on entering into the world: "Behold I come to do your will, O God." Thus was fulfilled he prophecy of Haggai (2. 9): "Great will be the glory of this new house, greater than that of the former." and of Malachi 3. 1: "And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple."
This was truly the offertory of the Great Sacrifice. She echoed His offering in the renewal of her <fiat.> Both and He knew what it really meant.
Both could have claimed exemption from the rite. But just as later He was to tell the Baptist who was reluctant to baptism Him: "It is good to fulfill everything that is righteous.". So He would not claim exemption from the many things humanity normally would have to endure. In Philippians 2 "He emptied Himself, taking on the form of a slave."
She too on this same occasion underwent ritual purification from His birth!—What a reverse! She had given birth to Him who was to take away the sins of the world. Yet just as He willed to fulfill all righteousness, so she too willed it for Him and for herself. Simeon the foretold the wound, whites she already knew too well. This would make he pain more acute.
After this presentation they went down to Nazareth and lived an ordinary family life—to show how greatly the Father loves the family. Sirach 3 presents a beautiful picture—God puts the father in honor over His children, and confirms a mother's authority. This obedience <atones> for sin. The reason is that sin is disobedience:—obedience can rebalance the account for disobedience. This is not a legalistic attitude—it shows the Father's love for all that is good in itself.
The Eastern Fathers especially as we saw above, stressed that even the mere fact of the incarnation, without added suffering, was infinitely redemptive, infinitely. Clearly then this extension into 30 years of hidden life was redemptive, it <was atoning for sins> as Sirach said. LG 56 said that from the start, she dedicated herself to the Person and work of her Son. Hence LG 61 spelled out: what Pius XII said in <Munifi centissimus Deus that she was "always sharing His lot.>" : In conceiving Christ, a in bringing Him forth, in nourishing Him, in presenting Him in the Temple, in suffering with her Son as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior. . in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." Of Him LG 3 had written: "by obedience He brought about redemption." It was obedience, in which she shared, that gave all its value to His suffering—without obedience it would have been merely a tragedy, not a redemption.
Because of this natural continuity of thought we passed at once from the presentation to the hidden life—even as St. Luke's account did.
But now we must go back and add what St. Matthew had narrated at once: on the coming of the Magi. We already saw above the results of new research on the date.
The Magi were a distinguished clan in Media, noted for knowledge of astronomy—and as usual in that day, of astrology. But was not astrology that led the Magi to Him. Without claiming to be certain of the identity of the star, we must mention that a special sign in the sky of June 17, 2 BC—most likely a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, which had not happened for centuries before, nor would occur again for more centuries. On Sept. 11 Jupiter the King planet, was also approaching Regulus, the king star within the Constellation of Leo the Lion. There were three conjunctions of Jupiter and Regulus: Aug 12, 3BC, Feb 17 2 BC and May 8/9 2 BC. Now Leo stood for Judah, according to Gen 49. 10 in which Judah was called a lion and from Judah there was always to be a ruler until the time of the Messiah. Regulus was the dominant star within Leo. Prophecies of the Messiah were widely known, and he Magi, being astronomers would readily read the signs of the above conjunctions.
As for the star stopping over Bethlehem—planets move some distance, then they turn the corner, and start back. This seems like a stop.
We do not know how many Magi came, nor whether or not they were kings.
They were the first gentiles to come to Jesus—and so stand for the fact that He—and she too—will to save all: Cf. Rom. 3. 29.
After their return from Egypt, they settled in the small town of Nazareth from where Our Lady had come. It was on a hillside, 1150' above sea level, 15 miles from the Sea of Galilee and 2 miles south of Sepphoris, a metropolitan Greek city, long of political importance. It is likely Jesus went there at times. There followed uneventful years until His loss and finding in the temple.
However there is a legend, expressed in the Perpetual Help picture, of a special event: two angels appeared to Jesus, showing Him the instruments of His passion. In childlike fright He clung to His Mother, who comforted Him like a Mother.
There are two rather different interpretations possible for what follows. We will consider them one at a time.
The picture itself cannot be traced back farther than the 13th century. The origin of the legend is lost in the mists of time. We are not sure the vision ever happened. But we are entirely certain from the teaching of the Church that from the fist instant of conception the human soul of Jesus saw the vision of God, in which He would also see His passion in all its dreadful detail. For certain this caused Him great distress, all His life long. On two occasions He, as it were, allowed us to see inside Himself. In Luke 12. 50 He said: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened [in tight distress] until it be accomplished. "In John 12. 27 only a few days before His death, He broke into a discourse to the crowd to exclaim: "Now my heart is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour! "
Long running worry can as it were wear the skin thin—imagine the effect on Jesus of literally a lifetime of stress, so that he said: 'How am I straitened until it be accomplished."
In long protracted worry it often happens that the mind or soul sees the trouble coming back to mind, in waves—this vision could reflect that point. Such a wave could strike especially in a child. So the distress envisioned in the picture was real, and came not just on one occasion, but was a constant stress and strain.
More than once she may have sensed His distress when a child and asked: "Son what is bothering You?"—Even though she really knew. Even without the teaching of the Church, she could know that He had that vision. For any soul will have that vision if it is not only in grace, but if the divinity joins itself to it directly, without even an image in between. Now this not only happened to be the case in Jesus—it could not have been otherwise. For not only His human mind, but His whole humanity was joined directly to the divine without any image in the unity of the one Person.
Our Lady did not have that vision of God, but yet through the prophecies, which we reviewed above, she knew, knew far more than was comfortable to know and the sword foretold by Simeon would increase her distress. And we should mention also that it is not rare for some persons especially mothers—by a sort of extra-sensory perception—know the distress of her sons at the time it happens, even often they know it in advance.
And she, even more from the messianic prophecies, must have looked often at His little hands and said to herself: These must be pierced and torn.
We must ask: How could His soul have the vision of God, which is blessed, and yet how could He suffer? The answer is that we have many levels of operations in body and soul. We think of a 25, 000 foot mountain. On some days the peak will stick out through clouds, into sunshine, while all the lower slopes are in turmoil. Similarly He could have that serenity on what St. Francis de Sales calls the fine point of the soul, while there was great distress below—especially on the cross—How could He fear, since He knew His own resurrection But that knowledge would not keep the nails from hurting—and it is natural for an unprotected humanity to shrink from terrible suffering.
There is a parallel in ordinary souls, even that of Our Lady. She did not have that vision, but she did have that peace which no man can take from you, which let St. Paul says; "Always rejoice." The lower slopes of her being could suffer so much but Her union with God, which we tried somewhat to picture earlier, was always there without shadow.
If someone worries, is he/she lacking in trust in God? Not necessarily. For example if he is waiting for a report from the Doctor to tell if he has terminal cancer, he may be uneasy. God has not promised that no one will get terminal cancer. Trust in God helps to calm one. But on the lower slopes there may be real worry. St. Paul says the whole Christian life consists in being like Christ. In Romans 8. 17: "We are heirs of God, coheirs with Christ—provided we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with Him." So worry taken properly can be a means of likeness to Jesus and to His Mother.
The above interpretation is rather appealing. The second takes into account the strange fact that in the Gospels He does not show warmth to her, e. g, at Cana, and when He asked: "Who is my Mother "? Without any special apparition He would still feel distress from the vision of God in His human soil which showed Him His coming sufferings. Distress could still come in waves as we saw above, and that would be specially difficult for a humanity at a tender age. And she, in this second interpretation, would still, as we deduced above, be apt to sense His distress as specially acute at times. But He would simply not tell her of His distress from the knowledge He had through the vision of God. She would not tell Him of her feelings. out of delicate consideration for Him, as she was following the form the Holy Spirit imprinted on her at the very moment.
If we follow this pattern of interpretation, we would say that the vision in the picture never happened just as it is shown in the painting. But we would not say that He did not experience great stress throughout all His lifetime at the dead prospect of such sufferings to come. When we foresee some terrible thing as possibly coming, can take refuge in the thought that "perhaps it will not come, or will not be so bad." He could not use that refuge for, we might say that the vision of God is merciless: He knew infallibly what was to come, in all its sorry detail. And the waves of images would still be possible for Him, and at a tender age might make the more impact on His human tolerance. He could have accepted her help as He did that of the comforting angel in Gethsemani. And the deductions on her understanding of His state which we saw above retain all their validity and force. She would not comment to Him on what she saw and surmised about that particular moment when a strong wave would strike.
When He was 12 there came a strange event. This child, who had always been so obedient and compliant allowed His parents to suffer great grief from losing Him. Jewish men, starting at age 13 were obliged to go to Jerusalem for 3 events: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. It was common for them to come at age 12 too, to get accustomed to obeying the law. which did not oblige them strictly until age 13. Today many Jews observe Bar Mitzvah—son of the commandment—ceremonies at 13. But that would not have been the case with Jesus, who was only 12. And it is not clear how early such a ceremony had developed by His day. Women were not obliged to make the trips, and if Our Lady had had other younger children she would hardly have come at all at that point. Neighboring mothers would have rebuked her had she done that.
Men might readily come into the areas where the doctors of the law disputed to listen, ask questions, and answer. Things were done in question and answer form.
Men and women traveled separately. Caravans might be over 100, 000 persons. A boy of 12 might have considerable freedom in moving about. Jesus showed special abilities. Is it possible that He could have worked in many messianic prophecies? But He wanted a gradual revelation of Himself.
His reply to them when they found Him is remarkable: "Did you not know I had to be in the things of my Father—or in my Father's house?. The Greek is ambiguous; the former view is the more likely.
The Gospel says they did not understand. But they surely knew—as we have abundantly shown above—who He was. So it means they did not understand—the abrupt shift from His usual compliant way of acting.
In being cryptic He would be following the pattern often seen in the Scriptures, on which we remarked in passing before, in which God puts persons into difficult straits, where they must as it were hold on in the dark—must continue to believe even when that seems impossible. It is not difficulty as such that is valuable—it is the fact that then if it soul does not fail, it must hold on to the will God with very special force. That means greater attachment to the will of God, and so, an increase in the capacity of seeing God face to face for all eternity. So this trial was an act of love on His part to her. At least with pondering in her heart she would understand, yet it was a difficult trial. by which her fullness, already incomprehensible to us, could grow still further.
Then He went down to Nazareth and was subject to them! The sacrifice of our will and independence is more difficult than merely giving up a pleasure or a possession. He and she both could have claimed exemption but did not. Both emptied themselves. "It is good to fulfill everything that is right," as He would say before being baptized by John. This was the upside down family, in which the greatest obeyed he least. And one such act of obedience by the God-man was more than enough to redeem many worlds—it was infinite in worth. Her obedience because of her incomprehensible dignity and love was of incomprehensible worth.
Not long after His baptism by John in which He accepted to be seen as a sinner, "to fulfill all that is right" His Mother and He were invited to a wedding at Cana. The exact location of Cana is unclear today. There and two possible sites, one 4 miles NE of Nazareth, the other 9 miles North. The second seems more likely. The Council of Trent defined that Jesus made matrimony a sacrament—we are not sure if it was on this occasion or later on. Weddings then lasted a week, and numerous people, even those traveling, might come in. So it could have been that a new large group arrived when the wine was already a bit low. Then she, in a truly feminine way, did not ask, but hinted: "They have no wine."
Here is another case of holding on in the dark. His words "What is it to me and to you" commonly have a tone of rejection elsewhere in the OT. But she definitely understood, for she confidently told the waiters to do whatever He might order.
He replies: "My hour has not yet come." Some today think He meant the hour of His death and glorification. More likely. He means the time set to begin working miracles—for it was clearly His policy not to reveal Himself fully at once. Yet at her request He did advance the hour—a clear indication of her influence with Him.
Now there were six stone jars there, rather large, for ritual purifications. Each would hold 15 to 25 gallons. He changed all that water into fine quality wine, So that the head waiter remarked that usually the best wine is served first. Of course this miracle caused much talk, yet it would be soon forgotten, even as the Jews quickly forgot the wonders at the time of the Exodus.
Was it difficult for her to hear the word woman? That word was really an honorable title, though not warm. Further, many scholars today point out that the same word is used at four major places; in Gen 3. 15, at Cana, at the Cross, and in Jn Apoc 12. The use of woman then might be merely editorial, to link together these four major scenes. John Paul II agreed with this view, in <Redemptoris mater>.
And her influence or intercession was not long remembered either. That is the way she wanted it. because of the forms being impressed on her soul by the Holy Spirit, even as He had led her to silence after he virginal conception.
And that modest pattern held all through His public life, even when the crowds acclaimed Him. It was only when the darkness of that last hour had come that she emerged from the shadows to bravely and obediently take her place with Him at the cross.
In the interval, she doubtless quietly joined the group of devout women who ministered to His temporal needs during His public life
At some point, probably early in His public life He was preaching so intently to the crowds that He did not take time to eat. Then as Mark 3. 20—35 reports, the "hoi par' autou" thought him insane (<exeste>), and went out to take him by force (<kratesai>). Presently we must consider who was within that group. In the very next line Scribes from Jerusalem charged He was casting out devils by the devil. He answered them at some length, and said they were committing an unforgivable sin. then next at verse 31 we read that His Mother and brothers came to a crowd where He as preaching. Instead of introducing her He said: Who is my Mother? Whoever does the will of God is Mother and brother to me."
Here really was is a time for her to hold on in the dark—it seemed like not only a rejection, but public rejection. Yet she understood, and made no murmur.
To begin to understand the incident we begin by noting that there are three segments in the passage: 1) some about Him think Him insane; 2) the Scribes charge He casts out Satan by Satan; 3) His Mother and Brothers come to see Him.
Form and Redaction criticism as all admit today, has shown that a passage may be made up of originally independent units. Is that the case here? We cannot be sure—but the second segment is really introduced abruptly and then is left off abruptly. Hence it is not at once obvious that His Mother was among the group in segment one, as several commentators have said, including NJBC. One recent writer churlishly said that she was "outside the sphere of salvation!
But suppose that she was actually in the first group. Would it have to mean she did not believe in Him? Of course not. Even an ordinary mother will stand up for her son, when he is accused, even if the charge is just. These commentators make her less than an ordinary mother, and put he on the road to hell! So even if she was in the first group she could easily have gone along to try to hold them down.
But even more basically, these charges amount to a claim that Mark contradicts Luke—for all admit that Luke presents her as the first believer. Further, those who speak that way like to claim they are just following Vatican II. But that Council in <Dei verbum> ## 11—12 insists that God is the Author of all of Scripture—and so does not contradict Himself. And we must consider the whole picture of Scripture and the analogy of faith. Further, Vatican II in <Lumen gentium> #58, explains this passage, and the related Luke 11. 27-28 as something other than rejection. Jesus was teaching dramatically that if we compare two forms of greatness—Divine Motherhood (a "quasi infinite dignity" according to Pius XI) and hearing the word of God can keeping it—the second is greater than the first. But of course, she was at the peak in both categories. She would understand this even in the darkness. with pondering in Her heart.
In passing, whether she was present for segment 2 or merely heard about it—she could see the venomous hatred of the Scribes. The reason their sin could not be forgiven was their hardness, so great that it was inconceivable that they would ever repent. So very early she could see the venom developing against Him, and could follow, to His death—Isaiah 53 and the other prophecies that were being fulfilled.
Another occasion of rejection came when He visited Nazareth, but it was not rejection by His Mother. A proverb was cited that no prophet is accepted among his own. Matthew's version says a prophet is not accepted in his own <oikia>, his household. But again it does not include her. It must have pained her to see the rejection.
Right around that time—if we take Mark's chronological sequence, it came right after the unforgivable sin of the scribes, He turned to parables. This timing agrees with His general policy of gradual self-revelation. In Mark, He may have taught clearly at first, but then in view of their lack of faith He turned to parables: "So that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand."—the line, quoted substantially, comes from the inaugural vision of Isaiah 6. The three Synoptics cite it in various forms, substantially with the purpose wording: "In order that. . . . " NJBC argues from the Greek conjunction <hina> to give a purpose translation. But the writer seems not to know the changes in Koine Greek as compared to 5th century B. C. Athenian, where it would be purpose. The word <hina> occurs more than once in citing fulfillment of prophecies. But at lest at times, the purpose version is simply silly: Can we imagine the soldiers casting lots for his garments, for the purpose of fulfilling prophecy!
First of all, the conjunction <hina> in Koine Greek has picked up the possible meaning of result instead of purpose. So the soldiers cast lots, and as a result, the prophecy was fulfilled.
Secondly, Hebrew often attributes to the direct action of God things He only permits.
But there is a better way to explain this difficult text, 1 John 4. 8 says God is love. "It does not say He has love, but is love. He is identified with each of His attributes.
But now we see something astounding;: God is mercy, He is justice—so in Him mercy and justice are identified! And we might add; Holiness and justice too are identified with each other:—God in His holiness wants the objective order rebalanced when it gets out of line. Justice is theory satisfied.
We can at least begin to see how this is true in the case of the parables.
Let us think of a man who has never been drunk before, but tonight he gets very drunk. Next morning he will have guilt feelings, for this is the first time. Then there is in him a clash between his actions and his moral beliefs. Our nature abhors such clashes, and so in time something must give. Either he will stop getting drunk, so his actions line up with his beliefs. Or the opposite. <He has begun to go down on a spiral if he continues getting drunk. he will gradually pull his moral beliefs into line with his actions. In other words, he is getting more and more blind—and not only that one moral belief, but other moral beliefs, and even his doctrinal beliefs may be affected. The fact that he is becoming more blind is justice, he has earned it. But it is also mercy; For the more clearly a man knows divine truths at the time of acting, the greater his responsibility. So in one and the same action there is both mercy and justice.>
Soon she would see tragically an instance of the effects of the evil spiral. Towards the end of His public life, Mark 10. 32 says He steadfastly walked ahead of His companions toward Jerusalem where He knew what awaited Him. His followers trailed behind, afraid—and with reason, for they had long seen the incomprehensible malice of His enemies growing and resolving to destroy Him. She could see all these things, and knew as well it was part of the fulfillment of Isaiah 53. Yet in virtue of her fiat, given at the start, she positively willed what the Father willed.
She rejoiced at the raising of Lazarus, bur grieved at the final hardness of His enemies who, according to John 12. 11, with incredible blindness were plotting to kill Lazarus—as thought He would not still have the power to bring Lazarus back.
Again she was glad to see His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, while grieving and marveling at the fickleness of the crowd who in just a few days would change Hosanna to; "Crucify Him "! In all these things, her fiat continued.
She was not there for the Last Supper, not invited, since there He intended to ordain His Apostles priests ": Do this in memory of me" in a rite she was not to carry out, though her dignity as Mother of God was immeasurably above that of the Pope and Apostles, while still higher than all these was hearing the word of God (LG. 56) and keeping it, as she as faithfully doing, by her fiat.
But how she must have marveled—for she knew He would celebrate that Passover, and knew that He had promised the Eucharist in John 6 even His, body and blood, while well aware of so many sacrileges to which He would be subject in the future because of that commitment. She knew, and quietly said her: Fiat. She knew He would do this, even though this incredible display of love came precisely at the point where humanity was about to do its worst against Him—He chose that point to establish this strictly miraculous means of getting close to them, to us.
She knew what He was about to do, as we said, by His promise of the Eucharist, and determination to celebrate the Passover. And she would know too by a sort of Mother's empathy or extrasensory perception, which understood what His love was about to do, and to suffer. Still her fiat continued.
He is said to have told St. Margaret Mary that the worst pain was that of rejection by those whom He so loved. If someone jostles me rudely in a crowd, that hurts, but what if he deliberately pushed me, or wanted to kill me, and to kill in the most painful manner he could devise!.
She understood this rejection and yet continued her Fiat.
When He went to Gethsemani she knew—He often did go there, and she knew His interior. There, as Mark reports, He even became afraid—for an unprotected humanity could not but shrink back from such pain (and He had long before emptied Himself leaving His humanity unprotected). He had to face not only hideous pain, but still more terrible rejection—preferring a murderous thief, Barabbas, to Him.
Many men have gone through the night before such a death without breaking down—but He knew it all for His whole lifetime, knew what He was to make up for, all sins of all times cam before Him. We repeat what we said earlier; it was NOT that the Father was in a terrible rage and going to punish Him—Oh. No it was Holiness that wanted Him to give up, in pain, immeasurably more than all sinners of all times had taken from one pan of the two pan scales.
He had sought for a little comfort from the Apostles—who merely went to sleep! And so He really sweat blood. Medically this is called hematidrosis—which comes when the interior tension is so severe that the capillaries adjacent to these openings discharged their red tide that way.
Again, she must have felt this by a sort of empathy or ESP, and continued to say: Fiat.
All Jerusalem, must have been buzzing with reports right back on His trial before the: "high priests" 'They finally got Him! How will they destroy Him? "She would listen, she knew by Isaiah and by empathy as well.
But yet: fiat.
Pilate, in spite of the merciless denials of today, said he found no fault in Him—and he really tried, weakly, to get Him free. Jewish law ordered no more than 40 blows, and even then stopped at 39 as a precaution. The Romans had no such limit, and really, it must have been the devil in the soldiers' arms. The beatings were savage. Some mean died from them alone. But He held out, wanting the greater pain. And she in the crowd knew, and perhaps heard the cracks of the lashes. Yet did not withdraw her fiat.
After that, the spectacle He gave then was such that hard Pilate could say: Look, the man! She looked, in horror yet continued to say: Fiat. John Paul II in his <Redemptoris Mater> said this in Him and in her was the greatest self-emptying in all of history. For in unison with Him, she continued: Not my will, but yours be done.
And then she heard, as He felt it, the hammer blows driving the nails into His flesh. A barbarous torture—no animal ever treated another animal this way, nor would any decent man so treat a dog. And yet His enemies would gloat: He saved others, Himself He cannot save!. Rightly did Psalm 22, which He soon began to recite, say: "Many bulls encompass me. . like a ravening and roaring lion." What greater rejection could be pictured, and from those He loved with an infinite love. Yet in obedience, she was called on to positively will what the Father willed, that He die, die then, die so horribly! And this in a clash with her love for Him, which was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it." We cited Pius IX speaking about her initial holiness—which in practice is the same as love. Hence her love, and therefore her suffering, was beyond the ability of anyone but God to comprehend! But still: Fiat.
Obedience it was that gave the value to His sacrifice—without it would have been a tragedy, not redemption. From Isaiah 29. 13 we hear God saying; This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. So there are two elements in sacrifice—the outward sign, (the physical separation of body and blood)—and the interior disposition: obedience.
Her obedience fused with His—for there were not two sacrifices, one infinite, the other finite. No, there is just the one great sacrifice, getting its value from obedience, in which she joined. As LG. 61 said "she cooperated in the work of the Savior by obedience."
Another aspect or way of looking at the great sacrifice is the fact that it was the new covenant foretold by Jeremiah 31. 31. In a covenant, the essential condition is obedience—His, to which hers was joined.
Near the end, He began to recite Psalm 22; "My God, why have you forsaken me?" Pope John Paul II beautifully explained these words, in a General Audience of Nov. 30, 1988, about the "abandonment" of Jesus on the Cross [emphasis added]: In fact, if Jesus feels abandoned by the Father, He knows, however that that is not really so. He Himself said: "I and the Father are one." (Jn 10: 30), and speaking of His future Passion He said: "I am not alone, for the Father is with me" (Jn 16: 32). Dominant in His mind Jesus has the clear vision of God and the certainty of His union with the Father. But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions, and influences of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus' human soul is reduced to a wasteland, and He no longer feels the presence of the Father
After this, He exclaimed: "It is finished"—I have obeyed, even to the end, to the completion of all that you commanded me to do. He had given up far more than all sinners had wrongly taken from the one pan of the scales. And she, suffering with Him, repeated interiorly her fiat. No wonder John Paul II could write in <Redemptoris Mater> that her obedience was the counterpoise to the disobedience of Eve, and of all. St. Irenaeus cited in L. G. 56, was right in writing: "By her obedience, she became a cause of salvation for herself and for the world."
When He handed His soul to the Father, all His suffering was over, over forever. Hers was not. She still was immersed in immeasurable grief, even though she alone of all, even the Apostles, believed with absolute firmness that He would rise on the third day. Perhaps that is why the Gospels do not record any appearance to her after the resurrection: her faith needed no reviving—and the lack of a visit would be an occasion of immeasurable growth by holding on in the dark while saying: Fiat.
Jesus and Mary are beyond suffering now. How then can they appear tearful and speaking of their suffering, and saying it is hard to hold back the hand of God from striking? This is another case of anthromorphism. For example Genesis says God told Abraham He needed to go down to see if Sodom was really so wicked. Of course He always knew. This is a human way of speaking. So these tearful apparitions do not express suffering now, but in the past. And the Holiness of God still abhors sins. They also mean that sins today are part of the cause of that suffering. She or He pleads for rebalancing—penance so the Holiness of God may not need to strike the world. He to wants to hold back in the hope of saving more souls: CF Wisdom 12. 8—10.
Even today she says fiat. For Jesus before He died entrusted her to John. In the early 200s Origen said that at the cross she became spiritual mother of all of us. Vatican II in LG. 61 agreed: "in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience [fiat], faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace."
. . . . . . . . . . . We notice those words, "as a result". That is, she is our Mother by fulfilling the two roles of a Mother. First, she shared in bringing new life into being—the life of souls. Second she takes care of that life, so long as she is willing, able and needed. Our Lady of course is always willing and able to care for us, and always able. Pope Benedict XV called her "suppliant omnipotence" for by asking she can bring about anything that God can do by His inherent power.
In time we largely outgrow the need of our earthly Mothers—not so our need of our Lady. Our need of her will cease only when no further graces are needed, for all come through her, since at the cross she shared in earning all graces.
If we suffer for someone, then—since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake—our love for that one grows, as we do good to the suffering one. What is her love for us? It was at such incomprehensible cost of suffering that she shared in bringing supernatural life to our souls.
The mere fact that she shared in earning all graces justifies saying that all come through her. But: does she need to ask each grace as each of us asks her help? She could actually do that. For any soul in that blessed vision sees all that pertains to it—we all pertain to her, and her grace, her ability to see is in proportion to her love, so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God comprehend it."
Vatican II in LG. 62, right after the words we just quoted, added: "This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace lasts without interruption, from the consent [fiat] which she gave at the Annunciation, even to the eternal consummation of all the elect."
Her fiat continues too in every Mass. Vatican II, On Liturgy #10, said the Mass is the renewal of the New Covenant. She took so great a part in the making of that new covenant. Clearly, she must have a similar part in the renewal. The Council of Trent said the Mass is the same as Calvary, "only the manner of offering being different". As we saw above, a sacrifice has two parts: outward sign, interior dispositions. In the Mass the outward sign is the same as on Holy Thursday, the seeming separation of body and blood in the two species. But that body and blood came from her. The interior is obedience—His obedience, with which He died. It continues, is not repeated, in every Mass. Her obedience from heaven is he same as that with which she died. Her fiat still continues. So Pope John Paul II spoke well when in his Angelus Homily of Feb. 12. 1984, he said: "Mary is present in the memorial—the liturgical action—because she was present at the saving event. She is at every altar. . . ."
It follows that the more fully we are united with her Fiat at the Mass, the more fully are we united with Him.
What of the of the period—we know not its length—between His death and her assumption? Certainly she desired to see Him. In ordinary souls there is a difference, even at times a conflict between natural and supernatural love. But in her, natural love of a Mother for Son merged, was identified with her spiritual love. Even at the start of her life, as we tried to glimpse at the outset of this study, she as it were was permitted to gaze into the abyss that God is. That penetration grew and grew, a especially in times of holding on in the dark, in times of suffering. What must it have been in this period? Again, as Pius IX said, her holiness/love was so great even at the start of life that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it" This would pull her powerfully in the direction of seeing Him. Yet not in such a way as to involve any lack of acceptance of His will. She still lived by her fiat, and for all eternity says fiat.
When finally the blessed day came when she could cross over the edge into the abyss itself—with or without experiencing bodily death we know not. But she did make that passage, and was welcomed by Him in His glorified body and personally led to her throne beside Him forever.
All of this love of Him did not take away at all from her love for us:—they merged, for He loved and loves us immeasurably. Within that she could accept suffering that was beyond our comprehension.
Yet even that suffering while still in this life did not take away anything from the peace that ever reigned on the fine point of her soul, even as it was in His case when His soul otherwise was a wasteland, as John Paul II, while on the point of His soul there was eternal peace, absolute union: "I and the Father are one".
At our end, if we have been faithful, she will—either while we are still in this life or just beyond it—part the veil. Then we shall finally see her and Him with no admixture of suffering, forever. For we shall come before the throne where the One who sits there wipes away all tears from every eye, saying: Behold, I make all things new. (Apoc. 21. 5).
Although the chief blessedness lies in the vision of God Himself, yet Pius XII wrote well when he said: "Surely, in the face of His own Mother, God has gathered together all the splendors of His divine artistry. You know, beloved sons and daughters how easily human beauty enraptures and exalts a kind heart. What would it ever do before the beauty of Mary! That is why Dante saw in Paradise, in the midst of "more than a million rejoicing angels a beauty smiling—what joy!—it was in the eyes of all the other Saints "—Mary!
Will this vision ever become dull? No. She is as it were merged with the vision of God. Even in this life some special souls have contacted her as if one with God in infused contemplation. We can never exhaust this vision, for it is infinite, and we are finite, And there is no more time, with restless movement from future to present to past. We simply ARE, participating in the changeless now of God Himself!
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